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Welcome to Blunderland by peppersweet
Chapter 13 : { 12 }
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 9


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I’d never have told him this for fear of sounding like a weirdo, but there was something kind of comforting about watching Albus writing an essay. He pulled this face when he was thinking, one that made him look somewhere between frowning and being confused – although History of Magic does tend to have that effect on people. And when he was thinking, he tended to run his hands through his hair and bite his lip and gradually make himself more and more dishevelled, like unplaiting a rope or untying a knot. It wasn’t like he was the sort of guy to put on a front in public or anything, but, as you might expect from a Prefect and Harry Potter’s son, he always tended to look and act quite neatly in company. So I felt weirdly privileged to be able to sit opposite him in the Library and see him with ink smudged on his fingers and his fringe sticking up. I’m not sure Albus felt the same way, though, because I pretty much look dishevelled all the time and it’d be weird to see me without inky fingers and electrocuted hair.


It was a bit difficult to concentrate on my History of Magic homework that afternoon, mostly because Albus was evidently struggling with his essay and pulling that face again; it was equally difficult to tear my eyes away from him, especially after the date-of-sorts in the Prefect’s bathroom. It made me blush to think about now it was the middle of the day and the light in the Library was cold and clear, but I’d lain awake half the night berating myself for being such a twitchy, nervy, naïve little girl – shoving Albus away when he’d really done nothing more than kissed me and the like. I’d considered, once or twice, what it might have been like if I hadn’t put him at arm’s length. I might have missed curfew by a long shot, to put it one way.


But when we’d met up in the library we’d just gone to our usual desk and sat opposite one another, calm as you like, saying very little, working away at our essays like the model students we apparently were in the daylight. Nobody would have to know that we’d been snogging in the Prefect’s bathroom or even that I’d managed to cheat on Albus, especially seeing as I didn’t want anyone to find out about the second thing.


After a couple of hours of sitting there and blundering through the same few paragraphs on early Ministerial power structure, though, I was sick of my mind going in circles between Albus and pages fifty to fifty-seven of A History of Magic and put down my quill.


‘I can’t do anymore,’ I murmured. ‘I’m done with this essay.’


Albus looked up from his own textbook, eyebrows slightly raised. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Er…’


He put the textbook down. Hidden within the yellowed pages was the most recent copy of New Magical Express.


‘Sorry, Flora,’ he said. ‘But all this stuff about the fiscal policies of Artemisia Lufkin is so dull…mind helping me with the crossword?’


I rolled my eyes. ‘I’ve been working solidly on this for >two hours and you’ve been doing a crossword-’


‘I wrote for the first half hour…’


‘Anything interesting in this week’s issue?’


‘Nah, not much,’ he said. ‘Modernism are pretending to be the world’s best band again…’


‘Oh…’


At that point, the librarian came over and shushed us, and we pretended to be working on our essays again.


‘Up to much tonight?’ Albus muttered, once Mister Crow had vanished off between the next set of shelves. ‘You did promise to take me on a cake raid.’


‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Fauna asked me if I’d go up to look at stars with her but I don’t really fancy it…’


Albus set his copy of New Magical Express aside. ‘Stargazing? Oh, that sounds fun.’


‘Not really, Fauna’s pretty intense about the whole Astronomy thing-’


‘Sounds so cool though. Kind of romantic.’


‘Yeah, I didn’t really want to crash her date under the stars with Scorpius or anything-’


‘Sure you wouldn’t like to go? It sounds lovely.’


‘Eh, I don’t know…’


‘It’d be cool to meet Fauna properly too. Can we go?’


‘But we’re going to the kitchens…’


‘We can stop off on the way. Pick up some cake to take up the tower!’


‘The house elves can get a bit picky about what you take out…’


‘Oh, stop making excuses!’


We were shushed again, and this time we really did go back to our essays, mostly because I didn’t want to carry on dreaming up reasons for us not to go up the Astronomy tower that night. Frankly, I’d rather have gone without chocolate frogs for a month than spent an evening in a confined space with Albus, Fauna and Scorpius. Although I’d probably give up chocolate frogs to be in a confined space with Albus but I guess I don’t really have to do that, being his girlfriend and all.


I’d really hoped that I could have had a quiet night with Albus then, maybe spent some time in his common room, shooting the breeze and the like – but instead he insisted we be sociable, insisted we take up Fauna’s offer, seeing as she’d been nice enough to invite us and all. I nearly died, my mind bringing up all these horrible scenarios of what could happen with Albus and Scorpius at each others’ throats. Albus was having none of it, though, none of my whining, none of my ‘oh, we’ll just be third wheels on their date’ talk.


‘It’s so kind of her to think of us,’ he said as we walked back from tea in the Great Hall. ‘I’ve always thought Fauna was nice. And…well, I suppose it’d be cool to see Scorpius too.’


‘Mega,’ I said, although I sounded as excited as if Albus had just told me chocolate and bobbly jumpers had been declared evil.


He elbowed me in the ribs. ‘Come on, cheer up,’ he said. ‘Stargazing! Isn’t that cute?’


‘Cold,’ I shot back. ‘And it’s a long walk back.’


‘I need the exercise,’ he said. ‘And I know a heating charm or two. We’ll wrap up warm.’


I wanted to put my foot down, throw a tantrum, and demand that he take me to his common room so we could sit in front of the fire, even if it meant having to help him with the New Magical Express crossword. But I decided to be mature and seize the opportunity to repair and gaping abyss in my relationship with Scorpius and Fauna.


‘Fine,’ I said. ‘Fine, we can go. But I want to stop by my dorm first. I left my scarf there.’


He punched the air with his fist. ‘We can go there after we’ve been to the kitchens!’


I was a bit uncertain about blundering into the kitchens right after teatime, especially after the veritable feast the elves had thrown up that evening, but Albus shined his Prefect’s badge on the sleeve of his jumper and grinned at me.


‘Prefect business,’ he said. ‘If anyone asks why we’re here, it’s prefect business.’


‘What, getting cake is a legitimate errand?’


‘Oh yes.’


After a few minutes, we reached the still life of a fruitbowl that was the kitchen door.


‘Right,’ Albus said. ‘What now?’


‘Er…’ I stared up at the painting, which was hung too high for me to reach. ‘This is the bit Scorpius usually does because he’s a beansprout…you have to tickle the pear.’


‘Sorry?’


‘I said this is the bit Scorpius usually does. You’ve got to tickle the pear.’


‘Tickle the pear?


‘Yeah. It’s how you get in. It turns into a handle.’


Albus looked a little baffled, but shrugged. ‘You’re the Hufflepuff,’ he said, and reached up towards the pear.


‘So…like…scratching a cat behind the ears?’


‘I wouldn’t know,’ I said, grinning stupidly. ‘Like I said, Scorpius usually tickles the pear.’


Chuckling, Albus stroked the painted pear - a moment later, a soft bubbling noise like laughter came from behind the painting and, with a loud popping noise, a golden doorknob emerged from the canvas.


‘Yeah, that’s it,’ I said. ‘Go on in.’


Albus gingerly prodded the painting open, then turned to me.


‘You first,’ he said, placing a hand on the small of my back and gently pushing me forwards.


Even though I’d been to the kitchens loads of times, it was weird to go without Fauna and Scorpius in tow. Fauna, the most confident one out of all of us, usually did all the talking, and me and Scorpius only really turned up to carry food and, er, tickle the pear. So I’d half-hoped that Albus, being a prefect and all, would march in and get the whole thing over and done with and I’d only have to supply my arms for cake-holding purposes.


The thing about the kitchens is that they’re always just on the wrong side of weird to a muggle-born like me. I don’t know how it is for kids who grew up with magic and even, god forbid, the kids who were rich enough to grow up with a house elf at home, but it’s weird for me to walk in and see all these tiny creatures with enormous ears hurrying about. I was left a little speechless.


Albus peeped out from behind me. ‘Hello?’ he said.


‘Good evening!’ a chorus of tiny voices squeaked.


‘Evening,’ Albus said. ‘Er, we came for some cake…’


‘Cake?’ one house elf stepped out from the bustling mass. ‘Of course, master and miss!’


‘Master?’ Albus whispered. ‘Master?


‘They do that a lot,’ I muttered back. ‘Me and Fauna tried to get them to call Scorpius a Viscount, but…’


We followed the house elf to a corner of the kitchens, Albus chuckling behind me.


‘Are they okay with this?’ he said. ‘I mean…people just coming in and demanding food…’


‘I dunno,’ I said.


‘My Auntie did a lot of stuff in the Ministry about house elf working practices…I really should’ve paid more attention, but…not really the most interesting thing to talk about at family Christmas gatherings, you know?’


‘How is you wanting your cake, sir?’ the elf piped up.


‘Oh, surprise me,’ Albus shrugged. ‘Whatever you’ve got would be lovely.’


‘Certainly, sir-’


‘You don’t have to call me ‘sir’…’


‘We is keeping a carrot cake from dinner, sir, if sir likes that.’


‘Great. Wonderful.’


Within moments the house elf had returned with a sizable slab of cake wrapped in tinfoil.


‘Thanks,’ I said, tucking it away into my schoolbag.


The house elf ignored me, instead staring up at Albus.


‘You is looking like the boy who lived, sir,’ the elf said.


‘I’m his son,’ Albus stuck out a hand. ‘Nice to meet you.’


The house elf reached up and wrapped a tiny hand around Albus’ oustretched pinky finger. ‘Nice to be meeting you too, sir.’


We left soon after. This time Albus led the way, me following.


‘So,’ he said, once we were back outside in the corridor. ‘Up to the Astronomy tower?’


‘It’s miles away,’ I whined.


‘There are shortcuts,’ he said, sounding a little impatient now.


‘But seven staircases-’


There are shortcuts.


‘Yeah, like where?’


‘If you go behind that tapestry of aardvarks on the third floor and then down the corridor beyond it takes you straight to the sixth floor-’


‘How is that even physically possible?’


‘You know what the castle’s like, Flora.’


‘But that doesn’t even make sense-’


‘Yeah, but since when has Hogwarts ever made sense?’


‘I don’t know, sometimes…’


‘Your common room is underground. That doesn’t make sense.’


By the time I’d opened my mouth to retort I realised we were already in the Entrance Hall.


‘See?’ Albus sounded impatient again. ‘If we carry on like this we’ll be at the seventh floor in no time.’


‘Fine, alright. Let’s go stargazing. With our carrot cake.’


*



Despite what Albus had said, climbing up to the Astronomy tower took what felt like a bloody century. It had been a hike and a half, even with all the shortcuts we’d taken, and by the time we got to the actual Astronomy classroom at the top of the tower my thighs were aching like billy-o and I was so out of breath I was beginning to sound like a winded hippopotamus with every move. I ended up hanging back beside Albus as we blundered our way across the darkened classroom. I trusted him and all, but I didn’t really want to see me in my unattractive, red-faced, out-of-breath state.


I felt like I’d underestimated Fauna by a mile when we finally emerged from the classroom onto the Astronomy department’s viewing platform, a stretch of stonework that ringed the top of the tower and supported several enormous telescopes. I’d thought the reason Fauna had dragged Scorpius up this far was so they could be alone, but half the astronomy class was there, perched on stone benches or sprawled in little huddles across the floor, all clutching parchment and quills and gazing skyward. Fauna and Scorpius were away off to one side, barred off from most of the class by an elaborate glass-and-metal contraption that was clicking and whirring contentedly like a strange pet.


It’d been weird enough seeing the house elves, being fundamentally unprepared for the sight of them and all, but it was even weirder, in a way, seeing Fauna and Scorpius from a distance. As a bystander instead of an actual member of the group. I knew that I shouldn’t have felt like that, especially since they’d invited me up to join them and all, but it was hard to ignore the urge to turn around and walk away or even go and sit with Tabitha and some of the other Astronomy students on the opposite side of the tower.


Albus led the way. ‘Good evening!’ he called out, weaving his way carefully between the spindly limbs of the glass-and-metal telescope that was the final barrier between me and my former best friends.


Fauna and Scorpius turned around in unison, but evidently they hadn’t coordinated their facial expressions. I knew Scorpius well enough to know that he could be pretty good at putting on a smile when he wanted to, but he wasn’t making any attempt to hide his dislike for Albus.


I stepped forward, trying to navigate my own way past the telescope. Unfortunately, I wasn’t entirely successful, and ended up with the sleeve of my cardigan caught on one of the spindly brass branches and nearly brought the entire telescope crashing down on me.


And, well, it didn’t seem so bad – I might have had to stand there with my arm attached to something that probably cost mountains of Galleons with the entire Astronomy class giggling at me, but it seemed worth it to see Albus, Fauna and even Scorpius grinning at me. All at the same time.


‘Nice to see you,’ Fauna said, as I extracted myself from the telescope and made my way over to join them. Albus had already sat himself down beside Fauna, leaving me a tiny gap between the telescope and him for me to squeeze into. They all had to budge up a bit to fit me in, and so we ended up shoulder-to-shoulder and I was inwardly thankful that Fauna was there as a sort of buffer zone between Scorpius and Albus.


‘Yeah…er, we brought carrot cake,’ I said, pulling it from my bag.


‘Great,’ Scorpius said, except with the tone of voice that suggested carrot cake was anything but.


‘What’s your project for?’ Albus asked, as I passed the cake around.


‘Oh, just mapping the sky,’ Fauna said. ‘Charting the constellations, you know? We’re supposed to do it over the course of a week.’


‘Sounds cool,’ Albus said.


‘Yeah,’ Scorpius piped up. ‘Freezing.’


‘Good cake,’ Fauna said, shoving her parchment into Scorpius’ hands to grab a slice. ‘Did you get this from the kitchens? It looks fab.’


‘Yeah…the elves were pretty taken with Albus…’


‘Of course,’ Scorpius said. ‘Everyone is.’


My mind completed his sentence for him: except for me.


‘Yeah…great cake!’ I chipped in. ‘Cake’s fab. Probably my second favourite thing. First favourite is The Weird Sisters. And Myron Wagtail.’


Fauna giggled behind her fingertips; Albus nodded emphatically.


‘See, for me…’ he said. ‘It’s probably cake first and The Weird Sisters second.’


‘Yeah, I don’t get it,’ Scorpius suddenly cut in. ‘I mean, The Weird Sisters were good in their prime and all, but everything they’ve put out since they reformed has been pretty average.’


There was a slight pause.


‘I’d disagree,’ Albus said. ‘It was a perfect comeback.’


‘How would you know?’


‘Pardon?’


‘How would you know?’ Scorpius said. ‘You weren’t there the first time round.’


‘Yeah, but, if you listen to their live recordings from back in the day…’


‘I dunno, I feel like you can only truly appreciate a band once you’ve seen them live.’


‘I’ve seen The Weird Sisters. Granted, only on their reunion tour, but…didn’t you go too?’


‘Flora didn’t want to go on her own.’


‘I thought you enjoyed it!’ I piped up, but both of them ignored me. Meanwhile, Fauna was watching the two of them warily, nibbling away on her slice of carrot cake.


‘What’s your favourite band?’ Albus cut across.


‘Oh, you’ve probably never heard of them,’ Scorpius said.


‘Try me.’


‘The Twenty Trenched Gashes?’


‘Nope.’


‘They’re a gothgaze four-piece from Manchester. They-’


‘What on earth is gothgaze?’


‘Like shoegaze meets goth?’ Scorpius said, and I felt like I could have slapped the smug little grin right off his face.


‘Nah, you’re right, never heard of them,’ Albus said. ‘Obviously they’ve still got to build a name for themselves yet…’


I took advantage of the tiny silence to elbow my way into their conversation.


‘How’re the stars looking, Fauna?’


‘Oh, you know,’ she said, eyes fixed on Scorpius. ‘Starry.’


‘Fab. Just fab. Anyone for more carrot cake?’


‘I think I’ll pass,’ Albus said. Scorpius didn’t even look at me.


Awkward silence. But I really shouldn’t have expected much else.


‘So…what’ve you two been up to?’ Fauna said, tugging her parchment out of Scorpius’ hands. ‘Apart from going to the kitchens…’


‘Homework in the library,’ I said.


‘Sounds…fun.’


I wanted the conversation to continue, more to save us all from the awkwardness than anything, but I couldn’t exactly bring myself to speak when I was preoccupied with the thought of punching Scorpius. I looked helplessly over at Albus, but he was staring out over the edge of the tower, jaw clenched. I almost might have said he was pouting.


‘Well, my favourite band is Modernism,’ Fauna finally said. ‘And I know the three of you hate them, so feel free to let rip with the insults.’


I guess Fauna must have felt as awkward as I did, because it was only another twenty minutes before she folded up her parchment onto her lap and said she was done stargazing for the night, even though the rest of her class still looked pretty engrossed in the project.


‘May as well call it a night,’ she said. ‘I am going to be up here all week, after all.’


We packed up our stuff, bundled the remains of the carrot cake into the foil, and then set off for the stairs. Albus hesitated at the foot of the staircase.


‘My common room’s on this floor,’ he said. ‘So…see you around?’


‘Yeah…see you soon,’ I said.


He gave me a brief one-armed hug, waved to Fauna, and then set off down the corridor. I couldn’t help but feel he was a little miffed, which, to be honest, served him right for being so pushy about going there in the first place.


We started descending the stairs to the sixth floor in silence.


‘Thanks for coming…and bringing Albus,’ Fauna said. ‘For a bit I didn’t know if you were going to show up or not…’


‘Albus was really keen to go.’


We still hadn’t said all that much by the time we reached the first floor, which was when Fauna came to a halt outside a classroom.


‘Need to drop off an essay in Transfiguration,’ she said. ‘I’ll be back in a minute.’


She vanished through the doorway before either me or Scorpius had a chance to speak. I already wanted to hit him, but I could have hit her too for abandoning me with him. It was pretty much the first time we’d been alone since everything had happened.


‘So…’ I said, after a protracted silence. ‘Trying to out-hipster Albus…not cool.’


He glared at me. ‘Styling your hair the way Myron Wagtail does it is not cool.’


‘I don’t-’


‘Albus looks like a prat and I know it’s because of the feature about Myron’s style tips in the last issue of New Magical Express, come on-’


‘He looks good with a quiff!’


‘Quiffs never looked good on anyone, Flora.’


I rolled my eyes and tutted at him, but I knew, deep down, that it was by far the silliest disagreement I’d had in a while and I actually wanted to laugh. And I guess Scorpius felt the same too, because his lips started to twitch into a smile.


I actually thought we could be friends again.


‘Myron’s cool and Albus is cool,’ I said.


‘And I’m not?’


‘Absolutely not.’


‘Neither are you.’


‘I know.’


There was another little pause before Scorpius spoke again, although he’d dropped the glaring and just looked sheepish instead.


‘Do you remember…once we…spent ages talking about how we weren’t cool and never wanted to be and…’


‘Yeah,’ I said, casually as I could, not wanting to let him onto the fact that it’d been dwelling on my mind more than usual for the past few weeks.


‘Kind of different now you’re Albus’ girlfriend and all…’


‘Yeah.’


‘You’re still four-eyes to me.’


‘And you’re still a loser.’


‘Okay…’ he said, and then added: ‘I missed that.’


An apology tripped to the end of my tongue, then I realised that I didn’t really have anything to apologise for. But I still wanted to say it. Not because I was sorry for something I’d done, but I was sorry for myself and the state the two of us had got into.


There was only time for him to say one more thing before Fauna returned: ‘It’s nice to see you again.’



a/n: I fail so much at updating...I'm sorry. real life has sort of become complicated and stuff and I have a full-time job now so I'm really struggling to find the time to write. buuut I do still love writing and and I'm looking forward to writing later bits of this story, so hopefully inspiration will strike and I can update a lot more this summer. anyway to the two of you who are still here, thank you for sticking with this and I'm sorry it's kind of sucky right now but I have had the worst writers' block and...~excuses~ ♥


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