Chapter 17 : Love rule #16
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It was another beautiful day according to my Healer-turned-Muggle-psychologist Amethyst Lewis. Outside the window, heavy skies shouted to the world that winter still had a tight grip, and the flurries of snow were still the cause of heinous fights between students. I could only hear the shouts and laughter though, not see the snow fights nor participate – I was still being kept under lock and key.
I had left the stage of anger and denial, and entered into the ‘problem acknowledged but there isn’t anything wrong with me!’ stage. Mine and Lewis’ conversation this morning had gone a little like this;
“Have some toast, Rose.”
“No. Seriously? There’s butter on that. And carbs. And is that jam? Merlin, do you even know how much sugar is in that? Can I have some water?”
“You’re hungry. Have some toast.”
“No. I don’t want to.”
“Yes you do.”
“No I don’t.”
“Yes you do.”
“Yes I do, but I’m not going to! I can do what I want. ”
“Okay, but if your BMI drops below eighteen, you’ll be taken to Mungo’s and force fed. It’s up to you, really.”
“I hate you.”
“No you don’t. You hate what your sickness is making you do.”
“Fine. I’ll see you this afternoon.”
Lewis stood up and breezed out the door. No matter how rude or insulting I was, she still remained unruffled and unconcerned about my awful behaviour.
She reminded me of Scorpius in that way – he could take whatever anyone said to him and still get on without it affecting him. My heart ached for him, but I forced him from my mind. It had been a whole week since I’d been in the hospital wing. If he didn’t want to see me, then I shouldn’t have to moon after him.
I sighed and sat back on my bed, angrily pulling some Transfiguration homework towards me. The girls had been routinely coming by every day for the last week and giving me all of my class work. So far, I was only behind by a little bit. I had started scratching a sentence onto some paper when River’s walked by. The force of her passing wafted the smell of the toast to my nostrils, and I paused.
Yes Rose. You need this. You need energy to study and do well at school. You need energy to go on runs. You need energy to live.
Do you really think Scorpius Malfoy will fall in love with a skinny waif like you?
I don’t want it. He clearly doesn’t want me anyway.
Why don’t you just have a little bite? You’ll think better and you’ll feel better. You won’t be as dizzy and weak. Go on.
Yes. If you eat, you’ll get out of the hospital wing. You can see Scorpius and your friends. You can find Hugo and you’ll have the energy to shake him until he forgives you. Your parents won’t look at you with worry and pity in their eyes. If you eat, you’ll be normal again. You’ll be the Rose who gets straight O’s, you’ll be the Rose who is kind and caring and gentle, not bitter and angry and impulsive. If you eat -
“NO!” I screamed, grabbing the plate and throwing it across the room. It shattered into tiny fragments on the wall, shards showering down almost gently. The toast stuck to the stark white wall and I almost laughed. Almost.
“Hi chicken,” I heard. I tore my eyes away from the toast and was surprised to see Dad wheeling towards me. Mum was nowhere in sight. I felt a rush of gratitude when he ignored the shattered plate on the ground and the tears welling in my eyes.
“Just me today,” he said, seeing my eyes dart around for Mum. I nodded without sitting up and he reached out to touch my face.
“Sit up, darling,” he said, and I churlishly did as asked. If anyone could get me to do something, it was Dad. “It breaks my heart to see you like this, Rosie.”
His voice was quiet, and I shifted uncomfortably. Changing the subject, I asked, “What are you doing today?”
“Visiting my favourite person. I escaped your mum while her back was turned. Don’t even ask how I got here.”
I couldn’t help but grin. Despite being struck down with a disability and his whole life changing, he still had the energy and spirit to be himself. If only I was half as strong.
“She’ll find you in about ten minutes, no doubt,” I giggled, and he winked.
“In which case, let’s get out of here.”
I stared at him wide-eyed. Was he serious? I could escape?
“Only for a few hours,” he hastily amended when he saw my excited eyes, but that was okay. A few hours was better than nothing.
“Did Rivers say it was okay?”
“She doesn’t have to know,” Dad said, looking shifty, “Come on!”
I jumped out of bed with more vigour than I felt.
I wandered down the main street of Diagon Alley with a spring in my step. Everything, even the dirty gutters and occasional emancipated beggar, seemed beautiful and bright outside of the Hospital Wing. I ignored the looks we were getting from people – Dad in his wheelchair and me not being at school.
People knew the face of a Weasley anywhere.
“Quidditch shop, chicken?” Dad asked, looking up at me hopefully. I couldn’t help but smile. Whenever I came to Diagon with any member of my family, I would undoubtedly be dragged along to look at the latest brooms and dragon leather keeper gloves.
We were stopped outside the gold and purple fronted shop, and Dad was jiggling his foot against the wheelchair in excitement.
“What choice do I have?” I said.
“Everything is a choice in life, Rosie,” he replied quietly, wheeling ahead of me through the door. I followed more slowly, frowning. Why did I have the feeling that we weren’t talking about a visit to see quiddich gear?
“Mr Weasley! Oh, and little Miss Weasley, too! Or should I say, young lady? You get more beautiful each time,” Tortean Fleet said, tottering over on spindly legs. The old man had opened and ran the shop for almost six decades, and wasn’t going to let a little thing like old age get in his way.
“Hello, Mr Fleet,” I said with a polite smile. The lustre and excitement of the trip was already starting to wear off, and I was getting tired and shaky again. More beautiful every time? This was coming from a man who could barely see five steps in front of him. I crossed my arms to hide the way my hands pinched at my belly fat, and was satisfied; definitely not beautiful.
“Tortie!” Dad exclaimed, shaking hands with the old owner heartily. I wandered off idly as Mr Fleet started talking about brooms for disabled players or special charms that would work for a wheelchair.
I was looking at the latest racing broom without really seeing it, when I smacked into someone coming around the corner.
“What - Rose Weasley! What are you doing here?”
I found myself staring up into the startled, pale eyes of Draco Malfoy, and turned pink. Seeing his blue eyes, so like Scorpius’, stabbed a pain into my belly that was all the fault of his stupid son. Where was Scorpius and why hadn’t he visited me?
“Hi, Mr Malfoy. How are you?” I asked politely, trying to distract myself from thinking of his son. He had a broomstick harness in his hands, and a travelling cloak slung over a shoulder.
“I’m perfectly well. Astoria sent me to do some birthday shopping for Scorpius. Aren’t you missing classes at the moment?”
“No, I’m not missing anything. I wasn’t really at school anyway,” I muttered, feeling uncomfortable talking about it.
It just felt ridiculous and weak – “Oh hi Mr Malfoy. I’m currently being kept in the Hospital Wing and force fed by a crazy matron because I refuse to feed myself.”
“Scorpius mentioned something, yes,” he began , “He’s been worried sick. I hope you get better soon, you’re looking very thin. What is it, some sort of goblin flu?”
I was happily surprised at how polite he was being. It wasn’t the awkward, stilted conversation I thought it would be, especially given my short answers.
“Erm yes, something like that…” I trailed off, looking away. Scorpius could find the time to talk about me to his father, but not visit me?
“Rosie? Rose, where – ah, there you are chicken.” Dad rolled past some shelves, pretending to hit me with his wheelchair as he stopped. His face had a mischievous, happy look on it until he saw Draco Malfoy.
“Hello, Weasley,” Draco said somewhat stiffly.
“Malfoy,” Dad said, just as stiff.
“Here I was thinking Rose had escaped a class to come and look at brooms,” Malfoy said, forcing a smile.
“No, just a day trip away from – everything,” Dad said, and I was impressed neither of them had drawn their wands. All of us kids knew the stories from the war, and I knew how difficult this must be for Dad.
“Yes, yes. I’m sorry to hear about, well…” Malfoy trailed off tactfully, motioning towards the wheelchair.
“Well, one has to make the best of any situation,” Dad said, and again shot a meaningful glance at me. There was an awkward silence, and Mr Malfoy shifted from foot to foot, before finally breaking the silence.
“It was nice to see you again, Miss Weasley. I hope you feel better soon. I hope both of you feel better soon, Weasley.” He nodded awkwardly, and turned to walk off.
“It’s Rose,” I murmured, and he glanced back. There was a small smile on his lips.
“And I’m Draco. Mr Malfoy was my father.” The last was shot at Dad, who nodded almost imperceptibly. Mr Malfoy – Draco – looked relieved at something and at last turned around and left. Dad glanced at me, and I glanced at him.
“Well, that wasn’t awkward at all.”
I watched as a small drop of ice cream dripped down the cone, ran over Dad’s fingers and onto the table; a delicious, heady little pink drop of sugary energy. My tongue came out and wet my lips unconsciously, and my breath hitched. My head spinning in hunger and I wanted to hit myself for what I was about to say.
“Can – can I have a bite?” I asked, transfixed. To give Dad credit, his expression didn’t even change.
“Hmm? What? Oh yeah, sure. Here you are, chicken.”
He handed the cone over, only just not quite hiding his delight. I held the slightly soggy cone for a few moments, feeling the fragility of it, seeing the ball of ice cream balanced precariously on top, before slowly bringing it closer to my lips. I wanted to close my eyes in horror, but I didn’t. Ice cream was just something that you had to taste, smell and see.
The first mouthful I took exploded on my tongue, resonating in the ends of my toes.
“Good, isn’t it? You have that one, I’ll get another,” Dad said, leaving me to it and wheeling over to the counter again. I stared at the gooey goodness in my hand, marvelling at how perfect it was.
Slightly melting, freezing cold, not too sweet, perfect balance of flavour. I took another mouthful, and another. All too soon, it was gone, and my stomach swelled imperceptibly. I noticed it, though, and felt sick.
“Alright, chicken?” Dad said, throwing me a look as he gobbled down his new ice cream. I fixed my eyes on the table and nodded stiffly. It wasn’t so bad, right? It was one ice cream. Dad gave it to me, and I trust Dad, so it’s all right. Just one ice cream.
But what will it be next? Chocolate? Bread? Pudding? The nasty voice whispered, and it took everything in me to squash the voice and fix a smile on my face.
“It was yum, Dad,” I said truthfully, and his wrinkled, droopy face broke into an ice creamy grin.
“That’s my girl.”
We tried to sneak back in, really we did. But the moment we stepped (and wheeled) into the hospital wing, several angry faces swung around to greet us.
“Rose Weasley! Explain yourself!” Mum’s face was a deep scarlet and judging by the bushiness of her hair, she’d been worried for several hours.
“Hermione love, don’t-“ Dad tried to say, but he was cut off.
“And I haven’t even got to you yet, Ronald Weasley! Just you wait until later! Rose! How could you do this to us? No note, no goodbye, nothing!”
“So selfish,” someone muttered, and I was surprised to see Hugo hiding behind Mum. My eyes narrowed as they met his, and I was pleased to see he was somewhat frightened of that look. Or of how I looked – I wasn’t quite sure.
“Miss Weasley, I am so disappointed in you. You could have collapsed and you would’ve been helpless.”
Now old Rivers was joining the Rose-bashing bandwagon, and my shoulders slumped. I couldn’t do anything right. My stomach gave a tiny rumble, and I could almost taste the ice cream I’d eaten. A nostalgic rumble, perhaps.
“Everyone shut up,” Dad said quietly, and everyone stopped their babbling.
“What?! Ron, don’t you even-“ Mum snapped, but it was Dad’s turn to interrupt her.
“She ate an ice cream. And some salad afterwards. Let her rest now.”
There was a sudden shocked silence, and Dad nodded determinedly. He grasped my shaking hand and led me around the group and to my bed. I held on to him for dear life, trying to forget about the sugar and the salad that was lying heavily in my belly.
It’s okay to eat, Rose. It’s natural. Everyone has to eat, I tried to reassure myself. And to my surprise as I crawled into bed and pulled the covers up, it worked somewhat.
Somewhere behind me, I could still hear everyone arguing.
“How much and what exactly did she eat, Mr Weasley?”
“You were meant to be helping me with dinner!”
“Is she okay? She looks really bad.”
“I can’t believe you escaped like that! And kidnapped your own daughter!”
“I should have come to see her sooner.”
“Maybe this was the best thing for her.”
I sighed and finally called out, “I can hear you all. So shut up or go away.”
With that, I rolled over and went straight to sleep, with a strange, satisfied feeling that I hadn’t had in a while – I wasn’t hungry.
And it felt good.
I woke up in darkness, eyes snapping open in panic. My heart was racing from a bad dream and I lay on my back trying to calm my breathing.
The hospital wing was shadowy and warm, with the only light coming from under River’s door. I was about to lift my hands to my stomach to see if I was any fatter from my pig-out, but I was distracted by a noise.
A scuffing, like a shoe, came from near the door. I shifted my head to peer into the shadows, and had to swallow a gasp when the shadows became a person - a person who sat down on the chair next to my bed and put their head in their hands. Hope swelled in me. Scorpius? Was he actually here to visit me?
“I’m so sorry, Rosie,” came a male voice who, disappointingly, wasn’t Scorpius. It was Hugo.
“What do you want, Hugo?” I asked with a tired sigh.
My brother leant forward, moonlight falling on his face.
“I wanted to see you.”
“And you couldn’t wait until morning like a normal person?”
“Well, no. Since when have either of us been normal?”
“Go away, Hugo,” I muttered, suddenly angry at him. Of course he comes in the middle of the night and wakes me up.
“Don’t be stubborn.”
“Says you! Shut up Rose, and just listen to me.”
I stared at my shadowy brother, indignant. I was the one who was sick, he was meant to be nice to me!
“You can be an awful person sometimes, Rose. I’m sorry for being mad over Dad. But the truth is,” he continued, surprising me with his rant, “Is that I was so scared for him. And a bit angry, too. You always get all of the attention. Rose this, Rose that. Rose is Head Girl, Rose is sick.
“I was worried that Dad wasn’t going to be okay. I was at the hospital wing the whole time while Dad was sick and I barely got mentioned in the papers for being so loyal and family orientated. But the moment you turned up everything was about you. ‘Rose is so thin, where is Rose, is Rose okay.’ Blah blah blah. So yeah, I was mad. But then you explained yourself and I was ashamed. But I never got to tell you that because then you changed. You got so distant and so different, I didn’t even know how to talk to you.”
Hugo’s breathing was rough, and his words jumbled as he now whisper-yelled at me. I closed my eyes and settled back onto my pillow, letting his words sink in and forcing the prickling feeling away from my eyes. Sometimes, my little brother just needed to rant at someone. We were alike like that, him and I; holding everything in until it all burst out in one damaging torrent.
“I missed you, Hugo,” I finally whispered, and I heard a smile in his voice as he replied.
“I missed you too, Rosie. Please, get better soon. Everyone is worried sick.”
I sighed and opened my eyes. “It’s not as easy as that, Hugh.”
“I can help! Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it!”
He was pleading with me, and I was shocked. Hugo Weasley never pleads. He just takes what he wants without asking, let alone pleading.
“Change society’s view of beauty and then maybe I’ll feel better,” I attempted to joke feebly, and my brother’s hands tightened on my sheets. I continued, “Or find a spell that takes away my perfectionist personality, or force-feed me or make food free of calories or look for –“
“Rose, stop!” Hugo hissed, sounding distressed. I felt a twinge of guilt, and quickly wiped a few tears from my eyes.
“Sorry,” I whispered shakily, “I’ll try. I promise I’ll try to be better. I hate being like this.”
“Thanks, sis.” He squeezed my hand, and we fell silent.
“Can you tell me where Scorpius is?” I finally asked the only thing I truly cared about. Hugo immediately started fidgeting, and I felt my heart sink.
“He’s sad. I don’t think he knows how to deal with all of his. Look, I better get back to bed. Can’t afford any more detentions.”
He planted a swift kiss on my cheek and was gone before I could even open my mouth. I lay in silence for a few brief seconds, thoughts whirling through my tired brain.
My brother and I were on friendly terms at last, and there was only one person in the world who I wanted to tell. With a determined, deep breath, I swung my legs out of bed and snuck out of the hospital wing.
Time to go and find Scorpius.
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