Chapter 2 : So, Rumor Has It.
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“How did you get in here?” I groaned, my frown deepening at the sight of Melody’s overly cheerful face. Melody was never cheerful without reason, and if she was this cheerful, it had to be something bad. “Well, you named the room. Did you honestly think it was secret?” I glared. “Is there a particular reason that you wanted to invade my sanctuary?”
“Oh, is this your sanctuary?” Melody asked in mock surprise, her eyes round. “I wouldn’t have been able to tell. The banner sure doesn’t give it away. Anyhow, I just thought you’d want to be warned of the dirty glares you will receive when you walk out that door.”
“Excuse me? Why on earth would I be receiving dirty glares?”
“Oh, you know,” Melody smiled smugly. “Your misdemeanors had to come public sooner or later.” I closed my eyes and growled (a girl can growl, okay?).
“What did you do?”
“Who, me?” Melody asked, her eyes all wide and innocent looking. It didn’t fool me for a minute. I was all too familiar with that innocent expression. It meant that Melody most certainly had everything to do with whatever it was. “Tata!” trilled the evil manipulator (well, it suited her better than “Melody”) as she skipped to the door, her (irritatingly perfect) black curls bouncing gaily behind her. I let my head fall into my hands. I could already feel the tears hot and prickly behind my eyes (no, I don’t cry easily, she’s just evil) but refused to let them fall. Melody had done something again. It had been like this for the last three years – random rumors at random intervals, friends turning against me, and vicious Melody pulling the strings. It wasn’t even just the rumors. It was Melody’s sneering tone when she talked to me, and the way no one else seemed to hear the venom in her voice. It was the superior smirk on her face whenever she saw me, and the way everyone else appeared to think it was a friendly smile. It was the way she would “wait” for me after class just to get an extra opportunity to jeer at me, and the way none of Melody’s friends (or the rest of Hogwarts) noticed her motive. It was all of my failed attempts to get back at Melody, and the way all the teachers saw my wand move but didn’t see Melody’s. It was my temper when I lost it and shouted, and all of Hogwarts saw me as the bad guy, and the way not even the portraits on the walls noticed how much I put up with before I exploded at Melody. It was the sisterhood that Melody and I had shared for less than a year, and the way Melody turned on me so quickly. It was everyone else’s believing those terrible rumors despite my honestly nice personality, and the way Melody could see through my mask of impenetrability (ha, I wish) and glory in how she was hurting me.
Steeling myself to leave my haven, I reminded myself that I was in Gryffindor and hoped desperately that some of the courage I was supposed to possess would man up and show itself. I took a deep breath and turned the handle of the door, peeking carefully around the edge of the door, almost expecting a cacophony of jeers and insults. I could almost have shouted with glee when I saw no one outside. Proceeding cautiously, I tiptoed down the hall and up to my dormitory. Adara Corner and Sandra greeted me with disgusted looks as I slunk to my bed and took out my clothes. They said nothing to me but immediately started whispering between themselves, casting sidelong glances at me when they thought I wasn’t looking.
After my shower, I entered the now-empty dormitory. Everyone must have already gone to breakfast. I considered skipping breakfast and avoiding the whispers that must follow me now that Melody had cast her wicked spell (I had always been a fan of fairytales, princesses and evil witches), but that would be like an admission of Melody’s victory. Never, in a million years, could I allow Melody to win. It went against my moral principles. Everyone would notice Melody’s victory and ridicule me (my small victories, of course, always went unnoticed or turned on me. Exhibit A, hexing Melody). No, I decided, I would be a Gryffindor. I would be brave.
I was seriously considering a transfer to Hufflepuff. Gryffindor bravery was so not worth it. I tried to hold my head high as I marched into the Great Hall with everyone’s eyes trained on me. I sat at a seat alone (everyone scooted far away when they saw me approaching) and grabbed a piece of toast and began to butter it. The knife clattered to the ground when my shaking hands lost their grip on it, of course incurring the laughter of everyone who saw. I placed my hands in my lap and stared at them, endeavoring to stop the quivering of my bottom lip. My eyes were slowly filling with tears, so I let my hair fall around my face like a personal curtain (Merlin, I had to stop being so sensitive). Thankfully, once they noticed that I was going to be “boring” and not do anything laugh-worthy (hopefully), people began to turn back to their breakfasts, murmuring amongst themselves, shooting hostile glares my way every so often. What kind of rumor had Melody spread? Had she managed to turn the whole school against me? It didn’t even seem to help that I was a Weasley. In fact, in my case, everybody else took my cleverness and family name as a personal insult. I couldn’t help it if an A or even an E wasn’t good enough, although I did try to refrain from voicing it. Others seemed to think I was just boasting if I wished aloud that Bell had given me a few extra points, but I just expected that much from myself. Nobody hated Melody for loudly exclaiming “Yes! O!” every time she got a paper back (even when the grade was an A – I had taken the liberty of checking). Even being a Weasley, in my case, was another terrible label: thanks to Melody, I had the reputation of an attention-seeking, fame-loving, boastful nobody who fed off the renown of her fabulous family. None of my cousins (or Hugo, for that matter) had to deal with that, and it was bloody stupid (and all Melody’s fault).
I finished my breakfast quickly, barely able to keep the tears from my eyes. I hurried from the Great Hall and waited outside the transfiguration class, my head down and my hair falling around my face, scurrying into the classroom the second Professor Bell opened the door.
“Wands out, please, and essays on your desks. Today we will be attempting to perform Switching Spells on larger objects. You should have read the theory in your textbooks last night,” Professor Bell began, “and I am, of course, looking forward to reading your essays on the topic,” she finished dryly. I had mastered Switching Spells in fourth year, so this lesson was nothing out of the ordinary for me. In fact, I had quite an entertaining lesson switching random things, the funniest being Melody’s ears with a cactus (Professor Bell was not amused, but thankfully she attributed the mishap to Melody’s terrible transfiguration skills). Melody, of course, knew immediately who had done it (well, she probably guessed, but she was right so it didn’t matter anyways) and got one of her minions to set my essay on fire. Thankfully, I managed to save it (I’d put antiflammatory charms on all my essays ever since Melody had set fire to my 5 page potions essay for Professor Slughorn, who somehow was still around, and earned me a zero for three hours’ hard work). I kept my head down for the rest of the Transfiguration lesson and left on the bell’s first toll, before Melody or anyone else could get back at me for anything.
I continued like that for the rest of the day and the rest of the week. By Friday, I was starting to feel fairly pathetic. My life sounded like something out of a teenage angst story. This honestly had to stop. Except that sounded like the typical turnaround “and now my life will be perfect” angst story too. Screw this teenage angst.
That night, Sandra and Adara were gossiping quietly in a corner of the dormitory as they had been doing over the last week of my self-created exile. I took a deep breath, hoping there was a little bravery and sangfroid floating around in the air that I could magically ingest (well, it was Hogwarts, magic wasn’t exactly out of the norm). “Um, Adara?” I called tentatively. “Do you think… I could maybe talk to you?” Adara sneered at me. “Why would I want to talk to you?”
“I’m sure you don’t,” I replied meekly, “but I’d like to explain something.”
“Go ahead,” Adara scoffed, rolling her eyes (Sandra rolled hers too, for emphasis).
“I don’t know what Melody said about me. Honestly. She’s been out to get me ever since second year, and whatever she said about me, I can’t have done something that bad. I’m really a nice person.” I’m a nice person? Merlin’s pants, that sounded pathetic even to my ears.
Adara and I had been best friends in first year, practically inseparable, and Adara hadn’t taken it well when Melody and I had been glued together at the hip during our second year. In fact, Adara had probably gloried in my despair when Melody had turned against me (some friend, right?). Even now, Adara didn’t seem to be feeling particularly forgiving. “And you think we’re going to believe that?”
“I know it sounds pretty hollow, but believe me. Please.” Wow. Now I was begging. Could you even get more angsty that this? Well, if Adara forgave me now, it would really be clichéd. In fact, it would probably be clichéd squared, with both the begging and the forgiving. Adara sighed. “You know, Rose, I was wondering when you’d figure out that Melody isn’t all that great.” Really?! She would forgive me (and create the most clichéd moment ever, willingly? Out-of-the-mold Adara?)?! Happy celebratory cheerful exuberant lovely things dance! But I couldn’t let Adara know about my overflowing cup of joy quite yet because that would destroy my remaining dignity, which was sparse enough as it was.
“What?! You made friends with her right after she started orchestrating my downfall!”
“Well, I was kind of mad, okay?”
“So you stayed mad for three years.”
“No, I mean, I wasn’t mad, but you never seemed to want to be friends again.”
“That was because you didn’t!”
“It was you!”
“Oh, shut it and hug, you two!” Sandra bellowed. Who would have thought four foot, eight inches high Sandra with her large, innocent green eyes and soft hazel hair could bellow? Certainly not Adara and I, because we both jumped and stared at our (admittedly intimidating) companion in shock. Then we laughed. Then we hugged. And cried. And laughed some more. Sandra? She rolled her eyes. Yes, I know. You could probably drown in the angsty clichés by now.
“Rose, how could you ever think for a minute that I believed Melody’s stupid rumors?”
“… you glared at me? And whispered?”
Adara rolled her eyes (she must have been practicing, she’d been rolling them so much – maybe she was going for the All-Wizard Olympics in eye-rolling? I hear they’re holding the trials in a month or so). “Well, I was waiting for you to beg for forgiveness. Obviously. Look, I’m not friends with Melody so much anymore. We talk occasionally, but I really only hung out with her to get you back.”
“It worked,” I muttered. “I was completely jealous, terribly hurt, feeling abandoned and betrayed, and effectively a mess. Speaking of messes, what were the rumors?”
Adara hesitated, looking at the bed, the curtain, the carpet, the dresser, and a nonexistent speck of dust on her sleeve (everywhere except me), before replying with “Look, Rose, I think it’s best you don’t find out. Really. Trust me.” Well, that was anticlimax.
My curiosity had most definitely been piqued. How could I deal with the rumors if I didn’t know what they were (and were they honestly that bad)? Adara, however, refused to be moved. She (and Sandra) maintained that it was better for me to remain unaware as to the specifics of the rumor. I relented, though I remained unsatisfied and pensive. Sandra and Adara dragged me into a girls’ night (successfully ending my pensiveness), complete with nail polish (in several varieties of rather bizarre colors, in my opinion, though bizarre wasn’t at all bad), hairstyling, and pillow fights, which, as far as I was concerned, was about as clichéd as you could get.
I woke the next morning feeling refreshed and happy. I could take Melody any day, especially if Adara would be my friend again (little happy dance). Sandra seemed pretty friendly too, and she was much more mischievous than her innocent appearance would lead people to believe. I grinned – I had a feeling we’d get on very well indeed. After my catlike yawning and stretching (well, Puffle – for those who don’t know, my black and white sweetheart kitten with the most beautiful green eyes that is the bane of my dorm-mates lives – stretches every morning, I can’t help it if I take after her), I showered in a leisurely manner. I had this amazing smelling vanilla shampoo (vanilla’s my favorite scent) that had a sort of floral twist and a matching lotion. Consequently, I came out smelling extremely nice. I dressed in a leisurely manner and tried to brush my hair (operative word being “tried”). Catching sight of my bushy red hair in the mirror, I frowned. I had attacked it with a brush and a straightening charm, but thanks to my mother’s lovely genes, nothing but hours applying copious amounts of Sleakeazy’s Hair Potion (no other brand would work) could get the curl, frizz, and bush out of my oh-so-helpful hair. I sighed and tossed the brush down, settling for pulling my uncooperative hair into a high ponytail, which would at a minimum keep my annoyingly layered hair out of my face, and pinned my bangs back. It would have to do. I noticed the bags under my eyes (I hadn’t slept so well since the rumor started) and applied a little eyeliner (damn! Who knew it could smudge so much?) and a bit of concealer (how was it supposed to blend properly and still hide the spots?). I was in an exceptionally good mood, I realized – usually, I never had the patience to put make-up on and didn’t really think it was good to get into the habit of wearing make-up at such a young age (an ideal I’d inherited from my mother), but today felt special. Today was new.
Adara and Sandra were nowhere to be found, so, deciding that I felt like a walk, I strolled out to the Quidditch pitch and meandered around the field. It was a bit chilly out, given that it was mid-September, and the trees by the lake had turned a rather lovely shade of orange, lending the otherwise gray English scenery a bit of color. Someone’s team seemed to be practicing above me, judging from the Quaffle, the shouts, the random thwacks of bludgers being hit, and, of course, the rather conspicuous group of people flying on brooms. Squinting up at the sky, I noted that it was Slytherin’s team, all decked out in green and silver. I (involuntarily, I swear) wrinkled my nose when I caught sight of a shock of white-blonde hair in the sky. Scorpius Malfoy had to be the most annoying creature ever to disfigure planet earth. He always dressed sloppily (in contrast to my extremely neat attire), always had mud on the knees of his jeans (first, how could he do that playing Quidditch? He was on a bloody broom in the air, off the ground, for Merlin’s sake! Second, jeans were most certainly not part of the uniform. No sir.), he never seemed to study, and sometimes beat me in class (which only Melody had ever been allowed to do, and occasionally, at that) and when he did manage an O and I’d gotten an E on one of my off days, he would boast unmercifully, running his fingers through his rather greasy platinum locks like he was something else.
He was good at Quidditch; I’d never contest that. He was also extremely skinny with these long chicken legs – definitely not the typical idea of a Quidditch player and by no means attractive. I couldn’t think of a single person who thought he was good looking, except perhaps his mother (if she did somehow manage to think of her precious pearl as “handsome,” I’d suggest she get her eyes checked as a precautionary measure. Parental blindness can be dangerous, as Mum always warns Dad when he forgets to yell at Hugo). Scorpius (on a slightly mean and petty note, what kind of a name is Scorpius?) always had to be all sport-y and athletic while I was the last to be picked for any team, even something as tame as “toss the Quaffle,” in the physical education classes that were now mandatory at Hogwarts (apparently they hadn’t existed when Mum and Dad had gone to school, lucky things). I couldn’t hit a bludger for my life as I frequently dropped the bat, and my quaffle throws barely went a few feet. I couldn’t really fly very straight either (Dad was rather disappointed, but he had Hugo for Quidditch, after all). It didn’t help that Melody was athletic and particularly vicious on the sports field. She’d given me several bruises and even knocked a few of the boys out of the air. Even Madame Hooch, who was technically supposed to be impartial, would always shake her head at my attempts and sigh in a forlorn sort of way.
Clearly, my not-so-secret shame was the sports field, though it hadn’t always been like that. To Dad’s delight, I’d been quite an outdoors-y sort of girl. It was only after I’d gone to school and hadn’t been able to play soccer (the ball was bleeding out to get me, I swear, it had teeth and all) at the local Muggle primary school that I’d really given up on the competitiveness of sports. Of course, I still wholeheartedly supported the Chudley Cannons, though they were still bottom of the league (I’d lost track of how many years running that had happened). Thanks to my lack of physical exercise, or “conditioning,” as Quidditch players put it, I could barely run a full kilometer, and even if I managed to finish, I’d be panting so much it took me years to get my breath back (that may have been a slight exaggeration. But only a slight one). My sole consolation was that I was much more successful in the academic world.
Coming out of my reverie, I noticed that Malfoy had landed on the ground a few feet away from me. “Looking for something, Weasley?” he drawled (did he have to drawl? Was normal talking not enough for him? Honestly.). “Not really, Malfoy. Just on a walk.”
Of course, with my luck, the first time the PE class was having a dance class, Malfoy and I – Malfoy, of all people – were paired together. “Alright, kids,” Madame Hooch (now rather aged) shouted. “Let’s get on with it. Boys, hold out your hands, palms upward. Girls, place your hands on theirs. Come on now, they won’t bite,” she ordered, her voice impatient. The first dance class passed unpleasantly, as expected. I expected all the classes to pass unpleasantly, especially with the amount the other girls (Melody at their head) were teasing me about dancing with Scorpius (who was considered the not-so-good-looking super-nerdy very stuck-up boy of the class, and therefore was, according to Melody, a perfect match for me). Melody was partnered with Thomas Finnegan, a rather obscure but not necessarily disliked fellow. That girl had all the luck.
“I can’t believe I got paired with Malfoy. Malfoy! Out of all the boys in this year, and don’t tell me there aren’t many, because there are enough for me to not be paired with MALFOY! He’s so insufferable! Always bloody boasting! Malfoy. Honestly! I swear he was actually holding my hand. Malfoy does not hold my hand. It is not allowed. Never. Not ever. Not even if I’m falling off a bloody cliff and he’s saving me.” I ranted that night to a very bored-looking Adara, who sighed for the umpteenth time, “Rose, he’s not that bad. You’ll be fine.”
“Fine?! Fine for you to say! You get to dance with Sandra thanks to this stupid shortage of boys! You didn’t get saddled with Malfoy! And stupid Melody, on top of it all. Always sneering and smirking with that stupid little smirk.” Well, forgive me, I’m not exactly at my most coherent when angry.
Adara sighed and shook her head. “Rose, calm down. It’s perfectly all right. I promise you that you will survive this experience.” I, however, wasn’t so sure. “Anyway, I have something to tell you. You know Frank?” she asked conversationally, picking at the chipping nail polish on her fingers.
“The same. Did you know he’s had a crush on me for the last, like, two and a half-ish years?” WHAT?!?! And she’d been keeping this under her hat for how long?
“Nope, being completely honest. He’s also asked me out slash asked me to Hogsmeade at least 3 times per year. It’s been getting worse lately. It’s reaching a bi-weekly basis.”
“You’re kidding! Frank? Really? What did you say?”
“Well, obviously, if he keeps asking, it’s because I keep rejecting him. He’d hardly keep asking if I said yes. If he did, he’d be dimmer than I thought.”
“Don’t you like him at all? He’s awfully nice and he’s got those gorgeous eyes.”
“Yeah, but he’s Frank. Not, like, Frank, you know?”
I smiled to myself. I’d missed Adara.
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