Chapter 6 : Lunch With Narcissa
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Victoire had ended up owling Rose to tell her that she and Teddy had plans for the weekend, but that she really was very proud and would find some way to celebrate next week. Therefore, Rose and Scorpius ended up meeting up with James and Albus instead. To Rose’s considerable relief, neither James nor Albus made any jokes about what exactly she and Scorpius had been doing for the past twenty-four hours, though judging from the look Albus shot his best friend, it was clear that he, at least, was aware that Scorpius had switched shifts so he didn’t have to work that day. How Albus knew that was beyond her, but Albus always seemed to know these things.
A major advantage in going out with your cousin’s best friend was that he typically felt too awkward to really tease either of them. Albus wasn’t really the sort to seriously tease, anyway, not really, but he wasn’t above occasionally mocking his brother or several of their cousins about their love lives, and Rose was just as happy that he avoided it with her.
They’d just finished their first drinks, and as James and Scorpius made their way up to the bar to get another round, Albus leaned across the table. “So, be honest. How was it?”
His voice was low enough that the people at the neighboring table couldn’t hear him, and Rose followed his example. “Amazing. You’ll love being out in the field. I promise.”
A wide grin spread across his face. “Thought so. Did you really save a woman’s life, or was Scorpius just talking you up?”
“I dunno. They said I did.”
Before Albus could say anything else, James and Scorpius returned. They were each carrying two glasses. When Rose tried to give Scorpius the sickles to pay for hers, he waved her off. She was about to object when he said, “No, Rose, I didn’t pay for it.”
She looked down at the glass. A faint wisp of smoke was rising up from the firewhiskey, and the words, “Good job yesterday” glowed across the surface of the liquid before vanishing. She looked over at the bar and saw Dedworth sitting there with one of his sisters. He raised his glass to her, and she grinned.
“Who’s that?” Albus asked.
She looked back at him. “What? Oh, just my boss.”
Albus glanced toward the bar again. “That’s the famous Van Dedworth, huh? Vic never mentioned that he was - er - fit.” Rose raised her eyebrows at him, and he rolled his eyes. “Well, he is. If I was Teddy, I’d be jealous, with how much she goes on about him.”
“Please. He’s like ten years older than her.” From his expression, Albus did not seem to think this mattered much, so Rose added, “And anyway, he’s - he’s got his own - er - girlfriend. Sort of.”
“He makes your relationship with Bridget look normal.”
A faint tinge appeared on her cousin’s cheeks, but he didn’t deny that he was in a relationship with Bridget. For him, that was definite progress. “Who with?”
Rose felt awkward answering the question, but James didn’t seem to have any trouble spilling the latest gossip. “One of the heads of the division. Lavender.”
“Isn’t she the one with all the scars?” Rose shrugged, and Albus stole another look at the bar. Dedworth was now completely absorbed in conversation with his sister and didn’t appear to notice. “That’s... odd.” Rose shrugged again, and Albus moved his attention onto Scorpius. “So, Scorpius, are you feeling a little jealous?”
Scorpius either didn’t notice or chose to ignore the smile on Albus’s face. “I might, if he wasn’t about twenty years older than us. As it stands, no.” He grinned. “And anyway, Rose made me feel very appreciated last night. I’m not going to be feeling jealous of anyone for awhile.”
James let out a loud bark of laughter. “Appreciated, huh?”
Rose looked over at her boyfriend. He was wearing a smug smile on his face. “Very.” She shoved him gently, and he leaned over to her cheek. “Love you.”
She wrinkled her nose at his tone. It was sickeningly sweet, and it was clear from the smirk on his face that it was completely intentional. “So I was thinking that tonight, I wanted the solitude of my own bed.”
His tone changed back to something approaching normal immediately. “And I’m done.”
The four of them fell into conversation that, thankfully, had nothing to do with anyone’s love life (or lack thereof). Albus, however, kept shooting curious glances toward the bar until Dedworth got up and left, and while Rose was enjoying the current conversation berating various public officials to interrupt it, she made a note to ask him about it later.
Rose had been planning to follow Scorpius back to his flat for the evening, but as the boys started making plans to go back to the Potters’ flat, she realised that what she really wanted was the comfort of her own bed.
“Hey.” She caught Scorpius’s hand before he could follow James and Albus toward the door. “I think I’m just going to head home. I could use some alone time.”
“Sure.” He didn’t look especially surprised. “Want me to stop by tomorrow for a few hours?”
She nodded, and he squeezed her hand and smiled. “Love you.”
Rose let him pull her into a hug. “I love you, too,” she said as she wrapped her arms around him. “I’m just a little tired.”
“Understandable.” He pulled back and opened the door for her. “I can have that effect.” She let out a snort. “You’re still up for lunch with my grandmother, right?”
For about half a second, Rose considered taking advantage of the opening, but she quashed the thought before it could really take hold; somehow, she had the feeling that telling him she would and then taking it back would be a mistake. “Of course not. Don’t be silly.”
The relief on his face told her that she’d made the right decision. “Oh. Good.”
Rose was even more tired than she’d realised; she’d had vague thoughts about stopping in to talk to Lucy, who she hadn’t talked to since before fieldwork, but although she saw light through the crack at the bottom of her cousin’s room, the sight of her own ajar bedroom door was too inviting.
She’d catch up with Lucy tomorrow.
She slipped inside her room and pulled the door shut. It gave a quiet click behind her as she stepped out of her shoes. The faintest light from the street lamps outside was filtering in through her curtains, and she pointed her wand at her bedside table. The orb sitting on it brightened into a soft glow, and she began to get ready for bed.
She woke up the next morning to a delicious smell wafting under her bedroom door. A quick glance over at the clock hanging on the wall told her that it was just past 9, which meant that she’d been sleeping for about 10 hours. Despite that, she didn’t feel especially inspired to get up, which was why she was still laying in bed staring up at her ceiling when Lucy knocked on the door 15 minutes later.
“I’m awake,” she called out. “Come in.”
Lucy poked her head inside. “Hey. I’m making breakfast, if you want it.”
“Mm.” Rose raised herself up onto her elbows. “That sounds amazing.” The smell was even stronger now that her door was open, and she took a deep breath. “That smells amazing.”
Lucy grinned. “Thought you might say that. It should be ready in 10.” She disappeared and closed the door behind her, and Rose fell back onto her pillow.
Living with the nicest Weasley cousin apart from maybe Albus definitely had its advantages.
Rose emerged from her room just as Lucy was piling two plates with pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs.
“Thanks.” She slid into one of the chairs and began to dig in. “Luce, you’re my favorite cousin.”
“No, I’m not.” Lucy smiled as she sipped her tea. “But that’s all right. You have a lot of cousins, and I’m pretty sure I’m in the top five. That’s good enough.” Before Rose could decide how to respond to that, Lucy said, “So, I heard from a Dedworth that you did well on Thursday.”
Rose gave a snort of laughter. “‘A Dedworth?’ Which one?”
The corners of Lucy’s mouth turned up as she started to cut her pancakes into pieces. “Gillian. She just transferred over to my department.”
“What did she say?”
Lucy shrugged. “That she heard you did a good job on Thursday. There really wasn’t much more to it than that. She bumped into Van in St. Mungo’s.”
Rose briefly wondered why Gillian Dedworth had been in St. Mungo’s in the first place, but she decided she didn’t really care enough to ask. “Oh.” Lucy continued to look at her expectantly, and Rose shook herself. “Oh. Yeah. I guess. It - it went well.” She wasn’t quite sure what to say that wouldn’t be bragging while still being accurate, so she stuffed a forkful of food in her mouth instead of saying anything.
“Well, what happened?”
One look at Lucy’s face told Rose that there was no way Lucy was going to let it go without hearing all the details.
When she’d finished telling the story, Lucy looked more than a little impressed. “Good job. I guess you deserved breakfast, huh?”
“I guess.” Rose looked down at her empty plate. “Thanks. It was good.”
“No problem. So I take it you spent last night with Scorpius?”
“Yeah. He might be stopping by later.”
“What, coming here?” Rose nodded. “Well, that’s unusual.”
Rose felt her face flush a little. She tended to go to Scorpius’s a lot more often than he came to her place, largely because he had his own place and a double bed, and she had neither. He didn’t make much more than she did, but unlike her, he didn’t have to pay rent - his parents had bought his flat for him as a gift for finishing school with three Os in his N.E.W.T.s.
When he’d pointed out to them that he might not want to stay there indefinitely, they’d shrugged and called it “an investment.”
Rose rather wished that her parents had made “an investment” like that for her once she’d finished Hogwarts, but they’d fed her a line about the value of making her own way in the world.
On the other hand, they’d given her great tickets to half a dozen Arrows games, so she really couldn’t complain.
She and Lucy hung out for the rest of the morning, and then she retired to her room to read for a little while.
A little while turned into quite a bit longer, because when Scorpius arrived at about 3, she was still absorbed in the book.
“Lucy let me in,” he said, closing the door behind him. “How are you?”
She put the book down and stretched. “Good. Rested. How late were you out last night?”
“Don’t ask.” He sat down on her bed and leaned in to brush his lips against hers. “You know, I’m having a hard time remembering just what I found so obnoxious about James. He really isn’t half as bad as I used to think he was.”
Rose chose not to remind him that James had spent a good part of their Hogwarts career jinxing Scorpius’s hair a variety of colours, and had probably deserved at least some of his antipathy. “I told you so.”
He grinned, but it didn’t look like his heart was in it. “Look, Rose, I wanted to talk to you about something.”
Her heart leapt into her throat. “What did I do?”
“Nothing. I just...” He sighed. “I was thinking last night, and I feel like I kind of guilted you into meeting my grandmother even though you’re not really comfortable with it, and I feel bad. I know why you’re not comfortable with my dad’s parents. I get it. If you don’t want to meet her, it’s really okay. I’ll just make some excuse about tomorrow.”
“I thought this was important to you.”
He looked up at the ceiling. “Well, yeah. It is. But you not being horribly uncomfortable is also important to me.”
This was a lifeline. She could snatch it and not have to deal with meeting Narcissa Malfoy at all, and he wouldn’t even hold it against her. She could take it. She wanted to take it.
But she knew that she shouldn’t.
“No, it’s fine. I’m looking forward to meeting her.”
Scorpius looked at her sceptically. “Are you serious?”
“Yes.” He raised his eyebrows, and she slumped back against the wall. “Merlin, Scorpius. I thought you wanted me to meet her.”
“I do, but only if you’re ready.”
Rose sighed. “You’re making it really easy for me to back out.” He made a noncommittal noise. “Please don’t.”
Scorpius gave a quick jerk of his head, and she studied him. There was a faint crease in his forehead, and he was chewing his lower lip. It occurred to her suddenly that he was probably just as nervous about Rose meeting his grandmother as she was.
“Do you not want me to meet her? Did you change your mind?”
“What?” She repeated the question, and he shook his head. “No. I don’t think so, anyway. I’m just...” He looked away from her.
“Nervous? Join the club.”
He chuckled at that. “Look, Rose, if you want to meet her, I want you to meet her. I’m just feeling... well, nervous.”
He made a face and slumped back on her bed. “I don’t know. I guess I’m worried that she’ll say something stupid without thinking about it, or you’ll be... well, yourself.”
He glanced over at her. “Oh, don’t,” he said. “You know how you can be. I’m not saying that I think you’ll say something terrible or anything. You can just be a little awkward sometimes, and I’m not entirely sure my grandmother even understands the concept. She’s usually gracious, I’ve seen her be a bit mean, but I’ve never seen her act awkward.”
“Oh.” Suddenly, the pit in Rose’s stomach was growing bigger.
Scorpius reached out to grab her hand. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.” He even managed to put some conviction into his voice, which was a lot more than she could have managed at the moment.
She forced a smile onto her face. “Yeah. I’m sure it will be.”
By the time Scorpius arrived the next morning, she was a bundle of nerves. She was putting a great deal of effort into resisting the urge to pretend to be sick - or, better yet, to pretend she’d been called into work on something urgent.
This was going to be difficult, but it was something that she knew she had to do.
Besides, every time she started to consider trying to get out of it, she could remember Scorpius accusing her of cowardice. He hadn’t said anything along those lines in years, but before they started going out, he’d made a few remarks along those lines to her just to get under her skin, and she’d never quite gotten over them.
“Just imagine she’s a manticore,” Rose muttered to herself as she scrutinised her appearance in the mirror. “She could eat you.”
This felt oddly comforting, and kept her feeling relatively calm right up until Scorpius pulled the door to the restaurant open and Rose saw his grandmother look up.
She’d seen Narcissa Malfoy in photographs, of course, but even if she hadn’t, there would have been no mistaking the resemblance.
“She’s just a manticore,” she said under her breath.
Scorpius looked at her curiously. “What?”
As they neared the table, his grandmother smoothed her deep green robes before pushing the chair back and getting to her feet. She had greying blonde hair, and Rose’s immediate impression was that she was meeting some sort of minor royalty.
“Hey, Grandma.” Scorpius hugged her, and Rose saw a tense sort of smile spread across Narcissa Malfoy’s face. She murmured something that Rose couldn’t quite make out, and Scorpius stepped back and slid an arm around Rose’s waist. “Rose, this is my grandmother, Narcissa Malfoy. Grandma, this is Rose.”
Rose stuck out her hand, and Scorpius’s grandmother took it gingerly. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Malfoy.”
When she’d first greeted Scorpius’s mother in that manner, she’d been immediately told to call her Astoria. The contrast between the two was stark; where Astoria had immediately tried to put her at ease, Narcissa Malfoy seemed to take the formality for granted. She wasn’t cold – she just wasn’t really warm, either.
“It’s nice to meet you, too, Rose.” She sounded genuine, at least, and Rose didn’t miss the look she shot Scorpius that seemed to scream, “It’s about time.”
Rose forced a smile that she hoped looked genuine, too, and turned toward the chairs on their side of the table. Before she could get to the one diagonal from Mrs. Malfoy, however, Scorpius pulled it out.
She had to smother the urge to kill him - she didn’t really want to be sitting across from his grandmother. Rather than sink into it, however, he looked at her expectantly, and after a moment, she realised that he had pulled it out for her to sit in.
“I - er - thanks?”
As he sank into the seat next to her, his grandmother asked in a clipped tone, “Scorpius, don’t you usually pull Rose’s chair out for her?”
“Sure I do.”
“Then why does she look so confused?”
He nudged Rose’s chair with his foot, and she tried to wipe the confusion off her face. “Oh, no, Mrs. Malfoy, he’s a perfect - um - gentleman.”
She resisted the urge to add, ‘or something.’ She doubted Narcissa Malfoy would appreciate that.
Mrs. Malfoy did not seem convinced, but she did drop it, which was good enough. Rose was fairly certain that starting lunch off with an explanation of why she was glad that Scorpius didn’t do that sort of thing - ever - would not have been ideal.
“Scorpius tells me you work with the Ministry.”
“Yes, I - I do.” Rose glanced around the room - surely it was high time for a waiter to come by to take their order? She shifted uncomfortably as she looked back at Mrs. Malfoy. “Manticores.”
Mrs. Malfoy raised her eyebrows. “I beg your pardon?”
“That’s - that’s what my department does. We deal with manticores, I mean. And other magical creatures.”
Rose was starting to sound like a complete simpleton, and she knew it. She was therefore more than a little grateful when she heard the waiter’s voice.
“Would you like to start with something to drink?”
Her relief was short-lived, however, when she realised that she didn’t actually know who would be paying for the lunch. Typically, when her parents (or aunts, or uncles, or grandparents) invited her out to eat, they paid for lunch. Scorpius’s parents had always waved aside her attempts to pay them for what she’d ordered.
Scorpius’s grandmother, however, lived in a different world. Maybe in her world, women never paid for anything. Maybe she thought that she was gracing Rose with her presence. Maybe -
“Rose?” Scorpius nudged her. All three of them were staring expectantly at her.
“Just water. Thanks.”
The waiter nodded, gave a pleasant smile, and walked off. Scorpius leaned over to her to murmur, “Don’t worry about paying.”
She blinked at him, and he grinned. “Come on,” he said, still keeping his voice low. “I’ve been with you for how long?” He reached over and squeezed her hand, and she felt herself relax a little.
“I love you,” she said without thinking, and then the sound of someone clearing their throat brought her back to reality in a very unpleasant way.
When she looked over at Scorpius’s grandmother, however, Mrs. Malfoy seemed to be trying to suppress a small smile.
“You work with magical creatures?”
“Oh.” Rose shook herself. “Yes. I do. I’m just a trainee, though, I’ve barely been out in the field.”
Scorpius snorted. “She was out in the field this week. She saved a woman’s life.”
His grandmother’s eyebrows went up again, and Rose felt her face getting warm. “No, I didn’t. The Healers did.”
“She’d probably have died without you.”
Rose snatched her hand away from him and pushed her hair behind her ears. “Stop it. You’re making me sound like some sort of hero.”
He rolled his eyes, and to her surprise, his grandmother said, “Well, if you saved someone’s life, you should be proud of that.”
Rose closed her eyes and counted to ten. “It’s not about pride. It’s just about doing my job.”
Mrs. Malfoy’s eyebrows rose again, and Rose slumped back in her seat. This was going to be a long lunch.
A/N: Hello, lovely readers.
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to update this story - my life has been very busy over the last few months, and I just didn't have the time to devote to it. Things should be settling down in the next few weeks, though, so I should be back to more regular updates on this story soon.
Thank you so much for reading and for being patient with me, and I would love to hear your thoughts.
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