Chapter 7 : Rose. --- A Visit With Albus.
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Rose gave a noncommittal grunt. It hadn't been that bad, not really - she’d been worried Narcissa Malfoy would have a go at her at soon as Scorpius got up to go to the loo about her Muggleborn mother and her blood traitor father, or at the very least about her career, and she hadn’t. However, she'd remained a little cold and aloof throughout the meal, and the way she'd taken Rose's hand at the end and said, “Well, I wish you the best of luck” made Rose feel more than a little uncomfortable in a way that she couldn't quite put her finger on.
“Oh, come on.” Scorpius collapsed onto the couch next to her. “It was fine.”
Rose shrugged. “I guess.”
He slumped back against cushions. “All right, fine. What exactly was so bad about it?”
“I-” She glanced over at him, and he raised his eyebrows. “Merlin, Scorpius. Nothing, I guess. It was just...” She shrugged again. “You know.”
“No, I don't.” He kicked off his shoes and pulled his knees up to his chest. “What was so bad about it?”
One day, she was going to kill her boyfriend. He usually let things go when they weren't really important, but there were times – like now – that he could be so frustratingly, purposefully dense. “Nothing. It just – I don't know. I felt like she was judging me.”
“Well, weren't you judging her?”
Rose blew out her breath. She was starting to feel thoroughly exasperated. “That's different.”
“No, it isn't.” Unlike her, he seemed to be the picture of perfect calm, which she found quite irritating. “Yeah, she was judging you a bit. What do you expect? She's been hearing about you for years from me, my parents, Noah, Albus... Judgment doesn't always have to be negative, you know. She was just sizing you up.”
Rose sighed. “Look, it really did go fine. I guess. Just give me a little time to process it, okay?”
He looked like he wanted to argue, but after a moment, he just said, “Fair enough.”
Somehow, that made her feel even worse.
The next hour passed peacefully enough; neither of them brought up the lunch again. However, after the second chess game in which it was clear that neither of their hearts were really in it, Rose decided to call it quits.
“I'm going to head home, okay?”
He glanced up from the chess pieces he was putting back into their wooden case. “Oh. Yeah, sure.”
Rose held out her hands. After a moment, he let her pull him up off the couch and leaned down to brush his lips against her forehead. “Thanks for coming today. It meant a lot to me.”
She forced herself to smile. “No problem.”
She did love him, and she didn’t want to turn this into a problem… but for what felt like the first time in a long time, she was actually relieved to be getting away from him.
When Rose was feeling this out of sorts, there was only one place she wanted to go, and it wasn't home. Hoping that Scorpius wouldn't end up having the same idea – it had happened once or twice before, and been rather awkward – she headed over to the Potters'.
It was only after she knocked that she realized that James probably wouldn't even be there – there was an Arrows match that she also would've liked to go to but, unlike him, couldn't afford – and Albus might well have Bridget over.
Sure enough, when the door swung open, she peeked down the corridor past Albus enough to see Bridget curled up on the red couch that had really seen much better days. Merlin only knew where James had unearthed it from.
“Hey,” her cousin said, stepping back to let her inside.
“I – hi. I'm sorry. I didn't realize you had company.” Rose hovered on the threshold. “I can come back later.”
Albus rolled his eyes, but before he could say anything, Bridget called out, “Hey, Rose, come in and stay awhile.”
She glanced at Albus, who shrugged and waved his hand in the vague direction of the living room.
“Sorry,” she said, too quietly for Bridget to hear. “I wasn't thinking. I should have known she'd be over.”
Albus let out a soft laugh. “No, I'm glad you're here. She was on at me earlier in the morning about how we never spend time with my friends. Maybe now she'll let up.”
Rose glanced at him. His expression was deceptively mild, but they'd reached the doorway and she couldn't very well press him further with Bridget sitting right there.
Instead, she turned to the brunette sitting on the couch. “Hey, Bridget.”
Bridget grinned. “Hey, Rose. Long time no see.”
Rose collapsed into the more comfortable of the Potters' two armchairs. “It is, isn't it? We used to see each other all the time at school.” She reached out her foot and nudged Albus as he stepped past her to take his seat on the couch. “I guess you traded me in for this one, huh?”
Bridget's eyes twinkled. “Poor judgment on my part.” Albus snorted loudly, and she leaned over to kiss his cheek. “He's got his qualities, though.”
After a moment of hesitation, Albus put his arm around her shoulders. “Note that she doesn't say they're good qualities.”
She smiled and leaned against him. “Oh, they're all right.”
Rose studied her cousin. He seemed reasonably relaxed, and she could have sworn that he was even holding back a smile. For Albus, that was definitely progress. Maybe one day he'd even start calling Bridget his girlfriend rather than just changing the subject whenever she came up.
Rose really had no idea how Bridget managed to be so patient with him.
“So, what's wrong?” Albus asked. She considered dissembling her distress, but he saved her from making the decision by adding, “Really. Don't pretend there isn't something wrong.”
Rose slumped back in her chair. “I just met Scorpius's grandmother.”
Bridget's eyebrows shot up. “You hadn't before?” Rose shook her head. “But you've been with him for years.”
“Yeah. I know.”
Albus sighed and rubbed his forehead with his free hand. “Well, how did it go?”
“Not... not badly, I guess. But I don't think she liked me very much. She was kind of... cold.”
Bridget gave her a look of sympathy, but her cousin bit his lip. “Rose, that's just kind of how she is. It might not have been personal.”
“That's what he said, too, but how hard is it to be a litle friendly?”
Albus shrugged. “I dunno. It's not like we don't have cousins who can be a little cold when you first meet them, though.” Rose opened her mouth to argue, and he fixed her with a look. “Don't even try. I'm not saying I don't love them, but you know it's true.”
She closed her mouth.
Bridget twisted around. “Who in your family is like that?”
“Dominique and Roxanne are both terrible like that.”
“Roxanne isn't cold,” Bridget said immediately, with all the fervor of someone who had shared a dormitory with their cousin for seven years at Hogwarts. Bridget hadn't been one of Roxanne and James's group of troublemakers, but they'd always gotten on quite well, and she'd been a frequent addition to their group on Hogsmeade outings and in evenings in the Gryffindor Common Room.
“To you? No. I'm sure she wasn't. To other people, people who aren't Gryffindors? Yeah, she can, a bit. I love her, but she can. She's been awful to Scorpius, Rose knows she has.”
Rose shifted in her seat. She did know. It wasn't that Roxanne had done anything particularly bad – James had probably actually jinxed Scorpius a lot more in their last few years at Hogwarts than Roxanne had – but with James, you always got the sense that it was in good fun. Conversely, Roxanne had never really warmed to the Slytherin, even after Rose had started going out with him. She'd tolerated his presence, but she'd also always given off the impression that she considered herself above him.
Rose loved Roxanne dearly, but her cousin did have her faults.
Dominique, at least, was generally a little chilly to everyone at first, unless they mentioned football. Rose still didn't understand the allure, but Dominique was absolutely obsessed with the Muggle sport.
She realised with a start that Bridget was looking at her. “Oh. I – Al's right, she has been, a bit. I wouldn't say awful, but... she hasn't exactly been friendly, either.”
“After three and a half years of his going out with one of her favourite cousins, I think that qualifies as awful.”
There was a little too much sense in that for Rose to argue with, so she didn't reply.
“I dunno,” Bridget said before Albus could press the point further. “I think that's different, though. Maybe you're right, I never paid attention to how she was with other Houses, but she's just Rose's cousin, not her grandmother.”
“It is, but Mrs. Malfoy...” Albus trailed off for a moment. “I think she lives in a different world from the rest of us, in some ways. She's come a long way, Rosie. She was probably just scared of inadvertently saying something offensive.”
“It shouldn't be that hard to not say something offensive.”
“Well, no, but are we talking about a perfect world or the one we actually live in?”
Rose shifted her gaze away from her cousin and onto the floor. “Maybe. I dunno, maybe I just need time to process it.” She glanced up at the clock. “Look, I can go, I'm really fine. I don't want to intrude.”
“Oh, you're not intruding.” Bridget smiled at her. Rose hadn't seen Bridget in so long that she'd almost forgotten quite how much the girl smiled, which was probably a big part of why Albus liked her so much. “I was just saying to Albus this morning that it would be really nice to spend time with his friends once in awhile.” She glanced up at Albus, who grunted something unintelligible. “I'm starting to think he's ashamed of me.”
“I'm not – that's not – Bridget, come off it, that's not the problem. I just – ” Her shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter as he stumbled over the words, and he stopped. “Yeah. Right. You're funny.”
“I know.” She flashed a smile up at him, and to Rose's surprise, he leaned down to brush his lips against hers. It was quick, and for almost any other couple their age, it wouldn't have been at all unusual, but this was Albus. From the look on Bridget's face when Albus looked back up, Rose wasn't the only one who was a little taken aback.
“Anyway.” Albus's face was a little flushed as Bridget curled back up against him, looking very pleased, but Rose thought that she could see the beginnings of a smile at the corners of his mouth. “What happened? Did you two have a fight or something about it?”
“Not a fight, exactly.” Rose began to pick at a loose thread on her sweater. “A fight would have been better, honestly. It was just kind of... we argued, I guess, and then we tried to let it go but it didn't really work. After about an hour of it, I had to get out of there.” She glanced involuntarily toward the front door.
“Don't worry. I doubt he'll be coming over.” She looked back at her cousin. “He knows Bridget is usually here on Sundays, and...”
“And he knows that Albus is deeply ashamed of me and can't bear the thought of his best friend meeting me and thinking poorly of Al's choices,” Bridget finished for him. She was biting her lip to hold back a smile, which Albus clearly failed to notice.
“I'm not – stop saying that. I – I just – well, maybe I just don't want to share you. And – you – ” Her grin had gotten progressively wider as he talked, and he finally noticed it. “Oh, shut up. You know, maybe I am ashamed. I don't know that I want my best friend knowing I'm – er – well – you know – ” She raised her eyebrows. “Oh, fine, maybe I don't want Scorpius knowing I'm with a girl who won't stop torturing me.”
“Oh, are you with me, now?”
He groaned and let his head fall back onto the couch, and Bridget exchanged an amused look with Rose. “I hate you all,” Albus muttered.
“Oh, I know.” Her voice was cheerful. “Anyway, Rose, I think the only time I've actually seen Scorpius since I left school was when I bumped into him at Gringotts a few weeks ago. He never comes here when I'm here. You're probably safe.”
Albus sighed and got up. “I'll be right back.” He headed down the hall toward the loo, and Rose grinned at Bridget.
“You really do torture him, you know.”
Bridget acknowledged it with a shrug of her shoulders. “He just makes it so easy, sometimes. I don't think he minds.”
“No, I'm pretty sure he doesn't.” Rose cocked her head to the side. “So, he's 'with you,' now? That's progress, isn't it?”
Bridget shrugged again. “You'd think, but we'll see whether he sticks to it or not.” She smiled again. “Bit annoying, really, but on the whole, I think he's worth being patient with. He's a good guy.”
“Yeah. He is.” Rose felt a brief flash of jealousy. She was happy for her cousin, she really was – he'd spent a long time lusting after Bridget without doing anything about it, and to see it finally working out for him was gratifying to see. At the same time, moments like this made her feel a little insecure about her own relationship. Albus and Bridget might have their problems – not least among them that Albus was, for whatever reason, extremely uneasy about making things official and had a tendency to try to keep Bridget and the rest of his social life very far away from each other – but at least it seemed like they were moving, slowly but surely, in the right direction.
Rose was a little less confident that she and Scorpius were doing the same thing, and she wasn’t sure how to get that back on track.
“It'll be okay.” Rose shook herself and and looked back at Bridget, who was no longer smiling. “You and Scorpius, I mean. I'm sure you'll work it out. I don't really know him – I never have – but I do know that he's crazy about you. As long as you're still crazy about him... don't worry. You'll work it out.”
“I hope so.”
A/N: I hope you liked the glimpse of Albus and Bridget - they're a fun couple to write, and you'll certainly be seeing more of them in the future.
As always, thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. I would really appreciate it if you took the time to leave me a review, even if it's just "great chapter" or "Beeezie, why always with the cliffhangers?"
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