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Chapter 9 : Falling Into Bad Habits
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Rose had half-expected there to be a letter from Scorpius waiting for her when she returned to her flat after dinner with James. To her surprise, there was nothing on the side table where she and Lucy always put letters that came while the other was out. Seeing that her cousin's door was closed, however, Rose checked the small box that hung outside their window. It was also empty.
She wasn't sure how to interpret this lack of communication. Sometimes when they'd had a fight, Scorpius backed off just to give her a little space, but this hadn't really been a fight, and she'd expected him to want to make sure that things were okay.
As the annoyance built, Rose knew that she was being a little unfair. She knew herself well enough to admit that if she had come home and found a letter from him, she probably would have ignored it for at least a day.
However, knowing that she was being a little unfair did not make her feel inclined to be less unfair. It just annoyed her, because if there was one thing Rose really disliked, it was logic getting in the way of her feelings.
This irritation just sunk her further into a bad mood, and despite the relatively early hour, she decided that it was probably time for her to go to sleep. Otherwise, she was just going to stew, and that was never a productive use of time.
And anyway, Victoire had hinted that day that they might be going back into the field in the next couple days, and if that happened, Rose needed to be well-rested. It could be the difference between dying and not dying.
Or at least being sent to St. Mungo's and not being sent to St. Mungo's, and if she was hurt badly enough to get sent to St. Mungo's, she'd probably be in enough pain that she would forget that she was annoyed at Scorpius. He would definitely find out she was there and come see her, and she would be happy to see him, and by the time she remembered that she was supposed to be mad at him it would be too late and they would have already made up.
Which meant that she definitely needed to get to sleep.
As it transpired, she needn't have bothered. As soon as she got to work the next day, Van set her to work looking through old incident reports of reported acromantula encounters in Scotland and immediately disappeared into the heads' office for several hours. When he reappeared, it was only to collect Victoire – who had the infinitely more exciting task of looking up obscure spells that could help deal with magical creatures, though both she and Van refused to say which – to the meeting he was apparently having inside.
When they hadn't come out by one o'clock, Rose decided to put her work aside for a little while to eat lunch.
They reemerged shortly after she'd finished and gotten back to work. She showed Van the log she'd made of locations, victims, and the results of the investigation. He'd reviewed it quickly, his mind clearly elsewhere, and then told her to start in on the map when she was finished.
Rose could not help but feel like this was busy work, but she didn't have time to complain to Victoire before Van whisked her away again.
When she left work, she was feeling thoroughly disheartened. The sentiment only deepened when she returned home and found that, once again, there was no note from Scorpius.
“Oh, Rosie,” Lucy said when Rose started to complain over dinner. “I know it's awful. Some days are just like that. I'm sure tomorrow will be better, though.”
Lucy was wrong. The next day was no better. In fact, in many ways it was worse; she finished the acromantula assignment early in the day, but rather than give her something interesting to do – or, for that matter, bother to praise her work at all, which was very neat – Van had given her a large stack of papers that detailed every injury suffered in the last five years by D.C.B. members on the job and told her to comb through them and organize them by location, attacker, and injury.
He and Victoire then disappeared again for a good part of the day.
By Friday, Rose was livid. She had joined the D.C.B. to do something with her life, not to make stupid logs that Van had obviously given her just to keep her busy. When he got back from lunch and sat down in his chair for the first time in several days, she had to stop herself from making a sarcastic comment. Van might be relatively easygoing, but he was also her boss, and she didn't want to get herself into hot water with him.
“How's that map coming?” he asked after a few minutes. When she glanced over at him, she saw that his feet were up on his desk and he was leaning back in his chair, hands behind his head.
He raised his eyebrows at her tone, but didn't comment on it. “Are you almost done with it?”
He let his feet drop down from the desk and leaned forward. “Rose, is there a problem?”
She bit her lip. “No.”
“Nobody likes a martyr. Spit it out.”
She looked up. “I'm tired of sitting at this stupid desk doing busywork that doesn't matter while you and Vic hole up in secret meetings all day, and I'm pissed off that neither of you will tell me what I did wrong.”
There was a long pause before he spoke. “You think that this has all been a punishment?” She shrugged. “Rose, I hate to break it to you, but not everything is about you. If you can't take a little boredom mixed in with all the danger without assuming that it's all about you, you shouldn't be here.”
She jerked back. His voice had been much harsher than she'd ever heard it before, and it hurt more than she'd expected it to. She bit back a retort and looked back at the map.
The rest of the afternoon was uncharacteristically tense, and it was a relief when Victoire finally reappeared. If she could tell that there was tension between the two of them, she didn't mention it. Instead, she kept up a cheerful chatter about some new discoveries made by the Dragon Research Division that would probably be helpful in D.C.B. fieldwork, and Rose gradually began to relax a little. When the clock hit five, she dumped the finished map on Van's desk and was gone before he could react.
She immediately made for the Golden Snitch, a bar just off Diagon Alley that was largely frequented by people who worked with magical creatures or battled dark wizards, though a not-insignificant number of Cursebreakers tended to stop in for a drink or two as well. She and James had planned to meet Albus there after work.
When she got there, James had not yet arrived. To her surprise, though, Albus had – apparently, the Aurors hadn't kept him late, for once.
He was not alone.
She steeled herself as she walked over. She was still a little annoyed at her boyfriend, but after such an exhausting and frustrating week, she found that she missed him more than she was angry with him. That, however, was no guarantee that he was not still angry with her.
She slipped into the seat next to Albus rather than the one next to Scorpius and gave them both a tentative smile. Her cousin grinned back and immediately got up to head to the bar, leaving Rose alone with Scorpius.
He smiled back. “Hey. How was your week?”
“Terrible.” She glanced over at Albus, who was chatting with somebody standing at the bar. “Um-”
“Al invited me. He said that we needed to stop being stubborn.” Rose snorted, but kept her eyes on the table. He reached across it and took one of her hands in his. “Rose, look at me. Are we okay?”
“I don't know, are we?”
“I would like us to be.”
“Then we're okay.” Rose resisted the urge to fiddle with her hair with difficulty. Somehow, she thought that looking either distracted or bored would not send the message she wanted to send.
“Good.” Scorpius did not show the same restraint; when she smiled, he reached up to play with the red curl that kept escaping out from behind her ear, no matter how many times she smoothed it back.
“I love you,” she breathed.
He leaned in to kiss her. “Good.” When he pulled away, he patted the seat next to him. “Come over here, so I can hold your hand under the table and not make your cousins feel awkward.”
She slid out of the booth and in next to him instead. “They wouldn't, you know.”
He shrugged and intertwined his fingers with hers as Albus came back with their drinks.
Rose was just finishing her second when Van walked in with Johanna Greengrass. He glanced around, saw them, and nudged Johanna. When she saw her cousin, she smiled widely and bounded over.
“Scorpie!” she said with indecent cheer, sliding in next to him and throwing her arm around his shoulders. “How are you?”
Scorpius looked like he was regretting trading places with Rose when he got up to use the restroom, which had left her against the wall and him exposed to his cousin's distinct sense of humour.
Johanna sighed deeply. “You don't sound very happy to see me, you know.” He made a face at her, and she grinned. “I'll treat you to a drink, will you forgive me then?”
“I forgive you now, but since you're offering...”
She ruffled his hair and slid out again to head over to the bar.
Van leaned against the booth and shook his head. “I don't know how she has so much energy at the end of the week. I'm exhausted.”
“So am I,” Rose said without thinking.
He gave her a rueful smile. “I'm sure. I'm sorry I was a bit short with you earlier. It's just been one of those weeks, and I already know that I'm not going to have much of a weekend.”
“What's going on?”
He sighed. “It's a long, boring story that has to with new Ministry regulations about documenting what they're calling 'incidents' and what the rest of us call 'attacks.' They keep calling me and Vic in because we have so many family members in other similar departments that they seem to think we have some kind of special insight.”
He shrugged. “Probably, but I really wish I didn't. Sorry about your drawing the short straw because of it and having to wade through the reports. I know it's been boring.” She made a face, and he laughed. “Cheer up. We'll be doing more interesting things soon enough.”
“Good.” She studied his face. She hadn't noticed it in the office, probably because she'd been so irritated, but he had dark circles under his eyes, and despite his smile, his body language as a whole communicated real exhaustion. “Sorry I snapped at you.”
“It happens.” Johanna returned and deposited a glass in front of Scorpius. Van nudged her. “Come on, Jo. Let's leave the kids to their own devices and find a table.”
Friday night drinks rapidly became a tradition. In a few years, she and James would no longer be able to nurse several drinks over the course of four or five hours as they gossiped, returning home in the early morning hours. Older, more experienced D.C.B. members and Aurors were called upon to work on weekends fairly regularly, especially if there was a pressing case at hand: as her uncle said, neither dark creatures nor dark wizards tended to take the weekends off, so neither could they. The best they'd probably be able to do then was a drink or two after work and then head straight to bed.
Happily, however, that was something that new recruits usually didn't have to do. First and second year D.C.B. members were rarely called upon to work weekends, and Bridget could count the number of times she'd had to work on a Saturday or Sunday in the year and a half she'd spent in the Auror training programme on one hand.
According to Victoire, this was to ease newcomers into the stressful routine that went hand-in-hand with working for such high-pressure divisions. According to Van, it was to let the grueling, back-breaking hours sneak up on people in hopes that they wouldn't realise that life didn't actually have to be this difficult.
Privately, Rose thought that they both probably had a point.
Occasionally, Victoire would accompany them. Rose and James were always very happy when she did, both because they liked spending time with their cousin (and Teddy, who often joined her) and because she usually treated them to at least one round.
This was much appreciated, because both Rose and James were discovering that a disadvantage to living on their own meant having to pay for things, especially since their parents seemed to think that struggling with money built character. Rose's father was especially difficult about it: she'd become very tired of monologues about how when he was young his family could barely afford to buy new books and certainly couldn't afford new robes and she was very lucky that when she was a child that hadn't been a problem.
Implicit was the suggestion that she was no longer a child, and it was time to grow up.
Her mother was a bit more sympathetic, but she tended to point out that Rose really did make enough to reasonably support herself if she was thrifty about it. When her mother began to wonder about where the money was going, Rose knew it was time to shut up. She didn't especially feel like sharing her tradition of Friday night drinks or her propensity for buying ill-advised tickets to Quidditch games with either of her parents.
To her surprise, Bridget had begun to join them as often as not. This plainly made her happy, and Albus was gradually losing the tension around his shoulders that he'd often had in the early months of their relationship when they were around any of his family. He still hadn't mentioned it to his parents (though Rose suspected his father had guessed – Albus was not a very good liar), but for Albus, this was definite progress.
Between Bridget and Scorpius – who also frequently met them there – Rose had half expected James to start to feel lonely and left out. However, spending time as a fifth wheel seemed to have the opposite effect. James seemed positively cheerful about being unattached, and given all the flirting he'd been doing with the various bartenders, Rose supposed that she shouldn't have been so surprised.
Despite the demanding schedule that Van in particular worked – as one of the most senior members of the division as well as the head of a squad, he seemed to spend more time in the office than at home – he was also at the Leaky Cauldron as often as not on Friday nights. Rose watched to see if he ever came in with Lavender, but it never seemed to happen; instead, he was usually with one of his many siblings or with the group of friends that he and Victoire shared.
Rose could not help noticing that he seemed significantly less scarred than anyone else. When she'd mentioned that to Victoire – it seemed odd, since he'd been in the field the longest of any of them – Victoire had laughed and suggested that perhaps Van was just more careful, because he was also the most vain among his family and friends. Van had come in during the exchange and hadn't bothered to deny it, which made Rose think that it might actually be true.
She rarely went out on Saturday nights, but her cousin Roxanne – who had a rare week off from a very busy Quidditch schedule – had owled her and suggested that they meet up at the Leaky Cauldron to catch up. Rose, who missed Roxanne very much, was happy to agree, even if her monetary situation was getting to be a bit critical.
Rose got to the Leaky Cauldron first. It was predictably crowded – one nice thing about the Golden Snitch was that it typically wasn't packed to the rafters, even on weekends – but she thought she saw a free table on the far wall. She made her way across the room, but before she could sit down, she heard her boyfriend's voice drifting around the corner from the nook in the wall that held several tables.
“All right. Don't tell her I said this, but I am starting to feel a little jealous.”
Rose flattened herself against the wall so they couldn't see her. After a moment, it occurred to her to try and look natural, so she crossed her arms and glanced toward the door as if she were waiting for someone.
Which, in all fairness, she was.
A few women rushed by her to claim the table she had thoroughly forgotten about.
“Of Dedworth? What happened to 'He's about twenty years older than us'?” she heard Albus ask.
There was a long silence. “I don't know. Maybe she doesn't care.”
Rose was expecting her cousin to have some consoling words, but evidently, that was not what he had in mind. “Jealousy doesn't suit you.”
She didn't have to see Scorpius's face to know that he was starting to turn red. “Thanks for the support.”
“If I'd wanted sarcasm, I could have gone to my cousin.”
“You could have.”
After a moment, she heard a groan and a thud indicating that her boyfriend had let his head fall onto the table. “I know I'm overreacting. It just – did you see the way she got all red when he came over last night?”
Rose winced. James had definitely made her feel much better about her awkward feelings about her immediate supervisor when she'd talked to him about it several weeks before, especially when he'd pointed out that there was a significant difference between a slight attraction and actually wanting to sleep with a person. Rose was comforted by that; her stomach might turn over a bit when Van smiled at her, but she definitely did not want to have sex with him.
Still, when she interacted with him outside of work, she did tend to get a bit flustered. She thought she'd hid it well the night before, when he'd actually sat down and had a couple drinks with them. Apparently, she hadn't.
“You're right,” Albus said. “You are overreacting.”
As much as Rose appreciated the support, she was a little taken aback. Albus was usually much more sympathetic than this.
Scorpius cleared his throat, but before he could say anything, Albus sighed. “Look, she's really getting into her work. I know it makes you uncomfortable, but field work is something that she enjoys doing. Van is a huge part of that. If that makes you uncomfortable, too, I don't know what to tell you. She's not going to cheat on you, especially not with a guy who's about twenty years older than her and involved with one of the heads of the division.”
“Yeah. I guess.” Scorpius sighed. “I don't know. Lately I just feel like she's getting tired of me and pulling away.”
There was a long pause. “You never told me that.”
He'd never told her that, either.
“I know. It just didn't seem worth talking about, because I assumed I was just being paranoid. Last night, though...”
“What, you think she's going to cheat on you with her boss?”
“No.” He paused. “I don't know. I guess not.”
Rose was beginning to go from stunned to annoyed. Who was he to have all these feelings and refuse to talk to her about them? And who was he to assume that she was going to cheat on him? She wasn't a cheater.
“Who are you eavesdropping on?” said a voice in her ear.
Rose jumped. When she turned toward the newcomer, her cousin Roxanne was grinning. “Keep your voice down,” she hissed.
Roxanne took her wrist and steered her away from her hiding place. “Who?” she repeated.
“Scorpius and Albus.”
Roxanne leaned over to look into the corner. “Huh. Anything interesting?”
“Apparently, Scorpius thinks I might cheat on him with my boss.”
Her cousin considered this for a minute. “Well, if you're going to cheat, Dedworth's a good choice. I'd have sex with him in a heartbeat.”
“I'm not going to.”
“Oh.” Roxanne sighed dramatically. “Well, Rosie, this is what you get for dating a Slytherin. Come on. Let's find somewhere to drink that doesn't involve your boyfriend gossiped about your impending bad decisions.”
Rose followed her out the door, still feeling more than a little annoyed. She didn't see Roxanne enough to spend the time stewing, though, so she would try to table those feelings – for now, at least.
A/N: Hey, guys. I'm really sorry about the long hiatus - my semester got crazy and I had to take on more hours at work, which meant that I didn't really have time to work on any of my stories, no matter how much I wanted to.
Now that it's summer, though, I should have more time, and I'm hoping to start updating this regularly (I'm aiming for every weekend) again. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Thank you for reading!
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