“Holy shit,” I breathe out, holding Louis’s hand as I see the date that he’s set up.
When we’d left his dorm, the first thing he did was take my hand, lean down to give me a quick kiss, and tell me I look beautiful. At the time I found myself struggling to remember why it took so long for this date to occur. This question came back to mind as I stood at the opening of the Quidditch Pitch, gaping at the picnic Louis had set up in the middle. I see him looking down at me, smiling at my reaction, and I hate to burst his bubble but, “Louis, it’s February,” I had already been shivering under the wool cardigan I was wearing over my dress and leggings.
He catches my drift and hurries to take off his jacket and wrap it around my shoulders, “Sorry. I guess I’ve always kind of pictured our first date to be during the summer months.”
He’d pictured our first date. I think that if someone were to check my heartbeat right now their stethoscope might explode.
“Where do you learn to be so stethoscope-explodingly perfect?” I ask as we stroll to the frozen-over picnic.
“Stethoscope…? Wait, you think I’m perfect?” he laughs, “I’m stubborn, jealous, I talk too much, I can’t make up my mind about anything, I have a pathological fear of chewing gum, and the only thing in my life I’m sure about is you.”
He didn’t even realize how much he’d just contradicted himself, “Louis… I know this is probably the wrong thing to say right now, considering I never seem to say the right thing like ever, but… What are we doing? With us? I mean, all I’ve wanted for so long is to be with you but,” I look up and see he has no idea where I’m going with this, “You’re not going to be here next year.
“We can have some amazing, fantastic romance throughout this term and the summer, and we can joke and laugh and kiss and maybe even more than that but once September comes around I’ll have to come back to school and you’ll go off to wherever you want to go and find some beautiful woman who will seduce you and use your body and I’ll be left here to be swept up by Danny or Albus or Freddie and that’ll be my only choice in life because I’ll probably just inherit the Cauldron and get knocked up and—“
“Chase!” Louis interrupts me and sits down, obviously exasperated, “You’re not your dad, okay? So please stop trying to make his same mistakes, because obviously it all turns out the same way! I want you, and I thought you wanted me too. So if you really feel how everyone keeps trying to convince me you feel about me just sit down and enjoy this damned popsicle of a picnic because I need you to let me ask you to be my girlfriend like I’ve been planning to since we were kids!”
Speechless, I sit down on the blanket, which is slightly stiff from the layer of ice developing.
“Thank you,” he sounds relieved but still slightly frustrated, “Now, Chase Alice Longbottom, will you please just be my fucking girlfriend already?”
“Yes,” I smile, butterflies combusting in my stomach, “I’ll be your fucking girlfriend already.”
For once, neither Louis nor I seem to have anything to say. We just look at each other and start to laugh, both overwhelmed by the fact that this has finally just happened.
We catch our breaths and our eyes meet. Louis leans in to kiss me, but just as his lips softly brush mine we hear a voice, “Chase! Chase, you need to hurry, it’s Rose!”
I jump onto my feet, causing Louis to fall on his face right beside me, “James?” I ask, “What’s wrong with Rose?”
James jogs over to us, “Wow, I hope you two weren’t planning to shag in this cold.”
Louis starts to say, “We weren’t going to—“ but James obviously doesn’t care since he quickly interrupts him, “Anyways, after lunch Rose went to Trelawney’s so that she could have one of those weird dream things. But now they can’t wake her up.”
Out of nowhere, Hugo pops up in the bleachers, “What’s wrong with my sister?”
“Hugo? What are you doing here?” I say as Maylin’s little sister, Song, pops up next to him.
“Hugo and I were spying on you,” Song says frankly, “But then we started talking about how much we both really like dolphins, which led to a discussion on the politics of pre-revolutionary France, and then we stopped talking altogether because we got, uh, distracted,” the two fourteen year olds look at each other and blush.
“Oh, Merlin,” I look at James, “Your little cousin and Maylin’s little sister are more capable of a functioning relationship than you guys are.”
Louis stands up, “Leave him alone, now’s not the time. We have to go see Rose.”
Hugo, Song, Louis and I follow James up to the Divination Tower silently. After we climb the stairs, we rush in through the door.
Rose is lying on the floor, her face grayish and sweaty and her breathing quick and shallow. Her eyelids are shut but fluttering softly. At her side is Scorpius holding her hand, his eyes never leaving her.
The sad sight makes me think of the first time Rose brought Scorpius home to the Burrow.
Albus squeezed my hand lightly as we sat together laughing at some joke Freddie just told us.
James looks at me, “So is it true? Is she bringing the Malfoy kid?”
I nod, and Louis laughs, “I bet Uncle Ron is real happy about that. Is she dating him to get at her dad?”
I shake my head, “I don’t think so. From what I understand, she’s attracted to the way he argues with her or something bizarre like that.”
“By those standards,” Freddie says, “Chase and Louis ought to date. You were angry at each other, what, three separate times yesterday?”
Louis looked uncomfortable and I leaned on Albus, “Shut up, Freddie, I don’t understand her logic. I mean, Al and I never fight,” my boyfriend smiled down at me and gave me a small kiss. I ignore the lack of feeling in it.
“Okay, okay, let’s keep the P.D.A to a minimum,” Louis says, “It’s time for the pool.”
We all search through our pockets. Molly J. plops a sickle on the table, “I wager he breaks at Uncle George’s first joke.”
“No, no,” Albus puts down a sickle of his own, “He won’t break until Aunt Audrey takes a grab at his backside,” the male population at the table shudders all at once.
Louis lays down his money, “I say he lasts. At least makes it out the door, I can’t say he won’t break before reaching the street.”
“I’m with Al on this one,” Freddie puts his own bit into the pile.
James sighs and rubs the tiny bit of fifteen-year-old-kid stubble developing on his jaw that he’d just been boasting about, “I’ll agree with Louis. I’ve heard from Dad just how much of a game face those Malfoys can keep.”
They all turn and look at me expectantly. I think for a second, “He toughs it out until he talks to my mum. That’s when he breaks,” I set my sickle down with an air of finality, and everyone looks around uneasily. They hadn’t wanted to say it out loud, but they knew there was a good chance I’d be right.
A hush settles over the house, and Roxanne calls out from the window, “They’re here!”
It seems like the whole house rushes over to the window, but us teens are in front. Like the rest of the Potter-Weasley family, Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione lived within walking distance of the Burrow. They were late to the weekly family barbecue because they had to wait for Rose’s new boyfriend, the mysterious Scorpius Malfoy, to floo over. They were coming up through the garden, Rose and Scorp hand in hand, while her parents walked watchfully behind them.
Rose looks at the window and notices us watching. She gives us a hostile look and an obscene hand gesture when Scorpius isn’t looking, and we all rush back to seem natural before they walk in the door.
“Rose, honey!” Sweet Grandma Molly rushes over to hug her, “And this must be Scorpius,” she smiles and looks him over.
“Hullo, Mrs. Weasley. Your windows are so clean, what do you use?”
“Oh, darling, it’s this wonderful muggle product called Windex…” she leads him off, explaining to him the many uses of the blue liquid.
Rose rushes over to us, “So, what do you all think?”
We all look at each other wearily. As a family of hardcore Gryffindors, we weren’t really sure how to feel about Rose dating the epitome of a Slytherin. Louis says, “We haven’t really met him yet, so we can’t pass judgment.”
“Oh,” Rose only had to look at us and I could tell that just then she knew the way we were all thinking. After all, she was usually a part of our group of judgmental teens, laughing and poking fun whenever someone else brought a new boyfriend or girlfriend to the Burrow. But now one of our own had done it, and this was awkward.
Unfortunately, that was poor timing for Scorpius himself to saunter over looking slightly traumatized, “Uh, that was… weird. Your Aunt Audrey just—“
“Oh, Merlin,” Rose laughs, throwing on a game face of her own, “I forgot to warn you about her. She wasn’t too rough with you, was she?”
“No,” he laughs too, despite his obvious uncomfort.
That’s when Albus and Freddie simultaneously curse very loudly, scaring the already terrified Scorpius. Freddie says, “Our aunt squeezing your bum doesn’t make you want to leave?”
“Not even a little bit?” Al adds on.
And then Uncle George comes over, “Oi! You!”
“…me?” Scorpius’s eyes widen at the one-eared man pointing at him with an accusatory tone.
“Yes, you! You’re the reason! They told me that you were allergic to animal fur, and I had to put my dog down before you came over! It’s your fault little Peanut is dead!”
The poor blonde boy was horrified, “What? I’m not THAT allergic! Merlin, I’m so, so sorry!”
Uncle George narrowed his eyes, but his glare easily turned to a grin, “Boy, you should’ve seen your face! I thought you would wet yourself. Splendid reaction,” he ruffled the Malfoy’s curly locks and walked off to join Angelina and the other adults.
Scorpius appeared slightly fazed but altogether fine. He doesn’t seem to notice how intensely we’re all watching him.
“Oh, fuck it,” M.J. groans, “I’m going to Ollie’s house,” she flips Scorp off and disapparates.
Rose scowls at us. She had definitely caught on to our little bet occurring here.
I brush it off, “Al, do you want to go out back and admire the garden with me?”
Before Albus can even reply Louis cuts in, “Nope! No need for you two to go off by yourselves. Might as well just stay here.”
I roll my eyes. I really didn’t understand why Louis was so weird about Albus and me, especially considering he’d already had two ‘serious’ relationships since starting Hogwarts. It’s not like there’s any reason he should care about my love life!
“I’m sorry to interrupt your, err, conversation,” I only realize that Louis and I are having some sort of glare-off when Scorpius begins talking, “But my best friend lives around here and Rose and I had planned to have him over. Could one of you wait out front with me until he gets here?”
“Why can’t Rose go with you?” James blurts out.
She answers for him, “I’m on dinner duty tonight, and you know how Grandma is about us skipping our turns. Merlin knows what prompted her to start cooking manually.”
“I’ll go with you, Scorpius,” I say, “I’m obviously not allowed alone time with my boyfriend according to certain people, so I guess there’s not really any reason to stick around here.”
Louis betrays no reaction, so Scorp and I begin to make our way towards the front door.
That’s when a bony finger pokes him on the shoulder just before we reach the entrance.
“Hey, Mum,” I sigh. The woman standing before us looks healthy as an ox, no one would know that her luxurious brown hair is a wig or that her perfectly done makeup is the only thing hiding the near constant pain showing on her face.
“Hi, Mrs. Longbottom. I’m Scorpius Malfoy,” he politely reaches out for a hand shake.
She smiles at him coldly, analyzing him like she does with everyone, “Call me Hannah. Your face is a fun one to read; you’re a clean boy, aren’t you? Growing up with distant parents, I’m sure that’s what gave you the obsessive-compulsive need for everything to be perfect, perfect, perfect. Life isn’t perfect, sweetling. You better learn to take the curses as blessings, like I had to,” I swallow and look at the floor as she continues, Scorpius unable to break eye contact with her, “You think you’re the first outsider to come here and try to fit in? Even Chase knows she doesn’t fully belong here. They don’t want you, and chances are that you and Rose won’t last long enough for them to warm up. So stop trying, because life will never be perfect, and you might as well have fun in the process. I’m telling you that the smartest thing you can do is to just run from distance, run from perfection, run from life.”
Scorpius stares at her for a minute, trying to keep his expression strong. He summons up only five words, “Thank you, Mrs. Longbottom. Goodbye,” remembering his manners, he nods before he turns to walk out the door.
I’m close behind, “Scorpius? Are you okay?”
He spins back to me quickly, “I’m sorry, I have to leave. She’s right; I don’t belong here.”
I stop in my tracks; of course I’d made the right wager. But the stupid bet didn’t matter to me, “Don’t listen to her. She’s not really like that; she does that to everyone new. It’s just her weird way of deciding if you’re weak or strong.”
“So if I stay, I’ll be strong in her eyes?”
“…no,” my eyes find the ground again, “She thinks there’s courage in running away from things. She told me that’s why she liked the name Chase when my dad suggested it,” I look back up at him, “Kind of scary for someone with her illness, huh?”
He watches me for a second, and then gives me a big hug. It was unsaid, but the hug represented everything we shared; our distant mothers, our love for Rose, and our desperate desire for nothing more than to be accepted by this big, crazy family known as the Potter-Weasleys.
Maylin’s voice interrupts the end of my memory, “Song? Why are you holding hands with Hugo?”
“Well, we were spying on Chase and Louis’s date when I got cold. So Hugo warmed my face… with his face,” they giggle.
Maylin doesn’t look all too happy, but I guess she decides this is not the time or place for her to yell at her little sister for making out with the cousin of the love-of-her-life/arch nemesis.
“Where’s Professor Trelawney?” I demand as I rush over to Rose’s side.
“She’s in her study talking through the fireplace to the friend that taught her that spell,” Maylin tells me, “She’s trying to figure out how to wake Rose up, and why this is happening in the first place.”
A couple minutes later, Trelawney comes out, “Chase, Hugo, I’m glad you two are here. I’m afraid my friend did not know the answer to our woes.”
“What?” Hugo doesn’t seem happy, “What does that mean?”
“It means that, for now, there is nothing we can do. The Headmistress is at a two day conference, and there seems no other immediate answer thus far. I’m sorry, child.”
“Hold on,” I try to swallow my fear of what may be happening to my best friend, “Maybe I can find something in the books in the library. Louis can go with me, since he frequents there far more than I do.”
“I don’t see why not,” Trelawney says sadly and then notices that Louis’s hand is intertwined with mine, “But, just yesterday… you two… hated each other? Bah, teenagers. So off balance.”
Ignoring her, I hurry out the door with Louis in tow.
“This is a bizarre first date,” Louis mutters.
“Were you jealous when Al and I dated?” I ask, trying to distract myself.
“Umm… Is this a trick question?”
I laugh, “No, I am DONE being mad at you about jealousy. I was just thinking back; I never quite realized at the time if it affected you. As far as I was concerned, you were this ultimate sex god that I had absolutely no chance with.”
“Are you kidding? I wanted to kill Albus the first time you kissed. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be someone else as bad as I wanted to be him at that time.”
He was talking about my first kiss… Wait. No. It wasn’t, “Louis,” I whisper as I stop right in my tracks.
“Why did you never tell me that you were my first kiss?” I look up at him earnestly.
His cheeks go red and a slow, small smile forms on his mouth, “I… I was so happy that you were my first kiss, but I didn’t think you wanted me to be yours. I thought that you not remembering was a sign that it never should have happened.”
I take a moment to study his face. His eyebrows were thick in the best way, and I liked how the darkness of them contrasted with his fair hair just the perfect amount. He had the Weasley eyes, blue and beautiful. And then there were his soft, amazing lips. No, not his lips, my lips. From the very start they had been mine to kiss and mine alone, and I found it very unfortunate that I’d only just recently begun to take up this opportunity.
Finally, I speak, “It definitely should have happened. It should always happen. Except now, regrettably, because we really need to get to the library.”
We continue to walk. Maybe a couple of minutes have passed when I notice Louis smirking, “What are you so smug about?”
“I was just thinking about your rant earlier.”
“The one where a beautiful woman seduces you and uses your body?”
“Yes, but that wasn’t the part of the scenario I was thinking about. I seem to remember something about how we can ‘joke and laugh and kiss and maybe even more than that’. I believe we’ve done our fair share of joking, laughing, and kissing.”
My jaw drops and I smack him on the arm, “Louis! You are such a boy!”
“I’m joking, I’m joking! Although I’m not the one that referred to myself as an ‘ultimate sex god’. Just saying.”
“I really need to be more careful with the things I say out loud. You quote me like James and Maylin quote Shakespeare. Anyways, here’s the library, can we please stop playing the Let’s Mortify Chase Game?”
He smirks some more, I roll my eyes some more, and then we crack down on the books.
“Hey, Louis, I found something,” I say, “The Guide to Properly Controlling an Unruly Gentleman Friend, by Beatrix Vega.”
“That’s funny, I found something too. Forty-Six Easy Steps to Helping Your Friends Release Tension, by Seth Brown. I’m your friend just as much as your boyfriend, right?” Louis jests back at me and I make sure to try and not visibly swoon at the fact that he just called himself my boyfriend. “Wait,” he continues, “Come here, I actually did find something. Look at this.”
I rush over to look at the giant volume he has opened in front of him, Antidotes to Rare and Unsafe Spells, by Elle Gecko. His finger is pointed at one article in particular.
“It says, There is a spell that will, within seconds, bring instant sleep along with dreams filled with memories of your loves and desires. While it can be very fun and self-fulfilling, it is a rarely known fact that the spell can be hazardous to those that are ill or with child,”Louis looks up at me and then continues to read, “If one that is with sickness or pregnant were to be enchanted by the spell, it would result in a coma-like state that if not dealt with within 24 hours can be permanent. During said coma, the victim will suffer non-stop unpleasant memories and nightmares in place of the more satisfying memories of love and desire. To retrieve the victim from this fate, have them orally ingest this remedy.”
The page went on to list potions instructions. Louis and I look at each other, and a shiver runs down my spine, “She’s trapped in her own head, unable to wake up from terrible nightmares,” I say, “Please tell me we can make this potion.”
He looks over the instructions again, and then a second time, “Yes. It should only take about an hour to make. All of these ingredients are well within our reach, all except one. Arnican Syrup, it’s quite rare; I’d expect the nearest place that would sell it to be in Diagon Alley.”
“Then can’t we just floo to Diagon Alley, grab it, and wake Rose up?”
“We can’t leave by floo powder without permission from the Headmistress, who’s away on a conference. Maybe we can sneak out to Hogsmeade and I can apparate us there,” Louis says.
“Yeah, no. You had to take the exam for your Apparition License five times, and I’m not exactly in the mood for getting splinched.”
“What? You don’t think I can—wait, we don’t have time to argue about this. We just need to think…” he seems to get an idea, because he slowly gives me a mischievous look, “The Anglia.”
“No. No. No, no, no. Are you insane? That thing is wild; it hasn’t been driven in decades! Except for our uncles’ stories, we’re not even sure if it’s really out there!” I feel like I’m arguing with a brick wall, because he and I both know that this just might be our only choice.