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Chapter 21 : Hope
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For ohmymerlin, for hissing angrily at me.
We stayed in the tree for hours, kissing a little but mostly staring off into the garden, lost in our own thoughts. I let the colors take over my subconscious, lifting me away from the scenario. I was jolted back to reality each time Scorpius sniffed or shifted on the branch.
“Your parents are probably home,” I said as the sun began to sink into the trees.
“Probably,” he echoed.
“We should head inside.”
“Probably,” Scorpius repeated. I had never heard his voice so empty.
I twisted around to kiss him and then moved away, steadying myself before hopping down a few branches and onto the ground. It wasn’t a classy landing, but I managed to hold my balance enough not to fall. He slid down easily, dusting off his trousers in a nonchalant way. I envied that, but said nothing.
The kitchen light was on and I could see Mrs. Malfoy at the table with a mug before her.
“Do we have to?” Scorpius asked.
“Buck up,” I said with a smile. A false smile, but it was what I could muster at the time.
“Remember when life was simple?”
“Life was never simple,” I said with a brief laugh. “It was just simpler.”
Mrs. Malfoy turned when we entered, trying to disguise her look of restlessness. “Scorpius,” she said. “Where were you?”
“Garden,” he said, brushing past her and into the sitting room.
I paused, not following. “We were in the tree out back,” I explained. “Any news?” I lowered my voice.
“They’re doing all they can.” She took a sip of whatever was in the mug. It smelled like cinnamon. “Researching new medication. New treatments.” Mrs. Malfoy didn’t sound convinced.
“Would you like to stay for supper?” Mrs. Malfoy asked.
“I think I’d better get home. My parents didn’t know I’d be gone all day.” I frowned. “Thank you for everything.” Before she could respond, I moved into the sitting room, but Scorpius wasn’t there.
I was going to check the front porch, but heard a pair of voices upstairs. Him and his father.
Eavesdropping wasn’t something I prided myself on, but I couldn’t say I wasn’t curious. I moved up a few steps and pressed myself against the wall, lurking in the shadows.
“They have a team of Healers researching it,” Mr. Malfoy said in a gruff voice I barely recognized.
“They’ve had a team on Mum’s for years!” Scorpius shot back. “They going to send me to the Smoky Mountains to breathe in the humid air? Or is the next step the Caribbean? Come on. This is ridiculous. They’re not going to find anything and I’m going to be coughing up blood for five years and die.”
“You’re not,” Mr. Malfoy snapped. “I will not have that.”
“What’re you going to do about it?”
“Something. Anything.” He paused when his voice choked. “Have hope, Scorpius.”
“Make it possible.”
I slid back down the stairs, eyes welling up, and moved out the front door. It felt like the world was breaking around me. Like just a few months ago everything was stacked so neatly, and now the cloth was being pulled out from under my life. Pieces were falling. Shattering.
I apparated home, barely making it in one piece, and ignored my family. Hugo was complaining about having to do the dishes by hand when I had a perfectly good wand. I closed and locked the bedroom door.
Everything was different. It had crashed so quickly. What a blur.
I fell onto the bed, tears exploding into the pillow.
I couldn’t help but think how incredibly selfish it was of me to cry. I was crying for me. For Scorpius. For his family. For the unknown. I didn’t know why I was crying, but I was. Hard. Hysterically. My fingers gripped the pillowcase, crushing it in my grip.
Simpler. I wanted it to be simpler.
Fishing. A shed in the rain. A rooftop and a sunset.
The door squeaked behind me.
“It was locked for a reason,” I sobbed, shoulders shaking.
“That’s the funny thing about wands. They open locks.” The mattress sank when Dad sat beside me. He began to rub my back. “Anything I can do, turkey?”
“Not really.” I hiccuped in a very unattractive way and rolled onto my side to face him. “He got his results back. They’re positive. Whatever his mum has, he has it too.” I dissolved into unwanted tears again.
“Ah.” Dad started to scratch my back a little, which calmed me down. “Be brave, Rosey. We’ll figure it out.”
“Easier said than done,” I grumbled.
“No one ever said it was going to be easy.” He kissed my forehead.
It was late. Sometime in the middle of the night. The window was snapping at me.
Okay, it wasn’t the window.
It was something on the other side of the window.
In the shape of a boy.
I blinked a few times, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. Scorpius was on the roof of the porch, crouching low and dressed in black. Of course, the black consisted of nice trouser pants, a collared shirt, and a vest. He really was a piece of work.
I shuffled over and opened the screen, letting him climb in gracefully.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. Before I could turn on a lamp, he pulled me into his arms. “We need to talk.”
“What?” I was still half-asleep. The digital clock told me it was after three in the morning.
Scorpius tugged me tight against him. He was cold from the night air, but it woke me up.
“What?” I repeated. “What’s going on?”
He sighed. “I’m leaving, Rose.”
I could barely make out the features of his face. “Excuse me?”
His fingers moved up to my hair as he kissed me. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “I have to. I have to go.”
“Where?” I asked, confusion setting in. It was the middle of the night. Why was he telling me this now?
“Somewhere,” Scorpius said. “Overseas probably.”
“For what? Testing? Humidity?” I asked, pulling away. “What did they say?”
“Nothing.” He shook his head, strands of hair falling into his head. “My father is talking about donating organs to help me since we’re a match. He’s talking about doing so much. I have to go. I’m not going to let him do it. I’ll find a healer somewhere else. I’ll get through it.”
“Alone?” I asked.
“Yes. Alone. I’m done hurting people.”
My lips parted, but nothing came out. My chest was aching. Everything was aching.
“I’m sorry, Rose.” He kissed my forehead, but I jerked away before he could hug me. “Say something, will you?”
“What do you expect me to say?” Suddenly I was angry. It was three in the morning and my boyfriend was in my room telling me he was leaving. Somewhere. Anywhere but here. Going alone with a disease. “Thanks for sparing my feelings? Thanks for being a complete and utter douchebag?”
He looked startled. “What?”
“You heard me,” I snapped. “I don’t know who you think you are, Scorpius Malfoy, but you’re being a bit of a jerk.”
“A what?” Scorpius stammered, his jaw falling. “I’m trying to do the right thing.”
“You’re being selfish!” I cried. “Selfish by leaving in the middle of the night! Pfft. Sparing feelings my arse. The right thing my arse. You’re going to make everything worse and you couldn’t give two shits!”
He stared, taking a few steps back. “Look,” he said, voice sharp, “This isn’t easy for me.”
“Easier than to stay.” I shook my head. “Just leave, okay? Just leave and find your healer and be alone. Just do me a favor and don’t owl me.”
“Rose,” Scorpius began.
“Don’t,” I said. “Just leave. If you’re going to leave, just leave.”
“Leave,” I said, louder this time. My fists were shaking.
Scorpius frowned and climbed out the window. I saw his gray eyes one last time before he disappeared down the porch and back to the ground. There was a crack and I knew he was gone.
I slammed the window shut, locking it, and returned to bed.
“Where’s Dad?” I walked into the kitchen the following morning, fully-dressed and trying to pretend the previous night had been a dream. A really bad, emotionally-draining dream. Mum and Hugo were at the table, Mum reading the paper and Hugo stirring his oatmeal around to make it seem like he was eating. There was a chocolate bar in his lap.
“Had to run some errands,” Mum said. “How are you?”
I shrugged. “I’ve been better.” I didn’t bother to tell them about Scorpius visiting. They’d find out soon enough he was gone. The Malfoys would probably be over shortly to ask if he was here unless he left a note. He probably did.
I hated him for it.
“Oatmeal?” Hugo smirked, waving his spoon around. The contents were dripping onto the table.
“I’ll pass.” I grabbed a banana and slid into a seat.
“Plans for the day?” Mum asked.
It had been to return to Scorpius’ house and take two nets and find a stream.
“Avoid Hugo,” I said with a smirk. He threw a piece of chocolate at my forehead. “I don’t know. I’ll probably paint. Or take a walk.” I shrugged and ran my fingers over the wood grooves in the table.
“Let me know if you need something,” Mum said. She dipped the paper so I could see her eyes, the same color as my own. “I mean it.”
I shrugged. “Yeah.” I moved from the table, abandoning breakfast, and retreated upstairs to grab my paint bag and a canvas. After hoisting it under my arm, I returned outside and went around back.
It wasn’t the kind of garden Scorpius had. In fact, it wasn’t maintained all that well either. Mum kept it looking charming with a few waves of her wand, but she was too busy to concentrate on blooming flowers and obnoxious weeds. And Dad knew little about plants other than which ones to pick for Mum when he made her mad.
Instead it was a garden full of greenery and a few small sculptures we’d purchased at farmers’ markets. It was home. I liked that about it.
I occupied a bench toward the back, facing the house. A line of trees was behind me, casting a shadow so I didn’t get sun burn. Not that the clouds were going to let me burn today. They were getting grayer with each passing minute.
I pulled out the yellows and blues and grays and sank into the painting.
This was ridiculous. How could Scorpius just up and leave? He was faced with a tough position and people who wanted to help him, and he abandoned it all. He ran away.
What a coward.
A coward I may never see again. How was that possible?
I had to stop thinking about it. He left. There was nothing I could do about it. And I yelled at him before he went. Ugh. He deserved it. For everything we’d been through the last month and he comes in at three in the morning to tell me to forget it and he’s leaving to not hurt people more.
Guess what, Scorpius? You hurt me more.
I glanced down at the painting. It was the back of my house, green leaves littering the roof. A window box of flowers offered some new hues outside my parents’ bedroom. I dipped my brush into a deep orange, draping it across the sky.
I had a strange infatuation with sunsets. Might as well include one.
I thought about the painting Scorpius did on the rooftop in town. How he really tried to mix the colors and learn. How much he smiled.
Ugh. Stop thinking.
My head jerked up, nearly pulling a muscle in my neck. Dad pushed open the screen door, rendering my canvas false. “Yeah?”
He didn’t respond. Instead, Dad ruffled his hair and walked toward me, pausing to wipe some mud from the bottom of his shoe. He peered down at the canvas propped against my leg. “Preparing for later?” he asked, pointing out the orange and yellow in the sky.
“Just a memory.” I shrugged.
“Listen, I’ve been to St. Mungos,” Dad said, clearing his throat and sliding beside me on the bench. “I had a talk with your Aunt Audrey.”
Aunt Audrey was a Healer. One of the best in the biz, according to the portrait in the front lobby of the hospital. James always talked about how she made so much money Uncle Percy could be a stay at home dad, but he could never handle it. Then we made a storyline involving Uncle Percy with cats and bunny slippers. Which were chased by said cats.
“Oh?” I didn’t know how to respond.
“She’s agreed to head the department dedicated to finding the cure or some kind of treatment for whatever it is the Malfoys have,” Dad said. “They’ve formed a committee and have signed a confidentiality contract to keep it out of the papers. Before, they were going to some swanky specialist in Scotland.” He brushed some hair behind my ear. “Don’t worry, turkey. It’ll be fine.”
“You didn’t have to do all that,” I murmured, cheeks heating up.
“Yeah, I did.” Dad shot me a sideways smile. “Otherwise I’d have to put up with your grumpy damn attitude until school started. Then I’d have to hear about it in letters.”
“Ye of little faith,” I said, nudging him with my elbow. I leaned my head against him. “Thanks.”
Dad draped an arm around my shoulder and I took a moment to appreciate him. Aunt Ginny had told me a lot of stories about how Dad used to be as a kid. Headstrong. Jealous. Brave. Loyal. As many brilliant things as he accomplished while at school and during the war, I was pretty sure he was the proudest of us.
Though it was hard to know how he could be proud of Hugo, the dolt.
“So where is young Malfoy today?” Dad asked.
I faltered. Somewhere overseas. Maybe Europe.
“Probably still processing everything,” I eventually replied.
“Does that have anything to do with you yelling in the middle of the night?”
I blushed. “More than likely.”
Dad ruffled my hair again. “Do what you think is right,” he said. “But don’t wait too long to do it, okay?” He kissed my forehead. “And I think it should be a sunrise.” He dipped his finger into the orange paint and smeared it down my nose. Then he smirked and left.
I added some yellow highlights to the house.
A sunrise would be nice.
It didn’t take me long to figure out where Scorpius had gone once I committed to considering it. I set the painting to dry on the back deck and threw a few things into a tote. Mum and Dad were snuggled up on the sofa since it was our last vacation day and Hugo was in his room listening to music that made the floor thump.
I didn’t bother telling them I was leaving.
It hadn’t been long, but I’d already forgotten the way the humidity in the Smoky Mountains could plaster fabric to my skin. It was a hazy day, the sun stuck behind a few clouds, and everything felt like it was on fire.
So a normal August day.
The rental home was vacant, but it had been cleaned and the deck was restained. I moved quickly down the steps and into the woods, careful to avoid bears.
I missed the trees. Sure, we had trees at home, but it wasn’t the same. Perhaps that was the point. None of it was the same. I paused to pluck a few wildflowers out of the brush and place them behind my ear. It wouldn’t mask the frizz of my hair, but I could try.
Scorpius was exactly where I thought he would be, sitting on a log beside the creek with no shoes and his khaki pants rolled up to his knees. There was a bag beside him in the dirt, its contents spilling out. His back was to me, but I could see his hair sticking up at strange angles like he’d slept there.
A twig snapped under my shoe and he spun around, blade in his hand.
“Are you really going to cut me?” I said, bored.
“Rose,” he breathed, face mirroring the shock. “How did you–?”
I rolled my eyes. “Here. I brought entertainment.” I stopped just short of the log and took two nets from the tote. They weren’t large or fancy like the one he’d used when I first spotted him here, but they were nets. I handed one to him.
This time, the smile reached his eyes. “What’re you doing here?”
“What? A girl can’t be in the mood to fish?” I asked. I tossed the bag beside his and slipped off my shoes. Then I waded into the creek. It had rained recently because the water level was higher than it had been. It skimmed the bottom of my knees.
He followed me into the water, dumbstruck look still on his face. “Rose,” he started again, “Let me explain.”
“I’d rather you didn’t,” I replied. My eyes focused on the water, but there were no fish. Of course there were no bleeding fish!
“Why are you here?” he said, dipping his net absently into the stream.
I chuckled. “I didn’t get my full thirty days,” I said.
“So am I.” I pulled the net up. Empty.
“Scorpius.” I paused. “Romeo.”
A smile cracked on his lips. “Don’t,” he said. “I’m trying to be sincere.”
“Maybe we can catch another fish for you to fall in love with,” I said, kicking water at him so his pants turned dark brown.
“You can’t love two things at once,” he said.
I stared. “I don’t see why not.” My voice was a little breathless, something I hadn’t anticipated.
Scorpius tossed his net into the water, grabbed me around the middle, and kissed me hard.
Somehow we fell back into the stream, my legs tangled around him, and everything was soaked. My knees were pressed between stones and all I could do was kiss him. My teeth grazed against his bottom lip, fingers in his hair. His hands strayed to my hips, holding my body against his under the water. We gasped for breath and the sun moved out from behind some clouds, heating everything.
Scorpius pressed small kisses up my jaw line to my ear and my neck, down to my collar bone. The forest was a dreamy blur and my hair was sticking to my body. And him. My breathing mirrored the beat of my heart, near painful.
“Thank you for finding me,” Scorpius said, pressing more kisses on my chin and lips.
“You’re not all that good at hiding,” I mused, my fingers running up his arms. The stream was like bath water now. It could start boiling any minute now.
“We’re going to be okay, right?” he breathed. He pulled at my shirt a little before stopping and meeting my eyes. “Right?” he pressed.
“We’re going to be fine,” I said, kissing him. “And you’re still going to have to sit with me on the train.”
“I’d be honored,” Scorpius said, breaking away from my lips to kiss my collarbone. Sharp tingles shot up my spine.
I tilted his chin toward me and kissed him again, this time slowly as the water moved past our shoulders. “Did you mean what you said?” I asked. “About the fish?”
“I don’t say things I don’t mean, Juliet.” Scorpius smiled into my lips and pulled me against him again.
After we hauled ourselves onto shore, I told him what my Dad had said. He nodded a few times, used his wand to dry us, and vowed to purchased a large brandy as a thank you to my father. What a strange boy.
At least he took his shirt off before he was dry.
That was something I would appreciate for a long, long time.
I grabbed a few sandwiches from my bag and handed him one, which was gone almost instantly. “So are you coming back?”
“Nope. I thought I’d just stay here and live off the land,” Scorpius said, trying not to laugh. “Don’t you think I could do it?”
“Considering you almost pulled a knife on me? No. Not at all.” I glanced over. “Besides. There are no department stores for pleated pants in the forest.”
“I resent that.” He wrinkled his nose and kicked some dirt at me. “Do you want to stay? We can build some sort of hut and catch giant fish and slay bears.”
“I’d rather not,” I said. “But I appreciate the offer.”
He leaned over to kiss me and he smelled like ham and turkey deli meat. “Fine, fine. Let’s go home. But at least I’m starting a vegetable garden.”
“I’ll inform the headmaster,” I mumbled and tossed the tote over my arm. I laced my fingers with his. “Ready?”
Scorpius chuckled to himself.
“Nothing. Let’s just go.”
He ran his fingers through his hair. “I was just thinking about something.”
“What were you thinking about?” I pressed. It better not be the way my hair was drying because he would have to get used to that.
“Do you remember that time on the boat?” Scorpius asked. “First year?”
Right. Like I would forget the boat. I nodded.
“It’s just funny, don’t you think?” He squeezed my hand. “Everything we went through this summer. I was right about it all.”
“It’s girls who have to be brave.” Scorpius smiled a little, his finger under my chin as he leaned in to kiss me again. “You’re quite the Gryffindor, Rose Weasley.” I could feel his breath against my skin.
“That’s where the hat put me.” I kissed him again.
There was a crack and we were gone.
A/N: Thank you SO much to everyone for trying out my new Albus/OC "The Keeper's Daughter." It means a lot! I knew I needed another story in the POV of a girl as this one comes to a close.
UP NEXT: The final chapter of 30 Days.
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