Chapter 20 : Anxieties
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“Hey.” She rubbed the back of her neck, suddenly feeling very awkward. “Can I – er – come in?”
“I actually have company –”
“Who's at the door?” Rose heard a woman's voice ask from behind him. It door suddenly opened wider, and Scorpius stumbled back into his cousin Johanna. “Oh, Rose!”
“I –” Scorpius looked conflicted. “I don't want to kick you out just because my girlfriend showed up unannounced.” He gave her a pointed look, and she grinned back at him.
Johanna shook her head. “No, you should definitely talk.” She grabbed her coat from the coat rack just inside the door and nudged Scorpius on her way out. “Besides, when people are going off to battle, they really ought to spend time with their loved ones.”
Scorpius's brow furrowed. “What?”
Johanna had already slipped by him, and she did not appear inclined to turn around and answer. She did, however, stop and squeeze Rose's shoulder before she vanished down the stairs. “Good luck tomorrow,” she murmured. “Van really does think that you'll be fine.”
If she hadn't been watching for it, Rose wouldn't have noticed Scorpius stiffening slightly.
Now Scorpius stood back and let her enter his flat. “What did she mean, going off to battle?”
“Really? You're not even going to bother to greet me before you drill me?”
He sighed and kissed her. As soon as he pulled back, he repeated the question.
“What, you want me to answer out here in the hallway?”
Scorpius blew out an impatient breath. “Fine. Take your coat off and we can go into the living room.”
“Not the bedroom?” Rose slipped her coat, hat, scarf, and gloves off and hung them up.
“So you can distract me rather than answer the question? No.”
“Oh, fine.” She threw herself onto his couch. He perched on the opposite arm facing her, his knees drawn up to his chest. “There's just this thing we have to deal with. Don't worry about it.”
“You're funny. What thing?”
She'd known he wouldn't let it go that easily. “Er – just a thing. You know. For work.”
“I don't know. What thing for work?”
She stretched out and nudged his leg with her foot. “Scorpius,” she whined.
He imitated her tone. “Rose.”
She scowled at him. “You're being difficult.”
“So are you. What thing for work?”
She sighed. He definitely wasn't going to let this go. Scorpius could be a bit like a dragon watching over its nest sometimes – very, very single-minded. She wasn't even sure why she was so reluctant to tell him, though she thought that there was probably a reason buried in there somewhere.
“It's just... well, there have been some attacks, and we have to deal with them.”
He ran a hand over his face. “The petrified people?”
“How did you know about that?”
Her boyfriend rolled his eyes. “Healer, Rose. Sometimes, I know things.” He let himself slide down to sit on the cushion. “So they're sending you to fight a basilisk?”
“It might not be –”
He snorted. “Yes, it is. Healers can tell these things.”
She was genuinely curious, and after a moment of silence, he seemed to understand that. “I'll tell you later. So they're sending you to fight a basilisk?”
“God, you can be like a nesting dragon sometimes.” He shrugged. “Well, maybe. Maybe not. There are a few other things that need dealing with, too.”
“Oh, Merlin.” He ran a hand over his face. “What other things?”
“Well, outside of the basilisk in London, there's also apparently one up in the Forbidden Forest, which is making the acromantulas start pushing into Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.”
“Wait, there are two?”
“And acromantulas. Yes.”
“Which are they sending you to deal with?”
She rubbed the back of her neck. “Maybe none. There are also apparently a couple of lethifolds running – well, gliding, I guess – around.” He closed his eyes, and she added, “And some quintapeds have made it to the mainland.”
“Lethifolds aren't supposed to come to England. It's too cold.”
“And yet they're here.”
He closed his eyes. “And you're off to deal with them tomorrow?” She nodded. “Hell. I'm on duty all day. I'm going to be a nervous wreck.”
“Better than sitting around here being a nervous wreck,” she pointed out. “And anyway, don't you have any faith in my abilities?”
“Of course I do. I just – I worry. It doesn't take much, you know, and there's no margin for error.”
“Well, Vic and Dedworth won't let anything happen to me. They're pretty experienced, you know.”
She wasn't sure if it was her defensive tone or just the mention of Van that made him cringe, but he did.
“What?” she asked, glad that she had an opportunity to confront this head on without admitting to eavesdropping. He hated it when she eavesdropped. The most recent time that she'd done it before the previous weekend had been in the seventh year of Hogwarts, and he hadn't spoken to her for almost two weeks – and that had been with admitting it the very next day.
“What do you mean, what? Nothing.”
She certainly wasn't going to let it go that easily. “No. You made a face. Why'd you make a face?”
“Want to snog?” She nudged him again, and he wrinkled his nose. “You're pretty annoying yourself.”
“You've always thought that. Why'd you make a face?”
He shrugged and looked away from her. “I dunno. I just... you talk about him a lot. And – er –”
He trailed off, which left her wondering which part of that sentiment she should tackle first. “Scorpius, I love you.” He smiled a little, and she felt a slight sense of relief that she'd chosen right. She often didn't have the best judgment with these sorts of things. “And he's my boss, and he's involved with Lavender, and he's like fifteen years older than me.”
“I know. It – I just –”
“Don't you trust me?” She didn't bother to conceal the hurt in her voice; she'd been feeling it for days, and it was cathartic to let it out.
“Oh, God.” He slid closer to her immediately. “Rose, of course I do. I'm just... I guess I just feel a little left out. You never talk to me anymore.”
“Well, every time I do you get tense. What am I supposed to do? I hate fighting with you, or feeling like you're mad at me, and you get like that every time I say anything about work.”
He put his arm around her shoulder. “You're right,” he said after a minute. “I do. I'm not mad at you, though, sweetheart, I swear. I'm just worried and I don't really know how to deal with it.”
“But I can take care of myself.”
He slumped back. “I know you can.”
His body posture was more defeated than she had ever seen it, and for a moment, irritation warred with compassion.
“What's wrong?” He shifted his gaze down to his knees. “Really. I want to know.”
“I just – I don't know if I'll have anyone left in five years.”
“What do you mean?”
She rested a hand on his arm. When he looked up, she could see tears in his eyes. “Scorpius, tell me.”
He blinked a few times. It did nothing but coax the tears into beginning to slide down his cheek.
Rose was completely at a loss. Scorpius was generally fairly communicative – recent events had been the exception, not the norm – but he rarely cried, and now that he was, she felt more helpless than she could ever imagine feeling in the field. She wanted to wave her wand to make everything better, but somehow she doubted there was a spell for that.
He took a deep, wavering breath. “It's not just you. It's – it's you, it's Albus, it's Jo – everyone I'm closest to is off doing dangerous things all the time, and I hate it. Even Noah – the Department of Mysteries can be dangerous, too, you know?”
“So – you could all just... well, you might get really absorbed in your departments. I'm not like them, I know I'm not, and you and Al and Noah are all loving your departments. And if you love that, maybe I'm just... well, not interesting enough for you.” He hesitated, and then added, in a voice barely above a whisper, “And I'm scared you're going to get really hurt.”
The 'or killed' part remained unsaid, but Rose's mind filled it in, and she was sure that his had, too.
“Oh, Scorpius.” She wrapped her arms around him.
This was apparently too much, because once he'd buried his face in her neck, he started to cry in earnest. She held him, not quite sure what to say; his worries weren't entirely unreasonable, though she thought he was overreacting a little, but she doubted that anyone was going to change their career to help alleviate his anxiety. She didn't really want to tell him that he should make friends with more Healers, either, because she was afraid he'd take it as her pushing him away.
“Sorry,” he said, pulling back and wiping his face with his sleeve. “I didn't mean to – I just...”
“I know.” She took his hands and squeezed them. “Look, I don't know quite what to say. You know me, I'm no good with this feelings stuff.”
That got a half-hearted chuckle out of him.
“But... Scorpius, look, our jobs our dangerous, but it's not like we're Hit Wizards. The vast majority of Aurors live long enough to retire, and the D.C.B. hasn't had anyone die in the field yet. And the Department of Mysteries...” She shrugged. “God, it's Noah, he's not exactly a major risk taker. He's got a sense of self-preservation. He's a Slytherin.”
“You're right. I know you are. But I'm just so scared that one day it's going to be you getting wheeled in, or Albus, or Noah, and I don't know if I'll be able to deal with it.”
He shrugged. “I'm used to that.”
Rose began to run her fingers through his hair, and he made an appreciative noise. “Well, I doubt you'll be expected to. They don't generally let you treat your loved ones for a reason. I'm sure they'd be understanding.”
He sighed. “Probably. I guess we'll see soon enough.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well... it's got to happen eventually, right?”
She looked away from him. She couldn't argue with that; in fact, she was quite sure that it would.
“Yeah.” He slumped back, his hands slipping out of hers. “Fuck, Rose, I just don't know.”
“I love you.” She edged toward him and leaned in for a kiss.
He may have been feeling distinctly downtrodden, but not so much so he wasn't very happy to return it.
“Come on.” She pulled away from him and took his hand. “Let's go.”
He let her pull him to his feet, but as she steered him toward the bedroom, he offered up a half-hearted resistance. “Rose, I...”
She stopped, spun around, and reached up to put her hands on his shoulders. “Scorpius.”
“Do you love me?”
He shrugged off her hands and wrapped his arms around her. “Yes.”
“Do you like sex with me?”
“I love sex with you.”
“Do you think it will make you feel better?”
He thought about that for a moment. “Probably.”
“It'll make me feel better, too. Come on.”
After that, he was more than happy to participate.
“I love you,” Rose said. She was curled up against him in bed, her head on his chest, and for once, she felt completely content with the world.
“I love you, too.” He continued to run his fingers through her hair. “I'm not trying to guilt you, you know. I just worry.”
“I know you do, and I'm sorry.” She began to run her fingers along his chest. “You know, you've got a lot of muscles for a Healer.”
He let out a loud laugh. “Thanks.”
“Everyone's going to be fawning all over you. You'll be the smart sexy Healer everyone wants to sleep with. You'll walk into the room, and women will swoon.”
Scorpius shook his head but did not respond. They lay there in silence for awhile, and then he cleared his throat. “Rose, will you promise me something?”
“Be... be careful tomorrow. You might not care much about your life, but I do.”
“That's not fair. I care about my life.” She felt that that had been a distinctly low blow, though it didn't seem sporting to argue over it right now, not when he'd been sobbing into her shoulder only shortly before that.
“Okay. But be careful anyway.”
“I will.” She glanced up at him, and he raised his eyebrows. ”I promise.”
“Well, that's all I can ask for.” He pulled her up and pressed his lips against hers again. As his arms wound around her, Rose let herself forget everything.
For a little while, at least.
A/N: Hey, guys! I'm going to do my very best to get this updated every Friday. RL is a little busy and overwhelming, so I may miss a week here or there, but I'm going to give it my best effort. :)
Thanks for sticking with me, to those who have, and I hope you're enjoying the story so far, for readers who are new to Wrinkles. As always, I really love hearing your thoughts, so if you would take a moment to leave a review, I would appreciate it so much. :)
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