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Chapter 12 : Splinched
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I woke to the sound of birds chirping loudly somewhere nearby, a rather lovely melodious sound to wake up to on a Sunday morning. I kept my eyes shut a little longer, ignoring the fact that I'd have to get up at some point, knowing that as long as I didn't check the time I'd remain in that half-asleep morning limbo, blissfully unaware of the outside world.
The chirping stopped, followed by heavy footsteps crossing my room. "Get up, sleepy head," Molly barked, tearing the covers off me and exposing me to a horrifically chilly March breeze.
I squealed. "What did you do that for, you big muppet?" I grumbled into my pillow.
"You have to leave soon," she said, sitting down at the foot of my bed. She started reaching for my feet, and I knew she was about to tickle me. I quickly sat up, tucking my feet under my legs so that she couldn't reach them.
"Oh no you don't," I said huffily.
Molly grinned at me, her hair skewwhiff and her pyjama top buttoned up wrong. "You're in such a bad mood this morning! I thought birdsong would cheer you up a bit."
I scowled, realising that I'd been duped. "I don't need cheering up, I'm fine."
"Right, whatever," Molly said, rising from my bed and leaving, pausing at the door to call over her shoulder, "it's nearly noon, you better make yourself presentable."
I checked my watch; shit! I had to be at my parents' in half an hour. It was my Dad's birthday today - shit, I'd even forgotten to get him a present. Buggeration. I hopped out of bed and threw on the first things I grabbed out of my wardrobe (a pair of rainbow striped tights and a green dress) and sprinted to Molly's room. Incredibly, she had gone back to bed, the lazy woman.
"Molly," I yelled at her, marching up to her bed and shaking her. "I have an emergency! I forgot to get Dad a present."
Molly flung her arm in the direction of the dresser and I saw a small parcel wrapped in navy paper. I grinned, grabbing the present and dashing off. "I love you!" I called behind me.
Right, so that was one crisis averted; Dad would never forgive me if I didn't get him a present. One year, I forgot to give him a Christmas card and he sulked for days, insisting that it meant I didn't love him and other crap, which wasn't true, I just didn't see the point in buying over-priced bad quality greetings cards when we didn't even celebrate the occasion on religious grounds. Though, thinking about it, Hugo did once insist that he was going to become the Pope... he hadn't quite understood what he was talking about, so we just laughed at him as spent three weeks dressed in a long purple dress and big hat.
I dragged a hairbrush through my hair, wincing as it detangled, then threw on some make-up, before dashing to the bathroom to clean my teeth. Remembering my shoes at the very last minute, I bid Molly goodbye before Disapparating.
Taking a moment to compose myself, I counted to ten before ringing my parents' doorbell. It echoed loudly in the hall, followed by the sound of the lock being scraped back. Mum answered the door, beaming as her eyes fell on me.
"Rosie!" she cried, pulling me inside and hugging me. "It's so good to see you, stranger. How are you doing?" She was searching my face worriedly.
I tried not to get anymore grumpy, but I was a bit fed up that people thought I was a nutcase just because I'd not really gone out in the past three weeks and I'd spent that time wailing and sniffling in bed about the injustice of life, the universe and everything. I was fine.
"I'm fine, Mum," I said patiently. "I've just been busy." Busy, ha, what a good joke. "Busy" for me meant going to work, coming home from work, eating a tub of ice-cream and then reading tragically ending novels, followed by feeling sorry for myself and daydreaming about Teddy suddenly bursting into the flat and declaring that Victoire was actually ugly and boring and he loved me instead. Yep, I'd been very busy. "What about you?"
"Yes yes, I'm good," she said cheerfully, running a hand through frazzled hair. "Come on through." She led me towards the kitchen, where my grandparents were already tucking into a bottle of wine. My eyes found my Dad, who looked thorough contented.
"Happy birthday, Dad." I gave him a kiss on the cheek and handed him 'my' present. He squeezed my hand.
"What's this, then?" he asked rather unnecessarily, shaking the gift as though he'd be able to tell just from that. Thinking about it, I actually didn't know what was inside... Oh dear. I hoped that Molly hadn't bought something completely weird or inappropriate, like a box of cigarettes; that wouldn't go down very well.
I forced a laugh. "You'll have to wait and see," I said lamely.
At that point, Hugo sauntered in, looking a little worse for wear. His eyes were very bloodshot, enveloped in dark blue circles. He sat down gingerly at the kitchen table next to my Granddad and closed his eyes.
"Rough night last night, eh?" I said jokingly.
"You could say that," he said hoarsely, sipping at a glass of water.
"Poor lamb," I mocked, smiling slightly at the look on my Gran's face, framed by hair just as red as the flash in her eyes.
"What's that?" she barked. Hugo had the good grace to look a bit sheepish. "You don't drink, do you?"
I coughed awkwardly as Hugo tried to talk his way out of this one. Of course he drank, everyone in our family did apart from Lily (she was such a daddy's girl). "I don't mind a drink on occasion," he said guardedly.
Gran raised her eyebrows sceptically but chose to drop it. It was rare that anything ever got past our grandmother, probably because she'd raised seven children and had seen pretty much everything before; Hugo would have been an idiot to lie to her. Hugo and I shared a rare smile, an in-joke between siblings, a comforting gesture. It wasn't often that Hugo and I had anything in common or had much to say to each other, but in moments like this we were thinking exactly the same thing.
A heavy pause in conversation followed after that, broken only by Mum announcing that lunch was ready and we all needed to sit down, which we did quickly.
“I received a letter from Victoire yesterday,” Gran was saying conversationally as I helped myself to potatoes. I tried not to make a big deal of this fact, but in trying to concentrate on looking indifferent I hadn’t noticed that I was still shovelling potatoes onto my plate. Hugo looked at me, looked at the pile of potatoes on my plate and then looked down at my stomach. What a dick. I glared at him, stuffing a potato in my mouth and pulling at face at him.
“Oh yes?” Mum passed me the wine, which I accepted gratefully. “How’s she getting on?”
“Very well, it seems,” Gran said cheerfully. “Their new apartment is nice, she’s getting on well in her new job and she says that Teddy’s job hunting is going well too.”
Poor Teddy; he’d had to leave his previous job at the Ministry of Magic to move to France with no guarantee of a transfer to their Ministry. It seemed that people will do anything for love, even do something completely barmy like head to a country with less than below par sanitation and facilities with no job prospects. It was lucky they were both rich, really; it was a very nice side-effect to having famous family.
“I worry a bit for him,” Mum said slowly. “It can’t be easy going to a foreign country when you don’t speak the language.”
My Dad shrugged. “They all speak English these days, Hermione. He’ll be fine; Victoire’s bilingual anyway.”
Mum rolled her eyes. “They’re not going to be together all the time. What will he do when she’s not around? It’s a big culture shock.”
“He’ll have to man up,” Hugo interjected. I didn’t feel it necessary to add at that point that I thought he was manly enough already.
“At least the weather’s nicer there than it is here,” I mused, looking at the grey skies outside the window critically. “England is bloody depressing sometimes.”
Granddad chuckled at my pessimism. “It’s not all that bad, Rosie. It gets very hot and dry in other parts of the world, and with a complexion like yours that’s not the best thing.”
I sighed, prodding my pale cheeks sadly. It was true; I was very much an English rose, and one that tended to go bright red whenever the sun came out. At best I got marring freckles. By the end of the summer, Victoire was sure to be a lovely brown colour, the bitch.
Mum seemed to sense my discontent and smiled at me from across the table. Bless her, she was really quite sweet when she wanted to be. I almost felt guilty that I’d been avoiding everyone for the past month or whatever. It was hard to drag up any enthusiasm for spending time with family, especially when all they wanted to talk about were things that made me more grumpy.
“How’s work, Rose?” Granddad asked, sensing a change of subject was needed.
“Not too bad,” I conceded. “Boris is looking at getting some more shop assistants in, so I’m hoping none of them will be too vile. We’re looking at getting Gilderoy Lockhart in to do a book signing in a couple of weeks, too. He has an autobiography coming out next week.”
“Well, that’s not convenient timing or anything, is it?” Dad said archly.
Both Gran and Mum glared at him. “What are you talking about?” Mum said waspishly.
“He’s running for Minister in a couple of months – he’s just trying to butter up the public with that smarmy smile of his.” Dad seemed to scowl at the very thought.
“What does it matter if his policies are good?” Gran said. “I think he’ll be good for the Ministry.”
Hugo shook his head. “How is “free teeth whitening for all” a good policy? He’s going to fritter away all his time and money on making the nation good-looking.”
"You're just jealous," I said irritably.
Hugo raised his eyebrows and gave me a pointed look, but chose to keep quiet. I wished they'd all just keep quiet most of the time, actually, so that I was left with my own misery in peace.
Later, when I'd retreated to the living room to lie on the sofa with in a drowsy post-wine lethargy, Gran came to talk to me with a concerned look on her face. She sat on the armchair next to the sofa and patted my head fondly. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong, Rosie? We're all a bit worried about you."
I sighed, not opening my eyes. "There's nothing wrong, Gran," I said sluggishly. I was getting pretty tired of all these worried relatives. I was a grown-up now, I didn't need their help or their meddling.
"Rose, stop being stubborn. I can tell when things aren't quite right." Sighing again, I sat up. Gran was frowning neatly, her forehead creased questioningly.
"I just feel like a bit of a failure at the moment," I admitted eventually, looking down at my feet. "Everyone else in the family seems to be getting on with things, or being successful and I don't really have anything to be proud of."
"Nonsense," Gran said immediately. "You have plenty going for you, dear. You might not realise it, but you're a very special young lady. I'm proud of you, we all are."
I sighed, trying not to tear up; the wine was a bad idea. "I don't have a career, Gran. I haven't kept in touch with most of my school friends and everyone is expecting me to settle down and get married in the next few years. I'm twenty-four next year and I still feel eighteen most of the time."
"Your problem," Gran began earnestly, "is that you don't appreciate how much you do have. You enjoy your job, you have a family that loves you and we all want you to be happy. Don't compare yourself to your cousins, Rosie. Just be successful in your own way."
My bottom lip quivered. "Thanks, Gran," I said tearfully. She pulled me into a hug and held me tightly. I breathed an inward sigh of relief; I couldn't believe how much better I felt for voicing my fears, and she made it seem like everything was going to be okay in the end anyway. Admittedly I couldn't exactly tell her that the reason for all my woes was Victoire, because that didn't exactly come across as very friendly (in fact, it made me a bit of a super-bitch).
She released me from her embrace and left me to my thoughts. She was right, I did have a lot more than I thought I did. It was difficult having so many relatives to compare myself to, I really had to stop myself feeling crap about it.
"You seem more cheerful," Mum said when I sauntered back into the kitchen a bit later.
"Yeah, I talked to Gran," I said, feeling almost ashamed that I'd been pushing everyone away for so long. My thoughts went guiltily to Scorpius, who I'd also been avoiding, even though he'd tried to get me to go do something with him almost every day, despite my continued rejections. The poor lad didn't deserve it, especially not as we were sort of friends now. Even Molly was probably fed up with me being a Moping Mary.
"Good," Mum said, distracted with gathering up Dad's presents. She set them all on the table and beckoned for us all to sit down.
Whilst my Dad unwrapped his presents, I started to wonder how I'd managed to become sort-of friends with Scorpius. To all external eyes, he was the creepy guy from school who'd once sent me a singing house elf. The thing was, I pretty much thought he was misunderstood; might actually be okay, underneath all the hair gel and beige shirts. He needed work, yes, but I couldn't really judge on that aspect. Next to him, I looked decidedly normal.
"Rose, thank you!" my Dad said happily holding up what he had just unwrapped from me. I squinted at a box, recognising the designer label; it was a box of nice soaps. I made a mental note to withhold biscuits from Molly, the cheeky girl. I bet she thought this was funny.
"No problem," I said before everyone noticed I hadn't been paying attention. "I thought you could use some..." Well, that wasn't quite what I meant, but whatever. I'd said and done weirder things before and no one took any notice of me.
I managed to make my excuses and leave after another hour once the effect of the wine had started to wear off. Finally able to Apparate, I bid my family goodbye and escaped. Turning on my heel, I Disapparated.
"Fucking ow!" I yelled as soon as I could breathe again. "Ow!" I bent over, clutching my knee in agony. I'd managed to splinch myself, having not been really concentrating on where I was going. "Owwie!" I lifted the hem of my dress up so I could examine the damage, seeing a dark patch of blood mottling my tights. "Oh bugger."
I looked up, trying to work out where I'd ended up. I peered into the darkness towards some streetlights, identifying the village nearby as Hogsmeade. Fucking great, I'd managed to splinch myself at the other side of the country to my flat. Grudgingly, I had to admit I had not thought about my destination with any deliberation or determination, having been feeling slightly guilty about being a bitch to Scorpius. Now the only choice I had left was to hobble up the street to his house and hope he was in.
I groaned a bit in self-pity before limping up the road towards Hogsmeade. Wincing every time I took a step forward, I was struggling not to cry. I was crap with coping with pain, and right at that moment I was convinced I was going to die. I was such an idiot, how the hell had I managed this? I hadn't splinched myself since before I took my Apparition test, which was years and years ago.
There was no one out on the high street I could ask to carry me to Scorpius' house. I grumbled quietly to myself about my stupidity for a good fifteen minutes until I finally reached his gate. I pushed it open with my shoulder and dragged myself up the short slope to his front door. I hammered against the door with my fists for a minute or two, making them go red with friction before I realised that he had a doorbell. After I pressed it once, he finally came to the door.
"Rose," he said, looking confused. "What are you doing here?"
I lifted my dress up (not in a dodgy way) and showed him my blood-soaked tights. "Splinched," I mumbled, wincing as he prodded it with his finger.
"Yes," he agreed, wiping the blood on his shirt. "You better come in." He offered me his arm, which I clung to for support as I hopped across the threshold. He deposited me on his sofa, disappearing into the kitchen. "You better take those tights off. I'll fix your leg."
I gingerly peeled my tights off whilst he rummaged around in the kitchen cupboards for something to sort me out. It was lucky I'd shaved my legs last night, really, or that could have been bloody embarrassing; they were only slightly prickly. He returned with a small green bottle clasped in his fist. He kneeled before me and started rubbing the liquid from the bottle onto the hole in my knee. I tried to look at what he was doing, but I felt sick from the sight of the flesh showing on my knee. I was trying really hard not to faint.
"I didn't know you were good at this sort of thing," I said weakly as he put the stopped back in the bottle and stood up.
"I'm not," he said sheepishly. "I picked a bottle at random because I didn't want you to know I didn't have a clue what I was doing."
I stared at him open-mouthed. "You just rubbed a random liquid into my leg," I stated in disbelief.
"It wasn't random," he denied defensively. "It was in the medicine box."
I hid my head in my hands, exhausted from the sudden turn of events. "Merlin."
Scorpius sloped off to put the bottle back in the kitchen. I heard the kettle start to boil and the clink of plates as he took stuff from the cupboards. My eyes felt so heavy, I could have slept for days if I wasn't in Scorpius' house; that would have crossed too many boundaries for one night.
He returned after a few minutes carrying a cup of tea and a plate of ginger biscuits. I smiled gratefully, accepting the tea and biscuits as he fetched his own tea and sat down beside me.
"How on Earth did you manage to splinch yourself?" Scorpius asked after a long silence.
I swallowed the biscuit I was munching on. "I wasn't really paying attention."
He nodded, sipping at his tea. “I’m glad you came here.”
I smiled, nodding along with him like we were a pair of nodding dogs. “I’m glad you answered the door.” Eventually. More silence, in which I managed to remember that I’d been horrible to him over the past few weeks. “Listen, Scorpius, I’m sorry I’ve been sort of avoiding you recently.”
“You were avoiding me?” he asked, frowning. Oops.
“Well, I was avoiding everyone a bit. I didn’t want you to think that it was personal or anything,” I added hastily, trying to salvage an awkward situation.
“Oh,” he mumbled. “Well, I wasn’t worried. You do that sometimes.”
I frowned. “Do what?” I asked indignantly.
“Avoid everyone,” he conceded. “But it’s okay, sometimes people just need to be alone.”
He looked almost sad as he said that, and I felt guilty all over again. He had probably spent so much time by himself as a teenager, I really hadn’t even thought about how rubbish that must have been for him. He had no friends, no cousins, no siblings… My Gran was right; I didn’t appreciate how much I had. I was a terrible terrible person.
“I don’t want to be alone anymore,” I admitted quietly.
I looked up at Scorpius, and he nodded, understanding. I nodded along with him, a silent agreement between us, until we both realised we were nodding for far too long. He reached for my hand, squeezing it, and I felt a bit better about everything.
Author's note: So, in my head, this chapter begins part two. Thank you so much to everyone who has read and reviewed so far, and if you have a minute I'd appreciate any comments you have. I hope you're still enjoying it!
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