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Chapter 18 : xviii. the hour of reckoning [or] april fool's
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I intend to head up to Ravenclaw Tower after lunch – I have fifth period free – but stop myself after realising I have no idea what I’d say to Albus. I’m too angry at him to pursue any kind of rational conversation, I know that – and even though Holly and Lester are both infinitely calmer about the whole thing than me (they’re not related to the insufferable drama queen known as Albus Potter; they weren’t up at half five in the morning to see Scorpius struggling with a heartbreak so painful I had tears in my eyes just being with him) neither of them are particularly close to Albus. But, by the time we’re all in the common room after dinner, books out to do the evening’s homework, and none of us have seen hide nor hair of him, I start to get worried.
Not bothering to make an excuse, I head upstairs to the boys’ dormitory and knock. There’s no response, so I quickly peer inside. No Albus.
Seized with inspiration, I hurry through the castle to the girls’ bathroom that’s been abandoned for about a hundred years. Faced with the ornate snakes carved into the sink, I try to remember the Parseltongue Dad learned from Uncle Harry – he taught me it several years ago while regaling me with stories about his Hogwarts days. “Ssaiyan hasssieth,” I attempt, feeling ridiculous, but it works and seconds later the sinks shift to reveal a dark corridor. Casting lumos and holding my wand aloft, I venture inside.
“Albus Severus Potter!” I yell into the darkness.
“Rose?” A hesitant voice calls back, and I break into a run towards it (I may be a tiny, tiny bit afraid of the dark) and sigh in relief when I emerge into a cavernous hall filled with the shimmering light of Albus’s lumos maxima.
“How did you get in here?” Albus asks incredulously. “You don’t know Parseltongue.”
“My dad does.”
“Your dad’s not a Parselmouth.”
“He learnt it from yours.”
“Oh.” Pause. “Are you here to go off at me?”
“I was planning on it.” I sit down next to him, hugging my knees. “But I wasn’t sure that would accomplish anything.”
“That doesn’t mean I won’t. Why did you do it?”
“He didn’t tell you, then.”
“He told me jack shit except that you broke up with him. You better have a good reason.”
“I don’t have a good reason. I have a fucking stupid reason and I know it, so I don’t need you telling me that it’s fucking stupid.”
“Then tell me your fucking stupid reason.”
“I’m not good enough for him.”
There are a thousand things I want to shout at Albus, but he’s been hiding all day in the Chamber of Secrets and I know that’s probably the worst thing I could do right now. “Shouldn’t you let him be the judge of that?” I ask instead.
“He’s better off without me, but he can’t see that – ”
“He’s in love with you.”
“Yeah. Yeah, he is. And he shouldn’t be. That’s the problem. And he’ll wake up one day and realise that – whether it’s six months from now or a year or five years or ten, I don’t know, but one day it’ll happen and he’ll leave, and I can’t – ” he trails off and shakes his head.
I run my hand through my hair, wanting to tear it out. “Jesus. Albus.”
“Are you going to yell at me now?”
“Yell at you? No, I’m – fuck, what ever made you think you’re not good enough? For anyone?”
“Have you seen him? He’s – beautiful, Rose. I don’t have a better word than that, but it’s true, and he’s brilliant, you know? He turns magic into an art form and he knows eight languages and he could have anyone in the world, he doesn’t deserve to be stuck with me. I’m the least of the five of us, I’m the least of my family – ”
“Stop,” I interrupt. “Just stop. Right now. You’re not the least of anyone, you’re the most. You’re my favourite person in the world and there’s no one I love more, no one I trust more, no one I’d rather be stuck on a desert island with, so just stop because you’re too important and too amazing and too brilliant to think you’re not.”
He’s silent for a long time, staring at the giant skeleton of the basilisk at the other end of the hall – a giant, hulking monument to his father’s heroism, before saying quietly, “I wish I could believe that.”
I shuffle closer, resting my head on his shoulder. “Fine. I’ll stay here until you do.”
“You’ll starve,” he says, but I can’t tell if it’s bitterness or black humour behind the words.
“Look,” I say, quietly. “I get that you’re having a shit time of it, I do, and I understand why – but don’t you think you’re making it worse by pushing Scorpius away? He loves you and he makes you happy, and whether or not you think you deserve him – I think you need him around. I know you need him around. So just – take some time, take all the time you need – but then talk to him. Sort things out.”
He laughs, loud and carrying and the most horribly despondent thing I’ve ever heard, and the only life in his eyes are the unshed tears that fill them. He looks so dead inside it’s frightening.
“You have no idea, do you? I burned that bridge, Rose. I burned it to ashes.”
“What do you mean? What have you done?”
“I’m a fuck up. I fucked up. That’s what I do.”
“Albus – ”
“Well, if you don’t want to talk,” I begin reluctantly, “At least let me take you for a food run. You haven’t been to a single meal today.”
“Not hungry,” Albus mumbles.
“You’re not starving yourself on my watch.” I struggle to my feet – I’ve been sitting longer than I realised, and my knees are stiff – and haul Albus up with me. “This is no longer a negotiation. You’re coming with me.”
We’re halfway to the kitchens, me filling Albus in on what he missed in class today while he nods and tries to look like he’s listening, when I spot a couple tucked away in a small alcove, making out like there’s no tomorrow.
My first thought is to stop Albus seeing them, because the last thing he needs is to be faced with a happy couple snogging given everything that’s happened. My second thought is that it’s well after curfew and I’m a Prefect, and I’ll have to march up to them anyway and tell them to get back to their houses.
My third thought is that they both look horribly familiar.
I throw out an arm to stop Albus, but I’m just groping at thin air – he’s already turned on his heel and is hurrying back in the direction of the Chamber of Secrets. At that moment, the couple break apart and look up, seeing me in the middle of the corridor and Albus’s rapidly disappearing back.
“Oh, fuck,” is all Scorpius says.
Deciding I can go after Albus later, I charge at him, barely even registering that I’ve drawn my wand before I have it pointed directly at his chest. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“I’d have thought that was obvious,” Scorpius says coldly, seizing my wand firmly and lowering it. “And considering you made it perfectly obvious you’re not together – ”
“What?” I ask, momentarily lost. “You think I give a fuck about him?”
“Good to know,” Alfie huffs.
“You really want to argue the point?” I snap, turning on him. “You don’t exactly have the moral high ground here, get the fuck back to the common room.”
“You can’t just send him away like that.”
“Yes I fucking can, Malfoy, I’m a fucking Prefect.”
I don’t have to argue, because Alfie has quietly sidled away from both of us and is now legging it back to Ravenclaw Tower.
“Malfoy?” Scorpius repeats quietly. “Wow. Guess I know how things are.”
I grit my teeth, still holding my wand in a vicelike grip. “Maybe if you don’t see anything wrong with snogging your dormmate not twenty-four hours after Albus broke up with you – ”
“As a matter of fact, I don’t. Because he broke up with me and you have no fucking right to get upset on his behalf about how I choose to deal with it.”
“You don’t think it’s a better idea to try and fix things with him rather than make out with the first queer guy you find?”
“Fix things?” Scorpius repeats incredulously. “Fucking fix things? Do you have any idea what he said to me? Do you have any idea why – ” His anger gives way abruptly, and he has to choke out the rest of his words. “Why he dumped me? Did he tell you?”
I burned that bridge, Rose. I burned it to ashes.
“No,” I say eventually.
“He doesn’t love me anymore.”
“He said that?”
“Said it. Explained it. Apologised for it. I don’t – ”
“That’s not fucking true.”
“Oh, you were there, were you?”
“No, I – he still does, I know he does, Jesus, Scorpius, just talk to him – ”
“Don’t,” he interrupts. “Don’t you dare. You’re my best friend, Rose, but if you give me false hope I will never forgive you. I mean it.”
“But – ”
“No,” he says, cutting me off. “Unless he said the exact words ‘I lied to Scorpius and I’m still in love with him,’ I don’t want to hear a damn thing.”
“He didn’t,” I say in a small voice.
“Thanks,” he says quietly, and every trace of anger or even desperation in his face is gone, leaving only a sadness so complete it makes my heart ache. “That’s all I needed to know.”
He walks away, not bothering to look back, leaving me alone in the flickering torchlight. Without even knowing why, I lean against the cold stone wall and cry.
To say that Albus and Scorpius’s breakup tears our entire year group apart sounds like an exaggeration, but in a house of eight that’s not a difficult thing to do. Albus stops talking to everyone except Lester. Lara accosted both Scorpius and I when we got back to the common room that night, asking us where we got off using Alfie and chucking him aside without a second thought (her actual words were far angrier and cut deep enough that even days later, the memory of them still sting) and silence reigns in our dorm. Our group shrinks to Scorpius, Holly and I – Albus has sought refuge with Lily and spends his time with the fifth-year Slytherins; Lester goes with him.
I’m the only one in our fractured group who’s doing remotely okay, and I can’t even be there for Albus and Lester because I hardly ever see them, and because some inexplicable distance has grown between us since we fell on either side of the great divide. At a loss for what else to do, I pull Lily aside and ask her to look after them for me.
“It’s okay,” she says firmly. “They’re my boys. I’ve got them.”
I feel terrible, because she’s only sixteen and she’s got OWLs coming up and it’s a hell of a burden to bear, but she rises to it with her unique brand of Weasley passion and Potter compassion, and keeps me updated on how they’re going.
Scorpius attempts to deal with his heartbreak in a myriad of ways, some more destructive than others. He has two more trysts with Alfie, aided by Firewhiskey he obtained from some sixth year Slytherins, before moving on to a bunch of other guys in different houses. Scorpius is a good-looking bloke, and the news that he’s single and on the rebound apparently has every queer guy from fifth to seventh year crawling out of the closet to find him.
“’S one good thing to come out of all this,” he tells me, looking slightly more rumpled than usual and smelling of alcohol, “Least I know I’m gay now. ’S not just Albus. Am I slurring, Rose? Like, can you tell?”
“If it was anyone but you, I wouldn’t be able to tell.”
“You’re a toff, Scorp. It’s really obvious with your accent.”
“Damn,” he says. “Got a meeting with Vector. Not looking good.”
“Did she say what it’s about?”
“Nup.” He reaches into his robes, pulling out a bit of parchment as rumpled as himself. “Just Mister Malfoy, please meet me in my office at ten o’clock this evening. Please be advised you may bring a support person.” He frowns. “Yeah, that bit confused me. Does it mean she’s got really bad news or – ”
“It’s school policy,” I say cautiously. “For students who have anxiety and stuff. It’s not going to be good. How much have you had?”
“Not a lot,” he says immediately. “Like, a couple. I slur easy. You know that.”
“I didn’t a week ago.”
“You got any of that instant sobering stuff around?”
“I can’t brew anymore.”
“’S right. You got banned.”
“Thanks for reminding me.”
“Can you come with me to see Vector?”
“I was going to anyway.”
We walk through the castle in silence, and just before we get to Vector’s office I force him to make himself slightly more presentable – do up his tie properly, tuck his shirt in, straighten his robes – before knocking on Vector’s door.
“Come in,” she calls.
She barely even registers my presence – obviously expecting me to come – and zeros in on Scorpius. “Have you been drinking?” she asks sharply.
“Little bit,” Scorpius says, not even trying to look guilty.
“A little bit?” she repeats. “Define a little bit.”
“Like, two standards maybe?”
“These two standards. On school property?”
“Need I remind you that you are the Head Boy of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – ”
“I don’t need reminding.”
She stares at him for a long moment, her expression unreadable, and gestures to a seat. “What’s going on, Scorpius?”
He shrugs, drumming his foot on the floor. It’s one of his nervous tics, but it has the unfortunate effect of making him look bored and restless. Vector’s frown deepens.
“I’m concerned about your behaviour recently,” she continues. “Skipping classes. Breaking curfew to do…well, I need hardly tell you that’s inappropriate. Drinking on school property. If it were any other student and any other time of the year, I’d have them suspended. Because it’s you, I’m concerned.”
“Suspend me,” he says. “Can’t have a double standard.”
“It’s too close to NEWTs. School policy.”
For the first time, Scorpius looks a bit stunned – the fact that only school policy on timing is keeping him from being suspended, and I cross my fingers behind my back and pray to every benevolent deity that something Vector says will get through to him.
“You’re not going to tell me why you’ve done a complete one-eighty on every aspect of your character?” Vector prompts.
“It’s not a Head of House matter.”
“Does this involve Albus Potter?” Vector asks eventually.
“Nothing involves Albus Potter anymore.”
“I see,” she says. “You know there’s a school counsellor available – ”
“I don’t need a fucking counsellor,” Scorpius interrupts.
“Watch your language in my office,” Vector says sharply, and at least he cares enough to look ashamed. “Scorpius, if this continues, I’ll have to take your badge.”
“Take it, then.”
There’s a tense silence as I stare at Scorpius in shock and Scorpius stares at Vector in defiance.
Without a word, Vector holds out her hand, and calls his bluff.
“I’ll sort it out,” Scorpius says tersely, shrinking back as if afraid Vector will reach across her desk and yank the badge right off his robes. “I just – I’ll sort it.”
“See that you do.”
Scorpius makes for the door and I follow close behind.
“Rose?” Vector calls, just as I’m leaving. “Keep an eye on him.”
“I have for seven years, Professor,” I reply, and close the door firmly behind me.
I have to chase Scorpius down, and his hands are balled into fists by his side when I reach him. “You all right?”
“Fantastic,” he mutters.
I grab him by the shoulder, spinning him round. “Did you mean it?”
“What you said to Vector. About sorting your shit out.”
“Maybe. It’s that or I smash a window, fly out of here, and move to New Zealand.”
“Why New Zealand?” I ask.
He shrugs. “It’s pretty. And on the other side of the world.”
“Don’t move to New Zealand.”
He sighs. “But then I’d have to deal with my problems.”
“You can’t even fly.”
“I could try it,” he muses. “I must have some natural talent somewhere. Dad was a Seeker.”
“Your dad didn’t have an iota of natural talent,” I say bluntly.
“You are truly Ronald Weasley’s daughter.”
“Are we still going for the scholarship?” I blurt, because it’s March 31 and April Fools is tomorrow and we haven’t done a single bit of planning since Albus broke up with Scorpius.
“Dunno,” he says dully. “It’s not like Albus and I are going to be living together. You know, I might go travelling next year. See the world. All that jazz. Come with me.”
“I’m doing the teaching course.”
“I’m under contract.”
“Since when have you wanted to go travelling?”
“Oh, you know. Since the love of my life dumped me, stopped talking to me, and whose vitriolic rants against me can occasionally be overheard at the Slytherin table.”
“Vitriolic rants?” I repeat.
“He’s whoring himself out to anyone who’ll have him,” Scorpius recites. “A particularly nice one I heard over dinner this evening. Hence, the drinking.”
“There’s no way Lester and Lily would let him get away with saying that.”
“Lester and Lily have adopted a policy of appeasement,” Scorpius says disdainfully. “It didn’t work for Neville Chamberlain, it won’t work for them.”
“How do you know about that? You’re as pureblood as they come.”
“You’d be surprised what Albus defines as pillow talk.” He catches himself. “Defined. I was thinking about that the other night, actually. The adjustment to past tense. Somehow it’s the hardest part. All your presents and futures – imperfects. Overnight.”
“Were you composing Latin poetry?”
“Don’t interrupt my soulful reflection on tenses. Yes, I was.”
“Can I read it?”
“It’s in Latin.” He’s silent for a while. “You know what? Fuck it. We’re doing the prank. Pranks.”
“It’s past curfew – ”
“Luckily, we’re both Prefects. We’ll go get Holly, steal the Cloak from Albus’s trunk, and wreak some havoc. You in?”
“There’s no way we can pull that off – ”
“Yes there is. We don’t have that many to do anyway. The Gryffindor common room, the squid in the Puff common room, Katherine Burnsey’s retracted the rainbow flag thing because it’d be “in poor taste given what’s happened,” – her words, not mine – and I overheard a group of Puffs saying they’re going to stick toilet paper to their Prefects’ shoes – which is not only a shamefully basic prank, but targets Dylan and Sophie and we like Dylan and Sophie. And,” he concludes, “I’ve come up with a brilliant way of turning the tables on the teachers.”
“Instead of writing essays, we write out the entire text of – I dunno, throw some ideas at me. The Iliad.”
He glances at me, and a strange look crosses his face. “Fuck, Rose, we shagged the same bloke.”
There’s a long, awkward pause.
“It was bound to happen eventually,” I say at length.
“You really don’t care?”
“Not in the slightest.”
“Good. Now that’s settled – War and Peace.”
“In Russian,” Scorpius adds. “Can you imagine angry Russian Howlers?”
“I can now. But have translations of all the others.”
“I don’t want a Howler attempting Greek dactylic hexameter anyway,” Scorpius says. “What else is there? Romeo and Juliet.”
“Pride and Prejudice.”
“The Tales of Beedle the Bard.”
“Hogwarts: A History.”
We continue throwing titles at each other after fetching Holly and the Cloak, and Holly, daughter of a Muggleborn mother and a Muggle father, has a wealth of Muggle literature to suggest.
“We’ll have to tell Lester, of course,” she says. “He’ll want to use Game of Thrones.”
“Of course he will.”
“Albus can go fuck himself,” Scorpius says matter-of-factly. “Aha. Serendipity.”
I’m momentarily lost, until I realise we’ve arrived at the Gryffindor portrait hole and Scorpius – of course, Head Boy and all – knows the password. We pause to huddle slightly closer together – having three people under the Cloak is nearly impossible, even though Holly’s tiny and Scorpius is a beanstalk – and creep into the Gryffindor common room.
It’s mostly empty apart from a handful of seventh-years, including Sean, Lucy and Katherine Burnsey. We find ourselves a sofa to hide behind – we have no intention of taking the Cloak off, but it’s inevitable that a limb or two will fall out – and turn expectantly to Scorpius, who’s the best at wandwork out of the three of us.
“Oh, come on Rose,” he whispers. “You can do the gold-to-grey change, it’s one of the easiest.”
“Fine,” I whisper back, because deep in enemy territory and smooshed against Scorpius isn’t the place to argue, finding every bit of gold trim on the banners, flags and skirting boards and carefully adding a dormant Colour-Change Charm to them. I have no idea whether the shitty grey I’ve gone for will actually work, given that it won’t be activated until someone else tries to change it, but I’ve given it my best shot.
Work done, we stand up and edge towards the door, until Scorpius freezes and jerks his head in the direction of the Gryffindors, who are discussing him.
“I heard that Scorpius cheated on him,” Katherine is saying in a hushed voice. “That’s why they broke up. I can’t believe it. They seemed so happy in the holidays.”
“I know that Scorpius got with Alfie Harrison,” Lucy says. “You know, the cute Ravenclaw? Didn’t even know he was gay.”
“Alfie Harrison’s not gay,” Sean says. “He’s with Rose. Or, he was with Rose. Tom was telling me, they got together in the holidays.”
“Wait so,” Katherine interrupts, “Alfie cheated on Rose with Scorpius who was cheating on Albus? Wow. Does Draco Dormiens know?”
“We’re not going to go down that road again,” Lucy interrupts. “It crossed a line. I don’t care how much of a dick Scorpius Malfoy is, he doesn’t deserve another panic attack.”
Katherine seems to acquiesce, though reluctantly, and adds, “He is a dick though. D’you hear how many guys he’s gotten with this week alone? Alfie Harrison and Logan Fenwick from our year – ”
“Me,” Sean says.
I’m glad Katherine and Lucy whip round to face him in that moment, all loud gasps and exclamations of What? You? because it means Holly and I can do the same to Scorpius without them noticing.
“I’m in a bad place,” Scorpius whispers defensively.
“Well, he’s fit,” Sean says defensively.
“Thanks,” Scorpius whispers.
“I didn’t know you were gay!” Katherine says.
“He’s bisexual, you twat,” Scorpius whispers.
“I’m half gay?” Sean says, and Scorpius shakes his head.
“I can’t believe you never told me,” Katherine says huffily.
“Can’t imagine why,” Lucy says, so quietly Katherine doesn’t seem to hear. Holly snickers, then claps a hand over her mouth.
“I can’t believe you slept with Scorpius,” Katherine continues. “He’s awful.”
“He’s not awful,” Sean says. “At least, not in bed. Quite the opposite, in fact.”
“This is getting weird,” Holly decides. “Let’s go.”
“No, shush.” Scorpius pulls her back. “My ego needs refuelling.”
We miss Katherine’s reaction, but Sean continues, defensively, “What? He knows what he’s doing…”
“Well, one of us had to,” Scorpius whispers.
“We’re done here,” Holly says firmly. “Let’s go. We still have Hufflepuff to do, and those essays to fix.”
She hauls Scorpius away by the sleeve, and he has to follow because she’s taking the Cloak with her. We duck out of the portrait hole and shed the Cloak, taking appreciative gulps of the crisp air outside our bubble of invisibility.
Despite his constant stream of witticisms, Scorpius looks pale and shaken under the flickering torchlight, and I pull him into a hug before he can pretend he’s all right.
“We know what happened,” I tell him. “That’s all that matters.”
“They think I would cheat?” he asks, breaking free from me and dragging both hands through his hair. “On Albus? With Alfie? They think that’s what happened? They think I’d – ” he cuts himself off, exhaling slowly. “They think I’d do that, don’t they? They think that’s who I am.”
“Well…the thing is,” Holly says, looking extremely uncomfortable, “They don’t know you, and they don’t know Albus, so all they see is Albus sitting with the Slytherins and you…” she trails off.
“Me what?” Scorpius prompts.
“Well, you have been sleeping around a lot.” She throws up her hands in surrender before Scorpius can respond, saying, “I’m not being judgemental, you know that, he broke up with you and you have the right to respond however you want and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise – ”
“Holly, you’re a pipsqueak and you can’t even duel,” Scorpius points out, though he looks somewhat touched.
“It’s the thought that counts,” she says dismissively. “But I know you and I know how much you value your reputation and even without that, to be honest I don’t think it’s a particularlyhealthywayofdealingwiththings.” She finishes in a rush, eyes focused firmly on the floor.
“You’re worried about me?” Scorpius asks eventually.
“Of course I am.”
“And not in any way trying to be moralistic?”
She looks offended. “Have you met me? I don’t have a moral issue with you drinking and sleeping with half of Hogwarts. I have a personal issue with you using alcohol and sex to avoid your problems instead of facing them because you’re my friend and I care about you and you’re in the middle of a very dramatic downward spiral and I refuse to let you become a cautionary tale.”
“Cautionary tale?” he repeats.
“Yeah. Scorpius Malfoy, former Head Boy of Hogwarts, started doing stupid things six weeks before his exams, lost his badge, failed NEWTs, got kicked out of the Healer programme he’d gotten early acceptance into, lives with his parents in their cavernous soulless house wishing he’d have listened to his friend Holly when she yelled at him outside Gryffindor Tower.”
“Don’t worry,” Scorpius says at length. “He listened.”
We make a pitstop by the kitchens on our way out of the Hufflepuff common room (Repelling Charms on Dylan and Sophie’s shoes to prevent anything being stuck to them) to stock up on snacks for our “essay writing” (technically it’s sort of true) and the well-meaning house elves crowd around Scorpius offering their sympathies (“we is hearing about you and Master Potter, we is being very upset to hear it,”) before we make our excuses and return to the common room.
Lester’s sitting up at our usual table, chatting to Tom and Alfie – there’s no sign of Albus, which is unsurprising given Alfie’s presence – and calls us over with a jovial wave that says he’s either completely oblivious to the discomfort that exists between Scorpius, Alfie and me or pointedly refusing to acknowledge it. Lester’s a smart guy, so I can only assume the latter.
“Lester, mate,” Scorpius says, pulling up a chair. “We need you for Operation Squid tomorrow.”
“Operation – oh, right,” he says. “That’s still going ahead, then?”
“Yep. And I had a brilliant idea for that Howler prank the teachers are planning – ”
“I guess that’s our cue,” Tom says, and he and Alfie pack up to leave.
“Night,” Lester calls after them, but Alfie hesitates in the doorway before blurting, “Rose, Scorpius – can I talk to you for a sec?”
“Jesus,” Scorpius mutters under his breath as we head over. “Have I not had enough uncomfortable conversations today?”
“It’s past midnight, so no. What’s up?” I ask, because we’ve reached Alfie and he’s leaning against the doorway biting his lip and I shouldn’t find him attractive but I do, damn him.
“I wanted to clear the air,” he says.
“It’d help if you made eye contact,” Scorpius suggests.
“There are two of you. Wouldn’t be fair. Listen, about what Lara said the other day – I don’t know where she got it from, but it wasn’t from me.”
“It seems a strange conclusion for her to reach on her own,” I say eventually. “Considering she’s the most sex-positive person Hogwarts has ever seen.”
“Sex-positive yes, but she’s also pretty…protective. I’ve had a bit of history with that sort of thing, you see, and she – well. She didn’t want it happening again. I explained everything to her, though – I thought she’d apologise to you.”
“She was right though,” Scorpius says bluntly. “About me, anyway. You were a rebound, Alf. It was a dick move, but I’m not going to deny it.”
“Strangely enough, I was aware of that,” Alfie says wryly. “If I minded being your rebound, I wouldn’t have shagged you two days after you broke up with Albus.”
“God bless the amorality of Hogwarts boys.”
“Exhibit A,” Alfie says, and throws jazz hands in Scorpius’s direction.
“Exhibit B,” Scorpius counters, gesturing to Alfie. “Now that’s settled and we can hopefully go back to sharing a dorm in comfortable silence – you should probably have a word with my best friend here.” He claps me on the shoulder. “Good luck.”
There’s a strained silence, and it slowly dawns on me that things wouldn’t be this awkward, this uncomfortable, if there were absolutely no residual feelings hanging between us, and I can’t figure out what those residual feelings are –
“So,” Alfie says finally. “I guess I should apologise. If I’ve – ”
“If you say hurt me I swear to God I will hex you.”
He wrinkles his nose. “God, no. I know you don’t have feelings for me. I was going to say if I’ve offended you.”
“Wow. Fuck. There it is.”
“It’s not…” he pauses awkwardly, scrubbing the back of his neck. “It’s not like I threw myself at the first guy to come along after being with you – I’m not making much sense, am I? – but I don’t want you to think that – ”
“What, that I turned you gay? Alfie, I’m queer too. I know how sexuality works.”
“I just – I wouldn’t have cared if it was a girl or a guy you hooked up with, I just thought – that I’d have left a bigger impression on you.”
“You left an impression on me.”
“Don’t sound so surprised.” And he steps forward and kisses me, and I kiss him back because God I’ve missed this without even realising, and it’s so fucked up and everything’s such a mess but that doesn’t seem to matter until suddenly it does and I pull away.
“You slept with my best friend,” is all I can say, even though technically Scorpius isn’t my best friend, Holly is, and that line sounds so much more petty and juvenile and dramatic than it should be, and Scorpius himself is wolf-whistling and yelling “Get some!” across the common room –
“I don’t think he minds.”
“Do you really?”
“Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s too weird.”
“I’m not attracted to Scorpius, you know.”
“Then why did you – ”
“He was there,” Alfie shrugs. “He was there, and he wanted a distraction, and I have no morality to speak of. I am attracted to you. Take from that what you will.”
“I’ll take you from that.”
Apparently my suavest lines must always accompany the worst of my bad ideas, because three seconds later he’s pinning me against the wall, lips on mine, and I’m threading my fingers through his hair and pulling him closer, even if there’s already no space between us –
“Get a fucking room!” Lester yells, and it’s only the shock of hearing him swear that makes it register properly that we’re still in the common room and it’s not empty this time.
“Lara’s with the Puffs,” Alfie murmurs in my ear. “Your dorm’s free.”
I drag him up the stairs without a second thought.
“Have fun?” Scorpius asks, waggling his eyebrows when I return to the common room some time later.
“Shut up.” I flop into my seat, face burning. “You don’t find it weird?” I blurt, waving my arms. “We slept with the same person. And then I did it again.”
“You did him again,” Scorpius deadpans. “I can’t fault your taste, he’s very good at what he does.”
“Do you guys mind?” Lester asks eventually.
“Focus,” Holly says sternly. “Lester’s taught us his Copy Paste spell, so we don’t have to write everything out by hand – just copy the words over onto the parchment so we can trick it into thinking we wrote it.”
“What are our texts?”
“Well, we figured it’s best to just do it for one essay – that’ll be Potions, it’s due at the beginning of class. Lester’s doing A Dance With Dragons – the longest Game of Thrones book, isn’t it, Lester, and full of spoilers – ”
“It’s been out for like, fifteen years,” Lester says, “But yes.”
“I’m doing Hogwarts: A History,” Holly continues, “And Scorpius is doing the Iliad. Which leaves you textless.”
“War and Peace,” I decide, and rummage around in the common room library for a copy.
With our chosen texts copied onto the parchment – Lester realises a flaw in the plan when he runs out of parchment barely a chapter through, and I spend the next half hour working out an alternative Undetective Extension Charm that will allow us to put entire novels and epic poems on the same bit of parchment (Mum taught me the basic Undetectable Extension Charm before I even went to Hogwarts, so I could fit all my stuff in a trunk I was actually capable of carrying – I was a small kid – so messing around with it has become my only real claim to charmwork innovation) and, with that finished, we scrawl our names, assigned essay topic and the due date at the top of the parchment to activate Professor May’s Howler charm.
Then, congratulating ourselves on a prank well played and feeling, for the first time in a week, like things are returning to normal despite the conspicious absence of one Albus Potter, we head off to bed.
The first few hours are pretty uneventful. We’ve put Repelling Charms on ourselves just in case anyone tries to stick things to us, but the majority of the pranks this year are inter-house and we are both detached enough from and friendly enough with the other houses to not warrant all-out war. Slytherin, I note, avoid their common room and dorms like the plague all morning, and Gryffindor are muttering about “stupid Slytherins” defacing their common room. Lester darts out during morning break to plant the squid in Hufflepuff’s common room, and from then on there are hundreds of Hufflepuffs wandering aimlessly around the castle who no longer have any desire to use their house area.
Then all hell breaks loose in Potions, because Llodewick, with a very distinctive smirk on his face, asks us to hand in our essays. A couple of people – Dylan Hewitt and Sean Finnigan – start making some excuse before a loud shriek comes from within their bags. Neither of them seem to have gotten further than “The properties of dragon’s blood in advanced Potioneering,” before the parchment bursts into flames.
Then ours go off – and one other.
Alongside the screeching opening lines of War and Peace, A Dance with Dragons and Hogwarts: A History come two perfectly timed, synchronised bits of ancient epic poetry.
“Sing, goddess, the rage of Achilles son of Peleus – ”
“Of arms and a man I sing – ”
Albus stares at Scorpius.
Scorpius stares at Albus.
Holly, Lester and I cross our fingers behind our backs and hope for the best.
“Did you – ” Scorpius gestures awkwardly at the parchment on Albus’s desk, which is still shrieking Aeneid 1.
“And you – ”
“The Iliad is Albus’s favourite text,” I whisper, transfixed by the scene unfolding in front of us. “Fuck, I didn’t realise what he was doing.”
“And the Aeneid is Scorpius’s,” Lester finishes. “God, those two.”
“So you still – ” Scorpius begins.
“Muse, remind me of the causes – ” Albus’s Howler bellows.
“I lied,” Albus says. “I lied, and I fucked everything up and I hurt you and – ”
“I don’t care,” Scorpius interrupts, taking a step closer. “Right now, I do not fucking care about anything except whether you still love me – ”
“I do, Scorpius, I love you and I always have and I always will – ”
“That’s all that matters.”
“I thought I’d lost you,” Albus mumbles.
“You’ll never lose me,” Scorpius says softly. “Not as long as you’ll still have me.”
“Now KISS!” Sophie yells from the back of the classroom, reminding them both that they’re still in Potions surrounded by half of seventh year, but neither of them seem to care because they’re going for it anyway to tumultuous applause.
Professor Llodewick interrupts to tell us, with amplified voice to be heard over the Howlers, that there’s no point in trying to have class today so we may as well just finish there, and would a certain Potter and Malfoy please have their reconciliation elsewhere?
As we file out of the classroom, Llodewick catches my eye. I realise suddenly that I couldn’t have made my involvement more obvious if I tried, but he merely smiles and says, “Well played, Rose,” before poking Lester’s Howler experimentally with his wand. If anything, it’s yelling even louder as I leave.
Albus and Scorpius disappear to talk until Runes, leaving Holly, Lester and I to sprawl on the couches in the common room and discuss things.
“I always thought there’d be a lot more yelling,” Lester says. “I was waiting for an inevitable screaming match in the common room which would only end when they accidentally revealed they still loved each other.”
“Well, to be fair, there was an awful lot of yelling,” Holly says.
“Yeah, five Howlers worth.”
“Not quite what I imagined. Do you think Scorpius planned it? The whole thing?”
“Well, he definitely had the Iliad in mind from the beginning. What about Albus, though? Was he planning it when he was around you, Lester?”
“Didn’t say a word. God knows he’s been moping around about getting Scorpius back though.”
“He has?” I ask, surprised. “From what I’ve heard he’s been saying horrible things.”
“Horrible things,” Lester concedes, “Followed almost immediately by god what have I done and this is all my fault – which it blatantly is, and I told him that – and Lester what do I do I need him back please help, closely followed by but I don’t deserve him he’s better off without me – he’s been all over the place, I never realised how much Scorpius stabilises him.”
“It goes both ways. Scorpius has been a mess without him.”
“I thought he had. On a completely unrelated note, has anyone heard anything about Louis’ prank?”
“Not a word. Maybe he’s not doing it today.”
We head across the castle to Runes ten minutes later, and we’re barely five minutes into the lesson when there’s a knock on the door.
“Come in,” Babbling calls.
Two men I recognise as Magical Law Enforcement officers from the times I went to the Ministry with Mum enter the classroom, looking sombre. “We’re looking for, ah – ” The first man consults a piece of parchment. “Rose Weasley, Albus Potter, Scorpius Malfoy, Lester Raine and Holly Holyoake.”
A jolt of fear runs through me – what have we done? What could the Ministry want with us? – before something far more important hits me.
I whip around in my seat to see Lester, face already drained of colour, staring with horror at the MLE officers. “No,” he whispers. “No, God, please, no.”
I reach across the aisle to tug at Scorpius’s sleeve, and he’s out of his chair in an instant to sit beside Lester. “Deal with them,” he says tersely, glancing at the officers.
I nod, standing, fists clenched by my side – it’s okay, we’ll be fine – and approach them, bringing everything Mum ever taught me about wizarding law to the front of my mind.
“Do you have identification?” I ask the first one.
The pause is the first indication that something’s wrong. Then –
I draw my wand without realising, and the two men turn tail and run. I chase them, deaf to Babbling’s shouts of “Rose Weasley!” and fell the first man with a Stunning spell. It’s weak and it almost misses, but it’s enough to bring him to the ground and I pin him there, pointing my wand at his throat. “Potionem retexo.”
The man convulses, then shrinks. His shoulder-length brown hair shoots back into his head, leaving him with messy strawberry-blond, and the face contorted with discomfort and fear becomes horribly familiar.
“Louis,” I snarl, and the aggression in my voice takes me aback. Without taking my eyes off him, I fire the spell at his companion, and the cursing voice to my left becomes Lucian Rosier’s.
Babbling catches up to us, takes in the scene for a moment, and says tersely, “Rose. Fetch Professors Sprout and Llodewick.”
A/N: Neville Chamberlain was British Prime Minister from 1937-1940, famous for his policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany in the lead up to the Second World War.
Sing, goddess, the rage of Achilles son of Peleus is from Homer's Iliad, 1.1.
Of arms and a man I sing (1.1) and Muse, remind me of the causes (1.8) are from Virgil's Aeneid.
All translation mine.
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