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Chapter 2 : The Chosen Son is Single Again
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“See, this is why I don’t have parents,” Cassie said, breathing smoke out in perfect rings before returning her cigarette to carefully painted lips. “Too much bother.”
She’s always saying things like that. It’s not true. Cassie has no parents because her father drank himself to death and her mother ran off without saying where she was going. Cass lives with her older brother because she has nowhere else to go, not because she made this brave, fun decision not to be with real grown ups. But I know she still feels fragile about it so I always let her make it sound like it was her choice. And I suppose her point still stands: Cass doesn’t need to spend Christmas with weepy relatives in the madhouse.
“If it hadn’t been so tragic it would have been quite funny,” I said, plucking the cigarette from her fingers for a puff and then handing it back.
“Sounds like it kind of was,” Cassie said with a wicked grin.
Scorpius laughed but shook his head at the same time. I think he sometimes wishes we took our problems more seriously. He worries about me. But he knows better than to say so. He wrapped his arms around Cassie’s stomach and pulled her back to lean on him. She gave him a lazy kiss on his jaw and he let out a low groan.
“You’re terrible,” I said, smiling at her.
“You flatter me, darling.”
“Don’t let it go to your head.”
We were on the rooftop of Scor’s house. His parents fixed it up with heating charms so we could use it all year round and it’s something of a tradition for the three of us to spend christmas night up there with a large bottle of Firewhiskey, exchanging gifts and gazing down at muggle London. Mr and Mrs Malfoy turn a blind eye to what Scorpius does as long as I’m there doing it with him. I’m not sure they really trust Cass, but they know my parents and reason there’s a limit to how much trouble Scor and I can get into together.
I let out a long, hissing sigh and chewed on my lip. Cass gave me a look.
“Oh, for goodness sake, Ollie,” she said. “Cheer up already. Less than two more years now and then you can move out and get a flat with me.”
“It’s going to be fabulous,” Cassie drawled. “You can be in charge of decor and I’ll be in charge of the housewarming party. And also I get to be in charge of the drinks cabinet. We’ll have muggle wine and smoke on the balcony in the evenings and if you like we can keep our address secret so your parents can’t find you.”
“Sounds dreamy,” I said. “I wish we could graduate now.”
“Not too long to wait,” Scor said with a grin. “And in the meantime we have Firewhiskey.”
He passed me a full glass and I drank it in one go. Cassie cackled and then passed me her own glass to drink as well.
“Drink it quickly,” she instructed. “I’m tired of this misery.”
“You’re so kind and considerate, Cass.” I poured the drink down my throat.
“Considerate is my middle name.”
“So is this the worst christmas so far?” Scor gave me a questioning glance.
“Potentially.” I shrugged. “I’m having another drink. Want one?”
Scorpius gave a small incline of his head and I filled a glass for him, pushing it across the floor towards him. He picked it up with the hand that wasn’t tangled in Cassie’s hair and took a large gulp.
“Um,” she looked thoughtful for a moment. “Actually no. I think I’m done for tonight.”
“Who are you and what have you done with Cassandra Selwyn?”
She laughed and pouted. “I’m just happy with my cigarette for now.”
“Whatever. I’ll have your share of the alcohol.”
“It’s probably for the best,” Scor said. “Do you remember how much Cass threw up last year? I had to tell Mum and Dad she had food poisoning.”
He gave Cassie an affectionate smile and kissed her hair. I still find it strange to see the way he behaves with her. Scorpius Malfoy is not known for his displays of affection, but he always makes an exception for Cass.
Cassie tilted her head back and laughed. I like her laugh. It isn’t elegant at all, but she looks beautiful and the chaotic giggles are infectious.
“Love Christmas,” she said, shaking her head so that the curls of her hair Scorpius wasn’t already clutching unfurled over his wrist and chest. He kissed her forehead tenderly and for a moment I felt like I was intruding, like I shouldn’t have come, but then Cass turned back to me with a wide grin.
“Here,” she beamed. “A gift from your favourites.”
She rummaged in her handbag and tossed me a misshapen parcel. It was wrapped in shocking pink tissue paper covered in glittering silver stars and messy strips of Spellotape. Her messy handwriting was scrawled across it in black marker pen: We love Ollie. Happy Christmas. From Cassie and Scor xxxx.
I slid my fingers under the spellotape, trying not to tear the paper too much, and carefully pulled open the tissue paper to reveal a large, square sketchbook and a tin of pencils.
“Thank you,” I said, trying not to sound emotional.
It was just a sketchbook. It shouldn’t have made me want to cry. But after my gifts from my parents had, once again, shown how little they really knew me, this present meant a lot.
“It’s from Creevey and Thomas,” Scorpius said, not looking away from Cassie as he spoke. “The sketchbook never ends. It just keeps adding pages when you get to the back. And the pencils should never need sharpening. We thought it might keep you occupied in all the time you’re spending not studying for NEWTs.”
“I love it. You two are the best.”
“We know,” Cassie said in a singsong voice. “You’re extraordinarily lucky to have us.”
“She knows that,” Scor said, grinning at me. “She doesn’t need you to remind her.”
I stuck my tongue out at him and looked down at the sketchbook and then back up at my friends, chewing on the end of one of my new pencils as I watched them. I carefully marked out the line of Cassie’s shoulder on the first blank page in the book.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve drawn Cassie. She’s my favourite model. Her face is so dynamic it’s easy to let her character shine through in the drawing, and she’s usually happy to sit for me. I get her to model whenever I make clothes as well: she makes everything look good.
“Think we’ve lost her for the rest of the night,” Scorpius murmured into Cassie’s neck.
“I mean, that was my plan all along,” Cassie said with a laugh. “Didn’t want to have to actually talk to her. That would be asking too much of me.”
“Be nice, Cass,” I said.
Cassie laughed harder. “Nice? Really? It’s like you don’t even know me, darling.”
I shook my head and smiled. ‘Nice’ isn’t really a word anyone uses to describe Cass, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about people. We’ve been friends since our first night sharing a room at Hogwarts, both dizzy with our newly discovered freedom, and, however she behaves towards other people, I never doubt that she really loves Scor and me. She can be cutting, and I understand why people are intimidated by her, but she’d be upset if she thought she’d genuinely hurt somebody. I’m lucky to have her as a friend.
The sketch came together quickly, figures almost creating themselves on the paper. Drawing isn’t difficult with such beautiful people. Cass is all golden hair and curves, and Scor looks a little bit like some kind of marble statue, with his pale skin and chiselled features. My pencil glided easily across the page, curving around their intertwined limbs, picking out important details: the slope of his nose against the curve of her head; the way her whole hand grasped one of his fingers, like a small child; the single curl of her hair that spilled down inside the collar of his shirt.
I had assumed they were staying still on my behalf, so that I could draw them without the distraction of motion, but when I put down my pencil they still didn’t move. They were completely lost in each other. He was murmuring gentle words into her ear and stroking the back of her hand with his thumb. Her face was turned into his chest.
They’re my best friends in the world, always have been and probably always will be, but there are some moments in which they should be left alone, even by me, and this was one of them.
I poured myself another drink and crawled across the cool tiled floor to lie on my tummy at the edge of the rooftop, turning to a new sketchbook and starting to map out the silhouetted London buildings beneath me.
It felt good to be there, still in the nighttime with the two people I loved most, away from the chaos of my family. I lay still in contentment and drew the star salted sky, smudging graphite over my hands and wrists and feeling my eyelids grow heavier, heavier, heavier.
When I woke, I was cocooned in a thick quilt in the middle of the king-sized bed of the Malfoy guest room. I was still fully dressed and had a headache worse than the time Scor let our Beaters use me for target practice.
I groaned and buried my face in the silk pillowcase for a moment, breathing in the scent of lavender and pixie dust and letting my body sink deeper into the mattress. I’ve always liked sleeping at Scor’s house. The Malfoys understand comfy beds. I have suspicions that one of Cassie’s main motivations for sleeping with Scor is that she gets a good night’s sleep at his house.
A loud, inelegant snore interrupted my feeling sorry for myself and I turned my head (ouch) to see Cass lying beside me. Her slinky dress from the previous night was crumpled on the floor and she lay sprawled on top of the duvet in one of Scor’s T-shirts and black lacy knickers. Her eyeliner was smudged under her eyes and her hair was spread out around her. I seriously doubted she’d been next to me the whole night. She had almost certainly left Scorpius’s room in the early hours of the morning so his parents wouldn’t know they’d shared a bed.
She snored again and I suppressed a giggle. I am consistently amazed that somebody so astonishingly beautiful can make such horrendous noises when she sleeps.
I rolled over and blew gently into her face. She groaned and opened one eye into a narrow, vicious slit.
“Ew. It’s you.”
“Morning sunshine,” I sang, reaching out to ruffle her hair.
“You’re a charmer.”
“I mean it.”
“I will hex you.”
I laughed. “That would involve you getting out of bed to pick your wand up from across the room.”
Cassie contemplated this. “I will punch you in the face.”
I know her well, better than to take this as an empty threat, and made the pragmatic choice to roll away from her towards the safety of the edge of the bed.
“Fine. I want to track down coffee. Just thought I’d let you know where I’ll be.”
Cassie closed her eyes again, lashes long and pale. “Whatever.”
“Love you, Cass.”
She didn’t reply. She’s never really been a morning person.
I rubbed my eyes and clambered out of bed.
My tights from the previous night were looking distinctly worse for wear with a thick ladder up one leg from my flight here, and my formal dress was uncomfortable after wearing it for so long.
I stopped off in Scor’s room on my way downstairs. He was still fast asleep, looking childlike and uncharacteristically angelic, both arms wrapped around the enormous, expensively vulgar toy hippogriff he’d had since he was little. I quietly pulled on some pyjama bottoms and a Tutshill Tornadoes hoody from the pile of dirty laundry on his floor. The boy’s a slob.
It felt better to be wearing something comfy, and the fabric still smelt faintly of the fresh citrus in Scor’s favourite shower gel.
I didn’t expect anyone to be awake when I went downstairs. I stay at the Malfoys’ London house a lot in the holidays and am almost the only one around in the mornings. Astoria suffers from horrible headaches, an after-effect of something terrible in the war that I’ve always been too scared to ask Scor about, and Mr Malfoy’s usually left for his job at Gringotts by the time I wake up.
It came as a surprise to see Draco Malfoy sitting at the breakfast table, feet up on one of the chairs while he read the Daily Prophet. I’d forgotten he probably wouldn’t be working on Boxing Day.
“Good morning, Olivia,” Mr Malfoy said, glancing up from his paper. “Coffee?”
“Yes please. You’re a lifesaver.”
He poured me a cup of rich, steaming liquid and pushed it across the table towards me . I took this as an invitation to sit down, taking the seat opposite him and clinging to the coffee like a lifeline. He turned back to his paper. Mr Malfoy isn’t really one for smalltalk.
I sipped my coffee, drinking it black, and satisfied myself with reading the back page of his paper. It’s usually the worst thing in the whole paper - a gossip column by some godawful elderly witch called Rita Skeeter - and nobody under the age of forty takes it at all seriously. But I didn’t think Mr Malfoy would take too kindly to me moving next to him to read the serious articles over his shoulder.
Well, it seems things are never peaceful in the Potter Household, and this time it’s younger son Albus Severus we need to keep an eye on, as our sources tell us he’s finally ended long term on-off relationship with fellow Gryffindor Lavinia Buchanan.
“It’s devastating for Vinnie,” one close friend of the pair tells us. “Albus has always implied he sees marriage in the cards for them, but apparently not.”
Another reliable source draws our attention to the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, of which both Potter and Buchanan are members: “I don’t know what this will mean for the team. Lavinia can’t even be in the same room as Albus at the moment. Who knows how she’ll manage playing on the same team as him?”
One observant coworker here at The Daily Prophet has remarked that it “seems a case of very square quaffle, very round hoop.”
We asked Gryffindor Captain Jason Wood for his thoughts on this latest tragedy for the young Mr Potter and how it will affect his team. He has as yet declined to respond.
Unfortunately that’s all the details we have right now, folks. If you hear any news about our favourite Hogwarts Seeker and how he’s coping at this hard time, contact Rita Skeeter by owl at The Daily Prophet, London Headquarters.
For now, good luck to all you single ladies looking to bag yourself a Potter boy. Both sons are now officially on the market.
You heard it here first.
“Oh, for Salazar’s sake,” I said when I’d finished reading the article. I know Potter’s dad is the saviour of the wizarding world and whatnot, and I had a personal interest in him and Buchanan breaking up from a Quidditch point of view, but it hardly belonged in the national news.
Mr Malfoy looked amused at my outburst and turned the paper over to see what I’d been reading.
“Skeeter, of course,” he sighed. “Upholding her duties of keeping us informed about all the movements made by the Potters. I’m surprised you’re interested, Olivia. Wouldn’t have thought Albus Potter was your type.”
He grinned. The smile made him look at least five years younger. I could sort of imagine what he might have looked like at school, back when my mum was infatuated with him.
I found myself laughing. “Mr Malfoy! Did you just make a joke?”
“Yes, I suppose I did,” he said, still laughing and looking unreasonably proud of himself. His pleased expression made me laugh harder.
“Morning, Ollie. What’s so funny?”
Scorpius strolled into the room, heading straight over to the table and pouring himself a coffee, adding copious amounts of milk and sugar. He was wearing tracksuit bottoms and no shirt, very obviously displaying a hickey on his shoulder. I made the sensible decision not to point it out to him. I’m a firm believer in it not being my fault if Scor’s parents find out how often him and Cass share a bed.
“Olivia’s scouting out potential dates in the gossip column,” Mr Malfoy said, still looking amused as he passed Scor the article.
Scor skimmed over the column, scowling.
“She’s calling him our favourite Hogwarts Seeker? Rude.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Mr Malfoy said. “Skeeter’s not exactly known for her tact, and she’ll publish anything. I used to feed her fake stories about Potter and Granger when I was at school.”
I laughed but wasn’t at all sure that he was joking. For all my mother’s rambling insistence that Mr Malfoy has always been a wonderful man, I know more than enough to realise he was pretty unpleasant in their schooldays. And if he was making up gossip about Gryffindors and selling them to national newspapers, I have no doubt that Mum was there beside him. She still despises Hermione Granger-Weasley.
“Alright, Dad,” Scor laughed. “Setting a good example as always. It’s a wonder I turned out as well as I did. Toast, Ollie?”
He opened the fridge and looked critically at its contents.
“Nah, I’m fine,” I said, watching Scorpius proceed to put toast in the toaster for me anyway.
“Don’t be silly,” he said. “It was a trick question. Everyone always wants toast. Nice outfit, by the way.”
“I’ll give it back,” I said, tugging on the fraying threads on the cuffs of his jumper. “My christmas dress wasn’t comfy.”
“Don’t worry about it. Think that hoody’s too small for me anyway. Keep it.”
“Cheers. It’ll cheer Mum up after yesterday. She loves it when I wear your clothes.”
“I’m sure she does,” Scorpius smirked.
“Speaking of your mother,” Mr Malfoy interrupted. “Isn’t that her owl?”
He nodded at the window. I followed his gaze.
I got up to let the owl in. I decided I was better off not knowing how Mr Malfoy recognised Mum’s owl.
“Oh no.” I took the scarlet envelope the owl offered me. “Scor, I need a favour.”
“Sure. Anything,” Scorpius said, looking up from buttering my toast.
I offered him the Howler hopefully.
He burst out laughing.
“Nice try. No. Absolutely not. Your Howler. You deal with it.”
He pulled himself up onto the kitchen counter and took a large bite of toast.
I attempted puppy dog eyes.
“But you said you’d do anything.”
“True,” he said, looking completely remorseless. “But I’m a Slytherin, remember? No need to be chivalrous or keep to my word.”
“You’re the worst,” I muttered.
He laughed, spitting out several crumbs of toast onto the clean kitchen counter.
“You’re genuinely so mean,” I whined. “I don’t know why I keep you around.”
“It gives you social status,” Scorpius said, completely straight faced.
“Sure, sweetheart. You keep telling yourself that.”
“You should probably open that,” Mr Malfoy said, frowning at the envelope as it started to smoulder.
“Do I have to?”
“It’ll only be worse if you leave it.”
I slid my finger under the flap of the envelope and it leapt into life in front of me.
“OLIVIA CELESTINA BELL, you have some EXPLAINING to do young lady!”
My mother’s voice is never particularly frightening, but it’s still unpleasant to have her constant, grating sadness amplified to fill a whole room.
”I’ve been so worried about you! And I NEEDED you last night! You saw what happened yesterday! HOW COULD YOU DISAPPEAR LIKE THIS? HOW COULD YOU LEAVE ME ALONE AFTER THAT?!
“I’ve been all by myself. Your father’s vanished and hasn’t bothered telling me when to expect him back. And you know I don’t feel comfortable around Oliver given his feelings about Draco and my school friends. This is extremely selfish of you. COME HOME IMMEDIATELY!
“Make sure you eat a high protein breakfast, darling.”
The Howler hovered in the air for a moment and then burst into flame, scattering in ashes down to the floor.
I frowned at the pile of ash, nudging it with my big toe. This wasn’t the first time my mother had decided a Howler was the most appropriate form of communication, but it was somewhat embarrassing to have opened it in front of Mr Malfoy.
I only noticed that I was standing still with my mouth open when Scorpius jumped up behind me and crammed a piece of chocolate covered toast through my lips. I struggled to swallow it and then turned around to glare at him.
“What?” He grinned at me, speaking through his own mouthful of toast. “High protein breakfast.”
“Aw, Scor, honey, did nobody ever teach you what protein is?”
“Must have slipped my dietitian's mind.”
“Along with all the advice about drinking and smoking?”
“I heard they were good for you.”
I reached out and took the rest of the toast from his hand. It was tastier than I’d anticipated.
“Jason’s stopped drinking,” I told him. “So he’s in better shape for Quidditch.”
“Yeah, well, Jason also has the brain capacity of a flobberworm.”
I spat out my toast, laughing, and Scorpius looked a little bit disgusted.
“Are you going to go home then? Sounds like your mum wants you.”
“You’re just scared she’ll turn up here to pick me up.”
“Yep,” Scor agreed. “I’m not ashamed. She’s frightening. Are you going to go?”
“Yeah, I guess I should,” I said ambivalently.
“Good luck,” Mr Malfoy said. He still looked faintly amused by the whole Howler incident.
“Thanks. Um, sorry about all that.”
“Trust me, Olivia,” Mr Malfoy laughed. “It’s not the first time I’ve heard one of your mother’s Howlers.”
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