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Chapter 15 : In Which The Moron Has A Heart
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He scowled at me whenever we were in the same room and made a point of making it so obvious I was unwelcome that I didn’t want to go near him.
And it hurt.
I knew him well, really well, and I never would have thought he could discard me so thoroughly. It was surprising how easy he found it to act like we didn’t matter to each other.
I started skipping Quidditch practice to avoid having to see him, and the Gryffindors helped me move seats in the classes I shared with him so that we didn’t have to sit together. Louis took Scor’s place beside me in Charms and Al moved over in Transfiguration. It left Rose sitting next to Scor in both classes but she took it in her stride, treating him with a kind of passive aggressive friendliness that made him clench his jaw. I sat at the Gryffindor table during mealtimes, clutching Al’s hand under the table when Scor walked past, and spent my evenings either in Gryffindor Tower or the Library, only returning to my own Common Room when it was time to sleep.
And somehow, through it all, I was okay. I don’t know if it was Slytherin survival instincts, or the fact I had accidentally acquired a completely new set of friends over the term, but I was doing what I’d never thought I’d be able to do: I was living without Cassie and Scor.
Near the beginning of March, I found myself eating breakfast by myself at the Gryffindor table. It was a Saturday and I’d overslept. It looked like the Gryffindors must have already eaten but I didn’t really fancy sitting anywhere near Scorpius.
I didn’t bother opening the letter that arrived in my dad’s handwriting, instead screwing it up in my hand and dropping it into my bag. He’d been writing to me every day since I’d met with mum in Hogsmeade but I hadn’t really wanted to know what he had to say to me. I focussed on my breakfast instead, oblivious of everything going on around me until a loud cough sounded in my ear.
“How goes it, cousin dearest?” The Moron dropped down into the seat next to me.
I wrinkled my nose at him and didn’t respond.
“You okay?” He tipped his head in my direction, making it clear he demanded an answer.
“Why are you here?” I frowned at him.
“I belong here, love,” he smirked. “It’s my House. The better question would be why you’re here, but I’ve decided I need to get used to it. It doesn’t seem like you’re in any rush to get back to the snakes.”
I rolled my eyes and reached for a waffle.
“But seriously,” Jason continued. “How is everything?”
I put the waffle down on my plate and turned to look at him. “Why are you asking? We never talk at school.”
“I, um, well, I heard about everything that happened with your dad. I wanted to check that you’re okay.” Jason looked almost embarrassed. This whole looking out for each other thing he seemed to be trying was new to us both.
“Did Katie send you?”
Jason winced. “Little bit. She said that I’ve known you since you were born and that I need to look out for you now that her brother’s being a fucker.”
“Aunt Katie used the word fucker?”
“That might have been me paraphrasing.” Jason grinned.
“Well, it’s nice of her to care, I guess,” I said. I poured almost half a jug of maple syrup over my waffle and took a bite.
“Are you okay, then?”
“I’ll be fine. Look, you don’t need to sit with me. You can tell your mum you did your job and checked up on me.”
Jason looked confused for a moment. “No, Olivia. She wrote to me to tell me you dad had left and you might need some support. That doesn’t mean I’m only here because of her. I want to know how you’re doing.”
I chewed on my fingernail for a moment before responding. “You don’t care.”
“Why would I not care?”
“Because caring’s not what we do. We argue and insult each other,” I mumbled through a mouthful of waffle.
“Come on, that’s not true,” Jason said. “We’ve known each other our whole lives. Of course we care about each other.”
I shrugged. “Speak for yourself.”
“You saying you wouldn’t be bothered at all if my parents were going through a break up? Or if you thought I was sad for some reason? You wouldn’t come and see how I was?”
I shrugged again.
“That’s bullshit. Last year when Dad had that Quidditch accident you flew up to Gryffindor tower and burst in on James in the shower to ask him if I was okay.”
“You have no proof of that.”
“James told me,” Jason grinned.
“He’s an unreliable source. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Whatever,” Jason said. “Point is, we’re allowed to talk to each other and be friendly sometimes. Like it or not, we’re family. I’m going to come and see how you’re doing when bad stuff happens.”
I watched him carefully, and eventually gave a slow nod.
“I’m okay, I think.”
He pulled a face and I laughed.
“I mean, it’s strange,” I continued. “Like…he’s Dad. And he’s always been a bit useless but this is kind of a new level. But like, well, I don’t know. A lot of bad stuff has been happening recently and I guess this just doesn’t feel like the worst of it. I’m more worried about nobody having seen any sign of Cass. And about Scor hating me.”
Jason nodded and then reached out to put an arm around me. He intensive exercise regime for Quidditch has given him huge, bear-like arms, and the weight around me was surprisingly comforting.
“Merlin, Liv, this term’s not been easy on you,” he said.
It was the first time he’d called me Liv, and it kind of felt nice. I sort of wanted to stay and talk to him for a bit, maybe catch up on how his term had been, but Joe had walked over from the Slytherin table and was waving to get my attention.
“Oi, Ollie, stop flirting and get up,” Joe called.
“Don’t be disgusting. I’m not flirting. He’s my cousin.”
“Oh, that makes sense,” Joe smiled. “I thought it looked unusually cuddly for you. Didn’t recognise you from behind, Wood. But seriously Ollie, get up. Scorpy says if you miss another Quidditch practice you’re off the team.”
“I’m not dressed for it,” I said.
“Doesn’t matter. It’s just practice. You can definitely wear your jeans. Come on.”
I moaned pathetically and Joe crossed his arms tightly to glare at me.
“Don’t do that. You have to come! He’s been so grumpy recently it’s almost certainly not an empty threat when he says he'll chuck you off. And I really don’t want to have to learn to work with another Chaser.”
I stuck my tongue out but stood up anyway. “Sorry, Moron. Duty calls.”
I don’t know why I bothered apologising. If there’s one thing my cousin respects it’s Quidditch training. He nodded vaguely and gestured for me to follow Joe out of the Hall.
“Thank Salazar, I thought I was going to have to carry you there,” Joe said, linking his arm through mine. “Scorpy was practically spitting fire when you weren’t there at the beginning of practice again.”
“I don’t think he can really blame me. He’s not exactly made it a hospitable environment.”
“Yeah, he’s being a right nightmare. The boy needs a slap across the face. But it’s not worth getting kicked off the team over.”
“I mean it, Ollie,” Joe said. “The way he’s behaving is despicable, but you can’t let it interfere with your happiness. You love Quidditch.”
“It’s not despicable. He’s my best friend.” I unhooked my arm from Joe’s so I could walk at my own pace.
“Doesn’t stop him being a rubbish human being.” Joe shrugged.
I took a deep breath. “That’s mean, Joe. He’s having a tough time. You know how he feels about Cassie. She’s, well, she’s everything to him. And he’s been trying really hard to cope with her not being around. It’s understandable that he’s a bit on edge.”
“I think he’s more than on edge,” Joe muttered. I ignored him.
“And then obviously everything’s made much worse by the fact half the school thinks he had something to do with her disappearance. You know what it’s like. He’s a Malfoy. He’s dealt with people assuming the worst about him for years. But this is a new level. And then, um, well, you know, it’s not like I’ve helped by ditching him for the Gryffindors.” My voice trailed off into silence.
Joe stopped walking so abruptly that for a moment I kept going on without him, until he reached out and grabbed my arm, spinning me round to face him. He placed a hand on each of my shoulders and looked at me, his eyes serious.
“No. Listen to me, Ollie. You have done nothing wrong.”
I tried to shrug him off but he didn’t move.
“I mean it,” he said. “I know you’re feeling guilty, and yes, maybe you didn’t handle it in the best way after they questioned him. But you can’t make excuses for him. He’s choosing to behave like this and it’s his responsibility. Not yours.”
I bit my lip and shook my head.
Joe sighed. “You have every right to make new friends. Honestly. And Potter’s crew seem good for you. I mean, I know you’re sad at the moment, but you’re more relaxed at the same time. They bring out a different side of you. It’s nice.”
He waited to see if I wanted to say anything and then carried on talking when I didn’t.
“Anyway, that’s not the point. What you need to understand is that no matter how bad Scorpius is feeling, and no matter how much support he needs, the way he’s treating you isn’t acceptable. He can’t be cross with you just because things aren’t going his way. You’re wonderful, and you’ve always been really good to him. Really, Ollie, you’re an amazing friend. And if he can’t see that then maybe it’s for the best that you’ve met some people who can.”
I nodded slowly. “Um. Thanks. That made me feel a bit better.”
“I just want you to be happy, Ollster.” Joe ruffled my hair.
“You’re so nice. How are you in Slytherin? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“A lot of people say that. I don’t know. I wanted to be in Slytherin, so the hat said I could be.”
“Really? You wanted it? Nobody wants to be a Slytherin.”
“Well, Esther got sorted first, and I was always going to follow her wherever she went,” Joe shrugged. “She’s my sister. So I told the hat thank you very much for offering to put me in Hufflepuff but I actually didn’t really fancy it. And the hat said that was okay. So here I am.”
I linked my arm back through his to start walking again. “I never knew that about you.”
“I don’t really broadcast it to the general public. But for the record, I think I made the right choice.”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I like being around Esther. And our Quidditch team’s fantastic. And, I mean, if I was in Hufflepuff I guess I might never have met Oz.”
“Well, we’re very happy to have you,” I smiled.
“I know that,” Joe laughed. “Anyone would be happy to have me. Look, we should walk faster. At the moment we’re at severe risk of death by angry blonde man’s tantrum.”
We rushed down to the Quidditch pitch and ignored Scor’s swearing at us as we rose into the air. It felt good to be flying again, even if I did have a tyrant shouting at me the whole time, and I was glad Joe had made me come.
After twenty minutes in the air Scor gave a shout for us to drop to the ground.
“What the fuck are they doing here?” His voice came out as a bit of a growl.
“There’s no rule against sitting in the Quidditch stands,” Oz shrugged. “Nothing we can do about it.”
“But they’re spying. I don’t want them here fucking up our chances,” Scor said.
I followed his gaze over to the Quidditch stands and sighed when I saw Al and the Moron sitting cheerfully in the front row.
“I’ll go ask them to leave?” Oz suggested. “Not sure I can make them if they don’t want to go, but if it’s really bothering you I can see what they say.”
Scor nodded slowly. “Tell them it won’t be pretty if they try to stay.”
I frowned. “They’re not actually doing anything wrong. We’ve watched Gryffindor practices loads of times.”
Scor didn’t acknowledge that I’d spoken. “Hurry up, Oscar. I want to get started again.”
“Yeah okay. Come with me, Ollie? They know you better,” Oz said, ignoring Scor’s use of his full name.
I trotted alongside him as he strode over to where my idiot cousin was sitting. Jason had his ragged Quidditch notebook open on his lap and smiled a goofy grin as we approached.
“Alright?” Al called.
I stuck my tongue out at him. “What are you doing here?”
“Getting some fresh air.” Al stretched his arms up above his head and beamed.
Oz narrowed his eyes. “You’re spying.”
“Not spying,” Al said. “Supporting.”
“So if I opened that notebook I wouldn’t find notes on our plays?” I nodded towards Jason’s book.
“Jace just likes sketching. He thinks the sunlight on the Quidditch pitch is particularly beautiful today and he wanted to try to capture it in charcoal,” Al said seriously.
“Jason doesn’t have an artistic bone in his body.” I rolled my eyes.
Al gasped. “That’s a very hurtful thing to say. It’s his passion, Liv. He dreams of being an artist.”
Oz chuckled. “Well you can’t blame a man for following his dreams. But seriously guys, Scorpy might kill somebody if you don’t find somewhere else to sit. He’s not at his most reasonable at the moment.”
Al stood up and frowned. “There’s no rule saying we can’t sit here.”
I pushed his chest gently. “Come on. It’s not worth fighting over. Go do something fun.”
He stuck his bottom lip out and I laughed.
“Seriously. He might hurt you. Or me,” I said.
“I reckon I could take him,” Al said.
“You might get a chance to test that theory. He’s coming over now,” Oz sighed.
I watched Scor make his way across the pitch, fuming. Joe was walking backwards in front of him, making elaborate hand gestures that probably weren’t helping to calm Scor down.
“They’re just leaving, Scorpy,” Oz called out. “We’ll be back in a sec.”
Scor scowled. “You’ve taken four minutes out now. If you don’t start taking this more seriously you’re off the team.”
“Are you serious?” I took a step towards him. “You asked him to get them to leave, even though they’re not doing anything wrong by being here. And now you’re cross that he took time off practice to do what you told him to?”
“Don’t talk back to me, Bell,” Scor scowled.
“You’re not even using her name anymore? Merlin, you’ve got issues,” Jason muttered.
Scor’s cheeks flushed red. I waited for him to respond but he stayed silent for a moment.
“I’m not trying to undermine you, Scor,” I said quietly. “But part of being captain is being a good leader, and to do that you need to have some more patience with us.”
“So I should just let you get away with what you want? I should let Oz and Joe piss about cuddling in the sky instead of practicing their plays? I should just let you keep skiving off practice because you’re too busy shagging Potter to turn up? I should…”
Al lifted his hands. “Hey, nothing’s happening between us, Malfoy. That’s not…”
“I DON’T CARE,” Scor cut across him. “This is none of your business. This is between my team and me. The problem, Bell, is that you lack commitment.”
I opened my mouth but wasn’t really sure what to say. “Um, I don’t know, I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d want me around.”
“I don’t,” Scor said frostily. “But this isn’t about what I want. It’s about what’s best for the team, and you’ve shown that you clearly don’t give a shit about us recently. I don’t need players like that. Not this year.”
I wasn’t quite sure how it had all escalated this quickly, but that seemed to happen all the time with Scor. He’d started off being cross about Al and Jason watching but now he was angry about something completely different. If Cass had been there she might have been able to distract him enough to calm him down, but the rest of us were completely unable to help and just had to watch him explode.
“You know what…I’m done with this,” Scor said. “You’re off the team.”
“What?” Joe spun round to face him. I was glad he’d spoken because I had no idea what to say.
“She’s screwing us all over and she’s not what’s best for the team. Come on. The rest of us should get back to practice.” Scor looked determined. “I’ll organise try outs this week to replace her.”
“Well, if she’s off the team I’m off the team,” Joe said. He took a few steps forward to stand next to me. “I’m not carrying on without her.”
“Don’t be silly, Joe,” I muttered.
“I’m not being silly. It’ll be no fun without you on the team. We’ve always done this together. I’m not wasting my time on a team that’s no fun to be part of. If you go, I go.”
“Same goes for me, I guess,” Oz sighed, also stepping forward. “Can’t be dealing with these anger management problems anymore.”
“You don’t have to…” I spoke softly and trailed off when Joe shook his head.
“Good luck beating Gryffindor with no chasers, Scorpy,” Joe shrugged.
Scor’s fists were clenched and I looked at the pale white of his knuckles for a moment, watching them tremble slightly. His whole stance screamed with rage but I felt like underneath it all I could detect something else. Some kind of vulnerability. His eyes looked watery and I wasn’t sure whether it was because of the cold or because he was trying not to cry. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.
I chewed on my lip. I didn’t want to start feeling sorry for him, not when he was behaving like this. But it was hard not to care.
“You have one more chance. If any of you fuck up again I will kick you off,” Scor said finally. He took a deep breath and looked pained as he spoke. “Okay. I’ve had enough of this for today. See you all on Monday morning.”
I watched him shuffle away, his pristine green robes trailing in the mud on the floor. He was still holding his broom and let it drag across the grass behind him. I wondered what it would be like to chase after him. I could grab his arm and pull him back to me, force him into a hug until he let me talk to him properly again. I wondered whether I’d be able to get through to him if I tried a bit harder. Maybe I could be his best friend again. But instead of following him I let myself turn away.
“You okay?” Al reached out to me.
“Mm.” I leaned back against him, turning my face against the side of his chest.
“We need to do something about this,” Joe said. “There must be a way to get him to stop acting like this.”
“Not sure what we can do, mate,” Oz said. He flung his arm around Joe’s shoulders and nuzzled his forehead for a second with his nose. Joe laughed and pulled away.
“He’s never been this bad before,” Joe said.
“He’s never had to be without Cassie before,” I murmured.
Nobody seemed to know what to say.
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