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Chapter 22 : In Which Lies are Told
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A few weeks after our return to school, Scor took a big new step and ventured up to the Gryffindor Common Room. People seemed to think this was a noticeable event.
I was sat near the fire, trying to read a book while Louis plaited bits of my hair and Jason narrated extracts of Aunt Katie’s last letter. All of us were half asleep after having stayed up most of the night to listen to the England/Australia friendly quidditch match, and the warmth from the fire made it hard to stay awake.
When the room jolted into a sudden jarring silence I might not have noticed why, had Rose’s voice not carried on through the quiet.
“But that’s such an interesting theory. The bezoar has intense magical properties, obviously, but nothing I’ve come across really goes into detail about why it does, or how it works. If the magic comes from somewhere other than the stone itself then maybe it can be replicated somehow without the whole messy creation process.” Rose sounded excited.
I looked up to see who she was talking to. Nobody could keep up with Rose when she got started talking about the nature of magic.
“Well, fancy that,” Louis muttered. “Seems your Malfoy’s capable of holding a conversation with Rosie Posie. Gotta respect that.”
Jason snorted with laughter and the sound caught Rose’s attention. She waved at us and then grabbed Scor’s arm to pull him over.
Scor looked a little flushed, almost nervous, and I moved up on the sofa to make space for him to sit down next to me. I’d asked him to come and sit with us in Gryffindor Tower before but he’d always made some excuse as to why he couldn’t make it. This was actually a really big step for him. I felt quite proud. He sat down, squashed between Louis and me, and I forced my head under his arm so that he’d hug me.
“Scorpius was looking for you,” Rose smiled. “I managed to persuade him to come up here and find you. I’ve heard it’s much warmer than the snake pit.”
I nodded and Scor grinned.
The room was starting to fill with low chatter again as people realised nothing dramatic was going on. As the conversation bubbled up and grew louder, I could feel Scor relax beside me and slump back into the cushions.
“Esther found this in your dorm,” Scor said, reaching down to pull something out of his schoolbag. “And I realised I hadn’t seen you draw since christmas. It felt important to give it to you.”
He thrust the sketchbook into my arms and looked at me with a hopeful expression.
“I’ve been drawing a bit,” I told him. “Not much with you, I guess.”
He winced and I chewed my lip. I hadn’t meant to sound mean but it was true. I’d been drawing with Al and Rose and Louis.
I flicked through the sketchbook pages. The images were almost exclusively of Al, laughing and pulling faces and flying with Jason.
Scor leaned over to look at the sketches, his chin on my shoulder.
“They’re brilliant, Ollie,” he said. I could feel his grin against me.
“Thanks. Here, let me draw you.” I drew my feet up onto the sofa and kicked his leg gently to move him back so I could see him.
“Could we do it later?” Scor looked almost guilty. “I was talking about Transfiguration with Rose on the way up here and she said she’d help me out with a few of the concepts that I’ve been struggling with.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Scorpius Malfoy accepting help from a Gryffindor?”
He shrugged. “I figured they’re not so bad. They seem to have been good for you.”
I grinned and nodded. “Okay. I need to go to the Owlery anyway.”
“To write to Cass?” Scor’s eyes narrowed.
“Ollie, are you sure you want to do that? She’s not written back all year. What makes you think it’ll be any different now?” His voice dropped so that the few eavesdroppers still nearby couldn’t listen to our conversation.
“I just...I wanted to tell her that the aurors aren’t looking at you anymore. She’d want to know,” I muttered. “I couldn’t sleep last night so I wrote it all down.”
“Did you tell her Albus talked to his dad about it and got Harry Potter involved? Not sure she’ll be that keen to hear that,” Scor scoffed.
I shrugged again. “I just want to keep her updated.”
Scor sighed and ruffled my hair before pulling me towards him for a brief hug.
“Okay, Ollie. You want me to come with you to post it?”
“Nah, I’m good. Let Rose wow you with her Transfiguration skills. I’ll see you later.”
I shoved my sketchbook into my schoolbag and stood up, patting Scor’s head as I walked past him. Rose almost immediately took my vacated seat and started using very magical sounding words I didn’t understand. I smiled. Scor loved Transfiguration. It was good for him to actually be on speaking terms with someone he could talk to about it.
“Mind if I join you?” Jason stood up.
“You need to go to the Owlery?” I was surprised. He’d just received a letter from home and I hadn’t seen him write a response.
Jason rocked from one foot to the other and screwed up his face into an almost thoughtful expression. I frowned and then nodded for him to join me. We didn’t talk until we’d left the portrait hole.
“You okay? You need to talk?” I asked once we were outside.
Jason nodded slowly. “I find myself in the unusual position of having a problem I think you’re the only one who will be able to understand.”
“Ooo...are you asking me for advice?”
“Yeah. Thought it was time to take this whole friendship thing to the next level and talk about feelings.” Jace knocked his shoulder against me.
“Aw. I would love to talk to you about feelings.” I shoved him back.
“Are you okay? Does this mean something actually serious is happening?” We’d been joking but it was true that Jason had never really sought me out to talk about his problems. I didn’t know whether I should be worried.
Jason ran a hand through his hair and scrunched up his face again. “Mmm...not sure. Maybe I’m being silly.”
He reached into his cloak and pulled a folded piece of parchment out of his pocket. He seemed unsure about whether to pass it to me but when I reached out he slid it into my hand. I stopped walking to read it.
I’m writing on behalf of the Montrose Magpies to thank you for attending our tryouts last month. It was a pleasure to meet you and I speak for the whole team when I say how truly impressed we were by your performance.
Having watched several of your school Quidditch matches myself as well as being present for your tryout, I am confident that you would make a fantastic addition to our team.
I would therefore like to formally offer you a position with the team as junior reserve keeper, commencing immediately after your graduation. As you are aware, the position is usually an unpaid three month trial during which you would practice working with the team. In light of your fantastic tryout, I would like to reduce this trial period to one month, with a view to promoting you to reserve keeper at the end of that month.
I do hope that you’ll take us up on this offer. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you have about the position.
All the best,
Leonie Campbell (Manager)
I finished reading and then looked up at Jason.
“Jace, this is fantastic. They want to take you on as a reserve a month after graduation? That’s almost unheard of.”
“Why the Magpies?” I wondered. “Their game’s pretty different to your dad’s team.”
“Yeah. That’s why I wanted to play for them,” Jason said. “I knew being a Wood was going to have an impact on how the professional teams look at me. And I didn’t want to feel like they’d only taken me on because of dad. I knew the Magpies wouldn’t do that. They’re one of the few teams that have had hardly anything to do with him.”
That made sense. When he’d made the Gryffindor team in his second year, Jason had put up with his fair share of people saying he’d only made it because of who his father was. He wouldn’t want that from his whole career.
“So what’s the problem?” I asked. “This is such good news. What did you need to talk about?”
We started to walk again, dawdling in the direction of the Owlery.
“I didn’t expect it to be so easy, you know?” He said. “I thought I was going to spend the next few years going to hundreds of different tryouts. It didn’t occur to me that I’d get an offer from the first trial I went to. So I never really thought about what it would actually be like to start the actual job.”
“You must have a pretty good idea of what it’ll be like, though, right? I mean, this is the world you’ve grown up in.”
“Yeah,” he cut across me. “But that’s why I feel weird about it. Like, my whole life this has been what I’m going to grow up to do. I’ve never really considered anything else. I just assumed I wanted to be a quidditch player like dad.”
I mulled over his words for a few steps. I’d known Jason nearly his whole life and he’d never mentioned any kind of insecurity about his love for quidditch. Even when we’d been toddlers flying was all he could talk about.
“You’ve seen what it’s like at home,” he continued. “Dad can’t go more than twenty minutes without mentioning Quidditch. And mum doesn’t talk about it much but everyone knows she’s still devastated that her injury meant she couldn’t play professionally. I’ve grown up basically thinking it’s the only thing I could possibly end up doing.”
We’d reached the Owlery. Mercury swooped down to me almost as soon as we entered the room. Jason smiled and petted her, pulling an owl treat out from somewhere in his pocket to give her.
“Okay. Here’s a thought experiment,” I said, feeling more than a little bit like I was starting to ramble but figuring it was probably worth a try. “Imagine that you wake up one morning and everyone else has disappeared.”
“Where are you going with this?” Jason looked bemused. “That’s a horrible idea.”
“Yeah. Bear with me. So you wake up and everyone else has disappeared, and obviously you’re all sad and lonely and don’t have your cuddly Gryffindor pals to make it better. But once you’ve stopped crying…”
“I don’t cry.”
“Shut up. Once you’ve stopped crying, you realise you’re going to need to find some way to keep yourself occupied or you’ll go insane. What do you fill your time with?”
Jason was very obviously trying not to laugh at me, but he played along and thought for a moment. “Erm, flying, I guess. Not quidditch, because obviously there wouldn’t be anyone to play with. But I’d fly.”
I felt triumphant. “That’s what I thought you’d say.”
“How is this relevant though?”
“Because you’d fly even if nobody was around to see it. You love it. It’s not just about other people’s expectations.”
I took out the letter I’d written for Cass and passed it to Mercury. She looked disdainfully at it until Jason offered her another treat, and then she pecked my hand and flew away with the letter. I wished I had a way to ask her where she was delivering them all. Tracking owls is illegal. Apparently it’s an invasion of privacy or something. But it would be really useful.
“But I know I love flying,” Jason said, bringing my thoughts back from Cassie. “What I’m not sure about is whether making a career out of Quidditch is the right thing for me.”
I watched Mercury until she was out of sight and then turned back to Jason.
“Okay. Another thought experiment. You go off out into the world after graduating and do something that isn’t Quidditch, I don’t know what, but something you quite like. But you still love Quidditch, obviously, so you go and watch matches. And at some point you’re watching the Magpies play. How do you feel?”
“Jealous,” Jason answered immediately.
“Because...I’d be watching from the stands when I could have been out there flying with them,” he smiled. “Liv, you’re a genius. Thank you.”
“So you’re going to take them up on the offer?”
He nodded, his smile slowly stretching out into a full on beam, and then he grabbed me and smothered me in a bear hug.
“Ew. Let go of me,” I managed to say through a mouthful of his cloak.
He squeezed me one more time and then let go. “Sorry. Got overexcited.”
I rolled my eyes. “Whatever. Have you told anyone else about the offer?”
He shook his head. “Not yet. Wanted to figure out what I was doing with it first.”
“You should go and tell James, then. He’ll be excited. He wants to play too, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah, he’s got his eye on the chaser spot opening up in Puddlemere. I reckon he’s pretty well placed to get it.”
“Go and find him. He’ll want to know before it becomes gossip.”
“I’ll tell him later. He’s supervising prefect patrols tonight.”
“Did you forget about prefect patrols again?” Jason smirked.
“Always. I need to run. But well done well done well done. I’m super proud of you.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you later.”
I could hear him laughing behind me as I fled the Owlery. I was the worst prefect ever. Slughorn must have been seriously regretting his decision to get me to replace Cassie. I nearly always forgot about patrols and never helped out with anything that wasn’t compulsory.
Running was grim. A sad consequence of my months without Scorpius was that nobody had been forcing me to do any exercise in my free time, meaning that a sprint through the castle felt embarrassingly difficult. Wanting to make life easier for myself, I veered left towards a tapestry shortcut Al had introduced me to.
I pulled back the tapestry and stepped through the gap in the wall, into a short, wide stone passageway. I paused for a moment to press my forehead against the cool stone wall. I really needed to start going jogging again. I shouldn’t be this hot after a three minute run.
When I’d caught my breath I made my way over to the tapestry on the other side of the passage. I reached out a hand to pull back the fabric and then froze at the sound of shouts from the other side.
“Just leave it, Al. You don’t understand what it’s like.”
James’s voice. And he was angry. I toyed with the idea of stepping out to offer Al my support, but then he responded with equal venom in his voice and I decided it would be best to just stay put.
“Don’t tell me to just leave it. This has gone too far.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I’m talking about the fact you promised you’d sort this out ages ago and yet you’re STILL sneaking out all the time. I’m so unimpressed, Jay.”
“Just back off.”
“At some point you do realise you’re going to have to face up to what’s going on? You’re not making this any easier for yourself by sneaking around behind everyone’s backs. What do you think Dad’s going to say when he finds out?”
“He’s not GOING to find out.”
“Do you really believe that? How CAN you believe that?”
“I’m done talking about this, Albus. It’s none of your business.”
“Jay...don’t be like this.”
Al’s voice cracked as he finished speaking and I shook myself. I couldn’t keep standing there listening while he was upset. I pulled the tapestry back properly and stepped out.
Al and James were facing each other, standing a few metres apart. James’s fists were clenched and Al’s eyes were wet. They both looked at me as I stepped through the tapestry.
“What’s going on?” I stood beside Al, brushing my arm against his.
“Nothing,” James said, looking away from me to glare at his brother.
“You shouldn’t sneak out again. You’re meant to be supervising patrols,” I told him, deciding that there wasn’t much point trying to pretend I hadn’t overheard their conversation.
James let out a bark of laughter and shook his head. “Whatever.”
“I mean it. It’s against school rules. And you’ve got responsibilities here.”
“I appreciate your concern,” James said with an eye roll. “But what I do really isn’t anything to do with you.”
“Just let him go,” Al sighed, wrapping his hand around mine.
James nodded at his brother and then turned away, heading back through the tapestry I’d just come from. Al squeezed my hand and turned so he could rest his chin on my head.
“Sorry about that,” he mumbled. “Now I’ve made us late for patrols.”
I shrugged. “I nearly forgot about them anyway.”
He laughed. “Course you did.”
“I think Molly just expects me to be at least twenty minutes late now. But what was that, Al? I’ve never heard you two talk to each other like that before.”
Al shook his head. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Yes it does. It’s made you upset. What’s going on?”
He took a deep breath and then sighed. “I wish I could tell you, Liv, I do. But it’s just not my secret to tell.”
I looked up at him. He looked sad; sadder than I’d seen him since the beginning of the year after everything happened with Laura. I wanted to keep pushing him, convinced that he wouldn’t be able to keep something a secret for long, but it didn’t seem fair. Instead, I tilted my chin and pecked a kiss against his lips.
“Well, I’m glad to see you two are taking prefect patrols so seriously.”
I pulled away from Al and turned around to see Molly Weasley further down the corridor. Al and I both gave her what were probably completely identical sheepish expressions.
“Sorry, Mol,” Al said. “We’ll get started now.”
“Have you seen James? He missed our meeting again,” Molly said with a frown. “I don’t know where to find him.”
I opened my mouth to tell her James had gone out, but Al stepped on my foot so I closed it again.
“Yeah, I was just with him. That’s why we were running late,” Al said. “He said to tell you he’s not feeling very well tonight so won’t make it.”
“He’s ill again?” Molly looked like she couldn’t decide whether to be concerned or suspicious.
“Yeah,” Al said confidently. “He’s ill.”
THANK YOU to all of you who have been reading and reviewing. I really, really appreciate it.
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