Chapter 5 : An Encounter in the Library
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James, of course, knew exactly why she was distracted, but other than a slight upturn at the corners of his mouth when she told Roxanne that she was feeling under the weather, he didn’t comment. She’d known he wouldn’t - James was good at keeping secrets, probably because James was also a good liar.
When she woke up the next morning, she was surprised to find that she felt refreshed. She still wasn’t sure how she wanted to approach the situation with Scorpius - whatever James said, she still wasn’t at all convinced that the Slytherin didn’t hate her, but her cousin had planted a seed in her mind that was going to take some time to come to fruition.
She was out of the bathroom before the other girls in her dormitory were even out of bed, though they were moving around by the time she was finished getting dressed.
“Rose, what are you doing?” Colleen asked. The other girl was sitting on her bed brushing out her dark hair. Though she kept it cropped short, it was so fine that it tended to tangle easily. “You’ve been at the mirror for five minutes. Your hair looks fine.”
Rose started. “I have not.”
“You have.” Colleen raised her eyebrows. “Is there some boy I don’t know about?”
The denial came out more adamant than Rose had intended, which only increased her friend’s interest. “Girl?”
“No. There isn’t anyone.”
“Then why have you been scrunching your hair up for five minutes?”
“I haven’t been. Shut up.”
Colleen looked inclined to continue the line of questioning, but at that point, one of the other girls they shared the dormitory with emerged from the bathroom. Holly Zeller, though she was perfectly nice, had a tendency to also be very nosy. Colleen changed the subject, though the glance she sent to Rose promised that she would follow up on their conversation later.
Rose beat a hasty retreat down to the Common Room. She needed to write her letter and send it off before breakfast, anyway.
When she got to the owlery, she scanned the rafters for Albus’s owl. “Hazel!”
A barn owl glided down to her, and she pulled an owl treat out of her pocket. Hazel ate it happily, and Rose stroked her head for a moment before pulling the letter out of her bag. “Hazel, can you take this to Fred for me, please?” Hazel stuck out her leg. “Thank you!”
As she stepped back into the corridor, it occurred to her that she was alone, and that if Scorpius Malfoy had any sense, now would be the perfect time to surprise her. The letter she’d sent to her cousin would probably take care of that particular problem, but she doubted the solution would arrive that day.
She kept her wits about her and managed to reach the Great Hall unjinxed. On her way up the table to sit with Albus and Damien Bell, she stopped to whisper in James’s ear. “I need the map.”
He grinned and pulled a book out of his bag. “Make good choices.”
She shoved the book into her bag. “Don’t I always?”
He reached up to ruffle her hair, which would have effectively ruined the extra primping Colleen had definitely noticed. Rose stepped back so she was just out of his range.
James’s eyes flicked over to the Slytherin table and back. His eyebrows rose a little, and Rose could tell he knew exactly why she didn’t want her hair to be messy. She felt her face start to get warm, and her cousin winked at her. “I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”
Rose would have liked to be able to avoid Scorpius Malfoy for at least another day while she dealt with the conversation he’d had with her cousin, but unfortunately, Tuesday mornings included History of Magic and Transfiguration, both of which the Gryffindors shared with the Slytherins.
She resolved to simply ignore him, but that ended up being easier said than done. When Albus sat down next to her, she fought the urge to groan - she knew that he and Scorpius always sat together in History of Magic, which usually led to Albus asking her for her notes because he had been too busy playing hangman to take any.
And, sure enough, Scorpius ended up sitting down on Albus’s other side. “Hey, Al.” After a moment of hesitation, he glanced past his friend. “Good morning, Rose.”
Rose stared at him for a moment, wondering whether she’d actually gotten out of bed that morning or if she was still dreaming. Though, when had she ever dreamed about Scorpius Malfoy? “Morning,” she managed to say.
Scorpius turned back to Albus, and Rose put down her quill to massage her temples. It was going to be a long day, and she couldn’t fathom Scorpius’s motivation for suddenly being polite - particularly since he was still sporting flaming red hair.
“Albus read him the riot act yesterday,” a soft voice said on her other side.
She looked up. “Hi, Noah.”
The dark-haired boy gestured to the seat next to her. “Do you mind?”
“No, go ahead.”
When he’d taken out his parchment and quill - Noah Nott was as thorough a notetaker as she was - he looked back at her. “You looked confused.”
“I am confused. Is someone who’s never met us using the Polyjuice Potion to impersonate him?”
Noah snorted. “No, nothing so interesting as that. We got out of Divination early yesterday and Albus spent ten minutes talking at Scorpius. There was a lot of gesturing. Scorpius barely got a word in. It was pretty funny.”
“Guess I got off easy. I got the lecture last night, but it was a lot more abbreviated.”
“Yeah, well, that’s fair. My cousin usually picks a fight with you, not the other way around - mostly.” He glanced past her and Albus to look at Scorpius, who had chosen a seat the sunlight at a very unfortunate angle. His hair was practically glowing. “I guess. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s still going to find a way to get back at you for that hair, but he’ll probably be a little more polite about it.”
“What are you talking about?” Scorpius had apparently noticed the attention, because he was looking around Albus again. This time, his eyes were narrowed in suspicion.
“Rose and I are discussing whether it’s ethical to continue to share our notes with either of you when you’re clearly never going to pay attention in History of Magic.”
Scorpius snorted and leaned back. “Be that way. I’ll steer my mother in your direction when I fail my O.W.L.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be on his side?” Rose asked Noah.
“Not when he’s being an idiot, I’m not. And anyway, I’m tired of hearing him complain about you. No offense, but you’re really not that interesting. I could have kissed Albus for shutting him down.”
Her conversation with Noah at the beginning of History of Magic ended up laying the foundation for was actually a very pleasant morning. As Albus had observed, Rose never had seemed to manage to have run-ins with Noah Nott the way she did with Scorpius Malfoy - what Albus seemed to have conveniently forgotten was that they didn’t clash because there just wasn’t all that much to clash about. Noah wasn’t really the sort of person Rose was inclined to spend a lot of her free time with, of course - he was a Slytherin - but he was a good enough sort, and unlike her cousin, he genuinely liked most of his classes. That usually gave them plenty to talk about.
In fact, when they headed off to Arithmancy after History of Magic, Rose was so busy talking to Noah about the assignment due Thursday that she didn’t even wave goodbye to Albus, who had the hour and a half until Transfiguration free.
She did, however, notice the dirty look Scorpius shot Noah when they sped into Transfiguration a few minutes late. She considered asking Albus what that was about - was he really so petty that he resented his cousin for talking to her?
“What happened to you?” Albus asked as she stuffed her books into her bag after they’d been dismissed from Transfiguration. “You’re never late to Transfiguration.”
“Arithmancy ran over. We were talking about the ancient Egyptians.”
Noah nudged her, and she looked back at him. “Thanks for showing me that passage - it would have taken me another five minutes to get here without it.”
She smiled as they left the classroom. “No problem. Do you have any free time this afternoon? We could meet up in the library and work on that assignment.”
“I’m free until we have Divination. Meet you after lunch?”
She nodded and waved as she and Albus turned down the corridor that would lead them to the Gryffindor Common Room. When she looked at him, he had a small smile on his face.
He stretched his arms about his head. “Oh, it’s just nice to see you getting along with one of my friends.”
“I’ve never not gotten along with him - he’s not a git. Come on, I’m hungry.”
Though she spent most of her afternoon break working on the Arithmancy assignment, she was still in a good mood when she headed to her last class of the day, and she was even cheerful enough to join Albus when he headed to the library after they got out, even though she knew he’d probably be meeting Scorpius there.
As she’d expected, Scorpius was there, though Noah was as well. She exchanged a cordial greeting with Scorpius and a considerably warmer one with his darker-haired cousin before wandering off to find a few books for her Herbology assignment.
She was just getting engrossed in a book that was decidedly not related to the assignment when she heard a voice above her. “You’ve been jumpy lately.”
Rose started and dropped the book. It landed on the floor with a loud thud. When she saw that the speaker was Scorpius, she reached for her wand before remembering that it was in her bag back at the table.
Scorpius held up his hands. “Relax. I’m not going to hex you with Albus twenty feet away. Do I look like an idiot?”
Rose knelt back down to retrieve the book. “A little - I never can tell with you. And I’m not jumpy.”
He frowned at her. “Yes, you are. You’ve been jumpy since - oh, hell. Where were you yesterday afternoon?”
“What do you have while we have Divination?”
“And you were on time for that, were you? I can ask Claire, she’s in Ancient Runes with you.”
She shrugged. “I was a couple minutes late. What of it?” She met his gaze squarely. After examining her for a moment, he blew out his breath in disgust.
“Noah took me through the strangest passage to get here - he said he learned it from you.”
Belatedly, Rose realized that the passage she’d taken Noah through was the same one she’d been hiding in when she’d eavesdropped on Scorpius and Albus the day before. She tried to keep her face straight, though thinking about the eavesdropping brought all of the disjointed bewilderment it had left her with rushing back… along with an intense urge to tease him.
“This is exactly what I hate about you,” the boy snapped. “I wouldn’t have ever known if you hadn’t felt the need to show off.”
She rose so quickly that he actually took a step back. “I wasn’t showing off!” she whispered furiously.
“Right. And you didn’t have anything to do with this, either, right?” He gestured at his bright red hair.
“I wasn’t!” she protested, ignoring the reference to his hair. “We were running late. It’s not my fault our class ran over-”
“No, but it is your fault that you’ve suddenly decided to get so buddy-buddy with my cousin that it was just natural for you to leave and arrive together. Where’d that come from, exactly?”
“I’ve never not gotten along with your cousin. He’s a reasonable human being.”
“And I’m not?”
Rose had to fight to keep her voice to rising above a whisper. “You’re not mad because Noah and I happened to talk and work on an assignment today. You’re just mad because I heard you talking about me.”
“Well, a little,” he acknowledged, “but I’m mostly annoyed because you’re such a damn hypocrite. You can’t go on about strength of character and true Gryffindors one minute and eavesdrop on private conversations the next. I thought people from your house were supposed to have honor. You’re just a pointless show-off.”
“I told you, I wasn’t showing off!”
“Then why did you do it?”
“Not everyone is as calculating as you, you know. We were running late, we took the passage. The end.”
Scorpius looked incredulous. “You really don’t think anything through, do you?”
“Yeah, well, I’d rather that than be conniving like you!” she hissed.
He shrugged. He clearly did not understand an insult when he heard one. “Mostly I’d call myself cunning, but I guess I can be a little conniving, too. Believe it or not, I’m okay with that. Not all of us like going through our days without thinking about the consequences of any of our actions. Then, not all of us want to be worshipped, either.”
“I don’t want to be worshipped! I just think that wasting energy trying to predict the future is a really stupid way to go through life!”
“No middle ground for you, is there?” He turned away, shaking his head. “Well, Red, I hate to break it to you, but you’re still conceited as hell. You just also apparently have no self-control.”
Something prickled in Rose. The idea of letting him have the last say was intolerable, especially given how damned strange he’d been acting lately. “Bet you wish I had a little less, don’t you?”
He stopped dead. After standing perfectly still for a moment, he looked back at her. The expression in his eyes and the slight flush starting to spread across his cheeks told her that she’d definitely struck a nerve. “Thanks, I’m good. Maybe you missed the part about how I want to punch you every time you open your mouth.”
Rose brushed by him, moving closer than she probably needed to in what was really a fairly wide aisle. “Well, I definitely didn’t miss the part about cold showers, so I’m sure there must be some situations where my mouth being open would be welcome enough.” She didn’t look back. She didn’t have to, to know that she’d made her impression, and she found with some surprise that she rather enjoyed it.
When he returned to the table several minutes later, she asked very politely, “Did you find that book you were looking for?”
“No, I didn’t,” he said, equally politely. The blush on his cheeks had faded, though the way his eyes narrowed slightly when he looked at her told her that the impact of her words had not. “Someone must have taken it out.”
“Oh, that’s unfortunate.” Rose looked back at her paper and started writing again. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw both Albus and Noah staring at her and Scorpius in turn, but when neither of them said anything else, the other boys went back to their work.
They worked largely in silence until a quarter to six. When she caught sight of the clock, Rose stood up. “I should get downstairs and have something to eat before practice.”
Al looked up, too. “When does he want you all out there?”
He glanced at his parchment; he was only about about half-done with the essay they needed to write. “Do you want company?”
“Sure,” she said.
Albus packed up his books and looked at Scorpius and Noah. “Either of you going to eat yet?”
“In a bit,” Noah said. “I want to get this finished before I go downstairs to eat.”
“Good luck,” Rose said. As she and Albus turned, she heard Scorpius’s voice behind her.
“Have a great practice, Red. Keep your mouth closed - you don’t want to choke on the snitch.”
Rose felt her ears getting hot, though she had to admit that she’d probably deserved the jibe.
As they left the library, she looked back. Noah had gone back to his essay, but Scorpius was still watching them. She shook her head. He was such a strange person.
A/N: If you're curious about what exactly happened during the incident on the train that Rose mentions, you should definitely check out my short story "Achilles Heel." :)
I'd love to hear what you think, if you have the time to leave a review (long or short, they're all appreciated!). Either way, thank you so much for reading!
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