Scorpius was finding that summer vacation seemed to get exponentially better as he got older. His grandparents had taken him, Noah, Noah’s brother Andrew, and their cousin Evelyn to Australia in late July, which had turned out to be a lot more fun than he’d expected. Even Andrew had loosened up enough to have a good time, which Scorpius felt was nothing short of a miracle.
He and Noah had also spent a week and a half in mid-July visiting Albus, and for the first time, they’d been permitted to wander around London on their own. London was quite a lot of fun when you were just wandering around with your friends, and it had the added benefit of reducing the time he had to spend with James Potter to a minimum and eliminating almost all interaction with Rose and Roxanne.
This year, Scorpius was actually sad to see the summer end and to know that he needed to return to school.
He was wandering around the train looking for Albus, Noah, and their friend Damien when he heard a loud chorus of laughter, and then a girl shriek, “James Potter, I’m going to—”
A girl backed out of a compartment, brandishing her wand uselessly.
Roxanne and James followed her. “Oh, I’m sorry,” James said. His voice was completely insincere. “Can you not do nonverbal spells yet?”
Another girl stumbled out of the compartment laughing hysterically. After throwing James and Roxanne looks of disgust, they entered another compartment, where their friends presumably lifted the jinxes.
Roxanne looked around. “Oh, hello, Malfoy.”
“Fancy seeing you here,” James added, smirking.
Scorpius pulled his wand out. “Protego!”
James leaned against the glass next to his compartment door. “Do you not trust us?”
“Let me think about it.” Scorpius screwed up his face. “No. I don’t.”
“That hurts my feelings.” Roxanne mimed a tear falling down her face.
“They had it coming,” James added. “And—whoops!”
Someone had grabbed Scorpius’ wand out of his hand from behind him. He turned, and found himself face-to-face with Rose Weasley.
“I know you weren’t thinking of cursing my cousins,” she said.
He was so taken aback by the accusation that for a moment, he forgot he was mad. Jinxing or hexing, sure, but cursing? “No, I wasn’t.”
She smiled sweetly. “Whatever you say.” Keeping her wand on him, she examined his. “This isn’t a dueling wand at all,” she said. “I don’t see how it’s good for much of anything.” Her eyes flickered to his face for a moment. “But I guess that suits you, doesn’t it?”
Scorpius could hear James and Roxanne cracking up behind him. When he glanced back, he saw that several of their friends had joined them, presumably from inside their compartment.
Rose was holding his wand just out of reach. She appeared focused on it, but he knew that if he made a grab for it, he’d be hit with three different jinxes before he managed to retrieve it. “Give it back,” he snapped. “What, Weasley, are you going to jinx me?”
Rose pretended to think about it. “It’s so tempting,” she said regretfully, “but if I do, Albus will be annoyed with me for days.”
After a moment, he asked, “So can I have my wand back?”
He snatched it. “I really hate you,” he muttered.
“I know,” she said. “Don’t worry. I’m not all that fond of you, either.” He could hear her friends making their way back into the compartment, and he expected her to join them. When she didn’t move, he made to brush past her. “You know, we’re not bullies. They did deserve it.”
He ignored her and moved on, and after a moment, he heard her do the same.
Rose made his head hurt.
He’d found her even more annoying last year than he had the previous two, and he suspected that it was only going to get worse. She’d filled out in areas that part of him found very interesting, and he was feeling quite resentful about it. It didn’t seem fair that someone as irritating as Rose Weasley was probably going to end up being the most attractive girl in their year, and it really didn’t seem fair that he was having such a hard time not noticing it.
Scorpius stepped into the compartment and slammed the door behind him. The glass shattered. Before he could react, Noah repaired it and went back to his book. When Noah didn’t look back up, Scorpius snapped, “Who are you, your brother? Can’t you put your damn book down for a minute?”
Noah glanced up. “No, I’m definitely not my brother. However, until you broke the door on your way in, I was alone, and this is a very good book.” He put it down. “There. I’m laying The Hunger Games aside, which is actually very difficult. This had better be good.” Scorpius opened his mouth, and Noah added, “Let me guess. It’s about Rose Weasley. And how much you don’t like her.”
“I just bumped into her.”
Noah shook his head. “God, other than visiting Albus and the classes we have together, I think I managed to cross paths with her all of twice last year. We ignored each other. I don’t understand how you manage to bump into her so often.”
“You’re not in Care of Magical Creatures with us,” Scorpius pointed out—quite reasonably, he thought.
Apparently, Noah did not agree. “Yes. It’s the Care of Magical Creatures lessons that tipped the balance from my never seeing her and you having some nasty exchange with her every two weeks.”
“Fair enough,” Scorpius muttered. “But I don’t understand how you ignore her. She’s so—”
Noah groaned. “Because I’m pragmatic. Arguing with her won’t make me anything but annoyed. I don’t want that, so I avoid it.”
“It’s the principle.”
“What do you care about the principle? It’s never mattered before. You’re a Slytherin. The principle isn’t as important as what gets you what you want, and you do want to avoid her, right?”
“Scorpius,” Noah said patiently, “it’s really not that difficult. Ignore her.” He gave his cousin an assessing look. “Unless there’s something you haven’t told me.”
“Like what?” Scorpius resisted the urge to squirm or break eye contact.
“Oh, I don’t know.” Noah shrugged. “You’re a lot more curious about her than you are about Vera Zabini, who I think you actually hate more.”
Scorpius considered that. “Yeah, probably.”
“You’re also a lot more curious about her than you are about James Potter, who I think you hate slightly less.”
“Probably,” Scorpius agreed again. He was uncomfortable with the point he knew that Noah was about to make.
“So…” Noah spread his arms. “Why is that you’re a lot more curious about her than all of the other people in this school that you hate combined?”
Scorpius decided on a half-truth. “She’s gotten prettier lately. That’s all.”
He was just starting to think that he’d gotten away with it when Noah said flatly, “Nice try, except that I’m not Albus, so I don’t trust you to be truthful when you don’t want to. If you don’t want to talk about it, fine, just say that. Or be a better liar.”
“Well, what do you want me to say?” Scorpius snapped. “That my brain keeps forgetting about her personality?”
Noah snorted. “That was a better try, but I still don’t buy it.” He picked his book back up. “Have it your way, then.”
For the first time since starting second year, Scorpius could not wait to get back to Hogwarts.
He had been looking forward to staying with Albus and wandering around London again, especially since they were given more freedom than the year before. He hadn’t thought twice about accepting Al’s invitation to come and stay for the first two weeks in August.
It should have been terrific. Scorpius had only been there for three days when James left to vacation with Roxanne’s family and didn’t come back until two days before Scorpius left. Scorpius had gone to sleep after his first James-free day with the Potters feeling quite cheerful.
Then he and Albus had gotten up shortly before noon, gone downstairs, and discovered Rose and her brother Hugo playing exploding snap in the living room with Lily. Apparently, the beginning of August was a popular vacation time, because Rose’s parents had left Rose and Hugo with Albus’ family while they went to South America.
Scorpius had tried to be optimistic, but after the third day, the optimism had completely evaporated.
Rose had visited the Potters during the day when he’d been staying with Albus before. She’d probably even slept over before.
This was different.
Every other time he’d seen her over summer vacation, she had been mostly hanging out with James and, sometimes, Roxanne. Even when they did sleep in, they didn’t tend to hang around the house for very long. Sometimes they went to their grandparents’ to play Quidditch. Sometimes they visited Roxanne’s brother Fred. Sometimes they wandered around London. He didn’t know what else they got up to. He didn’t care. The important thing was that he typically didn’t have to deal with them during the day.
However, with James gone, Rose hadn’t seemed to be her usual manic self. She’d disappeared once or twice with friends, and sometimes she went to play Quidditch with Lily and Hugo at their grandparents in the afternoon, but mostly, she was hanging around the house.
Which meant that nearly every morning during his stay, he and Albus went downstairs for breakfast, and either Rose was already there or she sauntered in shortly after they did. And she was always wearing her pyjamas.
Logically, Scorpius knew that a tank top and shorts were perfectly reasonable clothes to wear around the house, particularly in the summer. He knew that he didn’t think anything of wandering around shirtless at home, or even when he was staying with his grandparents. It was completely and totally reasonable for Rose to wear them around what he’d gathered was essentially a second home for her.
However, the fact that it was completely and totally reasonable did not mean that it was not also completely and totally distracting to him.
He found Rose attractive. There wasn’t really any way around that. He didn’t find her attractive in a removed theoretical way; his friend Claire was pretty enough, but while he could see it, he was not remotely attracted to Claire.
He was attracted to Rose. And he found it highly disturbing.
It did not help that she was significantly less insufferable when she was chatting with her aunt or spending time helping her brother or Lily with some summer assignment. He knew that she was a deeply irritating, incredibly arrogant, and highly judgmental person. She had all the worst qualities of Gryffindor and then some. That was true, whether or not she was friendly and helpful with her family.
Telling himself that had unfortunately not stopped him from finding her more attractive than he had by the end of their fourth year – and he’d found that disconcerting enough.
Scorpius strongly believed that denial in situations like this was not only warranted but advisable. After the fourth or fifth day or seeing what he couldn’t decide was far more or far less of Rose Weasley than he really wanted to, he was so distracted and frustrated that he’d considered fabricating an excuse to leave.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a good way to put ‘I’m so attracted to your cousin who I also kind of hate that I need to go home and scrub my mind out with soap.’
Even more unfortunately, there was a sizable part of him that was all too willing to deal with the frustration.
As he made his way down the train, looking for an empty compartment, he heard what was at this point a very familiar laugh.
He did not need to deal with this right now.
Abandoning his trunk, he ducked into the nearest compartment, which mercifully only held a couple Slytherin fourth years.
“I’m avoiding someone,” he said.
They were still giggling when he stepped back into the corridor. He didn’t see the bright orange curls anywhere, so he assumed that it was safe to keep walking. He found an empty compartment, and was just starting to settle in when the door slid open.
Scorpius looked up and barely managed to avoid groaning out loud. “What do you want?” he asked coldly.
Rose rolled her eyes. “Right, like I want to socialise with you. I was just wondering if Albus was here yet.”
“Well, he’s not here.”
“Yeah, I’d gathered.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “Look, when he gets here, can you tell him I need that charms book I lent him? I’m at the end of the car.”
“I’m not an owl.”
Her eyes flashed. “Fine,” she snapped. “I’ll just come back later.”
“You do that,” Scorpius said, matching her tone.
She crossed her arms, and he tried to ignore what part of her body that emphasized. “You know, Malfoy, you’re a real git.”
“I’m a git?” he asked incredulously. “You’re the one that goes around jinxing people just because you can, and I’m the git?”
“Yes,” she said. “You can’t even give him a simple message.”
“You know—” Scorpius started, but a voice at the door cut him off.
“I’ll tell him,” Noah said from behind her. “What’s the message?”
Rose stared at him for a moment, and then smiled. “Just that I need my book back. Thank you.”
“No problem.” She left, and Noah sat down across from Scorpius. “What was that about?”
His growing attraction to her was definitely making him feel more hostile. He just couldn't seem to get away from here. He'd evem had more than one dream about her that he'd found deeply disturbing.
He had no idea why he found Rose Weasley attractive. She was a pain. But at this point, he had to admit that it wasn’t even just her appearance making him react like this, for reasons he was having a very hard time understanding.
He resolved to get better at denial once they got to Hogwarts, because the very last thing he wanted was to give her more ammunition against him.
A/N: The Hunger Games is a(n amazing) book by Suzanne Collins.
'Curiosity Is Not a Sin' starts a few weeks after this chapter, if you decide to check it out. :)
Thanks for reading, and as always, I would love to hear your thoughts!
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