I had the distinct impression that what happened in the dungeons would be something that would be hard to live down for a while.
I mean, it wasn’t as though anything had seen in class yesterday was all that unusual. The week before Pippa’s gum had exploded all over my hair, but for some reason it was infinitely more funny to be caught sprawled out on the floor near Julian Murdock’s seat.
I had gotten the list back, though – Scorpius had decided he’d be a decent human being and distracted Julian until I’d scrunched it up in my palm, out of sight – so I still say score one for Rose Weasley.
The sense that people were still talking about my less-than-graceful moment, however, was confirmed when I walked into the common room a whole day later and people’s heads still swiveled in my direction. Quite a few of them were laughing rudely, too, which I didn’t appreciate. It wasn’t like any of them hadn’t ever made a fool of themselves in class. I knew for a fact that Albus’s brother James had once lit his hair on fire trying to impress a girl.
I just happened to embarrass myself more frequently.
My otherwise-sunny disposition did not improve when I saw that at the cluster of this rude group was none other than Albus. Pippa was, for the first time in recent history, not attached to his side with a Permanent Sticking Charm. This opportunity was absolutely too good to pass up; ignoring the snickers running rampant on either side (and really, as I’ve said, they have more flaws than Pippa has spare packs of Drooble’s), I marched up to him and placed my hands on my hips in my very best imitation of Nana Weasley.
“Albus Severus Potter, you are a prat.” He looked up at me and tossed his hair arrogantly, and it was all I could do not to hex the smirk off his stupid face. Last I checked, being a Quidditch captain did not make you a god, and it was high time someone took a pin to that fat head of his.
“Am I?” he said, sounding like he didn’t care much.
“You are,” I confirmed. “And you could either stop regaling this bunch of dunderheads with your falsified and blatantly exaggerated story –“
“We aren’t dunderheads!” piped up a small third-year girl – with a rather impressive spattering of freckles, I might add. They would give Dad’s a run for their money. I was still proud enough of having used two large words in one sentence to only give her the smallest of scoffs. Children are our future, and all that.
“Your bow’s upside down,” I said, pointing to the offending ribbon. She scowled and righted it.
“If you say one more word I will tell everyone what Roxanne and Louis did to you last Christmas,” I said, turning back to my cousin now and raising one eyebrow in a rather menacing way. I’d spent all summer practicing it to use on Scorpius, figuring he could use a lot of these sorts of withering glares, but it was too perfect to not use on Albus now. And, to my satisfaction, the combination of threat and eyebrow seemed to work.
“Hey, all right, knock it off,” he said, standing up abruptly and shoving his hands into his pockets.
“Thank you,” I said. “Now, kindly go do something else with your sorry life.”
“Have you seen Pippa?”
“Do anything but her.”
“Rose!” I had never seen his cheeks turn such a lovely shade of pink; I would have to remember that particular witticism for later.
“To answer your question, no,” I said pleasantly. “I’ve got to meet Scorpius down at the Quidditch Pitch in half an hour anyway –“ I was again interrupted – the prospect of finishing one bloody sentence today was rather dim – as Albus let out a groan that the situation did not call for as he smacked his forehead with his palm.
“You’re not still trying to make that fiasco work, are you?”
“Yes, I am still trying to make that fiasco work.” I paused, considering how that had sounded, and then shrugged it off. Whatever. “The thing is, he’s got to help me or I’ll start telling people about his lack of hygiene –“
“What lack of hygiene?”
“Oh, like it has to exist,” I snapped. “Keep up, please. If I insult him left, right, and center when those stupid scouts are here next week, he’ll look bad.” I frowned suddenly. “I have explained this all to you before. And you are wasting my breath.”
He shook his head mournfully. “Rose, you are wasting your own breath.”
I turned to the common room at large and spread my arms wide, just so everyone could see me well. “Roxanne and Louis Weasley convinced Albus that a diaper was his Christmas cracker hat and he wore it for eight straight hours,” I said loudly. “Pictures available upon request.”
Albus very well might kill me.
Scorpius was waiting at the bottom of the staircase when I descended forty-five minutes later. And yes, I was late, but hair this lovely does not happen by itself, and I like to look presentable at all times. Never know when a wild Julian Murdock might appear and profess his love.
Although he’d sort of not answered my question yesterday about the exams, and that had dampened the tone of friendly bonding I’d hoped to put in place. But you know, having a girl appear mere inches from your foot without your knowing about it had to shock the nerves somewhat. He’d come around, and in the meantime, I had another lesson from Snake Boy to iron out the kinks.
Well, that sounded a bit dirty.
His smile looked a bit less like a smirk today, and I was hoping he might be taking pity on me for how well his last plan had worked out. Because really, when I thought about it, wasn’t his fault? He was the one who had told me to strike up a conversation, after all. Yes. He was decidedly to blame.
So why couldn’t I seem to tell him that?
I probably had the flu. It’s what comes from crawling about on dungeon floors. I read that somewhere, I think.
“And good afternoon to you, Kneesley,” he said with a melodramatic sort of bow as I came alongside him. “How is my favorite ginger?”
“I am not defined by my hair color,” I responded, with as much pomp and arrogance as I could muster, giving said hair a little toss. Not for the first time that year, I wished that ‘Malfoy’ was a name that was easier to rhyme with. He started walking in the direction of the doors leading outside, and I followed him.
“Where are we going? And what are you teaching me?” I asked. Scorpius gave me a sideways smirk and shoved his hands into his pockets, whistling a bit.
“We are going to teach you how to flirt.”
I scoffed so loud that Scorpius stopped, as though checking to see if a bug had flown in my mouth. “Been there, done that, bought that set of dress robes,” I said, trying to scrape back the remaining shreds of my dignity. “You don’t need to teach me how to flirt!”
Scorpius stopped again – at the rate we were moving, we’d be lucky to get anywhere by February – and began ticking points off on his obnoxiously perfect fingers. “One – I have had dates before, Rose. You have not.”
“I’ve had –“ I began, a small fiery sort of indignation beginning to burn in my stomach.
And I don’t think it was heartburn.
“Two,” he continued, as though I hadn’t spoken at all, “the last lesson you took from me ended up with you sprawled on a dungeon floor full of hundreds of years of potentially toxic potion spills. I would rather a repeat of that incident not happen.”
I beamed at him a bit too widely. “Scorpius, you do care!” But his words had put me in mind of stupid Albus, tossing the story out to the other Gryffindors like it was candy, and the smile disappeared just as quickly.
He rolled his eyes. “And third, I have to at least make attempts to do this until after the match this weekend. So that actually requires teaching you stuff.”
“Fair point.” I suddenly realized that we had walked quite a ways from the castle. “Where are we going, anyway?” He gestured ahead of us, and I realized we were coming up to the Quidditch Pitch. I frowned. “There’s no one out here, Scorp. I cannot practice flirting with an old broom.”
I looked over in time to see faint pink patches bloom on his cheeks. It actually looked sort of adorable – maybe I could coerce him into wearing blush now and again. I pondered if he might be up for that, and suddenly realized that the problem at hand was as-yet unsolved.
“Well,” Scorpius said finally, and gave the sort of polite cough that Mum always had when she was about to tell me something I wouldn’t like to hear. “I mean… you’re going to have to practice on me.”
I sincerely hoped the sudden squirm in my stomach was nausea. “Oh.” I suddenly became extremely interested in my right thumbnail. “Yes. I knew that.”
But a rather awkward silence pervaded the rest of the walk down to the pitch, made all the more uncomfortable because I had to admit to myself that I preferred even arrogant, snobbish Scorpius Malfoy to a run-down old Cleansweep 11.
I always thought the Quidditch pitch looked weird during practices, when there wasn't anyone there besides the team and Madam Hooch and me. But it looked even weirder now that it was just Snake Boy and me. I felt very, very small.
"Ladies and gentlemen," I broke out suddenly in a fit of irrational nerves, "welcome to the Nine Hundred and Ninety-Ninth Quidditch World Cup!" Scorpius was watching me with his eyebrow raised.
"Not bad," he said, pretending to applaud. I bowed grandly, grinning at him.
"I try." I closed my eyes now, almost able to hear the crowds screaming my name (because, of course, I would be much more entertaining than the game). When I opened them again, Scorpius was still studying me. "Stare too long and I'll start charging," I informed him.
He blinked. "Yeah, no." He cleared his throat, and the way he did it made my own close up just a little. It was the sort of noise that came before a question I might not want to answer. "Why do you want to be a commentator, Rose?"
I couldn't think of a single thing to say. My throat still felt like someone was stomping on it with giant-sized feet. "I don't know," I finally managed. "Fame and fortune, probably."
Damn him. He was making me uncomfortable with all this talk about feelings.
Scorpius rolled his eyes now. "Come on. I'm asking you a serious question." I flopped down on the turf and propped myself up on my elbows, thinking about it intently for perhaps the first time in my life.
It was true that it was the only thing I could see myself doing after Hogwarts. And it was also true that it was the only thing no one else in my family had done yet, so no one could do it better than me. I would be the first - nothing to compare it to.
Well, brain, you hid that revelation rather well.
I expressed this to Scorp, who had by now sat down across from me and was engaged in picking out bits of grass and flicking them away. He nodded though he understood. Which was weird, him understanding.
Time to dispel awkwardness.
"Okay, your turn," I said, sitting up and brushing off the grass I hadn't realized he'd been sprinkling on my legs, desperately feeling the need to bring this conversation back around to terms I could live with. The same fiery sort of burning feeling crept up to join the giants still squeezing my throat. “And you’ve got to be honest, now.”
I felt a bit triumphant at the momentarily fearful look that passed through Scorpius’s eyes (blue eyes!), but it disappeared pretty quickly. He folded his arms over his chest. “Shoot.”
“Why’d you cheat on Pippa?” The words sort of tumbled over me like a man falling headlong down a staircase, and I popped my lips closed as soon as the last word had passed them.
“What?” he sputtered. His mouth had gone so slack, doxies could have comfortably built a nest in the newfound space.
“What?” I tried playing dumb. Which was harder to do, really, when you’d initiated this vein of conversation.
“I – you think – what?” He stood up and linked his hands behind his head, pacing in short, tight circles over the turf in front of me.
“You snogged another girl that summer,” I said staunchly, although one might have thought he’d remember the finer details. “That’s why Pippa sent you that breakup letter, you know.”
“But I didn’t!” he cried out, now thoroughly distracted from his own question. “I wrote her dozens of letters, asking her what I’d done – didn’t she get any of them?”
I had vague visions of Pippa’s desk in her bedroom, piled up with unopened letters. And then of us making a celebratory evening of it and taking all those letters and chucking them in the fireplace while we drank iced tea and toasted our single status.
“Nope. Don’t think so."
Scorpius had his eyes narrowed at me, as though trying to see into these memories as well. I gulped. “So – so you never…?” My voice trailed off, searching for a proper way to end that sentence. He shook his head once.
“Well… she’s with Albus now,” I said feebly, suddenly feeling the need again to become vastly intrigued in my thumb.
“I don’t want to get back with her,” he said bluntly. And then, finally, he just blew a lot of air through his lips and sat down next to me again. I glanced up through my fringe, trying to gauge what he was feeling – if he was about to explode or burst into tears, he’d be on his own – but he just looked sort of… relieved.
Relief was unexpected.
“Well, anyway,” he said after a long and tense stretch of silence. “Let’s just… put that behind us and get back to the lesson for the day. Agreed?” He turned to me and, for the stupidest moment, I was struck by how well that jumper fit him. All sinew and muscle outlined by itchy gray wool.
I reached up and put my hand in his, and if he was surprised, he covered it well. “Already forgotten, Snake Boy.”
A/N: And so now Rose has made a royal tangle of things, as usual. (Because we expected differently? Never.) But hark, what is this? Scorpius is over Pippa? Rose might have been wrong about something? Shock and scandal, where is this story going to end up?!
I think I'd be a good stay-tuned-until-next-time television voiceover.
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