I was in an inexplicably good mood upon arriving back in the entrance hall, sans Scorpius, who had decided to take a little jaunt down to his common room. I might even have been whistling, I was in such a good mood. Which was really embarrassing, because my whistling just sounded like a lot of creepy breathing, but you just can’t control happiness.
I intercepted Albus coming down out of the Great Hall, clutching a book under his arm. He stopped dead on the landing when he saw me, and I hurried trotted up the stairs to join him on the first landing of the grand staircase.
“What do you want?” he asked warily, flicking his fringe out of his eyes in that annoying way of his. He had perfected a way of doing it so that he didn't even have to touch his face anymore - he just gave his head a sort of flick and his hair shifted back into place.
I beamed so hard I could feel the dimples on my cheeks. “Nothing at all, my favorite cousin,” I said, patting his head for good measure. Which was a bit awkward, since he was quite a bit taller than I was, and I think that threw him off even worse. “Isn’t it a lovely day?”
He flicked his eyes toward the window. “Are you ill?” He narrowed his eyes. “And weren’t you supposed to be coming back from one of those freaky meetings you’ve got with Malfoy? What, did it get canceled?”
I pouted. “I’m surprised at you,” I said, although it was really just like him to get his knickers in such a twist, and therefore not surprising at all. And then, while thinking about Albus’s knickers – not in that way, of course – it suddenly came to my mind why he was being so sore. “Are you still upset about earlier?”
The line between his eyebrows deepened. “You told everybody I wore a diaper,” he growled, and I patted him on the head again. He swatted away my hand irritably.
“On your head, Al. It’s not so bad,” I said consolingly. “I was kidding, too, they could all see that.” But it’s true, you know. He really did wear a diaper on his head. Roxanne had nearly wet her pants, she was laughing so hard.
He made a growling sort of noise, and I stepped back, highly affronted that he had the audacity to ruin my good mood. “You’re being rude,” I informed him helpfully. “I would like you to move on, please, if it’s all the same to you.”
Albus stalked off huffily, heading back in the general direction of Gryffindor Tower and the common room. There went a boy who needed a Calming Draught if anyone ever did. I wonder if I could get Scorpius to make him one.
Not that I’d ever ask that boy for favors. We were on even standings right now, with the whole Rose-says-nice-things-slash-Scorpius-plays-matchmaker thing, and bad things would happen if the scales tipped.
Unfortunately, it was just as I saw Albus disappearing around the corner, all tightly wound, that I remembered that I’d been intending to go back to the common room, too. I’d been stupid enough to promise Pippa a game of Gobstones later – really, that is the stupidest game ever invented, not to mention her set was all sticky from Drooble’s bubbles that had been popped on it over the years – and she was heartless enough to force me to make good on my promise. I decided I’d take one short loop around the first floor, where I’d ended up, to give Al time to cool down before going back there.
It really was a nice day, though, and as I caught a glimpse of the Quidditch Pitch through the sunny windows, I turned my mind back to what Scorpius had said out there. If it was true, and he really hadn’t cheated on Pippa, then that meant I hated him for no reason. And there’s nothing worse than finding out you’re in the wrong about those sorts of things.
But he still was a git, wasn’t he? I mean, he never –
Oh. Well, he had sent Pippa all those letters, hadn’t he? We just sort of, you know, burned them.
Namely, I put the idea in Pippa’s head to burn them.
This was not my fault. And I refused to be guilty about it. I turned about mid-stride, deciding to hell with walking around the castle, I was going back to the common room to drown my sorrows in a hideously boring Gobstones game to make my conscience shut up.
And there, at the other end of the corridor, was Julian Murdock in the living, breathing, eternally gorgeous flesh, hair falling just so over his eyes, walking in a shuffling sort of way that was to die for. I immediately perked up, patting my hair and praying to whomever was listening that it didn’t look too windblown from being out on the Quidditch Pitch.
Sod it all, what had Scorpius said earlier this afternoon about flirting? But all that popped into my head was me practicing my commentating skills – stupid – and me asking him about Pippa – stupid – and me calling him Snake Boy. Stupid.
He raised his eyes at the exact moment I was twirling a bit of my fringe around my index finger, trying to make it curly, and I froze with my hand still raised awkwardly by my face. And at first I'd thought he do what he normally did - sort of pretend he didn't notice and walk away - but then he started walking toward me.
Oh, dear Merlin, he was walking toward me. I tried to remember something desperately witty to say. But the only conscious thing I could do was take my hand down from my face and pretend to be digging in my bag for something so I could at least pretend like I wasn't staring him full in the face.
"Hi, Rose." My head jerked up at the sound of my name, and I'm really not sure how I didn't just turn into a melted puddle right there on the carpet runner. He had an absolutely adorable little half-smile on his face, and I think my lungs might have seized up at the sight of it.
"Hey, Julian," I squeaked, sort of forgetting that my hands were attached to my body. They just dangled by my sides like limp fish. "How's it hanging?"
How's it hanging?
"Good, good." He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his robes and crossed his left leg over his right, and then switched. I was slowly regaining control of my body. "Hey, haven't really heard anything on the announcements this week. You know." Julian jerked his head up, as though gesturing towards my words floating around on the PA system. "About Scorpius?"
"Oh. Right." I gave him a floaty sort of laugh that sounded nothing like my normal one. "Well... you know, I think I might be a bit more mature now. Childish, wasn't it?" I tried giving my hair a sophisticated hair toss and nearly whacked him in the face with it."
"Right." He cleared his throat a bit and re-crossed his legs the other way around. "So, listen, I need to talk to you."
Could it be that Scorpius Malfoy's matchmaking lessons had actually worked? That he actually might have known a thing or two about what he was teaching me? This was the moment I would tell my future grandchildren about. All forty-two of them, darn it, because I'd make them listen to me.
"Your grandfather got down on bended knee, right there in the middle of the school corridor, and professed his deep and undying love for me. And then he took me in his arms and whispered in my ear the best three words in all the English language -"
"Are you okay?"
I blinked, and suddenly became aware of the fact that my eyes were fixed on a point somewhere to the left of Julian's head, my hands clasped in front of me. "I... thought I saw a niffler," I invented wildly. "Must have been a trick of the light." And again there went that stupid floaty laugh. "What were you saying?"
"Well, I just... I mean. Erm."
Spit it out, Murdock, happily ever after's ticking away here.
"I... heard you've got a thing for me?"
All the little fairy tale visions that had been playing out so nicely in my head came to a screeching halt, with an explosion or two to accentuate the scene. My mouth plummeted earthward.
"What?" I said dumbly, cutting him off. Julian scratched the back of his neck, looking thoroughly uncomfortable.
"I mean, it's not like you've been subtle about - with the crawling on the floor in the dungeons - that list thing -“
For the love of Merlin’s plaid suspenders. He saw that?! I thought Scorpius had distracted him!
“And I don't want -" He forced rather a lot of air through his lips and tried again. "I just don't... We're not... You can't... Erm."
I squinted at him, trying to see if he'd completed any of the sentences he'd started in there. "Right. Okay," I said slowly. "Well, if you don't mind, I'm going to go now before I pass out in front of you." And, to his credit, that sentence made him look more awkward than he had previously.
I may or may not have run away full-tilt.
My brain was buzzing, and my heart was loud in my ears, rocketing around in there like someone had left one of Dad's old Weird Sisters records on in there full blast. But the emotions weren't coming from embarrassment (although I was sure there would be plenty of that later). All I felt right now was pure, untainted, absolute hatred.
There was only one person in the entire castle who could have told Julian about my crush on him.
And that person was in for a whole world - or, quite possibly, a universe - of pain and suffering.
Not fifteen minutes later, I was pacing in front of the sofa in front of the Gryffindor common room fire - looking, if I did say so myself, a rather impressive spectacle. I couldn't see myself, of course, but I knew that I had to look that I meant business. Because dear Merlin, did I mean business.
"I just can't believe," I said through gritted teeth, clasping my hands behind my back and continuing to march, "that of all the stupid, self-righteous, low-down -"
"Rose." Albus interrupted my tirade with a weary sigh, running his hand over his face. "What am I doing here?"
I blinked at him in surprise. I had called Albus and Pippa to an emergency sort of meeting, ignoring the former's complaints about being late for studying with Evan, and the latter's complaints about not wanting to be there. And, somehow, my Flobberworm of a little brother had snuck into the proceedings and was now firmly wedged between the both of them.
Sometimes, I like to pretend Hugo wasn't born. He's a nice enough kid at times, but for the most part he's rather obnoxious.
"You are here," I said firmly, lifting my chin a bit higher and glaring down at him, "because Scorpius Malfoy is the scum of the earth -"
"I warned you," Pippa cried out in sudden anguish. "Do you remember what I said to you, what, a little less than a week ago? I told you -"
I glared at her. "Yes, I remember," I huffed. "But that is not the point. Who helped you out when Scorpius snogged that other girl? Who suggested burning his letters and dancing on the ashes?" But even as I said this, a sick sort of feeling rose in my throat, and I hastily stuffed it down.
"You," Pippa admitted. "But this is different. Julian -"
I cut her off and began making a variety of hissing and slashing moments, gesturing subtly with flapping hands at Hugo, who was still sitting innocently between Al and Pippa. Pippa rolled her eyes.
"I told you," she repeated emphatically, and couldn't be made to say more on the subject. She chose instead to shift a bit further away from Hugo and cross her arms, gnawing on her lower lip.
"Is this about that Slytherin?" Hugo asked now, speaking into the uncomfortable silence. I resumed my march.
"None of your business."
"Well, I -"
"If you try and tell me one more time," I said through gritted teeth, "how he really should play Quidditch because of his calf muscles, or something equally preposterous, I am convincing Mum to disown you, Hugo. This is not about Quidditch." He glowered, and crossed his arms in a perfect imitation of my best friend.
But actually - maybe it was about Quidditch.
"So here's what I'm going to do," I said, improvising wildly on the spot. Albus, who had been picking threads from the cushions with an interest that did not match the task, glanced up at me warily. The other continued to pout.
"The big Quidditch game's tomorrow, isn't it?" I said eagerly, marching to a quicker beat now. "The one that started this whole deal, that massive one with all the Quidditch scouts and things. And I'll be commentating, won't I?" I thrust a pointer finger into the air at this sudden stroke of brilliance.
"You can't go back on your word," Albus said stoutly. "That's like cheating, and Merlin knows you do enough of that already."
"I don't cheat!" He gave me a very pointed look, and I gulped, feeling only slightly abashed. "If you didn't want your essays copied, then you should put them in a safer place than your school bag. And besides," I continued, "that isn't the point. Scorpius went back on his side of the deal, didn't he? It's only fair that I should get to do the same!"
Albus didn't look convinced. "That's sort of a different level," he said dubiously.
"Why don't we think of something else to do to him?" Pippa asked, speaking for the first time since I'd shut her up for mentioning Julian's name. "We could - I don't know - we could put Sleeping Draught in his tea, or something."
Hugo raised an eyebrow, still staring at the floor, and I felt a sort of appreciation for him. Even if he talked too much about Quidditch, there was enough sense in the boy to know a lame idea when it bopped him in the nose.
"No," I said staunchly. "I'm going to sabotage him like he's sabotaged me, and we'll see who's laughing then. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go and prepare my material."
Albus rolled his eyes as I started to saunter off to my dormitory. "May Merlin help us all."
A/N: So someone blabbed things to Julian! Shock and scandal abound! And now, of course, Rose is in a tizzy, which seems to be her default setting anyway. Any theories for what's going to go down next?
I finished writing this entirely the other day, by the way! So it's all nice and pretty at ten chapters, which means three more for you guys. I'm really excited for you to see them, as well as tell me any loose ends I might have missed (which, I must say, is a distinct possibility). As always, thanks so much for the reads and reviews and favorites! You guys are awesome!
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