Oh, Godric Gryffindor and his awkward belt loops this was not what I signed up for.
It happened again, the thunder moving across the mountains. The sky wasn’t too dark yet, but I could see between the breaks in the trees lining the creek that it wasn’t far off.
“Can I ask you something?” Scorpius said, his eyes still cast upward.
“Sure.” I could feel my heart start to race. It was getting breezy.
“I know I called you out for storms being your biggest fear, but they’re still one of the big ones, right?”
I paused and then realized I had been holding my breath, searching the sky for something. A tornado? Could they have tornadoes in the mountains? I didn’t even know what a real tornado looked liked. I’d spent far too much time hearing my cousins talk about the Tutshill variety.
“I’m going to take that as a yes.”
Thunder cracked, closer now, and I jumped. I thought I saw something in the sky flash.
“Let’s go.” Scorpius grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the shore, abandoning everything we’d left back at the meeting site. “We can’t be out here much longer. Not with all the water and tall trees.”
I let him tug me between the tree trunks even though I flinched several times. Walking in the water with no shoes was nothing, but on land with the twigs and rocks and bugs wasn’t the best experience. But my heart was hammering and everything was becoming a blur as the wind picked up.
The sky kept darkening.
“Scorpius, where are we going?” I called. Everything was getting louder. The birds, the wind whipping through the trees. The thunder. I jumped again. I tried to keep my voice even, but failed. “Is it far?”
He had to have noticed, because he instantly picked up his pace. “We’re close,” he said, grip tightening on my hand.
I felt strangely comforted, even with the stray hairs slicing at my face. I ducked under a branch and kept following. He didn’t let go, and I appreciated him for that.
My fear of storms went back years. I could pinpoint it to visiting the Burrow one summer weekend and being out in the thicket with my cousins. The adults were inside. When the sky started to darken, most of my cousins retreated, but Al and I wanted to finish our hide and seek game. When I found him, it had just started to rain.
That was when we realized we weren’t sure where we were. Or how to get back.
Al and I took shelter under a large tree, waiting at the base as a severe storm ripped through the area. I’d never heard anything so loud. So terrifying. I remember holding each other, scared one of us was going to blow away. Afterward, we found our parents, who had been out searching for us in the storm. Dad was soaked, all of his clothes clinging to his body, and he scooped me up and told me he was never letting me go.
Albus didn’t fear storms like I did. Over the rest of the summer, James forced him out into more storms and he became numb to them and even started to like them.
Hugo didn’t force me out into storms and Dad always came in to check on me. I curled up under the blankets and hid.
I didn’t have blankets to hide under this time. I had Scorpius, who was tearing through the trees. Over the wind, I could barely hear his hard breathing. He swore loudly once it started to rain, pinpricks showing up on my shirt at once.
Thunder cracked overhead and everything lit up like a nearby firework had exploded.
“Scorpius!” I cried before I could stop myself. “Hurry!”
I saw him nod. I could barely breathe and we were full-out running now. My feet ached with each step and I knew they were cut. I knew my legs were cut from stray branches. It began to rain harder, blurring my vision. Great.
Suddenly we were in a clearing and I moved my hand over my brows to shield the downpour.
Then I realized where we were. To my right was a shed, the same one we’d pulled the bikes from. The doors were ajar. To the left of it were tall bushes blocking it from Scorpius’ rental house. He pulled me toward it, pushed the doors open the rest of the way, and led us inside.
The rain on the roof was loud, but at least it wasn’t attacking my skin anymore.
The shed was dark. I noticed a line of tools on the far wall, a few pool supplies (there wasn’t a pool), and a trunk in the corner. More thunder cracked overheard and the downpour was so strong I couldn’t see more than a meter or two out the doors.
Scorpius left one cracked for light and patted his pocket. He groaned.
“What?” I said nervously, chewing on my bottom lip. Why was the storm getting worse? Why was it raining so hard?
“I left my wand at home today,” he explained, jerking his head toward where the rental was. “I figured I wouldn’t need it.”
“That’s fine.” I reached into my back pocket, only to come up empty.
My wand was back with my shoes.
Instantly, my face fell.
“Bugger.” Scorpius groaned and began looking around the shed. He pulled the trunk open and smiled a little. “This should hold us until it lets up.” From it, be pulled a few old blankets. He spread them out on the floor after shaking out any dust. “Are you cold?”
I nodded. My entire body was soaked. It didn’t matter I wasn’t wearing a light color, my clothes were sticking firmly to my skin and there weren’t any secrets. I didn’t care. I just wanted to be warm.
He frowned, eyes on mine. “C’mon. Let’s wait it out then, okay?” Scorpius looked around and then back at me. “Well, I don’t know that we have many choices.” He jumped when the thunder crashed again. I shrieked. Then he pulled off his shirt and I stopped shrieking.
“What’re you doing?” I said suddenly.
“My shirt is wet and I’m freezing.” Scorpius arched a brow. “So I’m going to remove it and get under one of these blankets.” He motioned to two extras he had placed on top of the trunk. “I suggest you do the same or I’ll be losing my company for the rest of the vacation, as you’ll be sick and in bed.”
My eyes narrowed. How could he be logical at a time like this?
“Fine. But turn around.”
Scorpius cracked a smile and did as he was told. I took the opportunity to stare at his back muscles, still dripping wet. Once he started to undo his pants I turned as well, face on fire.
Okay. I could do this. I was freezing and my teeth were starting to chatter. Besides, I needed a distraction from the storm outside. It was worsening, the thunder and lightning getting closer together. Close enough to shake the hills.
I checked to make sure he was still turned around before pulling off my own shirt. I draped it over the handle of a mower and followed with my shorts. I could do this. Nevermind I had never been this naked in front of a boy before this vacation. Also nevermind that I had not anticipated this and therefore was not wearing anything remotely decent to be looked at.
“Stay turned!” I said and heard him laugh. “And toss me one of the blankets.”
He chuckled again and a blanket fell over my eyes. I grabbed it and pulled it around my shoulders and body. There. Now it was like I was wearing a gown or something. Not undergarments. Well, only undergarments.
“Okay.” I swallowed hard as the rain beat down on the roof and turned. Scorpius had just finished pulling the other blanket around him and looked at me.
“Ravishing,” he teased with a smile.
“I am freaking out and you’re being a jackass,” I said, plopping down on the blankets. They were too old to be soft, so I tried to get comfortable. My bum was already hurting, but that was driven from my mind when I squeaked at more thunder. It shook the shed.
“I’m not trying to. I just want to make you laugh.” Scorpius moved to sit beside me, rewrapping the blanket around his knees. “I find I’m less scared when someone makes me laugh.”
“Oh, what are you scared of then?” I said, rolling my eyes. “Not being happy?”
I did laugh at that, nudging him with my elbow. “I’m serious.”
“I wish I was kidding.” His cheeks were pink. “Just don’t tell anyone. I have a feeling my roommates might find some interesting ways of torturing me.”
“Squid on your pillow?” I offered.
“You’re ruthless.” Scorpius looked at me for a moment as if he was trying to read me. I didn’t understand why, considering he was the one who was difficult to read. “You still cold?”
“Hair’s wet,” I explained. “I wish I had my wand. I cannot believe I left it for berries. I feel like Mum will scold me if she finds out.”
He was strangely quiet for a little while, before shaking his head as if to snap out of it. “Here. I mean, if you want.” He nodded to himself.
Scorpius’ face was getting redder. “We can like … keep each other warm or something.”
Bugger. Bugger. Bugger.
This was a lot different than him falling asleep next to me on a roof. And then snuggling my leg. This was both of us awake. In a shed. Almost naked under blankets. Keeping each other warm.
What did that even mean?
“You don’t have to!” Scorpius blurted. “It was just a suggestion.”
“Right – no.” I paused, blushing furiously. “No, it’s fine. I’m just –” Another pause. I cleared my throat. Everything was on fire. Well, that was one way to get warm. “How … do we do that?”
Could I get any more awkward? I blamed my father for this.
Scorpius glanced around him for a moment. “I’m going to, erm, lay down. And you can … you can just lay down.” He did so, moving onto his back, but his stiff posture suggested he was feeling the same weird tension I was. This was all too strange.
I wanted to run back out into the rain, but nearby thunder suggested otherwise.
“Yeah. That sounds brilliant.” Brilliant, Rose? Really? That’s what it sounded? Eugh.
“Brilliant,” Scorpius echoed. The blanket was falling off his shoulders and onto his chest. Godric.
I moved next to him, back flat on the hard floor. Okay. Step one. That was fine. I jumped at another rumble of thunder. Still freezing. Now my hair was trapped against my shoulder blades and the blanket under me.
“Erm, here.” Scorpius wiggled a little and grabbed me, putting an arm under my neck and pulling me onto his chest so that I was on my side. His arm stayed around my shoulders, fingers splayed against my own arm. I didn’t understand how he could be so warm. My hand moved to his stomach.
My heart was hammering again and for once, it had nothing to do with the weather activities outside.
I blinked. Wait.
“Was this really to get warm?” I asked, looking up at him.
“Of course. You’re cold.” Scorpius met my eyes with his grey ones, but there was a teasing hint in his voice I didn’t approve of. Once I shot him a glare, he added, “And maybe to distract you a bit from the storm.”
I shoved him, hoisting myself away from his body, but he pulled me back, holding me against him tight. “Let go! You’re a jerk.”
“I thought you’d be more scared,” Scorpius said, smirking. “Since it’s your biggest fear and all.” He chuckled and squeezed my arm.
“I am scared,” I muttered bitterly.
“Sure you are.” His lofty tone suggested otherwise.
I slapped his stomach. Then I wished I hadn’t because it was hard and forced the blush to return to my cheeks almost instantly.
“I’ll let you up if you don’t want to lay with me,” Scorpius said. “But I’m still cold.”
I hated that he was right. I was still freezing. And my hair was on his arm, so he must have been too. So I stayed, cheek resting against his bare chest. I could hear the steady beat of his heart. How could he be so calm? Maybe being this close to someone else wasn’t new for him. Or awkward.
We were quiet for a while as the storm raged outside. I closed my eyes, trying to drown it out. Scorpius was a good distraction. I almost wished he wasn’t, just so I could prove him wrong, but I had to admit I was much calmer there than I would have been back with my family. Hiding under the blankets. Well, at least there was something in common between the two situations.
My body warmed quickly beside his. Dom used to always talk about boys and how they were portable heaters. I knew that from the limited boyfriends I’d had, but Scorpius took it to an entirely different level. His body radiated heat. I didn’t move.
After a while, he said, “Tell me something about you I don’t know.”
I opened my eyes, focusing them on the side of the trunk beside us. “I’m really comfortable right now.”
“Physically or mentally?” he asked.
Scorpius’ fingers trailed up my arm absently. “So am I.”
When I woke, the rain had stopped. We must have fallen asleep at some point after talking about whether we liked cats or dogs better (I liked dogs, he liked cats). All I could smell was his cologne, which was somehow still there after the rain and the stripping and the old musty blankets. It smelled better than I cared to admit.
I sat up, letting his arm fall back behind me, and he stirred. One glance told me he was unsure of the situation, considering his cheeks were flushed with color.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” I asked, looking for an excuse to break the silence between us. I was feeling groggy.
He shrugged. “It’s still sunny. Late afternoon?”
I groaned. One of these days my parents were going to start getting suspicious of my long walks in the woods. Or Hugo would out me.
“I should go.” I smiled a little, weakly.
“Let me walk you back,” he offered.
“It’s fine. I have to go get my wand.” I shrugged, trying to fight the blush that was forming and the unsureness of everything. I stood, keeping the blanket close to me. “Um...”
“Yeah. Sorry.” Scorpius rolled onto his side. He was tracing lines in the floorboards with his finger.
I dressed swiftly. My clothes were still damp, but they weren’t soaked anymore.
“I’ll see you around.” The most awkward thing uttered since ‘I carried a watermelon.’ Before letting him respond, I dropped the blanket and left, careful to make sure Mr. Malfoy wasn’t out and about the side of the house gardening. Luckily, no one spotted me as I headed back into the woods.
What had I gotten myself into?
Scorpius Malfoy. Charismatic, likeable, and genuinely nice to people. He had plenty of friends in school, got good marks, and when Talbot Winters was ill, had been known to commentate a few Quidditch matches. There weren’t many people who disliked him.
But he was nice to everyone. If Dom was scared of storms and standing in a creek picking berries, he would have hauled her back to the shed too. He would have stripped as a distraction and fell asleep beside her.
I wondered about his history with girls. He’d never been one to flaunt it, which was probably why I knew little to nothing. Not that I needed to know. We went fishing and eating in diners. We didn’t have to complicate matters with feelings.
I didn’t have to complicate matters with feelings.
Not that I felt anything. I was just thinking about it.
Why was this walk so long?
This would be so much less complicated if I just had a boyfriend to go back to. Or a boy I was seeing. Or anything. It was just distracting watching Scorpius Malfoy take off his shirt.
And not be able to know what he was thinking.
My wand was beside my shoes, half-stuck in the mud.
It would be less complicated if he wasn’t so damn easy on the eyes.
But for some reason, I felt a little foolish. Like I was just in this position because I happened to be here, I happened to be his age, and happened to blush at the appropriate times.
Eugh. I needed to stay away from him.
My bobber was still stuck in the tree when I arrived beside the lake late the following morning. I didn’t make an attempt to free it, just sat on the beach and stared out at the water. Hugo had been impossible that morning, walking around the kitchen table chanting about his obstacle course victory. What a git. Mum and Dad even suggested I go pick some berries just to get away from him.
Instead, I came to the lake.
I needed somewhere to just get away. In the mountains, everywhere was an escape. But just from my family. Not from Scorpius.
I didn’t like feeling this strange about someone. I was certain I didn’t have a crush on him, especially since I didn’t have those same heart flutters that I did when crushing on Dom’s ex, Henry, but I hated that I didn’t know what was happening.
In that sense, I was my mother’s daughter.
I just needed to get away for a bit. I just needed to be by myself and enjoy this vacation.
“I’ve been looking for you for ages.”
Well, nevermind about that.
“I’ve been here,” I replied.
Scorpius moved into view. He was standing, hands in the pockets of his khaki pants even though it was hot and muggy. “I checked here first.”
“I was at home.”
“I had something planned for today,” he said shortly.
I looked over. “That would have been nice to know.”
“Excuse me for not having time to explain that between you getting dressed and hauling your ass out of the shed yesterday,” Scorpius replied. His tone was dry. Irritated.
Like he had a right to be mad. “You’re excused,” I quipped, getting to my feet. “I told my parents I’d be back for lunch.”
“Fine.” Scorpius shrugged. “It’s too late to go into town anyway.”
I didn’t meet his eyes. “Is that what you had planned?”
“Part of it.”
I rubbed the back of my neck, frustrated. “You pretty much plan everything, don’t you?”
He looked over. I was surprised to see his eyes flash. “Oh, because you didn’t come over the other day with a bloody atlas ready for an adventure.”
“Well, I have plans today,” I snapped.
“Good. Go have your plans.”
“Okay!” I groaned and marched into the treeline.
“I’m going anyway!” he called angrily.
“Everything okay, Popsicle?” Dad asked, peeking his head into my room. He had two steaming glasses, which I was certain were full of hot chocolate.
“It’s okay.” I shrugged, fighting for a smile. I was sprawled out on the bed, several discarded books on the bed beside me. I was too irritated to read.
“What’s wrong? Did you stub your toe or something? You’ve been in a mood ever since yesterday.” He sat down beside me, placing one of the mugs on my bedside table.
“I’m fine.” I shrugged.
Dad nudged my leg. “How are your friends doing?” he asked with a smile.
“I haven’t heard from them since we left,” I replied. None of them had written me, but then again, they were all distracted with beach vacations and boyfriends. I couldn’t blame them.
“Ah.” Dad cleared his throat, thinking. “The paper was interesting this morning. Did you want to read?”
I shook my head. “I’m not really interested. Were there any good headlines?” I paused. “Not related to Quidditch.”
Dad leaned back against the bed, shifting his hands under his head. “Not much. Ministry promoted someone I used to go to school with. Diagon Alley opened a new chowder restaurant. Some concerts in London this weekend.” He stretched his back. “Oh, apparently Malfoy’s wife is on the mend according to the entertainment section.” He shrugged and stared at the ceiling.
I shot up in bed. “What? On the mend from what?”
He arched a brow. “She was in St. Mungos for a while,” he explained. “They didn’t know what it was.”
“How did I not hear about this?” I asked, heart beating quickly.
“I don’t know. It wasn’t exactly largely publicized.” Dad shrugged, sitting up and still looking puzzled. “I just knew because Malfoy mentioned it to your Uncle Harry at that wonky fundraiser for St. Mungos. Said she was in there for a few more months and then had to do some sort of rehabilitation.”
“So it was a disease?” I asked quickly.
“No idea, potato pie,” he replied. “The article today just said she was on the mend and would be back to work in no time after rehab.”
“She’s a publicist, isn’t she?” I asked. “For some music star?”
Dad nodded. “You okay?”
I didn’t know what to think. Scorpius’ mum had been in the hospital for months. Perhaps that was the reason they were out here. Her rehabilitation in the mountains, not a family vacation.
Suddenly I felt like the biggest jerk on the planet.
While I was whining about Hugo and Dad’s dry pancakes, Scorpius’ mum was trying to get better and recover from a disease. Or something.
Maybe that was why he wanted to keep it a secret.
I swallowed hard. “I should take a walk,” I said.
“It’s almost eight,” Dad replied. “It’s getting a little late for a walk, don’t you think?”
“I just need to go.” I threw the books off my bed, grabbing my shoes, and left (through the door this time).
I tore through the woods toward his house. It wasn’t easy, but the sun was only just beginning to fade, so I had plenty of light to go by. I felt horrible. He was dealing with something that was probably tearing him up inside, and I was getting awkward about falling asleep beside him!
Scorpius probably just wanted someone else to be around. In the same way he wanted to distract me, he was using me as his own distraction.
And I was being a jerk.
It took me close to a half hour to reach his rental. I didn’t have a game plan, so I snuck around the side of the house again, careful to step lightly, but I encountered no one.
It was getting darker by the minute and the light I had used to get there was gone. Luckily, the kitchen windows led to the deck and were casting plenty of light outside for me to see. His deck was just as large as ours, sprinkled with chairs and a table with an umbrella. I crouched low, keeping off to the side, and adjusted my eyes to look inside.
Scorpius was there, sitting at the table. He was laughing, lines appearing on the sides of his eyes. His blond hair looked damp and he was in his signature polo and khaki pants. I wondered if he owned jeans and t-shirts.
Beside him was Mr. Malfoy. His hair was thinning at the sides, though he didn’t seem to care all that much. It was just as blond as Scorpius’. I could see where the fashion taste came from, as Mr. Malfoy was sporting a shirt and tie.
I didn’t see Mrs. Malfoy anywhere, but I did spot a third person.
A pretty, raven-haired girl. She was between the two of them at the end of the table, hair scattered around her shoulders, and was in a casual green dress. She was laughing too.
She put her hand on Scorpius’ arm, squeezing it.
I stepped back, suddenly confused. I knew Scorpius had no siblings. And he didn’t mention coming with anyone on vacation. Who was this girl?
Had he really gone to town? Did he meet her there?
But then why would he keep us spending time together a secret and have her over for dinner?
I watched them for a while. She went back for seconds on some kind of chicken. Scorpius laughed. A lot. He exchanged glances with her.
Okay gang. I hope you enjoyed the chapter. I'm going to move across the country to Colorado and then I'll be back updating on the reg.
NEXT UP: Town, Rose is a terrible liar, and Scorpius sneaks in.