Chapter 18 : It's Deniable
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Scorpius and I had arrived at the Merry Dragon about twenty minutes ago, and had walked in to find the place loud and noisy, some of the d inner tables converted into makeshift desks and the fireplace in the corner sealed off with rope.
A handsome woman of about thirty dressed in a poncho and a pencil skirt had approached us, demanded to know our names, and pointed us in the direction of a coffee table piled with paperwork, behind which sat a flustered looking boy who I was assuming was older than fifteen but didn’t look it.
“Finally!” He gasped, when we explained who we were. He looked more nervous than relieved, but I was guessing that could have just been his natural expression, “the ministry has been promising to send you guys for weeks. Do you know what you’re supposed to be doing?”
We had both shook our heads, and his nervous expression became even more nervous.
“Well. As you can see we are a bit all over the place at the moment. The innkeeper has kindly let us use the building until this thing is fixed, but it’s not ideal… Joseph!” He beckoned a passing wizard over, his voice wavering. Joseph sauntered towards us, readjusting his dark green robes as he did so. He had an air of casual confidence that gave him the appearance of being more attractive than he was, and his smile was warm as he shook our hands.
“Come with me,” he said, saluting the quivering man-child and walking over towards the fireplace. He stopped when he reached the rope, and gestured towards the empty hearth.
“This is where it started,” he explained. “In this very fireplace. Everyone is baffled as to how it began, and it has taken us so long to get organized that the investigation only properly began a couple of days ago. We’re glad you’re here to help.”
“No worries,” I answered, smiling. I looked at the fireplace, noting it’s mundane, very non-magical appearance. “Has anyone got any ideas yet?” I was attempting to sound like I knew what the fuck I was talking about, though I really didn’t. I didn’t know anything about this entire thing, really. I had just hopped on that train.
“No,” Joseph sighed, shaking his head, “we’ve got someone interrogating the innkeeper at the moment, we’re hoping he’ll remember someone peculiar coming in a couple of weeks ago who could have cast the spell. It’s a bit of a long-shot, though.”
Scorpius smoothly ducked under the rope and walked up to the fireplace, running his finger over the mantelpiece. He picked up the earthenware jar sitting on top and peered inside.
“Has anyone tested the floopowder yet?” He asked Joseph, looking back up. The man nodded, and pointed towards his left.
“Yep, a couple of guys are looking at it in the kitchen right now. Do you want to see?”
“Sure,” Scorpius answered, ducking under the rope again. “Does everyone from around here get their floopowder from the same place?”
“Yes they do. I can give you the address if you’d like,” Joseph had started to walk off with Scorpius, but turned around again to look at me, “Tracey will be with you in a moment,” he told me, rather unhelpfully, and then went off with Scorp in the direction of the kitchen.
So that was how I found myself standing lost and confused in the middle of this disorganized room. People were walking around me like they had a purpose – like they had too many purposes – but I didn’t have a single one. I didn’t even know what was going on! And now Scorpius, my one anchor in this overwhelming place, had gone to look at floopowder.
This lead me to think about what I actually knew about the reversing of accidental magic. Not much, really, unless you counted that time in seventh year when I managed to free Lucy of a charm that had been making her sing Dancing Queen all day long. Somehow, I felt like that and this weren’t quite the same thing.
Just to appear like I was busy, I ducked under the rope and had a closer look at the fireplace that had gotten me into this mess. I peered at the bricks on the outside, I peered at the bricks on the inside, I poked my head into it had got soot on my nose. I couldn’t, for the life of me, see any visible clues on the surface of the thing.
I had a feeling that Tracey – whoever Tracey was – was not going to be with me in a moment, so I stepped back and tried to rake my brain for any spells I knew about finding magical traces on inanimate objects.
A few came to mind, and I began to test them out, pointing my wand in the fireplace and whispering the incantations in case someone passed by and heard and they were wrong.
The first three revealed nothing, but the fourth one I tried made the ashes in the hearth spark with a purple light. I jumped back in surprise, and tried the spell again. More sparks.
I glanced around the room, saw that everyone seemed to be occupied, and spotted a tray of different sized glass jars nearby. I went and picked up one of the small ones, filled it halfway with the ashes , and carried it over to the kitchen.
The kitchen was less of a chaotic mess than outside. One of the benches in the corner was covered with beakers and cauldrons on small fires, with two witches hovering around, adding things here and stirring things there. In the middle of the room Scorpius was standing with Joseph and an old man with white hair and square glasses.
“Miss Weasley,” Joseph said when he saw me. The old man smiled and Scorpius stared at his feet. We hadn’t actually spoken a word to eachother since our most recent awkward discussion, and were manoeuvring around eachother cautiously.
“Joseph, I think I may have found something,” I said, showing him my jar of ashes, “I tried a few different spells on the fireplace, and this one caused the ashes to spark. Do you think they should get tested too?”
“Ah, yes, well done,” Joseph answered, seeming a little uncomfortable, “but didn’t Tracey tell you? You’re not here to test things – you’re helping out with the paperwork. Mr Squash told me you were a secretary, and Tracey has some work for you at the desk near the front door.”
His smile was kind, but I was mortified. I nodded mutely, two patches of pink slowly forming on my cheeks. I flicked my gaze towards Scorpius, who was looking at me with sympathetic eyes.
“Sorry about that,” I said, handing Joseph the jar of ashes, “I didn’t realize. I’ll be by the door, then.”
Joseph nodded and the old man smiled and Scorpius took my hand and gave it a quick, reassuring squeeze, which I appreciated more than he could imagine. Because of him, I made my way over to Tracey and her paperwork with a slightly lighter heart.
We were kept at the Merry Dragon for the rest of the day, during which time I didn’t see much more of Scorp. In fact, I didn’t see much of anything other than contracts, time-sheets and hastily written reports I was supposed to go through and sign.
It was dark by the time we were driven back to the Royal Oak, in a rusty old car that Fillius, the innkeeper, had supplied for us. As I sat in the back seat, jostling up and down with every bump in road, I began to get very frustrated with all of this muggle transport we were using. I longed for apparition and magic toilets and floo. I missed travelling by floopowder. This was getting serious.
We still didn’t talk as we got out of the car, walked up to the inn and stepped into the main room. It was busier now, with three groups of people sitting at separate tables, eating and laughing, the fire burning away in its blissfully spell-free heath. I felt exhausted. It was bone deep and made my limbs feel like lead. I was so tired I was nauseous.
I didn’t know where this fatigue was coming from, but I was guessing it was a mix of last night’s uncomfortable sleep, the run in the rain, the kissing, the emotional turmoil and the afternoon of mind-numbing work. This silence between Scorpius and I suited me perfectly right now, because I didn’t think I was capable of holding up one side of a conversation anyway.
Flora had finished drying our clothes while we were out, and we found them neatly folded in two separate baskets beside our suitcases up in our room. I dropped down onto the bed and stared at mine for a while.
“You ok?” Scorpius sat down beside me, and was looking at my drawn face in concern. I shook my head, too tired to even lie to him, and he hesitantly placed an arm around my shoulders, giving them a quick squeeze.
“Are you hungry?” He continued, still staring at the side of my face. I turned towards him, and frowned.
“Not really,” I said, “I’m just drained. You get some food, though. I think I’ll just go straight to sleep.”
I stood up then, giving him a smile, and started to fish through the clothes Flora had neatly folded into a cane basket, searching for my pyjamas.
When I walked back into the room after changing in the bathroom – the gesture seeming rather pointless now that Scorpius had pretty much seen me naked anyway – I found him still sitting on the edge of the bed where I had left him. He was playing with the hem of his shirt and looked bothered by something, but there were so many things he could be bothered about I didn’t even try to guess. Instead I sat silently on the other side of the bed, with my back to him, and tried to brush the knots out of my hair without tearing too much out of my scalp.
I had just managed to get the last tangle out and was plaiting my curls over my shoulder when I felt the mattress shift and Scorpius come up behind me. He was close, close enough to make me stop plaiting and hold my breath in anticipation for something – what, I didn’t quite know.
“I’m an idiot,” Scorpius said, catching me by surprise. I turned around so we were eye to eye and almost touching, “a complete dunce. Just ask anyone that knows me, they’ll assure you it’s true.”
I didn’t disagree because, well, I agreed with him, but instead I stifled a yawn – one with impeccably bad timing – and asked him why.
“A number of reasons,” he answered, shrugging, “but the one that’s relevant now is the fact that I’ve made you not want to kiss me anymore, which is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”
I rolled my eyes, “I still want to kiss you,” I assured him, surprising myself with my own forwardness, “and I’m pretty sure the stupidest thing you ever did was try to keep a pet Horklump back in fourth year.”
“That was a pretty moronic thing to do,” Scorpius agreed, looking amused. His expression became more serious as he looked at me, “But you should know that I realize how messy and confusing this is. How – how exactly did this come about?”
He looked honestly perplexed, and I laughed.
“Beats me,” I murmured, lying onto my back with a sigh. Scorpius came and lay down next to, staring thoughtfully up at the ceiling.
“I’m lost,” He murmured, his brow furrowed, “and I don’t know what the right thing to do is. What do you think?”
He turned onto his side, propping his head on his hand. I shrugged.
“I’m very tired,” I said, matter-of-fact, “and I don’t trust anything my mind comes up with at the moment. I’d rather just do nothing for now.”
“Suits me,” Scorpius answered, rolling back over. “You can snuggle me if you want.”
“I’m fine,” I answered, chuckling. Scorpius just shrugged and crossed his hands underneath his head. We lay there in silence for a while.
“You’re a snuggler?” I said, after while, both surprised and amused. Scorpius nodded.
“You’re not?” He asked me, sounding just as surprised. I didn’t answer, but I shuffled closer to him, draping an arm over his stomach. I felt him shiver underneath my touch, but for once I didn’t want to do anything more to him. No urge to touch him, snog him, maul him where he stood. I guess I was just too tired. I felt him place a kiss on the top of my head.
“You smell like men’s shampoo,” he stated, resting his cheek against my hair. I chuckled.
“Yeah, I packed Al’s by accident,” I explained, sighing. I closed my eyes, every muscle in my body screaming for sleep, “My only consolation is the knowledge that he’ll be walking around smelling like pomegranates for the next three days.”
“Just what he needs,” Scorpius said, laughing. His stomach tensed under my hand, and there it was – that urge to do all those things. I felt like a thirteen year old boy.
“I really hope Al decides to change the brand of his shampoo when we get back,” Scorpius murmured, his voice already beginning to sound blurred, “because otherwise the smell of him may start to turn me on a little bit.”
I was on the very edge of sleep at this stage, but I had just enough consciousness left to wonder whether I should feel flattered. I never quite decided, though – before I could come to a conclusion, I had already drifted off.
When the sun woke me, I found that I was alone in bed, twisted up in the soft covers. I rolled over to my side, groaning, and caught sight of Malfoy in the middle of the bright room. He was pulling a shirt over his head, and glanced over at the sound of me stirring.
“Morning,” he said, grinning. I answered with a sleepy smile and rubbed my eyes. The thought of us kissing had inadvertently sprung to my mind, and I wanted to do it again, very much. I pushed myself up to a seated position, wishing I had brought some sexier pyjamas with me on this trip.
“Hey,” I answered, standing up, “what’s the time?”
“Seven,” he said, his eyes straying to my chest. “and we’re expected at the Merry Dragon around ten.”
Despite his wandering eyes, he was standing with his arms crossed and his expression guarded. His tentative honesty from last night was gone, and now I wished I had known to take better advantage of it while it lasted. Maybe we could have figured things out a bit.
But, now it was morning and Scorpius was closed off and I was in emotional denial. It did not seem like the best time to bring anything up, or even wonder about it. These seemed to be thoughts best kept for a more humane hour, and less reserved versions of ourselves.
I gathered my clothes and dressed in silence, too preoccupied and tired to bother with the false modesty of the bathroom. Scorpius didn’t bother with the false modesty of averting his eyes, either – when my ruffled head emerged from my shirt, I caught him staring at me with a quizzical expression in his eye.
“I didn’t know you had that freckle on your hip,” He said, his mouth quirking up at the side. I rolled my eyes at him as I slipped on my skirt.
“Not many people do,” I answered sarcastically, “I don’t go around saying hey! I’m Rose and I have a freckle on my hip.”
He ignored my flat gaze, and knelt to zip his suitcase closed. “We won’t be coming back here,” he said, glancing up at me from behind his hair, “so make sure you’ve got everything.”
It could have just been the double bed and close proximity to Scorpius speaking, but I felt a small stab of regret as he said this. I had come to grow a little fond of this cute room, and tiny heater, and memories of make-out sessions past. My room at the Merry Dragon was most likely going to be very lace curtain and Scorpius Malfoy free.
After a quick breakfast of honey and porridge, the old rusty car I had come to faithfully hate had arrived to pick us up. Flora waved happily at us from the doorway to her inn as we loaded our suitcases in the trunk and slid into the backseat. The car shuddered and issued a large billow of black smoke when it was started, and continued to shake off flakes of rust as we rattled down the road.
“Only two days left,” I murmured, feeling like I should clutch onto my head so my teeth weren’t rattled out of my skull, “two days.”
Scorpius shot me an amused sideways glance, and gave my hand a quick squeeze. “It’s not so bad,” he said, leaving my fingers feeling cold and lonely when he let go, “At least now we have dry clothes, modern meals and our own bedrooms. Life is looking up, Weasley.”
For some reason, him trying to pin ‘our own bedrooms’ as a good thing sounded just as insincere as my answering with, “You’re right. Maybe by the end of this I won’t even want to leave.”
That day was even worse than the last. I was still stuck on paperwork (making me wonder why I was sent all the way from London to be a secretary) but this day was longer, it was hotter, I saw less of Scorp, and several people came up to me to politely inform me that the inn was closed and only those working on the site were aloud in the premises.
By lunch time the sight of a legal document made my stomach turn, and I was so hungry I had begun to eat my wand. There was a communal meal set out in the kitchen for us, so I headed eagerly that way with the rest of the throng.
Lunch consisted of a variety of different lettuce sandwiches, and after piling a selection of each on my plate, I went over to join Scorpius on a bench by the corner.
“How’s it going?” I asked him, sliding up onto the cool metal. It was a sweltering hot day again, as bad as that one on the train. I had my hair up in a chaotic twirl, and had undone the first few buttons on my shirt. Scorpius seemed to have done the same.
“Not so bad,” he answered, “If you’re into sitting around and watching snobby potioners argue about the meaning of an early boiling point and feeling like you’re insignificant. You know what I think?”
“No, but I have a feeling you’re about to tell me,”
“I think that our bosses did not want to send anyone up here, but when forced chose the two most unimportant of their workers to do so. I know I’ve worked in the floo department for a year and a half, but I don’t know nearly as much about it as I make out. I’m basically just a glorified secretary.” He shrugged, and took a large bite out of his sandwich. I sighed.
“At least that’s better than being an almost secretary. I’m not even honoured with the label. I’m just expected to sift through paperwork and remind people that I actually work here.”
“Shame,” mused Scorpius, “You’re really smart. Maybe you could actually crack this.”
“Hmm…” I tilted my head back and leant it against the tiled wall. “A magical fire that sends people to distant places and turns them into monkeys. What did the innkeeper say when questioned?”
“Only one monkey, actually. The other time it was a painted kneazle. And the innkeeper has had so many strange people stay here it’s no help at all. He’s had vampires, banshees, a circus, some odd blokes in long red cloaks, a group of women he didn’t say much on but I’m pretty sure were prostitutes…” He trailed off, shaking his head. “I say we just live through the next two days and leave it all behind.”
“That sounds manageable.” I stated, pulling at the crust of my sandwich. “We just have to keep eachother from going mad, yeah?”
He turned to face me, a mischievous grin on his face. “And how would you propose we do that?” He asked, placing a hand on my thigh. I stared at him wide eyed as he leant his face towards mine, his hand sliding up a bit. His lips brushed my neck, and he suddenly pulled back, chuckling.
“What the hell was that?” I asked him, scowling and pushing away his hand, “I’m not afraid to poke you with my wand, you know.”
“I’m not afraid to poke – ”
“Don’t say it. And don’t touch me.” I slid off the bench, my towering plate of sandwiches proudly in hand. “Or I’ll touch you back, and I can leave you hanging a lot worse than that.”
“I don’t believe you,” He answered with a smug smile. I raised an eyebrow.
“I’ll just have to prove you wrong then,” I said, smiling sweetly at him. I put my plate down and went to stand in front of him, in between his legs, with my hands resting on his chest. I knew what I was about to do and I questioned the intelligence of it, but the heat was making it hard to create sensible decisions right now. So I leant up, placed a slow, soft kiss on his mouth, and brought my lips close to his ear. “Tonight,” I whispered, brushing my lips against his neck, “you’ll see just how much.”
I drew back with a satisfied smile on my face, and reached for my plate again. Scorp was sitting still, an unimpressed smile plastered to his lips, but his face flushed and his pupils dilated. He bit his lip and shrugged. I blinked once and walked off, suddenly feeling very strange. He was making me act like someone I was not. I was not the flirty, sexual one when it came to boys. That was Lucy. I was the practical confident one. Just as Ivy was quiet and discreet. I didn’t make moves, I waited till they were made on me, and then I reacted accordingly.
And what was Scorpius doing, acting like that? He had made it very clear what he wanted – or didn’t want – with me. What did he think, that I’d suddenly let go of all my pride just because he touched my thigh? This was highly unlikely, and I was going to show him so.
So that was what I would do tonight. Teach him a lesson. That was all, and I would leave before things escalated to anything I couldn’t pull away from.
The rest of the day passed in a miserable blur, and before long night was falling and tables were being pulled out and set with plates and cutlery. Dinner was cold onion soup and buttered bread, and after my lunch of many sandwiches, it was all I could do to finish half a bowl. I left dinner early – half out of boredom, half to escape the eager intern sitting next to me – and went up to the room I had been shown to when we arrived this morning. Scorpius’s was three doors down, but I wished there was an entire floor between us. Then I would be much less tempted to give him a midnight visit.
I showered, put on my pyjamas, tried to read and failed. Every time I got engrossed in the story my mind would suddenly jump to a certain blonde haired youth, and even though I really attempted not too, I couldn’t stop thinking about him lying on his own bed, three doors down, and my promise from lunch came back to me. Just a little snogging, and then I’d leave. I only wanted to show him that that kind of thing was not on. In my mind, this made sense.
What was the harm in it, really? I was still debating it in my head as I put down my book and made my way to the door. Even if things got out of hand, what was the problem with a one night stand with Scorpius Malfoy? I was a strong woman, capable of doing what she pleased with whom it pleased her. My resolve was set – if slightly shaky – when I reached my door and opened it.
Only to find Scorpius standing there, his fist raised and ready to knock.
“What?” I said, frowning at the sight of him there. Now that he was standing in front of me I wanted to go through with it even more, but it also seemed a lot scarier now. And it made me realize how easy it would be to take this short teasing lesson and turn it into a full blown sex-involving act of rebellion, which was stupid, yet highly tempting.
“I wanted to see if you would come out with me tonight,” Scorp said, lowering his fist and smiling an overconfident smile, the one I had come to learn actually masked his uncertainty, “There’s a pub not far down the road, and I am in a mood to get smashed. You with me?”
“But…” I pulled at my pyjama shirt, biting my lip, “I was going to teach you my lesson tonight. Do you really want to miss out on being seduced and then left hanging?”
Scorpius ignored my wide-eyed expression and took hold of my shoulders, gently pushing me back into my room and following in after me. He shut the door with his heel.
“Yes, I do,” He said happily, “Which is why I’m asking you out. Now get dressed, Weasley, I doubt the kind people of Louth will take to a drunken redhead in her jimjams.”
“No.” I stated, crossing my arms, “I’m not going out with you just so you can avoid punishment. You can’t get away with this, Malfoy. Either accept your fate, or get sloshed all by your onesies.”
He took a step closer to me, “Your ‘punishment’ is a terrible idea, Rose,” He said softly, his eyes searching mine. I looked away, “You think if we start doing stuff we’re going to be able to stop? I know this is just an excuse for you to kiss me, just as my taunting at lunch was an excuse to touch your leg and smell your hair.”
I raised an unimpressed eyebrow, “Contrary to your beliefs, not everyone is as sexcrazed as you are,” I said smartly, “I know I can handle a little snogging without losing all my common sense.”
Not true, but he didn’t need to know that.
“Get dressed and come out,” He suggested, ignoring my quip, “And then maybe afterwards you can… punish me.”
“I thought it was a bad idea?”
“It is, but you’re pushing it and I have no will power. Now get dressed, or I’ll do it for you.”
“Meet me outside,” I sighed, going to open the door for him, “And don’t act like this is some kind of victory. That smug expression will be wiped off your face soon enough.”
“Yes,” He agreed, stepping outside, “replaced by something a little like-”
I closed the door on him before I could witness whatever disturbing face he was going to show me.
A/N: Hey guys. I feel a little like a small puppy with it's tail between it's legs right now. I'm sorry for such a long wait, and after last chapter too! I don't know if this will make up for it, I've been off this story for a couple of months and I'm still trying to get used to it all again, but at least it is something right?
I hope I haven't lost you all (: And please review! Thanks xx
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