Sorry for the delay! I have a really difficult exam coming up Monday, and I can you tell you this:
I sincerely hope my writing is better than my knowledge of Middle Dutch grammar.
BYYY THE WAY: I wrote a one-shot in the mean time (read: found an old document I decided to put up on this site)
Disclaimer: no copyright infringement intended. J.K. Rowling owns.
Turning back for home
You know I'm feeling so alone
I can't believe
Climbing on the stair
I turn around to see you smiling there
In front of me
David Gray – Babylon
The mood at the Monday morning breakfast table is awfully chatty.
"Rose – "
That's me – busy preparing a new hangover potion since we ran out of stock.
Silence befalls our family for the third time in fifteen minutes. Hugo, ignorant as ever, keeps his eyes fixed on a letter – from the Delacroix girl, I bet – and Dad is being Dad, lazily reading the Daily Prophet's Senior Quidditch Correspondent page. Mum, on the other hand, has come up with a new ultimate goal – burning peepholes through my head due to excessively scrutinising stares, that is. Responding with utter disinterest, I only pay heed to the ingredients in front of me. Not that I really need to – I mean, I know this potion inside out. I've brewed it so many times I could probably do it in my sleep.
"Rose," Mum says sternly. "You don't expect me to spare you because you consumed way too much liquor yesterday, do you?"
Watching how the purple liquid starts to bubble, I continue to ignore her.
"Ronald," Mum hisses, "Tell her to listen!"
Dad looks up from his paper and cocks his head. "Rose, you have to listen to your mother."
The way it comes out shows that he absolutely does not mean it. The only times Dad gets mad at me is when I a) mock his favourite Quidditch team, b) steal his food, and c) ... well, there is no c). He used to get annoyed at my boyfriends as well, because, you know, every father suffers from the delusion that his daughter's virginity is something holy and every boy is a rival in the field. But then, when I got older and moved to America, he stopped thinking of himself as a knight protecting my virtue, and he became much cooler. I mean, I have a really cool father. He's like, sarcastic and laidback most of the time. Not as sarcastic as Mr Malfoy, but, you know. Cool all the same.
"It was you, wasn't it?" Mum says then, and it sounds so accusing my temper immediately flares.
"Lily and Scorpius," she elaborates with a fleeting satisfied expression. "You said something, didn't you?"
Luckily the potion's finished.
That's the only good thing about this moment.
"Does it matter?"
"Whether you were the person to make Lily unhappy or not?" Mum says pointedly. "Of course it does."
Curing myself with a few sips, the cutting headache slowly vanishes. I instantly feel a lot better – and a lot more prepared to fight this battle.
"What are you suggesting?" I narrow my eyes. "That I put Scorpius under the Imperius Curse and told him to dump his bride on their wedding?"
Mum titters, "You changed his mind, because you were jealous."
"No one can change Scorpius's mind unless he himself wants it to be changed," I shoot back.
"So you admit it?"
By now, Dad and Hugo's attention is attracted.
"You know," I scowl, "for a bunch of Gryffindors you're all terribly stupid, aren't you? Now you're going to get mad at me for making Lily unhappy, but do you really think they would've had an happy ending otherwise?"
Both being Gryffindors, they now look terribly offended.
"It is not your place," Mum exclaims.
"He's my best friend!" I object. "And I was the only one brave enough to point out the obvious."
"And who are you to assume what is the obvious?"
"Oh come on," I snicker, "you didn't honestly think they were right for each other, did you?"
She purses her lips. "You can drop the tone, young lady."
"Jesus," I roll my eyes. "You started it."
"You need to apologise to Lily," she states, dismissing my comment.
"What?" I blink. "What for? I wasn't the one screwing her over yesterday. That was Scorpius."
Furrowing her brow, Mum says, "No, but you were the one engaging in a drinking party with Louis while she was crying her eyes out."
"Well, I didn't have a groom running out on me, so, you know. It makes sense to me."
"Tell me, Rose," she says in that know-it-all voice of hers. "Did you put that sharp tongue of yours to use when you tried to convince him not to marry her?"
Not in the mood to lie, I directly reply, "I put my sharp tongue to use for everything, Mum."
"Do you love him?"
Dad and Hugo exchange meaningful looks.
"Yes," I respond, without flinching.
"Does he love you?"
"I don't know. But what I do know, is that he doesn't really love her."
"Did you see him last night?"
"Bloody hell," I groan. "Are we doing a reconstruction of the Spanish Inquisition?"
This earns me a significant glare. "Well?"
"No," I say bitingly, glaring right back, "I didn't."
Louis and I got wasted beyond our wits last night, racing through at least three champagne bottles, expecting Scorpius to show up – but he never did. By the time we realised he wasn't going to either, we were both way too drunk to Apparate properly and thus, unable to try and find him. I woke up this morning so miserable I threw up three times, and it was around the second time memories began flooding back. Between the jumbling mess of dancing and singing and Louis, it hit me that Scorpius had failed to come by.
It's not that I'm leaving today or anything.
"So you didn't win anything either, did you?"
"Stellar observation, Mum," I say bitterly. "Pleased now?"
Even though she does seem appeased for a moment, she indignantly says, "Of course not, I'm your mother. I want to see you happy. I just want you to fix things with Lily before you leave!"
"If I go to visit Lily, will you promise never to bring this up again?"
"Fine," she says, folding her arms. "But you better fix it!"
"Good luck," Hugo adds, stuffing a piece of bacon in his mouth.
"Maybe you could buy a set of make-up," Dad suggests helpfully. "That should calm her anger?"
I laugh and stand up.
"Thanks, Dad. I'll keep that in mind."
When Lily opens the door, she looks like she could use some make-up indeed.
"Rose," she says, no smile whatsoever. "What the hell?"
Everything about her – from her sagging shoulder to her pale skin to her dead-sounding voice – screams dejection. It is as if all colour has left her, and she steps aside to let me in without the smallest attempt to yell at me first. It's a disconcerting sight, but I try not to let it bother me too much and walk inside Lily's apartment.
"We need to talk this through," I justify my presence.
We walk through the hall way and end up in her kitchen, where the smell of strong tea hangs in the air. Her curtains are still half-closed; the room bathes in a sort of orange light. Obviously, Lily isn't ready to accept the day for what it is just yet.
"Why do you care?"
"Because we're family," I say matter-of-factly, taking a chair and feeling awkward for doing so.
She keeps silent for a minute and pours the tea in her cup. She doesn't offer me anything, but I can hardly blame her. When she's done, she sits down as well, and looks at me with a contemplating frown.
"Let's not kid ourselves," she utters. "We both care more about Scorpius than we care about each other, don't we?"
"Yes," I reply without hesitating. "We do. But we can't afford to hate each other, Lils."
"Don't call me – " but she comes to a halt mid-sentence, and then picks up the thread again. "I don't hate you, Rose. I just hate that he loves you."
"He said he didn't anymore, you know," I confess, quietly.
Her eyes widen slightly. "Oh."
"Yeah," I shrug.
I wait for her to say something, but she doesn't. She merely sips from her tea and stares into space, looking frailer than I've ever seen her. Something tugs at my heart, and an unfamiliar surge of overwhelming guilt hitches in my throat.
"Look," I speak up. "I can't promise you anything when it comes to him, okay? He is the only man I have ever loved, Lily. And if that's how you feel about him too, well... then I guess you can't promise me anything either."
Her eyes trail back to me. "Why did you lie to me the whole time?"
"About what? Being okay with you and him?"
"Because it's easier. It's easier to lie and hide than to come clean," I say, and that's the first time I've said this to anyone, even myself. "And I was angry with you too."
"Because I went after Scorpius?"
I then spot the wedding dress lying over the couch, wrinkled and dumped. It occurs to me that if he managed to crush Lily's usual spirit like this – like she's almost a different person – that she must honestly love him, and the more I realise this, the more I want to fix things with her.
"I never meant to hurt you," I claim, but it's a blatant lie.
"Sure you did," she counters. "You wanted to steal him. How could you ever avoid hurting me in the process?"
That effectively shuts me up.
Instead of answering directly, I come up with a story my mother once told me. It was about two friends, going for a trip in the desert. For some reason, they got into a fight, and one punched the other in the face. The violated one didn't retaliate, but merely wrote the following in the sand: My best friend just punched me in the face. Later, they stumbled upon an oasis, and the guy nearly drowned. His friend – the one who punched him – saved him, and as a response, he carved into a stone: My best friend just saved me from drowning. The friend then asked: "Why did you write the first sentence in the sand and the latter in a stone?" To which the other replied: "Because my anger fades away easily, and it's the good things that count."
It was a story about forgiveness, and I hated it.
I have no idea why, but I end up telling it to Lily.
"You got that shitty story from Aunt Hermione, didn't you?" She asks, a half-smile playing on her lips.
"I did," I admit, laughing. "I know it's stupid, but, you know..."
"Yeah," she says softly.
"I don't hate you either, Lils," I continue. "I'm just... pissed off. And so are you. But at the end of the day, you're still my cousin. That should count for something, shouldn't it?"
A flicker of doubt passes in her eyes. She opens her mouth, closes it again, and then stands up in a fit of indecisiveness.
"Do you..." she trails off, seems troubled, but she regains her concentration quickly, with a newfound sense of confidence. "Do you want some tea?"
Cautiously, I smile. "I'd love some tea, but I have to go."
She shrugs, "Okay." and waits for me to get up. "You know the way out, right?"
And it's not really fine, because, when it comes down to it, we're after the same man. But I leave with my head held high, and she watches me go with a hesitant expression, like she's wondering if maybe we're not opponents in this game. Like she realises we're both on the dirty loser side, with no light at the end of the tunnel, and that she's not the only one miserable. The only problem is – seeing her rubs salt in my wound, and seeing me does the same for her.
Which is why she doesn't see me out and why there is nothing but the all consuming silence in the hall when the door clicks shut.
It's ten o'clock, and time has come to go.
I came, I saw, and I lost.
I spent the entire afternoon picking out grass with Louis, reflecting on our failure and making jokes to lighten the mood. We considered opening up another bottle of champagne, but mutually decided we would be pushing it, and, more importantly (because, really, who cares about pushing it anyway?), I wouldn't be able to Apparate properly. And I kind of need to get to the States tonight, so, you know. That would be pretty inconvenient. Instead we played six games of Wizarding Chess in a row – each of which I won – and insulted Scorpius just for the sake of it.
For the sake of not turning up, that is.
Since – and you probably guessed this, because otherwise you'd be kind of a moron – he didn't.
I packed my bags efficiently, and took some pictures off my wall while I was at it. Scorpius's smirking face no longer felt comforting, so I resorted to tearing it apart – until I caught myself, and realised what I was actually doing. I snapped out of my broken teenager behaviour and glued the photos with a flick of my wand. I stored them away in one of my drawers and went out of my room not knowing what this meant.
Mum said she was sorry my heart got broken, even went as far as drawing comparisons between me and Scorpius and her and Dad. She gave me a tight hug and told me to write more often. Dad promised me he'd keep Mum's neurotic tendencies in check. Hugo was being his clueless self and while exchanging our goodbyes, he was busy composing a letter to Amy Delacroix. I took off with all my stuff, and I only asked Louis to wave me out.
Which leaves us here, at the end.
"I'll hex him," Louis claims. "Like, to the bloody pulp."
I laugh softly, "Unfortunately he'd probably win a duel."
"Who says Slytherins are the only ones able to cheat?"
"Good point," I grin widely.
Louis grins along, but it falters rather quickly. "I would hug you, but I don't want you to go."
"I wish you'd go with me," I pout, the pit in my stomach growing.
"You know I can't," he says regretfully. "But I'll visit you when I can and I'll keep you posted on the family, okay?"
"God, it pains me to say this, but I'll miss you to death."
"You having a heart is a concept I'm still getting used to, Rosie," he says, but he puts his arms around me all the same. "But Merlin knows I'll miss you too."
And then, we hold on to each other for ten more minutes, after which I'm just about ready to cry. I take a step backwards, rub my eyes, refrain him from making a comment about me getting soft by glaring, and give him a last peck on the cheek before Apparating.
See you later, Louis.
See you later, England.
See you maybe never, Scorpius.
So here I am.
Five minutes later, dizzy and nauseous from long-distance Apparation, standing straight in front of my all too familiar apartment building in New York City, with my mood plummeting right below sea level, sinking and sinking and sinking and finally hitting rock bottom when I get to my front door and understand that this is it.
This is it.
With distress holding its iron grip around my throat, I raise my hand to touch the doorknob – it recognises the fact that I'm a Witch. I part my lips to utter the password – 'Crookshanks'.
But then the door opens right in the middle of my actions.
Nearly giving me a bloody heart attack.
"What the f – "
The word dies, but not because it's inappropriate.
I am completely shell-shocked.
Shot in catatonic state.
Rendered totally speechless.
"Jesus Christ, did you make a detour through Namibia?"
I am brought back to earth by the sharp, smooth voice I've come to know so well.
"What – "
"Seriously," Scorpius continues undisturbed, ignoring my dumbstruck expression, "I've been here since noon. I thought you were leaving in the morning."
He takes my bags from me, like the gentleman he can be, and carries them to the sofa. I suppose this is meant to make some kind of statement, since he could easily move them with his wand. I'm still too blown away to react, and merely stare at him while he walks around.
"But," I manage to bring out, "you could've returned. Apparation only takes two minutes at best."
He snorts disbelievingly. "I had to throw up when I got here. I'm traumatised."
Then he shuts up and, for the first time, really looks at me.
A shiver runs down my spine because of his piercing gaze. The world is momentarily reduced to the tension swarming back and forth between blue and grey and the deafening silence that carries itself out due to this unsettling occurrence.
"So," I say.
"So," he replies.
I shake my head, "What's going on?"
"I'm... here," he says, cryptically.
Normally I'd roll my eyes, but I don't feel the urge now. "What for?"
"To check out your carpet," he states matter-of-factly. "For you, of course."
I'm not interested in being witty, or smart, or impressing him in any way. We are far beyond that stage, and at this point the only thing I really desire is an answer.
My heart won't survive another hour of this nerve-wracking conversation.
It feels like it might explode any second.
"Because," he says, and looks away, almost shyly, "I was unhappy yesterday, and I started reading this book. You know how reading helps to calm me down." I nod in confirmation. "And it suddenly came to me... The epiphany that no one ever writes books about relationships that come easy, you know?"
"Yeah," I all but whisper.
"Because they're boring. They're just really bloody boring when it comes down to it," he continues, shifting his attention from the floor to me. "They don't keep you on your toes."
I wait for him to go on, inhaling deeply.
"But you..." he sighs, and I half-expect him to stop right then and there. But he doesn't, and he begins again, his voice now forceful, "You keep me on my toes. You are worth writing about – and if that doesn't mean anything in our world, Rose, then maybe nothing means anything at all. Whenever I'm with you, I have this feeling, this feeling that, if the world would end, it wouldn't be so bad, because I'd know that with you, I lived. Like, properly. Like we always imagined."
I don't know what this feeling is now.
I don't waste time. I take a step in his direction and kiss him, with so much absoluteness we almost fall backwards.
"Scorpius," I gasp against his lips, "I love you. I love you. I love you."
And maybe it's not a good idea. Because he pulls back and looks at me in wonder, baffled and – taken aback?
A whirlwind of insecurity and hope manifests itself on my face.
"Oh shit," I say, ready to hit myself, "I'm sor – "
"Rose," he cuts me off immediately, harshly. He puts his index finger on my mouth, keeps it there while he rummages in his pocket with his other hand. "Hold on."
He then proceeds to take out a little black box.
My eyes widen to the size of a Bludger.
"Oh my – "
But when he opens it, I abruptly start laughing.
"A plastic ring? Really?"
He smiles brightly, causing my heart to do a summersault. "I got it from one of those Muggle things. What's it called?"
"Vending machines?" I cock an eyebrow.
"Right," he rubs the back of his head nonchalantly, smile growing. "So today I was thinking, the idea of marriage was exceptionally stupid, yeah?"
I move my head up and down virulently.
"I thought, let's go back to where everything was fun, with you," he says, and reaches for my hand. "And then I saw these rings – I had to Charm the damn machine before it gave me what I wanted, by the way – and..." he takes my left hand ring finger, and puts on the ring, "I wanted to mock it. Like we always did. Remember our anti-Valentine cards?"
I look at my hand and then at him. "Yeah. So this is like a symbol of all we are, and all we are not?"
"Exactly!" he says enthusiastically. "I realised we should celebrate being different – we should celebrate not getting married or having a dog, or having a house with a few trees in the yard... it is why I love you, and it is why I'm – "
"Scorpius," I interrupt him, my cheeks flushed. "You love me?"
"I never stopped," he exclaims, grabbing my shoulders. "You fucked me over, but I know that something in you changed. And I can see that. I'd be blind if I didn't."
This is officially the first time someone has said this to me – ever.
Rose Weasley apparently does not change according to the rest of the world.
"But you were so angry."
"I was," he shakes me softly. "But there you were, Friday, on my doorstep, stripped bare of all your nonsense, and yesterday, when I was about to go down that stupid altar, I understood, finally, that you weren't out to get me. You were being sincere."
"Scorpius," I repeat, my knees nearly buckling. "Kiss me."
And he does.
With fire and conviction and it is the sweetest feeling in the world, his body pressed against mine closely but not nearly close enough. I love the way he tastes, and the way he smells, and the way I feel funny when he tells me – when he tells me he loves me still.
It is nice to know that some things never change.
Like there's still some certainty in the world.
Funny thing is, of course, that I never wanted that certainty – but when it comes to Scorpius, I learned I do now. So I kiss him harder, and he responds immediately.
"I would love to be your wife," I mumble, my hands running through his hair.
"Oh," he says, a smirk breaking free, "are you going to cook for me then?"
"If you want to be poisoned," I sing-song, grabbing his arm and twirling around.
"Rose," he says, coming to a standstill, his features the epitome of earnestness "I would like for you to be my non-wife."
Smiling so widely my face might break in two, my chest is filled with pleasure at the comprehension that my best friend – my best friend as I knew him – is back.
Happiness presents itself so blatantly, so overwhelmingly, I want to scream.
And then he pulls me closer again.
We stand there, for at least thirty more minutes, kissing like two sixteen-year-olds discovering their sexuality, and it hits me.
I know I have to die sometime – and this would be ridiculously good moment.
Because I doubt I'll ever be more alive or complete than I am now.
"I'll try not to screw you over again."
He smiles, again.
"It's raining," fifteen-year-old Scorpius said, "and you want to jump in the fucking lake?"
It wasn't raining – I mean, it was, but not really. If you looked really closely you could see circles forming, like spirals, on the surface of the water, but we weren't standing in a downpour or anything. I turned to Scorpius and smiled widely, taking off my robe and pulling my sweater over my head.
"You're a pussy."
"And you're all sorts of brilliant," Scorpius replied, almost caustically.
I paid no heed to his sarcasm. The clouds were darkening, grey was gliding in front of the sun. I wanted to get this over with – I wanted to start the year in proper fashion, like it would become epochal, like something would shift. Like it'd be a year worth living.
"Don't you want to feel alive?"
"Yes," he said firmly. "I just don't think you realise how much you need your health for that."
I shot back, "I don't think you have any idea how little I care."
He merely made a huffing sound – the baby – and watched me undress. He didn't think I'd do it – he didn't think I'd strip down to my bra and panties, because I heard him gasp slightly when I lost my trousers and kicked off my shoes.
"Come on," I said, extending my hand. "If I can't jump into the lake with my best friend, then who's there?"
"Best friend?" He echoed, an element of warm bafflement in his voice. When I rewarded him with a look that screamed Of Fucking Course, he smirked, "I'm touched."
"I'm your best friend too, you know."
"Well, if you say so. But if I'm infected with germs, our friendship will be in jeopardy," he stated, but his snobby demeanour faltered slightly. We exchanged a significant look – our unspoken loyalty packed in a fleeting expression – and I felt something change. He followed my example and revealed his pale chest in no time, silently daring me to rub my victory in his face.
I did not.
"Sometimes," I said instead, "you just got to dive in."
His hand enclosed mine, squeezing it softly.
I glanced at him from the corner of my eye. "On the count of three. One, two – "
And then I was drowned out by my own surprised scream as Scorpius took a step forward.
On the count of three, we had already dived in.
So this is it for Caring is Creepy. Hopefully you enjoyed the story - I know I enjoyed your reviews and will do so now!