A/N: So... the final chapter's here :) I hope you'll enjoy it, and that you enjoyed the rest of the story as well. And, of course, if you feel like it, please review!
The day after, I decide to go for a walk around the grounds once again. It's been a few weeks since I've last done that. Everyone else has already left and Lily, Natasha and Francis all promised to bring me some sweets from Honeydukes. I kind of need some chocolate now.
I sit down under a tree by the lake, even though it's quite chilly. Pulling out my diary, I smile. At least this whole operation wasn't for nothing – I have my diary back. And they didn't even manage to open it.
I had expected that I would be happier about it than I actually am now. I guess I still haven't recovered from yesterday's events, and everything they said to me. Looking through the pages of my diary, I sigh. I'm really, really glad they didn't read everything that's in here; there are just too many embarrassing facts and weird descriptions written down.
Should I keep it? Should I keep writing in it? Al tried to steal it once, and he knows what's going to happen if he tries it again. On the other hand, he also knows how to open it. James told me to burn it, but do I want to? In the end, I decide to keep it and burn it another time – perhaps during the Christmas holidays, after Al and I will be forced to talk. It's not a happy foresight, but that's just the way it is.
Madam Pomfrey said yesterday that the boys would be released either today or tomorrow, but knowing her, she'll keep them all there until tomorrow evening. That's good; it means that I can avoid them for a little longer. And after what happened yesterday, I'm very keen on avoiding them for as long as possible.
Their words still hurt. Yes, they've told me that I'm an idiot far too many times, but a danger to society? Even from Malfoy, that stings. And I need to grow up? Aren't they the ones who stole my diary? What sixteen year old boy steals girls' diaries? That's what I call immature.
I stick my diary back in my bag and lie back on the ground. The sky is cloudless today; it's a beautiful day for a Hogsmeade visit. But, alternatively, also a beautiful day to just relax on the grounds. I'm very happy that my detention doesn't include cleaning trophies or cauldrons or the Owlery or whatever.
"Rose." I must've dozed off, for all of a sudden, without me realising it, a shadow looms over me.
I fail to suppress a groan as I open one eye. "Al," I say in return, eyeing my cousin tiredly. Sitting up, I look him over. There are no visible signs of poisoning anymore – his face and arms (and who knows what else) have gone back to normal. "Are you all better?"
"I'm completely healthy again, if that's what you're asking," he replies, sitting down next to me. Well, next to me – still a couple of feet away.
"That's good to know," I say quietly, staring at the lake. I really don't know what else to say.
"Well, it's good to know that you're glad I'm okay," he says, and I grimace. We can go on like this forever.
"I didn't mean to poison you," I tell him. "That was an accident. And I certainly didn't want to kill you."
He nods. "Yeah, I thought so. The entire family would be ready to kill you."
We sit in a slightly uncomfortable silence for a while. I fiddle with my thumbs and chance a glance at my cousin every few minutes. I wouldn't put it past him if he just came here to sit in silence and irk me.
Sticking my hands in the pockets of my trousers, I'm surprised to find that there's something in there. I don't normally stick things in my pockets – that's what my bag is for. Pulling it out of my pocket, I see that it's a crumpled up note. Then, all of a sudden, I remember – I found it in the Room of Requirement during a Prefect's patrol, weeks ago.
Since I have nothing better to do, I unfold the note. Al, I notice out of the corner of my eye, is looking at me curiously. The piece of parchment seems to have been in many hands – given the fact that there are at least four different handwritings on it, that's not so odd.
Oi, Lorcan, why aren't you paying attention?
I am paying attention.
No, he's not. He's just staring off into space. He's taken almost no notes at all.
I already told you, I am paying attention! Now just let me continue doing so.
I know that look. He's thinking about something.
Really? Or is he thinking about someone?
Probably. It's about time he discovered girls. Tell us, Lorcan, who is she?
There is nobody at all!
Lysander, what's he doing now?
Staring at the front, of course. Acting as if he's paying attention.
Could there be someone in his line of sight?
Doesn't look like it from here…
No, I don't think so either. Wait, he's turning his head slightly. Can't make out why though.
To look at someone, I think
But whom? I can't see anything.
Are you still going on about that? Just leave me alone, will you?
We are leaving you alone, aren't we? We'll figure it out ourselves.
No, you won't, because there is nobody.
Then why do you keep glancing to the left?
He does, doesn't he? But who could it be?
It's just the Gryffindors sitting there.
I think it's Rose, actually. He gets all jumpy whenever she's mentioned.
Rose? As in, my cousin?
Rose Weasley? Don't you have better taste?
He's already blushing. I think it's her. Is it?
That's none of your business.
Is that a yes?
And that's the end of that discussion. I have a feeling that someone (Lorcan?) crumpled up the parchment at this point and thought he could easily get rid of it by bringing it to the Room of Requirement. Setting it on fire would've been a better idea, but maybe that's just me.
"Where'd you find that?" Apparently, Al couldn't keep his curiosity in check again.
"Room of Requirement," I say, folding up the parchment. "Why?"
He shrugs. "I thought he would've found a better way to get rid of it." Running a hand through his hair, he shakes his head. "But then again, Lorcan isn't really one for common sense; at least, when you are concerned."
"What's that supposed to mean?" I ask him, frowning at my cousin.
"He can't really think rationally when it's about you." Al looks very amused by now.
"He sure knows how to hide it," I mutter. I wonder what would've happened if I opened that note immediately after finding it. That would've been awkward.
"No, he can't," Al tells me, still looking as if he's about to burst into laughter. "After the frog incident, he was worrying for days that you were now disgusted by him. When you slapped him, he was completely depressed. Which, of course, was nothing compared to how he acted after Lily threw those things in his face last week." He chuckles. "He's even more obvious about it than you are, I daresay."
I redden. That's unexpected. "Did he tell you what Lily said?"
He shakes his head. "No, he didn't. But given the fact that they've fought before and they really don't like each other, it couldn't be good."
"How did you know it even was about me?"
"The only times he acts depressed is when something goes wrong between the two of you," Al says, but I can't help but feel that his reasoning doesn't fully make sense – it's not logical. I decide not to mention it.
"But… I thought you were planning on telling him because I wouldn't tell you how to open my diary."
He frowns. "I don't think I've ever said that. I mean, it would've been a logical thing to do if Lorcan didn't fancy you too, but I've never told you that. Must've been your imagination."
"And Erin," I blurt out without thinking. Al groans, lying back in the grass.
"Right, of course. I told her that, didn't I?" I nod and we're both silent again. Then he continues. "Is it true that she went to Hogsmeade today with Mark?"
"Yeah, she did," I say quietly. My sort of pity for my cousin returns as he just stares at the sky. "But it's not your fault – "
"I know," he says resolutely. "Did you know?"
I bite my lip. "Yes," I reply after a few seconds. "But you wouldn't have believed me anyway."
"I wouldn't," he confirms. "I just can't believe that I was so blind. Half the school must've known. Even my friends knew," he adds in an afterthought, sounding quite bitter. "I wish they had just told me."
There's nothing I can say to that. Well, there is, of course. But this is something between them. They'll have to work this out themselves.
"Why are we always fighting?" I ask in a weak attempt to change the subject. Sitting here, talking to Al – it comes almost naturally to me. As became clear earlier, we just know each other too well.
"I have no idea," he responds, and I'm rather surprised to hear that. "It's weird, isn't it?" He chuckles. "Sometimes I still compare you and Scorpius. I've even told him a couple of times that you do something or other very differently from how he does them. It's so weird how different you two are, like polar opposites. Maybe that's why you don't get along."
No, I don't like the idea of being compared to Malfoy – stupid prick – but it's an explanation. As far as I'm concerned, it's not the correct one though. "I think it's all the pranks you pulled," I tell my cousin, "in first year and after that."
"Yeah, that explains why you hate him, but not why he hates you," Al counters, and he has a fair point. But to be honest, I have better things to do than wonder why Malfoy hates me. I couldn't care less, as long as he leaves me alone. "Oh well, you'll have to get used to one another if you and Lorcan can actually behave normally enough around each other to start dating." I flush – again. I hadn't even thought about that. "Perhaps you and Scorpius will eventually learn to tolerate each other's presence. Then we could hang out again as well and I could become your overprotective cousin and harass Lorcan all the time."
I roll my eyes. "Don't you already do that anyway?" The last thing I need is an overprotective cousin. Please, I can take care of myself. As I've already proven, of course.
"True," Al says, shrugging. "But, we did learn a lesson from this whole ordeal."
"You did?" I ask, wondering whether or not he's speaking about this whole drama concerning my diary.
"Never do something radical without doing some research first," he says, and I squeeze my eyes shut. I'm not in the mood for vague hints like this.
As he doesn't seem inclined to continue, I ask, "Because?"
"Because the radical plan might not even be needed," he tells me. "You know, the reason for stealing your diary was pretty much to find out how you felt about Lorcan." I almost choke. I didn't see that coming.
"And stealing my diary was the easiest way to find out?" I ask incredulously.
Al shrugs. "At the time, that seemed to be the case indeed. But opening your diary turned out to be much harder than we expected and since we hadn't exactly been paying you an awful lot of attention, we didn't realise how obvious you were around Lorcan. And once I found that out, there was no way back."
"Of course there was," I say, slightly peeved. "You could've given it back. Would've saved us both a lot of time."
"Perhaps," he admits, "but you forget that we had Scorpius in our team, who would never have agreed with that, and then there's that little fact that we weren't really on speaking terms, except to irk each other."
Alright, maybe I forgot about that.
"Besides, it was funny to see how that stressed out Lorcan so much. He absolutely didn't appreciate what we were trying to do for him, even though we were really doing it to reassure him that his… feelings were reciprocated." Al snickers. "And of course, seeing you so angry made it all worth it too."
I huff indignantly. "Still, you could've just asked."
"As if you would've admitted that to us," he says, smirking. "You had your chance when I asked you about making a deal, but you turned that down."
"Why would I trust you?" I ask him. "You already stole my diary – how could I be so sure that I'd get it back as soon as you found the information you were looking for?"
"You couldn't," he says. "Still, it would've saved us all lots of time." I cannot believe that he's using my own argument against me now. Stupid Al. "We just wanted to know about possible feelings for Lorcan. We weren't interested in James' stunts or gossip or your deepest darkest secrets – well, expect for one, of course."
"But you figured that out on yourself, didn't you?" I ask, becoming annoyed at my cousin once again.
"I did indeed," he says cockily. "But Lysander and Scorpius didn't."
"Still, you could've just told them and given me my diary back."
"No," he tells me, "because we promised that we would really read everything if you wouldn't give us a hand. So… that was what I was going for. And, naturally, seeing you so angry and annoyed never gets old."
I cross my arms, fully intending to stop listening to my cousin then and there. I've had it. I now know, and he can just leave again. Preferably now. On the other hand – now that he's here, I can try to annoy him as well.
"So, how did you find out that Erin was cheating on you?"
"That's none of your business," he says grumpily, and I smirk.
"Since when have we cared about that? Spit it out, cousin."
"I already told you, I saw her," he tells me, his expression gone sour. "The night that we had detention."
"And?" I prod. "Did you feel very… sad? Betrayed?"
"You're such a girl, Rose," he says, and I roll my eyes.
"Yeah, I know. We've been over that before."
He curses under his breath. "You know, Rose, I don't really have time for this."
"Yes, you do," I counter. "You have nowhere else to be, nothing else to do."
Now it's his turn to cross his arms. "Fine," he spats. "You want to know how I felt? Yes, I felt betrayed. No, I didn't feel sad. I had a feeling already but it's never nice to see your suspicions confirmed. I've been thinking all week about what went wrong and why she ever went there in the first place."
"You could always ask her," I say, before realising that that might not be the best idea, "or someone else."
"I guess I will," he says.
"Why didn't you act earlier, if you had your suspicions?" I continue. "And why were you even with her in the first place?"
"As I just said, it's never nice to find out that what you've suspected for so long is actually true," he says. Well, okay… "And as to why we were together… I guess it was fun for as long as it lasted. It was kind of strange at times, but the question of where she could possibly be when I couldn't find her is answered now. Plus, she's good-looking."
I pull a face. "No, she's not. And she's got a rotten personality, too. Plus, you could've used the Map, right?"
My cousin apparently decides not to grace that comment with an answer of sorts, but he stays quiet instead.
"Hey, Al!" we suddenly hear from behind us. Al, of course, is lying right in between trees, so he's visible from afar. I'm not, since this tree keeps me from being seen. Well, that'll make for a nice surprise.
"Hey, Lorcan," Al replies with a lazy smirk my way. "You're out yet?"
"Fortunately, yes," Lorcan says. He's still not close enough to look around the tree and I'm not going to give myself away just yet. "Lysander and Scorpius will probably have to stay for the night though. Anyway, I'm glad it was actually curable. At least it wasn't something much more dangerous."
Now I have to say something, right? Al isn't answering – probably waiting for me to do so – so I respond, "Yeah, sorry. I didn't know that was going to happen." It comes out much quieter than I expected, but both boys heard it anyway. Lorcan looks almost horrified to see me there, and Al smirks again.
"Rose!" Lorcan splutters. "What – I didn't see you there." He looks from me to Al and back, as if trying to figure out why we're both here. No such luck; I myself still haven't figured that out.
Now Al sits up. "Should I leave you two alone?" His smirk is almost unbearable now, and I quickly consider the options. I don't know what would be worse. It'd probably become very awkward anyway.
"No, that's fine," Lorcan mumbles. "I was actually going to head back to the castle – "
"No, you weren't," Al tells him resolutely. "You were going to sit by the lake on this beautiful afternoon in the middle of the autumn."
"No, I was – " Lorcan tries again, not sparing me a glance.
"No, you weren't," Al repeats. What can I say? We Weasleys (that includes the Potters as well) are a stubborn lot.
I roll my eyes and stand up. "I'll just go then," I tell them. The wind is now a little too chilly for my liking anyway and besides, nothing would be more awkward than staying here at the moment.
Al gapes at me while Lorcan still avoids looking at me. I have to admit, it kind of hurts. Quite a lot, actually. "Rose!" Al protests. "We were smack in the middle of a discussion!" Now he decides to try to set us up?
"No, we were done," I correct him and walk back to the castle. I think I'll go to the kitchens. I skipped lunch, as I didn't feel like walking back to the castle from my spot by the lake and then back again earlier this afternoon. They can sit and freeze by the lake a bit longer if they want to, but I'm going to the kitchens.
Half an hour later, I'm still sipping some hot chocolate – my second mug. I finished my food already, and I suppose I'd better go back to the common room soon. Perhaps I could read a little.
I'm about to get up as someone enters the kitchens. "Hey, Rose," I hear, and I look up, slightly surprised, as Lorcan sits down opposite me.
"Hey," I reply, blinking. I didn't expect this; not after what just happened. I bet Al is behind this.
"Listen, Rose," he starts, still not fully looking at me. "I'm sorry about what I said yesterday. And last week."
"I'm sorry for what happened yesterday," I say in response, a small smile tugging on my lips, "and last week." Looking up, he smiles back hesitantly. That's more than good enough for me at this point. "What happened yesterday certainly wasn't planned. Not like that. And Lily – she was actually going to tell you that she was wrong and… stuff like that. But I bet she never did that after all, right?" Yes, I told Lily not to say anything, but I'm certain she was planning on doing so anyway. That's just Lily for you. Perhaps that might run in the family as well.
"No, she didn't," Lorcan replies. "Scorpius did, though."
"He did?" That surprises me even more than the fact that Lorcan's here right now. "I thought he was going to twist my words around completely."
"He's not that bad, Rose," he tells me with a slightly amused smile. I huff; I beg to differ. "Anyway, I'm glad that Lily was just… spewing nonsense there. It's quite a relief."
Our eyes meet for a brief moment before we both blush and look away. I think it's clear even to the two of us by now that we like each other – he told me, after all, and I'm sure Al told him, too – but that doesn't have to mean anything. I can't say I'm very straightforward when it comes to these things, and neither is he. But we'll get there, I'm sure.
"So can we… keep talking again?" I ask once I've fully recovered. It's a first step. Yes, we know each other, but we've hardly talked, these past five years.
He sends me a smile – I'm glad I'm seated right now – and answers, "Sure, why not? That'd be… great." I don't reply to this; it's obvious that he's not done yet. "The more we talk, the sooner we can get over certain… trust issues."
"Trust issues?" I echo. "What trust issues? Do you have – I don't – "
"These past few weeks," he says vaguely. "I mean, we've talked a lot, but we've sometimes not spoken the whole truth, you know? We should – put that behind us. And we can do that by talking."
Alright. If he puts it like that, there could be some trust issues indeed. "That sounds logical," I admit. "But – it's not as if I wanted to keep those… certain things from you."
"I know," he simply says, "and me neither. But it still happened."
I nod. I'm just glad that he's not completely mad and angry and suspicious at me. Plus, there are some things I'm rather curious about now. "So… if we're going to be all honest with one another and all that," I start, "what were you really doing that time when you were… Nargle hunting, or whatever you later said you were doing?"
He opens his mouth and closes it again, and he reddens a bit. "W-Well," he stutters, "if you really want to know. I… uh – I pretty much panicked when you came in all of a sudden so I… dove. I didn't expect to see you there, even though it was your common room and… yeah."
Smiling at him, I shake my head. I cannot believe he actually did that. On the other hand… no, scratch that. I can't think of someone else I know who would do that in a similar situation. "And why did you use the Nargle excuse again later on?" I ask. I wonder if this will have an equally amusing reason.
"I already told you, that was the easiest way of letting you know that I was sending you a message through Hugo," he mutters, probably knowing what my next question will be.
"Why couldn't you just come in?" I ask curiously.
He swallows, and he seems to think for a moment. "You know how – some people can't talk to someone – you know – when they're alone with that person?" If he means what I think he means, then yes. I'm one of those people, usually. So I nod. "It's the other way around for me," he confesses. "I'm one of those people who can't talk to – someone when they're surrounded by others." Oh. That sounds like a legitimate explanation. "Which is why this works much better for me than while having Al around," he adds, and I grin.
"Yeah, well, a lot works much better when Al's not around," I say, and he grins as well.
"I suppose you're right," he says. "So… what was up with Will all the time?"
I groan. "I can't believe you remembered that," I tell him, and he just raises his eyebrows in expectation.
"I can't believe you remembered those Nargle incidents," he counters, and I suppose he has a point.
"He needed my advice," I respond, "about… Natasha."
"Ah," is all I get for an answer – that, and a knowing glance.
We're silent for a while, just sitting there. To my surprise, it doesn't feel awkward at all. It's a comfortable, companionable silence. It's almost enjoyable. At least, that's what it was, because my mouth has to ruin the moment once again. You'd think I get used to it, but I don't. I always hope that things get better, but they never do.
"It's just too bad that we're not in Hogsmeade right now, isn't it?" I ask, examining Lorcan a little more.
I blush a little as he looks up from his hands, only then realising what I possibly insinuated. "Yes, that's a pity indeed," he agrees with a small smile. "But we could always try next time, right?"
I'm sure I'm blushing even more fiercely than moments ago. "You still want to go to Hogsmeade with me?"
"Of course," he replies somewhat bluntly (and instantly reddens as well). "If you don't have another potion to feed me by then." Remembering the frog incident, I fail to stifle a giggle from escaping my mouth, and he eyes me curiously.
"Forget that happened," I tell him. "You don't want to know."
"It was the frog, wasn't it?" he asks knowingly, and I stare. "Of course. I knew it. Can't you just forget about that?"
"No, I don't think I can," I reply, and I swiftly press my lips together again.
"Fine," he gives in. "So, anyway, what do you say? Would you mind giving this whole Hogsmeade thing another shot?"
I smile, my giggles no longer threatening to escape my throat. As I said, we'll get there, sometime, somehow. Al will surely try to meddle, as will Natasha and Francis. Not to speak about Lily, or the rest of our families. But it's all good, because we will get there. This is merely the beginning. "Yes, that sounds lovely," I tell him, and I honestly mean it.