Tied Fingers, Best Lies

February 14th

The next Monday, Rose had just finished applying her makeup in the glorious prefect’s bathroom (the lighting in there was incredible!) when she ran into Malfoy. Literally—they collided.

Luckily, neither had been carrying anything important, so Scorpius simply picked up his coat and started walking to the Great Hall next to Rose.

Of all people...The frequency at which they saw each other was becoming suspicious. She didn’t even mind hanging out with Malfoy anymore. Rose had a theory that the drama that usually occurred between Malfoy and her had somehow (magically!) transferred to Lily. Lily was a drama queen, sure, but she and Rose had never fought before, not once. Now, it had been thirty-six hours, and despite Rose’s incessant attempts at making Lily listen, she was being stubbornly ignored. Even when Rose had cornered Lily in their dorms, Lily had just sidestepped her and walked out.

“Good morning, Weasley. Nice day, isn’t it?”

“Nice? Herbology has been cancelled due to the snow drift headed our way. But if you call that nice weather, be my guest.”

Scorpius’ ringing laughter bounced off the cold stone walls of the narrow corridor. “Yes, that is precisely why it’s a nice day. I haven’t had room in my schedule for a free period since second year!”

Rose bumped him with her shoulder. “You seem awfully happy for 6am on a Monday. Is it because of Scott?”

“Him? No, we’re not together. What you saw at the Quidditch party was just a bit of fun.” A frown began to tug at his lips, but he wouldn’t let it. “Nah, Scott’s family are among the few who equate all Malfoys to something akin to a dementor. Or one of Hagrid's cross-breeds, take your pick. He and I don’t get along at all if there are no lips involved.”

“Really? I guess that’s what you get from a Durmstrang transfer.”

“Hey, they’re not all bad. Really, people like the Scotts are on the fringes of Wizarding society, here and in Sweden. The reason I’m excited is because of….” Scorpius fished a folded bit of parchment from his robes pocket. “Read this.”

Rose glanced at him then unfolded the paper. It was a letter to Lysander. Malfoy’s tone suggested they were much better friends than Rose thought they were.

“I didn’t know you two were still in touch.”

“We owl every now and then. We’ve known each other for a long time, you know. My crush on him last year was more than just observatory.”

Rose studied the way Malfoy’s cheeks colored. “Are you still into him?”

“No, but I’m eternally grateful that my thing for him didn’t ruin our friendship. He means too much to me. Anyway, he wrote me last week to say that he’s going to be in England soon to visit his mum, who’s home from America until the summer. I know the breakup with Louis a few months back was rough on him, and his fling with James couldn’t have helped. My grandmum is hosting some fancy charity ball at the end of the month, so the least I could do is offer him a distraction.”

“I thought you hated Narcissa’s benefits?”

“Oh, I can’t stand the socialite scene, but she keeps amazing charities on their feet. This year, one of the groups she's sponsoring is an advocacy organization that fights to get anti-gay legislation removed. They also facilitate sexuality and gender education around the world, I think. They work to bring together Muggle and Wizard governments about the issues. She's so excited about it, and she knows how much it means to me, so I can't flake out on her this time."

“Well, I think it’s sweet.”

“Yeah, I’m going to deliver the letter after breakfast. Is Lily talking to you yet?”

“No, but she’s the least of my concerns right now. While he’s been awaiting confirmation for his next place of residence, James has been hiding out in the Room of Requirement. Twice now one of the heads has caught Al or I sneaking food from the kitchens up to him.”

“The fact of the matter is you two are harboring an outsider in school bounds. I haven’t read Hogwarts: A History like everyone in your family seems to have, but I think it’s safe to say that that is against the rules. Rose Weasley willingly doing something she’s not supposed to? I wouldn’t dream of it.”

Rose rolled her eyes at Scorpius’ obnoxious snark. “Oh, lay off. He can’t stay with his parents because they don’t know he’s back, so he’s out of options.”

“Out of options? Rose, your family is nearly as large as the Ministry itself. There’s no one else?”

“He wants to go to his parents first, before any of his other relatives. He’s supposed to be doing that sometime this week, actually. It was easy for him to sneak into the building with all of the post-Quidditch chaos, but I have no idea how he’s going to slip out. Maybe he still has that old Marauder’s Map—that would surely come in handy."

Rose spent her free period in the Gryffindor commons, catching up on some reading. Tolkien painted a vivid picture in her head of elves and dwarves, of a ring glinting in the darkness and fire-scorched hillsides, a malicious dragon sweeping over the land. A shadow passed over the yellowed pages, and Rose was so engrossed in the story that she jumped, almost expecting Smaug to pop out and rob her blind.

Violet stood in front of her, messy-haired and nervous. She knotted her fingers and absently played with the charm bracelet her grandmother had bought her for her quincenera. One charm she repeatedly tugged on was a golden heart; lately, love had been on her mind constantly.

Initially, she tried for small talk, which was ridiculous, since Rose knew her better than half her cousins. Rose played along; the tension was thick like the snow slush congealing outside.

“What are you reading?”

The Hobbit. It’s Muggle, but it’s not about Muggles. There’s even a wizard, though this Tolkien bloke didn’t get it right. Fantasy for the ‘fantasy’, if you will.”

Violet chuckled lightly at Rose’s witticism, but her smile soon slid off her face. “Er, can we talk?”

They walked quietly to their dorm room. Rose clutched The Hobbit tighter than she needed to as she imagined the various ways this inevitable conversation could go down. This was all getting so complicated it made her head throb, and people kept getting hurt. She didn’t know whether to pity or villainize Violet. Where once the answers were simple, there were now forks etched sharply in the road like barbed wire.

Rose collapsed onto her bed. The flowing curtains pulled at her hair, but she ignored it and instead stared up at the girl she used to know. “So, what? Are you here to tell me one way or another it was Al’s fault, or yours?”

“That’s not important.”

“Isn’t it?”

Violet looked impatient, barking mad, but somehow also small and slight. “We’re both to blame. Neither of us are the stereotype of the wicked other woman or cruel adulterer. I’m Violet, he’s Al; you know us.”

“You’re pretending as if this wasn’t a choice you made.”

Rose hadn’t even finished her accusation when Violet blurted, “I was in love with him.”

“You...what?” Rose’s head was spinning, in and out, around and around.

“For nearly all of fifth year. It was an internal, take-this-to-my-grave kind of infatuation.” Violet’s voice quivered, and she winced back the memories, the anxieties of thought-to-be unrequited love.

“Why did you never tell me?” Rose stood now, and she grasped Violet’s hand. They were shaking; Rose put all of her energy and warmth into them until the tremor subsided.

“I...We only knew each other because of you, but we had this sort of flirty thing going. The last thing I wanted was to make things weird for you, so I kept it to myself. I planned to ask him to the winter ball last year, but I heard he was into Emilie, so I resolved to get over him.”

“Is that why you dated Michael Julian last January?”

“Yes. I got over Al pretty easily, I thought, but this year we’ve been partners in our NEWT Potions class. I told myself that wasn’t going to be a problem, and it wasn’t, not at first. We’ve only become closer friends as we’ve gotten to know each other better, and now I recognize that my crush fifth year was totally shallow, built mostly on projections I created from the little I knew of him.”

Rose read between the lines. “But then you started to fall for him for real.”

“I resisted it for months since I knew he was in a relationship, but we were hanging out on Boxing Day, and we were both knackered as hell. You can put the pieces together.”

“I know you fancied him, but I have to ask: If you were both drunk, how can you be sure it was consensual?”

“I didn't feel uncomfortable or violated, But we had a conversation about it the next day. Al tracked me down at my community theatre—I had been helping them run the tech rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet that week. He was concerned he raped me, and when I told him I didn’t see it that way, we were left with the weird truth that he had cheated.

“I asked him if he regretted it even though I was terrified of the answer. He said no. Every time we saw each other after that, I’d go in with the intention of asking him to break up with Emilie, her or me, but I was so intoxicated by his affection that I never could bring myself to. I yearned to end it, you have to believe me, but I could never vocalise it.

“It spiraled into something I didn’t recognize, and I know how badly it beat Al up. He was conflicted, and somehow the thrill of it all negated my bad feelings about it. Emilie found out before he could make the decision.”

Rose dropped Violet’s hand and rubbed her face. When did she become the mediator of her friends’ problems? “I don’t know what you want me to say, Violet.”

“I just….I want you to know that not all people who do bad things are bad people. If Emilie has any say in it, Al and I won’t be off the hook for a long time. I’m not asking for your forgiveness; I’m asking for your understanding.”

“Alright. I can do that.” She grabbed the back of Violet’s golden neck and pulled her in for a hug, whispering “I understand” in her ear.

Violet took one shaky deep breath and blinked a few times to dispel any unwarranted tears. “I know I did a very bad thing to a very nice girl, but this hasn’t been easy for me either. Thank you for being there for me.”

“Hey, once I stop being an arse, I’m usually extremely helpful.”

Violet cracked a smile. There was no denying that. “I should get going; I’ve got Potions soon. For once I’m grateful for the long walk down to the dungeons—I need to think about this some more.”

“Are you alright to see Al? I do know that he’s been avoiding both you and Emilie like the plague.”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’ll see you later, Rose. Thanks for listening to me.”

Rose had a lesson coming up herself, so she began to pack her school bag for Charms. As soon as Violet had gone out the door and down the steps, she heard someone say “How touching.” with an air of sarcasm that could only belong to a Potter.

James was standing right behind her, Invisibility Cloak in hand. Rose jumped back, startled, then hit him on the shoulder with her Complex Spells for Advanced Wizards and Witches textbook, a hardcover tome of about seven hundred pages.

“Ow! Okay, I get it, joke not appreciated.” James rubbed his shoulder and grimaced. “Thank you for bringing me back to my Quidditch days. I sorely missed the bruises.” He cackled. “Get it? Sorely?”

Rose rolled her eyes. “Were you here the whole time?”

“Yeah, sorry about that. Didn’t mean to eavesdrop. Was that the girl Al cheated with?”

“Yes. She’s also one of my best friends, which is fucked up beyond belief.”

James made some noncommittal noise in his diaphragm and spread his arms out widely. “I had originally come up here to tell you my master plan.”

“You need a master plan to talk to your parents?”

“You’ve stayed at the Burrow as many times as I have, right? When would you say it’s the busiest?”

“Sundays, I suppose.”

“Exactly! That’s really the only time the family’s over because everyone’s so busy with work and weekend plans every other day of the week.”

“So you’re going to visit the Burrow on Sunday?”

“Yeah I will. I’m going to knock everyone out at once.”

“Sounds like a plan, I guess. Just don’t let your excitement get the best of you and actually knock someone out, alright?”

“We’ll see. Someone’s gotta keep things interesting.”

“If you insist. Anyway, I’ve got to go, unless you want to explain to Flitwick the reason I’m late to class?”

“I’ll just stick around here for a while.” He scanned over the stack of books on Rose’s nightstand and picked up The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. “This should keep me occupied. Man, you guys must get bored without the ability to use electronics in school. Back in Paris, any time I wasn’t in class or with Lysander, I was on Netflix.”

A thought occurred to Rose. It had been prickling her mind for the entire conversation. “Whatever happened with Waylon?”

“I’m going to live with him in London, and I’ve already sent him first month's rent in Muggle money. But he’s on holiday with his family in Prague for the time being, so I’ve got to wait until he returns. I move in Friday."

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