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Chapter 19: Cramped
A/N: Hey everyone! How's it going? Back here with another super-quick update, if I can say so myself ;) I just wanted to post this because, tomorrow, I will be leaving for a ten-day vacation :( Unfortunately, I will not have internet access. So, yeah, sorry about that, but hopefully this extra long chapter will be able to hold you guys over!
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I also do not own Pantene, Teletubbies, James Bond, Mission Impossible, Herbal Essences, the Mafia... Or anything else that I've missed, for a matter of fact.
TOP TEN REASONS WHY I AM IN A BAD/GRUMPY/SLIGHTLY HOMICIDAL MOOD TODAY:
1. Professor Nott has made it his personal mission to bury me alive under a Mt. Everest - sized pile of textbooks and coursework. This is most likely due to the fact that, the other day, I quietly (or so I thought) referred to him as Professor McDouchepants under my breath, and he may or may not have heard me... Heh. Whoops.
I really need to make sure that people don't hear me while I'm saying insulting things about them. It's starting to become a problem.
Or, on second thought, I could just become a nicer person.
Yeah right. The day that happens is the day McGonagall starts teaching Belly Dancing classes at Hogwarts (read: hopefully never).
2. Dom had another one of her nightmares last night. Thus, I got about four hours of sleep and now feel like I could be an extra in Zombie Apocalypse: The Return of the Living Dead.
3. Pipsqueak the House-elf (in addition to leaving little baked snacks on my bed, memorizing anything I've ever said, and just giving rise to a whole new level of creepiness in general) has taken up a new past time: stalking me. Seriously. He follows me around all day, everyday. I'm half-expecting him to start writing a biography about me. Agatha Bennett: The Sad Story of A Young Girl's Slow Descent into Madness by Pipsqueak the House-elf. Yes, it has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
4. Fred and I have been assigned to work together on a Charms project. So far, we haven't gotten anything done. The first time I suggested we started working on it, Fred brushed me aside and muttered some excuse involving the words 'pet squirrel' and 'bubble bath'. The second time I mentioned it, he ignored me and made a comment about the length (or rather, shortness) of Missy Omara's skirt. The third (and last) time I tried asking, Fred simply looked me dead in the eyes and started to laugh.
The project's due tomorrow
5. I currently have a zit on my forehead the size of Potter's ego.
6. I've been avoiding Ryan. I feel really bad about it, but with Cooper and all... I just think it's the safest thing to do. That doesn't make all the curious glances Ryan keeps shooting me any easier, though.
7. Because Fred is still allergic to Rufus the Gerbil, we've decided to keep him here. In my dorm. My dorm. And the sad thing is, I've actually started to become fond of the little bugger. He does this little twitchy thing with his nose - it's adorable. Sometimes I just sit in my dorm room and watch him in his cage. This, of course, has led me to the sad conclusion that I will one day grow up to be a Gerbil Lady. Which is like a Cat Lady, except with gerbils. And more pathetic.
8. Dom, Potter and Fred will not stop badgering me to visit Aidan. And every time I refuse, they all give each other these 'looks' that are supposed to me significant or meaningful or something. It's bloody annoying. I mean, it's not like I don't want to visit Aidan. It's just... I don't have enough time!
Honestly. These days, the only person I can really stand to be around is Hector Bagley. And that's only because he's too socially awkward to try and console me. Which suits me just fine, thank you very much.
9. No matter how much I try and squash it down, I can still feel It, rising up in my stomach, clenching my throat... I can't escape. It's there, wherever I go, like a second skin I can't get rid of. Sometimes, when I'm busy doing homework or talking to Dom, I can swear that it's gone. But when my distraction leaves, It comes back, stronger and worse than before.
10. And here... Here's the kicker. The Grand Finale. The pièce de résistance...
Something has happened. Something that I thought would never, not in a million years, transpire. Something that not even McGonagall belly-dancing can top:
I've started to feel bad for Evilyn Stanford.
Our plan to destroy Fallon Cooper started out easily enough.
Potter had told us to go around and start digging for dirt, anything that we could possibly use against Cooper. Now, I'm not much for rumors or secrets. I could honestly care less about the who's-with-who and the who's-doing-what, so I didn't really take Potter's request seriously. But Dom, on the other hand, had launched into Full Gossipmonger Mode. And believe me, when she's in FGM, it's best to leave her alone. She can get very, very scary.
And sure enough, after only a few days of research, Dom had found something. Or rather, someone.
His name was Bertram Kinley. He was a first-year, Hufflepuff. He was also the younger brother of Caroline Kinley, who was one of our dormmates and, more importantly, Evelyn's "bestfriend". And by "bestfriend", I mean "brainwashed-minion-robot-zombie".
A couple days ago, Dom had found a note between Bertram and his friend. In this note, Bertram had mentioned that there was some sort of secret, illicit affair going on between Caroline and Fallon Cooper. This shocking piece of information, of course, warranted immediate action. So, using a supply of old Honeyduke's candy, Dom lured Bertram into an empty hallway, kidnapped him, and then locked the poor boy in an empty classroom for a two-hour long interrogation.
Yeah. I am not even kidding.
To be honest, if it hadn't been so bloody insane, it would have actually been quite impressive. I mean, just by abducting Bertram, Dom managed to break about twenty-seven school rules all at once. That's a hard feat to accomplish.
Anyway, this interrogation got pretty intense. Dom even brought one of those muggle lamps to shine into Bertram's eyes. And then she somehow coerced me into playing 'good cop' to her unbelievably frightening 'bad cop'.
Our conversations went a little like this:
Dom: (In a really, really bad Mafia accent) Look-y here, you smug sonuvabitch. I'm gonna say this one time, and one time only: if you don't co-operate with us, we're gonna make your life a living hell.
Me: Dom, don't you think that's a little... (Vague hand gestures) you know...?
Dom: (Pausing to smack on invisible gum) Aggy, you're right.
(Simultaneous breaths of relief from both me and Bertram)
Dom: Look-y here, you smug son of a bitch. I'm gonna say this two times, and two times only: if you don't co-operate with us, we're not just gonna make your life a living hell. No. Hell's gonna look like a five-star beach resort compared to what's gonna happen to you.
Me: Dude, I meant be less harsh, not more!
Dom: By the time we're finished with you, Bertram, you're gonna be in so much pain, you won't even know who you are.
Bertram: P-please d-don't hurt me! I-I'll do a-anything!
Dom: (Long, dramatic pause) Aggy, do you know what I hate the most? Out of anything in the universe?
Me: (Inching towards the door) Uh... When people wear socks under their sandals?
Dom: No! I mean, yeah, I hate that too. But that's not it.
Me: Okay, then I give up.
Dom: What I hate the most in the world, what I loathe with every nerve in my body... are snot-nosed, punk-faced bitchweiners.
Me: Dear Lord.
Dom: (Shooting a menacing glare at Bertram) And I believe that you, sir, are a bitchweiner.
Bertram: N-no! I'm not, I swear! Please don't hurt me!
Dom: Do you know what I do to bitchweiners like yourself, huh? HUH, BERTRAM? I eat them for breakfast. I eat them for tea. I eat them for supper. Hell, I even eat them for a midnight snack.
Me: Merlin help us.
Dom: That's right. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Bertram: I-I'll give you a-anything you want, just please don't eat me! I-I'll co-operate, I swear!
Dom: You better swear! Because if you don't... Do you know what I'll do to you, Bertram? First, I'll build a box. Then, I'll shove you in that box. Then I'll ship the box to India and back. Then I'll go to the local supermarket and buy myself a big, sharp butcher's knife. Then I'll open that box.... (Dramatic pause) And punch you in the face.
(Bertram bursts into tears)
Me: Dom! Look what you've done! He's crying now! Shit! Please don't cry, Bertram! She didn't mean it like that! She just... er... has a very weird sense of humor! Yeah, that's it! You have a weird sense of humor, don't you, Dom?
Dom: (Staring at Bertram) That's right, you little baby. Cry those bitchweiner tears. They're nothing compared to the Viagra Falls —
Me: It's Niagra.
Dom: —you'll be sobbing after we're done with you!
(Long pause. Bertram sniffles)
Me: Okay, that's it. I'm done here.
Dom: (momentarily breaking out of the bad Mafia accent) Wait! Where are you going?
Me: I can't do this. I can't be your accomplice anymore! This is sick!
Dom: But who's gonna be my good cop?
And so on.
After I left, Dom continued on with the good-cop-bad-cop routine. But since I was gone, she had to play both parts herself. Thus, she came across as more of a schizophrenic loony than anything else, which I think scared Bertram even more.
Eventually, after two hours, around 30 or so very colourful threats, and countless tears from Bertram, we finally got the information we wanted. Apparently, according to Bertram, Cooper and Caroline were hooking up ever Friday at four o'clock in the library, near the auto-biography section.
I, of course, disapproved of this. The library was a sacred place for learning and knowledge, not teenage trysts behind bookshelves! The others didn't care though. Once Freddy got over the initial shock of there being a library at our school, he (and Dom and Potter) just kind of shrugged it off.
Anyway, this was very useful information. Very useful indeed, because it meant that the Hogwart's Golden Couple of Evelyn and Cooper was now officially kaput. Once Evelyn found out about the little escapades between her bestfriend and her boyfriend... Well, Cooper would be done for. Evilyn would make sure of it.
We carefully devised a fool-proof plan. It was so fool-proof, in fact, it was practically Freddy-proof. Pretending to be Cooper, Dom forged a note to Evelyn, asking her to meet at the library at the designated time and place. There, Evilyn would bump into Cooper and Caroline, who would hopefully be locked in a heated, hormone-induced snog by then (sigh, isn't love wonderful?). After that... Well, we could leave the rest to Evilyn and her violent, bitchtastic ways.
We had thought that everything would work out perfectly. Cooper would get his comeuppance, and we would get our revenge.
But, as with all things, it didn't work out exactly as planned.
See, the other day, Freddy and I were walking to Transfiguration, when, all of a sudden, we heard this great commotion near the Entrance Hall.
Of course, Freddy insisted on dragging me over to see what all the ruckus was about. We got there, only to be met with the sight of Cooper, Caroline Kinley and Evilyn, surrounded by a crowd of gasping onlookers.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Cooper was standing there with his arm wrapped around Caroline's shoulders, a slimy snirk on his face. Evelyn was screeching at the two of them, her eyes bright and livid, looking fit to murder. But Caroline and Cooper simply stared right back at her, unashamed and expressionless.
"FINE, SEE IF I CARE!" Evelyn shrieked, and I think that one of my eardrums exploded from the sheer volume of her voice, "I DON'T NEED YOU TWO!"
Pretty face twisting with fury, Evelyn wheeled around and began to stalk off, her hair swishing all over the place. Cooper, his arm still wrapped around a smug Caroline, scoffed audibly.
"Good luck with that, love," he said, voice dripping with superiority. "You're nothing without us."
Evelyn stopped dead in her tracks. Her back was turned to Cooper and Caroline, but I could see the look of veritable terror that flitted over her face. It was at that moment when I - along with everyone else in the room - came to the realization that Queen Bee Evilyn had been officially dethroned.
Her eyes filling with something that looked horribly similar to tears, Evelyn tossed her head in a hair-flip worthy of a Pantene commercial and then stomped off, leaving a victorious Cooper and a self-satisfied Caroline in her wake. Despite everything that was happening, I couldn't help but smile. Typical Evelyn. Even when she was being publicly humiliated by her bestfriend and her boyfriend, she still went out with a bang - or, in this case, a damn good hair-flip.
Immediately, the whole crowd began to hum with astonished whispers. No one could believe what had just happened, including myself.
"Did you see that?"
"How could they just do that to her?
"How could they not? Evelyn was such a bitch. Go Team Caroline!"
"Nah, Evelyn all the way! She's fit as hell, son."
Freddy and I shared a glance - the same word floating through both our brains: uh-oh. According to the plan, Cooper was supposed to be groveling at Evelyn's feet right now - not the other way around. How had Evelyn become the victim in this situation? How had Cooper slimed his way out of this one?
I remembered the look on Evelyn's face when I had bumped into her at the therapist's office - the surprise, the vulnerability, even the faint twinge of embarrassment... A pang of guilt zinged through me, as fast and hot as a shooting star. Okay, yeah, I didn't like Evelyn - in fact, I bloody loathed her. But did she really deserve this? Public humiliation? Betrayal from both her best friend and her boyfriend?
"Shit," Fred said, and all I could do was nod in agreement. Of all the things that Evelyn had made me feel in the past years - anger, hurt, hatred... Guilt had not been one of them.
"Couldn't have said it better myself, Freddy." I murmured softly, my gaze lingering on the spot where Evelyn had previously stood. "Couldn't have said it better myself."
"This is not good."
The four of us were inside the Gryffindor Common Room, Potter, Fred and Dom all sprawled out on various cushy pieces of furniture, while I stood in front of the fireplace. Well, stood isn't exactly the word. 'Furiously paced' is more like it. I was walking to and fro so fast, I was surprised that I hadn't burnt a hole in the already worn carpet.
"This is not good," I repeated, louder this time. My manic pacing was interrupted, however, by a derisive scoff coming from one of the maroon sofas nearby. I turned around to see Potter, arms crossed, expression unimpressed, lounging around like we were on some sort of bloody Mediterranean cruise ship.
"Merlin, Bennett, you're observant today."
Something about Potter's supercilious tone sparked a flame of irritation inside of me. I mean, this was a crisis right here, and he was acting like none of it mattered! I wasn't asking for much here, just a little bit of co-operatio!. Was that really too much?
Abandoning my relentless pacing, I whipped around and shot Potter a glare that could make McGonagall tremble in her boots. "Shut up!"
"Wow, observant and witty. What else you got?"
"No one likes you!"
"Damn that hurts. I don't think I'll ever be able to fully recover."
"And the wit just keeps coming..."
"Nobody wants you here, not even Dom—"
"Oi! Don't drag me into this!"
"—so why don't you just crawl back into whatever poisonous, lava-spewing hole you came out of?
"Oh my achy breaky heart! You're killing me here, Bennett."
"I'll show you 'achy breaky,' you stupid, inconsiderate—"
"Okay, okay!" Fred announced loudly, holding his hands up as he came to stand in between the two of us. "How about we all calm down before Aggy becomes observant, witty and violent? Because I really don't fancy another trip to the hospital wing, savvy?"
I clenched my jaw, practically grinding my teeth to enamel dust as I shot Potter one last withering glare. Every nerve in my body was incensed, anger sweeping through me in a red hot wave. I was getting way too worked up over some tiny little bout of bickering, but I could care less. Being angry at Potter felt good. In fact, it felt more than good. It felt bloody fantastic. In addition to blazing with zealous fury, my nerves were also humming with a kind of happy contentment. For the past few days, everything had been so weird, so topsy-turvy... Arguing with Potter was a relief from that, a way to pound out all the stress that was currently churning around in my body.
For a single heated moment, Potter and I just stared at each other. The fire crackled and popped nearby, throwing a warm glow across his face and illuminating every rugged, annoyingly handsome line of his features. His eyes were dark and smoky with irritation, lips twisted into a scowl of annoyance, one eyebrow quirked into his mess of dark hair. I tore my eyes away, a sense of satisfaction swelling up inside of me. He was pissed off. My work here was done.
"Alright," Dom sighed from where she was stretched out, cat-like, on an armchair. "So what are we going to do now?"
Fred shrugged, "Well, the answer's simple, really."
I placed my hands on my hips, raising my eyebrows. "Oh, and what is it?"
Exchanging a significant glance with Potter (Merlin, I really hate when they do that), Freddy smiled, the corners of his lips curling up in an almost - no, scratch that - definitely sinister manner.
"We prank him."
At nights, the Dungeons of Hogwarts are quiet. Eerily quiet, in fact. So eerily quiet that one might get just the teeniest bit creeped out, especially if one were to sneak down said Dungeons at two o' clock in the morning, wearing all black and with no one for company other than a silent Potter and a very maniacal Weasley.
Just for clarification: this time, the maniacal Weasley isn't Dom. It's Fred.
"Doo da dooo doooo, do da do da daaaaa..."
"For Merlin's sake, Freddy, do you think this is really necessary?"
"Do do da da do do daaaaa da de da da dooo da de doo..."
"Honestly." I could do nothing but shake my head as Freddy crept stealthily down the hallway, wearing all black (including face paint) and humming the beginning tune to The Final Countdown. He leapt from statue to suit of armor, suit of armor to tapestry, striking a variety of complicated poses, some of which I hadn't believed to be physically possible. The whole effect was slightly reminiscent of James Bond. But on drugs.
"It could be worse," Potter remarked easily, hands in his pockets. Unlike Freddy, he had decided to go for the less crazed route, and was wearing a pair of jeans and a simple gray t-shirt. His face, thankfully, was devoid of face paint.
"How?" I asked as Freddy's humming reached a crescendo, his voice horribly off-key. "How could this be any worse?"
"He could be singing the theme to Mission Impossible."
I watched as Fred pirouetted out from behind a statue of Vincent the Victorious and then whipped out a muggle walkie-talkie, which had been magically altered so it could be used inside the castle. He gave a furtive look around, scanning his surroundings with a gaze filled with paranoia, before pressing the button. "Silverfox to Nighthawk. We're in the clear."
"Roger that," Dom's voice crackled over the speaker. "Everything's good over here."
Fred pocketed the walkie-talkie, turning around to fix Potter and I with a determined gaze that was, quite frankly, kind of frightening. "Alright, here's the game plan. You guys will go into The Cupboard to get The Stuff, and I'll stay out here to stand guar—"
"Woah there, cowboy," I interrupted, holding my hands out. "What exactly do you mean by 'Cupboard' and 'Stuff'?"
Potter and Fred locked gazes, giving each other another one of those significant looks which I just adored oh-so-much. See, neither of them had actually specified what we were going on this fun little expedition for, which was kind of why I was a bit alarmed at that moment. I mean... Cupboard? What exactly did Fred mean by that? There was only one real cupboard I knew of, and that was...
"The Potions Cupboard," Fred said, and I swear to Merlin my stomach plummeted right down to the soles of my penny loafers. "You see, Agatha, in order to properly prank Cooper, we need supplies—"
"Oh no. No no no no no," I spat out, the edge of hysteria in my voice growing higher and higher. "There is absolutely, irrevocably, unequivocally—"
"Oh come on, Aggy!"
"—no way that I am going to break into the Potions Cupboard and steal school property—"
"We've done it loads of times before!"
"—breaking about a gazillion rules—"
"It's for a good cause!"
"—with the punishment of detention, suspension, or even expulsion!"
"Bennett." Potter's voice sliced through the air. "You have to do it."
"No." I said, my tone clipped and final.
There was a long, pregnant pause. Chest clenching in a very peculiar way, I looked at the ground, trying to ignore Potter's calculating gaze. It had been so long since I had heard his name said out loud... Just that one word had inspired a huge hurricane of emotions to charge right through and barrel me down. I could feel It, creeping back up again, clogging my throat, making it harder to breathe...
"Come on, Aggy." Freddy said quietly, "He would have wanted this."
I met Potter's amber eyes, squashing down It into the pits of my stomach, where it could fester and stew until the next time it decided to make a reappearance.
"Okay, fine. Let's go."
And that is how I found myself trapped in a small cupboard with none other than James Sirius Potter.
Honestly, I'd never thought this day would come. But it did.
And boy, am I just ecstatic.
Seconds later, I was already beginning to regret my choice of agreeing to this, of getting into the whole mess in general, of even meeting Potter and Fred in the first place. See, here's the thing about the cupboards of Hogwarts: they're awfully small. And cramped.
Which provides for a very uncomfortable situation when you and the boy you hate are locked inside of one. Together.
Potter and I stood inside the dimly lit cupboard, not breathing a word, the tension thick and palpable in the air. Well, I stood. Potter was actually browsing through racks and racks of colourful ingredients, searching for whatever he and Fred needed.
I was rooted to the spot, my whole body clenching with terror at the thought of us being caught. At any moment now, Slughorn could just walk inside and find us ransacking his beloved Cupboard. And where would that leave us? I mean, Potter could probably smooth-talk his way out of punishment, but I... I was done for.
"I can't believe we're doing this." I mumbled, more to myself than anything, as I stared directly ahead at the mahogany door in front of me. Goosebumps flooded my skin, and my teeth chattered with nervous energy.
"Relax, Bennett." Potter murmured as he picked up a jar of hellebore, inspected its contents, and then set it back down again. He seemed to be looking for something specific. "We're not going to get caught."
"That's what you say now, but when we're hanging by the shackles of Filch's torture chamber..." I trailed off, shaking my head. "I can't believe we're doing this."
"Yeah, I think you mentioned that already."
"Oh, I'm sorry if I'm a wee bit uncomfortable at the thought of stealing from another person! Excuse me for having a moral compass!" I snapped back, irate. Freddy should have known. Sticking me and Potter into a cramped, small place filled with explosive Potions ingredients? Not the most genius idea.
"A Slytherin with a moral compass? Oh yeah, that's rich."
I glared back at Potter, but he was too busy sifting through a rack of leafy-looking things to notice me. "Whatever. Can you please just get on with it so we can leave?"
"You know what, Bennett? Sometimes it wouldn't kill you to relax a bit—"
"Oh yeah, that's what I really need. Advice from you, of all people."
"Jesus, calm down. You're so bleedin' uptight all the time... No wonder you don't have a boyfriend." Potter's patronizing tone was too much. Immediately, I felt a fresh outburst of anger surge through me, red and hot and blinding. I clenched my fists, nails digging red half-moons into my skin, and tried my best to ignore the mocking edge riding through Potter's jeer. But I couldn't do it. Ignoring him would be letting him get the last word, and I just could not allow that to happen.
Slowly, blue eyes pratically spitting sparks, I turned around to stare at Potter. The left corner of his lips was twisted up in a smirk, his gold eyes swirling with triumph at having finally found one of my sensitive spots.
"Just because I'm not easy like all the slags you date! Oh, and by the way, I'm using the term 'date' in the loosest way possible." I gave a quick, sarcastic little smile and then turned back around, ready to go back to ignoring the stupid git now that I'd had my say.
Unfortunately, ignoring James Sirius Potter is easier said than done.
"Is that a hint of jealousy I detect in your tone, Bennett?"
"As if! Sorry to disappoint, Potter, but when I want to find a boyfriend, I usually look for someone who's more - how should I put this? - human."
"Hmm, don't you think that's a little out of your league, love?"
"Oh haha, you just think you're so clever, don't you?"
"As a matter of fact—" Suddenly, Potter stopped mid-sentence, his eyes snapping to something directly above my head. His gaze seemed to change, somehow, growing darker and more... determined.
"What?" I asked impatiently, a little bit of nervousness creeping into my tone. I turned around to follow his stare, but I could see nothing except for rows and rows of dusty shelves. "What is it?"
"There," Potter said plainly, pointing to the highest shelf. "That's what we need."
Tucked away in a dark, shadowy corner was a jar of little pink crystals. Despite being covered in cobwebs and grime and Merlin-knows-what, the crystals still seemed to give off this ethereal sort of glow, almost as if they were beckoning us, begging us to come and get them...
Just from eyeballing it, I knew that neither of us would be able to reach the shelf. Despite Potter's annoying tallness, this shelf was so high up, the top of the jar was nearly touching the ceiling. There was no way we'd be able to get it.
Before I could even mention this tiny little problema, though, Potter was slipping his wand out from his pocket and waving it around, "Accio Venus Crystals."
Oh yeah. Use magic. At Hogwarts. Duh.
We both held our breaths anxiously, waiting for the spell to take effect. But nothing happened. The jar simply shuddered a little bit and then went back to normal, stubbornly refusing to move from it's position on the shelf.
There was a beat of silence.
"Well, try again!" I demanded, impatient.
"It's no use. Slughorn probably has some protective charm to make sure that no one tries to magically alter anything."
"Just try again!"
Veering his hazel eyes into a roll, Potter obliged. Once again, the jar shook a little - crystals glimmering in a manner that was almost cheeky - before going completely still. Potter sighed, mumbling something along the lines of, "Knew this would happen..." and pocketed his wand.
"Get on my shoulders, Bennett."
I stared at him, eyebrows making their way to my hairline. "Come again?"
He crouched down, sighing again at my apparent stupidity. "Get on my shoulders."
"Are you seriou—?"
"Do you want to do this or not?"
Looking at the jar of Venus Crystals, I guess I didn't have any other choice.
Tentatively (and a bit awkwardly), I clambered on top of Potter's shoulders, placing my hands on his head for balance. And then he was standing up in one swift motion and, caught unawares, I started falling backwards.
I gave a loud yelp and, immediately, Potter's hands shot up to steady me, his fingers wrapping themselves against the bare skin of my legs. Flushing from both the feeling of Potter's touch and the embarrassment of almost falling, I tightened my grip on Potter's (extremely thick) skull, teetering and tottering precariously in the air.
There was a pause. "Er, are you okay?" Potter asked, and I could actually feel his voice, deep and slow, rumbling through his body.
It was a good thing I was on his shoulders, or else Potter would have seen me blushing up a storm. I was pretty sure that, at the moment, I was completely monochromatic. Red hair, red skin... I might as well have been a Teletubby.
"Um, yeah, I'm fine." I squeaked, voice way higher than normal. I couldn't help but notice that, for a boy, Potter had incredibly soft hair.
But that was just, you know, a teensy little observation. Nothing important or anything.
Seriously, though. What shampoo does he use? Herbal Essences? Pantene?
Ahem. Not the time, Aggy. Not the time.
Potter took a couple steps towards the shelf and, slowly, I began to reach out for the jar. I wrapped my hands around the cool surface of the glass, unable to help myself as I stared in awe at the tiny crystals inside. They were so... pretty, for lack of a better word. They sparkled and winked seductively, and I was suddenly overcome with the silly desire to eat one, just to see what it would taste like.
"Yeah," I said, still staring at the jar I was clutching in my hands.
Potter shifted me slightly, his fingers grazing up my leg, and that was all it took to break my concentration. Completely startled, I reached out to grab on to something, choosing the nearest shelf. For a heart-stopping moment, I thought I was going to fall. But then Potter managed to steady me, his (rough, warm) fingers pressing deeper into my skin. And I just couldn't stop myself - I gasped. Whether it was from surprise or embarrassment or something else entirely, I didn't know. I just hoped that Potter hadn't heard me amid all the chaos. That was the last thing I needed was for him to think that I was some stupid, swooning girl who went around, practically fainting every time a bloke touched her.
He crouched down, and, heart beating rapidly from what I'd like to think was the near fall, I clumsily got off his shoulders, stumbling back a little. And Potter, who had stood back up to his full height, grabbed my shoulders to steady me.
There was a pause in which my eyes flitted from his hands to the jar and then, finally, to his face. The whole cupboard seemed to pulse with an invisible kind of tension as, silently, Potter took the jar from me, his hazel gaze curiously intense.
"Are you... alright?"
"Yeah," I said a little breathlessly, "I'm fine. I can't believe we pulled it off, though."
"No kidding," A ghost of a smile was tugging on Potter's lips. "I seriously thought you were going to fall for a second there."
"Me too. But I think we can consider this mission successful." I said, a triumphant almost-smile of my own flirting across my face.
Potter nodded. "Freddy would be proud."
The temperature in the room seemed to drop about ten degrees. Simultaneously, Potter and I turned around to find the source of the noise. And then, after a bit of searching through the darkness... I saw it.
The Thing was a monster. A hideous demon, it was what horror stories were made of, what haunted the nightmares of little children... It was the devil, incarnate.
And somehow, it had managed to get inside this cupboard and find us. The fact that something without opposable thumbs had made it's way past a closed door disturbed me, but I didn't bother to question it.
The Thing had its ways. It always did.
I stared at its glowing eyes, its evil, gleaming fangs, and gave an audible gulp. This was exactly what I had been so afraid of. My worst fears confirmed...
Suddenly, Freddy burst through the cupboard door, panting extremely loudly, a crazed look in his panic-ridden eyes. He didn't even bother to acknowledge the jar in Potter's hands. "ABORT! ABORT THE MISSION! I REPEAT: ABORT ABORT!"
But all Potter and I could do was stare back at Freddy, motionless with terror. The Thing didn't even blink. It just glanced at us, cutting gaze superior and even slightly amused.
"It's too late, Freddy," I whispered. "We're done for."
Freddy's eyes darted around the room, face getting about five shades paler when his gaze finally landed on The Thing. And then, voice nothing but a hoarse croak, Freddy whispered the three words that struck terror into every Hogwarts student's heart:
"Mrs. Norris, Jr."
A/N: I think I have developed an unheatlhy addiction to cliff-hangers... Sorry, guys!
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