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Chapter 14: A 4-Letter Word...and it's not Doom.
If theres a prize for rotten judgement, I guess I've already won that.
No man is worth the aggravation,
That's ancient history, been there, done that.
Disney's Hercules: Won't Say I'm in Love.
I wasn't sure how I was surviving. Each day seemed to get worse. Sirius and I just glared at each other, not even bothering with insults. Yet everytime I glared at him, something in my stomach would churn, and it felt like the hydrochloric acid in my gut was really having a blast chewing through the membranes. I'd feel weak and all of the sudden anxious, only to end up angry and jealous again.
I was having problems. Aside from being on edge like, all the time, 101 was driving me insane. He kept insisting that his name was Love.
Obviously there was no way I would ever say that. Because it meant I was in… the word I would not say (which I took to be synonymous with my favourite 4-letter word: doom). And tracing 101's first appearance back, counting all the times when he had showed up, and all the things he said…it was clear to see there was only one target for my apparent emotions.
It meant I was in _ _ _ _ with Sirius.
Freakin' Sirius Black.
I mean…how? The past seven years just flew by perfectly fine with both of us practically ignoring the other. And then one stupid project – no, half a stupid project – later, this happens?
The project thus far had been an utter mess. Sure we had spent quite a bit of time together but there were no moments where it seemed we were getting along enough for this to happen. I mean, one minute tentacles were trying to rip my head off, and the next we were hiding in some random hole from an angry horde of Slytherins. One day I was yelling out horrible things about his manipulative ex-girlfriend, and the next we were out together trying to get her jealous.
It just didn't make sense. It didn't add up.
Once you were trapped in an unfindable broom closet and Sirius came to rescue you.
He dropped me from the ceiling!
Once you were afraid of the spiders hiding in the dark trophy room, and Sirius agreed to save you from them.
As part of a bargain! He coerced answers out of me!
Once you couldn't have cared less about Sirius and Melanie, and now you're jealous.
She's a downright obnoxious cow and he should've known it!
Once you swore to never let anyone find out about your little curse, and now Sirius is the only one who knows.
It was at this point that 101 decided our little conversation was going nowhere, and gathered up his followers into a choir.
Who'd you think you're kidding, he's the earth and heaven to you
Try to keep it hidden, honey we can see right through you.
Great. Now on top of everything else, the voices in my head were singing.
And the melody was catchy too.
What with trying to cope with an impending failure in DADA and the mess of thoughts and emotions running through me 24/7, the library had become my refuge. So even today I was sitting in between the book stacks, trying to read a random novel I picked off a shelf. I was trying, and failing, because voices had sounded from a few bookshelves down a while ago. Two voices I would recognize in my sleep.
"So, what did you want to talk about?" I heard Sirius ask Joey.
He seemed to hesitate for a second, and then said, "Actually, it's about Andy."
How I ended up eavesdropping was a different matter now. That was the point where I decided to not walk away quietly and instead stay where I was. I had a right to listen in, didn't I? They were talking about me. Besides, this way they wouldn't actually be talking behind my back.
Girl you can't conceal it, we know how you're feeling and who you're thinking of.
"What about her?" Sirius asked.
"Leave her alone," Joey said, his voice quite firm.
"What do you mean, leave her alone?" Sirius asked, immediately sounding mad, offended.
"I mean, stop bothering her. Or just get things back to how they were, at least," the Ravenclaw replied. He stared at Sirius, and Sirius stared back. With a sigh, Joey continued. "Look, I wasn't going to say anything, but you don't know Andy like I do – like we do…"
Sirius laughed, and crossed his arms. "Believe me, I think I know her a lot better than you do."
Joey shook his head. "I don't care if you know her deepest, darkest secrets. If you don't know what hurts her and what doesn’t, you don't know anything about her."
"I don't think I follow, Joey," Sirius said. He sounded slightly less defiant, but still had that tone of arrogance. "Mind dumbing it down a bit, oh wise and intelligent Ravenclaw?"
I knew he shouldn't have said that. Joey may look calm and reserved, but he was not one to be trifled with when it came to serious stuff. And unfortunately for Sirius, Joey was one who kept all the friendship stuff pretty high up on the serious scale.
"Follow this, jerkoff – she's been hell to live with recently. And that's saying something. She's always angry or frustrated or annoyed at every little thing, she seems more paranoid than ever, and she's shut away into herself again. That dumbed down enough for you, idiot Gryffindor?"
I was shocked. Apparently so was Sirius. Me probably more though, because all that Joey had said rang with a sad truth in my ears still. I didn't know I had been acting that badly.
"And what, you automatically assume it's my fault?!" the Gryffindor challenged.
"Isn't everything around here your fault?!"
Sirius didn't seem to have a response to that, so he changed the topic. "Andy can make herself heard, especially when it comes to her opinion. Why do you need to speak for her?!"
"Because Andy, whatever her reputation and outward persona is, is actually too nice for her own good, and –"
"Why don't you just admit you're jealous?" Sirius interrupted, though it didn't seem to me like he meant it.
"Yeah, I am."
Joey meant his reply though.
Swallowing my frantically beating heart, I decided to ignore it for now. There was no way I could handle that on top of everything else right now too.
Sirius seemed stunned (ugh…alliteration, much?), as if he hadn't expected Joey to come out and just admit it like that. He recovered after a moment of gaping at him, "There's nothing to be jealous of, mate. She's all yours."
This time it was Joey who laughed the mocking laugh, crossing his arms. "Why don't you say it like you mean it?"
"Wow that sounded just like Andy," Sirius chimed in. "You'd make a perfect couple."
It was weird, knowing that it was a lie. And yet somehow I felt my lips trying to curve upward into a smile.
You swoon, you sigh, why deny it oh-oh.
I do not swoon.
"Andy is one of my best friends – I'm not going to mess that up," Joey replied, his voice decisive and strong. When Sirius gave him a look, Joey continued, "Believe me, Black, I was secretly pleased you two had a falling out…or whatever it was. Until she couldn't seem to let go of it."
After a moment, Sirius stood up from the desk he was leaning on and started to leave.
Joey called out to him, "Just fix it, it, Black. I don't care how, just do it…or undo it, whichever."
Sirius turned to look at Joey, apparently catching Joey's hidden meaning, and I was surprised at the fire in his eyes. "Don't worry about Melanie."
I didn't know what was going on, but it couldn't be good. I was just glad Joey (and Sirius for that matter) weren't gifted with really good hearing like some creepy vampires; they weren't able to hear my heart beating much too fast.
* * *
Almost a week of ignoring and being positively uncivil to each other was culminating in a duel.
This would be a disaster. This would be a bigger disaster than the first disaster we had trying to figure this project out…you know, the one that ended up with my head exploding.
This one was sure to end up with both our heads exploding…plus some.
Apparently, most of the class seemed to agree with me, as they subtly – then again maybe not so subtly – tried to push themselves back a bit from the duelling strip Sirius and I were now standing on opposite sides of. Professor Hackett was standing at the very back of the class too, though he had occupied a much more front-and-centre seat for all the previous duels.
We were winging it.
And he knew it. Or at least was strongly inclined to believe as much.
But he should have known procrastination wouldn't help. I was quite sure leaving us to duel last in the class only made things worse; only made the tension rise and our patience with each other decline rapidly. The only benefit, I suppose, of making us go last was that the classroom was still in one piece for almost the entirety of the period.
I lifted my wand to my face, saluting Sirius, and he did the same. At least we'd get marks for observing the proper duelling etiquette.
"You won't skip away from this, Thorse," Sirius hissed at me, bringing his wand forward into a ready, fighting stance.
"I doubt you'll be walking away whistling either," I snapped back.
The only answer that came my way was a jet of light heading straight for my face, and suddenly it was déjà vu, like the first day back in Room of Requirement. I countered with the same protecting spell I had that time, following the order and description we had decided on while actually working on our project before being chased down by the Slytherin mob.
Except my retaliating attack was sent twice as forcefully and viciously at my opponent.
And Sirius countered with equal strength, always throwing in an extra hex or curse my way. I didn't slack on that either.
"So tell me, Thorse, is it just your plan in life to screw up other people's lives? Or is that just a side trip off the master plot?" Sirius said through gritted teeth, still duelling for all it was worth.
The sudden conversation had caught me slightly off guard, and I had barely managed to deflect the next set of hexes flung in my direction. "I don't screw people's lives up! You're the one who seems to take pleasure in other people's pain and suffering."
He ducked to dodge a jet of green light, and took a few steps towards me. Narrowing his eyes, he replied, "Oh yeah? Well at least I'm not some crackpot weirdo who purposely tries to drive others insane by stupid enigmatic behaviour!"
I actually managed a laugh in between jumping over a low aimed hex and sidestepping another one. "Well at least I'm not some stupid sulking boy!"
Sirius seemed to ignore my comment and continued on with his own tirade. "Skipping away from that? And then going all psycho a couple of hours later?!"
"I didn't know what I was doing!" I yelled back, angry at his statements that were somehow questions at the same time. "At least I have a spine, and didn't go crawling happily back to someone."
I really hoped all the italics were coming through in my voice. I'd hate to waste them.
"It's not why I was like that," he said.
Somehow we had ended up only inches away from each other, and locked with crossed wands in front of us like in a sword fight, coloured jets of light no longer flying. If looks could kill, I was quite sure we'd have both dropped dead a few seconds ago already.
"I had decided to break it off once and for all. I was going to tell her that," Sirius replied, his voice slightly lowered but still retaining the angry and hard tone. "And you…you ruined it."
We both pushed away at the same time, breaking off the little physical struggle and going back to shooting hexes at each other, having switched sides of the duelling strip. I wasn't paying much attention to the duel anymore, though. I was way too preoccupied with what he was saying.
What did it mean? He had been going to break up with Melanie? Why? For me? Is that why I apparently ruined his high?
Impossible. And stupid.
And what's up with this even more stupid, stupid way I'm feeling right now?!
You keep on denying, who you are and how you're feeling.
Baby we're not buying, hon we saw you hit the ceiling.
I didn't have to tell the Voices to shut up – they saw the giant ball of glowing whatever it was the same as I had. Sirius and I had cast our hexes at the same time, and they collided in the middle, forming this pulsating orb-like-hovering-glowing-ball-of-doom. And it was growing with each passing second.
It wasn't like Priori Incantatem or whatever that crazy wand twin-core-connection thing Hackett had once tried explaining. It was more like something out of Star Wars. Something like this didn't happen often. And when it did, someone usually let go, breaking the connection, stopping the energy from escalating and exploding all over the place.
One look at Sirius' narrowed eyes told me he wasn't letting go.
The wand in my hand started to vibrate, and I put my other hand around it trying to steady it.
We opted for explosion, apparently.
I narrowed my eyes as well and stared back at him. "Past tense duly noted, Black – You were going to break up with her? What's the matter, chickened out last minute?"
The silvery, hazy orb between us kept increasing in size and strength, and I was starting to have trouble holding on. But so was Sirius. All I knew is that I wouldn't lose this duel. Even if my arms fell off.
"Actually, thought I'd give her a taste of her own medicine," Sirius replied, then added, "Plus it was completely bugging you, so really, I kinda killed two birds with one stone there."
I felt my anger start to boil again. "You went to all that trouble just to piss me off? Wow, I'd say I was flattered, but you know how it is."
He caught on to my meaning. Obviously, however sarcastically I'd wish I could say it, I couldn't. Because I didn't feel flattered at all.
Oh I did feel something. Maybe somewhere in between the stomach acid that was eating my insides alive and the adrenaline and anger running through me, I felt a little pleased that he seemed to be over Melanie enough to flaunt her before me. But like I said, hydrochloric acid and anger were a pretty tough, all consuming combination. Seriously, whoever said bacteria and not stress was responsible for stomach ulcers was an idiot. I don't care if he won the Nobel Prize. He was an idiot. Because stress was the only thing I was living on at the moment.
Somehow we let go at the same time, and the orb exploded, sending a shockwave through the room. The blast propelled both of us backwards. I fell on my side harshly, breathing rapidly, and already feeling the ache in my arms. I managed to lift my head a little to take a look to the other side, and saw Sirius in much the same predicament as myself, though he was already trying to stand up.
Panning my gaze across the room, I noticed the stunned faces of our class, whom the shockwave had not affected as much, though some of them had fallen off the chairs or had clearly dishevelled hairdos. It was completely silent.
I pulled myself up.
And then, out of the silence erupted a slow, but loud clap, coming straight from the back of the room. I couldn't believe it. Was Hackett actually applauding us?
"Wonderful! Simply amazing!" he exclaimed, coming up to the front of the class. Wow, he really was praising us. "The back-story behind the duel and all the use of the dialogue made it particularly interesting to watch! And the execution of the hexes and defences was top notch! Impeccable footwork! Full marks. Brilliant work!"
Sure I had called him a drama queen before, but this…this just made me realize how much of a drama queen he was. I mean, he enjoyed that? And he actually thought we were putting on a show?
Maybe he was more daft than dramatically inclined.
Or you know, maybe this was like his reflex reaction. When in doubt, pretend you're on stage.
Yeah, that sounded about right.
I left the duelling stage…er, strip…pleased that somehow, miraculously, we hadn't failed the first part of the project, devastated that we still had another half to complete, and once again thrown into complete confusion at what Sirius had divulged during the duel.
"By the way, Mel, in case you weren't listening," Sirius' voice rang out amidst our footsteps and the noise of our classmates packing up, in a sort of half-whisper-half-spoken volume as he walked by her, "You can bugger off now."
Well, if there had been any confusion in the class as to whether or not what had happened while we were duelling was real or not…it was definitely gone now. As was Sirius. He just picked up his bag, slung it quickly across his shoulder and booked it out of the room, not even stopping to admire Melanie's dumbstruck expression.
I glanced back at Hackett quickly, but he either had decided to ignore Sirius' comment or hadn't actually heard it. "That is it for today, children! Well done, all of you. The next part of the project is due in just under three weeks, with the preliminary report to be handed in next week."
But I had definitely heard it. And even if I had wanted to ignore it, I couldn't. It just…it was just…I felt like…I can't even…I mean, walking straight was difficult enough at the moment…
A part of the voices were screaming get a grip girl – unless you're dying to cry your heart out.
Meanwhile 101 started up the chorus and drowned out the previous sounds.
Face it like a grown up, when you gonna own up that got, got, got it bad.
No chance! No way! I won't say it no, no.
Oh dear. Now I was singing too. Silently. And it would definitely be stuck in my head now, just playing on loop over and over and over until I –
I turned around. Who the hell was this kid talking to me? And seriously, when did I get this far out of the classroom? Why was it that ever since Sirius came into my life I had trouble remembering moving from place to place…? I just started in one location, and appeared in the next without a logical explanation, like in a dream.
I mean, that's what it seemed like. Because obviously the logical explanation was that I walked there. Even if my imagination did try to suggest otherwise.
He grinned. "You don't remember my name, do you?"
I tried my best to put on a charming smile, which was tricky considering the past five minutes. It seemed to have worked, though, as he patted my shoulder and said, "Rob, remember? We worked on a project together last year for charms."
My mind went reeling back in time trying to remember. Of course, I probably didn't have to try and remember. I knew he was telling the truth. I nodded.
"So where you off to?" he asked.
"Lunch," I replied without even thinking about it.
"Great, I am too," he said excitedly. Don't know why he was so excited. This was lunch time after all. "Mind if I walk with you?"
Rob didn't wait for me to answer, which I wasn't sure if it was a good or bad thing. Instead he sort of turned my shoulders in the right direction and we started walking towards the great hall. He started talking right away – something about how cool my duel with Sirius was – and at once I was able to remember him quite well. The one who wouldn't shut up. The talkative Hufflepuff do-gooder. Though I can't say he wasn't good looking. And it was rather nice to just listen instead of having to reply to a bunch of nosy questions some people liked to ask.
I had a question for him though. I asked it the first chance I got (which actually wasn't for a while considering the sheer amount of words coming out of his mouth). "Rob, not to be rude or anything, but what's with you all of a sudden just coming and talking with me like this?"
He gave me a quizzical look but smiled. "What, is it against the law for students in the same school to talk with each other?"
"No, it isn't," I answered slowly, stopping midstep and looking at him. "All the same, what is it that you want from me?"
He stopped as well, and turned to face me, putting his hands in his pant pockets. Was it bad that the first thing that came to mind was that the gesture was some cheap imitation of Sirius' suave and cool hands-in-pockets look?
"Well, might as well come out with it then," Rob started. He took a quick breath. "I like you Andrea. I have, since last year. I just haven't had the guts to actually come ask you out – you know, with your reputation and all…"
He looked at me, as if hoping I understood and didn't take offence. I was confused, though. I knew that he wasn't being exactly truthful, but I wasn't quite sure about which part of his proclamation. I was about to say something, when I thought I heard footsteps around the corner. I waited, but heard nothing more. "So why all of the sudden you come talk to me now?"
"Truthfully, I was starting to get worried I wouldn't get a chance to ever ask you, by the way things were going," he muttered. At least I wouldn't need to ponder over that along with the rest of the day's events later. This one was obvious – whispers about Sirius and me had been flying ever since the project had started. "So anyways, what d'you think? Do you want to go out with me?"
I bit my lip, and looked at him. He seemed to take the hint.
"I mean, you don't have to answer right away, but ideally, I'd like for us to go to Hogsmeade this weekend. Together."
I was actually stunned by his direct…statement. It wasn't even a question. It was almost a command.
"We don't live in an ideal world, Rob," I answered, though it sounded harsher than I had intended it to be.
"Is that a no?" he asked.
He looked disappointed, but thoughtful as well. "You didn't even give me a chance. Why?"
Bugger. What was it with this guy and stupid direct straight-forward-ness? He was worse than Sirius! I was not going to be answering that question. Oh no. Stupid 'why' questions often led to the most unexpected, stupid revelations and made at least one person feel extremely…well, not good. I bit my lip, and looked up at Rob, trying to convey something. But he didn't seem to understand. Was it bad that suddenly Sirius' uncanny perception seemed like a good thing in comparison to this?
"Obviously, she doesn't like you," a silky voice said from somewhere in the shadows. We both whipped around to face the voice, my heart beating faster already. We both recognized the voice. I don't think anybody in this hell-hole of a school could not not recognize it, though I was glad his tone didn't contain the same bitterness from just a few minutes ago.
I couldn't help but smile at him as I let out a breath of relief.
He makes a good knight in shining armour, doesn't he? 101 commented before starting up the band again.
Give up, give in. Check the grin, you're in love.
Rob didn't look too happy though. I quickly tried to cover the damage to the best of my ability, "It's not that I don't like you, Rob."
And that's where I stopped; I didn't want to hear the rest of it. And if I didn't want to hear it, he probably didn't either. I had a grisly feeling in my gut that my answer would have something to with Sirius (unless it was just the stomach acid again). And that could never be good. Not when 101 seemed to be in charge of everything Sirius-related nowadays.
"Then what is it?" Rob continued, ignoring Sirius completely.
Well, trying to ignore Sirius. Because Sirius would not be ignored, however, and he came to my rescue quite chivalrously. "Look, mate. She said no. Don't make it worse."
I just bit my lip the whole time, and nodded along, trying to look apologetic.
"I don't think she needs you to talk for her, Black," Rob spat, rather viciously.
"Actually I do."
They both looked at me.
Hell, if I wasn't me I'd be staring at myself too.
I had said it before Sirius even had a chance to form a syllable. What in the blazes possessed me to say something like that?!
I mean, aside from the truth bubble. The speech control centre of my brain must have had a massive power outage.
Sirius looked amused, and Rob just looked annoyed.
"What the hell does that even mean?" Rob almost shouted.
My rescuer seemed to blink himself out of his stupor and replied for me, "It means Thorse is messed up and has social problems. Can't speak very well, you know. I'm her translator, or interpreter, or whatever."
He was making me mad. But in a weird way. Because it wasn't the same Murder!Mad. It was more like…like…
I gulped as 101 suggested it, but didn't want to start an unspoken argument with stubborn Voices when I was in the middle of a spoken one.
Alright, time to end this. "I'm flattered, Rob, so thanks, but I can't go out with you."
I gave him another smile and started again towards the great hall, Sirius right beside me.
We walked silently, until we were sure we had left him somewhere far back. I glanced over at Sirius, and was surprised to find him looking at me. After a few spare blinks, we burst out laughing. I don't even know what was so funny, but laughing felt good.
We quieted down after a while, and I did my utmost best to fight up the nerve to say something. He spared me the trouble though.
I wasn't expecting him to apologize. I blinked, confused. "For what?"
"I've been acting really…like a jerk. I should have just told you right away I faced Melanie – well, that I was going to after…you know…" Sirius admitted, scratching the back of his head and looking away. Then, as if realizing it wasn't all completely his fault, he brought his gaze back to mine and pointed his finger accusingly at me. "But you—"
I stopped him before he said anything I might have not been able to handle hearing. "I know. I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have said all those things." I bit my lip, unsure of whether I should continue or not. He noticed, though, and I decided that maybe this time he deserved the full spiel. "And thank you, for stepping in to help me...um...back there."
I had expected Sirius to do something weird. To laugh at me, or make a joke, or even just wave his hand dismissively.
But after a moment of staring at me, he just grinned. "Glad to help."
I chanced another look at him, unsure of his meaning. Something in my stomach seemed to rumble, but not in the painful sort of acid-eating, twisting-your-guts-out way it did before. This was lighter…and more…giddy…
You're doing flips, read our lips, you're in love.
Get off my case, I won't say it!
"He is a bit thick, though, don't you think?" Sirius asked. "Like, he's in our Defence class, he saw and heard it all…I mean it's pretty clear –"
I wasn't sure if he had just realized that he was talking out loud, or if he had felt my eyes boring into the back of his head, because he suddenly stopped. I saw him take a few steadying breaths, and look around blinking rapidly, as if trying to regain his bearings. Eventually his panning gaze came over me, and he smirked.
"It's pretty clear you're not looking for a boyfriend," he finished.
He started walking again, leaving me standing in the corridor, heart beating faster for some reason. His statement seemed to have a double meaning, but I wasn't sure what it meant at all. I wasn't sure if he even meant it, or whether it was a joke…but it definitely wasn't a lie.
Somehow, I found myself hoping there was more to it than just a joke.
"Not to mention you'd have to be absolutely barking mad to even try and date you," he added, turning around to look at me, walking backwards. His hands were in his pockets and that infernal smirk was still plastered on his face. "Clearly, he's not at the right level of insanity."
Running to catch up with him, I was torn between being insulted, and asking him if he thought he was at the right level of insanity.
Because unfortunately for me…or probably more unfortunately for him…I really wanted him to be.
Girl don't be proud, it's ok you're in love.
As the singing Voices faded out with a line of shalalalas, a real, though small smile started to stretch across my face for the first time in days.
At least out loud, I won't say I'm in _ _ _ _.
Author's Note: If you liked this chapter, thank Disney and Alan Menken for being geniuses. This chapter was almost entirely inspired by the Hercules song "Won't Say I'm in Love" which got stuck in my head for like a week, not even kidding.
Anywho, you know what to do! I was good this time, see? I updated much much faster than last time (and I promise the next one won't be too long either)...that deserves a review, no? I'm dying to know what you think about the chapter!
Thanks to everyone reading and/or reviewing! You guys are amazing!