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Chapter 12: Post Mortem
No, there was no part of Merlin’s anatomy that would come close to describing the situation.
“Fuck, shit, fuck, shit, fuck,” I muttered as I ran through endless corridors.
Yeah, that worked.
I didn’t stop running until I nearly ploughed into the door to Ravenclaw Tower.
“What proves the existence of life?” the knocker asked.
“Shit,” I muttered. “Fuck.”
“Unconventional, but reasonable,” the knocker commented, and the door swung forward.
I stared at it in astonished confusion.
“What are you waiting for?” it asked me. “I can’t stay open forever.”
Shrugging, I climbed the stairs, glancing around the common room.
“Where the hell have you been?” Nathaniel asked. “You walked out of here two hours ago looking like you were on your way to assassinate someone, and you come back looking like you have assassinated someone and circumnavigated the British Isles trying to throw off the team of Aurors pursuing you.”
“Believe me, I would be less fucked if that was the case.”
“Well, you did miss dinner.”
“So what happened?”
“I’m not going into it here,” I replied. “In fact, I’m not sure whether I want to go into it at all. You know what, I might just go throw myself into the Great Lake right now.”
“So who did you kill?”
I rolled my eyes at him and glared daggers at the midnight blue carpet at my feet. I wasn’t sure which event of the last ten minutes was worse—the fact that I kissed Fred Weasley, the fact that I had run like hell immediately afterwards, or the fact that somewhere between dragging him into the Room of Requirement to duel and fleeing from the Room an hour later, my wonderful subconscious had decided that he was worth me throwing away my entire belief system, philosophy on life and basis of identity.
“Can’t have been someone very important,” Nathaniel was musing. “Either that, or you’ve just hidden the body remarkably well. I heard Harry has a map that shows all the secret passages out of the school, did you use that? And, incidentally, what was the murder weapon?”
“Nathaniel Weasley! Shut up!”
“Do I detect a hint of anger?” Nathaniel asked, looking astonished. “Who are you and what have you done with Athena Selwyn?”
“Left her in the Room of Requirement.”
“Let’s take a stroll,” Nathaniel suggested, pulling me to my feet and across the common room. I didn’t particularly like being dragged. Karma, I suppose, for hauling Fred through half the castle.
“So what’s going on?” Nathaniel asked conversationally as we walked down the stairs of Ravenclaw Tower.
“I have no intention of voicing it.”
“No matter,” he replied, and handed me a piece of blank parchment and a quill. I took them, wondering whether it was a sign of his nerdiness that he carried parchment and quill around with him, or alternatively an even greater sign of nerdiness that he had learned elemental transfiguration two years early and had conjured them.
Realising that I was as keen on writing the situation down as I was on talking about it, I instead wrote THE DARK LORD IS BEHIND YOU and handed it back to him wordlessly.
“If this is some kind of cryptic read-between-the-lines crap…” Nathaniel began.
“It’s me being a dick. No, I’m not going to tell you.”
“Don’t you trust me?”
“You’re the brother I never had. We’ve been best friends since we were five. No, Nathaniel, I couldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you.”
“Exactly, I’m the brother you never had. Hence, you can tell me.”
“To be perfectly honest, that makes it worse.”
“It would only be worse if you were hooking up with some guy…”
Try your cousin.
“…And I know you don’t do that anyway.”
I thought that too.
“Unless there’s something you’re not telling me,” he finished, grinning and waiting for my indignant denial.
“I think we had established that there is something I’m not telling you,” I replied calmly.
He turned, a quizzical look on his face. “Don’t tell me…”
“I had no intention to.”
"…One more time, coherently.”
“I kissed your cousin in the Room of Requirement,” I said carefully, watching with mild amusement the look on his face. “And ran away.”
“I have a lot of cousins,” he said at length.
“You do indeed,” I agreed.
“There was an implied question in that statement.”
“I chose to ignore it.”
“Who is it?”
“Okay. Think about the person in your extended family I would be most likely to be attracted to.”
Nathaniel wrinkled his nose slightly.
“Now think of his opposite.”
“Ginny?” he asked, confused.
I rolled my eyes. “Let’s be clear about my heterosexuality, okay?”
“Fred or George,” Nathaniel decided.
I had a terrible feeling the name he had come up with for the first question had been ‘Percy,’ but I decided to focus on the immediate situation.
At this point, Nathaniel’s eyebrows had disappeared into his hair.
“You know too much already.”
“I’m not going to tell anyone.”
“Small comfort,” I replied.
“Let me get this straight. You ran away from him?”
“…I was wondering when we would get to that small issue.”
“Because I am an abnormal, romantically challenged freak of the wizarding world?”
“Other than that.”
“I need that map of Harry’s to figure out where to hide your body.”
“Why Fred and George?” Nathaniel asked, ignoring this threat to his person.
“Fred and George? I did not snog both of them, thank you very much.”
“Why Fred or George?”
“Ravenclaw’s diadem, I don’t know.”
“You like them? One of them? Him? Give me a name already, this is getting annoying.”
“Let’s stick with the pronoun him for now, I think we’ve established that much. No, I don’t like him at all, I just threw away all my principles and beliefs on a whim because I felt like it.”
“Wow,” he articulated. “Are you sure you’re okay? Not under the influence of any mind-altering potions are you?”
“Believe me, I wish I was.”
Nathaniel fell silent to mull this over for a while. We kept walking, me waiting for some pearl of wisdom to come from the sharp and adept mind that was Nathaniel Weasley’s.
“So what are you going to do?” he asked.
I expected too much.
“I don’t have a clue, I’m screwed,” I said succinctly.
“Not neccesarily. He likes you, I assume.”
“Yes, I did establish that before I kissed him, funnily enough.”
“I can’t picture you having that kind of conversation.”
“I can’t either, and it happened half an hour ago.”
“Why don’t you go out with him?” Nathaniel asked.
“Because,” I explained patiently, “I don’t do that.”
“Last I checked, you didn’t even like people, let alone act on it.”
“Call it an error of judgement, then.”
“Bet he doesn’t.”
“Leave him out of it.”
“You can’t leave him out of it!” Nathaniel said exasperatedly. “Merlin’s pants, Athena, for such a smart witch you can be bloody stupid sometimes.”
“Not stupid,” I corrected, offended. “Obstinate.”
“That really isn’t a good thing,” he informed me. “I’m going back to the common room, I’ll see you later.”
I refused to contemplate anything further until I had cast a strong Disillusionment Charm on myself and walked straight through the castle and out towards the Great Lake. A cool breeze rippled across the water, pulling and swirling at my robes and hair. In the light cast by the moon I could see the heavy clouds and feel the damp promise of rain in the air. I sat myself down on the ground, staring at the tiny waves cresting on the black water of the lake and trying to make sense of the chaos in my own mind
Everything within me fought against what had just happened. I would not compromise myself for some stupid schoolgirl crush; it was so trivial, so pointless, so superficial, and I couldn’t believe I had given in and kissed him. I was, even now, terrified of the repercussions—he would want an explanation, and I had no way of putting into words what I thought and felt. Everything I came up with warranted more questions, more reasons that he would come up with, ones that I couldn’t answer.
That kiss was a mistake.
I hate dating, it just seems so trivial.
So I’m trivial?
I don’t want to be like the other girls.
But you’re not.
I can’t go out with you because I’m terrified of relationships.
What are you scared of? I won’t hurt you.
I can’t go out with you because I don’t want you controlling me.
But I won’t control you.
I value independence more than you could possibly imagine.
You wouldn’t lose your independence.
I operate alone.
You don’t need to.
I’d be a shit girlfriend.
I don’t care.
I don’t want you to be my weakness.
I didn’t know what to do.
Those were not empty words spoken or thought in the absence of a clear option. I hated when people threw those words around; for me they were some of the most terrifying words in the English language. I had always been able to think clearly and make decisions, no matter what. It was one of my strengths, to put aside my emotions and analyse the facts. But this time, I couldn’t. This time, emotion would have to dictate my decisions. I hated him for that. I hated myself for that, for having that weakness, for succumbing to that weakness.
It’s just a kiss, I heard a voice say in my head, a voice that did not belong to me.
It was so much more than that. It was my failure to control my emotions, a failure that joined those other moments where I lost control. The moment where, as a furious seven-year-old child, I had caused an earthquake at my school which had resulted in a light fixture falling from the ceiling and hitting my Muggle teacher. The moment last year where Professor “Moody” attempted to put the Imperius Curse on me, and in my panic and terror I had hurled a fireball of raw, uncontrollable magic across the classroom. I had failed, once again, and the consequences this time were even worse.
Because now, I was bloody messing with someone else’s emotions as well, and there was no way I could get out of the situation with my integrity still intact.
The first droplets of rain splashed onto my shoulders and I stared up at the heavens as they opened, as if the water could wash away the confusion and emotional turmoil I hated so much. Words repeated in the back of my mind; words that I couldn’t deny or dismiss, no matter how hard I tried.
I love him.
Oh, no you don’t.
What was love? I picked up a nearby stone and hurled it into the Great Lake. I wasn’t in love with Fred. No, love was something far stronger, it was intense, it screwed up people’s lives, there was no way I could have fallen into it without stopping myself. I would have recognised it, and stopped it. I liked him, yes. A crush that lead to a momentary lapse of judgement that was now coming back to bite me in the arse. Nothing more.
I threw more stones into the water. Nothing. Splash. More. Splash.
DENIAL, screamed the voice in my head.
Apparently, this was now the old-age head vs heart battle.
The heart didn’t really stand a chance, I told myself, perking up slightly. After all, was it not my mind that got me to where I was now? Was it not my mind that had given me every triumph and every success in my life so far? Was it not my mind that I was known for?
I lay back on the damp grass, propping my hands behind my head and smiling up at the angry black clouds above me.
If my heart was stronger than my head, I would not be in Ravenclaw.
Case in point.
I could beat this thing.
“Reason number thirty-seven to never get involved with Ravenclaws,” a horribly familiar voice commented seconds later, sitting himself in the grass beside me. “They’re fucking weird.”
I sat bolt upright. “How the hell did you find me? Or more to the point, why the hell did you find me?”
“No reason,” Fred replied, skimming a stone across the lake. “As you can imagine, I get girls kissing me and running away like You Know Who himself is after them all the time.”
“Drop it,” I said sharply.
“I haven’t even picked it up yet. I just want to know one thing. Why? Surely that’s not too much to ask.”
“In this case, yes, it is.”
“Do you like me, Athena?”
Please, please, go away. I can’t do this. Don’t make me do something I’m going to regret. Please, just leave.
But he didn’t move, nor did his earnest green eyes move from mine, and I had no choice.
“No,” I lied, unflinchingly, maintaining his gaze even as his eyes clouded with confusion and disappointment—no, something stronger than disappointment…
“I see,” he said quietly, his eyes dropping to the ground between us as panic washed over me. No, don’t look away. Look at me. I can’t do this, Fred, I’m lying, I’M LYING, please realise it…
But my lips couldn’t form the words and he pulled away, getting to his feet and silently walking back to the castle.
I turned around, watching him, but he didn’t look back.