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Chapter 6: Six.
Author's Notes. I know I've been awful at updating, I dearly wish to do better. But life keeps distracting me, and disheartening me. Sometimes I don't trust myself to write Elliot and be fair, because all the Elliots I've ever known show their flaws after a while. But, I'm fighting my way through. Thank you so much if you're still reading the words I conjure, I love each and every one of you. I'm working on finishing the next chapter, so I intend to follow this one soon.
Editing all previous chapters, tweaking a few tiny bits, and working on chapter 8 as of Nov. 2013
“Maddy, I mean really. Why not just...see what happens?” Alice pulled a somewhat apologetic face over their cauldron, but Madeline barely noticed, pushing her fringe back from the hot steam and heaving a great sigh. “I’m not saying throw yourself at the guy, though, of course, if you were willing that’d fix every-”
“I know, I know,” Alice switched her spoon rotation, “But don’t fight it quite so much. Let your mouth blurt out whatever comes naturally, and instead of trying to take it back, give things a chance to play on...”
“I’m so sick of all of it,” Madeline sighed again, “Lancewings now? I haven’t been paying attention.” Alice gave a quick nod, and for a passing second, they both watched the translucent pretties flutter downwards towards their doom. “And my mouth?” her voice barely broke the silence, “It’s positively awful around him Alice. I couldn’t trust to let it guide me for a minute.”
“Because it might say yes?”
“Or something worse..” She scratched her arm awkwardly, shaking her head suddenly to dispel whatever idea it was that left her feeling so uncomfortable. Alice dared not question its origin, deciding that Madeline would probably be better without recounting it aloud. But Madeline herself couldn’t pinpoint it at all, let alone find a way to verbalise it. Nonetheless there was no doubt in her mind that there was much, much worse to be said to Elliot. She ran her ringers across the folds in her skirt in helpless hope of distraction,“It’s not that I like running Alice-”
“I know,” the blonde whispered for comfort’s sake more than anything. In her mind, Madeline’s proven inability to keep herself anyplace resembling solidity made as much sense to her as it did nonsense. It had become an unquestionable part of their relationship, and whether it was healthy or not, Alice figured she was no longer a fair judge. It felt as though she should understand it, which held as much meaning as actually doing so, almost.
“But I need him to stop,” Madeline imediately regretted her choice of words, “I mean, I want him too. Every time I do run, he follows, and it just makes it worse.” She bit her lip to find silence, letting her head continue on without her mouth to solidify any of the awfully incriminating thoughts. And despite her vague awareness to the fact that her mindset was changing ever so slightly on the matter of Elliot, Madeline swore she would fight it as best she could. She didn’t need anything Elliot related, not now.
As regrettable as it was, it wasn’t terribly hard to recognise that her initial friendship with him as some awkward form of dependancy. She had needed someone, and he had been there, smiling and irritatingly willing, and she had clung to that in her own way. And maybe, in a moment of absolute, non-effected clarity, Madeline would even admit to herself that she had felt a small, inking relief to see him follow her. Not now though. That didn’t translate to now. She wanted to carry on pretending. She huffed in frustration, ceasing her thoughts, “It’s just...how can he accuse me of being stubborn? He’s just as sodding bad.”
Alice just grinned, “No one’s perfect Maddy.”
“He seems to think he is,” Madeline muttered, his laughing accusations playing through her head.
“No, I think he thinks you are, and you’re just misreading.”
Madeline refused to let the playful words sink into her conscionce, “I’d rather you and your voice of wisdom kept your stance neutral, okay?” She quickly found her feet, ready for the conversation to end, “I’ll go and get the vial.”
“Walk, don’t run,” Alice teased, switching her stirring for the final ten rotations as Slughorn strutted towards them, which only encouraged Madeline to make her exit sooner.
The brief spasm of fine, novel weather seemed to have dissapated, edging away so serenely that none could place when things had actually begun to turn quite so glum. At some point though, an ever-growing white gloom had chanced to rule, sweeping itself across the countryside, once again blanketing the castle into a hidden world of shifting silohettes and undefinable distance. Even the sun danced its way between here and there, discretely favouring the elegance it found behind the towering wall of cloud; a beaming, holy glow that seemed so suited to the formless majesty surrounding it.
Inside the castle’s walls, the afternoon’s omnious presence brought the whispered fears for Hogsmeade, though Madeline herself felt it was very doubtful that anything actually rainish would come of it. Not today, atleast, she mused, almost wondering if such a small fact was worthy of her disdain at all as she slowly let her feet weave their way across the chilly grounds. Because really, it was entirely beautiful as it was.
She savoured the thick, damp air as it filled her lungs, hesitantly letting her eyes drop from the pale, springtime orb which still lingered overhead as though it only stayed because it had no place else to go. It was a curious thing; somehow belonging perfectly to the landscape, yet managing to fully retain its individuality from the whole. And in an easy motion, her pencil was soon darting across paper as her teeth tugged on her lip in reflection, and she could almost imagine she held her dear sketchbook again. Wondering where it lay now was too daunting, dangerous, and she had little hope of finding it again; not realising until far too late that it wasn't tucked safely between her textbooks on her bag's return.
Once Madeline felt she had captured as much of the essence as she was able, she carefully stored the slip away, realising in that moment that she’d give it to Alice. Alice who was definitely missing something wonderful for the sake of her hair, even if it did exhibit a definite fuzz in anything less than sunny. Toying with the absent half-thought, Madeline slid a lone curl of her own between her fingertips before tucking it behind an ear with a small smile as she clambered to her feet. She liked to imagine it adored the current circumstance as much as she did, twisting about itself in a merry fashion to the call of the cool, teasing breeze that tugged at the clouds above in the very same breath. Or the very next at least. It was a charming idea, and despite the fact it left her head almost as soon as it had entered, the exhilarated feeling that shivered through her lingered as she threw her head back and willingly sacrificed herself entirely to the nature of the wind. And it seemed to relish in her agreement, sweeping at the leaves by her feet as it kindly whispered that maybe, just maybe, it would rain tomorrow.
Tomorrow! It was a sobering word, and even where she stood, being blown hither in a dream world, Madeline felt a tiny twinge creep though her being. Gods knew what tomorrow would bring! In an uncomfortable sort of way, it almost seemed easier to agree to meeting Elliot, even if it were only to save herself from everyone’s prodding words. He seemed determined to pick apart her very soul, whilst Alice adamently persisted on mending it. Elliot was Alice’s idea of a plaster, or something, as far as Madeline could figure. It was irksome to say the least. Because she knew well enough that if she did manage to find enough courage to silence them on the subject, they would read far more into her presence than she felt necessary or safe. And so, Madeline stamped down on all tomorrow related tangents, deciding for the umpteenth time that she would remain undecided. Whatever she settled on would disagree with a corresponding piece of logic, and the only thing that seemed definite was that nothing would feel quite like it did in this very moment. For as easily tangled in tomorrow she was, the wind continued to play with her, and it promised nothing but freedom.
“Madeline? Madeline!” The call confronted her the very second she slid back through the great oak doors, undeniably masculine and only half familiar. Really, Madeline wanted nothing more than to scurry straight back out into the miserable evening. Instead, she ran an unsteady hand through her tangled hair, trying not to pay an ounce of attention to the way her heart continued to beat so spiritedly in her chest, seeming almost audible now inside the dull, muted walls. While she often found comfort in the very same qualities, today the castle seemed to dominate a strangling hold over her. Freedom was a passing fancy it seemed, something one needed the wind for.
Feeling somewhat ill from the spin in circumstance, she raised her eyes to meet the steady, if unsure, gaze of Roger Verona. “Oh, wow. Hello Roger,” her voice seemed uncertain, barely like her own at all. He grinned at her, giving a slight nod of his head in greeting as he wandered towards her, hands in pockets. Madeline licked her lips, teeth tugging slightly at the lower in thought. Finally, she decided to break the silence, “Is, er, something wrong?”
“Wrong?” He sounded surprised, his left hand darting up to rub his neck before plunging back into the reclusive pocket from which it had come. “Nah, nothing’s wrong. Why?”
Madeline tucked a rogue piece of hair behind her ear, compensating for the urge to lick her lips again; anything lip-ish seemed inappropriate near this boy, given the history. She felt immensely awkward, overly aware of every shift her body made. Roger could probably hear her swallow, for it felt more unnatural than ever. Plenty was wrong. She and Roger Verona never spoke. Not since the incident, and even before then. She and Roger Verona had never spoken, and there wasn’t really anything to say. “No reason,” she tried to smile, “It’s just we don’t talk, do we? Not since-”
“No, not since I-”
“Yes, I know,” Madeline hurried, not baring to hear the story voiced in such company, if indeed any company indeed.
“Er, it’s alright then?” His lips caught her terrified attention, and she forced herself to twist her gaze away. He didn’t seem to notice, leaning his shoulder casually against the stone corridor, “Alice said you were outside-I thought she was joking! It’s bloody awful out there-”
“You’re looking for me?” Madeline blurted, catching herself staring at his mouth yet again. Her gaze flicked past him as indistinctly as she could manage, and behind his dark hair, she could see the door through which she wished she were disappearing. He was far too close. Roger Verona was meant to be sitting a few seats down from her at dinner, or on a nearby lounge in the commonroom. He was most certainly not meant to be tormenting her quite like this, slamming her into reality with such disarmament. The entire situation was bewildering. She barely knew which way was up. But she could see his lips, and they filled her with a guilty embarrasment all on their own.
“Not exactly,” they shaped, “I was just talking with Alice and I've been meaning to-”
“With Alice?” Madeline felt as bewildered by this as she did the prospect that he’d been searching her out.
“Is she still in the commonroom?” she asked finally, lost for anything else to say. It occurred to a minority of her awareness that Roger himself seemed to create the awkward aura about them, not due to his manner exactly, because he didn’t seem to sense it, but somehow, it seemed logical to blame him. “I should probably find her, she’ll be wondering where I got to-”
“Course,” He smiled, as though slightly puzzled. “Guess I’ll see you round. You’re going tomorrow, yeah?”
Madeline forced herself to stay put, her feet already trying to move themselves away, “Hogsmeade?” Roger nodded, and she found herself returning a somewhat jerkier mimic, “Yeah, I’m guessing so.”
“Of course,” Madeline felt herself prickling at the wrongness of the situation. “I really have to run, have a good weekend though,” she forced sincerity; frankly not caring what came of it, so long as it didn’t find her. And finally she let her body dance towards the escape, oblivious to the expression on his face as he watched her leave. She was already out of sight when his farewell flittered past her ears, but she was far to pleased to be breathing evenly for it to barely touch her consciousnes.
All Madeline wanted was her Alice, nothing else seemed to be willing to sit right - where it always had - and it irked her terribly. There was no reason for her world to slowly start crumbling into change, none other than the awful, remerging possibility that she herself might be the cause. Maybe it had to change, merely to fit her. But no, Madeline hated to think she was the cause of it. Change was so very irreversible, and she’d do her very best to stop the people in her life from forcing it upon her so garishly.
And so, it tumbled upon her shoulders with great relief to see Alice curled up in their favourite corner with her hands curled around a tattered Udulpho. Granted the moment she entered the room the book was carelessly discarded, indicating that it had probably been nothing more than a prop. “There you are, thank Merlin! This whole place is going sodding mental.” Madeline’s very soul relaxed at Alice’s words, shifting the book so she could sink onto the comforting seat beside her. She couldn’t agree more, honestly.
“Sodding Verona,” Alice sighed, her eyes wide. “He found you then?”
An almighty chill thrust upon her, shooting across her skin and causing a shudder through her entire being. And before she had hold to so much as a string of sense to fight it, an unwelcome consciousness flitted through her. Oh, piss. Madeline dared not open her eyes, a strange heaviness on her soul itself seemed to prevent her, goading her to forget she ceased to sleep at all. And yet she knew she needed to move, the knowledge ringing through her head a little louder with each passing second.
It was with an impending anxiousness she floundered upright, her bare feet seeking solidarity with the cold stones by the bed, which seemed entirely oblivious to the warm rays skitting across their surface. She chanced a glance across at Alice, who claimed responsibility for the sudden cold with the unreasonable tufts of quilt that tucked snugly around her form before flowing off the bed and onto the floor. Wanky cow.
She shuffled to her dresser, pinning a chunk of knotty hair back without really bothering to check the mirror. The face of her mum’s old wristwatch flashed up at her, reading something close to half ten. Half ten. Madeline swore loudly, bashing her hip on one of the sharp golden handles as she spun. “Alice, get up! It’s fucking Hogsmeade! Oh piss, piss, piss!”
Alice moaned and rolled over, peering blearily at her through a few blonde locks of hair, “Time?”
“Half ten,” Madeline murmured, her tongue stressing it without her notice.
“Sweet Merlin,” and with that, Alice found a will to move. She was pulling clothes from her draws and scurrying to the bathroom, washing a vague relief over Madeline as she pelted past. Maybe they could make it, if a few corners were skipped. She tugged a nearby dress on, and yesterday’s woolly tights, despite the fact their feet still felt a bit soggy and went on a manic search for a warm enough jumper, or something of the like.
Alice reappeared, looking stressed and entirely frazzled. “Done.” Her voice held a quavering note, and less than a second later, she added a quiet, “-ish.”
“Lets just go,” Madeline sighed, deciding her hair didn’t matter that much. Not only had Elliot seen her in worse conditions, it was Elliot. And Elliot didn’t matter. Today’s logic was disconnected and pleasing, her emotions stunted due to the general mood of the morning. They both found their boots and darted from the dorm, somehow still holding pale hopes to catch the final carriage into the village.
And indeed, Merlin was seemingly in a lovely mood, and provided them the unexpected courtesy of transport. The two slid inside and as they began the trundling journey, they each sighed the discontented huff that always came with an anti-climax and shooting adreniline. All they could do was wait for the destination, and time didn’t care if it were being kind or completely nasty. After a few attempts at riddiculous small talk, which alone was out of character, they fell silent, unable to avoid the fact it was edging past a quarter past eleven.
They were most decidedly late.
“Come on Alice! There’s no point me running if I sodding well have to wait another ten minutes for you to tag me!”
“I can’t help it, can I?” Alice bit snarkily, “I’ve already got a blister because there wasn’t time to get any socks-”
“Knicker’s too I imagine, you stinker-” Madeline called, desperate for action despite the fact she wasn’t sure which bit of the park to even hurry to.
“You’re both late,” the grave tones of Frank Longbottom ceased Alice’s rant of defence, and the two girls halted in their tracks. They turned to face the two figures who had materialised behind them, and Madeline noted disdainfully that both looked much more rugged up against the icy breeze than she herself felt. Elliot shot her a crooked grin and gave Frank a friendly shoulder clap, causing a smile to spread across his lips too.
“My underwear is fresh,” Alice announced suddenly in unnatural tones, “I don’t want you thinking for a second it isn’t.”
“I’ve never taken the time to consider it, love,” Frank replied, without so much as blinking. “Nor will I ever. Now, shall we? We’ve been freezing our bollocks off for you two, and I’m really doubting the reasoning behind it. I want coffee.”
“He’s a bit out of sorts-” Elliot said, by way of explanation Madeline assumed, until Frank cut over again.
“No, fuck it. I want some mead.”
Elliot nodded to himself as though this made more sense. And so, Frank lead the way towards the main street in the village, grumbling about his bollocks and childbearing ability whilst Alice waspishly assured him he had plenty more to worry about than frostbite if he kept it up. Madeline winced, knowing The Ears were being referenced rather unkindly. She sighed.
“She’s lovely, your Alice is,” Elliot commented from her side, humour twisting through his voice.
“Oh, piss off would you,” she defended, shoving a tendril of hair back into the loose pin. “We came, didn’t we?”
“Aye, I knew you would.”
This caused a frown to crease her nose, “Then you don’t know anything.”
“Aw, come on now. You’ve got to leave a guy the essence of hope, Maddy,” he ran a hand through his hair, and she could read enough of his expression from the corner of her eye to tell he was grinning again. She probably shouldn’t have come, she decided then and there, because it made him think he was winning.
She snorted charmingly, “Even when there isn’t a shred?”
“You’re definitely taking the piss,” Madeline grumbled.
“I think that’s just you, actually.”
“-You’re a pompus bastard, Longbottom, and not an ounce more!”
“Get your dirty knickers untwisted and get over it,” Frank retorted, seeming amused at Alice’s frustration.
“It’s too early to deal with you, honestly,” Madeline’s blonde dismissed.
“Too what?! You were late to begin with-”
Madeline held her breath for a second, choosing to listen to the faint ringing in her ears rather than the bickering pair up front. She couldn’t stand it, and as the finally reached the pub front her mouth opened, “I don’t even know why you’re bothering. Today’s going to be awful, Elliot.”
He ducked his head towards her slightly, “Give it a chance, Maddy.” He held the door open with an easy arm above her head, and she quickly ducked under it. She wondered blankly if she had just noticed the strange twist to her name each time it left his lips, or if it were a new occurrence.
“Don’t do that-”
Madeline felt trapped, and rather stupid. Yes, do what, exactly? “Just...don’t say my name if you’re going to say it like that-” As though you like it, her mind added with a definite note of unsurity.
“Like what?” He asked, and she knew he was teasing her. She disconnected herself from his gently steering arm and sniffed, making her way through the crowded place to slide into a bench seat opposite Alice who seemed as off-put as she herself felt. They stared at one another in a traumatised manner as the boys left them to their own devices and pushed their way over to the bar to order.
“This is fucked,” Alice announced, the moment they were out of earshot.
“Completely pissy,” Madeline slouched over, resting her head on folded arms.
“I think we should just bail. I forgot how little time in Longarse’s company I could bear-” Alice shot a worried glance towards their companions, and to Madeline’s alarm, started to wriggle out of her seat. In an unconsidered action, her leg shot out, her foot planting firmly against the bench seat. Alice pressed back into the lounge in shock, glancing under the table as Madeline’s other leg mirrored the first, suffieciently trapping her between. “Maddy-you can’t be se-”
“You’re back!” Madeline blurted, cringing at herself and the fist that had chosen to pound her ankle.
“Yay,” Frank returned, almost coldly, but his eyes said otherwise-seemily almost laughing at her. Sarcasm, Madeline decided. He slid into the seat beside Alice and plopped a butterbeer in front of her. “There you go date-e-kins, hopefully that’ll warm you up a bit.” And then he winked, smacking his lips obnoxiously as he took a sip of his own.
Eyes wide, Madeline gave a firm nudge with one of her boots to prevent Alice’s mouth from snarking back, causing Frank to notice the odd movement. He glanced towards the blonde’s lap before throwing a peculiar look at Madeline who had the decency to fidget as an uncomfortable warmth spread through her frozen cheeks. It seemed inevitable that Frank would assume she was fighting her friend to stay here, in the ridiculously awkward booth for Elliot, when really, she didn’t see why she and Alice weren’t fleeing hand in hand. The only reason was supposedly her feet; spread-eagled around her best friend’s knees. And Merlin knew why they were doing that.
It was the sort of second that promised to ebb on forever as Elliot finally took his place next to her, Frank’s expression still lingering as much as her own horror, and then, almost too suddenly it was gone. As though time had remembered which pace was most suitable to travel at. Even before Elliot might have had a chance to notice it. And so she found the will to breathe again, her hands unclenching to casually fiddle with her drink. Elliot said something, encouraging a laugh from Frank as she forcibly willed herself to look across at Alice, who’s eyes seemed too crazed to offer an ounce of comfort. Piss.
“Couldn’t have picked a better two, seriously, mate,” Frank said, grasping her attention as he nodded at her, and Alice she guessed.
“Glad you’re in agreement,” Elliot grinned, lazily ignoring his friends sarcasm. Frank merely raised his glass in acknowledgement and took a gulp. Madeline swallowed thickly and used the casual motion usually kept for fixing her hair to sink her face into her palms, literally unwilling to watch a second longer. She prayed that some sort of inner silence might take over her hearing, because then, she could properly envision herself someplace else.
“Is she, er, quite alright?”
Madeline’s breath hitched a tad, but she didn’t budge at Frank’s words. “Obviously, she is quite, you wanker,” Alice bit into Madeline’s envisioned silence on her behalf, causing her to bury deeper into her consilidating arms.
“Aye, she’s just awful at being a wallflower,” Madeline ignored Elliot, inwardly horrified by how close he seemed in that passing instance, the breath of her name warm against her cheek. “You’re meant to slink away, hide in plain sight.” She clamped her eyes shut a little tighter, feeling pleased with the momentary distraction of Alice fiddling with her laces. Her friend hadn’t abandoned her completely, not quite yet, and that caused a small swell of bravery within her soul.
“You’re insufferable,” she muttered weakly, rising a smidge to prop her chin somewhat forlornly against her hand. Elliot just grinned, sinking back into the seat and stretching his legs to greater extents as he sipped his pint. Madeline’s knee danced away from his greedy one without question, blindly upsetting the two across from her with the attatched boot. Alice gave a weak cough, somehow managing to capture Madeline’s low line of eyesight.
“This place is actually really lovely when it’s cold out,” she started, “I could practically stay in here all day.” Her fingers tweaked at the nearby laces again, this time undoing them completely.
“Mm. All cosy like,” Madeline falsely caught her friend’s brightness, sliding her feet to the floor as silently as she dared herself able, “Might not have to see drop of rain, if you play it right.”
“Mustn’t let it stop you though-” the blonde was far from done though, Madeline could sense the tiny lilt, almost touch the odd weight pushing against each word. Every part of her immobilised form screamed across the tabletop, begging her friend to play her overt fondness to other ears, another day. Alice smiled though, unseeing, “Rain loves my Grey almost as much as she loves it-”
“I’ll tease her for it always, but if I could come in dripping, and look like she does, well..” Alice’s lips acquired a cheeky smile, “I might as well dip my head in star shine and call myself a fairy.”
“Do fairies find themselves in puddles often then?” Elliot added to her demise.
Nausea flickered through her, a pang of dismay swelling in her throat. Her friend’s words floated about her, disconnected by the ease of his immediate ajoinment. She forced her eyes to find his face, above her in all it’s mocking amusement. “Only the foolish ones,” her lips twitched with it, finding some uncomfortable, self depreciating smirk to match the attempted sniping jest. She’d play, but it was a game she hated.