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Otherwise Engaged by majamariamaja
Chapter 14: Making Chocolate Milk
beautiful chapter image by AtomicPanda over at TDA :)
Hello, Dear Readers. I have an announcement to make.
I want to take up a little of your valuable time to mention my deep and fierce sorrow for those who were murdered in the Utøya massacre and the Oslo bombing. My heart is with those who have lost their lives, with the families who's lost a valuable member, the teenagers who saw their friends being killed, and the general norwegian population - my fellow countrymen. This is a trying time for all of us, and my sincere regards go out to all of them, and I hope you'll join me in a moment of silence before proceeding to read this chapter.
**Moment of silence, please**
I dedicate this to all of them. All who's in pain - some worse than others. I'm sending my love by giving you a piece of me: this chapter of my 'baby'.
Thanks for your time,
Chapter 14. Making Chocolate Milk
He hadn't noticed.
How could he not have noticed? Why did he have to be such a..a.. a man!
The walls of my claustrophobic office felt like they were closing in on me, trapping my stressed self into a tiny, but very real, prison. I had finished reading Marlon Brooks' notes an hour ago, corrected every part of the novel he'd wanted corrected and then sent the finished version of the manuscript off to the printers.
I hoped that my distracted mind wouldn't shine through to the the work I'd done on the novel - at least not too much... Although I hated to admit it, I had this nagging feeling in my gut telling me that something was off.
And on top of it all, I'd gone to the hairdresser yesterday, and guess who hadn't noticed that I'd basically gone blond? Yes, that's right, Martin Ignores-His-Future-Wife Anderson.
All right, so maybe I hadn't gone blond, but I'd gotten some serious highlights, and he hadn't said anything. Not a word. At least not about my hair...
Safe to say, I was grumpy.
As if on cue, Draco entered my office, brightening up the room(and my mood) in some magical way that I still didn't understand.
«Hi,» I breathed, and strictly told the swarm of butterflies in my stomach to please settle down, at least so I could breathe properly.
They didn't listen. Shocking.
«Morning,» he chirped.
After our huge fight a couple of days ago, we'd gotten closer than ever. I could feel how our friendship grew daily, allowing me to safely say that I considered him as one of my most trusted friends.
On top of this, he seemed to understand my needs even before I uttered a word about them, often he actually knew what I wanted before I knew myself. Like now, for example, when he handed me a steaming hot cup of coffee.
«I like the new hair,» he said as he sat down on his edge of my desk.
«Oh, thanks,» I muttered and took a sip of my hot beverage. Nothing went past that man. He had a tendency to stare though, and was doing just that right now. The silence was getting on my nerves and I felt the need to break it.
«Want to hear something strange?» I asked, my eyes having fallen to the purse at my side, making me suddenly remember what had arrived very early this morning(luckily, before Martin had even woken up).
«I read the Daily Prophet today for the first time in forever, and -»
«Read anything juicy about yourself?» he inquired, grinning curiously.
«No,» I said with a chuckle. «It's been too long since I did anything worth writing about.» With a shrug and a sip of my coffee, I proceeded to speak. «And you know what they say, 'out of sight, out of mind'.»
I choked on the hot liquid. «Exc-» Cough! «Excuse me?»
«You heard me. Bullcrap.» Draco's eyes dug themselves into my own, feeding the frenzied butterflies. «I can't go two whole minutes without thinking about you. So you may be out of sight, but you're sure as hell not out of mind.» He sighed and rolled his eyes. «It's bloody annoying.»
«I-I..» The crazy butterflies were the only part of me that still functioned; my mouth was only capable of opening and closing. And since my brain had turned into inedible mush, I was also emitting this embarrassing stutter. The whole ordeal caused me to blush.
«By the way,» Draco said as he got up and walked to the door, «it's my turn to decide where we have lunch. See you in an hour.»
And with one last soul-burning smile, he was gone.
The sun was directly above me, and I breathed in the scent of grass, trees and various flowers. I was laying on the ground, feeling the sensation of weeds tickling the bare skin of my arms and legs. Draco was sitting beside me, enjoying the warm weather and green scenery.
After we'd had a tasty picnic (which he'd organised) in the middle of some kind of secret garden that it seemed only he knew about, drowsiness had swept over me and I'd basically falled to the ground. The last couple of nights I'd had terrible nightmares, and after waking up to the sound of my own screams, it was next to impossible to fall back to sleep. The most annoying thing, however, was that I never seemed to remember what I'd dreamed. So I now enjoyed the calm laziness that was filling every part of me, something that was rarely experienced these days – the wedding planning was sure to drive me into the nearest mental hospital. Or grave...
«Hermione?» Draco said after the long period of silence.
«When was the last time you said 'I love you'?»
My eyes shot open.
«Ehm, I-I don't know.»
«Have you ever said it?» He wasn't looking at me. He could just as well have been talking to the small twig he was fiddling with.
«Of course. I mean... I-I think so.»
«You don't remember?» Still talking to the twig, brows furrowing as he continued. «Not even one time?»
«I just told you that I didn't know, didn't I?» I answered a little too harshly, and quickly added: «And, I mean, who remembers that kind of thing, anyway..?»
«If you really meant it, you'd remember.»
«Have you ever...?» I raised myself up, resting my weight on my elbows and looked at him.
«Told anyone I loved them? Yes.»
«Who?» this was whispered softly, only a wee amount of curiosity seeping through.
«...This is a stupid conversation.» He almost threw his back down to the ground, dropping the twig. «Forget that I brought it up.»
«Was it that woman? She who got pregn-» I swallowed hard and wanted to punch myself when I noticed how he winced. «...I mean... The girl who left?»
«Let's just talk about something else,» was his answer and he cleared his throat. «I know that talking about the weather would be clichè, but really, it is nice weather today, don't you agree?» He was talking quite fast, and I blinked several times before finally speaking again.
«Please. Tell me.» I sat up properly, now studying him.
«I said drop it.»
While curling my arms around my propped up knees, I spoke very carefully. «Draco... Come on. You never talk about your past, and I want to kno-»
«You really want to know?!» Draco jerked himself upright, glowering at me.
«Y-Yes, I do-»
«Fine!» he spat. «Yes, the woman who left me for my best friend, the woman who refused to carry what was either my child or his, the woman who made me travel the world and start catching dangerous criminals in an attempt forget her was also the woman I've ever said that to.» His words had gradually slowed down, and now he sighed heavily.
«She was the reason you started working for the Ministry?»
There was a long pause before Draco had calmed down enough to lie back on the soft grass.
«Who was she?»
I raised my brow at him, but secretely loved how he immediately started to try and make me laugh, even though he was the one in pain.
«It's not important,» he explained further and rested his hands on top of his broad, muscular chest.
«Someone I know?»
«Hermione.» He was using my real name. «Could we please just- just not talk about...»
«All right,» I answered quietly, now understanding how painful it had to be for him to talk about this. I mean, I had no idea that he'd experienced such pain and disappointment... His best friend and his pregnant girlfriend? No wonder he was messed up.
«Can I just ask you another question, though? I swear, this is the last one.»
He sighed as he sat up and looked at me. «If you must...»
«Can I give you a hug?»
This seemed to throw him off, but when the first wave of shock on his face had settled, he nodded slowly. I reached my arms out to him and noticed how his lower lip quivered for a very short second before he leaned into them, wrapping his arms around me at the same time as I wrapped mine around him. We sat like that, gently rocking from side to side, for in indefinite amount of time, only barely noticing how the sun was setting.
«We should get back,» he muttered, his breath tickling my skin. I let go of him before getting up.
«We have to Apparate, don't we?» I sighed, but looked forward to having a reason to hold his hand.
«Afraid so.» He got to his feet, smiling, and reached out his hand to me. I took it and felt my heart give a jolt. With his other hand he waved his wand at the picnic basket, and it vanished into thin air. «Ready?»
After a short nod, the ground under my feet was jerked away, and I felt that same uncomfortable, claustrophobic squeeze against my body.
My ears popped when I once again had the ability to draw breath, my hand still within Draco's.
In silence, we began walking (hand in hand, I might add) toward the office building. Draco had Apparated a few blocks away so that no muggles would see us appear out of nowhere – and to tell you the truth, I rather enjoyed holding his warm hand, and prefered to do it as long as possible.
On our short way to the building (please note that by a few blocks, I mean five), we passed several women on the busy street, and all of them (age was no matter) were turning their heads to stare at Draco. One woman even dared to touch his arm as she walked past, smiling suggestively. But, to my surprise, when I looked up at him I noticed how he was completely oblivious(or at least pretended to be) to all of the frenzied female attention.
«What is it that makes women fawn all over you?» I asked, but already knowing the answer - I had the same reaction to him.
«My dashing good looks, I reckon,» he replied, flexing his muscles as he said it.
«Nah. I don't think it's that,» I disagreed, teasing him. Draco grinned down at me. I hoped he didn't notice my lying face.
«Well. I would daresay that I'm an exceptionally good kisser,» he said matter-of-factly.
«I've had better.»
«No, you haven't,» he snorted, but when I didn't answer, and instead looked rather uninterested, his face turned skeptical.
«Well, go on then.» We'd just walked into an empty alley, and I was feeling particularly adventurous. «Do it.»
«Do what?» Even more skeptical.
«I won't do it now,» he scoffed, thinking that I was joking.
«I dare you.» I stopped in my tracks, forcing him to stop as well.
«You dare me?»
«Yes. Let's see if the great Draco Malfoy is all talk and no walk.» I let go of his hand and moved so that I was facing him. «Come on.»
«You think I'm all walk, do you? I can walk. Believe you me, I can!» He was getting frustrated.
«Prove it then!» I raised my voice just enough to convince him of my seriousness. «I shouldn't have to argue with you to see if you can walk, unless you don't know how to, that is. As a matter of fact, I think -»
«Oh, shut up,» he snarled while simultaneously pushing my body against the brick wall directly behind me, and then put his mouth over mine in an overpowering kiss.
No, it wasn't a kiss – it was an experience. As corny as that sounds.
Unfortunately for me, Draco stopped just as quickly as he'd started, pulling away from me and leaving me breathless against the wall.
«There,» he panted. «I proved it.»
With that, he turned around and strut down the alley, not giving my shaking self a second thought. And even though I wanted to run after him and continue the kiss where we'd left off, I knew that if I'd done that, I would sure as hell not have had the strenght to stop its development into something that was way more serious.
«Hey, bartender!» I croaked, waving at the man behind the counter. «Get me another one of these.» I pointed at the empty cocktail-glass.
I still couldn't believe it. Seven drinks later, and I could still not believe it.
My phone suddenly vibrated and I flipped it open. It was a text from Draco.
Where are you?
Pup whr we mtt, I texted back, not giving a shit about typos.
It couldn't have been more than a few seconds later, and the door to the pub was opened.
«Evening, Brownie.» Draco sat down on the stool beside mine and asked the bartender for a pint. «What are you doing here?»
«Drinking my sorrows away,» I answered in a ragged voice. I sounded like an old woman who'd been smoking all her life – in other words, unattractive. When the bartender gave me my drink, I didn't even care to thank him, but instead took a large gulp. «It's not helping, though.»
«It rarely does.» Draco smiled and over-thanked the bartender after he brought him his beer, trying to redeem some of my rudeness. I still didn't care. «So, » he turned to me, «I assume there's a reason for this drinking binge of yours?»
«Yep,» I said and took a long swig of my cocktail. «Got fired.»
«What?» Draco sounded shocked. Bless him. «Why?»
«The Brooks-novel didn't sell. They obviously blame me.»
«But-but that's stupid! It's only been a few weeks, they can't expect-»
«Tell me about it,» I interrupted while burping, and I saw how Draco had a hard time not smiling. «What they should do is blame you. I mean, that cover was awful.» Another burp, but this time he wasn't amused. «And you know how people always judge the book by it's cover...»
«Ouch,» he muttered. «That was below the belt.»
«Hah!» I exclaimed. «You wish.»
«You have a big mouth, you know that?» He was getting vexed.
«I do know that, Mr. Malfoy.» I snickered. «And I have yet to hear any complaints in that department.»
«You're annoying the hell out of me right now, Brownie. Why?»
«Well,» I chugged the rest of my drink, «let's just call it payback.»
«Payback for what?!» Ooh, kitty has claws.
«You know for what.» I signalled to the man behind the counter to get me another drink.
«No,» Draco answered, turning to stare at me, «enlighten me.»
«Y-you..» I cleared my throat. «Just because.»
«What?!» His voice was high pitched.
«If you don't already know what I'm talking about, I'm not telling you.»
«What kind of shitty logic is that?» he asked, flustered.
I didn't answer, I just took the drink that the bartender handed me and sipped it slowly, biting the straw as I drank.
«Oh, so you're not talking to me now?»
Still not answering.
Deep inside, underneath all the alcohol, I knew that I was acting like a child, but it was buried so deep that I didn't acknowledge it.
«Fine!» Draco spat, grinding his teeth. «See if I care.»
He'd turned around, but after taking a large gulp of his beer, he turned back to me.
«But just for the record, I'm the one who should be mad, you know!» he hissed into my ear, but I fought off the tingles caused by his warm breath and kept on ignoring him. «You just insulted me, and you basically ripped my ear off when you visciously threw me ouf of your offi-»
«You're still not over that?» I asked, sounding bored.
«It's not like you're any better!» he told me, indignantly. «You don't even want to tell me what the hell you're so ruddy pissed about.»
«I'm not pissed.»
«You remember how Buckbeak almost tore my arm off in third year?»
«He didn't tear your arm-»
«Let's just say that I'd gladly trade you in for that giant, pissed off chicken right now.» He was panting, lightning shooting out of his magnificent eyes.
«Thanks for cheering me up, Malfoy. Salute.» I raised my glass at him before taking a drink.
«What's going on with you?» Draco's whisper was surprisingly tender, and he sounded almost concerned. «This is about more than you losing your job, isn't it?»
Swallowing the stinging tears was harder than I imagined, but I blinked them away.
«Is it Martin?» a husky voice whispered into my ear; the hairs on my body were rising.
I sighed deeply and closed my eyes.
«Is he hurting you? I'm going to kill that son of a bi-»
«No!» My eyes shot open, and I shook my head. «It's nothing like that! And besides, I don't want to talk about it.»
«Then what do you want?! Because I'm sick and tired of trying to figure it out on my own!» He was getting worked up again, and my pulse quickened. «If you have any idea of what I can do to make this better, then please tell me and I'll do it -»
«I want some sort of sign!» I exclaimed, throwing my hands in the air.»
«What?» Confused, he grimaced at me. «Like a street sign, or..?»
«No,» I sighed before continuing, «like from a higher power. A form of grand gesture to show me what to do, which path to walk... Or something like that. Whatever. I'm drunk, don't listen to me.»
«A grand gesture?» he asked, squinting his eyes.
«Mhm.» After another sip of my coctail, I added, «To show me if I'm on the right track or not.»
«I don't know.»
«You must at least have an example?»
I thought for a second, then I smiled to myself. «All right. But it's really stupid,» I warned. «Okay, when I was younger, before I knew that I was a witch -» I quickly covered my mouth, eyes bulging. «Oh, blast!»
«Don't give yourself a heart attack, nobody here's listening. Come on, 'when you were younger..'?»
«I imagined that one day my true love would -» I stopped and shook my head. «No, never mind. It's too stupid.»
«Let me be the judge of that,» he said patiently. «Continue.»
«I fantasized that he would write me a song and sing it in front of millions of people.» I gazed dreamily into space. «And everyone would know it was about me. About how much he loved me.» I paused and looked at Draco, already on the brink of drowning in his eyes. «Silly, huh?»
«Maybe.» There was a pause where neither of us where speaking, but I could see how his mind was spinning. My own was spinning as well, but for me, alcohol was the culprit. «So what you're saying is that the bloke who did this 'grand gesture' would prove that he was the one for you? That he'd be the right choice?»
«Yeah, but it doesn't have to be exactly that, it was just an example. I have no idea anymore. I was nine years old the last time I thought about it, so give me a break.»
«All right.» But he was staring at me now, and probably noticed how my brows were still furrowed in deep thought. «There's more, isn't there?»
«No,» I replied, drinking while I avoided his gaze.
«You forget that I know your lying face.»
I looked back at him, fully knowing that I was defeated. «Why must you be so perceptive? Fine. I'm sort of... nervous.»
«About?» He leaned in closer.
Draco's eyes widened. «Then don't do it.»
«You're funny.» I gulped down the rest of my drink. «It's not that I don't want to get married, it's just that there's so much to do and to organize, and the wedding day is looming nearer and nearer, and I haven't even got a gown yet!» The words were pouring out of me. «So I'm stressed out, as you can plainly see.»
«Then just have a small, simple wedding,» he reasoned, tempting me. «You don't have to have everything so organized, and you won't die if you don't have the 'correct' dress. As long as it's white, I don't see why it would matter.»
I growled, annoyed by how his suggestions were exactly like what I had initially wanted myself. I never wanted a big wedding, but Martin's mother had completely cast away all my wishes and decided to overrule every opinion but those that came from herself. That cow.
«It's not that easy. A wedding has certain rules, complicated rules.» I despised myself for using the same argument that Martin's mother had used on me. «And most of them are without any reason! Take tablecloths for example, or bridesmaids or the flower arrangements... Or centerpieces! Those sodding centerpieces can kiss my ar-» I looked wide-eyed over at Draco and found him grinning, I grinned back.
«You know what?» I asked after ordering another drink. «Sometimes I just wish that I were a lesbian. This would never happen to a lesbian...» I pondered about that for a second. «Maybe I'll just become a lesbian and forget this whole thing.»
«Any woman would be lucky to have you,» Draco stated, his smile growing in size, causing my heart to expand to a dangerous size as well. «Speaking of, have you ever..?»
After a small hiccup, I smiled at him. «What? Been with a woman? No, never.»
«Oh, come on!» Draco laughed, and the tones of his laugher burned holes in my drunken soul. «Are you telling me that through all the years you've been friends with Ginny Wea- Potter, the two of you never, even once, did a little bit of -»
«Yes,» I interrupted. «That's exactly what I'm telling you.»
«Sorry, love, but I find that hard to believe.»
«Believe it, you pervert,» I retorted, telling the swarm of butterflies to stop choking me as he called me 'love'. «And by the way, why do men always assume that all women have had a semi-lesbian experience in their past?»
«Because we like it?» He grinned.
«Because we hope that history will repeat itself?»
With a sigh, I gave up trying to get a real answer out of him. «Men really are disgusting.»
«I, myself, prefer the female company, so I'm not going to disagree with you on that.»
After I smiled at him for his comment, I went back to drinking my untouched cocktail, but not feeling the same need to chug it down anymore. My mind was still troubled, but I didn't seem to host the same want of alcohol, not right now anyway. Without really noticing how I got there, I found myself resting my head on Draco's firm shoulder. He didn't seem to mind though, he actually moved nearer to me to give me opportunity to snuggle closer.
«Hey, I have a question for you,» he said after some moments of comfortable silence.
«Go for it,» I yawned.
«What is the one thing in this world that you have always loved and that's always made you feel better? It can be anything or anyone, but it must be something that you never stopped enjoying.»
«I have absolutely no idea,» I answered truthfully.
«Want to hear mine?»
«Sure.» I closed my eyes, yielding to the desire to sleep.
I opened my eyes and raised my head from his shoulder, squinting at him.
«What do you mean?»
«Chocolate milk has always made me feel better, and let me tell you why.» Did he sound excited about this, or was it just my drunken hearing being on the fritz? «It's something that I have loved since the very first time I had it. The chocolate-y taste always managed to soothe whatever problem I had. It cured heartbreak, grazed knees, mental parents, bad grades. You name it, chocolate milk can cure it. That's true love for you.»
I thought about that for a little while and furrowed my brows in realisation. «I don't think I've had chocolate milk since I was like... ten, or something.»
«That's a shame.» Those blue pits of danger were directed at me, and I sighed helplessly. «Because you look like you could use a glass.»
I was surprised when I awoke in my own bed the next morning, looking over to my side and finding the head on the pillow next to me wasn't blond, but rather a chocolate brown -
The sudden craving for chocolate milk overruled the desire to stay in my warm bed, so I got out and quickly stepped into the kitchen. After searching through all the cabinets for both milk and chocolate powder and not finding either, I ran over to my purse and got my wand. Then I quietly conjured a box of the sweet smelling powder and a carton of cold milk, found a glass and stirred the glorious powder into the milk before taking a huge gulp.
It really did make me feel better! Draco was right. The part about the chocolate milk, though, was the only part I really remembered from last nights alcohol marathon. I think I had some memories of Draco helping me home, but I couldn't be absolutely sure about the details. Obviously, he had followed me to my apartment, considering that I woke up here. It could not have been so late either, because I couldn't remember Martin reacting to my drunken behaviour when I got home. Actually, I couldn't remember him at all. Maybe he wasn't there, I couldn't be sure.
On another note; did it define me as a horrible person to be a tiny bit disappointed about he fact that there hadn't been a blond head beside me on the bed?
Maybe not a terrible person, but a terrible girlfriend. And an even worse fiancee.
Suddenly I heard Martin's footsteps behind me and I spun around, a huge grin on my face. My future husband just squinted at me, probably thinking(and he had no idea how close he was to the truth) that I'd finally gone barmey.
«What are you doing?» he croaked in a morning voice. «It's not even seven a.m.»
«Making chocolate milk!» I exclaimed, Martin winced at my loudness.
«Hermione, are you feeling all right?» He furrowed his brows as he stepped to the coffee machine and turned it on.
«Of course I am. I just felt like having a glass of chocolate milk.» I didn't really mind how he looked at me funny. «Don't you ever feel that?»
«No,» he muttered and leaned against the counter, waiting for the coffee to finish. «I'm afraid not...»
«Come on.» I caught sight of my wand and hid it in the back pocket of my pants(which I just realised I was still wearing from last night), but noticed how Martin was still focused on the machine. Then I went to the cupboard, got him a glass, mixed together the chocolate powder and the milk and then handed him the drink. «Have a glass with me, it's really good. Very refreshing!» I took a sip of my own and exaggerated a 'mmm' to prove how good it was. «Lovely!»
Martin poured the black coffee in a mug without even casting a glance at the glass I was offering him. «No, thanks. I'm 27.» He then went back into the bedroom to get dressed for work.
So I was standing in the kitchen, the hand with the cold drink still outstretched in front of me. I slowly put the glass on the table, along with my own, and felt like a complete idiot.
Not moving for a while, I realised just how long I'd been standing still when Martin got out of the bedroom fully dressed, a larger than usual suitcase in his hands.
«I have to go away for a few days.» He went over to me and kissed me, and I just barely achnowledged his lips touch mine. «I have an emergency conferance in Dublin, and I can't tell you more than that, it's strictly confidential. And won't be back for a few days, but I promise to try and come back as soon as possible; I know how you hate being alone.» He smiled reassuringly at me, and I smiled weakly back at him as I nodded. «I love you,» he said and kissed me again before exiting the apartment, leaving my still unmoving self stranded in the middle of the kitchen.
The doorbell interrupted the trance I was in the middle of, and I reacted on instinct as I went to the door and opened it.
It was Draco.
I quickly snapped out of my haze when I noticed his hard expression. Without a word, I took a step back and opened the door wide so that he could step inside. When he did, I saw how tense his every movement was, and immediately knew that something was very wrong.
«Draco,» I whispered after I'd closed the door, then walked over to him and put my hand on his stubbled cheek. There were some deeply disturbing circles under his eyes, and my concern for him grew as I noticed more troubling details about his behaviour.
Draco swallowed hard, his eyes not being able to focus on one thing for longer than a second. My other hand moved on its own accord and rested on his broad and heaving chest. I felt how his heart fluttered and closed the distance between us, still keeping an eye on his expressionless face.
«Ehm..» He swallowed again, staring at the ceiling as he put his one hand gently on my back. «I-I..There's... My-my-» He cut off his own rambling and buried his face in my hair. I wrapped both my arms tightly around him, keeping the pieces of him together.
«I'm here, Draco,» I choked, tears threatening to fall as I felt his tense, trembling body against mine. «Whatever it is, I'm right here for you.»
Draco suddenly pulled away from me, his face stone cold, and walked over to the window overlooking the street.
I stood firmly in the same place, understanding his need for space to collect his thoughts. Every second tortured me, though. Every cell, every atom in this fragile body of mine were screaming at me to run over to Draco and comfort that deeply haunted man. But I kept still. Painfully still. He needed the time, and if that's what he wanted, then that's what I would give him. He knew I was here, ready to do his every bidding – he only needed to say the word, and I would be ready. Just a millisecond away from him.
«My father...» he began, turning to look at me with a collected, but tense, expression. The usual gleam in his eyes, the sparkle that I'd grown so addicted to, had vanished completely, and it broke my heart.
Without blinking he proceeded to speak in a monotone voice.
«He just died.»
I know, I know. I'm a horrible person for cutting you off here, but there was no way around it. You'll know more in the next chapter, and let me just say – it gets better (and/or 'worse') and more exciting!
Thank you for reading, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts about this chapter :)