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Chapter 12: Exposure, Expiation &...Expulsion?
Disclaimer: I don't own anything of JK Rowling's, or anything else you recognize.
Author's Note: Yo yo yooo! This chapter took me ages to write, even though I was so amped about it. But it's super super intense, so yaayyy. It's Riley time! Woot. Soooo, my life's been kinda hectic and I've got some writer's block going on, so you know, writing is tough. The next chapter is Rose's, but I haven't written much of it, so there won't be a preview. Not yet, anyway, I'll probably add one later. Anyway enjoy and please review, I'd srsly be thrilled to know what you think. :)
"Oh Merlin, James, save me! Save me from this test!" I groaned, shaking him by the shoulders.
"Oooh stop," he mumbled. It was early and we'd had neither coffee nor breakfast. Capucine was still sleeping merrily in her bed beside James's.
"Come on then," I muttered bitterly, throwing a thick, comfy sweater on. "I guess we'll just have to face our doom."
"Whatever, Rye, you're obviously going to get way better than me," James reassured me. "Hell, I can't even remember what class it's for."
"Astronomy," I answered. He groaned. We walked out through the common room and into the hall. Being so early, I was surprised to see a lot of commotion. There were large groups gathered by the walls in almost every corridor we walked through. There must have been something posted there, but we couldn't see what it was, no matter how hard we strained to get a glimpse. We almost made it to the Great Hall when Aura ran up to us, out of breath and looking sick.
"Oh god, Riley, did you see?" she asked in a horrified tone as soon as she got her breath back.
"See what?" I responded. Her eyes widened, then she grabbed my forearm and pulled me to the nearest clump of tittering students. She shoved them forcefully aside, sharply commanding them all to leave. When they dispersed, I saw it. Heat rushed to my face and I felt a boiling rage run throughout my body. My fists clenched at my sides. My own capacity for murder now seemed very high.
Fastened to the wall were three moving pictures, all with the same subject: Teagan. The thing about the pictures, though, was the location: a silver-and-green bed. And my little sister was completely naked. She was sitting in the bed with everything below the waist concealed by a white sheet (mercifully), however, her chest was completely exposed. In the first picture, she looked annoyed, and held a hand out to shield herself from the camera while she talked to whoever was behind it. In the next one, she was laughing, her curls- among other things- bouncing. In the third, she lay back in the bed, hands on the headboard, and she smiled that Teagan smile.
I let out a strangled exclamation of fury, pointing my wand at the pictures and causing them to burst into flames.
"We do nothing until every one of these is destroyed," I commanded James and Aura in a deadly low voice.
"But we can't miss class, we've got a test!" Aura blurted out, but she closed her mouth when I turned my fierce gaze on her. "Okay," she said in a small voice. "I'll take the dungeons."
"I'll do the first floor," James said.
"I'll do the second," I continued. "And if you see any friends, make them help." There was no room in my directions for deviation. They knew I mean business. Actually, what I felt like was murdering that filthy Slytherin twat. I knew he was no good. My hands tensed and un-tensed as I thought about putting them around his throat. On my way to the second floor, I ran into Rose and June, and I basically shouted at them to start obliterating every scrap of those pictures.
By the time I'd located the last of the pictures on the third floor, my way of destroying the pictures happened to include destroying the wall behind them too. The more I saw of my sister, the more irate I got until I was almost gnashing my teeth and bellowing obscenities to the heavens.
"Riley," someone said from nearby.
"WHAT!" I roared, spinning around and brandishing my wand in front of me. My murderous expression faded as I saw that my wand was about an inch away from Professor Cavanaugh's beak-like nose. I lowered it quickly. "Sorry."
"It's understandable," he said. "I just wanted to warn you that Professor Ward has gotten wind of this incident and she's planning on coming down hard on your sister. Jernigan's volleying for an expulsion, though, if I know her, she wants something more like an execution. Or at least a week in the stocks."
"This isn't happening," I growled through clenched teeth. "Nobody, NOBODY does this to my sister and gets away with it."
"Do you know who did it?" Cavanaugh asked, but when I looked at him, a more pressing matter made its way into my head.
"Oh god...my History of Magic teacher has seen my sister's tits," I breathed in horror. "Oh GOD! The entire population of Hogwarts has seen my sister's tits; staff and students and ghosts and house elves and sodding portraits alike! Oh Merlin I feel sick..."
"Imagine how your sister must feel," Cavanaugh said and I span around, narrowing my eyes. Right. Teagan.
"WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?!" I roared as soon as Amelia had guided my sister down the stairs of the girls' dorms. A soggy Teagan gave me a vicious look through red eyes and shiny cheeks.
"What do you think I was thinking?" she asked sharply, "'oh, why don't I show my boobs to the whole school? Yeah, that sounds like a plan!' Get real, Rye; I'm a fucking idiot, I screwed up, now my life is ruined and I can't show my face anymore. And I will have to spend the rest of my life in a goddamn burka." She wiped a fresh tear away ferociously, then turned to face the wall as two girls swept through the door. They giggled and muttered some crude remarks as they passed us.
"Don't be immature dildos!" I found myself yelling after them. They looked offended, but still proceeded to utter a few "slut"s and "whore"s and "shameless hussy!"s. Well, maybe not the shameless hussy one. That's just my unfounded faith that people still have an inch of semi-creative insults in them.
"Don't bother," Teagan muttered. "It's done. That's all I am to these people now. I'm just a shameless harlot."
"Harlot! Nice," I said with a sudden grin, but it quickly vanished to be replaced by the villainous look I had been sporting all morning. "I mean, don't you dare believe that! We're gonna make this right if I have to...if I have to somehow remove the clothes of everyone in this castle!" There was a pause in which the three of us scrunched up our noses uncertainly. "Never mind that. You get the point. This isn't your fault." I added in a softer tone, my face clearing only for the second time since I saw the pictures. "Come here." She does and I hold her tight, smoothing her hair and taking several deep breaths, relieving my stress only marginally.
I felt a sudden pang of nausea go through my stomach as I felt her innocence slipping away. For the first time, I realized that things couldn't always stay the way they were when we were younger. It made me feel sick as I felt time catching up with me. It had never really sunk in that I, myself, was now of age, therefore an adult. Teagan was only two years behind. I almost wished that I could turn everything back and live it all over, just so I could savor every moment of my childhood and life without cares or worries.
"Looks like we'll have to start in the Slytherin common room," Amelia suggested. "I've got the password." Teagan and I break our embrace to look at her.
"You two should stay in the dorm," I tell them, "I don't want...well, you know, I don't want public persecution."
"Aaw, I wanna go fight for justice too!" Amelia said. "I wanna bust some asses! I wanna give 'em the ol' one-two!"
"Uh, well you can do that with your dorm mates, okay?" I told her and she rolled her eyes. They both turned to ascend the stairs, but before they could raise their feet, James burst in, holding Capucine at arm's length like a religious icon. He urgently thrust it into Teagan's arms and stood back.
"Capucine pour vous! She cures everything; cold, flu, sniffles, zits, STIs: everything! She cuddles, she snuggles, she meows, she purrs! Everything you need to cheer up!" he babbled in a loud, salesman tone of voice, utilizing wild arm gestures to emphasize his point. He trailed off after awhile.
"Thanks," Teagan snuffled, kissing the top of the kitten's head. James made a sound that could've been a reply if he hadn't been intently staring at my little sister's chest. I drew back my foot and brought it forward to connect with James's calf with surprisingly strong force. I fancied I even heard a crack! but that could've just been what I imagined the sound of the impact that ricocheted back through my leg. The racket he emitted next was enough of an indication of the effect it had on him. He collapsed sideways, holding his leg. "Holy!" Teagan breathed as the two girls knelt by his side to see if he was alright. Once he stopped screaming, that is.
"Sodding fuck! What was that for?" he demanded of me.
"You were staring at my sister's tits," I accused defiantly.
"SO?" he cried wheezily. "You don't have to amputate me, for Chrissakes! I'm human, you know!" I let out a scowling sound, but bent down to help him up. He brushed himself off and I glared down at my feet, then I spun around and punched him hard in the shoulder, eliciting another outcry.
"Riley!" Teagan reprimanded me, but I just gave them all a hard look. James scoffed and scowled at me, rubbing his shoulder.
"You two go upstairs," I told the girls, "and you, come with me," I directed James. Teagan, Amelia and Capucine mounted the stairs, not without backward glances, faces, and motions, while James and I re-entered the common room.
"You know, you're fucking scary right about now," James murmured as a group of girls entered the sparse room, giggled in our direction, and made their way over to a table by the windows.
"Good," I replied with a shrug. "I mean business." It was strange though, once I thought of it. There was a boiling anger that originated in the pit of my stomach and seemed to control every one of my thoughts and actions. Every word I said suddenly seemed to be more important that it had ever been. I could hardly wrap my head around this change in me, but I supposed it was a force that would see me through the roughest part of the storm and then recede again, as if it had never been there before.
"Oh looky!" James trilled (to my utter shock and horror), pointing to the portrait hole where Rose and June were just entering, the latter tripping over a three-inch heel, arms wind-milling, and then regaining balance several paces from where the incident began. James laughed, naturally, then made for them. "Slippery Slag, I see you haven't lost your touch," he greeted them. "And by touch, I mean absolutely no control over your limbs."
"Eat it, Potter!" she growled through clenched teeth as I came up to them. Rose was going through her powder blue book bag, a loose strand of hair bobbing around frantically with her head movements.
"Oh-oh-oh!" she chirped in alarm as she pulled a plastic watch from an inside pocket and regarded its shiny surface. "I'm late! Oh-oh!" she patted several more pockets in much the same frenzied fashion until she found a pocket mirror, into which she looked as she rearranged bits of her hair and fixed patches of her makeup.
"Wait, you're not leaving are you?" I asked, as though it had been obvious that I had her booked for the whole day. Her saucer-wide eyes fixed on me for a moment, wherein the expression changed from panic to compassion.
"Oh!" she mewled in dismay. "Teagan! I'm so sorry, Rye... I wish I could... but it's just... this, er... prior engagement!" Her hand unconsciously flew to her head to smooth her hair again.
"That's fine...go then," I said with a shrug. She grinned maniacally and shot towards the door. She jerked to a stop though, returned to give me a squeezy hug, then flew away again.
"What're we gonna do?" June asked, folding her arms. She was wearing a thin cardigan, but she wrapped it around herself like it was a suit of armor. Her hair was showing her recent lethargy as it was only thrown up in a sloppy bun. Not to say it didn't look good, it's just that's she had been looking wearier and gloomier in the past few weeks. But that wasn't the issue now.
"We're gonna make this bastard pay," I said darkly, punching my fist into my other hand in an "I mean business" way.
"Wait, wait, hold up," June said, putting her hands up. "What are you going to do? Threaten him, challenge him to a duel, beat him up, make him confess to the Headmistress, what?"
"Oh, well, I haven't really figured that out yet," I confided. "Something intense and dramatic." They accepted this and I wheeled around, heading for the portrait hole, but it was already swinging shut behind Lucas and Henry.
"Hey, Professor Twinning's wondering where the hell you two were this morning," Lucas's voice cut through the air.
"Aawww shucks," James replied, slapping his knee, "did we miss a test? Boy, is that lousy."
"He's been preparing us for it for weeks," Lucas shrugged, coming up to us. He did a double-take when he saw me. "Oh shit! I saw the, uh...I guess that's why, uh..."
"Yeah," I muttered. "Let's go." I was already walking to the portrait hole. For a moment I didn't think they would follow me, but they caught up in a flurry at the end of the corridor. "I figure I'll just do what feels right when the time comes," I explained with a shrug, then we set off together down the stairs.
We made it to a second floor corridor when Aura almost body-checked me as she ran down the hall, evidently not seeing us until it was almost too late. She stopped herself and backed up just in time, then she gave me an out-of-breath, though important, look.
"They're-" she began urgently, but paused to take a breath. "They're coming!" she concluded dramatically.
"That's sufficiently ominous," Lucas stated evenly.
"Who's coming? The aliens!?" Henry asked in horror.
"No," Aura replied, giving him a derisive look which made him shrink back. Jernigan! And Professor Ward! And Cavanaugh. They're coming to get Teagan!"
"No fucking way," I muttered viciously.
"We have to stop them or they'll expel her!" James cried, smashing his fist into his palm.
"But surely they understad that it's not her fault?" June asked.
"I wouldn't count on it," Lucas said, "if Jernigan has anything to say about it."
"Well we'll just have to stall them then," James proposed with a wicked grin," until Rye gets a hold of that twat."
"We'll split up then. Who wants to distract the teachers?"
"That's me!" James declared, thrusting his hand in the air. Henry then joined him, and so did June. "This should be fun." He rubbed his hands together.
"I don't care what you have to do, just don't let them near my sister," I told them. James did a formal salute and made an affirmative expression, then the three of them turned on their heels and strode down the corridor and out of sight.
"We've got the password, let's get down there," Lucas said, running a hand through his short orange hair. Aura and I nodded to each other, and we all continued our southerly march.
I stormed into the Slytherin common room ahead of Aura and Lucas as soon as the doorway was revealed. Scanning the room I saw familiar faces glancing at me curiously, but none of them was the one that I wanted to see. I was about to address the room at large with a booming demand to turn the sleazy bint over, but then I saw Lacey. I made for her, then did a double-take as I realized that the neatly-manicured hand that just briefly touched her knee belonged to Eve Stroud. The latter gazed up at me from behind long-lashed eyes.
"I'm looking for Marc," I told them.
"He's not here," Eve replied.
"How's Teagan?" Lacey asked.
"She'll be fine. I'm taking care of it," I answered.
"And how are you?"
"Right," she responded quietly, looking at me in a way she'd never done before.
"Where is he?" I asked Eve. Her eyelashes fluttered and she smirked a little.
"Think I recall him being on something called the Slytherin Quidditch team?" Her cool eyes looked me up and down as I smashed my fist into my palm, then I reeled around and strode to the portrait hole. Lucas and Aura trailed behind me as I raced up steps and through the Entrance Hall with fiery determination.
The sky was an icy blue with thick patches of dark clouds. The air was frigid and the earth crunched beneath our feet as we marched through the grounds. Rain drizzled down weakly on our heads. It stung my face like bits of ice, turning my skin pink. Aura and Henry followed in silence, their hair beginning to frizz up from the moisture. I slid down the last muddy slope then strode over to the crowd of Slytherins. Albus was the first to see me and he called out my name.
I didn't hear him. I could already feel the adrenaline rushing through my body and shutting off all rational thought. Marc was the last of them to notice me; he stood laughing, with his back to us. He'd barely just turned around when I found my clenched fist- coursing with itching, nagging energy- flying at his face. There was a funny smacking sound followed by an uncertain crack! These mingled with cries of alarm and protest. Marc's hands flew to his face, then he flopped on his side into the mud. I grabbed him roughly by the front of his robes and turned him over, thumping his back into the mucky ground, making him cough and squint up at me with watering eyes. I crouched over him, the tip of my wand at his throat.
"You know what, you know what! You worthless, pathetic fucking little runt, I'm gonna smash you so hard your face comes off! I'm gonna...shove goats in your face, you putrid little whore! You're so...so...fucking...shit-fucking fucked! You fucking fuck! Who the hell do you think you are you stupid dickbag? I am going to destroy you from the inside out you, you disgusting little maggot-sack, I will rape your...your...shit...I dunno. But you're not going to like it! Ah! Aha!"
Blood was streaming from both his nostrils. I stared long and hard into his eyes, digging my wand into his neck, then, suddenly, I stood back up.
"I could. But you're just not worth it."
He started to lift his head, but I pushed it back into the mud with my foot, then backed off.
"Get bent, bruv!" Albus added, stepping forward, spitting in Marc's direction, then walking over to us. He slipped, however, bumping into Freddie who stumbled. His arm flew out and the back of his hand collided with Aura's face, who drew in a sharp breath.
When Aura drew her wand, that was when chaos really broke out. It was also the point where the rain and the wind worsened considerably. It wasn't long until we had all formed a mob of muddy muggle-fighting madmen, with various jinxes and curses cutting haphazardly through the charged air. For most of it, I was locked forearm-to-forearm with Marc, his face by then a grotesque demon mask, the red eyes the most startling part of it.
Then, before I knew it, it was over. Marc stood up shakily, unfocused eyes on me, then he wiped blood from his mouth, only getting more mud on his face, then he walked past me and away from the Quidditch pitch.
"You...you were amazing!" Aura breathed when we had got back inside the castle. Everybody else had gone back to their dorms to get cleaned up. Some were on their way to the hospital wing. She pulled me roughly into an alcove as a group of Hufflepuffs passed by. She still clasped my hands as we stood and looked at each other. She touched a tender spot under my eye. "You're beginning to bruise," she said. Adrenaline was still pulsing beneath my skin and the only thing I could think to do next was lean in and kiss her. She didn't recoil for a whole ten seconds; I counted, I marveled, I screamed and jumped about in my head, it was just...my first kiss with Aura... "Riley..." she muttered, looking up at me, "what about June?"
"She'd understand," I whispered, leaning forward again, but she put her hand over my mouth.
"I can't do that."
"No, but she...we..." I tried to explain, but I couldn't think straight. I just wanted to kiss her and kiss her and get lost... "I'll explain later..."
"Riley, stop." She shook her head, then she removed my hands from her waist. "I'll see you later." She almost smiled, then she turned and hurried away up the steps. My mouth hung open in dismay as I watched her leave. I took a deep breath, then let it out. Then I heard voices, faint at first, but getting louder by the second.
"...so you know when I went to check on him, his body had just vanished, poof! into thin air. All that remained was the bloodstained handkerchief with the crest of the royal family on it. And that's not even the sp0okiest part of it! The really scary stuff happened the weekend after that! You see..."
"Mr. Potter! I do think that's enough of your nonsense!" a shrill voice cut through the air. I gasped. Of course. I had completely forgotten about the teachers. I took a deep breath, my limbs suddenly shaking like Jell-O, and I stepped out of the alcove. Their eyes snapped to me instantly; I could almost feel the weight shift onto my jelly body. "Mr. Finnegan," Jernigan snapped triumphantly, "so glad we ran into you."
"Yeah, same here actually," I replied with a nod.
"Mr. Finnegan, have you been muggle fighting? You should know better, you are a seventh year. And as for your sister-!"
"Professor Jernigan, with all due respect, shut the fuck up."
Her mouth sprang open in horror, her eyes bulging. She spluttered a bit, trying to say something, but it evidently was unsuccessful.
"How dare you-?!" Professor Ward gasped, shaking her head.
"No, how dare you? How dare you treat my sister like this. Are you fucking blind? Can you not see who is to blame here? Do you honestly believe that my sister should be punished for any of this? Do you think she did this on purpose? Huh? Do you think she wanted this? No. Could it have been avoided? Yes. Was she an idiot? Of course. But who the hell isn't? Who doesn't do stupid shit like this and then ruin your whole life and then have to piece it back together again? Huh? That's the whole goddamn point of being young! Fucking up so entirely that you just wanna give up. And then you deal and move on and grow up. You learn from your mistakes. And seriously, this humiliation is totally enough punishment for Teagan."
Jernigan's face was frozen with rage and it was, for possibly the first time since I've known her, bright red. Professor Ward wore a slightly less scandalized expression, but her eyes were as dark and enigmatic as her sister's. Cavanaugh was smiling. The others stood back, eyes flicking around the hall nervously.
"Well..." Professor Ward spoke at last. I held my breath. Shit, I was really in for it now. I just swore and yelled at three teachers...Looks like the Finnegans will be leaving Hogwarts.
"Yeah...I'll go pack my bags...y'know..." I took a step backwards. Then, astonishingly, the Headmistress smiled.
"You make a good point," she said. I let out my breath in a loud rush of relief, staring at her incredulously. "However, the two of you will still have to be held accountable for your actions. I hope I don't have to remind you that sexual intercourse is and always has been completely against the rules. Your sister's behavior was indeed stupid and disgraceful. And you too have broken some rules today if I'm not mistaken. But before that, perhaps you could tell us who is responsible for the pictures."
"Huh-what? You're- you're not going to expel her?" Jernigan gaped at Ward. "Sh-she's a no-good hussy! You really want to keep that kind of scum in your-"
"Jovana!" Professor Ward hissed firmly and her sister shut her mouth, enraged and astounded.
I collapsed onto my bed at the end of the day, drained. The rest of the day had passed in an uncomfortable blur, my skin seeming to always be crawling with nervous insects. Teagan, Marc and I had been assembled in the Headmistress's office along with Cavanaugh and the Head of Slytherin, Professor Blake. I didn't let go of Teagan for the whole meeting, and I kept my eyes on Marc the whole time. His, however, were trained on his knees, where he held his hands, knuckles turning white. I almost thought I saw him crying at a couple points.
Then it was over. He didn't get expelled, but he was on probation. One more slip-up and it would be off to Wizard Military School. He was also kicked off the Quidditch team. Teagan and I got two weeks' worth of detention for our various felonies. As soon as James found out, he promptly started making plans to join us.
He entered the dorm shortly after I did, and started mumbling to me. I couldn't make out anything more than a buzz though, as my body took on the weight of a boulder and I drifted off to sleep.
The Great Hall was rumbling with murmurs the next morning as I stumbled through the doors in a stupor. After a heavy sleep I had almost completely forgotten the events of the day before. I rubbed my puffy eyes as I slumped down at the table in between James and Lucas. They turned to look at me expectantly.
"What?" I grumbled, holding my hands over my head. Lucas nudged my arm and I looked up. He jerked his chin in the direction of the rest of the room. The tables of students peering over curiously. The stone floor and walls seemed to hum with their excited voices. That's when I remembered. They weren't just looking at me, they were looking at the curly-headed girl sitting three people away from me, her face hidden by soft brown coils, forehead resting on the table.
That's when the fire returned. I clenched my jaw and my fists as one, the tension coursing through my arms and neck. I stood up suddenly, then raised one long leg and planted my foot on the top of the table. I pulled myself up, a little uneasily, then straightened to my full height. I had everyone's attention at that moment, and I felt venom rushing through my veins.
"Well...now that I have your attention," I started off shakily, "fuck you. All of you." There were several gasps and murmurs and exclamations, but I raised my arms and the noise died down. "You should be ashamed of yourselves, you miserable bloody Flobberworms. I bet a hundred Galleons that every single student in this Merlin-forsaken hole has done something so utterly, ridiculously stupid that you had no way of explaining why the fuck you did it, and it just screwed everything up. Yeah, I bet you've all done that more than once. You know what, I know for a fact that a majority of you do it quite regularly. If you want, I can give you examples of certain people in this school."
More mutters, but they didn't take their eyes off me.
"I can point out a whole bunch of you that I would totally go so far as to call sluts. Yeah, really. But I won't, 'cause you know, I give a shit about people's feelings. Unlike you coldhearted bastards. I mean seriously, look at my sister." I looked down at her. She was gazing up at me with watery green eyes. "Just look at her. She's one of the most beautiful people I've ever known. And she's got this really awesome personality, and an insanely huge heart. She cares so much it hurts. She's just sweet. And special. And if any of you have a problem with her, just say so, and I'll personally beat the shit out of you." I gave every face one last hard glare, then I stepped down, took Teagan by the arm and directed her out of the room.
As soon as we had cleared the doors, she crumpled into my arms in tears, alternating between hugging me and kissing me wetly on the cheek. I let out a breath, a huge, heavy, fiery breath. And with it, I felt that mysterious, powerful force leave my body. My nerves relaxed, my muscles loosened, and I felt free and small again. Me again.
It was good to be back.