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Chapter 39: Lights
“Wait, so what does that mean?”
“It means,” Fred said, impatiently adjusting the strap to his messenger bag. “That I’m fucked.”
Aidan, Potter and I all exchanged serious glances over the wooden table—looking uncannily like we were part of the mafia and Fred was a henchmen who’d just delivered bad news about a drug bust. Right now, all Freddy needed was a leather jacket and a nickname like ‘Vinny Georgous,’ and we’d be all set.
Seriously, though. The Hogwart’s Kitchens have seen better days, I’m telling you that. We were seated around one of its backroom tables, but if I didn’t know better, I’d think we were at some shady mob warehouse in the boondocks of Long Island.
...I don’t even know what boondocks are. But that’s how shady this whole situation is. It’s so shady that it comes with its own complementary boondocks.
There was a grimy lightbulb swinging above us, slicking everything in dim orange light, and a bottle of whiskey on the table. Somewhere in the back, Martin was frolicking with the house-elves and playing with Rufus the Gerbil (which we were now keeping down here, after Dom had ‘an episode’ and almost strangled it for chewing everything in her closet).
Before Freddy had barged in, all sweaty and distraught, we had been – as if this thing couldn’t get anymore Scarface – playing a game of poker. Potter and Aidan had their eyes, slitted and focused, on their cards. There was a cigarette dangling out of the corner of Potter’s mouth, curling rancid smoke in the air. But since the three of us were all broke Hogwarts students, instead of chips in the middle of the table, there was just a mishmash collection of chocolate frogs, unwanted Christmas gift cards, and a piece of lint Aidan found in his pocket.
Yeah. We be steady mobbin,’ yo.
I set down my cards. I had a bad hand, anyways. “Wait, so explain this to me again, will you – what exactly did McGonagall say?”
“I don’t know! I wasn’t listening that carefully. The whole time I was just afraid she would go all mighty morphin’ power rangers on me and turn into a cat and scratch out my eyeballs.” Freddy yanked out a chair and flopped down on it. “I’m just fucked.”
“What’s your sentence?” Potter growled calmly through his cigarette, eyes still trained on his cards. “Six weeks detention? Eight? Nine?”
Freddy pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes. I’d never seen him look so anxious before. “I don’t know yet. I’m meeting Headmistress Vespertine tomorrow night and apparently, she’ll decide my punishment then. Fuck, mum’s going to disembowel me.”
At the mention of Vespertine, Potter’s gold eyes finally snapped from his cards to Freddy. He plucked the cigarette out of his mouth and stubbed it on the table.
“I know, mate.” Fred seemed to read Potter’s mind. Both their faces darkened with seriousness, and for a moment, I could actually see the Weasley resemblance. And it was scary. “I feel like those girls who get eliminated from Britain’s Next Top Model.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Fredders,” I tried to remain cheerful, but even I could hear how horribly false my voice sounded. “It might work out fine! This could be good!”
Wrong thing to say. There was a silence as everyone recognized that Agatha Bennett and optimism should never be mixed. It was like the equivalent to the socks and flip flops combo.
Fred grimaced. Aidan coughed.
Potter’s voice was scornful with incredulity. Gone was the teasing tone from the greenhouses. We were back to our old patterns now. “In what Inception dream-layer could this possibly be a good thing?”
“It’ll give us a chance to finally turn Cooper into the authorities – like we should have done at the very start. Instead, we’ve been running around like children,” I bit out defensively, causing a scowl to flit across Potter’s Pretty Boy Face. Aidan didn’t look too thrilled either. Stupid Gryffindors and their aversion to authority.
“What?” I cried, aghast. They were all staring at me like I’d just announced I wanted to marry my microwave. “It’s the only way we’ll ever get justice!”
“Agatha,” Aidan began gently, blue eyes soft with understanding. It was weird – out of all three of them, Aidan was the least angry about Cooper. And he had been the victim. “Even if the teachers believe us in the first place, the worst they’d be able to do is hand out a few detentions. Justice would consist of a couple hours of trophy cleaning for Cooper, and then he’d be off the hook.”
“Yeah, I’d rather just punch him in the face and call it a day,” Potter said flatly.
“You tried that already,” I responded snidely, referring to the Halloween party in which Cooper and Potter had gotten into a full-out brawl. Not just a fight, no. A brawl. “Didn’t exactly work out.”
“You’re lecturing me about punching people in the face? Aaaand today’s irony quota has officially been filled. For the rest of the year.” Potter leaned back in his chair, folding his arms over his broad chest and giving a breathless, sardonic laugh. “You’re something else, Bennett.”
“If by something else, you mean I’m different from all those vapid bimbos you string along... Then I’ll take that as a compliment.” I pursed my lips, trying to stifle the smog of anger that was slowly creeping up my body. See? This. This was where it always went wrong: when Potter and I talked. We could exchange saliva all day long, but when it came to words – we were screwed.
Potter gave a derisive snort, eyes liquid metal. “Yeah, different in the way that you need a muffler—“
“Oh, I’m sorry I actually say intelligent things once in a while. Sorry my mouth isn't set on Giggle Mode all the time—“
“Does your mouth have a Shut the Fuck Up Mode?”
“How dare you!“
“So it doesn’t, then. Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
“You are so facking irritating—“
“Oi! Will you two just bloody STOP IT for a second?” Aidan burst out, flailing in his seat a little. Potter and I jolted – we’d been so ingrained into our argument, everything else had just sort of... faded into the background. I’d forgotten there were others in the room.
Aidan was breathing heavily, patches of pink blooming in his cheeks. “Both of you are unbelievable.”
My mouth opened and closed. I stammered, sheepish. “Aidan, we were just—“
“Arguing. As usual,” my brother gritted out, eyebrows raised and daring us to contradict him. He gestured to Freddy, who was sullenly picking at the woody grain of the table. “Meanwhile, Freddy’s having a mental breakdown, and you’re making this all about you and... and your sodding sexual tension! If you’re not going to be any help to us, why don’t you two just bloody go into the next room and make out?! I’m sick of it.”
Potter and I gaped, stunned into silence. My face was smoldering with heat. Potter’s jaw was hanging open. Did Aidan just really—?
I cleared my throat. Oh god. Oh god. This was so uncomfortable. My brother had just acknowledged the fact that I snog his bestmate. The only thing worse than this was when mum gave us The Talk... when we were fourteen. She had diagrams and everything.
I think I might implode from all the awkwardness.
“We—we don’t snog,” I finally managed.
“Yes you do,” Aidan and Fred droned simultaneously, looking almost bored.
“Yes, Agatha, I know,” Aidan deadpanned. He was staring straight at me, his eyes a velvety, unflinching blue. I was unable to look away. “I know you two snog or hook up or... whatever it is your weird relaionship consists of. I know it for a fact.”
There was a pounding silence. Potter looked from me to Aidan, back to me, then at Aidan again.
“Fuck,” he muttered, and lit another cigarette.
Aidan shrugged, emotionless. “I would’ve had to been braindead not to notice what was going on over break. I mean, you two actually stopped bickering, for once. That was when I knew – either one of you was blackmailing the other, or you were snogging...”
“You guys really weren’t very subtle, either,” Fred felt the need to throw in. “I mean, Martin knew. And Martin doesn’t even know English.”
“Wait, so everybody knows now?” Horrified, I turned from Aidan’s unsympathetic gaze to Fred’s matter-of-fact one. Potter was still uncharacteristically silent.
“Um, duh,” Fred said, in perfect imitation of a highschool cheerleader.
I opened my mouth to respond, but was cut off by the sound of a chair screeching backwards. Before I knew it, Potter was standing up, squishing his smoldering cigarette against the table.
“Alright, Aidan,” he drawled, dusting his hands off. “You know what to do.”
After a moments pause, Aidan sighed and nodded. He stood up as well, spreading his cards out on the table almost systematically. Jaw slack with confusion, I stared at the two of them, unable to do anything. Fred leaned back with satisfaction, and I could tell he knew what was about to happen. Meanwhile, I had no absolutely no idea what the prats were talking about.
“I don’t know, man. This doesn’t seem like a good idea...” Aidan seemed hesitant for the first time, the annoyance in his eyes dimming ever so slightly. He faltered, his voice trailing off into the thick air.
Potter shrugged, looking unruffled. “Rules are rules.”
“What’s going on? What rules?” I cried sharply. I was undoubtedly ignored.
“It doesn’t have to be like this, mate,” Aidan shook his head fiercely at Potter. “I’m not mad.”
“But you should be. Besides, it’s bro code. We’d agreed ages ago – if you kissed Lily, I’d have to do the same,” Potter said calmly, the shadow of a smirk pulling at his lips. It was like he was egging Aidan on almost, like—in some bitter, twisted way—he wanted this to happen – whatever this was.
“What in the world – ?” I hissed at Freddy, but he just made a shushing noise and frantically flapped his hands at me.
“Just do it.” Potter spread his arms out, open, ready.
There was a hitch of tense silence. And then...
“Fine,” Aidan snapped. I felt dread flood my stomach as, grimly, my brother stepped closer.
I was starting to cringe, bracing myself for what was coming... But then Potter held out his hand, and everything halted to a stop (even the suspenseful music building in my head).
“Wait a second.” And with that same, almost-smirk on his face – eyes flickering with secret amusement, like he was laughing at himself – Potter swiped the whiskey bottle off the table and took a swig. He slammed it back down, giving an imperceptible laugh.
“Okay. I’m ready. Do it, mate. I deserve it. I’m a sodding idiot,” he stated plainly, and I could see just the slightest flicker of guilt, of sorry, in his eyes.
...And then Aidan punched him in the face.
Potter wheeled backwards, going down with a solid thud against the hardwood floor.
My first instinct was to scream.
My second was to run towards Potter, where he was lying on the ground—blood trickling from his jaw—and then scream some more.
But this time, at my brother.
“ARE YOU SODDING INSANE?” I shrieked up at Aidan, crouching as I cradled Potter’s head in my lap. His eyes were fluttering, a groan of pain rumbling through his chest. It’d been a hard hit. “YOU JUST PUNCHED YOUR BEST FRIEND IN THE FACE!“
“Oh my god!” Aidan moaned frantically, dragging his hands through his toffee hair. “I just punched my best friend in the face!”
“Right after you punched him in the face!”
“On his birthday!”
“WHY DO WE KEEP PUNCHING HIM IN THE FACE?”
“I DON'T KNOW.”
“WE’RE SUCH HORRIBLE PEOPLE.”
...Seriously. Potter should really regret the day he ever became friends with the Bennett twins.
“I tried not to aim for the nose,” Aidan offered feebly, wincing with guilt. “It’s bro code, Agatha,” he whined desperately. “You don’t mess with that shit.”
“He’s right,” Fred piped in, looking equally sorry. “You can’t break the bonds of bro-hood.”
That’s it. I was surrounded. Surrounded by idiots. One of whom had his head nestled in my lap (which would be... exciting among different circumstances. But not so much now that he was bleeding and slightly unconscious).
I will never understand them.
If only Dom wasn’t on one of her bleeding secret dates with Xander,and Evelyn wasn’t ignoring Freddy. I could really use some fellow estrogen right now.
I shook my head in disgust. “I have nothing to say. This is so absurd.” Changing tactics, I looked down to see Potter in my lap, his eyes closed, peaceful-like. He seemed so... innocent. I almost had to remind myself that he was a sodding moron who’d just asked to be punched in the face.
“Potter,” I said gently, dusting the hair off his forehead. “Potter, wake up.”
His eyes flickered open, and I knew I was the first thing he saw from way his lips quirked upwards, the way his gaze turned to warm amber.
“Hey, it’s you,” he said, voice tinged with a slight husk. He looked totally out of it.
I stared at him in disbelief. “Hi. It’s me."
He laughed, slowly, quietly. It was a laugh that seemed to burn through the air, along with that ambergreen gaze. And of course, the following tingle down my spine was completely unrelated. It was just... you know, because of the cold. In the Kitchens. You know. The place with all the ovens and fireplaces. Yeah. Cold.
“Well, I’m glad we handled that,” Fred said brusquely, coming around the table to offer Potter a hand.
I rolled my eyes. “Oh yeah. Well done, guys. Next time, why don’t we just put Aidan and Potter in a colosseum and have them fight to the death?”
My brother grinned sheepishly as Fred heaved Potter off the ground. “I don’t know about that. My spear work is a little rusty.”
“Same goes with my lion-fighting,” Potter smirked back, clapping a hand on Aidan’s broad shoulder. And somehow, in their own weird, special little broguage (bro-language), that seemed to say it all: Sorry for making out with your sister, mate. Oh, and sorry for doing it multiple times.
Aidan nodded absentmindedly, which I guess was his weird way of showing forgiveness.
I inched away from the idiots (I could practically hear the braincells dying from over here) and perched myself on the edge of the table. “Okaaaay, so now that this...Moronfest is over, we need to think about Freddy. We should figure out a plan of attack for Vespertine tomorrow. There’s gotta be a way to get him off the hook. A loophole,something—”
“I’ll confess too,” Potter sliced in quickly, looking completely unfazed.
He stretched his arms over his head, and my gaze quickly shot to the ground. Who needed to watch rippling muscles when you could have...er... tile? And mould? And what was either a month-old potato chip or an amputated toe?
Okay, the Kitchens here are really in need of a good health inspection.
“Don’t be ridiculous, James,” Fred scoffed. “I’m already going down, and you shouldn’t have to as well.”
“Maybe Vespertine will reduce punishment if she knows I’m guilty too – you never know, Freddy. I mean, I was just as much part of the Cooper prank as you. You shouldn’t be the only one getting in trouble,” Potter shrugged. He seemed totally casual about this, which was typical of him. Always so carefree, never worrying about the consequences.
Ugh, stupid prat. Now that he’s volunteering to take the fall with Fred, that means I probably should as well. Blah. I hate when my friendships with people force me into acting like a good human being. I’m a Slytherin, for god’s sakes. We’re the ones whodon’t help the old granny cross the street... and then later steal her life insurance when she gets hit by the bus. Doing good is just unnatural.
“I’ll come with you as well,” I droned, with as much sincerity as a Hufflepuff bimbo pretending to be excited about Quidditch around boys. “It’s only fair.”
“That means a lot, guys. But...” Freddy smiled weakly, and I felt my hopes rise – please be too noble to except our offer, please, please, please, I’m Aggy, Bennett for god’s sakes, I can’t get into trouble with authority, I’ll combust into flames – “But I can’t let you do that.”
YES! I LOVE YOU FRED WEASLEY. THIRTY YEARS FROM NOW, IF YOU’RE STILL NOT MARRIED AND IF I’VE SUFFERED AT LEAST SOME FORM OF MINOR BRAIN DAMAGE, I WILL TOTALLY HAVE YOUR BABIES. YOU GO. YOU GO. IT IS YOUR BIRTHDAY. IT IS YOUR DAY OF BIRTH.
Potter, however, wasn’t having it. “What are you talking about? Of course we’re taking the blame with you.” NO POTTER SHUT UP. “We don’t care, Fred.” YES WE DO. WE CARE A LOT. “And we’re not going to let you go down by yourself – don’t be stupid.” NO. BE VERY STUPID. IT’S WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT.
Fred, adamant as ever, shook his head. “I’m not going to let you guys get in trouble for me. ‘Specially not Aggy. I mean, if Vespertine so much as looks at her the wrong way, she’ll melt.”
“That may or may not be true,” I nodded. it was so tempting to just let Freddy take the blame, but looking into his wide eyes, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of... compassion? Ugh, I need to stop hanging out with Gryffindors so much. “But... we should still go with you, Freddy. Potter is righmrrblfsufsr.”
There was a pause. I looked around, realizing that my last word had dissolved into utter gibberish, and that the boys were now staring at me with blank faces. Apparently, I'd just lost the ability of speech. My tongue had sort of twisted into itself – my mouth was rebelling against me.
Oh god. I’ve forgotten how to English.
“Um.” Aidan blinked. “What was that?”
“Potter is righmsdbfbdsbrrrrr.” I tried to get the last word out, I really did try, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. It was physically painful to say.
“Riiighsuhhhhhhhhhbeh!” I hissed in frustration.
“I think what Bennett is trying to say is that I’m right,” Potter smirked, amused, and, rolling my eyes, I nodded. He cocked an eyebrow in my direction. “Cat got your tongue?”
“Nope, that’s just the utter contempt and disgust I hold for you,” I shot back immediately, voice saccharine with fake sweetness. Aidan sighed. I barreled on: “Anyways, yeah. Potter is... Potter is you-know-what. And for once, I agree with him. We’re not going to abandon you, Freddy. As much as I hate the idea of getting into trouble, fair is fair.”
“But this isn’t about fair, sis.” Aidan shook his head suddenly, rubbing the scruff on his chin. He leaned against the wall, looking pained. “It’s about smart. I’m sorry, Freds, but... I think it’d be best if you went in this alone.”
There was a heavy, awkward silence as we all thought about what that meant.
Freddy was the first one to speak. “I agree with Aidan. It’s about time I start taking responsibility for the shit I do. And... and even though I’ll be facing Vespertine and soul-crushing punishment tomorrow – you know what? We’re going to have some fun. I’m going to live up tomorrow night like it’s my last, because once mum finds out what I’ve done, I’m pretty sure it will be.”
I gulped. It was never good when Freddy started talking like he an inspirational Hallmark card. The manic glint in his eyes wasn’t encouraging either.
“And yes,” Fred said seriously. “That means what you think it means.”
I cringed, already knowing what was about to happen.
Fred grinned. “Tomorrow night, we’re having an Room of Requirement party.”
“I hate these things. I seriously fucking hate these things.”
Twenty-four hours later, Dom and I were sitting – rather unenthusiastically - at the Room of Requirement’s signature bar as our fellow classmates partied hard around us. The music was thumping. The mood was just right. And we were drinking... orange juice. Yep. Orange juice.
Thanks to the string of ‘Congrats You’re Not Dead!’ celebrations we had after Aidan’s coma, Dom and I were veterans of the ROR. We knew just how these parties worked: everyone was going to get sloshed. Someone would probably take their pants off for no reason whatsoever. There was a ninety-percent chance of impromptu back tattoos. And in the whirlwind of all this alcohol/teenage stupidity, Dom and I would sit, sober as ever.
After all, we had made a pact after the shitacular that was Potter’s birthday: no alcohol. It was time for us to grow up. And by grow up, I mean stop demanding lapdances from the Ravenclaw Quidditch team (Dom) and running around like a PMS-ing chicken with its head cut off (me).
I mean, Firewhiskey? More like Fire-pissed-skey. Tequila? Let’s try Te-killer. As indignity-killer. As in one shot of that drink, and I’ll probably end up staddling Potter. Or stabbing him. Or both.
...I’ll strabble him.
Everyone from all over Hogwarts was at this thing, having a jolly good time releasing their inner-alcoholics. It was appropriately dark inside the RoR. All you could make out was the neon glow of the bar, and silhouettes grinding on the dancefloor. The music was so loud, the bashing bass providing a second, thumping heartbeat for everyone in the room.
The point of the festivities was that, right now, as we partied (oh yeah, hand me another orange juice. Or, even better, a coke. I’m getting wild tonight), Freddy was inside Vespertine’s office.
After he received his punishment, he was supposed to come down here to party with us. It was a win-win situation. If the news was good and Vespertine went easy on him, we could celebrate. If it was bad, Freddy would be able to drink his sorrows away. Nothing like the warm company of fellow friends to ease the pain in your soul. Oh, wait, did I say the company of friends? Sorry, I meant drunkenly swinging your shirt over your head while singing a horrible karaoke rendition of ‘I Will Survive.’ Because that is, in one sentence, basically what Freddy is reduced to when he’s drunk.
“I hate being the only sober one here.” Dom chewed viciously on her pink straw. She was looking appropriately dolled-up, even going so far as to put on black eyeshadow. And black eyeshadow could only mean one thing – Dom was in predator mode. She was pretty much like a really slutty lionness right now. Poor Xander would’t know what hit him.
“Hey!” I exclaimed, swiveling around on the spinny barstool. “I’m sober too!”
“Okay, but you’re like, always sober,” Dom pointed out oh-so-kindly. “Even when you’re drunk, you’re sober.”
I squinted at her. “What does that bloody mean?”
Dom screwed up her face with effort, obviously mulling over her next few words with care. She tugged at the glittery hem of her skirt. “Just that you never really let loose, you know? You don’t have fun when you drink. Take Potter’s party, for example. You were so upset that night. And Dommy no like when her Aggy upset.”
I cocked a shoulder in a half-shrug. “Can’t help it. I just don’t have good experiences with alcohol.”
“I know!” Dom said, very loudly and very suddenly. She slapped a hand on the bar. “Which is why we need to change that. Oi! Bartender! Two shots, please!”
“Oh – Dom – no –“
“You’ve got to get over this...this phobia you have of alcohol!”
“I don’t have an alcohol phobia!”
“Okay, fun phobia. Whatever you want to call it. Either way, if you’re not careful, you’re going to end up as an old lady making and selling her own prune juice.”
“What about our pact? Don’t you remember Potter’s party—?”
“Oh, screw the pact! Tonight, we’re going to make our livers hate us – Hey! Bartender!’
Martin (who else?) slid into view, carrying two steaming, glass bottles in each hand. He had an obscenely large pair of headphones on, and was bopping to its music in such a rapid, spastic way, it looked like he was being fast-forwarded.
“HOW DO YOU WISH ME TO POISON YOU?” Martin screamed, extra loud thanks to the headphones.
“Er, I think the saying is ‘pick your posion,’ Martin–“
“I WANT TO POISON YOU.”
“Okay, that’s probably not a good thing to go around screaming—“
“LET ME POISON YOU.”
“I... Whatever.” I gestured to Dom. “What do you want?”
“Two shots, please!” Dom leaned forward, flashing her ridiculously charming Veela smile. It was the same move that she always pulled out at busy bars or restraints – and it made sure we were served first.
Martin peeled off one side of his headphones to hear better. He was still nodding enthusiastically along to his music, which I could hear from all the way across the bar. It sounded like a techno remix of someone driving their car into a wall over and over again. Sweet Jesus.
“WHAT KIND?” Martin shouted, chocolate eyes sparkling with an excitement that I found to be, quite honestly, a little scary.
Dom shrugged. “Give us...er... give us Dragontails! Yeah, Dragontail shots!”
“Dragontails?” I groaned. “Those sound scary. Why does it have to be Dragontails? Why can’t it be, like, Rainbow Butterfly shots instead?”
I was, of course, ignored.
Martin set to work, and I slumped down on my barstool, defeated. Someone was going to have to keep me away from Potter tonight. I mean, after what happened today – watching him get punched in the face because of me – who knows what I would do around him once my inhibitions lowered? And knowing him, he was probably on the Firewhiskey Express to Schwastedville at this very moment. So it was my responsibility to be the sober one and make sure any and all contact between us was kept family-friendly.
“Alright, hoe, drink up!” Dom slid a tiny orange glass my way. It looked pretty innocent, except for the fact that the liquid inside was glowing.
“Er, what’s in this, exactly?”
“Oh, don’t be such a baby. Here, I’ll go first.” In one swift movement, Dom picked up her glass and downed it. I watched in amazement as, for the slightest millisecond, Dom’s skin seemed to radiate with a honey-colored dew. Almost like she was glowing from within.
Dom cocked a knowing eyebrow. “Cool, yeah? This is why I love magic. Now your turn.”
Well... One drink couldn’t hurt. Besides, deep down, I knew I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. So, shoving my dignity into the little box where, coincidentally, I also kept my common sense, I gulped down the shot.
For the strangest second, I could feel my skin burning with warmth – like the feeling you get when your skin’s soaking up sunrays. And then it faded, and I was left feeling cool and tingly all over.
“That... wasn’t so bad.” I smacked my lips, getting a hint of grapefruit flavour.
“Brilliant!” Dom grinned, before whipping around to face Martin. “We’ll take four more.”
This can’t be good.
I am not drunk.
I am definitely, utterly, one-hundred-percent not drunk.
So I’m a little drunk.
Somewhere, in between all of Martin’s dance-bartending and Dom’s screams of ‘TIME TO GET FABULOUSSS!’... I’d lost control of all mental functions.
And now, the world was feeling a little bit fuzzy.
I didn’t know how it happened, exactly, but this room had turned into one giant merry-go-round. And I couldn’t seem to find my way to the exit.
Time passed in a blur of roaring music and getting shoved between crowds. Faces flicked by, laughing, screaming, shouting. And still, the drinks kept coming. From the magically-refilling shots to the never-ending bowl of spiked fruit punch, I never had to go thirsty. And. There. Were. So. Many. Different. Kinds.
I don’t know where Martin learned how to bartender, but he was like... the Willy Wonka of alcohol. Every drink he set in front of us was a different colour, size, shape... There were Philosopher’s Stones, for example – tiny, violet shots that actually made you feel immortal, invincible. One kid tried to eat his own shoe after drinking that.
Then there were the Billywig Bombs, which made your body go numb for a whole minute. There were glasses with floating dragons and shooting sparks. Doxy Dacquiris and Fizzing Fairies, and lastly, one pot of what looked liked a bunch of stuff mixed together – which Martin called Happy Juice.
“What’s in that?” I had asked curiously, and Dom had simply shaken her head.
“Nobody knows,” she’d whispered reverently, looking almost fearful. And then she’d dragged me away very quickly before I could get some.
The more drinks I had, the brighter the world got. There were so many new faces. Dom wouldn’t stop dancing. Aidan kept coming up to me with a random person every five minutes, introducing them as his new soulmate. I’m pretty sure, at one point, Martin got into a dance battle against Hogwart’s break-dancing team (they call themselves the Hiphop-o-griff’s) and won. And Potter... well, Potter was nowhere to be found. Which was fine. Because, you know, it’s not like I was actively looking for him or anything.
Basically, the abridged, Cliff-Notes version of that night is this:
1. I had a lot to drink.
2. Dom had more.
3. At one point, Dom stood up on the bar and started running back and forth, kicking people’s drinks out of their hands and screaming ‘I’M SO EXCITED I’M SO EXCITED I’M SO EXCITED!’
4. She then promptly fell off.
5. Then Aidan took it upon himself to stand up on the bar as well, announce that he loved ‘every single fucking one’ of us and declare his decision to move to Africa and save the baby tigers.
6. Everyone in the room cheered.
7. Martin then picked Aidan up, twirled him around in what I can only suspect is a German figure-skating move, and then accidentally dropped him.
8. Everyone cheered some more.
9. Apparently, Dom and I played Butterbeer pong against a bunch of Hufflepuffs.
10. And apparantly, I rock at Butterbeer pong. I made all the winning shots. People were actually chanting my name. I even bet the Hufflepuffs a million dollars and my underwear that I could make a shot blindfolded.
11. I made the shot.
12. Like a boss.
13. At one point, Aidan and I sat behind the bar and aughed hysterically for ten minutes straight about literally nothing.
14. I’m pretty sure someone threw up on me.
15. I’m pretty sure I congratulated that person for throwing up on me.
16. I don’t know why.
17. But I do know that I had a lot of fun.
“Dude, Aggy,” Dom drawled drunkenly into my ear, leaning precariously over my shoulder. “We’re like, twins. But like – not actual twins. But like, siamese twins. In themind. We’re mental twins. Soul twins. Soul sisters! Like that one song... How does that go again? HEY SISTAH SOUL SISTAH, GO SISTAH—“
I peeled Dom off as she started belting in my ear, trying to escape her clutches before she could get to the chorus (there’s a rap bit in the chorus. And trust me, you don’t want to hear Dom rap). I had no idea how long it’d been since we’d taken our first shots – there was no concept of time in the Room of Requirement – all I knew is that we were both very, very wasted.
Just as I was trying to convince Dom that, no, she really didn’t have to go show off her singing talent on top of the bar, I spotted a familiar head of tousled dark hair.
My heart stopped.
The floor seemed to tremble as I crossed the room, ignoring Dom’s fading pleas for Aidan and I to be her backup dancers. As I got closer, the noise in my ears seemed to dim, until I was standing right in front of Potter himself.
He was wearing a white button-down, the lines crisp over his broad shoulders. He was talking to some Ravenclaw bloke, a drink in his hand, an easy smile on his face. There was a shadow of a bruise on his jaw from where Aidan had hit him earlier, but otherwise... He looked the same as ever. Obnoxiously attractive.
“Hi,” I blurted out loudly.
Potter golden eyes flickered to me for a split-second, and then he did a double-take. His eyebrows made their ascent up his forehead as he took in my appearance—bedraggled, hair in curly chocolate corkscrews, eyes bright and shining. Ha. He looked cute when he was confused. “Bennett?”
“Hi,” I said again.
Potter winced. “Bennett, you’re shouting.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are. How drunk are you?”
“Like... this much.” I held out my fingers to demonstrate, but somehow got them tangled and ended up almost poking myself in the eye. The Ravenclaw bloke, shooting Potter a knowing look, started to inch away. Yeah, you better go. Stupid Claw. Think you’re so smart and perfect, like you’re the only person who reads books?! Well, guess what, bozo? I read books too! I read loads of books! Madame Pince loves me! We’re besties! BESTIES I TELL YOU!
It wasn’t until Potter grabbed me by the shoulders when I realized I’d been shouting all of the above... Out loud. Oops.
“Bennett,” he was trying not to laugh. “Stop it. Kevin’s a nice guy, alright? You don’t have to shout at him. And we know you read lots of books. That’s really... er... great of you. You should be proud of yourself.”
I looked at the Ravenclaw kid – or Kevin, as Potter called him. He was staring at me with a scared expression on his face. “Er, hi,” he mumbled.
“Fuck you, Kevin, you pompous bastard,” I stated matter-of-factly. And then I grabbed the drink out of Potter’s hand and started chugging.
“Woah – okay, easy there,” Potter said quickly, releasing my shoulders so he could pry the drink out of my vice-like grip. Which was a shame, really. Because Potter’s hands on my shoulders had felt nice. They were warm. And big.
“Stop trying to take my drink!” I whined.
“Actually, it’s mine,” Potter responded patiently as, in the background, Kevin scurried off, looking rather disturbed. “And it’s not nice to steal people’s stuff, Bennett.”
I pouted, letting Potter take the offending glass, my eyes trained on the Ravenclaw’s retreating form. “I hate that guy.”
“Who, Kevin?” Potter shrugged. “He’s not that bad... You should meet him when your bloodstream isn’t, you know, seventy percent alcohol.”
“He’s a bozo.”
Potter’s eyebrows flew into his tousled hair, his lips quirking upwards. “A bozo? You don’t say?”
“Yeah,” I trailed off, my eyes unfocusing. Suddenly, my gaze snapped onto Potter’s face. “You’re a bozo too.”
Potter’s smile seemed to grow wider. Stupid prat with his stupid smile. Why does he have to be so pretty? “I’m a bozo?”
“Mmhmm,” I hummed sassily. “You’re not very nice to me.”
“Well, how ‘bout I take this chance to make it up to you and get you a glass of water?” Potter said slowly, guiding me over to one of the barstools. I sat down, legs swinging in the air like a little kid’s.
“But I don’t want water.” I stuck my lower lip out. “I want Happy Juice.”
Potter seemed to pale slightly at this. “No. No Happy Juice.”
I stared at him, refusing to drag my gaze away. He was so pretty. So pretty so pretty so pretty. I wanted his mouth. On my mouth. Yes. That sounded like a super great idea.
Potter sighed. “I’m just going to grab you your water, okay, Bennett? I’ll be right back. Try not to verbally assault anymore people while I’m gone, okay?”
Before Potter could pull away, however, I’d grabbed him by the shirt and was yanking him towards me with surprising force. Potter lurched forward, catching himself on the bar behind me with his hands, his nose coming inches away from mine.
We stared at each other for a second. I didn’t know why I’d just done what I’d done. All I knew was that I didn’t want Potter to go anywhere, not to get water, not even to get Happy Juice. I wanted him here instead. With me.
I looked into Potter’s eyes – they were amber now, surprise mingling inside. His lips were very close to mine.
“Hi,” I breathed.
“Hi,” he responded. I felt him pull away slightly, so I just tugged him closer.
“You’re pretty,” I mumbled.
“Thanks,” Potter said gently. “Thanks, Bennett. But you’re really drunk right now, and I should probably go away before I do something I regret, so–“
“What about if we just have a teensy little talk?” I widened my eyes innocently. “You’re not going to regret a talk, are you?”
Potter seemed to sigh at this. He straightened, rubbing the back of his neck for a moment as his eyes scanned the room. Finally, he resigned, squinting warily at me. “Alright. What do you want to talk about?”
“Feelings! Let’s talk about feelings!” It took the effort of every atom in my body to physically stop myself from jumping up and down and clapping like a child. “How do you feel about us, Potter?” I leaned closer, voice sliding into a murmur. “How do you feel about me?"
Potter just stared. “I—“
“HOW COULD YOU?!"
For a blood-curdling moment, I recognized the voice as Aidan’s and I thought he was screaming at us. But when I pushed Potter away, I realized that, yes, it was, in fact, my brother—shouting loud enough to break the sound barrier—but he was shouting at Dom, instead.
Potter and I watched, wide-eyed, as Aidan stormed towards her, hands flying, rage in his eyes. Almost like in slow motion, I could see Dom, unsuspecting, turning around from the crowd of people she was talking to – the smile immediately slipping off her face.
“YOU’RE DATING MCLAGGAN? XANDER FUCKING MCLAGGAN?”
Immediately, Potter was by Aidan’s side and restraining him, obviously trying to calm him down but to no avail. I stumbled off my barstool, unsure of where to go. The crowd had gone silent, everyone watching the scene unraveling in front of them. We were so cliché. All we needed were a couple of moustaches and cowbarns, and we’d be set to be on some sordid Mexican soap opera.
Dom’s lip was trembling, her shoulders slowly caving inward. “I—He—How did you know?” She whipped, eyes sweeping the crowd until they landed on face me. “Did you tell him?”
“What - No!” I gasped, at the exact same time Aidan lunged forward, whipping around to level his electric blue eyes on me as well.
“You knew about this? You knew she was dating someone and you didn’t tell me?”
“Aidan, please – “ I stuttered helplessly. The words were thick and blocky in my mouth, the alcohol slowing my tongue. I locked eyes with Potter, but his face was blank, expressionless, offering no scrap of hope.
“You’re my sister! How could you not tell me? How?!”
“Aidan – “ Dom stepped forward, green eyes cloudy with desperation. It was all a confusing jumble of words, and I couldn’t think, couldn’t move. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to make it go away. This was not happening. This was not happening. “Please. Please don’t be mad, Aidan. I still care about you – Please –“
“Bull to the shit! You know what, Dom? I am tired of you running around, not giving a damn about anyone other than yourself!”
“Don’t talk to her like that!” I stepped forward, voice edging with hysteria. The words were whipping through the air so fast, it was making me dizzy.
“You don’t have to stick up for me!” Dom spat in my direction. “Traitor!”
“For the last time, I didn’t tell him anything!” For some reason, no matter what I said, I still couldn’t help but feel like everything was crumbling. The alcohol made things so much worse – feelings were heightened, fears loosened. We were all falling apart, and there was nothing I could do, no where I could run, to stop it. And it was all happening so quickly.
“Damn right you didn’t tell me anything!” Aidan jerked forward, and Potter, silent and stoic, pulled him back. “You know how I heard about it? Wizbook. Fucking Wizbook. How did you think you’d ever be able to keep this from me – both of you?”
“I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d react just like this! I knew you’d never understand!” Dom looked close to tears.
“Oh yeah? So, what, five years of friendship mean nothing to you?”
“Aidan, please calm down – “
“Oh, save it, Agatha. You’re worse than her! You didn’t tell me and you’re my sister!”
“She’s my bestfriend!”
“Yeah, I can really see where your loyalties lie—“
"You never told me about Potter and Nora!" I screeched back, feeling am odd burning sensation start to clog my throat. It was a desperate move, and one that, apparently, didn't work.
"That's different!" Aidan snarled. "You weren't romantically involved with Potter - or at least, I thought you weren't. Then it turned out the both of you were sneaking around the whole time - "
"We weren't sneaking around!" My face as blooming with heat. "We were just - "
"Save it, Agatha! I am so bloody sick of all the lies in this group! Why can't any of us just tell the truth for once - ?!"
“Hey! HEY, EVERYBODY!” Potter suddenly yelled, and all the squabbling jerked to a halt. We immediately fell into petulant silence, breathing heavily. I blinked, snapping out of my panicked haze, to see Potter striding forward into the middle of the group, placing a placating hand on Dom and Aidan’s shoulders.
“Guys,” Potter said quietly. His eyes were uncannily somber. He gestured with his head to something behind all of us. “Freddy’s back.”
And suddenly, the mood got a lot heavier. The air seemed to thicken. I clamped my lips shut as we all turned around to see Fred in the doorway, expression shell-shocked, eyes staring into some vague distnace. For some reason, I could sense that the next few words out of Fred’s mouth would change everything. We were on the brink of darkness, and we were about to take the plunge. Nothing would be the same ever again.
“I’ve been expelled,” Fred said faintly. “Vespertine... She expelled me.”
A/N: Excuse me while I hide behind my computer screen...
Please don't hate me for this! It gets better, I promise. It really does. But you know what they say - when it rains, it fucking rains. (That is what they say, right?)
I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter. I own nothing. Please drop a review if you'd like!
Speaking of reviews, I've recently written and posted a new one-shot called Death and All His Friends. It's my first attempt at dark/horror, and I've really poured a lot of work and soul into it. If you could check it out, that'd be fantasmorgical. I honestly think it's some of my best work.
Alrighty, that's it for now, folks!