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Chapter 4: In which there are sequins
I stir uncomfortably in bed. I can’t bring myself to open my eyes, because that would inevitably lead to being prised away from these lovely soft sheets. Warmth pulses through me, and I curl into a tighter ball happily.
After a moment, I become aware of a second pulsing – my head is throbbing. And then, in quick succession: the slam of something heavy against the wooden floor, a shooting pain in my temple, and a whimper. “Sorry,” whispers Lily, “sorry.”
I sigh, rolling out of bed. In slippers, I pad across the room to pour myself a glass of water. “Morning sunshine,” calls Lily softly. She’s propped up against her pillows, reading a textbook.
I groan and kick off my slippers, crawling into bed with her. “Am I hungover?” I ask drily, my voice husky.
“So hungover. Careful, you’re getting sequins everywhere.” I frown in bewilderment but, indeed, I have left a trail of glitter. “Actually,” continues Lily brightly, “you all are. Em was up a few minutes ago, going on about how she wishes she was dead. Leah might actually be dead.” I glance at the Leah-shaped lump in the bed next to mine. “Evie’s well asleep, but she puked some last night.”
“Cleaning up after you lot took one powerful Scourgify, I’m telling you. But I distracted myself by braiding her hair while holding it back,” she grins. Then her expression turns cautious. “You don’t feel nauseous, do you?”
“No, but my head hurts like a bitch.”
“You’re in luck,” says Lily, holding up a glass bottle of opaque orange liquid. “On the way down to breakfast, I bought a couple hangover remedies from that seventh year. God knows what she thinks, me a prefect and all...”
I manage a weak laugh, leaning my head on her collarbone and flicking my legs about under the covers to warm up the bed. I accept the bottle and drink it in one breath. “You’re amazing.”
“You should be good as new in ten minutes,” she informs me. “Are you okay? We didn’t get to talk about Stephen properly yesterday – Remus and I had that meeting with Dumbledore, I’m sorry.”
“Give me a moment.”
“Yesterday was Friday?”
“So, I broke up with Stephen yesterday morning? And then the Quidditch match?”
“And, most importantly, the party afterwards,” smirks Lily.
“How much did I embarrass myself?”
“You did fine,” Lily promises. “Alright, I’m going to fetch you all some breakfast. I feel quite domesticated this morning.”
I blow her a kiss, and pull the sheets right over my head, settling into my memories of the day before.
Bertram is leading a revolt against the Chudley Cannons. Fifteen minutes into breakfast, and he’s whining about the Chudley Cannons.
I stand up suddenly and murmur, “Stephen, I’d like to talk to you.”
He looks up at me. “Can it wait?”
“I don’t – no, it can’t.”
I grip his hand tightly and drag him through the mostly empty Entrance Hall and into a dimly light corridor. Perhaps he misinterprets this particular gesture, however, because he immediately places his hands on my butt and murmurs, “Remind me why I’m not undressing you right now.”
I raise an eyebrow and stifle sounds of revulsion. All it took, apparently, was one friend going off on an anti-Cannons tangent – I’m now entirely convinced of my decision. “Maybe because I want to have a talk with you.” He doesn’t seem suitably worried by this, so I add an ominous, “A we need to talk kind of talk.”
“Oh.” Stephen looks bewildered.
It’s been more than a month since the last time I convinced myself to break up with him. But this time, there was no analysis or hesitation. I just made up my mind.
“Stephen, I can’t do this anymore,” I begin, somewhat melodramatically. “I feel strongly about the Chudley Cannons and about dessert foods, and I need to be in a relationship where those passions will prosper.” His expression doesn’t clear, so I reiterate, “I don’t think that we’re going to work out.”
He sighs deeply and is quiet for several minutes; I’m too afraid to speak. Eventually, he looks at me, with something that almost resembles pity. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes,” I say in a clipped tone.
He leaves immediately and I watch his retreating figure with a smile, thinking that maybe the entire relationship has been validated by the pleasure of ending it.
Evie’s voice is muffled when she speaks from her bed, interrupting my thoughts. “I attacked Claus Hollande and asked to touch his arms. Then I told him about wrackspurts.”
“I was there,” I say into my pillow, barely hiding my amusement.
The conversational procession from wrackspurts to Nargles is, apparently, a natural one, and Evie makes it with ease. The Gryffindor keeper, Claus Hollande, looks a bit overwhelmed, and I think that perhaps Evie overdid the pre-drinks drinks.
James Potter is in the centre of the room, listening to the house at large conduct a play-by-play analysis of the game. My attention flickers between him and Evie, until eventually I curl up in an armchair to think about Stephen and wish it were socially acceptable to go to bed.
At some point, a seventh year named Abigail Devan comes over. “Sorry, Andy? There’s a guy outside waiting for you. He’s arguing with the Fat Lady.”
“Blonde?” I question lazily.
“That’s the one.”
“Would you mind telling him to go fuck a hippogriff? I’d really appreciate it.”
She gives me a look that’s half sympathetic, half questioning, but obliges willingly. I decide to retreat to the dormitory alone, and I lie staring at the ceiling for an indeterminate period of time. It hits me slowly: so many months. Entirely wasted. An anticlimactic break up, too. Why bother. Friends warned me. All my fault. I page through one of Em’s Muggle novels.
Em comes to check on me, and ends up escorting me back to the party. I’m thinking about how disappointed Stephen would be that my grief is mostly regret and self-pity –he, in his typical fashion, is probably rambling his way through soliloquies of note and trying to throw himself off the Astronomy tower. My roommates take turns fussing over me – offering another drink, another insult for Stephen, another introduction to a fit friend.
“I never liked him, anyway,” Evie informs me, surprisingly eloquently considering her blood alcohol level. “He spends more time on his hair than you do, I bet you, and there’s still this kink on the left side of his head. How can you miss a kink that size? Your hair, you know – I could point out a couple of kinks in it, sure, but at least they’re from negligence, not crappiness. I’m not going to let that kink go. Atrocious taste, too.”
“I’d like to kick him in the balls,” declares Leah. “I don’t know who he thinks he is. What is it that he said? Are you sure you’re going to do this? Was that it? Merlin.”
“But you’re so gorgeous, Andy,” says Em earnestly, handing me my first ever firewhiskey, “and he really doesn’t deserve you. That’s what I said from the start. Anyone, their mother, and their niece’s pet bunny would back me up on this one.”
Lily, on the other hand, says nothing. She raises her eyebrows and gives me a calculating look. “You’re fine, aren’t you?” she asks finally.
The common room begins to clear out around one a.m., just as I am becoming more sociable – mostly, people are going to sleep, but there are some sneaking out to snog in empty classrooms. Eventually, the party is well and truly over. The members of our dorm lounge in front of the fire, chatting and drinking a little. The boys in our year soon join us, and it becomes clear almost immediately that even Remus has had quite enough to drink.
After maybe half an hour, Sirius spontaneously sets down his butterbeer, cusses loudly, and resolves to run away from home. Somehow, this leads to a debate about the four houses. Obviously, Gryffindor is the best. We have quite a scuffle over Ravenclaw, though – bringing last year’s Ravenclaw/Gryffindor match into the conversation, of course. Sirius and James tell the story of how they used an illegal hex to inflate Bertram Aubrey’s head to twice its usual size. “You know, it’s like the idiom, the physical big head matches the metaphorical one,” concludes Sirius to universal mystification.
Evie says, “Andy broke up with her Ravenclaw boyfriend this morning.”
James looks pleased. “Congratulations! I’ll drink to that.” He raises his glass, and I beam as everybody toasts to my name.
“He was such a dick, wasn’t he?” prompts Em enthusiastically.
I nod solemnly. “He turned up just after the match – here, outside the common room. I sent him away, though. Next year I won’t be putting up with this poo. You’re my witnesses. Next year, I’ll be somebody worth dating. Big changes. No more pooheads.”
“I think you’re worth dating, Andy,” interjects Peter brightly.
“Acknowledged, Pettigrew,” I say seriously.
I groan, covering my face with my hand.
The final month of school passes at a gruelling pace. After a temporary breakthrough in relations with that lot, James gets bored and starts bugging Lily more than ever. I take great pleasure in using the Impediment Jinx on him from afar in the common room one night, and serve my time in detention willingly. Morale is unusually low all over wizarding Britain – there’s a daily list of fatalities and disappearances in the newspaper, and too often I recognise a name. Inside the castle, too, we’re all uneasy; talk of Hogwarts alumni becoming Death Eaters has trickled down to us and the Slytherins are trusted less than ever. The real question, in my mind, is whether things have always been so bad, and it’s taken us this long to catch on. Then dear Mary MacDonald is attacked by a Slytherin, and the school board decides to send us home a week early.
Staring out the window of the Hogwarts Express, I’m able to calmly dismiss my fifth year as a dud.
A/N: I really, desperately hope that the sudden jump forward in time isn't too confusing. This is set about 6 weeks after the last chapter. Anyway, this is the first chapter I've posted in a long long time, so I hope you enjoy it! That's the end of fifth year, and things really start picking up in the next chapter. Thank you very very much for reading.
Expect: a plot-shakingly important list, late night wandering, and Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration.