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How not to be a Woodley by NH Stadler
Chapter 3: A Pool of Teenage Hormones
A/N: Again, this chapter has been revised and slightly improved... no capital changes however so the story stays the same :)
It was a glorious late summer day and the sweeping grounds of Hogwarts were dappled with brilliant sunlight. The lake looked like a giant pool of light that was only occasionally disturbed by a massive tentacle breaking through the surface and vanishing again, leaving nothing but soft ripples that slowly faded into the water.
“Even the giant squid is catching a few warm rays of sun before the winter,” Katie sighed next to me, her head propped up on her arms as she gazed at the tall window beside her seat, “And we have to sit in here.”
She gestured roughly into the room, probably meaning to refer to the Transfiguration classroom in general, her voice ringing loudly over the muted buzzing that was typical for lessons.
“It’s only the first day,” I whispered as I watched Professor Hockanum, Head of Hufflepuff House, striding back and forth between the tables, observing the students, who were in various stages of transforming matches into miniature trees. In front of me, a small tree had already grown, sprouting white pedals that trembled in a magical breeze.
Katie watched the movement of the rapidly blooming flowers for a while, her wand lying quite abandoned at the edge of the table next to a perfect yet deliberately bare replica of a broadleaf tree.
“It’s a winter tree,” she said shrugging, before leaning back in her seat once again and closing her eyes, bathing in the warm rays of sunlight that pooled through the window.
“Good work, Miss Banks!” Hockanum cried out as he reached at our table, nodding approvingly at the sight of Katie’s tree before scribbling something on the clipboard that was floating around him, bobbing into him occasionally as he walked.
“And what do we have here.” He had bent over my table to inspect the tiny tree, whose twigs now bent under the weight of dozens of ripe miniature apples. “Excellent. Five points to Ravenclaw. Now I only wonder if,” he mused and simultaneously plucked a dark red apple from the tree, holding it in between his thumb and index finger. When he popped it into his mouth, a smile appeared on his face and he turned to his clipboard once again to draw a large, purple O next to my name. “Well, that’s it for today! Please preserve your trees, we’ll continue next time.”
Next to me, I could practically feel Katie’s massive eye-roll.
“You know,” she sighed deeply as she jammed her books into her already bulging bag, “you might not look it anymore, but you’re a terrible nerd.”
“Thanks for your loving support.” I laughed as we lined up behind the other students, both balancing our trees in one hand and a pile of books in the other. The way to the hallway had cleared, but as I followed Katie through the door, I suddenly felt a push from the side and stumbled.
It was inevitable; I could feel how my fingers slowly lost grip of the pot and – like in slow motion – the mini apple tree flew out of my hands and to the ground of the hallway where it shattered into a thousand pieces: The hard collision with the stone had knocked all magic out of it and it had fallen apart into nothing but a heap of earth and matches.
“James!” A girl’s voice giggled next to me. “Look what you did you nasty boy!”
Athena Notte, a beautiful 7th year Gryffindor with swishy dark hair and curves that I could only dream of, threw a playfully reprimanding look at the outrageously handsome, tall boy to whose arm she was clinging.
“Sorry, didn’t see you,” he said carelessly without even looking at me or the mess he had created and they moved on, Athena’s giggles echoing faintly in the corridor even after they had vanished in the crowd.
Of course, there was nothing sincere about the apology.
James Sirius Potter probably didn’t give a flying snitch.
“Thanks a lot,” I mumbled to myself as I bent down to collect the pieces of what was left of my tree. Katie was crouching next to me within a second, her eyebrows furrowed with rage.
“Stupid git!” She cursed loudly enough for the passing students to hear. “You know, just because he is sort of good looking, he thinks he can treat people like his personal doormat.”
I couldn’t help smiling at my best friend’s rant. “Sort of good looking?” I repeated, raising an eyebrow at her. “Just yesterday you elaborated on how you would like to – I’m quoting – ‘smack his delicious, tight bum’.”
“Yeah, well.” Katie didn’t blush, which was a trait I deeply admired about her. “I still stand by that. But I would make it painful.”
Laughing we cleared the stone floor of the last stray matches that rolled around, before ambling over to the Great Hall, the tree quite forgotten by the time we sat down at the Ravenclaw table, loading our plates with food.
“There was an article in WitchStyle this summer,” Katie said suddenly, her fork dangling above her plate as though she had put it on pause, “about James Potter and how he was Britain’s Bachelor to Watch.”
“What does that even mean?” I frowned at my plate as I plunged my fork into the heap of mashed potatoes, “I mean, watch what exactly? Pratting around the castle like the world’s biggest git?”
Katie snorted, her fork clanking onto her plate as she lost grip of it. “They kept going on about his brilliant future as an international Quidditch star.”
“Well good for him,” I sighed, eager to put the discussion of James Potter’s fabulous life to rest. It was one thing to constantly pick up his name in the corridors or classes – whispered with nothing less but reverence by both girls and boys alike – but after today’s collision I had had quite enough. “What do we have next?”
“Uh, let me see.” Katie dug her hand into the pocket of her uniform cardigan and took out a crumpled piece of parchment, studying it for a second. “Ugh, Divinitation. Which means you probably have…”
“Spell Theory.” I nodded as I ran my finger along the Monday column on my own schedule. “Meet me at the statue of Tristan the Traitor afterwards? We can walk to Potions together”
“Sure,” Katie said before scrunching up her already dilapidated timetable once again and cramming it back into her pocket. “You know, sixth year is supposed to be the best year.”
“It is?” I asked, barely able to get out the words through the heap of strawberries I had just stuffed into my mouth.
“Well we’ve just passed our OWLs, and the NEWTs are not relevant until next year –“
“I wouldn’t say they’re not relevant –” I interjected but Katie simply ignored my protest and ploughed on.
“- which means that this is our one free year; the year we can be crazy and go to parties and date cute guys.”
“Or, you know,” I said, holding up my fork as though a brilliant idea had just struck me, “lie in bed and eat chocolate.”
Katie gave me a sarcastic look, her eyes narrowing with mock-indignation. “This year is going to be different,” she insisted, “you’ll see.”
The first week of classes seemed to fly by as usual. It was only then that I felt properly at home again after a summer that had dragged on, especially towards the end. Most people complained, of course; about the educational routine, the homework, and the end of the holidays. To me, however, Hogwarts meant freedom.
“How boring!” Katie cried out, her blue eyes rolling with an air of ennui that would have looked overly theatrical on anyone else but her. “A whole summer and the most interesting thing people talk about is Demeter Notte’s hair. Seriously, this school is going to the dogs.” She pushed through a crowd of second years, ignoring their shouts of protests. “I mean, it doesn’t even look that great, you know? All that fake blonde seems to seep into her head too. Why else would you ask what kind of juice was in polyjuice potion?”
“And yet you seem strangely enthralled with her,” I teased as we walked into the great hall, where the house tables were already creaking under the weight of the delicious smelling dinner. “Maybe you should ask her out.”
“You know, maybe I should.” She had laden her plate with a generous helping of steak and kidney pie. “Then people would at least have something to talk about.”
I shook my head laughing; Katie had always loved gossip and, frankly, I profited from her ability to always know the latest rumours. It was inevitable at a boarding school, really. Basically, Hogwarts was a pool of teenage hormones running wild.
“What’s with the books, nerdy birdy?” Katie pointed her fork at the pile next to my plate.
“Detention tonight.” I replied between bites. There was no need to elaborate for Katie to understand; I really wasn’t the type to get into detention. In fact, rather the opposite was the case: As a sixth year prefect, I had moved up from the dull thrills of patrolling the corridors to the much more coveted monitoring of detentions, which, I had heard, was an easy job that could be spent doing something productive.
“It’s the first week of classes. Who managed to get themselves into detention already?”
I shrugged, stuffing half a treacle tart into my mouth. It was already past six o’ clock and I didn’t fancy losing house points for showing up too late for my sacred prefect duties.
“Seth! Hey!” Someone suddenly shouted across the room and I saw Sam Henderson waving at me, a broad smile on his face. I could barely throw an irritated look at Katie before he had slid onto the bench right next to me.
“How are you?”
I was still chewing on the gigantic piece of treacle tart, forcing a great lump down my throat.
If that wasn’t sexy, I don’t know what was.
“Good,” I mumbled between bites. If my grandmother had witnessed my lack of social graces she would have probably suffered a heart attack. According to her, I was a hopeless case; a view that was confirmed by my absolute inability to conduct appropriate small talk.
“You look really nice,” he still grinned, apparently unabashed by my awkwardness
“Thank you?” It came out more like a question than a statement and I glanced at Katie, seeking help. This was really not the kind of conversation I was good at. Was Sam flirting with me? Was I supposed to flirt back?
Katie gave me a miniscule, encouraging nod.
“Um, did you need anything?” I asked lamely and could see Katie shaking her head from the corner of my eye. I knew I had blown it; now had he asked me about my opinion on the preservation of strength-building potions – that I could have answered smoothly. Of course, no normal person would open a conversation like that.
Sam looked slightly taken aback, but only for a moment. “I just wondered if you were going to the party tomorrow?” He said, causing Katie to deal out a particularly painful kick under the table. “The back-to school party, you know.”
While I wasn’t exactly an expert on parties, in this case, he wouldn’t have had to specify which party he was talking about. After all it had been a tradition for several years now; it was the event of the semester and everyone wanted to go.
Everyone, except for me.
“I, um, I still have to-“
“Sure!” It was Katie who suddenly piped up, interrupting my lame attempt at an excuse. “Sure, we’re going. Aren’t we, Seth?”
“Um, yah, maybe,”
I looked at Katie, shaking my head curtly but she just continued to beam at Sam.
Great. Just great.
“I have to go,” I finally managed to say after quite an awkward period of silence in which Katie kept nodding at me as though trying to hypnotize me. As I got up from the table, my books naturally all dropped to the floor and, after accidentally jamming my elbow into Sam’s head as he tried to help me collect them again, I left the Great Hall with my face as red as a beetroot.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the chapter. As always, I am living on coffee, tea, and reviews so if you feel generous, please drop me a line, I'd love to hear what you think! :)