As I took in the vision of supreme sexiness who had appeared before me, I had a split second to wonder dimly where he had come from before he noticed me, raised his eyebrows inquisitively, and started in my direction with a bemused look on his face.
I weighed my options:
1) Curl up into a tighter ball, shrink against the wall, and pray to any and all deities who might happen to be listening to sink through the floor, down to the ground, and through the Earth’s crust, possibly not stopping until I emerged on the other side of the planet.
2) Remove the hair from my mouth, stand up, and politely introduce myself.
Oh yeah. I keep my head in a crisis.
I was working on an alternative plan, one which, I believe, would undoubtedly have better evidenced my devastating wit, intelligence, and charm, as he approached. Unfortunately, my brain wasn’t working quite fast enough, so I was forced to abandon the planning phase of the operation and work with what I had already concocted. After about a millisecond of careful deliberation, I selected Option #2, and kicked into overdrive to implement my brilliant strategy.
I spit out my soggy tendrils and smiled winningly up at the boy from my spot on the floor of the hallway. (OK, so I didn’t have time to put all of Plan #2 into action. I was forced to abandon a component of the campaign, and I made the wise - or at least, that’s how I looked at it - decision to forsake even footing for the sake of an unencumbered oral cavity. Damn. I spent too much time in the bloody planning phase.)
He smiled back at me, looking thoroughly confused but politely doing his best to hide his bafflement.
“Hey,” he greeted me, cocking his head to one side. “Would you like a hand?”
I nodded carefully, doing my best not to stare too obviously into his gorgeous green eyes. I had an unsettling feeling that if I looked too long, I would sink into them and have trouble reentering reality.
Oh, god, who was I kidding? I live a life firmly entrenched in unreality.
He stuck out his hand and I grasped it lightly. His fingers were warm as he seized my palm a little tighter and pulled me to my feet.
Well, he attempted to pull me to my feet. Unfortunately, my legs were tangled, stuck scrunched up beneath me, slightly cramped from my bout of feeble cowering. As he tugged me upwards, my legs buckled and then sagged, and I stumbled forward, nearly knocking the poor boy to the floor.
We teetered unsteadily for a moment, each trying to regain some semblance of balance. He grabbed me around the waist with one arm and lashed out wildly with the other, frantically seeking something to hold on to to keep us from tumbling down to the cold, stone ground in a heap.
I’m afraid I wasn’t much help to the steadying process. I was too busy noticing how good it felt to have his strong arm wrapped firmly around my body.
Finally, he lost the battle, hampered, I’m sorry to say, by my dead weight, and pitched forward. I toppled with him, dragged by his arm, which was still glued to my waist.
After about a second, my momentum was arrested. My free-fall screeched to a halt, cut short by the solid, immovable wall of the hallway. I froze, eyes screwed shut, with my back pressed up against the smooth stone as the boy collapsed against me, his long, lean body covering mine.
I felt a slow tingling spread from my scalp to the tips of my toes, making me shiver. I lifted my lids a half a centimeter and wished I hadn’t; his sparkling emerald eyes were even more captivating up close. They filled my field of vision, and somehow drew my breath forcibly from my body.
I twitched again, and he laughed shakily. Snaking his arm out from under me, he pushed against the wall and lifted his body off mine.
“I’m so sorry. I’m clumsy as a troll,” he murmured. His breath skittered warmly across my face; his lips were maybe two inches from my own.
I gulped. Yes, physically gulped. I know. Sexy.
“I’m Harry," he informed me. "Er, Harry Potter.”
My brain started whirring at a million miles an hour, hopping around like a maniacal rabbit. Holy shit! it screamed. Harry Potter! Harry FUCKING Potter!
When I get nervous, I curse. Mostly in my head, but every once in a while it slips out.
“Bloody hell!” I heard myself exclaim.
I winced. Great. Like I hadn’t already embarrassed myself enough. Now he was going to find out that I had the mouth of a bloody sailor when I was agitated.
He blushed. At first I thought my unholy little expletive had shocked him. After a moment, I realized that he was embarrassed that his name affected me so profoundly.
“Right,” I said. “Harry Potter. Sure. Of course.” I was rambling, trying to make him feel less awkward, and, as usual, failing miserably. I felt hideously stupid. I had been so ensnared by his magnetic eyes that I had failed to notice the lightning-shaped scar zigzagging down his forehead.
He shifted uncomfortably, plainly not soothed at all by my incoherent prattling, and I became painfully aware of the not-so-large distance between our bodies. He seemed to notice our closeness at the same moment I did; he hastily stepped back and coughed lightly, scuffing his feet along the floor.
The distance seemed to help; in a few seconds, he had recovered a bit of aplomb. He smiled at me again, somewhat nervously, and his dazzling eyes sparkled.
“Well, I’m just going to shove off, then, and let you get back to . . ." He paused, and shrugged uncomfortably. "To whatever it was that you were doing.”
I grimaced. "Oh, yes. I was quite busy, you know, doing, um . . ." I trailed off, desperately searching for a plausible excuse for my bizarre behavior. It came to me in a flash of inspiration. "Yoga. I was practicing my yoga," I blurted out.
OK, it wasn't that inspired. But for me, it was pretty good.
"All right," he said, sounding faintly incredulous. "Yoga. Well, er, please continue." He crossed the hall to the statue of the old witch, pulled out his wand, tapped her on the tip of her crooked nose, and whispered, “Dissendium!”
I watched in awe as the crone's hump split open with the same rumbling and grinding as I had heard before. When a fissure barely a foot wide had appeared, the handsome boy - Harry, Harry Potter - slipped through. As I sunk back against the wall, he turned to face me again.
"Er, do you mind not mentioning this to anyone?" he asked, a concerned look knitting his eyebrows together.
I nodded, and he vanished into the hump of the statue.
I exhaled mightily, thoroughly disgusted with myself. I was starting to wish I had picked Plan #1. If I had stuck with my first impulse, I could have been all the way to Japan by now.
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