Chapter 16 : Coming Up For Air
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Coming Up For Air
It might have been mere moments or hours since this started, I honestly don’t know. I only know that while the rain is cool and sluicing over my skin, I don’t feel cold. I’m pressed against Wood, my hands buried in his hair, one of his hands sliding up over my stomach beneath my shirt, the other between my shoulder blades. I’m distantly aware that I ought to be disgusted, but the impulse is overridden by the knowledge that I don’t want this to end. I could go on like this for ages, tangling myself with him, reveling in the heat. His teeth scrape across my bottom lip, and I reply in kind, my fingers tightening their hold. This isn’t sweet or gentle, miles from Angie’s moonlight walk round the lake. Part of me feels like we’re having a row, only without the yelling – it’s that feeling of stress being relieved, of emotion being worked out, a feeling I associate completely with Wood.
‘They must have gone ahead up –‘ a voice says, and I dimly register that it belongs to Alicia, that it’s close by.
‘Probably screaming at one another in the common room now,’ I hear Fred say. His voice is louder, more strident – and there’s no question who he’s talking about.
I feel Wood’s mouth soften, his hands go still as he registers it too. In an instant we’ve broken apart, staring at one another, pupils huge, mouths swollen. We don’t need to speak – we simply back away from one another, glaring, chests heaving, cheeks flushed. The rest of the side rounds the corner, protected from the rain by a large bubble charm, and spots us. ‘See, told you –‘ Fred begins, but Angie elbows him. By the look on her face she’s seeing precisely what she’s used to seeing – the two of us working up to a nice row.
‘The two of you can have it out later,’ she says in a very stern voice. ‘But before you go screaming at one another, we’re going to the party and you’re going to behave. Now get inside this bubble charm.’
She might be surprised that we follow her orders without complaint, but not nearly as surprised as she’d be if she knew the truth. We walk on opposite sides of the group, letting the others do the talking. They’re careful to keep us apart, well aware that our tussles can end in out and out punch-ups if we’re allowed. Once inside, they drag us up through the corridors, casting drying spells left and right, and by the time we arrive at the Fat Lady everyone assumes the situation’s been diffused. The Fat Lady is in fine fettle, wearing a Gryffindor sash and beaming proudly, and swings open for us, offering delighted congratulations. A huge shout of praise greets us, and we’re treated to several rounds of “they’re jolly good fellows” and toasts of butterbeer before we’re allowed to split off and join the party.
Wood and I glance at one another at the same moment, and I feel my cheeks flush red. I can’t tell if he’s blushing or not as I’m jerked forward by two sixth years clamoring for my attention just as Wood is surrounded by a large group of twittering girls. ‘Er…it was, um…short,’ I manage to say in response to a query as to my opinion of the match.
‘But you must have been really focused…’ one of the boys begins, launching into a very detailed analysis of my “strategy” and “sequencing.” I haven’t a ruddy clue what he’s on about, but I manage to nod credibly at appropriate points, accepting the cider his friend offers. We’re attracting a fair number of others, mostly blokes, I’m surprised to see, all eager to hear about my “magnificent play” as they’re terming it. I don’t actually have to talk at all – in fact, they don’t seem to care if I’m even listening as long as I’m standing there smiling vaguely, nodding and shaking my head at some one or the other of them.
Over their heads I can just see Fred and Angie ensconced by the fire, occasionally fending off congratulations as they sit curled together on a sofa with eyes only for one another. George and Katie are in a similar position in the alcove by the windows, and in the corner I can see a pair of hands wrapped round Lee’s shoulders, the back of his head moving slowly. Doesn’t take a genius to guess that Alicia’s on the other side of that embrace. Bleh. Only Wood and I are on our own, and I for one am grateful for the buffer of chattering blokes, especially after what’s just happened.
And suddenly it hits me, like the proverbial blow to the head: I snogged Oliver Wood. Correction - I knowingly, voraciously, passionately snogged him. His hand was under my bloody shirt for Merlin’s sake. What was I thinking?!
‘…Don’t you think?’ one of the boys nearest me, a fifth year called Thomas Stoess, is saying keenly, his bright eyes fixed on my face.
No I want to reply, obviously I don’t - but of course, that’s not what he’s talking about. ‘Er…yeah,’ I agree blindly, hoping he didn’t just ask me something completely ridiculous, like whether I’d fancy snails in butter sauce for supper. Oh come off it – like anyone would ever ask you that, my common sense sneers. And, as usual, proves itself right.
‘Exactly – see, even the seeker agrees,’ Thomas says to yet another boy, one I recognise but haven’t the foggiest about his name.
‘Well of course the seeker would agree there shouldn’t be a rule setting a vertical boundary on the pitch,’ the second boy sneers.
‘Actually,’ I break in, shaking my head to clear if of thoughts of Wood, realising that I do have an opinion here, and that if I want to appear halfway normal, I ought to be voicing it, ‘actually there already is a “vertical limit”, it’s just not stated in the rules. It’s an inherent quality of the snitch – all well made snitches are specifically designed to stray no more than sixty metres vertically from the pitch, and no more than ten metres horizontally – in other words, it can’t go into the stands, and it can’t go too high. Same for the bludgers. If they weren’t properly enchanted, well, they’d just fly away, wouldn’t they?’
Thomas smiles smugly at his mate and I shake my head again, suddenly catching sight of Wood smiling down at a pretty fifth year who’s batting her eyes at him coquettishly. ‘See, I told you,’ Thomas is saying. ‘And since Ysolde knows -‘
‘Excuse me,’ I hear my voice saying very oddly. ‘I, er, I’m a bit chilly – I think I’ll just run upstairs and, er, um, grab a jumper. Back in a moment,’ I promise before either of them can offer me their pullovers, and immediately cut my way through the crowd towards the girls’ staircase, ignoring several people attempting to catch my eye. One or two even call after me, trying to grab my arm or step in front, but I weave round them, desperate to be alone because suddenly I’m afraid that what I’m feeling is going to come spilling out of me like sick.
Before I know it the door to our dormitory has shut behind me and I’m leaning against it, chest rising and falling rapidly as I try to suck in as much air as possible. The noise from the party below is thankfully muffled to a dull roar, and for a moment I just stand, relishing the quiet stillness, fighting back the wave of nausea that’s threatening to sweep over me. For a moment, everything settles, and I am calm. And then my thoughts come pressing in, loud screaming things, foremost among them an incredibly vibrant memory of Wood’s mouth pressed against mine. ‘Oh bollocks,’ I whisper, shutting my eyes tight.
This only serves to bring a visual image – Wood, rain soaked, chest heaving, mouth dark and swollen, eyes fever bright – alive behind my lids. My eyes immediately snap back open and I smack my temple, shaking my head. ‘What were you thinking?’ I hiss, pacing across the floor to the window. ‘What the bloody hell did you think you were doing? You hate him!’ No you don’t… ‘Oh shut it,’ I snap out loud, and immediately realise that I am, once again, having a conversation with myself, out loud. ‘Now really,’ I say in a firm, dry voice. ‘This has got to stop.’
The door clicks closed behind me and I whirl to see Angie standing just inside the room, looking at me with a very confused expression. ‘Er…who are you talking to?’ she asks, blatantly concerned.
‘No one,’ I say quickly, immediately realising that this makes me sound like a complete nutter. ‘Er…just, um…got a bit headachy from all the noise,’ I gesture to the door, indicating the party downstairs. ‘Not used to that many people talking to me at once.’
‘Oh,’ she nods, stepping in closer, eyeing me. ‘Right, well, I just wanted to see how you were – you know, after.’
‘After?’ I echo blankly.
‘Wood,’ she elaborates, her eyes narrowing.
‘Wood?’ I repeat, sounding decidedly strangled. How did she guess? Did he tell her? Oh bloody hell – did they see us? Fred and George will never let me live this down…
‘Yeah, you were arguing with him,’ she says slowly, clearly thinking I’ve forgotten. ‘You know, just before we came inside?’
‘Oh! Oh that!’ I say, resisting the urge to heave an enormous sigh of relief. ‘No, no, um – it was nothing. You know, just Wood being…Wood.’ Just Wood and I snogging one another senseless...
‘Right, well, as long as everything’s normal,’ she says lightly, still looking at me as though she knows there’s something else. Looking at me like a best friend should.
And suddenly I have the urge to just tell her – to just open my mouth and say “before you lot walked up, we weren’t arguing – really, if you’d been just a bit quieter, you’d have gotten quite an eyeful.” But something holds me back, something tells me that I shouldn’t spill all to Angie. Because she’ll make something of it. Something frightening. Something that isn’t there – something that I desperately don’t want to be there. So instead I nod, forcing a smile. ‘Yeah, completely normal. I’m just still in a state over the match – you know, adrenaline and all. Hasn’t quite sunk in.’
‘Oh, yeah,’ she nods, her expression easing. ‘I’d imagine you’re a bit keyed up about catching the snitch – I still feel like I ought to be on my broom, like the match can’t possibly be over.’
‘Exactly,’ I nod, wishing the tension between my shoulders would ease. ‘I still feel like I’m moving or something.’
‘You will come back down though?’ she presses, smiling, but easy and calm now. ‘I mean, you can’t miss a party that’s celebrating you.’
‘I’ll be back down,’ I promise. ‘Just going to write a quick note to Jasper, thanking him for coming down to find us after,’ I add, spitting out the first excuse that pops into my head.
If she thinks its odd, she doesn’t bat an eye – just opens the door and steps halfway out. ‘Oh yeah, tell him thanks from me as well?’
‘Excellent. I’ll see you in a bit then.’
I muster a cheeky smile. ‘If your face is still separate from Fred’s by then,’ I call after her.
She just grins at me. ‘Better hurry then, hadn’t you?’ she says, and with a wink, she’s gone.
The moment the door is closed, I sink down onto my bed, fighting the urge to pull my knees up to my chest and curl into the fetal position - comforting, but not likely to help anything. If I sit up here I’ll just go mad trying to puzzle out what happened anyway. I need someone to talk to – preferably not myself, as I have absolutely no experience with things like this – and definitely not anyone on the team. They’d all be gobsmacked. And then they’d be smug. I shake my head – I’m not in the mood for either, at the moment. The quiet closes in, and then my own words come back to me: just going to write a quick note to Jasper… Brilliant! Except… I glance out the window into the rain, which is still pouring down steadily, and wonder how I can find him as no owl is going to come out in this weather. But its not as though I can just go off looking for him - he could be anywhere. And if he’s in his dormitory I’ll never be able to get in; aside from the fact that I don’t know the password, I’m not even sure where the Ravenclaw common room is. And then a thought strikes me…
‘But I’d have to sneak into the boys’ dormitory,’ I murmur out loud.
Oh sod it – desperate times call for desperate measures, and if I’m not desperate, I don’t know who is.
Ten minutes later I shut the door to the seventh year boys’ dormitory behind me with a snap, and breathe deeply. The Disillusionment Charm I cast on myself is a handy thing, as long as I don’t bump in to anyone too hard, and as long as I avoid well lit areas. Squeezing through the crowd from the base of one stair case to the other was difficult, but mostly people just assumed that they’d been jostled by whoever was standing behind them, and didn’t look too hard at the faint ripple in the air. I’m not precisely safe, though – I’ve still got to locate that ruddy map. And it could be in either Fred or George’s things, not that they’re really separate – just two large trunks heaped with their collective belongings, but I’m fairly certain they’ll have tucked their precious map away safely.
They nicked it from Filch, of course, ages ago, and it took them months to discover the proper way to get it to work. But, once they’d mastered it, it became invaluable. They loaned it to me once, when I needed to take a bit of a nighttime wander – very kind of them. Hurrying away from the door I begin to carefully rummage through the heaps and piles that surround their four posters, looking for the worn bit of parchment. Well, I’ll be – lying right there on top. So much for secrecy. Grabbing it up and unfolding it, just to make sure I’ve got the right thing, I tap it with my wand and whisper, ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.’
Ink immediately blooms across the crinkled parchment, and I grin widely, folding it up and stuffing it into my pocket. I tuck my wand away as well and retrace my footsteps back to the door and down the steps, braving the crowd once again. I see Angie by the fire, her eyes straying occasionally to the girls’ staircase, waiting for me, but more often resting softly on Fred’s face, laughing at something he’s saying. Lee and Alicia have disappeared, probably to a nearby broom cupboard to continue their amorous activities, and no doubt George and Katie followed their example. Thomas & Co. are still standing round chatting, waiting for me to return, and for a moment I feel bad about abandoning them and Angie. But then I see Wood, surrounded by girls, first among them Delia Morgan, and the bottom of my stomach drops out.
Without a backward glance I fight through to the door, not caring that people are casting suspicious looks in my wake. The moment I’m through the portrait I haul out the map and locate Jasper; luckily he’s in a corner of the library, no doubt studying like the devoted Ravenclaw he is. Clearing the parchment I stuff it back into my pocket and bend my steps towards the lower floors, wondering if maybe I just hallucinated the whole thing and this is all some sick dream I’ll wake up from any moment.
The memory of Wood pressed up against me, the two of us locked together and practically steaming we were so hot flashes through me.
‘No possible way you imagined it,’ I mumble to myself. ‘Even dreams aren’t that nice.’
A/N - and see, there is another chapter following (and very quickly, might i add)! for those who expected Yssy to NOT be awkward afterwards...well honestly, it's Yssy. but don't worry - if she has a flaw (alright, she has several, but if i have to choose one...) its that she can't help repeating her mistakes....
thanks to all who reviewed - i adore you!
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