Chapter 2 : Pretty Handsome Awkward
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The feeling of dread sank like a lead bullet into the pit of my stomach as I made my way toward the Gryffindor common room. Colors swirled before my eyes as I tried in vain to sort out of my chaotic thoughts. I was starting to feel physically sick. Halfway up the third flight of stairs, the bile in my stomach began to burn and I felt sickness coming on. I darted up the remaining steps, careful not to trip myself and flew around the corner.
I stopped, my breath coming in pants as I leaned against the wall. I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the stones supporting me. The cool surface felt remarkably fresh against my hot and clammy skin. The overwhelming urge to toss my cookies was slowly abating as I drew in a few deep and steady breaths.
In the time I had allowed myself to stop running back to the common room, brief flickers of what had just happened flashed before my eyes and I groaned. This couldn’t be happening, not to me anyway. Why did it have to happen to me? That’s what I wanted to know. I had been minding my own business…well, for the most part anyway, but you get the picture, don’t you?
Of course, they had to be conversing about their secret, torrent love affair. Why couldn’t they be talking about the weather and how frightening the storm was? Or something along the lines of…of Quidditch! Yes, that’s it! Why couldn’t they have been discussing the most recent and magnificent plays made by the best players in the league? I’ll tell you why: because I was listening. If it had been anyone else, someone who would kill to have a piece of information like that in their deck of cards, they most likely would’ve been talking about the weather or the difficulty level of their next Charms exam. But of course, since I had decided to ignore my instincts and actually eavesdrop, I just HAD to pick up on something like that.
All I knew was that this whole situation had dragged the one and only thing I had been trying to avoid into the picture. What could that be, you ask? Well, I’ll be kind enough to tell you: Drama. That’s what it brought. If there was one thing above all others I despised, it was drama and I just got myself into a massive pile of it.
Merlin, I was in deep shit. Why couldn’t it have been anyone else? Why did it have to be the residential bitch, Lucinda Matthews? It wouldn’t have been so horrible if it had been anyone else, but I’m actually scared of Lucinda. You think I’m pulling your leg, but I’m really frightened of her. Well, not frightened that’s a bit too extreme, but I am intimidated by her. And who wouldn’t be? She’s beautiful, rich, and incredibly smart. Not to mention insanely popular and a massive bitch.
So there you have it. My honest opinion about Lucinda Matthews. I normally try not to be judgmental, but in her case, I just can’t help it. She glares at you if she doesn’t think you are worthy of her time. I’m sorry, but she’s not the kind of person I would like to associate with, yet here I find myself, stuck in an incredibly sticky situation where I’m the puppet at the end of her manipulative string. And trust me when I tell you that is not a place you want to be.
I may be invisible, but I’m not stupid.
Except for today. I displayed a rather foolish side of myself in the library.
Heaving a small sigh, I pushed myself off of the wall with my fingertips and started to walk back down the empty corridors. Before I could contemplate why the halls would be empty, my stomach gave an uncomfortable flip and I was suddenly remembered why. While everyone else was down in the Great Hall, enjoying their plates of steaming and delicious food, I was wandering the dank corridors, trying to clear my head of all my hectic thoughts, which wasn’t going very well at all.
Sometimes, I wondered why I didn’t listen to my instincts in the library. I mean, you’d think that you would listen to your instincts, since they’re there to guide you in the first place, but I was still trying to decipher the reason why I had blatantly ignored mine as I walked down the length of the dark corridor. My father always told me to never ignore my instincts, even if a part of my mind was telling me to do something. He never clarified if there would be situations in life where I should just throw caution to the wind, but something told me that my decision to “throw caution to the wind” wasn’t exactly the wisest choice I could’ve made and was probably what had gotten me caught.
I shook my head to myself and ran my fingertips over the bumpy surface of the walls for lack of anything better to do. Now that I had gotten over my nauseas, I wasn’t so keen on getting back to the common room just yet. Even though the corridors weren’t the most idyllic place to be, they offered the silence that I needed and, while most people would enjoying their dinner in the Great Hall, there was a chance that someone or maybe a few people might be up in the common room. And I didn’t want to face them. Not now, anyway. Because then, it’d prove that this wasn’t one of my strange dreams that I had from time to time, but was actually happening and I didn’t want to face that just yet.
As I rounded the corner, I collided with a large, warm mass and let out an unattractive squeal/scream as I plummeted toward the ground. And unlike in countless Muggle movies I had seen, no pair of strong arms caught me right before I hit the ground. A pair of incredibly soft lips didn’t brush against mine in an accidental, feather light kiss. Oh no, nothing of that sort happened. Although one thing did happen and that was gravity. I fell to the ground with a dull thud, my tailbone hitting the stone floor seconds before my head. White hot sparks shot before my eyes as pain racked up my spine and a moan escaped my mouth before I was able to stop it.
“Sorry,” I said sheepishly, purposely shaking my dark brown fringe into my eyes. I boosted myself up to my elbows, the back of my head throbbing painfully, and prepared to peal myself off of the floor when a pale hand was thrust into my vision. Deciding that it couldn’t help, I took the proffered hand and allowed them to help me up.
“Thanks,” I muttered, staring at my scoffed shoes as though they were something to look at, even though they really weren’t.
“Not a problem,” a warm, friendly voice said. “It’s my fault I ran into you, actually; I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.”
I chuckled and shook my fringe out of my eyes, which widened at the sight of who was standing before me. My mouth open and closed a few times as I tried to form an intelligent sentence, but I found that I couldn’t. It wasn’t every day that someone like Si-.
Wait a tick…
My mouth went dry as I silently cursed all my relatives. Somewhere along the line, one of them had be cursed with the worst luck and passed it down through the generations down to me! This just wasn’t normal! People didn’t experience this sort of bad luck all within twenty minutes! Merlin, Circe, Houdini! Anyone - Dumbledore even! Please tell me that I did not just collide with the very person I was supposed to be avoiding like the Bubonic Plague!
I mean, had life dealt me some cruel hand today or something? Had I done something that pissed off the Fates? Or were the negative remarks I had made against the Divination professor finally catching up with me and nipping me in the ass? Oh bloody hell, why couldn’t I have bumped into one of his dumbass friends? Well, his mates weren’t dumbasses at any rate; on the contrary, they were quite brilliant, save for that Pettigrew bloke; he was a bit lofty…
Focus, Ellen! You can’t keep going off into your own little world whenever you damn well please! You have to pay attention otherwise you will get caught. Damn!
I could feel his eyes upon me, studying my every move. He was waiting for me to say something, obviously, but I was keeping my lips sealed tightly shut. Oh no, I wasn’t going to risk spilling the beans about his cheating girlfriend when I had just sworn to her that I wouldn’t tell a single soul, let alone be caught around her boyfriend. Yet, here I stood, in the middle of a corridor, with Sirius Black staring at me as though his life depended on it.
Like I said earlier; oh fuck.
“Do I know you?” Black asked, not bothering to mask the apparent curiosity in his voice.
“I-I, uh…er,” I trailed off, pushing a hand through my locks out of pure, nervous habit.
A somewhat sarcastic smile pulled at his lips as he raked his eyes over me. What was it with people and their constant stares? And why the hell did everyone think that they were suddenly blessed with the talent of Legimens? Merlin, this was getting annoying.
“I didn’t think so," he said, chuckling softly.
Was he laughing at me? Oh, the nerve of him! Black shook his head casually, his dark locks falling away from his eyes as I stood there, struck dumb not because his hair was incredibly silky, but because he had been laughing at me! “Well, I’m-.”
“I know who you are,” I cut in, not caring to be introduced to him.
“Oh,” Black muttered, briefly dumbfounded. Something in his gray eyes snapped and, oddly enough, something that resembled a frown quirked the corner of his lips downward. “Well, in any case, I don’t know who you are.”
I opened my mouth to introduce myself, even though my gut was telling me not to. It was telling me to turn around and make a run for it. Just take the next corner and fly up the staircases and don’t stop until I reached Gryffindor Tower. But before I could get so much as a breath of air out, Black held up his hand for silence. I furrowed my brow in curiosity.
“Wait!” he said hurriedly. “Don’t tell me!”
“Er…why not?” I questioned, averting my eyes so that I was staring at my uninteresting, completely scoffed shoes. What can I say; it was a nervous habit!
“Because it’s on the tip of my tongue, that’s why," he replied, as though he was trying to recall the name of a particularly nasty flavor of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans he had eaten.
“Um, all right.”
A smile of triumph briefly flashed across his lips before he tapped his index finger against his chin. Wow, I didn’t think that he would put that much thought in it. Most people just didn’t care about me, seeing as how I was nothing of interest. And it wasn’t like I was connected to people who worth knowing and I didn’t possess any spectacular talents - although, I’m extremely talented in Transfiguration and Ancient Runes…not to brag or anything. There was also the fact that I had been extremely anti-social in my first year at Hogwarts, the pivotal year where friendships are formed and your future at the wizarding academy was, seemingly, determined. But it wasn’t like I didn’t have a good excuse for being that way, because I did.
“Aha! I’ve got it!”
The sudden sound of his voice scared the wits out of me and my eyes snapped to his face unwillingly. My heart thrummed wildly in my chest as I waited for him to speak. Maybe he would get it right…oh, who am I kidding?
“Janine Phillips!” Black exclaimed proudly, puffing his chest out a bit.
I knew it; I had to stop putting so much faith in people. “Er…no.”
“No?” he parroted in disbelief.
Slowly, I shook my head. “Nope.”
“Damn, I could’ve sworn that was your name,” Black murmured to himself, looking mildly disappointed in himself. When I opened my mouth to speak again, he held up his hand once more. “Wait! I’m going to figure it out.”
I closed the gaping hole that was my mouth and nodded my head. If he wanted to waste his precious time trying to figure out what my name was, he could do just that. But now that he was distracted, this was my chance to get away. I wasn’t going to stand here much longer and run the risk of being caught by Lucinda, as she never seemed too far away from her ‘precious’ boyfriend, even though she was a cheating little slag…
“Hyacinthine Hubert!” Black said loudly, before shaking his head to himself. Hmm, maybe he was catching on that he wouldn’t be able to figure it out.
What are you doing, Ellen! This is your chance to get lost! To get out of his sight before his commits your forgetful face to memory! Get a move on, you lazy arse before he comes to his senses and asks you for your name.
It seemed as though my conscious was right and, as I shuffled backward slightly, I found that after a few, small steps, my feet refused to move. It was almost as though they had been glued to the spot. Either that or my brain just refused to cooperate. Maybe it was the tumble to the ground that messed up the nerves in my legs. I mean, I had landed on my tailbone pretty hard.
BRIGGS! MOVE YOUR SCRAWNY ASS, NOW!
Right. I had to keep myself focused. I couldn’t keep trailing off, not unless I wanted to get myself caught…again…for the second time today. And I sure as hell didn’t want that. With a small huff of annoyance at the fact that my feet weren’t listening to the frantic messages my brain was sending them, I looked around for a way to escape.
Black was standing in the way of the quickest escape route, so I couldn’t very well go that way. So where else was there to go? I suppose I could take the passage behind the tapestry that leads to the seventh floor….YES! That’s the way I could go. I just had to get myself around the corner without Black seeing, or being suspicious as to where I went, not that he would care or anything, and then run at break neck speed and slip behind the tapestry unnoticed. Oh yes, this was going to be impossible.
But lucky for me, Black was distracted with trying to figure out who the hell I was. I all but forced my feet to shuffle backward until my back hit the wall lightly. Pressing my back against the stone, I slowly shifted toward the edge of the wall, which wasn’t very far away at all. In fact, all I had to do was swing my leg in a rather difficult matter and then I was home free.
Come on, Briggs; you can do it. It’s not that hard. All you have to do is give your leg a little kick! Just a small kick and then you can propel yourself down the corridor at whatever speed you please.
Right, easier said than done. Casting a quick glance to Black to make sure he was still distracted - and he was -, I bit the inside of my cheek as I swung my left leg around the corner, feeling triumphant for a grand total of two seconds for actually achieving something that I normally wouldn’t have been able to do.
But who was I supposed to know that someone was coming around the corner the exact moment I had decided to stick my foot out into the hallway and kick them in the shins! I WASN’T A SKILLED LEGIMENS, FOR MERLIN’S SAKE!
A brief exclamation of “bloody hell” was followed by the loud crash of what could only be described as someone falling into a suit of armor, trying to latch onto it to prevent themselves from falling, and then bringing the suit down with them in their failed attempt to save their butts from meeting the hard cobblestone.
Black met my eyes, but instead of wearing an expression of shock, much like I was, he was wearing a smirk and his gray eyes were glittering. Why they were glittering, I have absolutely no idea, but they were. So we’ll just leave it that. But instead of standing stoic still like I was, Black actually walked around the corner to see who had fallen because of my damn foot.
I heard Black laugh in his bark like way and vaguely wondered who I tripped. Once again, my curiosity won over and I poked my head around the corner. My stomach plummeted.
For the love of Circe, of all people, I just had to trip Black’s best mate, James freakin’ Potter! Brilliant, this is just what I needed. While Potter may not be as serious as the Bubonic Plague, he was like the stomach flu - something you wanted to avoid at all cost. The only thing about the stomach flu is that it seemed to follow you everywhere and if that was foreshadowing future events, then I was changing him to malaria or something.
“Blimey, Prongs,” Black said as he extended a hand to Potter, much like he had to me when I had fallen flat on my back. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Potter replied as he straightened his wire-rimmed glasses on the bridge of his nose and smoothed out the wrinkles in his robe. “I’m fine.”
“What happened?” Black inquired.
“I tripped over a foot.”
“Prongs, are you sure you didn’t hit your head anything when you fell, because it sounds like you’re imagining things,” Black said with a small laugh. “There wasn’t a good in the middle of the corridor. Couldn’t be, unless I randomly sprouted another limb that I didn’t know about and you tripped over.”
“Could happen, you know,” Potter pointed out. “A slimy Slytherin git could’ve hit you from behind with a hex or something.”
“True,” Black muttered under his breath before shaking his head, “but everyone’s at dinner.“ He threw a look over his shoulder. “Besides, I don’t see Snivellus anywhere.”
Potter laughed appreciatively and the pair of them started walking toward me. I backed away from the wall and started walking backward toward the end of the corridor. They rounded the corner.
I stared at them.
They stared at me.
“I, er…I’ve got to go finish my Herbology of Magic -- uh, I mean, er, my History of Magic essay.” I stuttered, heat rushing to my cheeks. Oh Merlin, please not now! “So…yeah…bye.”
And with that, I turned around and took off running toward the end of the corridor, dashing up four flights of stairs in record time.
By the time I reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, I was out of breath and shouted the password at her. She shook her head at me in disapproval and muttered under her breath about the insolence and disrespect of today’s youth. I was relieved to find that the common room was empty and ran across the carpet, nearly tripping as the toe of my shoe caught on one of the rugs. I stumbled up the stairs that led to the seventh year girl’s dormitory.
Using my shoulder, I pushed the door open and took off my bag, throwing it on the trunk that sat at the foot of my bed, which was located nearest to the door, seeing as how no one wanted that particular bed in case there was an attack. Well, if there was a fire and no one was capable of finding their wands, we all knew who would be escaping with their lives and who wouldn’t. Shaking my head, I took off my robe, tossed it to the floor, and loosened my tie. I kicked the door shut with my foot and, heaving a heavy sigh, I flung myself onto my unmade bed.
One would think that with so much on their mind, they wouldn’t be able to sleep. But it was quite the opposite for me. I grabbed my pillow, fluffed it up a bit, and stuck my arms under it for support. My eyes were already heavy with sleep and, by the time I had managed to wiggle my feet out of my shoes, I was already halfway asleep. And, within two minutes of laying my head down on my pillow, I was being carried away into the realm of dreams, where a giant milkshake that looked like Professor Slughorn was chasing me around with a fork.
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