Chapter 1 : Premature Ignition
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Reid Akins was in love with Cecilia Fletcher.
Cecilia was beautiful, tall with glossy dark hair. She carried herself a little haughtily and was wonderfully smart. She had been made the new Gryffindor prefect this year, and she wore the badge with pride. Reid had been in love with her all year.
It hadn’t taken long to chat up Cecilia. They shared most of their classes this year, since Reid was taking nearly every class available and Cecilia took all but Muggle Studies and Divination, so they saw each other almost all day long. Both were Gryffindors, so he saw her around the common room quite a lot too. Reid never lost an opportunity to say hello to Cecilia, and she had been smiling prettily back at him for the past month. He was determined to ask her out for the Valentine’s Day Hogsmeade weekend and was fairly certain she’d say yes.
He had a plan for that, and it was going to be brilliant. His closest friends, fifth years Dunstan Birtwhistle and Arthur Weasley and fourth year Cosmo Graham, had agreed that it was romantic enough to win any girl’s heart, and Dunstan had even helped bewitch the fireworks.
Reid had transfigured the fireworks into a bouquet of roses, and the plan was for Cecilia to throw them into the air, and they would go off and spell out her name in the air, with heart-shaped pink and gold Catherine wheels, and he would ask her out. It would be a glorious scene, and sure to establish his reputation as one of the top bachelors at Hogwarts for boyfriend material, and make girls swoon in all four Houses. He’d be beating the girls away with a broomstick after this.
“You’re having delusions of grandeur, mate,” Arthur Weasley had said in alarm when Reid had told him that.
Reid brushed this off though; he knew it was going to be perfect and was brimming with confidence as he set out with the transfigured fireworks to find Cecilia on the Friday before Valentine’s Day.
It was just after dinner, and he knew she and her friends generally went to the library to study in the evenings. He spotted Cecilia and her friends, the five Gryffindor fifth year girls, chatting as they walked up a staircase. Perfect. There were students everywhere; it was a high-traffic area where he was sure to have maximum attention for his grand gesture.
“Cecilia!” he called, waving the bouquet at her.
She turned in surprise, and the girls stopped to wait while he jogged up to them.
Molly Prewett and Hattie Habbershaw were both giggling as he approached Cecilia with the bouquet. Petula Cordingley stood beside them, clutching a stack of books to her chest and looking stressed out, as she generally had throughout the year, but she managed to smile at him. Cecilia was smiling brilliantly at him, and Siobhan Fitzgibbon leaned over with her fingers cupped around her mouth to whisper to Cecilia, who didn’t seem to take any notice.
“Hi Reid,” she said, somewhat breathlessly.
“Hello Cecilia,” he said in his most manly voice.
She was looking at the flowers and gave him her most adorable crooked smile. “Are those for me?”
“Of course.” He grinned at her and held out the bouquet. “It is nearly Valentine’s Day, after all.”
It happened too fast for anyone to stop. Cecilia had just wrapped a hand around the flowers, and Reid had drawn a breath to tell her to give them a toss into the air when he heard a soft hissing noise. He jumped back just in time as the bouquet exploded in Cecilia’s face in a small fireball, which then seemed to pull back in on itself and the fireworks went off in a bizarre haze of pink and purple, not spelling out anything after all, and shooting off sparkling trails of gold as they whistled around above their heads.
The thought occurred to him in the ensuing chaos that perhaps he should have tested the effects of transfiguration on the fireworks before giving them to the girl he fancied.
Cecilia’s robes were on fire; her friends were screaming and jumping out of reach of the flames, sparks from the fireworks raining down on their heads, and Siobhan drew her wand and aimed a stream of water at Cecilia’s head, but it was too late for her eyebrows; they had been singed off in the initial explosion. Molly drew her wand as well, and Cecilia and her robes were soon put out. An echoing silence filled the corridor then, and Reid felt as if his stomach had turned into a ball of snakes as he stared at Cecilia.
She stood with her mouth agape, her robes sodden and scorched, her wet hair plastered to her soot-blackened face, blinking in shock. Water was pooling on the floor at her feet, and the soaked and charred fireworks lay on the stone floor in front of her. Her friends were gathered back around her now, all looking wide-eyed and horrified. A small flame was still going at the end of Cecilia’s red and gold striped scarf, and Molly waved her wand to put it out quickly, still looking aghast at her friend.
Reid’s eyes were as wide as saucers as he stared at Cecilia, with the odd sensation that though his brain was in a fog, his eyesight and hearing were curiously sharpened so that the effects of what he had done were crystallising in his brain, etched permanently on his psyche. Disaster was the only thing he could think. It was an enormous disaster of epic proportions. He could hear titters and giggles from the crowd that had gathered, and wished the earth would break open and swallow him whole. Everyone was staring at them. Everyone.
She drew her wand then, her chest heaving, and seemed to be wrestling with an urge to jinx him into oblivion, and he grimaced and looked for cover, but Siobhan had put a hand on Cecilia’s arm, and she lowered her wand.
She stalked over to him and poked him in the chest, her wand still clutched in her other hand.
“Stay away from me,” she said through clenched teeth.
“I hate you,” she spat out. She looked thoroughly enraged now.
Reid cowered a little, but she turned on her heel then and stalked away from him, her friends following in her wake. Siobhan threw a glance at him over her shoulder, and he could see her rolling her eyes at him with a disgusted look on her face. She was Cecilia’s best friend and undoubtedly hated him as well, he thought dejectedly.
He stood there for a few more minutes, staring after Cecilia, who had now disappeared up a staircase toward Gryffindor Tower, until he felt a hand on his shoulder. Arthur was standing there with a sympathetic expression, and Dunstan stood behind him, obviously trying not to smirk.
“That went well,” said Dunstan.
“She’ll forgive me,” Reid said numbly.
Arthur didn’t look convinced. “If you say so, mate.”
But she didn’t forgive him. For the next three days, he followed her around, apologizing over and over, trying to explain what was supposed to have happened, but she wouldn’t hear him. He didn’t know how to get her to listen, how to make her understand that it had been an accident. She simply no longer heard anything he said. By the end of classes on the third day, she was so angry with his constant tagging along after her to shout apologies while she ignored him that she hexed him, and he spent the next day in the hospital wing recovering.
When he got out, he had accepted that it was over. He’d messed up badly with Cecilia, and she was not going to forgive him, so there was no point in trying to apologize any more. She’d probably just hex him again. He went back up to his dormitory when Madame Luscinia released him from the hospital wing and sat on his bed with the curtains drawn around it, his arms crossed over his chest and his face set in a deep scowl.
Cursed Filibuster’s. Cursed premature ignition. Cursed girls. Cursed Valentine’s Day, making him do cursed stupid things. He kicked one of the posters of his bed to relieve his feelings.
An image of Cecilia, charred and dripping wet, snarling at him to stay away from her, came to his mind, and he heard her say again, “I hate you.”
Reid slumped down in his bed then, feeling miserable and angry. He’d lost her.
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