Chapter 6 : Sugar Quota
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“Where is my t-shirt?” I demanded to no one in particular. Mostly because there was no one to demand. The dormitory was deserted.
And I was late for Quidditch practice. So late. But I still couldn’t find my bloody shirt!
I was darting through the room like mad, wearing nothing but my Quidditch trousers and sports bra, turning the whole place upside down. Angelina, Katie and Alicia had already gone ahead with promises to smooth it over, but we all knew it was in vain. Wood was still going to kill me.
There! I spotted the hem of a white shirt under a pile of clothes and immediately dove for it. With a triumphant “Ha!” I fished it out. Only there was a surprising weight to it.
“Memphis,” I whined as I realized it was the black and white kitten clinging on to the other end with her tiny paws. She gave an adorable meow, immediately making me blow up in maternal pride. Sometimes she was just so adorable I could eat her! –I suddenly stopped to realize what I had just thought - …Eeew!! Why do even people say that? It’s so barbaric! And-
I yanked the shirt once, causing Memphis to lose her grasp and she tumbled to the ground. I quickly pulled on the shirt, but as my face resurfaced I spotted the kitten looking at me sourly. She even gave me a hiss. I thought my heart would break.
“I’m sorry, Memph,” I said on the verge on tears, “but I just don’t have time right now, I’m-“, I broke off as I glanced at the clock, which is why I nearly had an aneurysm. “I’m so late!”
Not daring to stay any longer I quickly grabbed my red Quidditch robes and my Firebolt, wordlessly promising to make it up to Memphis later. But right now I needed to save my own arse.
Literally diving out the portrait hole I then proceeded to dash down the stairs while trying to button my robes, which was no easy feat, let me tell you.
Finally reaching the bottom landing I rounded a corner and continued down the hall. I finally burst out the doors, like really threw them up their hinges, and then racing over the grass at the grounds. The pitch was within sight; I could see the hoops. Almost, almost there-
“Well, well, what’s the hurry, Stevens?”
I skidded to a halt. I couldn’t help it; it was him.
He was alone and I couldn’t believe how I had managed to miss him since he was looking better than ever: long blue shorts and green shirt, a perfect contrast to his chestnut hair and grey eyes.
At the sight of me in my rushed appearance; half-buttoned Quidditch robes and what I assumed was really really messy hair in what I also assumed a really really messy ponytail, he cracked a grin. And not to mention my flushed face. Oh, God, I have no self-esteem at all.
But he surprised me – a lot – as he said, “Well, wrong colours, of course, but Stevens, you look stunning.” Gah, men and sports. As soon as a man sees a girl in Quidditch robes they go completely ga-ga. But then I suddenly got a very nice image before my eyes of Cedric, dressed in his yellow and black robes, zooming forth on his broomstick, the air ruffling through his dark shiny hair, his stormy grey eyes gazing at me and only me… Oh, who am I kidding? I’m just as sexist as men!
“Well, Elle and Quidditch,” I said, cracking a grin, “is there a better combination?”
He smiled, but I didn’t think it was for the same reason. “Hardly,” he replied.
In the corner of my eye I could see the pitch and flying red figures, which I happened to know was my team-mates. Oh, bugger and bloody effing hell, they have already started!
Cedric noticed my gaze. “You’re late,” he stated in a sort of amused voice, actually letting a laugh escape his lips. The nerve!
I nodded, feeling very torn. I really really really should be out on the pitch…. But on the other hand it was just so very nice to be with Cedric. Besides, the longer I could post-pone my execution from Wood, the better.
“Well, that’s too bad,” Cedric suddenly said, placing his hand on the wall behind me and leaning to it so that he was blocking my path. “Because I have a question for you. And I’m not moving until you say yes.”
Well, he kind of had me there. But considering the situation – he was leaning close to me, close enough for me to smell his scent and close enough to reach out and kiss him – I think he could have asked me anything and I would have said yes.
“Hogsmeade is this weekend. Come with me?”
I looked at him, raising an eyebrow. “It doesn’t bother you that you’re risking my neck here, being late for Quidditch practice?” I asked, in a rather flirtatious voice, which I by the way have NO IDEA where it came from.
“I wouldn’t be very good at this if it did,” Cedric replied in this low and very masculine voice that made something inside me squirm in a… strange way. Though not bad-strange.
“Oh, you naughty boy,” I joked, still in that what-actually-seemed-to-work-and-which-I-had-no-idea-where-it-come-from-flirtaious voice.
He leaned a little closer, and I was positive that my heart was going to leap out my chest, that’s how hard and fast it was drumming. What if he was going to kiss me? We hadn’t even been on a date and he was already trying to kiss me? Oh, who am I kidding? I was practically dying for him to kiss me-
“I see Diggory is having a good time delaying my Seeker,” a voice with a heavy Scottish accent suddenly remarked.
A beat passed, where I let the air desert my lungs in a furious sigh, as Cedric pulled back.
“Wood.” He straightened up and acknowledged the extremely unwelcome Scot with a curt nod. As for me, I was throwing him the darkest look I could possibly summon. His gaze back at me was hard as rock and I instantly knew I was in for oh-so-many bleacher sprints.
He didn’t say anything to me. At all. Instead he turned his gaze towards Cedric again, who was glaring back. If eyes could throw daggers, I’m sure they would.
“Don’t worry, Wood, I’m sure your Seeker has enough skill to miss out on a few minutes of –what do you call it? Pep talk?” Cedric inquired as calmly as he had been discussing the weather. I raised my eyebrows towards Cedric, then at Wood. This could get ugly. One did not criticise the Nazi Captain’s ways unless you were in for some serious war. Wood’s toffee-ish eyes seemed to ignite with anger and I knew some serious bickering was about to take place. In the meantime, I was extremely ashamed to admit that I was noting how nicely Wood was fitting out his Quidditch robes. Had he really been that buff last year? I was beginning to see Katie’s point with the whole without-a-shirt-remark. And I hadn’t even seen him without a shirt yet. Suddenly I caught myself. Wait a minute. He ruined my special moment with Cedric! I growled…. Mentally, that is.
“Oh, is that how you see things, Diggory?” Wood continued, sarcasm dripping off every syllable, “Because the way I see it you’re wasting her time with your…what do you call it? Charm?”
Hey! Since when did I become a damsel in distress in need of saving? …by the Nazi Captain, nonetheless?
Cedric raised his eyebrows in a surrendering manner.
“Wasting her time? Oh, I see…”
Then, ignoring Wood completely, he turned back to me again.
“Well, Elle, how about it? Care to waste your time with me on Saturday at noon?” His grey eyes were looking at me with true kindness and yearning. I did so not have a choice.
“It’s a date,” I smiled, and Cedric looked for a moment really happy.
“It’s a date,” he repeated pleased and then suddenly leaned down and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Right in front of the Nazi Captain. My cheeks immediately caught on fire. Then with a wink at me and a glare at Wood he sauntered off towards the castle again. I looked after him, struggling to resist the urge to sigh dreamily. Then I remembered there was another person there.
I locked eyes with Wood, and to my extremely non-will, I realised it was suck-up time.
“I know I’m late, but you will not believe what Memphis-“
“Diggory?” Wood looked at me as if he was really disappointed and for a moment I almost felt ashamed, that’s how intense his gaze was. “Of all people, Belle… and it’s him?”
He turned and started to stride towards the pitch. I followed him – running, of course, since his legs were miles longer than mine – and was starting to feel furious. Like usual, that is.
“And since when is that any of your bloody business?” I demanded hotly.
“That bloke is nothing but a Quidditch-maniac who’s bloody full of himself.”
“Oh, and you’re not?” I inquired, a little amused. After all, it was as if he was accusing Cedric of being like…like… well, like Wood.
He came to an abrupt halt, just before we reached the pitch.
“Don’t you see what he’s trying to do?” he asked, and his chocolaty eyes actually seemed worried.
“Enlighten me,” I demanded coldly.
“He’s distracting you! He’s trying to…to sweep you off your feet so he can eliminate his biggest rival before the match!”
I think it was the sweep you off your feet that almost made me laugh. But then I considered Wood’s words. His biggest rival? Distracting me? They way things sounded… it was as if Wood didn’t want me to lose the bet. Like…like he was protecting me from Cedric.
I let out something in between a disbelieving Ha! and a snort. As if! Cedric was as sweet as a bloody toffee!
Wood’s piercing gaze bored into mine for another moment, before he strode off again.
“He doesn’t deserve you…” he muttered.
“What did you say?” I demanded shrilly. Did he just-?
But then he stopped and turned back to me, a pleased smile on his lips.
“I said,” he began, “Fifty sets of bleacher sprints.” An eyebrow went up daringly. “And when you’re done, make it another fifty.”
“Oi!” I did so not need that. Apparently, a 100 or so of bleacher sprints makes your body kinda sore. And what one needs the least then is a well-aimed-
“Do it again and I’ll break your finger, boy,” I threatened.
“Is there a problem….Miss Stevens?” Uncle Remus asked.
I reluctantly released George’s finger. “No,” I said grudgingly, though I was still giving George my death glare. Then I hastily added, “er…Professor.”
My uncle gave me one of his small smiles as to confirm that he found it all amusing, and then turned back to the black board where he had been explaining what the study plan Defence Against the Dark Arts would involve this semester. Thursday late afternoon, and our last lesson: Defence Against the Dark Arts.
As soon as I was off the hook I punched George on the arm. Hard. But he was still laughing.
“Ouch!” he hissed. “Why this random and completely unprovoked act of violence?” he then asked, eyed wide with innocence. He did so not fool anyone.
I eyed him. “Give me a break, Ginger. I had to drag myself out of bed at six thirty, and yesterday I had to do a gazillion sprints for Captain Nazi. I believe it’s my right to be grumpy.”
“Tut tut.” George looked at me sympathetically.
I eyed him again. “You’re not sympathetic, are you?”
“At least I look it?” he offered, but I snorted indignantly and turned away. Only I realised as I turned around that on my other side sat Wood. I quickly turned back before he could notice me turning. Truth was, I was having a real hard time keeping my attitude towards Wood when he was behaving like…like…well, like a very nice bloke, actually. (Well, save for the 100 sprints yesterday, which was quite a relief to see some of the old Nazi Captain behaviour).
But the problem was, his new behaviour was driving me completely insane. The whole foundation that my ordinary life was resting upon was that me and Wood hated each other’s guts and had done so from the start. At least I had hated his guts, but whatever.
And now, when he was threatening my carefully constructed foundation everything else seems to… crumble. For instance, yesterday afternoon I was unable to focus on my Quidditch practice since Wood kept saying things like “Nice quick catch there, Belle” and “Good speed on that Firebolt,” like he was treating me just as nice as he did the other team mates. I mean, what is that!!??
And so I couldn’t focus on my Quidditch, which means that I won’t be good enough to beat Cedric this year either and then I’ll lose the bloody bet and have to go on a date with Oliver Sodding Wood and my self-respect will be shattered to pieces!!!!
“Can you answer that question, Miss Stevens?”
I nearly jumped a mile; that was how startled I was by Remus’ voice. Hold the phone…what question?
I looked up, and I guessed I was looking as panic-stricken as I felt about the whole Wood-thing so that Uncle Remus cracked a friendly smile and repeated the question.
“Last year I believe you covered the subject of werewolves. Could you please name the signs the victim would show when bitten by a werewolf?”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Defence Against the Dark Arts being my best subject and knowing all about Uncle Remus furry problem I could name that answer in my sleep.
I quickly named the signs and soon enough, Remus let me off the hook. I relaxed, sinking back into my seat, yet still feeling horrible.
Because deep and far within my mind I was deeply and utterly appalled by myself as I actually felt that…that if Wood behaved like this to me, maybe losing that bet and going on a date wouldn’t be so bad after all.
The class ended eventually ended and the other students couldn’t get out of there quick enough. Save for one, namely me. I was packing my messenger bag apathetically muttering half-hearted “See you in a bit,”s to the girls as they fluttered past me, chatting animatedly. I felt disgusted with myself.
Here I was, about to date the most sought-after boy in the whole school and had practically admitted to myself that I found my mortal enemy nice! Or even…even… - I was horrified to admit it – even attractive??
“Elisabeth? Are you alright?”
I suddenly realized that everyone had left the classroom, and my uncle had come up to me and was watching me with worried amber eyes. “What’s the trouble?”
I looked up at him, and before I knew it…
“Men,” I admitted darkly.
He went “Ah,” in this kind of I-wish-I-hadn’t-asked-voice. “I knew that was coming sooner or later.”
I gave him a weak smile. “That’s what you get for being my…” my voice trailed off, searching for the right word. I couldn’t really call him my father-figure, since my real father was his brother, which would probably make him offended. On the other hand, he wasn’t just my uncle, he was my father-figure. “…mentor,” I finally settled for saying.
He pulled out a chair and lowered himself upon it, letting an ever so light sigh escape his lips. “Right, let’s hear it then.”
Uh, as if I was going to tell him all about Wood the sodding-pain-in-the-arse Nazi Captain.
“It’s just…” I started, biting my lip, not entirely sure how to explain. “They’re such pain in the arse.”
A beat of silence followed this bold statement.
“Er, no offence,” I added.
“None taken.” Then he stole a glance at the roof, as if his answers lay there. I wish they did. I glanced up. They didn’t. Bugger.
“Elisabeth, you are seventeen. You have school, Quidditch and God knows what else to focus on. Whatever business you have with all these…troublesome boys you think of, remember one thing. You certainly don’t have to choose your soul mate right this instant.” Then he added, with a lively sparkle in his tired eyes. “Live a little.”
I actually considered his words. They were true. Why should I bother with Wood and his ways? I should be happy that Cedric asked me out instead! Then I remembered something I had told myself a while ago. Don’t brood.
Right, that’s it then. I promised myself not to fall deeper into the troubles that were boys. I flashed Remus a dazzling smile.
“Thank you,” I said – and I really meant it – and gave him a pat on the cheek. “Old sport,” I added in my most English accent.
Then I grabbed my bag, and feeling much lighter at heart, skipped out the classroom.
Whatever Wood threw at me, I wouldn’t read anything into it. I could tackle him and still win this sodding bet.
When I climbed through the portrait hole into the common room I realised that Hogwarts housed two kinds of people. There were the normal students and there were… the Quidditch junkies. The normal people were chatting animatedly with each other by the tables or doing their homework. The Quidditch junkies - my friends – however… they had hijacked the sofas by the fireplace and had collapsed in various fatigued positions. Aha! So I wasn’t the only one with sores from yesterday!
I decided to follow their example and collapsed between Angelina and Katie by the couch in the middle in a similar position to them: our backs on the seating, resting our heads against the back and our legs stretched out towards the floor.
I think Katie muttered something along the lines of “Hello” but I wasn’t sure.
Silence filled our little group, where I noticed that Wood had draped his limps over an unsuspecting armchair. He wasn’t alone though. Memphis was curled up on his stomach, purring her arse off. I wondered how she could possibly find his stomach comfortable, considering how rock-hard his abs-
“I had a nightmare last night,” Fred suddenly blurted out to no one in particular.
“Yeah?” Lee asked wearily from the couch next to him. I did a double-take. Hold the phone, why is he beat? He isn’t even-
“I dreamed I was chased by broomsticks until I hid in my closet. Then they stole my socks and did the hula with them.” Fred frowned. “Anyone care to interpret?”
“Well, judging from the first part I’d say you’re sore from Quidditch yesterday,” Alicia said thoughtfully, putting her fingertips together like the professional Freudarian psychiatrist she was (not). “About the second part… don’t go to the kitchens just before night, eh? Too much of the good before sleep can be…” she searched for the right professional-sounding word, until her voice died away.
“Bad,” I finished.
“But that’s not right.” Fred looked perplexed. “I only had three chocolate muffins, a plate of cookies and a slice of that chocolate fudgy cake that I can’t remember the name of-“
“That would be chocolate fudge cake,” George filed in.
“-and two cups of hot cocoa.”
We all started at him for a looong moment.
“Fruit, vegetables? Ever heard of that stuff? Supposed to hold lots of vitamins that apparently are good for you body?” Katie asked, but Fred shook his head.
“I don’t believe in that stuff.”
“Good for you,” Angelina said tonelessly.
“Nah, if it ain’t deep fried and smothered in chocolate, it ain’t worth putting in your mouth,” Fred declared, and we all contemplated this for a moment.
Then suddenly Fred slapped his knee and went “Now I know what it was! Forgot the marshmallows in the cocoa! I didn’t fulfil my sugar quota yesterday. I tell ya, that can make a guy weird.”
We all groaned, and I was actually relieved to be leaving the nut-heads that were supposed to be my friends and head for my detention with Wood.
We didn’t say much to each other as we walked to detention. Nor did we as we met Filch who showed us into the dungeons and the trillions of cauldrons that needed scrubbing.
Wood’s silence had bothered me from the start, but as we had been scrubbing our arses off for the last half an hour, I was ready to lose it. I know Wood was angry about me and Cedric, but I just couldn’t begin to wonder why the bloody hell he cared. But the worst part was that every time our eyes met his dark brown eyes looked sad and that actually made me sad!
No, it was time I did something about this. I was not going to let it get to me. I dropped my brush into the half-clean cauldron I was currently working on; causing a loud clatter and Wood looked up, surprised.
“You know,” I snapped hotly, “Just because you are completely oblivious to your own bloody female fan club doesn’t mean you should stick your nose into other people’s private lives.”
At this he actually looked surprised, but he did not argue on the subject of my private life as I had thought he would. Instead he asked, baffled, “I have a fan club?”
I nodded huffily. “It’s way time you started notice the girls trailing after you.”
“I have had girlfriends,” he argued, crossing his arms and looking childishly stubborn. I’m sorry to say it made him look adorable.
But then I had a vague memory of a pretty blonde when we were in our fourth year. She had been up-over-heels in love with Wood, or more like the image of him, since merely a fortnight after their first date she dumped him. I rather enjoyed the scene: it had been in the great hall and she had been shouting angrily something about “You never give me any attention!” in a shrilly voice. Needless to say, the whole school had witnessed it.
I laughed out loud. “Oh yeah, now I remember. What was her name again, Emily something?”
He nodded, looking a little embarrassed. Again, looking adorable. Bloody hell…
“Why did you even go out with her?” I asked, still chuckling. “She was…” I trailed off, looking for the right word.
“Terrifying,” Wood filled in, shuddering at the memory. “She didn’t give me a chance to say no.”
I laughed out loud again, since Wood was actually looking frightened as he spoke. I guess he got a little grumpy by it since he said, “And since when do you know anything about my private life? I might be seeing someone.”
“You don’t have a girlfriend,” I said automatically, regretfully sounding a little alarmed as well.
“Maybe not,” he admitted a little deflated, “but how do you know I don’t have eyes for someone special?”
I suddenly got interested. Real interested.
“Really?” I asked. “Is it someone I know??”
Clearly he was surprised that I cared, but then he merely smiled secretively. “Maybe,” he said, but that was the last I heard about it.
“I don’t hear any scrubbing in there!” Filch’s angry voice suddenly loud from the door, and we quickly took up our job again, and didn’t say a word to each other until detention was over.
And the worst part is that I actually enjoyed that detention.
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