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Chapter 2 : What's There To Fear?
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How to decide?
What's there to risk? Why is the course unclear?
Practical fact, foolish emotion, terrible pride…
Cecilia went to Professor McGonagall's office the next day between classes to talk to her Head of House about Reid, and the points she'd taken. She tried not to blush as she told the Transfiguration teacher what had happened.
McGonagall was leaning forward over her desk, her brows contracted in a sharp V as she listened. When Cecilia had finished, McGonagall said, “Miss Fletcher, I am so sorry that you've been dealing with this. I wish you'd come to me earlier, I could have intervened between you and Mr. Akins.”
“Oh,” said Cecilia, feeling a little surprised and embarrassed, “but I don't need you to intervene, I just thought you should know because I took so many points-”
“The school does not take that sort of behaviour lightly,” Professor McGonagall interrupted. “The headmaster, as you might well imagine, takes a hard line on one student forcing their will upon another.”
This description didn't sit well with Cecilia. He hadn't exactly forced her, though she certainly wouldn't have kissed him of her own free will. Still... She stared at McGonagall and admitted in a whisper, “I might have kissed him back. Just a little bit.”
McGonagall stared back at her in silence for a moment. “Miss Fletcher, it is not my intention to meddle in your love life, but did Mr. Akins in fact force his attentions upon you or not?”
“He did, but...” Cecilia didn't know how to explain. She didn't want Reid in serious trouble, she just... “I just want him to leave me alone, that's all.”
“Very well,” McGonagall said slowly, and Cecilia had the uncomfortable impression that McGonagall could see more than Cecilia intended, that her soul was exposed. “If Mr. Akins bothers you again, please come to me immediately, and I will deal with him.”
“And the points I took?” Cecilia was already regretting having done that. Why hadn't it occurred to her to give him a detention? She was allowed to do that as a prefect, though she didn't much like it. But they were losing the House Cup, and Icarus's team wasn't doing well in the Quidditch cup, and she wished they had those points back now. She silently promised herself not to take any more points from Reid, no matter the provocation.
“They will stand, of course.” McGonagall arched a dark brow at her. “But try not to take any more unless it's absolutely necessary. We're behind in the House Cup, you know.”
“Yes, ma'am,” Cecilia said, looking down at her clasped hands in her lap.
She missed the next week's Quidditch practice, making it to the pitch as the team was heading for the locker room.
“I'll be right back,” Icarus said, lifting one of her hands and kissing it. “Wait for me?”
“All right.” She watched the team disappear into the changing room, then started to wander the lawn outside it aimlessly while she waited. She had walked in a slow circle around the building that housed the team locker rooms and was circling back toward the front again when a pair of arms snaked out from behind a shrubbery and grabbed her about the waist.
She was pulled into the shadows of the trees and shrubs and a familiar pair of lips settled on hers. She pushed Reid away instantly.
“What are you doing lurking in the bushes, you creep!”
“I saw you waiting and thought I'd give you something to do,” he said unrepentantly, and tried to kiss her again. Cecilia jerked her head back away from him and banged into the stone wall of the building.
Rubbing her head angrily, she glared at him. “Are you crazy? Icarus is right inside!”
“He'll never be able to satisfy you the way I can,” Reid said, grinning at her in that annoying fashion he had.
“Twenty points,” Cecilia hissed, nostrils flaring. “And be lucky I don't hex your ears off.” She stalked off, and had reached the doors again when she remembered she hadn't been going to take any more points from him.
She stamped her foot angrily just as the team began emerging from the changing room. Icarus was the last to come out. Apparently she hadn't wiped all the anger from her face because he cocked his head at her and asked, “Everything all right, Cecilia?”
“It's fine, I was just... just thinking of how we lost our last match,” she improvised quickly. Icarus lived, breathed, and ate Quidditch, so it wouldn't surprise him at all to hear that's what she'd been thinking about.
“Nothing we can do about that now,” Icarus said with determined cheer, draping his arm around her shoulders. “All we can do is focus on the next one. And we're going to win it.”
“I hope so.” His body was still radiating heat from his shower, and she put an arm around his waist, letting him warm her as they walked.
He was everything Reid wasn't. Stocky where Reid was long and lanky, blonde and ruddy where Reid was dark. Steady and stable, polite and earnest, a school prefect and a young man with bright prospects in his future, Icarus was the sort she could bring home to her mother and proudly say, This man loves me.
So why was she thinking about Reid?
Cecilia made it through the rest of the week without throttling Reid or taking any more points from him, though the twenty she'd taken had dropped them below Ravenclaw in the House Cup standings, causing a huge dip in Reid's popularity. He got in a scuffle with Walter Campbell in the corridors, and she tried not to feel responsible for the animosity between Reid and nearly the entirety of Gryffindor, but she knew she was the cause, by several logical deductions.
If she hadn't taken those points... If Reid wasn't stalking her...
And still in every class, every time she saw him, Reid had that smug smile and a whispered “You love me” for her. She took refuge late one night in the prefect's bathroom for a good long soak in a tub full of softly fragrant pink bubbles. The smell of roses, so like her mother's house, was soothing, and she swam gently around the large tub, thinking so hard she didn't hear the door open at first.
The sound of footsteps brought her back to herself, and she called, “It's occupied!” before turning to see who was there.
“Oh, I'll share,” said a familiar voice.
Cecilia let out a shriek and ducked under the water so the bubbles hid everything except her head and neck. “What are you doing in here? How did you even get in, this is the prefects' bathroom!”
“I know secrets about the castle that you've probably never even heard of,” Reid bragged, and she wished her wand was closer so she could hex his big head.
He sat down cross-legged on the side of the tub, and grinned at her. “Need a towel?”
“Bugger off and die, Reid.” She paddled slowly to the other side of the tub, away from him, careful not to let the bubbles reveal anything.
“I just wanted to remind you that I love you,” he said cheerfully, sitting down next to the tub, and again she wished her wand was within reach.
“Get out, Reid!”
“And that you love me too,” he added, still grinning. “I thought I should remind you while you were naked. Seemed like a good time.”
Cecilia saw red. She forgot about hiding in the bubbles and swam as fast as she could across the tub, and then sent a wave of water splashing into his face, soaking his head and shoulders. “Get out, get out, get out!”
“All right, I'm going, but first-”
And before she could get away, he'd flattened out onto his stomach so his face was close to hers, put a hand on the back of her head to pull her closer, and kissed her thoroughly. She forgot for a moment that she had no clothes on, and that she had a boyfriend, and that she hated him, and that they could be interrupted at any moment if another prefect came in. She kissed him back, her hands on his shoulders, and the wet fabric of his shirt felt rough against her palms. She was just about to pull him into the water with her when he pulled back abruptly and got to his feet, grinning.
“You love me, Cecilia,” he called as he jogged to the door. “I'm not going to leave you alone until you admit it!”
The door closed behind him and Cecilia put her hands over her face for a moment, her mind churning with conflicting emotions.
“Damn him,” she said loudly.
“I love you, Cecilia.”
He was leaning over her, kissing her neck. She arched her back, and her eyes fluttered open. The curtains were drawn around her bed, and she could see the outline of his strong shoulders in the dim light. He was holding her, his hand running down her body, pulling her leg up to settle it on his hip, and she felt gloriously free under the weight of his body, loving the way he touched her and kissed her.
He was kissing her shoulder, and she was burning, his hands felt like they were burning her skin, and she wanted more, pulled his face closer to kiss him and stare into familiar dark eyes.
She woke with a start, sitting bolt upright in bed, breathing hard. She pushed the tangled hair away from her sweaty face, and put a hand to her hot forehead.
The familiar sound of Molly's genteel snoring told her she was still in her dormitory, and she could see she was alone in her bed, but she felt disoriented. It had been so real, she'd almost expected to find Reid's body draped over hers. She was cold now where the sweat was evaporating from her skin, and she huddled back into her blankets.
She'd been reading too many of those stupid Fifi LaFolle novels, that was all. It was just a coincidence that her dream man had looked just like Reid, sounded just like Reid, and kissed just like Reid. And her subconscious had only thrown up that name for the dream man because he was always in her face, getting on her nerves. Yes, that was all it was.
It had nothing to do with him.
But why hadn't she been dreaming about Icarus?
She pulled the blankets up over her head, but it was a long time before she fell back to sleep.
She was on edge the next day from the dream. The team had a Quidditch practice in the morning, and she was determined to attend to support Icarus, the man she was supposed to – the man she did love, she corrected herself sharply. She got dressed hurriedly and didn't realize until after she'd gotten down to the field that she'd forgotten to brush her hair. She tried to scoop it up into a ponytail as she walked across the pitch to the stands.
A small crowd of Gryffindor boys were sitting in the stands to watch the practice, as they often did. Die-hard fans of the sport and their House team, they attended in order to dissect and appraise the team and their chances in the Cup. Normally it didn't bother Cecilia to listen to them, since they were what Icarus called 'armchair players' and he was quite fond of them.
But today the first conversation she'd overheard was Roddy Feltham complaining about Reid. No doubt they all thought she wouldn't care; after all, she'd been the one to dock Reid the points that had made him so objectionable to his friends. And she didn't care if they all hated him, of course. She hated him too. He was such a prat.
The team was on the pitch now, and she smiled at Icarus as he flew past, giving her a little wave before he returned his concentration to the game.
“Francine's flying well today,” Arthur observed. “Is that a new broom?”
“Looks like one of those new ones, what are they called, a Nimbus?” Dunstan was squinting at Francine Allen's broomstick.
They discussed broomsticks for a while then, criticizing the Cleansweep Three that the burly fourth-year Julian Kirkpatrick, who was the team's Beater along with Thad Peabody, was flying, and admiring Francine's new Nimbus 1000.
Cecilia was just starting to wish they'd shut up about broomsticks when Roddy turned his attention to the team Keeper.
“Icarus seems to have improved a little, he isn't missing quite so many goals today.”
Cecilia's eyes narrowed.
“Well, his concentration has been shot the past couple of matches,” Dunstan said in an annoying drawl. “He looks like he's gotten back to his regular game now.”
“His regular game better be enough to save us from the Ravenclaws, that's all I'm saying,” Roddy remarked.
“If you think you can do better than him, I suggest you go get a broom and show us all,” Cecilia snapped at him, fueled by a sudden rage. “From what I've heard, you couldn't block the Quaffle if your life depended on it.”
“Cecilia,” Arthur said reasonably, “we were just talking about the game, we're not insulting Icarus-”
“Well I'm tired of your bellyaching, the lot of you. None of you made the team, did you? All you lot do is sit in the stands, ripping into them as if you could do better. Obviously that's the best our House could field, so why don't you all just shut up about them already?”
They were all staring at her as if she'd lost her mind. Maybe she had. Maybe this was what madness felt like.
“What?” she snapped at them.
“Nothing,” Arthur said, looking nervous. Dunstan turned his attention to the pitch as if he no longer wanted to be involved with the conversation.
“You seem to have a lot of pent-up aggression,” Roddy said carefully. “Maybe you should try playing Quidditch. It might help.”
“Oh, shut up.” Cecilia folded her arms across her chest tightly and sat back in her seat.
She attended a study session the next evening, against her better judgement. She felt like an elastic band that had been stretched out to its maximum capacity, and thought she might snap if anyone provoked her again.
Siobhan met her in the common room, and Petula Cordingley caught them up in the corridor outside the library, her blonde ponytail swinging as she jogged toward them.
“Wait for me,” Petula gasped. “I couldn't find my Transfiguration text, I don't know how it got stuck under my bed, but-”
“We get the picture, Petula,” Siobhan interrupted her impatiently as they went through the library doors.
“What is he doing here?” Petula demanded when she caught sight of Dunstan standing next to the table where Molly, Hattie, and Arthur waited.
Cecilia rolled her eyes as Dunstan apologized gruffly to Petula, who didn't seem to believe he was sincere. Dunstan left then and Cecilia rolled her eyes at him as she settled into a chair next to Hattie.
“Well, it was more than I expected from a boy whose Patronus is a pig,” Petula said when Hattie tried to coach a pleasant response from her about the apology.
“There's nothing wrong with pigs,” Siobhan said.
“It's a boar,” Arthur said half-heartedly. Cecilia raised an eyebrow at him. Dunstan's Patronus had always looked very clearly like a pig to her.
The topic of Patronuses was something of a sore spot for Cecilia, especially when she was already in a foul mood. “At least he has a Patronus.”
“Go on then,” Siobhan urged. “You haven't tried it in weeks. Give it a go.”
“Oh, what's the point.” Cecilia looked at her friend blankly then, as the memory of her dream last night washed over her. She could feel the heat of Reid's kisses and heard his whispered I love you, and she knew she could do the spell. She held out her wand. “Expecto Patronum!”
A large silver form erupted from the tip of her wand, and everyone stared at the panther prowling around. It opened its mouth in a silent growl, then disappeared. They all looked up at Cecilia, which she found rather gratifying, and smiled at her friends smugly.
“Well done, Cecilia,” Arthur said approvingly. He was a nice boy, and Molly loved him so. He was good for her. Even though they were annoyingly maudlin at times, and had a bad habit of sneaking about the castle after curfew to snog, Cecilia was fond of Arthur and rather glad that Molly had him around. Constantly. Sometimes it seemed he and Molly were attached at the hip.
“What were you thinking of?” Molly asked, giving her a curious look. “Your face was so red.”
Siobhan had a knowing look. “You were thinking of Icarus, weren't you?”
“Icarus–” She had forgotten Icarus. How could she have forgotten Icarus? “He – I – I have to go.” She fled the library before they could ask any more questions, snatching up her bookbag as she left.
She ran down the hall, her books weighing her down as a suffocating feeling of indecision weighed down her heart. What was she going to do with Icarus? Why was Reid in her thoughts when it should be Icarus? She loved him, didn't she? He was such a nice boy, not at all like Reid.
Her pace quickened as she turned aimlessly down another corridor. Why did she keep thinking about stupid, arrogant Reid?
“Where are you going so fast?” a familiar voice said, and she stopped in her tracks.
Reid was sitting on a bench with a stack of books next to him, looking up at her in surprise.
“I – nowhere – go away, Reid.” Don't go away. Kiss me. Tell me you love me. Tell me I love you.
He raised his eyebrows at her. “Go away? I was here first. Studying as innocently as a little lamb, and you came huffing down the corridor like werewolves were on your heels.”
She laughed derisively, feeling a little steadier. “A little lamb? You?”
“That's right,” he said with a self-satisfied grin, and got to his feet. The corridor was deserted, and Cecilia found herself wishing both that someone would come and interrupt them so he wouldn't kiss her and that no one would ever find them so he'd never stop. She didn't know what she wanted any more, didn't know what to think. He was confusing her, with his stupid arrogance and his hungry kisses.
She stood there as he approached, thinking that she should never have stopped, should have kept going past him in the corridor. He looked around and saw that they were alone, and grabbed both of her wrists, gathering her close. She tried to push him away half-heartedly as he bent down to kiss her.
She knew she was kissing him back, knew she should stop, someone could see them, so she bit his lip. Not enough to draw blood, but enough to make him let go of her.
“You do love me,” he said, stepping back a little.
“I hate you so much,” she said shakily. Kiss me again, kiss me again! What was going on with her today? “Stop doing that, Reid.”
“Stop doing what? This?” He kissed her again, and this time she broke away and stalked off down the hall. She could feel his eyes on her back, and heard him chuckle as she rounded the corner.
She stopped around the corner and leaned back against the stone wall, trying to analyse her feelings, decipher what was going on inside her head. She wanted Reid to kiss her, could not stop thinking about it, and came to the conclusion that she needed to do something.
She had to end things with Icarus.
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