Chapter 3 : Ask Me Again
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I should refuse you.
Ask me again!
Icarus took it better than she'd expected. He seemed to realise how painful it was for her to break up with him. Maybe he knew something was wrong between them. She didn't want to hurt him; he really had made her happy again, but she had to deal with whatever was going on between her and Reid. Icarus had gone to bed after giving her a small kiss on the forehead, and she'd felt so guilty that she hadn't been dreaming of him, as she should have.
She felt wrenched, exhausted. She thought today she must have felt every emotion it was possible to feel. She put her head in her hands, leaning her elbows on her knees. The empty common room behind her felt strangely unsettling, as if the room she'd spent so much time in for six years was unfamiliar to her. She covered her eyes with her fingers and let go of the tears, and they slid hotly down her cheeks.
When she finally opened her eyes, she saw Reid standing near her in the alcove. She wasn't at all surprised by this; he was always around, annoying her.
“You broke up with Icarus,” he said, staring at her with his eyes hooded. The dying fire cast flickering shadows across his face, throwing his jaw and cheekbones into sharp relief.
“It had nothing to do with you.”
“It had everything to do with me.”
She shook her head in disgust, wiping the tears from her cheeks. “The world doesn't revolve around you, Reid Akins.”
“My world revolves around you,” he said simply.
Cecilia looked away, rubbing her hands over her face and feeling drained. “Why do you say things like that to me?” she asked finally.
“I told you before; I love you.”
“Please go away, Reid. Stop saying that, just go away.”
He shook his head. “Not until you admit that you love me too.”
She stared at him and wished she could scream or hit him. He'd ruined her relationship with Icarus, who was quite a nice boy, very sweet, and would be a world-famous Quidditch player someday soon, and who had made Cecilia happy for a while, even if he couldn't kiss her the way Reid could. Reid had ruined all that peaceful calm with Icarus, with his stolen kisses and constant badgering her that he loved her. Icarus didn't make her crazy, didn't make her want to scream with anger like Reid did, didn't drive her barking mad following her around and saying inappropriate things, didn't make her stay up late because she couldn't stop thinking about him. And now here Reid was, demanding things she couldn't give him, didn't want to give him, and if she hadn't been so emotionally exhausted, she would have been angry at him for asking anything more from her.
“I'm never going to say that,” she told him. “Just go away.”
But he didn't go away. He never did what she told him. He sat down in the chair across from her, leaned over, and cupped her cheek in his hand, giving her a slow, sweet kiss, unlike any of the other kisses he'd given her, and she kissed him back, putting all her pent-up emotions into the kiss. When he pulled away from her, she almost fell into his lap.
“You wouldn't kiss me like that if you didn't love me,” he said in a voice just above a whisper, staring into her eyes. She wasn't sure how to deal with him when he went all quiet like this. It was as if what he said became more real, and she couldn't handle that.
“I kiss everyone like that,” Cecilia retorted wildly, feeling panicked.
“No you don't. That's just for me.” He kissed her again, and she shoved him away as she stood, rushing past him to her dormitory and safety.
Siobhan was waiting outside the classroom when Cecilia got out of Astronomy the next day. They were supposed to go straight to the library for a revising session with their friends for next week's Charms exam, but Siobhan grabbed her arm and pulled her aside so they were tucked into a niche with a suit of armour. Cecilia was fairly certain she'd caught Molly and Arthur snogging here a few times and rolled her eyes.
“If we're late, Molly will scold us,” Cecilia objected. “I'm not in the mood to hear it from her. Or Hattie either.”
“Then you'd better hurry up and talk to me, hadn't you?”
She eyed her best friend warily. “Talk about what?”
“What is going on with you and Reid?” Siobhan demanded.
Cecilia frowned. “Nothing is going on.”
“Cecilia Arcadia Fletcher-”
She winced. “Don't say that, I don't want anyone to hear my middle name. You know I hate it.”
Siobhan leaned forward and shook a finger under Cecilia's nose. “I've known you since we were eleven years old. I'm your best friend, I know everything about you, and I know you're not looking at that boy the same way any more. Don't think you can fool me.”
“I swear, nothing is going on. He's just still bothering me, that's all.” She couldn't meet her best friend's eyes though, and Siobhan leaned back with narrowed eyes.
“There's something more between you two, ever since we got back from the Easter holiday. Don't try to pretend, because I can tell.”
Cecilia blew out her breath slowly and then said, “All right. But I don't want anyone else to know.”
“When have I ever told your secrets?” And this was true; for all Siobhan's faults, she was like a vault for everything private Cecilia had ever told her.
“All right.” Cecilia looked around, making sure no one else could hear them, and started telling Siobhan everything, from the rose garden through the night she'd broken up with Icarus. Siobhan listened in silence, though her eyebrows had practically disappeared into her hairline when Cecilia told her about her dream.
“Well,” she said when Cecilia was finally done. “So what are you going to do?”
“I don't know!” Cecilia was twirling a lock of hair around her fingertip, feeling as if a school of fish had settled in her stomach and were racing around in all directions. “I've been trying to avoid him, but he won't go away. I took points from him and he didn't care. I tell him to go away and he won't listen. What else can I do?”
“Aside from transfiguring him into a pig and having bacon for breakfast?” Siobhan grinned wryly.
Cecilia smiled. “Aside from that.”
“Tell McGonagall to intervene. She can throw him out of school if he won't leave you alone.” Siobhan must have seen in her face that she didn't want that, because she said then, “Well then, you could stop running. You like kissing him. Just snog him for a while. If he wants to think you love him, that's his problem.”
“I suppose,” Cecilia said nervously.
Siobhan threw her a piercing look. “You don't really love him, do you?”
“Of course not. Do you know what he did to me last year?” She wasn't sure her friend believed that, wasn't sure she believed it herself, and she was glad when Siobhan changed the subject instead of pressing her further.
“Well, I'm glad you broke up with Icarus, anyway, because now I can ditch his friend without things being weird with you two afterwards.”
Cecilia latched onto the new subject gratefully, and gave her best friend an exasperated look. “You're breaking up with Andrew already?”
“He's very boring. If I hear one more word about Claudia Patterson's parties, I'm going to scream. Who gives a good bloody damn about them?”
Siobhan let out a snort. “Then she can snog him and listen to him prattle on.”
“What about the Clydesdale Patronus?”
“It was a good Patronus,” Siobhan said, her lips curving into a wicked smile.
“You really are a chippy,” Cecilia said with a smile.
“I know.” Siobhan looped her arm through Cecilia's. “We'd better get a move on, we're already late for our study session. Molly's going to scold us.”
Cecilia didn't attend the end-of-year feast. It was the first time she'd ever missed one, but really, they were all the same, so she wasn't missing anything interesting. If she went down, she'd have to deal with Reid, and she was so close to escaping him for the summer, she didn't want to chance it. Tomorrow she'd go home on the train, safe with their friends, whose presence would prevent her from doing anything she'd regret to or with Reid.
She wondered if she'd made a mistake in breaking up with Icarus. He really was a nice boy, and she cared for him a great deal. Maybe if she'd tried harder to avoid Reid, she and Icarus could have made it work. Perhaps she ought to try again with him. It was all Reid's fault that she'd had to break up with Icarus anyway.
She folded her clothes carefully into her trunk, and when everything was packed but her clothes for tomorrow, she began to pack Siobhan's things for her. Siobhan never packed. Normally Hattie took care of it after the feast, but Cecilia figured she may as well do it. Siobhan was, after all, her best friend, not Hattie's.
She had just finished closing Siobhan's trunk when Hattie appeared in the doorway, sniffling and red-eyed. Cecilia felt a rush of fear.
“What's wrong? What happened?”
“It's Professor Ampara,” Hattie said, wiping her eyes with a pink handkerchief. “They – they found her b-body in the forest. She was k-killed by a werewolf.”
“Oh my God.” Cecilia sat down abruptly on Siobhan's bed, staring at Hattie.
Hattie came over to sit next to her, still dabbing at her eyes. “I thought I would come pack for Siobhan.”
“I already did,” Cecilia said absently. Memories of the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor were flashing through her mind. She couldn't believe the professor was dead.
“Thank you. Well then, I suppose I'll go down to the common room,” Hattie said with a sniff. “Everyone's down there. Are you coming?”
“What? No – no, I... I want to be alone right now,” Cecilia said.
“All right.” Hattie reached over to give her a hug, and Cecilia hugged her friend back, patting her softly. She watched Hattie leave the dormitory and continued to stare blankly at the doorway after Hattie had disappeared down the stairs.
Professor Ampara was dead. What a horrible way to die, at the mercy of a werewolf – she couldn't bear to think about it. Ampara had been one of her favourites among the staff. And now she was gone, so suddenly.
Cecilia felt she'd been slapped in the face by the world. If she died now, suddenly like Professor Ampara, what regrets would she have? Would she think of what could have been, the mistakes she'd made, or would she go happily, knowing she'd lived her life as hard as she could? She didn't know. Had the professor had regrets? Was there a life she wished she'd lead, instead of the one that had simply happened while she waited for life to hand her something wonderful?
She'd never thought much about death and regrets before; she wasn't even seventeen for another two months, and had little experience with death. The sudden shock from Professor Ampara's death had rocked her, and she realized she didn't want to die with regrets. She thought if she were to die right that moment, she would have many, but she didn't know which she would regret more: giving in to Reid, or not giving in to him.
She saw the two boys as if they were rivers branching out in front of her, taking her life in two possible directions. Icarus was calm and strong, a fast-flowing but smooth stream, weaving out into the glittering sunlight. Reid... Reid was torrid, all jagged rocks and waterfalls, a rush of adrenaline when she was with him, seemingly shallow but deep enough to drown in, dark and abrupt in his twists and turns, cutting her deeply even as he thrilled her to the core.
Icarus never caused any particularly strong feelings, and that was part of why she'd liked him so much. Their relationship had been almost effortless; the only times they fought were over Reid. Everything she felt for Reid was strong, though trying to sort out those feelings was giving her a pounding headache.
She gave it up as a bad job. Siobhan always said all boys were stupid anyway. Maybe she was right. Maybe in the morning things would look clearer. Cecilia offered up a small prayer to any deity that was listening that Professor Ampara had not suffered terribly at her death, and went to bed.
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