Chapter 10 : Riddles and Hot Chocolate
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BitterSweetFlames at TDA
By the time I make it back to the Ravenclaw common room, my lungs feel a bit better; I guess the walk helped me calm down some. Sheesh, I need to stop letting my emotions get the better of me.
The common room is almost empty; Jimmy’s sitting on the couch, reading a book and looking very subdued. He doesn’t look up when I come in.
“Hey,” I say quietly. My voice is slightly raspy from all the excitement earlier. He takes out a bookmark, saves his page, and then looks up at me.
“Hey.” He pats the space beside him, motioning for me to sit down. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing.” I sit down beside him, and curl up into the fetal position, my knees tucked under my chin, my arms wrapped around my bare legs. “Just drama as usual. Distract me.”
“Did you know that a cockroach can live nine days without its head, before it starves to death? Or that a cat has thirty-two muscles in each ear? Or that a poison-arrow frog has enough poison to kill about 2,200 people?”
“No, I can’t say I did! What, do you go around memorizing random facts for fun?”
“Sometimes.” He shrugs. “It gets lonely being an only child. As a kid I spent a lot of time with the Encyclopedias.”
“I’m sorry,” I say quietly. “I mean, I can’t imagine not having Ben around. Did he tell you about our parents?”
“Well, both of them died a few years back, from a rare disease. Ben’s been raising me for awhile now.”
“And why are you in Europe, so far from home?”
“It’s a really long story, and to be honest I don’t know if I’m ready to tell anyone yet. Sorry.”
“It’s fine. I understand. I just—what the—“ He looks over, suddenly alert; there’s a large animal outside our window. Mindy! I race to her and let her in, excitement flooding me and warming me from head to toe. Sure enough, there’s a letter tied to Mindy’s claw; I take it, clutching it protectively to my chest.
“Thank you. Now go and get some rest; I’ll buy a whole thing of treats for you later, I promise!” She hoots importantly and flies away; I close the window again, and start towards the steps leading up to my room.
“Who’s it from?” Jimmy calls. I turn to him, a huge grin on my face.
“Goodnight, Jimmy. Thank you!” And I go upstairs as quickly as I can. Once I’m in my bed with my wand lit, I unfurl the paper and start to read.
Where the hell are you? Do I get a hint? A continent would be nice. It’s shit here without you; everywhere I look I think I see you; I must be going crazy. I even miss Ben and his nagging, believe it or not. Everyone really misses you (except for most of the teachers) but no one more than I do. It feels unreal, like I’m not really living, like this is all some freaky hallucination. Please tell me you’re okay; the only thing that keeps me from completely losing it is knowing that you are getting treatment now. Are you going to school? Playing any sports? I guess you probably aren’t, because of your lungs. Be happy, though, Max. Please, please, be happy. Don’t give up; I’ll find you eventually, I promise. I love you. I know you feel the same. Please be safe, and respond as soon as you can.
Oh, Jackson! How did you know exactly when to write, exactly when I needed to hear your voice (or read you writing, in this case)? I get out a piece of paper and immediately start formulating my response.
I’m fine. I won’t go as far as saying that I’m happy, but I’ve definitely been worse. I’m safe, healthy, and being taken good care of. I was so happy to hear from you, you have no idea! I’m so far away from you…I guess that’s a hint, sort of. I’m at a Magic school, and from my window there are lots of huge, snowy mountains, even though it’s summer time still (there’s another hint). The school is huge and the people in it seem pretty nice over all, if not a little stuck up. No worse than G-WAM, in any case. Ben is fine too, I think; we’re just a bit overwhelmed. You can’t miss me half as much as I miss you, Jackson. Please come and find me. Take me away; we can go live on some deserted island and survive off of nothing but coconut and onion grass. I can even weave you a banana-leaf hat, so you don’t get burnt to a crisp. I love you, you know I do.
I decide to go back down to the common room and ask Jimmy where the owlry is; he’s still lounging on the couch, this time close to sleep. Hattie’s still not back.
“Jimmy?” I ask. He slowly stretches, opening tired eyes.
“You again?” He asks, but he doesn’t sound annoyed.
“Come with me to the owlry.”
“Whyyyy? I was s-s-sleeping!” He yawns enormously. Wow, he has a huge mouth.
“Please?” I ask. He sighs, then stands. “Fine, fine. I’ll go. But only if we can stop by the kitchens afterwards and get some snacks. Sound good?”
“Sounds excellent!” We both head out of the common room; we walk in silence for a long time, both thinking our own separate thoughts. I’m thinking about Jackson, and how if he ever finds me, maybe everything will be okay again. I don’t know what Jimmy is thinking, for obvious reasons (me not being able to read minds), but he definitely looks thoughtful.
“You’re staring at me.” He says without even looking at me.
“Am not!” I say, still staring. “Okay, I am. Your dreadlocks are pretty sweet.”
“I know. I got them for three main reasons. First, I wanted to piss my parents off. Second, I always hated washing my hair anyway; now I have an excuse. And third, the chicks dig it.”
“Oh really! Well, did you succeed?”
“Did you succeed in pissing your parents off?”
“Oh…no, it kind of backfired, actually. Now they think I’m troubled, and need psychiatric help. Something about me being a ‘drug-addicted-hippie-loving-rock-n-roll-obsessive-maniac,’ I believe was the exact terminology used.”
“Hippie-loving? You guys have hippies too? I thought that was only back home! I love the hippies, I really do.”
“I’m not trying to be a hippie, though…I mean, I guess I am, in a sense, seeing as I’m a non-conformist of sorts, but I don’t do drugs all the time, and I do bathe every once in a while.”
“Well, that’s good to know. When you say that you don’t do drugs all the time, what exactly does that mean?”
“Well, I’ve done drugs before, but that was in my past. I’ve been clean for a year now.”
“Congratulations! I, however, am a tobacco-free zone.” I don’t bother mentioning that any kind of drugs that you smoke are banned from me, seeing as if I tried to smoke them it’d probably kill me on the spot because of my lungs.
“Here we are!” We come to a huge, dark, cavernous room, coated in layer upon layer of owl crap.
“Loooovely.” I draw out the word, crinkling my nose at the stench.
“Do you want to use a school owl?”
“Yeah…Mindy—that’s J-James’s owl—just went on a long trip for me, so she’s probably tired.” I stutter when I say James’s name, and Jimmy notices. Of course he does.
“J-James? What’s with the stutter?”
“Nothing!” I snap. “What, and you never stutter? Sheesh, gimme a break!”
“Fine, fine.” He shrugs. “You know, he’ll end up with Lily.” I freeze, my heart dropping to my knees.
“Why would you say something like that?” I grind out, barely audible over the constant hooting and screeching of the birds around us.
“Look, I’m sorry. I don’t know you that well, but I do know Lily and James. Since first year, when James first decided he wanted Lily to be his, I knew they’d end up together.”
“You know James? Were you guys friends?”
“Yeah; until about third year, when he started completely ignoring me. All for the stupid Marauders.” He says this bitterly, not looking at me.
“Lily.” He sighs, running a hand through his dreads. “Lily, Lily, Lily.”
I wait expectantly.
“We dated, for awhile. It was fun.”
“WHAT? YOU DATED LILY?” Oh Dear Lord, HAVE MERCY ON ME, DAMMIT!
“Yeah, for about…hmm…two years, I guess it was. Fourth and Fifth year. Wow, could she snog…”
“T-two years?” I ask incredulously. “Why has James never bothered mentioning this to me?”
“Dunno. He’s probably still in denial about the whole thing.” Jimmy snorts, looking amused. “Here, let’s get you an owl.”
We find a large, strong-looking owl with glossy black feathers and a bright orange beak. I tie the letter to its left claw, whisper directions to the owl in its ear, and then watch as it flies away.
“Thanks for coming with me.” I say earnestly to Jimmy on the way back down out of the owlry. “Ready to go to the kitchens?”
“Yeah!” He looks suddenly cheered, and runs off in front of me. “Hurry up, slowpoke!”
I chase him until he suddenly stops. I don’t expect this, and crash into him. And I’m not talking a tiny bump, I’m talking a full-force missile attack. We both end up on the floor, breathless.
“Oh,” I say stupidly, looking down on him. “Hello there.”
“Hi,” he says, and we both crack up.
Once we finally get our limbs sorted out, Jimmy shows me the entrance to the kitches, and how you have to tickle the pear.
“Will this pear by any chance try to electrocute me when I touch it?” I ask suspiciously, remembering the cursed chair in the Ravenclaw common room. He laughs.
“No, I don’t think so. But it might giggle.”
The kitchens are ama-za-zing! The moment we enter them, all these little tiny cute things with tiny bodies and button noses come scurrying up to us, ready to serve.
“What’s your name?” I ask one with especially large ears and round, blue eyes.
“My name Millie, Miss!” The elf squeaks delightedly. “What you be wanting, Miss? A snack? Some milk?”
“I don’t know; ask Jimmy!”
Jimmy pauses, thinking, and then orders two steaming mugs of hot chocolate and a tray of assorted desserts.
“Sweet!” I say, already hungry. “Thanks guys! Thanks Millie!”
She bows, beaming, as we exit the kitchens.
“Wow, this is great!” I say enthusiastically once we’re heading back to the Ravenclaw tower again. “How’d you learn about the kitchens?”
“Oh. I see.”
“What’s up with you and James, anyway? I mean, something just doesn’t seem right to me.” Jimmy says slowly, refusing to look at me. I sigh.
“Can I tell you?”
“I don’t know, can you?”
“Well, can I trust you?”
“Okay.” And I explain James’s and my plan; how I was pretending to be going out with James to make Lily jealous. “Only now, I’m kinda having second thoughts about the whole thing. I mean, why should I help James, when he isn’t giving me anything in return?”
“Well, that’s usually what friends do,” Jimmy says reasonably. “But I happen to agree with you on this one; it’s a bad idea.”
By now we’re at the door leading into the Ravenclaw common room.
I wait for the riddle.
“Decapitate me and all becomes equal. Then truncate me and I become second. Cut me front and back and I become two less than I started. What am I?”
I just stare. Seriously? Decapitate? Truncate? Talk about morbid!
“You’re losing your touch!” Jimmy says, shaking his head. “Honestly, could you think of nothing harder to solve? The answer is the word seven. When you take the first letter off of ‘seven’, thus decapitating it, you get ‘even’, or equal. When you truncate ‘even’ you get ‘eve’, the second person according to the Bible. And when you take the first and last letters off of ‘eve’ you get v, which is the Roman numeral five, and also two less than seven. Simple!”
“You disgust me,” I hiss as the door swings open to allow us entrance.
“What, you didn’t figure that one out?” He asks innocently. I just glare at him, scowling.
“Okay, so back to our earlier conversation,” I say, sitting down on the couch and sipping at my hot chocolate. “What should I do?”
He sits down beside me, crossing his legs Indian-style. “Well, It’s difficult to say. Do you like James?”
“Of course I do!” I say dismissively.
“You know what I mean.”
“Yes, I like him. A lot more than I should, probably. Okay?”
He nods slowly, stirring his hot chocolate with his wand and contemplating my response.
“Well, I would suggest you try and get over him—“ I start yelling in protest, but he holds up a hand to silence me, and pushes on. “—I know that’s not what you want to hear, though, so I guess if you really like him, you should make him fall for you.”
“How?” I whine. “He only has eyes for Lily!”
“Wearing skirts like that is a good way to start,” Jimmy says, his eyes traveling down my exposed legs. “Look pretty for him. Flirt. Do that stuff that’s obnoxiously effective on even the most virtuous of us men. We live for sex, Max.” Well, at least he’s honest.
“Are you suggesting I have sex with James?” I ask, appalled and excited by the idea at the same time.
“What? No! No, what I mean is, if Lily isn’t giving James the—uh—attention he’s needing, which I’m guessing she isn’t, he won’t be able to control his—uh—manly urges…” He’s blushing; I’m trying not to laugh.
“Whatever, Jimmy. Can you help me? Help me get James?”
“I’m sorry, Max. I don’t want to get involved. Like I said, I think this is all a really bad idea, and that you should come clean to Lily and just get over James. Otherwise, someone is going to end up getting hurt. I would hate it if that person is you.”
I lean over and hug Jimmy; his hair smells nice, like pine or something woodsy and male.
“Thank you,” I whisper, releasing him. “Thanks for everything tonight. I really app—“
“MAAAAAAAAAX!” Suddenly I am attacked by a shrieking, giggling Hattie. “Max, oh Max, I luuuuuurve you!” She’s hugging me, giggling into my hair. I look over at Jimmy, who’s looking just as confused as I am.
“Are you drunk?” I ask Hattie seriously. She snorts, laughing, tears streaming down her face.
“Jussa…jussa bit…” She laughs. “Your brother is sssoooooooo sexy…sssssooooooo sexy…” She's making it into some sort of song, hand motions included.
“Hattie! Snap out of it!” I slap her across the face. She freezes, looking shocked. “What’s the matter with you? This is my brother you’re lusting after, remember? GROSS!”
“His hair is sooooo pretty, Max…sooooo pretty, like an angel’s. He doesn’t look anything like you!”
“Thanks a lot,” I say sourly. “Seriously; are you drunk?”
“I only had a little bit…they are partiers, the Gryffindors. Your brother asked me to daaaaaance with him,” She smiles dreamily. “He’s soooooo pretty….”
“Okay, we’re getting you to bed,” I say, grabbing her arm and dragging her upstairs. “Goodnight, Jimmy!”
“G’NIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!” Hattie sings, blowing Jimmy a giant, wet kiss. I cringe, dragging her into the room and closing the door.
“Now shut up; we don’t want to wake Brigit up!”
“I loooooove your brother, Max. I loooooove him!”
“I’m sure you do. Come on.” I sit her down on her bed, raise her arms, and pull off her shirt, replacing it with her pajama top, then take off her shoes and socks. She giggles the whole time (“It tickles!”). I tuck her in; within minutes she’s knocked out. I then go and change into my own pajamas, and climb into the comfortable bed, watching the ceiling above, which really does look like sky.
For the longest time I can’t sleep; finally, though, I think of Jackson, and picture him here beside me, and everything feels okay again. I relax.
And finally, I drift into subconsciousness.
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