Chapter 7 : Little By Little
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It was Monday, it was History of Magic and oh my lord it was boring. Not that it wasn’t usually boring, but we’d been learning about those damned revolts for almost six months.
I lie to you not.
In the chair next to me, James was asleep. There was no point even trying to disguise it. He was sprawled over the desk, his mouth open and snoring quietly. He looked really cute. Even more so than usual, because when he slept, he was just James.
I was slouched down too; my chin on the tabletop, letting my quick quotes quill do all my work for me.
I couldn’t be bothered. I had read and reread my textbooks already and was in no mood to actually learn anything. Especially since it was a Tuesday. If Mondays are bad, Tuesdays are worse. You’re still tired from the weekend and haven’t quite gotten into the rhythm of the week yet.
Professor Binns’ voice was beginning to make me sleepy. I didn’t want to fall asleep, at least not in class, but I was slowly falling, Binns’ voice became louder as my ears made up for the fact my eyes were closed until it blurred altogether.
I tried to wake myself up, tried to force my eyes open, but it was no use…
“Charlie!” the voice, more like a grunt sounded hazy. I grunted in response, and was surprised to find I was snuggled into something rather soft.
“Charlie…” there was the voice again, followed by a sharp prod in the shoulder. I opened my eyes, and as the world came into harsh focus, I realised what I was sleeping on. I had been sleeping on James.
I jerked backwards, embarrassed, and vaguely took in the fact that the classroom was empty apart from us.
“I…I’m sorry, I…er…oh dammit.”
“Charlie, relax.” He said, amusement in his face. I blushed bright red. He laughed “c’mon you’ve fallen asleep on me before.”
“Yes…but never in class.” I said, not able to look him in the eye as I packed my parchment and quills into my bag. He laughed again as we walked out of the classroom, my head spinning because I had certainly never been that embarrassed before.
I had never felt so unsure of myself around him before. This new crush thing was hard to handle, one reason being I’d never, ever felt like this before and even if I had, it was never for someone I was this close to.
It was so strange when he touched me, either by accident, or in some matey way, when my heart started leaping all over the place or when I couldn’t find the right words to form a sentence.
I sighed, realising I was alone. Demeter Vane had called him away, probably. Bitch. I knew she was only jealous, but then I was jealous too. She didn’t get to be so jealous I couldn’t speak to James anymore. If anyone was going to lose James, it was her. Never me. Mates before dates, and all that crap I’ve heard Yvaine say to a distressed Vicky Talbot on many an occasion.
I knew Demeter was worried about losing James, which was fair. I would be the same, I supposed, if I were in her position. She cared for him, and he for her, which, no matter how horrible a thought it was, was true.
I heard her giggle, somehow, maybe from inside my own head, and was immediately presented with the lovely thought of hexing her. I’d encountered the urge to curse the girl several times over the previous couple of days and had so far managed to hold off.
But I’d discovered an interesting sounding hex in the library – something to do with antlers, I believe – and was itching to try it out.
“Charlotte!” It was Splinters. I smiled vaguely at him, as he grinned at me “Where you headed?”
“Er…” I stopped, realising I didn’t know “Free?”
“You don’t know do you?” he asked, smiling.
I shook my head, blushing again.
“I suppose I’ll go up to the common room then…” I said absently. Splinters nodded, and bounded along behind me. I raised my eyebrows. He reminded me of a happy little puppy, all he was missing was the lolling tongue and fur.
We walked together, laughing. Or rather, I laughed while he spoke. I might have known Splinters a bit better, but I still wasn’t entirely comfortable speaking freely in front of him.
So I smiled and nodded and laughed where appropriate and we made it back to Gryffindor tower with no awkward silences or pauses.
He likes to talk, does Splinters.
But by the time we were at the portrait hole, he was looking like he really wanted to say something, but couldn’t quite figure it out.
Then we stepped into the common room after giving the password, Felix Felicis, saw James sitting on the sofa. Free periods aplenty, apparently.
“Charlie!” he said jovially, glancing at Splinters with gritted teeth “Where’d you go? You were right there…”
“Lost you.” I said simply with a shrug, sitting down and pulling out our History of Magic homework, which my quill had cleverly recorded for me. We were rather lucky we’d only missed the bell by ten minutes. I blushed just thinking about it.
“Hmm,” James mused, looking at my notes “maybe I should start that too…”
I looked up at him sceptically.
“Not likely.” I said, grinning my special James smile. He rolled his eyes at me, grinning back.
Splinters coughed, obviously on purpose.
“Shouldn’t you be in class?” James asked bitingly, and I wondered why.
“No. Sixth year, remember?” Splinters snapped in return, while I sat there, trying to ignore the fact that they were glaring at each other.
Boys are weird.
“I hate him!”
We were in the library, Lily and me. She was pacing up and down, while I was sitting and trying, and I must stress that I was trying, to read.
“I know you do.” I said, sounding noncommittal, turning back to the book. I’d been on the same old page for ten minutes.
“No, I really, really hate him.” She hissed, pausing to look at me
She’d broken up with her boyfriend, Peter Creevey, Hufflepuff, Fifth year. It had not, apparently, gone very well.
“I hate him so much, I want to fire bludgers at him. I want to curse him; I want to set those horrible skrewts on him! I want to feed him to flobber worms! I want-”
“Alright!” I said impatiently, snapping my book shut. I was not going to get anything read today “you hate him. I get it. Realistically, though, what would you like to do, kill him? Or kiss him…?”
Lily glared at me, but then her face crumpled and she was in tears.
That had, of course, been the plan all along. If I could get Lily to skip her angry phase, then she tended to get over the boy all that much sooner. Peter Creevey might be a much more difficult obstacle to overcome, because they’d been a couple for over three months. This, in Lily Land, was a record. She usually had such a short attention span
The thing about Lily Potter is that if I had the choice, I’d easily trade my stepsiblings for her any day of the week. She’s three years younger than me but she’s my best female friend. She makes everything more exciting, just by turning up.
I was her shoulder to cry on after break up number whatever it was, and she was mine.
Not that I needed a shoulder to cry on often, because my life was way boring compared to hers.
“Charlie, I don’t know what to do!” Lily said, kneeling on the floor at my feet and resting her head on my leg, just like I had once done with my mother.
“Try not to think about him.” I said softly, stroking her hair.
“I can’t help it!” she wailed, lapsing into a fresh wave of tears.
I let her cry. It was the only thing I could do.
It was after curfew before we left the library, smiling at Miss Irving, the young librarian who always let me stay as long as I wanted.
“You know,” Lily, said as we walked down the deserted, chilly corridor, avoiding the teachers and foul old Filch. “I always hated my mum for not making James a girl.”
I snorted with laughter
“What?” I spluttered. Lily smiled at me, pretty despite her tearstained face.
“I always wanted a sister.” She said, giving me a hug. Then I realised what she meant.
“Anytime you need one Lillers.” I said, avoiding the trick-step as we walked up the stairs. Lily grinned, looping her arm through mine and pulling me after her as she skipped up to the seventh floor.
I was beaming, inside and out, and it looked like Lily was feeling a lot better too.
Then, of course, we got into our common room and saw James and Demeter. My happy mood crashed like a wave on spiky rocks.
“Charlie! Where’ve you been?” James asked as we walked over. We were heading for the dormitory stairs, but they happened to be sitting right next to them. Lucky us.
“Library.” I said shortly “With Lily.”
As James nodded, and beckoned for us to sit down, which we did, Demeter managed to poorly disguise a laughing fit as a coughing fit. I raised my eyebrows, and at the same time, so did Lily.
“You two are doing your freaky twin thing again. Aren’t you?” James asked in a half amused, half annoyed voice.
“Yes.” I began.
“We are.” Lily finished.
Long ago, Lily and I perfected our twin thing. We were pretty much the same size, even when she was nine and I was twelve, and even though I was blonde and she was a redhead, we looked so similar, people always mistook us for sisters. The joke was, that we’d pretend we were sisters, finishing one another’s sentences and the like.
We had realised early on that James did not like it one bit.
So, of course, we did it a lot whenever we were both together.
“It’s so funny!” Demeter said suddenly, in a squeaky voice that told me that something was definitely about to happen. Probably involving her in the hospital wing. But I’d have to wait and see.
“What’s so funny?” I asked, forcing myself to sound bored.
“You!” she shrieked. A nearby first year jumped at the sudden noise, and retreated in fear “you two look so much like twins! How old are you?” she asked Lily “Fourteen? What a compliment!”
And she collapsed into fits of screechy giggles.
We stared at her, while James looked mildly embarrassed and uncomfortable.
“Was that supposed to be an insult?” I asked after about three minutes of her laughing.
“Er…Yeah.” She said, in a very exaggerated way. I sighed and stood up.
“Right…” I said “ Next time you’ll have to let me know. You see,” I leant forward and in a very sickly sweet voice said, “That wasn’t very good.”
In a flash, Demeter was on her high-heeled feet, pointing a painted finger in my face, but Lily was up, wand out, pointed right at Demeter’s nose.
“Try anything, Vane, and I’ll see you in the hospital wing.” She snarled.
Demeter took a step forward.
“You wouldn’t dare.” She hissed.
“Try her.” I said, whipping out my own wand and pointing it at Demeter’s nose as well “And while you’re at it, try me.”
I sounded threatening. Very threatening.
Demeter must have thought so too, because she took a step back. Lily caught my arm and pulled, dragging me away from the very tempting thought of hexing her.
“Come on Charlie.” She hissed, “Don’t hex her. It’s what she wants.”
It wasn’t until she’d dragged me up the spiral staircase into the fourth year dormitory that she actually told me what she meant.
“She wants you to cause trouble,” Lily said “She wants you to alienate yourself from James.”
Oh. The realisation that she was right hit me like a brick wall.
“Yeah, so try not to flip next time, yeah?”
Quidditch practise is something James lives for. So, as the amazing best mate that I am, I faithfully attend every one of his practises, taking notes on their plays, doing strategies and the like.
That was what I did. I helped James play a sport I didn’t like. Because I was a good friend.
That was also why I was trying to force myself to stop hexing Demeter Vane. Lily had said he wouldn’t want to be my friend if I kept sending his girlfriend to the hospital wing. If that was true, then there was a high chance he wouldn’t want to be my boyfriend either.
And we couldn’t have that.
Besides, the only time I’d spoken to him after the sleeping incident in History was when I’d been about to give his precious Demeter antlers, so I was hoping to redeem myself slightly in his eyes, mostly by doing the best friend thing. Even if by doing the best friend thing I had to put up with that thing he calls his girlfriend.
But anyway, I was sitting there with my notebook and pen – that’s muggle pen, because really, who wants to cart a quill and ink around with you?
Every swerve, leap, dive, throw and whack I wrote down faithfully. As I always had done.
Of course, this time, Demeter was there too, squealing in delight every time James did anything right. I gritted my teeth and ignored her.
“Charlotte!” I looked up to see who had called, and saw it was Splinters. I waved, and he looked ecstatic as he swooped down to see me.
“So Cap’n Potter’s done bossing us around for the day. Fancy a ride on my, er, broomstick?”
I was about to say no thanks, when Demeter spluttered “a ride on your broomstick? Wood, even Phillips has better taste.”
I shot her a dirty look, before turning to Splinters.
“Thanks for the offer, but I’d rather keep my feet firmly on the ground.” I said, smiling to show I understood the real meaning. I was blushing and so was he.
“Aw come on.” He said, pleadingly.
“Well, I-” I was going to tell him why I didn’t want to, that I hadn’t been on a broom for ages. That I was scared.
“Please?” he said again, swinging upside down and holding onto his broom like a child on a climbing frame. He looked so hopeful that I almost said yes. I settled for letting him down gently.
“Alright-” I began, about to tell him that one day I would go flying with him. One day. Certainly not today.
“Fantastic!” He shouted, cutting me off. He grabbed my hand, and ignoring my shouted ‘what? No!” pulled me up, using his freaky beater strength, and sat me on his broom.
“Please, Tony – I don’t want to go flying – stop – please – let me down…!”
It was too late, he’d pushed off from the stands where I’d been sitting, and we were twenty feet, twenty-five feet, thirty feet, forty feet, fifty feet. Fifty bloody feet. This was higher than I’d ever been.
“C’mon Charlie, relax.” He said, and I could tell he was laughing.
“No, please-” I said desperately, catching a glimpse of the green grass fifty feet down, the speck that was Demeter. I clamped my eyes shut, and tried to stop my hands trembling so I could hold on for dear life.
“WOOD!” it was James. I’d know his voice anywhere. “Let her down!”
“C’mon James, it’s just a bit of fun.” Splinters laughed, “See?”
And as if to prove his point, started jiggling the broom handle up and down, until I was holding on so tightly my knuckles were white. At least they would have been if I had opened my eyes.
“Please!” I screamed, tears streaming down my face, but Splinters didn’t seem to realise that I wasn’t joking. My fingers slipped a fraction and I tried to tighten my grip but I was shaking so much I couldn’t make my fingers work properly. I opened my eyes, pleading with Splinters to stop and just to take me back to the ground, and saw James, who looked as white as a sheet.
Then my fingers slipped and I fell from the broom.
Down and down and down, as the ground loomed closer and closer.
I'm evil, I know.
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