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Chapter 2 : Dark
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If there was one thing I had learned over my (somewhat enjoyable, but mostly just stressful) time on earth, it's that a closed door means nothing when you have Aidan Bennett living in your house.
My brother possessed no working definition of the word 'privacy.' He was constantly barging into my room, making himself comfortable around my things, ignoring all of my protests and fruitless diatribes on the concept of knocking. I'd tried everything — hanging signs, locking the door — I'd even considered hiring a bouncer. But somehow, my brother always found a way to finagle himself in.
In fact, one of Aidan's favorite pastimes was to just hang out — alone — in my bedroom when I wasn't there. I'd walk in after a long day running errands to see my brother lounging on my bed, flipping through a book or (more likely) rifling through the secret stash of Chocolate Frogs in my drawer.
Though honestly, I shouldn't be too surprised by such behavior. This was the same kid who once read all of our next-door-neighbor's mail because "it was just lying there" and he had "nothing else to do." When we explained to him that this was a federal offense, my brother simply shrugged and then asked if we wanted to look through the J.Crew catalog he'd nicked from the pile. Yeah, safe to say my brother has some issues with personal space.
Which is why I wasn't surprised to walk into my room one typically grey, English morning, and find him kicking back casually on my bed.
I was, however, surprised to see Fred and Potter with him.
In my room.
Without my permission.
In my room.
"What are you lot doing here?" I snapped irritably as I swung open the door, revealing the maddening sight of the three boys hanging out among my things and just generally presenting a horrible invasion to my privacy.
Aidan looked completely at ease as he stretched out across my bed, tossing a beat-up Quaffle to Potter, who was sitting on my desktop with his legs dangling and his hair more obnoxiously tousled than ever.
Freddy, meanwhile, had taken it upon his nosy self to look through (read: mess up) my closet. He pulled out random shirts and tank-tops, tossing them to the floor and consequently, messing up all my pain-staking organization.
"Hey, Freddy!" I said indignantly, slamming the door behind me as I marched angrily into the room. "What are you bloody doing?! If you're looking to borrow a pair of heels, you should just ask Dom — she's got Troll feet like you."
My brother snorted at this — Dom, despite her otherwise dainty and quite pretty figure — was notorious among our group for having gigantic feet, and it was a bit of a running joke among the group.
Fred turned to me, blinking innocently. He was wearing one of my scarves wrapped around his head like a babushka, and the overall effect made him look like an oversized version of E.T.
"Merlin, Aggy," he said excitedly, not even blinking at my slowly growing fury. "Your closet's a fascinating place. Say, do you color-code your things? It looks like you color-code them."
At this, Potter caught the Quaffle, not bothering to lob it back to Aidan as he turned towards me with one brow arched in mocking incredulity. "You color-code your closet?"
"I — " I snapped my mouth shut, feeling my face bloom dark red with heat. There was nothing wrong with wanting to arrange things efficiently! “I have a system!"
Potter's second eyebrow quirked upwards to join its friend. He tossed the Quaffle back to Aidan, not bothering to take his dark, derisive gaze from me. "A system or a pathological problem?"
"Be nice," Aidan warned, but there was laughter in his tone. He pitched the ball back and Potter caught it, muttering something that sounded suspiciously like, "Neurotic headcase," under his breath.
My chest was already starting to heave up and down with fury. How dare these twats march into my room and proceed to make fun of me! Who did they think they were? I could have some seriously private stuff in here — diaries, letters, illicit substances and whatnot! Granted, my life wasn't very interesting so my room was pretty much the squeaky-clean, real-life version of a Disney Channel set, but still. It was the principle of the thing.
"Oi, Aggy!" I turned to see Fred, holding a lacy purple bra by its strap, regarding it with a look of mild amusement. "You're a 32C? Always had you pegged for a 34B."
My face whitened.Oh hell, no Enough was enough — Aidan and his stupid friends needed to leave if they didn't want a huge can of Avada Kedarva opened on all their sorry arses.
I stalked over to Fred, snatching the bra from his hands and shaking it in his face with a slitted glare. "Get — out ," I hissed, syllable clipped with anger.
Fred simply held his hands up in a 'I-come-in-peace' gesture, the amusement sliding off his face as he took a hasty step backwards. "Joke — just a joke."
Potter, who had now started bouncing the Quaffle on the floor with an irritating 'thunk-thunk-thunk' sound, shot us a dark, wry smirk. "I don't think Bennett likes us being in her room."
"Uh, no shit," I snapped before swiveling around to look at Aidan, who was still leaning back casually on my bed. "Make them leave!"
Aidan hitched his left shoulder up in a lazy shrug, face apologetic. "Sorry, Aggs! I can't do that just yet. I have a problem, and I won't leave until I get the help I need."
"Yeah, you do need help, Aidan," I retorted snippily, bunching the bra in my hands and flinging Fred another dirty look. "But I don't see how that's my responsibility. Go look up the good number of a therapist in the phone book — "
"Not that kind of help!" my brother cried adamantly. He struggled to an upright-seated position on my bed, growing visibly more agitated as he raked a hand through his toffee-colored hair. "I need your help, Aggs."
I crossed my arms. My gaze was shrewd and narrowed into icy slits, but I was grudgingly interested nonetheless. "With what?"
"Dom," Aidan lamented, his entire posture slouching downwards with the desperate proclamation. "I want to get her back, Aggs."
"Come on, Aggy," Freddy, apparently unable to help himself, blurted out eagerly on behalf of his friend. He, too, fixed me with a beseeching gaze, offering me back my scarf as a kind of pseudo-peace offering. "Help the kid out."
"Yeah Bennett." Potter had picked up on my frustration, and his tone was knowing, mocking as he swung his hazel gaze to me, fully aware that all these requests were driving me mental. His mouth lilted upwards in a crooked smirk. "Come on."
I resisted the urge to growl. "Aidan," I huffed, struggling to keep my voice patient, if only so I wouldn't lose face in front of Pratter. "Why do you want help with Dom? You broke up with her, remember? You dumped her for Sally Perkins over the summer."
"I know," Aidan groaned dramatically. His hands flopped limply to my bedspread as his eyes rolled to the ceiling. "But I want her back. I miss her."
My face settled into an unimpressed scowl. Aidan always did this — he'd dump Dom, declare that he never wanted to see her again, and then weeks later come to the usual epiphany that they were soulmates and meant to be. The two were constantly off and on, on and off, the trajectory of their relationship depending completely on Aidan's latest whim (and also, the length of Sally Perkins' skirt that day). Dom was his veritable human yo-yo.
"Aidan," I bit out, somewhat impatiently. "Dom's not going to take you back. She's done playing your games."
At this decisive statement, Aidan looked so dejected that I almost felt sympathy for my brother and guilt for what I'd said. But he had to hear the truth, and Dom didn't deserve to be toyed with any longer.
"But Aggy, you don't understand," Aidan exclaimed adamantly, giving his head a swift shake. "She's my — "
"Soulmate?" I finished drily for him.
"Yes, and we're going to get — "
"Yes! And this will the — "
"Last time you guys ever break up?" I interjected, eyebrows arched pointedly. "Believe me, Aidan, I've heard it all before. You always do this."
My brother piped down, morose blue eyes flicking to the bedspread under him in resignation. Potter, however, was not so easily subdued. He fixed me with a somewhat annoyed glare, mouth twisted irritably. "Do you have to do that?"
My spine stiffened visibly at the challenge sparking in his tone. Next to me, Fred muttered a nervous, "Here we go again."
"Do. What?" I spat, eyes defiant with barely-suppressed anger.
"Crush his hopes like that," Potter spat right back. His own gaze was narrowed coolly, chin cocked upwards in an arrogant display of superiority. "He only wants a second chance."
"Oh, he's had more chance than that!" I retorted immediately. I threw out a hand to gesture at Aidan, who was sitting on the bed quietly, glancing bewilderingly between Potter and I and looking for all the world like the child of fighting parents. "Dom doesn't deserve to be strung along anymore!"
"You guys — " Fred sliced in, tone pleading, but he was resolutely ignored.
"Isn't that her choice?" Potter retorted stubbornly, voice rising slightly. Already, I could feel the familiar sparks of anger jumping between us, white-hot and shivering in the tense air. Aidan and Fred sat by silently, unwilling spectators to the fight brewing between Potter and I.
"You don't know how Dom feels," Potter carried on heatedly, voice growing more insistent and more intolerable with every second. "She might actually want to get back with Aidan. Regardless, it's up to her to decide."
I felt anger surge through my body at Potter's self-righteous tone. Like he actually cared about Dom or Aidan! He was most likely saying all these things to get a rise out of me, to make me look like the bad guy while he got to play the supportive best mate card.
Yet he was conveniently forgetting all those times I'd had to hold Dom while she sobbed hysterically after another break-up. All those times Dom had skipped class or refused to eat dinner or failed a homework assignment, simply because she was too distraught over what was or wasn't happening between her and my brother. If Potter truly cared about his cousin, he would recognize I was doing the right thing and lay off me right now.
"Dom sometimes doesn't know what's best for her," I hissed caustically, voice dangerously low and trembling with restrained fury.
"And if you were a supportive sister, you'd talk to Dom at her birthday party and see she if she'd consider getting back with Aidan!"
"Why not, Bennett?"
"Just leave it, Potter!"
"No, I won't, not until you give a reason that isn't complete bullshit!"
"Potter — "
"Why, Bennett, why won't you talk to her — ?"
"BECAUSE IT'S NOT MY BLOODY RESPONSIBILITY!" I suddenly shouted, my anger reaching its emotional boiling point. Immediately, there followed a tense silence as everyone in the room seemed to rear back at my volatile outburst. My voice echoed in the thick quiet, each word seeming to pulse in the air, conspicuous and brash, lingering among us.
Potter, his eyes flashing dangerously, clamped his mouth shut. Fred let out a quiet sigh of surprise next to me.
But I didn't pay either of them any heed. I only had eyes for Aidan, who was currently flicking his gaze from the bedspread to meet mine, face one of mingled shock and distress.
"I'm — " I began, but my voice had caught in my throat. I had no idea how to go about explaining to my brother my point of view, my true feelings, without coming across as selfish or whiny. I just wanted to make him see — for years I had been playing matchmaker, peacemaker, mediator and referee between my brother and my best friend, and it was sodding exhausting. Everytime Aidan asked me to dig for more information about Dom's dating habits, everytime Dom started angrily rattling off Aidan's faults and expected me to join in... I was put in yet another awful position.
"I'm sorry, Aidan," I finally managed, voice coming out a strangled croak. My brother flinched at the pity in my expression, his jaw clenching tightly with, I was sure, a determination not to show weakness. " I Just — " I heaved a gutsy sigh. "I can't do it anymore. Talk to Dom at her party if you want, but I'm not going to be your middleman any longer."
As I spoke, I could feel Potter's harsh, calculating glare on the side of my neck, making the skin there tingle. What a tosser — how could he manage to still make me feel like utter shit without even saying anything.
Aidan seemed to need a second to absorb my words. He watched me, blinking furiously, a small frown creasing my brow. His lips were pursed thoughtfully, and for a moment I thought he was going to argue. But then, with a resigned sigh, he clambered slowly off the bed and dusted off his pants in a 'well-that's-that' manner.
"Okay, Agatha," he said, surprisingly mature, voice devoid of any argumentative edge. "I understand." He turned to Potter and Fred, who were both staring at him with raised eyebrows. "Come on, guys. We should probably go. We've wasted enough of Aggy's times." His words were sincere, devoid of any maliciousness or sarcasm.
With that, the three blokes wordlessly shuffled out of my room, the air tense and silent around us all. As he brushed past me, Potter fixed me with a bitter, 'I-hope-you're-happy-now' glare that I resolutely pretended that I hadn't seen.
The door slammed shut behind them. I winced.
Whatever was going to happen this upcoming school year, I knew one thing for sure: it was bound to be a rough one.
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