Chapter 6 : Chapter Six
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Chapter Six : A Tour of Grandeur
"Here is the place where
My head is spinning
Time is beginning
To race away"
- Anywhere But Here by Hilary Duff
I reached for my watch on the small nightstand beside my bed. It was 12:30 PM, a semi-decent time to awaken – at least, in my humble opinion. Groggy, I must have looked like a zombie as I scuffled over to the bathroom for my morning shower.
The steam was relaxing. Showering was the one activity that called for no brain action. You could stay in there as long as it took you to come around and no one could bother you. It was a private place where you could just mull over trivial matters without feeling self-conscious. You could even abandon all thought and just listen to the hot water; just lose yourself in the soapy aroma unique to bathrooms, forgetting everything you did the previous day.
That was exactly what I wanted to do, what I needed to do. I had to forget everything. All I wanted at that moment was to fully succumb to the completely soothing environment of the showers. And I almost succeeded in doing that. I nearly forgot about Emmett Romanov and Tristan Edwards. As they say, ignorance is bliss.
Yet, how could I fail to recall my encounter with them?
It was impossible to get that image of Emmett unintentionally wooing my innocent Claudette. The situation confused me as much as it angered and unsettled me. I never thought of her to be one to go for someone basing her infatuations solely on looks. Someone strong-willed like Claudia should not surrender to such behavior. I’d always imagined she would fall in love with someone based on his intellect and… just not someone so… muscular.
Don’t get me wrong, Claudette deserved to find someone. However, I’d always thought that that someone would be her equal of some sort, not some Durmstrang brute that possessed all the brawn and none of the brains; a Healer, or Gringotts advisor, even a lawyer so long as he was for the rights of the people. It just wasn’t like Claudette to do something as rash as falling for a Durmstrang barbarian. Really. And it worried me. I hoped this was just a fleeting fancy and not a long-term change of behavior.
Although, whatever the both of them did could not possibly upset me as much as Tristan Edwards had managed.
Where did I even begin? He winked at me and we shared a nice, though admittedly awkward, conversation. I wanted to get to know him better, learn more about him. So far I’d learned he was frequently called bitter names and did not like to eat Spotted Dick – but who could blame him?
And this wanting to know more about a complete stranger who winked at me freaked me right out.
As a result, I spent about one-fourth of my shower thinking about the Human Muscle hitting up my defenseless best friend for a quickie, and the remaining three fourths concerning myself with the ever-mysterious Tristan Edwards. Not exactly the best shower ever; especially when I had to turn the hot water completely off to, uh, clear my mind for the remaining few minutes of my shower.
Later that morning – or if you really wanted to get meticulous, later that afternoon – I decided to go for a walk in the Grandeur Gardens.
It was quite peaceful there, a place for meditation. The famous gleaming stars of the gardens gave the atmosphere a Zen-like quality that was only appreciated by students, such as myself, who often found themselves in predicaments. I liked the therapeutic healing a serene environment offered when chaos broke out in my life.
The gardens were empty spare for the occasional couple. I always thought it was somewhat disappointing that so few students embraced the occult gardens. But then again, who would want to come down here when there was so much more beauty in the palace? Unless you were like me and enjoyed the calmness of the gardens, the Student Lounge and various secret chambers were vastly more appealing.
So there I was, minding my own business and finally succeeding in vacating my mind of all thought, when I heard another call my name. I turned my attention in response to the stranger’s call and softly gasped, for whom I saw surprised me.
He was this sudden shock to my system. My innards began spiraling into turmoil. My heart rate surged, my blood heated, my palms became immediately sweaty and my knees felt like gelatin. Great Merlin, what was I to do?
I didn’t know how I should react to his sudden presence. What was I supposed to say after our awkward conversation the night before? I’m not one to support the creation of self-help novels, but someone should really consider writing a book on the proper conduct when one finds himself in situations such as the ones I seemed to always find myself in.
Nonplussed, I said the first thing that came to mind, “How’d you get up here?”
It was too late when I realized how ridiculous that sounded – I’d already said it and couldn’t take it back, there was no way to rewind time and redeem myself with a much more impressively cunning statement. My only saving grace would have been if he didn’t hear my most recent case of word-vomit – I should only be so lucky.
He smiled crookedly, flashing me his pearly white teeth and revealing a pair of dimples. “Well, there’s this invention called the ‘broom.’ It’s quite a marvelous little gadget. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the function of brooms, but I hear they can magically transport a wizard to any destination of any elevation. Fascinating, really.”
Of course, Damien, you dim-witted buffoon! I scrambled for another conversation starter, and came up with something even worse than my first attempt. “Well no, I mean what are you doing up here? Why are you up here?”
I was mortified that my brain was lazy enough to allow such ridiculous babbling escape my mouth. Tristan’s smile grew as I embarrassed myself even more. He went along with my conversation, taking pleasure with every misstep I made, “Why? Do you want me suffocating in that horrible carriage?” he asked.
Despite my blunders in basic socializing, he’d taken to walking with me. We passed a fluffy cloud with dazzling pastel blue and lavender stars. My body had at last begun to restore itself to a less-flustered state of being.
Nevertheless, I was still uncomfortable with him here. What exactly was his reason in coming up here? Other than to annoy me. He could’ve been anywhere else in the world, yet he chose to be walking throughout the Grandeur Gardens with me. That mostly made me nervous, but it also kind of excited me.
Super-sleuth extraordinaire that I was, I wittily asked, “But why not explore St. Benadette’s or something?”
He looked at me quizzically, “Are you implying that you don’t want me up here?”
Beads of sweat formed at my hairline, and I averted my attention to my black converse shoes.
“’Course not, why?”
“It just seems like you don’t want to be anywhere near me,” he sounded kind of hurt. “Because why would I walk across some sandy beach when I can wander around a garden of stars?”
He’d caught me. Of course I didn’t want him here. It was so true, that it actually stung. I didn’t want to be cruel and snobbish, but there I was all peaceful and alone when – wham bam boom – Tristan suddenly materialized and made me feel like I was up a creek without a paddle. And after ruining my shower as completely as he had, I sure as hell didn’t want to be within a hundred-mile radius of Tristan Edwards.
Yet, at the same time, it was nice that he was up here, walking around with me. Who was I to complain about having a companion? I was actually enjoying his presence, however odd that may have been.
“Yeah, well I always thought the beach was a lot nicer than palace grounds.” That was an honest enough statement; I hated Beauxbatons. I chuckled, “Of course, whenever I’m down there, I’m usually drunk on fire whiskey.”
Various voices of the Hallelujah chorus began belting out a series of harmonious notes in the privacy of my brain. I had just formed my first coherent and clever sentence of our conversation. It was a miracle; I was finally no longer a social dumb ass in the presence of Tristan, but a self-assured butterfly spreading his wings and taking control.
“Ah yes, the wonders of alcohol. Such a peculiar substance – it both causes and cures all the world’s problems one sip at a time. Now that’s what I call multitasking.”
“Heh, cheers to the truth of that!”
“Nah, but seriously, I was up here just exploring. Our Headmistress, McGonagall, encouraged us to – and I quote – ‘immerse ourselves in all the rich culture Beaxbatons Academy of Magic offers.’” He sighed. “So here I am wandering around a garden with clouds and stars instead of bushes and flowers, wondering where the hell everyone is.”
So, he wasn’t stalking me in order to watch me suffer during our encounters; that was refreshingly good news.
“I wasn’t informed about our offering up some ‘rich culture,’” I snickered at McGonagall’s choice of words. Surely the woman knew about what she was saying. There wasn’t too much culture here at Beauxbatons, but the vast majority of students here were incredibly and disgustingly rich.
“But, I could give you a tour of the palace.”
I instantly began praying that that did not come out of my mouth. I could not have been stupid enough to say that. Alas, I was. In being Damien Maurice Darquette, master of destroying all tête-à-têtes, it was my personal mission, whether I liked it or not, to kill the chat with Tristan Edwards.
More perspiration beaded up on my forehead and the back of my neck. He was obviously going to think I was some weirdo – a really random moron he should not associate himself with.
Why could I not shut up? I was immediately humiliated by my audacious idiocy for about the third time that day. I’d’ve given anything to just die right then and there.
To my great astonishment, Tristan replied with a rather undiscouraged and friendly, “Sure.”
“Okay,” I really hadn’t expected that. “Well, I’ll show you the Student Lounge and library.”
We strolled down the hallways of Beauxbatons quite contentedly after that. There was no longer any discomfiture between us, and conversation came naturally. We were rapidly becoming good friends.
“What’s up in Hogwarts?” I asked as we made our way to the library. “If I’m going to be fraternizing with the enemy, I’d better get some scoop out of this, too.”
“Nothing too different from Beauxbatons,” he started. “You know, the rich and famous kids are the most popular and expect the rest of us to bow down to their Excellencies.”
My heart dropped into my stomach, the acid stinging every chamber. Was that really how he felt about people like me? I was different – or so I earnestly hoped.
Tristan rolled his eyes and continued talking, “But all that schooling bull shit really gives you insight on who’s your friends, and who isn’t; who’s genuine and who is just a fake.”
“Yeah,” I choked out, weary of the road down which I did not want the discussion to go. “I totally get what you mean.”
The library could not have come into view soon enough. I’d never been so relieved to see educational spell books. There were rows upon rows of occult texts, manuscripts of all different sizes lining the hundreds of oak bookcases. Some volumes were ancient, bound loosely in handmade-leather; others were recent hardcover editions. Despite my less-than-voracious reading habits, the library never seemed so wonderful.
What Tristan had said really hurt, and I didn’t know why. I knew, or at least thought, that his stereotyping didn’t apply to me. But he made it sound like all rich kids were snobs. I’d made it my mission in life to disprove that theory, and maybe I had. Because I was so down-to-earth Tristan thought I wasn’t the richest kid here, that other aspects of life were way more important to me.
Whatever the case, I really did not want him to find out about the real me. That would have been horrible, too much for me to handle. He had to remain blind to, not the real me, but the real me who had money. He just couldn’t find out.
“Isn’t that your blonde friend over there?” Tristan interrupted my train of thought, pointing over between the stacks of books.
My eyes followed in the direction he was pointing. Lo and behold, there was Claudette with her beastly new, hopefully-not-yet-beau Emmett. They were chatting, and I heard Claudia giggle a few times.
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s Claudette.” I was in shock. How could she be so naive to think that this guy liked her? He was obviously using her; act all nice and considerate, then pounce when she’s completely vulnerable. It surprised me that the usually perceptive Claudette could not see through his diabolical plot to take away her innocence.
Tristan was oblivious, too. “Shouldn’t we go over there and say ‘hi?’”
I pulled myself out of deep, internal thought long enough to reply with a curt “yes.”
The pair of us made our way over to those two. I was furious at Emmett and wanted to kick his sorry ass for being such a player. My hands were balled up into tight fists. I could feel my body temperature rising with the sheer, unadulterated anger I was feeling. Each step I took was deliberate, making my strides long and hard. Later on, I would wince, as my gait resembled my very own father’s power walk when he was about to take care of some important business matters and needed to intimidate his associates even more than usual.
Claudia turned around first, quickly sensing our approach. She was all smiles, clearly in a jubilant mood. Her cheeks were still flushed from joking with Emmett.
“Hi, Damien!” She exclaimed, welcoming me with a huge grin. “Fancy seeing you here in the library.”
I spoke through gritting teeth, “Uh huh.”
She ignored my less-than-happy demeanor. “I think the last time you even entered this library was in Second Year. Are you lost?”
Even I couldn’t help but lighten up around Claudette when she was so charming. It didn’t, however, stop mine wanting to strangle that Durmstrang scum she was hanging out with.
“Hi, I’m Tristan.” Tristan grinned and held out his hand for a handshake, a cleverly formal gesture, I thought. “Damien here was just showing me around the palace.”
“Oh, how uncharacteristically friendly of Damien. I’m his friend Claudette, you can just call me Claudia.”
Emmett flashed both Tristan and I a wide grin, “My name is Emmett.”
“What’re the two of you doing here in the library?” I inquired.
“We were actually looking for language books, Emmett wishes to become more fluent in French and English. I’d also like to become more acquainted with the languages of the Durmstrang students.”
“How many languages are there in Durmstrang?” Tristan asked, genuinely interested.
“There are fifteen. I talk in Russian and German.”
Claudia elaborated. “It’s mandatory for all students to be fluent in German, because it’s the language used to teach classes. However, most of the students actually come from Eastern European countries and Russia, so there are many different languages spoken in Durmstrang.”
“I am of Russia.”
“I am of Russia,” I mocked him in the privacy of my head. I couldn’t stand the foreigner.
“It was nice seeing you guys,” I sighed. “But we should really get going.”
“Yeah, there’s a lot of castle I haven’t seen yet. It was really nice to meet you, Claudia, Emmett.”
“You, too.” They smiled.
Tristan and I finished the tour soon enough – a little too soon, if I were being honest. A friendship had been forged and from that point on, we spent quite a bit of time together, just hanging out with each other after classes.
As I entered the Seventh Year Den, I was greeted by Claudette. Her demeanor had become marginally more serious than it was in the afternoon. She was sitting in the huge wingback chair with her legs professionally crossed and lips puckered with antagonism. Something was wrong, and I could not help but pray that Emmett had ended their budding relationship.
“Claudia, are you okay?” I anticipated that she was not.
“I’m fine,” she retorted in a rather brusque manner.
At times like these, I usually knew enough to walk on eggshells around her. That night was different though, I was far too ecstatic that the cause of her displeasure was likely to be her realization that Emmett was, in fact, a jerk not worth her time.
“What’d Emmett do?”
She snorted incredulously, and then bellowed, “I cannot believe you!”
“Believe what about me?” This was quite confusing.
She stood up, placing her hands on my shoulder. After taking a deep breath and relaxing herself a bit she said, “Please, please, please, Damien. For the sake of both of us, do not interfere with my personal life. I know you don’t like Emmett, but I do and I know you would, too, if you took the time to get to know him as something other than ‘The Human Muscle.’”
I was astonished; I was the one who had upset her.
“Your little display of childish immaturity today was absolutely unacceptable.” She was truly our den mother. “So, please refrain from such insolence, it’s really not becoming of you.”
Speechless, I merely nodded. I couldn’t believe that I was getting scolded for doing nothing. It wasn’t like I followed through with beating – or at least attempting to beat – up Emmett.
She then took advantage of my state of shock and hugged me, “You just haven’t been acting yourself lately, Damien.” Claudette sighed, “Good night.”
Then she walked up to the Girls’ Seventh Year Dormitory. I listened as her footsteps stopped and the large door shut. A deafening silence pursued in the lounge, and I was the only one in the entire room who had the great displeasure of basking in all its eerie loneliness.
I sat in the wingback chair mechanically, stared at the intricate designs illustrated in the carpeting. My mind was both blank and full at the same time, quite a flustering sensation.
All I could think about was what Tristan and Claudette had both said that day.
“You know, the rich and famous kids are the most popular and expect the rest of us to bow down to their Excellencies.”
“You just haven’t been acting yourself lately, Damien.”
It curdled my stomach to think about what was meant by those statements. I had noticed that I’d been relatively aloof so far that year. I wasn’t really myself, only around Tristan could I open up. Even then, it was only slightly considering his disdain toward the rich.
Tristan, that was a truly complicated situation. As was Claudette and Emmett.
Apparently, I should have taken that morning’s shower as a sign as to how strange the day was going to be. I really hadn’t accomplished anything.
I yawned and got up, making my way to the Boys’ Seventh Year Dorm. It was time for bed. Tomorrow would hold so many more opportunities for me to screw things up again.
A/N: This is officially the longest story I've ever written! And believe me, it'll only get longer. There is quite a bit of story left. :P
Thank you to those who've been so supportive! I really appreciate it! I really love reviews. *hint* *hint* Thans again and take care!
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