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Chapter 6 : Ice
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It was good to be back home. Despite whatever rumors you might hear about our Common Room being a secret Slytherin hotbed of gambling, drug-dealing and murder-plotting, our dormitories were in all actuality quite cozy. The fifth-year girls' room, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and gothic stone arches, was a great place to live.
My favorite part about the Slytherin dorms were the windows, which were humongous and usually decorated with wrought iron that twisted like metal ivy. Lake light filtered through them at all times of the day, bathing the stone floors in shades of wintergreen, gold and jade.
I sighed as I shoved the door shut behind me, body already yearning for sleep. All I wanted was to collapse onto some remotely soft piece of furniture and hibernate for a coupe months. My bones felt like they'd been carved from led as I trudged through the room, which was already in disorganized chaos despite us having just arrived. Hairbrushes, beauty potion bottles and scraps of clothing were strewn about in various corners, lacy undergarments dangling in strange unsuspecting places. Our dorm looked like the aftermath of a grenade blowing up in the sale section at Madam Malkin's.
I wound my way between the five ivory-colored beds arranged strategically around our dorm, finally coming to mine in and — in a joyful reunion worthy of tears and swelling violin music — flopped down on the green duvet.
Sighing contentedly, I rolled onto my stomach and squished my face into the cool, soft pillow, already feeling sleep dragging me into its swirly haze. Merlin, this was why life was worth living — for those beautiful, fleeting moments when you could spend it unconscious. Eyes drooping shut, I burrowed further into the heavenly comfort of my mattress, incredibly content...
I jerked upwards spastically, almost hitting my head on one of the bed's posts in the process, before turning to see Dom looming over me, an orange toothbrush jutting out of her mouth.
“What?” I asked, confused by both her mumbling and my bleary state.
"Herrr," my best friend repeated emphatically. She took the toothbrush out of her mouth and grinned, revealing a mouthful of foaming toothpaste, and I grimaced.
“Hey,” she said a little clearer this time, though still not all that better. “How were the first-years? Also, why are you wet?"
“Peeves,” I droned by way of explanation. Dom did not reply, but instead — with a carefree shrug — turned around and ambled back to the bathroom, presumably to spit out her toothpaste. She came back moments later dressed in an oversized shirt and boxers, all bed-ready and minty-fresh.
“Where is everyone?” I inquired, referring to our other dorm-mates. My voice came out muffled due to the pillow currently smushed into my face, but Dom could understand me regardless.
Huh. Maybe this was what true friendship was really about. Being able to hold a conversation in barely-intelligible grunts and mumbles while still fully comprehending the other person.
“Bathroom," Dom said affably, leaning against my post. "Are you going to bed like that?"
I sighed. Dom had a point — I should probably get ready for bed, or at least change out of my sodden clothes and put on my pajamas. Yet the idea of moving my body from this mattress was just so unpleasant.
So instead I simply lay there, in my wet school uniform, on top of what I had decided five minutes ago was the comfiest surface among our known universe. Dom, realizing that I wasn’t going to be speaking anytime soon and would therefore make for very boring company, sighed at my obviously pitiful condition and, with a flourish of gold-red hair, went flouncing back to the bathroom.
I grinned to myself — finally! — and allowed my eyelids to flutter shut, snuggling into my pillow. I could feel myself start to slowly slip into sleep, sinking deeper and deeper into its depths as if I were falling into some dark, dream-like chasm. But not a bad chasm. A friendly one, filled with good things like rainbows and chocolate and unicorns —
My thoughts began drifting aimlessly like they usually did in this strange half-state, eventually coming to land on the subject of my dorm-mates. As always, getting back to school involved the inevitable unpleasantness of reuniting with my living companions. Yeah, don't let those feel-good, girl-power movies about roommates fool you. Living with five teenage girls was tough, and with the exception of Dom, I really did not get along well with any of them.
First off, there was Evilyn — ahem, sorry, Evelyn — Stanford. Conniving, malicious, bitchy — she was Pureblood snobbery meets Mean Girls-sadism, and over the past four years I'd had to endure her endless barrage of snooty remarks, backhanded compliments and spiteful hate.
Evelyn and I had a pretty straightforward relationship: she didn't like me, and I definitely did not like her. We'd made our feelings clear in First Year and now, despite sleeping in the same confined space, rarely spoke unless circumstances absolutely necessitated it.
Now, I know girls like Evelyn usually have some kind of humanizing, tear-jerker backstory about growing up in neglectful homes and developing pathological aversions to intimacy, becoming hardened emotionally until they could no longer relate to others. Many people would probably give Evelyn the benefit of the doubt, believing her to be a nice, sweet person once you dug under all those layers of ice-bitch. Not me, however. In my opinion, there was no pathology, no explanation. Evelyn was just a bitch. End of story.
It was actually remarkable, how unfeelingly cruel Evelyn could be. In Third Year, she once Transfigured Dom's eyebrows into caterpillars — actual caterpillars — which proceeded to crawl off my best friend’s face while she was busy screaming in fucking terror. We then had to spend the next four hours searching the bloody Common Room for Dom's eyebrows so that we could capture them, put them back onto her face and Transfigure them to normal.
I'm not even joking.
Part of me secretly believed that, every night before Evelyn went to bed, she unzipped her amazingly realistic human mask to expose what truly lay underneath — Reptar. Then she would slither off into the Black Lake, only to return come daytime scale-free and a normal teenage girl.
It was either that, or she was the spawn of Satan.
After Evelyn in our oh-so-wacky cast of dorm friends was Marlene Simmons, Evelyn's best friend and personal lackey. Marlene had no personality; I was pretty sure all the hairspray she used had killed off any independent thought daring to float through her brain. Her life's purpose was to act as the moon to Evelyn's (horrible) sun, and holding a conversation with Marlene was painful. Like talking to a particularly riveting garden tool.
Caroline Kinley was my last roommate, and also one of Evelyn's other unfortunate friends. I would pity Caroline for her current position in life — really, I would — except I wasn't sure Caroline even knew what her current position in life was. See, Caroline was really, shockingly, regrettably stupid. She once asked me what day came after Tuesday.
Aidan always called Caroline, "Scareoline," because of the eerie blank look on her face, the one that hinted quite plainly that not all the lights were on with this girl, if you caught my drift. I kind of understood the nickname, as cruel as it was. Staring into Caroline's eyes was like staring into the void. You didn't come out the same.
I startled out of my thoughts as the door to the bathroom burst open and jarred me from my strange, day-dreaming half-sleep. I blearily opened my eyes to see — speak of the devil (and yes, literally, the devil) — Evelyn Stanford marching into the dorm, her golden hair coiled into plastic curlers, her pajamas consisting of a skimpy tank-op and hot-shorts. She marched right by her bed, ski-slope nose permanently turned up towards the ceiling, making a little disapproving 'hmpff' sound as she passed.
I rolled my eyes.
“Nice to see you too, Evelyn," I grumbled after her, too tired to inject the proper amount of sarcasm in my voice. "I had a lovely summer, thanks for asking."
No reply from Reptar. Instead, she just shot me a snippy look as, her face pinched and her glare frostbite-worthy, she took out a pink can of air freshener from her trunk and began spraying the air while looking at me pointedly.
Hint taken. I rolled over, yanking my emerald bed curtains firmly shut behind me, and huffed exasperatedly as I tried to find sleep once more.
“Bitch," I heard Evelyn mutter to herself, just loud enough for me to hear.
Charming one, that girl.
The next morning, Dom and I rolled out of bed (with some degree of difficulty) and trudged down to the Great Hall for breakfast. It being the first day of the year, the corridors were already vibrant with chatter and laughter as students dawdled on their way to the Hall, comparing tans and vacation hook-ups, casting the occasional rowdy Tripping Jinx at one another, and enjoying the precious few minutes before classes had to start and school became, well, school.
As averse as I was to any hour that had an 'a.m' tacked onto the end of it, even I was in a cheery mood this morning. I was looking forward to class, to learning after three long months of summer brain-drain, and I had new quills and fresh parchment to start the day. Nothing like fresh parchment.
Dom, meanwhile, was excited about another aspect of the new school year — Hogwarts' latest arrival, Professor Nott. She was all-abuzz with the latest gossip as we walked to the Hall, her blathering on and on all the while.
"He's just so mysterious — I bet anything he's actually some undercover secret agent," she said, eyes glimmering with coquettish delight. "Probably spying for the Russians. Man, I love a bloke with a good backstory — "
"Ew, Dom," I grimaced, face puckering into an expression of disgust. "Nott's old."
Despite my uncharacteristically good mood, I was still not feeling nearly chatty as my best-friend. Instead, I was reduced to monosyllabic speech, listening to Dom's hormonal ranting without much comment. I preferred peace and quiet during my mornings, thanks.
Unfortunately, however, it didn't look like I'd be getting any today.
"But you have to hand it to Mother Russia," Dom retorted, wiggling her hips in sassy delight. "Nott is sexy. Those eyes of his — Merlin, you can just look inside him and see all of that past trauma, that soulful pain. So much wisdom. It's really quite sexy."
"If you say so," I grunted, my own sexy and wisdom-filled eyes impatiently sweeping the crowded corridor for a possible shortcut to the Hall. I needed breakfast, and I needed it now. If I was going to be subjected to a graphic breakdown of all of Nott's physical characteristics throughout the morning, it better be happening with bacon nearby.
"I'm really starting to see the appeal of older men, you know?" Dom was saying thoughtfully, mostly to herself seeing as I wasn't listening. "They're just so much more mature. They have life experience and — ow! Oi! What was that for?"
I had slapped Dom over the shoulder, effectively cutting off her perverted fantasizing, because, right in front of us, there happened to be a huge brigade of people blocking the entrance to the Great Hall. A human traffic jam, of sorts. The crowd was pushing, shoving, shouting — half of it in attempts to get into the Hall, the other half trying to bulldoze back into the corridor.
“What is going on?" Dom asked stunned, echoing my own thoughts as she stood on tiptoes to peer over the hoards of squirming bodies. "Damn it, I can't see anything. Too many sodding people — "
My Prefect senses were tingling. Such a huge mass of students in one place — well, it couldn't be without a good reason. Brow flattening into a frown, I quickened my pace and strode forward, past the straggling clumps of students who, like us, had lagged behind to watch the spectacle.
"Hey, where are you going?" Dom called out from behind me, noticing my sudden disappearance mid-speech.
"To investigate!" I hollered back, pushing and jostling through the already thickening crowd. Dom, who was still reluctantly lingering by the crowd's edge, tried calling me back, but it was no use. I was determined. Whatever it was happening in the Great Hall, it had a huge chunk of people leaving and an even bigger chunk struggling to get inside. I had to find out what it was in case it warranted disciplinary action.
"Investigate?" Dom was grumbling, though her voice was only growing softer as I plunged into the airtight crowd, wriggling myself deeper inside.
I didn't reply, dedicating all my energy to getting through the clots of people and battling all their pointy elbows and jabbing limbs. "Excuse me — coming through. I'm a Prefect, sorry, can you please let me pass?"
"Thinks just because she's a sodding Prefect she gets to cut!" A vaguely familiar Ravenclaw grumbled to his disgruntled friend as I pushed past them, wriggling through the tight space between their bodies.
I stopped in my tracks, sighing, and turned around in a goodwill attempt at pacification. "That's not how I meant it — "
"An abuse of Prefect power, is what it is," replied the snotty Ravenclaw's equally snotty friend, and my lips flattened into a scowl. I looked between the two third-years, both male and vaguely familiar looking with pointed features and their faces a Nerdyclaw pallor. I sternly tried to hold my ground but was finding it exceedingly difficult to do when crammed into a mass of shoving, pushing people.
"Hey, I'll have you know — oof," I grunted, as someone's shoulder suddenly bumped into the back of my head. I cleared my throat, attempting to speak once more. "I'll have you know that I would never abuse my Prefect privilege just to — "
"HEY, COMING THROUGH! MY BEST FRIEND IS A PREFECT SO YOU BETTER BLOODY MOVE!" I was suddenly interrupted by the familiar sound of Dominique's dulcet tones, sounding off from further back in the crowd. I squinted, making out vague flurries of red-gold hair as Dom indignantly pushed past the people between us, evidently having decided to follow me in. "I SAID COMING THROUGH! DID YOU NOT HEAR ME? MY BEST FRIEND IS A PREFECT — SHE WILL DOCK POINTS IF YOU DON'T MOVE — "
I felt my stomach drop in dismay. Bloody hell.
"Ouch, you stepped on my foot!" cried some wounded first-year who'd had the misfortune of being in Dom's warpath and had, consequently, been trampled on.
"SHUT UP!" came the very angry reply. "OR MY BEST FRIEND WILL EXPELL YOU! SHE'S A PREFECT, YOU KNOW!"
I cringed as Dom finally burst forward, emerging between the two rather unimpressed Ravenclaws in front of me with all the grace of a Hippogriff on hallucinogens. She grabbed my arm, paying the grumbling Ravenclaws no heed, and pulled me forward. "Come on, Aggy, move. You know I do not like crowds — "
"Hey!" I cried, aggrieved, as I allowed my best friend to tug me along. "I'm the claustrophobic one here!"
But Dom didn't seem to care as she ducked under a random person's arm, dragging me unapologetically with her. She then shoved away a nearby Gryffindor, stormed through a cluster of Hufflepuffs, ignoring their ensuing squawks of surprise, and ducked and weaved past a couple more students until — finally! — we broke free from the crowd.
And promptly stopped short.
Because, right in front of us, the Great Hall was completely different and unrecognizable, having been utterly transformed to the point of almost not being the Great Hall anymore.
“What the hell?" Dom asked, her face completely blank with shock.
The usual tables and the benches were gone, nowhere to be seen, and all that was left was a cavernous, empty space. Well, empty save for the center, where there now stood... A giant Christmas tree? I squinted in disbelief, feeling that what I saw couldn't possibly be correct, couldn't be true. But no, judging by the shocked expression on Dom's face, and the confusion of the other students milling by the entrance, there really was a giant green fir, at least twenty meters tall, standing proudly in the middle of the Great Hall. In true Christmas-y fashion, it was decked with glittering drips of crystals and lights, flickering white candles charmed to orbit its branches.
"What's going on?" Dom mumbled, more to herself than anything, and I couldn't reply. What was a Christmas tree doing in the Great Hall... in the beginning of September no less?
Swiveling around, eyes scanning my surroundings for possible clues, I spotted assorted clusters of holly and mistletoe strung around the halls and hanging from the ceilings. A cheery, old-timey Christmas carol was playing in the background, barely audible beneath the buzz of tittering students, but the music's source was hidden from view. Judging by the goosebumps on my arm, the temperature had been lowered by quite a few degrees. And...were those snowflakes falling from the ceiling?
"Is this the administration’s doing?" Dom wondered out loud, face screwing up in typical lady-like fashion. "Has Vespertine finally gone bonkers?"
"I have no idea," I muttered, frowning, in response. Then I nudged Dom in the arm. "But hey — look over there."
Clustered in a corner of the Great Hall, as well as slightly off its entrance, were dozens of enlarged, wooden coat racks, each stretching up towards the ceiling and laden with a colorful array of wool scarves, coats, earmuffs, mittens — and ice skates?! I squinted warily, making out white laces and fine metal blades. This was all so strange. I didn't understand.
And then I looked down.
My heart stopped beating. My breath caught in my throat. My jaw fell open.
Because, instead of the normal golden marble of Great Hall's floor, there was ice. Glittering, blindingly-bright ice, stretching on to cover the expanse of the space, sparkling in the twinkling sunlight streaming from the ceiling.
The Great Hall had been transformed into an ice rink.
My brain was whirling a mile a minute. I still couldn’t fully grasp the situation, couldn’t possibly fathom the reasons behind such a transformation. I stared on, unable to say anything to Dom, looking remarkably similar to a very perplexed fish. Why was this all happening? What was going on?
“Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas, everyone!" As if on cue, my brother — decked in full winters gear and wearing ice-skates — pushed past the people behind us into view, hobbling through the crowd with a bright smile on his handsome face. Those who realized who he was respectfully parted to give him space, muttering louder with freshly renewed confusion.
I stared at Aidan — the living, breathing, human explanation for all this madness — and found myself suddenly incapable of forming words.
My brother tottered past on his skates, shooting Dom and I a charming grin that betrayed pride and satisfaction.
Then, with the entirety of Hogwarts watching, he stepped on the ice.
There was one shivering second of silence as Aidan just stood on the ice, wobbling slightly on the ice, the whole student population in front of him, holding its breath. And then...
“YEAH BUDDY!” Aidan raised his hands — clad in bright red mittens — to the sky in blazoning triumph, and instantly, the crowd erupted into uproarious cheers.
My jaw dropped open even more. I was at risk of having a bug fly in there soon.
“Aidan — ice — Great Hall — skating — " was all I could stutter as I watched my brother whip around and skate across the Hall with long, swooping strides, the silver blades of his skates glinting as they carved a perfect figure ‘8’ into the ice. This couldn't be happening. I was hallucinating. I had finally gone bonkers — that was the only possible explanation.
I glanced at Dom, and her shocked expression was a comical mirror image of my own. Her mouth was shaped into a perfect letter 'o,' her yellow-green eyes as wide as saucers.
“Dom," I began faintly over the sounds of students cheering my brother on. "How — why — ?"
“MERRY FLIPPING CHRISTMAS, YA'LL!” My stupefied confusion was suddenly interrupted by the loud, boisterous voice of Fred Weasley, sounding from somewhere back in the crowd.
I turned to see the bloke charging exuberantly through the excited clusters of students, going remarkably fast for someone wearing ice skates on firm ground. He was, of course followed by Potter, who had settled for a more restrained attitude. Also wearing skates, he strolled past at a leisurely pace with a smirk crooking his mouth, nodding benevolently at some of the students who were reaching out to pat him on the back or shake his hand.
And suddenly, I understood.
This was it. This was The Tweedle Trio's annual, notorious Back to School Prank. Through whatever series of complicated charms and enchantments, and whatever tactics of subterfuge and sneaking around, they had managed to change the Great Hall overnight into an ice rink.
They had truly outdone themselves. McGonagall was going to pee herself.
“I can’t believe this,” Dom muttered incredulously — more to herself than anyone else — as Potter, Aidan, and Fred began to skate in deft, celebratory circles around the Ice Rink. The Christmas carol in the background had abruptly switched to some ACDC rock song at their entrance, and the crowd was eating it up, the noise of their shouts and claps and whistles deafening. Merlin, the whole of Hogwarts acted like my brother and his friends were bloody rockstars or something.
Potter, with long, graceful strides, skated to the center of the Hall, coming to a stop right before the giant Christmas tree. He held up a magnanimous hand, smiling slightly as the gesture had its intended effect and the noise immediately died down to a reverent hush. The music switched off.
Then Potter nodded at Aidan, who cleared his throat dramatically and skated forwards. Finally, we would be granted with an explanation for this madness.
“Greetings, fellow Hogwarts students!" Aidan's voice boomed through the Hall as he swept his arms out in a grand gesture, skating backwards a little with tiny, nimble strokes. "You may not know us, or be familiar with our work — " Except that we were. Of course we were. — "But over the past couple years at our stay at Hogwarts, my friends Fred and James and I have always liked to start out the term with a little bit of harmless fun."
This proclamation was received with jubilant whoops and appreciative whistles from the crowd. I tried not to roll my eyes, gradually accustoming to the ridiculousness of the situation as my shock wore off.
"Now, this year," Fred began jovially, grinning with obvious exhilaration. Behind him stood Potter, silently observing this all with a content smirk of his own, his hands shoved into pockets. "The three of us have our OWLs," — loud boos from the crowd — "So we knew we had to do something good."
"And, well, there's nothing better than Christmas at Hogwarts," Aidan added genially, broad shoulders straightened with pride.
"Exactly," Fred affirmed, skating slightly forward as he nodded in carefree agreement. "But we didn't want to wait for December, you see — "
"So why not speed things up a little?" Potter added wryly, and his comment was accompanied by the cheers of the crowd turning considerably more high-pitched and female. Merlin.
"My friends and I have never been a big fan of the whole 'calendar' thing anyway," Aidan proclaimed. With that, he skated in a half-circle, sweeping his arm out to indicate the clusters of coatracks by the entrance. "Now, the fun's not just for us. We want everyone to join in."
“So throw on a scarf, a hat, and a pair of ice skates, which you can find over there by the entrance!” Fred concluded with a jolly smile. “And Merry early Christmas, everyone!”
I gaped, hands twitching by my sides as the Great Hall erupted into its loudest burst of applause yet. The music switched back on, booming out some peppy, upbeat carol to do with Grandmas and reindeers, as a mad rush of students began to flood into the Great Hall (resulting in a quite a few slips and face-plants onto the ice). I held my ground on the comfortable stone floor, allowing bodies to jostle past me as I stared at what lay ahead.
They’d gone insane! Mad, bonkers, senile, loco in the coco! Merry early Christmas? This whole fiasco was just absurd, unreal, silly — not to mention, most likely completely against Hogwarts' rules! I couldn't be a part of this!
Dom, however, was already jumping onto the proverbial bandwagon, diving into the fray of gleeful students. Issuing a hoarse chuckle of half-delight, half-surprise, she grabbed my hand and yanked me along towards the coatracks, evidently all on board now that the shock was gone.
“I can't believe they did it. They bloody did it," my best friend said, shaking her head in awe as she yanked a scarf off one of the racks and threw it behind her, at me. The green fabric hit me in the astonished face and fell to the floor, where I left it, too shocked to bend down and pick it up.
"This is so unbelievable," I muttered to myself, brow furrowing.
"Isn't it?" Dom exclaimed in a considerably different tone as she shoved a wool hat over her red-gold tresses. "Come on, Aggy. Put some skates on!"
Almost as if in a daze — and knowing I didn't have mucho f a choice in the matter —I mechanically grabbed a pair of ivory-colored ice skates that had been dangling off the coatrack by their laces. Crouching down on the ground, which was thankfully dry as the floor had been left ice-free around the racks, I shoved on the skates, letting out an inadvertent gasp of amazement as the they somehow shrunk to my size, molding to my feet perfectly.
I stood up, still stewing in my bewildered daze. A charm that made an object self-alter its size was unbelievably complicated. How had the Tweedle Trio managed that?
"Isn't this cool!" Dom was saying happily as she yanked on her own skate's laces. She clambered to a straightened stand, waddling like a penguin across the floor, and turned to grab me by the shoulders excitedly. "Let's do it! Let's skate!"
Looking into her wide, enthralled eyes, I couldn't find the heart to tell her I wanted no part of this. Knowing Dom, she probably would have forced me out there anyways. Already she was marching me towards the edge of the ice, ignoring my sullen attitude. Some students had started skating as well, doing happy circles around the Christmas tree, couples gliding hand in hand.
I stared at the ice as it loomed ominously closer. I hadn't skated in a long time, but that shouldn't make a difference — skating was just like riding a bike! You never forgot! Right?
Oh so very wrong.
The moment Dom and I stepped onto the ice, I lost my balance. While Dom was all elegant and cute in her short, graceful glides, I was struggling to still remain vertical. My legs slid out from under me, scuttling in opposite angles across the slippery surface baby deer-style, and my surroundings tilted in a blur of gold and white lights. Panic rose inside me as I lost control.
Blindly, my hand flew out to grab onto something for support. This something, unfortunately, turned out to be my best friend’s face.
"Ack! What the hell, Aggy!"
"I'm sorry, Dom — I'm — shit, I'm falling!"
"Bloody — !"
With a fantastic crash and a flurry of expletives, my best friend and I went tumbling to the ice, landing in a jumbled pile of crooked elbows and awkward limbs. We immediately began untangling ourselves, bickering all the while.
"Ow, get off me!"
"Dom, can you kindly remove your elbow from my nostril?"
"You're on my bloody hair!"
"I can't move!"
"Well I can't breathe!"
With great effort (and considerably more cursing), I rolled off of Dominique and on to the ice, sprawling out on my sore back as my eyes fluttered shut. Bloody hell, my entire body ached. That had been a hard fall, and now my limbs were throbbing in complaint.
"Still as graceful as ever, I see."
My eyes fluttered open to land on none other than James Potter, standing right above us, the corners of his lips twitching in mocking amusement. Great. Just what I needed right now. Pratter and his oh-so-witty presence.
"Shut up, Potter," came my lame, somewhat wheezy reply.
Dom struggled to sit upright, blowing tufts of red-gold hair from her face as she squinted at her cousin. "James!" she exclaimed conversationally, as if she wasn't currently sprawled across the ground in public. "This is all so amazing!" She gestured vaguely to our surroundings, tone one of wistful admiration. "Was it really all your lot's doing?"
Potter's gaze slid over to me, my hapless position on the ice, and the disgruntled scowl on my face. His mouth lilted upwards in a smirk. "Guilty."
I rolled my eyes and propped myself up on my elbows, ignoring the ice's cold seeping in through my shirt. I didn't dare attempt standing, knowing it would probably entail a lot of slipping and fumbling and otherwise brilliant displays of grace.
"Do the professor's know about this?" I asked snidely, arching an accusatory brow at Potter.
He fixed me with a flat look. "What do you think?"
With that, Potter held out a hand to Dom, who gladly accepted and allowed herself to be pulled to a slippery stand.
This generous gesture, of course, was not extended to me.
"James," Dom gushed as she wobbled slightly on her skates, patting down her hair and adjusting the scarf around her neck. "This whole thing is really — "
"Tremendously stupid?" I supplied helpfully.
"Unbelievably amazing," Dom finished brightly. "Good on you guys."
Potter bowed his head humbly at his cousin, though his mouth was still curling into that small, wry smirk. "Thanks, Dom. We're glad someone here is appreciative, at least." He shot me a pointed glance.
"Of course!" Dom chirped while I glowered at her. Traitor. "Hey, I'm going to try and find Aidan and Fred. Want to come, Aggy?"
I looked at Dom, and then down at myself, sprawled haphazardly across the ice and not about to get up anytime soon.
"Er, I'll catch up with you later," I said lamely, much to Potter's evident amusement.
Dom shrugged and smiled cheerfully, oblivious to my physical conundrum. "Suit yourself, Aggy!" she said, and with that, she skated off in a swirl of red-gold hair, abandoning me to the ice and the probable fate of not moving until either someone picked me up or everything melted from under me.
Potter regarded my position with raised brows, just the slightest hint of laughter glinting in his eyes. "Do you need help getting up, Bennett?" he said innocently, looking at me like I was there solely for his sodding entertainment.
"I'm fine," I snapped stubbornly. "I... I like it better down here anyways. It's, er, comfy."
I leaned back slightly as if to demonstrate my point, but this only resulted in my tailbone bumping against the hard, unforgiving ice. I winced — bloody hell, that hurt — and looked back up at Potter, struggling to rearrange my expression into one that wasn't of excruciating agony.
"See?" I said rather unconvincingly. "Sooo comfy and... firm."
Potter just shook his head disbelievingly, looking like he was having a grand ol' time watching the show before him. He extended his arm. "Just let me help you, Bennett."
I glared at the hand in front of my face; Potter might as well have been offering me a yogurt from the previous century. The last thing I wanted was to give the prat another (unnecessary) reason to feel superior, but I saw no other alternative. It was either that or living the rest of my life out on this sodding patch of ice.
I grudgingly accepted Potter's hand and, smirking, he leaned back slightly to pull me up.
Standing, however, turned out to be considerably harder when you tried to do it on frozen water. My body pitched forwards from the sudden momentum of Potter's tug, my skates skidding frantically this way and that.
"Jesus — "
"Argh — Potter!"
Sensing my imbalance, Potter grabbed me by the forearms, managing to right me precariously on my own two feet. Several students skating past glanced at us in mild amusement, and I scowled; I hated being turned into a spectacle.
"You alright, Bennett?" Potter said, meeting my gaze with his somewhat-mocking one.
"I'm fine," I retorted rather snippily, but neglected to shove Potter's hands off me — he was the only thing keeping me upright, at this point. "I'd be better if I didn't have to deal with this... this idiocy right now."
Potter's lips curved into a knowing smirk, one eyebrow quirking sardonically upwards. "Just because you don't know how to skate doesn't mean you have to be bitter."
"I am not bitter!" I cried. Now raising both eyebrows in blatant skepticism, Potter released his grip on me, hands lifted in a small gesture of defense. I wobbled a bit in my newfound independence, but managed to stay standing.
"Whatever you say, Bennett," Potter murmured teasingly, skating backwards with annoying ease.
I rolled my eyes. Arrogant prat. "This is against the rules anyways, Potter," I threw back sassily. "So the professors will be shutting it down any moment now."
"Actually," Potter contradicted lightly, cheekily raising a finger in dissent. "There is no rule in the Hogwarts handbook stating that you can't turn any part of the castle into an ice rink. We checked."
My eyebrows flattened over my glare. "You know what I mean. It's against the rules in spirit."
"So what?" Potter retorted cockily as he turned and begun to skate in slow, taunting circles around my wobbly form. "What are they going to do, Bennett? Give me detention in spirit?"
I had no reply. Instead, I (very shakily) turned to go, unable to take any more of Potter's mocking jeers. Honestly, he was unbelievable. What next? Was he going to charm a beach in the Astronomy Tower? A grotto on the Quidditch Pitch?
"I don't need to stand here and take this, Potter," I snottily informed him as I begun to skate away. My dramatic exit, however, was somewhat ruined by the fact that I didn't know how to truly skate, so instead I had to settle for gingerly hobbling off at a neck-breaking speed of ten inches per hour.
This slow pace wasn't doing anything to mitigate my unsteady form, however. Already, my skates were wobbling dangerously beneath me as I felt my ankles start to give way. The world around me was slanting downwards. I was beginning to lose my balance, the happy students in the distance starting to turn upside-down. Oh bollocks, I was going to fall, in front of Potter no less —
And then warm hands were on my waist, steadying me in the nick of time. Without seeing him, I knew that I'd just been righted once more by none other than Potter, who I was sure had an insufferable smirk on his face at this very moment.
“Careful, Bennett,” Potter murmured from behind me, and I was surprised by how close his voice sounded to my ear. My back stiffened, face flushing with heated embarrassment.
"I'm fine," I said once more, vaguely aware that these two words were becoming my new sodding mantra.
Potter didn't acknowledge my irritation. “The trick is,” he said quietly, voice surprisingly serious and devoid of mockery. “To lean on one foot and push off with the other.”
Then he pulled away, leaving the place where he had held my waist feeling strangely cold.
Before I could give my (obviously witty and scathing) retort, however, we were both interrupted by the sight of Professor McGonagall, her hair in frenzied wisps around her face, bursting into the entrance of the Great Hall with her robes billowing out behind her in a terrifying fashion.
“WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON HERE?!?”
Grinning, I turned back around to tell Potter that he was in for it —
— but he had already disappeared, nowhere to be seen, fresh empty space shivering in the spot where he'd been standing.
I sighed. Typical.
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