Chapter 4 : Awkward Conversations, Potter boys, and Hogsmeade, oh my!
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After walking back to my dormitory, I found the room empty spare Lola whom I did not feel like interacting with. The reality of lack of feminist ways had gotten me kinda down like wilted seaweed. Miss Perky Pants didn’t see it my way however.
“Hey R.P.,” she murmured, folding some clothes.
“Hi.” I ambled over to my bed and pulled out some homework before I laid down on my bed.
“Potions essay?” Lola asked feigning interest. I gave a short nod before working on a new paragraph. The conversation with Al was still fresh on my mind. I heard Lola sigh- was she part Potter already? I wondered.
“You know, you and Al are so much more alike than I’d realized. He’s quiet like this often as well,” she commented lightly.
“That’s just Al. He tends to be reserved and awkward before you really get to know him,” I answered cryptically.
“Does it change after you get to know each other better?” she asked her voice full of something distinctly close to hope.
“Al’s reserved about some parts of his life- family, love life, and personal opinions about big things. He grew up in the public eye and often feels the need to be reserved. As for awkward, in the dictionary, that’s the only picture and explanation for awkward- Al Potter,” I chuckled lightly. I felt Lola’s gaze upon my back as I continued to write my Potions essay.
“You know Al very well.” She spoke so quietly I almost didn’t hear her.
“He’s my best friend and has been for nearly six years. Riley, too,” I answered weakly. “I heard about your date with Al.” I took the opportunity to look up and meet Lola’s amber brown eyes. Her face was with flush with excitement; her eyes twinkled with happiness.
“Of course. I really do like Al a lot and I’m just hoping he gives me a chance,” she said longingly.
“Al gives everyone a chance,” I reflected quietly. “He’s kind like that.” I heard Lola’s feet hit the floor lightly.
“I’m heading down to dinner. Would you like to join me?” she invited politely. I took a moment to observe my Potions essay. Nine inches were due on Tuesday and I look to be close to seven, and that was good enough for me.
“Sure. Thanks,” I added giving a quick grin before pulling off my sweatshirt. We made polite, terse conversation as we walked down toward the Great Hall. As we neared the entrance, a sudden hand grabbed my arm and I was pulled away from Lola. I apparently screeched as well because the hand dropped my arm and Lola looked alarmed in my direction.
“What happened?” she asked as James Potter groaned.
“Ow. Pitchin’ bats, R.P.,” he groaned. I gave a smug smile and appreciative chuckle.
“Teaches you not to mess with me, Captain,” I muttered arrogantly. “Thanks, Lola, but I have a feeling Captain needs a moment to talk to me about Qudditch or something of the sort.” She nodded warily before trekking into the Great Hall in search of food.
“Sorry for scaring you,” James muttered sheepishly. I nodded before giving him a concerned look.
“Are you alright?”
He nodded, “I had a headache before you screeched like a banshee.”
“Conversation point?” I asked irritably. I was hungry, ravenous like a bear after hibernation.
“Ah, right,” he mocked. “Hungry?” he quipped. After my enthusiastic nod, he laughed deeply. His tenor laugh sent a line of shivers marching down my spine. “What are you doing on Saturday?”
“Hogsmeade?” I murmured. His blank face revealed no particular emotion but I faked thinking. “I’ve got plans until after lunch,” I finally answered.
“Al,” James acknowledged his eyes flashing with color. I shook my head in disagreement.
“No, I’m helping Andy Ma with his Christmas present shopping. He is incapable of buying for the females in his life,” I laughed. James looked at me puzzled.
“How do you know Andy?” he murmured. I smiled.
“Andy’s been my friend for years. He’s the first neighbor that could explain my magical abilities to me.”
“I thought you were half-blooded,” James asked, shock edging into his voice. I gave him a hard look.
“Does it matter?” He gave me an equally hard look.
“Do you think it matters?”
“I don’t know,” I replied vaguely. Captain gave a short, wry laugh before bopping me kiddingly on the head. “Ow, violence.”
“Anyway . . . ” James trailed off, rolling his eyes at me. His eyes shone with laughter.
“My dad’s a pureblood squib from Germany that preferred to restart as a muggle in a foreign country. He met my mother whom was like three-fourths or so. Her grandmother was muggle or something like that. My mother was absolutely horrible with magic so she preferred things the muggle way,” I explained as we walked into the Great Hall and sat down talking. James said nothing but he sat in silence and ate.
“Want to take a walk after dinner?” Captain said after a moment of silence between us. The chatter of the Great Hall overwhelmed the air around us, but we sat in silence. I gave a half-grin before I shrugged.
“Would that make you happy?” I countered. James gave me a steely look, but as I watched him look at me. Behind his eyes, a small flicker of hope danced. He shrugged. “Well, since you can’t decide, I’m going to have to turn you down.” I smirked and out of my side vision I noticed James grinding his teeth lightly.
“I’d like it if you came with me,” Captain whispered. I steered my gaze to Capn’s face and a muted pleading look stared back at me. I took a deep breath and sighed.
“I’ll go, okay?” No words were exchanged between us after that, but I noticed that Cap'n ate with a new vigor for the rest of dinner. In more comfortable silence, we traveled the route via to the Astronomy Tower. We climbed up onto the ledge to scan over the darkening horizon.
“I love the stars,” I managed to whisper as I broke the silence. I felt dark, swampy eyes evaluate my face. “The patterns of stars outlined by the ancients; these same stars shone light onto ancient mathematicians and other philosophers. People studied these stars thousands of years ago just like we study them now. Stars shift and burn out, but still, they catch our attention long enough to forget about other things.” I stared up at the glorious constellations: Cassiopeia, Ursa Major and Minor, and Cepheus.
“That’s the most profound thing I’ve ever heard you say,” James snickered beside me.
“Do you believe me?” I countered my voice harsh. James stared at me for a long time before sighing.
“Of course I do,” he murmured. His hand raised and stroked my cheek before I pulled away. His eyes lingered for a moment too long afterward. I watched the stars before turning around to admire the building.
“I wonder if you can get up on the roof,” I pondered aloud. James gave a mischievous smile.
“Want to find out?” he asked, pulling out a broomstick. I smiled widely and nodded enthusiastically. He straddled the broom and I climbed on behind him. After I wrapped my arms around his waist, he flew us slowly straight up into the air. After we reached the roof, I climbed off onto the roof. James shrunk his broom back down and stored it in his pocket. I sprawled out comfortably onto a ledge. He laid parallel to me, close enough in proximity for his heat to radiate onto my skin. I noticed him but continued to admire the stars.
“Would you change anything about your family if you could?” I asked James curiously. I heard a skip in his rhythmic breathing, but his body gave no indication of stiffening. Too many moments passed for comfort; I internally chastised myself. I had made things awkward again like a hairless mole rat. “You don’t have to answer-” I began.
“I want to,” he countered quickly covering my voice. “I . . . need you to understand that I love my family. I love all my cousins, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents, and my siblings. I just wish for a more private life. I wish my father wasn’t the hero he was. I wish my mom wasn’t the talented Qudditch star she once was and is still. I wish my aunt Hermione wasn’t so talented and widely known. I wish my uncle Ron didn’t solve so many famous cases. I just wish that my family could do something normal . . . like go out to eat without the press reporting on it.”
“You wouldn’t have the life you have now or be the person you are now without that fact,” I murmured my voice lilting toward him as I stared at him openly. His eyes found mine; a wave of heat raced through me.
“Is there anything you would change?” he asked. I took a sharp breath.
“I look back and wish I could appreciate what I once had,” I mumbled my voice heavy with emotion. His hand reached for mine in understanding comfort. I always knew that James was better with emotions than Al. Al knew what kind of support I needed and James didn’t. The gesture seemed foreign to me but I didn’t question it or pull away. “It was two years ago when my mother died. It was four years ago when my father began to cheat on my mother. My father left us for about a fifteen month period to be with the real ‘love of his life.’ When he left my mom, it broke her kind heart. She continued to raise us and eagerly accepted my father home when he realized his mistake. Still, I don’t know the medical jargon behind it, but my mom died about seven months later while the twins and I were at school. My father became my primary caregiver but he didn’t know how to care about people other than himself. Now I have a sort of love-hate relationship with my father. The twins are okay with him but I’m not. I just wish I could appreciate what I had when I had it.” James didn’t say anything; he simply held my hand.
“I didn’t know,” he managed to whisper.
“Sorry, I muttered sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to make the conversation go so deep.” We talked lightly about unimportant conversations for awhile before we decided to head back to the Common Room. Unknowingly, we held hands all the way back. We didn’t pass any other students in the hallway as we traveled back. It seemed so natural for our hands to be together. When we made it into the Common Room, only to find it empty minus Riles. Riley’s eyes immediately sought our interlocked hands. Her burning gaze made m remove my hand from James’. James said good night quietly before setting up the stairs. My eyes followed him up the stairs and I ignored the angry gaze of Riley.
“I thought you said you and James were simply friends,” Riley mocked.
“We are!” I objected rudely.
“Well, just friends don’t hold hands.”
“He was comforting me,” I explained desperately. “We just talked about my mom.”
“Well, I saw the looks you two exchanged.”
“What looks? We said good night to one another! That’s it!”
“You are the biggest hypocrite, RP! You break one Potter brother’s heart to simply capture another one. Please realize the damage you cause before you actually make up your mind this time. Don’t lead another boy on to just break his heart. I’m sick of doing damage control after you! Al is my best friend too! Your life is not the only one that lost Al as a major presence. I should not have to choose between you two! You are my best friends! And I hate you for the fact you are making me choose!” Riley yelled, her infamous temper getting the better of her. She stormed up the stairs and tears immediately welled into my eyes.
Was I just overly emotional this month or what? I stalked out of the Common Room in hysterical sobs. I sought comfort in a third level lavatory after curfew hours. I curled in a tiny ball onto the floor of one of the stalls in the bathroom. Tears sprouted from my eyes and soaked my shirt. I moaned like a dying ghost (if that’s even possible). I cried weirdly; one arm cradled my head against my knees while the other awkwardly smacked the air. My howls and moans echoed off the awful acoustics of the ancient lavatory. Soon, I heard heavy footsteps and a large frustrated growl.
“Come out,” an irritated voice demanded. I
smacked my awkward waving arm against the side of the stall. I yowled in pain and the large noise tangoed around the walls of the bathroom. “Ow,” the voice groaned. The door protecting me from the intruder snapped open with magic. A head adorned with straw colored hair stuck in.
“Malfoy,” I gasp-gulped. His icy blue eyes searched the scene and I immediately recognized his body language. He pitied me; he pitied the image of this strong, Qudditch-playing crazed teenage girl.
“Get up, King,” he roughly stated. I struggled to my feet and swayed like a river reed in the wind once I stood up. “What’s the issue, King?” Malfoy asked boredly.
“Don’t worry about me, Malfoy,” I managed to whisper weakly.
“You’re dull attempts to ignore me do not strike me as strength, King, but simply weak. If you had any strength, you would understand what you need to do and say. Instead, you are lying on the dirty floor of Hogwarts in an ancient lavatory crying. How pathetic,” he drawled. My eyes shot up to his face.
“I didn’t ask for saving, Malfoy. I came to be by myself; to wallow by myself, you stupid hippo,” I snapped. Malfoy’s eyes filled with amusement.
“A blonde hippo? I’ll be sure to ask Rose tomorrow about that one. Now, get up and let me take you back to your Common Room. Seek a place for self-wallowing where some other prefect will not find you,” Malfoy stated, pulling me to my feet. I stumbled and nearly hit the adjacent wall to my right. Malfoy caught my elbow before guiding me out.
“Why are you being so nice?” I managed to murmur tiredly. He guided me by my elbow for a good length of the hallway.
“Nice is a matter of opinion; think back, King. You saved my neck with Rose the other day; I suppose consider us even. I hate being in debt to people,” Malfoy grunted.
Finally with a fair push and mumbled good-bye, I tripped ungracefully into the Common Room. With uneven steps and tired eyes, I climbed the stairs to my bedroom. Riley laid in her bed asleep as well as most of m other roommates. I noticed one empty bed; the empty bed belonged to Rose unsurprisingly. I tried to not think about anything but sleep. I let my find simply focus on sleep and that alone. In a matter of minutes, I had succumbed to full slumber.
In an orchestra of noise, I awoke the next morning. Bleary-eyed and cursed under the power of a powerful headache, I stumbled into the bathroom. Lola eyed me curiously and Riles growled under her breath at the sight of me.
“Morning Rudella. You don’t look so good this morning. Do you want me to escort you to the Hospital Wing?” Lola asked politely. She looked adorable in a modest length black skirt with a deep ruby sweater. She accented her outfit with some gold jewelry. This outfit would have looked awful on me; however, Miss Perky Pants could pull anything off. Her brown hair was straight and glossy. She was an image of teenage queen perfection; not slutlike but perfectly attractive. Ugh, please stab me slowly with a spork.
“I’m fine,” I managed to rasp before managing to reach a stall. After I relieved myself, I approached the sink to wash my hands before Riley snapped at me. She could certainly ignore me when she was mad but when she was self-satisfied- she couldn’t help but antagonize others.
“I heard you stumble in late last night. You seemed bubbling with happiness. It must have been nearly one in the morning; you must have been busy,” Riley sneered. I ignored her and dried my hands. Rose stumbled in grumbling.
“Rose?” I asked. A grunt answered me. “What time did you get back last night?”
“Gah, I don’t know, R.P. Around one I suppose,” she managed to yell through the chaotic morning routine of the Gryffindor girls. I turned to Riley and her eyes were wide with shock. Tears swarmed my eyes again but I managed to mask them well.
“Please don’t make assumptions, Riles. You have no idea what I was doing last night,” I sighed. I returned to my bed and grabbed some sweats and my face wash. I returned to the bathroom and Riley was missing. Rose, however, was staring at the mirror seemingly dead to the world.
“Earth to Rose. Come back, Rose,” I recited, swiping my hand in front of her eyes. She finally blinked and turned to me. Her eyes seemed to focus on me. I began to wash my face.
“Scorpius told me about his adventure last night,” Rose began conversationally. I made a small noise of agreement. “So, why were in a girl’s loo stall crying your eyes out, R.P.?” I wiped my face and turned to Rose. Her wild curls were a mess of tangles after sleeping. Still, the girl looked incredibly beautiful like a model straight off of a shoot.
“Riley and I got in a fight,” I said simply.
“No shampoo Sherlock,” Rose chided, rolling her eyes. “I meant over what . . .or who?” she added with a conspiring tone.
“Nothing, Rose,” I automatically responded.
“Albus and James obviously. My cousins tend to cause drama unwillingly especially the two of them.”
“Don’t worry about me, Rose. Its really nothing; just Riley making an iceberg out of an ice cube.”
“Whatever. What are you doing for Hogsmeade?” Rose asked, turning to mirror and began to get ready.
“Uh, shopping with Andy Ma. Then I’m probably going to meet up with James later. What about you?”
“Double date with Albus and Lola. Then, I told Scorpius after some alone time that I had to get away to get some Christmas shopping done. What does Andy need help with this year?” Rose asked conversationally. I pulled on my favorite grey sweatpants and a plain navy tee. I pulled my jumper over me before starting to untie my trainers. Rose managed to untangle and magically perfect her curls. She swiped some mascara and lipgloss on after brushing her teeth and washing her flawless face.
“The typical. He needs some presents for Megan, his parents, and a couple of friends. I still need to get something for Simon and Peter. Now, James and his parents too. Did Al or James tell you I was coming over for the holidays?” Rose had changed into a pair of fitting jeans and a band tee. She looked good and I knew Scorpius would think so. She looked good in very simple clothing.
“Yeah. James decided to invite you over one of his mates. Albus invited Riley to come stay for the holiday so he’d have both of his best friends. Lily’s having the Longbottom girl. Scorpius is coming over on Boxing Day and Hugo has some friend of his coming over. It’ll be another large Weasley-Potter Christmas but its that way every year.”
“Any suggestions for a thank-you-for-having-me-over present for your Aunt and Uncle?” I asked nervously.
“Just don’t go overboard; they aren’t impressed with that. It’s kind of you to even think about this,” Rose murmured before sighing. “That’s the best it’s going to get today.”
“Breakfast?” I offered wearily.
“Yeah, we both need some substance, I imagine,” Rose replied.
By a quarter of twelve, I’d managed to pick out a pen set and nice sweater for both of the twins, a nice pitcher for Mr. and Mrs. Potter, and a Qudditch record book for James. I also bought some chocolate to add to Albus’s, Riley’s, and James’s presents. For Lily, I chose some nice earrings. For Riley, I had bought another book she had been dying to receive and for Albus I purchased a magical brief folder of sorts. I sent my dad some of his favorite chocolate and a generic card wishing a Happy Christmas. Andy had managed to find a really nice journal for Megan along with a really soft blanket in a coral color. For his mother, he had found a nice pedant necklace and some nice pens and stationary for his business father. For his sister, he had finally decided on a purse she had been eyeing the last time they had went to Hogsmeade together in the fall when she visited. We separated happily and I went in search of James. Finally, I found James hanging out with some of his mates outside of the Three Broomsticks. He gave me a warm half-smirk as I approached him. However, his swampy eyes widened as I turned around to see who I had bumped into. Albus swayed in front of me.
“Al?” I whispered.
“Ru, the world is spinning,” he managed to gasp before he fainted onto the ground. I heard a shrill scream come from Lola as I bent down immediately at Al’s side.
“James!” I screamed. He instantly appeared at my side and began to inspect his brother. Lola stood there panicking and there was no sight of Rose or Malfoy. Typical, they probably snuck off to snog. “LOLA!” I yelled. “GET HELP!” Lola took off into the Three Broomsticks. I turned back to Al and grabbed his hand.
“I don’t know what’s wrong. It’s nothing magical-no spell or curse or anything,” James managed to answer steely. I squeezed Al’s hand; my eyes never left his quickly whitening face.
“He’s so pale,” I managed to whisper, tears swarming my eyes.
“You need to stay calm, Ella,” James’ hot breath in my ear caused shivers to tap dance through me. I simply nodded. Soon, Lola returned with some teachers. The Professors levitated Al’s body back to the Hospital Wing with Lola, James, and I in tow behind them.
Hours of fiery brimstone passed and James and I finally trudged to bed. Lola eventually left us and went to dinner before doing homework. I think Lola sensed the vibe that I didn’t want her there as James and I patiently waited at Al’s side. Riles joined us with Lawler after their date. Their hands were interlocked and Lawler hadn’t left her side when they entered the Hospital Wing. Even in such a gloomy situation, my smile graced my face at the sight of them. Riles’ eyes caught my own and I waggled my eyebrows toward the interlocked hands. She in turn blushed and gave a silent laughing smile. Eventually, Lawler left for dinner and brought some back for all of us. Riley ate a smidge out of grateful politeness; James and I just ignored the pile of food. Wizards and witches had been coming and performing tests on him all afternoon. All he had done was passed out so he should have been revived, given a sleeping potion for tonight, and sent on his way. That isn’t what had happened though; anxiety began to seep into my mind and I became more and more nervous as time passed.
James sat stone cold and still. His eyes reflected my worry though. Riley eventually left for bed and told me to tell her about updates when I finally went to bed. James and I just sat in tension at the sight of Albus. I felt immense guilt because even now, I was with Albus and James. I couldn’t keep playing the Potter brothers; both of them were my best friends in different ways. I knew of Al’s feelings and I knew I had feelings growing for James. I couldn’t play with that kind of fire. Even then though, we both knew there was only reason we were together in silence; our concern for Al in those moments bound us in fate. Eventually, an exhausted witch shooed us out of the Hospital Wing. We walked in silence back to the Common Room.
“What’s wrong with him?” I asked, my voice full of fear.
“I don’t know,” James answered blankly, his face scrunched in concentration. I couldn’t help but notice how much he looked like a wrinkled old man. I fought the temptation to giggle nervously. “They should have found something wrong by now.”
“Well, they’re using MAGIC! How could they have not found it?” I nearly yelled. James’ hand smothered my loud voice and his eyes locked with mine.
“I don’t know, Ella. I don’t know; I wish I had an explanation,” his hot breath danced on my face as we stood inches apart in the Common Room. Our eyes fought a serious battle as we stared intensely at one another. I began to lean into James, and he removed his hand from my face. “We need to sleep some. It won’t help Al when he wakes up tomorrow if we’re both grumpy,” he said jokingly, trying to lighten the mood.
“Er, right,” I managed to gracefully answer. As graceful as a two ton elephant at least. “Night,” I said.
“Night,” James mumbled before racing up the step to the dormitory. I slowly climbed mine before crashing on my bed again.