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Chapter 5 : Apologies and Applause
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Al had suffered third degree burns all down his arms from the heat of the potion and the effects of the unfinished potion had caused him to run a high fever and vomit up butterflies for about an hour, but luckily the matron was able to heal most of his burns and Slughorn had come up with an antidote for the potion’s after effects. Still though, Al was going to have to wear extensive white bandages stretching from the tips of his fingers all the way up to his shoulders for the next week and the matron said he was going to have to come back once a day to have them changed to prevent infection.
Only I could have messed things up this badly so early in our ‘relationship’ or whatever it was that we were in.
“Its okay, Daphne,” he replied, sounding rather exasperated and cross. “It was an accident, right? It’s not like you meant to spill the potion.”
“No, I definitely did not,” I hurried to assure him, feeling my cheeks ignite with flame and I dropped my eyes to the floor. Every time I looked at those bandages on his arms I felt like I was going to wretch, I was so mortified. “I’m sorry.”
Al just sighed and with a groan bent down to pick up his bag of school things.
“No, wait, let me,” I quickly bent down and picked up his bag before he could object and threw it over my shoulder, tottering dangerously under the weight of it. What did this boy carry in here, bricks? I looked up to see Al staring at me oddly, as if wondering when in the heck I was going to leave him alone and I just shot him a warm smile, trying to keep my eyes focused on his face and not his arms. “It’s the least I can do, right?”
Al nodded and started towards the giant double doors without a word and I felt my stomach churn guiltily. I hated the idea that he was mad at me. He himself had admitted that it was an accident. He had no right to be angry with me. Not really.
I’d stayed with him all day while Slughorn and Madame Pomfrey worked to cure him and had even kipped down to the Great Hall at lunch and dinner times to get him a plate of food, which I fed to him because he wasn’t allowed to move his arms. I’d even gone and gotten all the homework from his other classes that he’d missed for him.
Wasn’t it obvious that I really did care about him and wanted to make sure he was okay? I had gone out of my way to make it up to him. And yet, there he was, marching down the hallway a few meters ahead of me, his posture slouched and angry.
I sighed wearily, feeling my eyes start to water as the tears I’d been holding back all day threatened once again to spill down my cheeks. I bit my lip in a futile effort to stop them, swallowing the thick knot in my throat with much difficulty.
After what felt like an eternity we finally arrived in front of the picture of the Fat Lady, who was dozing in her frame, soft snores emitting from her every few seconds. Al had stopped and waited for me in front of her and was lightly tapping his foot against the stone floor as I hurried the rest of the way down the corridor, struggling and loping off-kilter due to the unequal weight of the two bags on my shoulders.
“Sorry,” I mumbled as I drew up in line with him, staring down at the floor so that he didn’t see the tears that were beginning to trickle slowly down my cheeks.
“Stop apologizing,” he chastised suddenly, and I couldn’t help but look up at him in slight shock. His eyes widened as he saw the tear tracks on my cheeks and his expression went from angry to worried in a matter of a second. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t understand it,” I told him thickly as the tears started pouring profusely down my cheeks despite all my efforts to stop them. I didn’t want him to think I was a baby.
“Understand what?” he asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
“Why you’re so mad at me!” I cried, feeling hysterical as all the emotion I’d bottled up all day suddenly came pouring out. “I’ve tried so hard to make it up to you today, and yet you make it seem like I can’t do anything right. I don’t know what else to do and I feel so horrible about it already and-“
“Do you two think you could carry on this very loud conversation in the Common Room?” the Fat Lady suddenly interrupted, sounding extremely grumpy. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”
I glanced down at the watch on my wrist, considering the fact that I wasn’t even sure if Al had a watch anymore, let alone if he could see it and groaned. It was going on ten o’clock.
“We’re sorry to wake you,” Al told her, his voice less hard and gruff and more like I normally remembered. “We’ll go inside.”
“Mulled mead,” Al replied and she instantly swung forward, letting us into the Common Room. Al gestured for me to go first and I gratefully stepped through, struggling a little bit due to how off balance I still was.
When I emerged in the Common Room I was surprised to see it was vacant save for a few Seventh Years who were grumbling about a Transfiguration assignment that seemed to be giving them problems and James, who was snogging some blonde girl who I vaguely recognized to be a Sixth year Hufflepuff.
“Sit down on the couch,” Al said quietly from behind me and I did as I was told, still struggling to get a grip on myself and letting out a hysterical hiccup.
I slumped down into the worn cushions, letting our bags thud unceremoniously to the ground and Al sat down next to me. I didn’t look at him, worried that he would be repulsed by me if he saw how red my eyes probably were and the fact that I was probably snotting all over myself.
He bumped me lightly with his shoulder and I just let out a pathetic chuckle, at which he laughed and bumped me again.
“Hey,” he said kindly, leaning his shoulder onto mine and making my heart flutter in my chest, “look at me.”
Using my sleeve as a tissue I wiped my streaming eyes and looked up at him, feeling a slight smile tug at my lips at the way he was smiling down at me. “What?” I asked thickly.
“I’m not mad at you,” he told me, smiling and stiffly conjuring up a handkerchief for me which I gratefully took.
“Then why are you ignoring me?” I asked, feeling and sounding rather pathetic.
“I didn’t mean to,” he admitted quietly, staring down at the sofa and I noticed that his shoulder was still leaning against mine. Despite everything, I couldn’t help but feel better at this and it felt like butterflies were dancing the conga in my stomach. “I’m sorry if I was. I’m madder at myself than anything.”
“It’s okay,” I sniffled, crumpling the handkerchief up in my hand. My tears had mostly stopped by then but my sadness was replaced by that horrible awkwardness and nervousness that I’d been feeling all day. “Why?”
He didn’t answer my question, but by the way his shoulders stiffened I could tell that he had heard me. I didn’t make any move to pester him to answer me, having learned over time that everyone will tell you what you want to know in their own time.
We sat in silence for a few minutes, during which time I saw James lead his lady love up the stairs to his dorm by the hand and also during which the Seventh years seemed to give up on completing their essay tonight and collected their things before also retreating to their dorms.
My heart was beating so wildly in my chest I was surprised that Al couldn’t hear it in the silence that ensued and I tried to calm myself by staring into the crackling embers of the dying fire that was the main source of light in the room.
“Do you want to help me with my Herbology homework?” he asked finally and I jumped slightly at the sound of it, surprised by his sudden outburst.
“Oh, uh, sure,” I agreed, reaching down into his bag for him and pulling out his book along with spare parchment and a quill. “I guess I should write for you,” I said after I realized that he couldn’t move his fingers to hold the quill, considering they were covered in heavy bandages.
“I guess you should,” he agreed.
I opened the page in his book up to Venomous Tentacula, the new plant we were supposed to write about and Al read over it for a few minutes while I sat there in silence, trying not to fidget despite the fact that all of my limbs seemed to want to go in different directions.
Finally Al lifted his head again and smiled. “Okay, so how about I’ll tell you what I want to say and you write it out?”
“Sounds good,” I agreed and then diligently set about copying down word for word everything Al said, glad that he went slow so that I had time to get it all down. While he talked I never looked up, but just listened to the sound of his voice, deep and steady, almost soothing.
He had a really sexy voice.
Dear Merlin, had I really just thought that? I felt myself blush at my own thoughts and Al apparently noticed because he stopped mid-sentence and asked me “what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I hurried to assure him, although even to me it sounded weak. “Keep going.”
“Tell me,” he insisted and I looked up at him, wondering if I should tell him the truth or not.
“I was just thinking about how every time I’m near a cute boy I always manage to mess everything up,” I blurted before I could stop myself. My hands acted of their own accord to, clapping themselves over my mouth as my eyes went wide.
Al stared at me for a second and then did probably the singularly worst thing he could have done in that situation – he started laughing.
I buried my entire face in my hands and it felt hot, so I knew it must have been beet red and I willed myself not to start crying again. How could I have expected anything different?
It wasn’t like he liked me too. He had just agreed to be my partner because he was a genuinely nice guy. And then I’d gone and gotten him third degree burns and really sick so that he couldn’t use his arms. What had I expected? Most guys would hate me. He had every right to hate me. Why had I been so sensitive earlier? Why hadn’t I realized then that he had every right to be mad? Why did I keep getting myself into these things?
I couldn’t stand sitting there and listening to him laughing anymore so I threw his essay and quill down and darted up from the couch and had made it nearly halfway across the room by the time he shouted “WAIT!”
I didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t help myself, I skidded to a halt automatically, turning slowly on the spot to look at him. He was standing up next to the couch, looking aghast and concerned.
“Wait,” he repeated again, even though I felt like I had been a permanent sticking charm placed on my feet I was so rooted to the spot.
I opened my mouth to say something and then instantly shut it again before opening and shutting it again. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to say anything or not. My mouth felt like cotton and I knew that anything I said would come out in one incoherent burst of word vomit.
“I’m waiting,” I finally managed to say, although my voice sounded like I’d swallowed a toad.
“I’m sorry,” he said, advancing around the couch so that he was only about a meter from me. “Bollocks, you said that you always mess everything up, well I seem to have an uncanny knack of making pretty girls cry.”
My heart skipped a beat in my chest. He made pretty girls cry? Did that mean he thought I was pretty? I thought it did.
“I’ve got to admit, it takes particular talent to make me cry twice in one night,” I replied, trying but failing at not chuckling. Using my sleeve again I wiped at my eyes, relieved that I had stopped crying and smiled at him.
“It also takes a very skilled person to knock a whole cauldron full of unfinished potion onto my arms,” he joked back, stepping closer to me so that we were mere inches apart. I swallowed hard, my insides shaking like the last leaf on a tree in autumn. He was so close I could feel the heat radiating off his body.
“I also specialize in tripping down stairs and falling out of chairs,” I breathed because by now he was so close that our chests were nearly touching.
He laughed and I felt my insides practically do a flip. I was nervous, and excited, and anxious, and happy, and worried, and so many other emotions in that moment that I didn’t even know what I was feeling. I kind of felt like I was going to faint, but I reminded myself to keep breathing, because honestly, if there was any possible way that I could embarrass myself any further tonight, it would be by fainting.
“I really like you, Daphne,” Al said quietly, looking me straight in the eyes.
“Really?” I practically squealed before I could stop myself. Al grinned and nodded. “I like you a lot, too,” I admitted.
“Good to know,” he replied and I beamed.
Like what had happened with Mike in the Three Broomsticks a few weeks ago, I knew what was going to happen before it actually did. Al’s eyes closed and the little bit of space between us that was left evaporated as he leaned in towards me. Unlike with Mike though, the sense of panic that thrummed through me was instantaneous, and before I had time to even think, Al’s lips were over mine.
Automatically my eyes closed and I reached a hand up to touch his face, surprised at how my lips naturally responded to his without me having to worry about how to move them. I felt lightheaded and slightly weak in the knees and then suddenly there was a series of loud shouts and cheers from behind me and it was all over as Al pulled away.
I glanced over my shoulder to see Rose, Lucy, Olivia, and even Nancy peeking around the wall that separated the girls’ dormitory stairs from the Common Room, all of them cheering and clapping. I felt my face flush bright red for a moment and then I turned back to Al and beamed.
He grinned back down at me and then I did the only thing a girl could do in a situation like this – I pulled him in for round two.
A/N: Yay! It's finally finished. Daphne finally got her first kiss. :) I know it took a heck of a long time (considering I've been horrible with updating this story *is ashamed*) but I hope it was worth it. This is only my second ever completed fic that is more than 1 chapter. So I'm really excited!
Anyway, a few acknowledgements:
-to all of you who have stuck with this story all the way through, thank you so much. I would never have had the inspiration to finish this without all of you.
-to my mom, for actually saying the title in a sentence, thus giving me the inspiration for this.
-and to Daphne, for being so amazing and putting up with all that I put her through.
Thank you all for reading! Please, please review!
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