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Chapter 7 : Scattered
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Three days passed after what had come to be known as The Ice Rink Episode, and I gradually grew accustomed to the flow of things at Hogwarts, the endless blur of homework and classes and studying that was life at this school.
It had quickly become apparent that the slave-drivers-oops-I-mean-professors were not showing any mercy this year. Despite it being just the beginning of September, everyone was already starting to prepare for OWLs.
And while academics were hard, Prefect rounds were harder. With Ryan, I often found myself stumbling over my words and my feet, too mired in my own pitiful stew of anxieties to behave like a normal person for even a second. With Potter, on the other hand, every patrol meant hours of endless bickering and arguing. We never got anything done. Working together was impossible.
Meanwhile, Aidan was still unsuccessfully trying to woo Dominique — employing every trick, line and moping apology in the book — but to no avail. My best friend was determined to hate his guts, maintaining that she refused to have herself strung along anymore by my brother's flighty whims.
But still, Aidan would not be deterred. Ever the Gryffindor, he refused to give up, and each day seemed to bring with it some new inventive way of hitting on Dom. On Tuesday, Aidan gave her a bouquet of flowers in each of her classes. On Wednesday, he had the house-elves bake a cake that was personally delivered to her during dinner. On Thursday, it was skywriting by the Black Lake, the words “You are my one and only, Dominique Florence Weasley!” strewn across the sky in puffy cursive. Needless to say, Dom did not appreciate the extravagant display or the public revelation of her middle name, which, it has to be said, was pretty understandable. Florence? Gross.
On Friday morning, Dominique and I trudged down to the Great Hall for breakfast, already dreading whatever disastrous plan Aidan’s sick and twisted mind had devised today. The Hall that morning was quiet, everyone's exuberant back-to-school spirit thoroughly exhausted by this week's slew of academics and latest obligations. Save for the clatter of silverware and rustle of an occasional Daily Prophet, the Hall was eerily devoid of noise.
After the War, when the administration seemed to realize that 'institutionalized segregation' perhaps wasn't the best idea for a school full of impressionable young children, the House system organizing the Great Hall's tables was banished. No longer were we seated by Houses. Instead, Hufflepuffs were free to hang with Slytherins, Ravenclaws with Gryffindors. With the exception of big traditional ceremonies, everyone had free-range over where to sit. It was all one big jolly family, we were so thrilled, let's all join hands and sing kumbaya, etc. etc.
Usually, Dom and I ate our breakfasts with the Tweedle Trio at our “regular table," the second one from the Hall's entrance. Today was no different. The guys were already at their seats, looking suitably sleep-deprived for the early hour as they tiredly shoveled food from their plates to their mouths. Only Aidan, who was sitting primly with his back rod-straight and eyes narrowed ever so slightly, seemed mildly alert. No doubt he was silently brooding over some evil scheme of his.
Dom and I slowly trudged our way to the table, where I plopped down next to Fred and immediately began scooping some scrambled eggs and bacon onto my plate. Dom, shooting a wary glance at Aidan, plunked down on a seat by Potter.
No one said a word. Potter’s eyes were drooping shut. Fred’s elbow was in his cereal.
We ate in silence, Aidan and Dominique occasionally sneaking glances at one another, everyone too tired to bother with pesky conversation. For a moment — one, beautiful, glorious moment — I almost began to think that Aidan didn’t have anything planned today, that he was willing to spend a day without one single proclamation of “undying” love for Dom.
So far, there had been a conspicuous lack of flowers, sweet greetings, and offers to carry Dom's books or walk her to class. All this led me to believe that maybe, possibly, Aidan was content with just sitting pretty and letting the morning pass without incident.
“Attention! I have an announcement to make!”
I looked up from my rubbery and rather unsatisfying pile eggs to see Aidan, standing up on his bench, his shoes making two heavy clunks as they landed on the wood. A goblet and fork were in my brother's hand, and he was rapping the piece of silverware against the glass to create a tinkling noise that echoed throughout the hushed Great Hall. He looked completely at ease, as if he were delivering a speech at a wedding or graduation ceremony or some time not as completely inappropriate s this one.
Everyone in the large atrium went still, students sleepily glancing up at the spectacle before them and beginning to frown in mass confusion. The Great Hall seemed to turn even quieter as all eyes swiveled to my idiotic buffoon of a brother, standing on that table and peering regally over us.
“Sweet Godric,” Freddy whispered in awe from where he sat next to me. “What is that boy doing?”
I didn’t answer, instead just staring up at Aidan with a mixture of horror and fascination on my face. Potter's eyes flicked slowly open as he momentarily deemed reality more interesting than sleep, his gaze taking in my brother and his surroundings with vague confusion.
“Sorry for disturbing your breakfast, everyone. My name is Aidan Bennett, I'm a fifth-year here at Hogwarts," my brother began, speaking as if his name wasn't already notorious among the majority of the students, as if he wasn't one of the biggest mischief-makers at this school and the reason for half the grey hairs on McGonagall's head. "Anyway, I'd just like to have your attention for a short moment, as I want perform this rap I recently wrote for the public.
I frowned. Had I just heard correctly? Aidan wanted to... rap?
Dominique’s face, meanwhile, had turned an unflattering shade of purple, her eyes widening into larger and larger circles of panic as she seemed to realize what was about to unfold.
Aidan, taking no notice of his ex-girlfriend's silent conniptions before him, prattled on with his introductory speech. “The rap took a long time to write, and it was inspired by someone very close to me. I'd like to deliver it here, now, so that this same person knows just how much I miss and love them." He paused gravely, clearing his throat. "This one goes out to you, Dominique — "
“Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it,” Dom was muttering fiercely, eyes closed and fists clenched.
“— Florence Weasley.”
With a groan of defeat, Dom slammed her head onto the table, making all the silverware around us jump and rattle. This went either ignored or unnoticed by Aidan, who turned jovially to the table behind him and pointed to a small Hufflepuff sitting a few feet away.
"Give me a beat, Tim!” Aidan said happily.
Tim-the-Hufflepuff began to cup his hands over his mouth and make a series of undistinguishable noises that I guess was supposed to pass as beats. As the rest of the Great Hall stared on in astonishment, Aidan took out a piece of parchment from his pocket, cleared his throat... And then the rap/Unbearable Ear Torture began.
I love you very easily
This rap rings true
Ev’ry word from me to you
You have really pretty hair
And a very scary glare
But it’s still sort of nice-y
Even though it’s quite icy.”
My brother had gone insane. First the gerbil, then the Ice Rink, and now he'd convinced himself he was some sort of bonafide MC. Which, judging by the terrible rhyming and grammar I was listening to right now, he most definitely was not.
“I miss you like teeth miss braces
and a shoe misses laces
I miss you like rock misses roll
and a stripper misses her pole.
Your eyes are green glass
and you have a nice... smile
You’re an amazing lass
For you I’ll walk a mile.
This is the end of this rap,
So now all you peeps should clap.
Cause it took me time
To come up with these rhymes.”
With that, everyone in the Hall burst into whooping cheers and thunderous clapping as students loudly showed their appreciation for the new excitement that had just enlivened their mornings. Potter stood up, two fingers in his mouth as he wolf-whistled jubilantly in loud praise. Fred was wiping away mock tears of pride. Dom, meanwhile, looked like she had just lapsed into cardiac arrest.
Aidan looked on grandly, pointing a finger at my unfortunate best friend and giving a cheeky wink.
“Word to your mother,
I’m a Freaky Funk Brother —
After that grand finale, the Great Hall was positively ringing with applause. The sound was tumultuous, deafening, almost. The professors at the Staff Table looked mildly on, as if they didn’t quite believe what had just happened. Aidan bowed several times, thanking his cheering admirers politely, and then sank back down to his seat with an innocent expression smoothed across his face.
Dom had not said anything this whole while, still gaping in shock as she stared uncomprehendingly at my brother and his blasé attitude. She opened her mouth, but then shook her head and closed it. She then opened it again. And closed it. Opened it. Closed it. Opened. Closed.
This went on for a while.
Potter was boisterously clapping Aidan on the back in congratulations while Fred was issuing declarations of admiration for his performance ("Amazing! Groundbreaking! Art is alive!"). I glanced nervously at Dom, my hand creeping up to slowly cover the very pointy, very sharp fork by her cereal bowl. Gauging her shell-shocked expression, I slowly withdrew the utensil, knowing it was probably best to keep Dom away from all sharp objects right now.
Better safe than sorry. Just saying.
“So,” Aidan finally said, turning away from all the jubilation and cheering to level Dom with an eager look. “What did you think, Dom?” he asked brightly, if he were seeking her opinion on what tie he should wear to a party.
Face ashen, Dom did not reply... Just simply stayed frozen to her seat, staring at Aidan like he was the craziest person she knew (which said a lot, given who her family consisted of). No one spoke for a split-second, the ongoing applause reverberating in our ears, and then, all of a sudden — a strange look struggling to overcome her features — Dom stood up abruptly, turned on her heel, and ran out of the room.
The cheering and clapping in the Great Hall still rang on despite McGonagall's shrill efforts to quell it from the Staff Table. No one seemed to have realized that the one person who the rap had been actually meant for had just fled the room.
Fred, Potter, Aidan and I all exchanged alarmed glances at Dom's sudden departure, the applause ringing around us a contrast to our concern.
"We should — " I shouted over the noise.
“— follow her," Potter finished, face blank with surprise.
We all quickly stood up and marched off, leaving behind the euphoria of the Great Hall in search for one Very Distressed Dominique.
As we walked past all the hero's congratulations and pats on the back, I briefly wondered if it was wise to have Aidan with us right now, given he had been the cause of this entire ordeal in the first place. But rounding the corner out of the Hall, I didn't have the heart to tell him to leave. Even if I had, he probably wouldn't have listened to me anyways.
We found Dom very quickly, seeing as she hadn't gotten far. She was standing — or rather, leaning — in the corridor just outside the Hall, her entire body slumped against the wall as she hyperventilated.
For a standstill moment, the four of us just stared at her stupidly while Dom struggled in her efforts to suck all the oxygen out of the room, hands flapping frantically in the air. And then Potter, quickly coming to his senses, conjured up a paper bag and gingerly handed it to her.
Nobody spoke as, in various stages of alarm, we watched Dom inhale and exhale furiously, the paper bag convulsing with each breath. After about five minutes of this, her breathing seemed to slow to a normal steady pace, and Dominique could finally pull away from the bag, her face beet red.
There was a long, pregnant pause.
And then Aidan said, tone hopeful: “So, did you like it?”
Dominique’s face deepened in color. Fred, Potter and I, in perfect unison, took a hasty step backwards, knowing it was only a matter of time before Dom's rage bubbled over into the inevitable explosion. Aidan, however, remained blissfully oblivious, earnest confidence still beaming from his expression.
And then Dom started shouting.
“WHAT IN THE NAME OF SWEET MERLIN’S PREPUBESCENT WHISKERS WERE YOU THINKING, YOU BLOODY TWAT?! HUMILIATING ME IN FRONT OF THE ENTIRE SCHOOL?! YOU ARE A COMPLETE AND UTTER WANKER! I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU! SWEET CIRCE, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?! I AM JUST — SO — ARGH!!”
Dominique, abandoning her speech, took three quick, wrathful steps forward, her expression one of total rage. My brother immediately began backing away until he was completely pressed against the wall behind him, his easy smile long gone and now replaced by a pale look of terror. Fred, Potter and I said nothing, unwilling spectators to this whole fiasco.
“Er," Aidan began meekly. "I take it you weren't a fan?"
“A fan? A FAN? That was the biggest pile of butt-pudding I've ever heard in my life, and that’s saying something because I BOUGHT SELENA GOMWIZ'S NEW ALBUM AND HATED IT!”
“I’m sorry,” Aidan said mildly. “That must have been a terrible waste of money.”
“Yes it was! I was extremely disappoin — HEY, THAT IS NOT RELEVANT TO THIS CONVERSATION! STOP EFFING CHANGING THE EFFING TOPIC, YOU EFFING — ”
Dom could not finish her insult, however, because for some inexplicable reason that no one, probably not even Aidan, could fathom, my brother had quickly stepped forward, grabbed her face, and kissed her. Still looking absolutely terrified, but determination tight in his jaw anyways, my brother had kissed Dominique Weasley.
...And then he promptly ran away.
"Uh-oh," Potter muttered warily next to me. Fred winced in sympathy, though I wasn't sure for whom.
At my brother's sudden absence, Dom stood — stock still and speechless — for a long moment, unmoving, her lips a thin white line. Just when I was beginning to wonder if I should call for medical assistance, Dominique straightened and, face changing from maroon to white to purple, screeched:
“AIDAN — KISS — WANKER — ARGH!”
And then she promptly sprinted after my brother, most likely in search of violent, bloody revenge.
Fred, Potter and I regarded the empty spaces in front of us where our two friends had previously been, too taken aback to register any emotion other than surprise.
Despite the fact that Dom was most likely fashioning a murder weapon out of the contents in her backpack right now, Fred did not seem concerned at all. Face thoughtful, he turned to Potter and held out his hand.
"Ten galleons Aidan's in the Hospital Wing by four o'clock," he said cheerily.
“Deal,” Potter agreed, and then they shook on it.
Merlin help us.
Hours later, I was sitting nervously in the Potions dungeons, fidgeting with anxiety as Slughorn’s dull voice hummed in my ear like an annoying, incessant fly. Potions was my third subject of the day, and Dom hadn't bothered to show up for it. She hadn't attended our second class (Charms), or the first (Ancient Runes) either. Her absences were disconcerting, to say the least.
Knowing my best friend, she was at this very moment either, a) breaking all 206 bones in Aidan’s body or b) furiously snogging him in a broom-cupboard. I wasn’t sure which one was worse. I was naively, optimistically hoping for option c) none of the above, but my inner cynic knew that wasn’t likely.
I drummed my fingers on the wooden desk, the action compulsive and involuntary even though the noise was grating on my already raw nerves. Part of me wanted to comb the castle to look for my best friend and brother, but another part knew that I had to stay in class and pay attention. I was torn.
“Miss Bennett," came a loud, somewhat indignant voice, and I looked up to see Slughorn's bushy grey moustache looming in front of my eyes — along with the rest of his miffed face. "Would you care to explain to me what you've been day-dreaming about for the past ten minutes?" I snapped out of my reverie, feeling my stomach plummet to my shoes. Craparoni.
"I’m finding it hard," Slughorn continued imperiously, moustache twitching with annoyance. "To imagine what could possibly be interesting enough to distract you from my lesson. I just instructed the entire class to pair up, yet you seem to not have heard.”
I glumly looked around the classroom to see that, indeed, Slughorn spoke the truth. All the other students in the class had broken off into groups of two, sitting at their tables with racks of colorful ingredients and their cauldrons already boiling. Obviously, everyone was preparing to make a potion, but I had been so ensnared in my own thoughts that I didn't even know which one.
I swallowed, turning back to face Slughorn's wrath with an uneasy, strained smile on my face. "Sorry, Professor. I was just thinking to myself and got distracted."
“Thinking?" Slughorn huffed disbelievingly, ruddy face turning purplish at the nerve of it all. "Miss Bennett, there will be no thinking in this class!”
I coughed, calling on all the resources in my body to stifle the colossal urge to roll my eyes. Sometimes, Slughorn had no idea just how absolutely stupid he could sound.
"Right," I began, trying to keep my voice devoid of any hint of sarcasm. "I apologize for my... thinking, sir."
Slughorn straightened, gave a curt nod and puffed his chest out authoritatively. "That's quite alright, Miss Bennett, just don't do it again or I'll be forced to deduct points." He cleared his throat, gesturing to the opposite side of the classroom with a sweeping hand. "Now, if you could take a seat next to Mr. Bagley of Ravenclaw over there..."
I began gathering my things as Slughorn's instructions droned on in the background, all the while mentally cursing myself for my lapse in concentration. Potions was my worst subject, and I couldn't afford to be dozing off in class, especially my OWL year.
I mean, I was great at the theory part of the subject (I aced all of my essays, worksheets, and written tests), but the potion-making itself? Yeah, not my strong suit. I was known to have exploded a couple cauldrons in my day. Okay, maybe not just the a couple. More like three. Or four. Or nineteen. But who was keeping track anyway?
My Potions ineptitude was made even more painful by the fact that Potter was amazing at Potions. Last year, when the Slytherins had our class with the Gryffindors, Slughorn would always brag about how Potter had inherited his grandmother Lily's knack for brewing. I'd had to put up with our professor's never-ending praise as Potter gloated around, a giant git making everything perfectly like some freakish Potions machine. The fact that Potter could be good at anything besides Quidditch and picking up girls seemed to surprise nobody else but me.
After class (in which my partner, Herny Bagley, and I managed to shamble together a half-decent Calming Draught), the rest of the day passed with no incident, save in Transfiguration, when Evelyn “accidentally” turned Charlotte Milford's hair a sickly green color in a classic display of her Evelyn evilness.
Dom and Aidan had not shown for any of their classes, and neither did they come to dinner. I was beginning to worry about what they could possibly be doing and where they could possibly be. Even though I tried to valiantly distract myself with homework, I felt scattered — like my brain was off flying somewhere in space while I'd been abandoned down here on earth.
That evening, I stood outside the Charms classroom to meet Potter for our nightly Prefect's patrol and let myself simmer with thoughts of Aidan and Dominique and all the worst case scenarios that could be happening between them right now. I drifted into possibilities, letting my imagination run wild as my surroundings drifted away.
Did my brother really miss Dom that much? Or did he just want her because she was unattainable? A part of me — the selfish part — didn’t want them dating. As a couple, Dom and Aidan were always on-and-off at breakneck speed, making them exhausting to keep up with.
Perhaps a definite break would be a good thing — it'd give them a chance to both mature, to discover what life could be like without the other. After all, Dom and Aidan's constant drama was hardly healthy, and they were always dragging the rest of us into their tiffs. I distinctly remembered a phase in Third Year, when the two had gone through a particularly nasty break-up and proceeded to passive-aggressively talk to each other through me. For two whole months. The simplest things, like hanging out in the Grounds or walking to class, suddenly became painful chores. A meal at the Great Hall would typically look like this:
Aidan: Agatha, will you please tell Dominique to pass the butter?
Me: Dom, will you pass the butter?
Dominique: Aggy, tell Aidan that I will NOT pass the butter and that he needs to take a short walk off a long pier, or whatever.
Me: Er, Dominique says she’s not passing the butter.
Aidan: Well, tell her that’s okay, because I don’t need butter anyways. My waffle tastes perfectly fine without it. Butter’s overrated.
Dominique: Well, tell Aidan that the butter’s glad it’s not needed, seeing as the waffle is AN OBNOXIOUS, SELF-OBSESSED PRICK!
Aidan: Tell Dominique that butter is unhealthy and EMOTIONALLY-MANIPULATIVE!
Dominique: Tell Aidan that nobody likes waffles, and that butter will do perfectly fine without him!
Aidan: Tell Dominique that waffles are for sophisticated people with good taste, which she obviously does not have!
Dominique: TELL AIDAN THAT BUTTER IS MOVING ON TO BETTER THINGS, LIKE PANCAKES!
And so on.
Eventually, I’d just leave and the two wouldn’t even notice, continuing on with their bickering as if I were still there. Kind of sad, if you thought about it.
Maybe I was a bad person for not wanting them to get back together, but Aidan and Dom were an exasperating couple to be around. Dating complicated things, and I liked it better when everything was simple and easy, when everything —
I yelped in surprise at the sudden greeting, jumping about five feet into the air as I was so rudely jerked from my reverie. Heart racing, I whipped around to see Potter leaning against the wall, arms crossed and a dark scowl on his face.
“Good Godric!" I cried, resting a hand over my thumping heart. “You scared the crap out of me, Potter!”
“Sorry,” he said flatly, not sounding very sorry at all. His gaze flicked down my body irritably, stony expression betraying his absolute unwillingness to be here.
“Don’t do that again!” I berated, heart still racing furiously. “Next time, just tap the person on the shoulder if you want their bloody attention, okay?" Potter could seriously endanger someone's life with this guerrilla-ambush style of greeting. What if I'd had a heart attack?
“Oh settle down, Bennett," Potter shot back condescendingly, face darkening with annoyance at my increasing melodrama. "It’s not like I jumped out of the shadows and attacked you.”
“Um, you may as well have!” I retorted.
Potter simply threw his hands into the air in a sarcastic gesture of surrender, eyes simmering with subtle hostility. “Whatever. Can we just start patrolling? I want to get this over with so I can go to bed.”
“Wow, don’t get too excited," I snapped, voice lowering into a mocking imitation of concern. "You might have an accident.”
Potter resolutely ignored me, turning brusque and business-like as he critically surveyed the stretch of corridor in front of us. “Let’s patrol this level and then go up to the fourth floor. Then we can be done with it, okay?" he begun to walk away, signaling an end to all conversation for the night. His rigid posture was its own promise of a patrol filled with very stiff, tense silence.
“Wait!” I called out insistently, speed-walking to catch up with Potter's unfairly long strides. My brow collapsed into a thoughtful frown as I tried to recall the Head Boy's words at our last Prefects meeting. “I thought we were supposed to patrol this level and then go down to the second floor.”
“Nope." Potter gave an adamant, swift shake of the head. "I’m pretty sure it’s the fourth floor.”
“We’re supposed to patrol the second floor, Potter!” I asserted, growing surer in the face of his disbelief. “It says so on the schedule!”
“Oh, and do you have said schedule with you?”
“Er, not physically with me per se, but in spirit — "
“I see," Potter deadpanned, expression thoroughly unimpressed.
I huffed a sigh of frustration, shoving fingers into my curly mass of hair as I attempted to reason with the git. “Just trust me on this one, alright? We’re supposed to patrol the second floor, I'm sure,” I said firmly. My lips pursed together in a stubborn, implicit challenge that just dared Potter to disagree.
Which he did. Of course.
“I don't know how this second-floor-bullshit got into your head, but I checked our schedule right before I got here," Potter said, all high and insufferably mighty. "We're supposed to patrol the fourth."
“No," I said slowly. "The second."
“Sec — Okay, you know what? We’re not getting anywhere with this.” I relented, trying to quell my slow-bubbling agitation as I struggled to think of a practical solution. “How about I patrol the second floor, and you just go patrol the fourth floor?”
Rather pleased with myself for coming up with such a brilliant idea and managing to get away from Potter at the same time, I swiveled around and — not bothering to wait for a reply — began to strut off.
But before I could get far, a warm hand was grabbing my arm and spinning me insistently around. I looked up to see Potter, corners of his mouth turned down in displeasure, eyes flashing with dangerous dissent. “Hold up, Bennett," he said calmly, assertively. "We are not splitting up.”
“And why not?” I said, jutting my chin out stubbornly. Honestly, it was like the prat was actively trying to be difficult.
“Because," Potter began, enunciating his first few words slowly as if speaking to a particularly stupid child. "When you go off on your own and meddle into some problem Merlin-knows-where in the castle, you'll inevitably get yourself hurt. And I'm going to be held responsible," he added pointedly, tone sharp and not to be argued with. His brow had darkened with adamant conviction, jaw stubbornly clenched in a way that meant business.
“Get hurt? What are you talking about?” I scoffed, clearly affronted as I backed slowly away from Potter. “I am perfectly capable of patrolling by myself, thank you very much.”
Potter snorted. His arms folded across his broad chest as he squinted haughtily at me, eyes flicking in a critical once-over of my body. “I don’t think so.”
I fumed. "I will have you know, Potter, that I am a strong independent woman, not to mention a trained prefect fully able to handle any possible complications during a standard patrol — "
“Oh really?" Potter interjected dismissively. "And what about that incident with Peeves and the water-guns? Were you fully able to handle that?”
My voice died in my throat mid-sentence. I gaped disbelievingly at Potter, caught off guard for an embarrassingly long while. The prat might have a good point with that one. “How — how did you know — about that?" I sputtered. Asking was pointless, though. I already knew the answer.
“Dominique," we both said at the same time, although in considerably different tones.
“Well," I drew in a sharp, dignified breath, attempting to stay composed as I mentally cursed Potter and his insolence. “That was once. And a long time ago. It’s irrelevant now.”
“Bennett," Potter shook his head superciliously, taking a nonchalant step forward as he shoved his hands into his pockets. His tone was that of someone about to embark on a long explanation, and I braced myself, really in for it now. "You are clumsy, irrational — "
"Hey!" I protested, but was silenced as Potter stepped forward once more, still rattling off his oh-so-flattering list.
"Accident-prone, easily provoked, not very blessed in the hand-eye co-ordination department — "
"Somewhat unhinged — "
"That's not fair!" I cried, but my voice cut off abruptly as Potter lightly stepped forward one last time and I stumbled backwards — only to find my back bumping against the wall behind me. The prat had me trapped.
...And he seemed to know it. Leaning forward, Potter took in my clear discomfort with a gaze glinting in triumph, mouth twisting with wry amusement.
"I am not going to let you loose on Hogwarts," he declared clearly, casually, hands still in his bloody pockets like this was all some mildly entertaining game. "And have you be a major liability to myself and this school."
He'd won, and we both knew it. I was caught off guard and still reeling from our sudden proximity, observing all of Potter's features — his hazel gaze, the sly victory in his expression — in a half-daze of confusion.
Um — Potter — close — wow — interesting, my brain supplied helpfully. My breathing had hitched, and my skin suddenly felt like ice. If getting this close was some tactic of Potter's to put me on edge, it was sure-as-bloody-hell working.
I averted my eyes, refusing to have to look at the prat's face, and instead focused on a spot directly in my sightline. Which was a bad idea, really. A very bad idea indeed, since that spot happened to be Potter’s chest. His quite... nice chest. Potter wasn't bulky with muscle, but he was lean and... toned. Ahem.
After all, I wasn't going to lie to myself and say Potter wasn't good-looking. Because he was, objectively-speaking, and the git bloody knew it. He had a horrible and intolerable personality, but he was attractive, I’d grant him that. He had this... messy, dark hair that contrasted (nicely) with his (smooth, creamy) skin. And his eyes were... colorful. Bright. With swirls of brown and dark green and golden flecks that kind of looked like shards of broken amber.
You know. Objectively speaking.
Potter's unnerving gaze traveled my face, his eyes dark with amusement, the shadows of the corridor pooling into the hollows of his cheek.
We'd fallen into a strange silence — something I rarely experienced when Potter was around — and there was a long moment in which neither of us said anything. I wasn't breathing, my eyes widened in an almost bewildered fashion as I struggled to process my immediate surroundings.
“Stop undressing me with your eyes, Bennett.”
“What — I — Huh? I'm not undressing you with my eyes!” I sputtered, mortified at the very thought, face flushing unbearably warm.
The left corner of Potter’s lips quirked upwards in a skeptical, sure-you-weren't smirk as he pulled away, taking long, easy backwards strides while his gaze amusedly took in my expression.
“Oh come on, Bennett, you were definitely checking me out just then," he said triumphantly, tone musical and shit-eating grin already in place. "You’re not fooling anyone. We all know what you're thinking about."
My mouth fell open. “What are you implying, exactly?”
“That you’re a promiscuous sex fiend, of course,“ Potter quipped back, face remarkably innocent.
It took a moment for me to realize that he was joking. And then I scowled, feeling the hot fingers of embarrassment slide down my neck as my face bloomed crimson.
“You’re unbelievable,” I growled, and Potter just shrugged, continuing to grin in that insufferable manner. Body taut with anger, I whipped around and began to walk away, my fists clenched at the glum realization that Potter had definitely just won that fight.
"Whatever you say, Bennett," Potter called back sing-song-like to my retreating form.
And that was when I sort of just... lost it.
Wheeling around, I turned to face Potter, my expression alight with fury at the completely blithe, dismissive tone in his voice. The embarrassment I'd been feeling only encouraged my anger, and the words were tumbling out of my mouth before I knew it.
"You are so vile, you obnoxious, impertinent prat — ugh! There are no words for you! You are the most contemptible person I have ever had the misfortune to meet, do you know that?!" I seethed in a voice high with hysteria, my breathing ragged and rapid. Potter just looked on unfazed, seeming only mildly amused. "Sometimes I wonder what I must have done in a past life to deserve ever meeting a person like you. I think I must have been some sort of — of serial puppy killer, given how horrible a misfortune it is to know you now, and you know what? That makes me kind of hate puppies! There you have it, you idiot — you make me hate puppies. You make me hate everything — "
I was this close to just going bonkers and just ripping out all the hair from my scalp. He was so — argh! Words could not describe it; I was so furious I wanted to punch something. Preferably Potter himself.
I started at the sudden noise, my anger subduing considerably as my brow involuntarily flattened in confusion. For a moment, I thought my raging and flailing had caused me to hit something, and whatever it was had gone crashing to the ground. But then I realized that the foreign noise had come from somewhere farther away.
Rearing backwards and shaking my head clear, I locked eyes with an equally perplexed Potter. He blinked, the amusement on his face replaced by a thoughtful frown as we glanced at each other and then around us, in search for the source of the racket.
“Hey, did you—“
“ — hear that?”
BANG! CRASH! BANG BANG!
I frowned, stiffening. “It sounded like it was coming from—“
“ — that direction,” Potter interrupted, pointing towards the stretch of dark corridor before us. His finger led to an eerie, inky blackness, dark save for the occasional fluttering light of the torches on the wall. The sight was spooky enough to make me forget my previous anger.
“Yeah,” I agreed perplexedly. “We should probably — “
“ — go check it out.”
“Potter,” I sighed, exasperated. “Will you stop— “
“ — finishing your sentences?” Potter’s face broke out into a full-fledged smirk. I gritted my teeth.
“Yes. That,” I bit out, voice considerably strained. Whatever or whoever it was out there making that racket better watch out, because Potter had put me in a sufficiently foul mood and I was not about to indulge anyone's rule-breaking right now.
“Come on, Bennett." Potter gestured with his head, expression turning somewhat serious. "Let’s go.”
Although I didn’t appreciate the prat ordering me around like that, I let him take the lead as we speed-walked down the hallway. After all, strange crashing sounds in the middle of the night could never be a good thing — especially at Hogwarts — and hey, if Potter wanted to be the first to walk down the Creepy Corridor of Death, then that was fine by me.
It didn't take us long to find the source of the noise. As we rounded our first corner, we were met with the sight of a suit of armor lying on the ground. I blinked. Now that was obviously not where it was supposed to be.
The suit's metal glinted in the flickering torch light, its form obviously having broken apart in the process of falling. Now its metallic limbs were scattered across the stone, looking almost like a —
Don’t say it, Agatha, don’t say it.
— dismembered body.
My breathing hitched.
Okay, so, this was sufficiently creepy.
I looked up to see Potter walking around the shambly pile of metal, his brow crinkled in calculating concentration as he inspected our surroundings. I walked up to him, hands shaking.
“Um, Potter?” I asked, voice small as I tugged on his sleeve. “Maybe we should go back and get a professor — ?”
Potter looked up at me, expression incredulous. “Merlin, Bennett. Are you seriously afraid right now?"
I scoffed airily, as if he had just proposed something utterly ridiculous. “I’m not afraid! I just think perhaps it would be wise to head back and find someone who could help — "
His hazel eyes rolled to the ceiling. “Oh yeah? What happened to that ‘it’s our duty as Prefects to protect the school and all its students inside’ bullshit you’re always blabbering about?”
My teeth gritted, brow tightening in defensive frustration. Excuse me if I was a little wary about frolicking down some unknown, darkened corridor! This was the castle that once housed a three-headed dog in one of its classrooms, after all!
“Well it depends on the situation," I answered insistently, sounding way more authoritative and sure than I was currently feeling. "As smart upstanding students, we should report this to the professors.“
“Yeah, but as diligent prefects we should investigate to see what’s going on,” Potter pointed out.
“And as a human being, I would like to live to see daylight,” I snapped back.
Potter chuckled, a patronizing, mocking edge riding in his tone. “Relax, Bennett. Nothing’s going to happen.”
“How can you know that for sure though? “
“Don't you trust me, Bennett?"
“Of course not! Are you stupid?”
Potter seemed to consider this for a brief moment before giving an agreeable shrug. "Fair enough," he quipped, and with that, he grabbed me by the arm and began to walk forward, ignoring my ensuing resistance.
"Potter, I’m really not comfortable — I don’t think it’s a good idea— “ But I cut-off my protests mid-sentence, because all of a sudden, I heard it:
My blood ran cold. Potter’s eyes narrowed and he dropped my arm, marching forward to follow the noise.
“Potter, wait — “ Pushing aside the Slytherin self-preservation instincts currently screaming at me to turn around and run away like a madwoman, I followed Potter through the darkened corridor. We hurried onward, rounding another corner, and then —
— stopped in our tracks.
Because right in front of us stood Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley.
They were in some sort of passionate, hormone-induced embrace, sucking each other’s faces off like there was no tomorrow, hands, er, everywhere in an indecent display of PDA. Obviously, they had been the ones who had knocked down the suit of armor in the midst of all their, um, fervor, and obviously they were too busy eating each other's faces to give a damn about the two astounded Prefects in front of them.
I choked on my own saliva in a delightfully attractive manner, taking in the scene before me. A Malfoy and a Weasley? Together? Like, together together? That was unheard of. In fact, it was just plain strange.
Potter, meanwhile, seemed to be struggling with the same shock i was. "ROSE?” he yelled, expression pricelessly livid, and I conveniently remembered that one half of the pair in front of him was his cousin.
The two lovebirds broke apart upon realizing they weren't alone, faces shifting from expressions of surprise to expressions of horror. Upon seeing who had just yelled her name, Rose Weasley’s cheeks took on a nice shade of crimson. Scorpius, on the other hand, paled to a fantastic beige color.
“Er," Rose began sheepishly, pretty face still rather flushed in the torchlight. "This is going to be hard to explain...”
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