Chapter 1 : To be Lonely is a Habit
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A/N: I'm American and we spell words differently, so I'm sorry if it bothers you because I'm too forgetful to go back and change words to British spellings.
Edit 9/5/09: Thank you so much to my beta, AntigoneBlack. :D She's amazing
Chapter One: To be Lonely is a Habit
I never thought I'd have to take such extreme measures, but now I was doing just that. I weaved my way through the crowded hallway, pushing aside Slytherins and Hufflepuffs on their way to Potions. I was nearly sprinting my way towards the library when he jumped out of nowhere.
"Charlotte!" He exclaimed, panting with exhaustion. "I've been looking everywhere for you!"
"Well, now you've found me." I replied, side-stepping him to yank open the library door. "What do you need?" I already knew what he needed, which explained why I was trying to avoid him.
"I need-" He began, but before he could say anything, I had walked into the library. He followed, trailing slightly as I dumped my stuff onto a desk and retreated into the restricted section. "I need-" he started again but I moved into a different row. "Damn it, Charlotte!" He called, stopping and placing both hands on his hips.
I stopped my avoiding and turned to look at him. He looked peeved and somewhat embarrassed; though, I supposed that he always had sort of a cranky look about him.
"I don't want to ask you, but I have to," He started, trying to explain the situation he was in. Of course, I already knew but I relished in his embarrassment.
"Thanks, Wood," I replied, "But, you don't have to do anything you don't want to." I stalked away towards my desk and pulled out my Arithmancy book.
"Charlotte!" He started, frustrated, as he ran a hand through his hair. "I need you to tutor me in Potions."
"Mm," was all that I said as I scanned the chapter I was assigned for homework. I pulled out a piece of parchment, my eagle feather quill and my ink bottle to start the problems when he put his hand over my textbook. "Excuse me, but I need to see the problems."
"This is really hard for me to ask!" He was grumbling as he pulled himself a chair and sat down across from me, his hand still covering the page I needed. "I wouldn't ask you – you know that – unless I was in desperate need of your help."
I stopped fumbling in my book bag and gave him a simple look, "Wood, I'll be frank with you," I said, folding my hands on top of the wooden table, "If you spent half of the time studying that you use writing up Quidditch plays, I'm sure we wouldn't be having this conversation."
His face reddened and his lips thinned dramatically, "S'not like you've watched any of the matches…" Oliver muttered to himself.
I peevishly removed his hand from my textbook, "No, Wood, go find yourself another tutor – a nice, Ravenclaw one will suffice, I think."
Oliver didn't move, he continued to stare at me as though I had sprouted antlers on my head. "Charlotte, asking somebody from Ravenclaw would be treasonous! They're our competition for the cup! They're probably glad that Snape is failing me!"
Ugh. I stared at him, my mind quickly calculating the situation. What makes this any worthwhile for me? Another voice entered the conversation and it sounded oddly like my best friend Alex taunting me, Oh, you know, helping Gryffindor win the Cup doesn't mean anything! I mean, everyone already loves you so much because you're practically a bloody social butterfly! I frowned at this. Clearly, I was going mad if I started arguing with myself over this stupid, stupid, decision. It was obvious what I was going to say, right?
"No." It was firm and I didn't even meet his eyes when I said it. I simply turned my homework page casually and from the corner of my eye, I watched him stomp out of the library. I gleefully applauded myself on avoiding a disaster and peacefully returned to my homework.
"YOU SAID NO?!" Alex was waving her arms around, eyes wide with surprise and her lips turned down in a frown. "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU SAID NO!" She sat down in a huff, her eyes never leaving my face as I thumbed through the Potions homework with ease.
"What's wrong with me saying no?" I inquired, lifting my eyes for a brief moment to meet hers before turning them back on my essay.
Alex got up again, stalking the entire room before flopping back onto the sofa and staring at me again. "Do you know what this means?" She said finally after a moment of silence.
"That he's going to be dismissed as Captain of the Quidditch Team? Yes, I know what it means." I looked up from my essay and dotted an 'i' furiously. "I don't understand why people think I don't have ears! Yes, they might not pay much attention to me but if you speak in front of me – I can bloody hear!"
"AND YOU STILL SAID NO?" Alex looked absolutely incredulous. "Sometimes, I don't know how you think."
I smirked. "Clearly, seeing as though I've got better grades than you."
She rolled her eyes, "Details, details." Then she rounded on me again, "You've got to change your answer! You've got to help Wood!"
"I don't have the time to help him!" I argued, "It's the bloody year for N.E.W.T's!" I stood up and moved to a table, then I waved my wand and levitated the rest of my books over. They landed neatly by the wall and I continued work on my essay.
Alex rolled her eyes again. It was really a beastly habit. "Yes, because the Professors have honestly allowed us to forget that?" She pointed to her own towering stack of textbooks, "Honestly, they're only giving us homework because they've got nothing better to do right?" She moved to sit across from me; moving her books with her wand and having them land beside mine.
"Ugh, I hate when you use sarcasm back at me." I sent her a glare.
She blew a kiss at me and took out her Transfiguration book before flipping to the chapter she needed. I was shocked for a moment, as she began to do her homework without further complaint. It did not last long, seeing as she was building the silence to badger me about Wood some more. "I just don't understand why…"
"But, think about it-"
"It's the Cup, Lotty!"
"Drop it. " I looked up dangerously from my essay and she shut her mouth but not before giving a loud sigh and muttering about how much of a nutter I was.
We worked in silence for more than an hour. People were starting to crowd the common room in preparation for dinner. A girl walked up to our table and cleared her throat. I looked up and she smiled at me. I set down my quill and sent a questioning look at Alex, who was scratching the end of her nose and staring down at the essay before scratching something out.
The girl introduced herself as Katie Bell, a chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. "It would be amazing if you could truly help Oliver out," She pleaded, "This is his last year as Captain and we really want to win it for him."
"You won last year," I asserted, "Shouldn't he be satisfied with what he has, instead of being greedy and always wanting more?"
Katie's pale face pinked slightly as she narrowed her eyes at me, "How can one succeed if one never sets his goals higher than what he has already accomplished?" She looked as if I had talked about supporting Slytherin during the actual matches. If, you know, I actually gave two-wits for Quidditch.
"True," I paused, "But if he wants to sets his goals higher, he should learn how to manage Quidditch and complete his Potions homework."
She just let out a sigh, "This is important to him – this is important to the entire team…"
"It's important to the entire house." Alex replied as she was scratching away the conclusion in her essay. "Proofread this for me later, will you?" She blew on the ink to dry before rolling it up and handing it to me.
"Basically," I eyed Katie Bell, "You want me to help Oliver purely out of compassion for the entire Gryffindor house?" She nodded, glad that I had grasped such a concept so beautifully, "I suppose your plan would've worked if I cared whether or not the entire house liked me or not."
With a frown, she stalked away towards her friends and Alex raised an eyebrow suspiciously, "I think I might've seen a hint of Slytherin in you." I looked up and caught a cold stare from Katie's entourage.
"Or maybe I just don't care about them?"
"Maybe it shouldn't always be about your future." Alex shrugged nonchalantly, "I mean, I know you don't give a rat's arse about what they think about you – but, I mean, doesn't a little part of you want to be accepted by the rest of our house? Don't you get sick of having only me as a friend?"
"I have friends!" I defended, "I have many friends…" Alex gave me another look, "…just because they're in the shape of books, doesn't mean they're any less…" She continued with the look and I scowled, "Fine, you're my only friend…" She looked satisfied, "You're the only friend that I need."
"There's really no need to fluff my ego," Alex grinned, "Really, though, Lotty," She continued, not fazed by compliments at all, "You've been here for seven years and I'm the only friend you've managed to make? Don't you find that just a little sad?"
"That isn't the point," I wriggled uncomfortably in my chair, "The point is that I don't want to tutor Oliver Wood and that's final."
"Why?" Alex persisted, "He's a decent bloke-"
"He's actually not." I said quietly, glancing up from the desk, "He's always been an arrogant prick. He doesn't care about anyone else as long as he gets to play his Quidditch." She didn't say anything but let me continue, "First year, you know what he did to me? We were being taught how to fly and I just didn't grasp to concept of flying very well. He said that I was 'holding the rest of the class back' from learning how to fly because Hooch kept coming over to keep me from falling off…" I sighed, "I hate flying."
"That's it? He insulted you?"
I rolled my eyes, "You do know that he came over afterwards and called me a baby for being scared of flying and then shoved me off my broom, right?"
"That's not uncalled for at all…"
"Thank you, I always knew you were a quick one…"
Alex let out a low chortle, "I bet all he wanted to do was play Quidditch and fly about, I mean, that was first year – I'm sure he's changed since then. I mean, haven't you?" Then she shook her head, "Never mind, you haven't changed a bit. You're exactly the same as I remember you."
At this, I felt a sudden churning in my stomach. I couldn't precisely put my finger on it, but I was sure that I was annoyed by this statement. I must've made a peevish face because Alex began waving her arms around, trying to console me.
"No! No! That's not what I meant!" She said, shaking her head and her hands furiously, "It's just, well, you've basically remained the same. You act the same way you've always acted! It's a good thing! Really!"
"You don't have to sugar coat it," I responded, even though my stomach still churned with annoyance, "I've stayed exactly the same. I get it. It's fine."
"Don't be like that." Alex said soothingly, "I mean, some people never change."
"People always change." I contradicted, my lips pursing. I then sighed, feeling the churning cease, "Maybe you're right. Maybe I need a change." I looked at my pile of textbooks, "I wonder why the Sorting Hat placed me in Gryffindor when everyone knows I belong in Ravenclaw."
"You don't." She said simply, "You're a Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat must know something you don't."
I let out another growl before thumping my head against the table a couple times. Not exactly a smart move, you know, killing brain cells and all, but I felt that it had to be done.
"Maybe," Alex said softly, meeting my eyes when I lifted my forehead up and rubbed it with my right hand, "Maybe this is your chance to make a change!"
"Oh, no." I began shaking my head, "You're not serious? Oh, damn, you are serious!" I let out another groan before letting my forehead fall back upon the table with a loud, "Ouch!"
"I am damn serious!" Alex said, "Tutor Oliver, the whole house will love you and you'll be able to change! You can break out from your shell and finally become a butterfly!"
"Thank you for the implication that I am a bloody worm."
"Caterpillar," She corrected.
"Same bloody thing."
Alex laughed, "You just said 'bloody' two times in a row."
"Tutor him." She insisted, "Do it. You know you want to. You know you're not Slytherin at all on the inside but instead, a fluffy, happy, cheerful Hufflepuff!"
I let out a loud groan.
"Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it!" She began chanting and soon the mantra was stuck in my head. I stared at the floor, weighing the pros and cons of the situation as her words continued floating through my brain.
"FINE!" I yelped after her chanting began to grow obnoxious, "OKAY. I'LL DO IT. I'LL TUTOR STUPID WOOD!" I collapsed onto the desk after my explosion. Of course, it's not like any explosion of mine would've startled the common room – they were too busy being louder than me.
Alex just grinned and wisely said nothing.
Dinner was normal. People greeted Alex but ignored me – the Quidditch team shunned me more coldly than usual. I suspected Katie had told them exactly what I had told her and they weren't pleased. However, in my own defense, I have to say that they weren't there for my change of heart.
I grumbled, grabbing some chicken as Alex laughed at something one of the Weasley twins said. I, of course, was ignored because: one, the Weasley twins were on the Quidditch team and most probably heard from Katie and Oliver of my refusal to tutor him; and two, they were just accustomed to my silence.
Finishing my meal, I grabbed my bag and told Alex that I was going to the library – I needed somewhere to warm up after all the cold looks I had been getting during the meal. I held my head high as I left but I couldn't help but hear something Alicia Spinnet whispered to Angelina on my way out, "Who knew such a Gryffindor could be so callous to another…"
I literally stomped my way to the library. How dare they! I fumed. It's not like any of them have given me a damn thought over the years! It's not like they would've helped me if I asked! I was again, interrupted by a voice that sounded a lot like Alex's: sometimes, you're so damn self-righteous.
"Snap out of it, Lotty," I whispered to myself, "You can't have gone so loony that you've begun speaking to yourself…" I shook my head and let myself into the library. Picking up my feet, I went over to my favorite table, near the back corner of the library that was hidden completely by shelves.
Maybe they're right… I couldn't help think.
I tried to focus on my homework, but I couldn't; I was utterly distracted. Usually, problems such as these hardly fazed me because I never had to deal with them but now…I really wasn't well equipped for this. I usually had such a thick skin that words seemed to bounce right off but Alicia's remark really hit home.
I thought of Alex and how she would've handled this situation. I rolled my eyes. It was pointless. I already knew what Alex would've done. She would've said 'yes' to helping him because she was always willing to help someone out.
Alex. Alex, who was my best friend since second year; Alex, who had stuck up for me; Alex, who listened to what I say without judgment; Alex, who was constantly there and supportive of what I did.
Alex, who, despite having terrible grades, was funny and popular. She made people feel…good. She said things that were ridiculous but made you laugh. She said things that sometimes, were wiser than anything I had ever read.
I wish I was more like Alex.
Unable to think anymore, I grabbed my bag and left the library. I had to find Wood and tell him that I had changed my mind. I checked the Great Hall, but he had already left so I scoured the hallways. I managed to walk by McGonagall's office when her reedy voice called out my name.
I came to a halt and backed up a couple steps. I smiled in greeting before realizing that Oliver was standing next to her – he did not look pleased to see me.
She motioned for both of us to sit in the two chairs she had conjured up. McGonagall sat at her desk and folded her hands together before saying simply, "Wood tells me that you've refused to tutor him."
"Actually, I-" I started to say.
McGonagall waved off whatever I was going to say with her right hand, "I cannot have Wood dismissed as Captain but I cannot have him fail Potions either," She stared down her nose at me, "You can imagine how limited my options are for such a situation."
"I understand." I said demurely, unsure of what she was saying.
"So, I must ask you," She continued, "Both of you, if you will commit yourselves as true Gryffindors and work together?" McGonagall raised an eyebrow curiously, "For the unity of Gryffindor house?"
"Okay." I said with a shrug, "I'll do it. I'll tutor him."
"Excellent." McGonagall said with as much enthusiasm as she could have mustered. She sent us out without another word. I stuck both hands into my pockets and began to walk towards the common room when Oliver stopped me.
"That was too easy." He said, his eyes scanning my face for some sort of deceit, "You were so sure at the library." He replied, "Why the change of heart?"
I shrugged and continued walking but I stopped and turned, "Oh, Thursday night in the common room. Ten o'clock, and please don't be late." I began walking again but he just stopped me again.
"Why did you change your answer?"
I shrugged, "You can thank the cold responses I got from your Quidditch team." I said this sarcastically and he couldn't help but grin.
"They are quite convincing, aren't they?"
I rolled my eyes. "Just don't be late."
Clearly, I wasn't a seer, because I did not realize how much trouble I was getting myself into and if I had foreseen the disasters that occurred from this exchange – I probably would not have changed my mind, despite constant complaints and badgering from the Quidditch team.
A/N: Reviews&Thoughts would be nice, but if you have to be blunt - be gentle because I'll feel discouraged. This chapter is now beta'd :)