Chapter 26 : Chapter Twenty-Six. Mute.
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I didn’t know what to do. Should I go to him and explain? Should I stay here and mope? Should I go to Camilla, throw a rope around his skinny little neck, and pull? Nothing seemed to work in my head. No scenario was appropriate. The day outside was beautiful, exactly the type of day I would have been enjoying, but my mood wasn’t heightened or cheered by the clear blue sky outside. It was lessened.
I pulled at my hair, feeling a few strands actually break loose from my skull and stay in my hands. This was so frustrating. I flicked the hairs away impatiently and looked around. No one was staring, but that didn’t mean that everyone was ignoring me either. I probably looked like a right tosspot, pulling out my hair and sobbing uncontrollably.
I saw some Ravenclaw look up and give me a worried glance—which I returned with a glare. She didn’t understand, and she probably never would. I was losing the guy I loved because of some contract, and he didn’t even know it. He was probably being forced into hating me.
I looked down at my hands and sighed deeply. Why was I even in the library—it’s not the place I would ever choose to come and cry. That’s what lavatories are for. I looked over to my right where Remus and I had studied just a few nights ago for the upcoming Herbology exam. It wasn’t exactly a productive session; we’d snogged most of that time. Over to my left was the small couch where we’d come down with James’s invisibility cloak and snogged, with Pince just a few meters away.
We wouldn’t do that ever again though.
I stood and started walking to the door, knowing full-well why I’d come into the library, and also knowing that I couldn’t possibly stay in the room where most of my happiness with Remus was spent. The common room was too risky. The great hall was a disaster waiting to happen. The grounds, the greenhouses, the empty classroom on the third floor—everywhere I could possibly travel, I was met by memories of him.
I strode quietly downward, taking two staircases to get to the lower level dungeons. The walls were somewhat colder and the air was thicker, as one might expect. I stepped off the very last step and shuffled a little over to the wall, where a suit of armor was standing in an alcove. A few Slytherin students strutted past me, but I attempted to ignore their hasty glares. If I wasn’t me, I’d probably dislike me as well.
I strolled numbly into the potions classroom where Slughorn was joyously teaching a class. I sat down on a stack of books large enough to be an actual chair, and I watched silently as he droned on in an enthused tone about the wonders of the Pepper-Up Potion, a topic I’d studied not too long ago. He continued to talk, smiling at students who answered, and tsking at students who mumbled or blew the entire assignment off.
I looked to my left, seeing Sluhorn’s magical shelf of achievements—the students he predicted would one day become important figures in magical history, the ones who excel. Lily smiled at me and waved awkwardly as she shuffled a bit closer to the rest of the group. I was never on the shelf, nor would I ever be. I’d never even though about excelling, it wasn’t something I strived for.
Perhaps that was an issue, I thought as I began to evaluate myself. Setting the bar too low, and never quite bothering to jump. I looked at Lily’s picture, watching as it replayed over and over, the scene becoming a bit more interesting each time. Did I not succeed merely because I expected myself not to? My mind wandered back to the second week that Remus and I had been dating. I’d started doing better in my classes because I would remember him when remembering answers. He believed in me, therefore I believed in me. But now that he was gone, I had nothing more to believe in.
I was a beautiful portrait in a large puzzle that was missing pieces. I briefly contemplated whether or not Remus was having the same difficulties as I was. If perhaps he was struggling to remember the person he was before we were together.
“Mute Connelly, is it?” I heard the professor ask. I jumped a bit, ripped away from my reverie.
“Well, do you need anything?” He asked, a funny smile playing upon his face.
“Actually sir,” I paused, thinking. “Have you ever heard of a magical contract?”
“Yes, of course,” he smiled, as if this was absurd.
“Are those…well, what I’m trying to ask is…how long do those last?”
“You must be joking?” He asked incredulously. I shook my head, and he continued with a tone that was more bemused than anything else. “Forever, my dear. Magical contracts are the single most poignant forms of contract in our worlds, disregarding unbreakable vows. They are impossible to rid oneself of, I’m afraid.”
I nodded, my slight polite smile deepening into a frown as each word processed through my brain. I stared down at the ground, looking on as my feet contracted themselves into fitting into the shapes of the stone that made up the floor. Sunlight was coming through the windows in sharp rays, and I had to shield my eyes every now and then when they caught a reflection.
“I’m hoping you haven’t made the mistake of signing or creating one?” He was cautious, as he should be.
For a moment I considered telling him the truth, telling him everything about the contract and my ex-boyfriend, and everything. But as much as I would enjoy watching Camilla hauled out of the castle like the cargo she was, I couldn’t do it. Something in my throat locked and words wouldn’t form in my mouth, or on my lips. I merely smiled and shook my head, tossing in a, “No, no, just wondering.”
“Yes, well, you better be running to dinner, dear. I hear it’s pumpkin pie for dessert tonight!” He rubbed his hands together and licked his lips excitedly. I smiled politely and excused myself, walking away from the dark, humid dungeons and the answers that I didn’t want to hear.
I skipped dinner. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t hungry or if I just didn’t want to face him, but instead of walking to the Great Hall, I continued past up to the common room.
Imagine my surprise when I found the person I’d been avoiding.
“Hey,” Remus said, the bruise on his face reflecting a bit in the fire. I held back a smile when I saw it, which was strange as I should have been upset that my best friend punched my boyfriend.
“Hi,” I replied, walking a bit too quickly towards the staircase.
“We can’t even talk?” he asked. I turned around and saw that he was standing now. His tie was almost all the way undone and his sleeves were rolled up to his elbows—my favorite look. I stared at him for just a few moments, alternating between his eyes and the bruise on the left side of his face.
“What do you want to talk about? My back’s already bruised, Remus, I can’t afford to get pushed into anymore walls,” I backed away a step.
“I didn’t mean to do that. You know that if I’d been in control, I would have never,” he put two fingers to the space on either side of his nose, near his eyes. A sigh came from his mouth, echoing in my ears long after the actual sound had dissolved.
“I know,” I whispered.
“Then why are you so angry?” he asked. I knew he would hear me. Bloody werewolf hearing.
“Why am I so angry? You’re asking me why I’m angry?” I snapped with a tone I couldn’t identify. I took a step forward, the books I’d been carrying in my hand slipping onto the couch.
“I can’t believe you!” I breathed. “You were ready to tear my head off the other day, you threw me against a wall earlier, and you haven’t spoken to me but to simply tell me off ever since you found out! I know it was a shock, believe me it wasn’t what I wanted to happen, but get over yourself, Remus.”
“Me get over myself? What about you, Mute?” He snapped, taking a step towards me.
“What about me? I said I was sorry, and that’s it. Why can’t you leave me alone and let me be?” I felt the tears well up in my eyes despite the continuing mantra in my head of don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry!
“Because,” he snuffed.
“I don’t know! Part of me loves you so much and part of me wants to hate you, and I don’t know why!” He sat down, his head falling into his open hands.
“I know why.”
“We signed a contract. The penalty for not completing the seduction was that you couldn’t stay with your guy. I told you the truth hoping that it wouldn’t be so bad, but now that I know you can’t be with me, I just wish we’d done it before I’d come clean.” I paused. “I’m sorry, that’s a horrible thing to say.”
“Yeah it is.”
“Yeah,” I sighed, sitting down on the couch.
“So I can’t get over this because I’m bewitched by a contract?” He asked, looking up at me finally.
I nodded, staring into his eyes and waiting.
“But I loved you,” I cringed as I heard the past tense, but found it within me to look him in the eye.
“I loved you,” I said.
“Okay. So where do we go from here?” he asked, running a hand through his hand and sitting up straighter. His posture reminded me of a political figure preparing to debate the pros and cons of an issue.
“We can be friends?” I volunteered. His face grew a little more solemn, but eventually he nodded and held out a hand for me to shake.
I smiled sadly at him, shaking his hand. The skin to skin contact made me excited, a fact which I felt guilty for even feeling. I relished the entire episode, knowing that somewhere in all this heartbreak, confusion, and sorrow was a lesson that I had to learn. But for now I didn’t care. All that mattered was that this kind of sucked.
Two or three more chapters folks!
Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed--once, twice, or every chapter. It all means to much to me and I cannot tell you enough how much this entire process of writing Bragging Rights has taught me. I'm a better writer because of this story and because of all your feedback, which I continue to enjoy receiving. I don't mean to sound cheesy, but it's been a great journey!
Thanks again :)
Reviewer Question: What do you think is going to happen next chapter with Camilla and Sirius?! :)
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