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Chapter 8 : Always
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After seeing Rose with Scorpius, Potter went sort of... insane. Not the fun, dancing-around-naked-and-talking-to-fruit kind of insane, mind you. No. A different kind of insane. A much more violent kind. I had been forced to personally hold Potter down as Scorpius fled for his life. And let me tell you, Potter was really strong. I needed to sit on his chest in order to administer any sort of restraint.
Maybe this was a sign from the universe that it was really time for me to start working out some more. I could take up those kick-boxing/yoga/dance/water aerobics classes Mum was always going to. I bet these types of situations would be a lot easier to handle if I were more physically fit.
Or this could be a sign that I needed to seriously re-evaluate my life. I mean, the number of physical confrontations (Dom’s birthday, Peeves, Merriam, etc.) I had encountered over the past 30 days exceeded the number of dates I’d been on... ever. Now that was rock-bottom.
Anyways, after Scorpius ran away, I had to endure a sixty-minute long rant from Potter as he raved on to Rose about “house loyalty” and “family duty” and whatnot. It was mad boring, but I couldn’t leave in case Potter lapsed into another bout of temporary insanity, decided to go on an angry rampage and break all the wood furniture in the castle. Or bones in Scorpius' body. You know, whichever.
So, long story short, by the time I finally got back to the dorm, it was way past midnight and I was exhausted.
I cracked the door open, making sure to tiptoe inside so that I wouldn’t wake anyone, because if there was ever a demographic you did not want to deprive of sleep, it would be teenaged Slytherin girls.
It was almost completely dark in the dorm, save for the moonlight that leaked through the window and spilled onto the floor like melted ivory. All of the beds had their curtains drawn and the rhythmic, soothing sound of deep breathing floated through the air.
Walking through my dorm room was like going through a giant, unfriendly obstacle course. There were trunks, clothing, books, and other random items (hey, my Herbology textbook! I’d been looking for it all week!) strewn across the floor. You practically needed a machete, a compass and a sherpa to get out alive, but somehow I managed.
I was really, really looking forward to flopping down on my bed and just slipping into the heavenly, joyous paradise that was sleep... In fact, I was more than just looking forward to it. I was excited. To put it simply, my feelings about my mattress were almost identical to a soccer mom's feelings about a khaki sale at a department store. Which was kind of pathetic, if you thought about it. I mean, the best part of my day was when I went to sleep. I actually looked forward to sleeping. How sad was that?
Much to my surprise, though, when I got to my bed I saw there was a person lying in it. At first, I thought that one of my roommates, Marlene (also Evelyn's best friend), had forgotten which bed was hers again and fell asleep mine (not the brightest bean in the Bertie Box, that girl). But upon closer inspection, I discovered that the mystery person was not Marlene, as I had presumed, but rather Dominique — best friend and woman missing-in-action for the past 12 hours.
She was lying on top of my duvet, her body completely rigid and still save the slow rising and falling of her chest. She could have been asleep except for the fact that her eyes were open, green and glassy as they stared above at my dark velvet canopy.
I looked at her, unsure of what to do. I could try to attempt conversation, but attempting conversation with Dom meant talking to Dom, and we all knew that talking to Dom, in reality, translated into listening to Dom as she ranted on about her life. And that entailed a whole lot of nodding and ‘mhmm’ing sympathetically until your brain turned into goo and your ears fell off.
In short, I didn’t want to listen to the crazy bint whine.
But on the other foot, Dom had been missing for 12 hours, a long period of time during which god-knows-what could have happened and, let’s face it, I was curious as to what she'd been doing. After all, it would be kind of nice to know whether my brother was still alive or not...
After a long moment of internal conflict, I decided to speak.
“Well. Long time no see.”
My best friend slowly turned her head to face me but did not reply. I had to admit, the way she was acting crept me out a little. I mean, she looked...terrible. There were purple bags under her eyes, her skin was papery thin, flimsy and translucent... And there was this certain dazed quality about her, as if she had no idea where she was or how she got there. It was unsettling.
“Hi,” she croaked.
A million questions were buzzing through my head (where’ve you been? What happened with Aidan? Will we be having to bury a dead body tonight?) but I didn’t voice them. It seemed like a good idea to save the interrogation for later, when Dominique was thinking straight. Or thinking at all, for that matter.
“So...” I said, rocking back and forth on my heels, my hands shoved into my robes’ pockets. “What’s up?”
Dominique blinked at me, face confused as if she didn’t quite understand what was going on. Then she abruptly swung her legs over the bed and stood, wobbling a bit on her bare feet in the soft moonlight.
I took a cautionary step backwards, waiting for whatever imminent explosion that was about to come.
But instead of combusting into a human wreckage of tears and emotion like I thought she would, Dom simply looked at me and said: “I want pumpkin pie. Do you want pumpkin pie?”
Her voice was dazed, high with hysteria. “I want pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie sounds nice.”
I gaped at her.
“Er. Maybe you should sit down, Dom." I reached out to feel her temperature, but my best friend impatiently swatted my hand away. "Are you feeling well?”
“Pumpkin pie... I’m going to get some pumpkin pie,” she muttered, more to herself then to anyone else. “Yes, yes. Pumpkin pie. I have to find pumpkin pie...”.
And then, giving me a bewildered sort of smile, she shoved past me and walked out of the room.
I stared after her, my eyes wide in astonishment, watching until the dorm room door swugn shut and Dom disappeared from view.
Uh-oh. This was not good. Not good at all.
Because Dom always asked for pie during times of crisis. That was usually how I knew if she was feeling depressed or angry, and if I had to maintain my distance from her while she worked things out on her own. It was a norm for us, her requesting different kinds of pies depending on what mood she was in, me sneaking down to the kitchens with her if she needed me.
In fact, throughout the years we had managed to come up with a scale of the different flavors Dom would ask for, ranked according to the dire nature of the situation. For example, if Dom broke a nail or was having a bad hair day, she'd usually ask for key lime pie. And if something more serious happened, say Dom having another fight with Aidan, key lime was the way to go.
For quick reference, I had comprised a complete list.
THE CORRELATION BETWEEN PIE FLAVOURS AND THE DANGER LEVEL OF DOMINIQUE WEASLEY’S “FREAK-OUTS," AS OBSERVED AND RECORDED BY AGATHA BENNETT:
1. Apple Pie: Almost non-existent danger level. Usually requested after a tough day as a little pick-me-up. Nothing to worry about, just give Dom a slice and everyone's on their merry way.
2. Pecan Pie: Low danger level. Called for whenever Dom is having a Moment of Self-Doubt (e.g. thinks she's not "good" enough, "smart" enough, "pretty" enough, etc.) or has somehow messed up during an important occasion, like a Quidditch game. Best served with a side of vanilla ice cream.
3. Key Lime Pie (also known as Aidan Pie): Medium danger level.Mandatory after any argument or fight concerning Aidan Bennett. Also helps to have tissues and The Notebook nearby.
5. Blueberry Pie: High danger level. Usually required after an argument with her parents or a failed exam. Keep Dom away from any object that could be used as a weapon (including, but not limited to: tooth brushes, snow globes, chess sets, materials that can be filed down to a sharp point, etc.). Also keep her away from any breakable things, such as glass, wood furniture, and YOUR LEFT ARM (let the record show we are speaking from experience here).
6. Pumpkin Pie: Extremely high danger level. Evacuate the premises immediately. Pray for a miracle — or, at the very least, the Royal Navy.
I sighed to myself and fell backwards on to my bed. This was bad — really bad. I wanted to go and follow Dom to make sure she was all right, but I knew that it would be wiser to leave her alone for a little. After all, the girl was a walking nervous breakdown waiting to happen, and I didn’t want to be there when she snapped.
Plus, I already knew Dom’s routine. She would go down to the kitchens and demand pie. After eating as much as her tiny stomach could hold, she would come back here to fall into her usual comatose-like sleep. To be honest, it would be useless to confront her now when her brain wasn’t functioning right, and all efforts and capabilities of said brain were singularly devoted to a slice of bloody dessert.
I let my eyes slip closed, exhaling sharply. Since when had everything become so messed up? Dom wanted pumpkin pie, Potter was going insane, Aidan was, in all likelihood, lying in a shallow grave somewhere, and Fred... Well, Fred was probably asleep right now and therefore had no idea what the hell was going on, but that wasn't the point.
The point was... Since when had my life become so filled with drama? The only goals I had set for my Fifth Year at Hogwarts involved being a good Prefect, doing well on my OWLs, and maybe pushing Potter into the Black Lake if I could find the spare time. But now I was breaking up fights and managing my brother’s love life. Honestly. Couldn’t a girl catch a break around here?
I rolled over so that I was lying on my stomach, smothering my face into the cool smushiness of my pillow. A few minutes passed like that, with me just lying there and thinking in the silence, and as time ticked on, my thoughts grew shorter and more fragmented until they were barely thoughts at all. I felt myself slowly start to drift, felt my body grow heavier as it seemed to melt into my mattress, until finally — finally — on top of my bed covers, still dressed in my school uniform, I fell asleep.
The next morning was going to be a bad one.
When I woke up, the dormitory was deserted.
There was a blissful moment in which, as I lay in bed staring blankly at my headboard, I was completely and totally oblivious. For one second, I hadn't remembered anything about the previous night. My mind was beautifully blank.
But then it came flooding back to me. Rose and Scorpius. Aidan. Dom. Potter. The pumpkin pie. It all hit me like the freaking Hogwarts Express. Everything, in one mad rush, in a wave that crashed over my body and washed me with realization.
I groaned, rolling over onto my side.
I knew that I should probably get out of bed and attempt some sort of damage control. You know, try to fix things up a little. Buy a straight jacket for Potter, start planning Aidan’s funeral, find a defense lawyer for Dom... My friends needed me, and I was obligated to help them in turn (or at least Dom and Aidan).
But then again, I was tired. And I could never function properly when I was tired. Sprawled across the mattress, I briefly entertained the thought of just rolling over and going back to sleep. After all, wasn't it essential for teenagers to get a healthy night’s rest? Well, I didn't feel very rested. Yeah. I should probably sleep for another hour. Or, you know, five.
Sighing to myself, I stretched, yawned, and then rolled over again, preparing myself for another satisfying round of snoozing. But as I turned, my gaze fell to the clock on my nightstand.
It read 11:00 AM. I stopped breathing.
Oh no, no, no, no.
I was late for class. Not just late-late, but astronomically-late. They were going to give me a detention. And take away my Prefect’s badge. Oh God. Unexplained absences were a serious offense at this school. I was going to be expelled, wasn’t I? I was never going to get my Hogwarts education. No one would want to hire me, my family shunning me for being such failure... I would have to live in a cardboard box for the rest of my life. Or join a gang! Oh God. I couldn't join a gang! I was inept!
“Shit!” I fell — quite literally — out of bed, picked myself up off the floor, and, with a kind of speed and agility that was quite out of the norm for me, grabbed my backpack and ran frantically out of the room.
I was halfway down the stairs when I realized that I needed my Prefect’s badge, so I wheeled around and sprinted back into the dorm. The badge wasn’t in its usual spot on my nightstand, though, so — my panic rising — I ran around the room for a good ten minutes trying to find it. I looked under dressers and beds, rummaged through drawers, shook out my backpack... Until finally I realized that a) I was wearing it, and b) today was a Saturday.
...I hate my life.
Slowly, I sat back down on my bed, half-relieved and half-annoyed that I had acted like such an idiot when I didn't even have class.
Then I thought of Dom and Aidan. The need to help them was an itch inside me, nagging at the back of my brain, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to fully relax until both of them were okay. After all, Dom had asked for pumpkin pie. She hadn’t done that since... Well, since Victoire was made Head Girl over two years ago.
I sighed, swinging my legs over the side of the bed with finality, and stood.
I knew what I had to do.
“Potter. I need your help.”
“Really, really important.”
“But — “
“Bennett, can’t you see that I’m busy here?”
I narrowed my eyes as I felt my anger pulse inside of me like a living thing, temper steadily climbing higher and higher like a thermometer in mid-July. Here I was, my pride and dignity in shambles at my feet, asking Potter for help, and he was rejecting me? I mean, it wasn't like I enjoyed asking people for help. Least of all from a Gryffindor. Least of all from Potter.
We were in the Great Hall, sitting across from each other at our usual table. Potter had The Daily Prophet opened up in front of him, blocking my face from his view. A bowl of half finished cereal sat by his elbow. His fingers were ink-stained, probably from writing (or just starting, more likely) our huge DADA essay due on Monday.
I stared at the newspaper in front of me, at the black and bold letters that jumbled together to form sentences and paragraphs, and sighed. This, I had a feeling, was not going to be easy.
“Potter. I'm serious."
He didn’t reply.
There was a pause, and then Potter lowered the paper so that I could see his annoyingly attractive face. He looked tired, which wasn’t that big of surprise. Violently charging at your cousin’s boyfriend can really take it out of you, I’d heard.
He opened his mouth to speak, and — foolishly — I felt my spirits lift with naive hope. Maybe he actually would help me. Maybe for once, Potter could be mature about this. Maybe—
“BENNETT, FOR THE LAST TIME, I WILL NOT HAVE SEX WITH YOU!” Potter suddenly shouted, making sure his voice was cheery and loud enough for everyone in the Great Hall could hear him. “NOW STOP BEGGING, IT’S MAKING ME UNCOMFORTABLE.”
My mouth dropped open as several people nearby snickered, their eyebrows raised in spiteful amusement at us. Embarrassment flooding through my body, and I vaguely felt something in my forehead twitched. A rupturing artery, most likely.
Obviously satisfied with my public humiliation, Potter went back to reading the paper, opening it in front of him to signify the conversation was over.
“Potter—I can’t—You—Ungh.” I ran a hand through my hair exasperatedly, unable to find the right words to fully articulate how pissed off I was. Merlin, this was annoying. “Look,” I snapped, voice slightly above a harsh whisper. “It’s about Aidan and Dom.”
The paper rustled.
“I think there’s something wrong.”
“With you? I concur," Potter said, voice nonchalant as he turned the page.
“Have you seen Aidan?” I demanded, choosing to ignore his stupid remark as I leaned forward. “Do you know where he is?”
“Well, do you?”
“Huh. It says here that they appointed a new Head of The Department of Mysteries,” Potter said, completely ignoring my question as he turned the page. “That’s interesting. Did you know that, Bennett? That they appointed a new Head of The Department of Mysteries?"
I exhaled sharply through my teeth as I felt my anger reach its boiling point. Head pounding, I slapped my hand on the table to make all the plates and silverware jump and rattle. “Potter! This is important”
He sighed from behind the paper. “Bennett.” His voice was monotone, as if he had said this all before and now he was bored with it. “Stop meddling in Aidan’s business. You’re not doing him any good.”
I rolled my eyes. Even though he couldn’t see the action, what with the paper in between us and all, it still felt satisfying.
“I’m not meddling!” I insisted. "It's a known fact that it doesn't count as meddling if you're related to the person. Duh."
“Right," Potter hummed skeptically, still refusing to look at me.
Enough. I reached out and yanked the paper away from Potter, and he shot me a look of only faint exasperation in response, as though my antics were like those of a mildly annoying child.
“I’m going to ask you one more time, Potter. Have. You. Seen. Aidan?”
He sighed once more, obviously irritated. “No. When I got back to the dormitory, everyone was asleep. And when I woke up, Aidan wasn’t there. Can I have my paper back?”
But I wasn’t satisfied. Ignoring Potter’s outstretched hand, I shook my head and pursed my lips. “This is serious.” I paused for dramatic effect. “Dom asked for pumpkin pie.”
There was a beat. Potter’s expression flickered. “Pumpkin pie?”
“Yes. Pumpkin pie.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Dom hasn’t asked for pumpkin pie since — “
“Victoire was made Head Girl. I know.”
There was a long silence.
“Alright,” he finally relented, mouth pulled into an unhappy line. “How do you want to do this?”
I couldn’t stop myself from grinning widely as the feeling of sweet, sweet triumph swelled inside my chest. “The usual. I get Aidan, you cover Dom?”
“Fine,” he snapped, obviously irritated with himself for giving in.
“And afterwards we should meet to exchange notes. Say... Around one o’clock?”
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, Bennett. Notes? It’s not a fucking science experiment.”
I swung my legs over the bench and stood up, leaving The Daily Prophet on the table. “You know what I mean.”
“Nope,” he said, reaching over and picking up the paper again. “I never do.”
I left the Great Hall with a huge, victorious smile on my face.
After I left Potter, it took only ten minutes to find Aidan. It wasn’t hard, after all, given Aidan's limited circuit. There were pretty much only two places my brother went whenever he was distressed—the kitchens, or the Quidditch pitch.
I decided to go to the Quidditch pitch first, and ended up being right. I had lucked out. There, in the chilly autumn air, my brother sat pensively in the stands, not looking at me or the pitch but rather at the blue-grey swirl of the sky. He looked lonely and small up there, a blotch of color on the wide, wooden expanse of the stands.
It was really windy, and the rich jade grass of the massive pitch flickered and swayed beneath my feet. I clutched my robe closer to my body, hugging myself tight as my hair rippled and fluttered in the breeze, and I struggled to push it out of my face.
I could see Aidan’s tall, slightly scrawny figure from where I was standing in the center of the pitch. He was sitting in the stands, on the very top row. He didn’t appear to have noticed me, and he looked deep in thought — something I never took as a good sign when it involved my brother.
I climbed the stand to meet him, the slapping sound of my shoes against the steps hollow to my ears. Aidan, apparently having heard me, looked up from his seated position, his honey brown hair tousled in the wind. He was leaning his elbows on his legs, and his palms were pressed together like in prayer. A glum expression tugged at his handsome face.
I reached the top row and stood next to Aidan, the hem of my black robe quivering in the breeze. He smiled up at me, and it was at that moment when I noticed how tired he looked.
“Hey.” His voice was raw, sad.
I sat down next to my brother, unsure of how to begin. A long and silent moment stretched between us, in which the only thing I could hear was the wind rushing and roaring around me. And then, slowly — almost reluctantly — Aidan leant down and gingerly placed his head on my shoulder.
“You know,” Aidan began, voice so quiet I could barely hear him. “You kind of look like your head’s on fire. What with your red hair in the wind and all.”
“Yup. Hot-headed,” I said. “That’s me.”
He cracked an unsteady grin. “You’re punny.”
There was a beat. And then I said, voice matter-of-fact: “What’s wrong, Aidan?”
“Nothing’s wrong. Nothing at all. Why would you think that?” Ah, flat out lying — one of Aidan’s specialties. Too bad he was never good at it.
“My twin senses are tingling.”
He didn’t reply.
“Okay,” I said. “So. There’s nothing wrong. But say, hypothetically — theoretically — if there were—”
“Dom broke up with me.” His voice was faint, tinged with incredulity. The way he said it, it was like Aidan couldn’t believe the fact himself.
I glanced at him, surprised. First of all, I didn't understand how Dom could have broken up Aidan when they weren’t even going out in the first place. And secondly, Aidan never got this depressed about break ups. Not even the violent ones (and trust me, those could get messy). It just wasn’t like him to be depressed and dejected about that kind of stuff, especially when there were always Freddy and Potter (usually with whiskey bottles in hand) to cheer him up. What made this time so special?
“After the rap, after I kissed her and ran away,” Aidan continued, hesitant. “She found me.” Of course she found him. That girl was like a freaking niffler. “And she told me that... We were over. Like, forever over. No getting back together. No on-and-off. No Dom and Aidan. Over. Done. So that's what's wrong with me.” He paused. “Hypothetically, I mean.”
“Aidan," I said, trying to keep my voice soothing and patient. "Dom has said all those things before. She was probably just panicking and overacting, like she always does.” To be honest, I was feeling myself become a little exasperated. It was the same every time with these two. Why was Aidan choosing to freak about it now?
“S’not like those times. She was crying.” He winced. “And... She gave me back the Snitch.” Aidan held out his left hand, which had been previously tightened into a fist, and unfurled it. Inside was the plastic, golden Snitch Aidan had given Dominique for her thirteenth birthday. He had gotten it from one of those sweet machines for two sickles, and Dominique had been furious when she had opened up the tiny black box — expecting jewelry or a watch — to find a cheap toy. But still. She had kept it, throughout all the break-ups, all the fights, and had never let it leave her possession. It was like...their love token or something.
I plucked the Snitch out of Aidan’s hand with two of my fingers and held it closer to my face. It was looking pretty worse for wear — the garish, gold paint was chipping, one of the wings looked close to falling off... But I could tell it held a lot of meaning in its tiny, plastic, two-Sickle body.
“So you think she’s serious?”
“Yep,” Aidan said grimly.
Not knowing what to say, I gave the Snitch back to Aidan and watched as he pocketed it. The thought of Aidan and Dom not dating was like the thought of a fish growing legs. Or Freddy reading. Or Potter not pissing me off every chance he got. It just...wasn’t natural. It had to mean some change in the universe's precariously synchronized routine, as if some meteor had crashed into the earth and knocked the planet off its axis. It wasn’t right.
“It’s strange,” Aidan said tiredly. “Even though we always fought, always argued and broke up and stuff, I knew that she was, like — not my soulmate, because that’s creepy — but... She was — ungh. I don’t know how to explain it. She was just it, you know? Like, I always came back to her. I always wanted to be with her. I always thought about her." He paused, as if suddenly coming to some deep, important revelation. "She was my always.”
“I’m sorry, Aidan,” I said truthfully.
Aidan didn't acknowledge the apology, just continued staring at the sky with his brow collapsed into angry wrinkles. “Do you think she’ll start dating someone else?” he asked very quickly.
“I don’t know.” I couldn’t picture Dom with anyone but my brother. A moment passed as we both pondered the possibility. The wind tugged on my hair, making red snap in the peripheries of my vision.
“Aidan,” I began unsurely. I didn’t know if he would get mad at me for asking this, but I had to know. “Were you in love with her? Like, I know you always said you were, but were you really?”
My brother paused, thinking over the question for a long moment.
“Well... I’m selfish, aren’t I? I mean, I was constantly putting myself before her. Hurting her. And I was always... wanting. I want her back, I want to break up, I want to stop seeing each other, but I want her to still pine after me..." He shook his head in a combination of disgust and remorse, lip curled upwards to reveal bared, white teeth. "I want, I want, I want. Selfish. And love isn’t about being selfish. Right?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted once more.
“But then I think about her laugh. You know. Not the polite one she does around adults and important people. But, like, her real laugh. When she does that weird snorting thing, and it's just so fucking endearing, and that makes me feel like, yeah, maybe I do love her. Or at least I could learn to.” He paused, dragging his hands down his face. “I don’t know. I’m stupid. I’m fifteen.”
There was a small, trembling silence in which neither of us spoke. And then:
“I’m sad,” my borther said, as if he was stating a simple fact about the weather or the color of his shoes.
"Aidan," I said.
He didn’t reply.
So we sat there, the two of us, brother and sister. Together. Nobody else. With the wind and the sadness and the Quidditch pitch sprawled out before us, a massive expanse of rolling, moving green, forever and always.
I knew that Aidan could be an idiot, and that maybe he didn't deserve sympathy, given everything he had put Dom through. And I knew that he was reckless and foolish and that wherever he went, trouble seemed to follow. But he was my brother. Born two minutes before me. We had shared a uterus, for Merlin's sake. You couldn't get much closer than that. And if there had been a way for me to take away all the pain, to even transfer it to myself, I would have done it in a heartbeat.
“I wish none of this had ever happened,” my brother murmured.
I sighed, clasping my hands as if in prayer, and kept quiet.
If only life were that simple.
At one, I met up with Potter in the Great Hall to discuss the state of our two friends, and whether or not it would be necessary to take emergency measures (re: sneak out to Hogsmeade and buy an extra stock of pumpkin pie). While I had been consoling Aidan, Potter had been having a nice little chat with Dom (whom he had — oddly enough — found wandering aimlessly around the Hufflepuff common room). Apparently, things weren't much better from her side. She and Aidan had been dating for a long time, after all. The idea of them not being together anymore wasn't only a loss, but it was also a fundamental shift in how they were, in who they were.
This whole situation was just one big pile of butt-pudding, in my educated opinion. My brother was depressed, my best friend in need of some mental rehabilitation, Potter was refusing co-operate, and Freddy was still probably asleep with no idea about what had happened.
Oh, and I had a DADA essay due on Monday.
I really hoped the kitchens had more pumpkin pie. The next few days were not going to be easy.
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