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Clash by shenanigan
Chapter 11 : Maybes
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 44


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Disclaimer:: I do not own HP, which is property of J.K. Rowling, or Punk'd, which is property of MTV, or Ben & Jerry's.




"Do you know that the dot above an 'i' is called a tittle?"

...And so my day begins.

Freddy Weasley leaned across the Great Hall's table on his elbows, eyes alight with morning cheer. Reluctantly, I swiveled my gaze to him, taking in his green eager gaze and radiant smile, and stifled an eye-roll.

Normally, Fred was a pretty tolerable breakfast companion. Sure, he could get loud and boisterous when telling a story, and yes, sometimes his wild gesticulations posed a threat to the glasses and plates and other breakables on the table. But Freddy always greeted the AM with a wide grin, and at least a couple entertaining conversation starters. On good days, he was perfectly fine to have around.

Today, however, was not a good day.

My stare flicked back to my plate as I raked my fork across my scrambled eggs, too exhausted to fully devote my attention to the bloke across from me. "Freddy, please."

"Fascinating, right? Another fun fact: polar bears are mostly left-handed!" Fred added brightly, ripping a chunk of toast off with his canines and spraying anyone in a two foot radius with a lovely crumb shower. A nearby first-year flinched.

Fred had recently purchased a huge anthology of random trivia and, consequently, was now impossible to be around. Anyone who associated with him could expect to be battered with a slew of irrelevant facts and nonsensical information. For example, did you know ingrown toenails are hereditary? And a duck's quack doesn't echo? And — oh yeah, this one's particularly interesting — I don't bloody give a shit?

"Hey Aggy, do you know— ?"

"Fred?"

"Yeah?"

"Be quiet."

"But — "

"No."

"Ah —"

"Stop."

"Come on, Aggy, this stuff is interesting," Fred whined indignantly, mouth pursed into an aggrieved pout as he slouched in his seat. "I'm just trying to enliven your morning."

"And I'm going to enliven your face with my butter knife if you don't shut up soon," I snapped back impatiently, irritation reaching its boiling point. "Okay?"

My threat was obviously very effective, because, wide-eyed, Fred clamped his mouth shut without another word. My eardrums — along with the few ounces of sanity I had left — rejoiced.

It was a Wednesday morning, and the Great Hall had sunk into a dull, insipid atmosphere typical of the middle of the week. We students were exhausted, running on nothing more than twenty-minute powernaps and caffeine jitters, and the grey ceiling above seemed to reflect our collective mood. Except for the clinking of silverware and the occasional murmur, it was quiet.

I gingerly pushed my eggs and bacon around my plate, rubbing at my aching temples with the other hand. I was completely drained of energy, having gotten no sleep last night thanks to Dom keeping me up with her incessant ranting about Aidan. This week's cause for complaint? Apparently, Margaret Corner had grazed Aidan's arm in Potions class yesterday, and in Dom's sick, demented brain, this meant the two were passionately in love with each other and no doubt shagging away in broom cupboards. All because of one tiny innocent graze.

When I had pointed out that this aforementioned graze had no meaning behind it — in fact, it was probably just an accident, given how Margaret had been in the process of reaching over to grab a quill when it had taken place — Dom had just waved me off.

It had been a very romantic graze, she maintained, and that physical contact hid within it a thousand secret meanings. When I asked what differentiated a romantic graze from a regular one, my best friend had just looked at me like I was stupid, snootily replying that it was not the graze itself, but the reaction to it.

See, Aidan had not recoiled and leapt off his chair, screaming in horror, at the mere thought of touching Margaret Corner. Therefore, this could only mean the two were madly in love and would be announcing their engagement any moment now.

"Agatha? Earth to Aggy?"

I blinked, shoving my tangential thoughts into the back of my brain where they'd probably fester unhealthily, and glanced up to see Fred. He was looking at me with concern, whether it be for the spaced-out frown on my face or the butter knife clenched in my fist, I couldn't tell.

"Alright, love?" he quipped amusedly. "Think I lost you there for a second."

"Yeah, yeah," i muttered, flapping a dismissive hand. My voice was faraway though, clouded with pensive musings. "I'm fine. I was just... thinking."

"Well don't do that," Freddy replied cheerfully, plucking some more toast from the center of the table. "No good ever comes from thinking."

Despite myself, I grinned. "You wouldn't know."

Fred arched a brow, eyes twinkling, and happily continued munching on his toast. "So what had you spinning off into la-la-land, anyway? Worrying about the Hogsmeade trip this Saturday?"

"No," I admitted glumly. "But now I am." My brow crumpled once more at the thought — Hogsmeade, while a nice break for some, meant only more potential drama when my friends were concerned. That, plus the fresh opportunity for the Tweedle Trio to smuggle in illicit substances into the castle, made Hosgmeade a stressful time for me.

"Well I can assure you, Aggy," Fred declared grandly, face pulled into a caricature of seriousness. "You have nothing to worry about from me."

"Fred, last year you smuggled ten kilos of Firewhiskey into the castle," I pointed out.

"Allegedly smuggled in," Fred corrected automatically. "And it was fifteen."

I rolled my eyes, shoving my breakfast plate away, and made to stand up. It was time for class and I didn't fancy being late to Transfiguration. McGonagall got feisty in the mornings.

"Breakfast's over, Fred." I reached across the table and plucked a muffin to take on the road from the breadbasket, then swung my leg over the bench. "You coming?"

Fred waved a hand amicably. "Nah, I'm going to stay and finish my toast. But I'll see you later."

"Suit yourself," I shrugged, heaving my toddler-sized backpack onto my shoulders.

The last thing I heard before I walked away was Freddy turning to the unfortunate first-year next to him, uttering one final, "Did you know that — ?"

I shook my head and smiled. What a life.

—*—

"No, no, no. You've got it all wrong. It's a swish, not a wave."

"What's the difference between a swish and a wave?"

" One's more, er, swishy. And the other's more... wave-like."

"...Got it, thanks."

I sighed, grabbing hold of Ryan's hand and gently guiding it to demonstrate the right motion. His fist, clenched firmly around his wand, seemed to relax slightly as I helped his arm move in the correct flicking pattern.

"See, like this. Short and quick," I instructed in soothing tones. "Swish."

"Swish." Ryan repeated anxiously, drawing his perfect eyebrows together in an adorably quizzical sort of way. I tried to ignore the warmth of his hand, smooth and soft under my own palm. Merlin. His skin was so... moisturized. He was perfect. "Swish."

"Yeah. Exactly," I affirmed proudly, letting go — with some difficulty — of his hand. "Swish."

Ryan and I had met this afternoon for yet another tutoring session — another glorious, wonderful, amazing tutoring session. The bloke was just so affable and friendly, so easy to speak to and be around — I couldn't help but enjoy the time I spent with him. I was beginning to believe these tutoring sessions had been a cosmic gift, a way to make up for all the other horrible ills afflicting the world. Poverty, war, death, bad hair-days — it was all forgiven now.

Today, Ryan and I had decided to use an empty classroom for our session. We usually arranged to meet at the library but had decided to change up locations this time around, seeing as how Madam Pince (yes, the librazilla was still at it) always looked like she was on the verge of an aneurysm whenever we walked into her hallowed sanctuary (this may or may not have anything to do with me knocking over the Biography A-L shelf last Tuesday).

Anyway.

We'd chosen the perfect spot — our classroom was wide and spacious, complemented by a high ceiling, an elegant marble floor and arched, gaping windows. It had been my idea to push all of the desks and chairs towards the walls of the room, so that we could have more space to work with.

I was trying to teach Ryan a trickier incantation — how to change a quill into a rose. We'd mastered the reverse last week, but this direction was a little harder, and Ryan just couldn't seem to get the wand movement right.

The windows had been left open, and briefly, I was distracted by the melancholy sound of birds chirping in the distance. The day had passed fast — autumn was here — and now that it was almost dinner time, light from the setting sun streamed into the room in orange, gold and pale pink ribbons.

"Okay, now try matching your voice's inflection with the upward motion of the wand," I suggested lightly. Ryan frowned in assent, tongue poking out between his teeth as he concentrated. But he couldn't seem to do it quite in-sync. I watched on glumly and, in an unconscious tic of exasperation, yanked my fingers through my hair.

Quickly, i withdrew my hand as if I'd been shocked. Ever since Dom's little makeover extravaganza, my tresses were now permanently soft, sleek, and just all around Dominique-ified. I was still surprised when, everytime I touched my scalp, I found actual normal hair, and not the mass of tangles I was used to. It was a strange sensation, but at least I didn't resemble a ginger Frankenstein's bride anymore.

"Okay," I said, trying to keep the edge of frustration from creeping into my voice. We'd been working at this for a while now, and I was an impatient person. I had a hard time understanding when people weren't able to match my pace. "Just try one more time. Swish. Swish — "

Ryan heaved a sigh and dropped his arm, head sweeping from side to side morosely. "Forget it," he mumbled in defeat, shoving his wand into his robe's pocket. He dragged two hands down his (perfect, beautiful, look-directly-at-it-and-you'll-be-blinded-forever) face, and then flashed me a weak smile. "We should take a break. You've been really helpful, Aggy — I'm the problem here. I can't seem to do it right."

He ambled over to a nearby desk and heaved an exhale, hopping lightly up to sit on the desktop.

"No!" I said, protesting eagerly. "You'll get it eventually. It just takes a lot of practice. And time. You have to be patient, Ryan."

"Of course," his eyes flicked towards me in kind acknowledgement, a wry smile twisting at his lips. Scooting over, he patted the wooden surface by his leg. I obeyed, ambling over to sit down by him as the rate of my heartbeat seemed to double in speed.

There was a beat of silence in which Ryan just looked at me, those soulful blue eyes like a pair of, er... soulful blue things. I fidgeted, slightly uncomfortable under the scrutiny.

"What?" I said, swinging my legs back and forth, unable to keep myself from forming a grin of my own.

He chuckled, the sound rich and deep. "It's just, you're hair... Looks amazing in the light."

I felt my face flush. My hand reflexively flew up to touch my head, and I made a mental note to buy Dom a giant box of chocolates and a teddy-bear later. "Thank you."

There was another beat of comfortable silence. Ryan continued to smile his warm, easy smile, pale eyelashes glinting faintly in the dying sunlight. My cheeks would not stop glowing.

Finally, he spoke. "Agatha, there's something I've been meaning to tell you."

I blinked as Ryan's expression suddenly shifted into one of quiet seriousness, his grey gaze suddenly curiously intent. My heart jolted in its spot and then free-fell down my abdominal cavity, landing somewhere near my stomach region.

"What is it?" I whispered, voice a reverent hush. Ryan was looking so sober and almost a little... nervous. I felt hope like a tiny flame, shivering to life in my stomach.

Could this be it? What I'd been waiting, desperately wishing for these past months? Dom had told me it would happen, but I'd always waved it off, telling her it was never going to be. But Ryan looked so solemn, right now, like what he had to tell me was extremely important. Maybe, just maybe, this could be the moment when Ryan finally swept me into his arms, professed his undying, ever-lasting love for me and declared he'd never be able to bear another, torturous second without me as his wife.

Or, you know, asked me to Hogsmeade. That would work to.

The longer the silence stretched on, the more cautiously certain I became. This had to be it. What else could he want to say? He was going to ask me to Hogsmeade, he had to! And then we would fall in love and get married and have beautiful, soft-skinned, well-moisturized babies together.

Oh Merlin, I hope I looked okay. Was there stuff in my teeth right now? What about my hair? Where should I put my hands? In my pockets? No, too casual. In my lap? No, too conspicuous. Holy cow. Holy cow. WHERE SHOULD I PUT MY HANDS?

"Agatha," Ryan began, taking a deep breath, and my chest clenched.

I looked at him, swallowing. This was it. This was going to be the beginning of my new wonderful, romantic, Ryan-filled life.

"Yes, Ryan?" I tried to say it in a coquettish sort of voice, batting my eyelashes like I'd seen Dom do to thousands of blokes.

"I'm gay."

Yes! Yes! Ryan Fisher just asked me to Hogsmeade! Me! Oh, Merlin. This was wonderful. No, this was more than wonderful. This was like Christmas morning plus my birthday plus a Spice Girls' reunion concert all rolled into one. This was the most amazing, perfect day in the history of amazing, perfect days!

Ryan Fisher asked me to Hogsmeade! Ryan. Fisher. Asked. Me. To. Hogsmeade! Na, na, na, na! Me! Not Evelyn, not Dom, not anyone else. Me! He asked me! Ryan Fisher asked —

...Wait a second.

What did he just say?

"Agatha?" Ryan was looking at me curiously, taking in my glazed-over expression and half-ajar mouth. He flapped his hand in front of my face, peering into my eyes with alarm. "You alright?"

But I couldn't respond, my mind wheeling too fast to form words as I frantically tried to recall the past few seconds. No. He couldn't have — he had asked me to Hogsmeade! ...Right?

"Um," I croaked. "What did you just say?"

Ryan leveled his gaze with mine, face sincere. "I'm gay."

...No.

No.

No, no, no.

This had to be some sort of bad dream. This was a mistake. Ryan Fisher could not have just said "I'm gay." He must have said something else and I'd misheard. Something like "I'm sleigh," or "I'm buffet," or "Agatha Bennett I love you so much, please bear my future children-ay." He couldn't have — have —

"What?" I blinked.

Ryan smiled good-naturedly. "I'm gay, Agatha. I'm gay."

This wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening. I was hallucinating. That had to be it! The lack of sleep, the stress from academics, those long nights patrolling — it all must be messing with my brain, or something! There had to be some logical explanation.

Gay also meant 'happy,' right? Yeah. That was it. Ryan was just trying to express how happy he was to be here! That had to be it. Had to be.

"Oh," I said, realization dawning. "I get it. You're happy! I understand now! That's sweet, Ryan. I mean, bit of an outdated choice in vocabulary, but sure! I'm, er, gay too!" — okay, this would be the part where I stopped rambling like an idiot. "Yeah, in fact, I'm super gay!" — STOP. TALKING. STOP. TALKING. — "You make me feel very gay, Ryan. I'm having a real gay time sitting here with you right now — "

Ryan's forehead creased together. "No, Agatha, I — I didn't mean it like that. I meant I'm gay as in homosexual. I fancy blokes."

This was a cruel joke. In a few minutes, the guy from Punk'd would pop out behind the door and reveal that this was all an elaborate prank. And then we'd laugh it off and go out for tea. Me, Ryan and the guy from Punk'd. Drinking tea.

"No," I said, stupidly. "You're not."

Ryan pulled a sympathetic face. "Yes, Agatha. I am. And I know it's a lot of information to absorb, but — I mean, we're good friends, yeah? And you just seem like the kind of girl who'd be really cool with it. I feel like I can trust you."

HOW COULD HE BE SO FLIPPANT ABOUT THIS? DID RYAN NOT REALIZE WHAT A TRAGEDY HIM BEING GAY WAS FOR FEMALE-KIND?

I blinked a couple of times. Inhaled. Exhaled. Tried to remember where my brain was located. Tried to decide what it was I had done in my past life to deserve this. The sixty thousand puppies I'd killed must have been three-legged or blind or something, because this wasn't just any regular, run-of-the-mill karmic payback. No. This was something the Gods of Fate had designed specifically for me.

"I get it," Ryan was saying gently, a soothing hand coming up to land on my back. "You're surprised. Most people are when I tell them. But I wanted to be honest with you, Agatha. I really hope it won't affect our friendship." He grabbed my hand in his and leaned in closer, and I got a whiff of cinnamon and soap. I blinked again. "Because — well, Aggy, I really like you."

Okay. There should be a limit as to how much irony one person could take in a lifetime. I mean, even I thought this was too much.

"Um," I began, and was surprised to hear my voice come out so normal, so smooth. I dazedly slipped off the desk, pulling my hand away as I wobbled to a stand. I was suddenly overcome with the desperate urge to leave. Like, now. "Yes. No. I mean, it won't, you know, affect us." My mind was unnaturally fuzzy. "I just, er, need some time to think this through."

Ryan nodded furiously, eager to accommodate. "Of course."

I started to stumble away, still frowning. How was this possible? How had I not seen this coming?

"Um, okay then. Okay!" I said with as much cheer and normalcy as I could muster, turning around on my heel. "See you gayter." I stumbled into a random desk, the ensuing crash echoing through the room as my cheeks blossomed pink. "Shit. I mean, see you later. Not — not... um. I'm just going to leave now. Have a good gay. I mean — day, day! Crap. I, um — " I bumped into a chair, tripping slightly and regained my footing in the nick of time. Ryan looked after me, bemused. Okay, now this was just getting painful.

"Bye." My idiot brain finally managed. "Okay. Yeah. Bye."

Dear Merlin. I hate my life.

—*—

"No."

"Yes."

"No."

"Yes."

"Does he not realize what a tragedy this is for female-kind?"

"THAT'S WHAT I SAID! Er, thought."

Dominique Weasley flopped backwards onto my bed at my last ferocious declaration, the silky comforter poofing around her small frame. Her hair billowed out around her head in rivulets of strawberry blonde that reached in all possible directions, vibrant against her pale skin.

I leaned against the bedpost, wrapping my arms around the wood as I groaned at the humiliating memory of my cringe-worthy reaction. I could never show my face to the world again.

I should just stay here, at this bedpost, and refuse to come downstairs for the rest of my life. People could call be the Bedpost Girl. I'd be like the next Moaning Myrtle, but alive and, you know, infinitely lamer.

Dom huffed a dramatic sigh, shaking her head incredulously. "Somewhere out there, my gob is being smacked. My flabber is being gasted. My flum is being moxed. My per is being plexed —"

"Okay," I said hastily, slicing through her astonishment. "I get it."

"You're right," Dom allowed, shaking her head unabashedly. "I took that too far."

I rolled my eyes. "Way too far."

There was a stunned silence as the two of us seemed to sink into our own thoughts, stewing inside our heads as we made sense of today's latest developments. And then:

"My dumb is being found."

"Stop."

"My thunder is being struck!"

"Dom. Seriously. It's starting to get painful."

My best friend laughed her trademark laugh, complete with the dainty, lady-like snorts and everything, and wiggled further into the cushy comforter. "Alright, alright. Suit yourself."

Hesitantly, I unwound myself from the bedpost to lay down next to her. Upon first contact with the mattress, my body seemed to melt in relief as it sank into the comfy surface, a sigh opening like a flower inside my chest. I loved mattresses. Even in the worst of situations, you could always rely on them to be there for you. Warm, soft, cuddly — they were just like hugs. But for lonely people.

Dom spoke first.

"Boys suck. We'd be better off never speaking to then again."

I craned my neck to shoot Dom a skeptical glance. "That's a blatant lie, and you know it."

My bestfriend shrugged dully, stretching a leg out so that her big toe grazed the dark green canopy of the bed. "Yeah, you're right. It's a shite deal we get, isn't it?"

I gave a pathetic whimper of agreement, inching closer to my bestfriend as I stared moodily up at the canopy above us. "I wanted to kiss him, Dom," I blurted out dejectedly. "I know it sounds silly, but I wanted to kiss him, and I wanted to hold his hand, and I wanted to wear his sweaters and go to his Quidditch games and forget his birthday and — "

My lower lip trembled as I thought of all that wasted time, all those daydreams and moments I had spent pining over Ryan. I had hinged all my hopes on a tiny possibility that, in retrospect, seemed absolutely unrealistic. All that hope funneled into one unlikely 'maybe.' I was a fool.

"I should have known," I murmured quietly. "I should have expected this. A guy like Ryan would never go for a girl like me anyway."

Dom sighed and, with what sounded like tremendous effort, heaved her body of the bed. "Alright, you. If we're going to start with the 'girl-like-me' talk, we're going to need some ice-cream." She turned around and grabbed my limp arms, pulling me to a stand. "Come on. Somewhere in the Kitchens is a pint of chocolate ice cream with your name on it."

I nodded dumbly, allowing my friend to drag me forwards, and then began shuffling my feet towards whatever fate of anti-male ranting, chocolate ice cream-feasting awaited us.

"Alright, Dom. If you say so," I agreed, yet I knew no matter how much Ben & Jerry's I scarfed down, I wouldn't be able to get Ryan Fisher's face — with his easy smile and twinkling eyes — out of my brain. This was the nail in my romantic coffin, I was starting to realize. I would stay single forever, destined for a lifetime of Hogsmeade solitude and crazy-cat-ladydom, and no wishful thinking or flimsy maybes would change that.

—*—

The next day, I was walking to Transfiguration (sob), when all of a sudden I saw him.

Not Ryan. Potter.

He was leaning against the corridor wall, shirt untucked and posture relaxed as he chatted with the random Gryffindor sixth-year bimbo next to him, who, in all honesty, looked like she possessed a bra size larger than her IQ. They both seemed engaged in the conversation — discussing the intellectual advantages of nihilism versus solipsism, no doubt — their bodies angled towards each other, Potter's eyes bright with interest. The bimbo smiled, all giggly and flirty as she reached out, fluttered her eyelashes, and grazed his arm with dainty fingers.

And for reason, this made me very, very angry.

I had no idea why. Maybe it was because I knew Potter would probably end up taking this girl (and five others) to Hogsmeade this Saturday, while I was going to be stuck alone in the library, pathetic and dateless. Or maybe it was because Potter was acting so friendly, so amiable with this girl, while he looked at me like I was something he'd found on the bottom of his shoe. Or maybe it was simply because Potter was happy, and I wasn't.

Either way, I was pissed.

Before I could fully register my own frustration, I was pushing my way through the tangles of people in the corridor and marching up to the two lovebirds, no plan in my head besides the directive "ruin Potter's day."

Gaze narrowed and hip cocked, I stopped directly in front of Potter, who was murmuring something to the bimbo with a knowing smile curving his mouth. My foot rapped incessantly against the ground, a staccato beat that drummed equally as fast as my heart.

"Potter." I declared in a loud voice that sounded much more confidant than I actually was. "Your shirt is untucked."

Idly, unhurriedly, Potter swept his gaze from the girl to me, giving me an insolent, languid once-over as he assessed the situation. The dancing glimmer in his eyes seemed to fade somewhat as he realized who was before him.

His mouth set into a thin, straight line. I irritated him.

And I liked it.

The girl, obviously miffed at my interruption, shot me an icy glare worthy of Evelyn, and haughtily swept her brunette curls over her shoulder. I refused to even acknowledge her. My eyes were set dead straight on Potter, and Potter alone.

"Yes, Bennett," Potter drawled somewhat impatiently. "And the sky is blue. Any other fantastically observant remarks you have to make, or is Captain Obvious done for the day?"

Wow. He was acting even snarkier than usual. He must have been in a really bad mood.

I should remember to thank whoever made him that cranky.

Then again, it was probably me.

"Actually yeah, I think I have one." I paused, scratching my chin in mock-thoughtfulness as I regarded the ceiling. "Hmm, what was it? Oh right! Untucking your shirt is against the dress-code, Potter," I hissed in a tone so scathing, even I was surprised by its acidic edge. "Five points from Gryffindor."

Potter's eyes flashed, jaw clenching in sudden outrage. "Are you kidding me, Bennett? That's a blatant abuse of Prefect power! What's wrong with you?" He looked to the bimbo for confirmation, and she nodded fiercely, eager to please.

"Hey," I simpered, a victoriously smirk itching at my mouth. "I'm just doing my job."

I turned to go, anger thoroughly sated, but Potter obviously wasn't done just yet. Leaving a sulking bimbo behind him, he marched after me, his long strides quickly catching up to my own pace by the time I was in the middle of the corridor.

"Fine," he snapped irritably, not seeming to notice the sudden disappearance of his groupie. "If that's the way you want to play it, then five points from Slytherin."

I gasped in shock, halted abruptly mid-stride and wheeled around. Several people jostled past, hurrying to get to their classes, but I paid them no heed. "For what? "

Potter's eyes scanned me over slowly, up and down, and I gritted my teeth as his noncommittal gaze traced the lines of my body. His eyes finally rested on my blouse near my collarbone, and in response I defensively folded my arms. He smirked, noticing my discomfort.

"For leaving your shirt's top button unbuttoned."

I gaped. "What? Everyone does that!"

"Hey," Potter said innocently, raising his hands in mock-defense. "I'm just doing my job."

I seethed. Potter could never just let anything go, could he? No, he always had to take it too far, always had to find the most sensitive buttons to push. I was sick of it, and today I refused to take any of his stupid impertinence. I was going to wipe that arrogant smirk off his face if it was the last thing I did.

With that passionate mental declaration, I stepped forward and glowered at Potter, eyes tapering into angry blue slits. "Fine. Then I'm docking five points from Gryffindor for your lollygagging in the hallway!"

Potter's response was lightning-quick. He stepped forward nimbly, refusing to be outdone. "Five points from Slytherin for using the word 'lollygagging!'"

I gaped. That wasn't even a rule. "What — You can't — !"

His eyes glinted, smile turning nasty. "I just did."

Something inside me snapped. I drew in a sharp breath and opened my mouth, allowing the furious words to tumble out like haphazardly marbles. "Five points from Gryffindor for being an egotistical, selfish, rude, despicable prat!" My frustration had taken complete control. I wasn't thinking clearly.

"Five points from Slytherin for — for having blue eyes!"

"Five points from Gryffindor for not wearing your school robes!"

"Five points from Slytherin for being so short!"

"Five points from Gryffindor for being so tall!"

"Five points from Slytherin for...wearing ugly shoes!"

What? My shoes were not ugly! They were sensible. "Five points from Gryffindor for never brushing your hair!"

"Five points from Slytherin for being left-handed!"

"Five points from Gryffindor for not being left-handed!"

We were shouting now, and beginning to attract considerable attention from the students passing by. Potter's hand was clenched around his wand, his jaw set decisively, eyes dark and amber and alight with vexation. I was red in the face. My head was throbbing, my entire body quaking and shuddering like something about to...explode, a ticking bomb inside my chest.

I pulled my wand from my pocket, poking Potter's chest with its tip, my gaze narrowed into a defiant challenge. Enough was enough; thanks to Potter's spectacular stubbornness, we were now officially causing a scene. "Take off one more point, Potter," I hissed warningly. "Go ahead."

Potter gaze flicked to my wand before he raised his own, mouth flattened into a dangerous scowl. "You don't want to go there, Bennett."

I stared back, unfazed. This wasn't the first time Potter and I had ended up with our wands pointed at each other. We'd known each other five years, after all; he was a regular recipient of my Silencio charms, and I was all too familiar with his Tripping Jinxes. And while normally Potter was a formidable partner, this time I had one unfair advantage:

I was bloody pissed off.

My anger was fierce, raw, over-powering. It pulsed inside me like a second heart and made the edges of my vision blur into red. Before, I had felt angry because it was convenient, a distraction from the other unpleasant emotions churning inside me. Now I was angry because there was nothing left.

"Put your wand down, Potter," I said flatly.

Potter scoffed. "Make me."

Well, since he asked so nicely.

Unthinkingly, I stepped backwards and slashed an impulsive orange hex at Potter, who quickly dodged, face betraying no surprise — just dark, sardonic amusement. He flung a responding swirl of blue light my way and I deflected just in time. Before we knew it, we were embroiled in a duel, shooting jinxes at each other, swirls of jewel-colored lights setting the hallway aglow. Bystanders scattered to the walls, some yelping in surprise as they ducked under streams of light, others beginning to place bets on who would win, who would lose ("Five galleons for Potter! Have you seen that guy's Bat Bogey Hex?!" "No way — Bennett's got him beat. She's a scary one, mate").

But none of that mattered right now. My surroundings had faded to obscurity as my whole being narrowed down, zeroed in on Potter's next move, next incantation and next flick of the wand. I was completely devoted to winning this. I refused to accept defeat; it was simply no longer an option.

We worked like machines — automatically, instinctively, precisely. Aiming at all the right places, guessing at the opponent's spellwork before it even happened. Neither of us had been hit yet. We could predict each other too easily — probably a product of having known (and hated) each other for such a long time. We were evenly matched — Potter had his Quidditch reflexes, but I had sheer determination.

And then, something terrible happened.

"Densaugeo!"

I watched as, seemingly in slow motion, my spell bloomed from the tip of my wand to stream down the corridor, aimed squarely for Potter. The prat, however, saw it coming as well, and he leaped nimbly to the side just in time for the jinx to miss him and hit —

Professor Nott, who had been standing, unamused and arms crossed, right behind him.

Oh no.

My wand clattered to the floor as the corridor turned to deathly silence. Even Potter stopped moving, wand-arm falling limply to his side in mild surprise.

Slowly, horrifyingly Nott turned towards me, the veins in his forehead throbbing, his teeth already starting to lengthen in size. Which was what the spell was supposed to do — make your teeth grow in size. A little silly if you thought about it, but (apparently) very effective.

The crowd of bystanders muttered uneasily to themselves as they began to disperse, obviously not wanting to get caught in the authoritative crossfire of an angry professor. I stood, paralyzed to the spot by Nott's murderous gaze, as everyone else nervously hastened away until it was only me, Potter, and the professor. Alone. In the corridor. With no witnesses present.

Again: Oh no.

"I — I can explain," I said somewhat lamely, my words foreign and unnatural-sounding in the silence.

With short, jerky steps, Nott advanced towards me, his teeth already reaching past his chin. My blood seemed to have stopped moving; my body ice-cold.

"Office. Now," Nott commanded . Except, because his teeth were already so long, the words came out more like, "Othfiz. Naw."

And despite the complete and utter pants-wetting-ness of the situation, I couldn't help but suddenly realize that Nott, at the moment, resembled a very angry, over-sized chipmunk with his teeth so large.

And so I did the worst, most horribly inappropriate thing one could do in this kind of situation.

I laughed.

...I was so dead.


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