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Chapter 2 : Two
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“– a crush on him,” I hear as I open the door. Lena abruptly stops talking and turns her head to look at me. My three other room mates are staring too.
“Who's got a crush on who?” I ask to break the silence. The other girls remain rigid, and Lena brushes off the question.
“Um, no one,” she tries to act casual, but she is clearly uncomfortable. She was also clearly talking about me. Three guesses who “him” was. I raise an eyebrow at her.
“Whatever.” I shrug. They watch me silently as I cross the room to my bed. They wait a second longer and then they all stand up and filter out the door. I repack my bag like I do every day after my last class and stretch briefly before I venture back down to the common room.
I start towards the armchairs in front of the fireplace, but quickly change my mind when I see Lena's troupe occupying them. Instead, I scan the room and spot a few of my Quidditch mates. Just as I make to join them, someone shouts my name.
Tyler!” It's Reyden, which is strange. In fact, I am almost surprised that he even knows my name. I glance over to the corner he's hanging out in. I frown as I see the chess board between him and his opponent. My lungs seize up with apprehension again as I begin to shuffle over to their table. Behind me, I can hear giggling from my room mates. I glance in their direction and shoot a glare at Lena.
"Hey,” I say weakly. Reyden smiles at me and asks if I'd like to play. “Nah, I'm no good at Wizard's Chess. Besides, you're in the middle of a game.”
“Will you join me after it's over?”
When will I ever learn that subtlety is lost on him? “Um...” I'm actually finding it difficult to turn him down, because he just looks so excited about it, and it's a look that's quite adorable on him. I blame it on his good looks. Those puppy dog eyes wouldn't be nearly as persuasive if it weren't for his damn looks. I sigh, caving in, but only slightly.
“What's in it for me?” I ask.
“You like Quidditch right?” I nod slowly. He breathes in deeply before going on. “If you play a game with me, then I'll...” He pauses and swallows. “I'll try flying.”
Ooo. Reyden flying? I know I'll lose the chess game, but I'm sure I can best him on a broom. I don't care how perfect he's supposed to be, he's not out-flying me.
“One game?” My voice betrays my intrigue.
“Deal.” I hold out my hand, and it takes him a second, but he shakes it. He turns his attention back to the board with a look of determination on his face. He must want to end it quickly. I turn around and wander over to my Quidditch mates. I can feel the eyes of most of the inhabitants of the room on me, and my face colours itself pink. Gingerly, I take a seat next to our Seeker. Ross is sitting across from me, staring at the table with his arms folded. Uh-oh, I think. He's all sulky.
“Cap'n?” I ask. He cuts his eyes up and glares. “What's the matter?” He knits his brow and lowers his gaze again.
“Nothin',” he says. “Just tired.”
“You sure?” I ask.
He stands up. “Don't mind me. Go have fun with your new friend,” he says with an icy tone. I open my mouth to object, but he's already leaving the common room. I get up to stop him, but before I've made two steps, he has walked into the boys' dormitories. I watch the door close, defeated.
So I guess he does fancy me after all. I glance over to Lena and send her another glare. Damn rumours. I should never have asked her about Reyden. I sit back down with my Quidditch mates. “Can someone go get him and tell him that those rumours aren't true? We're just friends. Nothing more.” But even if we were, it wouldn't be my fault that Ross took his sweet time and lost his chance, I think bitterly.
One of the Beaters gets up. “Yeah, sure. I'll tell him.” His tone is comforting. I smile and thank him.
“Of course.” He smiles back and then follows Ross into their dorm.
A short while later, Reyden comes over. Gruffly, he states, “I'm ready to play now.” Why is everyone in a bad mood? I nod and follow him back to the chess table. Swallowing the knot forming in my throat, I take a seat in front of him.
“Your move,” he says. I stare at the board for a moment. I've never been one much for strategy (that's Ross's job), so I just pick a pawn (second from the right) and move it forward two spaces. Reyden raises an eyebrow at me and then moves the pawn in front of his king forward a space. I wait a second, trying to look like I'm not just throwing moves out there, and then move the third pawn from the right one space forward. I look at Reyden expectantly, and he sighs, moving his Queen diagonally all the way to the right side of the board. “Checkmate.”
“What?” I squeak, furrowing my brow at the pieces, even as my King drops his sword. How does that work?
“Checkmate,” He says again. I frown and look at the pieces for a moment. Damn, he's right.
“Alright, fine,” I lean back and fold my arms. “You win.”
“You want to try again?” he asks kindly.
“Nah, I'm good,” I say quickly.
“I'll go easy on you this time?”
“Please?” Oh god, there are those damn puppy dog eyes again. Don't look, don't look. I look anyway. My expression begins to soften, but then I shake my head. No! Not going to give in.
“But, you said one game...” I try my hand at the puppy dog face. I guess it works, because he caves in an instant.
“O-okay...” The second he says it, a huge grin spreads over my face.
“Now let's go fly.” I grab his arm. “Come on!”
His eyes widen. “Now?” he asks warily.
“Yes, now! Just lemme get my broom.” Before he can reply, I'm already rushing off to the dorms.
Fifteen minutes later, we're walking out onto the pitch and Reyden looks like he'd rather be anywhere but here. He's so apprehensive that I almost feel bad about dragging him out here with me.
Okay, that was a terrible lie. I feel great about dragging him out here. We're on my turf now, and it's his turn to be humiliated. I can't help but smirk when I see him tense up as we approach the broom shed. Glancing across the pitch warily, I pull a hairpin from my pocket and kneel before the door.
“What are you doing?” I hear Reyden ask.
“It's a muggle lock-picking technique,” I say, starting to pick the lock.
“Why don't you just – Alohamora!” he says, trying to sound all superior again, but I can still hear the nerves in his voice. His spell doesn't work, as I knew it wouldn't. The lock just deflects the light from his wand. I roll my eyes and turn to look at him. He's turned a light shade of pink.
“You think they don't take precautions to keep cheeky little boys like you from breaking into the broom shed?” Would I really bother with muggle nonsense if it wasn't necessary? He says nothing and looks away. I go back to my lock-picking and about thirty seconds later, we're in. I light the tip of my wand and search the stores for a decent broom. I pick one out from the back of the shed and hand it to Reyden. He takes the handle in a vice-grip and his knuckles start to turn white.
I raise an eyebrow and glance up at him. “Better be careful. Grip like that, you might bust that broom.” I grin. “Okay, so that won't happen, but there are splinters to worry about, which, trust me, are no fun trying to dig out. And I am not gonna be the one to help you with that.” I send him a glare, to which he responds with a dumb look, and after a few seconds I shake my head, laughing. I grab a Quaffle from a cabinet in the corner, and then we head out onto the pitch.
“I'm serious about those splinters, though,” I say, poking at his arm. “And I'm dead serious about not helping you dig them out.” He has a weary look about him, but his grip on the broom has definitely loosened up now.
“You ever done this before?” I ask. He shakes his head, and I laugh inwardly. He must be the only boy who never took flying lessons as a first year. I go through the basics with him, and it takes a bit of coaxing, but it isn't long before he has mounted the broom and is hovering a few inches off the ground. He is practically throttling the handle again, and as a result, the broom is very unsteady, which, in turn, freaks him out even more.
“Loosen up. You're choking the broom. You want control, you gotta ease up a bit,” I say. Moving closer I remove both of my hands from my broom, holding them up in front of him. “Give it a try. Here,” I reach out and place my hands on his, not forcing, but guiding them away from the handle. The broom hovers stable and stationary. I give him a second to adjust and then let go, moving away. “Move around a bit. Get comfortable.” He does as I say, anxious at first, but after a few seconds, he seems okay.
We move on, and soon we're hovering at a more Quidditch-appropriate altitude. Reyden's still not team material, but he's at least able to do more than just hover now. Once he seems a little more comfortable, I fly down to scoop up the Quaffle. His back is turned as I'm flying back, and on a slightly sadistic whim, I shout his name and toss the ball in his direction.
It is quite comical how his eyes widen and he awkwardly reaches out to catch it. He captures the Quaffle, but at the cost of his balance. His body vaults over the broomstick, and, Quaffle forgotten, he catches the handle with the fingertips of one hand. He looks absolutely terrified, and I am unable to stop the torrent of laughter that this invokes. I nearly fall off my own broom as I quake with mirth.
“Tyler!” he shouts hysterically. I look up to see him flailing around.
“That's very manly, you know!” I manage to shout before I am overcome with laughter again.
“Not funny! Help!” I calm down enough to fly closer.
“Oh, please tell me you're not afraid of heights. Seriously, I've fallen from twice this height and walked away without a scratch.” He glances down and quickly looks back up, his eyes wide.
“You kidding me!?” Um, no. Seriously, he's hanging like ten feet off the ground.
I roll my eyes. “Wimp.” I aim a kick at the broom and it jars him just enough to let go. He lands most ungracefully, but he's unharmed. Re-orienting himself, he shoots a glare up at me and storms off toward the castle. All I can do is grin.
Over the next few days, Reyden seems... I think distracted is the best word for it. Well, no, actually, focused is better. He's focused one thing, and it's distracting him from everything else. I'm not really sure what it is he's so focused on, but that's probably because I'm still too busy gloating to care.
Speaking of gloating, I imagine you've probably been thinking to yourself that I'm rather even-tempered and nice for a Slytherin, right? That's because you haven't seen me after a Quidditch victory. Granted, that little session with Reyden doesn't even remotely qualify as a match, but it was a still a victory, albeit a small one.
I've been walking around with a swagger in my step and a smirk on my face, daring everyone to ask me what's got into me. Sometimes when they do, I launch into an eager and slightly exaggerated account of the events on the pitch. Others, I just ignore the inquiry and dismiss the inquirer with a snide remark. And when Reyden is around, there's nothing I'd rather do than rub it in his face. The only annoying thing is that I have yet to get a rise out of him. It's quite maddening, actually.
“Hey, Reyden!” I say as I'm passing him in a corridor one day. “Think fast!” I chuck an extra ink well at him. He turns his head, flinches, fumbles, but manages to secure a grip on it. Fixing a glare on me, he walks over and hands it back. I smirk triumphantly. That's the closest to a rise I've got out of him yet. But still, it is rather anti-climatic.
Most of my next class is spent brainstorming ways to get more of a reaction out of him. I try some of them out when next I see him (Potion's class), but none of them yield much in the way of success. Before long, frustration starts to set in and wear on my post-victory high.
As it turns out, this is actually a good thing, because Professor Snape just assigned us a lengthy essay which I probably would have missed otherwise. It's due on Monday and today is Thursday. Plenty of time, I think. (Though it's probably not nearly enough, considering that it was Professor Snape who assigned it.) But even if it's not, he's known to play favourites with his fellow Slytherins, so I should be fine.
By the end of the class, Reyden is still impervious to my taunts, and I'm a mess of irritation. Just the sight of him makes me want to hit something. Or set loose a Bludger in the Great Hall during lunch. I can't help but grin at the thought. Tempting, very tempting, but not a smart idea. It's not like a week of detention will improve my mood.
I make my way out of the dungeons, moving with a subtle hostility and still itching for a bit of violence. On the last set of stairs, a group of particularly annoying Gryffindors pass by, all spread out, so that I have to squeeze against the wall to avoid being run over. Before I realise what I'm doing, I've sent a silent Confundus Charm over my shoulder. I tuck my wand away with a smirk, leaning against the wall to watch as the spell hits one of them just as he reaches the next set of steps. His foot lands awkwardly and he falls into his friends, causing the lot of them to tumble over like a set of bowling pins.
I try to stifle my laughter, but there's really no need, because everyone wearing green robes within a ten foot radius is practically cackling. A grin spreads over my face, and I'm already feeling so much better than I was a moment ago. Though this prank isn't one of those reactions I've been trying to pry from Reyden, my frustration is temporarily sated.
Over the next few days, my mood goes up and down. I spend some time trying to torment Reyden, and once I'm thoroughly aggravated with him, I go off in search of an outlet that requires less effort. Usually it involves making Gryffindors trip down the stairs or walk into walls, stuff like that. Sometimes, it involves a bit of privilege abuse. There are few things more satisfying than handing out detentions for back-talking a Prefect.
So basically, I spend most of the weekend distracting myself, and it's Sunday night before I remember that essay that's due tomorrow. The same essay I dedicated perhaps half an hour to on Friday night and then proceeded to set aside and ignore. Cursing myself and swearing never to procrastinate again, I hurry up to the library.
When I walk in, I find many of the study areas occupied, and plenty of students scanning the bookshelves. I suck in a breath as I head for the potions books, mentally crossing my fingers in hopes that I'll still find what I need.
I scan the shelves hastily, and my eyes light up when I find one last copy of An Alternative Approach to Potion Making at the end of a row of books leaning sideways. Heaving a sigh of relief, I take the book and tuck it under my arm. The books behind it shift and I take the time to stand them up straight. Just as I finish, something catches my eye through the gap in the shelf. I spot Reyden sitting alone at a table isolated near the back of the library. Hesitating only a second, I stride around the shelves to join him.
He stiffens and slides forward in his chair, when he notices me coming over, but I'm actually not out to taunt him this time. I simply pull out a chair and start to work on my essay. I notice that he's got what looks to be the same potions book propped open in front of him, but I'm fairly sure that's not what he's been reading. Before, his attention was focused on a book in his lap; the book he's now hiding under the table. I don't say anything about it though. In fact, I don't say anything to him at all; I just focus on the essay.
After a minute or so, I can practically feel the uneasiness radiating off of him. He's leaning on his arms, crossed in front of him on the table, and consistently sending me these sidelong glances. I can't stop the smirk that's slowly spreading across my face. Shit, if I had known that he'd get this antsy if I just came over and ignored him, I'd have tried it a long time ago.
I glance over at him and he flushes lightly, shifts in his seat. “You okay?” I ask. He shifts again, and I hear the book fall off his lap. It makes him jump, and he immediately dives under the table to retrieve it.
“Fine,” he mutters, getting up to return the book to its shelf. As he leaves, I catch a glimpse of the book's cover, which seems to be about Quidditch. I smirk in full force now, and laugh quietly to myself. It's almost cute.
Once he's out of sight, I eye his book bag surreptitiously. It's half unzipped, and just asking to be snooped in. I cast a glance around before pulling the zip back. There is another Quidditch book tucked inside, which brings a warm smile to my lips. I guess it is cute after all. But behind that is a book that worries me. It's a potions book, obviously from the restricted section. Behind that, another one, more on the Dark Arts.
I don't get time to see what else he has in there, because I hear footsteps behind me and I jerk upright in my seat. But it's too late. He has already caught me, and he stops short. I look over at him to see a panicked expression on his face. Eye contact is made for less than a second before he rushes over and snatches up his bag. He flees the library without a word, and I just stare after him, dumbfounded and more than a little apprehensive. Closing my eyes, I let out a sigh.
Weren't things complicated enough before?
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