Chapter 3 : Three
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I finish my potions essay, but it has got to be the worst paper I've ever written, which is really saying something. The next morning, I wake up late and wicked tired. Skipping breakfast, I rush to class, once again just barely making it on time. Reyden looks anxious as I make my way to my seat next to him.
The second I'm settled in, he turns to me, and starts talking, and I'm so not in the mood for this right now...
“It's not what you think,” he says. The bell rings, and he's quiet for a minute or so when Professor Everard goes to the front of the room to start today's Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson. When he turns his back, Reyden leans over and whispers, “I'm not doing dark magic.”
“Then what are you doing?” I hiss just as Everard faces us again. He catches my eyes and gives me a look before continuing.
Several seconds later, he's writing something on the board, and Reyden leans over again. “And I'm not planning to become a Death Eater or something like that, either.” Of course, he conveniently ignores my question.
“I didn't say you were. In fact, I never said –” I get another stern look, so I cut myself off quickly. The rest of the class passes in a similar fashion and he never really tells me what the books are for. At one point, when I am thoroughly tired of hearing the same excuses over and over, I try to change the subject.
“So what about those Quidditch books, then?” I ask. He flushes, but doesn't get a chance to answer, because that's when Professor Everard finally decides that he's had enough.
“Detention, Miss Dixon.” My head jerks to the front of the room, where he looks quite displeased. “Tonight, eight o'clock.”
It's no big deal to me at first, but a few seconds later, I realise that I'm the only one getting a detention here. My eyes narrow as he moves on to the homework for tonight. I glance to Reyden, who is looking entirely too innocent and avoiding my eyes. Looking back to the front, I open my mouth to protest, but the bell rings. I grit my teeth, grab my stuff and stalk out of the classroom.
I only make it a few feet out the door before I have to stop, because I'm still struggling to shove my textbook into my bag. Reyden catches up to me. “Tyler, wait. I, um... I didn't mean... to get you in trouble.” I drop the book.
Did he just apologise?
Reyden kneels to fetch the book and places it carefully in with the rest of my books. He seems awkward and unsure of himself, and it's just slightly adorable. When he bows his head and stumbles over an “I'm sorry,” I hesitate, but forgive him. He smiles brightly and thanks me before turning away and abruptly disappearing into the crowd of students.
Later that evening, as I'm joining my team mates on the Quidditch pitch, I notice a figure up in the stands. It's not uncommon to have a spectator or two during a practice. More often than not, it's a player from another house out to do some spying. It's common enough that we don't usually bother with terrorising them enough to make them leave, but I'm really not in the mood to be spied on today.
I turn to Ross, catch his eye and pitch my thumb over my shoulder with a scowl, and he flashes a grin. I mount my broom and take off toward the stand, but as soon I'm close enough to identify our “spy”, I stop short. Reyden smiles and waves enthusiastically, while still managing to look stiff and edgy. Meanwhile, I'm still puzzling over his presence and it doesn't even occur to me to wave back until his face has fallen, and he has just about given up on the waving. The concept of returning the smile never even crosses my mind.
Ross looks confused when I reach the ground again. “Thought you were going to scare him away?” he asks.
“Wasn't from another house,” I say simply. Ross doesn't just shrug and move on. He looks rather disappointed, and I think it's a pretty fair bet that he knows exactly who's sitting up in the stands. After a second, however, he does shrug. He puts on a smile that doesn't exactly look forced, but I'm sure it probably is, at least a little bit.
“Let's go! Practice started two minutes ago!” he shouts at two stragglers just now making their way across the pitch. After warming up, everyone is in flight and doing Quidditchy things. Ross has his game face on, but I've seen it slip once or twice when he's passing the Quaffle my way.
As the practice nears its end, we land and run some cool-down laps. Ross and I are running side by side, and he keeps sending me what I assume he thinks are surreptitious glances. It occurs to me that it's not normal for him to keep pace with someone.
“Ross?” he turns his head, and a smile tugs at his lips. Well, I was going to ask if he was okay, but that seems kind of silly when he's almost smiling at me. “You seem... odd today.” I frown and wish I had more time to choose my words. He stops almost smiling at me.
“Just, um...” he turns away, eyes straight ahead for a second, and then looks at me again with a bit of a smirk. “Well, we've got a match coming up.”
“Right...” I raise an eyebrow. “And this particular match is making you weird because?” We're only playing Ravenclaw.
“Because I'm planning to ask you to Hogsmeade with me to celebrate our imminent victory.” We stop running, and he gives me a sly grin. I can feel the blood rush to my cheeks, yet he's hardly even pink. I'm a little dumbfounded as I stumble over a spacey version of “yes.”
“Excellent,” he says. “I'll see you after the match, then.” He tilts his head in valediction, and then walks past me to collect his broom and quit the pitch. Shortly thereafter, I snap out of my daze and realise that if I don't get moving, I'll be late for my detention. I snatch up my own broom and start jogging towards the castle.
Detention is long and lame, and I step out of Everard's office trying to stretch the stiffness out of my muscles. Curfew isn't far off, and I'm about ready to pass out. However, on my way back to the common room, I spot Reyden coming down from the other end of the corridor. On an impulse, I slip into an empty classroom on my right. A second later, I feel incredibly foolish for doing so.
Nevertheless, I wait as Reyden passes the door. I had never really thought about following him before, but after that incident at the library, I'm thinking I just might stoop to that level. (Subconsciously, I think I was already planning this; otherwise, why hide in an empty classroom?) I crack the door open and peer outside. He rounds a corner, and I slip out of the room, slinking down the hall as quickly as I can.
I follow him down another corridor, and we reach the stair chamber. I hang back, letting him get a couple of staircases ahead of me, before I cross my fingers that the stairs will cooperate with me and begin to climb.
When he reaches the fifth floor and continues on up, I consider giving up and going to bed, because I still feel ready to pass out, but for some reason, I keep going. I follow him all the way to the seventh floor. I chase him down two more corridors, and then, as I'm turning one last corner, I stop in my tracks and shrink back to watch him. He's standing before a wall. Just a simple wall, I think, until I notice a few dust particles trickle to the ground. The Room of Requirement. I knew that path felt familiar.
He waits patiently while the huge wooden door etches itself into the wall. To me, it seems like it takes forever. When he finally grabs the handle and hauls the door open, my muscles twitch in anticipation, but I'm pretty sure it's a bad idea to go in after him.
In the end, I just watch the door fade away, and by the time I make it back to the girls' dormitories, sleep is the last thing on my mind.
On Tuesday, I sleep through Defense Against the Dark Arts. I manage to avoid Everard for the rest of the day, but alas, when I show up on Wednesday morning (early like I usually do), he doesn't believe my made up excuse for missing his class, and he gives me another detention. However, it turns out that as detentions go, there's nothing much to complain about. It's during lunch, but all I have to do is tidy up his classroom a bit and help him prepare for a third year lesson. He barely keeps me fifteen minutes. All things considered, I'm not having a bad day.
When I arrive in the Great Hall for lunch, I'm pleasantly surprised to find that Ross has saved me a seat. “Where've you been?” he asks conversationally as I sit down.
“Had another detention with Everard.”
He makes a face, and then laughs. Other than the lingering looks and warm smiles I get from him, Ross acts no different than before. He's not trying to be all couple-y, and he doesn't even mention Hogsmeade. He's being sure to give me my space, a gesture for which I am extremely grateful. I smile at him to let him know I appreciate it.
A couple of times, I notice him looking down the table a ways with this stony look on his face. I crane my neck forward and try to see who he's looking at. It's a face that's not hard to spot. Reyden meets my eyes with the same stony look that Ross has been giving him and I frown. Just what I need, two boys pumped up on testosterone and ready to fight over me. There's this sinking feeling, and I sigh, trying shake it off.
“You okay?” Ross looks worried.
“Oh yeah, it's nothing!” I say, smiling brightly. I kind of doubt that he's actually fooled, but he lets it go, and that's good enough for me. This is going to cause problems later, but I think I'll just cross that bridge when I come to it. As for now, I've got to get to class.
“I want to try it again.”
“Wha-?” I've just come from my last class, barely stepped into the common room, and what is Reyden talking about?
“Quidditch. Flying,” he says flatly.
I narrow my eyes. Last time, he got scared shitless and practically ran off like a puppy with his tail between his legs. What's he want a rematch for? And if he thinks reading a few Quidditch books gives him a leg up, he's in a for a rude awakening.
“What for?” I ask incredulously. “Did you like being outdone for once?”
“We'll see,” he says, cold as ice.
I raise my eyebrows. “Fine,” I say. “Just let me get my broom.”
I fling my broom onto my bed, and start pacing.
Bloody fucking Hell.
I slam my fist against the wall as I'm turning to start in the other direction. It rattles my bones a little and leaves my hand throbbing, but there's too much adrenaline pumping through my veins for me to notice the pain.
“How the fuck did he get so bloody good in six days!?”
There's no one in here, but I wouldn't be surprised if people can hear me clear into the common room.
“Six fucking days!”
I kick the foot of my bed and let out a howl of frustration. I suppose there is such a thing as too god damn perfect. I keep pacing for about a minute, and then stop, staring at the door for a moment. I need to get out of here. Snatching up my wand, I stomp into the common room, ignoring all the stares I've attracted, and make a beeline for the exit.
I'm intercepted by Ross halfway there. He looks remarkably concerned and wants to know what's wrong. But even just looking at him reminds me of Quidditch, and what just fucking happened outside, and I just brush him off, very rudely. I'm sure I'll feel bad about it later.
When I finally make it outside and breathe in the cool night air, I feel so much better. I'm still seething with rage, but it's a start. I start walking away from the Quidditch pitch, and keep on until I've calmed down a considerable amount.
It's an hour until curfew by the time I start to make my way back to the castle. I can still feel the anger brewing in the pit of my stomach, but I think I have it pretty much under control now. When I walk back into the Slytherin common room, there forms a tension that could probably be cut with a knife. No one is staring, but I'm sure they'd like to. Except Ross, who is giving me this intense stare, which I am doing all I can to avoid. I'm a little chilled, so I step up to the fire and flop down into one of the big green armchairs. It's quite comfy and I could easily lay here for hours, and just forget about the world around me.
There are only a few people left in the room, but it isn't long before most of them try to leave inconspicuously. Eventually, it's only me and Ross. He comes over cautiously. Remember I mentioned feeling bad later? Yeah, later has come. I'm filled with this dreadful ache and I just feel like sinking into the chair.
He sits down on the coffee table in front of me and gives me the same look he gave me when I first walked in, and there is nothing I can do to avoid it now.
“I'm sorry,” I interrupt. “I was just so pissed off, and, well... I'm sorry.”
He waits to be sure that I am finished. “I forgive you, but talk to me. What's got you so worked up tonight?”
I avoid his gaze and scowl, looking into the fire. “Reyden bloody Riley.”
He raises an eyebrow and I tell him what happened. In all honesty, he actually looks kind of happy about the whole thing. Well, he's probably just relieved that I'm pissed at Reyden and not him. Despite that, I'm actually glad he's here. Glad I can talk to him.
We talk for a while, and then, when there's not much left to talk about, he looks at the clock and stretches.
“Curfew's in ten,” he says. “I'm going to turn in. You should too.” I nod, watching the flames rise and fade into nothing. He leans forward and puts a hand on my knee. If he were anyone else, I probably would have been outraged, but it's Ross, and I'm pretty sure he's not just being a boy, so I just look at him and wait. “Listen, you ever wanna talk, just come find me, okay?” I nod again, keeping eye contact. He smiles and then gets up. “Good night, Tyler.”
“Good night.” He heads off into the boys' dormitories, and I just sit and watch the fire a little while longer. Just when I am about to head for bed, the door to the boys' dorms opens again, and I feel the anger from before start to simmer again as Reyden emerges from behind it.
“And just where do you think you're going?” I bark in the most antagonising voice I can muster. He flinches and looks at me like a deer in the headlights. I feel like lashing out at him, but I force myself to maintain control. “Well?”
“Just, um...” he chews on his bottom lip and glances around nervously.
“I've seen you, you know.” I jab an accusatory finger in his direction. “Sneaking out before curfew all the time.”
He's still shifting nervously, and says nothing. I take a step towards him. “I-I, I was just –”
“Oh, come on, out with it.”
He stops stuttering and looks me in the eye, suddenly calm. After a second, he speaks, voice soft, but firm.
“Come with me.”
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