Chapter 8 : Tongue-Tied and Overloaded
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Oh, don't mind me if I get weak in the knees.
Only, you know, I'm sitting.
"Charlotte?" Drew's voice trembled, and I felt butterflies building up in my stomach as I turned. It was one of those turns. You know, the ones that are in slow-motion, with the wind blowing my hair attractively around my face without being sucked into my slightly open mouth.
"Y-yes?" Alex elbowed me hard in the ribs and Piper's giggle was stifled by her hand being clamped over her mouth.
Good. It should stay clamped over her mouth.
I stared up at him, my hands growing sweatier by the second.
"A-are you going to be in the library, today?" Drew was twisting the end of his Hogwarts sweater in his hands and he looked paler than usual. His glasses were slipping off the edge of his nose again, and I longed to reach out and push them up. He looked down at me, chewing on his bottom lip in a nervous tic.
"I'm always at the library…" I responded, slowly. "Though, I'm not tutoring Oliver, today. I think he has practice."
"Oh, okay," he was looking so frightened that I gave him a helpful smile. "You'll be there alone, correct?"
"Yes…" my lips were trying to frown, but I held them up by force, "I'm always there alone…when not with Oliver…"
I was so confused. Why was he so nervous? Why was he staring at me in such a way? Why did he care whether or not I was going to the library…alone? Bloody hell; my mind was running in circles, again.
"Alright, then," Drew licked his lips, turned on his heel and walked quickly away from the Gryffindor table. I stared at his back, and a sigh left my lips without my realizing it.
"Do I sense disappointment in the air?" Alex held up her hands to me, as if she could sense waves of disappointment floating off of my being.
"What are you talking about, child?" I inquired with a shrug, "Why on earth would I be disappointed?"
Piper said nothing, but removed her hand from her mouth and stared at me. "He fancies you, I say."
"Well, clearly not," I picked up my fork and tried to continue eating. "Didn't you just see the conversation I just had with him? Nothing happened. He doesn't fancy me."
"He was nervous as a bloody hippogriff trainer waiting for the bloody hippogriff to respond to his bow." Piper retorted with a knowing look. "Besides, why would he ask you now?"
"Why wouldn't he ask me now?" I sighed. "Er, hypothetically, that is. The three of us know that it's a ridiculous notion to begin with…"
"Because," Piper sighed, as if she was frustrated with my dimwittedness, "we're here." She gestured to herself and Alex. "It'd be too embarrassing if he just straight-out asked you! Especially in front of well, his friends, and your friends…"
"What if you had said no?" Alex chimed in, her voice rising in volume. "What if everything had gone wrong and he had to live with the fact that he had messed up in front of a) everyone, b) his friends, and c) your friends…? Poor bloke."
I pointed to my expressionless face. "Does this look like the face of someone who is amused by your antics?!"
Alex elbowed me again, but not as hard, "No, because that's just how your usual face looks." She grinned cheekily. "Come on, Lotty, allow us a little fun, yeah?"
"At my expense?" I asked, putting on an air of mock-offense.
"Hullo," a voice interrupted our squabbling. We all turned towards the right and saw a cheerful looking Hufflepuff grinning at us. "I was wondering if you had seen Claudia."
"She just left," Piper pointed towards the double-doors. "Apparently, she's got a letter from her mum, so she's gone to read it. If you'd like, I'll relay a message to her for you." Her voice had suddenly lost its warmth. This was a side of Piper that I hadn't seen before – cold, distant, condescending.
The boy continued to smile. "Just tell her that Theo was looking for her."
When he had gone, our idle chatter did not return. Piper was staring after the boy with narrowed eyes and Alex was trying very hard not to comment on the whole thing.
"Who is that again?" My voice interrupted the silence like a bull running rampant in a delicate china shop. Alex choked on her drink and Piper's gaze suddenly shifted towards me.
"Theo Hall." Piper spat out the name. "Pathetic sort of boy, isn't he? He trails after her like some sort of lost-puppy. I don't know what she was thinking when she agreed to date him."
"I think he's rather nice, actually," I commented briefly, turning my gaze towards the Hufflepuff table as Theo grinned at one of his friends and sat back down. "He's got a nice face, gentle smile…"
"And the brains of a wombat." Piper said the last bit dully.
Alex's eyes were shining and she was shaking with repressed laughter.
"He's in our Divination class. Apparently, he's been in love with her for awhile and was pretty surprised – I was pretty surprised – when she agreed to go out with him. They're set to go to Hogsmeade on Halloween." She rolled her eyes. "Apparently, Claudia would rather spend her first Hogsmeade weekend with that moron instead of with me."
"Maybe she likes the tea-shop," Alex suggested.
"The tea-shop?" I inquired. "You mean the fluffily pink place with obscene amounts of candles and strategically placed dark corners? The one that you often complain to me about?"
"You never know…" was the reply I got.
Piper narrowed her eyes at Alex. It appeared that I was not the only one who caught Alex's insinuation that Claudia would enjoy those horrid things.
"Nobody likes that damn tea-shop." Piper's nostrils flared. "People just like going in to snog."
"Which is the reason why she's been in businesses for such a long time – the tea is awful, but you have to admit that it is a good place to hide out…"
"I, for one, would not be caught dead inside that tea-shop." Piper retorted.
"I wouldn't know," I chimed in. "I've never been in it."
The two rounded on me immediately. Piper leaned into the table so that her face was close to mine and Alex gave me a wink.
"Come Halloween, you'll be experiencing it first-hand!" Piper exclaimed, "With Drew!"
"Aw, my little baby Charlotte is growing up!" Alex pretended to wipe away a tear. "Getting stuck in awkward social situations! Who knew this day would ever come?" She mock-sobbed.
"I don't know you," I pretended to hide my face from them by turning away. "You're so embarrassing…"
"It's only too bad that Gryffindor tower doesn't have a balcony." Piper was musing. "He could come ask you in song! Singing to you in the moonlight, under the balcony…" She drifted off into her own delusion.
Alex struck a lovesick pose and pretended to strum on an invisible lute, "Or he'd call out into the darkness…'O, Charlotte, Charlotte…wherefore art thou Charlotte?' and you'd come out, your beauty reflected in the moonlight and cry out…"
"I'd cry out, 'why on earth are you asking me why I'm Charlotte…'" I quipped dryly. "And, aren't those Juliet's lines? Isn't she asking why Romeo is Romeo because he's a Montague?"
"Details, details," Alex waved them away with her right hand. "Either way, the romantic notion will still be there. And then, once you are at Madam Puddifoot's…"
"They'll snog senselessly?" Piper's eye had a manic glint in them.
"We will not." My cheeks flamed hot.
This was getting slightly ridiculous. I mean, it was fine for them to accuse me of liking him or tease me about staring at him in the library – but, really, assuming that he fancies me and that he's going to take me out to Hogsmeade was really a bit much. What did they want me to do? Get my hopes up, only to be dashed? I've seen too many girls sobbing about in the lavatories over broken hearts and disappointed expectations. I didn't have time to be one of them.
It was just better for everyone if I kept my feelings at a distance. It was less complicated if nobody knew about it.
I stood up, collected my letter and walked away from the table. Alex and Piper's laughing stopped, but they didn't follow me out. Once I was out the door, I leaned against one of the stone walls in exhaustion. The day had barely begun and I already felt worn out.
"Hey! Charlotte!" I closed my eyes and sighed when I heard Oliver's familiar voice calling out a greeting to me. This morning really wasn't my day – I didn't know if I could suck it up and be nice to him on a morning such as this.
I composed myself. "Oh, hello there Oliver. Why aren't you in the Great Hall for breakfast?"
"Finished composing a new play – I really can't wait to try it out on the team tonight. Thanks for postponing our session until tomorrow." He grinned at me.
"It's really not a problem." I sighed again and reached out my right hand to rub my temple. "I'll talk to you later, I'm going to see if…"
I never finished my sentence because Isabella came out of nowhere and attached herself to Oliver's arm. Her brown eyes flashed at me defiantly.
"Good morning, love," she whispered to him in a low voice – it was just loud enough for me to hear. "You naughty boy, you're late for breakfast."
Oliver looked as though he was about to faint. He smiled at her and clutched her arm. "I was working on some Quidditch plays – did you wait long?"
"Oh, you know, just a little bit." She pinched her fingers together to indicate the tiny amount of time that she had waited. "Shall we? You've missed the mail call already."
"Damn," Oliver looked eager to rush towards a small pile of mail resting on one of the Gryffindor tables. "Mum and Lucy have probably written to me. Let's go." He turned to wave at me, "Bye, Charlotte!"
I held up my hand in silent farewell. Oliver was leading Isabella away, and I caught her eye. Her lips pulled themselves into a dreadfully false smile. "It was nice seeing you, Charlotte."
The air wasn't a bit chilly, but I shivered anyway. The way she said my name was as though she had shouted numerous obscenities at me.
"Charlotte, what are you doing here?" Claudia had returned. She appeared in the same place that Isabella had, just a few seconds ago. "Are you alright? You look ill."
Her tone of voice had gone from somewhat shocked to its usual, cool tone with an added edge of worry.
"Oh, uh, Alex and Piper wouldn't stop making fun of me, so I left." I shrugged my shoulders. "I've just got a little headache. I think I'll go lie down at the Infirmary."
"Oh, alright," she gave me a kind smile. "Would you like me to take your things back to the Common Room?"
"No, I'll keep them with me." I tucked my mum's letter into one of my books. I turned to walk away but suddenly remembered something, "Oh, yes! Um, Theo was looking for you." His name felt funny on my tongue.
"Was he?" Claudia looked only mildly interested. "I'll go find him, then. Thank you for passing the message along."
The Infirmary was very quiet. Madam Pomfrey was in her office, dictating something. I could see her quill moving about in a quick motion, only to pause every so often as it dabbed a dot over an 'i' or crossed a 't'.
I had missed Arithmancy, and half of Charms. The headache just wouldn't subside. My thoughts jumbled together in a mess – details of various potions mixed with terms from History of Magic; Alex and Piper's voice narrated my love story to me, complete with 'glorified' scenes of romance. It was too much for me to think about.
I didn't want to get my hopes up about Drew. I didn't want them to know that I had fancied them. I closed my eyes again. It was why I hadn't told Alex about my crush on him – I didn't want to give her an excuse to mock the crush.
Another hour passed and I awoke from my nap. I realized that I had missed all of my classes for the day, and that the sun was slowly sinking over the horizon.
"Oh, you're awake," Madam Pomfrey stuck her head out of the doorway and looked at me. "You've been asleep all day, Miss Murray. Your friends came in to see you, but I didn't want to wake you so…"
"Goodness," I blinked a few times before looking back at the sun's descent. "I didn't know this was going to happen? I've got to get going. Thank you so much, Madam Pomfrey, for letting me sleep here."
"You're free to come whenever you're feeling the least bit unwell, dear. That's why I'm here, you know." She waved me off as I darted out of the Infirmary. The torches hanging along the walls were already lit.
"Shoot, what time is it?" I pondered to myself as I turned a corner. The strap from my book bag dug into my shoulder and I yawned.
And then, memories of this morning flooded my brain.
I could choose to go to the library now, and encounter Drew. As much as I wanted to deny it, I couldn't. Alex and Piper had instilled such expectations within me that I was afraid that they wouldn't be met – afraid that, they were wrong and he didn't fancy me.
How could he fancy me? What would I do, then?
The library was just around this corridor. My feet suddenly felt like someone had tied cement blocks to them. The double-doors of the library dared me to step into a wonderland, into a dream.
I had to ask myself: what did I expect? Did I expect awkward silences, as he stared at me? Did I expect a ridiculously romantic display of roses? Did I expect him to ask me to Hogsmeade?
It was too late to think about all of that. I had approached the doors. The sun dipped even lower in the sky, and darkness threatened to consume it.
I forced my thoughts to shut up. I forced them to be silenced. I grabbed hold of the door handle with sweaty hands and pulled it open. With two steps, I walked into the library and scanned it.
Drew was sitting at a desk in the back – his usual spot. He had his back towards me, and he appeared to be madly flipping through a thick novel.
I was about to walk towards him when he stood up. He ran a hand through his blond hair and muttered to himself. He paced to the end of the row of books and checked his watch. He nearly sprinted back towards the book and began flipping through it again. He set down the book, placed both of his hands palm-first against the table and took in a deep breath.
"Sorry, am I late?" I don't know what made me ask such a question. What was I late for? It wasn't like we had arranged to meet there or something. But, I did say it, and when he heard my voice, Drew nearly bolted out of his chair. He stood up so fast that it nearly fell over.
"No, no," he smiled at me before pulling out the chair across from him for me. "You weren't in Arithmancy, today." He stated this quickly, anxiously.
"I had a headache this morning, so I went to the Infirmary but I didn't realize that I had fallen asleep until I woke up and realized that I had managed sleep away the entire day. Professor Vector wasn't irritated, was she?"
"No," he shook his head and nervously picked at one of his hands. "She lamented about it, though. Thought it was a pity that her best student was there, today."
"I'm not her best student." My face flushed and I found that my own nervous tics were beginning to kick in.
No! I banished my fears and thoughts from my mind. I didn't want to do this. I didn't have enough experience with these situations – couldn't Alex do this in my place? Mentally, I scolded myself and shook my head. Practice made perfect? Right? Right?
"Er, so, you're feeling much better now?" Drew was avoiding my eyes. His cheeks had a pleasant pink tinge to them, and I noticed that his glasses were neatly folded and tucked away in his breast pocket.
"Much better, thanks." I beamed.
There was a brief silence, and then we both tried to speak at once.
"What was the home-"
"I'm assuming that you want the-"
Drew looked at me, suddenly very alarmed.
"You finish," I said gallantly, wishing I could dig a hole and crawl into it.
"Er, I'm assuming that you wanted the homework…" he looked at me awkwardly, his right hand reaching for his bag. He fished through it for the homework and I blinked, licking my lips in anticipation. Drew took in a deep breath and then set the homework down on the table, but not close enough for me to reach it. "Also, um, Charlotte…what are you doing...this…Sunday?"
"Sunday?" I felt like someone had just shocked me with a Cheering Charm. "Absolutely nothing."
"Brilliant," Drew murmured. "Er, not brilliant that you're doing absolutely nothing…but uh, brilliant that you could…perhaps, accompany me to…Hogsmeade…? Since you have nothing else to do? If you wanted to, that is? I mean, I understand if you don't because you could have all sorts of homework assignments and I really don't want to be distracting-"
Before he could break off into a nervous ramble, I gave him a very wide smile. The butterflies were exploding in my stomach and I was sure that I would burst into happy tears at any moment but I had to respond, or else the poor bloke would go on and on about nonsense.
"I think that would be a wonderful idea…" the smile grew wider, "as long as we avoid Madam Puddifoot's."
Drew had a look on his face of sheer relief. I got the feeling that he was dreading Madam Puddifoot's almost as much as I did – perhaps, he had friends like mine? Friends who thought it was absolutely hilarious to mock people's crushes?
Er, I'll have to admit that it is rather fun, but not when the subject of said mocking is you.
There was a crowing sound that came from nowhere, and Drew and I looked about. From the crevices of well, I don't know how the library has any of these crevices, but Piper and a male jumped out from one of them.
"Good show, mate!" The male slapped Drew on the shoulder and I saw him wince.
"I told you!" Piper squealed.
I made a shushing motion. I did not want Madam Pince storming into this moment and ruining it. Oh, wait. I didn't have to pretend that Drew and I actually had a Moment. Because, you know, we totally did.
A genuine Drew-Charlotte Moment with a capital M. I like it. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
"I'm Richie, by the way," the boy with sandy colored hair introduced himself. "Richie Jones. It's really nice to finally meet you."
Drew colored again, and punched his friend in the arm. Piper raised an eyebrow at 'finally'.
"Um, how do you and Richie know each other?" Drew was addressing Piper now. He was all tongue-tied and his face was the color of a tomato.
"He's in my Divination class." Piper said, as though the fact was unimportant. "He's my seeing partner."
"That sounds slightly funny, doesn't it?" Richie asked. "Seeing partner. It's as though you're blind, and I'm your partner…that can see."
"He's not always this strange…" Drew told me in an aside, his tone somewhat apologetic. "Or, maybe he always is and I haven't realized how terribly embarrassing he is until now…"
"Our Andrew talks about you often," Richie told me, sweeping onto his knees and grabbing my hand to kiss. "You're prettier than I expected, really."
I didn't know whether or not I should be smile at the compliment, or frown in offense.
"Andrew doesn't have the best taste in girls – you're decent, I'll give you that." He winked at me.
Can I be offended now?
"Our Richard often says things without thinking properly," Drew said through gritted teeth. "It's a wonder why he got sorted into Ravenclaw. No brain whatsoever."
"Oi," Richie pretended to look hurt, "that stings, mate!"
"Who's your mate…?" Drew growled. He decided that he had unleashed one of his friends on me for far too long and dragged Richie away. "I'll see you later, Charlotte."
"What time do you want to meet for Hogsmeade?"
"How does eleven sound?"
"Like a perfect time to be meeting for Hogsmeade!" I called to his retreating back.
I regretted it as soon as the words came out of my mouth.
"'Like a perfect time to be meeting for Hogsmeade'?" Piper repeated my words to me and I swatted her arm.
"And then she shouted that eleven sounded 'like a perfect time to be meeting for Hogsmeade'!" Piper was recounting the story to Alex and Claudia in our shared dormitory. She said that she wanted to stay away from her own for as long as possible.
"Sounds fantastic," Alex was laughing loudly – snorting, actually. It was really attractive. I can assure you that. "You were so bloody nervous, I bet. I could see you sweating like a –"
It was Claudia who saved me from the wolves – er, I mean friends.
"I'm sure you'll have a nice time, Charlotte." She nodded. "Theo and I will be going, too. Do you want to meet, maybe, at Madam Puddifoot's?"
"Um, it's not that I don't want to meet with you, Claudia…" I found myself mumbling. "Well, Drew and I both decided that it, maybe, would not be the greatest idea to go there…"
She raised an eyebrow at me – a very un-Claudia-like thing to do.
"We could all meet at the Three Broomsticks, then." Alex decided. "I'd like to truly meet your Drew. After all, we have all been hearing so much about him!"
"Shut your gobbler," I retorted. "I'm only having issues with a single thing, though." I pulled at the bottom of my frayed pajama top and the three gave me curious looks.
"What could you possibly be having problems with, child?" Alex inquired hotly.
"Honestly, I don't know…what I should do…if I stumble upon Wood and you-know-who there…"
"The she-devil who eats souls?" Piper filled in, "Or do you mean the Dark Wizard?"
"Same difference," Alex replied to Piper's quip. "What do you mean, Charlotte?"
"I don't want her to try something funny while I'm on my date with Drew." And then, I took a second to take it in – yes, world, I just said 'date' and 'with Drew' in the same sentence. I must have done something right in my past-life to deserve such a wonderful chance to use those words together!
"She's on a date with Oliver, then, right? How would she be able to hurt you if she's on her own date?"
"Those minions that she calls friends," Piper interrupted Alex with a sigh. "Great, we have to worry about them, too."
Claudia had her brow wrinkled. She had not thought of this, either.
"I haven't told Theo the reason why I've been avoiding him lately." She inserted this into the conversation quickly. "I didn't want him to see me with green or purple paint dripping from my hair. It wouldn't be proper."
"Oh, my bloody biscuit Gods," I knocked my head against my headboard in annoyance. "I did not think of that. How am I supposed to keep Isabella's fury away from Drew? I don't want him targeted, either! I don't want him to know about my humiliation…It's too damn embarrassing…"
"Firstly," Alex gave me a look, "Piper and I don't have dates to Hogsmeade. We'll look out for the two of you and alert you if any of those devilish Minions are running around. Secondly, wow, Charlotte, you've been cursing a lot more than before – I must be having some sort of effect on you. Thirdly, don't keep it from Drew, Charlotte. I have a feeling that he won't take too kindly to you brushing him off, unlike Theo – no offense, Claudia."
"None taken." Claudia smiled.
"I'm exhausted." Piper yawned. "Can't we think about the Isabella-Voldybread problem some other day? I think she's in bed, so I can sleep safely."
"Alright, good night." We stood from our spots on the floor. Our other two roommates walked in and gave us a strange look before departing to their beds.
Piper stood at the doorway and shot me a wink. "Remember, there's nothing wrong with kissing on a first date."
I rolled my eyes.
"What Charlotte means with that gesture," Alex explained sagely, "is sod off."
They both giggled and Piper left.
I lay in my bed with the sheet pulled up to my chin and smiled to myself. Every time I thought about Drew, or about Hogsmeade, my stomach would flutter and my insides would twist themselves into a knot. I thought about how the four of us had formed such a strange friendship.
Even though Alex still resisted (you could tell, with her snarky comments to Piper sometimes…I was surprised that Piper hadn't hexed her), I had not. I welcomed Claudia and Piper's unlikely friendship.
It was easy to start a friendship, but the difficult part, after all, was keeping the threat of betrayal away from our newly formed bonds of friendship.
Authors Note: I'm trying to get out chapters 9 and 10 tonight, too. I hope you stay tuned. :)
Please take the time to leave a review. It means a lot to me. ♥
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