Chapter 16 : Out in the Open
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Out in the Open
The following day warped by before Holden’s eyes, and it was not long at all that he found himself on his broomstick at Quidditch practice; Gryffindor was going up against Ravenclaw for the Quidditch Cup on Saturday. While James was drilling the team harder than ever, Holden kept fumbling with the Quaffle anytime it was thrown to him, very nearly dropping it. In fact, he did drop it a couple times, much to the chagrin of James, who showed his frustration with a blow of the shiny whistle that hung around his neck.
It was not until after practice that James and Fred approached him with queries as to what was up with him. They both had known Holden had met up with Alyssa last night, but he had dined not to tell them about it. All he had told them was that things were made even more complicated than they already had been before going to bed and sleeping until noon before he had to wake to make it down to the Pitch in time for practice at one o’ clock.
“What gives?” Fred asked, as he swapped his Quidditch robes for his school robes in the boys’ locker room. “Tell us what happened last night that has you all wacked out.”
“I am not wacked out.”
“Well, you most certainly aren’t holding it together, now are you?” James supplied. “Tell us what happened, mate.”
Holden sat down on one of the benches, as he slumped forward before letting out a huge sigh before he said anything. “So, things didn’t exactly go well with Alyssa last night.”
“Yeah, that much is obvious,” Fred said, rolling his eyes in his agitation. “Tell us something we couldn’t have picked up on from your crappy flying today.”
Holden ran a hand through his golden hair in frustration before he continued. “She started to babble on about how she likes me more than a friend, and how she wants to go out with me. Then, she gave me an ultimatum; I have to choose either her or Lauren before summer break, which is less than two weeks away.”
“And what’s causing you all this frustration?” James said. “It’s pretty obvious who you should choose, isn’t it? You’re already dating Lauren, not to mention you really like Lauren, too. Why are you wasting time mulling this all over in your head when you already know the answer?”
“Because what if it turns out that Alyssa and I are more compatible for each other than Lauren and I are? Then what? I would have made a mistake, and by then Alyssa won’t want anything to do with me if I end up staying with Lauren.”
“Mate, you’ve gone completely mental, you know that,” Fred replied, half amused at the distress Holden was under. “The only reason you’re fretting over this like some sissy is because Alyssa’s gotten into your head in an attempt to sway you from Lauren when she gave you this ultimatum. She doesn’t care about being with you as much as she cares about snatching you away from Lauren.”
“For once in his life, Fred makes an excellent point,” James agreed with his cousin, “by telling you to choose between them, she basically said she didn’t care about being with you but rather winning you as some kind of prize. Do you really want to fall for this trick of hers, Holden, or are you going to stay with Lauren like we all know you want to do?”
Holden stared off at the bank of lockers on the other side of the locker room, which was so quiet save for his beating heart that was pumping blood so fast he could barely concentrate on anything else. Was he really considering dumping Lauren for Alyssa? Holden couldn’t believe he had allowed the thought to seep into his mind, but there it was as plain as if he were choosing between black and white instead of two girls that couldn’t have been more different than each other even if they tried not to be.
There was a part of him—a small part—that wanted to test the waters with Alyssa if only to see if his feelings for Lauren were really as strong as he had originally thought they were. On the other hand, the other part of him knew he would never feel the same for Alyssa as he did for Lauren. How he knew this, he had no idea; all he knew was what his heart was trying to tell him at that moment as it beat, causing his pulse to accelerate with each second he thought about her.
How could he have been so stupid? Holden thought, looking back up at his friends who were waiting for him to say something.
“Of course I don’t want to play into what Alyssa wants me to do,” Holden said sharply. “But I also don’t want to judge her by what she’s done in the past. People can change.”
“But she’s a Slytherin, Holden,” Fred said, pointing out the obvious. “Slytherins don’t change their spots, they’re born with them.”
“But what if—”
“No more sticking up for her, Holden,” James interrupted. “There’s no excuse to make up for her past behaviour, nor is there for what she’s trying to force you to decide now. I can’t even believe you’re considering leaving Lauren for her. Seriously mate? You’ve got to be kidding!”
“Exactly,” Fred agreed. “Alyssa is so manipulative; can’t you see that by what she’s making you do?”
Holden was knocked speechless by all that his friends were saying about Alyssa. He knew they were right about her, on the other hand Holden really wanted so much to believe that Alyssa asking him to choose between her and Lauren was a sign that she had changed for the better. Not to mention the fact he wanted to try out this new found relationship with Alyssa because there might be something there. How would he ever know if there was if he didn’t go out with her at least once? That was a question Holden could not answer as he stood in the locker room with his two mates staring at him expectantly, waiting for him to say he was going to choose Lauren no matter what. The only problem was, well, that Holden was thinking of how he should give Alyssa the benefit of the doubt as he may never get an opportunity to be with her at all; whereas with Lauren, he found himself thinking cockily that she would take him back if he decided in the end that he had made the wrong decision.
Seeing the grin slowly turn upward on their friend’s face, James was the first to continue the conversation as if Holden had not paused to think at all. “I hope that grin means you’ve come to your senses and are going to choose Lauren.”
All Holden did was shake his head curtly.
“No, you’re not seriously considering going for Alyssa?” Fred questioned, shocked. “She’s an ice princess; Lauren is so much nicer than her, mate!”
“You have to rethink this, mate,” James put his two sickles in, frowning at Holden with his arms crossed in front. “This is Alyssa Goldstein, the Slytherin ditz who spreads horrid rumours about anyone and everyone without any regards to their feelings. Do you really want to date a girl that inconsiderate?” Then he answered his self, “I don’t think so. Rethink this!”
“I have been thinking,” Holden said.
“Obviously not clearly enough or you’d actually make the right decision than the one you’re making now.”
Holden sighed, upset that his friends could not see the logic behind his answer. “No, I am thinking about it and here’s why I should choose Alyssa over Lauren; I won’t get another chance with Alyssa, however I know Lauren will take me back if I realise that what I have with her is really as strong as I think it is. I only want to test out these feelings for Alyssa that I’ve been experiencing when she comes around. She may be rude and self-centred, but I want to see if I can get her to let her guard down so that I can discover how I really feel about her because right now I’m confused when it comes to her.”
“Which is why you should just leave well enough alone of her, Holden,” Fred said soberly. “Seriously, mate, that girl is trouble. The only thing she could bring to a relationship is heartache and drama, not to mention one hell of a headache.”
“You’re wrong,” Holden replied, defending Alyssa. “She’s different then how she presents herself to others, I just know she is. I can tell by looking into her eyes that there’s something more to her than what’s on the surface.”
It was with that last response that the conversation ended, though it would undoubtedly be picked up again before the last day before summer break.
The week went by fast for some, slow for others who had yet to finish their essays; Holden was one of the ones complaining about how quickly it was zipping by. On the other hand, he couldn’t wait for the final match on Saturday, and with each practice grew his and the other teammates of the Gryffindor team’s confidence that they would win the Cup as Ravenclaw had nothing on them.
Though, despite not having any further assignments to complete, Holden still had no time to talk to either Alyssa or Lauren because he had taken on other prefects’ patrolling duties since they still had to finish their assignments for the end of lessons next week. He was typically nice like that, helping others out when their schedules got overloaded with coursework. In fact, he was not able to grab a spare moment until that Friday morning, the day before the big match against Ravenclaw, as he headed down to breakfast.
As he walked into the Great Hall that Friday morning before the final match for the Cup, the dining hall was a jumble of gossip. Now, Holden normally did not follow any of the gossip at Hogwarts, but it was difficult to ignore by the mere fact that it got suddenly quiet as soon as everyone was aware of his presence in the Great Hall. He found James and Fred already sitting at the table with a copy of what must have been the most recent copy of the Hogwarts newsletter, both of whom attempted to hide it from Holden when he sat down across from them.
“What is it this time?” Holden asked. “Don’t tell me it’s something about the Masquerade Girl again?” He sounded tired, and he was of all the gossip that seemed to have been circulating still about the elusive Masquerade Girl. It was enough that he couldn’t stop thinking about her, but when the whole school was also talking about her as he tried to sort out his feelings for her, well it was confusing, that was for sure.
When neither of the cousins said a word, Holden surmised that his inquiry was correct. “So, what does it say?”
“Nothing much,” James replied, “just stating the identity of the Masquerade Girl. And this time it’s the correct girl.”
Holden let out a grunt as he ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. He was tired of being the centre of attention. Why couldn’t he be less popular? It would be a lot less complicated than everything was at the moment.
“That’s it?” Holden asked, so sure there had to have been more in the article.
“Well…,” Fred paused, causing Holden to raise his brow in question as if saying to continue onward to get it all over with. “There may be something about how you met up with Alyssa earlier this week and the ultimatum she gave you that night. But who really listens to what the Hogwarts newsletter says, anyway? Nowhere, that’s who.”
Holden groaned, setting his head on the table with his arms fenced around it and resting on the flat wooden, cool surface of the table. There was an inconclusive mumble that sounded an awful lot like ‘Why me?’ that was muffled into the sleeves of Holden’s school robes from the frustrated Gryffindor.
Then, just when Holden didn’t think it could not get any worse, there was a tap on his shoulder and he lifted his head to find Lauren standing next to where he sat. It was clear by the expression on her face that she needed to talk, so when she said those dreaded four words—we need to talk—Holden slowly rose from his seat and followed her out of the Great Hall in a slump.
When they had escaped outside of the castle and stood in the grounds beneath one of the great beech trees next to the lake, Holden found it difficult to say anything due to all of the knots tangled in his stomach. He tried to swallow to clear the lump that had formed in his esophagus, but to no avail.
“Holden, I don’t like being made a fool,” Lauren started before she went on. “I may be naïve, but I know when I’m no longer wanted, which is why I think it’ll be best if we didn’t see each other anymore; at least not while you’re obviously struggling with which one of us you want to date.”
Holden cleared his throat again, this time succeeding in doing so, before he protested Lauren’s decision. “No, that’s not it at all. Nothing in that article is true, Lauren.”
“See, that’s why I’m breaking up with you, Holden,” Lauren said. “How can I believe when you’re being truthful when you’ve already lied to me about not knowing who the Masquerade Girl is? I can’t, I’m sorry but I just can’t find the strength in me to have faith you’ll be truthful with me after you lied to me by saying you didn’t know who she was and didn’t care anymore as it’s very clear that you still do care. Your actions speak louder than your words, Holden.”
“I haven’t lied to you,” Holden insisted, staying persistent in his defense. “I only didn’t tell you who she was because it wasn’t relevant.”
“You may not have lied to me, but you sure didn’t tell me the truth, and it is relevant.”
“No, I’m not going to go out with a guy who wants to date another girl,” Lauren remained resolute. “I refuse to be the girl who allows her boyfriend to cheat behind her back.”
“—en, please just give me another chance to show you that I do still like you as much as I’m sure you still like me. Please.”
“No, I’m sorry,” Lauren said. “Not until I see that you’re really over Alyssa, then I can’t take the chance that you’ll cheat on me.” And with that, Lauren turned around and walked back up toward the castle, leaving Holden feeling crushed and standing alone.
Author's Note: I hope y'all enjoyed this chapter as I had fun writing! This story will actually go through their summer vacation, so it still has quite a few chapters left; also, the next chapter will be the Quidditch Cup and, possibly, the End-of-Term feast. I already have an idea of the upcoming chapter, so all that needs to be done is for me to write it. Thanks for reading and for your patience!This chapter is Un-beta'd.
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