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Chapter 9 : Blackmail
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“Deep breaths, come on, just keep ‘em coming.” Melody was coaching me because if she didn’t I felt like I was going to hyperventilate and faint all on purpose.
“I just really don’t want to do this.”
She snapped her fingers in my face. “Hey, sacrifices must be made. For the good of the group, one afternoon with him isn’t going to kill you.”
“Allie!” She actually stomped her foot. “You love Starr, right?”
“And you want her to be happy, right?”
“Well then shove it! One afternoon with Brad Coogan doesn’t mean you don’t love Jase anymore, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to keep dating Brad. It’s one date, and you're doing it out of the kindness of your heart for your friend.”
She raised her eyebrow at me as if daring me to deny everything she just said. But she was right. “You’re right. It’s not a lifetime, I am still committed to Jase, he is still the one I love, and this means Brad won’t blab to either Starr or Andy what we’re up to.” I took another deep breath and let it out slowly. “Okay, I’m good.”
“Good,” Melody nodded. The others had already gone down to the common room to start laying the groundwork for today’s ‘Andy and Starr, Part II’ matchmaking plans. Melody had stayed behind like a good friend because she knew that if she didn’t I would probably find some reason to delay, which of course had crossed my mind more than once. She got my head working again though.
She went over to the door and opened it to find Jase standing there with his hand raised to knock. “Hi Jason,” Melody greeted, giving him her biggest actress smile, “what can I do for you?”
“Uh, hi Melody, I was hoping to talk to Allie before she left.”
“Talk away.” She moved past him and then looked back at me pointedly, “Five minutes, missy.”
“Yeah, yeah!” I waved my hand at her. Turning to Jase I asked, “What’s up?”
He moved past me to go sit on what he knew was my bed. He looked like he was chewing over something in his mind and didn’t know how to either swallow it or spit it out. Personally I wanted him to spit it out because he looked seriously worried and that could mean he was still concerned about me. If he swallowed it though I was going to have to force it out of him, which wouldn’t be fun. “Um…” he said.
“Allie, we’ve been friends for a long time, right?”
I went over and sat down beside him. “Yes, seven years is a long time.”
“Well, I just…I mean I know you can handle yourself but…I mean if there was ever anything you…we tell each other everything…and I…oh I’m making a mess of this,” he bumbled.
I smiled, “Yeah, you kinda are. It’s okay though. Don’t listen to Melody. Five minutes is tentative.”
“It’s not the time limit, you ninny,” he said, nudging me in the arm. I was glad to see him smiling again. “It’s the subject matter.”
“Well, like you said, we tell each other everything, so tell. Whatever you’ve got, just tell me.”
He took a deep breath, “If Brad does anything to hurt you, you come to me please, and I’m going to rip his limbs off one by one, so help me God.”
Whoa! I had never seen this side of Jase. He wasn’t a violent guy, except on the Quidditch pitch, but then it was just aggressive behavior, especially against Slytherin. But here and now he actually had his fists balled so tight I could see the whites of his knuckles and his forehead was creased like crazy in frustration. Any second now I felt like he was going to jump up and punch clean through one of the posts on my bed.
I didn’t know what else I could do that didn’t seem really corny, so I leaned over, rested my head on his shoulder and took one of his fists in my hands. I felt him stiffen instantly, which almost made me cringe, but it was only for a second and then he relaxed again. “You’re a good guy, Jase,” I told him. I looked up then and met his eyes that had softened considerably. “I promise, if anything happens between Brad and me, I will tell you. Ok?”
He kept staring into my eyes, his face inches away from mine. It would have been the perfect moment to kiss him, and I was seriously thinking about it except for the fact that I was on my way out on a date with Brad and Nikki was probably waiting downstairs for Jase. Still we stared at each other for a long time and, call me crazy, but I swear he was lowering his head closer and closer to mine. “Allie,” he whispered.
KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK. “Allie, Jase, hurry up. Stop taking forever,” Melody bellowed through the door.
Immediately we almost jumped apart. I bit my lip hard from cursing and saying, ‘Come back, kiss me’, but it was too late. Jase was already on his feet and had grabbed my scarf from the where it was hanging by the woodstove. He handed it to me. “I stand by what I said, Allie,” he said trying to sound as normal as possible, but I could tell he was still choked up from that moment we had had before. “You come to me and I’ll pummel him into the ground.”
I shook my head smiling. Jase could be so cute when he was being protective. “Deal,” I said swinging the scarf around my head and catching the hat Jase tossed at me. Stuffing it on my head I picked up my mittens as we walked by the stove and headed out the dorm room door.
The plan was to tell Starr and Andy to be at the Three Broomsticks for three o’clock, when the rest of us weren’t actually going to show up until four thirty or so. We’d all worked over our alibi’s and motives etcetera so that when we did show up they wouldn’t really suspect that we’d set them up, even though we had. Teddy and Victoire were going to Madam Puddifoots. Gigi and Melody were going to bide their time in Dervish and Banges, although I had no idea how. Alec was off with his girlfriend, Tracy Bloom who was in Hufflepuff, and Jase was going to occupy Nikki for a lengthy amount of time doing God knows what. Brad and I were reserved to wander up and down High Street window shopping. Our story was that we got caught up in Honeydukes, which was our last stop of the day.
Despite my earlier fears about going on this ‘date’ with Brad, so far he’d managed to play it pretty casual. I was dreading the moment when his hand would graze mine and then on his way back he’d grab it and try to hold hands with me. I was also dreading the moment when he might kiss me again, which I definitely didn’t want.
He picked a safe topic at least. Books. It seemed as though he’d read everything I’d ever read and everything I’d ever wanted to read.
“Most of them I have at home, but I have a few dozen in my trunk that you can borrow if you like,” he was saying.
“Yeah, that’d be great. How is it that you fell in love with books?” I asked.
“Oh that one’s easy. My dad is a book editor, my mom’s the head honcho of a big time publishing company in London, my aunt is a writer and all my cousins have gone to university and college for something relating to literature. Then there’s my sister who works for the Daily Prophet.”
“Whoa, that’s a lot of literature.”
“Yep. So I guess you could say I was born into it and I’ve never really know anything else. Books are my life; I just don’t show that side of myself at school. Seeing as how both my parents are muggles, my sister and I are the only witch and wizard in the family, which everyone is pretty cool about, I just don’t display my ‘shelf life’ so to speak to everyone. But for as long as I can remember I’ve gotten books for Christmas and Birthdays and even just any old day of the week if my Aunt Judy drops by for a visit.”
“My dad and I are the only wizard and witch in our family too. He’s an archeologist and has always given me ancient books for my birthdays and at Christmas but my Auntie Barb, my dad’s sister, is a journalist for the Tribune in London, which could explain a little bit more. And I think the only thing my Grandparents ever wrote were letters to one another during the Second World War.”
“What’s your dad’s name?”
“Timothy. Timothy Alexander Graham, the bravest and jolliest man I know.”
“Bravest? How come?”
And I launched into the tale of how back when I was twelve and home for Christmas my dad had taken me to Egypt on a dig and how one of the tunnels had collapsed while they were working. My dad had told me to stay put and of course I was clutching my wand tightly thinking if I was needed I could help now because I’d gone to Hogwarts. Just one year at the time, but it was more than before and I was really frightened. My dad had gone around to the cave in, a couple of people had roped him down and he shifted through the rocks and gravel to rescue the three diggers who had been caught in the collapse. My dad became my hero that day. He didn’t give a hoot about the artifacts he was digging and how they’d have to re-dig everything they’d just uncovered. He was just worried about the people underneath, muggles who were working under secrecy with the Ministry of Magic, and my dad just jumped into action. He’d always been that guy though, the one who never thought of himself and always thought of others.
“Your dad sounds like a champ,” Brad commented.
“Yeah, he’s a great man.”
“What about your mum?”
For the first time in the conversation I felt my teeth grinding. I never talked about my mother. I never thought about her either. I didn’t want to get into that now. “I don’t have a mum.”
“But you must’ve had at some time, right?”
“Look, she left us, end of story. I don’t ever want to talk about it again.” And I stomped off in a senseless direction. I had no idea where I was going, but I wanted to get away from him and away from the conversation.
I found a bench just off High Street that was close to the path to head back to the castle and I plopped my butt down. I could hear the crunching of snow from behind me and I knew that Brad had followed me. I had expected he would. He sat down beside me and didn’t say anything for a few moments.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” he finally said.
“I know you didn’t. It was bound to come up. I just don’t like to talk about it,” I said looking down at the white snow, refusing to look at him.
He reached over and grabbed my hand in my lap and my muscles tightened in defense but I guess he couldn’t feel that. He squeezed it gently, “Case closed then. We can talk about something else.”
“Thanks,” was all I could think of saying. I knew that relief should have washed over me because he’d let the subject drop, but he hadn't let go of my hand yet and I was still very wary of that. I couldn’t let this go on. I didn’t want to keep up this pretense. I looked up and he was smiling when our eyes met. There was no spark, no recognition like when I looked at Jase. It was different and I didn’t want different. I wanted Jase. “Listen Brad—”
I was silenced when his hand brushed over my lips. Shit! “Don’t say anything,” he said as he brought his mouth down to cover mine. Double shit!
Unlike the other day when I was totally shocked and couldn’t move a limb to save my life, today I saw this coming. I had expected this, just like a lot of other things that I’d predicted would ruin this date for me and well, I guess for Brad too. I moved my hands up and shoved him away from me, hard; so hard that he fell off the bench and onto the snow.
I looked down at him and he looked pretty shocked, but not as shocked as the face I saw when I looked up. There were two faces, one shocked and dismayed and one smiling gleefully. Looks like Jase and Nikki had chosen right then to come around the corner and see us kissing. Lovely, I thought.
Nikki clapped her mitten-clad hands before turning to see Jase’s face, which was stuck in perpetual shock. “Come on, Jase,” she whined, grabbing his arm and trying to drag him away. “Let’s leave the two lovebirds to their play.”
Play? Did it look like either of us was having fun? I don’t think so! What was Nikki playing at? Wasn’t Jase going to come over and, like, kill Brad or something? It sure looked like he wanted to.
Nikki continued to whine. Finally Jase allowed himself to be dragged away and I felt an ice cold shiver go down my spine that had nothing to do with the weather as he gave me one last look over his shoulder. He was walking away? He said he had my back, he was supposed to be my friend. Where was he going? The look he gave me pierced right through me and I felt short of breath. He and Nikki disappeared and I was left there with Brad again. I felt the cold stab of betrayal from Jase’s departure and my guard immediately went up as Brad hefted himself to his feet.
He sat down again beside me and was silent for a long time. He kept giving me sideways glances that told me he was deep in thought and trying to figure out what next to do. But none of these glances told me he was going to give up and leave me alone. None of the looks I was getting were friendly.
“Okay,” he finally said. “Today didn’t go as planned. But that doesn’t change anything. If you want to help out Starr and Andy then you have to play along.”
“What?” I yelled.
“You heard me Allie. If you want them to live happily ever after you have to give me your word that you will be my girlfriend for as long as I want.”
“Why?” I said breathless again.
“Because it’s what I want.”
“That’s not an answer,” I growled, getting very, very angry.
“It’s my answer, whether you like it or not. And telling Jase or your friends is out of the question. If you do I will know.”
A resounding ‘How?’ went through my mind but I didn’t say anything. “So you’re blackmailing me into being your girlfriend, for what? To see me suffer, to have me bend to your will, what?!”
“All of the above I guess. So are you going to be selfish and give up your friend’s happiness for your own or are you going to see this through?”
A big resounding ‘NO!’ filled through my head and I felt nauseous for a split second. There was something about Brad that had totally flipped in my mind. He’d gone from being afraid of me to using me in little under a month. Who was this guy?!
But then there was something about Starr and Andy and if I let this slide they might really have a shot at love, which I really wanted for Starr. I’d never seen her like this and I doubted that Brad had seen Andy act that way either. I really cared about my friend, and for her I would do anything.
Would I fake a relationship with Brad when I was really in love with Jase though? What would happen after it all ended and Jase wanted to know what was going on? I couldn’t tell him about it now or else he would definitely go after Brad…or would he? He’d just walked away from me when I was clearly at Brad’s mercy, and still was. Jase had gone with Nikki and left me hanging, a thing he'd never done to any of his friends let alone me, his best friend. How much could I count on Jase to forgive me after Brad had his way with me?
Oh even the sound of it made me want to hurl. I wouldn’t give in though. If I got past the whole blackmailing thing, and the whole ‘I’m in love with Jase’ thing, then dating Brad wasn’t such a bad thing. But those were both big things. But I guess because I’d die for anyone of my friends, including Jase despite the cold shoulder, I had to do this. For Starr’s sake, I would make this sacrifice. I was definitely telling my other friends though. No way was Brad gagging me out of that privilege.
“Well?” Brad prompted.
“Fine,” I said none too friendly.
“Excellent. So, you’re a smart girl after all. And being a smart girl means you know better than to squeal.” He wished, I thought. “So hows about sealing it with a kiss, the one you just cost me?”
My stomach did a back-flip and not in the good way either. It was more like a ‘shit, this guy plays dirty’ kind of back-flip and I was totally turned off by it. I had to give in though.
My silence must’ve signaled my compliance to him because he grabbed my head and mashed his lips to mine. I was a straight and as stiff as a board, which Brad apparently didn’t like because then he bit my lip. “Ahh!” I cried out.
“You have to put in your share Allie or else there’s no deal. When I kiss you, you kiss back, deal.”
“Fine,” I ground out and he kissed me again, if you could call it that. And instead of being still like before, or shocked, I was totally pissed. I was kissing Brad, totally against my will and he seemed to be enjoying it when I really just wanted to run away again and go cry in some dark corner. What the hell had I gotten myself into?
“Mmm,” Brad finally murmured after he’d stopped kissing me. “You know, for a bookworm, you're a really good kisser. Even if you are mad at me.”
“Fuck you!” I said before standing up and walking away. He caught up and grabbed my hand though pulling me back. He forced his arm around me and we walked towards the Three Broomsticks. I was helpless to do anything.
We walked into the familiar pub and I could feel the butterflies in my stomach doubling over and when I saw the rest of the gang over at a large table Brad pinched me in the side, “Smile, or else,” he said through clenched teeth.
I smiled. I didn’t want to smile, and it probably didn’t look at all authentic, but I smiled nonetheless.
We walked over and sat down while Brad gave the group our apologies. Gigi and Melody were giving me questioning looks and I tried to give them an ‘I’ll tell ya later’ look back but I didn’t know how well that went when I was fuming. They could probably see sparks shooting out of my ears I was so pissed off.
I saw Starr and Andy though and they seemed content. Starr was smiling as she sat beside Andy and vice versa. I really hoped that all this was worth it. They were perfect for each other and I just had this feeling that they would see it, they just needed time. This time while I was suffering I hoped to God that they were flourishing in some way. I managed a truly authentic smile for Starr.
I was so jittery when Jase and Nikki walked in, mostly because of what they’d both witnessed as well as because Brad had put his arm across the back of my chair and was slightly holding onto my other arm. He looked relaxed at least. He gave Jase a big cheery smile. I tried to decipher the look on Jase’s face. He might’ve been upset or content or neutral or happy as a clown for all I could tell. The problem with figuring him out was the fact that he wouldn’t actually meet my gaze. The one person who I wanted to talk to, to tell everything, to ask what was wrong, to spill my guts to, was the one person who I was forced to stay cut off from. That was partly because of my own stupid and pitiful actions. But mostly because he wouldn’t even look at me.
A/N: La la la la la, Jase is an idiot! La la la la la, Brad is a jerk! La la la la la, leave a review please! ~ K :D
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