Cornered in the deserted corridor, Brad swiveled and looked back at the four of us, looking utterly terrified. I wouldn’t have thought that Victoire, Gigi, Melody and I looked particularly terrifying, but the look in his eyes told me otherwise. I almost had the feeling that Brad was going to turn into a blubbering old woman and beg for mercy, just to put that stereotype in there, and because the look of flurry that passed across his eyes had me frowning to my fullest. Where was the blackmailing Brad that had manipulated me into this pretense in the first place? Had that too been a pretense? What was his deal?
Backed up against the wall we formed a semi-circle around him so that any chance of escape was blocked off.
“Where are you going Brad?” Melody asked him sweetly.
“For weeks now I’ve wanted to scratch your eyes out Bradley Coogan,” Gigi said with her hands on her hips as she took a preemptive step forward and Brad tried to retreat a step only to meet a wall. “I’ll wait for Allie’s ‘go ahead’ but I’ll do it so help me God.”
“You had to know this was coming,” I finished for them. “You had to know that after Starr and Andy were together I was going to ditch this pretense Brad. This power you think you’ve held over me has evaporated and it’s over.”
“Listen, Allie,” he murmured. He was afraid. He was remorseful. What the hell was that all about?! “Allie, look…”
“You give me an order like ‘listen’ or ‘look’ again and I’ll unleash Gigi on your pretty little face Bradley. You don’t have any right to say anything now. This is over.”
“Allie, no, you’ve got it wrong. Please don’t—”
I turned away to shut down anything he wanted to say. I was beyond caring what he was going to say. Whatever he thought I had wrong was none of my concern. There was no mistaking his intentions. Guilt-tripping me into staying with him after that deceitful relationship we’d had, if you could call it that, was not going to work. So if I walked away maybe he’d give it a rest.
“Allie, no!” he reached over and grabbed my arm.
My temper flared and I swung my other hand around to connect with the side of Brad’s face. He released my arm and stumbled back a few steps. A look of shock was on his face. I guess he hadn't expected me, of all people, Allyson Graham the Bookworm, to lash out and attack him. Well I guess he’d gotten a lot of things wrong about me.
“Don’t you dare touch me again,” I growled at him.
“NO!!! You asshole! You manipulated me, took advantage of me and my friends and used it. You used me! I will never forgive you for that, you son of a bitch.”
He was shaking his head, looking deeper than sad as he buried himself inside whatever he was feeling. I wouldn’t feel sorry for him though. I was better than that; I wouldn’t feel sorry for him, no matter his circumstance.
I felt Melody’s hand on my arm and we linked hands. Melody glared at Brad, “You ever come near her again Bradley and I swear you will get such a licking that you’ll wish you’d just left it well enough alone.”
Victoire stepped up on my other side with her arms crossed across her chest, a stance that she rarely took up. Her violet eyes flared dangerously and she bared her teeth to reveal razor sharp points, a trait from her maternal Veela heritage. She was a fierce warrior despite her girlish exterior.
Brad paled as he saw her and he backed away another step. Serves him right, was all I thought.
Gigi was still standing a little ahead to my left with her hands on her hips. She dearly wanted to hit him, I could tell. She was a little fireball that raged silently and begged to be set free. “Gigi,” I said.
She stepped away from Brad with much reluctance and the four of us turned to walk away down the hall. After Starr and Andy in the library and getting rid of Brad just now I didn’t know when I’d ever felt this elated. True love affirmed and an annoying bug crunched made for a very good day. I didn’t even mind the mountain of homework I knew I still had.
“I wonder what his issue was,” I voiced aloud to my friends.
“Uh…who cares,” Gigi said as we turned the corner.
“I don’t care, I’m just curious. He looked scared out of his wits.”
“Probably because of Vic’s teeth,” Melody said as she wrapped her arm around Victoire.
“Or Gigi’s fists doing a little dance at her sides,” Victoire put in. “You looked mighty set on knocking his lights out, Gigi.”
“I sure as hell wanted to,” Gigi admitted. “He didn’t deserve to get off that easy. We should have given him a right good beating.”
“And that would have landed us right in detention, no doubt,” I put in.
“You’re worrying about detention?! I think a detention would have been fair for getting the satisfaction of kicking that boy’s ass to Timbuktu,” Gigi exclaimed.
I laughed, “Ha, yeah, I suppose you’re right.”
“Least you’re free of him,” Vic pointed out as we went back into the library. “No more Bradley. The guy can suck eggs for all I care now.”
“Suck eggs?” Gigi laughed as walked to the table. “Victoire, that’s probably the meanest thing you’ve ever said about someone.”
Vic batted her eyelashes at Gigi, “It’s all because I hang out with you too much,” she said sarcastically. Then more seriously, “Or because that guy twisted my gut all outta shape for what he did to Alls.”
“Who did what to Alls?” Starr asked looking up as our party rejoined the table and took our respective seats. She was practically glowing as she held onto Andy’s hand. Andy looked likewise.
“Tell you later,” was all I could say. I didn’t want to bring anything up now, not with Jase still sitting there. “I’ll tell you everything later,” I promised. I did have quite a bit of explaining to do.
It took about an hour for Starr to get over being angry at me for keeping her out of everything that had happened in the last few months. I couldn’t blame her. Secrets weren’t usually my forte and so having kept a couple of these really important things from Starr and sharing with the others was pretty out of character for me. She ranted and raved things like, “How could you do that?” and “Allie, you lying little snipe!” But after a while, and a lot of coaxing from the girls, she saw my point of view and couldn’t find anything else to argue about.
Instead she started cursing Brad so vehemently that we even had Victoire rolling on her mattress with laughter. She wasn’t really one to laugh at other people’s misfortune, but I guessed she’d made the exception for Brad because he was such an ass.
“I swear, Saturday on the pitch,” Starr was saying as we got into our pajamas, “that I am going to purposely make him fall off his broom or get hit by a Bludger or something.”
“You’d be down a player if he got seriously injured, you know,” Melody pointed out as she braided her long brown hair.
“True, but it would be worth it to see him injured and flat on his back after what he’s put Allie through.”
“Just don’t let Jase see you doing that one, or else he’ll suspend your ass and then he’ll be down two players,” I laughed.
“Jase, oh yeah…what are you doing about him now then? I mean, now that Brad’s not holding you back?”
I shrugged as I pulled back my covers. “Nothing I guess.”
“You still love him though,” she asked.
“Of course,” I returned. “I’ll probably love him until I’m eighty-eight, old and wrinkly, but I can’t really do anything right now that that sex-goddess cuddled in the crook of his arm.”
“We could always get rid of her,” Gigi suggested. Her stunted violent nature towards Bradley was brought out again against Nikki. “Take her ass out and send her back to Aussie-land.”
“I don’t want to ‘take her ass out’ as you so graciously put it,” I argued. “Well, I mean I would, but would that give me time to show Jase just how ugly she really is, I mean personality-wise at least?”
“What’s your idea then?” Melody asked.
“Not sure yet,” I shook my head and pulled a book into my lap. “I want to expose her, you know? I want to show Jase all the nasty things that she’s pulled, like the looks she’s giving me, or something else. I just know that something else is in her little bag of tricks that she’s not telling. She’s been too chipper.”
“She’s been chipper ever since you started ‘dating’ Brad,” Starr pointed out.
“That’s true,” I admitted realizing Starr was right. “Maybe when she finds out tomorrow that we’re no longer an item she’ll bust something.”
“It would give us something on her to say the least,” Gigi said crawling into bed. “We’re going to have to dig a little deeper for that one.”
“We should start a detective agency,” Vic said giggling a little bit. “All this deeper and investigative stuff would give us a perfect start.”
I laughed, “Yeah, except you’re going into fashion, Melody is going to sing the world to her feet, Starr is the Queen of Quidditch, Gigi is going to climb Mount Everest, and I’m going to bury myself in a library as soon as we get out of school.”
Vic shrugged as she ducked into her bed. I let that idea roll over in my mind however. It would be cool to go into business with my friends, and we were getting good at the whole detective stuff that Vic mentioned.
I lifted my book and began reading as I mulled it over and soon I was lost in the story. I could easily stay there too, in the world inside and marvel at each passing word as I continued to turn the pages. My eyes were finally drooping as I came to the last page. It was a good story. I’d have to get another book tomorrow though because this chapter was over.
The next morning as the five of us scampered down to the Great Hall for breakfast I had a big smile plastered on my face that couldn’t seem to go away. It wavered momentarily as I sat down across the table from Teddy who was sitting beside Jase and Nikki, but after that I didn’t think twice. If I just imagined that I was there for Teddy or Alec’s friendship then it made everything seem that much better.
My eyes glistened all the more when I caught Nikki’s eye and she looked like she was going to bend her spoon in half. It looked like she was a little more than disappointed that I was no longer occupied with Brad, or vice versa. Brad came waddling into the Hall just before the bell rang for first class and Nikki’s look flashed a brilliant red. Ooh she was angry, which meant two things to me: 1. I was happier than a clown knowing I’d done something to royally piss her off and; 2. I was curious as to why she looked so upset at Brad. He was practically shaking in his shoes with the evil glare she was giving him. Interesting, I thought.
I sat beside Gigi and Starr in first period Charms and the three of us practiced on the new charm that Professor Nettles was instructing today. It was just a hunch, but I had to follow it. “I think something’s up between Brad and Nikki,” I told the girls.
“What do you mean?” Starr asked as she whipped her charm across the room to the bookcase.
“I mean that Nikki looked mad at me, sure, but when she saw Brad I thought her hair was going to burst into flames and Brad nearly had a stroke.”
“Yeah, I noticed that too,” Gigi said. She dipped her head towards mine, which prompted Starr to do the same. “Do you think Nikki’s fooling around on Jase with Brad?”
“Whoa,” I said as I processed her words. That was a huge accusation, but if the shoe fits? “I’m not sure.”
“That would fry Nikki’s bacon to the point of black if that were true,” Starr said. “If we could dig the dirt on that story we could practically put the postage stamp on her ass right beside the boot mark that Jase gives her when he finds out. She’d be history.”
“We’re getting ahead of ourselves,” I said. “If Jase finds out before we have the evidence he’ll think it’s another ploy I’m making up to get rid of her.”
“True,” Gigi said. “Oh but if we could get rid of Nikki the world would be perfect again. Just think about it.”
I laughed, “Oh I am thinking about it, girl am I ever!”
“Ladies,” Professor Nettles came up to us just then to tower over us. She was a really tall witch. “What are we discussing?”
So, the usual response to that kind of question is ‘nothing’, right? Well none of us had the sense to answer that, which means we all answered differently and then turned a bright red colour because of that. Professor Nettles put her hands on her hips looking less than impressed. “Get back to work ladies, or I’ll be forced to dock points.” She walked away after she’d scolded us and we diligently went back to work on our charms.
Lunch took a turn for the worse when I was in the middle of my egg salad sandwich and Professor Longbottom, head of Gryffindor house, came up and asked to speak with me. I wasn’t buddy-buddy with the professors, so I knew this couldn’t be good. We walked up the first flight of stairs, down the hall and went into the second door on the right. When I walked into Professor Longbottom’s office my stomach immediately dropped when I saw Nikki standing there, a smirk on her face that that was immediately replaced with concern, and Brad!
Brad looked awful. There was a bright purple bruise under his left eye, his right eye was swollen shut and his bottom lip was bleeding. He favoured his right side as he tried to stand as the Professor entered.
“Don’t get up, Mr. Coogan,” Longbottom said stepping forward to ease Brad back into the comfy chair.
“What’s…uh…this all about, Professor?” I asked.
Longbottom turned and went to sit behind his desk. “It seems, Miss Graham, that you need some explaining to do.”
“Miss Delarouso here says that you assaulted Mr. Coogan outside of first period this morning after class.”
My mouth gawked open, “What? That’s bullshit!”
“Language, Miss Graham,” Longbottom said sternly. “Now, tell me exactly where you were after first period, and make it the truth because I can have Professor Dibbs produce some Veritaserum in a second if needs be.”
I exhaled some air and my muscles locked up. Nikki was not going to get away with this. “After first class, um…Charms with Professor Nettles, I went back to Gryffindor tower to get the text book I’d forgotten for next class and then stopped by the washrooms before going to Transfiguration.”
“And you were by yourself this entire time?” Longbottom deduced leaning forward to put his elbows on his desk.
Shit! I wasn’t going to get off this. This was ridiculous and totally unfair. I hadn't seen Brad since the night before and despite my want to harm him, I knew for sure that I didn’t. “Yes,” I said getting angrier instead of the guilt that the Professor was looking for.
Professor Longbottom nodded at me. “Nikki, would you please tell me again what you saw.”
Nikki’s sniffles were going to make me gag, and the sweet and innocent tone of voice that lilted from her mouth made me want to leap across the room and throttle her. Good to know that those feelings weren’t going anywhere with time, eh. “I was walking out of the washroom after Allie had been in and walked down the hallway towards next period class, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and I saw Allie kicking someone curled up on the ground. She didn’t know I was there and so she just walked away to go to class I think. When I went over I found that it was Brad, his face was all banged up like this, and he was saying that Allie hated him.”
“Is that true Miss Graham?” Longbottom asked. “Do you hate Mr. Coogan?”
“No! Well, yes, but I would never beat him up. Do I look like the kind of person to beat someone up? And look at my knuckles,” I showed Longbottom the backs of my hands, “wouldn’t I be bruised as well if I beat him up?”
Longbottom nodded, “You said you hated him, Miss Graham. Why is that?”
My eyes narrowed, “Its personal Professor Longbottom. It gives me grounds enough to hate him but never grounds enough to beat him senseless. Nothing would give me reason to physically assault someone. Ever!”
Longbottom was shaking his head. “I’m sorry Miss Graham, but I’m afraid that your defense isn’t enough to make you innocent. I have no choice but to believe Miss Delarouso here and award you a weeks’ worth of evening detentions. Lines Monday night, Miss Graham, so please meet me here at eight o’clock with a quill and ink bottle.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me?” I yelled, completely outraged. “This is stupid; I didn’t do anything to him!”
I looked at Brad pointedly. His scared demeanor last night was still present through his banged up face but when our eyes met there was some kind of resolve in place to prevent me from getting through to the real him. “Yes, you did,” he muttered.
Professor Longbottom stood again. “Miss Delarouso, please take Mr. Coogan to the Hospital wing. He can spend the night there. Miss Graham, I shall see you Monday night.”
Nikki and Brad left and I stormed out the door after them. Nikki was helping Brad walk, as if he really needed the assistance, and as if she was really a caring and concerned person, but I knew better.
“Nikki!” I growled and came up to stand in front of her. She feigned innocence and fear for the briefest of moments before the smirk replaced them. “You’re not going to get away with this!”
“On the contrary,” Nikki replied, “I believe I’ve been getting away with a lot of things that you're never going to know about, little princess. Detention for you, victory for me,” she said sarcastically as she walked down the corridor with Brad attached to her once again.
“Bitch!” I revolved and continued back up the corridor to Gryffindor Tower.
“Bitch!” Starr belted when I’d told the girls what had happened to me this morning. I’d gone through the entire day fussing and fuming about Nikki’s little stunt and finally I hadn't been able to hold onto it any longer. We returned to the dorm room before heading down for dinner again and I spilled the beans.
“My feelings exactly,” I agreed.
“Ditto,” Melody said.
“Okay, now we have to take her down!” Gigi declared punching her fist into her open hand. “We’re gonna burn that little slut.”
“I want to cut her hair off,” Vic announced from her bed. “And maybe wax off her eyebrows.”
I couldn’t help by laughing. “You little hellion, you,” I told her.
“Positively evil,” Starr said going over and giving Vic a one armed hug.
“I’m serious,” Vic stated. “She doesn’t deserve to breathe the same air as us. How can someone be so cruel and vindictive?”
“She didn’t grow up around you, sunshine,” Melody joked. “But really, I know what you mean.”
“It’s time to start sneaking around, I’d say,” Gigi said. “It’s time to tail that girl and find out what all these ‘lots of things’ are that she’s getting away with.”
“Not right away,” I objected. “We’ll start after my detentions are finished. I don’t want to have to be writing lines for the rest of the school year if we get into shit for anything else.” I also wanted to take a week breather before starting anything new. Seventh year was exhausting, I decided, and the half over part wasn’t nearly as scary as the half that was yet to come.
A/N: Well there's a more solid ending, despite the fact that we can probably deduce what's coming up next. What'd you think? Please, please continue reading. I'm slowing down writing and so the only thing that really keeps me going these days are the eager reviews you all write telling me to update soon. I go straight to the story afterwards and so I really rely on you. So please leave a review! ~K :D