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Chapter 15 : Provoking a Dragon
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“Alright, damnit, what is your issue?” I groaned.
“You’ve been burrowing your head in the sand like a bloomin’ ostrich for the past half hour, Allie. I should be the one asking what your issue is, not the other way around,” she placed her hands on her hips and raised her eyebrow at me. I’d known her for too long to be intimidated by that look and instead rolled my eyes.
I brushed off the covers with purpose and stood likewise and looked at Gigi expectantly, “You happy now, sunshine?”
“Lose the attitude, smarty-pants,” she replied. “I thought you’d be happy about today. And its nine thirty, we let you sleep in. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” I defended as I made my way to the bathroom. I shut the door, turned on the shower tap and let the warm water wake me up in a much nicer manner than Gigi, who had failed miserably at that task.
Thinking over what she’d said I asked myself what really was wrong. I didn’t have a clue. I had slept fine really. There was nothing askew with that. And then it hit me; the bad dream I’d had. As soon as the image flashed before my eyes I wished to God that I could just leave well enough alone and forget the whole night, but it was too late now. Nikki was right there in my mind, white dress, lace veil, walking down the aisle towards my best friend. Jase had looked grim and devastatingly handsome in his black suit and far from happy. Nikki looked majestically triumphant. I had been sitting in the front row and watched the entire episode as clear as day.
Brad had been in the background looking awfully sad, not just at Nikki, which I had expected, but at me as well. Why was he looking sad at me? Did he miss me or something? It couldn’t be like that because of his blackmail, but there was that niggling in my mind that told me otherwise. It gave me all the more reason to believe that Brad was innocent in all this and as used and battered and I was.
The dream had faded as the preacher had said, “I now pronounce you man and wife, and you may now kiss the bride.” I should have woken up screaming by all accounts. I should have been clawing my eyes out at the kiss that Jase and Nikki had shared. But I didn’t. My dream shifted from the wedding to a library where I pictured myself curled up in a comfy chair reading as the sun set through the window.
I banged my head against the tiled shower wall and was immediately hit with a flash of pain that, for some reason, made me feel instantly better.
Someone rushed into the bathroom. Melody’s voice reached me past the streaming water. “Allie? Are you alright? We heard a sort of crash.”
I brushed back the curtain to look at Melody. “Fine, just hitting my head repeatedly off the wall.” I smiled brightly at her.
She smiled right back. Apparently Melody and I were going to get along much better than Gigi and I today. “Well if that’s all I’ll let you know that Victoire and Gigi have gone to the common room to rustle up Lydia and Alisha if they can manage. I was heading out as well when I heard the clatter. Starr’s waiting for ya.”
“Brilliant,” I waved my hand at her as I replaced the curtain and she laughed as she went out the door.
I took a deep and steadying breath letting the water run all over my face and decided that it was time to face the firing squad. If all else failed I still had my girl friends to back me up.
It didn’t take me very long to dress and I decided, rather than taking the time to blow-dry my hair, I would see if Starr could give me a French braid. I walked out of the bathroom in my terry-cloth robe and asked her.
“Sure thing, Alls,” she replied cheerfully. “Come sit down here.” She patted at the pillow she’d placed on the floor beside her bed.
I went over and sat down dutifully and she began to comb her fingers through my hair.
“You know I’ve always loved your hair,” she told me.
“Oh yeah, ever since first year I have adored the color, the sheen, everything. Do you remember the style I had in first year?”
I thought for a second. “Yeah, it was kind of bushy and straggly if I recall correctly.”
Starr chuckled, “Yeah that would be it. Then in second year I had chopped it all off.”
“I remember,” I said.
“I cut it short remembering how short you kept it. Cut off right at the jaw line with the little flip it did at the sides and back. I don’t really know what I liked about it. I guess it just looked…intelligent, to me at least.”
“Intelligent?” I asked dubiously. “But Starr, you’ve always been smart. A haircut doesn’t depict intelligence in a person.”
“I know that now. But I wanted to be like you. You were smart, funny, a little shy, and you weren’t afraid to show that.”
“That’s silly,” I admonished.
“Maybe,” Starr admitted. “But what have you, it’s the truth. Then you came to school this year with your hair all grown out. It was kind of a shocker.”
I nodded, “Yeah, it was definitely different.”
“Why did you grow it out?” she asked.
“It was time for a change,” I shrugged. “I figured that was what attracted guys. Long and flowing hair that wasn’t short and fuzzy.”
Starr laughed shortly. “Is that what you thought? Well, most I’m sure enjoy it, but I’m sure it’s supposed to be that a guy will love you no matter the haircut you get. Andy said he likes my short hair,” she confessed. “But he also said that in first year he didn’t mind it either.”
I smiled. She had a good point. “Do you think that you’re going to change the cut you have now?”
“I’m not sure. I’d like to try different things but I like the short cut really. It’s cute, contained and makes me look young.”
“Of course it does,” I laughed. “Do you honestly like my hair now then?”
Her fingers were finished playing with the strands of wet hair. “There, all done.” I ran my hand over the length of the single French braid she had given me and smiled. I’d never been able to have a French braid before because my hair was always so short. But I’d seen Starr give Melody and Victoire French braids before. It seemed to be a traditional girl ritual and I was glad to be a part of it now.
I moved to sit beside her on the bed. She still hadn't answered my question. She took my hand then. “Allie,” she said, “I’m old enough now to understand that hair doesn’t make a woman. Sure it gives us style and if it’s long and flowing it’s usually something to envy and sometimes appealing, but it doesn’t make a woman. Outer beauty doesn’t really count all the much.”
I nodded, her words sinking into my very skin. I think I needed to hear that. So I joked, “So you don’t like my hair?” I was smiling ear to ear.
Starr shoved me gently. “Of course I do, silly. It makes you look even more grown up than the fuzzy bob-cut you used to wear.” She leaned forward and hugged me. “I love it,” she told me.
We ended the hug, I returned to my bed and my trunk to retrieve my clothes for the day. I dressed and put on my glasses finally before standing beside Starr and preparing myself for what seemed to me like a very busy and complicated day.
Starr seemed to know exactly what to say to make me feel better about that weighty burden however. “Let’s go terminate that little blonde cockroach,” she said with a smile on her face.
I laughed as we walked down the stairs and into the partially empty common room. The meeting in the library was going to be interesting, I decided.
I was glad to find out in the library that both Alisha and Lydia were onboard and would love to help crush the blonde cockroach in mention and they were giving us all wonderful details about her dorm life…kind of.
“She doesn’t like us,” Alisha, a bouncy girl with cappuccino colored skin and wide brown eyes, announced. Her hair was short and wiry but suited her bone structure and laid-back style. “She’s barely said one word to us since moving in there. She mostly huffs and snorts when we’re talking.”
“Mhmm,” Lydia agreed. She was a short, tiny girl. Her size rivaled that of Gigi’s at five foot two but she instead dressed like Victoire with a few more frills and rather ugly shoes. She was more committed to her schoolwork than anything else I discovered. “But we’ve heard lots of stories. She blabs to Jessyca and Amy all the time.”
“What does she say?” Gigi asked.
We were all seated around a table, minus Victoire and Teddy who were currently on Nikki-patrol. They’d volunteered. Andy, Starr, Alec, Tracy, his girlfriend, Starr, Melody, Gigi and myself all crowded around our regular table with our two newcomers, eager to learn more about their rabid roommate.
“Well,” Alisha looked from Gigi to her friend hesitantly, “she brags a lot. She brags about Jase mostly.”
“Oh boy,” I muttered. “How does that go over with Jess and Amy?” Both of whom had dated Jase and trampled all over his heart.
“They seem to mostly reminisce about how he was with them, really,” Lydia admitted shyly. “They talked about kissing and the things they do.” She blushed deep red.
Alisha patted Lydia’s arm comfortingly. Lydia wasn’t used to saying those kinds of things I imagined. “And sometimes they laugh,” Alisha continued. “They laugh about the things they’ve done. It’s almost like a game to her. She enjoys being Queen Bee and wants her subjects to worship her. Amy and Jess idolize her. It’s rather disgusting.”
I nodded gravely. It was as I suspected; Jase was being played for a fool and I was as good as helpless to him.
“Has Nikki said anything about Brad?” Andy put in.
“Bradley Coogan?” Alisha asked. “Yeah, all the time. I overheard a whispered conversation between her and Jess the other day saying how disappointed she was with Brad. She was pretty pissed about it. She mentioned something like ‘the lousy git can’t even do a simple task like keeping her occupied, all he can think of is the things I can give him’.”
Alisha stopped at that and the group collectively inhaled and exhaled, myself included as we let what she’d said sink in.
“Sexual favours,” Alec confirmed. “Brad is a witless fool.”
“Dick!” Gigi announced.
“Bitch!” Melody echoed. “Damn Nikki for her schemes. When can we nail her ass to the wall because I’m sick to death of all this drama?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the remark coming from our very own drama queen. I shook my head in dismay and rubbed my hands over my face in mock exhaustion. I wasn’t tired, just fed up. “We need to give Vic and Teddy the details and then have a pair of us tail her all the time. One of us at the very least, like in classes and such because she’s not likely to do anything in class. It will be deadly boring but I want her to sizzle on a hot griddle before too long.”
“Here, here,” a few voices rang through the group.
“I guess what I’m really wondering is if you all still want to do this?” I finished and looked around.
Starr, Melody and Gigi spoke up first, all showing their enthusiasm towards the project at hand. They were as eager to get rid of Nikki as I was.
Next came Lydia and Alisha, more Alisha than Lydia however because she was just shy and timid, who agreed to be the interior eyes and ears for news. They were the only ones who could use that dorm without suspicion and they seemed to dislike Nikki as much as the rest of us.
Alec volunteered to look out for Brad and any movements or strange behavior around or having to do with Nikki. Andy seconded that.
Tracy, who I didn’t know all that well, was last to speak up, saying that she didn’t know Nikki and didn’t want to and would be happy to assist us in kicking the crap out of her evil plans.
“Great.” Vic and Teddy came in just then. “What’s up?” I asked.
“Nikki decided to come to the library with Jase. They’ll be here any minute,” Vic said in a low voice.
“Scatter,” I said to the group.
Immediately we jumped up to look as inconspicuous as humanly possible. A few left the library and a few moved off to another table, mainly Starr and Andy who found that it was in everyone’s best interest if they started sucking face. I had to chuckle mildly after finding myself a book and looked around at everyone, all of whom had managed to look very casual as Nikki and Jase walked in.
We all seemed to be stifling laughter as they walked past to the table they had only recently claimed as there own. I tried to focus on my book as they passed but my eyes were drawn to the duo. Nikki looked positively glowing in a white sweater and pale blue tights and flats. Jase’s face was expressionless and instantly I wished him to look at me.
Our eyes met miraculously and I saw the deep pain and regret in his eyes. It was the first time he’d bothered to look me head on. It was a step, I told myself. There were still several more steps to work through, but I was determined to win his friendship back. I knew stepping on his heart wasn’t an option however, so I hoped that this regret and pain I saw was for the fact he hated being with Nikki and not because he simply missed my friendship. If he truly loved Nikki and just missed me at the same time then I was done for. I swore that if I crushed his heart like all those girls in the past I would never forgive myself.
Sexy is as sexy does, I thought as I watched Nikki flip her hair around and all the men in the Great Hall turned and stared.
Surprising even ourselves, me and my friends had managed to split up the Nikki-tailing pretty evenly and we were getting pretty good at it. We hadn't gotten anywhere in a week, so that was a little on the downside, but we were making progress for sure. We were really close to something; I could feel it in my bones.
Still there was some elusive force that kept us from discovering the true horns and forked tail that she was hiding from the world. She’d walked into the Great Hall just now without Jase and simply flicked her hair and jaws dropped and boys drooled. I found myself thinking that it was her sex appeal that was her weapon as well as her disguise. What if, just trying it on for size, if we discarded her disguise and sex appeal, we would be able to figure out her secrets? The trick was getting her to let down her guard and unleash the she-devil inside.
I mused out loud to my friends around the table. “How do you provoke a dragon that merely seems bored with your efforts and continues to elude you? How do you make it breathe fire if it continues to resist?”
There was a moment of silence. It seemed that everyone was contemplating the question very carefully. A minute passed—I counted—and no one said anything. Apparently despite the quiet contemplation no one had come up with an answer to my question.
Finally Victoire, the person I least expected to get an answer from, spoke up and said, “Hit it at home.”
Starr seemed to agree with that idea, “Aim close, but not direct, and make it angry.”
“What do we hit a dragon that looks like it has no home though?” I asked.
Andy spoke up then, “Hit its vanity. Take away the very thing that it seems to cherish most and watch the sparks fly.”
I looked to my right and saw Nikki had sat down across and a little ways down at the table. She was meshing her long spindly fingers through her platinum blonde hair and the idea popped into my mind. It was wicked and it was cruel and it would probably land me or my friends in detention, if any of the teachers ever found out it was intentional, but somehow I knew we could pull it off.
I rubbed my hands together deviously and everyone seemed to understand I had something, even if I didn’t say it. I had a feeling now that Defense Against the Dark Arts class was going to be very satisfying.
I was lucky to have three out of four girl friends in my Defense class. The only one missing was Victoire who had Muggle Studies. I’d told her the plan, she gave me the thumbs up and Victoire’s Seal of Approval, and the plans were set in motion.
We were learning about Waterbyrds, a flying reptile of sorts that hissed steam and water while in flight. It seemed almost ironic that the dreamy Professor Gage had set the stage perfectly for our wicked plans.
“Waterbyrds are dangerous creatures,” Professor Gage explained. “They can pierce the nape of your neck with a single tooth at the front of their lower jaw, paralyzing you within seconds, and they will carry you underwater and feed you to their hatchlings. But they have a single weakness, as all creatures usually do. Their weakness is something you might already have guessed but one you probably don’t believe: fire.”
I almost wanted to jump up and cheer out loud. Melody gripped my leg under the table however and made me bite my tongue and stay put. Professor Gage was my hero today.
“A simple spell exists to repel these watery beasts,” he continued, “and because you are all very advanced seventh year students, I saw no reason to deny you hand-to-hand experience with a live Waterbyrd.” He drew a sheet off from a large water tank and the class gasped. “This Waterbyrd is recently captured by yours truly, and has been in this tank all weekend. I want everyone to clear their desks to the side of the room, pull out their wands and repeat after me before I release him. He is tethered and chained to the ground by he can still get airborne.”
We all did as instructed and Melody, Gigi, Starr and I positioned ourselves around the edges of the classroom, just a little distance away from Nikki. I bit my lip nervously. Luckily Jase wasn’t in this class and so we were safe, sort of.
Professor Gage walked to the middle of the room and I saw the Waterbyrd’s eyes follow him very closely. Then its eyes darted from side to side at the rest of us. Professor Gage then spoke up with his wand at the ready. “Now repeat after me class: Inferaro Prevalio.”
The chanted after him a couple of times and I smiled to myself and my friends as I loosely translated the spell; Fire Prevails.
Professor Gage had moved back to the water tank. “Now I want you all to remember that I would never present a dangerous situation without having considered all the risks. I know you are all very capable witches and wizards. If the Waterbyrd looks at you, attack; if not then do not attack. This will hopefully ensure everyone a fair and fighting chance.”
I knew that Professor Gage was going to take those safety precautions, meaning that if the Waterbyrd turned in my direction then perhaps all four of us would fire.
Professor Gage popped the lid to the tank and the Waterbyrd burst up from it, finally free of its enclosure. It flapped its wings, splashing us with droplets of water and narrowing its eyes on a few students. Spells went up every which way and the Waterbyrd reared and screeched as the fire hit its skin. It faced Nikki and she let her voice roar with the spell.
She hit him on the side and he turned away from the fire and towards us. It happened in a flash and four voices rang out and wands pointed; two in the direction of the Waterbyrd and two in a different direction.
When our voices finished the spell and panic started to rise at the immense flame that consumed the Waterbyrd, it scrambled over and plunged itself into the tank. There it remained and Professor Gage replaces the lid and secured it tightly and very quickly. Throwing the sheet back over the tank he turned to congratulate the class for a job well done when a shrill cry rent through the air.
Gigi and I were staring in the direction of where our flames had gone and the rest of the class followed suit.
Nikki was dancing frantically around the room, screaming her head off, with her long blonde hair on fire.
Several students rushed forward and performed the simply Aguamenti spell to produce water and douse the fire but the damage had already been done. Her platinum blonde hair that had once been long and luscious was now frizzed, short and slightly blackened at the tips. The fire hadn't hit her scalp, so she was relatively unharmed, but her hair was now shriveled and uneven.
Her face had black smudges from the smoke and with her hair frizzed and now relatively wet, she didn’t look like her old self at all. Frankly, I thought, she looked rather unattractive. Lightly I wondered if anyone would find her attractive now. It was just her hair, and as Starr had said before, it didn’t make a woman, but it certainly seemed to make this woman more appealing. If her sex appeal and attractiveness was in her hair then we’d certainly torched that asset. Literally.
A/N: MUAHAHAHAHA!!! I feel so devious. :P Please leave a review. ~K :D
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