Chapter 20 : Lost
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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, Calvin Klein, Pikachu, Hello Kitty, Kodak... Or anything else I might have missed, for that matter :)
There is only one thing to do in a situation like this:
And that is exactly what I was doing at this very moment.
My lungs itched for air as I sprinted down the empty corridor. All I could focus on was running, one foot in front of the other, never even daring to stop. Everything else had faded away into an indistinct smudge. Gone was my normal, Slytherin logic. Gone was the coolheaded reasoning that I used to pride myself in. Judgment, rationality, common sense... All of it. Gone. The only thing left was the little voice in my brain, chanting the words 'faster faster faster!' as I pushed my body to its limit.
“You can run but you can’t hide, you filthy good fer nuthin’ hoodlums!” Filch’s voice boomed off the stone walls of the corridor, creating an echo effect that was both confusing and terrifying at once. Despite my amazement at the fact that Filch had just used the word ‘hoodlum’ in an actual sentence, I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop.
I focused my gaze on Potter, who was far ahead of me and still sprinting. Merlin, how could he have not tired out by now? Stupid Quidditch advantage. After years of training and playing, this was probably like a bloody walk in the park for him. I, on the other hand, was starting to experience the first sure signs of cardiac arrest.
Seeing Potter so far in front of me was the motivation I needed. Gritting my teeth together, I pushed harder, the muscles in my limbs stretching and contracting painfully with every stride. I could hear my heartbeat skittering frantically inside my ears, my breath coming out in short pants. Every time I even tried to inhale, my chest would squeeze together painfully, as if my lungs themselves were dying. Right now, even the simple process of breathing—something that I used to take for granted—was agonizing.
Potter casted a quick glance over his shoulder, his hazel eyes calculating. I could just barely register the way his features shifted slightly, as if something—an idea, maybe?—had dawned on him. And then, in a swift flash of movement, he was grabbing my arm and whipping me around a corner.
“Over here,” Yanking a blue, raggedy tapestry out of the way, Potter pushed me into a dark hole that had been crudely carved into the stone wall. Being the graceful ballerina that I was, I tripped in the sudden darkness, and my face got to have a lovely chat with the ground.
“Oof,” I grunted, spitting out a delicious assortment of dirt, pebbles and other random debris. Despite what my track record may tell you, face-planting on rocky surfaces isn’t exactly my idea of fun. And yet, I seem to do it an awful lot...
I picked myself up off the floor and did the customary look-over that was always necessary after an Agatha Bennett Tumble. All thirty-two teeth? Check. No broken bones? Check. Sufficient damage to my self-respect and dignity? Check, check and check. Alright, we’re good to go.
Potter, I guess, had chosen to ignore my brilliant display of grace. Instead, he simply turned around without another word and let the tapestry fall closed behind him. Without the light from the hallway, we were submerged into total darkness.
For a minute, we just stood there, breathing heavily and trying to let our eyes adjust. Except for our exhausted panting, it was completely silent. Then, I opened my mouth and, all of a sudden, the million or so questions that had been buzzing through my head came spilling out.
“Where are we? What’s going on? What is this place? Did we lose Filch? Where’s Freddy? Where are the Venus Crystals?”
Even though I couldn’t see him, I knew that Potter was rolling his eyes. “Just walk, will you?”
I planted my feet firmly into the ground, which was not the usual stony texture of Hogwarts’ hallways, but actually covered with dirt and small pebbles. Thus, it was quite easy to dig my heels in—both figuratively and literally, of course.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I said stubbornly. “Not until you tell me what’s going on.”
He sighed, irritated by my obstinacy. “Fine. We’ll walk and talk. Ladies first.” In true gentlemanly fashion (not), Potter gave a sarcastic little bow and, sweeping his hand out, gestured for me to start walking. I could barely make out the action with my newly-adjusted eyes.
Carefully, I started to walk, and it soon became apparent that this hole was not, in fact, just a hole, but rather a tunnel. It was pretty narrow, and the air inside was musty and heavy. The whole time I walked, I kept my left hand on the wall, using it as a way to guide me through all the twists and turns. It was quiet, save for Potter’s steady breathing and a scuttling, scurrying noise that I was definitely not going to try and identify.
Finally, Potter started to talk. “This is a secret passageway that leads to the Gryffie Common Room. Fred and I found it last year.”
I nodded, more to myself than anything. “Speaking of Fred... Where is he?”
“We lost him when Filch was chasing us, but I’m pretty sure he went to find Dom.”
I nodded again. During this whole...debacle, Dom had been playing lookout by Slughorn’s office. It made sense that Freddy would want to go and check on her. Hopefully, both of them had managed to escape Filch’s clutches amidst all the chaos.
Potter spoke again, his deep voice ringing throughout the tunnel. “As for the Venus Crystals... Well, I think Fred took them with him. I think.”
I groaned. “They’re in his hands now? Great.”
“Have some faith, Bennett,” Potter said wryly. “Fred’s smart. He’ll keep them safe.”
“Um, are we talking about the same person here? You know, Fred Weasley? Tall, dark-hair, tan... Ringing any bells yet?” My voice was high with panic, but I couldn’t care less. All of that work—breaking into the Potion’s cupboard, sitting on Potter’s shoulders, running from Filch—it would all be a waste if Freddy lost the Crystals.
Potter’s cool reply sliced through my hysteria, his voice cutting and unimpressed. “Just calm down, will you? We’ll be fine.”
“Do you realize who we’re talking about here? This is Fred Weasley—the guy who tried to boogey board down the Entrance hall steps during third year. He’s reckless, rash, impulsive...”
“Stubborn, determined, brave... And the same bloke who, last year, managed to smuggle sixty or so dung bombs into school right under Filch’s nose,” Potter retorted easily. “I think we’ll be okay.”
“Whatever.” I gritted my teeth together and quickened my pace, trying to ignore the palpable smugness that was seeping from the pores of Potter’s unfairly flawless skin. How could he be acting so calm right now? We were sodding fugitives! Running from the law! And okay, maybe I’m exaggerating—it’s not really the law we’re running from, just Filch armed with a broom-handle... But still! We’re running nonetheless!
“You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to trust people once in a while.” Potter called out, his words like annoying pokes to the gut. I clenched my fists, trying to brush off the jab. The insult was obviously just a poorly-veiled attempt to bait me into another argument.
Unfortunately, it was working.
“I trust people!” I exclaimed, inwardly wincing at the defensive tone my voice took on.
My only reply was a deep, mocking chuckle.
I stopped walking, my facial features setting to ‘Scowl Mode’ as Potter’s stupid guffawing echoed off the tunnel walls. How dare he laugh at me like that! This was the precise reason why I hated Potter. He was just so—ergh—patronizing and—ugh—superior and—augh!
“What?” I snapped, irritated, my foot tapping against the rocky ground. This was just so typical of him. He always does this—starts something and then never bothers to finish it.
“No, it’s obviously something, otherwise you wouldn’t be laughing your arse off like a bloody hyena! Tell me!”
“Touchy, are we?” Still chuckling—that complete and utter arse. “But I guess that would make sense, what with your trust issues and all...”
“I do not have trust issues!”
“Just embrace it, Bennett. It’s who you are.”
“Embrace it? What the—? I don’t know what you’re talking about! I’m a very trusting person!“
“Don’t worry, love, we can work through it together.”
“I trust people all the time!“
“You can seek help, reach out, find others who are just like you...”
“Bloody—argh!” Vision clouded with a dangerously red haze, I marched towards Potter—or at least, the Potter-shaped blob that I could vaguely make out in the darkness—and crossed my arms, sticking out my hip in what I secretly liked to refer to as The Baditude Pose.
There is only word that can aptly describe what I did next:
That’s right. Seethed. And let me tell you, I am a certified expert on Seething. I am a Grade A Seether. I make Seething look like child’s play.
I am, to put it shortly, a Seething Sensei.
I stared at The Potter-Blob, my chest rising up and down with short, rapid breaths. Even in the darkness, I could see the stupid, self-satisfied smirk twisting on his lips.
And cue Boxing Referee Voice: In one corner we have... The Potter-Blob! Coming in with a weight of 75 kilograms and a height of...er... tall, this five-time champion is certainly a formidable foe! He’s got mystery, he’s got wit—not to mention the fact that he’s a complete and utter arse! Any person daring enough to challenge this bloke is going to need skill, nerves, and a whole lot of luck!
In the other corner, we have... The Seething Sensei! Despite the fact that she weighs in at a measly 50 kilograms, this contender is not to be underestimated! She’s fiery! She’s tenacious! Cross her and you’ll wish you’d never been born. Nay, scratch that. Cross her and you’ll wish your parents had never been born! She’s that scary, folks!
In the fight of the century, who will win?
I glared at Potter, practically burning holes into his skull—not an easy feat, mind you, seeing as it’s extremely thick and dense.
“I. Do. Not. Have. Trust. Issues.”
He cocked his head to the side, as if contemplating this for a moment. “Except for the fact that you actually do.”
I gaped at him, jaw open, blue eyes nothing but mere slits. The Seething Sensei was not happy. Not at all. “I do not!”
“Do not!” Somehow, the three foot or so distance that had been between us had shrank to only a mere centimeter or two. We were now standing nose to nose. Or nose to neck, if you factored in Potter’s annoying height.
Despite the fact that I’d been repeating myself for the past five minutes, I decided I needed a way to drive the point home. Teeth gritted, I raised my finger and poked Potter in the chest three times.
“I—do—not—!” Each word was accompanied by a vicious jab, courtesy of me, myself, and my raging temper. Ha! Take that, you stupid git! I hope that bruises!
“Okay, fine, fine! I was wrong! You don’t have trust issues!” Potter exclaimed, hands held up in a gesture of surrender. “You don’t have anything!”
I turned away, satisfied, and began marching down the dark tunnel again. I was mid-stride when I heard Potter say something. It was under his breath, but still loud enough so that I could hear every single, unmistakable word.
“Except for an anger management problem.”
“What was that?”
By the time we finally reached the end of the tunnel, I was at my wits end. After a lot of bickering and squabbling, Potter and I had eventually settled into a tense, angry silence. While Potter looked like he was completely at ease with himself, I was a different story. Teeth gritted, breathing sharp, fists clenched—every part of my body was on edge. My nerve endings were sparking with a volatile irritation that, at any moment, could be set off into a flurry of explosive rage. One wrong word from Potter, and we would have a dead body on our hands.
When we arrived at the exit, I was just about ready to fall dramatically to my knees and start kissing the ground. As Potter pushed aside the tapestry, I half-expected some kind of heavenly display to greet us—you know, clouds parting, bursts of celestial light, a glee club of angels singing ‘Hallelujah,’ complete with jazz fingers and all....
Instead, Potter and I were met with the oh-so-spectacular sight of yet another Hogwarts' hallway.
Yay for us.
Squinting my eyes in the new light, I scanned our surroundings. It appeared that we were right outside the entrance to the Gryffindor Common Room. The Fat Lady was snoring peacefully in her portrait, her soft sighs drifting lazily through the air. A nearby clock told us that it was almost four o’clock in the morning. So much for beauty sleep.
I clambered out of the hole, frantically pushing away a few errant locks of hair that had fallen into my face. Despite the numerous anti-frizz potions Dom had leant me, my tresses had morphed into an unrecognizable monster sometime during the night. It now orbited my head like an angry cloud of crimson frizz, threatening to swallow anything within a two-meter radius.
Potter climbed out after me, hazel eyes squinting in the light. From the looks of things, I wasn’t the only one suffering from a bad hair day. Potter could have passed for an electrocution victim. His hair was just like mine, the only difference being that, despite looking like he had just received a zap from Pikachu, Potter still could have easily been put on a Calvin Klein billboard, no questions asked. So the whole thing balanced out, really.
Damn him and his stupid ability to get away with the whole rugged and disheveled look. I seriously loathe that stupid git.
Which is a good thing, really, because if—by some hideous twist of fate—Potter and I ever ended up getting married, our kids would have seriously messed up hair. Just saying.
“Well...” Potter began slowly. He stretched his arms above his head, the movement languid and lazy, as if he had all the time in the world. “This night has been...interesting.”
“Sure has. Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to go back to my dorm and record every enthralling second of it in my diary. Toodles!” Fake, girlish enthusiasm coated my voice, so sugary and sweet that, if you listened hard enough, you could hear the sound of a million cavities burrowing themselves into the molars of all the good, sleeping students of Hogwarts.
Potter did not appreciate the sarcasm. “Has anyone told you how hilarious you are, Bennett? You should be a comedia—“
He stopped mid-word, face flickering with an unreadable expression.
“What?” I asked uneasily, taking an involuntary step backwards. Potter was staring intently at my forehead, and it was creeping me out.
“You’re bleeding, Bennett.” Potter murmured, a tiny line creasing the tan skin between his eyebrows.
Blinking in surprise, I reached up to touch my forehead and found a sticky gash in the skin, matted with dirt and hair—a souvenir from my little spill in the tunnel. As soon as I touched it, the pain registered instantly.
I sucked in a sharp breath through my teeth, wincing as the sting seared, red and hot, through my body. I glanced at my fingers, which were covered with a bright, scarlet coloured substance that I belatedly identified as ‘blood.’
“Oh,” I said rather intelligently. “Okay.”
Instead of looking concerned, however, Potter simply seemed annoyed. As if my injury was some giant inconvenience, like I had purposely fallen just to spite him.
“Wait here,” Potter said, a scowl twisting his lips. The crease between his eyebrows was gone, smoothed away until his face was the same, unreadable mask that it always was.
I didn’t say anything, just continued to stare dazedly at my fingers, which were still coated in blood. I think I may have nodded—I wasn’t sure.
After a minute or two, Potter came back. Not saying a word, he grabbed me by the shoulder and half-dragged me to the entrance of the Gryffie Common Room, which was now open. I didn’t protest Potter’s manhandling, nor did I fully register the irritated grumbles of the freshly awoken Fat Lady. All I could do was let Potter haul me through the portrait hole.
Inside, everything was quiet. The only source of light was the cluster of softly fading embers glowing gently inside the fireplace. Of course, I’d been in the Gryffie Common Room many times before, but never in the middle of the night (or, to be more exact, morning). It all seemed much... dimmer. As if the room itself was sleeping.
“Be quiet,” Potter mouthed. Slowly, cautiously, he led me to a stone staircase that seemed to spiral upwards into darkness. I didn’t ask any questions, just followed in his silent footsteps.
After a lot of climbing, we finally reached a wooden door with the number ‘5’ crudely carved into the surface. Potter cracked it open, before slowly turning to me and putting a finger to his lips in the universal sign for ‘be quiet, or else we're royally screwed.' I was surprised to see that he was smirking. In that moment, with his burnt-gold eyes glimmering and his finger pressed against his mouth, he looked oddly... mischievous. It was an expression I hadn’t seen him wear since... well, since the coma.
And from it, I could guess that this wasn’t the first time Potter had snuck a girl up to his room. Strangely enough, the thought made my stomach clench.
Potter stood between the doorway and me, his (stupidly broad) shoulders blocking my view of the dorm. But judging from the earthquake-esque snores coming from the room, I could tell that whatever it was inside, it definitely wasn’t Sleeping Beauty and the rest of her Disney Princess friends. That was for bloody sure.
Potter walked inside, pushing the door all the way open, and I was hit with this overwhelming stench that, I’m pretty sure, took about ten years off my life. It was a lethal combination of sweat and boy, with a hint of ‘dead troll’ thrown in for good measure. It forced it’s way into my nostrils, snaking down my windpipe and awakening my until-then-dormant gag reflex.
Once I got over the overwhelming smell (and the coughing fit that it had brought on), I took a tentative step inside. Six beds took up most of the space in the room. All were in varying states of messiness. Most of them were occupied by a sleeping inhabitant, including Fred’s. I sighed in relief—if Fred had escaped Filch, that most likely meant that Dom had, too.
One bed, however, was conspicuously empty. Aidan's.
It was pretty dark, but Potter managed to navigate his way through the dorm successfully. Unfortunately, I could not say the same. As I followed Potter, I managed to trip over a grand total of four trunks, twelve schoolbooks, two broomsticks, and one giant, fluffy pink thing. After further inspection, I recognized said giant fluffy thing to be Trunkers, the stuffed elephant that Fred had kept since he was four.
I don’t know why. Maybe it was the fact that one of it’s button eyes were missing, or that there was stuffing coming out from it’s ears, but the sight of it, all lonely and abandoned on the floor, made me sad. So I found Fred’s bed (it wasn’t hard, I just had to follow the loudest snoring) and snuck Trunkers inside the covers with him.
For a moment, I couldn’t help but stare. The sight was so ridiculous. Fred, sprawled out across his bed with his left foot dangling out from underneath the covers, snoozing peacefully next to Trunkers the Elephant. It was all so innocent and... ridiculously simple. It made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.
“Bennett, you coming or not?” Potter’s voice sliced through my thoughts, and I turned around to see him standing by a poorly painted door on the opposite side of the room. Tearing my eyes away from Fred’s sleeping form, I made my way towards Potter, winding through the labyrinth of beds and wardrobes.
Potter opened the door to—what I was guessing to be—the bathroom, and I was momentarily blinded as a rectangular chunk of dazzling light hit me square in the face. My eyelids fluttered shut, a squeak of surprise slipping through my lips, but Potter shoved me inside anyways. Eyes still shut, I stumbled around a bit until, guiding me by my shoulder, Potter led me to the sinks.
“Sit,” Potter ordered and, cracking my eyes open wearily, I hauled myself up on top of the counter. The bathroom was surprisingly clean, with white walls, squeaky tiles and gold accents. Multicolored toothbrushes littered the counter. For a moment, I just sat there awkwardly, legs dangling, still blinking in the new light.
Twisting myself around, I was met with the somewhat horrifying sight of my own reflection. Jerking back in surprise, I stared at myself. Jiminy Cricket, I looked a right mess. My skin was pale, my eyes bleary, my hair a lost cause. The wound on my forehead looked just as bad as it felt, and I was pretty sure that, if given some special effects and just the right lighting, someone could have made a decent horror film out of me. Yes, it was that bad.
I hastily turned back around, lest I started giving myself nightmares, to see Potter rummaging through a cabinet on one of the far walls. I watched him work, the muscles of his shoulders rippling underneath grey t-shirt, and I was suddenly struck by how boyish Potter was. Rumpled hair, broad shoulders, a lean waist... He was all hard angles and straight lines.
It... um... worked for him, to say the least.
Blushing, I fidgeted awkwardly from where I was sitting, biting my lip and wrapping my fingers around the cool edge of the counter. The silence was killing me. I just wanted to say something—anything—but I was at a loss for words. Finally, I resorted to simply averting my gaze and counting the tiles on the floor. Quite a fascinating task, as you can imagine. It was almost as fun as watching paint dry.
I was on tile number thirty-eight when Potter finally appeared by my side, his hands full with an assortment of colorful potions bottles, all of which he set on the counter.
“Hold still.” Potter ordered, grimacing as he pulled the cork out of one of the bottles. It came loose with a loud ‘pop’ that echoed off the tiled walls.
Slowly, almost hesitantly, Potter poured some of the liquid on to a white cloth. I watched, a look of disgust on my face, as the bubblegum-pink medicine oozed out of the bottle. It—whatever it was—looked about as appetizing as Filch in his underwear.
“Um, what is that?” I asked apprehensively, ducking out of the way as Potter came towards me, cloth in hand.
“Bennett, I said hold still.” Potter snapped back, blatantly ignoring my question. Again, he reached out towards me with the cloth, and, again, I swerved out of the way.
“No! What is it?”
“It’s nothing,” Potter said, spitting the words out through clenched teeth. “Now hold still.”
“Nothing? What do you mean nothing?”
“It’s just something for your cut, okay?”
“Will it hurt?”
“I don’t know!”
“You don’t know?”
“Well how about you hold still for one bloody second and we can find out?“
“Like hell! Will. It. Hurt?”
“Er... Maybe it will sting a little bit.”
“A little bit? What is that supposed to mea—Ow! Merlin’s beard!”
I pushed Potter away from me, clutching dramatically at the wound on my forehead. Somehow, in a totally unfair display of Quidditch agility, Potter had managed to pin my shoulders to the mirror, thus rendering me helpless as he applied the medicine to my cut. Damn him and his sneaky ninja ways!
I squeezed my eyes shut, gritting my teeth together as my forehead throbbed in agony. Merlin! It felt like someone had set my skin on fire, and then rubbed sandpaper on the third degree burn! How was that stuff even legal?
Potter did not look fazed by suffering. He simply poured some more medicine onto the cloth, his jaw clenched as he slammed the bottle back onto the counter. “Stop being such a wimp, Bennett.”
“A wimp? You just flippin’ tried to kill me!” Okay, so maybe I have a flair for dramatics. Sue me.
“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad.” Potter said, still advancing towards me, cloth in hand. His eyes—normally swirls of bright colour—were now dark, gleaming with something strange. Something dangerous. “Now can you at least hold still—?“
“Are you kidding me?”
“—for one more sodding second—“
“—need to apply more medicine!”
With that, I leapt off the counter and, heart skittering with legitimate fear, made a break for it. At this point, I didn’t care if I had to wake up all of Potter’s dorm mates. Hell, I didn’t care if I had to wake up the whole entire castle! I wasn’t going to go through anymore of this sadistic torture—I was done.
I started to sprint towards the door, but before I could get anywhere, Potter grabbed me by the waist and hauled me backwards, basically throwing me behind him. My hips slammed into the edge of the counter, and a gasp of surprise slipped out my mouth.
“Look, Bennett. You can either keep on struggling, or you can sit down and play nice. Either way, this potion is going on your forehead.” A deep, rough voice growled in my ear, and I instantly stiffened when I realized that Potter was standing right behind me, the front of his body flattened against the back of mine. “So what’s it going to be?”
I looked up, gaze skitterish, and was met with the sight of my own reflection in the sink mirror. I looked frazzled—my hair was an explosion of bountiful curls, my eyes were sharp and flashing, my cheeks slightly flushed. Behind me, Potter had bent his head to look at me, his hands firmly planted on the counter on either side of me. I was trapped.
For a moment, I just stared at my reflection, pondering over the two choices inside my head. Reason told me that I would have to put on the potion sooner or later. Even though I hated to admit it, it was for my own good. And I knew that Potter—the stubborn Gryffindor that he was—wasn’t going to give up until the potion was on, and there was a nice, Hello Kitty Band-Aid plastered firmly over my ickle little boo-boo.
There was another side of me, though, that wasn’t so mature. It was the same, petulant part of me that still that liked to jump on beds and eat cookies before supper. And it was the same part of me that bawled like a baby every time the nurse brought out a needle at the Healer’s office.
Suddenly, the answer was very clear: no way in hell was I going to succumb to Potter and that evil potion of death, which, by the way, I was pretty sure was made out of the crushed remnant’s of kitten souls. Nope. Nuh-uh. I was not going to go down without a fight.
So, using all the strength I could muster up in my tiny body, I elbowed Potter in the chest.
He didn’t even blink. I might as well have been elbowing a brick wall, he was so unfazed. Instead, he simply grumbled an annoyed “...that’s what I thought,’ and then, wrapping his arms around my waist, picked me off the floor.
“Ack! What are you doi—?“
“No! Let go of me!”
“Bloody hell—your hair—can’t breathe!“
And then I was kicking and screaming, and Potter was struggling to dodge my flailing limbs, and the room was spinning around me in a dizzying swirl of tile and sinks and light, and I was just about ready to surrender and give up, when, all of a sudden, the door opened.
Voice dying in my throat, I craned my head around to see Fred Weasley stumble through the door, his face glazed over with a dim, sleepy expression. I stared at him, eyes comically wide, ready to spew forth a plethora of excuses and apologies. In my peripheral vision, I could see that Potter, too, was completely motionless, his jaw slack. After all, we were in a slightly... er... compromising position, what with Potter’s arms wrapped around me from behind, me dangling in the air, mouth open in mid-scream, one of my feet planted on the tiled wall... We were the perfect example of the medical condition known as stark raving mad.
And yet, Freddy didn’t utter a single word as he walked right past us, turned on one of the sinks, and started brushing his teeth.
We gaped at him incredulously, still frozen in our ridiculous position. But Freddy just continued on his merry way, his mouth foaming with toothpaste, as if brushing his teeth in the middle of the night was a completely normal thing to do.
And then it occurred to me—maybe it was the norm. Or for him, at least. Maybe this was his version of... of... Sleepwalking. Maybe dental hygiene was a big concern for Freddy the Somnambulist. Who knew? It was Freddy, for Merlin’s sake. No one knew.
We watched as Freddy spat, rinsed, gargled and then, without another backwards glanced, shuffled out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Well, that was...
“Weird.” Potter remarked conversationally, his grip around my waist loosening. I fell to the ground, letting out a squawk of surprise that I'm sure was insanely attractive.. “I never knew Freddy did that.”
I stumbled around a bit, disoriented, and then turned around to face Potter. For a moment, I considered bolting to the door. But, judging from the determined glint in Potter’s molten eyes, even if I did decide to run, I most likely wouldn’t get very far.
Still focusing on the complete and utter weirdness of the situation, I didn’t even realize that Potter was guiding me to the counter until I had already sat down. I looked up, startled, and my gaze locked with his—blue on hazel, sapphire mingling with gold. He was staring at me intently, something that I found unnerving. His expression was strange—almost paternal, as if I were some small, injured child. “Now, will you please hold still?”
I could only nod, letting my eyes flutter shut.
Quietly, Potter pressed the cloth to my forehead, holding the back of my head with his other hand. It was odd—his touch was slow, almost gentle, fingers feather light and soft.
It took a second for the potion to take effect, but when I did, I felt it. Oh man, did I feel it. Sucking in a breath, I bit down on the inside of my cheek, trying to stifle the squeak of pain that was clawing its way up my throat. We were witches and wizards, for Merlin’s sake! Shouldn’t we have made a good, painless antiseptic by now? One that didn’t make me want to set myself on fire, perhaps?
“Sorry,” Potter muttered.
I was so surprised, I forgot about the pain for a second. Did that really happen? Did Potter just... apologize? To me? Agatha Bennett?
Well, butter me on both sides and call me a biscuit! If this isn’t a true Kodak moment, then I don’t know what is! Please, someone needs to document this!
I opened my eyes, ready to make some snippy, snide remark—most likely along the lines of ‘You’re apologizing? Where’s the flying pig?’—but the words died in my throat.
Because Potter was staring at me with the most curiously intense look in his eyes, his face inches from mine, and I could see every one of his annoyingly handsome features in detail. The dark, tousled hair. The faint scar slicing through his left eyebrow. The straight nose and completely unfair, Michelangelo-sculpted cheekbones. The lips that curved into a wry smirk. And the eyes.
Oh Merlin, the eyes. Describing them was impossible—anyway I did it, it would just end up sounding clichéd and overdone. But, oh Merlin. They really were kaleidoscopes of colour and swirling eddies of burnt, liquid gold. And they really were smoldering and dusky and any other trashy-romance-novel word you want. And they really did make my brain cells fizzle and my mouth go dry, because, okay, yeah, I hated Potter, but I was also a girl. A girl who noticed things like high cheekbones and shoulder muscles and really, really nice eyes.
“Blurgh,” I said, ever so intelligently. Sweet Merlin, I think a little drool came out.
Potter’s smirk widened, somehow becoming more smug than before. “One second.”
Reaching over, he grabbed a plaster that was, unfortunately, not Hello Kitty patterned, and then stuck it onto my forehead, using his thumb to smooth it into my skin. “There. All set.”
“Uhnnnng,” I replied. Wow, I’m just really sparkling with wit today. I should get my own radio show.
Desperate to say something—anything—that didn’t make me sound like a mental patient, I added: “You’re, um, very good at this. I mean, you seem to know what you’re doing, is all.”
My cheeks were blushing up a storm. Luckily, Potter had turned around and was now gathering up all the potion’s bottles—hopefully he hadn’t witnessed my transformation into a cherry tomato.
“Eh, I’m no Healer, that’s for sure.” Potter shrugged as he stacked the Potions back into the cabinet. “I just have to do it a lot, being Quidditch Captain and all. First-aid is kind of a requirement when you have Freddy on your team.”
I didn’t reply. Instead, I looked down at my lap, fiddling with my hands. There was a part of me—a very loud part—that wanted to know why Potter had been so insistent on fixing my cut, why he had gone so far just so that he could put a teensy bit of Potion on a weensy little scrape. For a moment, I almost considered asking him, but then I realized that I already knew the answer.
Yes, I was annoying and irritating (well, to him, at least). But I was the annoying and irritating sister of his best friend. The same best friend who was lying in a hospital bed at this very moment. Somewhere, deep inside Potter’s very chivalrous, very Gryffindor mind, he felt the need to... I don’t know. Protect me? That sounded wrong. Look out for me, is more like it.
I didn’t like that idea. To Potter, I was another pesky responsibility. A burden. I was the little sister that everyone in the family had to look out for. However, on the other hand, it did explain a lot—the furtive looks between Freddy, Dom, and Potter, the way that they had been so quick to jump to my defense against Cooper...
“Oi, Bennett, you coming? Or are you just going to sit there for the rest of the night?”
I shook my head quickly, startled out of my thoughts, and looked up to see Potter standing by the door, his hands in his pockets.
“Um, yeah,” I mumbled, hopping off the counter and following Potter out of the bathroom.
Once we were inside the dormitory, I felt much better. Safer. It was dark and cool; snores and the sound of deep breathing drifted through the thick air. Daylight was slowly beginning to leak through the windows, illuminating an empty bed that sat near the end of the room.
Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to it. Ignoring Potter’s curious gaze on my back, I walked straight towards what I knew to be Aidan's bed. It was meticulously made, it’s crimson sheets smoothed and folded. It looked like it had never been slept in—like the person who it belonged to had never even existed.
My entire body was shaking as I grazed my hand over the pillow. My knees must have forgotten how to function—any minute now, I was in danger of melting into a human puddle on the floor. I could feel It stirring idly in the pit of my stomach, ready to awake and consume me whole. Potter was watching me from the opposite side of the room, his gaze dark.
On the bedside table, there was a small, silver picture frame. The second I lay eyes on it, I recognized the photograph inside.
It was of the two of us. Aidan and I, no one else, grinning at the camera like there was no tomorrow. Like the world would end if we ever stopped smiling.
It had been our First Year, I remember. We were standing in front of the Hogwarts Express; I think it had been Mum who had taken the picture. We were both so small–Aidan was all cowlicks and knobby knees and toothy smiles. I stood next to him, proud and beaming as I waved to the camera. Everything was so much simpler back then. Back then, I could smile without feeling like I was about to fall to pieces. Back then, I still had my brother.
I looked up from the picture to see Potter standing by the door, his face completely serious.
“Yeah?” I tried clearing my throat, but my voice was still hoarse and thick with an unspoken emotion. Damn it. Act casual, Aggy. Nothing’s wrong. It’s all okay.
“Why... Why don’t you ever visit Aidan in the Hospital Wing?”
I reeled back, as if the question had physically slapped me across the face. Setting the picture frame back on the table, I looked down, adjusting the buttons of my blouse.
“Because it’s none of your fucking business, that’s why.” I replied frostily, disdain dripping off every word. Stupid Potter with his stupid prying questions and his stupid knowing looks. He was completely insane if he thought I was going to suddenly start opening up to him, of all people. What did he expect me to say? ‘Sure, Potter, why don’t we talk about our feelings on this whole Aidan deal? And then afterwards, you can braid my hair and we can make friendship bracelets together!’
Not that the idea doesn’t sound absolutely riveting and all, but I’d honestly rather do a cannonball off the Astronomy Tower.
I expected Potter to brush my comment off like he always did, but, to my surprise, a spark of legitimate anger flashed through his eyes. “See, that’s where you’re wrong, Bennett. Because it is my business.”
“Oh yeah, how so?”
“How so? Do you hear yourself? You weren’t the only one who lost him, you know. Dom, Freddy, your parents...” His voice was quiet and infuriatingly calm, which somehow made the words he was saying sound that much worse. “How about you get off that high horse of yours and look around yourself for change?”
“You know what? I don’t need to stand here and take this from you!” With each word, my anger was growing higher and higher, and my voice was getting louder and louder. There was definitely a correlation between my temper and my volume—when one grew, so did the other. In fact, I was surprised that none of the Gryffie blokes hadn’t woken up to the lovely sounds of our fighting, yet. Honestly. What a wonderful way to start off the morning. The birds chirping, the sun shining, and—oh, yep, that’s Potter and Bennett arguing again.
“Then don’t!” Potter snapped, anger suddenly breaking through his maddening calmness. He actually looked pissed—his eyes were flashing a million different shades, his jaw was clenched tight. He gestured wildly with his hands, taking a step in my direction. “No one’s asking you to! So why don’t you just leave? Run away! Because that’s what you do, isn’t it, Bennett? It’s the Slytherin M.O.! Run away and hide until the problem disappears on its own!”
“Oh, and what are you doing, Mr. Gryffindor? Are you going to save the day with your heroics? Do you really think pranking Cooper is going to help anything?”
“It’s better than sitting around and doing nothing!”
“Newsflash: hospital visits and silly pranks aren’t going to bring him back!”
“And neither will your passive-aggressive tendencies!”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t remember signing up for therapy sessions!”
“That’s weird, because, you sure as bloody hell need them!”
I had no response to that. At that moment, all I could think about was Dr. Marina Marvona and her pink hair and her wheelie chair and that damn look in her eyes—sympathy and pity mixed with a little bit of sorrow—as she tried to talk to me. I bloody hated it how people thought they knew... knew what it was like, how I felt...
In any corny, teenage movie, this would be the part where I scream, “NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME, I WISH I WERE NEVER BORN!” and then march up the stairs to my bedroom.
Instead, however, I could only stare at Potter, my chest heaving up and down with fury. I felt like there was an honest-to-Merlin volcano inside my chest, spewing out lava and anger and other venomous feelings. It was starting to awaken, churning in my stomach, rising up my throat...
Potter, on the other hand, seemed to check himself. The livid, frustrated expression on his face was suddenly wiped clean as he averted his gaze, face blank.
“Maybe you should leave,” he muttered.
So I did.
I marched past him, making sure to push past him with as much rough force as possible, and slammed the door on my way out. I probably woke up the whole entire Gryffindor tower while I was at it, but the anger flooding through my bloodstream made it physically impossible for me to care.
I stormed down the boys’ staircase, the clattering sound of my footsteps echoing through the air. How dare he! Confronting me like that, with his accusations and his finger-pointing... What did he know? Nothing! He knew nothing!
And yet... I could still hear his voice in the back of my head, mocking, haunting:
You weren’t the only one who lost him, you know.
Why did that stupid git always insist on making things so complicated?
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