Chapter Eleven: Shackles and Chains get in the Way
Something I'm starting to slowly realize as this year progresses (a bit too slowly, I'll admit) – I don't like to talk much.
Sure, I have commentary from time to time and I do enjoy an intelligent conversation now and then, but the majority of the time, I find that I'm just an observer. I watch other people's lives as though I were watching some sort of movie (not a romantic comedy, I'm afraid – at least, not the kind my mum likes).
I seem to sit in an empty theater, watching their day-to-day lives through a lens. Every so often, they'll break the fourth wall and stare at me; their eyes will be expecting me to know something or to keep something a secret. They'll laugh with me and expect me to laugh; they'll share a tidbit of gossip with me or ask me for advice.
And, sometimes, I feel as though I'm unresponsive. I know my brain is causing my lips to move, and that perhaps a sound is coming through those lips (generated from my voice-box), answering the proposed question…but, still, I feel as though I'm not a part of that life.
Maybe I'm mad. Maybe I'm just some sort of freak. Am I the only one who feels this way? That I'm not meant to be a part of what the general whole? Forever singular and forever lonely?
Wow. That prospect sounds rather depressing, doesn't it?
Funny. I wouldn't have minded loneliness a few weeks ago and now it seems that I've grown rather attached to my ragtag team of comrades.
Drew's speaking to me about something. I should be listening extra hard; hoping to catch the few sentences that will paint a picture of exactly who
Drew is. However, I find that I'm lost in my own thoughts again. It seems to be happening a lot, lately.
"Are you alright?" Drew's eyes are serious, honest. They're piercing me and I look up, a bit dazed.
"Hm?" I blink.
"Have you been listening?"
We were in the library – I preferred to think of it as our
place – and we were studying for an upcoming Arithmancy test.
It was fairly empty. Actually, the entire school was fairly empty. It felt like we were the only two students who didn't really feel like going to the Quidditch match.
"You've been a bit out of it ever since that night Sirius Black broke into the castle." Blonde brows knit together with worry; lips slightly downturned.
I gave him a reassuring smile. "Just a bit lost in my thoughts, really. I suppose that that night sort of caused me to think a little bit."
He put down the quill he was writing with and leaned forward. "Think about what?"
"Who we all are." I said the answer slowly, unsure of what exactly I was thinking of. You know those thoughts that seem so jumbled up that it's hard to find an exact label for it? "For instance, did Sirius Black grow up thinking that he was going to become an extremely wanted and dangerous mass murderer?"
One of the windows in the library was cracked open and angry clouds moved across the sky. It looked like it was going to storm tonight.
"Interesting thoughts." Drew nodded. "I don't think anyone really wants to grow up believing that all they'll amount to being is a wanted mass murderer." And then his brows furrowed again in quick thought. "He can't be too much of an idiot, though; Azkaban prison must be exceedingly difficult to break out of."
"I wonder what he was like during his school days." I told him, my lips pouting slightly. "Who were his friends? You know, those basic things."
He raised an eyebrow. "Why are you so interested in Sirius Black? Thinking about dating a mass murderer, instead? I heard that some witches are infatuated with some of the people in Azkaban and write them dozens of love letters."
In return, I gave Drew a quizzical look. "It's just spontaneous curiosity; he must've been a normal person at some point in his life."
"Well," Drew picked up his quill again; a sign that he wanted to get back to studying. "No use wasting time in idle thought."
Personally, I didn't think these thoughts were idle, but I didn't say anything. Instead, I went back over my Arithmancy notes. Outside, I swore I heard the cheering from the Quidditch pitch, but I wasn't sure.
Alex had begged me to go with her. Begged
"It'll be fun!" She had exclaimed, throwing her arms up in an attempt to be over-dramatic.
"She doesn't if she doesn't want to," Claudia had said firmly. "Don't force her to do something she doesn't want to do." Her grey eyes stood out more than usual, today. I supposed it came from the grey hat she had put over her soft brown hair.
"Besides," Piper had drawled out lazily from the floor. "You'll be keeping her from Drew
My cheeks turned red.
"That's true…" Alex looked disappointed. "Sigh. I just hope that when the time comes to choose between me and him, you choose me!"
"Why would I ever have to make that choice?" I rolled my eyes. "So mature, Alex."
"I can't help myself! I'm excited for today's game! It's against Slytherin – we better
"We've got Harry bloody Potter on our team!" Piper had cheered. "He's wonderful. Have you seen him chasing after that snitch?"
"Yes!" Alex screamed. "He's freaking perfect!"
"You don't sound like a creeper at all." I raised an eyebrow. "Going after the third years now, Alex? Talk about cougar status."
She grinned. "You know what they say about going after younger guys."
"No; I have no idea what they say about that sort of thing."
"If a woman wants a man to have the same life-expectancy as her, she better get one that's at least 5 years younger." She gave me a cheeky grin.
"Wow, Alex. I like that you retain useless information such as that, but somehow can't remember the ingredients for Polyjuice Potion." I gave a sigh. "It's like how Oliver can remember loads of plays from the Quidditch World Cup but can't seem to muster up the brain power to recall the steps needed to create a Draught of Living Death."
"You're talking like Snape," Piper made a face. "I didn't take Advanced Potions for a reason. The less I see of that man, the better."
We were then walking down the steps and entered the common room. Fred and George were dressed in their Quidditch gear and grinning ear to ear. Typical of them, really.
"Going to the game, Lots?" They inquired of me.
"Er, no." I shook my head. "I'm heading off to the library to study."
They looked devastated. "But, but Lots
," George then blubbered, "it's against Slytherin
I pulled a face. "I have no problems with Slytherin house."
The four of them (twins plus Piper and Alex) gasped out loud. Then, a mixture of "Lotty!" and "Lots!" and "Charlotte
I blinked a few times. "Er, you didn't know that I'm completely neutral when it comes to these things?"
"Even the bloody Hufflepuffs are biased for their own kind! I mean, look how much they worship that Diggory fellow."
"Sixth year; delicious." Alex answered my blank stare.
Claudia just said nothing, but her lips were twitching in amusement.
Suddenly, I snapped out of the memory. Drew's face came into focus; he was scribbling down, his face serious with concentration.
I wondered if Claudia felt the same way – an observer, rather than the lead in the movie.
"Do you need some help with that?" I gestured to the difficult problem he was working on.
"I think I've got the gist of it…" he frowned, "but I can't seem to answer problem eight."
"Ah," I nodded knowingly and leaned closer to the parchment. "Well, first off, you haven't been using the correct formula."
We had studied for about two hours when my stomach gave a grumble. Drew looked up from his work and glanced at his wristwatch. "Oh, it's 'bout time for dinner, isn't it?"
"Uh," I blinked, my eyes slightly glazed over from staring at my notes for too long. I turned against the chair – I felt my back crack slightly – and glanced at the large clock. "Oh, I believe it is."
Drew started shuffling his papers and shut his book. "I'll walk you to dinner." He grinned at me.
"A-Alright." I felt my face turn hot and quickly began to gather up my things. I must've been gathering too quickly because I clumsily knocked over my quills and my ink bottle. It rolled along the ground and I hastily bent down to pick it up.
Drew must've too because under the table, we bumped heads and our fingers touched each other over the bottle.
We both flinched and leapt up. I hit my head against the table while Drew made a graceful leap and then went back to grab the ink bottle.
"Sorry…" I mumbled at the same time he murmured, "My apologies."
I snuck a look at him. His face was as red as I felt. My cheeks were probably matching the Gryffindor crest I had on my robes.
And then something happened that I didn't expect.
We both started laughing.
"I'm kind of clumsy," I smiled at him.
"It happens to the best of us." He shyly handed the bottle back to me and I slipped it into my book-bag. "Shall we be going?"
I nodded and reached for my books but Drew had already snatched them up. With cheeks that matched my own, he held out his free hand to me. His face was slightly scrunched up and he tried to look nonchalant about the whole thing, but his cheeks gave him away.
My fingers slipped into his grasp and he held on tightly.
All the while, my heart hammered as we began our journey to the Great Hall. Maybe, to some couples, these moments felt like eternity but to me, it was fleeting.
I knew that it would take maybe five or six minutes to reach the Great Hall from the library but it felt like three seconds before he walked me to my friends and let my hand fall away from his.
Drew's lips were smiling as he set down my books on the Gryffindor table and said softly, "I'll see you later, Charlotte…" before engulfing me in a tight hug and moving away.
I turned my attention to my friends. They all seemed to be rather glum – none of that rah-rah go-go Gryffindor ruckus from earlier that day.
"What's wrong with you lot?" I inquired, raising a brow as I scooted into my seat. I was slightly shocked (and slightly pleased) that they hadn't commented on holding hands with Drew.
"We loooooooost." Alex whined, drawing out the vowels in a pathetic-sounding voice.
"To bloody Hufflepuff
." Piper added.
The two of them were slumped over the table, looking depressed and disappointed.
"Didn't you all say that we were playing Slytherin this morning?" I was confused. I don't think that I had heard wrong…
"We were supposed
to play that lot." Piper nodded towards the Slytherin table across the hall from us. "I don't know what happened, but we ended up playing Hufflepuff, instead."
"Wasted practices," George Weasley joined in the conversation with a glum voice. "So many wasted practices! We had been trying to defensively counter Slytherin, but we couldn't use any of that! Hufflepuff plays completely differently than them and Diggory seems to have trained them well."
That name again. Cedric Diggory?
"Sixth year; delicious." Alex answered again, in response to my blank stare.
"Not so bloody delicious now." Piper replied over the rumble of thunder coming from both the enchanted ceiling and the outside sky. "Potter was bloody pummeled."
"Isn't he supposed to be really good?" I raised a brow.
"It was awful," Claudia chimed in. She had just arrived at the table. Her brown hair was windswept and she was rather pink in the face. "It started storming halfway through the game. No one could really see anything because of all the clouds and there was lightning flashing around. I don't blame Potter for falling."
"And the Dementors," Alex gave a sudden shiver. "We had all been shouting and screaming and trying to make the best of the situation when they arrived." She took a deep breath and took a sip from her goblet. "As soon as they approached the pitch, you could feel it – the happiness, the warmth absolutely sucked from your body."
"Potter and Diggory were chasing the snitch," Piper explained.
At another one of my blank looks, Claudia supplied for me, "the little gold ball with wings that flies around. The first team that has their seeker catch the snitch is awarded 150 points and the game is over."
"They went up into the clouds – Merlin knows how high they went – and we couldn't see a thing. Wood had it rough too. Those Hufflepuff chasers had gotten better with Diggory's training and he had let in two goals."
"Ugh, and then out of nowhere, the Dementors came and five minutes later, Potter comes falling out of the sky without his broom."
"His Nimbus was blown into the Whomping Willow." Alex cringed. "It was smashed to smithereens, but Potter was totally unconscious when he hit the ground."
Claudia nodded, her face was now pale; the pink cheeks of before were gone.
"Where's Oliver now?" I looked around. I didn't see him anywhere.
I did spot Isabella sitting with a blonde. She looked displeased, but more disappointed. She kept glancing at her watch and glaring at the door.
"Probably still sulking," Fred replied with a grimace. "He was still in the showers when we had gone up to see Potter in the Hospital Wing."
"How is the kid?" Piper inquired.
"Seems to be alright." Was the reply she received. "He's more depressed over the fact that his broom's been destroyed."
"I can't believe you guys left Wood alone in the showers!" There was another voice that joined the depressing conversation. It was Katie Bell, one of the Gryffindor chasers who had originally tried to convince me to tutor Oliver.
"Er, what?" I was confused.
"He's quite sentimental about these things," Katie explained, sending George and irritated look. "He's under a lot of stress because it's his last year and his last chance to get the House Cup. Merlin knows how hard Oliver's been working – it's a big blow to lose to Hufflepuff when we were prepared to dominate over Slytherin."
I still didn't really know what she meant, but ignored it.
"It's alright, though," Alex replied knowingly. "You can make it up with Ravenclaw. Smash them by a hundred!"
At that moment, an irritated and somewhat saddened Oliver walked into the Great Hall. He was sending Hufflepuff dirty looks the entire time he loped over to the table.
The warmly dressed Hufflepuffs were too busy shouting and celebrating and shooting one of the tall boys admired looks.
"Oi, Wood; you're still alive!" Fred called out good naturedly.
He received no response as Wood approached Isabella and sat down beside her. She tried smoothing back his windswept hair but he seemed to want none of it. Now more annoyed, Isabella moved away from him and joined some other friends farther down the table.
"Poor bloke," George sighed. "We should go join him before he decides to return to the showers."
I guess I felt bad for Oliver. I knew he was working hard, particularly in Potions, but was a Quidditch match worth all the effort? Or exhaustion?
The twins stood from their spots and practically leapt over to Oliver. With identical grins plastered on their faces, they began their plan of cheering him up.
"Difficult loss," Piper grimaced. "I mean, it's Hufflepuff
"Hey…" Claudia spoke up with a raised brow. "Theo's a Hufflepuff."
"Nothing against Hufflepuffs," Alex supplied. "Generally, they're nice…awesome folks but in the case of Quidditch…"
Claudia stayed silent with her brow still raised.
"He was rather polite today, though," Alex told me in an aside. "Even though he was rooting for Hufflepuff, he sat with us and didn't cheer when Hufflepuff scored. Well, his face was cheerful about it enough but he tried to keep it neutral. Quite thoughtful, don't you think?"
"Sure." I grinned.
Piper cleared her throat and glanced at me. "Don't think we're not going to bring up that smile on your face…"
I wiped the grin off my face. "What smile? I'm devastated that we lost!"
"Sarcasm just doesn't look good on you, Lotty," Alex retorted with a sly grin. "So, is that the level you've progressed to with Drew? Hand holding? What's next…snogging?"
"SHH. KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN!" I snapped, throwing my arms around her neck and clasping a hand over her mouth. "Way to let everyone know what's going on!"
"Sorry, sorry…" she tried to get out of my grasp, "I just wasn't aware that things had gotten so…intimate
My face was flushed. "Just because we were holding hands doesn't mean that we've suddenly progressed to some amazingly high level! I barely know him. I don't think I'll go around kissing boys I barely know, thanks."
"Goodness!" Alex replied. "Don't have to be so prudish." She rolled her eyes. "After all, you've been stalking him for Merlin-knows-how-long…"
"I have not!"
And that was how the rest of dinner went. It was strange, to be honest, how quickly things had returned to normal after the Sirius Black scare. You'd think that there would still be panicked looks towards secluded and dark corners or parents pulling students out or something.
"It was probably a false alarm." Piper had answered when I had commented on the strangeness of it all. "The Fat Lady must have had her visions wrong or whatever because I don't think it really happened. How can it be possible that Sirius Black would break into Hogwarts?"
"True," Claudia had remarked softly. "You've seen all the Dementors. And the weather's been absolutely rubbish, lately. How could he have snuck in here under Dumbledore's eye?"
"Well, the Fat Lady refuses to return to her portrait." I frowned. "And I've never seen her so afraid in my entire life. I don't understand why she'd refuse if there wasn't something legitimately terrifying."
"Maybe she's just embarrassed; I mean, I would if I thought Sirius Black was really in the castle."
"Honestly," Alex interrupted. "I'm not as worried as why the Fat Lady refuses to return. I'm more worried about the stupid Knight painting that we've got guarding our Common Room and finding a job for after Hogwarts." She was frowning now, too. "He's changed the password at least ten times by now and I don't know what the most recent one is."
We had reached the Portrait hole. "Uh…" Piper looked at me for guidance.
"…Scurvy cur?" I inquired, as that was the password earlier on in the day.
The Knight bustled on about how it was duty to protect and how that was the incorrect password. He rambled about how we must have been false students and how he would never let us into the common room.
Claudia surprised us all. "Oddsbodikins?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
He frowned, as if curious how we knew this and began another rant about something else. Honestly, by this time, I had stopped listening to his ramble.
"Just open up, won't you?" I asked hotly, tapping my foot impatiently.
The Knight grumbled about impatient students and traitors and swung open.
"How'd you know that?" We asked Claudia once inside the room.
"Heard a prefect complaining about it earlier." She gave a serene sort of smile. "And you can't deny that Percy Weasley hasn't been irritated over it, either."
"That much is true…" I had to agree. Percy was in my Charms class and he was beyond aggravated over the fact that Sir what's-his-face has been changing the password. "Does anyone actually even know the Knight's name?"
"More like, supposed knight." Alex gave her eyes another roll. "What's he playing act, anyway? How is he supposed to guard us when he won't even let us into the common room to begin with?"
"He's the only one that volunteered, to be honest," a prefect swooped in on our conversation. I believe her name was Patricia, but I wasn't sure. I had seen her often, scolding and acting under Percy's direct orders. It was a rumor that she was in love with the bigheaded Head Boy, but I couldn't confirm it.
(Yes! Gasp! I, Charlotte Murray, actually know a tidbit of gossip! Shoot me dead and feed me to a prancing Hippogriff why don't you…)
"All the other portraits have been too terrified to do the job." She gave a smile and left as quickly as she had appeared. We watched her flutter over to Percy and preen at his compliment.
"Doesn't he have a girlfriend?" Alex was asking as we sat at one of the side-tables. "A Ravenclaw…what's her name…"
"You've got me." I frowned.
Fine, so, I only know a tiny tidbit about a single almost unknown Gryffindor girl…but, I was semi-proud of myself. At least I knew something
"Who in their right mind would want to date him?" Piper inquired almost loudly. "He's pigheaded and arrogant and totally, absolutely not even worth a look at."
Claudia's eyes glowed with amusement but she kept her thoughts to herself.
"So," a sudden thought triggered my launch into the topic of the future, "when do you think we'll need to be turning in job applications?"
Alex's face drained of color and Piper looked away pointedly.
"By the end of December, I believe." Claudia said slowly, after her face morphed into one of deep thought. "I think McGonagall was reminding her Transfiguration class about it this afternoon."
"Er," Alex frowned. "Shows how much I've been paying attention in Transfiguration…"
"I don't even know what I want to do with my life!" Piper exclaimed suddenly. "I don't know what I'm going to do after school! Hell, I don't even know what I'm going to do tomorrow!"
I gave her a smile. "I think I'm going to be an Unspeakable."
She nodded. "You've certainly got the capacity for it, Charlotte."
"I won't need to apply for anything." Claudia mumbled softly. "My parents have got enough money for me to live off of." She looked somewhat dissatisfied with her response. "I envy the three of you. My mum won't let me apply for anything."
At this, my lips turned wryly upwards. "At least your mum isn't forcing you to become something you don't want to…"
I didn't even know what I was saying. Hadn't I agreed to become one? Hadn't this been the decision I had based my school courses on? Hadn't this been the idea that McGonagall and my mum had agreed on?
"But, Lotty," Alex cocked her head to the right, her expression bemused. "Haven't you been planning this since Second Year?"
One of Oliver's strange sentences echoed in my mind for a moment. What do you want?
What did I want? What did I want to do with my life? What did I want to explore or experience? Why was I a puppet for my mum and her own aspirations?
Claudia's eyes fell on mine and for a moment, I felt a sudden connection with her. It was a strange feeling; one of those that you really can't explain. For a moment, I felt closer to Claudia than I did with Alex – and, just on the basis of how long I had known the both of them…was contradictory with my thoughts.
"So we're both the same," Claudia raised a dark brow and her lips quirked themselves into what was supposed to be a smile of sorts. "Our mums are set on controlling our futures."
Piper and Alex exchanged looks and Alex had a particularly strange look on her face when I answered. "I guess so…"
Last update before the queue closes! ^_^ As you've probably seen from my Author's page, I'm going to be on holiday in China until August 22! But, have no fear! I will have my laptop so as soon as the queue opens up again, I'm going to be tossing in new chapters.
Thank you all, again, for sticking with me for so long. I'm still working on review responses but I love you all & appreciate you guys taking the time to leave one. ♥