A/N: Im not too sure about this chapter... something about the ending seems a bit ehh. But anyways, I hope you enjoy and I don't really own anything besides this laptop and my nose which is currently being very annoying and runny. Cheers.
And I'm sorry is the spacing (or the story :P) is wacked, I dunno what's up with that.
3. The Moring After
On every Saturday, at exactly thirty past two, anyone looking for some gossip—or trouble, the latter always seemed to accompany the first—could be found near the South Tower, lining behind the door of an unused classroom with anxious nervousness mixed with excitement for a talk with a person on the other side of the door, always wearing a ski-mask and a black sweat suit so bit it could fit an elephant or two.
It was the place where all the well-oiled gossip machines of Hogwarts got their high and other people’s low, a place where dirty secrets spread out like wildfire for only 8 sickles a minute.
Esther Hastings sat and calmly looked at the girl in front of her. Molly Smith, a Sixth Year Ravenclaw, who had straight O-s in every subject besides Herbology in which she had received a completely dreadful E, of course wanted to know what Dan O’Connor had told one of his mates about her in History of Magic.
“Well,” Esther started. Being a 7th Year and in a different House, there wasn’t any morally right way she could’ve found out what Mister O’Connor had said. But as it was, Hufflepuffs had never been very high on morals and the day before she just happened to be in one of the boys’ lavatory stalls, sitting there and minding other people’s business, when she accidentally heard O’Connor and Manuel some-or-other-surname-she-had-never-bothered-to-learn talk about Molly, so what else could she do than listen?
Being a Muggleborn, magic had never been Esther’s strong point, but she had an uncanny ability to read between the lines. And what she read through those more than crude lines was that, yes, Dan O’Connor did have a bit of a crush on Molly which was what she said to her. Molly could saunter off happily in what she thought was the purest of love and Esther was once again, a few Galleons richer.
And so it went on and on and the queue got smaller, but as things usually tend to be, things don’t usually go well to quiet Hufflepuffs and so somehow, Ester found herself ski-mask to his glorious face with him.
It was an accident he had even happened to find her, for he had never even been near the South Tower, but as things had been for Fred Weasley lately—and you would probably be not too surprised to hear things hadn’t been good for him lately—he found himself sleepwalking in a part of the castle he had never seen before and gotten pathetically lost. Which naturally was a thing of such disgrace to the world’s greatest prankster (he had to take a note to self to have some wallowing-time later on in his dorm), before noticing a big buzz of people mostly consisting of 13-14-year-olds and so he asked one of them what was going on. The girl, after being brought back to consciousness from the ‘OH-MY-GOSH, Fred-Weasley-talked-to-me! ME!’ induced blackout, told him it was The Gossip Line and that anyone wanting to know anything about anyone could find it out there.
Being the genius he was, a light bulb went on upon of his head.
And so Fred Weasley being the generous gentleman he was, waited until everyone had had their dosage and had cleared out. And after that, being the gentleman he was, he cornered the ski-masked girl just as she was about to leave.
“I want to know about Imogen Rice,” he said clearly, flashing the person in a ski-mask a dazzling grin that had melted many girls into pink, bubbly butters. For Esther’s sake, she had been inspecting that grin from afar for a long time and almost gotten her ‘Le Sigh’ instincts in place so it didn’t take her much effort to look indifferent.
Well, almost. She couldn’t help but fall off her chair.
“You mean, you want to know about her weaknesses,” she said, after she had climbed back on the chair trying to regain back even a shred of dignity (ski-mask and elephant-trousers, anyone?) and bit back a small laugh at his thunderstruck appearance.
He didn’t bother to start lying something up and just answered with a simple ‘yes’, to which she told him off for trying to coax her into helping him with his Grand Plan.
And then he gaped, wondering how in the world she could’ve known about a thing he hadn’t talked to anyone besides his best mate James and continued gaping until she gently re-introduced his jaw with his mouth. Realisation hit him faster than a train making its way through countryside and he pointed an accusatory finger at Esther.
“You...! You—are you spy—,” but he couldn’t get any further with it, because the girl had clamped a hand on his mouth.
“Let’s make a deal...” she then told him. “I’m going to give you her profile and you’ll never tell about this to anyone.”
“Why?” he questioned and she started muttering angrily under her breath, he fishing out some phrases like ‘big-headed’ and ‘can’t be lending these out to everyone...’ after which, he hurried straight into the ‘understanding’ tirade of ‘yes, of courses’ and other meaningless small words until she gave him the profile and shoved him away.
Fred Weasley was a good prankster, a great, if you will. A mastermind, he’d been told once. His pranks were always planned and executed with the smallest detail planned... well, maybe for one small detail. That detail being him.
The problem he had with himself was that somehow, no matter from where he watched his glorious pranks unfold, someone always seemed to catch him and he was in detention for months. It wouldn’t have been all that bad—after all, his own father had been a notorious prankster back in his day—if there weren’t for Fred Weasley’s mother and the great fear instilled in him consisting of her coming to school to talk to everyone about ‘cutesy little Freddy-Teddy running around in the backyard naked’.
Even the memory of that mortified him near death. He’d never live it down, would it happen one more time.
So what Fred Weasley was, was an alibi. And what is a better alibi than some nicely timed PDA with your girlfriend?
Of course, he couldn’t take just any girl off the corridor. It had to be planned. And with Imogen he had gotten just what he had needed.
No one really cared who she was and she actually looked half decent, so the people wouldn’t be thinking ‘what’s he doing with her?’. They’d just think her to be just a longer fling and no one would care to argue against that. Plus, he had an upper hand there and he didn’t really like her, so he’d get two flies with one swing by blackmailing her.
What he was blackmailing her with, though, that was still a question left to be answered. But it wasn’t for long until he found it out, he decided, as he opened the roll of parchment and started reading.
Many things, he found out about her and the more things he found out, the harder it was for him to do something so Slytherin to her. But, he decided, the cause was worth the smaller sufferings.
After all, casualties are nothing short of uncommon in the stories of legends. And that he was, a legend.
If only he’d known the biggest failures always start with words of that kin.
But then, for him it didn’t matter, because at that exact moment, it felt like Merlin had forgiven him for eating his Chocolate Frog card and had answered all his prayers all at once.
I stared at the mirror and it stared back at me. I knew it wasn’t long until it would answer to my silent question with something snarky, like it always did.
I had a slight suspicion it didn’t like me for the fact I’d once thrown a cup against it in a fit of some well-justified rage and it had shattered in million tiny pieces.
Nevertheless, I didn’t mind its superior comments on my appearance as it was that it was a talking mirror, for Merlin’s sake. You couldn’t have a more petty existence than that. Well, unless you were me or that four legged guy from Spongebob, but that’s not the point.
The point being that I was nervous, my hands were shaking and my brain felt like it was going to crawl out of my ears and escape any minute.
I realised, moments like these really marked my existence. All the other four girls took no notice of me being on the verge of a brain aneurysm, they even bumped into me every once in a while.
I was invisible.
And for the most part I didn’t even mind it, I was completely fine. But right now—hell, I wanted someone to ask me what’s wrong, be concerned, something. Anything at all?
But I was left to my own devices and so I stood there, nervously pulling on the ends of my hair, thinking of what Ernie would say. Would he forgive me? He would, right? He had to, he was my friend and I was his. We went frog-catching near the Black Lake in early summer nights, we had food fights in the kitchen after hours and ended up with various vegetables and cake frosting in our hair and it was so hard to get them all out, but it didn’t matter. We pushed and punched and yelled at each other, but it didn’t matter.
We were friends and we got through stuff. We always got through stuff. We had to. He was my rock, the only person in this whole school I would trust my life with, the only person that could make me laugh so hard I was about to pee my pants.
Surely something this... stupid, this juvenile wouldn’t come between us?
The ticking of the clock told me I should be off to breakfast in five minutes, but my legs felt like they were glued to the floor and my heart couldn’t stop shaking and my hands wouldn’t cease trembling.
If my courage was water in a well, the well would’ve been built in the wrong place. I was a Hufflepuff. I was sometimes afraid of my own shadow. I wasn’t some Gryffindor willing to take the bullet for someone else. I would’ve rather used that someone else as a human shield and feel no remorse if I lived.
“Oh, stop feeling sorry for yourself,” the mirror ordered and I stared at it blankly.
“I’m not feeling sorry for myself,” I defended myself, cringing at how pathetic that lie was, cringing at how pathetic I was for having a fight with a mirror.
“Get your arse out of this bathroom and down the stairs,” it said and when I didn’t even try to make a move of any kind, bellowed, “NOW!”
With that, any rational thought that might’ve sprouted in my head over the years, was wiped clear as I ran out of the room hurriedly, my tail between my legs.
Ernie stood in front of the fireplace and knocked on his nose absent-mindedly. His head was filled with questions far too complicated for his species and it was driving him mad in the most literal sense.
He wasn’t angry at his friend, no. He was just disappointed that she didn’t tell him about his...issue before and in addition to that, he was embarrassed for he had to find out like that, in front of the whole school.
But he wasn’t angry at her.
He was angry at that terrible person that’d made her say that. Fred Weasley. The bloke got too much pleasure from torturing people, he thought. Weasley didn’t deserve his House at all, he belonged with others of his kind, snakes.
But his resentful thoughts were interrupted by his friend touching his shoulder lightly as if she was afraid of rejection.
He turned around and came to face with a very frazzled Imogene, her usually smooth hair sticking out in every direction possible, her eyes a bit puffy and red. It almost broke Ernie’s heart to see his friend like this.
“I’m so sorry!” she said and before he could get a word, she continued. “I didn’t mean to tell that to you—it wasn’t nice of me. I’m so terribly sorry about that! And—,”
He cut in. “It’s okay,” he assured her, but it was as if she hadn’t even heard him, she kept going onwards with her apologies until he shook her a little and repeated what he’d said.
She smiled at that gratefully and then, in a whirlwind, she quickly pulled him along to the breakfast, skipping the whole way. He sighed with contempt.
His Imogene was back.
The breakfast scenery was nothing out of the ordinary. The dull chatter, crisp smell of bacon filling people’s noses before they had even stepped into the Great Hall and the sleepy atmosphere lying in the air like a thick blanket too hard to shrug off.
Nothing out of ordinary, not the slightest clue for what was about to happen.
His eyes caught her the exact moment she skipped in happily and the smallest doubt in his inner voice debated if he should do what he was about to do, but he shrugged it off as a bout of cowardliness. He stood up from his seat and confidently strode to the Hufflepuff table, enjoying the many pairs of eyes following his path.
He stopped behind her with a careless air and ignored her friend shooting daggers at him. She was unaware of his presence or the act that the best part of the school was staring at them and carried on talking: “And it was so—Ernie?”
Imogen seemed to have understood that her friend’s eyes weren’t taking up her every movement and word anymore and had instead fixated on something behind her in a furious glare. She turned abruptly and just stared with one of her eyebrows quirked up.
Scepticism hadn’t been the expression that had been gracing her face in the vision that had hanging out in his mind. Scepticism wasn’t a part of his plan. Why wasn’t she falling at his feet, begging him to take him out...?
He knew she’d been angry at him, but hey, how long can a girl be angry for?
“I’m sorry, we don’t service dirty maggots in this table,” she said coldly and he would’ve flinched if there weren’t for his Coca-Cola 6-pack sized pride. And he had his plan to go through with.
“I need to talk to you,” he said in an attempt of polite conversation.
Her voice was sharp as a fork. “Your needs aren’t my problem.” And that attempt was blown.
But if there was a thing his father had taught him besides pranking, it was to never give in so he leaned in and whispered in her ear that precious piece of information that made her get up and follow him out of the Great Hall, leaving behind an ocean of students storming around to gossip with their friends, enemies and everyone else in between.
“Do you hate me?” I pressed through my teeth, trying to hold myself back from hitting something. Preferably him. “I mean, is there some big sign on my back saying ‘hate on Imogen’ or something? Or do you just enjoy making everyone in an inch radius of you suffer?”
He didn’t bother to answer, instead looking at me like I was some kind of an animal. Like, like I was a horse and he was deciding if my breed was clean enough! Like if I had glossy fur and if my teeth were straight, was I limping or not...
His expression changed from calculating to victorious, suddenly. It’s an expression I didn’t like. Instead of making his face glow, it made him just more evil, now that he knew he had even more power over me than just the freakish strength of his.
Or maybe it was just my imagination playing tricks on me.
“I know you were the one who stole all the undergarments or the male population of this school and stuck them to the walls of Great Hall.” ... okay, so maybe it wasn’t.
As for the undergarments – ehehe, that’s a funny story.
Last year, after being bullied by these big, burly and clever Seventh Year Ravenclaws, I had had enough. I mean, I may be a Hufflepuff, but I’m no pushover.
So I came out with this slightly genius, albeit maybe a bit cliché and overdone plan of stealing their surely mangy grandmas underwear and hanging it over the Great Hall so everyone could have a nice mid-morning laugh.
But things went a little bit wrong... because what I saw when coming into the Great Hall the next morning it wasn’t ten, nor even twenty pairs of pants I saw hanging from all over the ceiling and walls – it was hundreds. Basically, I had transported the underwear of every and all male occupants in Hogwarts. Clean and dirty. And the sight... well, let’s leave it at that it wasn’t pretty.
I remember to this day Professor Luftfoot, talking very graphically about the very dire and painful consequences that could happen to anyone who’s at fault while holding up a pair of his flower-patterned boxers.
I looked up at him in disbelief. “I cannot believe you’re accusing me of something so vile and juvenile!”
I don’t want my eyeballs to be stretched out and fed to myself, please.
He sighed as if he was doing something very hard and mentally challenging (which, I was beginning to guess, he thought he was. I guess he had never talked to a girl with a brain before.) and slapped a hand on his forehead.
But then his face changed again and I was left with his victorious smirking self once again. For some reason, he whistled and then hollered, “Come in, boys!”
A small group of boys looking like they’d just been spit out of a gypsy caravan bustle in with what seems like a miniature travelling theatre and before I can get out even a very justified ‘what the...?’, they start something that looks like a puppet show.
One of them, a baritone-voiced I later recognized as one of the Potter boys started talking in the usual TV-narrator voice. “Aaaaand we present you with... The Panty Snatcher!”
Oh dear lordy, really? The Panty Snatcher?
A poorly sewn puppet doll with a weird sponge-like thing upon its’ head (was it supposed to be my hair? I know I’m not having a good hair day, but that isn’t an excuse to make the puppet-me look like something had crawled on my head and died there!), started dancing around with a pair of underwear in its’ puppet hands and if there was anything more to that... play, fortunately that was all the fate let us endure, since one of the teensy puppet hands fell off and they hurried of mumbling something about ‘Emergency room! Madame Pomfrey!’
Well, that was... yeah.
I gawked at his face, smirking down upon me and suddenly everything seemed to get warmer. That guy, right in front of me was Fred Weasley. The Fred Weasley. Everyone wanted him, regardless of their gender.
He was practically my dream guy—no matter how hard I denied it in my head. He was the guy I liked to over-romanticize above everyone else, the guy that sometimes invaded my dreams, the guy I was crushing on so hard it made it hard for breathing.
And then it struck me, hard as a rock, that my dream guy, the ultimate prince on a pink pony, was blackmailing me.
And nothing—not even the crippling fear inside of me of being hung down from the dungeons’ ceiling by my toenails, couldn’t shove down the swoon in me at his apparent machoness.
Before, he was just a hot guy, but now, now, he was... he was dangerous. And hot.
I was picturing him in a leather jacket on a motorbike, flexing his muscles, when he couched rudely and I was reminded of the fact that I hated him.
Well, ‘supposed to hate’ is a better wording perhaps. If it is possible to hate someone and dream about snogging them at the same time...
“So,” I said conversationally, as if we were talking about weather or cats. “You’re planning on blackmailing me?”
He answered just as nonchalantly, “That’s the general idea, yeah...”
“Okay then,” I tried really hard not to squeal when a scene of being held hostage by Fred Weasley naughtily rolled out my mind.
But then, it seemed, the Logic and Sense decided to return and I glared. “And what would make you think I’m going to do anything you’re asking me to, huh? Maybe I’ll just let you give me up and be done with it. Maybe I’m dying with guilt inside and can’t wait to get this burden off my chest!”
He replied indifferently, “Okay, so I guess I’ll be going to talk to Professor Luftfoot now...” and he was about to exit the door, when I ran in front of him, panicking and noticed his face holding a smug smirk, knowing he had me cornered.
The crush I had for him flattened to about a tenth to its original size and I felt a bit empty. I never thought be so cruel, so terrible, so—
“Oh, don’t look at me like that, you’re only going to have to be my girlfriend for a fortnight, it’s not your world is going to explode.”
Dumbfounded, I stared at in his eyes, trying to find a trace, a smallest speckle of dishonesty. None. Which left me wondering... “Why me? It’s not like you couldn’t have anyone in this school, no matter the gender.”
“Well,” he started, a grin I was suddenly very wary of making its jolly way on his face, “this way, I can see two birds with one stone, you see.”
“No, not really. Actually I’m pretty sure were looking in different directions.”
“I need someone who wouldn’t drive me crazy every second I’m pretending to be their boyfriend and plus, I don’t really like you,” he explained and that something in my chest deflated by a mile.
Well, that was a bust. I get blackmailed by a guy into being his girlfriend because he dislikes me. How does that make any sense?
“How does this make any sense?” I asked.
“Oh, but it does. See, what fun would it be blackmailing someone who already liked me?”
He thought I didn’t like him?
“Someone... who already likes you,” I said. “What makes you think I’m not like all of those other girls, swooning at the sight of you and your 1000-watt teeth sparkling in the sunshine coming from that window over there? Maybe it’s hitting me completely breathless?”
He waved a hand nonchalantly. “You don’t look breathless.”
“What, can you see inside my lungs?”
“Of course I can’t see inside your lungs. But I am an expert in seeing other parts of anatomy not far off... And stop trying to push me off my point.”
“Yes. You being my girlfriend and helping along in THE Greatest Prank Hogwarts Has Ever Seen! Or South-America, for that matter.” his eyes were sparkling in the light coming from the aforementioned window and I couldn’t help but feel that warm feeling in my heart-area had started to tingle strangely. I also couldn’t help but wonder what he meant by South-America, but it was left a secret at that moment, for the bell rung and people flooded into the classroom.
We headed away, him leaving me at the Entrance Hall and the only thing I could think all day was not the scare of my toenails being ripped off my poor small roes or my eyeballs stretched out or, worse, my teddy bear’s head chopped off... It was that for the next two weeks I was going to be his girl, I was being close to him and that warm feeling in my heart-area seemed to spread to my vocal chords, because the only thing I wanted to do was to sing or squeal in utter delight.
And then I of course remembered that all of it, it wasn’t going to be real.
It would be nice if you could review and tell me what you thought about it. (: If its good or bad or whatever, I know I've got a lot room for improvement ^_^