Chapter 11 : This Could Not Get Any Worse.
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And yeah, occasionally, when he’s not being an arse (obviously these moments are very rare), I find myself unexplainably attracted to him. Maybe it’s those green eyes. Maybe it’s the way he looks when he’s thinking about something, the look on his face of rapt attention to something far, far away. Maybe it’s how he smiles. Maybe it’s the way his dark hair is always thick and glinting with light, even in the darkness.
Whatever it is, it’s driving me insane. Because, honestly – I don’t even like him. In fact, most of the time I really, really hate him.
But I just can’t help but wonder who the real Al Potter is. And I can’t help but think that…you know, maybe I might even like the real Al Potter. Who knows? Maybe he’s a nice kid.
As you can probably tell, this isn’t helping my efforts to be a bitch.
My hand worked on its own accord, adding strokes and hues to the canvas in front of me. I liked these moments of calm solitude, when I didn’t have to pretend or try or struggle to keep up – I could just let my guards down and be me. And yeah, I may be a sarcastic bitch, but I don’t enjoy it. Being horrible is actually quite draining.
“Oi, are you busy, James is – whoa.”
I whirled around as the door banged against the wall behind Al as he barreled into his room. Trying my best to cover up the canvas, I assumed an expression that I dearly hoped was innocent.
“What’s that?” He asked, shifting to the side so he could peer at the painting. I mirrored his actions.
“Nothing,” I said unconvincingly. My face was slowly turning red. I hated it when people looked at my paintings while I was still working on them. Something about it made me feel so exposed and vulnerable – because, yeah, my feelings were pretty dominant in my art, and most of the things I painted were stowed away in my closet.
“Definitely looks like something,” he remarked, inching the other way. I moved over again.
“Well, whatever it is, it’s not important, so you can – hey!”
Al had shoved me out of the way and was now regarding the painting with his head tilted to the side. I glared at him in incredulous disbelief – what the fucking hell?
“Oi, that was extremely rude,” I said icily, pushing him on the shoulder so that he had to step away from my easel.
“What is that supposed to be?” he asked, ignoring my admonishment. I looked back at the confusing whirlwind of colors. Jagged lines of red, swirls of pink, dashes of blue and green, long sloping lines of yellow and orange and purple – it was a mess of turmoil, sort of what I was feeling at the moment.
“I don’t know,” I said truthfully.
He contemplated it for another moment. “It looks like someone ate a paint pallet and then puked on the canvas.”
My eyes narrowed. I retract every single nice thing I said about him.
“Fuck off,” I snapped, shoving him again and turning back to the painting.
“Look,” he said hurriedly, stepping in front of the canvas, “I’m sure that your…art is extremely interesting –”
“Oi, I’m not appreciating that sarcastic tone you’re using.”
“ – and it must absolutely destroy you to be pulled away from such fantastic, beautiful work –”
“Are you planning on getting to a point anytime soon?”
“ – but James needs your help,” he finished, having cheerfully ignored everything I said to him. I crossed my arms and glared at him, cursing him to Hades and back for being so damn attractive. Oh, and then to Hades again. Because I’d rather he stayed down there instead of up here, where he irritates me on an hourly basis.
“What could he possibly use my help for?” I asked doubtfully.
Al looked solemn. “Girl troubles.”
“ – and I told her that I loved her, and she laughed at me! And then she told me I was taking this too seriously and we should probably break up.” James said, his voice sounding appalled. His dark hair was standing up in every angle imaginable, and his golden eyes looked dulled with hurt. He dropped his head down and fisted the top of his hair. “I just don’t get it,” he mumbled, “I really thought she loved me, too.”
I bit my lip and looked up at Al, who was standing in front of the loveseat where James and I sat. He met my gaze and shrugged, looking down at James with something like worry in his eyes.
I took a deep breath and put my hand on James’ shoulder. Okay, I don’t pretend to be overly compassionate, or some sort of amazing sympathetic person, but I’ve always been good at making people feel better. Maybe it’s the nice part of me trying to battle itself out into the open. Maybe something about a defeated person just sort of makes my heart ache a little. Maybe I care more than I want myself to believe.
Either way, James was hurt – and it made me feel hurt, too. For some unfathomable reason, I was upset.
“Some people,” I finally said quietly, brushing my hand over his back so I could wrap my arm around his broad shoulders, “are really big bitches.”
James let out a strangled laugh, and even Al couldn’t hold back a little chuckle.
“You may not realize it right away. And that’s okay, because you’re only human, right? You’re not supposed to pick up on everything. But what you’ve got to do once you figure it out is to get the hell away from that bitch,” I told him. James raised his head and turned to look at me. I smiled when I saw that he already looked a bit better, and his mouth quirked up as well. James Potter has got to be one of the most adorable people I’ve ever met.
“Think of it as a life lesson, James. You know better now. And yeah, you might have loved her, and this might really hurt. But you have to remember that everything happens for a reason. And the reason for this is that she wasn’t right for you.”
“How do I know who’s right for me?” James croaked.
I smiled again and pulled my arm away from shoulder, using that hand to brush some hair out of his eyes. Something about his expression reminded me so much of Scorpius when he was in one of his vulnerable moods.
“Once in your life, you’ll meet someone who’s iridescent,” I said softly, “and, after that – well, no one else compares. When you meet someone like that, don’t ever let her go.”
James’ face broke out into a wondering smile, and he pulled me into a hug, burying his face into my hair. “Thanks, Adele,” he said.
I pulled away and kissed him on the cheek, “Now go do something crazy, alright? It’ll help make you feel better.”
James gave me another crushing hug and stood up, his smile looking only slightly hurt. “You better keep her around for a long time, bro,” James told Al, giving him a little punch on the shoulder. Al rolled his eyes, but there was a small quirk to his mouth.
“Thanks Al,” James added.
“No problem, James.” And in those three words, I realized just how close these two brothers were. I couldn’t imagine Al Potter being close to anyone – he just seemed so aloof and uncaring all the time. Just imagining him talking and laughing with someone in a completely carefree way made my stomach clench a little. It all just seemed so…un-Al-Potter-Like. It all just seemed so human.
James walked out of the library, but I was so engrossed in watching Al and being lost in my curious thoughts that I didn’t even notice that he’d noticed and was staring right back. My eyes widened slightly at the realization, but I didn’t look away. For a long moment, we just stared at each other, both trying to figure the other out.
I wondered what he was thinking about, what he was feeling behind that mask.
“What?” I finally asked, my voice sounding slightly higher than usual.
Al raised his eyebrows in a move so subtle, most people wouldn’t have caught it.
I narrowed my eyes slightly. “What are you looking at?” I reiterated.
“What are you looking at?” he countered, one eyebrow going higher.
“I asked first.”
Green eyes sparkled with amusement. “Okay. You.”
I stared in confusion. “Me what?”
“I was looking at you,” he said calmly, indifferently. My stomach squirmed again – how could he be so frank about it?
“Oh,” I said lamely.
“What were you looking at?” he asked.
My eyes snapped up to meet his. I swallowed nervously. “You, I guess.”
He smiled so suddenly I had to take a moment and recover from the whiplash. “Okay,” he said.
“Okay…?” I repeated.
Then he turned around and walked out the door, with me staring after him and wondering what the hell just happened.
“Does this mean just a couple of enjoyable snogs, or an actual relationship? I’m going ballistic here, I can’t get her out of my head –”
“Scorpius, if you would just –”
“ – I mean, she’s always been hot, but right now she’s looking absolutely beautiful to me, and that makes no sense because, for Merlin’s sake, I’m Scorpius Malfoy; I don’t think anyone is beautiful –”
“Scorp, shut up!”
“ – and, Merlin, I think I actually like her, Adele. I’ve never liked anyone before, this feeling is so weird –”
“Scorpius! Shut the hell up and let me talk, god damn it!”
What is this, Come-To-Adele-With-Your-Girl-Problems Day?! Pretty soon I’ll have Al ambling up to me, hysterically proclaiming his love for some random chick he met on Diagon Alley.
Oh, what am amusing mental picture.
“Why did I even come to you?” Scorpius asked resentfully, pouting at me. I rolled my eyes and threw a ball of paper into the fire. It bounced off of his face and he let out a loud yelp.
“If you like Rose, ask her out,” I said to him.
“It’s not that easy!” Scorpius whined.
“Of course it is! You just have to go up to her and say ‘Hi Rose. Wanna date?’” I imitated his deep voice almost perfectly.
“Okay, first of all, I do not sound that ridiculous.” Yes you do. “And second, that is not how you’re supposed to ask someone out!” He sounded almost disapproving as he frowned up at me.
I threw my hands up in the air. “For Merlin’s sake, how the hell am I supposed to know, then? I’ve always been the one asked, not the one asking.”
“You’re supposed to be helping me, Addy!” Scorpius whined again. I threw another crumpled paper at him to get him to shut up with the incessant whining. It’s bloody annoying.
“I am helping you, you twat. Ask her out,” I repeated.
Scorpius was full-on glaring at me by this point. “If it was that easy, I would have done it already instead of coming to my useless sister.”
“Then why didn’t you?” I asked loudly. Merlin, I think I’m developing an ulcer. There’s been a definite drop in IQ points, I can tell you that much. Talking to Scorpius is detrimental to anyone’s brain capacities. Good thing Rose is so freakishly smart; it won’t make a shred of difference to her. What’s a brain cell or two when you’re the smartest witch of the generation?
“Her dad hates me!”
“Because it’s important to me!”
“Fuck, Adele – Because I don’t want her to be unhappy, god damn it!” Scorpius yelled up at me. For a second I stared at him in shock, not believing what just came out of his mouth. It sounded as though he…he…
“You’re in love with Rose?”
No freaking way.
Scorpius turned deep red. “Of course not, don’t be ridiculous,” he muttered. “I just like her a lot. Merlin, where have you been? Have I not been telling you this for the past twenty minutes?”
I slapped my hand to my face. “Scorpius. Ask her out. It’s not that hard. Her dad doesn’t hate you.” My words were muffled wearily against my arm.
“He definitely does.”
“Well, that’s too bad now, because he’s got a nephew who’s married to your sister! He’s going to have to accept the Malfoys – so just ask her out before I bust an artery,” I said angrily.
Scorpius stared up at me in a dazed sort of way. Great, now he’s deciding to act like even more of an idiot than he usually is.
“What?” I snapped.
“Merlin, Addy – you’re…you’re married,” he said slowly, his eyes wide.
“Congratulations,” I said seriously, “you’re officially the stupidest person I have ever known.”
“No – I mean…my baby sister is…married.”
“I’m only ten months younger than you, twathead! We were in the same year, for Merlin’s sake.” I rolled my eyes.
“Adele,” Scorpius said quietly. I looked down at him, and my bitchiness melted away. Damn these males and their vulnerable moments. Gets me right in my heart.
“Scorp, it’s not a big deal –” I started carefully.
“No, but it really is,” he said, “I’m supposed to protect you. I was supposed to protect you for a lot longer than I did – and now that you’re with Al…well…”
“I’ll just protect myself,” I said in a falsely-resigned voice, rolling my eyes but unable to stop the smile at my mouth.
“He better take good care of you, otherwise I’m going to –”
“Scorpius, can we just let the colorful threats go for now? Ask Rose out.” I changed the subject speedily, not wanting to have a conversation with Scorpius about all the various objects he was going to stick in uncomfortable places on Al’s body if he so much as batted an eyelash at me the wrong way.
Trust me, it was bad enough the first time. Especially because the victim in question was a guy that I actually liked at the time.
“Are you sure?” Scorpius said doubtfully, thankfully going along with the subject-change.
“Positive,” I said confidently. “I have to go now, okay? Ginny and Harry are going out, and I volunteered to make dinner –”
“Yeah, yeah. Go be a dutiful daughter-in-law,” Scorpius rolled his eyes.
He got another balled-up newspaper in the face. “Love ya, prathead.”
“You too, gitface.” Then with a grin and a faint popping noise, Scorpius was gone. I stared at the fireplace for a little while longer, wondering what the house would be like right now. I wondered if anyone missed me, or if the house was quieter without me banging around and singing at the top of my lungs as I painted or walked through a hallway. I wondered how big the house felt now that I was gone.
I wondered if anyone noticed at all.
Thunderstorms are beautiful. Yeah, over the noise of the booming, haunting thunder and the roar of steady rain, it’s not exactly possible to hear much, but…something about the way lightening flashes across the sky and rain pelts like falling crystals and thunder claps like rolling waves of energy makes everything about a storm feel completely magical.
So, I was, oddly enough, content as I made pasta sauce, humming cheerfully under my breath.
“Nana? Is that you? Whatever you’re making, could you please make more of it? It smells bloody amazin – holy crap.”
There was a short silence as Al took in my appearance: hair tied up in a messy bun, an apron over my shirt and shorts, and a wooden spoon clutched in my grasp.
“You can cook?” he finally asked incredulously.
“I can do everything,” I responded seriously, turning back to the simmering pasta sauce and mixing it a little. Al was right about one thing – it did smell bloody amazing.
“Right,” Al snorted. But he sounded a little doubtful of himself. He should be, too. I can do anything – comes with being a lady Malfoy. We’re taught to be perfect in all aspects. Good thing the personality lessons never worked on me; otherwise I couldn’t be here right now, making Al’s life hell. And that’s just tragic.
“Where are Lily and James?” I asked, trying to break the silence.
“Lily’s at her…boyfriend’s house. James is probably out destroying something with Fred,” Al said, his voice curling with disgust around the mention of Lily’s boyfriend. I rolled my eyes to myself.
“So I suppose it’s just us two, then?” I confirmed, glancing at him once, then grabbing some parmesan and grating it into the sauce.
“I suppose it is,” he said. He leaned against the counter next to the stove and stared intently at my hands. I decided to ignore him and his unsettling gaze and instead focus on seasoning this sauce to perfection, adding some basil leaves, oregano, a little more salt, some crushed red peppers for flavor, a dash of –
“Don’t. It looks perfect just as it is.” Al’s hand had caught mine before I could add pepper. I swallowed, staring at the way his fingers could curl around both my hand and the bottle. He didn’t even seem concerned about the heat that was rising from the pot and encasing our hands in a thick envelope of white steam.
Merlin, what the hell is wrong with me?
“Okay,” I muttered, pulling my hand away and setting the bottle down. I stirred the sauce a couple of more times to get rid of some nervous energy and turned off the stove, cooling the sauce to a perfect temperature with a flick of my wand.
“Aren’t you going to try it?”
“What?” My head snapped up to see that Al was still watching me work like some sort of anxious lunatic.
He rolled his eyes and nodded towards the sauce.
“Oh – yeah, I guess I should, er…spoon, spoon…” I muttered under my breath, whirling around with a frantic sort of energy. I couldn’t fathom quite why I was so nervous…but I was.
Just as I was about to start pulling open random drawers in the hopes of stumbling across a spoon, Al’s hand wrapped around my wrist and pulled me around towards him. I stumbled slightly, but managed to come face to face with him without greeting the ground first.
“You need to calm down,” he murmured, looking amused. My eyes widened as he dipped his finger straight into my beautiful sauce. Oi, you idiot! Your hands have been places I don’t even want to know! Don’t go dipping that in my goddamn sauce, you little –
“Huh?” I said oh-so-intelligently as he stuck his sauce-coated finger in front of my face.
“Try it,” he said.
“Off your finger?”
He looked annoyed. “Are you going to try it or not?”
Still staring warily at him, I closed my lips over his finger. Immediately, the flavor of the sauce hit my tastebuds, and I instinctively pressed my tongue closer to the source and sucked my cheeks inward to siphon the flavor into my mouth, my tongue curling around the sauce droplets and pushing them upwards –
And that’s when I realized that I was licking – no, sucking – sauce off of Al Potter’s finger. Using tongue.
I pulled away with a soft smacking sound, my face flushed. Al’s mouth was slightly open and his eyes were wider than usual, so I quickly looked at the ground to avoid his shocked stare. Look, I like good food, okay? I wasn’t trying to…seduce him or anything! Oh god, just the prospect of that is completely repulsive. No way in hell is that ever going to happen.
Al cleared his throat awkwardly. “Good?” he asked, his voice a little rougher than usual.
I nodded at the ground, not trusting myself to speak without cracking my voice fifty times. So he dipped the same finger into my sauce again, ignoring my horrified squeak – think about the germs! – and tried it, too.
I made a disgusted sound. “You just swallowed my saliva.”
He shrugged. “Bound to happen sooner or later. Let’s eat.”
My mouth fell open – bound to happen sooner or later? What’s that supposed to mean? Does it…it…oh, god. He doesn’t actually believe –?
Fucking shit…he does.
Nervous emotion was fluttering through me again once I realized what he was implying, but he seemed completely oblivious to it – or at least really tactfully pretending he didn’t notice – and he picked up the pot of sauce and walked it casually to the table, setting it in the middle.
“Bring the pasta, will you?” he called over his shoulder. I jumped slightly at his unexpected voice, and scrambled towards the pasta, using Wingardium Leviosa to levitate it to the table, since I honestly couldn’t trust myself to maintain any balance when I was so clearly imbalanced.
Once again – what the hell is wrong with me?
He went back and got plates and forks as I put the pasta down, and I served the both of us in silence, too aware of the way his eyes were watching my every move.
And that’s when I realized why I was so nervous – the kid was trying his best to figure me out. I was his puzzle, his riddle, and he was intent on trying to solve that puzzle. Something about it really irked me. I’m not some complicated mind game that needs to be cracked. That would be Al Potter, Mr. Confusing himself. But he was still trying, and that made me anxious. What had he said?
I’ll make you fall in love with me.
I had laughed, at the time. But now…it seems like he’s completely and fully capable of it.
And that scares me.
I finished drizzling generous helpings of sauce of the pasta, and glanced quickly at Al to let him know that he could take it. Just as Al brushed up next to me to grab his plate, there was a particularly loud shot of thunder, and the lights went out.
Something pressed itself instinctively against my arm, and I resisted the urge to shy away from his touch. I’d probably trip over thin air and hurt myself.
“Stupid shitty muggle crap,” Al muttered resentfully.
“Lumos,” I whispered. My wand tip glowed suddenly bright in the middle of the kitchen, illuminating his face in ways that made him look incredible.
I quickly put my wand on the table.
Merlin, I admitted he was attractive! Shouldn’t that be enough for you?! Must I go through this torture?
Al shook his head at my wand. “That’s not going to work – we should probably go get some candles or something.”
I pushed him into his chair so hard he literally fell into it, letting out a surprised yelp in the process. “No candles,” I said, my voice edging on hysteria.
“My arse hurts,” he complained, glaring at me.
“Merlin, they’re just candles. I’m not going to start getting all weird and romantic on you just because we’re having a candlelight dinner. Please don’t flatter yourself,” he scoffed, rolling his eyes.
I gave him a dirty look.
“What the hell is your problem anyway?” he asked.
I let out a bitter laugh. “What’s my problem? I have no bloody idea, that’s what my problem is. It’s driving me insane.”
“You make no sense whatsoever,” he said after a couple of seconds of staring at me blankly.
“Good,” I muttered.
“Look, are you going to let me go and get some candles, or do I have to run for it?” he finally said in exasperation.
“Neither,” I decided.
“I’m going to run for it,” he threatened, putting his hand on the table so he could brace himself to get up.
“I’m going to tackle you like an American Muggle football player if you do,” I promised.
“I’m going,” he said, his eyebrows raised.
“Go ahead,” I told him in the same tone.
“I’m really going.”
“I’m really, seriously going to –”
“Just go, for Merlin’s sake!”
“You suck all the fun out of life,” he told me. Then he bolted.
He only got about ten feet before I caught up jumped on him, causing him to stagger and fall with a loud, resounding crash, bringing me down on top of him. The house rang with it for a moment, and then everything was still, save for the faint noise of rumbling thunder in the background.
“Gotcha,” I grinned victoriously.
“Owww,” he moaned, his eyes screwed up in pain.
“Oh, you’re such a big baby.”
His hands tightened unconsciously around my waist as he let out a hiss of pain. “I think I hit the back of my head a little too hard,” he said through gritted teeth.
The smirk slid right off my face.
“Oh, no,” I said frantically, sliding my hands behind his head so I could feel for a possible bump. I steadied myself on my elbows so I wouldn’t go flopping forward, but I was still a little too close for comfort. I could clearly see his jaw straining, which told me that he had his teeth tightly clenched. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to –”
“Shouldn’t you be glad to have caused me pain?” he asked tightly, his eyes opening slightly to glare up at me.
“Of course not!” I blurted out before I could stop myself. My voice was high with surprise and regret. “I wouldn’t intentionally hurt anyone. I’m going to be a Healer.”
There was a short silence of surprise from the both of us. Fuck, why did I let that slip?
“Well, that’s relieving,” he finally grunted.
“I’m going to feel for a bump, okay?” I said softly, deciding to screw the bitch act and make sure I hadn’t hurt the poor guy. “Just sit up slowly.”
He slowly sat up, propping himself up on his arms. His motion pushed me a upright as well, and I realized that I had been straddling him in the middle of the floor, my chest completely pressed against his, practically lying on him, with absolutely no problem. I was afraid to let go of his head, though, because the pressure of my hands was making the pain a little better. So I decided to continue sitting on him, and if he said anything, I would knee him in the ribs.
Because, yes, that’s how my dysfunctional mind deals with being accused of straddling my husband on the floor, even when I am doing just that.
Don’t judge me.
Closing my eyes to heighten my sense of touch (and also to make sure I didn’t get distracted by his much-too-close face), I slowly ran my fingers over the back of his head, trying to be as gentle as possible. They traveled over a bump, and he let out a little hiss of pain, which caused me to bite my lip in regret.
“You might have a minor concussion,” I informed him quietly.
“Hmmm,” he said, and I felt the vibrations of his voice through my whole body.
“You probably shouldn’t sleep until later,” I continued.
“I’ll make sure you don’t.”
“Are you prolonging this diagnosis just to continue straddling me?”
My eyes snapped open in annoyance, and I saw that he was smirking at me in amusement.
“Don’t you wish,” I spat bitterly, getting off and standing up. “Let’s go eat.”
OMG VALIDATION IS ONLY AN HOUR HELL FREAKING YES PLEASE REVIEW I LOVE THE VALIDATORS THAT IS ALL PEACE.
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