Chapter 26 : Off-kilter
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Before we knew it, the news of Aidan’s awakening was spreading around the castle like a bad case of herpes. We had barely stepped foot outside of the Hospital Wing, and yet it seemed like everyone already knew that Hogwart’s Resident Heartbreaker was back in—not to mention ready for—action. I don’t know how it happened, it just did.
Everywhere you went, there were bets being lost (yes, actual bets had been placed on my brother’s almost-fatal coma), tears of gratitude being shed (mostly by third-year girls) and, more importantly, celebrations being planned.
And by celebrations, I mean a string of ridiculous, ill-fated RoR bashes in which everyone consumed buckets of alcohol, did a countless number of youtube-worthy, terrifically stupid things (I vaguely remember Freddy last night, trying to do the Macarena whilst wearing nothing except for a very strategically-placed party hat), and then later threw up half the liquid content in their bodies.
To me, these parties sounded about as enjoyable as playing charades with an epileptic troll... but Dom had badgered me so much to come with her that eventually, I relented.
So I would get all gussied up in my jeans and t-shirt and let myself get dragged along from drunken party to drunken party, where I usually spent most my time loitering by the drinks table, sipping on Butterbeer, and quietly observing as my friends made complete tossers out of themselves.
There was one memorable moment when everyone hoisted Aidan up on to their shoulders and carried him around, only to accidentally drop him on some unfortunate first-year. There was the other time where Fred and Potter organized a sixty-people game of drunken Duck Duck Goose (which later had to be ended after someone slipped and fell in their own throw up—gross). Then there was the time when Dom carried around a lamp, calling it her best friend and screaming at anyone who dared of touch it (halfway through the night, Mr. Lampy—as he was called—later had to be pried out of Dom’s grasp while she clung to it, half-sobbing and half-singing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from the movie Titanic—gotta say, I’ve known Dom for about five years...and that would have to be one of her low moments).
My friends are so weird.
“I don’t see why we can’t just have a simple sit down dinner like normal people,” I huffed moodily one day as the five of us trekked to the Greenhouses for Herbology. “I mean, an ice sculpture, Dom? Was that really necessary?”
It was a beautiful morning—snowing with those fat, fluffy kind of snowflakes that you just can’t help but ooh and ahh at because they’re so pretty. The giant fir trees that surrounded the castle looked sleepy, all covered in white and drooping with sparkling icicles. Everything was so peaceful as we marched across the Grounds, stomping through giant dollops of pure, frosting-esque snow, our breaths coming out in little puffs in front of us.
This Hogwarts’ winter wonderland, however, was lost on all my friends. It was the night after one of our biggest parties yet, in which Dom had conjured a life-size ice statue made solely of Aidan’s face... This, of course, resulted in countless incidents of tongues (and...erm, other body parts) getting stuck to the ice sculpture. Needless to say, it had been a complete disaster.
When I so kindly pointed this out though, Dom’s pear green eyes widened to the shape of saucers, and she stopped right in her tracks, giving a gasping shriek of outrage. This set off a chain reaction in which Aidan, Freddy and Potter all winced, clutched their heads, and groaned. Simultaneously.
Apparently, hangovers and loud noises don’t mix well. Who woulda' thought.
“Jesus Christ, Dom!”
“Yeah, indoor voices please—”
“—we’re outdoors, you moron—”
“I don’t bloody care. Just please, I’m begging you, for the sake of humanity... shut the fuck up.”
Dom did the classic ‘roll-the-eyes-and-toss-the-hair’ move, shaking out a sprinkling of white flurries from her honey-red tresses. “Wimps,” she scoffed, and except for a couple of scathing glares, the Tweedle Trio didn’t reply.
Despite the fact that the boys were pretty much experiencing Dante’s fourth level of hell right now, Dom was as chipper as a chipmunk. I mean, Aidan was reduced to monosyllabic words and the occasional grunt, Potter was wearing rayban sunglasses because the glare from the snow was “too fucking bright for my motherfucking eyes”...and the only thing Freddy was capable of at the moment was breathing...very, very gently.
Dom, however, was hopping around like a member of the Lollypop clan on acid, which even I found annoying despite the fact that, last night, the only thing I had drunk had been about nine packs of Capri Suns.
What can I say? I’m a party animal.
Some nights, I even go to bed at nine... thirty. Yeah, watch out.
“All I’m saying,” I huffed defensively as we continued to trudge along, “is that we probably could have done without the giant frozen replica of Aidan’s face. Just saying.”
Aidan nodded profusely, his cheeks flushed from the chill, snowflakes clinging to his tousled mop of hair. Even though I had insisted on him bundling up in about fifteen layers (and two scarves), he still looked cold, and it was all I could do to resist the urge to start coddling him again.
“Yeah, no more ice sculptures. The things that were done to my face...” He gave a jerky shudder. “Never before have I felt so violated.”
Fred snickered. “Which reminds me, I’m pretty sure certain parts of my body are still frozen solid. And a little swollen, too.”
“Woah, TMI Freddy!”
“Seriously mate, there’s a line—”
“—and you just crossed it. No one wants to hear that... Gross.”
“What?” He looked around, confused by our disgusted faces. “I’m talking about my fingers. I got them stuck on Aidan’s ice-nose last night and now they hurt.”
As the rest of us rolled our eyes, Freddy pouted petulantly, rubbing his hands together and blowing some heat onto them. Why none of us had conjured a Warming Spell yet, I had no idea.... Well, I 'spose it was ‘cos the Tweedle Trio was too hung-over to tell which ends of their wands were which, nobody trusted Dom with magic anyway, and as for me...well, I guess I just enjoyed watching my friend suffer like this.
So I have a couple of sadistic tendencies. What can I say? It kind of comes with the whole ‘being a teenage girl’ thing.
Potter watched this all with a devilish smirk unfurling on his face, and I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I wasn’t the only sadist here. “Alright then,” he began, voice husky and a little rougher than usual, “all in favor of no ice sculptures next time, say aye.”
“Aye,” everyone but Dom chorused together.
“It’s settled then,” Potter nodded firmly. “Ice sculptures are a no-go at any future RoR bash. Also, Dom really sucks at party planning.”
“You guys just don’t know the meaning of class,” she grumbled, kicking a nearby mound of snow and sending swirls of cold powder everywhere—resulting in several flakes getting stuck to her nose. She must not have noticed, though, because after she finished her little mini-tantrum, Dom continued to march forward, oblivious to the fact that she currently looked like a coke addict... And I couldn’t help but chuckle a little. With friends like these, who needs a loony bin?
Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who had noticed. Potter had given a little snort of laughter, and for one brief, terrifying second, we locked eyes, a beam of understanding stretching between us. Something inside my chest gave a little twitch.
Confused and a bit dazed, I quickly flitted my gaze to the ground, flushing beet red. But Potter didn’t stop staring, just continued to bore white-hot holes through the back of my skull, his face unreadable behind his sunglasses. Damn it all.
This little exchange had gone unnoticed by the rest of the group, which was just as well, because so had all of Potter and I’s other awkward, tension-filled interactions. Like a couple days ago, when we had been eating breakfast and Potter’s knee accidentally knocked into mine under the table. I had sent a mouthful of orange juice spewing everywhere, and while everyone else dried themselves off, attributing the incident to another ‘Spaztastic Aggy Moment,’ Potter had caught my gaze and shot me a tiny, baneful, knowing little smirk.
Ever since the snog, I’d pretty much taken the ‘avoid all problems until they go away/blow up in your face’ route. So while Potter remained about as cool as a cucumber, I was ducking down random corridors and using first years as human shields whenever I spotted a shock of tousled black hair, or a red-and-gold tie. I was jumpy, paranoid, jittery... And despite all my duck-and-cover precautions, I still couldn’t avoid Potter forever because Aidan was back, and that meant the five of us were hanging out... All. The. Time.
So Potter and I would lock eyes, and I’d choke on my drink. Or he’d accidentally brush his arm against mine, and I’d jump away like I’d just received a 3000-volt shock—which, incidentally, was what skin-on-skin contact with him actually felt like...for me, at least. And while Potter seemed to be enjoying himself immensely (I swear he was doing some of these things on purpose, just to watch me squirm), I was about two days away from a mental breakdown.
We had to talk, that much I knew. Because I was driving myself crazy with all of these unknowns running through my head, analyzing every glance, every word that passed between us. Not to mention the fact that I was still sorting out my feelings—a feat easier said than done, let me tell you. I was angry and shocked and panicky and just...confused. I mean, how could we have gone from hating each other to snogging each other just like that? No prelude, no warning... Just like that. It didn’t make even a modicum of sense. And why was Potter so...unfazed? It was like what happened didn’t mean anything to him, whereas I was barely struggling through the aftermath of it all.
And while my Slytherin non-confrontational side was dreading the thought of walking up to Potter and striking up a conversation (I mean, what was I gonna say... ‘Hey, so we snogged a couple days ago and I’m just wondering what you thought about it? Or if you even remembered it at all?’), I knew it had to be done. There was only one other option: spiraling downwards into insanity. And since I was already pretty much insane, I didn’t think that was possible.
So in short, there was no other option.
Dom suddenly jumped up in front of me, jerking me out of my little mental-tirade. She gave a sharp gasp—I could practically see the light bulb going off in her head—and snapped her fingers. “I’ve got it! I have an idea for the next party!”
The rest of us stopped in our tracks, exchanging wary glances. This could not be good. A look of solemn concern on his face, Freddy cleared his throat and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Dom,” he said gently, “We already told you—we’re not getting a moon bounce.”
She shook her head furiously, “No, no, I’m talking about something bigger. Something better than a moon bounce.”
Aidan’s eyebrows crept up his forehead in apprehension. “Er, better than a moon bounce?”
Dom nodded, a demonic smile slowly stretching across her face. Suddenly, the air around us seemed to get much colder. I could practically feel everyone hold their breath as we all waited, hesitantly, for my best friend to announce her next psychotic scheme.
“Yes, Freddy,” she purred, “I’m talking about a costume party.”
Six hours later, we weren’t even at the dance yet... And already, there was chaos everywhere.
“Too tacky! Too bland! Too—ARGH! I haven’t a thing to wear! I might as well just go naked!”
I watched, poker-faced, as my best friend threw the entire contents of her wardrobe into the air in a wonderful display of psycho-bitchiness/frustration. Brightly-colored scraps of lace, satin, sequins—and oh god, was that spandex?—all fluttered through the air in a quasi-whirlwind of clothing... And in the eye of the storm was Dominique Weasley, her face glowing pink with distress, wearing nothing but a wonderbra, a pair of booty shorts and, curiously enough, a pink feather boa.
During The Great Typhoon of Dom’s Wardrobe, a sheer camisole thing had fallen on my head. I picked it off and let it drop to the ground. “Dom, calm down. We’ll find you something.”
“No we won’t! I’m a fat ugly troll and nothing will look good on me! Whose idea was it to have a bloody costume party anyway?”
I decided that saying ‘umm... yours?’ would probably not be beneficial to Dom’s crisis right now (or, for that matter, my health—Dom has a funny habit of attacking and strangling anyone she's angry at), so I just sat tight from my perch on her bed, my lips zipped stubbornly closed.
Turns out, though, that I didn’t have to say anything, because she suddenly sprung upwards excitedly, a little idea dawning her. “Oh, I’ve got it! I’ll just wear my black leotard and go as catwoman! Yes, I’m a genius!”
I wanted to say something encouraging to this, but all I could manage was, “You own a leotard?’
“Yeah, it’s leather.”
“Leather?” I choked, “What would you ever do with a leather leotard?” But my disbelief went unheard as Dom started to search frantically throughout our dormitory, like a mother who had just lost her child in a supermarket, muttering furiously to herself all the meanwhile. She overturned chairs, looked under beds, behind dressers...all in search for her beloved leather leotard.
What has my life come to. Seriously. I would like to know.
“Got it!” Dom emerged, victorious, from behind her dresser, clutching some shiny, slick-looking material. She waved it about, dangling it in front of my face. “What do you think?”
The leotard simply screamed queen—drag, that is. ‘Ta-da!’ it seemed to say, glinting coquettishly in the light. One only needed to imagine the jazz-hands and Cabernet music and the whole spectacle was complete.
But if there was anyone who could pull it off, it’d be Dominique Weasley.
“Perfect,” I said.
Dom winked, cocking a saucy hip, and grinned. “I know.”
As she wiggled into her costume, I flopped backwards on the bed, huffing an exasperated sigh. It was ten o’ clock, thirty minutes before the party started, and I still hadn’t decided what I was going to wear. While Dom could show up wearing nothing but a barrel and some tube socks and still look gorgeous, I was utterly clueless to this whole ‘sexy-sultry thing.’ Plus, I didn’t own a costume, nor was I creative enough to think up of one.
In short, I was screwed.
I stayed like that for a while, sprawled out on her bed, staring at the velvety, emerald green canopy, as Dom did her makeup and put the finishing touches on her catwoman costume—a tail, some ears, even a cute pink little nose. When she was finally done, it was about ten twenty. I still didn't have a costume but Dom—her eyes all sultry and smudged with silver eye shadow, skin exfoliated and moisturized to a sheen, peachy glow, and honey and rose tresses spiraling into perfect, so-shiny-I-can-see-my-reflection waves—looked absolutely stunning.
I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy—which was only made worse by the tidal wave of dread currently churning around in my stomach. Potter was going to be at this party, no doubt in some ridiculous getup, being doted on by a bunch of giggly girls wearing slutty costumes... In comparison to them, I might as well go to the party dressed like a hobgoblin. Not to mention that Potter, of all people, being on my mind right now was not exactly conducive to a good mood.
Dom, who had been glued to the mirror for the past twenty minutes while trying to perfect her eyeliner, suddenly whipped around. “Aggy!” she cried out, realization dawning on her. “You’re not dressed yet!”
“Nope,” I said matter-of-factly from my spread-eagled position on her bed.
“Well what are you going to wear?”
“Nooooo idea.” Okay, so maybe I wasn’t exactly putting my 110% effort into this. Sue me. There were dozens and dozens of girls out there who could out-gorgeous, not to mention out-slut, me in so many ways. I mean, they probably knew all the makeup tricks in the book, while I could barely put on eyeliner without blinding myself. Where was the justice in that? I might as well bloody get it over with and just accept defeat right now.
Dom, in one valiant sweep, cast aside her eyeliner and marched up to the bed, grabbing my wrists and tugging. “Unacceptable. You are getting your lazy-arse over here because we need to find the perfect, just-slutty-enough skirt to show it off. Capiche?”
“Nothing is going to be “showing off” my arse,” I said adamantly, but already Dom had pulled me to a standing position and was rummaging through The Ground Zero that was our dormitory, looking for something suitable (or rather, slutatble) enough for me to wear.
“I know I have something here...” she murmured to herself, tossing clothes hitherto and thitherto. It was really no use though. Just one look at Dom’s perfect hour-glass physique, clad in leather and fishnets, and I knew I was done for.
“Really Dom, it’s okay... You don’t need to get me anything. I’m fine the way I am.”
She stopped in her hunt, turning around to shoot me a no nonsense glare. “Don’t be stupid, Agatha. I’ll find something”
“No, seriously, don’t even bother—”
“—no, I said I’ll find something, just wait a sec—”
“Really, it’s no big deal, I can just—”
“Need some help?”
Both of us startled at the familiar voice. Dom dropped the pile of clothes she was holding, straightening up with a ridiculous squeak of leather. “Who’s there?” she said sharply.
Evelyn Stanford’s glossy blonde head peeked out from the drawn curtains of her bed, which Dom and I had previously mistaken to be empty. Her face was a thoughtful, eyebrows drawn together, eye eager and ready to help.
“Is that you, Stanford?” I said redundantly, eyebrow raised. My tone was reigned in, not to its full potential of hostility, but there was still an edge to it. An edge that, I’m sure, Evelyn didn’t hesitate to pick up.
“No, it’s Santa Claus,” she snapped back, before swiveling her pointed glare to Dom (or, more specifically, her barely-there outfit), “Ho, ho, ho.”
“Ah, now there’s the Evilyn we know and hate,” Dom retaliated, unfazed by the jab at her virtue, “how can we help Her Bitchiness today?”
Evelyn gave a humorless laugh, pushing back her curtains and stepping daintily onto the hardwood floors. “More like how can I help you? My senses are picking up a fashion crisis here, and I’d like to offer my assistance.”
“You’re kidding me,” I said flatly. For a minute, I almost considered rushing towards the window to see if there was a herd of pigs flying out there, perhaps playing a casual game of Quidditch “You want to help us.”
Evelyn gave an exasperated sigh, obviously fed up by our dim-witted idiocy. She shook out her glossy sheet of hair, cocking a hip—and for a ridiculous moment, I was reminded of Dom from five minutes ago.
“Look,” she began, voice high and snotty like usual, “I know that, for some unfathomable reason, you two seem to dislike me—” I snorted at this, “but...Well, now that I’m with Freddy, I’d like to... Start over. Make amends. You know. Whatever.”
Oh yeah. Freddy. The guy who not only attempted to expose Cooper Fallon, her then-boyfriend, as the lying, conniving prick he is, but also managed to completely destroy Evelyn's entire social life in the process.
Wow. Until now, I hadn’t truly realized that Freddy had been the inadvertent cause of Evelyn’s exile to Social Siberia. Wonder how he’s gonna explain that one.
He should probably just come clean and tell her the truth. That’d be the mature, grown-up thing to do.
Ooooor he could just shove everything into a little box inside his head and never talk about it until one inevitable day, everything comes back to blow up in his face That could work too.
As Dom and Evelyn began arguing over various outfit choices, I slumped down back onto the bed, gazing vacantly into the canopy, a thick, endless sea of emerald. I felt tired. And not just physically, but emotionally. I felt like a roaring whirlpool of feelings, and like there was no one out there who I could talk to. Not even Dom, not Freddy, especially not Aidan. I mean, I could barely understand my own feelings right now... So how could anyone else? I’m not really a fan of the age-old ‘I’m-an-angsty-teenager-and-nobody-gets-me-blah-blah’ cliche, but that’s honestly what it felt like at the moment.
Potter was supposed to hate me. But now I wasn’t so sure. Ever since that kiss, everything’s been unbalanced, off-kilter. We used to have a hate-filled, terribly unhealthy relationship—and I was happy with it. It could have stayed that way and I would have been utterly dandy. But noooo, he just had to go and muck it up like he always does. That seems to be Potter’s main priority in life. Mucking things up—’things’ being my life, well-being, and general sanity, of course. And he was bloody good at it, too. Aidan’s just woken up. My friends and my life are finally being pieced back together...And yet here I am, in a perpetual state of inner-ranting, agonizing over one, simple little snog. Honestly, only Potter can turn a kiss into some form of mind- torture. That takes skill.
Everything was supposed to be good right now, and yet I was unhappy.
You know what? I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep up with this vicious cycle of...of whatever this is. I mean, I was about to 'go and get my slut on; (Dom’s words, not mine) so that I could attend a drunken, typical teenage party and make drunken, terribly stupid decisions. I was about to have fun. I wanted to throw caution to the wind, let loose, go wild. No more thinking about Potter or snogs or pointless, troubling feelings. I was fed up with that stuff. From now on, there would be no more long, angsty inner-monologues, or mental tirades and rants. There was only thing I wanted to say right now, and that was:
Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it. That was my mantra for the night.
“Potter and I snogged.”
Like I said, fuck it.
Dom and Evelyn, who seemed to have been in the middle of some kind of tug-of-war with a red satin thingy, suddenly froze.
I couldn’t look at either of them. I just sat there, staring intently at my cuticles, waiting for the impending explosion. Dom was going to have a fit, of course. Things were going to thrown, glass about to be broken... The dormitory would be a mess after this. The poor house-eleves won’t know what hit them.
After what seemed like two agonizing hours, I finally looked up, trying to gauge their expressions. Evelyn’s perfectly arched eyebrows were raised in surprise, her minty green eyes bright and—dare I say it—looking a little impressed. Dom, on the other hand, was a blank slate. For a moment, her face looked clenched together, just a pile of dusty pieces that had been constructed into some sort of facade.
My heart leaped in amazement as, just like that, Dom shrugged everything off like it was no big deal and went back to yanking on that red-satiny thing. Evelyn shrugged too and pulled back, and once again they were engaged in that same stupid little game of tug-of-war, grunting and hissing and cussing at each other, as if nothing had even happened.
“What?” I said loudly over their endless stream of profanity, rising from the bed. “That’s it?”
I stuck my hands to my hips and turned to my best friend, fixing her with a full out glare. I mean, was one single exclamation of surprise too muh to ask for? But she wouldn’t even look at me. She was too concentrated on that damn satiny thingy (incidentally, what was that? Was it a scarf? Was it a skirt? Like there was a difference... Dom’s hemlines were all so ridiculously short that it was impossible to distinguish one of her skirts from a handkerchief).
Evelyn’s eyes flickered towards Dom as well, oddly curious, and for a moment we both stared at her. Waiting. I mean, it was no secret that Dominique Weasley had a temper—in fact, I had fully expected her to go all Real Housewives of Orange County on my ass. But here she was, as cool as a cucumber... She’d just found out that I’d snogged my archenemy—and her cousin—without even batting a lash.
“You’re not going to say anything?” Evelyn said, finally letting go of the UFG (Unidentified Flimsy Garment). Dom stumbled backwards a bit, triumphantly clutching her prize.
“No, of course not. I mean, it was about time. Your sexual tension was through the roof. We’ve all seen it coming,” Dom remarked flippantly, smoothing out the UFG and revealing it to be a miniskirt so short, I could practically hear my mother cringing all the way from here.
“So you’re not mad?” I asked, voice high with incredulity. I knew I was pushing my luck here, and that I should just accept Dom’s blase attitude, seeing as I’d been expecting much worse, but I couldn’t let it go. It amazed me that Little Miss Drama Queen, the girl who practically went through a three-act, tragic play whenever she broke a nail, was acting... cool about this.
“Mad? Why would I be mad? Fred owes me three galleons now!”
“Three gall—Wait, what?” My mouth dropped open as, from next to me, Evelyn gave a soft bark of disbelieving laughter. “Are you telling me you guys bet on us?”
Dom looked between Evelyn and I for a moment, her expression almost saying ‘duh, what else would we be doing?’ Like betting on the love lives of your two mutual friends—who just so happen to hate each other—was completely normal.
“Son! That’s fucking priceless!” Evelyn exclaimed, and I watched in amazement as she reached up to give Dom a high five. I kid you not, they were bonding. Over this.
I grappled for words for a moment, looking between the two of them, trying to make sense of it all. Finally, I grabbed my best friend by the shoulders, turning her roughly so she could look me dead in the eye. “Dom, I don’t think you understand.”
“What’s there to understand?” She scoffed. “You guys snogged. End of story. Now can we please get back to outfit-planning?”
“Outfit-planning? How can you be thinking of outfit-planning at a time like this?”
“Well, I for one am not going to the party looking like Drabby McGrannyPanties... I mean, Aidan’s gonna be there. And Potter... Don’t you wanna get dressed up for your man, Aggy?”
Evelyn snorted at this.
“My man? No, no, no... No, no, no, no! I don’t think you understand, Dom. Potter isn’t my man.”
“Oh, so he’s just your snog-buddy then?”
“I—no! Shut it, Evelyn!”
“Just trying to help, no need to have a cow...”
“The only cow around here is you!” Okay, not my best comeback, but it was the best I could do on short notice.
Before Evelyn and I could dissolve into more bickering though, Dom gently peeled my hands off her shoulders, clasping them together in her own. Caught surprised by such a strange, motherly action, I suddenly fell silent.
“Look, Agatha.” Her pear-green eyes were, for once, gentle. “I know that you and Potter are...complicated. And I know that, what with everything that’s happened lately, things are all different and muddled and scary... But tonight’s not the night to worry about that. Tonight’s the night to do something crazy, like dance drunkenly on a table or take fashion advice from Evelyn Stanford. And trust me, that's crazy. You’ve pratically got to be certifiably insane to do that.”
“Offence taken,” Evelyn piped up dryly, eyebrow cocked in flat disdain.
“But anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that... Well, sometimes you just have to forget about all the big stuff and be someone else for a while. Because we all have regrets and worries and consequences to face...But sometimes you just have to save those for another day.”
Dom shook her head fiercely, her grip on my hands tightening. “Aggy, you have to realize that you’re human. And yes, you make mistakes. Mistakes like snogging your worst enemy, mistakes that you’d promised yourself you’d never make. But the thing is... We’re teenagers. We’re meant to fuck up. And call me crazy, but I believe there are are some mistakes that are supposed to be made, and some promises that are made to be broken.”
There was a long silence as Dom’s last word lingered meaningfully in the air between us. Staring into my best friend’s eyes, I was completely blown away. I had no idea what to say, so instead I tried to use my gaze to communicate the things I couldn’t put in words. Like how it was amazing that she could know me better than I know myself. Or how I’d be totally lost without her. Or how I know I sometimes underestimate her, but I’d never truly realized how wise my best friend was.
This deep moment was interrupted, however, by a classic, ever-popular slow clap—courtesy of Evelyn Stanford, of course.
“Not that that wasn’t totally inspiring,” she said, words paper-dry with sarcasm, “but the party’s about to start and we have to get there now, because I seriously need a drink after that little cheesy, these-are-the-days-of-our-lives speech you just gave. Seriously, this isn’t High School fucking Musical. You better get your head out of your arse, Weasley, because right now you’re just talking shit.”
“Oh Evelyn, I love how we can always count on you to mock and demoralize us. It’s such a comforting thought.”
“Okay!” I interjected, cutting off that oh-so-friendly exchange of words. “As much as I hate to admit it, Evelyn’s right. The party starts in five minutes, and I still have no idea what to wear.”
Suddenly, Dom turned towards Evelyn, a slow grin creeping across her face as, almost simultaneously, Evelyn turned towards Dom. Much to my amazement and fear (seriously, how could they go from ‘whorebag’ to practically reading each others’ minds in three seconds?), the two shared a look. A look that I did not like at all.
“Oh don’t worry, Aggy.” Easy for you to say. “We have just the thing for you...”
I should probably be worried. I mean, best case scenario, they were going to put me in a super slutified outfit that had my arse hanging out one end and my cleavage bursting out the other. I was probably going to end up going through the night fidgeting in a too-tight, too-short dress as random blokes ogled at me and Aidan tried to find the nearest nunnery to ship me off to.
In short, this could not end well.
But as I watched Dom and Evelyn start to frantically whisper to each other, no doubt planning out the next steps to my slutimorphosis, I found myself not caring. In fact, I was almost a little...giddy. I mean, here I was, healthy, alive, with two of the craziest psycho-bitches in all of Hogwarts (one of who was wearing a leather leotard), and the night was just beginning. We were about to go to a crazy, teenage party and see our friends and, more importantly, see Potter.
Honestly, I had no idea what was in store for the three of us, but I was planning to find out.
Like I said, it was time to just let everything go, stop with the constant worrying and fretting, and...well, just fuck it.
First rule of RoR parties:
You don’t talk about RoR parties.
Second rule: once you’re in a RoR party, you’re in. There’s no coming out unless you are completely one-hundred-percent sober (trust me, there are tests). We wouldn’t want Filch to find some drunken teenager roaming around the castle at two thirty in the morning, now would we? That’d just be poor taste.
Last, and most important rule: what happens in a RoR party stays in a RoR party. You hooked up with so-and-so’s boyfriend last night? Gave a third-year an inebriated, impromptu lap-dance while everyone else was watching? Too bad. Next morning, no one’s going to want to hear about it. Don’t mention it in class, in the hallways, in the Great Hall during breakfast (everyone’s too hung-over anyways). No one. Wants. To. Hear. It. Anything that goes down in the RoR is left in the RoR, and that’s just the way it is.
Most of the time, anyway.
I gotta hand it to the Tweedle Trio (god, I’ve missed calling them that), they know how to throw a party. Walking into the Room of Requirement was like getting slapped in the face by a frenzied cornucopia of flashing lights, thumping bass, and screaming people.
The room was cavernously huge, high-ceilinged with old-fashioned, Gothic arches that contrasted starkly with the epileptic, rave-style interior decorations. First off, there was a giant banner stretching from one wall to the other, proclaiming, ‘CONGRATS ON NOT BEING DEAD, AIDAN!’ in glow-in-the-dark, flashing letters. But it was barely visible, seeing as the entire room was completely bathed in black light. Which basically meant that you couldn’t see a thing, save for the occasional flash of white clothing or neon paint, which was, conveniently enough, splattered everywhere—on the walls, on the floor—people were even squirting it at each other as they had little ‘paint battles.’
Looking above, there was a starry sky replicated on the ceiling, except instead of giving off the normally serene ‘twinkle-twinkle, each star was a miniature strobe light that pulsed wildly to music, flashing white light onto the top of peoples’ heads, outstretched arms and drink glasses as everyone danced together, bumping and gyrating in a highly inappropriate fashion. A techno beat grinded out from invisible speakers, so loud it made my skull rattle and my thoughts shake.
As we entered the room, Evelyn let loose a very loud expletive, her sharp eyes taking in our surroundings, but it went unheard over all the music. Next to her, Dom whistled slowly. “Merlin’s Beard, how many people do you think are here?”
I couldn’t bother counting. First of all, it was too dark. And second of all, the pulsing crowd was so big it’d be impossible. “No idea,” I yelled over the music, “I didn’t know this many people actually went to Hogwarts.”
“Fuckin’ A,” Evelyn nodded in agreement, “Now lets go get some drinks.”
We started to make our way across the room towards the RoR’s giant, gleaming bar. It was very chic-looking, what with it’s eye-assaultingly bright violet colour and the so-cool-i’m-bored-right-now seventh year who was standing behind it, juggling martini glasses in front of a crowd of squealing fourth-year girls.
But before we could make it to what seemed like Hogwarts’ secret haven of illegally-acquired alcohol, we were intercepted by Freddy and Aidan, who had appeared out of nowhere and, by the looks of it, were completely hammered.
“Ladies!” Aidan roared, whipping an arm around Dom’s shoulders and practically tipping over in the process. “What a pleasure to see you guys, hope you enjoy the party and OH MY GOD AGATHA, FOR MERLIN’S SAKES COVER YOURSELF!”
“Shit, dude!” Fred exclaimed, taking in my outfit in one, appreciative glance. My mouth dropped open, not in outrage, but more so in a grim, scoffing smile. I had expected this.
“Nice to see you too,” I said coolly, cocking my head to the side. I knew I was wearing one of the most ridiculous outfits in the world, but I refused to be self-conscious about it. Dom was right. Today, I was going to be someone else. I was going to be...
“A Sexy Librarian?” Aidan moaned, slapping an exaggerated hand to his forehead, “Seriously?”
Yes, seriously. The costume had been Evelyns—she had dug it up from her wardrobe after a couple minutes of searching—so of course it was skimpy, absurd and just about the perfect balance between jaw-droppingly slutty and laughably ridiculous.
As of now, I was wearing a low cut button-down shirt, which by itself would have been fine... Except that it was tucked inside a clingy, so-tight-it-might-as-well-be-painted-on black skirt. Of course, this wasn’t enough. We just had to amp it up to the next level...Literally. So the aforementioned skirt was not only sinfully tight, but also sinfully short—it was hiked up far enough to reveal two lacy black garters and a pair of stockings, which then streamlined down my waxed, exfoliated, and tanned legs to meet a pair of the tallest, most lethal stilettos I’ve ever seen. Or worn, for that matter.
Oh, and I’m also wearing a little tie, for some reason. It came with the outfit. Because I guess librarians wear ties now.
A pair of cat-eye glasses, some smoky make-up applied by Dom's expert hand, my hair done up in a ‘classy’ updo...And I was good to go.
“Doesn’t it suit her? Isn’t ‘sexy librarian’ just soooo Aggy?” Dom giggled, ducking underneath Aidan’s arm to come and spin me around. Reluctantly, I let her, mostly because I was too tired to put up a fight, but also because if I made any sudden movements in these heels, I would most likely kill myself. And all those around me.
“Aren’t you guys proud?” Evelyn glided up next to Dom and held out her arms, displaying me in the classic game-show hostess fashion. The movement actually went well with her costume, which was ‘1920s Hollywood Star.’ Wearing a slinky, midnight-blue gown with just the right amount of skin shown, and her hair in perfect, sultry waves, Evelyn was actually classy. Whereas I looked like I’d hopped straight off the cover of this month’s edition of PlayWitch.
Ever the catwoman, Dom gave a coquettish smile, wiggling her hips a little. “It’s absolutely purrrrfect...”
As everyone else groaned at the joke—seriously, purrfect? Could she not do any better?—Aidan shook his head in exasperation. Though I guess the movement was too much to handle in his intoxicated state, because without Dom there for support, he went stumbling backwards, trying to regain footing. “I still—hic—can’t believe—hic—you’re wearing tha’, Aggy.”
“And what are you wearing?” I shot back. It was a completely legitmate question, because I honestly had no idea. It looked like my brother had cut a hole in a big sheet, painted some giant polka dots on it, and then decided to wear it like a rain poncho. Needless to say, I was a bit confused.
Aidan held out his arms, affronted. “I’m Twista’!”
“Allow me to explain.” Fred stepped forward, carrying a bottle of Firewhiskey and looking suave in a tux and bow tie—James Bond, I was guessing. “You know Twister, right? The muggle game and pastime? Also known as man’s greatest gift to earth? Well...That's Aidan.”
Aidan nodded vigorously. “Twista’!”
I couldn’t help but laugh. It was stupid and pointless, sure, but I was in too good of a mood to be pissy about it. Sure, if my mother saw me right now she’d probably drop dead in shock, but that was okay. There was music playing. Lights were flashing. My schoolmates were here, dancing their arses off, and I was about to join them. Everything was okay... or going to be, at least. “Are you serious?”
“Are you? I can’t believe you’re actually wearing that,” Freddy remarked conversationally as he slowly gravitated over towards Evelyn, wrapping an arm around her waist and nestling his chin on her shoulder. Evelyn smiled contentedly at the action—like an actual, real smile—and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a little at the sickening cuteness.
I shrugged. “Sorry, Mr. 007. But I can safely say that I was held under duress the whole time. I had no choice but to comply.”
“Is that so?” Fred murmured, turning his head and cocking a knowing eyebrow at Evelyn, who responded with a devilish smile.
“Yeah,” she said softly, reaching up on her tiptoes to gently press her lips against his. He kissed back for a moment, before pulling away slightly to turn her body more towards him so they could resume in a full-out snog.
“Ewwwwww, kissing! GROSS!”
“Seriously, get a room.”
“Yeah, if we wanted to see Fred’s saliva glands up close and personal, we’d just go and watch him sleep. He drools, you know.”
“Oi, stuff it! Do you mind? I’m trying to kiss my girlfriend!”
Fred and Evelyn soon drifted off, presumably to play a good round of tonsil-tennis, which left me, Dom and Aidan. Standing there. Awkwardly.
“Well, I’m gonna go dance! Bye!” And with that, Dom bounded off too, her cat tail wiggling in the air.
“Guess it’s just you and me, sis.” Aidan slung an arm over my shoulder, dragging me towards him. His breath smelled like fruity alcohol. His hair was rumpled and disheveled.
“I still can’t believe you’re wearing that. Sexy Librarian, Jesus Christ.”
“Your bloodstream is probably 80% Firewhiskey right now,” I said dryly. “It’s not like you’re gonna remember any of this tomorrow morning.”
“Lucky Aidan,” a voice interjected, and we both turned around to see Potter, wearing a pair of dark jeans and a long-sleeved, navy blue shirt. “I know I’m going to be trying to forget that for the rest of my life.”
He was referring to the outfit, obviously. What else could he be talking about?
Now normally, I would have blushed, fidgeted uncomfortably and stormed off in a huff. But this wasn’t normally. Instead, I looked Potter in the eye and said, coolly, calmly, “No one else seems to be complaining.”
Potter’s eyes slowly flicked over my body, giving me the customary once-over. His face was unreadable, gaze dark and intense. “Who said I was complaining?”
I tried not to shiver as the meaning of his words hit. He wasn’t complaining...What the hell was that supposed to mean? Could Potter possibly find this sexy librarian get up...well, hot?
Ugh, I have officially turned into one of those girls. You know, the ones who constantly fuss over their hair, and whether or not their jeans make them look “fat,” or whatever. Yeah, those girls.
“And what are you supposed to be?” I finally asked, for lack of anything better to say.
Potter held out his arms as if it should be obvious, but I just stared blankly at him. Despite the confusion though, I had to admit he looked good. His hair was carelessly tousled to the perfect degree of disheveldness. The sleeves to his shirt were rolled up, revealing tanned forearms. And those shoulders... Jesus Christ, my hormones were going crazy.
“I’m a muggle,” he stated simply.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Aidan nodded along, “Genius, innit? Anyway, I gotta go... I see a couple of fourth-year girls who might need help, ah, with directions and whatnot. Smell ya later, Ags!”
And with that, he stumbled off, wrapping his arms around the aforementioned fourth-years and exclaiming loudly, ‘Now which one of you ladies wants to put their right hand on green?”
Wow. Glad to know that’s in my gene pool.
There was a moment of awkward silence as Potter and I stood there, not really knowing what to say. For a moment, I considered running off like Dom had... But I knew that I had to face this. I mean, this was why I was here. To talk to him. Right?
“So, what bet did you lose, exactly?” Potter suddenly said, his hands in his pockets, coming forward a little so I could hear him over the music.
I shrugged dutifully, “No bets lost. This was all by choice.”
He shook his head, giving a grim laugh. “I know you, Bennett, and I know you didn’t do that by choice.”
“Yeah, I did actually.” I snapped back, voice abruptly turning icy cold. He had struck a nerve. Something about Potter’s all-knowing tone had irritated me, made me lash out. “And contrary to your belief, you don’t know me.”
Potter’s demeanor suddenly hardened over. His gaze was coal-dark and white-hot, his shoulders tensing together. He stepped backwards a bit, shaking his head. “You know what?” the words seemed to dig right under my skin, sharp and aimed to hurt. “You’re right. I don’t know you. Because the Bennett I know wouldn’t be running around in a slaggy skirt and heels just so she could get a couple of blokes to notice her.”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” I hissed back, infuriated. Was he really doing this right now? We’ve barely spoken a word to each other since the kiss, and this is how he wants to strike up conversation? By insulting me and calling me a slag?
“It means the Bennett I know might have been annoying and obnoxious, but she wasn’t pathetic.” Potter’s voice was dripping with acidic disdain, his face crafted into an expression of complete contempt...But the worst of all, the cherry on top of the hate sundae, was the edge of disgust in his tone that told me I wasn’t good enough, that yes, I was just another one of those girls... In fact, I was worse.
And that hurt more than anything.
The words were a punch to the gut. It literally felt as though all the air had been knocked out of me. I reeled back, a flush spreading over my cheeks, the back of my eyes prickling with a terrible urge to tear up. Trying to regain my previous calmness, I sucked in a big breath, but it was no use. “Wow. Okay.”
Potter must have been expecting me to retaliate, because a flicker of surprise passed over his face at my meek reply. He’d thought that I would snap back, or brush him off... He hadn’t realized that he’d hit such a weak spot. That I’d actually be...hurt.
There was an awkward silence.
“No, forget about it.”
“Look, I didn’t know—”
“It was just a...” He trailed off, leaving behind an awkward silence. A joke? A laugh? Because it wasn’t a joke. He’d meant it. He thought I was being slaggy.
And so I told him.
“No, you meant it. You think I’m being slaggy.”
“I don’t. I really don’t.” He stepped forward, face scarily determined, voice firm and sure of itself. “I just... I didn’t know what was I saying, I was being stupid.”
“But it’s true, I am slaggy... Look what I’m wearing!” My voice was high with hysteria. Right now, I could feel the Old Aggy creeping back to me, with her insecurities and inhibitions, and all she wanted to do right now was run back to the common room and change. “I look so slaggy! Hell, I’m Slaggy Aggy—”
“No, you’re not.” Potter was suddenly reaching out, pressing a feather-light tough to my arm. His hazel eyes were bright and sincere, and my mouth involuntarily snapped shut. “You’re not slaggy, Bennett,” He said softly. “You’re anything but. You couldn’t be slaggy if you tried, and... and I’m sorry.”
He was so close to me; his touch seemed to burn through my skin. I looked up to meet eyes of melted amber, eyes that glimmered with something intense and indecipherable, and a hot shiver of...I don’t know what dashed down my spine. My mouth went dry, and I knew we were both thinking the same thing. That the last time we had been this close to each other, he’d been snogging me. Against a wall. With enough fire and passion to make the synapses in my brain go out.
“I should go,” Because the image of us together kept on prodding my mind, and I couldn’t really trust myself to not do something I’d regret later.
Potter didn’t reply, didn’t move, he just let me push quickly past him. For one second I thought he was going to stop me, say something, but then that moment was gone and I was being sucked into the dancing crowd.
The party seemed to pass by in a blur of shifting lights and thrumming music. There was a buzz of adrenaline riding throughout the crowd—the air around us snapped and crackled with something unidentifiable but scarily powerful. It charged us. Made us do crazy things.
At one point, when a popular song started to play, almost everyone in the room took out their wands and simultaneously yelled, ‘Lumos!’ The room was set alight as people waved their wands back and forth like in one of those muggle rock concerts. The effect was pretty mind-blowing, actually.
Another time, Freddy managed to convince Evelyn and I to have a shots competition. I know that usually during these kind of parties I made it a point to never drink...But considering my new mantra for the night, I figured....well, why not?
I could barely get the first gulp down without spewing it all over the place (it tasted like piss... but on fire). Evelyn, however, drank like a champ. Shot after shot after shot, with no apparent lasting effect whatsoever. Seriously. She hopped off the bar stool as sober as ever, like nothing had happened, and Fred couldn't help but gaze in awe at his new girlfriend.
“It’s the Veela blood in me...I can drink pretty much anything,” she shrugged. Fred’s eyes widened.
“You’re part Veela?”
As the night passed, people seemed to get progressively crazier and crazier. Also, it got bloody hot. Must be all those sweaty bodies dancing together, but it soon became apparent that the one thing the RoR did not have was air-conditioning. Soon, girls were walking around with their shirts unbuttoned or just thrown off altogether, wearing even less clothing than before—something I hadn’t thought possible. Needless to say, the guys weren’t complaining.
After about two straight hours of dancing, Dom and I decided to take a break. We stumbled out of the crowd, gulping for air and laughing hysterically. Those shots—combined with the throbbing beat of the music—were making my head spin.
“I’m gonna—hic—get us some more—hic—to drink,” Dom giggled a little.
“No, you can’t!” I shook my head frantically, but I was laughing too. I don’t really know why I was laughing...But it was funny. Super, super funny.
“No, I have too!” Dom protested as I tried to grab her and drag her back. But she was too strong. After all, my Dommy plays Quidditch. That makes people get muscles.
Muscles are nice.
Potter’s muscles are nice.
WOAH WOAH WOAH... Where did that come from?
Well...it is true.
No, it’s not!
Yes, it is! Why am I arguing with myself?
Dom suddenly lunged forward and broke free of my grip, sending me reeling backwards and landing with an ungraceful ‘oomf!’ on the floor, sprawled out flat on my back. The artificial stars on the ceiling swam above me, and my eyelids drooped downwards. Ah, this actually felt... nice. Lying beneath the stars... How romantic!
I wish Potter was here.
Why did I just say that?
Because he has nice muscles. And I would enjoy squeezing them.
“Well isn’t this just charming?”
I opened my eyes to see a two shiny black shoes, and then a pair of pinstripe slacks...The rest was shrouded in darkness.
I struggled to prop myself up on the elbows, but apparently I didn’t need to, because all of a sudden the mysterious figure bent down, grabbing me by the arms, and hoisted me up in one sweeping movement.
“Hey, don’t womanhandle me!” I cried indignantly, but my voice suddenly died in my throat as I came face to face with Fallon Cooper.
This was not good.
Cooper was wearing a fedora, a cigarette dangling lazily out of his mouth. Stuck to the lapel of his pinstripe blazer was a red rose. Obviously, he was dressed as a mafia member. And while I would normally find a costume like that to be laughably stupid... Right now, it was downright terrifying.
Because I knew what Cooper was capable of. And it was definitely very mafia-esque.
“Please let go of me,” I whispered.
Smirking, Cooper released me, holding out his hands in surrender, and I went staggering backwards. “Why so serious, Aggy? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
“What do you want?” My voice was trembling. I wanted nothing more than to just turn around and walk away, but I couldn’t. Something kept me there, rooted to the spot. Maybe it was the need to prove that I wasn’t afraid, that he couldn’t faze me. Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was sheer stupidity. But whatever it was had me frozen, paralyzed.
Cooper came closer to me, his harsh, angular face obscuring my vision. His breath smelled like stale smoke. His mouth was twisted into an ugly leer. “I think you know what I want, Agatha.”
I stared at him, jutting my chin out in a half-arsed attempt at defiance. “No, actually, I don’t.”
He gave a harsh, quiet laugh that made my stomach clench. “Oh ickle Aggy, so sweet and naive. Don’t you realize? Your brother might be safe for now, but that doesn’t mean you are.”
“And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?” My eyes darted around me, looking for a saviour (shouldn’t Dom be back by now?), but the music was too loud, the lights too dark. People were everywhere, dancing and screaming and jumping, but no one was noticing a thing. To them, this was just another normal conversation between boy and girl.
“Yeah, Cooper. Care to explain a little? Because I’m a little confused.” All of a sudden, Potter appeared out of the shadows, and I couldn’t help but give a little sigh of relief. Finally. Someone that knew what was happening.
Potter’s expression and voice were casual, but his posture was rigidly set. Arms crossed over chest. Fists clenched. Shoulders tight and alert. “See, last time I’d checked, you were the one who bashed my best friend’s head in with a Beaters’ Bat. And last time I’d checked, we had physical evidence of this...Not to mention several witnesses. So excuse me if I’m a little confused, but why exactly, should we be worried?”
Cooper glowered, his face turning scarily dark. For a strange, fleeting moment, I thought he was going to scream. Or hit me. But he simply gave me a scathing look that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and then turned around to walk away.
For a moment, I’d thought we won.
...But then Cooper turned around, spat viciously at the ground, and hissed, “Slag.”
That was when I knew... Shit was going down.
It was a lightening fast movement. One second, Potter was standing across from me, looking calm and unfazed, the next, he had Cooper against the wall, his hands around his neck, expression contorted with fury.
“What did you just say?” he growled. Cooper gave a half-yelp, struggling for air, but it was no use.
My heart leaped in my chest. Never before had I seen Potter look so scarily serious. His eyes were glowing, his jaw set in stone. “Shit! Potter! Don’t!” I blurted out, not knowing what else to say. But it was like he hadn’t even heard me. I stood uselessly to the side, not knowing what to do or say, whether I should stop this or just stand by and let my archenemy throttle the living shit out of...well, my other archenemy.
“You even look at her the wrong way, and I will fucking kill you,” Potter said matter-of-factly, and it was the calmness, the complete practical tone in his voice, that made it so freaking terrifying.
“Why so protective of the little whore, Potter? She putting out for you?”
Wrong thing to say. In a flash, Potter let go of Cooper, drew back his arm... And then Fallon Cooper was on the floor, clutching a bleeding nose, while Potter stood above him, looking so scary it was almost ethereal, rubbing the already-bruising knuckles of his right hand.
“Potter! Just leave it!” I cried almost hysterically. My heartbeat was pounding furiously inside my head. Around us, people were starting to stare. They had finally taken notice.
Cooper stumbled to a stand, something dark and rust-colored dribbling down his face, and swung at Potter. Potter ducked, swung back, and soon enough there was a full-out fight breaking out.
I tried to get to Potter, to pull him back, but it was no use. Because all of a sudden I was getting swallowed by a mob of people rushing towards the scene, eager to watch the fight. Some were trying to break it up, others were cheering and screaming... But I couldn’t see any of it, my vision obscured by heads and backs and shoulders... I was getting pushed backwards, shoved away, and I was screaming, screaming for Potter, panic surging up my throat, trying to figure out what was going on, what the hell was going on...
I turned around and started running. I don’t know why, but all of a sudden I was racing outside of the RoR (and there’s rule number two, broken) and not stopping until I was outside, down the corridor, and had safely locked myself in one of the numerous broom cupboards of Hogwarts.
I couldn’t breathe. I was panicking. Hands shaking, I yanked my hair down from it’s mussed updo, letting it spill down my shoulders. I kicked off my high heels, almost moaning in relief as I finally set my poor feet free from the confines of their strappy, stiletto prisons.
...And then I slumped against the wall, sliding down until I was on the floor, my arms wrapped protectively around my bent knees.
Inside the broom cupboard, it was cool and dark, a nice change from the hectic, throbbing heat of the RoR. There was no noise except for the ringing in my ears, and my short, shallow breathing.
What had just happened?
Did Potter not know the meaning of hate? He was supposed to insult and mock me! Not...defend my honor in a brawl! Oh god... A brawl! He was out there, right now, pummelling Cooper to the ground because of me! And here I was, hiding like a little coward in a broom cupboard... What the hell was wrong with me?
I was going insane. I had to do something. Take action and storm back inside the RoR, grab Potter by the collar and drag him to safety... Where I could slap him hard upside the head for being such a reckless, brave, noble, idiotic Gryffindor.
I squeezed my eyes shut, willing myself to get up and move...But I couldn’t. Physically, literally couldn’t. I was too scared. Not of Cooper...But of Potter. Of what him and that fight could possibly mean. Of this stupid, messed up, tangled relationship between us.
When had things gotten so complicated?
I knew that lying in fetal position inside a broom cupboard and asking myself rhetorical questions wasn’t going to help anything. But I just couldn’t imagine myself going out there and facing all of that....so instead, I just stayed in my pathetic position for a while—curled in a little ball, my heart racing, and mentally berating myself for being such a sodding idiot.
I don’t know how much time passed, it seemed like hours and minutes all at once, but eventually I had enough. I was tired, exhausted. All I wanted to do was go to the Prefect’s bathroom, take a scalding hot bath, and then crawl into bed and sleep.
I was just about to make myself stand up, however, when all of a sudden the door burst open. I watched in amazement, half-crouched on the floor, as Potter stumbled inside, clutching his ribs.
How is it that Potter always manages to find me at such inconvenient times? Does he have a radar or something that goes off whenever I’m at my most pathetic?
I was about to say something, mostly along the lines of ‘Go away, you sodding fucking idiot. Oh, and thanks for beating Cooper up for me, by the way,’ but my voice suddenly died in my throat. Because Potter was lifting up the hem of his shirt and staring at what looked like a massive bruise on his torso.
It was an ugly blotch of purple and red, marring the otherwise tan skin of his abdomen. It did not look friendly. At all. In fact, it looked like one of his ribs might be broken.
Worse than that, however, was the fact that I hadn’t even noticed it at first. No, I’d been too busy ogling Potter’s abs.
I am a horrible person.
“Potter, are you okay?” I blurted out, and hestartled, swivelling his gaze from the bruise to...me.
“Bennett, what are you doing here?” He hastily yanked his shirt down, face shifting into it’s usual mask of indifference, but I could hear the slight wince of pain in his voice.
I stood up so quickly, the ensuing head rush almost made me fall back down again. He was here. With a bruise, a broken rib, maybe some internal bleeding...And all thanks to Cooper Fallon. No. All thanks to me. I had been the cause of that fight, and now it was my fault Potter was hurt.
Ignoring his question, I walked over towards him, crossing the cupboard in two swift strides so we were face to face. I could barely make out his features in the hazy dark, but I knew he was there. Silent. Waiting.
For a moment, I just stared at the spot where the bruise had been. I couldn’t make myself look away. “Was that...” I paused, sucking in a deep breath, “Because of me?”
“Don’t flatter yourself, Bennett.” He reached behind himself, grappling for the doorknob, ready to leave, but I stopped him.
“Don’t,” I grabbed his hand, and a flicker of surprise shot across his face. “Potter...”
There was a long, bated silence. Something in my chest seemed to give a funny little jump. We were so close...
He leaned back against the door, accepting defeat. “Bennett.” One word, one single, acquiescence...But it seemed to fall between us like a brick. Heavy and meaningful, it struck me hard.
“You shouldn’t have...” I began, but there was nothing left to say. Once more, I trailed off into silence.
And that was when Potter looked me dead in the eye and said, so quietly I almost couldn’t hear him, “It was worth it.”
I paused for a minute, taking those words in, letting them resonate slowly through me. It was worth it. Worth it. Never before, have I been told that I was worth something.
And that was what made me do it.
Slowly, cautiously, I reached up, still holding his hand, and kissed him. Very, very lightly. My lips, barely grazing his. Me on my tippy toes and him leaning against the door, eyes fluttered shut.
I don’t know why, but it just seemed like the right thing to do.
It was hot and fast and fleeting, like a shooting star. It didn’t last very long, but I felt it. Oh, I felt it. That kiss pulled at me from the inside, made my chest clench and my throat ache with this strange, melancholic sweetness. It was... different from last time. Scarier. More intimate. Just my body against his, our hearts beating so close together, everything silent inside that tiny broom cupboard except for our breathing.
I pulled away, letting go of his hand. He was staring at me. And I could tell, just by looking at his eyes, that he had felt it too. That strange feeling of being empty and full at the same time. That shooting star.
He leaned back, his head gently thumping against the door. It was eerily quiet, save for my heartbeat, which was sputtering and stumbling, going haywire inside my chest.
“Bennett,” he finally groaned, “what are we doing?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but he didn’t give me the chance. Because all of the sudden Potter was swivelling us around with surprising speed, pushing me back so that I was the one against the door...and then he was kissing me.
It was more intense this time. Frantic and urgent, Potter’s lips found mine, his hands clasping my face. It was fast and hard and pure need. And I wanted it. Wanted him. Because this, whatever it was, felt right. Being this close to him, with my hands against his chest, feeling his heartbeat thud against his ribcage... This was the only time when Potter actually felt human to me.
I parted my lips, allowing him to deepen the kiss and just let instinct take over. We grappled desperately at each other, trying to get as close as possible, tangling together in a hot blur of lips and tongue and touch, all intertwined. I wrapped my arms around his neck, pulling myself towards him. My head was spinning with that same, heated dizziness that only Potter could make me feel. He was pressing me so hard against the door, I thought we might break it. I was losing control, spinning downwards as everything else except for the boy in front of me seemed to fade away...
Then he did something I was completely unprepared for. Breaking away, Potter started trailing kisses from my lips to my neck, nipping and biting and sucking all the way down... And a low, breathy moan escaped my mouth without me giving it permission to. Fuck, fuck, fuck. If I knew Potter could do that sort of stuff with his mouth, I would have started snogging him a long time ago.... Did I just say that?
I knew what we were doing was wrong, that this wasn’t how I was supposed to fix things, but I couldn’t help it. I was drawn towards him, addicted and intoxicated by the haze and muted heat between us. I needed it, craved it, wanted it...
Then all too soon, Potter was pulling away, his breathing raggedy, eyes dark. We both stared at each other for a second, gasping for air, our lips swollen—the telling giveaway of a good snog.
My mind was trying to catch up with my body. It was moving sluggishly, trying to make sense of what happened. Finally, after a while of staring, I murmured, “I should go.”
Potter nodded. “Probably.”
For a moment, I lingered, wondering if he was going to stop me. When he didn’t, I turned away and opened the door, slipping into the cool air of the corridor without a backwards glance.
Fuck, I was screwed.
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