“Students, students!” Professor Criss called over the din, “Please listen!”
The buzz of conversation eventually ended due to the familiar excitement laced in our teacher’s voice; his thick, curly black hair was slightly disheveled and his dark brown eyes had a happy spark in them as he smiled widely, resulting in sighs to escape the mouths of several girls around the classroom. I couldn’t help but giggle at Joe’s face as he watched Fay, mouth agape, as she stared wistfully at our professor. James turned around at the sound, frustration etched into his features.
“Not you, too!” He whisper-groaned while Professor Criss began commending people, handing back our latest essay on Muggle transportation.
“Huh?” I noticed his grip on his quill tighten.
“Why do all the girls fancy him?” He whined, sounding a lot like Rose.
“I don’t fancy him!” I fancy you.
“You giggled,” he said seriously, “You never giggle.”
“I was laughing at Faylinn’s expression, James,” I sighed, already tired or the bickering that had yet to come, “Don’t get so riled up.”
“Riled up? Me? Never,” he said, still serious, but I could see a hint of a smile in his hazel eyes as he unexpectedly backed out of the argument, reverting back into his usual mischievous, smirking self.
I rolled my eyes.
“Miss Wood! Excellent paper! Top marks!” Professor Criss exclaimed, brandishing my essay on Henry Ford in front of me. He leaned close enough for me to smell his woodsy cologne and added, in a low voice, “Much better than Greer ever got, I tell you, and you can tell him I said that, too! I haven’t got a howler from him in eons!”
He winked at me and handed James his paper (“Ace job, Potter! Always surpassing expectations!”) James just scowled at him and when our teacher walked away he turned the scowl onto me.
“What?” I asked, in a clipped tone.
“Nothing,” he shrugged, the scowl disappearing as he set his features into a look of indifference, and I may have imagined the hurt that seemed to pass through his eyes, leaving as soon as it slipped in.
“Okay,” my tone with softer in a pathetic attempt to somehow comfort him, but from what, I didn’t know. He shrugged again and turned to face the front of the class, shoulders tense.
That’s when I noticed the glares I was receiving all around me, probably for my interactions with both Professor Criss and James, and for a brief moment I felt like crying, but then remembered that I hadn’t cried since April and I wasn’t about to start again. I shouldn’t be glared at for conversing with our Professor; Adam Criss was one of Greer’s best mates and former dorm-mate. He was like a brother to me and even conspiringly offered to give Joe a T on his OWLs after one of our post-breakup fights and Joe pointed out that there really wasn’t anything remarkable about me; I was just lead to think that way from how everyone treated me.
He told how everyone is so nice and chatty to me because of my father and that if I “looked close enough” I would “see how fake everything is.” That’s when I cracked and I recalled the kind people in class, casually telling me about how much they loved Puddlemere and If I ever went to my dad’s games, all the guys who asked me to Hogsmeade and called me beautiful before asking if they could meet my dad, or the way I was let onto the Quidditch team without even trying out in third year. Everything was fake; everything is fake.
I was average, but led to believe I wasn’t; that I was worth something.
I was average and I decided to accept it. So, I kept things average.
I avoided conversations, turned down dates, got E’s and A’s, and formed the list. My infamously unknown list of things you should never, ever do.
Never: gain any unwanted attention, say your last name in public, have more than five good friends, let your guard down, spend more than an hour at a Gryffindor party, fall in love…
And the list continues and I was now well on my way to breaking every rule and for a passing instant, as I watched James spin his quill between his thumb and index finger, I didn’t care and it scared me half to death.
“’I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they're not much to look at, or even if they're sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.’ ” every Muggle Studies student remained silent, confused, staring wide-eyed at our teacher who flashed his straight, white teeth at us in a smile; I felt like punching them out, and then maybe Freddie’s for telling me that Allie fancied him, “Does anyone recognize that quote?”
Finch-Fletchley, from his perch at the front of the classroom, raised his pompous hand, “The Catcher in the Rye, sir?”
“Correct! Five points to Hufflepuff!” Professor Criss applauded, “We are now on our way from Muggle sciences onto Muggle literature, although, at the end of the year, we will return to the sciences and discuss medicine. Exciting, huh?”
A dull murmur sounded throughout the classroom yet our teacher’s smile did not falter.
If I am going to be honest, I recognized the quote. My Aunt Hermione had made it a habit of giving me Muggle novels and poetry books as a present for every birthday and holiday since I was a kid. I received The Catcher in the Rye on my fourteenth birthday; not one of my favorites, but it was still good. Since then I made my own habit of memorizing certain quotes and passages I liked in every work she gave me; you could call it a coping mechanism.
“The Catcher in the Rye,” Professor Criss began, lifting his wand and levitating a pile of orange and yellow paperbacks to be delivered to every student, “was written in 1951 by J.D. Salinger. It is extremely popular amongst Muggle teenagers for the heavy themes of teenage rebellion, confusion, estrangement, angst, and etcetera. A quarter of a million copies are sold every year and the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, has become somewhat of an icon for adolescent rebellion.”
I watched as my copy landed gently onto my desk and heard the soft thump of Allie’s landing in front of her. It had the same jacket design as my copy back home, the orange carousel horse and the yellow lettering, except it looked newer and didn’t have pages marked off or passages highlighted. The bind didn’t even look as though anyone had ever opened it. I almost wanted to preserve its innocence and owl my mum to send me my copy so as to keep this new one clean and untainted, but quickly realized how ridiculous of a notion that was.
“Now, for the next month we will be reading a few chapters as a homework assignment for the week and having class discussions twice a week: on Tuesdays and Fridays. We will debate the novel’s interpretation, reception, controversy, and its effects on popular Muggle culture,” Our professor flashed us another winning smile, “Sound good, everyone?”
“Mmhmm,” just about everybody hummed, but no sound came from the person behind me, only the rustling of papers. The bell suddenly sounded and everyone started clambering about the classroom, collecting books and quills, and catching up with friends. I turned around to ask Allie what she thought of the assignment, but when I faced her chair, she was gone.
. . . . . . . .
The next day: October 30, 2021; 8:30 AM
It was early in the morning; far too early, but I knew it was my best shot at finding her. She had ignored me for the rest of the day yesterday and I was going to catch up with Allie quick and apologize for being a git.
I was exhausted. I had spent much of my night reading and re-reading the first few chapters of The Catcher in the Rye for the first time in three years, to busy my mind, and was reminded why I was wary of it in the first place: Holden and I were a lot alike; how he is constantly badmouthing the way things are, but not doing shit about it.
And today, one particular quote was haunting me, although it wasn’t even said by Holden, as I searched the faces of the Great Hall, as my fingers pulled at a loose thread on my jumper, as my heart beat erratically, and as my ears ached for her voice: “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.” And right then, the rules were vague, my foggy mind clouded with exhaustion, and the game seemed to haunt my every action, my every thought as I waited for her to walk into the room so I could figure out this game and if she was playing it, too; if she was playing alongside me.
“Hullo, James,” my ears perked at the sound of a feminine tone, fingers stopped twitching about and a considerable amount of the fog encompassing my mind lifted as I turned slightly to the owner of the voice. I first saw red hair and my stomach plummeted. Red hair meant one thing: a Weasley. I took in the rest of the girl’s features. Sparkling, brown eyes, freckled skin, hair in frizzy curls: Rose Weasley; perfect and on a Saturday morning, too. Merlin just loves me. (Scoff)
“Wotcher, Rosie,” I mumbled, biting into a piece of jam-covered toast, rubbing some sleep out of my right eye, the one I left often to look at my cousin as the other rested.
“Yo Rose!” Fred piped up from across the table where he was inhaling his eggs at an alarming rate; the girl to my left gave him an incredulous look.
“Never again, mate,” I advised him, slowly chewing my breakfast and thoroughly enjoying the strawberry-ness that now dominated my taste buds. I raised an eyebrow at Rose, “Is there anything you particularly need right now? Not that I don’t enjoy your company and everything...”
“Actually yes—,” she began.
“Oi,” Fred poked my forearm with his fork, successfully diverting my attention back to him; I smacked his hand away, “Where’s Longbottom?”
I shrugged lazily, scratching the side of my face in an attempt to come off as relaxed even though all my nerve-endings were on edge.
“Lookin’ for me, eh?” Frank slid onto the bench besides Freddie and sent Rose and me a disturbingly large smile; it put me off my second piece of toast, cheerfulness did.
“What are you so happy about?” Freddie questioned, pointing his fork dangerously close to one of Frank’s ice blue eyes; Frank gently nudged it away.
“Personal space, Fred,” Frank pat our friend on the back, “We’ve had this discussion before, have we not?”
“Several times,” Rose piped up and Frank, his eyes still trained on Fred, gestured in her direction.
“See, Fred? It’s time to accept that you have a problem and then, and only then, you can heal,” Longbottom’s mock-somber expression broke at that point and the nauseatingly contented smile returned. Fred dismissed what Frank said and winked at Rose’s friend Amelia who was sitting nearby, earning an angry huff from the aforementioned redhead.
“James,” Rose whined; I cringed. This is why she and Dom never got along. Rose, to put it plainly, was a whiner, and could be downright foul if the situation arose, so I was too afraid to simply ignore her.
“Yes’m?” I replied, not looking directly into her eyes for fear that I might be turned to stone.
“I heard about the Gryffindor party going on tomorrow night—”
“Not really surprising, you are a fifth year Gryffindor,” I interrupted, still pointedly ignoring her piercing gaze, but immediately regretting my comment because I could practically feel the frustration come off of Rose in waves and Weasley temper is, after all, an infamous trait; one that I have come face-to-face with far too many times.
“Anyways,” she started again. I could feel the heat of her stare on the side of my face, “I was just speaking to Al and Scorp at the Slytherin table last night at dinner and I was wondering if they could tag along.”
I looked back at her then and noticed her big brown eyes were widened to about twice their size, giving her the look of a baby deer and practically screaming innocence. I sighed; no one could say no to Rose.
“Even if I said Albus couldn’t go he’d still find a way to crash,” I told her, “and you’d have to ask Fred about Scorpius. He’s sort of in charge of this whole ordeal.”
Rose nodded once then proceeded to send a forkful of eggs in Freddie’s direction, hitting him square in the face. Frank snorted into his waffle.
“Oi! What was that for?!” Fred exclaimed in the middle of shamelessly flirting with Amelia. He looked up and saw Rose’s smug expression and instantly backed down.
“Can Scorp please come to the party tomorrow?” She asked, wide-eyed again. In reality Rose didn’t even need to add the ‘please’ when asking Freddie this question.
“Oh, yeah, of course, Rosie,” Fred nodded frantically until Frank placed a hand on his shoulder to still his fitful movements. It was a well-known fact that Freddie was completely terrified of every female with even a drop of Weasley blood in them. He was always on the wrong side of their temper; even ask Roxanne Weasley, his twin.
“Thank you, Frederick,” Rose smiled, pouring herself a glass of orange juice.
“That’s not even my full name!” Fred sighed in annoyance, as Rose snickered, biting into her biscuit and shrugging.
I looked around the Great Hall again; she still wasn’t there. My fingers were quickly drumming against my jean-clad thigh. The ‘Headache-Inducer’ was in full headache-inducing mode by now; my temples were pulsing with a maddening ache that I knew would only stop when I could speak to Allison again.
“She got special permission to go into Hogsmeade today,” a tinkling voice informed me. Dom sat down on my other side, across from Frank, their eyes met and they both blushed. Dom quickly looked down and began piling massive amounts of bacon on her plate, but Frank continued to watch her and smile, passing her a piece of toast. This is new.
“Who did?” Fred asked his mouth full of waffle.
“Allie,” Dom clarified, giving me a knowing look, “She’s meeting up with birthday-boy-and-now- twenty-years-old Greer; oh, where do the years go?! She’ll be back tomorrow morning, so we’ll see her at the party.”
“She never stays more than an hour though, does she?” Fred complained, gulping down his pumpkin juice, some of the liquid running from the sides of his mouth. Why did Gwen like him again? Dom looked disgusted.
“It’s on the list,” Dom told us, apparently not realizing how confusing and vague of a statement that was.
“What list?” Frank asked. Dom suddenly looked up at all of us with a mortified expression on her face.
“Hm? What? I don’t know what you’re talking about!” She said manically, knocking over my glass of milk that Rose instantaneously cleaned up with a simple spell, “List? What is a list? I surely don’t know.”
“Dom, please,” Rose rolled her eyes, “don’t insult my intelligence. We all heard you say ‘list’.”
Dom shot Rose a withering look; one that I knew if I was on the receiving end of I would be shaking in fear, but, of course, Rose being a fellow Weasley woman, didn’t even flinch.
“C’mon Dommy,” Fred pleaded. Dom hesitated, looking at all of our faces in turn, before, what I assume, deciding we could be trusted enough with the information.
“Allison made a list last year,” Dom began, “It’s titled: Things You Shouldn’t Do. She named it after some Muggle song, but anyways, it’s basically a list of things that she won’t attempt to do or try or think about for the rest of eternity and ‘staying for more than an hour at a Gryffindor party’ is on it.”
There was a moment of silence among us; all we heard was the chatter of our fellow classmates and the clinking of silverware before Frank finally broke it.
Dom shrugged noncommittally.
“It happened sometime after the Joe fiasco,” she said and I tensed and felt the looks they all sent me, as if waiting for me to rage at the mere mention of Finch-Fletchley.
“Well,” Fred said, rubbing his palms together, “I think that, as her mates, we should help her break every rule on this list, shall we?”
Everyone nodded, excluding me and Dom, who was quickly shaking her head ‘no’.
“I don’t think so, guys,” she said, “She really has her heart set on this. It could break her if she doesn’t go through with it.”
“Listen Dom,” Fred started, uncharacteristically serious; we were all silenced, “Following this list could break her. I know Allie and I can predict what kind of things are on that piece of parchment. It’s probably a guide to continue this new level introvert-ness she has developed over the summer hols. Let’s be real here, she has always been pretty ant-social, but she was still open with us, but now, I don’t know. I’m worried about her and we need to pull her out of her shell and bring her back into the world. She used to be loud, well, when she was slightly inebriated, she was. Now she’s quiet and shy and we need the old Wood back. Don’t you think?”
No one said anything. We just stared at Freddie in disbelief.
“What?” he asked; slightly miffed.
“Where did that come from?” Frank inquired.
“When did you become so insightful?” Rose questioned.
“Your name is Fred Weasley, right?” I queried.
“I never knew you could string enough words together to form a whole speech, Weasley,” Dom smiled. Fred shot her an exasperated look.
“I’ve been known to say something caring every once in a while,” he said before stuffing more waffle into his mouth and belching.
Consequently ending the reign of Intelligent Freddie for the day.
October 31, 2021; 11:30 AM
“Allie-poo! Time to get up and go back to the castle,” I felt someone poke my cheek.
“Unph,” was my clever reply.
“Come on Allison,” another deep voice added, “You wouldn’t want to miss the infamous Gryffindor Halloween party, would you?”
“Hmph shnup kelmph,” I retorted.
“And Adam says she’s the smart sibling,” Greer laughed before hauling me out of my warm, comfortable bed, dumping me onto the hardwood floor.
“Bloody hell!” I exclaimed, rubbing my backside.
“It speaks!” I looked up from my spot on the floor and saw my brother and Calix looming over me, smiles plastered on their faces.
“Don’t look too happy to get rid of me or anything,” I mumbled, struggling to get to my feet, “and don’t bother helping me get up either.”
I was staying at The Three Broomsticks with Calix and Greer, along with a handful of their friends, including Adam Criss, my Muggle Studies Professor (it’s going to be hard to look him in the eye on Monday and discuss literature after seeing him drunkenly cry over his ex-girlfriend), to celebrate my brother’s twentieth birthday. I had gotten permission from Headmistress McGonagall to go; she always had a soft spot for Greer.
“Why, oh why, my dear sister, would I want to get rid of your angelic face?” My brother tugged on a lock of my hair gently, “I missed you. It kills me to be away from you for so long.”
“I saw you two months ago,” I tell him, pinching the underside of his forearm, causing him to yelp. I grinned; so did Calix, “I doubt you missed me and you want me to go so you and Calix can snog in peace.”
Greer just shrugged, not denying anything, while his boyfriend elbowed him in the side, his own cheeks coloring slightly.
“Why is everyone hurting me?” Greer wailed; yes, wailed, “I’m too pretty for this kind of treatment!”
My eyes met Calix’s light blue ones and we both shared the same half-amused look.
“I’m pretty, right?” Greer turned to his boyfriend.
“Yes, yes, very pretty,” Calix pat his arm, rolling his eyes at me while Greer smiled smugly, running a hand through his long, dark blonde hair, as if he had just proven a point. I sat down on my small twin bed and began putting on my socks, ignoring the two men in front of me.
In truth, I had a really good time last night. It was always easy for me to relax and have fun with my brother. He may be cocky and little immature, but I loved him and I loved Calix. They had this sincere energy that continuously pulsed between them and could fill a room with its warmth. But, in reality, I wanted to get back to Hogwarts. I felt bad for whatever I did to make James so uncomfortable. I was aware of the rumors about me and Professor Criss (I spent a good portion of an hour complaining about them to Calix the night before) and I knew they would be even worse when we both arrived back at school, but I couldn’t see how it would affect James.
“You’re a bit thin and your dark-eye syndrome is acting up,” I tell Greer, wanting to wipe the self-satisfied look off his face. His brown eyes widened in shock behind his glasses, his hands lifting to touch the permanent purple-y shadows.
“Low blow, hon,” he said, in a hushed tone, “Low. Blow.”
I smiled sweetly as Calix looked back and forth between us anxiously. He was always afraid we were going to fight, even though we rarely did. I walked up to my brother and planted a wet kiss on the side of his cheek and then did the same to Calix. I backed away and looked them over. Calix’s brown hair was handsomely disheveled and looked gorgeous in a thick, tan sweater. Greer had a playfully repulsed look on his face as he wiped off my germs with the sleeve of his favorite red cardigan. They were too adorable for their own good.
“And guess what! You’ll see me again in two months for the Christmas hols!” I declared; Greer groaned, but smiled along with Calix anyways.
. . . . . . . .
“Allison!” Dom squeezed me tightly once we were in our dorm, successfully cutting off the air flow to my lungs.
“Dom, believe it or not,” I gasped, “but, breathing is essential for me to live.”
Dom quickly let go of me and smiled widely. My cheeks still felt warm from when Greer yelled ‘Give Potter a good snog tonight!” when I left the Three Broomsticks earlier after spending most of the day shopping and gabbing with him and Calix. Dom fell back onto her bed and draped the back of her hand over her forehead and sighed dramatically.
“Oh, Allison; how I’ve missed you so!” She professed. I laughed out loud.
“It’s barely been twenty four hours, Dom,” I sat down next to her, “I’m sure you survived without me.”
“It’s actually been twenty five hours, thirty two minutes, and seventeen seconds,” she countered, eyes closed.
“You just made those numbers up,” I laughed and Dom opened her eyes, giving me a mischievous smile.
“Perhaps I did,” she sat up, “but that doesn’t mean I didn’t miss you! And James has been downright unbearable because he didn’t know you were leaving yesterday! You should’ve seen him.”
Dom was smiling; looking far more happy than usual.
“What did you do?” I asked, suspicious.
“About James?” she asked, “I told him to—”
“No, no,” I interjected, “Not about James. You have a permanent smile on your face. What happened?”
“Nothing,” she blushed, smile faltering as she ran her fingers through her perfectly straight blond hair.
Before I could reply, Fay and Imogen came stumbling into the dorm, giggling and gossiping along the way.
“Allie!” They both shrieked, engulfing me in hugs, too.
“How was Greer? How was Calix?” Imogen asked, taking off her heavy robes.
“Are they still as dishy as ever?” Fay enquired, giggling as she started to unpin her curls. I rolled my eyes teasingly.
“Some things never change,” I stated, “House-elves will always love cleaning and Faymogen will always be boy-crazy!”
“Faymogen?” Fay repeated, thinking it over.
“You two are practically one entity,” I said, “So; this is me, giving you a nickname, to save time.”
They broke out into a new wave of giggles, making me smile.
“Oo, Allison! Dom!” Imogen proclaimed, “We have to start getting ready for the party! What costumes are you wearing?”
I felt my eyes narrow; I don’t do costumes. Costumes attract attention. Attention is against the rules.
I guess you could say that the party was in “full-swing” by eight-thirty. So far I had had one butter beer and had successfully spilled half its contents on my blue jumper when a fifth year Hufflepuff, clad in a rather revealing Healer outfit, said something along the lines of ‘Is that a wand in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?’
The Gryffindor common room was filled past capacity with people in fifth year and up from all different houses and sporting a variety of costumes. I saw Freddie standing close to Amelia, his head ducked as he whispered something in her ear, causing her to smack him playfully on his bare chest and start fiddling with his red cape, obviously liking his Gladiator costume. I spotted Imogen not too far off flirting outlandishly with a couple of Ravenclaw blokes and Faylinn close by talking shyly to Finch-Fletchley; both of them in matching faerie costumes. Across the room I could see Frank, as Peter Pan, and Dom, as a Native American, whispering to each other, both looking frustrated.
Lastly, I saw Allie. She was chatting happily with Rose, Al, and Scorpius. From what I could tell, she wasn’t wearing a costume, just like me; just a normal looking green blouse, gray cardigan, and dark blue jeans. Her wavy brown hair was down and her smile was wide and I could feel her natural pull draw me in like it always did.
“Hiya,” I smiled sheepishly. Allison, Rose, Al, and Scorpius all turned to look at me.
“Hello, James,” Albus smiled. Despite how innocent my little brother looked, he was still the little Slytherin of the family, so I could see the mischievous glint in his bright green eyes. Rose gave him a warning look before waving at me and Scorpius nodded in greeting. I opened my mouth so I could attempt to say something clever and perhaps get Allie alone and apologize, but I was disrupted by a yelling match across the room.
“I don’t know what you expect from me, Frank!” Dom exclaimed, face red. I started to worry that she was going to go all Veela-bird on my best mate. Weasley temper plus violent, Veela tendencies is not a good combination; perhaps I should tell my Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur. I could see my cousin Louis, a fifth year Ravenclaw and Dom’s younger brother, walk up to his sister and place a hand on her arm, whispering something in French in her ear, “Not now, Louis!Laissez-moi tranquille!” (Leave me alone!) He quickly backed off.
“Don’t give me that, Dom!” Frank retaliated, surprising everyone in the room. Frank Longbottom was non-confrontational. Frank Longbottom was relaxed. Frank Longbottom didn’t yell. I felt a surge of pride as I watched my friend stand up to my cousin. Allie stiffened beside me, “You know what I expect! First, I snog you—”
There were audible gasps throughout the common room. Frank sent the crowd, at large, a glare.
“—and you run away. Next, you come up to me on Friday and you snog me. Then, yesterday, you pretend nothing ever happened. How did you think I would handle it? Did you think I’d just forget or did you just need to get it out of your system?”
Dom started to fiddle with a braid in her hair, looking everywhere but at Frank.
“Honestly Dom,” Frank’s voice softened and he took hold of her other, idle hand, “I’ve been bloody well in love with you for three years. I can’t just forget this. I don’t want to continue this off-and-on-again friendship we have if that kiss meant nothing to you.”
There was almost complete silence in the Common Room. Everyone was either staring at the two blondes or looking around at each other whispering things like ‘Did you know about this?’ or ‘What is going on?’ Behind me I hear Rose mutter, “If Dominique turns him down I swear to Merlin, Circe, and Morgana that I will owl Aunt Fleur.”
Dom finally looked up into Frank’s pleading eyes, but didn’t say anything. Frank sighed, frustrated, took hold of her face in his hand, and kissed her right on the mouth and Dom didn’t stop him. The Common Room broke out in cheers.
“About bloody time!”
“I really thought he loved me!” A fifth year girl cried.
“Get it in, Longbottom!” at that comment Dom and Frank broke apart, both blushing violently.
“I’m sorry,” I saw his lips form the words, but couldn’t hear them since the party started up all over again, music blaring. Dom rolled her eyes then launched herself at him again, knocking Frank over onto the floor.
I turned to Allie, our eyes both wide, and our mouths twitching, before breaking out into fits of laughter, falling onto the floor, not unlike our friends. Rose, Albus, and Scorpius had walked away at some point.
We finally calmed down after sniggering for what seemed like an eternity. Sitting on the floor, taking deep breaths, I noticed that her cheeks were flushed and her hair was sticking out in several directions, not unlike my own; except while she looked completely amazing, I probably looked as though I was just struck by lightning.
“Want to take a walk?” I suggested. She paused for a beat, surprised that I asked.
“Sure,” she smiled, “let me just get my coat.”
I stood up and offered my hand, which she took, and pulled her up. She immediately let go once she was on her own two feet.
“Meet me in the corridor in five minutes,” she said and I nodded before rushing towards the staircase leading to the boys’ dorms, but my path was abruptly blocked by a figure in the form of Fred Weasley.
“Whoa boy! Where do you think you’re going? There’s a party going on here!” He exclaimed and Amelia, who was standing next to him, giggled drunkenly as Fred slung his arm over her shoulder.
“Not now, Fred,” I growled, growing annoyed.
“Where’s your costume, Cuz? No Halloween spirit!” He shouted, pointing at my jeans and jumper.
“I’ll have you know that I have the perfect, sober, amount of Halloween spirit. I just don’t parade around, drunk, in a bloody gladiator costume,” I countered, trying to step around him, but he simply reached out an arm, blocking me again.
“First of all, I look damn good,” Amelia nodded in agreement and I forced myself not to roll my eyes, “Second, what’s the rush?”
“If you must know, Allison and I are going out to the pitch…to practice,” I lied quickly, and I daresay, quite convincingly. Fred raised his eyebrows in confusion (who ever heard of James Potter ditching a party, with alcohol, for a girl?) and I took the opportunity to race up the staircase and into the dorm.
I noticed the butterbeer stain on my jumper, but with the time strain, decided to leave it on. So I simply grabbed my coat, gloves, and hat, and ran back down the stairs. Dom tried to catch my attention from the corner she was sitting in with Scorpius, Rose, and Frank, who looked happier than I had ever seen and I made a mental note to have a man-talk with him later (I need to protect my cousin’s virtue), but I shook my head and ran through the portal and out into the corridor, nearly crashing into Wood in the process.
“Oi! Sorry!” I backed up a few feet and she laughed out loud, the sound echoing off the walls before covering her mouth with her hand.
“Its fine,” she assured me in a whisper, “let’s go.”
She ran ahead of me, humming some muggle song, and I took the opportunity to merely observe her. Her coat was a navy blue with brass buttons running down the front and she wore a gray beanie on her head, with her chestnut waves spilling over her shoulder. I hurried my pace so I was next to her and grabbed her wrist gently. She looked at my with a questioning look in her eyes.
“This way,” I whispered and tugged her along a corridor until I came to a tapestry and pulled it open, revealing a dark passageway. I felt Allison start to back away so I held on tighter to the sleeve of her coat, “Do you trust me?”
“The dark just freaks me out a bit,” She bit her lip, blushing, not quite answering my question.
“It’s fine,” I whispered, “I’ll be right next to you, okay?”
She nodded slightly, her fringe falling slightly into her eyes. I smiled and turned towards the passage and whispered lumos. We walked into the darkness together, my hand still on her wrist, before reaching a dead end.
“What now?” She asked, still whispering. I gestured to the ceiling above us with my lit wand, showing her a trap door, “Oh.”
“Come on, I’ll lift you,” I offered.
“I don’t want you to break a hand.”
“Wood, you cannot be serious. How much do you weigh? Six stone?” she ran her free hand through her hair nervously, “I think I can handle it.”
“Fine,” she muttered, pointedly ignoring my soft laughter. I handed her my wand and laced my hands together, serving as a step on which she placed one foot. She hesitated before putting my wand in her mouth (please refrain from giggling at the sexual innuendos, I beg of you), shooting me an apologetic look, and placing her hands on my shoulders, pushing up. I shook slightly from the sudden movement and the jittery feeling her touch gave me, but steadied myself. Allison looked down at me, a nervous look in her eyes, so I smiled encouragingly at her, which seemed to give her to will to lift open the trap door and hoist herself in.
“It’s really dark in here,” she whispered and I could hear the anxiety in her voice.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be there in a moment,” I promised her before jumping and catching hold of the ledge. I pulled myself in rather clumsily, crashing head-on with some unknown object, at which Allison couldn’t help but laugh, “Yes, yes. It’s quite funny when James injures himself.”
“Quite indeed, but are you all right?” I nodded and she handed me my wand, “Sorry about the whole biting your wand bit.”
“Its fine,” I shrugged, “but take a look where we are.”
She looked around; wand lit, and laughed, “The Quidditch supplies shed!”
“Come on, let’s go to the pitch,” I nodded towards the door. Once we were outside I looked up at the sky. It was a navy blue, the same color as Allison’s jacket, and the stars contrasted vibrantly against it; the moon washing everything in a strange blue-white light.
“It’s nice out,” Allison commented when we finally made it to the middle of the pitch.
It was freezing outside and our breath came out in white puffs. The usually green and lush grass of the Quidditch pitch was now brown and dry, making sounds like dead leaves when we lay down on it. Allison squirmed around a bit, getting comfortable, before closing her eyes and sighing. I decided to follow her example and closed mine, too. Without sight all my other senses seemed to be heightened. I could hear her steady breathing, smell the floral scent of her hair, and could practically feel the inches of grass separating us.
“Do you smell it?” She asked aloud.
“Hm?” I turned my head to the left to look at her. Her eyes were still closed and there was a ghost of a smile on her lips.
“Autumn… this is what autumn smells like,” she opened her eyes to gaze over at me, “take a deep breath.”
I inhaled through my nose, the cold air stinging at first, before dramatically letting the breath out, which caused her to roll her eyes but smile nonetheless.
“What do you smell?” she asked.
“Well, the pumpkin pasties on your breath,” I started and even though it was hardly visible I could still see her cheeks darken, “Which smells good, but the way. I love pumpkin pasties. I can also smell the butterbeer on my jumper, the chocolate bar that I just realized is in my coat pocket, and, well, you.”
“Did the cold air sting at first?” I nodded in affirmation and she looked back at the sky, “It’s like a slap in the face; nature telling you to wake the hell up, right? That’s why I like it so much. Some fall days are warm and comforting, but then it suddenly turns chilly, but not in a cruel way, just to remind you that this isn’t a dream. You really are breathing and talking and loving and living and it’s all real; I’m real, you’re real. This life is real.”
“Do you feel like you have to be reminded?” I asked, staring at her profile, not really caring if she caught me anymore.
“All the bloody time,” she admitted, laughing softly, causing her fringe to fall into her eyes.
I then started wondering how she would react if I reached across and brushed it out of her face, because girls like that. Right? When guys tuck their hair behind their ears and whisper nice things to them? It seemed pretty cliché, but then again, I was a bloody walking cliché by that point. The space between us seemed so wide and I just wanted to close it; how, I didn’t really know. I knew that I wanted to kiss her and hold her, but right then I would’ve settled for our shoulders touching, separated by six layers of clothes, because she rarely let anyone get that close to her in the first place.
A/N: Okay, first I want to say that I have a one-shot up called A Little Closer and I would really appreciate it if some of my (faithful?) readers would go and check it out (maybe review?) It's about Frank and Dom and their first kiss after their Ancient Runes class.
So, what does everyone think? Halloween isn't over yet! Please review! I always reply! :)
p.s. The chapter title is a song by Laura Marling (she's wonderful and gorgeous)
p.s.s. and, of course, all credit goes to J.D. Salinger for the Catcher in the Rye quotes.