Chapter 1 : Regret
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I love that moment when you first wake up, your mind still drifting along the surface of your dream. You can hear voices, the shuffling of people around you, but it’s almost not real. Reality eludes you. You can hear people say things that they never actually said. Right now I’m hearing some disembodied voice saying, “Cassia, you’re already ten minutes late for Potions,” when I know for a fact that my alarm hasn’t gone off yet.
Wait a second.
Reality hits me like a train, along with the memory of a semi-conscious curse in the direction of said alarm clock at some uncivilised hour of this morning. “Fuck,” I yelp, leaping out of bed and scrabbling for my clothes. My best friend, Dominique Weasley, who I identify as the owner of the disembodied voice, lazily passes me socks, underwear, shirt, skirt, tie, jersey, robes and toast before bundling me out the door. I realise halfway down Gryffindor Tower that I haven’t any shoes, and rather than letting me go and retrieve them, Dom instead Summons them and bounces impatiently from foot to foot while I put them on.
“Why didn’t you wake me earlier?” I whine as she drags me through the school.
“I tried,” she replies matter-of-factly. “Merlin, what were you doing last night?”
She shoves me through the door to our Potions classroom. A look of almost alarm crosses James Potter’s face and my stomach drops like a stone when I realise what I was doing last night.
I hurry into my seat at the back of the class, eyes fixated on Professor Rochester in an attempt to ignore the Potter across the aisle from me.
He’s still in my damn peripheral vision.
Safe in the knowledge that Rochester isn’t one of those dinosaur teachers who confiscates notes students pass in class and reads them out, I pull out a small bit of parchment and a quill and scrawl a message to Dom.
Me. James. Last night. Yeah.
Her eyes widen, staring at me, the note, and then at James. My peripheral vision creeps sideways.
He glances at Dom, at me, at the bit of parchment, raises his eyebrows slightly, and scrawls a note to Freddy Weasley beside him.
Freddy stares at the note, at me, and then at James. I turn away almost immediately, but my peripheral vision catches the boys high fiving underneath their desks.
Fuck. I sink in my seat, knowing my face is going as red as my hair, and try valiantly to pay attention to what Rochester is saying.
I give up, feeling myself spiralling into a deep, dramatic depression. At interval, I decide, I’ll join Moaning Myrtle in her bathroom and we’ll exchange woes. I’ll be one of the Bathroom Girls, who sit in Myrtle’s bathroom exchanging woes with her. Dead parents, dead siblings, divorced parents, low self-esteem have nothing on me. I slept with my best friend.
I know I said earlier that Dom was my best friend, but that’s only because every girl must have an obligatory female best friend. James is my real best friend. Was. He’s not anymore. It’s a well-known, undisputable fact that sex ruins friendships.
And now I’ve gone and lost my best friend. Which wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t madly in love with him at the same time.
I can feel myself choking up. James can’t stand girls crying over him. Be staunch, Cassia.
Staunch. Think manly thoughts.
An image of shirtless James pops, unbidden, into my head.
Not the thought I was looking for.
“Cassia Rutherford,” Rochester barks, and I fight the urge to curse him to the ground. Go away.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Not in the slightest, Professor,” I reply matter-of-factly. Mum always taught me not to lie. Actually, that in itself is a lie, it was Dad. And he’s the Slytherin. The irony never escapes me.
There are a few titters of appreciation at my honesty, before the class resumes its glazed over expression and I go back to my crisis of epic proportions.
“What do we have next?” I ask casually.
“Defence,” Dom replies.
This day couldn’t get worse. No, Cassia, you’re tempting fate. This day could get worse. It probably will. In fact, it definitely will.
I’m using reverse psychology on fate itself. I should have been in Ravenclaw.
No, this is why I’m not in Ravenclaw.
Well, actually, the reason I’m not in Ravenclaw is because Ravenclaws are too smart to go sleeping with their best friends.
I’m too hedonistic to be in Ravenclaw. There, that fits.
My eyes catch James’s on their bored wander around the classroom, and I sink further into my seat, amusing myself with correcting the grammar of my desk’s graffiti.
My attempt to skulk into Defence Against the Dark Arts unnoticed fails.
“Cassia,” Mum says firmly, beckoning me back to the front of the classroom.
“Athena.” First name basis goes two ways.
“Where’s your essay?”
“I haven’t brought it into existence yet.”
“And why haven’t you brought it into existence yet?”
“Because, mother dearest, I really don’t give a flying fuck about Unforgivable Curses.”
“Is that so?”
That’s Mum’s Dangerous Phrase. She levels a gaze at me that could freeze Fiendfyre before slowly turning around to face the class.
“Is that the case with anyone else? Does anyone else not give a flying fuck about Unforgivable Curses? Who else hasn’t written an essay?
The class sits in fearful silence, apart from one hand which is slowly raised.
James Sirius Fucking Potter.
“James Potter, I should have known,” Mum says coolly. “Outside, both of you.”
I feel physically sick as I trail weakly behind her. Mum’s a Legilimens. I’m not just saying that. It’s not ‘mother’s instinct,’ it’s real Legilimency. I’m shitting myself. Figuratively.
“You two have made it abundantly clear you have no intention of ever putting effort into my class,” Mum says flatly. “This is sixth year. You’re not juniors anymore, and I’m not going to waste my time with students who have no interest in learning. You do not return to my class until you prove to me you’re mature enough to be there. And Cassia, I want to see you at lunch. Goodbye.”
“What do we do now, Professor?” James asks meekly.
She looks at him. “I don’t care, Potter. But if you’re at all capable of intelligent thought, I suggest you start with that essay.”
I stare miserably at the closed door in front of me. Kicked out of DADA, Mum’s furious at me, and now I’m stuck with James, and James alone for an hour.
Way to go, Cassia.