Chapter 2 : In which things end
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Mary was younger than me—just a year—although you’d never know it. She inhabited the dormitory above ours and her voice could often be heard through the ceiling, shouting her friends and enemies alike into submission. That wasn’t to say that she was boring; in fact, she had a mischievous smile and a penchant for interfering in people’s personal lives.
“What are we talking about?” I sighed.
Stroking her tabby cat, Mary said, “I’m a representative of everybody you live with. Lily wanted to do it, but she’s on patrol tonight.”
“But what are we talking about?” I repeated.
“Stephen was looking for you at breakfast. As he was yesterday, and the day before.”
I swore under my breath—Stephen was the one thing that I didn’t want to talk about. “Do you happen to have a biscuit with you?” I asked tentatively. She narrowed her eyes at me, and I decided not to press the point.
“Look, having your boyfriend mope around behind us on the off chance that we might encounter you is getting old,” Mary continued. “We all know you’ve decided to break up with him—”
I frowned at her. “How?”
“Legilimency, obviously,” she replied, a smile twitching on her lips. “The point is, you know I encourage making people’s lives difficult—especially with pompous arses like Stephen—but I don’t understand why you’re keeping him around if you’ve already got your mind made up.”
“I need to think it over,” I protested.
Mary shook her head, groaning. “You’re terrible at life, Andy.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just think about it, my dear,” she answered helpfully. “You’re completely oblivious to very many things, and quite shallow sometimes... besides, you can’t plait very well, and you wear too much grey.”
“It brings out my eyes!”
“And now that you’ve managed to acquire the world’s most boring boyfriend, and by some small miracle realised that you need to toss him, you’re stuck in a hopeless limbo!”
I blinked. “Mary, that’s a little harsh.”
Mary rolled her eyes exaggeratedly and shoved a furry bundle in my direction. “Have a kitten,” she said, somewhat threateningly.
The castle was governed by an omnipresent feline population that prowled the hallways in gangs, bickering and occasionally uniting against the surly Mrs Norris (much as the students united against her owner, caretaker Argus Filch). And yet Mary’s cat, Puppy, was terrible at being a cat—hence the name.
Attempts at litheness resulted in falls from dangerous heights, after which she rarely landed on her feet. She had never hissed at a soul; she displayed affection to Slytherins and often tried to befriend Mrs Norris. She tended to skip meetings of the feline mafia in favour of, say, falling asleep curled up on Mary’s head.
“Here’s the thing,” announced Mary. “You can either quit ignoring him and return to the romantic underworld, or you can just bloody tell him it’s over.” I said nothing, and she prompted, “You already know which you want to do, don’t you?”
I sighed. “Fine, Merlin’s pants, I want to ditch him.”
“Great! See, that’s a great start—I expected to have to counsel you through a minor crisis just to get that out of you.”
“I know I have to do it, Mary,” I said. I planted my lips on the top of Puppy’s head, but she was already squirming to be released—a pigtailed second-year had just passed with a cup of tea that Puppy would be happy to intercept. I let her hop off my lap.
“This weekend,” persisted Mary, as she got up to disentangle the cat’s claws from the second-year’s mop of curly hair.
The conversational progression from wrackspurts to nargles was, apparently, a natural one, for Zadie made it with ease. The Gryffindor keeper, Claus Hollande, appeared a bit overwhelmed, and I suspected that Zadie may have overdone the pre-drinks drinks.
It was hard not to celebrate, though, having watched Gryffindor absolutely annihilate Hufflepuff that morning. James sat in the centre of the common room, conducting a play-by-play analysis of the game, with awestruck input from fans. I watched, growing increasingly glum.
It was hitting me slowly: every day of every month, entirely wasted. My roommates had noticed and were taking turns fussing over me—offering another drink, another insult for Stephen, another introduction to a fit friend.
“What an atrocious bastard,” decided Zadie elegantly. “He spends more time on his hair than you do, I’d bet, and there’s still this kink on the left side of his head. How can you miss a kink that size? Your hair, you know—I could point out a couple kinks, sure, but at least they’re from negligence, not from being a shit person.”
“I’d like to kick him in the balls,” declared Leah. “I don’t know who he thinks he is.”
“But you’re so gorgeous, Andy,” said Em earnestly, handing me another firewhiskey, “and he really doesn’t deserve you, and that’s what I’ve said from the start! Anyone, their mother, and their niece’s pet bunny would back me up on this one.”
Lily, on the other hand, raised her eyebrows and gave me a calculatingly look. “For the best,” she said finally.
Just as the alcohol and encouragement had begun to raise my spirits, the common room was beginning to clear out—most were going to sleep, but others were sneaking out to snog in empty classrooms. One of the last people in the common room is a seventh year named Abigail Devan, who came over to me before going up to bed.
“Sorry, Andy?” she said. “I think there’s someone waiting for you outside. He’s arguing with the Fat Lady.”
“Blonde?” I sighed.
“That’s the one.”
“Would you mind telling him to go fuck a hippogriff? I’d really appreciate it.”
Lily shook her head, waved me into silence, and thanked Abigail for the message. Turning firmly to me, she said, “This is it. You have to do it now.”
I stumbled my way through the portrait-hole and found Stephen drawing his wand on the Fat Lady, who looked outrageously offended and a little bit drunk. “Took you long enough,” he said to me, irritated, and still holding his wand.
“I have something to say,” I said slowly.
“Can it wait?”
“I don’t—no, it can’t.”
I cornered him up against the wall. Perhaps he misinterpreted this particular gesture, however, because he immediately placed his hands on my butt and drew me closer.
I raised an eyebrow, disentangling myself. “I want to talk to you,” I said, and then—when he didn’t seem suitably worried—I rephrased. “We need to talk, I mean. That kind.”
“Oh.” Stephen looked bewildered.
It was an absolute joy, uttering the magic words. I retreated to the common room with a smile, thinking that perhaps the entire relationship—long and stagnant as it was—had been validated by the pleasure of ending it at last.
My friends were lounging in front of the fire with the boys in our year, chatting and sharing the last inch from every bottle of firewhiskey. It was quite clear almost immediately that everyone—even Remus Lupin, prefect—had had quite enough to drink.
“How did he take it?” cried Zadie, noticing my arrival.
I scrunched my face up into a pale imitation of bewilderment and repeated Stephen’s final words to me: “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Oh, please tell me he cried,” said Leah.
“Andy just broke up with her boyfriend,” Zadie said by way of explanation to the boys.
James looked pleased and raised his glass. “Congratulations, Thorpe! I’ll drink to that.”
In celebration, he finally revealed the story of how they had used an illegal hex to inflate Bertram Aubrey’s head to twice its usual size. “You know, it’s like the idiom,” concluded Sirius, swaying slightly, to universal mystification, “the physical big head matches the metaphorical one.”
After a moment, he looked confused by his own words. I was rather touched by his innocence.
“We should all be better friends,” said Peter anxiously. “Protect each other from Ravenclaws and other hazards.”
We all nodded solemnly. “Just watch,” I said, “you’re my witnesses. Next year I won’t be putting up with any more shit from anybody. Next year I’ll be somebody worth dating—big changes—no more shitheads. Sorry, is that offensive? Pooheads.”
“I think you’re worth dating, Andy,” interjected Peter brightly.
“Uncomfortably acknowledged, Pettigrew,” I said seriously.
A/N: Big fat edit continues! Anyway, please please please stop by in that little grey review box if you have the time or the inclination. I'm doing my anxious flail.
Expect: Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration, revelations, and a plot-shakingly important list.
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