A/N: Oh deary me sooo much is going to be revealed here. Can you cope?
I’m sorry it’s taken so long to write – a case of deadlines, revision and extreme writers block.
Warnings: Swearing, many innuendos and other bad things.
"Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead,” Benjamin Franklin
“Are you sure this is going to work?”
Sat with a towel around my shoulders, wet hair straggling around my face and a blindfold over my eyes I was both clueless and apprehensive about what was to occur. Indy had forced me from bed at an ungodly hour for a Saturday, pushed my sleepy form into the shower and thrown numerous bottles of products on my hair. Still bleary I was only aware of a faintly pleasant lemon smell wafting from my head.
“Of course,” she said offhandedly from somewhere behind me. The sound of paper informed me she was perusing one of her magazines for information on what to do.
“Are you sure you’ve done this before,” I asked dubiously. The fact she had forced me into a blindfold had already alerted me to the potential this had for going wrong.
“Yes,” she muttered.
“Oooooookkaaaay,” she sighed. “Well I haven’t exactly done it before....but I’ve seen it done which is just as good. Plus I’ve read about it loads and I have all they have a step by step guide in witch weekly for me to follow. If that doesn’t make me an expert I don’t know what will.”
“Whatever faith I just had in you has just vanished like a ghost through a wall,” I muttered. “Just rest assured that if this goes horribly wrong I am fully justified in turning you into a frog and giving you to Filch as a present.”
“Fair enough,” she agreed. “But I can assure you that this is going to be a perfect success.”
“I’ll hold off till the end before I agree,” I mumbled.
“Yeah yeah,” she ignored my protests as she began mixing something in a bowl. “Now the whole part of this next exercise is quietness. This is about cleansing the temperamental part of your personality and trying to get you to be less cynical about things i.e. this is where you stop moaning.”
“Fine,” I grumbled. I mean I know I was supposed to be working on being nicer but was it really necessary to practice at a moment when the dizziest person alive was throwing potions at your head?
After our heart to heart on the roof she had badgered me for a week until finally I gave in and complied with her request to give me a makeover. Apparently if we both had them she would feel better and as a sad and depressed Indy was just not good for my health or the universe it seemed best to agree. Which is why I found myself on the first day of our Easter Holidays – a day that some divine prophecy gave to students for lie ins – being dragged from my bed and made to fulfil the promise. Surrounded by her tools she had made me sit here for about twenty minutes now as she prepared to change my hair from ‘dull to shiny.’ No matter that I was perfectly happy with having birds nest hair of no particular colour…apparently I got no choice in the matter. As she began lathering the gloopy potion (recommended from the latest magazine she’d purchased) over my hair I had to try very hard not to cringe and run from the room screaming.
“Stop tensing,” she whacked me on the head with the brush she was using to place the colour onto my hair.
“I can’t help it,” I moaned. “I have no idea what you are doing to my hair! You’ve covered up the mirror and refuse to let me see what you are up to. Excuse me if, knowing your reputation, I’m ever so slightly terrified. You don’t have the best track record with these things.”
“You know for that comment I hope it doesn’t work and you end up with pink hair.”
Folding my arms I slumped in the chair and decided it was best to keep quiet. Knowing Indy if I didn’t fully appreciate her makeover talents I would end up resembling that kooky guy from the Weird Sisters.
“What does this stuff do anyway?” I picked up the bottle in front of me and eyed it dubiously.
“It’s Merlin for your hair apparently; cures all hair problems with one easy application. It grows your hair, dyes it and eradicates frizz in one go. It’s got some sort of potion in it that creates your perfect hair and style for you. It’s like magic.”
“That’s because it is,” I pointed out dryly.
For someone so incredibly intelligent she did have a tendency to have some incredibly ditzy moments. She could add up numbers in seconds but could barely remember to button her shirt up the right way in a morning.
And I was letting her near my hair….
“There done!” she declared, pulling off the plastic gloves with a snap.
Done? I had a gooey substance on my head that smelt like a mixture of rotten eggs and dead troll…an interesting combination no nostril should ever have to endure. Done….I think not.
“What….I’m supposed to go around looking like something has thrown up on my head? That’s fashion?”
“It’s not finished yet you tool,” she hit my shoulder, unable to hit my head due to aforementioned gooey substance. “You have to let it soak in for five minutes and then we wash it off.”
Washing her hands under the tap and drying them she began to collect the discarded instruments of her beauty torture. Watching her nervously – after all what the hell was she planning to do to me next – I couldn’t help but wonder when her transformation was coming.
“I thought you were having a makeover too,” I asked.
“Oh I am,” she threw some product into the bin. “Just not yet – mine will obviously be so stunning I’ll steal the limelight from you and that just wouldn’t be a best friend kind of act.”
“Yeah,” I said wryly. “You’re so considerate.”
Closing my eyes again, I winced and prayed this torture would be over soon.
One hour later…..
“Okay….open your eyes!”
Gingerly opening one eye I peeked at my reflection and nearly choked in shock. Opening both eyes fully I stared wide eyed at what was before me. Gone was the annoying brown hair that hovered between red, brown and blonde. Gone were the frizzy locks that stuck out in tufts around me head. Gone was the short, choppy and uneven cut that was short in some places, long in others and made me look like an escapee from St Mungo’s mental ward. Instead I had dark brown hair that fell past my shoulders in silky strands.
“Whoa,” I blinked wide eyed at my reflection.
“I know, I am such a genius,” Indy nodded away next to me. “Somehow I’ve made even you look presentable. If there was an Order of Merlin for this I would be preparing my acceptance speech as I speak.”
I rolled my eyes. Modesty and Indy never worked together.
“I will admit that it is a vast improvement,” I gave myself one last admiring look before turning to her, “but just because you have changed my hairstyle doesn’t change anything.”
“It means you are less likely to terrify people when you arrive at class with one side of your hair shorter than the other and full of twigs.”
“That happened once. I wasn’t looking where I was going and bashed into a tree. Now remember this isn’t a makeover, it’s a confidence boost.” I pointed out. “We haven’t changed who I am deep down, we’ve only made me look less scary.”
“But it’s one step to positivity. By looking good you gain confidence which makes it easier to go forth into the world and get what you want.”
“Trust me being confident isn’t really the issue…”
“That’s not confidence, it’s just you using sarcasm to get through life and alienating anyone unintelligent enough to get in your pessimistic way.”
Frowning I considered this. She had a point.
“Fair enough,” I shrugged.
“I will leave you to admire my work and consider my present,” she patted me on the back and left the room. “I have other work to do.”
Tilting my head from side to side I couldn’t help but laugh at myself and the adoration I seemed to be lavishing on my reflection. As Indy left the room I continued to study the stranger in the mirror and wonder what had happened to me. I had never been one for material looks and I hated wearing makeup but give me the right hairstyle and I became entranced. I didn’t want to be the sort of person who became obsessed by their looks but there was definitely a little flame of happiness and confidence it had lit up inside me and who was I to throw water on it?
So I’d be called a copycat or a sheep or millions of other demeaning things as I walked through the hall and no doubt would be laughed at for trying to fit in. That was the nature of school bullies – whatever you did they would never accept you. The real strength came from not trying to conform, battle them or get revenge but being comfortable in the knowledge you were happy.
And perhaps having a new hairstyle was materialistic but as long as I was happy what was the harm? I wasn’t doing it for them I was doing it for me.
Running a hand through my dramatically different locks I left the bathroom and stopped short at the sight in front of me. Letting my hand fall to my side I surveyed the carnage before me weakly.
“What on earth have you done to my clothes!” I shrieked.
Before me lay my entire wardrobe, thrown haphazardly across my bed with Indy stood next to them, wielding her wand as though conducting an orchestra.
“Just a simple shrinking charm that ‘Magic Mistress’ recommended in their last edition. It’s been shrunk accentuate your curves and actually show the world you are not a boy. It’s to prove you have knees and don’t just float in mid-air.”
“Oh because having knees is a sure fire to prove I’m a girl,” I snapped. “Unless you forgot basic anatomy Indy, boys have knees too you know!”
“Yeah yeah, yada yada yada,” she rolled her eyes. “Just be thankful I’ve brought you into the twentieth century and got rid of the crinoline skirts that hang past your knees and make you look like you are wearing a potato sack. This way you look acceptable!”
“But I don’t want to wear them and what is this?” I picked up a short black piece of fabric. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY SKIRT?”
“Merely shortened it to show off your legs. How are you meant to attract Wood if you don’t show him your legs? Men need short skirts to see what they are going to get their hands on and make sure you aren’t hiding anything suspicious under there.”
“Bud…dfsf…flll…” I spluttered non coherent words out at intervals, pausing between each one to shake the offending garment in my hand in her direction.
“I know you’re cross with me now but when the wolf whistles and offers of broom closet meetings start coming your way then you’ll thank me,” she smiled.
“But in this get up people are going to think I’m….I’m….” I glanced around frantically for the right word. “A….a scarlet woman….” I finished on a whispered note as I peeked towards the door for fear someone might overhear.
“Pft,” she waved my concern away with a swish of her hand. “I wouldn’t say scarlet….perhaps a pink woman. Scarlet is too strong a term.”
“I….I….I need to lie down,” overcome by the toll rapid change takes upon a person who is averse to revolution, I lay down on my bed. Laying a faint hand over my eyes I tried to ignore the sounds of my best friend flicking her wand and transforming me, Ella Finster, from dour spinster to a feminine form.
This really wasn’t going to end well.
You know in those cheesy books or muggle films when the character has a makeover they walk down the corridor, hair shining as the heroine tosses her head back with a smile and walks through a crowd of Adoring fans who lavish compliments on her?
Prince Charming who steps forward and declares his undying love?
Fall of the enemy who has plagued the heroine for so long?
Happily ever after?
Well that really didn’t happen in this case.
Perhaps for drama purposes I should lie and say I waltzed into the great hall in shiny new heels, dazzled the onlookers and made everyone swoon with delight as I walked past.
In reality people were far too interested in their breakfasts to notice my new hair and clothes that made me look vaguely female. Okay so the fact I didn’t have insults hurled at me or looks of disgust thrown my way had to be a plus but it wasn’t that sparkly dawning comprehension you see in fiction.
And Prince Charming definitely wasn’t around lavishing me with compliments.
“I feel exposed,” I hissed as we walked between the tables. The few people who did notice me went wide eyed, blinked rapidly and then looked quickly away. So much for anonymity.
“Deal with it,” Indy hissed, propelling me forward in case I decided to turn and run.
“I can’t believe you did this to me,” I hissed back. People kept looking over with furtive glances then turning and whispering to their friends. “You’ve made me into an attraction.”
“No my dear I have made you attractive, there is a difference.” She smiled.
“This is the last time I give you free control of my life.”
“Don’t worry you won’t need to have someone control you life after this wondrous transformation.”
“These clothes feel weird,” I tugged at the fitted shirt as I sat down.
“That’s because it’s not eight sizes too big and making you look like a sack of potatoes,” Indy pointed out. “And if you were wondering that thing is called a figure and apparently you seem to have been hiding one.”
“Boys seeing your figure gives them false hope,” I sniffed.
“No, boys seeing your figure means you aren’t going to turn into the female version of Filch.”
“Maybe I want to,” I said shrilly. “Maybe I’ve come to my senses and decided this makeover thing was a bad idea. You just corned me in a sleep deprived state and attacked me with this transformation.”
“You asked me to do this to you!” she waved her spoon at me. “You can’t blame the fact you now look attractive on me, you can only thank me. I take gift vouchers and boxes of chocolates.”
“Chocolates laced with poison,” I muttered.
As I chewed mutinously on my toast I tried to ignore the stares I was attracting. What was wrong with these people? Ok so I looked nice for once but they didn’t need to stare at me as though I’d just turned into You Know Who or anything. It was enough to make anyone develop a complex.
“I wish they’d stop staring,” I muttered.
“We can’t please you can we?” Indy sighed. “One minute you don’t want anyone to notice you and then the next you do, before doing a u turn and going right back to the beginning. Make your mind up and then send me an owl.”
“I don’t like it when you win the arguments and get snappy,” I said, “that’s my job.”
“Ah good the post is here, maybe they’ll have your answer,” Indy looked up hopefully. “And hopefully the new Witchy Weekly will have some gossip to satisfy me with as you are being decidedly ungossip worthy this morning.”
“When do I ever gossip anyway?”
“When you need information about certain quidditch men who look far too good aboard broomsticks.”
I couldn’t be bothered to reply to her deliberate provocation.
Why had I had this stupid makeover anyway? So far the reception had been one of disbelief rather than anything particularly good. Sure I had expected certain shock but I did not want to be regarded as a circus attraction for the rest of the day. I wasn’t doing this for the benefit of anyone else – it was for me and the fact people were gawping was not part of the plan.
A fluttering noise next to me and a quiet hoot drew my attention away from my breakfast. A large tawny owl had landed next to me and blinking, was holding out its leg waiting for me to remove the letter from its pouch.
Curious as to whom could have written to me and praying it wasn’t my father with another lecture I took the letter and thanked to owl. Did one thank owls or was that straying into territory whereby I would be known as the crazy owl lady? The owl seemed quite pleased with my comment though and tooted in appreciation before flying off. Feeling happy that at least I’d pleased someone this morning I ripped into the letter and read the scant note inside.
We need to talk,
Meet at 9pm in the charms classroom
There was no name with the note; just the short command I was meant to obey. But I didn’t need to see a signature to know who it had come from….I was just intrigued as to why this note had come now.
Glancing up and scanning the crowd for the writer I was disappointed to find the object of my search missing from the house tables.
“Anything exciting?” Indy asked.
Folding the note and slipping it into my bag I pondered this. Surprising, probably a catastrophe yes….exiting no. But telling Indy the truth would be more trouble than it was worth as I knew she would voice objections.
“No,” I smiled, “nothing exciting. Just a reminder that I need to tutor Wood later tonight. McGonagall seems to think I need pressuring into taking this tutoring thing more seriously.”
“Well you are both graduating in a few months,” Indy pointed out. “What am I supposed to do without you here?”
“Sleep around freely and make normal friends I guess,” I smirked.
“Ah true, the world is my lobster after all.” She nodded. “But what about your other non seventh year classes? Aren’t you still meant to be taking them?”
“I think, according to what McGonagall last said, she wants me to do a sort of distance learning thing. So that way I can do the subjects still, but also get a job. Pretty neat.” I shrugged.
“I will reserve judgement,” Indy sighed. “Anyway, first day of the Easter Holidays today, what do you fancy doing?”
“Sleeping, reading and eating,” I smiled. “Not particularly fussed about which order they come in.”
“Oh no, nuh uh we are not doing anything so boring as that.”
“But it’s the holidays! The term comes from the idea of a ‘holy day’ and I can think of no day as holy as the one where I get to do absolutely nothing and can sleep when I want.”
“Stop throwing in factual information to try and win arguments!” Indy whined. “It’s the holidays – information isn’t allowed. We are meant to embrace our free time and try something new!”
“I am trying something new,” I pointed to my new hair and my untatty jumper and jeans. “There’s only so much variety a girl can go through in one day.”
“You’re no fun,” she pouted. “Plus you’re meant to be trying to change your life, you can’t very well do that if you spend your day doing nothing.”
“Nothing does not exist and is an inaccurate term. There is always something as opposed to nothing. Just because I am not doing anything exciting by your standards does not mean I am doing nothing.”
“Piece of advice,” Indy leant forward, “stop analysing the words everyone uses and you might have more luck.”
“I am advising people and improving their grammatical skills. That is helping rather than hindering for which I can only be praised.”
“Praised as in having people throw things at you?” Indy nodded. “I can see where your definition might be misleading.”
“You can’t get to the top without alienating a few people.”
The look she gave me suggested that I’d alienated more than a few people.
“Oh great look who is approaching now,” Indy sighed. “The two kings of trouble themselves. Well maybe they can convince you to do something exciting today instead.”
Not bothering to turn round – her description was enough – I continued to drink my orange juice and waited for the onslaught to begin.
“Hey El-whoa,” Fred paused in the middle of his greeting and stared. George coming up behind him barrelled into the back of him. Pausing to rub his forehead with a scowl he looked at what had caught his brother’s attention before copying the shocked fish expression Fred wore.
“Ella?” they both said in disbelief.
“What?” I raised an eyebrow dangerously.
“Is that you?” Fred asked warily.
“Yes.” I snapped.
“Nah, it can’t be Fred,” George looked at me perplexed. “Where’s the birds nest hair gone, the laddered tights, the monobrow-“
“HEY!” I hurled a roll of bread at him. “I did not have a monobrow.”
“I dunno George, she’s definitely got Ella’s temper,” Fred whispered.
“Maybe,” George lent in and squinted at me. Picking up chunks of hair he studied it whilst his twin prodded me with a finger.
“Quit treating me like a freak show,” I snapped, swatting away their hands. “Your staring is typical of the androcentric society that seeks to do nothing more than subject women to objects to be viewed. It is demeaning that just because I look good you must question this and treat me in a way that is insensitive to my gender.”
Fred and George looked at each other with dry looks.
“Yeah, that’s Ella,” they chorused.
“What’s with the whole Cinderella on a sugar rush treatment?”
“On a sugar rush?”
“Overexcited and frantic transformation,” Fred explained. “This has come out of the blue.”
“Not that we disapprove,” George pointed out.
“Of course not,” Fred agreed.
“It’s nice to see you are a female.”
“Hey!” I took offence at that.
“It’s ok, that’s a compliment. I wouldn’t kick you out of bed,” George lay a hand on his heart to emphasise sincerity.
“What do you want?” I snapped.
“And why can’t we just drop by on our favourite angry female friend and ask how she is?”
“Or why she’s decided to embrace her feminine side after many years of questionable gender and battles with hair growth?”
I chewed my cheek to stop myself breaking their necks.
“I fancied a change.”
“She’s decided to embrace a warmer side to her personality and become nicer to people,” Indy put in, not looking up from her reading.
“Ahhh so that’s why she hasn’t hit us yet,” Fred nodded knowingly.
“Bet I can make her hit us in five seconds,” George put in.
“Nah, three easy.”
I sat in silence. I would not be drawn into their games. I was woman, I was powerful, I could withstand whatever they threw at me.
“ELLA AND WO-“
Less than two seconds in and I’d given George a dead arm.
“Well nice to see the personality transplant was a success,” Fred grinned.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?” I hissed. “And tell me now or it will be other parts of your anatomy that feel pain.”
“Kinky,” George winked.
“Ok, ok,” Fred waved down my anger, “no need to turn into manticore.”
“We just wanted to drop by in our capacity as your godfathers and ask how much progress you’re making with a certain young man.”
“None of your business.”
“But it is dear Ella, it is,” Fred patted my cheek. “What affects out captain affects our team and thus our chance to win the cup. To keep ourselves happy we must keep happy and thus we must turn to you.”
“Wood and I are…well I don’t know what we are but we don’t need you interfering.”
“But we’re so good at it,” George pouted.
“We’ve been reading up on all these girly magazines, learning about manicures and whether we’re autumn or summer and in between all that fun we’ve learned a bit about how to pull a guy….because you know, you have no idea.”
I rolled my eyes.
“And we’ve come up with a plan.”
“A brilliant plan.” Fred agreed.
“One that involves you, a dress and a handsome man whose name is linked with trees.”
“One that will undoubtedly get you into dormitory of passion so he can unlock your chamber of secrets.” Fred winked.
Grimacing I decided that this conversation had gone far enough.
“I’m going back to bed,” I swung off the bench and walked away. “I don’t want to know any more about your hair brained plans.”
“Off to dream sweet nothings about Wood,” I heard Fred mutter as I left.
So far that day the step towards socialisation had been taken full throttle.
35 people had asked me what had happened to me.
26 people had called me a copycat who was never going to be popular so why try.
40 people hadn’t known who I was and given me speculative glances.
9 people had said I looked nice.
110 people had made contact with me….making it about 109 more people than usual who had talked to me that day. Okay so it wasn’t really good socialisation but at least I was broadening my horizons and being able to look people in the eye. The new Ella had to think positively and learn not to knee Peter Jenkins in areas Merlin prophesised to be treated nicely when he asked why I’d decided to become a girl.
I’d completely learnt to be nice to people after that….or about twenty people after that anyway.
Later than evening I found myself sat in the library, head resting on my hands on the table as I glanced about the library. Despite being the holidays I still had a tutoring session with Wood as the exams were creeping up on us faster than expected. McGonagall loved to inform me that it was my duty to help him pass and whilst his grades had improved by no end the final hurdle was always going to be the hardest to jump. Therefore, despite his equal protests about his precious time training for the Quidditch Final, we had been forced to schedule a meeting for this evening.
Surveying the library I noticed Madam Pince had upped the crazy recently, something that we all hadn’t thought could be possible. Since her ordeal with the rubber duck many months ago the Weasley twins, having gotten wind of the voodoo dolls, decided it would be decidedly amusing to try and push her over the edge. Having unleashed numerous objects in the library (the most noteworthy being a loud ticking mouse that had disrupted the quiet room and been impossible to find before Madam Pince had attempted to set fire to the library to get rid of it), Madam Pince had decided war needed to be waged. She had enrolled in Seymour’s Self Defence Class (‘get rid of the fluff and make yourself buff’) and undergone three weeks of vigorous exercise to turn her into a well-trained fighting machine. Or so the framed certificate above her desk said proudly, next to the dartboard that held the Weasley Twins faces on it. Her elderly body could often be seen executing military tumbles and fight moves around the library and somehow she’d finagled night vision goggles from somewhere. Madam Pince had become a lean mean fighting machine and only the bravest students now entered the library.
Having just finished a stint of press ups (it’s sad to admit an OAP can do these better than you can) she had embarked on grilling the group of students who had just attempted to enter the library. With a sensory probe she was subjecting them all to intense investigation as she tried to ensure they were not carrying anything she deemed dangerous. Once this had been passed they then had to undergo questioning to make sure they were not spies for the Weasley Twins. Only after this and a staring contest (people who blinked found themselves marched out of the library before you could say You Know Who) would they be allowed to enter the library and join the group of scared, shaking children that had passed the test and now needed mental help.
Madam Pince certainly made life interesting and knowing Fred and George they were preparing a second bout of mischief any day now.
Raising my head from its pillowed position on my arms I looked up and straightened as Wood appeared in the library. Making his way towards our usual spot in the back of the library I was about to say hello when something surprising happened. Wood, either in a rare moment of stupidity or daydreaming about Quidditch and not paying attention, strode past my table completely ignoring my presence.
Um…what now? Had he just snubbed me?
So much for our ‘friendship’.
However he only walked a few steps before her stood frozen to the spot. Backing up slowly he turned and shook his head slightly as though trying to clear his vision. When he undoubtedly found the same vision in front of him a look of bewilderment encased his features and he gave an award winning performance of a fish.
“Ella?” he blinked repeatedly and open and shut his mouth.
“Yes,” I said slowly. “That is my name.”
“Ella?” he asked again. He seemed to be having a hard time figuring out that the girl in front of him was actually me. I know he’d taken a few hits to the head and stuff but really it wasn’t that hard to comprehend.
“What?” I queried.
“You’re hair….you’re clothes….um did you do something different today?” he looked me up and down. I did not appreciate being viewed in this way as though I were an object; somewhere my feminist leanings were quivering with fury.
“Yes I did. Why? Going to comment on the fact I’m trying to be a copycat or that I look like a loser who stole someone’s clothes?
“Er no,” he looked alarmed. “I was just going to say you look nice.”
“Oh….” I wasn’t quite sure what to say to that unexpected compliment.
“Yeah…” he reddened at his admission, either scared at my reaction or be the realisation he’d just complimented me.
I was going to hope it was neither and that he was secretly betraying his love for me through the dilation of his blood vessels.
But you know he was probably just hot.
“So what are we studying tonight?” he asked having sat down and taken out his books.
“Well as your work in potions has come on so well and as we haven’t really focussed on herbology for a while I thought that might be something to do tonight?”
“Sounds good,” he nodded and pulled the relevant book towards him.
And just like that he buried his nose into the book. No small talk, no more lavish praise on how I look. No drooling over my now awesomely awesome hair or peeks down my enhanced cleavage.
I thought guys ‘dug’ this look in girls, so why the hell was I being ignored?
Had I scared him off earlier with my initial rebuttle….I hoped not, otherwise this flirting malarkey was going to go downward faster than a cheese wheel down a hill.
I cleared me throat, hoping to prompt a response.
He merely continued to study his book.
I cleared me throat again loudly this time.
This time I lengthened my throat clearing, adding in a few hacking coughs, wheezes –
“Are you ok?” finally he’d broken his concentration and looked up concerned.
“I’m fine,” I waved it away.
“Sure? You don’t need any water or anything? It sounded like you were having a coughing fit.”
So much for trying to attract his attention….I guess coughing fits aren’t the most romantic way to do that.
“No,no…just a frog in my throat.” I smiled at him, hoping my bravery at overcoming my oesophagus related troubles would endear me to him.
“Ok,” he smiled and went back to work.
“Are you sure there isn’t anything I can do to help you?” I asked. Now that I had managed to snatch some time in his company I didn’t want to spend it in complete silence.
“No, I’m fine,” he looked up. “I’m finally beginning to get everything, thanks in large part to your teaching over the past few weeks. I like Herbology as well so I pay attention in that class so it’s not really a case of teaching myself this from scratch, it’s just going over it again.”
“Oh…ok,” I slumped, sad that I had no use right then.
“What’s up?” he sighed, closing his book, crossing his arms and looking at me straight in the eye.
It was unnerving and annoyingly sexy.
“Absolutely nothing,” I lied.
“So the new look thing was just out of boredom.”
“No it had its reasons….”
“Which were?” he queried.
I paused. Obviously telling him the exact truth wasn’t in my best interests right then…
“You know what you said to me at the party,” I could tell by the telling reddening of his cheeks and the guilty look that he remembered exactly what he’d said.
“Er yeah…” He looked awkward. “About that, you know I didn’t mean to be so harsh…”
“No,” I waved away his apology. “I didn’t like what you said but a lot of what you were saying was the truth. Not all of it but some.”
“Sometimes – and I mean sometimes because 95% of the time I’m happy with the way things are – well sometimes I wonder why I don’t have any more friends and why people go out of their way to be horrible to me. Whilst I can most of the time chalk it down to the fact they are narrow minded and enjoy picking on me, I can’t deny that I push people away and make it hard for them to be nice to me. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’re right in a way….I could make more of an effort with people and so this,” I waved at my new hair, “is the material aspect in my new makeover.”
Finishing with a sigh I folded my hands in my lap and waited for him to praise my new outlook on life.
But instead he just looked kind of sad.
“What?” I asked worried.
“I’m just sorry for what I said,” he looked uncomfortable. “I’ve been meaning to apologise for a while but you seemed ok so I just swept aside. But now….god I should have apologised sooner.”
“Because what I said I said in the heat of the moment and I infinitely regret it. I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that, I was wrong. It’s just hard to be in the middle of you and Jaz and not get dragged into all this anger. What I said I didn’t mean – I don’t think you should change, I don’t think you should change at all.”
“But you were right….well sort of,” his ego would explode if I praised him too much. “I can’t go through life alienating everyone and not making an effort – how will I get married or find a job that way? I need to open up more and try and not see everyone as vacuous morons – even if they are….I just don’t need to tell them.”
“Being nicer to people is one thing but don’t change who you are deep down….not because of what I said. I kind of like you as you are.”
Cue imaginary cartwheels around the library and fireworks exploding.
“You and I,” he sighed. “We shouldn’t be friends and I shouldn’t like you but for some reason you make me smile….even though you annoy me and make me want to strangle you sometimes.”
“You aren’t exactly a box of chocolates yourself,” I pointed out. That was a bad idea….my mind started wandering to Wood and chocolates and then decided it would quite like the opportunity to eat Wood up. My mind was cruel sometimes.
“True,” he smirked wryly, “but I still don’t get it. We aren’t alike at all. I mean you are mouthy-“
“So are you!”
“You’re opinionated,” he smiled, “and quidditchy isn’t even a word.”
“Is too,” I scowled. “It perfectly describes your love affair with a broomstick.”
“Fine,” he smiled, “but in this conversation you have not only proven my points but also walked all over my conclusion.”
“The fact that despite all your annoying qualities they are all the qualities I like about you best,” he finished with a smile.
“Oh,” I blinked. What on earth was I meant to say to that?
“And I don’t just like you because you’re my girlfriends step sister….in fact I like you in spite of the fact you are related, knowing blood is often shed between you two.”
“What do you mean?” Why did he have to bring Jaz up and spoil a lovely moment.
“I mean I know Jaz and I aren’t going to last forever and whilst I do like her a lot and it’s a fully serious, committed relationship I realise we aren’t going to have that married, happily ever after thing. It’s about living in the moment type thing and enjoying being with that one person for as long as you are with them.”
“And you are telling me this why?”
“Look I know you and Jaz have no love lost between you and you can’t care what the other is doing but what I’m trying to say is that despite whatever happens with Jaz you’re still my friend too and friends are long term commitments.”
“I’m not entirely certain what to say to that…” I said slowly. Surely if I did say anything I would ruin what would be a sweet and tender moment. A moment that I was most-definitely-one-hundred-percent-not-in-any-way-shape-or-form going to go home and repeat happily over and over again in my head.
Because that was what love struck fools did and I was not a love struck fool.
“Just think about it,” he smiled. “It’s rare I see you at a loss for words.”
And at that smile I wanted to grab him and shake him and cry out at the universe how unfair it was that my evil step sister had got him first. In a world where good was meant to triumph why on earth did the bad people get all the breaks? I would have given anything to see that smile directed at me and only me every single day and have him talk to me and compliment me…and the sour thing was I could very easily have broken them up. But I couldn’t because I had morals and morals were like a noose around my neck, choking the happiness from me. Why couldn’t I either have found him first or not have a conscience? Why couldn’t Jaz decide to live a life of purity and become a nun?
Oh yeah….because karma sucked.
“Come on,” he tapped his quill against my work with a wink and indicated a return to the homework, “I’m not going to pass unless you start teaching me. Tell me everything you know.”
And boy did I want to tell him everything I knew…..
After saying goodbye to Wood I had cried off going back to the common room with him, feigning the idea I was going to continue working. Shaking his head with bemusement he left and I tracked his exit before checking the coast was clear and leaving myself. Whilst I don’t think he would have judged me for having another meeting he’d no doubt have found it suspicious and questioned me, something I really didn’t need.
It wasn’t quite after hours yet but I still found it necessary to walk quietly and sneak along the corridors to avoid meeting anyone. Whilst I wasn’t doing anything wrong I wouldn’t put it past Filch to give me detention anyway. Handing out punishments seemed to give him pleasure in life….I’m pretty certain that kind of thing could have him put in therapy.
Reaching the room and checking over my shoulder I quietly slipped through the door and found it already occupied.
“Charms classroom,” I queried as I stepped into the aforementioned room. “Are we getting sentimental in our old age?”
The lone figure in the room straightened from the desk she was perched on and flicked her blonde hair over her shoulder.
“What do you mean,” snapped Jaz.
“Just I seem to remember this classroom being the scene of something else,” I said, “something I have a feeling you’re about to lecture me about right now.”
“Don’t think that just because you discovered the fashion fairy that things are going to get better for you,” Jaz sneered. “You’re still the same old loser you always were, you can’t change that.”
“You know I’m quite happy with being the same person. Sure I’m incredibly sarcastic and most people don’t like me but then again I don’t have to worry about being fake. Unlike some people I know…”
“The fake digs are getting old now,” she yawned.
“The truth can’t really get old….it’s the truth, an ever enduring concept that remains timeless.”
“You’re boring me now.”
“And you’re boring me too,” I agreed. “However you invited me here and therefore perhaps you can get this over and done with quickly so I don’t get attacked by evil vibes and wither and die.”
“Stop being overdramatic,” she snapped. “What took you so long to get here?”
“I was tutoring your boyfriend, we were having a nice chat,” I said deliberately.
I was gratified to see her pale slightly.
“You haven’t told him anything I hope,” she said lightly, “nothing personal. Unless you wish to suffer greatly?”
“Well unless you tell me exactly what I shouldn’t be telling him….well anything could pop out of my mouth.”
“You’re really pushing it right now Ella,” she hissed. “It only takes one note to Mother and Father and then you’ll be shipped back home and not allowed to see the light of day ever again. If they hear you are mistreating their precious daughter you’ll wish you were never born.”
“Um but I already wish that,” I shrugged. “Running to our parents Jaz? Really? Are you that desperate?”
“I’m not desperate,” she screamed, slapping her hand on the desk. The ringing sound echoed in the quiet room, tinged with her fury and nerves, afraid she had just lost her power over me.
“I think that merely proves my point.”
“This isn’t a game anymore Ella,” she said quietly. “It’s not a childish game between us anymore. We’re adults now and we need to play by the adult rules.”
“And blackmail…..” I predicted.
She didn’t say anything, merely looked at me with those cold eyes of hers. I could almost feel the hatred and coolness freezing me to the spot until I had to look away and break the spell. Why did someone so evil and satanic have the ability to freeze? I always thought evil was hot and pulsating….not cold and freezing.
“If I have to I’m willing to go to any lengths,” she spoke in the silence.
“I don’t get it,” I sighed. “Because if you look at it it’s not that big a deal to the outside world. You’d just be perceived as a bitch and you’d lose your popularity. Is preserving your world really that important that you have to crush me?”
“I think we both know it’s no longer just about the secret Ella, it’s gone much further than that now.”
“I-“ I began to speak but hurriedly cut off as shuffling echoed in the silent confines of the room.
Footsteps echoed in the corridor beyond the classroom. Fear gripping my senses, ice melting down my spine I locked eyes with my step sister as we embraced the same panic.
Someone was about to discover us.
“Now isn’t this cosy,” a voice drawled from behind us.
Turning round I saw a shadowy figure step into the dark classroom. The voice, the egotistical stance and the overly confident gait merely confirmed my worst fears; Billy McGuiness has just stepped into the room.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. “Aren’t there some mirrors you’re supposed to be practising kissy faces with or girls you’re supposed to be getting pregnant?”
“Oh Ella why do you think so little of me?”
“Because there is so little of you to actually think about,” I pointed out.
“Ouch,” he placed a hand to his heart as he stepped nearer. “I think you just broke my heart.”
“Billy you don’t have a heart to break. Now I repeat; what are you doing here?”
“I asked him to be here.”
Shocked I turned on my heel and faced Jaz who had been watching our exchange with the bored look of indifference she had mastered so well. Gone were the fears that had gripped her seconds ago, now she looked cool and calm as though she had expected his arrival.
“You invited him?” I asked in disbelief. “Are you mental?”
“No, I believe that particular family trait rests heavily on your shoulders,” she studied her nails.
“Jaz why did you invite Billy?”
“Because we need to talk and he has just as much interest in our conversation as you do,” she pushed away from the desks and walked towards us.
“I can’t say I’m interested in this conversation at all,” Billy smirked.
“Shut up,” Jaz quelled him with a look. “Your job is to keep quiet and listen to what is said.”
Billy merely sat down on a desk and raised his eyebrows and hands in a gesture of backing off.
“Surely that’s not the way to encourage people to see you as a nice person,” I said. “Insulting people and ordering them about generally makes people dislike you.”
“Stop prattling on about things that have no relevance right now,” she snapped. “You know why you are here and the sooner we sort this out the better.”
I had a feeling that ‘soon’ and ‘sort things out’ were two things that were not about to work well together. If, after this long things had not been sorted out why on earth was she hoping that five minutes could solve the problems that existed?
“I can’t afford to be gone too long,” Billy put in, “It has cost me enough to get away as it is. So Jaz can you please hurry up this farce and let me get back to my business? Being seen with you two will only fuel the gossips.”
“I’m not particularly happy to be seen with you either,” she hissed, “but we need to stop her before she says anything.”
“She hasn’t said anything so far so what’s the problem? Why not continue the blackmail?
“Because,” I butted in, slightly annoyed they were talking about me as though I wasn’t there, “this time she’s worried that if I tell the truth her boyfriend may believe me and not her.”
Jaz didn’t say anything.
I couldn’t help myself smiling wryly at the hilarity of the situation. Here I was, all alone in a classroom with my two worst enemies. Someone, somewhere was laughing at me.
Jaz paced in front of us, attempting to find a solution to stop her world crashing down on her. I had never seen her so cool, calm and poised….it was like a snake figuring out how to attack its prey. Whilst I had only limited power at my disposal it worried her enough to let her guard down and thinks of a way to control me. But the fact remained that she was worried that after all that had passed between us to cause this moment she no longer possessed tools to control me with. She had never envisioned me becoming friends with her boyfriend….because if we became friends there was the possibility he may trust me and protect me from her. Something she never wanted to happen. She wanted to keep me in my place and crush me but right now her plan was crumbling before her eyes.
“When we were at the party last week you hinted at something,” she said smoothly. “Something you seemed to suggest you would quite happily talk about to other people.”
“And….I’m allowed to talk about stuff you know. Freedom of speech is part of any democracy so I can say what I like.”
“Not if people don’t want you to,” Jaz said through gritted teeth advancing towards me. “Not if it is going to ruin people’s reputations.”
“Like you haven’t spent the past ten years trying to ruin mine,” I snapped.
“Look I know you think you’re all big and clever now you have some powerful friends and have moved up a year,” Jaz scowled at me, “but that doesn’t change anything. Just because you are now ‘friends’ with Wood does not mean you have the right to tell him things he doesn’t need to hear.”
“Like what,” I asked impishly. I know it was wrong of me but really annoying her when she was in a bad mood was a little pleasure I rarely indulged in.
“You know full well what. I know you like him and would like to do nothing more than ruin my life and our relationship by spreading lies about me. But that’s not what you are going to do.”
“No you are going to keep quiet and whatever foolish stories you have concocted in your head are not going to be spread around the school. If I hear that your make believe tales have reached my boyfriends ears you are going to be very very sorry.” She stopped in front of me, in high heels towering above me a in a scowling picture of anger.
“Jaz I don’t care what you do to me anymore,” I said. “You have already ruined my life, what more could you possibly do?”
“Oh trust me you little bitch I could do so much worse. You haven’t felt anything like my wrath yet,” she was so close now I could feel her breath come out in angry bursts.
“What you’re going to spread rumours about me? You’re going to turn the whole school against me? Oh yeah you’ve already done all that. What’s stopping me from telling the world what you did to ruin my life?”
“Because,” she snarled, “what you are talking about is all fiction. I have done nothing to you. You might think you have dirt on me but if you think very carefully you will realise that actually it’s all been made up in your head.”
“Jaz you mean the bet you had with Billie to seduce me wasn’t anything to do with you at all?” I snapped.
The silence in the room was deafening. As the impact of my words sunk in Billy and Jaz eyed each other with nervous looks, both shocked by the power the truth had been spoken. Not quite certain how to respond or how to deal with the live wire they had on their hands they trusted silence to ease the tension and make the problems go away.
But sometimes saying nothing leads to worse problems as I had learnt to my peril.
At the time whilst not popular, I hadn’t been as universally mocked and tormented as I was now. I had been allowed to live a quiet existence as a shy, bookish girl who went about her own business. Jaz, a year old than me, had enjoyed being blonde and beautiful and the popularity that having breasts brought you. We came from different worlds and at that time I thought that though we had our differences we could pretty much get along. Okay we didn’t like each other but at that moment in time she hadn’t set out to damage my life.
But that soon changed.
Queen Bee, dating the one time Quidditch captain of Ravenclaw, popular with everyone and able to do no wrong in anyone’s eyes. Essentially she could get away with murder and didn’t she know it….but that just made her secret life even more of a thrill for her.
She had been seeing Billy secretly for about two months....well if seeing constitutes dates in the broom cupboard and heavy petting. No one knew about their secret relationship as they both had other partners at the time and it would damage their perfect reputations to be seen as cheating. Jaz was the queen of the school and Billy, though of much lower social standing was liked, respected and admired. It was a illicit, forbidden fuelled affair that consisted of smouldering looks and the temptation of different cliques merging through passion. Yet Jaz still held out on the final frontier in their relationship; it seems that keeping Billy begging and hanging on her every word was far too much fun to spoil straightaway. Plus in such a pliable mood and desperate to please he was the perfect device for her plans for evil. He’d frequently carry out her devices for misery and come back to occasionally be fed scraps of passion from her. Yet even then she still held out. It seemed she needed him for one final step of destruction; destroy her step sisters life.
It emerged one virginity and scrap of dignity later that Billy and Jaz had concocted the scheme to ruin my life. Her hatred of me was so much that she wanted to get revenge on me in a way that would ruin my life for years to come, causing me to look back with sadness and regret. Employing her devoted lover she waged a bet with him to seduce me and then leave me humiliated. If he succeeded she would sleep with him, if he failed then she’d be able to have him do her bidding for even longer. The eventual plan was to spread Billy’s sexual conquest around school, portraying me as bad at sex, needy and all other manner of demeaning things. I would have been humiliated, my heart would be broken and Jaz would have got her payback.
Yet only part of the plan worked.
Initially I was surprised by the attention I was being paid by one of Hogwarts leading heartthrobs…I mean it’s not like I had false pretensions of being pretty or anything. I knew full well that his attraction to me was weird; when he came up to me in the library that first time and started flirting I was completely baffled. Yet underneath I was still flattered and attracted. When you spend your life hiding behind bookshelves finally being seen by someone gives you a tingly thrill that however irrational the situation is you still want more. So the more he charmed me the more I craved it and I managed to block out the oddness of the situation. So what if we came from different worlds – so did Cinderella and she got her prince charming. So what if we never told anyone about our romance – we just liked to keep things like that private. No matter how much my logic screamed this was heading for disaster I was able to mask my insecurities with the disillusion created by first love.
He kissed me, he flattered me and I’m ashamed to say I fell for it and wound up in that place so many girls regret. It was not romantic, it was not fun and at the end I felt tarnished and dirty. I did not feel love; I felt an ache in my heart that grew and grew in the space where love should have been.
After being seduced by Billy, kicked out of his room as he laughed at me, told me how rubbish I was and how he could never love someone as ugly as me, I was completely heartbroken. I knew – had known during the whole fiasco even – that what I thought was true love was a sham and a carefully constructed illusion to make me break. But still I blamed myself – how had I not been clever enough to see this and avoid this whole mess? What if he was right, what if I was terrible in bed? Then what?
Logic? It flew right out of the window.
Attempting not to break into a million tiny pieces, choking down on my sobs and wanting to kick, scratch and beat myself I found myself wandering around Hogwarts in the late hours. Trying to avoid Filch and occasionally ducking into empty classrooms I had just ducked around the corridor and into the Charms room when the sight that I met was enough to have me rooted to the spot in shock.
It seemed that like a loyal lapdog Billy had fulfilled his task and come to claim his prize. He was intent on inspecting Jaz’s tonsils when I had snuck in quietly and informing her off his perfect follow through of her plans. They laughed and joked, talking about how wonderful they were and listing all the faults of people around them. As he foolishly described the plan and asked to claim his ‘reward’ it seemed imperative in my hurt, anger filled haze to make my presence known. Of course what followed was a series of screams, frantic denial, followed by pleading not to tell their various partners. I was not allowed to ruin her good girl image; I was not allowed to tell the world she had just set up her step sister in such a cruel and malicious way. I couldn’t let the world know that this popular queen was attempting to ruin everyone’s life. I couldn’t reveal to her oh so perfect boyfriend (who she shared a promise ring with) that she was sleeping around with men behind his back and was not the perfect girlfriend she presented herself to be. Could I not comprehend what would happen if it got out that she’d been cheating on her incredibly popular and lovely boyfriend? With someone from a lower social clique? She’d be ostracised (although she didn’t know so big a word) and shunned from high school society. Oh no, I was told in no uncertain terms to keep quiet and in return no mention of my interaction with Billy would ever be mentioned. I kept quiet and they could carry on their affair. Or otherwise I’d be made to pay.
So years later even knowing they still kept on their affair behind Katya and Wood’s back and knowing that Jaz merely kept Billy around to do her bidding I still kept quiet. Perhaps I should have told the world about what happened years ago....after all why on earth was I protecting two people I hated? I think the fear was that if I told the truth about what had happened people would judge me and as time went on this fear grew bigger and bigger till there became no way to talk about it without seeming bitter and callous. So I kept quiet.
I have reached the stage where writers block has consumed me and need to point out that I really have no idea what will happen in the next chapter so there may be a delay. Also this chapter feels very disjointed in places as I had so much trouble with dialogue.
So I’ve now revealed some major secrets. Can you believe it? I sure can’t. I really hope these secrets meet with approval! I spent absolutely AGES rewriting that scene where Ella tells us about Jaz’s secret – I wanted to make it believable but also quite mean. So was it a good secret or have I just kept you hanging for 24 chapters only to leave you disappointed? Really hope I haven’t left you disappointed – it’s giving me lots of worrying over eek!
I would also like to point out that whilst I did give Ella a makeover I strived throughout the entire chapter to make sure you understand I did not do it to change her – she is still the same person, I just felt she needed better hair. I love Ella the way she is but she needed a confidence boost and occasionally looking good is the way to do it. I did not change her dramatically – she still gets ink stains and trips over things, her hair still gets tangled and she still gets spots, but to grow as a person she had to change a little. I hope you don’t all hate me because I gave her a very tiny makeover but understand that it is part of a whole bigger picture.
As you can tell this chapter has terrified me of your reaction!
Also the plot is based slightly on the Cruel Intentions/Dangerous Liasons films – hope you don’t mind!