Chapter 5 : Rock Bottom
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Yet another very macho chapter image by aphrodite@tda
"Here you are!" Rose sighs, sitting down and looking flustered.
I'm sitting alone at the dinner table, fiddling with my mashed potatoes as I glare at James, who's laughing with some girl further down the table.
Rose sits down opposite me, a look of anger on her face. I hardly notice this, however, as the girl throws back her head and lets out a high pitched giggle that sounds like a hyena.
I deepen my frown.
"Oh, ha ha, James, you're so funny," I mutter angrily.
What does he see in her? She's not even that pretty...OK, fine she's totally gorgeous.
It's not like I've never seen James with other girls. It's almost unusual to see him without some ditz drooling all over him. I mean, he even has a fan club.
Yes, you heard that right, a fan club.
A FAN CLUB, I TELL YOU.
The head of this little club is a psychopathic Hufflepuff named Leila Vane. When the club was started up it was more of a His-dad-saved-the-entire-wizarding-world-and-ohmygod-he's-so-hot club.
Ever since Leila became the leader it has become some sort of religion, where James is god.
Fine, I'm being dramatic.
But they do stalk him like there's no tomorrow.
According to Rose, who was once invited up to their dormitory for a creepy, so-you're-the-cousin-of-the-hottest-guy-in-school interview, Leila's four poster closely resembles some kind of shrine to James. Rose was possibly exaggerating a tad as well.
I glance over the Hufflepuff table, where most of the members of the JPFC are staring enviously.
I begin to glare at James again, but Rose says something that almost makes me spit out a mouthful of pumpkin juice.
"Scorpius tried to snog me today."
I stare at her.
"I punched him of course," she reassures me.
Oh, thank goodness, I wouldn't have been able to sleep properly if I hadn't known that.
"We were in the corridor," she explains to me, "And when no one else was around he asked me if I was dating Samuel Green. So I said that thanks to him, I wasn't. Then he tried to snog me, so I shoved him off and I punched him," she shakes her head, "Wanker."
"Hi guys." We both look up to see Albus sitting down beside Rose. As soon as he comes in contact with the bench Rose stands up.
"Bye," she says coldly, glaring at Al.
"Oh, come on Rosie," he says, "You have to eat!"
"My appetite's gone," she snaps before flouncing off. Al sighs.
"Scorpius tried to snog her," I explain.
"I know," he mutters, "I told him to."
My mouth drops open, "Some cousin you are!"
"I figured she'd snog him back," Al whines, "I didn't think she'd actually use her common sense!"
"Why are you so determined to get them together?" I asked him, helping myself to some lettuce.
"Because Scorpius is miserable," he says sadly, "He won't admit it, but he is."
"But Rose doesn't like him," I argue.
"She does," he replies knowingly, "She just doesn't know that bit yet. But speaking of girls who don't know they love someone yet, have you talked to Ray?"
Shit. Double shit, with fried eggs on top.
Sorry, that was weird.
I take a deep breath, worried that it might be my last, "I tried, but for some reason beyond my own control, she seems to think that I like you and that I keep asking her advice on how to 'seal the deal' with you."
Al stares blankly at me, and seems to be perpetually in shock. His face is very pale as he says in a hushed voice, "Wow. You've fucked this up more than I could have possibly imagined."
"I really did try to tell her!" I protest desperately, "But she's impossible to talk to!"
"No, she's not!"
"Really?" I raise my eyebrow, "When was the last time you spoke to her?"
"Er," he pauses, "Aha! In Transfiguration, last week, I asked her what page we were on, and she said page two-hundred-and-three, and I said thank you! So there! Take that!"
Oh yeah, the fascinating topic of page numbers is bound to be the basis for a profound and meaningful relationship. Touché, Al, touché.
"Fine!" I cry in exhasperation, "Even though it seems to be a bit of a hopeless cause, I'll try again. But you have to make sure I get and Acceptable in Potions, at least."
"Deal," he agrees.
His expression changes suddenly to one of extreme fear. Ray appears beside me and sits down.
"Oh good, are you two finally getting together?" she asks us.
Wow, she's impatient. I only told her last week! Well, at least she thinks I told her last week.
There's a long silence.
Come on Albus, now's your moment! Tell Ray about your feelings, and then you can ride off into the sunset together, I'll get an Acceptable in Potions and everything will be peace, love, kittens and lollipops.
But no, Al looks dumbstruck, his mouth opening and closing like a fish. Thank goodness Ray hasn't noticed yet, because she's too busy looking expectantly at me.
"Um, actually-," I begin.
"Yes," Albus pipes up, looking struck by an idea and finally having regained control of his tongue, "We are getting together."
I stare at him. Did he just say what I thought he said? I start laughing nervously, because he's joking right? Right? RIGHT?
"That's so funny!" I laugh, "For a minute there I thought you said that we were getting together!"
He smiles sweetly at me and takes my hand in his again.
"It's OK, Stella," he says, "Ray should know about us, she's your friend!"
Now it's my turn to look like I'm dumbstruck.
ARE ALL MY FRIENDS CRAZY?
Albus has officially gone bonkers. That much is obvious.
Ray frowns a little at my horrified expression, but then she shrugs.
"Well, I'll leave you two alone. It looks like Fred and that idiot I call 'my brother Cameron' are about to start a bread eating contest."
She gets up and walks away.
Al looks nervously at me. Yeah, he'd better have a good explanation for this, or else I'll kill him.
"Just let me explain," he says, holding up his hands to stop me from throwing something at him.
"You'd better," I mutter threateningly.
"I've just realised that Ray doesn't even know me yet," he says, "It'd be stupid to try getting her to like me when she's barely aware of my existance."
He's only just realised that now? For a smart guy he sure can be thick.
"But if I'm dating you she'll have to get to know me! She might even get jealous!"
I stare at him, "How in the name of Merlin's spotty pajamas is that ever going to happen?"
"Just...trust me!" he insists.
"After that I'll never trust you again."
"Please do it? As a favour?"
"I'll help you with Potions. I can help you get an Exceeds Expectations!"
...That sounds interesting.
"Exceeds Expectations?" I repeat.
"Yes!" he says eagerly, "Whatever it takes! Plus you never know, James might get jealous."
That sounds really interesting.
But it's also impossible.
"I'm going to regret this," I mutter to myself, "Fine, I'll do it!"
"Yes!" he looks relieved, "Thank you so much! I owe you!"
"But no kissing," I snap, "Handholding in the corridors is as far as I'll go."
He nods fervently, " Yeah, no, absolutely! I wouldn't even consider it! Ew!"
Gee thanks. I glare at him darkly, "And what exactly do you mean by that?"
Albus's eyes widen in fear and he starts stammering, "I mean, not that you're not-! I mean, it's not like you don't -! I-I just don't feel that way about you! But, don't get me wrong, you're a looker! Which I don't mean in a pervy sense at all, believe me, it's not that I've been looking at you or anything! Not that you're not worth looking at! Any guy would be lucky-"
"Stop talking now," I tell him sharply. He falls silent.
"One last condition," I continue, "You leave Rose and Scorpius alone. Let them fuck this up by themselves."
This particular condition makes him go through an internal struggle, but finally he nods.
"Geez Albus," I mutter, astounded by his willingness, "You'd better make sure that Ray is worth this."
He beams happily at me, "She is."
Never underestimate the lunacy of a love-struck teenage boy.
Something zooms past my left ear. I turn to look at it and see it's a piece of fever fudge. I look back to see James and Fred watching it fly eagerly, James guiding it with his wand.
The fever fudge soars along the Gryffindor table, flying so fast that barely anyone notices. It flies up to the high table. James' timing is perfect. Just as Professor Wilde turns away to ask Professor McGonagall a question, the fudge drops into the glass and immediately dissolves. James and Fred high-five each other.
"Did they just spike Wilde's drink?" asks Albus.
"They did indeed," I reply grimly.
"I'm ashamed to be related to them," he mutters. I glare again as the girl with James laughs happily again.
"Ugh," I mutter. Albus follows my gaze towards the girl and winces.
"Ouch," he says pityingly.
"Who is she anyway?" I ask bitterly, glaring at the girl.
"Her?" Albus raises an eyebrow, "That's Eve Collins."
"And what's so special about this Eve?" I ask him.
"She's fit, duh," he replies. I glare at him.
"I mean," he begins to stammer again, "She's like, fake hot, you know? I bet they're not even real! She's probably ugly on the inside!"
His attempts to make me feel better are kind, but they only make me feel worse.
"I'm sorry," he says sadly, "Isn't that what girls say when there's someone you hate?"
I smile at him kindly, before banging my head down on the table in despair.
Suddenly Lexie approaches me, looking nervous as she sees my downcast expression.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Stella," she says, "I've only just seen it!"
"Seen what?" I ask, frowning.
"The notice board!" she says.
"What about the notice board?" I ask anxiously.
"Oh," she murmurs, now realizing that i have no idea what she's talking about, "There' just something about quidditch tryouts for..." she trails off because I get up abruptly and start marching towards the exit.
There's a large crowd outside, all looking at the notice board. I push and elbow my way through the throng.
Right in the middle is a large, eye-catching poster.
WANTED: GRYFFINDOR QUIDDITCH KEEPER.
TRYOUTS: TONIGHT, 7 p.m
Not necessary to have own broom, but necessary to be a decent flyer.
No Slytherins. We are not responsible for actions we may take against you if you spy on us.
Gryffindor's come one! Come all!
James Potter, Gryffindor Quidditch Captain.
"You're welcome to come Wood," I turn to see James, smirking triumphantly at me.
"I'll pass," I mutter.
He raises an eyebrow skeptically, "This is your last opportunity Wood. I'll be giving the spot to someone who actually cares. Someone who won't quit whenever things get a little bit rough."
"Goodie for you then," I snap, pushing through the crowd. For once in my life I actualy want to get as far away as possible from him.
I'd always thought that if someone else took my spot I would feel relieved. Instead I just feel sad, and even a little bit empty.
* * *
I sit back down at the dinner table, feeling thoroughly depressed.
"Why so down?" I look up to see Cameron, his head tilted to one side as he contemplates my sad expression.
"James is holding keeper tryouts," I mutter.
"Ah," he says, sitting down beside me.
There's an awkward pause.
"You are a decent keeper, you know," he says finally.
"Thanks," I mutter, "Too bad I can't even get off the ground without feeling like I'm going to hurl."
"I feel like that too sometimes," he admits.
"When?" I snort disbelievingly.
"When I'm going too fast, or I lunge for the quaffle too quickly," he explains.
He shrugs quickly, however, and begins helping himself to some sausages.
He begins chewing them noisily, barely pausing for breath.
I really don't understand why Lexie is attracted to this.
If I were Lexie I wouldn't even bother being attracted to him. Not that Lexie isn't pretty, she's bloody gorgeous. But Cameron flirts with everyone. He even flirts with McGonagall at times, for which he gets at least three detentions a month.
I've never seen him flirt with Lexie. I don't think it's ever occurred to him to flirt with Lexie. His usual target is Rose, so when she's around Lexie isn't noticed much. But it might be interesting to find out if Cameron has noticed her at all. It would be interesting to see him in a relationship with a girl who has some substance.
"So Cameron," I ask, "What do you think of Lexie?"
He frowns at the random question.
"She's my tutor for Charms," he utters through a mouthful of sausage.
"And what do you think of her?"
He shrugs, "Why do you want to know what I think of her?" he repeats the previous question, eyeing me suspiciously.
"Do you think she's..."
Oh, what's the word...fit? No, too obvious. Pretty? No, too girly.
Nice? Too general.
What the fuck? Desirable? Is that word even used in modern day language?
Cameron frowns at me like he's not even sure what desirable means.
Again, why Lexie is attracted to this, I do not know.
He shrugs again. Well, aren't we being helpful?
This plan of action clearly isn't working.
There's another long, awkward pause, filled only with the sound of Cameron's knife and fork cutting savagely at the sausage.
"It's not a race," I tell him.
He looks at me oddly again. Then he continues at the same, unrelenting pace.
"I know somebody who likes you!" I cry out before I'm able to stop myself.
I almost hit myself in the head with a nearby goblet. Cameron looks up with interest.
"Ah, Rose has finally warmed up to me, has she?" he asks, grinning, "Knew she couldn't resist the charm."
"It's not Rose," I say, desperate to dethrone his ego.
"Who then?" he frowns.
"Just...someone I know," I utter, vowing silently not to reveal anything else.
He starts grinning again, a broad smirk developing on his face that stretches from ear to ear.
"No need to be embarrassed," he grins.
"I'm not embarrassed," I say, frowning at him. What is he on about now?
"Well, now this I wasn't expecting," he grins again.
Has he guessed already? Maybe he's smarter than I'd thought...
"I'm not sure how Albus would feel about sharing you though," he says slyly, raising an eyebrow at me.
My eyes widen as I finally understand who he means.
"Not me, you git!" I cry.
Scratch what I said before. He's still the idiot I know him to be.
He continues to smirk, however, "Don't worry, Artois, your secret's safe with me. You're not the only one to have fallen for the charm." He winks.
I almost vomit up my dinner in disgust.
He pushes his plate away from him all of a sudden and stood up.
"You coming?" he asks, "Keeper tryouts in ten minutes."
"No," I answer, "And I don't fancy you either."
"Keep telling yourself that Artois," he swaggers out of the hall, the picture of arrogance.
I open my mouth to yell after him. But what's the use.
* * *
After drowning my sorrows in a substantial amount of pumpkin juice I walk out into the entrance hall, and begin to make my way up the staircase.
"Stella!" I look up to see my brother, Mark, marching angrily towards me, "You quit the team?"
Whoops, forgot to mention that to him.
Whatever, he's in Hufflepuff. It's not like it makes any difference to him. It's against their nature to be angry.
"Go away, Mark," I mutter tiredly, turning towards the staircase.
"Dad's going to be sooo mad," he says, grinning devilishly.
Oh, so that's why he's interested. Blackmail.
This kid should have been in slytherin. I'm serious.
Look at that grin! That's totally I-want-to-kill-you-in-your-sleep material.
"What? Are you going to tell on me?" I snap. My words are sarcastic, but secretly I'm praying that the answer isn't 'yes'.
"No!" he exclaims, "What d'you take me for?"
I smile at him in relief. There are times when I really hate my little brother, but this is not one of those times.
"Thanks Mark," I say. Then I remember Lily's rant, "And stop bothering Lily."
He smirks, "Did she tell you to tell me that?"
"It's hardly the way to get her to like you," I tease.
He frowns, but looks immediately uncomfortable, "Who said anything about getting her to like me?"
Before I can tease him any further someone taps me sharply on the shoulder.
I turn to see Annalisa Taylor, another girl who shares our dormitory. We pretty much just stay out of each other's way. After all, she doesn't speak pathetic weirdo, and I don't speak irritating ditz.
"You're dating Al Potter?" she says. Her voice is cold, and sharp, so her comment is more like a statement than a question.
Oh right, yeah. Almost forgot about the fact that I have a fake boyfriend. I'm not sure how many people will actually buy this crap. I mean, Al is gorgeous and popular, plus he's the captain of the Slytherin quidditch team. I don't exactly look as though I fit in next to that.
"Er...correct!" I say awkwardly, "Five points to Gryffindor!"
She just glares at me. She can't possibly be jealous. Could she?
"You traitor!" she cries loudly, making several people turn to stare.
"Pardon?" I ask her, eyebrows raised, completely dumbfounded.
"First you quit the team," she says, "And now you're dating the captain of the team we're playing next month?"
Oh. That sounds pretty bad, when she puts it like that...
"How do you know about Al and I?" I ask helplessly, not sure of what else to say.
"Oh, everybody knows!" she snaps.
How could they possibly know already? We agreed on this just under ten minutes ago!
"How could you, you scheming bitch?"
I stare at her. Okay, she may be taking this a bit too far.
"Merlin, keep your knickers on!" I cry out, "It's only quidditch!"
Judging by the shocked look on everyone's faces around me, that was definitely the wrong thing to say.
James has apparently overheard our conversation and he approaches us, glaring coldly at me.
"You're dating my younger brother now, Wood?" he says stonily.
FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!
"Er," I pause. Do I tell him the truth and save my arse from possible isolation from the entire Gryffindor house? Or do I choose to be a good friend, and try to get Albus into Ray's good books? "Yes," I reply solemnly.
I hate it when my conscience starts working.
James shakes his head, looking thouroughly betrayed, "Haven't you done enough damage to the team?"
With that he walks out of the castle, presumably down to the quidditch pitch where he will soon find a replacement for me.
The other Gryffindors around us are glaring fiercely at me.
Right about now I feel like curling up into a little ball and crying.
Okay, this is definitely rock bottom. But that is the one bit of silver lining. From here I can only go up.
I turn around, about to make my way up the staircase, when I bump straight into Rose. She looks angrier than I've ever seen her, and I've seen her get very, very angry.
"What is the matter with you?" she hisses, "You know that Al and I aren't speaking, and now all of a sudden you just decide to forget about my feelings and bloody date him? And what about James? Are you suddenly, mysteriously over him? Or are you just trying to make him jealous because that would be seriously crappy of you."
"Rose-" I begin.
"This whole thing is crappy of you!" she cuts across me, "Are you going to spill all our team's secrets now?"
"No!" I cry idignantly.
"Whatever," she mutters, throwing me a contemptuous look, "I hope you and your new boyfriend are very happy together. At least you'll have him as a friend."
I turn away from her, feeling like I might be sick, and crash straight into someone. As I stand back I see that it's Eve Collins, the blonde girl who James was flirting with earlier.
"You're Stella right?" she offers me a smile.
Bloody hell, she's even more annoyingly pretty up close.
"Yes," I murmur, shocked that she even knows who I am.
"I-"she lowers her gaze, "I'm sorry ab-"
"Oh!" Rose cries out suddenly, pushing herself between us, "You two haven't met yet."
Eve lowers her head in even deeper embarrasment.
"No," I say slowly, unsure of where this is going.
"This is Eve," Rose says cooly to me, "Gryffindor's new keeper."
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