“Sorry about the mess.” Ryan Fisher flashed me an apologetic smile as he gently swung open the front door to his family’s apartment, leading me inside. I said nothing, blinking mutely, my heart skittering furiously in my chest.
Okay. Let’s recount what has happened in the past few hours, shall we?
I punch James Sirius Potter in the face, right before his party is busted by the cops (yeah, happy fucking birthday, mate). And then Ryan Fisher—the boy of my fantasies, the Official Dreamboat of Hogwarts, the one who must always be referred to by his full name because it’s Ryan bloody Fisher, for Merlin’s sake—brings me (via a dastardly broomstick ride through the night) to his house.
Where he lives.
Where he sleeps.
Am I dreaming?
And more importantly, should I be jumping with ecstasy right now... or having a psychotic breakdown?
I hate being a teenager.
The Fisher abode was rather big, for an apartment. From the looks of it, Ryan’s parents were pretty well off. I couldn’t gather much in the dark, except for a wide living space with modern furniture and a gleaming flat screen. The opposite wall was made completely of glass, with a glorious view of sleepy-looking buildings and a bright sapphire sky. Milky moonlight pressed itself insistently, almost lovingly, against the giant, cool window—a lonely gleaming light in a quiet sea of darkness. Shadows slunk and curled into the corners. The air was hushed. Static.
While I’d been making myself wonderfully useful by standing around and gaping like a moron, Ryan had shut and locked the door behind him, dropping his keys on a fancy, oriental-style carved table by the door. Pff. At my house, we didn’t have door tables. Obviously, the Fisher flat was high-class. I bet they had arrangements of wax fruit on their kitchen counters and little bowls of potpurri in their bathrooms as well.
We used to have potpurri, once, but then Aidan thought it was Japanese candy and ate it all. One hospital trip and a 200-pound medical bill later, and now we use plug-in air fresheners from IKEA.
“Listen,” Ryan murmured from behind me, and I automatically tensed. “My parents are sleeping right now, and the floors here are really creaky, so—”
“Step where you step, gotcha.” I knew the drill. I’d had plenty practice from countless summer nights of trying to sneak Dom or Aidan back home after they’d gone to a party and had one-too-many Firewhiskeys. I was quite good at getting past parents by now, as well as leaping back and forth between all the non-creaky floorboards of my house.
If I was ever on an obstacle-course game show, or stranded in the middle of a lava-river with nothing but stepping stones to get to the other side, I’d probably do really well.
Such are the joys of being Agatha Bennett.
Ryan rewarded my quick-thinking with a grin and a thumbs up. “Alright, follow me.”
Carefully, we crept quietly through the apartment, treading softly across the hardwood floors. It felt like the quiet was closing in on us—I could hear every breath, every footstep. I almost wanted to scream to shatter the unbearable silence.
We padded down a long, dark hallway with walls covered by canvases of modern art that looked pretty much the same as all my third grade paintings. Finally, we stopped at a gleaming mahogany door and Ryan, pressing a finger to his lips, cracked it open.
The first thing I looked for when I stepped into Ryan Fisher’s room were the walls.
Okay... No Glee posters or shirtless pictures of Oliver Wood. Alright. Good to know what we’re working with here.
Then I took in everything else. The room was huge—probably bigger than the whole first floor of my house—with it’s own bathroom and a bed that a giant could comfortably relax in. In the murky dark, I could barely make out the shapes of a desk with a humming, state-of-the-art computer, a large wardrobe, and the latest Firebolt leaning against the wall. Also, a guitar. A guitar.
The boy plays Quidditch and guitar... And he’s gay. Now that’s just cruel.
“Hey, so normally I’d sleep on the couch outside and let you have the bed, but there's the problem of my parents. Mum would realize I’d snuck you in, so I’m afraid we’re going to have to hide out in here. Sorry. “ Ryan shrugged, referring to his room as if it were some cramped cave in the middle of the wilderness and not a luxurious chamber worthy of a prince—or MTV cribs, at the very least.
I shook my head hastily. “It’s fine. Trust me. This is completely, totally fine.”
“Alright,” he nodded, brow furrowed with concern, moonlight gleaming off his golden hair. “So you don’t mind sharing the bed? I mean, I could sleep on the floor—” He added hastily.
“No, no, it’s cool!” My voice jumped up a pitch as I quickly rearranged my face into my best attempt at a not freaked out expression. “Really cool, I don’t mind, it’s all cool.” Hmm, let’s count how many times I can say the word cool. We can make a drinking game out of it!
“Seriously, don’t worry about me, Ryan. I’m cool.” Drink. “You’re cool.” Drink. “This whole situation is just... cool.” You know what? Just chug the whole bottle.
I trailed off lamely into silence, and Ryan stared, smiling slightly while looking adorably confused. There was an awkward pause. It seemed to last on forever, ticking painfully between us.
“Um,” I said finally, just to say something and prove that I was a human being capable of normal speech. “Can I use your computer?”
He brightened—the weird moment between us already forgotten—and nodded. “Sure! I’m just going to shower.”
“Thanks,” I half-grimaced, half-smiled, and then Ryan was gone, swinging the bathroom door shut behind him, disappearing with nothing but a crack of golden light and the noise of a showerhead rasping to life.
The minute I switched on Ryan’s purring silver computer, I logged on to WizBook (yay for being a stereotypical teenager!), the glow of the screen lighting up the sleepy room almost eerily. A blinking purple number kindly alerted me to twenty-two notifications.
I’d been tagged in a bunch of pictures from the party already, all from obnoxious albums with names like ‘BEST BASH EVRRRR!! <3 <3 !” and “happy birthday jamesss, LOVE YOU!” and, most creative of all, “busted... LOL!”
I hate people.
I’d been poked by Fredward Weasley the Second (as his wizbook name so proudly declared, even though I was pretty sure Fred wasn’t short for Fredward. It was just Fred.) and, more disturbingly, Monty Schwitzheiner, the weird Hufflepuff kid who was always tucking the bottom of his pants into his socks and eating paper. Okay. Moving on.
One friend request from Martin Loehman, the one-man, German Bartending Spectacle.Accept. Creeping access granted! Dear lord, his default was a picture of him cuddling with a bottle of Tequila. The kid needed help.
And on top of it all...I had thirteen new wallposts, all from a very frantic Dom.
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:19 AM.
Hi. Remember me? It’s ur best friend. CALL ME. <3
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:26 AM.
Where are you? did u make it out of the party? im with the boys and we r all very worried abt you. call me!
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:32 AM.
aggy. this is ur mother. i am on dom’s wizbook trying to contact you. where did u go? we have sent out a search party. the whole auror department is looking for u.
...JK LOL. its me dom. haaaa sorry im still a little tipsyyyy from the party CAPSLOCK wooooo sljdfklsdjfklsjd
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:45 AM.
ok. this shit isnt funny anymore. call me right now.
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:48 AM.
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:48 AM.
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:49 AM.
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:49 AM.
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:52 AM.
aidan is worried about u.
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:52 AM.
and so am i.
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:52 AM.
moo. i am a seahorse. asldkfjsdlkfj CAPS LOCK
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:52 AM.
Dominique Weasley: December 24th, 3:54 AM.
I sighed, rubbing my eyes fiercely, and then re-opened them to the blinking light of the screen. The temptation to just slam the lid down and crawl into Ryan’s bed (Ryan’s bed, Ryan’s bed... It felt so weird saying that) was itching... But I couldn’t leave Dom hanging like that. I, out of all people, knew how it felt to be worried about someone. I owed her at least one phone call to let her know I was conscious and still breathing.
Feeling very much like some evil villain on a bad soap opera, I spun around in Ryan’s wheely chair and whipped out my crappy cell phone (it was clamshell style, roughly the size and shape of a brick, and probably made in the early 90’s. The number? 1-800-SWAG.), flipping it on. Sixteen missed calls. All from a mix of Dom and Aidan, and even one from Evelyn. Aww. Nice to know they cared.
My gaze darted around surreptitiously, trying to find a place I could make the call without waking up Ryan’s parents... And then my eyes caught the large balcony jutting out from the front side of his room. Of course.
He plays Quidditch and guitar, and he has a private balcony. I might just have to get a sex-change for this kid.
I bounded over to the sliding glass door. After a minute of cursing and fumbling with a lock that even rocket scientists would have trouble with, I stepped out into the open.
A blast of biting winter air slammed against me, and I gasped, my breath coming out in one icy puff. It was beautiful out here—tiny snowflakes were drifting peacefully through the sky, and it was quiet except for the occasional honking car or barking dog. But Lord Almighty, it was cold. Silently cursing the climate, the earth’s rotation, and the fact that my mum and Arnold were probably lying on some equatorial sunny beach right now, I punched in Dom’s number.
It rang twice before Aidan picked up.
“AGATHA MARIE BENNETT, WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?” There was rock music blaring in the background, and random voices shouting incoherently. I rolled my eyes, holding the phone farther from my ear.
“Honestly, I don’t understand where this ‘Marie’ business is coming from, we both know my middle name is—”
“I don’t care,” he cut across brusquely. “We were looking all over for you! Do you know how worried we were?”
As if on cue, there was a loud crash on the other end and then a muttered ‘...Well, there goes the kitchen lamp!’ Several people burst into hysterical guffaws.
“Yeah, sounds like you lot were real bent out of shape,” I mumbled darkly, hugging myself to stop the shivers.
“They’re all drunk,” Aidan explained, voice brimming with disdain. “I had to lug them all the way from the party; we barely escaped the cops. By the way, you wouldn’t happen to know how James nose got broken, would you?”
There was a long pause. Aidan’s voice had sounded all too casual. He definitely suspected something.
“Um...” I mumbled, fiercely racking my brain for some believable excuse or story. “Well...”
“A racoon and some Japanese tourists—”
“Nevermind. I don’t want to hear it. Listen,” Aidan began, and it was weird to hear him sound so brusque and serious. He sounded like...well, like me. “It’s all going to shit right now. I could really use your help.” Ah, now that was more like the Aidan we all knew and loved. “We’re at Dom’s, everybody’s going bloody crazy... Oh, and we lost Fred.”
“YOU LOST—you lost Fred?” I hissed into the phone, trying my best to control my volume/temper. Great. Just what we needed. An inebriated Weasley let loose to run around town without sober or sane supervision.
“And we really need him right now, since FYI—if you were ever wondering—Evelyn’s a slutty drunk. Yeah, we’ve all gotten to know her a little too well, if you catch my drift. Also, James’s losing a lot of blood ‘cos of his nose, Martin’s passed out somewhere, and Dom keeps leaning out the window and crying about how nobody loves her. I just—I really need help.” My brother sounded completely hopeless. I could just picture him, running around and frantically trying to pick up after everyone (though for some reason, my imagination gave him a flowery apron and curlers in his hair. I need help).
I probably should have felt sympathy for him, but just thinking about him being The Responsible One for once...Well, it kind of made me smile.
“I wish I could, Aidan, but I’m sort of...stuck right now.” I expected to feel guilty for turning him down like this, but instead I was just relieved that I didn’t have to deal with the whole mess. Did that make me a horrible person?
Then again, why should I have to be responsible for them and all their craziness? I was sick of picking up after the whole lot; they could fend for themselves for one night. And the last thing I wanted to do right now was see Potter’s stupid bloody (quite literally) face.
“You’re stuck? What do you mean you’re stuck—EVELYN, FOR GOD’S SAKE, STOP TRYING TO TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS! AND CAN SOMEONE CLEAN UP THAT FUCKING LAMP? OH, SOD IT ALL!”
I sighed, rubbing my forehead in stress. My nose and fingers were slowly starting to turn numb from the cold. “Okay, okay. Aidan! Aidan! AIDAN!” I cried, trying to catch my brother’s attention since he seemed to have dropped the phone and was now, by the sound of it, screaming bloody murder at all our friends. “WILL YOU LISTEN TO ME?”
“Yeah, sorry?” Aidan piped up, back on the line and breathing heavily.
“Alright,” I began slowly, “Pick up a pen and write this down, okay?”
There was some fumbling, and then Aidan grunted. “Ready.”
“Use Episkey for Potter’s nose—that should stop the bleeding. You’re at Dom’s, right?” I barelled on, not waiting for an answer. I was on a roll. “Then check the medicine cabinet in the master bathroom, I’m pretty sure there’s a potion to get rid of pain. It’ll be in a light blue vial...” There. That seemed to ease the guilt simmering in my stomach a bit. I continued: “There should also be a calming draught in the pantry—give that to Evelyn. You’re probably going to have to butter her up a bit before she’ll take it. Then, check that Martin’s still breathing. Cover him up with a blanket if you can find one. As for Dom, here’s what you do—mind you, it’s really specific: Sing her the first two verses of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ while gently smoothing her hair. Not patting it. Smoothing. Then feed her exactly two chocolates and let her lean on your shoulder. Once she starts dozing off, you can carry her to a bedroom where she’ll hopefully pass out.”
“Oh, and Reparo for the lamp. Obviously.”
“I...Fine, fine. Alright. This better work.” Aidan sounded tense, but there was a hint of gratefulness in his tone.
“It will; trust me. I’m going to try and call Freddy, okay? Good luck.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Aidan groaned. “Thanks... You’re a lifesaver.”
"Uh-huh." With that, I hung up and dialed Fred. It took me a while to find his number since he had previously saved himself in my phone as ‘Your Sexy Master’ and I had forgotten.
It didn’t even do one complete ring before someone picked up.
“YOOOOOO! If it isn’t my favorite ginger in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD—and that’s saying a lot, you know, considering who I’m related to. YOU’RE WELCOME,” Freddy slurred, guffawing, into the phone, cheerful and completely oblivious to the fact that he was in a lot of trouble.
“You, sir, are in a lot of trouble.” I don’t like to beat around the bush.
“Huh? What are you on about, Aggs? This is the best night ever!” This was followed by a long string of woo-hooing, Tarzan yells, and probably the most horrendous rendition of ‘I’ve Had The Time of My Life’ that I’ve ever heard. I rolled my eyes, holding the phone away from my ear until he’d finished.
The minute he stopped, I opened my mouth and let him have it. I didn’t care if he was drunk and clueless, he was being an idiot. More so than usual. I mean, it was 4 AM, for god’s sakes! I should not be babysitting after a barely-conscious, intoxicated twit who thinks it’s funny to play Hide and Seek in the middle of a cop bust! I should be snuggling into bed right now and maybe creepily staring at Ryan Fisher while he sleeps! Is there no justice in this world anymore?
“Freds, can you please find it in yourself to shut up and actually listen to me, for once? This is a big deal! Everyone’s been looking for you; we’ve been searching all over town! Where the hell are you? We’re worried sick!”
There was a long, somber pause. For a minute, all I could hear was Freddy’s breathing on the other end, and I thought I might have gone too far with the yelling.
And then, much to my absolute horror, Fred started making these soft, whimpering noises—much akin to those of a dying animal—that could only mean one thing:
“Oh my god—Fred...” I stared at the speaker in disbelief, and then put the phone back to my ear. “Are you crying?”
But I didn’t need any confirmation. I knew, in my heart and the dread pooling in my stomach, that Fred Weasley—fifteen-year-old, six-feet-two, male Gryffindor, one of the best Beaters Hogwart’s Quidditch has ever seen—was crying like a little girl.
“It’s just—so TOUCHING—to know that you guys CARE,” And that was his breaking point. With a very manly sniffle, Freddy Weasley started to wail—quietly and pathetically—into the phone.
Turns out, Fred’s a bit of an emotional drunk.
Good to know.
“Oh my god.”
“You guys are like family to me!”
“Are you kidding me right now?”
“Promise me we’ll stay friends for ever!”
“Sure, Fred, forever and ever. Now can you please stop crying? It’s making me uncomfortable.”
“I love you guys soooo much! Listen, listen: I’ve come up with a plan,” he paused, perking up a bit. “When we all grow up, Evelyn and I are going to get married—”
“No, listen—and we’re going to have a baby and make you and James the godparents! And then Evelyn and I will die in some tragic boating accident and you two will be left to look after the kid! See how genius I am? It will push you two together and help you realize your burning love when you start looking after our child and changing its diapers and having fights loaded with weird sexual tension and stuff! It’ll be just like that one movie Dom made us all go see that time we got kicked out of the theatre for having a popcorn fight! And then you guys will fall in love and get married, and Aidan and Dom will be Best Man and Maid of Honor at the wedding, and everyone will live happily ever after! Well, except for Eve and I ‘cos we’ll be dead.” He paused. “And I suspect the kid won’t be too thrilled that his parents are goners—”
What on earth was this boy blabbering about?
“Freddy, that sounds like a lovely plan, and you can tell me all about it later,” I said, trying to keep my voice as patient as possible. “But first, I need to know where you are.”
“Oh. OH.” And the lightbulb goes off. Lumos. “Right... I’m in some dude’s car.”
“Some dude’s car?” I repeated slowly, dearly hoping I had misheard.
“Yeah... You see, once the cops busted us and we got off The Floater, Aidan and them went one way and I went the other. I got kind of lost. And I was running down the street trying not to get caught, and there was this car driving by so I flagged it down and, well, just hopped in.”
“Alright, let me get this straight: you are drunk, in a stranger’s car, with no idea where you’re going?”
“FREDDY ARE YOU AN IDIOT? DON’T YOU REMEMBER IN KINDERGARDEN WHEN THEY TELL YOU NOT TO TAKE RIDES FROM STRANGERS IN CREEPY WHITE VANS—”
“Hey! I’ll have you know this is not a white creeper van!” He paused. “It’s blue.”
“—DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHO THIS GUY IS? HE’S PROBABLY A HAIR-SNIFFING STALKER-WEIRDO!”
“He’s not a stalker-weirdo,” Freddy said defensively, as if I had just been insulting one of his closest and oldest friends. “His name’s Paul.”
I literally had to take a second to compose myself.
“His name’s Paul? Oh, okay, well that solves everything! I’m sure Paul’s a real stand-up guy! I’m sure he makes a habit out of walking grannies across the street and saving little wittle kittens from trees! Hey, ask him for me—has Paul won a Medal of Honor, yet, or just the Nobel Peace Prize?”
There was a long pause. For a moment, I was worried that Fred might start crying again.
“There’s no need to get sassy,” he mumbled, feelings obviously wounded.
I sighed, squeezing my eyes shut. Stay calm, Agatha. You can do this. “Okay. Well, can I please speak to this Paul, please?” It was the only logical option I could think of. Talking to Freddy wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Hopefully, I could convince this Paul character to not abduct Fred and sell his organs on the black market, and instead just drive him to Dom’s.
“Alright!” Cue fumbling and muffled voices. I practiced some deep breathing exercises as I waited, trying to find my inner zen.
Oh, Dragonfly would be proud.
Suddenly, there was a deep, gruff voice on the line. “Paul here.”
“Hi, Paul,” I said as sweetly as possible. “I’m so sorry about my friend.”
There was a heavy pause.
”He ‘asn’t stopped crying tha’ whole ride...” Paul began meaningfully, sounding more than a little annoyed.
I winced. “Yeah, sorry about that.”
“Either tha’ or he sings—”
“And not very well, migh’ I add...”
“Once again, sorry.”
“He’s, er, not mentally ill, is ‘e?”
I took in a deep breath. “No, not mentally ill. Just very, very drunk. Listen, I’m going to need a favor... Could you possibly drop my friend off?”
There was another pause.
And then Paul said, very shrewdly, “Wha’s in it fer me?”
‘Um, the knowledge that you did something nice for a fellow human being?” I suggested hopefully.
He heaved an angry sigh. “Alrigh,’ I s’pose. But only ‘cos you asked nicely.”
“Thank you,” I groaned in relief, my shoulders losing their tension as I finally relaxed. And then, before Paul could change his mind, I slammed my cellphone shut and strode back into the room.
Ryan was just getting out of the shower when I slid the door shut behind me. He was ruffling his dripping hair with a towel... and clad in very loose-fitting pajama bottoms and a flimsy t-shirt that was sticking to his wet chest.
“Oh hey,” he said cheerily, oblivious to my hormonal ogling, and tossed the towel on the floor. Seeing my expression and the phone in my hand, he grimaced knowingly. “Boy troubles?”
I laughed derisively, bordering on hysterically. The warmth of the room was dizzyingly inviting, it made me loopy. “There’s no boy to have troubles with.”
Ryan arched an eyebrow, turning towards his exquisitely carved, shiny mahogany dresser and yanking open the top drawer. I watched him, anxious, my fingers fidgeting and flipping the shell to my phone absentmindedly. “What about you and James Potter?”
With a very definitive snap, the lid to my phone broke off and fell onto Ryan’s cushy cream carpeting. I gasped and dropped quickly to my knees, hoping to Dear Merlin above that my hair was hiding the blush blooming across my face.
“What?” I squeaked at chipmunk pitch, hands shaking as I scrambled for the broken piece. RIP Swagmobile, you will be missed. “James Potter? No—not in a million years—I’ve, uh, never heard that name in my life—What?—I plead The Fifth!—No hablo ingles!”
Ryan turned around, leaning against the dresser as he watched the spectacle that was A Genuine Agatha Bennet Freakout, eyebrows raised in amusement. “And that just gave me the answer to my question.”
I clambered onto the white duvet of Ryan’s bed, perching on the edge and trying to assume as casual a position as I could. I shook out my hair, pursing my lips. Great, now I just looked like I was trying to pose for swimsuit modeling. How did normal people act, again? I seemed to have forgotten.
“Take it from me, Ryan, there is absolutely nothing going on between James Potter and I.”
He nodded firmly. “Mhmm. I could tell especially by the way you punched him in the face at the party.”
My mouth dropped open. I looked incredulously around the room, my eyes landing anywhere but on him. “You saw that?”
He grinned. “You’ve got a nice right hook.”
“Oh my god,” I dropped everything—the Swagmobile, its amputated shell—into my lap and buried my face in my hands. “I am so mortified.”
There was a long silence. For a moment, I thought that Ryan might have left, abandoning me in his room so that I could stew in my embarrassment alone (Thank God). But then I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“Why’d you do it, Agatha?” He asked quietly. His proximity a couple months ago would have set my nerves a-tingling and my inner-self frolicking with joy, but now...It was different. Now, it didn’t set my nerves on fire. It was just a hand. On my shoulder. Sure, it felt nice—but that was it. Just...nice.
“If I knew, I’d tell you,” I moaned into my palms. Ryan chuckled, slowly sitting besides me as the bed creaked under us.
“You’re a funny girl, Agatha,” he mused, smiling.
I removed my face from my hands to glare at him. “Thanks.”
“No, I mean that in a good way. You’re smart, and you’re genuine, and you don’t take crap from people. That’s something to be admired.”
“It’s also something that gets people tossed in jail for Battery and Assault,” I said, completely serious, and Ryan chuckled again. “Would you stop it! I’m trying to wallow here!”
“I can’t help it,” he held out his hands defensively, grinning widely. “You make me laugh.”
I shook my head, but I could feel the itchings of a smile tweaking at my own lips. “If you must know, Potter and I... Well, it’s complicated.”
“I can see that.”
“We don’t like each other. Trust me. It’s anything but that.”
“As signified by the punch.”
“Yes,” I smiled. It had been a good punch. Necessary? No. Justified? Maybe. Satisfying?
“But... Something happened? Between you two?” Ryan prompted, grey eyes wide with concern.
Where to even begin? Not just something, but...everything. He was the boy who drove me mad, the boy who said all the wrong things just to get under my skin. He had seen me at my absolute worst, but I didn’t even know his favorite color. We had fought together, slept together—with us, it was always extremes. He had chased after me, and also walked away without another glance back. He didn’t know me at all, and yet he could predict my every move, guess what I was going to do before I even realized it myself.
Together, we made no sense.
And, in the end, whatever we’d been through didn’t mean a thing. Because he was in love with Nora. Because I was nothing but his best friend’s pesky twin sister. Because we were just, when it came down to it, two people who simply didn’t get along. Simple as that. We were nothing less, and we'd definitely be nothing more.
“You know, Ryan, I’m not feeling too well. I think I’m going to go to bed.” The faintest hints of nausea were swirling inside my stomach. I knew Ryan was waiting for an answer, but I couldn't bring myself to give him one. instead, I swallowed hard and stood up, brushing myself off.
“Alright,” Ryan shrugged easily, and I almost had to do a doubletake. I had been expecting him to protest, to badger me with more questions. After all, I was used to hanging around three relentless, stubborn Gryffindor boys who refused to rest until they had what they wanted—answers to uncomfortably probing questions included. Ryan letting me go just like that was...well, unexpected.
“Oh and, um, here’s a change of clothes,” Ryan grinned goofily, handing me what he had pulled out from his dresser. “Those acid jeans are nice, but unless you’re going clubbing in your dreams, I’d recommend pyjamas.”
I grinned goofily back. Only someone like Ryan could pull off such a dorky sense of humor. “Thanks,” I said hoarsely, accepting the stack of PJs from him.
And that was that. Simple. Easy. Ryan.
It was nice to have a friend who wasn’t eligible for 'mental patient' status, I mused as I stepped inside the hallowed space of golden light and glittering marble that was Ryan’s bathroom. With a wandering gaze, I scanned every inch of it, my eyes falling on the elaborate counter with two sinks. Oh my god, two sinks! So if you were someone like me, who always ended up shaving their legs in the sink in a mad, last-minute dash, you'd be golden! You could shave your right leg in one sink, and the left in the other. You would have so much space for all your leg-shaving purposes!
Can’t Ryan see that we’re made for each other? Even his bathroom is designed specifically just for me!
I sighed, swinging the door shut behind me, and inspected the clothes. There was a simple dark emerald and silver Quidditch shirt, with the Slytherin snake emblazoned on the front and the words ‘FISHER’ stretching out across the back. I slipped it on, twisting around to see the proud, capital lettering in the larger-than-life mirror. Damn. I looked good in that. Maybe I could ‘accidentally’ forget to return it and keep it forever, hiding it under my pillow and, you know, occasionally sniffing it once or twice. Um. What?
The shorts were so big on me, I was practically swimming in them. But they’d have to do. I splashed my face with some cold water and flicked off the light, stepping out into the cool darkness of Ryan’s bedroom.
He was sitting on the bed, leaning over and fiddling with the light-switch on the wall. I clambered on to the other side of the bed, trying not to betray my nervousness. I’d done this before. Sleeping in the same bed as another guy, I mean. I’d done it with...Potter. That one night, when I’d been scared and alone and he’d slept next to me—the side of his body warm and assuring against mine, waking up with our legs tangled, his arm thrown carefully across my waist...
I gritted my teeth at the thought—his name was that list thing I needed floating through my head right now—and slipped between the cool sheets.
“Your bed’s, um, comfy,” I mumbled to Ryan, who had been observing me with raised eyebrows.
“Er, thanks,” he grinned, and I quietly berated myself for my stupidity. Your bed’scomfy? Why not just whip out the fishnets and the smooth jazz music, Aggy? Set the mood a little more?
Really, I am such a seductress it’s not even funny.
There was a click as Ryan finally switched off the light completely. In a blink, the whole room was dunked in darkness. I could hear some rustling as he rolled over, fluffing with his pillow. I stayed completely still, too afraid to move.
There was a long, unbearable silence. I lay there, unblinking, and staring up at the shadowy ceiling above me. Next to me, I could feel the warm lump that was Ryan Fisher breathing, quietly and slowly. He was probably already asleep.
“You’re still gay, right?”
Pippo’s Piping Cafe was a shop on the outskirts of Diagon Alley that sold coffees in three sizes: Bucket, Bigger Bucket, and Small Toddler. Nudged somewhere between Madame Malkin’s and Fortescue’s, It had recently become quite popular among the Hogwarts crowd. Students flocked in waves like sleep-deprivated zombies for three reasons: it was cheap, locally-owned and also, I’ve heard, a great place for world-class hangovers.
It was also the lucky Cafe where my bestfriend and brother were currently wallowing in the depths of their Morning-After Misery, collapsed over rickety tables and cursing the existence of alcohol.
“Does anyone know how to turn off eardrums?” Dom furiously massaged her temples, lemony green eyes bloodshot with exhaustion, as she slumped over her steaming vat of coffee made blacker than Evelyn Stanford’s soul. It was currently the only thing keeping her from going absolutely beserk, and consequently the only thing saving the Daily Prophet from having to print a front-page article about a Weasley-led mass homicide. Good times.
The three of us were clustered around the miniature table, each with our own pot of blistering hot coffee (or in Aidan’s case, a rather girly frappucino that went nicely with his brand new set of ovaries). It made for quite a pretty picture, save for the angry scowls and the fact that the mood level was hovering somewhere between ‘half-dead’ and ‘soul-destroyed.’
Aidan, who up until now I thought had been unconscious, lifted his head from the wooden table and grunted. “I’ll gouge out yours if you do mine.”
“Violent,” I grinned. This morning, I had woken up to the pleasant surprise that, apparently, last night’s illicit activities had taken no effect on me. I was completely, one hundred percent, hangover-free.
Aidan shot me a dirty look over his Butterbeer Mocha Chocolate Twist Frappucino, chewing absentmindedly on the twisty straw. “Will you stop being so goddamn chipper? I feel even crappier now.”
I grinned, sticking my tongue out. “Guess I got the no-hangover gene.”
“And I have the amazingly-good-looking-and-talented gene. So we’re even.”
“Be a good little girl and just drink your frappucino, will you?”
“Tsk. Young ladies shouldn’t use such vulgar language.”
“Enough,” Dom sliced in, “With the witty banter so early in the morning, okay? I’m still trying to piece together what happened last night.”
Aidan’s eyebrows shot up. He looked happily surprised, in an evil, I’m takinng-great-pleasure-in-watching-your-misfortune kind of way. “You don’t remember?”
She shook her head fiercely, eyes squeezed tight. “All I remember is something about a chair...”
“...Which would make sense, since you took one out on the middle of the dancefloor and demanded free lap dances from all the blokes on the Ravenclaw Quidditch Team.”
Dom groaned. “Are you kidding me?”
Aidan shook his head with an expression of utmost seriousness. “You made it rain on them hoes.”
“Literally,” I added. “By pouring your bottle of fire-whiskey on them while they danced for you.”
“It was very degrading. One bloke cried, I think.”
“You said—and this is a direct quote—‘Bitches better be grateful because I’m sexing this party up.”
“Then you tried to make out with yourself.”
“...Before passing out behind the bar.”
“All in all, a pretty solid night for Dom Weasley,” I raised my steaming mug in mock cheers, trying to surpress a smile. I hadn’t been there for the lap-dancing incident (which would explain why it’d even been allowed to happen in the first place), but I’d heard quite a few stories from Freddy, who had dropped by earlier to catch up before leaving to meet Potter somewhere (that was, gladly, not here).
I had decided, after waking up this morning in Ryan Fisher’s bed, that from now on, Potter didn’t exist. Simple as that. He just wasn’t a part of my life. If I wanted to spend the rest of my year, drama and teenage-angst free, then that was how it had to be. From now on, Potter was dead to me. I was going to stay away from him, study for my OWLs, look after Aidan... Hell, maybe I’d even pick up on some yoga. All in all, I just wanted to be able to live without constantly having to agonize about what he thought of me, or what I thought of him, or just him in general. I was done.
“As well as for you, Aggs,” Aidan jerked me out of my thoughts, his eyebrows raised derisively. “I mean, first you punch James for absolutely no reason whatsoever—“
“I didn’t punch him! He just got in the way of my fist moving at a high velocity through the air.”
“Then you sleep in the enemy’s abode. Humph. Ryan Fisher.” Ever since Ryan caught the Snitch before him in last year’s Gryffie-Slyther match, Aidan held an unshakeable grudge towards the bloke. You can imagine how thrilled he was when I breezed into the cafe wearing a Slytherin Quidditch jersey with the word 'FISHER' on the back. His freak-out was so loud, several people called for a Healer because they thought he was having a seizure.
Dom, who had been busy reacquainting her face with the surface of the table, gave another hearty groan. Apparantly, she wasn’t quite over hearing about her antics from last night. “I am an idiot.”
“No, it was entertaining,” Aidan turned away from me, the sister and disappointment, and grinned almost affectionately at Dom. It must have been extremely weird to see his ex-girlfriend like that, but he seemed at ease. That was my brother, I guess. Waking up from a three-month-old coma and slipping easily into everyday life like a boss.
“You know what? No more alcohol for me. From now on, I’m not going to touch a single bottle.” Dom sat up, nodding firmly to herself. Her sunshine-on-grass eyes were gleaming with determination, her waves of hair bushy and wild from last night.
“At least until you sort out all whatever deep-set psychological issues that are making you act so fucking weird when you’re drunk,” Aidan agreed. How eloquently put. My brother should look into becoming a therapist.
“I’ll do it with you, Dom. We can stay sober together,” I chimed in. Alcohol and Potter-related incidents seemed to be linked hand in hand together, so I might as well give up both. “And I’ll even do yoga with you too.”
“Excellent! Want to go on the Sunset Peace Wheat-Grass Energy Shake diet with me as well?”
“Um...” I was saved the trouble of making up some half-arsed excuse by a phone ring trilling through the air. Immediately, Dom, Aidan and I each pulled out our identically crappy and outdated phones and flipped them open (I had repaired the lid on my Swagmobile this morning, thanks to the wonders of duct-tape).
The call was for Dom.
“Hello? Oh hi, Aunt Ginny. Ummm, no, I haven’t seen James. I think him and Freddy are out eating breakfast somewhere... Yes, I realize it’s four in the afternoon.... Uh-huh. Oh! Crap, you’re right! I completely forgot!... Uh-huh. Okay. I see. Alright, I’ll get right on it.”
She snapped her phone shut and went back to her coffee without an expanation, chewing absentmindedly on her pouting bottom lip. Aidan and I shared a confused, bewildered look.
“Well?” I prompted. Dom looked between Aidan and I, hesitant.
“Aidan,” she began finally, looking very severe. “What date is it?”
“Uh...” Aidan whipped his head around eagerly, looking out into the snowy street as if the answer was written somewhere on a giant, neon sign. “Christmas eve?”
“Exactly.” Dom nodded meanignfully. “Christmas eve.”
“Oh!” Realization seemed to hit Aidan like a sledgehammer. He jerked back for a second, looking absolutely flabbergasted. Then he whipped around to me, toffee hair falling into wide, excited blue eyes. “It’s Christmas eve! Do you know what this means, Aggy?” He asked, as if there was any possible way I could.
“Um... We all have to get ready for Santa to come to town?”
Aidan shook his head impatiently. “Every year, the Potters go to this ball at the Ministry on the 24th. It’s held for all the families that donate money for schools and funding and shit. I usually tag along every time I visit. It’s boring as hell, but we have to go... Shit, I can’t believe we forgot about it!”
Dom nodded bleakly. She looked less-then-thrilled as she stared regretfully at her coffee, caressing it absentmindedly. Then she stood up, her chair screeching backwards, and jabbed a finger in the air. “Goodbye, old friend,” she announced, and it took me a while to realize that she was talking to her coffee. Yes. Sit at a table with two living, breathing people, and strike up a conversation with the inaminte object. Because it just makes sense.
Then, she turned to us, hands on the hips, looking for all the world as dramatic and scary as ever. “And now, we go dress-shopping.”
You know those indisputable laws of nature? Like, stuff that just happens no matter what you do—it’s just completely inevitable?
For example: wear a brand new, white t-shirt to a family picture that’s taking place outside. That’s the day it rains.
Or: balance a glass of water on the edge of your bedsite table and hope it doesn’t go crashing too the floor. That’s exactly what happens.
You know. Stuff like that. Cause-and-effect, one thing following another. Start going on a diet? A doughnut shop opens up next door to your house. Single for Valentine’s Day? Couples. Everywhere. You. Go.
Here’s a new one:
Walk into a store with a Weasley, and immediately, the nearest salesperson has their lips on your arse.
It’s like they see the red hair, and some sort of internal radar goes off, telling them to start the suck-upage at that very moment. They see you with someone worth knowing, and suddenly they’re your best friend.
“Oh, how nice to meet you!”
“You’re looking lovely as ever. Just like your mother—"
“—who, in fact, I saw last week on WW’s cover! Can you say fabulous? You must have inherited all her good genes because you look exactly alike.”
Aidan and I stood cluelessly as, all of a sudden, what sounded like a flock of screeching birds descended onto Dom. In the blink of a very mascaraed eye, she was surrounded by pushing and pulling salesgirls who were all pretty much identical (skinny, snotty faces, and stick-straight hair) and jabbering away like there was no tomorrow.
“You simply must see our new collection of handbags—”
“—too die for!”
“Can I get you anything to drink? Water? Tea?”
“The blood from my jugular?” I whispered under my breath in a high-pitched imitation of the shrieking banshees. Aidan quickly coughed to cover his ensuing burst of laughter.
If Dom was fazed by the simpering syncophants who had pretty much sunction-cupped themselves to her side, she didn’t show it. Instead, she just stared off boredly into the distance, looking impotant and sophisticated and nothing like the Dom I knew, and said, “I would like to see your dresses.”
“Of course!” They all pretty much screamed at once. And then there was a giant faffling about as all of the sucker-uppers dispersed, treating Dom’s request as if it were some sort of life-or-death mission.
Dom, meanwhile, sighed heavily, pursed her plumberry lips, and flopped down on one of the giant pouffes. “Shopping is so exhausting.”
I raised my eyebrow, truly at a loss of what to say. This was weird. I mean, I rarely got to see this side of Dom—the glitzy and fabulous benefits of being a member of the Weasley Family/Empire, having people dote on you left and right—but when I did, it always kind of freaked me out.
Aidan bounced from foot to foot, obviously uncomfortable. “Can we go somewhere else?” he whined, looking around with shifty eyes. His voice dipped into a raspy whisper. “This place scares me.”
It was a little weird. I think the store was going for the modern, avant-garde look, but instead had fallen more into the ‘psychotic-serial-killer’s-lair’ theme. The room had crimson walls with black, glossy paint splattered over them. Hanging black-and-white pictures showed off scary-skinny models baring their teeth at the camera, and there was a thumping, almost eerie sort of music playing softly in the background.
And clothes. Lots, and lots of clothes. Piles and piles, racks so stuffed with tuffeta and lace and sequins, it was almost impossible to move without bumping into some Frankenstein creation of cloth and sparkle.
“Yeah. Let’s leave,” I seconded uneasily. “I don’t see why we need new dresses anyways. Can’t we just wear some of your old stuff?”
Dom smiled at me in the way that you smile at a very slow, very stupid child. "You can’t wear something already-worn to a Ministry ball. It just doesn’t happen.”
“Dom, these dresses are completely out of my price range,” I began to explain. Aidan nodded furiously in agreement, glancing uneasily at a nearby mannequin that was striking a hulking, predator pose and draped in black chiffon. “I’d have to promise my firstborn to one of these ladies in order to get a dress.”
“No worries on price.” Dom shot back, rapid-fire and firm. “Aunt Ginny’s covering it.”
“Nuh-uh. No way.” Have the mother of the boy who I hated (and recently just punched in the face, might I add) buy me a thousand-galleon dress? Thanks, but I’d rather do something a little less despicable, like push my grandmother down the stairs. “I can’t have Potter’s mum—”
“There’s no debate on this, Aggs. If you want to continue having a place to stay over winter break, then you’re going to the ball. And if you want to go to the ball, then you’re getting a dress,” Dom shrugged. She seemed oddly calm, like she knew exactly what she was supposed to do and how. Something told me she’d done this many times before. Meanwhile, I was floundering, gaping listlessly at my best-friend-turned-dictator. “So unless you want to spend Christmas in a box by the highway catching hypothermia, I suggest you comply.”
I turned on my brother. “Are you getting any of this?”
He just stared back at me, looking rather helpless. “Don’t ask me. I’m just a bloke getting dragged on a shopping trip. It’s a universal rule that I’m not supposed to have opinions right now.”
I almost wanted to scream in frustration. I felt cornered, hopeless, and most importantly...like I was betraying myself. Because if Aunt Ginny was doing all of this for me, and if Dom and Aidan were going to this fancy-pants ball as well...That could only mean one thing:
Potter would be there.
And I had just promised myself that I was going to stay far, far away from him.
Someone up there is plotting against me. I just know it.
“Miss Weasley, are you ready to see our dresses now?” Just as I was about to start exploding all over the store, a scarecrow-thin (and most likely dumb) salesgirl stepped out from the backroom, wheeling a rack of sleek-looking dresses that were so long they brushed the floor.
Dom looked at me. There was a faint smile lilting at her lips, and a familiar spark was catching in her gaze. “You ready to start trying things on?”
Here’s what I expect when I think of going shopping with friends:
A dressing-room montage, set to the background of some funky 80’s song, of all of us trying on clothes, striking silly poses in the mirror, and laughing gaily as we chatted about how fabulous our lives were.
Here’s what really happened: I had about fifty-seven dresses thrown at me. Aidan hid in the corner and mumbled Quidditch statistics to himself so as to 'preserve his manliness.' Dom almost had a psychotic breakdown in the dressing rooms when she couldn’t fit into a size-two dress (which, to be fair, was more like a size-negative-one in this store), and my self-esteem dropped lower and lower as each gown I tried on looked progressively worse.
“ARGH!” I threw a ruffled, pinkish-orangeish dress on the industrial-style floor of the dressing room and restrained myself from stomping the ugly out of it. That one had looked especially horrible. It’d been like James and the Giant Peach, sans James.
For a second, I stared at myself in the unforgiving, floor-length mirror. Same pile of red curls. Same petite, waif-like figure (or at least, that’s how Dom describes me. Personally, I just think I look like a prepubescent boy). Same freckles dusting my nose and shoulders. Same, same, same.
For some reason, I couldn’t get Potter out of my head. With every dress I tried on, I looked at it through his eyes, wondering, what would he think?
And I knew I shouldn’t be asking myself that—I mean, I hated the bloke. He was a no-good, completely despicable arsehole who couldn’t muster and maintain a single ounce of respect for me... But the more I worried about this ball, the more I thought about him.
How could he ever find someone like me appealing? I was scrawny, with dainty features and an obnoxious personality. I wasn’t anything like Nora. She was blonde and probably confident and everything Potter liked in a girl. And I was me.
“Everything okay in there, sis?” I heard Aidan’s voice, uncharacteristically quiet, from behind the velvet curtain of the dressing room.
“Yeah,” I said weakly, but my voice was too high-pitched to be believable. Quickly, I slipped on the next dress, trying to brush it off. But it only made me feel worse, for this particular number looked like I had simply covered my whole body in glue and rolled around on trash bags for five minutes.
“I’m coming in,” Aidan announced, and then he was pushing past the curtain, stepping into the squashed room and jerking back at the sight of me. “Oh. Wow. That’s...um...intriguing.”
“I look horrid,” I wailed, my arms flopping helplessly by my sides. Aidan cringed, shaking his head.
“No, you look... interesting.” He offered a half-hearted smile. I plopped down on the bench and buried my head in my hands.
“Why do I even bother, Aidan? It’s like I try and do the right things for myself, but then Life just knocks me down again with a stupid ball and a trash-bag dress. I mean, I’d promised myself...” I was growing more and more incoherent, but I didn’t care. It just felt nice to have someone listen, for once. “And after all that’s happened... I’m going to have to see him again...”
“Him? Who’s him?”
I snapped my mouth shut, voice cutting off abruptly. There was a long, bated silence as my brain scrambled for excuses, as I realized what I’d just said.
“Agatha...” Aidan began slowly, knowingly, as he leaned against one of the walls. He was watching me with a carefully guarded expression on his face. “What’s going on between you and James?”
And there. There was the question people kept asking me, that I kept asking myself. It rang in my ears. My mouth went dry. Aidan’s blue eyes were piercing. He looked almost...sad.
I opened my mouth. “Um—”
“GUYS!” Suddenly, my-best-friend-turned-dictator-turned-saviour burst into the already cramped dressing room (that’s funny. I don’t remember saying that it was visiting hour in here), exuberant and shaking with excitement. She spun around in a giddy, cramped circle, flaring out in a flourish of scarlet. “GUESS WHAT? I FOUND THE PERFECT DRESS!”
And she was right. It was tight and red and somehow managed to not clash with her hair. A line of delicate ruffles streamed down the front, eventually merging into a smooth, satin-y skirt that hugged her silouette and formed a puddle of silk around her feet. She looked gorgeous.
But I couldn’t say anything. It was like I couldn’t make myself move or speak. I was a blinking, dead robot. And Aidan was still staring.
Dom, pretty soon, caught on to the awkward tension pulsing in the air. “Er, am I interrupting somethi—”
“What’s going on between you and James?” Aidan sliced through loudly, uncannily serious. Dom fell silent, blinking between the two of us. It was getting very hard to breathe in this squashed room.
“Why don’t you ask him?” I shot back immaturely, at a loss of anything else to say.
“Because I’m asking you now. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know!” I exclaimed, feeling very hot. This wasn’t happening, this wasn’t happening, this wasn’t happening... Funny thing about chanting something to yourself over and over again—no matter how much you want it to, it doesn’t come true.
“Aggy, I’m not like you. I’m not the perfect child with the straight-O’s and the spotless record. But I’m also not dumb. I see the way you two look each other.”
“So I was thinking I could wear black heels with this,” Dom piped up awkwardly, obviously trying to steer the conversation in a different direction.
It wasn’t working. “You mean we glare? With loathing and disgust?” I snapped as coolly as possible. “Yeah, that tends to happen when two people hate each other.”
“—or maybe silver. Yeah, silver would look good—”
“You really think I believe that’s it and there’s nothing more?! You punched him!”
“Yes. Physical violence! A classic sign of hating someone!”
“Now should I go with wedges or pumps? So many decisions...”
“Just tell me!”
“There’s nothing to tell!”
“How about kitten heels? I don’t know about you guys, but I love kitten heels...”
Aidan snapped his mouth shut at the same time Dom trailed off awkwardly, and silence cloaked the room once more. My brother was staring at me, refusing to break his gaze. Finally, he said, quietly, firmly, “Whatever’s going on now, fine. It’s your life. But in the future, stay away from him. You’re no good for each other. Just stay away, alright, Aggy?”
My heart was pounding at the truth in his words. ‘No good for each other...’ It was so true it physically hurt. What Potter and I had was unhealthy, twisted, and for some reason, unbelievably addicting. Whether it was fighting him or snogging him, it was very difficult to stop once I started. We would lead to each other’s destruction, that much was obvious.
“Aidan, trust me when I say that that is exactly what I’m going to do.”
He nodded, brow furrowed in concentration, chewing on his lower lip in thought. “Okay.” Then, with no other warning whatsoever, Aidan pushed the curtain open and strode out the room.
Dom and I stood, blinking in the dead silence. I turned to her, shaking, voice wavering uncontrollably.
“Do you know what that was, just then?”
She swung her head left and right, a crease slowly forming between her slender brows. “No idea...” She paused, glancing heavily at me in the mirror. There was another hitch of silence. Then:
“Now that we're on the subject,” she began, as if she were making idle chat about the weather. “I actually talked to James this morning...”
Oh boy. Here we go. “And?”
“He told me that you freaked out at him about Nora.”
I was sure that 'freaked out' weren’t his exact words. His exact words were probably a lot less forgiving, and a lot more 'dripping with acidic disdain.'
“Well can you blame me?” I replied, a little too quickly. I was starting to feel the beginnings of guilt swirling inside me, but at the same time, my head was growing dizzy with anger. Just thinking about how humiliated I had been that night... It made me want to punch him all over again....
Dom’s lips were in a straight, sympathetic line. “Look, whatever’s going on between the two of you seems complicated and messy and I don’t want to get into it... But can I just say something?”
“Do I have a choice?” I said drily. Dom acted as if I hadn’t spoken.
“You told me yourself that those kisses were meaningless, that they mattered nothing to you.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean he can use me—”
“Let me finish! Bottom line is, James is pissed. And frankly, I can’t really fault him for that. I mean, I'm on your side—girl power and all that—but you did break his nose, after all. And let’s not forget the whole ‘throwing-wild-accusations-without-any-basis-whatsoever’ thing as well.”
“I had basis! I had so much basis, I was practically overflowing with basis!”
“But you never gave h im a chance to explain, did you? I mean, you just assumed he was using you!”
“Well, he was, wasn’t he? Unless you somehow have special insight into what he’s thinking—”
“I don’t. Nobody does, it’s James we’re talking about, for Merlin’s sake. But I can say I know what type of guy he is, and he isn’t that.” She shook her head in disgust. “Regardless, I just wanted to warn you. He’s mad as hell. I don’t know what it is about you, but for some reason you’re really good at bringing out the Weasley Temper in him. So don’t expect any apologies or explanations. If you want to patch things up, you’re going to have to start doing so yourself.”
“Well I don’t, so there.” The comment was just doused in whininess and immaturity. All I had to do was stick my tongue out and I’d be set.
“I’m back!” Before Dom could reply, Aidan was striding into the room with the same sense of determined purpose as before. This time, however, he was holding a hanger with a feather-light, lavender colored dress swishing on it.
“Try this. I saw it a while back, when we first walked in, and... I have a good feeling about it.” He shoved the hanger into my hands and, without another word, left the room again.
I stared at the dress, then at Dom. She shrugged, perplexed. I looked back at my dress. I suppose this was my brother’s way of telling me that he was sorry, and that everything was alright—or at least going to be.
Shrugging at Dom, I stripped off the garbage-bags and slid into the soft, floaty silk. It seemed to sink into me, whispering against my skin.
“Oh my god,” Dom gasped.
I looked into the mirror, a sense of dread already pooling into my stomach, and had to do a double-take.
Because standing there, in front of me, was pretty much the reincarnate of my childhood dreams. I looked like a fairy-princess, but in the best way possible.
The lilac of the dress made my skin seem...different. It made it creamy instead of just pale, smooth instead of bland. It flushed me with this dewy glow that you only saw on celebrities and pregnant women.
The dress itself was strapless and empire-waisted. The bodice was dripping with the most intricate, silver beading I’d ever seen, glimmering, beautiful patterns that twinkled in the light. The skirt flowed out, falling gracefully around my feet, transparent chiffon that fell in light, swooping petals to the ground.
It was beautiful.
“You look stunning,” Dom murmured. “Go show Aidan.”
Mutely, mind blank, I stepped out of the dressing room. Aidan, who had been sitting on the bench with his head in his hands, looked up and instantly, a smile was blooming across his face. He was beaming.
“Holy crap, Aggs, you look brill. We’re buying it.”
It was getting hard to breathe. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Eveything around me seemed to glisten and drip, colours were more vivid, sounds sharper. I was wearing the dress of my dreams.
“Hold on while I go get one of the scarecrows,” Aidan stood briskly and left, shooting me one last smile and a wink. I stared after him, stunned, unable to reply.
Dom turned to me the moment he was gone. “This is great,” she exclaimed. “You’re going to look so hot in front of James!”
“So?” I murmured distantly, more to myself than her. “Why would I even try and look good for him?”
“Because,” Dom replied simply, “he’s your date to the ball.”
That awkward moment when you proudly tell your readers you're on a roll with the next chapter, and then take a month to actually get it out. Ohp.
Ah, poor Aggy just can't catch a break, eh? Sorry about getting this chapter out so late, college is eating me life up (which is odd, since I don't even go
to college. Hmm. Something is wrong with the picture here).
Anyways, I realize this is a bit of a filler, but I did have to patch things up, especially between Aggy and Aidan. And I did try and pepper this chapter with some of the ol' Clash humor that was missing from the last one. Also, as the ending to this promises, next chappie with be chock-full of action and adventure. So, stay tuned!
Also, I've been nom'd for voting in Best Next Generation for the Dobby's. You guys have absolutely no idea how thrilled I am. While I'd love to win, being nom'd is more than enough. Thank you to all who nom'd. In fact, thank you to all who read. And if you get the chance (and, ahem, if you want to) vote! Even if it's not for my story, vote vote vote!
That's all for now, I guess. Thanks guys and see you next chapter!