Chapter 2 : Because I Can't
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The Great Hall, to no one’s surprise, looks incredible tonight. The hallowed start of year feast, looked forward to by many a young witch and wizard, is probably one of my favourite events of the year. Not only does it mark the return to Hogwarts, the food is absolutely amazing and there’s a generally happy feeling in the Hall. The whole atmosphere is brilliant.
The four house tables are lined with students, all talking loudly over each other about their summer holiday break. Despite being completely isolated at one end of Gryffindor, I feel quite relaxed. Calm. At ease. I’m right near the teachers, who look as though they’d rather be at home. I don’t blame them; this rowdy bunch probably drives them spare during term. Especially McGonagall. I honestly believe that she’s been at Hogwarts for eighty years, and Head Mistress for twenty-something. She’s a short, thin, bony old lady who appears to have never recovered from a body-bind curse; her posture is flawless.
I clearly remember my sorting. At eleven I was already totally introverted and pretty much diverted attention from myself by hiding behind others and standing in dark corners. However there came a point when I had to step out from the group and sit on a wooden stool in front of hundreds of people. The hat fell right over my eyes and took maybe half a second to reach its decision. Gryffindor.
That still confuses me. Maybe I’m yet to figure it out or something, but me being put in Godric’s house seems to defy every single law of the universe.
The newbies are sorted into their houses and I smile at the new Gryffindors. McGonagall makes a concise speech, in which she introduces James and me as the new Heads, then the food appears and the conversations pick up again and everyone starts piling food onto their plates. You’d think they hadn’t eaten all summer. I have a few mouthfuls of soup and some bread, but to be perfectly honest I’d rather be checking out my new common room than sitting by myself, pretending to be happy amongst people that actually are. I feel more alone than ever when I’m surrounded by people.
I stand up from my seat and walk purposefully toward the doors, not taking my eyes off them once. Everyone is too busy to notice me so I walk from the Hall and up the staircase to the right, the sounds from dinner becoming quieter with every step I take. I know exactly where the Head’s dorms are because I’ve always wanted to be the one to live there. Ever since I knew the position of Head Girl existed I’ve aspired to fill it, and I always knew that with enough hard work I could do it. And done it I have. It’s a good thing that the Heads are selected by the teachers, based purely on academic performance, because if it came down to a student vote, I wouldn’t have been in with a chance. James would have, though.
My footsteps are now the only thing I can hear, a steady, familiar rhythm pounding the stone.
I turn a corner into the Heads’ corridor and suddenly somebody grabs my hands from behind, pulling me through a classroom door. I’m too shocked to scream and before I can react I find myself backed up against a wall, a hand on either side of me, and James Potter’s face mere centimetres from mine. He has to lean down to be at my height. I cross my arms tightly over my stomach and sigh.
“James, what are you doing?” I ask tiredly. I’ve never had time for James and right now I’m too tired to put up with his stupid games. Truthfully, I’m kind of scared - my heart is beating out of my chest - but the rational part of my brain says he wouldn’t hurt me. Not physically, at least. And if he did, I know the theories for a few painful hexes. He ignores my question and shoots one back at me.
“How was your summer?” Instead of thinking before I speak like any sane human being might, I utter the first thing that comes to mind - the truth.
“Terrible.” A small frown appears on his forehead and my gaze drops to his feet as I try desperately not to think about the last few weeks. James takes one hand off of the wall and gently pulls my chin back up to look at him.
“What happened?” He seems genuinely worried but I know I’ve already said too much. Venting to James Potter is not on my to-do list.
“What do you want, James?” I ask exasperatedly. All I really want to do right now is curl up in my new bed and sleep; frankly, being held against a cold brick wall isn’t much fun.
“Go out with me.” It isn’t a question, but a demand, and he knows exactly what I’m going to say. He must know - we’ve been through this too many times for him to actually expect a different answer.
“No,” I say flatly.
“Why not?” he enquires quickly. He doesn’t usually ask why. Sometimes he does and I ignore him or tell him he’s a prat, but this time neither of those options is jumping out at me. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply.
“Because I can’t.”
Suddenly a whole reel of awful memories comes flooding back, causing my eyes to sting and my throat to seize up.
You can’t cry in front of James Potter. You are not a crier. You are not weak.
I think he realises he’s very close to crossing a line that could potentially make this situation very ugly, but he’s desperate to get an answer out of me.
“Just give me a chance,” he says softly, his arrogance replaced by apparent sincerity. I look up at him, into his bright green eyes. His eyes dart to my lips, then back up to my eyes. I know what’s about to happen. However, instead of turning away and demanding he let me go, I act instinctively and lift my right hand to his neck, standing on my toes and closing my eyes as our lips meet.
Oh, Merlin. He’s a good kisser.
Somewhere in the very back of my consciousness it registers that his hands are now on my waist and mine are tangled in his messy brown hair. It takes a good sixty seconds for my mind to snap out of neutral and I come crashing back to reality.
Shit, shit, shit.
I pull away quickly and I know he can tell whatever just happened is well and truly over. My eyes fill with tears and I try desperately to blink them away as James takes a step back, looking worried but sort of pleased. We stand, staring at each other for a moment. I don’t know what he’s thinking. I don’t know what I’m thinking, or what I should be thinking.
“I can’t,” I mumble, and before I start blubbing again, I turn toward the door. Just as I reach for the handle, however, there’s a strong pull on my left wrist. I yelp in pain and spin around quickly; his hand is wrapped tightly around my wrist and we both look down at my hand for a second, then back up at each other’s faces. His eyes widen with what seems to be realisation. He tries to turn my wrist palm-up but, barely reigning in a cry of pain, I wrench my arm from his grip and run from the room, cradling my left hand in my right.
It takes me twenty seconds to get to the famed portrait of Falco Aesalon. My intuition tells me I’m not being followed, but I don’t slow down. I hiss the password and climb in, barely looking around before running up the narrow staircase leading to the two bedrooms. Once inside the room whose door holds a plaque reading ‘Head Girl’, I lock the door and throw myself onto the bed. I start to shake. My hands are trembling like crazy and I sit on them to try to keep them still. My breathing is loud and uneven. I feel hot. No longer in danger of crying, I now need to focus on controlling my emotions, before I enter full panic mode.
It takes a while, but eventually I catch my breath. I rid myself of my outer robes and lay down in the shirt-and-tie uniform, closing my eyes and breathing like the doctors tell me to. In… hold… out. In… hold… out. Over and over, until my breathing slows right down and so does my heart beat.
Only when I’ve calmed down completely do I let myself think about what happened.
James sat opposite me on the train. He’s the Head Boy. He pulled me into a classroom. I nearly cried. I kissed him.
Why did I kiss him? Why didn’t I just turn my head and walk away?
I can still feel it. The cold bricks on my back. The pressure of his body against mine. His lips. Warm and soft. A good kisser. A really good kisser. And then I freaked out and the tears I’m always trying so damn hard to contain threatened to spill over. And then he grabbed my wrist. My left wrist, where the scars are almost healed. The pain is still present, though, and that’s what gave me away.
And now he knows.
So, review, yeah? Thanks lovelies. X
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