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Chapter 3 : Awkward
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Having collected myself and taken a minute to get my head on straight, I decide to go check out the common room. Obviously this may be an issue - if James is there I don’t know what might ensue, but I desperately need some element of normalcy right now; something to ground me, and the common room it shall be.
I pause at the top of the stairs and listen for any sounds of human activity - the only thing to be heard is the distinct sound of a quill scratching against parchment, revealing James’ presence. So he’s here. Doesn’t mean I can’t go down. I still have to act like everything’s fine, even if it’s not. I ready myself with a deep breath and descend the thickly carpeted stairs, allowing my eyes to wander as I emerge into the common room below. It bears little resemblance to the Heads’ Common Room of last year.
The walls are painted a deep, Gryffindor-esque red and the thick, fluffy carpet is dark red, too. It’s just like the Gryffindor common room - two big, plush arm chairs and a three-seater sofa fit the theme excellently, centred around a big wooden coffee table. One wall is adorned with various gold-framed portraits and a big fireplace. One wall is purely a bookshelf, interrupted only by a large double-desk. James sits on the left desk, right hand hovering over a piece of parchment as he glances up at me. I ignore him and continue my observations of my new stomping ground.
There are two doors leading off the main room and I push open the left one to find a small, practical-looking kitchenette. In contrast with the red, red and red common room, everything is either white or pale blue and a quick inspection tells me that the house elves have kindly stocked the fridge and cupboards and this makes me incredibly happy. Upon pushing open the door on the right, I have to actually blink slowly to check if I’m hallucinating.
Once I’m sure I’m not seeing things, I approach the beautiful black grand piano, letting my hands trail over the smooth, shiny surface. The room is quite plain - just the piano and thick carpet and a large window that overlooks the quidditch pitch. The room is bathed in moonlight and it really is breathtaking. I sit down at the piano and close my eyes, remembering all the time I spent playing my own piano at home over the summer. Mine is nothing like this, though. This is something else altogether and it convinces me that the Heads’ common room and dorms are designed specifically for the people occupying them. Why else would everything be so blatantly Gryffindor-y? And why else would there be a piano here? I let out a long breath and walk over to the window, resting my forehead against the cold glass.
I actually have no idea what I’m going to do. I’m in way over my head and as if that isn’t enough, I’ve been thrown into an incredibly uncomfortable situation with none other than James Potter. I don’t know how to even begin fixing this mess. Part of me thinks I should tell him because I owe him an explanation. The other part thinks I don’t owe him anything, least of all an explanation. It’s a tough internal battle. My mind runs in circles, weighing things up, making lists of pros and cons, trying to draw a sensible conclusion. Either I’m trying way too hard or it’s just impossible because I’m getting nowhere with this. I sigh again and go back into the common room.
James looks up again and opens his mouth to speak but is interrupted by a loud knock on the door. I go to answer it, wondering who the hell would be calling this late, but silently thanking them for the convenient distraction. The door is heavy but I pull it open to reveal a very chipper Albus Potter who grins and bounces on his toes. He’s ridiculously similar to James in appearance; they could almost be twins. I think there’s about eighteen months between them but you wouldn’t know it just by looking at them.
“Hey, is James around?” he asks and I nod, stepping aside to let him in. His eyes roam the room as he passes me, clearly appreciative of the high ceilings and luxury and general awesomeness of this place. He grins at James and throws himself onto the sofa.
“Wow,” he says. I sit down at my desk with my back to the rest of the room and take a book from the shelf without reading the title. I open it, trying to look occupied and not as though I’m eavesdropping. Which I absolutely, one-hundred percent am not doing.
“I know,” James says.
“I was just at Gryffindor and Fred told me to tell you that he’s holding quidditch tryouts on Thursday.”
“Thursday?” James asks. “As in, this coming Thursday?”
“That’s what he told me,” Al replies.
“He’s crazy. Absolutely mental. The first game is in November.”
“He also told me to tell you that he’s going to have you train extra hard this season. Not that it’ll make any difference, though, because there’s really nothing you can do to beat Slytherin.” James scoffs and it sounds like he throws a cushion at his brother.
“Remind me who won the cup last year?” James taunts. “Go on, who?”
“This year is different, my friend,” Al says confidently. “This year is our year.”
Albus Potter is captain of the Slytherin quidditch team and as far as I can tell he’s amazing, just like everyone says James is and just like everyone says all the Weasleys are. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have a clue about what constitutes talent in or on the field of quidditch. I’ve never really tried to understand the sport and I sure as hell can’t comprehend just why everyone my age can be so entirely obsessed with a game played on broomsticks with several different balls, some of which are designed specifically to try and knock you out of the air and/or cause grievous bodily harm.
“Yeah, alright,” James dismisses arrogantly. Their banter is kind of adorable. “Have you met Harmony?” he asks and I jump slightly because I’m reading my book and I’m supposed to be invisible.
“Not officially,” Al says as I turn around, plastering a polite smile on my face.
“Well, Harmony, Al, Al, Harmony,” James says. He smiles at me and I’m grateful that he’s a good actor.
“Nice to meet you,” I say, getting up to shake Al’s extended hand. He grins at me.
Al is almost as tall as James, which makes him a whole lot taller than me.
“Well, I’ve got to run,” Al says, turning back to James. “Come over to Gryffindor later. We miss you already.”
“You ever think it’s strange, the amount of time you spend there, considering it isn’t your house?” James laughs. Al shrugs.
“Not really. Anyway,” his eyes flash cheekily, “I’m probably going to spend most of my time here this year.”
Before James has time to contradict him, and before I have time to beg him to please, please, move in because I don’t know if I can deal with your brute of a brother on my own, he leaves, waving goodbye on his way out.
James and I stand awkwardly in the middle of the room. I look everywhere but at him and I’m pretty sure he watches me but all I can think about is that I have to avoid making eye contact. After some time I turn abruptly and walk back up the stairs and into my dorm.
“Excuse me, Harmony?” I look up from my coffee mug to see a tiny little first year standing by my seat at the Gryffindor table. She’s got wispy blonde hair and bright blue eyes that clearly convey her terror. Apparently I’m scary. Merlin, I’m not even tall. Maybe if I were tall her fear would be understandable, but honestly. I am not a scary person. At least, not to look at.
“Hello.” I smile but she continues to shuffle on the spot as though her mind is literally screaming at her to run for the hills.
“Professor McGonagall wants to see you and James Potter in her office at nine o’clock,” she says quickly, and by the time my brain has actually processed her words, she’s run away. I blink, kind of shaken by this early-morning experience. I try to see it from her point of view. Climb into her skin, and all.
Her behaviour seems to make sense now, because if I’d been given that message to deliver to the Heads, I would have chosen approaching the surly, nerdy, loner over the loud, boisterous, enormous James Potter and Co.
I glance down the table at James. Just as I suspected, he’s right in the centre of a group of people, laughing as though there isn’t one thing in the world that could take the smile off his face. Everyone from the train is there, and so are Al and three of four others who look as though they could all be related. I groan quietly at the prospect of having to go down there and tell him we’ve been summoned by Ol’ Maggie.
Come on, Harmony. You are strong. You are intelligent. You can do a myriad of crazy things with that wand of yours. What are you scared of? Pull yourself together.
“Fine,” I mutter to myself, and the two third years opposite me look at me as though I’ve lost my mind. Maybe I have, I don’t know. I push myself into a standing position and walk as confidently as I can to where James is sitting. I tap his shoulder and he turns to me, surprise flooding his features when he sees me standing behind him.
Yeah, I’d be surprised, too.
“McGonagall wants to see us,” I say briefly, not allowing myself to even glance at his friends, who I can feel are watching me closely. James nods once and picks up his stuff. I take a step back and wait for him as he tells his friends he’ll catch up with them. He falls easily into step beside me as we walk out of the Great Hall.
“So I guess she’s just going to give us our duties, right?” he says. I nod.
“Yeah, I guess,” I reply lamely.
Bloody hell, this is uncomfortable. It’s like we’re both thinking about last night but we’re both too scared or ashamed or confused to even try to bring it up. I don’t even know what I’d say. Start with an apology, I guess, and work from there.
If things stay like this, sharing a bathroom is going to be hella difficult.
We walk in silence the rest of the way and the further we travel the quieter it becomes. It’s like the silence is pressing in on us from all sides, suppressing and repressing and stifling until all I hear is the rhythmic clapclapclap of our shoes against the stone floor and the bombombom of my own heart beat.
I’m almost relieved when we get the McGonagall’s office, and say the password quickly, wanting this to be over and done with as quickly as possible; wanting to be put out of my misery. James steps into the staircase behind me, and the knowledge that he’s right there, one step below me, almost makes me squirm.
As soon as I’ve convinced myself he wouldn’t try anything here of all places, I feel a hand on my shoulder. I jump about a foot in the air and whip my head around.
“Not now, James. Please,” I beg him quietly. He nods, removing his hand, and it’s just a matter of seconds before we step into Maggie’s office.
“Miss Kyle, Mister Potter, have a seat,” she says from behind her enormous desk. Rattled, I sit tentatively down in one of the two chairs and James takes the other. “I trust you both enjoyed the summer?” she asks and I’m forced, not for the first time, to lie through my teeth. I just wish I’d had the presence of mind to lie about it last night when James asked me.
“Good,” she says and I feel like I’m off the hook, except James shoots me a questioning look. I duly ignore him. “Now, this is the initial patrol timetable for the prefects.” She hands us each a piece of parchment. “Obviously it isn’t set in stone and I’ve told the prefects to go to you if, for any reason, they are unable to adhere to this timetable. You will need to swap people around and review it every few months to make sure it remains convenient for the prefects.”
Wow. I never knew the prefects were a priority. Got to keep the masses happy, I suppose.
“Also, you will need to start preparations for the Halloween Ball.”
Ugh. An unnecessary event if ever there was one.
“It will, of course, be held on the thirty-first of October, and I would like the finalised plans on my desk on or before the first of that month. As Head Boy and Girl, you’re able to have a lot creative input, but I advise you to use the prefects as much as you can. You two will have a lot on your plate in the next few weeks.” We both nod and she smiles. “That is all, you may go to class.”
We thank her and I follow James out of the room, down the spiral staircase and out into the corridor below. We face each other. I look at his shoulder.
“Well,” he says, as though it’s a complete sentence to which I should have an immediate response. I don’t, of course, so I remain silent. “I’ll see you later, then.” I nod and he turns around, walking leisurely down the corridor. I watch his back until he turn a corner and is gone. Shaking my head to clear it, I turn the other way and make my way to Runes.
My first update in the new year, yay! X
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