Chapter 7 : Kneazles, Studying and Pushing the Boundaries
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I don't own Hogwarts, Albus Potter, Kneazles, the Giant Squid or anything else your recognise. But you already knew that.
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No, no, no! This is not happening! Oh crapitty crap I’m in trouble now. Maybe I’m imagining this and if I close my eyes he will go away.
I closed my eyes so tightly that I saw stars, kept them closed for a few seconds and opened them again, hopeful.
“Is that a question?” Albus asked.
“No…it’s a statement…” My voice drifted off. I was screwed and I knew it; my stalker-ish ways had been discovered and I was going from invisible girl to hated loser – fast.
“So you were going up to the Owlery and just happened to stop here, outside this classroom?” Strangely enough Albus didn’t soundvery angry at all like I had expected. There was something else in his voice but I couldn’t pick it. Annoyance? No that wasn’t it; Frustration? Hmmm…maybe; Anxiety? Well that didn’t make any sense.
“Well, I heard voices,” I admitted. I was a lousy liar and Albus knew it; I wasn’t stupid enough to try and convince him of anything other than the truth. “You guys sounded really angry,” it was a pathetic excuse for an explanation and I knew it. Any hope our fledgling friendship had was about to be ripped apart by Albus.
“How much did you hear?” Huh? I blinked four times rapidly at Albus, completely confused. He’d definitely sounded anxious when he asked that.
“Not much,” I replied honestly; I really hadn’t heard much, only enough to work out Albus liked some girl…Oh, now I get it, he doesn’t want anyone to know about this girl! I completely sympathised, having someone else find out who you have a crush on is a fear I face on a daily basis nowadays. “Just James telling you to get off his case; I get it, I fight with my brothers all the time,” I added. Ok, so I wasn’t exactly telling the truth anymore, but I was doing it for the right reasons, Albus didn’t want anybody knowing about his crush and it wasn’t going to help things if he thought I knew anything.
“That’s all you heard?” He asked, looking a little unsure.
“That’s all I heard,” Ok, so that one was a bald-faced lie. “Why? What were you fighting about?” I gasped in an overdramatic way, “Has one of you killed someone and now you’re worried the other is going to turn you in to the ministry?” I held my breath, hoping a bit of humour could deflect the situation enough for my lie to slip under the radar. It worked, Albus let out a small chuckle;
“Not quite that dramatic Bell, just brothers arguing, you know how it is,” he said.
“So you’re not a cold blooded killer? You know if it was a particularly nasty Slytherin I wouldn’t blame you.” I grinned at Albus and amazingly he grinned back, my knees went a little bit weak but I managed not to wobble visibly.
“Don’t think I haven’t considered it,” He smiled at me.
“Oh, we’ve all considered it; it’s just the rare few that act on it. But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me. If the department of Magical Law Enforcement finds out, it won’t be because I told them.” It was such a silly conversation, but it seemed as though I was talking my way out of what was almost the most mortifying experience of my life! “I should probably get up to the Owlery,” I added, thinking I should get away before I incriminated myself.
“Oh, yeah…ok,” Albus looked suddenly disappointed. Ok, obviously boys are much stranger than I give them credit for. “Fancy some company?” He asked. Yes! Your company? Anytime! My inner voice screamed. My real voice however, was somewhat less decisive.
“Oh…well…um…” I stuttered. I would have given my left foot for some more one-on-one time with Albus, but I was worried he would realise I knew more than I was letting on if I was near him for too long.
“Oh, well I don’t have to,” Albus said, looking disappointed again. “You meeting your secret lover up there or something? Another rendezvous with Arthur Kennilworthy perhaps?” His voice was teasing but there was a seriousness in his eyes.
“Don’t say stuff like that too loudly,” I hissed in a stage whisper. “Someone might hear you! I have a reputation to uphold!”
“I’d feel that way if Kennilworthy was my secret lover too,” Albus laughed.
“Alright, you can come along if you stop saying you-know-who is my secret lover,” I obliged, wondering if I was going to regret it.
“Voldemort is your secret lover?” Albus teased as we moved down the hallway. “Funny…I always thought he was dead.”
“Well you would know, being a Potter and all,” I retorted. Albus just smiled and didn’t respond. Well fell into silence as we walked, the sound of our feet on the stone floor the only noise, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. Ok maybe it was a teeny bit awkward, but I always feel awkward around Albus so it was nothing new.
“So who are you writing to?” He eventually asked, breaking the silence as we started up the winding stairs to the Owlery.
"Oh, just my sister,” I replied, pulling out the parchment. “Actually, there was kind of something else I wanted to add to it…” I stopped and patted my pockets. “…but I haven’t got a quill on me.” I looked back down the stairs, trying to decide if I really wanted to go all the way back to the common room or not.
“Oh, don’t worry about that, here I’ll show you something,” Albus continued climbing the stairs so I followed him. “My cousin Victoire showed me this, she was always writing love letters to Teddy Lupin in her seventh year and found it was easier to hide a quill up here.” We entered the wide, circular, window-less room inhabited by sleeping owls. Albus walked over to the wall, just slightly to the left of the doorway. “See this brick here?” He indicated to a large grey stone in the wall; a small love heart had been scratched into the corner of it. He pulled out his wand and tapped the brick. “Evanesco,” suddenly the brick was gone, and a small hole was in its place. Open mouthed, I watched as Albus retrieved a quill and bottle of ink from the space. “My cousins and I all know about it but we tend not to tell other people or everyone will want to use it.” He explained as he handed me the writing implements.
“But you just told me,” I said in disbelief.
“I trust you, you’re not going to tell anyone,” He shrugged. I trust you? I heart pitter-pattered as I took the quill and my letter and sat down against the wall. Albus wandered across the room and called down a large tawny owl as I scribbled a few sentences on the end of my letter.
P.S. What’s up with you and James Potter? He’s acting a bit weird and asking me about you. Are you guys in contact or anything?
I looked at the sentence for a moment, wondering if I should write something else, maybe tell her about Albus. No…not yet, I shook my head slightly, refolded the parchment and stood up. Confessions about Albus would have to wait a little bit longer. I really wasn’t ready, especially if he was into another girl.
“Done?” Albus looked over as I climbed to my feet. “Here, you can use Kenrick if you like,” He said, extending his arm, and the handsome owl perched on it, towards me.
“Oh…really?” I said. “Are you sure? What if you need him?”
“Well I’m not planning on sending any letters today and unless your sister lives in Africa, I’m sure he’ll be back by the time I need him,” Albus smiled. I couldn’t say no after that. Kenrick really was a beautiful owl, and as I tied the letter to his leg, I couldn’t help but stroke the soft feathers on his head. The bird nipped playfully at my fingers before leaning his head into my hand, indicating he was enjoying the attention; I couldn’t stop myself giggling.
“I think he likes you,” Albus said softly. I glanced up from the bird, startled by how close we were standing. I had moved close to attach the letter but had been so focussed on the gorgeous owl that I had forgotten about his owner.
“I like him too,” I replied, my heart pounding in my chest. It felt like there was an electric current running between myself and Albus, and I was quickly forgetting how to breathe again.
Obviously unhappy that I’d stopped paying him attention, Kenrick flapped his wings irritably, startling the both of us. My cheeks felt hot and I turned my focus to the owl.
“Oh I’m sorry Kenrick,” I crooned, holding out my arm to allow the bird to hop over. I scratched his head again as I carried him to the window. “This is for my sister Alice,” I told him. He blinked his glassy black eyes at me in understanding. “She lives above Flourish and Blotts, in Diagon Alley,” and with one last stroke of his feathers, I held out my arm and let Kenrick soar into the sky.
“We should probably get back to the party,” I suggested, turning away from the window. “People might start wondering where their star seeker is.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Albus replied. We headed down the stairs together. “You know Bell, you really are amazing with animals. Kenrick doesn’t normally like new people.”
“Well we all have our talents I guess,” I responded. “You’re an amazing Quidditch player and I can talk to birds. Although nobody’s ever thrown me a party for getting an O in Care of Magical Creatures,” I laughed. Albus frowned a bit when I said that.
“It does seem a bit ridiculous I suppose,” He said. “We do put a lot of focus on Quidditch here, don’t we?”
“Of course we do,” I laughed again. “Because Quidditch is awesome and it gives us a way to execute high-exposure humiliation of Slytherin. Plus, everyone can enjoy Quidditch, even if they’re not playing. My essay on Porlocks isn’t exactly a group activity!”
Before long we’d reached the common room again. I gave the fat lady the password and she allowed us entry to the tower, where the victory party was still in full swing. Albus looked as though he wanted to say something else to me, but he was quickly swallowed up by the crowd of fans, clearly all wanting a piece of him. I found Jane with Gwen and Rose in a corner of the common room.
“Where have you been?” Jane asked as she handed me a butterbeer. “I’ve been looking for you for ages!”
“I was up in the Owlery, I wanted to send a letter off to Alice,” I explained. No need to tell you who I was in the Owlery with though.
“You went to deliver a letter in the middle of a party? You’re a strange one Luce,” She laughed. Before I could respond, Rose interrupted.
“There he is!” She exclaimed, standing up. “I have been looking for Al for ages, I wonder where he got to.” She pushed her way through the crowd to talk to Albus and I took a sip of my butterbeer, hoping my pink cheeks weren’t too obvious.
Wednesday morning, I ran in to Michael outside the Great Hall. I was just about to head in for some breakfast (ok a huge mountain of toast) when I saw him.
“Lucy!” He exclaimed. “How are you?”
“I’m ok , thanks Michael,” Came my unsure response.
“I’ve been meaning to catch you all week,” he went on. “I really enjoyed our time together in Hogsmeade a few weeks ago.”
“Oh, me too. Thanks again for asking me, it was a lot of fun.” I replied.
“Oh I’m so pleased you say that,” Michael beamed. “Because I was wondering if you are free this Saturday afternoon. I thought we could maybe spend some time together, enjoying the grounds if the weather is fine.”
He’s asking me on a second date? Even after I pulled that ‘kiss-on-the-cheek’ stunt? An image of Albus flashed in my mind as I pondered my answer for a moment. But then I remembered the conversation that I ‘didn’t’ overhear and the fact that Albus was into some mystery girl. It would be stupid of me to turn down Michael, who had been nothing but sweet and kind to me, out of loyalty to a boy who did not hold those same feelings.
"That would be lovely Michael,” I heard myself replying. “How about we meet here in the Entrance Hall after lunch at one o’clock?”
“Excellent,” Michael gave me an even wider smile. “I’ll see you then, have a lovely day.” And with that, he was gone.
I didn’t tell anyone about the second date with Michael straight away; I’m not really sure why. But before long, I was forced to explain it, and to the one person I least wanted to. That afternoon, I headed across the grounds to Hagrid’s hut with Pippa for Care of Magical Creatures. We were running a little bit late, so there was already a crowd of students there when we arrived. In fact, Hagrid looked as though he was waiting for us (or maybe it was just me, I’m not sure how well he knows Pippa).
“Righ’, now that yeh all ‘ere, we can star’,” He boomed. “Terday we’re goin’ ter be startin’ ter learn ‘bout Kneazles.” I beamed at him happily; I knew Kneazles were part of the requirements for O.W.L level Care of Magical Creatures, and I’d been wondering when they were going to come up. “Now who can tell me wha’s so intrestin’ abou’ Kneazles?” He asked the class. My hand shot up of its own accord. I caught Albus’s eye across the group and he smiled at me as though he were trying not to laugh; a small tingle ran down my spine. “Lucy?” Hagrid called on me with a smile.
“Well a Kneazle looks something like a regular cat, although they are distinctive by their lion-like tail and oversized ears and speckled fur,” I began. “They are extremely intelligent and if one takes a liking to its owner it can make a superb companion because they can detect when someone is suspicious and lead you home if you get lost.” I finished. The whole class was watching me now, no doubt thinking I was a bit of a loser for knowing all of that.
“Well said,” Hagrid boomed. “Ten points fer Gryffindor.” It was my turn to smile now. “Now I’ve got a few Kneazles here terday for you to have a look at; but yeh mus’ remember tha’ they’re very independent creatures and if yeh don’ let ‘em have their freedom they can be a tad agress’ve.”
"I’m going with you then,” Pippa whispered to me. “Because that thing is bound to love you!” She was right of course. Within minutes, our Kneazle was rubbing itself against my ankles and mewing happily. When we sat on the grass, it hopped onto my lap and rested its head on my knee. The purring vibrated across my skin, making me giggle. He let Pippa pat him, although made no move to go any closer to her. Hagrid asked us to note down the identifying features of the Kneazle and any interesting behaviours we observed. This was a bit tricky to do with a Kneazle in my lap, but since it seemed to have fallen asleep, I did my best. About halfway through the lesson, Pippa left to make a trip to the toilet, leaving me alone to pat Beazle (Beazle the Kneazle…get it?).
“I think you’ve got an admirer there Bell,” Albus said, plonking himself down on the grass beside me. I smiled at him briefly but returned my focus to the cat-like creature in my lap, not trusting myself. “Our’s fell asleep too, but on my bag,” He indicated across the lawn where another Kneazle was perched, seemingly asleep, on top of Albus’s backpack; I couldn’t help but smile, it was actually a pretty adorable sight.
“Evidently I don’t quite have your touch with animals,” He continued. “Which is why I wanted to ask for your help.” My head shot up, and I looked at Albus confusedly.
“Yeah,” Albus rubbed the back of his neck in what looked like a nervous fashion. “Well I don’t really get this subject like you do and you’re kind of amazing at it – ” I couldn’t help the blush that spread across my cheeks, “ – so I thought maybe you could help me study, like a tutor or something.” I was stunned, nobody had ever asked me to tutor them before. I suppose most people just didn’t care that much about Care of Magical Creatures before. The smell of all the dung tends to turn them off – I can’t imagine why.
“Well yeah, I guess I could do that,” I replied, feeling rather flattered at the compliment of being asked. “When would you want to meet?”
“Really? Oh great…um how about we catch up in the Library on say Saturday afternoon?” Albus smiled at me, he seemed awfully excited about studying. My heart fell as I realised the day he had suggested.
“Oh, I actually can’t on Saturday, I’m…busy,” I replied nervously.
"Oh,” Albus suddenly looked a bit dejected. “Oh ok, well maybe some other time then.” He moved as though he was going to get up and leave.
“No really, I am busy on Saturday,” I explained hastily. He stopped and looked at me expectantly. “I’m er….well I have plans with…” Guilt cut through me but I pushed it back, reminding myself that Albus liked some other girl, “…Michael.” I finished lamely.
“Oh,” a disappointed look crossed his face again. “I didn’t realise you were still seeing him,” he added.
“Well he just asked me this morning,” I tried to explain. “It’s nothing official or anything, we’re just…hanging out.”
“Oh ok,” Albus seemed to accept this. “Well what about Sunday afternoon then, would that work for you?”
“Sunday’s fine,” I nodded. “Shall we say two o’clock in the library?”
“It’s a date,” Albus replied, and then blushed. Oh my Merlin, did Albus Potter just blush? I would have teased him, except judging from the heat in my own cheeks, I was blushing pretty furiously myself. Albus climbed to his feet, brushing the grass from his trousers. “I mean, I’ll see you then.”
“See you then,” I replied weakly.
I spent the rest of the week wishing the minutes away to Sunday. Somewhere in the back of my mind a voice was telling me that didn’t seem right, I should be excited about my date on Saturday, not a study session on Sunday, but the idea of a whole hour or two alone with Albus in the library made me feel jittery, excited and just a little nauseous. I found myself mentally preparing the content of our study session, thinking about the homework Hagrid had set us and the best way to approach it. I wasn’t sure how much I would be able to focus on the work with Albus all to myself, but I knew it was best to be prepared.
Before my Sunday study session however, I had my date with Michael on Saturday first. At one o’clock I headed into the Entrance Hall, Michael was already waiting there for me dressed in jeans and a dark orange jumper; it wasn’t a very nice shade but I did my best to ignore it.
“Hi!” he smiled at me as I approached.
“Hi,” I replied nervously. Going to Hogsmeade had been one thing, there were places to go and things to do, activities in which we could partake; but on the grounds of Hogwarts? I couldn’t help but wonder what Michael had in store for us.
“I thought we could go for a nice stroll around the lake seeing it’s such a nice day,” Michael suggested, answering my unspoken question.
“Sure,” I replied, following him out into the sunshine. I had to admit, it was a nice day. The colder weather of winter had set in (although the snow hadn’t quite made it to us yet) but it was a lovely sunshiny Saturday. The sun had fought its way through the clouds and cast its warmth across the grounds. As we walked, Michael and I talked mostly about school and classes, although we did manage to eventually turn the topics to our favourite shops in Diagon Alley and the various Magical communities we’d visited on our family holidays. After about ten minutes, Michael worked up the nerve to hold my hand. My hand felt nice and warm in his, but it still didn’t feel quite right. I felt guilty about letting him hold my hand when I was really wishing it was Albus holding my hand; it felt like I was leading him on or something.
We weren’t the only people enjoying the afternoon sunshine, small groups of students were outside, playing two-a-side Quidditch or lazing about on the lawns; a few giggling first years were throwing food to the Giant Squid in the lake. However, our stroll led us away from most of the other people, and we eventually stopped by a large tree, quite close to the edge of the forest. Michael suggested we sit down on a large fallen log, so we sat and enjoyed the soft lapping of the lake, Michael still gripping my hand; it was starting to sweat a bit now, but I wasn’t sure how to let go without hurting his feelings.
However, the hand holding was soon to be the least of my worries. Michael broke from the safety of topics like school and family, when he turned to me, starting at me quite firmly.
“Lucy,” He began. “I really like you, I think you are so beautiful and I am so amazed you agreed to come out with me.”
“Oh, well thank you Michael,” I began nervously, not really sure of the right thing to say. “I like you too, but –” I didn’t get the chance to finish my sentence though, because without any sort of warning, Michael leaned forward and kissed me right on the lips. This time, I had no chance of turning away, and as his arms wrapped around my back, I realised it was a bit late to tell him that I only liked him as a friend. He wasn’t a bad kisser and, swept up in the moment I suppose, I found myself kissing him back, though not with much enthusiasm.
"Oh Lucy,” He murmured through the kiss, He broke away so he could kiss my neck. I gasped in surprise, I’d never been kissed anywhere but my lips or cheek before and the feeling of his lips on the soft skin of my neck was rather intimate – a little too intimate in fact. “I’ve wanted to do this for so long!” He kissed my neck a bit more before returning to my lips again; I’d barely managed to catch my breath. I knew I couldn’t let this go on, I shouldn’t be kissing Michael like this when I wanted to be with Albus, but I didn’t know how to stop him without being hurtful.
Up until this point, Michael’s hands had been wrapped around my back, holding me close to him but they began to slowly move, or at least one hand did. While I was mentally grappling with my predicament, I felt Michael’s left hand trail around the hem of my jumper until it was over the general area of my waist; before I could wonder what he was doing, he was sliding his hand under my jumper, across my skin, moving upwards. With a gasp, I pushed his hand down, pulling the hem of my jumper back across my skin. He seemed to get the message and rested his hand on the top of my leg – for all of about 10 seconds. Then his hand was wandering again; he didn’t make the same mistake of going under my clothes, but this time his hands just went straight for what they wanted. Before I realised what he was doing, Michael’s hand was on my chest, grabbing at me in quite an aggressive manner.
Oh no you don’t! This action gave me the strength to do what I’d been wanting to do since he started kissing me. I shoved Michael as hard as I could, standing up in the same moment. The result was that Michael lost his balance and fell off the log, landing on the ground.
“What the hell…?” He cried in surprise.
“What the hell?” I snapped. “You were just trying to feel me up! I am not that sort of girl!” Anger was bubbling up inside me. How dare he treat me like some common floozy.
“You kissed me!” Michael yelled back, climbing rather ungracefully to his feet.
“No I didn’t, you kissed me! I was just trying to work out a way to stop you without hurting my feelings!”
“Trying to stop me were you? Didn’t feel that way to me; you were kissing me back and leading me on.” Michael was looking rather mad now; the nice boy I had started the afternoon with was turning a bit frightening, and yet all I could feel was anger at his words. “You just freaked out, that’s all, you wanted it and you know it!”
Why you disgusting, foul little… My inner thoughts were cut off by a surge of anger. My emotions took over and I slapped Michael with everything I had. He reeled back from the hit but I didn’t wait around for his response. I turned towards the castle and ran as fast as I could, wanting to get away from him and back to my dormitory as quickly as possible. As I pelted up the stairs and into the entrance hall, I felt tears stinging my eyes. I stumbled on the marble staircase, but by holding on to the banister, I managed to keep my footing. Adrenaline coursing through my veins, I let my legs tread the familiar path back to the fat lady, who looked at me in alarm; tears were now streaming down my cheeks in little rivers. I blurted the password at her and climbed through into a nearly empty common room. Unfortunately, two of the people sitting in the room were Will and Albus, playing a game of Wizard’s chess; they both looked up when I burst in.
“Merlins pink boxers, what happened?” Albus jumped to his feet, upsetting the chessboard. Oh no, please no, I don’t want him to see me like this. I thought frantically, but he covered the ground in seconds and was at my side. I lowered my head, too ashamed to look at him. “Lucy, what’s wrong?” He asked again, this time his voice was soft and concerned but it only made me cry more.
“Lucy? What’s wrong?” This time it was Jane’s voice and I looked up frantically to see my best friend, crossing the room from the girls dormitories, Rose right behind her. Relieved, I let Jane wrap me up in a hug and lead me to the nearest sofa. The girls sat protectively on either side of me as I took a deep, shuddering breath and tried to compose myself. Albus pulled over a chair and sat opposite us, leaning forwards, elbows on knees.
“Was it Michael?” Rose asked gently after a few minutes. I nodded my head mutely, not yet trusting my ability to speak.
“Did he say something?” Jane suggested, trying to help me communicate. I shook my head, then stopped, then nodded it. I was going to have to explain it to them. Keeping my head down so I could avoid Albus’s eyes, I gave then a quick recount of what had happened, finishing with me slapping Michael and running away.
“I’ll kill him,” Albus growled. I noticed his hands were balled up into little fists but I still couldn’t look him in the eyes. Rose reached over and put a comforting hand on his arm.
“I…I didn’t…” I tried to explain that I didn’t want Michael to kiss me, I wanted Albus to understand that, but I couldn’t get the words around the fresh tears that were starting to form.
"Shhh, it’s ok, we understand,” Jane soothed. “The guy’s a jerk.” I nodded my head and leaned against her again, letting the tears fall. We sat there for a while in silence; Albus was the first one to move. He stood up and strode towards the portrait hole. Without saying anything, Rose took off after him, but I didn’t really care. I suddenly felt very tired and told Jane I just wanted to go to bed. She went with me to the dormitory where I lay, above my covers, and closed my eyes. After a while, I drifted off into a fitful sleep.
AN: Sooooo...I hope the way Lucy got out of last chapter's cliffy wasn't too cheesy! Also, I know this is a really fast update but I can't promise they'll all be quite this quick. I had the next chapter written and the queue was short so I decided to treat you all to another installment!
Thankyou to everyone who is reading and reviewing, I really appreciate the encouragement and feedback because this story has proved more of a challenge to me than my other novel, Matters of the Hart. But I am still going strong and will get there in the end...I hope :) I am in the process of having Chapter Images made over at TDA, the first two chapters have them and the others will too, hopefully very soon. So you might want to keep an eye out for them or go back and have a look when they're up OR if you are one of the talented TDA artists you might even like to keep an eye out for my CI requests.
As always, I'll treat you to a little look at the next chapter.
Next time on Animal Magnetism...
“What do you want?” I asked, fighting to keep the nervous waver out of my voice.
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by Lilly Barker