Chapter 1 : Exploding Snap
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01. Exploding Snap
Roger Davies was probably really thick in the head to challenge me, Audrey Bloom, Queen of everything Exploding Snap to a game in the Gryffindor Common Room. In front of a crowd. A crowd of his supporters, might I add.
Let me tell you something about Roger Davies – he’s a bit vile. He’s captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team and one of the most self-righteous bastards I’ve ever laid eyes on. His first flaw is that he’s got a nice face. I’m really sceptical of blokes with nice faces. They’re always such twats on the inside. Secondly, he supports the Harpies. Okay now let’s get real – no one in their right mind supports the Harpies, not unless they’re tossing you a few galleons under the table. After Ginny Weasley left the team to become a mother (she had quite a few, didn’t she? Obviously sitting on a broomstick all the time wasn’t hampering her child-bearing capabilities) the team’s gone down the pipes. I reckon Filch would be a better Keeper than what’s-her-name McLaggen. And lastly, naturally, he has pretty much the entire female population (excluding me) licking his boots.
So you can tell why I wanted to beat him so bad. We were sitting there in the middle of the common room, me on a rickety chair and him on an armchair. There was quite a bit of an audience – I think every single seventh year Gryffie was there (including the Weasleys gosh are they fit or what) and all eyes were on us. No, him. All eyes were on him.
When we finally got playing, some doofus named Dunkirk apparently thought it would be a great idea to get smuggle in some Firewhiskey from Hogsmeade. And about an hour after her publicized his grand plan, Roger Davies was drunk.
Of course, Davies Fangirls will say that the only reason why I did win was because he was completely sloshed. But critics of the game know that I am in fact unbeatable at Exploding Snap and that I would have hammered the lights out of him, drunk or not.
I haven’t had too many experiences with alcohol, but of what I’ve heard, you tend to start rambling. It’s like all the random and less-random thoughts you’ve ever had find a way out of your mouth – in this case, Roger Davies’ perfect jolie lips that everyone was after. I’ll skip all the bits that involve me giving him a royal thrashing and go right ahead to the part that changed everything. My life. The way I looked at people. My friends (or how I actually made some. One, actually, but that’ll do). Everything.
“Think you’re infallible do you, Bloom?” Davies slurred, his head rocking this way and that way on his unsteady neck.
“Nice choice of words, Davies, I see your vocabulary’s growing,” I noted dryly, mock-applauding him. He grunted.
“I’d beat you at Quidditch – ” he began.
“I’m sure if I tried playing I’d be better than – ” I was ready with my retort.
“Don’t even go there, Bloom, ” he snorted with laughter, as did some of the others in the room. I saw Hugo Weasley close his eyes and rub his face, as if he knew how this conversation would end.
“You need to entertain the thought. It’s possible that the only reason you can in fact beat me at Quidditch is because I don’t know how to play it,” I said simply. Roger Davies did not look like a happy man.
“Can you even get on a bloody broomstick? You’re so – ” he stopped then, licking his lips and looking down. “Don’t piss me off, Bloom.”
“I’m so what? You think that just because I’m a girl I can’t take a bit of tussle from a bloke?” I heard someone take in a deep breath and somebody else left the Common Room.
“Well, you’re so fat, that’s all.”
Two Hours Later:
When I first joined Hogwarts, I was eleven, like everybody else, obviously. It was a strange world of harmony and togetherness, first year. Everybody was friends. Stationary, meals, gossip, blokes – everything was shared. The girls’ dormitory used to be a place of prancing unicorns and double rainbows. And then it was like a bloody comet had struck the entire female and male population.
There are always people you like and don’t like, even when you’re eleven years old. But everyone was still, more or less, friends with everyone. I don’t know when I began to notice, it was probably in third year, when my teen senses began tingling. Everybody had begun acting bloody odd, with their stupid cliques and their boys and their obsessions and their little pointless fits. Everybody had started judging. It was the cool thing to do.
“Look at Gwen’s nose, it’s so big and round. Noses aren’t supposed to be that round, are they?”
“I can’t stand to sit with Alice any longer. She’s got so many freckles that it would take you days to count them!”
“Look at that Mary, she thinks she’s so perfect with her nice legs and everything. If she thinks wearing that to Hogsmeade is going to get all the guys to notice her, she’s wrong.”
I really didn’t get it. Poor Gwen was born with a big nose. She didn’t have a problem with it; I didn’t understand why everyone else did. It’s true; Alice did have a whole lot of freckles. But did she choose for them to be there? Nobody wishes for moles or freckles or carbuncles. They just land up there because they want to make your life miserable. And Merlin, if a girl wants to wear a small skirt in the freezing cold to impress a boy, let her do it. What consequence is it to you, as long as you’re not the one lying with pneumonia in the hospital wing?
As a result of which I didn’t exactly have friends. I roamed with the crowds. By the time we were in fourth year, I had a bit of reputation. I had a big mouth and always gave my opinion, even when not always necessary. I was brutally honest, but I never really hurt people’s feelings. Everyone gets a label. For me, it was either misanthropist or cynic. And I don’t blame them for thinking so; I did bloody hate humanity.
I was invited to all the parties initially. Then I got tired of them, and the usual drama. That’s when you get labelled socially dysfunctional. And when that happens, you know the next party they invite you to will be your last. But I didn’t really mind. I was caught up in my own world of trying to pass Astronomy and not fall asleep during Muggle Studies. I did have a surprisingly sane family, which was a good distraction from not having any real friends.
That is, till the big Roger Davies Incident. All along I thought “okay, they’re judging me because they know that I think they’re all prissy little wankers who I can’t be bothered to associate with”. I never thought for one second that there was something else.
Nobody had ever really called me fat before. And I never really did think I was fat, to be honest (this is not me trying to make myself feel better. I rarely do that). I was always more on the heavy side, but I never felt uncomfortable about it or ashamed. Partly because my family never said anything about it – except for Gammy, who thinks it’s adorable, apparently. Even at Hogwarts, all the stick thin girls who woke up at 5 am to do Pilates and the ones who went on diets for weeks and weeks – none of them bothered me. I wouldn’t judge someone because they were thin, the same way I wouldn’t judge Roxanne Weasley just because she was a couple of shades darker than the most of us (hell, I think she’s got better complexion than all of us. Most of us Brit kids look like pasty little prunes). And I thought people wouldn’t do the opposite and judge me because I had a few more pounds than they did.
So that’s why the Roger Davies Incident changed everything. Because I realized that people were judging me because I was not in fact size zero. They were judging me every time I reached out for a pumpkin pasty or a treacle tart. Every time somebody went “Hey Audrey, save me a piece of that pudding would you” they in fact meant “Gosh Audrey, how much do you eat?”.
I snapped back to reality, my whirlwind of angry thoughts making my head spin momentarily. I was least expecting the face of one Hugo Weasley staring back at me. Good looking bloke, but I wasn’t sceptical of this one. Not after the evening’s heroics.
“Hugo!” I said lightly. “Sorry I zoned out a bit. What were you saying?”
“I was asking if it’s going to bother you.”
“What’s going to bother me?” There was something more to bother me about now? Wonderful.
“Everybody talking!” he exclaimed, looking exhasperated.
“Well yes, it generally annoys me when people talk, because they’re so full of – ”
“About us,” he emphasized and I gave him an odd look. His face was twisted and turned into one of pure confusion.
“What about us?”
“Merlin you are thick, aren’t you?” he said, slapping his forehead with his hand. “The whole bloody school is going to think I fancy you.” He groaned, hiding his face in his hands.
“I don’t know if I should be offended or not,” I said stiffly, throwing him a disapproving glance. “God forbid you should fancy – ”
“That’s not how I meant it! If it was, then we wouldn’t have this problem to deal with in the first place, would we?” I was rather amused by the way he was trying to make sense despite being in a state of, it would seem, permanent paranoia.
“Why should it bother me?” I was beginning to feel as confused as he looked.
Hugo looked vastly uncomfortable. He loosened his tie and ran a hand through his mass of curly hair. He stared at his shoes for a while, before standing up and stuffing his hands in his pockets.
“Alright. Well, I’m off to bed then.”
I gave him the Raised Eyebrow, which really just translated to Is That All You Are Going to Say. Except he was completely oblivious. I could have left my eyebrow there for a good five minutes, hovering in in limbo the untraveled territory that was my forehead, and he would have still just walked out of the bloody room.
“Hey! Hugo!” I jumped out of my chair and walked swiftly behind him. He turned around to face me, and I wondered if the poor boy always looked this paranoid and uncomfortable.
As uncomfortable as the silence that had unfurled between us.
“Yeah?” I suppose he expected me to say something.
“Hrmmm,” I cleared my throat, looking at his face and then his shoes and then back to his face. “Thanks for earlier.”
“Oh,” the acknowledgement seemed to have made things even more awkward for him. “No problem. What are .. housemates for?”
“Primarily just to bitch about you and stab you in the back multiple times, I think, but clearly, I could be wrong.” He laughed at this and scratched his stubble.
“Think I should apologize to Davies?” he asked. My eyes widened and I shook my head vehemently to establish how strongly I disagreed with the idea.
“If you apologize to Davies I will come after you with an army of house elves,” I threatened.
“Well, he was drunk, he probably didn’t even know what he was saying.”
“No, when you’re drunk you sometimes say things that you think but which are inappropriate for publicity under normal, sober circumstances.”
“That sentence barely made any sense in my head, but alright, I’ll take your word for it,” he chuckled and shuffled his feet.
“Thanks for that...Hugo,” I said, and this time it actually sounded like a decent thank you.
“Eh, don’t thank me. All I did was throw a nasty punch on a particularly annoying prick for an inappropriate comment,” he shrugged with a casualness that didn’t seem very much like him.
“And you’ve earned yourself a last year of Hogwarts filled with rumours about fancying me. You really put yourself in the line of fire for me,” I chuckled.
“I did it for humanity,” he shrugged once again and gave me a warm, friendly smile. We stayed there like that, me looking around the room and him at his feet. I felt like he was waiting for me to ask something and I was actually waiting for him to ask something. I thought I would have to be the one to do it, since he seemed the like the shy kind of boy. That was the first of many times Hugo Weasley surprised me.
“This might come across as a bit awkward, because I don’t think people ask like that anymore...but do you want to hang out, Audrey?”
I looked up, both wildly happy that I didn’t have to do it and vastly surprised that he did. “You seem like an alright bloke, I don’t see why not.”
“You actually seem like the kind of person my mother would warn me about but I reckon you’re harmless,” I took his increasing casualness as a sign that he was warming up to me.
“Oh yeah, I’m the kind of person my mum warns me about,” I snorted. “We need some rules though. No backstabbing allowed.”
“Freedom of speech. Say what you want. Honesty is better than – ”
“Pretending to like something about someone when you don’t?”
“Is this normally how it’s done? Is this how people become friends? I feel like we’ve just signed a Kyoto Protocol or something.”
“I have a feeling I’d know what that was if I paid attention during Muggle Studies. You want to swap partners for classes then? I know yours doesn’t really pay attention.”
“That might get people talking even more.”
“Yeah, you’d be the damsel in distress and I’d be your noble white knight. Perfect romance, really. The rumour mills will start whirring.”
“Who cares,” we laughed in unison.
And that was how Hugo Weasley and I formed one of the most unlikely alliances in Hogwarts history. Roger Davies called me fat, Hugo Weasley lunged at him with a punch, and that punch is what put a seal on our undetermined friendship. From that moment on, I was no longer moving from crowd to crowd. I had Hugo.
Chapter image by Enough4 at The Dark Arts <3
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