Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
stunning CI by DaJoker@TDA
PART I - Jenelle Clarke.
'Ready to boogie?'
Dominique glares at Fred and he shrugs in response. This makes her bristle. 'Don't speak, you neanderthal,' she hisses.
'Shh!' I shoot them both a look before searching for the elusive "Fire Pit". My eyes scan the map sprawled out in front of me. 'If neither of you will help me then shut up!'
'Dominique,' says Fred, ignoring me. 'You need to breathe. Hee-hoo-hee-hoo' Fred exaggerates inhaling and exhaling movements 'Take in the beauty of the land—the wild, wild nature.' Dom hits him.
I stare at the both of them blankly. I already feeling like we're sort of unravelling. Which is annoying because we haven't even started this damn project. I bite my lip and take in a deep breath, trying to calm my panicky nerves. Because, seriously, who put me in charge of the bloody map? Do I look like a map reader? I clench my jaw in frustration now. I turn the map a different way, hoping this will somehow make me understand where the fuck we're supposed to go.
'Fred, first off, really? Really? You really want to piss me off today? You wanna a black eye or something Fred? Maybe you want to shit slugs for the next week. Is that what you want?'
It's all just a jumble of random dotted lines and green and brown blobs. I can't make head or tail of it and I'm starting to think we're desperately lost. I swear we were going in the right direction when we started off. We found all the markers and everything. Stomach sinking, I look over my shoulder, briefly wondering where the other two are.
'I see nature really isn't agreeing with your temper. And let me just say, those are some ugly threats there my dear. Shitting slugs? That's very imaginative. Never heard that one before.'
I look up at them and see Dom seething, looking more like a crazed lunatic than a dainty Veela. She bares her teeth at her cousin. 'You're a wart.'
Before Fred can respond to that, I slice across them desperately.
'Guys! I think we're lost.'
Dom tosses her hair over her shoulder and saunters over to me, studying the map from over my shoulder. 'Why do you think we're lost? Where are we?'
I point at a green blob on the map. 'Somewhere here.' I hope.
'Where's Harry Richards when you need him,' mutters Dom under her breath, shooting Fred—who's currently staring blankly into the sky—a dirty look. 'He's supposed to be an expert on camping and stuff. His mum's some Muggle camping whiz or whatever.'
You see, that's the thing about this situation. Rarely at Hogwarts do we ever get to choose our own partners for anything because teachers—in my opinion—get some sick pleasure out of messing with the social lives of their students by pairing them up with their crush or worst enemy. Strange, you think? Impossible? No. Not at all. They know exactly what's going on at school, they're like the God-like omnipresent paparazzi of our lives. Which is very disturbing if you think about it. But so, anyway, when we got to actually choose our "house mates" for this project, it came as a shock.
In fact, it was such a shock we weren't quite sure how to react to the mad rush of students celebrating with joy at the prospect of facing a project with people they could actually tolerate. We weren't even sure who we wanted to spend two months in a run down house with.
"We" being Dom and I, of course.
Yet, despite everything—our new found freedom I mean—we still ended up with them. It was either a super cruel fate or we just liked torturing ourselves to the point of madness for the heck of it.
(Really, I think it's because Dom and I don't have many other friends)
((Okay, really, it's because I don't have many other friends and am only comfortable around like, four other people))
'Oh there you two are,' says Dom suddenly. My gaze snaps up. 'Jenelle doesn't know where we're going and we're lost—'
I look at her, scowling. 'I didn't—'
'We're lost?' says Lucas Ashwood, sharing a look with James Potter. Luke walks over to me and grabs the map from my hands, giving it a once over. He purses his lips for a moment—and then hands the map back. 'Nope. I have no idea where the fuck we are either.'
'Here,' says Fred. 'Let me have it.' I hold my palms out in silent defeat and let the boys take over. I hand him the map and both James and Fred start to study it.
I pick up my holdall and hoist it over my shoulder, feeling immeasurably exhausted. My gaze meets Dom's and a flicker of understanding passes between us, like we're realizing we're both in the same sinking ship.
'This is your fault,' she mutters to me.
Feeling a little affronted, I stare at her for a moment. 'What? Sorry I'm not an exceptional map reader, Dom. I'll try to work on that and, just so you know, if it's anyone's fault here it's yours!'
Dom rolls her eyes. 'My fault? How is it my fault?'
Well, how is it mine?
'How isn't it?' I whisper-hiss. 'You let Luke get past me because you're in insanely in love with him! You wanted this to happen—'
'I didn't! I don't!' she interrupts shrilly, her eyes widening in panic. She looks around furtively to where Luke is. He's preoccupied with drawing pictures on the ground with a stick and doesn't notice our conversation, slithering words and hushed irritation. Her gaze snaps back to mine. 'Oh my god. Imagine if he heard. I am about to kill you—'
'Girls,' says James, his voice all deep and … manly. Ugh. 'I think we know where to go.'
Luke jumps to his feet and throws an arm around Dom's shoulder, pulling her towards him, looking thoroughly relieved. 'Great, lets go. I'm starving.' He looks at Dom and winks. 'You ready baby?'
Dom shoves Luke's arm off with a noise of disgust. She tries to elbow him but he catches her arm just in time, looking extremely amused. Dom would look like any indifferent, annoyed girl if it weren't for the lovely shade of scarlet her face has become. The only telltale sign that she's got a massive crush on Luke.
'Don't try to hit me, Dom. You hit like a girl—'
'I am a girl.'
Suddenly, I feel James' arm brush against my own. My muscles seem to freeze. I watch as he wraps his hand around Dom's skinny wrist and pulls her away from Luke. Huffing, her blonde hair billowing around her like a sheet of white gold, she yanks herself from James' grip and grabs her holdall.
I'm still watching him as his eyes flicker up to mine. I can't help the way my chest instantly constricts. It feels like I can't breathe and all of a sudden my breathing is too loud, my heart hammers too fast. I look away just as he says, 'I think we have to go right.'
I nod once and turn away from him completely. It's hard talking to him, it's hard to even look at him. I'm a masochist, I think. I really love to hurt myself, I think bitterly.
I face Luke, Fred and Dom. 'Ready?' They all murmur assent. 'Great. Let's hope it actually leads us to the Fire Pit.'
'It will,' he assures from behind me with an easy arrogance that makes me bristle.
I shoot him an irritated look and pick up my bag. As we head down the winding path of the forest, we fall into a silence that is uncharacteristic of all of us. Dom falls into step next to me, her cheeks still glowing. She looks annoyed.
'He was just joking,' I murmur so only she can hear. The boys are ahead of us chatting loudly anyway, though.
Dom's eyes stay firmly planted on her feet. She hoists her holdall further up her shoulder. 'That's the problem,' she mumbles back. 'I can't stop reading into things. I wish he would just stop with all the messing around so I could just think … you know?'
My eyes flit up to James. 'Yeah. Yeah I know.'
Dom notices and stops me suddenly. I look at her, stomach twisting. Serious Dom is way worse than Upset-Hysterical Dom. Serious Dom actually makes sense and understands reality. 'Are you okay, by the way? I know it can't be easy—'
'It's fine,' I cut across her, unable to meet her eyes. 'It's been more than a month—'
'Oi! Tossers! Hurry the fuck up!' yells Fred. Dom and I look at each other and then start walking again. After what feels like an hour, I see the two other groups swarming around a large, flat, beaten expanse. There are huge logs piled up on top of each other in the very centre, stones as big as my head circling it.
I'm guessing this is the Fire Pit.
I take in a deep breath, exhaling slowly.
I repeat my mantra in my head again. Something my mother taught me. It's a bunch of Indian words I don't understand but it's soothing, it stalls my anxiety. In my mind, it sounds like flowing, guttural music, filled with a heaviness, almost like gold. Everything about this project, the people around me, the weak nerves fizzling inside me, puts me on edge. It's like I'm standing at the on a cliff and I know I'm going to fall. I don't know when, I don't know how. I just know it's going to happen.
I suddenly feel very alone.
I whirl around, aware that I actually am alone. I can't see Dom or Fred or anyone anywhere.
Was all this necessary? Why couldn't we bond at Hogwarts? What was the reason for this?
'Good morning everybody!'
I look away and up, noticing a makeshift stage I'm sure wasn't there two seconds ago. Professor Newton and Professor Eckhart (the Muggle Arts professor) stride up onto it. Everyone shushes up and faces the front.
'Now,' says Professor Newton, clapping her hands together and beaming at all of us. 'To start with—'
Nathaniel Smith's hand shoots up. 'Sorry, why exactly are we doing this?'
The effect is instantaneous. A bunch of people start shouting questions all at once, nodding in agreement and the occasional 'yeah!' and a single 'down with the establishment!' is heard. As Eckhart and Newton (oh yeah, forgot to mention—our Muggle Studies professor) start to tackle the yelling. Dom slips next to me and nudges my shoulder.
'I still think it's your fault, you know,' she says lightly, talking through a mouthful of peanuts. 'And I don't see how it's mine at all. I mean, sure, I guess I could chalk it up to your running abilities but lets face it—you're on the Quidditch team. I'm not stupid you know.'
'Could've fooled me.' I look at her, grimacing at the bag in her hands. 'Where were you? When did you get those?'
'What, these? Do you want one?' She waves the bag of salted peanuts in my face. 'They were giving out goodie-bags by the entrance, didn't you notice? I don't really think the people were with the school but whatever, the professors didn't seem to mind and Fred got brownies, so.' Dom shrugs.
I open my mouth, and then close it. Who cares.
'Alright! Alright! Settle down everyone!' cries Newton, looking frazzled. 'I have a few announcements to make before, er, I can answer all your questions—'
Smith's hand shoots up again in the crowd.
Newton's pupils visibly dilate. 'But please, wait until the end. I just want to explain a few more things before you guys head on out to your Houses.' She clears her throat. 'Okay, rules: since most of you are still sixteen, there will be no use of magic whatsoever. The purpose of Task One is for it to be completed it by hand. This is a once in a life time opportunity you guys! You're the first ever students at Hogwarts to leave for an entire month to live on their own and learn to be like Muggles! Be psyched!'
Not a muscle moves. Metaphorical crickets chirp. A figurative tumbleweed blows.
Newton pales a little. I almost feel bad for her.
'Er, anyway. No use of magic … is what … I'm trying to say. Even for the seventeen year olds. No magic. You guys are getting graded on this and the point of the project is to learn to live without it. Okay? Good.' Newton claps her hands together again. 'Now, I'm assuming all of you have your journals?'
'I'll take that as a yes. Okay, so once Task One is completed, I hope you and your housemates will have fully bonded with each other on an emotional level that is so … totally … mind-blowing. As soon as Task One's done you guys will need to move straight onto Task Two. No dilly-dallying.
'In Task Two—which I'm sure those of you who've read the worksheet will know—you're expected to undergo a series of psychological studies. Well, sort of. Anyway, this exercise will test your ability to live, work, and cooperate with others. Emotional strains, fights, new friendships, and who knows, maybe even new love?' Oh my God this woman is so embarrassing 'Whatever it is, you need to write it in your journals. It's to monitor your emotions through this project and when we get back to Hogwarts, we're going to take a look at them and discuss our feelings and reflect on why we felt that way at that time.
'And … guys? I just want you to know, even though you've lived with your friends for six whole years, really living together—and I mean cooking with each other, cleaning with each other, being around each other all the time … it's a whole new story. I know what it's like to be your age, to think you have it all figured out and to think you're utterly indestructible … I just hope you guys never loose that confidence in yourselves, no matter what happens in the next month.
Newton lets out deep breath and shares a look with Eckhart, silently gesturing her to take over. Eckhart steps out, her stern gaze roaming over each and every one of us. Lips pursed, she glances briefly at a cluster of boys and then away.
'Any misbehaving will be dealt with severely. If there is any inkling of a Muggle—many of whom work here—sighting the use of magic, we shall try our best deal with you on an academic level, but the Ministry has not lightened its laws in concern to this project. You are not only under the scrutiny of Professor Newton and I—you are also under the scrutiny of the Ministry of Magic.'
'Good luck everyone, have fun!' cries Newton cheerfully. 'And see you tonight for dinner!'
'Good luck,' is all Eckhart says before she and Newton swivel around, disappearing behind the stage, presumably to their cabin/house thing.
The groups break out immediately into incoherent babble, no doubt supremely excited to waste a month of their lives.
'Let's go find out what house we're in,' Dom suggests, looking at me. 'Everyone's walking that way.'
We walk over to a table where a pimply looking 19 year old is passing out folders to other groups.
'Hi,' I say. 'We're, um, the ASBO Five.' I sound so glum. He must think I'm such a riot at parties.
Folder-Guy gives me a funny a look and starts searching through his masses of folders. When he finally finds the folder that reads our group name, he hands it over. 'House Number 7, down to the right.'
'Cheers.' I look at Dom, frowning. 'Where are the others? Where do they keep going?'
Dom isn't paying attention. 'I can't believe we let Luke name our group that.'
'Fitting though, innit?' we hear his voice say. The both of us turn and see Luke grinning devilishly, walking towards us. Fred and James are trailing behind.
'Let's go,' I grumble. I start walking ahead of everyone. I flip through the folder, reading all the instructions and whatnot. There are directions to the local supermarket, a shabby old furniture and fixing's store, and a laundromat. I look up and watch as Ella's group goes off into the first house in the line of white houses.
For Task One we have to redecorate the house we're to live in, like buy furniture and paint the walls and stuff. That'll be easy enough.
Task Two ... well, Task Two is just asking for it.
Not to worry though, I have a fail-safe plan to bullshit it and coast my way through this project. It will be like every time I have to do a bloody Dream Diary for Divination. In a month, this whole scarring ordeal will be forgotten like Dom's last sexcapade.
'Ugh, I can't breathe,' she complains from behind me. 'This oxygen is too pure.'
I roll my eyes and flip to the very last page. Something heavy falls out and I stumble back and pick it up. It's an envelope. I open it quickly to find five pairs of keys with the number 7 on it and, strangely enough, a piece of parchment with a quote.
We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.
- Oscar Wilde
Being half-blood (my dad's a Muggleborn and my mum's a half-blood), I do know my fair share of Muggle authors (I'm assuming he's a Muggle author) but I have no idea who this bloke is. I also haven't a clue what it's supposed to mean. Why would Newton put quotes in our folders? Actually, do the other groups even have quotes? If they do, did they get the same one?
'Oh, son of a free elf! Is that supposed to be our house?'
I stop and look up.
'Holy hell,' murmurs James.
'Fuck,' says Fred.
My jaw drops.
No fucking way.
'You were so close to falling down that hole.'
Once we had taken in the horror that was our supposed home for the next month, we all settled in (carefully avoiding the gigantic hole on our porch, a.k.a DEATH TRAP NUMERO UNO). Dom and I found a huge room with a bay window and a king sized bed for the both of us (Fred inappropriately, and unimaginatively, dubbed it the Gash and Lash Room) and the boys found a room with bunk beds. The kitchen is in the living room, like an open plan type thing. Very modern. Were it not for the falling cabinets, peeling wallpaper and dirt and cobwebs everywhere.
Also, side note; there is only one fucking bathroom.
Anyway, we found out that our fridge was completely empty so Luke and I went out to get some food and got back as soon as we could with a bunch from the grocery store to keep us alive for at least a week. We even bought some pots and pans like something out of Top Chef. Then we all got ready to go to the Fire Pit for one last barbecue dinner thing before we all started working on our houses and living on our own and whatnot.
James left a little earlier than the rest of us for reasons I shall not mention.
'I know,' I reply, a noticeable edge in my voice. 'I think I became aware of how close after the fiftieth time you told me.'
Dom frowns at me. 'What is your problem?'
'I don't have a prob—'
'Oh. Oh my god,' interrupts Dom, looking very superior indeed. She looks at me gravely. 'It's Morgan isn't it? I totally forgot!'
I grit my teeth in response.
'Haven't we had this conversation before?' I snap. I don't meet Dom's eyes because I know exactly what kind of expression she's wearing. The understanding one. Well, I don't feel like be understood.
'Don't look so self-pitying,' she chastises, knocking her shoulder into mine lightly. 'And don't think you're the only one going through a tough break up.'
'I'm not self-pitying and I am fine,' I snap, my patience wearing thin. I don't see why she's making a big deal out of this. It's not like I'm hiding in the house because I can't face my ex-boyfriend and his girlfriend! 'Just stop—talking about it.'
'No, but seriously,' says Dom, lowering her voice and looking around to see if him and Stupid Bitch are in the vicinity as we near the Fire Pit. 'If you don't want to be here … I mean, they're probably off …'
'I'm aware of what they might be doing!'
'It's boys, man. They're so fucking lazy and incompetent. Practically handicapped. And you know, I have this funny feeling about Fred—oh shit.'
Without thinking, without taking heed to Dom's "impending doom" tone, I follow her gaze. All at once, my body freezes.
My heart drops to my toes as Dom is yanked back by my sudden stop (we were linking arms). She lets out squeal but all I can hear is a rushing in my ears. Okay, I'm not stupid, I knew this would happen. I knew there would be PDA and … touching. I'm not entirely unaware of social interactions, I know what happens when couples get together around an ambient area. Atmosphere and whatnot. But a sick feeling churns in the pit of my stomach—a mix of acid and something else. I feel like I'm falling with there's no end. And I hate it. I hate this feeling of hopelessness mingled with despair.
'Ignore it,' Dom mumbles to me, pulling my arm over to where smell of barbecuing meat is coming from.
I look away from the image of James Potter and Alexandra Morgan glued to each other's faces.
'I can't believe he broke up with me for her,' I say bitterly, almost without meaning to. Her presence is just like poison, so slow and so dangerous. I never know what I am around her. Second best? Not good enough? Uglier? Stupider? Less fun? Less interesting? I feel ashamed for feeling this hurt. And I'm not even mad at James—it's Morgan that I want to kill. I know it's the female bitchiness part of me that makes me feel so angry with her, and there is a part of me that knows it isn't entirely Morgan's fault for James breaking up with me, but it's very small.
'He's a dick.'
'No kidding.' I can't help but look at them one last time. 'I hate her.'
James tucks a piece of Morgan's hair behind her ear and she grins, making him smile. The vision is so sickening, I almost projectile vomit. I kind of almost wish I would, then the sick taste in my mouth would be more bearable.
'Why do our lives suck so infinitely?'
Dom raises her eyebrows and turns away from them, getting a bun and patty for her burger. 'Speak for yourself. I'm perfectly happy thank you very much.''
I scoff. 'Sure, Weasel face.'
Dom flushes. Straightening up so fast she's a blur of blonde hair and red cheeks. 'Don't mean to sound annoyed or anything, but will you stop with that?'
I raise my eyebrows now. 'What? Stop what?'
'You know what!' she says. 'Unlike some people, I don't want to be constantly reminded of how alone I am. I'm trying to move on, alright? Your depression is bringing my mojo down.'
My eyebrows travel further up my forehead, so high I'm slightly afraid they'll disappear above my hairline. 'Sorry. I'll try to tone down the depression for you then.'
Dom rolls her eyes, clearly miffed. 'You know that's not what I meant. But seriously, you have to try and get over it too—'
'I am,' I interrupt indignantly and a little confused. Seriously now, it's like she's asking me to repeat over and over again how I'm over James. 'I just don't like seeing them out in public. Call it a fit of vanity or stupidity or whatever—but I just feel like everyones judging me when they're together. And I don't like it. It's like everyone's waiting for me to crack, to go mental, to rip out Morgans perfectly perfect hair or something—'
'No ones waiting for you to crack,' says Dom, looking a little troubled and far away at the same time. My stomach rolls uneasily. What is it about her tone that makes me feel like she's lying? Dom turns away, getting back to business. 'Anyway, I'm just looking at the facts here. Lucas and I dated over two years ago, in fourth year—practically insignificant—and he's not even interested in me—'
'Oh, don't be ridiculous,' I say. 'Everyone's always interested in you.'
Dom exhales through her mouth, looking up into space.
The thing is, it's not even a lie or some excuse I've made up to make her feel better. Being, like, a sixteenth Veela does have it's benefits you know. One of them being totally overruling any horrible Weasley genes. Dom is the epitome of drop-dead-gorgeous. She's literally one of those people you hate/envy/love all at once.
The only thing that makes me feel even remotely comfortable with being her friend is the fact that she is one of the worst people I've ever met.
… I mean c'mon, sometimes she likes to create drama by twisting words, manipulating feelings and situations to her benefit. She likes a show. Though, to her credit, it's not like she tries to spread rumors … it just happens. She also has a tendency to be a bit of a bitch. But I love her and she's my best friend, so it's okay to say that.
'Not him,' Dom says finally. She then turns to me. 'But seriously, what are you going to do about James?'
'What am I—what?' I say, thrown. 'What do you mean?'
'Oh please, don't give me that. You can say you're over "it" however many times you want but over what is still subject to debate. See, you might be over the fact Morgan and him are a couple but you still like him. Don't you?'
I open my mouth to say no, of course not, but I can't. I mean, he broke up with a month a go and we'd been going out for almost a year, so even if I wasn't in love with him—was I really over him? But that's not even the problem. The problem is why does she keep bringing this up? How many times do I have to tell her that it doesn't matter if I might still like him, I am done—
'I knew it,' sighs Dom happily. 'I always thought so. We need to start thinking of how to get him back—'
'Hold ... Hold on! Wait a second—Merlin!' I try to gather my scattered thoughts. Dom is like a snake, cunning, sharp, full of quick wit and biting words that reach right in my heart without me even realizing. She should have been in Slytherin. How is she so ... so in tune? 'I thought I said I didn't want to talk about it? It's like you're not hearing me, Dom. James ... me ... that's another life, that era's over. Done. Finished. Kaput. We need to all ... all move on.'
Dom grimaces at me. 'You're giving up.'
I look at her, astonished. Is she joking? 'What are you talking about? Giving up what?'
'Him,' she stresses, looking utterly calm. 'You're letting Morgan win.'
I stare at her for a moment—and then I start to laugh, barely able to keep a straight face as she grins at me says what? what's so funny? I laugh so hard my stomach starts to hurt and my eyes water. Once I sober up, I grin at her. 'Dom, please.'
I watch her expression turn confused. She was being serious. 'This isn't a game,' I feel the need to point out.
'I know but ... you love him!'
'Love him ...' I trail off wondrously. My gaze slides over the large expanse to James. Over the distance, our eyes meet. Suddenly, it's like there's no space between us at all. It's like we're pressed up against each other and I can't see anything but him. I should be blushing, or feeling embarrassed, but all I can hear is Dom saying love over and over in my head and all I can feel is emptiness. A funny kind of emptiness. Like when you're stomach is hollow.
I look at Dom, who's watching me carefully. My words are slow, deliberate and well thought out when they come. I'm not sure what I tell her, but she backs off, shrugging. I look back at James, secretly this time, so he doesn't notice and so I don't think I can feel his burning skin on mine. I wish I could tell Dom about how it happened, how I walked up those stairs, feeling so content with life, only worried about the essay that was due someday. I wish I could tell her how James told me to shut the door in a clipped tone, how he told me to tell the truth, tell the goddamn the truth. How he wondered why I was confused when he was one who didn't know the truth. I wish I could tell her how the word truth now meant something different to me. It meant breaking souls, shattering worlds and all the sweet, sublime feelings in the world drowning out into nothing. But if I told her, it would destroy her. Destroy the way she looks at her cousin. So I keep it to myself, bury it deep inside, so I destroy myself.
I throw my plate down, feeling stupid. He has no right to make me feel like this.
'You alright, Jenny?' asks Dom, snapping me out of my reverie. She's got that look on her face that tells me she knows I haven't been listening to her.
'Yeah, yeah.' I pick up my plate (I'm still hungry—not even James Potter can make me loose my appetite) and try to look a little saner. 'Just a little—anxious.'
'Again?' She looks like my mother. 'Have you taken your—'
'Yes, yes,' I say easily. 'But not that kind of anxious.'
'Don't worry. This month will fly by. You'll see.'
I offer her a small smile.
One can only hope.
Review please! I'd really like to know what you think and whether or not I should continue this! :)