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Seeing Double by Aphoride
Chapter 4 : III
 
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III

Your next few days are busy, filled to the brim with work and talking and hiding out in the Library, flicking through book after book as you search for the information you want. It seems like something that should stress you out, you reflect momentarily as you wander over to the Ancient Runes section of the Library to look for a book, but it doesn’t. Quite the contrary – you enjoy it.

You try hard to avoid Dominique – something which is relatively easy for the majority of the days, as she rarely comes to the Library and you spend most of your time burrowed amongst the shelves and books, attempting to ignore her knowing smirks and raised eyebrows when she passes you in the corridors. You’re not sure it’s working, or that your behaviour is convincing her that she’s wrong, but you keep it up anyway. It’s not as if you know what else to do. Mercifully, Louis is completely oblivious to any tension or your avoidance of his twin sister, as he babbles on at every mealtime you sit with him about something or another – how he and Jake got stuck outside the common room again and ended up getting rescued by a second-year, how he thinks Carmichael hates him, how he’s still fed up of Fred still ranting on about Quidditch. Secretly, you think to yourself that you’re pretty fed up of hearing about how Fred’s always going on about Quidditch. A quick Silencing Charm would solve the problem, after all. Victoire though, gives a small frown each time she sees you and you wonder if she knows you’re avoiding Dominique. She has a sixth sense about those sorts of things – she always seems to know when anyone’s upset, angry, annoyed or simply stressed. Nevertheless, she’s as lovely as always when you speak to her, assuring her that you will attend the family meeting, and gives no indication that she knows anything about why you’re ignoring Dominique – but then, you never really expected her to. Dominique is brilliant at keeping secrets, so much so that it’s almost scary at times.

Soon – far sooner than you would have liked – the clock ticks round to Saturday and you find yourself in your room, dressing in a thick green jumper, wrapping your Ravenclaw scarf around your neck before pulling your duffel coat over the top. Patting your pocket, you assure yourself that your gloves are still in there, where you left them. Your schoolwork is organized to perfection, but clothes and other things tend to walk about in your room overnight. When you were younger, you wondered if your cousins or uncle (George had often ‘tested your mettle’ when you were younger, as he had done to all the cousins and was still doing to Hugo. Lily had grown out of it and tended to imitate her mother whenever he played a trick on her – he claimed her glare scared him) had charmed your things to move around, knowing it would annoy you.

Casting an envious look at your roommate, Eleanor Millington, who is still asleep, her short blonde curls all over her pillow, you sigh to yourself and leave the room, making sure to shut the door firmly behind you. No sense in waking her up as well, despite how jealous you feel.

Louis is pacing in the common room, his hands pale and shaking, clutching his broom so tightly in both hands that his skin is stretched taut over his knuckles. He glances up when you enter, swirling around to face you, his blue Quidditch robes – last year’s team robes and therefore slightly too short for him – fluttering around his ankles. Opening his mouth, he goes to say something before shaking his head and changing his mind.

“You’ll be fine,” you assure him, having been through the same routine with him this time last year, as Ravenclaw’s previous Seeker had graduated. “You’re probably the best flier in the House and you know it – everyone knows it. The try-outs are, for you, practically only a formality.” Merlin knows for some of the others they’re not, you add mentally, recalling last year’s disastrous string of defeats and only-just-wins. Naturally, your cousins had been beside themselves as Gryffindor managed to clinch the Quidditch Cup by a mere twenty points over Hufflepuff.

He just nods, looking no more confident than he had done before you said anything. Nevertheless, it was important that you tried and you know that, so it doesn’t bother you.

“Morning, Molls,” Jake yawns, stumbling out of the door to the boys' rooms behind you and you give him a smile and a ‘hello’ in response. He looks, you’re pleased to see, about as tired as you feel. Running a hand through his light brown hair, he adds, “Are we all here? How about food?”

“That would be a good idea,” you agree, taking Louis by the forearm and pulling him with you out of the common room, leading him down the stairs. Jake brings up the rear, making it absolutely impossible for Louis to escape to sulk and terrify himself further in solitude. You’ve learned from the incident two years ago.

Once in the hall, you shove a piece of toast and the jar of orange marmalade under Louis’ nose, giving him the curt instruction to ‘eat’. Almost mechanically, he lifts a hand, his broomstick resting on the bench beside him, and begins to spread copious amounts of the jam onto his toast. Assured that he is doing as told, you sort your own breakfast out. In a way, you suppose getting up this early isn’t entirely as bad as you make it out to be – you have your pick of the food and drink, and all the privacy you could ever ask for in a hall as huge as this since no one else is mad enough to be up. It’s not enough to make you want to do this on a regular basis, though.

You’re nearly finished and are trying to persuade Louis to eat the other half of his slice of toast when Victoire breezes into the hall. Spotting your little group, she makes her way over to you, sitting down next to Jake.

“Morning all,” she chirps cheerfully, busily serving herself a glass of pumpkin juice. You wince at the sound of her voice – it’s far too early in the morning for people to be happy.

“Mornin’,” you mumble back, picking up another forkful of scrambled eggs. Your initial burst of energy is wearing off, and you can feel your thought processes slowing down. At least, you think you can.

Victoire smiles at you, tucking her pale pink scarf underneath her anorak and taking a sip of her pumpkin juice before raising an eyebrow at Louis.

“Louis,” she begins, her voice clear and authoritative. “Eat the toast.”

“I’m not hungry,” he mutters, shooting you an icy look as you snigger into your breakfast. Really, though, he’s brought this on himself. If he didn’t want her to comment, he should have just eaten the toast already.

“You may not be hungry now but you will be when you get outside and on the Quidditch pitch,” Victoire explains patiently. “So just eat the toast.”

Sensing that he’s losing the battle and desperate to retreat with minimal losses, Louis, a sour look on his face, picks up the toast and takes a single, slow bite. It’s childish and petty but it’s the principle of the thing. You give Victoire a grateful look and she, mature as ever, just rolls her eyes.

“So, how are you, Molly?” she asks, delicately choosing rashers of bacon. “How’s fifth year treating you so far?”

“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” you comment, your hand stilling in mid-air. “Although I think that’s probably because we just haven’t really got started yet. I expect it will get harder later on in the year.”

“Fifth year gets more intense the further through it you get,” Victoire nods, starting in on her fried breakfast. “At least, Teddy and I both found that it did. You may find it differently, though – I can’t say for sure.

“Anyway,” she changes the subject. “What’s happened?”

You’re completely confused by this simple question. You don’t know what she’s referring to, or even what she’s not referring to.

“What do you mean?”

“You and Dom,” Victoire raises an eyebrow at you incredulously. “You’ve been avoiding her and she won’t answer any of my questions when I ask her about it. It’s obvious that something’s happened – you argued, yes?”

“No, not really,” you shake your head.

Besides you, Louis is watching you interestedly, frowning slightly.

“You and Dommie had an argument? Why didn’t I notice?” he pouts, sounding lost and baffled and any other words you could possibly think of along those lines.

“Because it wasn’t very obvious; your sister is just good at spotting things like that,” you tell him, although you have no idea whether or not it was obvious. For all you know, it could well have been blindingly obvious but Louis just missed it.

Regardless of whether it’s the truth or not, it has a dual effect: both siblings smile, satisfied and quite happy with what you said. Victoire’s smile, you see, is a bit too knowing for your liking, verging on being a smirk, but you ignore it with some effort – more effort than you would have liked to have to use.

The hall starts to receive more visitors, the majority of them dressed up warmly and oddly quiet – perhaps, you wonder, there’s a correlation between getting up early and being quiet? Most of them are Ravenclaws, preparing to watch their team’s try-outs this morning, but there’s the odd Gryffindor and Hufflepuff sneaking in with their friends, and a few Slytherins at their table, eyes and heads down.

Noise seeps in slowly, like water trickling out of a hole, as more people enter. Occasionally a Ravenclaw in Quidditch robes stops by you to say ‘good luck’ to Louis, who only ever nods in reply, looking more and more sick each time someone says it. You’re not sure if it’s just fear or if he really does feel sick from the toast you and Victoire forced him to eat. From the look on your cousin’s face, though, it’s clear that she just thinks it’s fear.

At quarter past eight, the Ravenclaw Quidditch captain sweeps out of the hall, her broom held in one hand, followed by an excitable group of second-years, all chattering nervously, one or two of them holding brooms as well. That’s obviously the cue for everyone, as several of last year’s team members leave shortly afterwards.

“Time to go, Lou!” Jake grins at him, standing up. Louis mumbles something inaudible in response, but which you’re sure is something his mother would smack him around the head for saying.

“Come on,” you urge him, grabbing his arm and trying in vain to pull him to his feet. It doesn’t work – not only is he taller and heavier than you are, but it doesn’t help that you’re particularly weak either. In this instance, you’d almost prefer brawn over brains – but not quite.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he mutters sulkily, rising reluctantly and lifting his broom off the bench.

Your small group marches out of the Great Hall, leaving the warmth behind and stepping out, through the Entrance Hall into the courtyard. The shadows, you find, as you walk through them, are cold, but when you’re in the sun, it’s quite warm. Above you, the sky is a crisp, bright blue and there’s the barest hint of wind. All in all, good conditions for Quidditch. It’s not possible to live in Quidditch-mad family without picking something up, after all, even if it’s something as trivial and simple as decoding the weather conditions.

You reach the Quidditch pitch in far less time than you expected; something Louis doesn’t look too pleased about. Giving Louis a brief, tight hug (something you are often teased about, considering your namesake and grandmother is famous for her tight hugs), you and Victoire and Jake leave him to go and sit in the stands, while he joins the other prospective team members down on the pitch.

Choosing a seat in the sun, you sit down, managing to relax. Things are good so far – you’re on top of your work, all your friends and family seem perfectly content and there is absolutely no reason to worry about anything at all.

“So,” Victoire starts quietly, sitting next to you, the sun glinting off her hair. “What did you and Dominique argue about?”

“We didn’t argue,” you respond without thinking. Giving a light sigh, you continue, “We talked about something and she told me something I don’t agree with, that’s all.”

“Was it anything important?” she asks, raising her eyebrows with a faint frown. It confuses you – you would have thought that as a sister and a cousin herself she would understand how easy it is for people to argue about the slightest, insignificant, unimportant little detail – but, then again, perhaps that’s why she’s frowning. Decoding your cousins is much harder than decoding the weather.

“Not really,” you admit – because, really, it wasn’t. Just a little nonsense about a boy – hardly a big deal.

“Then why have you been ignoring her?” Victoire blinks at you, and this time her confusion is clear on her face, even as her eyes glitter, telling you she's sure she’s caught you out.

“I… I haven’t been ignoring her,” the lie slips out of your mouth easily, and you’re ashamed of yourself for it, but carry on nonetheless. “I’ve just been busy.”

“Right,” although she nods, there’s a look in her eyes which declares that she doesn’t really believe you. After the conversation you had at breakfast, you can’t say you blame her.

“Hey,” a quiet voice says and you notice, as a guilty knot ties itself in your stomach, that Dominique’s there, wrapped up in her long black coat, her scarf tucked underneath the turned-up collar.

“Hey, Dommie,” you smile, realising that you had acted so very childishly over the last few days, and all over a small, tiny, eensy-weensy disagreement over a boy. A boy. Metaphorically speaking, you want to kick yourself for being so stupid. “How have you been?”

“I’ve been alright,” she replies, taking the seat on your other side. “How about you?”

“Not bad,” you nod, watching the pitch. “I’ve had a lot of work to do, but it’s manageable so far.”

“How was Louis?” Dominique’s lips twitch into a smirk. “Panicking again?”

“Of course,” you roll your eyes lightly. Despite the annoyance of having to deal with it, you don’t mind Louis’ panicking as it reminds you that he’s not entirely as confident as he makes out. Sometimes it’s only too easy to forget. “But we managed. Mostly because Victoire forced him to eat some toast.”

“He deserved it,” Victoire protests, flushing a deep Weasley red, her hair looking almost silver in contrast.

“I’m sure he did,” Dominique agrees, matter-of-factly. “He’s always an idiot about these sorts of things.”

Down below you, the prospective players have been divided into four categories by the captain. You can see Louis easily – his white-blonde hair is like a beacon next to all the browns and blacks. He’s in the smallest group, standing next to three others. Two of them are nervous-looking second-years, one of them practically shaking. The other is a girl – a third year, you guess.

The captain blows a whistle and the first group – the largest – rise into the air, some of them a little more steadily than others. As she arranges them into a circle, joining them herself a moment later, a Quaffle in one hand, Dominique leans close to you and whispers,

“Oh, you know that boy you talked to?”

“Yes. What about him?” you give a sneaky glance out of the corner of your eye at Victoire. Her eyes are on the figures now attempting to throw and catch a Quaffle, but you’re absolutely certain she’s straining to hear every word, the majority of her attention focused on your conversation.

“I think you should talk to him,” she says calmly and you just stare at her, your mouth dropping open. You can’t believe she’s actually suggested that so casually – it’s talking. To a boy. Who isn’t related to you. That can, as far as you’re concerned, only end badly.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” you swallow, your voice coming out much higher pitched than normal.

“Why not?” she looks at you like you’re mad, raising a single blonde eyebrow at you.

“Because I’m no good at talking to people,” you shrug truthfully. “If they’re not family it’s so difficult.” You tend to freeze up, becoming completely silent, having no idea what to say. Besides, you have a relative for any occasion anyone could possibly think of so you don’t really see the problem. Popularity and all it entails doesn’t particularly interest you.

“Which is why you need to do more of it,” Victoire has now abandoned her pretence of watching the try-outs and is looking at you quite seriously. “It’s important to talk to other people, Molly. Everyone has to in later life and it’s only going to get harder as you get older.”

“Fine,” you sigh, irritated, but knowing that no other response will get you out of the horrible, awkward conversation. “I’ll talk to him. Happy?”

Dominique gives you a brilliant smile and chirps, “Blissfully.”

“Louis is up now,” Victoire points out suddenly, breaking your attention away from Dom’s faintly smug expression.

You look down at the field, watching the four tiny figures in the sky. The sky is still; in the distance, the tops of the trees of the Forbidden Forest don’t move at all, standing proud against the blue backdrop. It’s a beautiful picture and you lament for a moment the fact that you don’t have access to a camera to capture it forever.

The captain straightens up from the box when you refocus your attention on the pitch, and you assume she’s just released the Snitch. Instantly, Louis’ demeanour changes. He looks less dreamy and absent, less cocky and far more serious. Perched on his broom in the middle of the air, just hanging there, you know – even though you’re far too far away to be able to see it – that his eyes are darting about from side to side, looking for any trace of the Golden Snitch.

Crossing your fingers, you notice that Victoire’s hands are clasped tightly in her lap, her eyes fixed on her brother as though attempting to will the Snitch to him. Of the three of you, Dominique is the only one who looks remotely relaxed, although you can tell from the narrowness of her eyes and the slight pursing of her lips that she’s just as worried and hopeful as the rest of you.

All of a sudden, Louis shoots forward, on a downward slope. Avoiding one of the other hopefuls with a sharp jerk of his broom handle, he races forwards, his whole body leaning, his arm outstretched. The others have seen it; they’re pushing their own brooms to the limit to try and catch him, to try and get there before him.

They’re too late. Louis rises gracefully up out of the dive, the Snitch trapped in his fist. On the ground, you’re sure the captain is smiling. You hear Jake give a whoop and Victoire lets a sigh escape her. Smiling, you stand up, ready to go down to the changing rooms to wait for Louis to come out with the rest of the hopefuls. The results of the try-outs will only officially come out on Monday by being posted on the common room notice board, but everyone knows that he’s got his spot back – there’s no way the captain would choose anyone else.

“I knew he’d do it,” Dominique states pragmatically as you all troop in single file down the stairs inside the stadium.

“Dom, I think we all knew he’d do it,” Victoire comments with a small, tinkling laugh and you shake your head at their banter. Victoire does have a point, though – you all did know he’d do it, it was just a question of how long it would take him and whether or not he believed he could.

“Just think,” Dom adds sarcastically. “Now we get to deal with him being whiny and pathetic before every match he plays in as well as this morning.”

“I’m sure he’ll get better as the year goes on,” Victoire, ever the optimist, counters softly.

“He got worse last year,” her sister just mutters, and you have to bite your tongue not to laugh. However unfortunate it is that it’s actually true – by the end of the year you had to resort to things like threatening to set his bed on fire with him in it if he didn’t get up to go to the match - you find their arguments (mostly silly little ones like this) hilarious.

Reaching the door to the changing rooms, you crowd around one side. Victoire, you can tell, is getting impatient, and her fingers keep twitching, as though she’s imagining wrapping them around the handle and opening the door. She doesn’t, though.

Opposite you, a boy leans against the wall, tilting his head back. His hands are in his pockets and he looks extremely bored. For him, boredom has passed beyond a state and is now an art form – distilled and perfected. He seems to sense your gaze on him and glances over, deep blue eyes flicking over you and your cousins, one after another. You know that Dominique and Victoire would want you to say something – indeed, you can feel Dom poking you in the back – but you just can’t. Your mouth has gone dry, your palms are dampening, all possible conversation starters have fled from your head. It’s not your fault, since you did tell Dom that you can’t talk to attractive boys and he is definitely, most definitely, attractive.

The door bangs open, making you jump, and Louis bounces out, hugging you tightly.

“I did it, I did it!” he cheers, and it’s all you can do to wrap your arms around his waist and hug him back, unable to say anything.

The boy opposite is smirking at you, and you feel yourself blush furiously. Trust Louis to embarrass you in front of the closest thing to Adonis you’ve ever seen. Glancing at his scarf to avoid looking at his face, you’re surprised to see that it gleams with blue and bronze. You couldn’t possibly have missed seeing him in the common room, could you? Even the impossibly dark and brooding Mr Darcy couldn’t pull your attention away from him.

Eventually, Louis lets you go and instead tries to crush Victoire in one of his death-hugs. As you massage your throat, you see Adonis push himself off the wall, falling into step alongside one of the returning Chasers and walk away, his hands still in his pockets, their heads bent close together in conversation.

“Molly? Molls!” you hear someone call you, and then a finger is jabbed sharply into your side, making you squeal and move away, jerked roughly out of your daydream.

“What?” you ask him, trying to keep your irritation out of your voice – it doesn’t work.

“Stop drooling after that guy,” he rolls his eyes. “Honestly, Molls, I didn’t think you’d sink so low as to be taken in by his charming good looks.”

“I was not ‘taken in by his charming good looks’,” you huff, your face burning a deep red again. The back of your neck is so hot it feels like you’ve got sunburn. “I was simply… looking at him.”

Louis gives you a sceptical look, but thankfully doesn’t press the subject any further. Looping an arm through yours, he begins to drag you off towards the castle, Victoire on his other side. He leaves you to grab Dominique, while Jake – grinning like a Cheshire cat with a banana stuck sideways in his mouth – tags along next to Victoire, evidently very pleased he’s not part of this we’re-cousins-so-let’s-all-link-arms thing.

“Anyway, lunch,” Louis grins, his pace turning brisker, his grip on your arm tightening, pulling all three of you along with him. It takes a while for you to get used to the punishing pace he’s forcing you into and you note with envy that the rest of them have no problem keeping up. Then again, you suppose the odds are against you, as you’re the shortest there by at least three inches. How you, with a tall and lanky father, ended up this short you have no idea. It’s not as if your mum’s particularly short. You and Lucy are just odd, you conclude, seeing as there’s no evidence to explain why you’re short – although both your grandmothers are short, so maybe that’s why? No matter what the reason is, you’re still short and still almost being carried along by Louis and Dominique.

X

On Sunday evening, finding that you can’t concentrate with the rush of noise in the common room – you haven’t yet seen your Adonis anywhere, which is odd in a school of Hogwarts’ size – you escape into your room, shutting the door firmly behind you. Eleanor isn’t there, she’s chatting to her friends over a game of chess with Alasdair McLardy, one of the boys in your year.

Quite confident that you won’t be disturbed, you lean down, rummaging inside your bag and pull out, from the bottom, the little black book you found in the Library. It’s covered in a faint layer of dust from your bag and you brush it off carefully, once again admiring the smooth leather of the cover. Your fingers run over it, lightly, and for some reason you find yourself stalling. A little voice in your head wonders if you’ll just be disappointed when you open it and it makes you hesitate, your eyes fixed on the book. After so much hope, all that curiosity, those flittering thoughts and half-dreams in the Library, it would be terrible to find out that they were all for nothing.

Taking a deep breath, girding your loins like so many people in these books seem to, gathering your courage, you slide a finger underneath the front cover and turn it over.

There’s nothing written on the page inside, other than the words ‘fifth year’. It doesn’t look like print, you think, a slight frown creasing your forehead. The letters are cramped together, small and tight, yet they run across the page in a perfect line. You stare at them - two tiny words – as though they hold the key to the book, as though they could tell you something. Only after a minute do you realise why they fascinate you so much: they’re handwritten.

Someone wrote this. Someone – a girl, you assume – wrote this book, or diary, and then snuck into the Library, right into the back and tucked it away into the romance novels section.

Your heartbeat is loud. Impossibly loud. You feel excited, your mind spinning through a hundred and one possibilities about the contents of this book, this untouched treasure trove.

A forbidden romance, secret passion, unrequited love… who knows what it holds?

Feeling suddenly emboldened, your curiosity higher than you think it’s ever been, a growing pressure inside yourself to read it, to dive into this mysterious world, you turn over the first page.

Immediately, you’re immersed in the story. The first word leaps up, takes you by the hand and drags you amongst the ebony-black words and the cream pages to a world so similar, yet so unspeakably different.
 
 
 
 


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