“Fucking shitty damn twat fuck bloody crap!” shrieks Em at a horrendously early hour. She drops to the nearest bed to nurse her foot – sitting on Evie, who begins to thrash around under the covers, screaming.
As the old gentle Em morphs into a dangerous, yelling terror, she is discovering her niche in the fine art of cussing. It’s been months since I’d woken up to anything but a swear word.
“Could you keep it down?” moans Leah, showing the first signs of life from under a heap of blankets across the room.
“Fucking Emmett just fucking sits on me in the middle of my dream about fucking Malcolm bloody Ferris!” rants Evie, sitting up in bed with her hair sticking out.
I cover my eyes. In third year, it had been revealed that the name Em was actually a shortening of the boys’ name Emmett. We never mention, and never share, this piece of information, although not due to any actual spoken agreement.
“Were you actually fucking him, or did I misinterpret that?” asks Em curiously after a moment. I grin, shuffling across the room in slippers to retrieve my underwear.
“Off with the smirk, Addison,” mutters Evie.
“There is no one named Addison in this dormitory!” I yell, grabbing a pillow and running over to smother her with it. “No Emmett, either!”
Evie has always been a pain in the ass. Em, on the other hand, is a novice diva, and the two have been stepping on each other’s metaphorical toes with unfortunate frequency – in the mornings, anyway. It doesn’t help that Lily often leaves the tower before we awake, and Leah doesn’t awake until we are well on our way; I am abandoned to play diplomat.
“Her lips are turning blue,” says Em reluctantly, and I release Evie.
It figures that, even with all the pushovers in the world, I’d end up in a dorm stocked with girls with such – spark, perhaps. There’s Lily’s anti-bully spark, and Leah’s step-away-from-the-pasties spark, and Evie’s this-is-so-boring spark, and Em’s newfound unpredictable spark. I ponder this all the way down to the Entrance Hall, coming to the regrettable conclusion that there’s nothing I can do to stop Gryffindor tower being set alight.
Stephen comes up to me and, predictably, nuzzles my neck, pecks me on the lips, and drags me to our usual seats at the Ravenclaw table. Next, he’ll pour me tea and butter my toast. I settle into my seat, greeting brightly the eclectic collection of students around us. One or two mumble a hello in return.
Maxwell Stebbins peers at me over his glasses, which are an inch or two thick; Martha Artemis says nothing, as usual. Tilden Toots sniffs – I’ve been assured that he’s a Potions genius, but he seems like a pompous twat to me. It was only after a very public display of affection that I discovered he was dating Gladys Gudgeon, a Hufflepuff in my year who’s present too. She’s next to golden-curled Aspeth Spyne, the ridiculously pretty Ravenclaw seeker, who seems to spend breakfast with a pastry in hand and a book under the table. One thing that all of these people seem to share is that they don’t like me very much. I might assume their collective disinterest to be a Ravenclaw trait, but Stephen is certainly interested in me.
We’ve been dating since the beginning of the year and, considering that February has come and gone, this is not a trivial feat. Sometimes I am surprised we’ve lasted so long, considering my social ineptness. Stephen likes romance, and “doing things right” – he pays for my food (although he hadn’t yet taken me to Madam Puddifoot’s, which is only a good thing), carefully maintains a certain atmosphere (ambient lighting, small talk, little to no knock-knock jokes), and compliments me often.
“Phen,” drawls Aspeth, “you and Andy will be coming to my party this weekend, right?”
I swallow my mouthful. So she does know my name.
I raise an eyebrow. Although we’d made plans to spend the weekend together, he hasn’t consulted me about spending it in this manner – making out on a couch, surrounded by drunken Ravenclaws quoting the Standard Book of Spells in slurred tones, probably.
“Erm, actually,” I interject cheerfully, “since the Gryffindor/Hufflepuff match is that afternoon, if we win I might want to go to the celebrations. See my friends and all.”
“Congratulate James Potter,” adds Stephen’s friend Bertram sourly. “That’s assuming his team can pull their heads out of their asses and actually-”
“My team, too,” I say rather sharply. Bertram irritates me. “But yes, I suppose I would congratulate James. I don’t see why that’s-”
“Congratulate me? On what?”
I spin around, already recognising the dry voice as belonging to James Potter. I look him up and down – he doesn’t seem to have any weapons or other surprises hidden on his person. “What do you want?” I ask cautiously.
“Just a word,” he says, glancing meaningfully at Bertram and Stephen, who are eyeing him in an unfriendly manner.
I rise, patting Stephen’s hand briefly, and follow James to a spot out of earshot. “Discuss me with your boyfriend often, Thorpe?” he asks.
“We were talking about the match,” I deadpan. “Stephen – and his friends, apparently – would like me to go to a Ravenclaw party. Instead of our victory party.”
“You can’t miss the celebrations, Thorpe, that would be traitorous.” I don’t bother to remind him that just the previous day, after finding out about Stephen, he had accused me of being just that. “That lot don’t like me very much – nor Sirius, for that matter.”
“Bertram’s not even on their team,” I point out, “and Sirius isn’t on ours.”
“Oh, Thorpe, this is about much more than just Quidditch. It’s about hexing Bertram Aubrey for being a prick about Quidditch.”
“Seems a bit stupid.”
“Yeah, well, it was,” dismisses James. “That’s not to say I have any regrets, mind. He deserved it.”
“Potter,” I begin warningly. I am tempted to agree with him, but I suppose that I’m obliged to refrain.
“I get it, I get it. I’m here to ask you about – well...” He ruffles his hair and straightens his glasses busily, trying to hide the blush spreading across his cheeks. I’ve rarely seen a teenage boy blush so profusely, and I enjoy the sight. He continues in a deeper voice, “It’s about Lily.”
I groan internally – I knew that Evie shouldn’t have encouraged him. It is going to take an extraordinary amount of eloquence to phrase my feelings on the matter in any way but “Piss off”.
“Listen, I can’t help you with that,” I sigh.
I turn, but James jumps in my path. “Hang on! Just two questions, Thorpe. So, are lilies too cheesy for her? And do I go for the big gesture, or...?”
I cough. “The only big gesture she needs from you is an accumulation of small ones, Potter.” I give him a little nod and walk away.
Back at the table, Stephen uses a hushed tone to demand to know what that was all about. “He just wanted a word, like he said – not about anything interesting, just Gryffindor business,” I say, reasoning that this is not, in fact, a lie. “Anyway, did you have a chance to think about what I said? About the party?”
He smiles. “You’re going to get all defensive, but I’ve got to say that Gryffindor might not have a reason to celebrate-”
“Hufflepuff are playing Andrew Terry as Seeker,” I interrupt incredulously. “They haven’t a chance. In any case, I’d like to be with my house!”
“But we have plans to spend Saturday together.”
“I’m not saying you shouldn’t come along,” I scoff, “I’d like that just fine. All I’m saying is that we spend an awful lot of time with your friends.”
Stephen holds my steely gaze, curling his lip unhappily.
“You’re terrible at life,” Mary MacDonald remarks.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Mary is younger than me – just a year – although you’d never guess it. She inhabits the dormitory above mine, and she’s one of the smartest people I know. That’s not to say that she’s at all boring: in fact, she has a mischievous smile and a talent for plotting everything from pranks to revenge schemes.
“Well, think about it, my dear,” she replies. “You never know what to say, and you’re programmed with an inability to detect or use your talents... you can’t French plait very well, and you wear too much grey...”
“It brings out my eyes!” I put my feet up on an armchair. We’ve claimed prime spots in front of the fire.
“And now that you’ve actually managed to acquire a boyfriend, by some bloody miracle, you’re stuck in the most boring relationship I’ve ever heard of.”
I blink. “Mary, that’s a little harsh. What if I’m very offended? You can’t just go around telling people they’re terrible at life.”
Mary rolls her eyes exaggeratedly and shoves a furry bundle in my direction. “Have a kitten,” she says, somewhat threateningly, and I realize that I’m about to be given a talking to. I squeeze said kitten to my chest.
I’m not a cat person, and unfortunately the castle seems to be governed, at present, by an omnipresent feline population. Gangs prowl the hallways, bickering and occasionally uniting against a grumpy Mrs Norris (much as the students unite against her owner, caretaker Argus Filch). And yet Mary’s cat, Puppy, is terrible at being a cat – hence the name. She follows some of the rules, spending mornings lapping up milk on the Gryffindor table and the rest of the time in somebody’s lap.
But in many others ways she lets down the stereotype. Puppy has been caught attempting to be lithe and mysterious more than once, but these attempts generally end in falls from dangerous heights. She has never hissed at a soul; she displays affection to Slytherins and tries to befriend Mrs Norris. She tends to skip the feline mafia meetings in favour of, say, falling asleep curled up on my head.
Puppy was also Mary’s thirteenth birthday gift (there never seemed to be any progress in the creature’s mental or physical development), and taught her to embrace (consistent) incompetence and (continual) failure. In any case, Puppy and I were good friends.
“If you want my honest opinion,” begins Mary, “I think you’re settling. I know that your friends are prejudiced against him – shut up, I’m talking – but I don’t think it’s even about his personality, at this point. It’s about the relationship, you know?”
I purse my lips. “Go on.”
“If you want to be with him, then fine and groovy with me, Andy – but you need to start putting some effort in. I doubt he even knows how funny you are or how much you like to eat... and his friends, who you’ve been hanging around with for months now, definitely don’t. I don’t think that you’re very happy together.
I can feel my temper rising, even if somewhat unreasonably.
“It’s all about being romantic and made for each other, but if there is any chemistry there he entirely smothers it with his fancy dinners and nose nuzzling and whatsit. Except, that is, for when he drinks with friends and gives you big ugly sloppy kisses – behaviour you don’t question either,” she points out. I’m too annoyed to consider the validity of this.
“That little unresolved tiff you had with him this morning is the first time you’ve ever argued. And that’s not because you’re stuck in the honeymoon phase; again and again, he irritates you or says something you disagree with. But when you’re about to call him out about it, he gives you another compliment and-”
“Do I come off as that vapid?”
“I’m asking you seriously,” I insist.
“I don’t mean it like that. I mean that the central point of your relationship with Stephen is the affection and appreciation.” And the snogging, I add mentally.
“Alright, I get the point, shush about it,” I sigh.
I plant my lips on the top of Puppy’s head, but she’s already squirming to be released – a pigtailed second year has just passed with a cup of hot chocolate that Puppy will be happy to take off her hands. I let her hop off my lap.
“Speaking of things I won’t be shushing about anytime soon,” Mary chimes, “how’s the exam revision coming along?”
“Oh, don’t, Mary.”
“They’re not that far away,” she sings.
I get to my feet unceremoniously and drop my ink bottle into my bag with a thud. “Right, I’m off to the library, then,” I say. “Happy?”
“Andy, I’m just trying to help.”
I soften. “I don’t mean to be short with you, MacDonald, I’m just grumpy. I’ll think about what you said.”
I have plenty of time to think about it on my way through the castle; the stairs are being particularly problematic at the moment and keep spitting me out in the same spot near Filch’s office. In the library, I rummage around my bag until I find the bag of candy I’d shoved in earlier that day, and begin to pace the Medieval History aisle. Remus appears after a few minutes, greeting me warmly and pulling a book off a high shelf.
“Hi, Remus. Chocolate frog?”
He accepts, leaning against the shelves. “How are you, Andy? You look distracted. Panicked, actually.”
I laugh. “I’ve just come from quite an intense conversation with Mary MacDonald, in the year under us. She’s too clever for her own good.”
“I feel like we’ve been treated to a few too many intense conversations this year.”
“Exactly,” I exclaim. “And the thing is, at the same time, Stephen – I’m dating Stephen Duke – is my first real boyfriend, and I don’t think I’m very good at any of it.”
Remus smiles at me sympathetically. “I suppose it takes practice.”
For a minute or two, we stand in silence, until suddenly I feel obliged to provide an explanation. “I’m not sure what I want. Stephen and I don’t have very much in common. I don’t know if we have very much chemistry, either. But he’s lovely to me. I just don’t know what to do. With him.”
He considers this. “I’m obviously under-informed,” he says – referring, I suppose, to the holes in my story, but perhaps also to how little he knows about me, “but I think that there are a lot of people who would like the chance to be lovely to you. You’ll go on plenty of dates in your lifetime, and be complimented so often you’ll get tired of it.”
I smirk, unwrapping another frog and folding the entire thing into my mouth sulkily.
“And I guess you get to choose one of those people. It just depends whether, for you, actually liking that person is a priority.”
“When you put it that way, Remus...” I sigh, and then glance up at him. “I think you know more about me than you let on.”
Remus shrugs. “By my count, we’ve lived together for four and a half years.”
“It seems like longer than that,” I say thoughtfully. “Speaking of, though, we haven’t officially met. My name is Andy Thorpe.”
“Remus Lupin,” he replies with a grin, sticking out a hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Madam Pince sticks her head around the corner to threaten us and I jump. Remus chuckles but is terribly charming in his apology to the woman, and I leave feeling pleased that at least one of that lot is half-decent. Even if he seems to be, like everyone else, at odds with my boyfriend.
Lily slams her textbook down deliberately on the desk beside mine. She noisily pulls out my chair and gestures for me to take a seat. “We,” she announces grandly, “are having a talk.”
“What are we talking about?” I whisper as Slughorn sweeps into the classroom. Evie is snaking about the classroom, distributing our graded essays on his orders – she smirks while handing me back my A. I scowl quietly at Slughorn’s criticisms, scrawled in red ink.
Taking out her parchment, Lily says simply, “Stephen was looking for you at breakfast. As he was yesterday, and the day before.”
“Do you happen to have a biscuit with you?” She narrows her eyes at me, and I decide not to press the point. “Right, well, I need to talk to you about Stephen anyway. I was taking some time away from him so I could think.”
Lily scoffs. “Oh, please, Andy, I know you’ve decided to break up with him.”
I blink at her. “How?”
“Legilimency, of course.” She grins. “Remus asked how it was going with the two of you – mentioned you’d had a chat in the library – and it started the gears rolling.”
I set about lighting the fire under the cauldron, realising only belatedly that Lily has already done so. “Remus is lovely,” I admit.
“I’ve been telling you that since first year,” Lily reminds me.
“Honestly, you’d think you fancied him instead of James.”
She whacks me over the head with her textbook. “So if your mind is all made up – which is quite impressive, by the way, I expected to have to counsel you through a minor crisis – why are you still letting Stephen follow you around?”
“I had to think it over!”
“Right. Well, I speak for all of your friends when I say that we can’t stand having your boyfriend mope around behind us on the off chance that we might encounter you. Either quit ignoring him, or bloody tell him it’s over.”
“Lil. I don’t think I can do it.”
“Ah, here comes the crisis.”
Big fat edit (another one) on 20/07 - I actually played around with this chapter a lot, since before it was definitely just a filler kind of "get this part of the plot over with" section. Erm, if this was at the beginning of the chapter, I'd warn you about the terrible language - I'll settle for apologizing at the end of the chapter (so, sorry). Apologies too for the funny formatting; I'll try fix that. Andy has one more chapter of fifth year, whoop whoop! Thanks for reading; extra credit for reviews. Also,
Expect: hangover remedies, firewhiskey, sulking, and things that go out with a fizzle.