Chapter 1 : I. Of Being Late and Understatements
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Gorgeousness by Camila @ TDA
(Or, How to Break a World Record)
To say Natasha Fielding was in trouble was a bit of an understatement.
“MISS FIELDING!” Natasha winced as she skidded to a halt, and scowling, Professor Knight eyed her with a disapproving air. Maybe a few years earlier would the class have turned around to snigger and point, but Hogwarts was long since used to the constant bad timing of Natasha Fielding. “Late again? That's five points from Ravenclaw, young lady!” The Ravenclaws groaned as the petite girl slipped into her seat in the second row. They shouldn’t have been surprised, though. Natasha was infamous for her ability to lose almost ten points in only one day. She was the sole reason the Ravenclaws worked hard in school.
“Way to go, Fielding!” Natasha didn't even look up when Laynia Scott, who sat in front of her, turned, a sneer on her fair face. “Some Ravenclaw you are!” There was something about Natasha that made everything negative slide over her head, and there was something about Laynia that made her always want to spite the short brunette. However, Professor Knight had sharper eyes than both Laynia and Natasha gave her credit for, and spotted the boiling fight even before it ensued.
“Miss Scott! You are supposed to be working on your translations, not chatting away to Miss Fielding!” Natasha had never been more grateful towards Professor Knight, even if she did, for some strange reason, dislike most, if not all, the Ravenclaws in the school, and most especially, her.
Unpacking her things, she tied her short hair as best she could into a ponytail, all the while using her right foot to kick the edge of Laynia's chair. When Laynia gave a satisfying yelp, Natasha finally took out her textbook, and began to translate the runes from page twenty-four. Mr Frederick Fielding, a Healer, had always had a penchant for Ancient Runes and wasted no time on lecturing his only daughter on them. It was only thanks to her mother that Natasha ever even received a glimpse of summer sunshine during the holidays.
“Sorry I'm late, Professor.” It wasn’t only Natasha who looked up in surprise at this statement. Not one person had ever broken her record of arriving late – it currently stood at fifty minutes past the bell – but somehow, someway, this unexpected person had broken it by only a minute. Natasha could see the second hand on the clock above Professor Knight’s desk inch forward as the boy spoke.
“Oh, not to worry, Mr Weasley –” Natasha’s jaw dropped in undisguised outrage as Professor Knight, gone from her usual, aloof, tight-lipped strict self and turned into some comforting, busy-body mother hen, shoo Louis Weasley towards his seat. “– it’s not a problem, everyone is late every now and then, all that matters is that you’re here!” Scowling fiercely at the unfairness of it all, Natasha started to doodle idly on her notebook, making sure to make her depiction of Professor Knight as fat as she possibly could.
The notebook, a present from her grandparents on her fifteenth birthday last month, was bound in navy blue with plain pages to hold every single one of Natasha's drawings. Along with it came a magical quill which wrote in bronze ink, which never ran out and something Natasha always used for doodling in her notebook.
“MISS FIELDING!” Natasha jumped violently in her seat, something which made the class snort with laughter, even her own best friend! However, Nicole Webb did seem to be trying to hold back her giggles, though it was in vain.
“May I help you, Professor?” She had long since learned by now to treat all her Professors, especially Professor Knight, with utmost respect and politeness so that they had no reason to take points off her, apart from her idle doodling and ability to be constantly late. Professor Knight, however, didn’t seem to appreciate the cool politeness of Natasha’s statement, and stared at her fiercely with ice-blue eyes.
“Do you not pay any attention at all, Miss Fielding? I asked you a question.” Uh oh. Glancing around at her classmates in panic, Natasha’s eyes twitched downwards towards her textbook. It was obvious she wasn’t paying any attention at all, so why did her Professors even bother? Even they should have known by now that the daydreaming student wasn't at all likely to answer.
For a single, brief moment, there was complete and utter silence in the classroom as Natasha racked her brain desperately for the question and answer.
“I don’t know, Professor,” she said eventually, looking down at her fingers and picking at the nails. She didn't want to see the look of disappointment on Professor Knight’s face. As expected, Professor Knight pursed her lips, scanning the rows of students in the classroom. Natasha's usual partner, Juniper Dale from Hufflepuff, was nowhere in sight, and thus Natasha was sitting alone at her desk.
“Miss Fielding, please stand.” Her heart thudded dully in her chest as Natasha snapped her notebook shut, clutching her white feather quill tightly in her hand. What was Professor Knight going to do? Surely she wouldn't send her out! She was a good student, and did well in her exams, always handing in her homework on time and getting good grades. Even Alyssa Knight, the strictest professor in the school, wasn’t that unfair.
“Miss Halliwell, I’m sorry to be an inconvenience, but would you mind terribly if you took Miss Fielding's seat?” Mara Halliwell scowled up angrily at Natasha as she gathered her things, and for a brief moment Natasha felt almost sorry for the girl. Everyone in Hogwarts knew that the tomboyish Hufflepuff had a particular fondness for Louis Weasley, and Natasha felt guilty to be depriving Mara of her seat.
“Professor, is this really necessary?” Natasha pleaded, stepping aside as Mara walked past her. The girl was a Beater on Hufflepuff’s Quidditch team, and she most certainly did not want to envoke the Hufflepuff’s wrath. Professor Knight didn’t answer, simply gesturing for Natasha to take her seat. Sighing forlornly, Natasha dropped into the seat beside Louis with a world-weary expression. Louis frowned.
“Maybe Mr Weasley will be a good influence on you, Miss Fielding,” Professor Knight suggested cheerfully, a bright smile on her face. Natasha hated the fact that she was so attractive and young, at that. All the boys – even the normally sensible Louis – drooled over the professor’s good looks.
Natasha didn't really know the Weasley/Potter clan very well. Louis, Dominique and James were the only Wotters (the name Hogwarts had dubbed them fondly) in her year, but she hadn’t exactly interacted with them over the years. Sure, once or twice if she dropped something, James being James would help her pick it up, and a couple of times maybe Dominique would acknowledge her, being partners in Potions after all, and she and Louis were in the same house, but otherwise Natasha stayed firmly out of the spotlight and didn’t acknowledge them at all, and she liked it that way. So her being surprised was an understatement when Louis started to speak.
“Sorry.” Natasha’s quill fell from her hand onto the desk, and blushing furiously, she hastily picked it up, all the while glancing curiously at Louis. Louis Weasley being only considered mildly attractive was another understatement. With his neat, golden blonde hair, dark blue eyes, soft voice and charming smile, he could bend anyone to his will if he flashed them just the right look.
“What do you have to be sorry for?” Natasha asked him, hoping that he hadn’t noticed her long silence. Louis shrugged, a thoughtful look on his face, replaced quickly by an arch of his eyebrow.
“Depends on why you're here.” Ah. So that was why he was a Ravenclaw. He gave ridiculously cryptic answers, which Natasha was only able to figure out because she was a Ravenclaw, too. She shrugged back at him in answer before looking down at her book again. For a moment, there was complete silence in the classroom, apart from the scratching of quills on parchment as the class translated the runes. This was solely why Natasha kept up with Ancient Runes, even if she did spend most of her childhood translating them instead of playing outside during the summertime. There was a nice, peaceful silence while everyone worked, which made it easy to concentrate, but the class was not easy enough where all you had to do was make something up to pass (ahem, Divination).
“Natasha.” So much for peaceful silences, then. Natasha glanced up towards Louis, pushing her light brown hair back behind her ears. This was why she didn’t want to get a haircut as she found herself constantly pushing back her hair, but her mother, who needed short hair to work with computers, had insisted. Louis shifted uncomfortably in his seat, tapping his fingers nervously against his knee and avoiding her eyes. Natasha tried her best to raise an eyebrow, but the best she could do was go cross-eyed. She envied the way Nicole did it right now at her, from her seat on the other end of the classroom.
“Natasha, I need a little help.” Now that was definitely her best attempt so far at raised eyebrows. Louis Weasley wanted her help? Judging by the looks on everyone else's faces who were listening in, it seemed they couldn’t quite believe it either.
“What on earth would you need my help for?” she asked him, a bemused expression on her face. Bemused. She liked that word, but she was digressing. The last time Louis had wanted her help, he had needed tutoring in this very subject but that had been two years ago.
“Um – you know Laney Branson?” Natasha's eyes narrowed at him. She knew Laney Branson, head of Witch Talk, very, very well. As well as her being one of the rudest girls in Hogwarts, she had also taken part in Natasha’s tutoring session – that had been their first (and so far, last) personal encounter, and she was not looking forward to another. “Yeah, I'm guessing you do, judging by the look on your face.” At this, Louis coughed and cleared his throat, turning a bright shade of red. “And, er, well, Laney managed to convince me to – I mean, she didn’t force me or anything, don’t worry –”
“Look, sweetheart –” At the sound of a new voice, Natasha turned once more in surprise. “I know Lou is just trying to preserve your feelings or something else equally ridiculous –” Louis glared at Laney, a scowl on his handsome face as he left Natasha to Laney's clutches. “– but seriously, I need your help. We need your help, Fielding. Until the end of the month, we're having this thing at Witch Talk where we get special guests to write an article, and you’re our first pick. So, what do you say?” Natasha looked more like a goldfish than a girl at that moment, mouth opening and closing in shock.
“I – well –” However, before she could finish her sentence, Professor Knight had had enough, and for a brief moment, Natasha wondered why Professor Knight didn't speak beforehand.
“Miss Fielding! What did I tell you about talking in the classroom?” You said nothing about talking in the classroom, Natasha thought resentfully. Professor Knight must have really hated her. “Leave Miss Branson alone, and do your work! Have you even started on your translations?” Natasha opened her mouth to say that, yes, indeed, of course she had started on her translations, but Professor Knight didn't give her a chance to. “Of course not! Another five points from Ravenclaw, and detention!”
Natasha seethed silently in her seat as she turned back around to face the front. What did Professor Knight hate about her so much? Why was she the one she chose to pick on? Louis shot her a sympathetic look, but she ignored it. Ha, if she was going to help him and Laney! It was their fault she had gotten a detention and had lost five more points. It would be a miracle if she got through an hour more of this without strangling someone. More specifically, either herself or Professor Knight.
“Oi! Fields!” Fields? Natasha repeated silently, bewildered. Who on earth was that? “FIELDING! Over here, Dumbellina!” Furious at whoever this was for calling her dumb, she wheeled round, hell-bent on scaring them with her fierce glare and shiny Prefect's badge (they were desperate, okay?), but stopped short.
“What?” she snapped instead, frowning angrily at Laney and her ‘crew’. Her crew actually only consisted of Louis and Georgina Smith from Gryffindor, and of course, herself. Laney tutted in disapproval, throwing an arm over Natasha's shoulders and steering her around the corner into an empty corridor, away from the Great Hall. Natasha's stomach rumbled in protest. Georgina gave her a Pumpkin Pasty as they entered an empty classroom.
“Now, now, Fields –” Natasha opened her mouth to protest against the horrid shortening of her surname, but Laney waved her off. “– I’m calling you that, now, get used to it, okay? Geez, people don't get nicknames anymore, do they, Georgie?” Georgina – or Georgie, now, Natasha supposed – threw her a sharp look as she sat down at a desk.
“Well, have you thought about it then?” Louis said instead, an eager look on his face, complete with the shining, slightly widened eyes. Even Laney, starting to pick at her chipped nail polish, looked up in interest for Natasha's answer. However, Natasha just looked around, and couldn't help but feel a little confused.
“...Thought about what?” Groaning, Laney leaned her head against the wall from her place atop a slightly dusty desk.
“Georgie, I thought you said she was a Ravenclaw?”
“Hey!” Natasha cried out with a frown on her face, clearly offended. “I am a Ravenclaw, thank you very much!” Laney stared at her blankly, and Georgie hit her lightly over the head.
“Laney, don't be rude!”
“Take that back, I am not being rude, it’s just she doesn’t exactly act like a Ravenclaw most of the time –”
“That doesn’t mean you can just start assuming –”
“Hey!” Natasha cried out, offended once more. Obviously, offending her was the group’s talent. She, naturally, was ignored and the two girls continued bickering.
“– I mean, how would you feel if people thought you were just a conniving, manipulative, always-thriving-on-other-people’s-lives Slytherin?”
“I am a conniving, manipulative, always-thriving-on-other-people’s-lives Slytherin! There's a reason I'm a reporter, you know!”
“LADIES!” Louis bellowed finally. All three heads turned to look at him. “We are kind of running on a tight schedule here...?” Natasha's two eyebrows rose. Tight schedule? She could see the chance to escape right now, only a beacon of light in the distance, almost out of reach but not quite.
“Hey, you know, if you're running on a tight schedule, and have to meet someone else –” As if to answer her unspoken question, Georgie flicked her wand at the door and it slammed shut.
“Sorry, Natasha. We're not letting you go that easily.” Scowling, Natasha slumped down in a chair, crossing her arms as she did so. Georgie had definitely just been down-graded from pretty nice to plain evil, but not showing it. So much for Gryffindor chivalry. Although, Georgie was a girl, so maybe she didn’t count in that sense?
“Fields, look. We need you to write an article for us. There’s three you can do, and it’ll be your own pick, not ours. See, look here –” Natasha cut off Laney with her own protests.
“You look here, Branson.” Maybe just to irritate the dark-haired girl did Natasha start speaking slowly, as if speaking to a four-year-old. “I – am – not – good – at – writing. There is a reason I doodle, understand?” Laney sneered at her. Ah, yes, now she was reminded how much she hated Laney. However Louis quickly interrupted, obviously sensing a fight about to break out.
“You don’t really believe that, do you Natasha?” Natasha opened her mouth to argue, but Louis quickly plowed on before she could. “I mean, come on, you’ve tutored pretty much everyone in our year – and every single essay was on the Wall of Fame.” The Wall of Fame. For any overachieving student, the Wall of Fame was an amazing place to be. The best of the best was there, ranging from Lily Evans to Rose Weasley to Sirius Black to even Minerva McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore – the best essays were always put on the Wall of Fame. Natasha pursed her lips, choosing not to focus on that. She hadn’t tutored every student in her year. Georgie and Louis must have caught on the look on her face, because they started talking over each other.
“You tutored James Potter in Potions, once –”
“And Dom in Defence –”
“Don’t forget Mara Halliwell –”
“– and your own best friend to boot –”
“– and even Juniper needed your help, and she's really good at Potions!”
“You even tutored Laney and me, all the way back in third year!” Natasha almost smirked at that one. After that particular tutoring session, Louis and Laney rose to be some of the best in the class in Ancient Runes. If anyone needed tutoring, they would go to Natasha Fielding, no question.
“But I bet you remembered all that, didn’t you, Fielding?” Laney cut in snidely, a pretentious look on her face. Natasha's face contorted in anger. “Not like you could ever forget something, huh?” Georgie and Louis glanced guiltily at each other, and then accusingly at Laney.
“You promised not to mention that unless we really needed it!” Georgie protested, sending an apologetic look at Natasha, who avoided the look, instead preferring to glance at her nails. However, Laney ignored Georgie's plea.
“And I don’t think you’d ever forget –” At this, Laney paused for dramatic effect, and Georgie and Louis paled, glancing pleadingly at the dark-haired girl. “– Webb’s last birthday party, huh? I bet you even remember just how many glasses of Firewhiskey you drank –”
"Seven," she whispered. Her fists clenched in on themselves, and her knuckles turned white. Of course she remembered Nicole’s last birthday party. The wild, flashing lights that had hurt her eyes, the dancing – more like gyrating – couples, the drunk people sprawled all over the navy couches, and of course, the bitter taste of Firewhiskey lingering on her lips long after Craig pulled away and the smoldering look he had given her as he disappeared, back to the Hufflepuff dorms. She fought hard to keep herself from drowning in the memory, which was just that. A memory. Something that she could never take back, no matter how much she tried.
“– before you kissed Dunne?” Natasha bit her lip hard, and assumed her face had turned the same colour as the falling snow outside. Nicole’s long time boyfriend, Craig Dunne, had of course, been invited to her birthday party. Natasha hadn’t meant to drink so much, but Nicole had insisted, and she had given in. However, she assumed that her best friend didn’t expect her to be kissing her boyfriend straight after that.
“Laney.” Louis’ whispered voice broke through the tension. “That’s enough. Please.” Laney paid him absolutely no attention at all.
“Do you really want to ruin your life, Fielding? Do you really expect Webb will come along and just forgive you for kissing her boyfriend?” Natasha’s fists curled in on themselves harder, and her eyes snapped shut.
“He kissed me,” she whispered, voice barely heard, even in the harsh silence that had suddenly surrounded them.
“And do you think Webb would care? Who do you think she’d believe – Dunne or you?” The awful thing was that Laney spoke nothing but the truth. Nicole thought the world of Craig – no matter how long the two had been friends, there was no way Nicole was going to pick Natasha over her supposedly faithful boyfriend. Natasha loosened her fists, dropping her gaze to the floor, defeated at last. No one could out-argue Laney Branson.
“Fine.” Her voice was surprisingly hoarse, now that she had given in. “Fine. Whatever. I’ll do your stupid article, as long as not a word is breathed to Nicole about Craig and me.” Laney smiled, finally satisfied, beckoning for Georgie to bring her three slips of paper from her schoolbag.
“Wouldn’t do it for the world, Fields. Ah, thank you, Georgie. Three choices, hon. Pick one.” Natasha blinked slowly at the three pieces of paper Laney showed to her, as if she could not quite believe what she was doing. At the same time, she watched Laney's eyes carefully. Impatiently they flickered back and forth from the middle piece of paper to Natasha. Making her decision, the brunette reached out and plucked the last piece of paper, and held it up, face forward towards Laney. If it was possible, an even more satisfied smile spread over her face, and she chuckled darkly, shaking her head in an almost fond way.
“Ah, you Ravenclaws!” Behind her, Louis’ face burned with shame. “So predictable, aren't you? Don’t think I didn’t plan for that to happen. I’ve got my own Ravenclaw right here.” Natasha’s eyes looked accusingly at Louis, a cold and furious shade of icy, light blue that made Louis avoid her gaze determinedly. Laney took the slip of paper from Natasha, and held it face forwards towards her, now. Natasha's heart plummeted to the bottom of her stomach as she read the neatly printed words.
She almost choked on air.
“Branson, you can't be serious!” Laney’s stony expression said otherwise. “Oh, you really can’t.” Laney didn't seem to be budging, and desperate, Natasha turned to face Georgie with pleading eyes. “Georgie, please –”
“I’m sorry, Natasha,” Georgie said gently, though the steely look in her eyes let Natasha know she had said the wrong thing by calling her ‘Georgie’ in the first place. “I can’t do anything to change her mind. Once Laney’s mind is set, it’s set.” Instinctively, Natasha’s bottom lip jutted out and wobbled, threatening them with incoming tears.
“Louis, please,” she begged pathetically, widening her light blue eyes just slightly. Laney had obviously realised that Craig had been her first – and only – kiss in her entire life, and there was absolutely no way she was going to write that stupid article and embarrass herself. Louis wavered at the mere sight of her, but one warning look from Laney brought him back down to reality.
“Sorry, Natasha,” he said reluctantly, an apologetic smile on his face. “There's nothing we can do about it. Georgie –” Georgie gave him a look. “– sorry, Georgina is right. Laney is as stubborn as you are.” A triumphant smile spread over Laney’s face, and Natasha scowled.
“Fine. I’m not doing it, then.” Huffing crossly, she started to head for the door which had been lying open for a while now, but a wave of Georgie’s wand and the sound of a slamming door stopped her. Georgie smiled sheepishly, but Laney’s eyes were narrowed with anger.
“Don’t think you’re going anywhere, sweetheart,” she said harshly, eyebrows knitted together in fury. “You can't get rid of us that easily.” Natasha scoffed, tossing her head and glaring at Laney.
“I’d like to see you try.” She marched to the door and was about to push it open, but Laney's words sent an icy chill down her back and she froze.
“Really? So you do want Webb to know about your little kiss with Dunne, then? I thought you said she wouldn't be very pleased with you.” Natasha bit her lip, scowling as she turned back around.
“You wouldn’t dare, Branson,” she hissed, clenching and unclenching her fists. She was only half-sure Nicole would get suspicious about the deep half-moon marks in her palm. Laney raised an eyebrow delicately.
“I’m not as easily swayed as you, Fields. Try me.” Natasha crossed her arms and tried her best to appear threatening. It didn’t quite work.
“Like you’d actually have the guts to do that. Go on then, do it now. Tell her.” Natasha didn’t know what she was playing at, but she hoped it worked. It did, in a way. Laney changed the topic, going down another route.
“If you write the article, we’ll all pitch in and get you that lovely new art set in Scrivenshaft’s that you’ve been admiring.” Louis and Georgie started to protest, but one fierce, warning look from Laney quelled them. Natasha’s bottom lip trembled. The art set had magical paintbrushes in different sizes, an automatically refilling ink-pot sized container with water, and the newest magical paints, with a free never-ending sketchbook to top it all off. The trouble was, it was so very expensive that she would have to save up for a while to afford it. Was it worth it?
“We’ll meet in Greenhouse One at half one tomorrow, after lunch,” Laney declared, beaming. It looked strange and out of place on her face. “I’ll convince Longbottom somehow to let us meet, but if I can’t, he loves you, Georgie and Lou anyway. The article itself is due on Sunday evening, so –”
“No,” Natasha announced, and Laney’s smile faded. “No. I’m not doing it. I refuse to do it.” Laney’s eyes narrowed once more, and she began to fear slightly for her life. What on earth would Laney do to her, once she left the room? Still, she grabbed at the handle of the door, although her hand trembled slightly.
“Really, Fielding?” the dark-haired girl taunted as Natasha took one step forward. “I can actually see it now. Scandal: Best Friend Betrayed." Her voice dropped to a soft, but still threatening whisper. “Brought to you by none other than Witch Talk, Hogwarts’ best – and only – newsbringer.” Natasha, even while turned around, was noticeably white. Nicole could not find out. She could never find out. If she did, her, Natasha and Craig's reputations would be ruined. Natasha couldn't let that happen to her only friend.
It felt like every part of her was shaking with something that was either fear, or maybe anger. Natasha closed her eyes, took a deep breath, but still did not turn around to face the others. When she did speak, her voice was nothing but a soft, slightly shaking whisper in the sudden silence.
“What time do we meet at the greenhouses, again?”
Ta da! Hey guys, here's a brand new story for all of you! This is only going to be a short one, maybe 3-4 chapters at the most, though 3 seems more likely. Did you like Natasha everyone? How about Louis, Laney and all the others? And don't you think Georgie is much better off being Georgie rather than Georgina? Tell me what you thought of the chapter in general in a review!