Chapter 23 : Twenty.three - Euphoria
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And... ATTENTION READERS... I have added a Meet the Author topic on the forums, btw. You can go to my author page here and click the link where it says something along the lines of "To meet JustBrilliant and ask about aspects of their writing click here." Although, you have to be a member on the forums in order to post, I believe...
Just letting you know it's there in case you want to ask me questions in a place in which I can answer with some real depth...
Anyway, on to chapter 23 - Euphoria!
I heard someone calling my name from the other end of a long, dark tunnel.
Maybe if I just ignore her she’ll leave me alone...
“Hey, Luke, wake up!”
Without opening my eyes, I woke and groaned. I needed to roll over, but realized I couldn’t because someone was on top of me.
“Come on, Luke. It’s morning.”
“Five more minutes,” I groaned, pushing someone’s hair out of my face.
Then she shook my arm, and I opened my eyes. When I looked around and took in all of the blue and bronze around me, and the fact that someone’s very red hair was on my chest, it took me a few moments to remember what had happened the night before.
“Awake now?” she asked with a laugh.
“Yeah,” I said sleepily, “Can I go back to sleep now?”
“No, you can’t go back to sleep now, idiot.”
I closed my eyes and groaned, “Narrghh.”
Lauren laughed, “Good morning to you too.”
I put one of my arms over my eyes, still wanting to go back to sleep. Other than the fact that I was very warm under my human blanket, I was quite uncomfortable and had had a hard time sleeping through the night.
Lauren, however, started to rise a moment later, but I restrained her with my arm that was still around her. She gasped in surprise, and then laughed, “Luke! What are you doing?”
I put my other arm around her then, and said with my eyes closed, “I’ll be cold if you get up.”
She laughed again, “Then you can have your jacket back, but I’m starving so I need to get up.”
I opened my eyes again, and buried my face in her hair, which smelled rather nice even though she hadn’t had a shower in at least twenty-four hours. I was too tired to care if it bothered her or not, though that excuse was sure to be gone soon. She continued to laugh, though, and so I released her after a moment of hesitation. Once she got up I turned over, trying to make up for the lost heat by putting my front into the cushions, and trying to fall asleep again. But then she did the strangest thing once she draped my jacket over my back, which I didn’t see coming because I had closed my eyes again.
She leaned over and kissed the side of my face. Completely awake now, I opened my eyes and stared at her for a long time before finally thinking to ask, “What was that for?”
Lauren seemed to look taken aback, “Uhm, I just wanted to thank you again for staying with me last night. That’s all.”
“Oh,” I said calmly, despite the fact that a very warm feeling was spreading through my body and out to my limbs, “You’re welcome.”
Then I fell silent as she went over to the table to find whatever food that was still good. A minute later, she returned with more crackers, a square box, and a long, slender package tucked under her arm.
“What’s that?” I asked, looking at the package as she was setting the crackers and the box down on the coffee table.
“It’s your birthday present from your parents,” she smiled, setting it down in my lap when I sat up.
I knew what it was without having to rip the packaging open. It was obviously my new broom. But I hastily unwrapped it anyway, and then carefully lifted it up to stare at it closely. I scarcely noticed when Lauren sat down beside me on the couch, at least not until she said, “It’s beautiful.”
I looked at her, realizing how close she was to me, and felt the blood start to quickly pound in my ears. Even after becoming sick the night before, with her hair a mess and little remnants of the eyeshadow smudged around her eyes, she still looked amazing. And, for the first time, I found myself genuinely wanting to kiss her. But I made myself look back to my broom and nodded in agreement, “Yeah, it is.”
“I actually have something for you too,” she said, grabbing the box that she had just set down on the coffee table and handing it to me, “Although I’m not sure if it’s still any good now.”
Opening the box, I realized what she meant. Inside there was a single slice of cheesecake, which was my favorite kind of cake – seriously. But when cool air hit my face it occurred to me that the box was insulated somehow, “Oh, no – the inside of the box is cold, it’s fine.”
“Really?” she asked, sticking her hand in the box, and also somewhat in my cheesecake before pulling it back out quickly. “Oops, sorry,” she laughed.
Within the next week, Rose and Scorpius took their relationship public, which was rather interesting. A few of Rose’s cousins, including Al, acted like complete arses when they found out, threatening Malfoy with all kinds of awful things if he ever touched her, or hurt her. Louis and Fred Weasley, however, merely made bets over what baby names the two would come up with if Rose ended up pregnant. Rose didn’t seem to be too bothered by it, though. She told me she was more concerned over what her parents would say when they found out.
Lauren and I, on the other hand, just tried to keep Al from flying off the handle when he saw them together, and started work on the Patronus Charm whenever we could meet. It seemed like something had changed between us since the party, although I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. She still insisted on joking around and being her sarcastic self, but it seemed like there was something wedged between us after she kissed my cheek. I didn’t dare bring it up, but anytime the party came into the conversation she would quickly change the subject. It was as if we were waiting for the other to forget what had happened, but I knew I couldn’t forget it.
“Expecto Patronum!” Lauren shouted one afternoon in the Room of Requirement, which looked quite different when it wasn’t the party room. Instead of bronze and blue, it was covered in more muted colors and looked similar to most of the classrooms in the castle except for the fact that there were a few lounge chairs instead of desks.
When she and I both managed to cast a shield-form of the patronus, after the third afternoon of attempting it, I decided that it was time we started working on it nonverbally.
“Are you sure?” She asked, “I mean, shouldn’t we at least get the full form mastered first?”
She had a point, but I didn’t think we’d want to be working on one spell for God-knows-how-long, “Ideally, yes, but that could take weeks.”
“Oh quit being so pessimistic.”
“I’m not pessimistic, I’m realistic!”
She ignored me and went on, “So it’s settled then? We’ll master the corporeal forms first, and then work on it nonverbally.”
Corporeal? “So you do pay attention in class.”
Lauren rolled her eyes, “Yes, I do. Don’t act so surprised.”
I smirked at her then, “All right, then get to work on that corporeal form.”
Smiling triumphantly, she raised her wand again and waited a few moments before shouting, “Expecto Patronum!”
To my surprise, instead of just summoning a misty shield-form, a fully-formed, misty blue bird came fluttering out of the tip of her wand. It actually surprised me so much that I laughed as I watched the small bird fly around the room, its wings going so fast that they were a complete blur.
“What kind of bird do you think it is?” Lauren asked as it flew up toward me before flying off toward the ceiling.
“Hummingbird,” I said, watching it fly backwards, “They’re the only birds that can fly backwards.”
Then Lauren lowered her wand and the bird disappeared, “I’m just glad it’s not a bloody cat.”
I laughed, but didn’t comment on it, “What were you thinking about?”
“When you cast it that time – what were you thinking about?”
“Oh,” her cheeks turned pink when she realized what I was asking, “It’s not that big of a deal, really.”
I cocked my head slightly to the side, “Okay, then tell me.”
“Uhh, well... Remember when the Whomping Willow killed you?”
I raised a brow, “Yeah...”
“Well,” she said slowly, “I was just remembering when you woke up in the Hospital Wing.”
“So me being beaten to death made you happy?” I joked, remembering the pain I had been in when I had woken up.
“No,” she said pointedly, “It’s just that I was afraid – although I’ll admit it was completely silly with Madam Pomfrey insisting you would be fine – I was afraid that you might not wake up.”
It was after she said this that the realization that Lauren was actually and genuinely afraid of me – in one way or another – leaving her hit me like a ton of bricks. Her words from the other night, when I tried to get up from the couch and she stopped me, echoed in my mind, “Don’t leave me.” I didn’t know if it meant that she was just afraid of me dying, or if it meant something more, but I started to make connections in my mind anyway. Firstly, she had kissed the side of my face, and held my hand twice, and planned a party for me, and covered herself head-to-toe in my House’s colors even after we defeated her house in a Quidditch Match, and she had fallen asleep at my bedside in the Hospital Wing, and now she had just said that the memory that she used to conjure a fully-formed patronus was the one of me waking in the Hospital Wing...
Not entirely in control of my mental faculties as I allowed myself to be filled up with euphoria, I rose to my feet and raised my own wand, “Expecto Patronum!” and was not too surprised when a bird came out of my own wand, quickly flying as high as it could before taking a spectacular dive toward the ground, extending its talons as if it were going after prey. Then I allowed it to dissipate before lowering my wand and turning to Lauren, who was looking at me as if she couldn’t decide what to do.
“What was that?”
“A hawk, I think,” I said, thinking, “Actually, it might be a falcon.”
“That’s not what I meant,” she said, looking confused, “I meant to ask where that came from...”
I nearly dropped my wand as it dawned on me that I had just done that in mid-conversation. Gripping it tightly, so as to ensure that it wouldn’t fall to the ground, I answered, “I really shouldn’t – you wouldn’t, I mean... you wouldn’t want to know.”
“What?” Lauren looked more confused, “I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t want to know. I told you mine, now tell me yours.”
Feeling suddenly trapped, my eyes found the door that lied behind her, and I continued to grip my wand tightly, “I can’t.”
Lauren’s brows knitted together, “Why not?”
“I’m sorry,” I said, mentally readying myself to run if I needed to, “I just can’t.”
“Okay,” the word was loaded with both confusion and anger, and she continued, “You know, I think I’ll just go down to my common room now... I’ll see you later.”
Then she turned and left the room in a hurry, leaving me alone in the Room of Requirement to wonder if she would have been more upset if I had just told her.
“Did you see that?”
“His hand on her arse!”
“No, I didn’t.”
“It was on her arse!”
“Al, I don’t care.”
He growled, “If only you were just overprotective, instead of in love with Lauren, then you would understand!”
“Okay, for one; I am not in love with Lauren –“
“Are too,” he insisted.
“– And two,” I said over him, “I understand your concern, but I don’t think it’s that serious anyway.”
He gaped at me for a long moment, “What? Are you blind? He had his hand on her arse!”
“So what? If you had your hand on some girls’ arse I don’t think Rose would care. Besides, leave it to her parents to worry about her.”
Al spluttered for a moment before grumbling, “Fine,” and then he changed the subject, “So, have you and Lauren snogged yet?”
He gave me a look, “What? I thought that after she held your hand that you two would start snogging already. I mean you do spend an awful lot of time alone with her.”
“We spend a lot of time alone because we’re working on spells together. We are not – I repeat not – snogging.”
“Well, why not?”
“Because,” I looked at him crossly, “I’m not just going to snog her.”
Al raised a brow, “Wait – are you saying you’re going to do more than snog?”
“NO!” I said loudly, slapping my palm to my forehead, “I’m saying that I’m not just going to snog my best friend – it would ruin everything.”
“Oh please,” Al said in a girly voice, sticking his hand out in a feminine hand gesture to emphasize it, “We both know she would enjoy it.”
I glared at him for mocking me, “What did you just say?”
“Hell if I know, I’m crazy – I believe in zombies, remember?”
“Al...” I trailed off for a moment to decide whether or not I was going to say it, “I’m going to kill you.”
Then he laughed, “You’d have to catch me first. Besides, you should be more concerned about Lysander finding out.”
“What do you mean ‘what’?” Al looked impatient, “You know, for a Ravenclaw, you tend to ask a lot of questions.”
“That’s why I’m smarter than you, dumbarse.”
“I –“Al gaped for a moment, before shutting his mouth and then continuing to say, “Oh whatever. But, really, when Lysander finds out he’s going to think you backstabbed him.”
“When he finds out what – that I fancy Lauren?” I was confused, “How would I be backstabbing him by liking the same girl he likes?”
Then Al stopped in mid-step and looked at me with a dumbfounded expression, “Are you really this mental? Or are you just in denial?”
I stopped too, and was too confused to glare at him for suggesting I may be mental, “What are you going on about?”
Al laughed, “Oh my God, you are mental. Holy hell, dude. You seriously haven’t noticed?”
Now he was starting to piss me off, and I still had no idea of what the hell he was talking about, “Noticed what?”
“Lauren, dude,” Al said, something between a grin and a smirk on his face, “I think she fancies you.”
I looked at him long and hard, before finally saying, “Piss off, Al,” and starting to walk off.
But he followed me, “No, dude! I’m serious! I really really think she fancies you.”
“Seriously, piss off Al,” I said, thinking that he was just joking around.
“Oh come on!” Al shouted, sounding aggravated as he followed me through the grounds, “I mean she did hold your hand, did she not?”
I didn’t say anything, willing him to go away with my mind. However, instead of getting rid of him, someone new joined us.
“Al, why are you yelling?” Rose called.
“I’m trying to convince Luke that Lauren fancies him – want to help?”
Sweet mother of Jesus, I’m going to have to kill him.
“Oh leave him alone you imbecile!”
Have I mentioned that I’m thankful to be friends with Rose Weasley?
Because I am. Very much, actually.
A couple of days later while sitting next to Rose in Charms, she turned to me and whispered, “Sorry.”
“Al being a moron.”
I kept my eyes on Professor Flitwick as I whispered back, “Not your fault.”
“I know,” then she waited a few minutes to listen to what Professor Flitwick had to say before saying, “I agree with him though.”
I looked at her, moving my head as little as possible, “You do?”
“Yes,” she said, looking from me to the professor, “I basically told you during your party.”
Then I pulled up the memory from when Rose had whispered into my ear during the party, in which she definitely didn’t say she thought Lauren fancied me, “No you didn’t. You just said you thought it was weird.”
She rolled her eyes, “The point is that I think she fancies you, too.”
“What – did she tell you that?”
“Well no,” Rose whispered quickly, her eyes on Flitwick, “But I wouldn’t expect her to.”
Again, Rose rolled her eyes, “You’re really quite thick, you know that?”
“So I’ve been told...”
Rose waited a few more minutes before saying, “I wouldn’t expect her to for the same reason I wouldn’t have expected you to tell me you fancied her.”
I took some time to process what she had said, realizing that it made perfect sense. The main reason why I felt I could trust Rose was because she had trusted me enough to tell me she fancied Malfoy. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have told anyone about it.
After my long silence, Rose whispered, “I think you should tell her how you feel.”
It took a lot of self-control to keep my face straight, considering I was completely caught off-guard and was thinking that dating Malfoy had somehow messed with her sanity, “Are you insane?”
She shrugged, “It’s just an idea. You don’t have to do anything.”
Dear God, Rose has officially lost her marbles.
“Hey there Lauren,” Al Potter chimed, flashing that signature grin my way as he joined up with me on the way to the Great Hall.
“Hi Al,” I said, grinning back at him.
Then Al seemed to be thinking to himself for a moment, before draping one of his arms over my shoulders. Immediately, I started to push his arm off, but every time I did he would put it back over my shoulders, “You know, I think I’m just going to cut to the chase –”
“Okay,” I said, pushing his arm off again.
“– Do you mind telling me,” he started, again putting his arm over my shoulders, “what’s going on with you and Luke?”
I gave up on trying to push his arm off and let him rest it there, “What are you talking about?”
“Well,” he paused, “Specifically I’m talking about you holding his hand.”
I felt the blood start to flush my face, and laughed nervously, “Oh, that? Oh that’s nothing – I just didn’t want him to run away while we sang for him.”
He removed his arm from around my shoulders to look at me closely, and I was about to push him away when he laughed, “Oh really?”
“Go away,” I mumbled, pushing him away and trying to conceal my face with my hair.
Then, instead of pointing out the fact that I was blushing, Al took one of my hands and put on the charm. Which I really wanted to smack him for, and I probably would have if he weren’t so good at it, “I’m not going to make fun of you, Lauren. I was just wondering what was going on.”
I looked up at his green eyes through strands of my hair, noting that he looked quite sincere as he said it. But I still wasn’t going to tell him why I had grabbed Luke’s hand that night. The idea of Luke figuring it out wasn’t exactly appealing – considering how he reacted when I had kissed him the next morning.
“It was nothing,” I insisted, though it probably wasn’t very convincing.
Al studied what he could see of my face for a moment before dropping my hand, looking unsatisfied. “Well, would you hold my hand if I offered it to you?” as he asked, he actually did offer me his hand. For one moment I considered taking it, but the longer I stared at it the more I realized that I didn’t want to.
Finally, I shook my head and said, “No,” sounding defeated, “But that’s because you’re Al the adorable zombie-boy; it would just be too weird.”
He dropped his hand, “And holding Luke’s hand wasn’t weird?”
“Well – I – yes,” My face started to flush with heat again, “It’s not like it wasn’t weird, buh...”
I just started to say It’s not like it wasn’t weird, but it was... nice.
Al looked like a kid in a candy shop when he grinned, “But what?”
Then I spluttered for a seemingly long moment before finally muttering, “But... It was,” I forced the word out, “nice.” He just continued to grin like an idiot, except that now it was more of a knowing smile. Before he said anything else, though, I said, “Shut up!”
“What – I didn’t say anything!”
“Your expression said it all,” I said, frowning.
“Oh,” his face fell slightly, though he continued to grin a moment later and started to think over the word ‘nice’ out loud, “Hmm. What exactly do you mean by nice?”
“I mean that I – err,” I paused, thinking of what to say, “He has nice hands, okay? They’re smooth, for the most part, but they’re also quite... warm.”
Al suddenly had a disgusted look on his face, “Warm? Like warm and sweaty?”
“No,” I said defensively, “They’re not sweaty.”
“Mmm,” he mused for a moment, before smiling at me again.
“Al,” I said carefully, unsure of whether I should plead or threaten him, “Don’t tell Luke, please.”
His face fell then, “Why not?”
“Because I’ll turn you into a writing desk if you do.”
Then he smirked, “Okay, well I think that you should be the one to tell him, anyway.”
Taken aback, I asked, “What?”
“You should tell him,” Al repeated.
Then Al answered just as we were entering the hall, “Because he’d much rather hear it from you. Believe me.”
I froze in my tracks, watching Al walk over to the Gryffindor table before looking over to the Ravenclaw table where I spotted Luke sitting with Lorcan. I stood there for a very long time, too, considering Luke seemed to feel someone watching him and looked up in my direction. He didn’t seem to look surprised to see me standing there in the middle of the Great Hall, staring at him like he was some new species or something, but he didn’t seem to smile at me either.
What seemed like years later, I broke our eye contact and walked to my table. Although I could feel his eyes on me until I sat down. I quietly ate through dinner, mulling over my conversation with Al as I sat there. Then my thoughts went to Luke again, and I looked up and over to where he was sitting. Once again, he noticed me looking at him and looked back at me. This time he gave me a questioning look though, so I offered him a smile, feeling a knot form in my stomach as I did. But it wasn’t until he smiled back at me that I noticed my insides really start to squirm uncomfortably. So I quickly looked away after he did, feeling my face start to flush.
The way I reacted would’ve surprised me if I didn’t already know that I was starting to fall for my best friend.
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