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Chapter 2 : Chapter One
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Lovely chapter image by moriarty.@TDA
Seventh year. First day of Life Studies.
Thankfully, we only have Life Studies two times a week – on Monday and Friday, both after lunch. I suppose one would need energy given by food to sit through a new class. I’m thankful for the gap, to be perfectly honest. Di, on the other hand, is not pleased. She has already told me multiple times today that she regrets not taking three N.E.W.T-level classes. With her new position as Head Girl and her two N.E.W.T classes, she said she wouldn’t have time for another difficult class, which was why she had decided to take Life Studies.
“Aren’t you excited?” I ask her as we make our way into the class on the third floor, grinning.
“You’re insane if you think I’m going to be excited for a class that match-makes.”
I roll my eyes. “You don’t even know if your theory is true.”
“I’m almost a hundred-sodding-percent certain my ‘theory’ is true.”
We take a table at the front of the classroom, Di practically throwing her bag on the table to show just how frustrated she is and how much she doesn’t want to be here. “Diana,” drawls a voice behind her, “you don’t have to throw things to get attention, love. You receive enough attention simply standing beside that ravishing friend of yours.”
“Bite me, Clark,” Di snaps, not even bothering to turn around. I pretend as though I heard nothing, placing my booklet, parchment, and quill in front of me. Clark Audley takes this as an invitation, walking in front of mine and Di’s table and resting his elbows in front of me, propping his lovely head onto his lovely hands.
“C’mon, girls,” he teases, green eyes glinting wickedly. “Give me an audience. I missed you two over the summer.”
“You missed annoying the piss out of us,” Di corrects, her glare never wavering.
“If that’s what you want to call it.” With a careless shrug, he turns his attention to me, running a hand through his sandy-blonde hair. “What’re you doing the first Hogsmeade weekend, Shannon?”
I look at him, attempting my best cool expression. “You’ve asked me that question every Hogsmeade weekend since third year,” I say pointedly. “And my answer has always been the same.”
Clark doesn’t flinch. Sod. “One day you’ll answer differently.” As Professor Higgins takes her stand in front of the classroom, Clark throws me his best grin and stalks off. Di makes an impatient noise beside me as she glares at Professor Higgins. I sigh.
“Welcome, class!” Just as she had last year, Professor Higgins wears her blonde hair in a tight bun. She reminds me of one of those naughty librarians you see on television with her icy eyes, strong bone structure, and – dare I say it – seductive lips. The boys, I take it, immediately like her. “I know most of you are wondering what exactly this class is.” Some students make impatient noises.
“Life Studies,” she continues brightly, “is the class that will help you most in life. Thirty years from now, you will look back on your seventh year at Hogwarts and think ‘Life Studies is the one class that has helped me most in my life’. I’m not going to bore you with details because you will need the rest of your time in here to start your work.” Some kids groan at this.
“Anyway. Unlike your other classes, this class will provide you each with different experiences. You will each be given experiences adults go through – marriage, divorce, the birth of a new child, getting fired from a job. How you react to each obstacle will determine your scores on exams. The questionnaire you took last year determines your obstacles and whether or not you are married and who you are paired with.”
Beside me, Di smiles bitterly; she loves and hates that she was right. No one in the room speaks – we’re all too shocked and scared and nervous to say anything. Clearly Professor Higgins is thrown off by our silence. She clears her throat and makes a swooping motion with her wand. “So, your booklets are no longer locked. You are only capable of seeing the first page – the other pages will be presented as you go along with the course. Go on, look in them.”
Di practically tears her open and, when she sees her first ‘challenge’, she swears under her breath. I ignore my booklet and lean to look at hers. “What’d you get?”
She begins banging her head against the table. “I’m in a relationship with Clark Audley. Clark-sodding-Audley.” Behind us, Clark swears loudly. Di shoots him a look before thrusting my booklet at me. “Open yours. I can’t be the only one who’s going to be miserable this year.”
I open mine slowly. Brown eyes quickly scan over the page. “Nooooooo,” I whisper, resisting the urge to join Di and begin banging my head against the table. Di hears my whisper and looks up, alarmed. “Who’d you get?” Grabbing the booklet from me, her jade eyes widen. “How in the hell did that happen?” Not bothering to hide her astonishment or lower her voice – how did she become Head Girl with language like that? – she turns to look at my “boyfriend”, who’s expression is as equally shocked.
“Let me get a few things straight, Clark. Simply because some fucked-up questionnaire thinks we’re compatible enough to be in a relationship, doesn’t take away from the fact that I loathe you.”
“Got it, love.”
“Also, don’t call me ‘love’ or any other pet name that small little brain of yours can think of. There will be no kissing, touching, or sex in this fake-relationship. Is that clear?”
“Clear as sodding crystal.”
We’re sitting beside the Black Lake: Di, Clark, Fred Weasley – who’s one of the singles -, James Potter, and I. We’re all tense and in shock. James and I haven’t said a word to each other, both preferring to remain quiet. Di and Clark have both expressed their dislike for each other and Di has set some boundaries. I wonder if I should do that? It hardly seems needed considering James doesn’t seem intent on making our “relationship” work and I’m not about to start.
Weasley, who’s stretched out between me and James, looks at us all, his green eyes dancing. “You lot are well on your way to an outstanding score.”
“Shut it, Weasley,” Di snaps.
“Watch it, that’s my girlfriend you’re messing with,” Clark pipes in, looking well on his way to either laughing or running away.
“Piss off, the both of you.”
I’m not sure why I do it, but I suddenly look at James, a slow grin spreading across my face. To my surprise, he meets my brown eyes with his hazel. He’s just as amused and shocked as I am. We lock eyes for a few seconds before hastily looking away. He sighs loudly and runs a hand through his black hair. “As much as I hate to say this, we have work to do and arguing will get us nowhere.”
This brings Di back. “Of course. Being surrounded by four Gryffindors has clouded my judgment.”
“I think you mean my godlike looks have clouded your judgment.”
Before Di can bite off Clark’s head, I speak up, “Let’s get with our respective partners and answer these questions – without arguing.”
Weasley doesn’t bother moving from his position between me and Potter, which I’m thankful for. James and I have barely spoken in our seven years of attending Hogwarts. He has always been the untouchable Gryffindor golden boy while I’m the shy Gryffindor with self-esteem issues who once fancied Potter quite passionately. To make matters worse, he was my first-kiss as result of a muggle game, “Seven Minutes in Heaven”, during our fourth year.
At the thought of those hellish seven minutes, my face flames. Hopefully James has forgotten it, but something at the back of my mind tells me that he hasn’t – how could he forget when I threw myself at him? As far as I know, only he and I know about what happened in the closet in the Gryffindor common room. He was probably too traumatized and embarrassed to tell someone. Thinking back on it, I don’t blame him.
I fumble with my paper, a “Getting to Know Your Partner” questionnaire. “Okay, er, what is your favorite color?”
Potter, seemingly unaware of my direction of thoughts and my blush, cocks his head to the side and grins mischievously. “Is black a color?”
“No,” Di replies across from us.
Potter sighs dramatically. “Red, then.”
I resist sighing. As much as I would love to finish our homework, I don’t feel up to it. Being around so many people and attempting to focus on work is hard and I would love to take a walk around the grounds before going to dinner. I begin gathering my things. “I’m going to take a walk.” I look down at Potter. “We can meet up to finish this before Friday, right?” As much as being alone with him sounds daunting, I’m too restless right now to care.
Di looks ready to drown me in the Black Lake. Clark stands immediately, seeing this as his escape to get away from Di, no doubt. Potter looks shocked – and confused, his eyebrows pulling together quizzically. “Of course,” he says.
“I’m coming with you,” Clark says, grabbing my elbow and stirring me away from the group, studiously ignoring Di’s swears and Weasley’s laughter.
I jerk my arm from his strong grasp. “You could have asked first, you know.”
“I hardly need permission to take a casual stroll.”
I roll my eyes. “No, of course not.” I position my bag on my other shoulder – it’s surprisingly heavy. “But you said you wanted to walk with me –what if I hadn’t wanted you to take a causal stroll with me?”
“Are you saying you did want me to?” he retorts, grabbing my bag and hoisting it effortlessly over one of his shoulders. I consider grabbing it back, but my shoulder is sore and not having any weight on it feels nice.
“You’re bloody confusing, Shannon.”
“And you are bloody annoying, Clark.”
“It’s all out of love, love.”
I roll my eyes. “You wouldn’t know what love is if it paraded in front of you every day.” I jab him in the ribs with my elbow. “And stop calling me love.”
“Ouch.” He mock glares in my direction. “Your words wound me, Shannon.”
We step through the main entrance and walk in silence. It’s funny. Clark has been known as one of Hogwarts womanizers since his fifth year, yet his attention in me has never wavered. Before asking any girl out, he has always asked me out first, since third year. When I was younger, I rejected him because I had always assumed his interest was that of mockery because I’d been overweight. Even now, when I’m healthy and moderately attractive, his interest remains intact. “Clark?”
“Why are you so persistent?”
He peers down at me, grinning. “Because I almost always get what I want.” He tells the password to the Fat Lady and we walk into the common room. “And when I don’t get what I want I become all the more determined.”
It’s on the tip of my tongue to ask him why he’s so determined to date me, but I grab my bag from his shoulder and shake my head. “You’re tiring.”
“You have no idea, my love.”
I fight off a grin. “Lovely.”
“What’re you doing this weekend?”
I give him an obvious look. “You already asked.”
He shrugs. “Doesn’t hurt to ask again, right?”
“I suppose it doesn’t,” I say thoughtfully.
“You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to go out with me at least once.”
An impulsive urge grabs me. “I suppose it wouldn’t.”
His eyes widen. “Is that a yes?”
“I suppose it is.”
Smiling at his shocked face, I turn and make my way up to the girls’ dormitory. If I can get Clark to stop chasing me, I’ll have a decent seventh year. If he’s all about the chase, he will soon find himself disappointed. And, really, I don’t see why he would chase me for anything but the chase of it all. This year is going to be a breeze, I’m sure of it.
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