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Chapter 6 : Fact of Nature #6: Sometimes a Hufflepuff is a snake is disguise
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The first was Mary. I’d figured after our pathetic excuse for a date that she’d not want anything else to do with me and would leave me alone, problem solved; but that girl was nothing if not persistent. She seemed to find me wherever I was and then insisted on sitting with me and talking to me: at meals, in the library, in the common room. I wasn’t really used to dealing with so much unwanted attention from girls, so I simply ignored her and hoped that with the lack of interest I showed, she would eventually get bored and leave me alone. And yes I realise I am a massive prat who has no idea how to deal with girl so let’s just leave it at that shall we?
The second problem was McMillan, and the constant desire I felt to punch him in the face. After I’d heard him calling Lucy a ‘bloody tease’ for only letting him kiss her on the cheek after one date (exactly what kind of girl did he think she was?) I developed a little burning ball of anger, deep down in my gut, which seemed to light up whenever I saw or thought about McMillan. The only reason I hadn’t punched or hexed him yet was because I wasn’t sure about how much Lucy liked him, and I didn’t want to upset her or make myself look bad in her eyes. Though I had to admit I hadn’t seen them together since the Hogsmeade trip, and I was beginning to hold out hope that nothing further had come from it.
After our little encounter in the Owlery, I decided that I needed to find a way to spend more one on one time with Lucy, so that we could get to know each other and she could see that I wasn’t the stupid git who had ignored her all these years, I was so much more than just the Gryffindor seeker.
“Maybe you could study together,” Justin suggested one night as we were getting ready to turn in. I heard Louis’s snort of derision from the bathroom where he was brushing his teeth.
“Yeah, ‘cause your idea of asking another girl out was such a success!” I called through to him before turning back to Justin. “That could work, but how do I get her alone to study? I mean who would study with me when they’ve got Rose ‘the study machine’ Weasley at their disposal?”
“Hmmm…that’s true,” Justin looked thoughtful for a moment.
“What about the subjects Rose doesn’t take?” Will piped up from his bed.
“Well there’s only two options,” I said, thinking out loud. “Divination is useless, nobody studies for that class, plus she’s got Hawthorn. The only other option is Care of Magical Creatures and I seriously doubt Bell needs to study for that subject. I’m pretty sure she knows more about it than Hagrid!” We sat in thoughtful silence for a minute while we considered the options.
“Why don’t you ask her to tutor you?” Justin said suddenly, snapping his fingers.
“Tutor?” I repeated, raising an eyebrow at him.
“Well yeah. I mean think about it, she’s brilliant at the subject so it’s an excellent choice; I doubt she’s already got someone else that she studies with for it and you’ve got the perfect excuse of wanting to pass your O.W.L’s as your sudden motivation for wanting her help.” Justin shrugged as he finished his explanation.
“That actually might just work,” Will said, nodding his head.
“I hate to say it, but I think Justin actually has a good idea,” Louis admitted, coming out of the bathroom. “It’s exactly the sort of plan I would expect from a prefect, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.”
“Plus, it gives you an excuse to catch up with her on a regular basis until exam time,” Justin added, ignoring Louis’s ‘prefect’ comment. “I reckon it’s your best chance.”
And so there I was during our next Care of Magical Creatures class, trying to work up the nerve to ask Lucy to tutor me, hoping desperately that she would say yes. I found myself watching her throughout most of the class, distracted by the cute way she was so enthusiastic to answer all of Hagrid’s questions or her relaxed nature as she patted the kneazle that had curled up happily in her lap.
“Here’s your chance, go and ask her now,” Justin whispered as Lucy’s blonde-haired Hufflepuff friend made her way towards the castle. Taking a deep breath, I made my way over to Lucy, who was trying to take notes on the sleeping animal in her lap.
“I think you’ve got an admirer there Bell,” I said, sitting next to her on the grass. She looked up at me and smiled briefly before looking back down at the cat. “Our’s fell asleep too, but on my bag,” I added, indicating to where Justin was observing the sleeping animal. Lucy looked over and grinned, I felt a swooping sensation in my stomach when she smiled, but I kept my nerve and continued. Straight to the point Al, no waffling, just come out and ask her.
“Evidently I don’t quite have your touch with animals, which is why I wanted to ask for your help.” I said quickly. Lucy looked up at me curiously this time.
“My help?” She asked.
“Yeah,” I rubbed the back of my neck, forcing myself to push on. “Well I don’t really get this subject like you do and you’re kind of amazing at it so I thought maybe you could help me study, like a tutor or something.” There! I’d said it, the ball was now definitely in her court. I noticed a pink colour spreading across Lucy’s cheeks and I wondered if I’d embarrassed her by asking.
“Well yeah, I guess I could do that. When would you want to meet?” She said, flashing me one of her adorable smiles, and I very nearly collapsed in the grass right there and then. She said yes! Oh sweet mother of Merlin she’d agreed to spending one-on-one time with me! Granted it was as my tutor but still, she obviously didn’t find me completely repulsive.
“Really? Oh great…um how about we catch up in the Library on say Saturday afternoon?” I suggested, trying not to sound too enthusiastic. Lucy’s smile disappeared suddenly.
“Oh, I actually can’t on Saturday, I’m…busy,” She said, and I suddenly felt very awkward. I had assumed that once she said yes that would be it, we’d study, we’d fall in love and bada bing bada boom she’d be snogging me senseless in the library. Ok so it’s not the best plan but it’s the only one I had!
“Well maybe some other time then.” I said, wondering if I should just get up and leave before she changed her mind completely. I mean I could understand her not wanting to give up her weekend to spend time with me, maybe it hadn’t been such a great idea after all.
“No really, I am busy on Saturday,” She said quickly. “I’m er….well I have plans with…” She looked at me nervously “…Michael.”
“Oh,” a cold, uncomfortable feeling filled the pit of my stomach and seemed to spread out through my limbs. “I didn’t realise you were still seeing him.”
“Well he just asked me this morning,” She rushed on, trying to explain as quickly as she could. “It’s nothing official or anything, we’re just…hanging out.”
“Oh ok,” I said, fighting to hide the disappointment I felt. “Well what about Sunday afternoon then, would that work for you?” Surely she wouldn’t be on a date with McMillan then!
“Sunday’s fine,” She nodded and gave me a small smile. “Shall we say two o’clock in the library?”
“It’s a date,” The words were out of my mouth before I could think about them, and the second they escaped my lips I felt myself get hot, my cheeks felt like they were burning. “I mean, I’ll see you then.” I said, stumbling to my feet in an attempt to get away before I said anything else stupid.
“See you then,” She replied. I returned to a curious Justin, but I refused to talk about the conversation with the guys until we were safely in the privacy of our dormitory, where nobody could overhear us.
“I can’t believe she’s going out with that prat again, he’s just trying to get something out of her!” I grumbled as I tossed my dirty robes on the floor. “And she’s not that kind of girl, how could he even think she is?”
“Mate, she’s smart, it won’t be long before she works out what kind of guy he is and when she does she’s not going to stick around, she is a Gryffindor after all,” Louis said, his voice infuriatingly calm.
“But why should he get to go on a date with her? Two dates! It’s so unfair! He’s a git, a stupid, smarmy, slimy, git!” I stormed into the bathroom to have a shower, my anger levels through the roof.
On Saturday, the boys decided to use every means necessary to distract me from thinking about what may or may not be happening on Lucy’s date with McMillan. Early Quidditch training worked well enough in the morning, though at one point my mind wandered off for a little while and I nearly crashed into Corrine Simpkins, one of our Chasers. She gave me a dirty look as she swerved her broom out of my way while James screamed at me across the pitch to pay attention.
We snuck down to the kitchens for lunch, Louis suggesting that it might be nice since we hadn’t visited the house elves in a while. I was pretty sure they were just trying to avoid us running into McMillan but I agreed anyway. After we’d eaten as much cold chicken and roast beef sandwiches as we could and we’d fought off the house elves who were practically trying to force feed us chocolate cake and fruit salad, we trooped back up to the common room. Since it was one of the last nice Saturdays of the year, the common room was pretty deserted with only a few small pockets of people sitting around chatting, reading books or playing games.
After three rounds of exploding snap, I found myself getting bored and extremely irritable.
“Can’t we go for a walk?” I grumbled, thinking if Lucy and McMillan were outside, I might happen to ‘accidentally’ bump into them, or at the very least I could keep my eyes on the git. My friends however, didn’t exactly trust me.
“I don’t think that’s such a great idea,” Justin said, sharing a nervous glance with the others.
“But it’s so nice out today!” I protested.
“Al, you and I both know that your desire for the great outdoors has nothing to do with the weather,” Louis said smugly, folding his arms. Stupid blonde prat, when did he get so clever?
“How about a game of Wizard’s Chess?” Will suggested. “You still owe me for thrashing you that last time.”
“Fine,” I grumbled as Will darted upstairs to find our sets of chessmen.
“Look, would it help you feel better if Louis and I went downstairs just to check things out?” Justin suggested. “Just to ease your mind that she’s ok?”
“I don’t see why I can’t go!” I snapped, though the fact I sounded like a spoilt kid sobered me up a bit.
“You don’t?” Louis snorted. “Mate, how do you think you’re going to react if you go down there and see them together? You have a tendency to be a bit wand happy at the best of times.”
“Hey, I grew out of that stage!” I exclaimed. “I kicked my jinxing habit.”
“No you just got better at hiding it by asking James to teach you how to do non-verbal spells,” Louis argued. I glared at him but before I could say anything else, Will returned.
“Fine, you two go and check things out,” I conceded to Justin as Will started setting the board up.
“It’ll be fine mate,” Louis assured me as they disappeared out of the portrait hole.
I had to admit that Will’s idea of playing chess was a pretty good one, because I soon found myself focussed on my strategy – I had to be or Will would kick my butt again. I barely even noticed that Justin and Louis hadn’t been back for a while. I did notice however when the portrait hole was opened with such force that it made a loud ‘BANG’. I looked up in surprise – I didn’t even know that you could slam the portrait hole, I’d always figured it was self-closing! All thought of self-closing portraits were chased from my mind though, when I realised the person who had come crashing into the room was Lucy. She was dressed quite nicely in jeans and a blue jumper, though her hair was coming out of her neat pontytail, wisps of it sticking out about her head. Her cheeks were pink and she was breathing heavily as though she’d just been running, but the two things that made my stomach drop to my knees were her red, bloodshot, tear-rimmed eyes, and the look of absolute sorrow on her face.
“Merlins pink boxers, what happened?” I shouted, jumping to my feet. I heard the chessboard clatter to the ground, but I didn’t care about the game anymore. Lucy looked over at me in surprise and I practically ran to her, though by the time I was standing in front of her she’d lowered her gaze to the floor. “Lucy, what’s wrong?” I gasped, wanting to hug her and stroke her hair and stop her tears. Lucy refused to look at me, hurriedly wiping the tears from her eyes.
“Lucy? What’s wrong?” Lucy looked up at Hawthorn’s voice, and my team-mate appeared at my side, Rose with her. Lucy threw herself into Jane’s arms, gripping her friend tightly. “Shhh…hey, hey it’s ok,” Jane soothed like she was comforting a small child as she led Lucy to the nearest sofa. Rose sat on Lucy’s other side, forming a sort of guard around her, but I wasn’t about to leave. If this was McMillan’s fault I needed to know so I knew exactly how many curses I needed to throw at the toe-rag. I dragged a chair over and sat opposite Lucy, leaning forward slightly and resting my elbows on my knees.
“Was it Michael?” Rose prompted gently. Lucy simply nodded in reply and I forced myself to sit still.
“Did he say something?” It was Jane who spoke this time. Lucy shook her head for a moment but stopped suddenly as though changing her mind; she nodded instead.
“That’s part of it,” She eventually said, her voice thick with tears. She kept her eyes on her lap as she spoke.
“We were just walking along by the lake and talking,” She started. “And then we sat on this log and he said all this stuff about really liking me and before I could say anything he was kissing me –”
Why that foul little git…I’ll kill him! I gripped the arm of the chair to keep myself in one spot.
“And I didn’t really want him to but then he put his hand…” She hesitated for a second and I realised I was holding my breath. “He tried to put his hand under my jumper,” Her voice shook as she whispered the words, her cheeks bright red now and her eyes focussed intensely on her knees. “And when I stopped him he tried it a second time but over my jumper…”
For a brief second I thought I was going to pass out from the anger. Little white sparks seemed to explode in front of my eyes and I felt my hands ball up tightly into fists.
“So I pushed him off me and he fell in the mud,” Lucy continued. Rose made a small noise of approval and I had to admit if I wasn’t so angry I’d be applauding Lucy for her Gryffie bravery in fighting back.
“And then he yelled at me and said all these horrible things about me leading him on so I slapped him and ran away.” Lucy let out a big sigh, which seemed to indicate she’d finished her story.
“I’ll kill him,” I hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but my anger seemed to seep through before I could stop it. Lucy looked towards me, though she wouldn’t meet my eye. Her eyes settled on my hands which were balled up so tightly the skin was white where it was pulled tight across my knuckles. I felt something warm on my arm and realised Rose had placed her hand there. I looked up at my cousin and closest friend to find her eyes were full of the anger I felt, yet they also warned me to keep my mouth shut.
“I…I didn’t…” Lucy gasped, trying to explain something, though she was struggling desperately with her words. Hawthorn hushed her, assuring her that it wasn’t her fault and she didn’t need to explain anymore. Lucy nodded and leaned against Jane, fresh tears rolling down her cheeks. I watched her for a few minutes, the anger bubbling up inside me until I wanted to scream. Not wanting to upset Lucy further, I jumped to my feet and raced out of the room, adrenaline filling my veins as I tried to concentrate on where McMillan might be. Would he be back in the Hufflepuff common room by now? Where was it again, near the kitchens?
“Al!” I spun around to see Rose, the anger was still evident in her eyes, although she looked partly like she wanted to cry and just a tiny bit scared. “Al, calm down ok?”
“Calm down?” I snapped. I knew it wasn’t her fault and she didn’t deserve me yelling at her but I couldn’t control the rage burning deep in my gut, I felt an uncontrollable desire to put my fist through the wall. “How can I calm down Rosie? I want to kill the guy, I actually want to go and Avada Kedavra the bastard,”
How am going to get into the Hufflepuff dormitories? I don’t know the password…it can’t be that difficult to work out, can it?
“Al, please just stop for a second,” Rose pleaded, but I was already ranting, my frustrations boiling over. I pulled my wand out of my pocket and looked it, this was going to be my weapon against that arse McMillan.
“He is going to pay Rosie, he is going to suffer for what he did to her and I am going to be the one to do it…”
“Al you’re being ridiculous,” Rose begged.
“Actually, I think I’ll use crucio, that way he can suffer for a nice, long time,”
“ALBUS SEVERUS POTTER!” Rose roared, her voice echoing through the corridor and startling me. She whipped out her wand and pointed it at me. “Expelliarmus,” She snapped and my wand flew from my fingers. She reached out and caught it, tucking it into her back pocket while she kept her eyes on me. “You need to take a deep breath and calm down,” She lowered the volume of her voice but the anger was still there, she sounded frighteningly like Grandma Weasley. “I realise that you are angry, I am pretty mad myself, but would you actually listen to yourself? Unforgivable curses Al? I mean, really? Number one you’d be expelled, Number two even your Dad couldn’t stop them chucking you in Azkaban and Number three…as if you’d actually be able to do it.” She couldn’t resist the opportunity to roll her eyes at me.
“Well ok, maybe I’m not going to crucio him,” I grumbled, “but I still know plenty of decent spells to make him suffer.”
“And how do you think that’s going to make Lucy feel?” Rose asked. “She’s absolutely devastated in there, she doesn’t need you to starting a war with another house to add to her dramas!”
“I’m not going to let him get away with this Rose! You cannot seriously expect me to just let this go.” I folded my arms across my chest and raised my eyebrows expectantly.
“I’m not suggesting you let him get away with it,” Rose replied in a calm and rational voice. “But I am not about let you go run around on a whim, hexing people because you’re angry; you’ll cause more damage to yourself than to him. Just give it some time and the appropriate moment will present itself.” My anger didn’t subside, but I had to admit that she had a point.
“When did you get so smart?” I grumbled.
“Does that mean you won’t go running off, trying to hex McMillan?” She said, though there was a small smile playing with her lips.
“Yes,” I said grudgingly. “Now can I please have my wand back?”
“Pinkie Promise?” Rose said, holding out her right pinkie finger towards me. I stared at it for a minute, Rose knew I would never dare break a Pinkie Promise with her, she may as well have been asking me to make an unbreakable vow.
“I Pinkie Promise,” I eventually agreed, hooking my pinkie with hers.
“Good, then you can have this back,” She smiled, pulling my wand out of her pocket and handing it back to me. “But remember, wait for the appropriate moment to present itself.”
We headed back to the common room, but Lucy and Jane were gone when we got there. Will explained that they’d gone upstairs not long after I’d walked out, so Rose went up to check.
“She sleeping,” She explained when she returned with Jane. I threw myself down in an armchair in frustration, I was glad Lucy was getting some rest but I was angry because there was nothing I could do. Justin turned up not long before dinner with Gwen, though he had the decency to look ashamed when I glared at him. Rose filled them in on Lucy’s situation as we headed down to the Great Hall.
“Should you take Lucy some food?” I said to the girls as we ate. “She might wake up and be hungry.”
“From the looks of it, she’ll probably sleep all night,” Jane shrugged. She didn’t seem worried and I figured if she woke up after the meal had been cleared, I could always sneak down to the kitchens for her. Maybe she could come with me and we could have a romantic chat in front of the fire…
Get it together man! She’s recovering from being attacked by that git McMillan and you’re already planning to chat her up?
Jane was right, Lucy did sleep the whole night through (Well as far as I know, I mean it’s not like I snuck in to the girl’s dormitory to spy on her. I might fancy her socks off but I’m not that creepy!) but I didn’t see her in the morning because I had an early breakfast and then proceeded to search the castle for McMillan. I’d promised Rose that I would wait for the appropriate moment to present itself but there was nothing wrong with a little active waiting, was there?
It didn’t do me any good, the stupid git seemed to have disappeared, probably stewing in his own prat-ishness. I didn’t even go up to the Great Hall for lunch, instead I snuck a sandwich from the kitchens and then hid out in the hallway that the Hufflepuff common room shared with the kitchens, hoping to spot McMillan again.
By the time two o’clock rolled around I had achieved very little and I was beginning to wonder if Rose had a point. I kicked myself mentally as I bolted up to my dormitory, having left myself all of about one minute to get ready.
“Mate would you calm down, it’s a study session, I hardly think she’s going to care what you’re wearing,” Will said as I stood in front of our large mirror, straightening my jumper and running my hand through my perpetually messy hair. Curse my father and his messy hair genes. I wasn’t about to admit it to my friends, but I was extremely nervous about this study session; after all the whole point behind it was so that Lucy and I could spend time together on our own and she could get to know the real me better – but what if she didn’t like the real me?
I tried not to focus on these thoughts as I made my way down to the library, and almost instantly they were replaced with another unsettling thought. What if she doesn’t turn up? I thought to myself in a panic. I hadn’t seen Lucy all day, what if she was still so upset she’d forgotten about the study session or simply decided not to come? I took a deep breath to calm my nerves as I entered the almost empty library, my eyes scanning the room for her dark hair and expressive eyes. The relief I felt when I saw her was quickly replaced once more with nerves.
Come on Al, when Dad was a year younger than you he fought a dragon, you can go and study with a girl! I gave myself a quick pep talk as I approached the desk. Lucy had her back to me, she was staring out the window at the forest and I realised I could still run away if I wanted to. This is so much scarier than facing a dragon, I told myself.
The chair scraped a little as I sat down and Lucy turned to face me. Her eyes weren’t red anymore and she wasn’t crying, but her eyes weren’t twinkling like they usually did, she looked downright sad; I gave her a small smile.
“I wasn’t sure you were still coming,” I said.
“I wasn’t sure you were going to turn up either,” She replied. What? How did she know I was so nervous?
“Me? Why would I not come?” I said, trying to play it cool.
“I just thought that maybe, well you know…” She stammered. She bit her lip in that adorable way as she seemed to struggle with saying something difficult. “You know I didn’t want him to…” She tried, her voice fading away. She frowned down at the table top.
Him? She thought I wouldn’t come because I might not believe her? Did she really think I was that much of a prat?
“I know,” I said, looking directly in her eyes. “McMillan’s an arse and he took you for granted. Anyone with half a brain knows you’re not that sort of girl. McMillan’s obviously more of a moron than he lets on.” A red blush spread over Lucy’s cheeks and she ducked her head, though when she glanced back up at me, there was a small smile on her lips and the hint of the old sparkle in her eyes. My heart skipped a beat as I smiled back at her nervously.
“Thanks,” She whispered shyly and my breath caught in my throat a little. “So, let’s start with the two feet on Kneazle characteristics Hagrid set for us,” She continued, opening a text book and pushing it across to me. “So the main issue with Kneazles is that they look like regular cats, but there’s a few major differences. How about you read that page there and list any distinguishing characteristics they mention.” She leaned down and reached into her bag, pulling out a quill and some parchment before opening another book and starting to read. She chewed on her lip and played with a loose piece of hair as she read, her brow furrowed ever so slightly. I was mesmerised by her and would have been happy to sit there and watch her all afternoon, except she looked up after a few minutes and caught me staring.
“What?” She asked, her cheeks turning pink again.
“Nothing,” I said, giving her a stupid grin before quickly looking down at my book, deciding that I was lucky enough to have the cutest study partner in all of Hogwarts.
AN: Ok, I just cannot help myself...I'm a chapter updating junkie! At least I am where this story is concerned. But I'm sure you guys don't mind the rapid updates now, do you? :) Unfortunately I do seem to be catching up with the chapters I've already written so I might need to pace myself with the next few updates but I'll do what I can. Thanks so much for all your reviews guys, I love getting your feedback and I promise to respond to every review, even if it takes me a little while to get to them sometimes. So please leave me a review and let me know what you thought of this chapter.
Here's a little romantic moment from the next chapter for you...
I realised my heart was beating a little bit faster than usual and found myself suddenly curious about just how many boys Lucy had kissed. Obviously there was McMillan, but a girl as pretty as Lucy had to have been kissed by other boys, right? I was dying to ask her, but I wasn’t sure I had the guts to do something like that. Anyway, she’d probably get pretty suspicious about why I’d want to know about her kissing history so I kept my questions to myself.
“So should we double check our homework with the information in the text book?” I asked casually. Lucy looked up, her cheeks still a little pink but her expression relieved as she realised I wasn’t going to dwell on what she’d been talking about.
“That sounds like a good idea,” She said, reaching for the text book in front of her. It just so happened that I’d had the same idea and was reaching for the same book at that moment. My hand landed on top of Lucy’s and we both looked down in surprise as we touched. I felt an unusual swooping in my stomach and the room suddenly felt a lot warmer as I stared at Lucy’s delicate hand underneath mine. It felt so soft and small and not at all unpleasant, but I soon realised her hand was trapped under mine and she was going to wonder what was going on if I didn’t do something soon.
“Oh…um…sorry,” I mumbled, pulling my hand away. “I thought it was my book,” I added stupidly, looking across the desk for my own copy of the text.
“That’s ok,” Lucy mumbled, and for a second I thought she sounded as embarrassed as me.
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