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Chapter 21 : Feather-Like Touches and Musty Old Tunnels
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Word about Tyler’s relentless search for the redhead he met at the Masquerade ball did not hesitate to spread like bloody wildfire. The entire female population of Hogwarts was talking about it, and a handful of girls even went as far as dying their hair red.
Frankly, it was sickening.
How desperate could some of these girls get?
Dominique was not taking the sudden buzz and excitement very well. Her eyes would narrow into thin slits every time she’d hear word about another girl preparing herself to claim the name of Tyler’s ‘mystery girl’. Once, she went as far as transfiguring a girls’ skirt into fabric plagued with soil-encrusted earth worms. Another time, she transfigured a Slytherins’ necklace into a potentially dangerous, 8-inch garden snake. Needless to say, Dominique has discovered another new, profound talent: transfiguration as a form of sabotage and/or revenge.
Tyler, as much as he enjoys attention from females with a pretty face and wearing a short skirt, grew more and more frustrated with each and every girl who professed their undying love for him while claiming “Cinderella’s” unknown identity. In his defense, the girls were more like animals scouring for food with solely survival on their minds.
“I think he’s going to go insane if he doesn’t find her soon…” Layla whispered, staring at Tyler’s profile from across the classroom. He was sitting in the front row, a punishment effective since day 1 of sixth year.
We were both twenty minutes into an extremely boring History of Magic lecture when Layla shook me out of my daze. She was slumped over her desk and had taken a liking to doodling on the back of the chair sitting in front of her. Earlier during the hour, she had discarded her robes and left it draped over the back of her chair. Her white oxford shirt was left unbuttoned completely, revealing a lacy, red top, tucked into her pleated, school-girl skirt.
From beside her, I noticed a Slytherin beater eyeing her with pure hunger. Layla, however, did not seem to notice at all.
“Tyler?” I asked.
Layla nodded, turning towards me. To the Slytherins’ dismay, the turn of her head caused her hair to fall over the entire right side of her body, blocking her breast from his view. “Look at him... He looks like a lost puppy for Merlin’s sake. Don’t you just want to grab some cute, innocent redhead and shove her in his direction?”
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t start getting random idea’s now...”
“C’mon, Vic!” she exclaimed a little too loudly for whispering-in-class etiquette. I shushed her immediately. “Think of how happy Tyler will be when we finally find him the girl he’s been searching so vigorously for!”
“His searching is hardly vigorous.” I replied dryly. I picked up my quill and began doodling on my notes from last week. “There has barely been any searching done on his part.”
“Okay, so maybe he hasn’t been searching that hard, but we can end his misery and stop the abundance of girls swimming his way!” she suggested excitedly. “James can help us! Right, James?” she asked, swiveling around to face Potter. His seat was, coincidentally, behind mine. I turned along with her, unable to resist myself. Potter, however, was sleeping soundly, and was using his extended left arm as a pillow. “Never mind him. He’ll be filled in later.” She said, unfazed.
“Layla,” I sighed. “What about Dom? She’ll coil your own hair around your neck and transfigure it into barbed wire if you even attempt to cross her.”
“Of all people to suddenly be afraid of, you choose Dom?” she asked with disbelief. “Dom, the girl who is deathly afraid of mice? The girl who screams bloody murder whenever Fred’s bare foot comes within a vicinity of five feet? Seriously, Vic. Why are you so afraid of Dom all of a sudden? You’ve been walking on eggshells around her since the breakup.”
“If you haven’t noticed Layla, she’s not exactly happy with me at the moment.” I pointed out nastily. “I just don’t want to push things, that’s all.”
She took a quick glance at Binns before continuing. “Did you deliberately go out of your way to break Dominique and Tyler up?” she asked.
“No, but —“
“Did you slap Dominique across the face?”
“No, but —“
“Did you fuck Tyler in a broom closet while he was still involved with Dominique?”
“No, but —“
“Then you have absolutely nothing to be sorry for.” She finished sternly.
“I can’t help it if I feel guilty. “
Layla sighed heavily. “Sometimes, I honestly think that you were born to be a Hufflepuff.” She almost sounded ashamed. If Layla was not Layla, I would have been offended.
“And sometimes, I think you belong more in Slytherin than you do in Gryffindor.” I retorted.
Playfully, Layla stuck her tongue out in my direction. Abruptly, as if she had known all this time that she was being watched, she whipped her head to the right and snarled. “Eyes off, perv!”
The Slytherin merely smirked with desire.
“Maybe if you actually buttoned up your shirt…”
“Shut up, Vic.”
I rolled my eyes and continued with my doodle.
Five more minutes passed before my mind began to drone out Binns’ unbelievably boring voice. My doodles became more and more absentminded as my mind strayed. Soon enough, I found myself swirling endless circles over my notes with a quill that was almost out of ink. The sound of chairs creaking under the weight of the students became the only sound my brain chose to accept. I was in my own little world, and Layla retreated back into hers.
And in my own little world, time slowed torturously the moment I felt a hand coil itself into the ends of my hair. I lifted my gaze from my doodle, and for few moments, focused on the empty chalkboard in the front of the room. The hand shortened to a finger and then expanded to two. My hair was effortlessly being twirled through a less frequent series of circular motion, by someone who rendered me breathless.
I turned around slightly, careful not to pull my hair from its coil around a nameless finger, only to find Potter in the same position he was in twenty minutes ago. His eyes were shut and his breathing remained steady. At that moment, reckoning that it was Potter playing with my hair would have seemed silly.
My eyes would have involuntarily remained glued to his face, if it were not for his hand pressing softly against my back, silently urging me to turn forward. For a moment, I hovered in hesitation before turning back to face the source of the stab-my-eye-pierce-my-skull boring lecture. The moment I straightened my posture, his hand slid off my back and resumed playing with strands of my hair. His hands were gentle — never in my life did I think that Potter knew how to be gentle to anyone who did not carry the name Weasley or Potter — and he seemed entirely too entertained by the locks’ bounciness.
I almost smiled at the innocent gesture. Instead, I pursed my lips and forced the smile back down my throat. The last thing I wanted was for Layla to witness something she could tease me with for the next week.
As an in-class-instinct, I sunk deeper into the seat and extended my legs further under the table.
My breath suddenly hitched in my throat the moment I felt his hands — hidden by my hair — travel up my shoulder blades to trace fire-bearing, back-and-forth lines across my bare neck. It was an odd sensation. It tickled and, at the same time, burned more than anything. The more feather-like touches caused sudden intakes of breaths, and lightning fast shivers racing up and down my spine. When the proximity between his finger and my skin became little-to-nothing, it felt similar to the fire of a thousand suns burning across my skin. Unintentionally and without thought, I loosened my tie and opened my oxford shirt three buttons wide.
I could almost hear Potter smirking against the table.
And then suddenly, I couldn’t take it anymore. The playfulness, the fire, the teasing; everything was too much. My hand shot into the air, and I waited, with closed eyes, until Binns noticed my desperation.
“Miss Rose, question?”
“May I use the lavatory?”
He sighed heavily with weary eyes. He waved his hand behind him. “Go —” The rest of his sentence remained a mystery since I bolted for the door the minute he granted me permission.
I hadn’t realized the stuffiness that filled the History classroom until I was met by cool, refreshing air of the corridor. It was empty, just the way I hoped it would be. My walk to the lavatory was slow and painful. Even without contact, Potters fingers still trailed across the back of my neck, moving in slow, torturous motions. The sensation still existed, as if he was still seated behind me pretending to be asleep.
I ran my hand over the back of my neck, hoping to somehow ease the unfamiliar sensation. As pleasurable as that experience was, all I wanted was for the fire to dissipate. Feeling like I was the epitome of one hundred miles a minute, a sharp, frustrated cry immediately crept through the emptiness. I was harboring unwanted fire — passion, some might even call it — that Potter refused to put out. I bolted for the girls lavatory and hoped that the sudden acceleration would help leave my troubles behind.
I skived class to hide out in the far end of the library. Pince was busy sorting the books in the restricted section after Scorpius and Fred managed to rearrange everything. Needless to say, they’re banned from the library for the rest of their lives.
My twelve pack was practically finished, and I was on my third cigarette of the hour. The window was cracked wide open, just incase the odor called for Pince to throw a screaming fit. I was smoking more than usual lately. Each time I thought about how bad the habit was, my hand absentmindedly reached for another cigarette, and before I could even comprehend what I was doing, I was already exhaling my first drag. By the time I realized how much I willed myself to quit, a voice in my mind forced me to keep going. I didn’t want to quit for everybody else, no matter how many times the disappointed faces of Layla and Victoria popped into my mind.
A bitter laugh, along with remnants of smoke escaped my lips. If only Victoria could see me smoke my fucking life away. Perhaps she’d fall out of love with me and find someone like Greyson, and fucking live happily ever after. Merlin knows it’s been a life-long dream for her; a fairytale-type life.
I took another drag and tapped the ashes off the tip.
My sister refused to even spare me a glance. Her situation with my best mate put me in the largest black hole ever. I knew all about growing up. I was in a race to grow up, and so was the rest of my generation. We partied, we drank, we smoked, lost our innocence, and our morals flew out the window. I knew all about that.
But Lily, my baby sister, I wanted something better for her. Not some fucking magical creature who’s not even sure if he’s allowed to fall in love himself.
“James.” My brother’s voice captured my attention. I turned away from the window to watch him plant himself on the empty table in front of me. He grabbed the box of cigarettes from the window sill, pulled one out, and lit it with his wand. He took a drag, and exhaled with relief.
“I thought you only smoked that healthy shit.” I said, looking away and taking a drag.
“Desperate times call for desperate measure.” My brother answered. “If I’m not mistaken, you have class.”
“So do you.” I retorted.
“Look, James, about Victoria…”
I shot a warning look in his direction. “Don’t start with me, Al.”
“That’s not what I wanted to talk about.” He replied. “I just wanted to clear up some rumors… I know that they’re spreading like the bloody plague.” He ran his hand through his hair before taking a drag. “That night of the ball… we kissed.”
“And it meant nothing.”
“So… you’re not mad?”
I shrugged, trying to seem as nonchalant as possible. “Should I be angry?”
“Forgive me, brother, but you’re not exactly known for being the calmest person when it comes to circumstances such as this.”
“Circumstances such as what, exactly?”
“When another guy touches your girl.”
I almost growled, but instead, I took a drag. “Victoria’s not my girl.” I stated plainly. The moment her name slipped off my tongue, I recalled playing with Victoria’s hair in History of Magic. I wasn’t sure what came over me, but it was amusing to feel her squirm beneath my fingers. It was risky business, openly flirting with Victoria in the middle of class, but I couldn’t help it. My fingers moved on their own accord, and all I could do was relish in her discomfort, the softness of her skin, and the bounciness of her hair. However, by the time she ran out of class to go to the lavatory, I wanted her so badly that I thought I was going to spontaneously combust.
Albus raised his eyebrows at me. “Oh really?” he asked. “So you don’t mind if I…” he shrugged. “To be honest, I kind of enjoyed that kiss… You won’t mind if I snog her again, will you? I was actually thinking… casual sex.”
I must have taken the longest drag of my life in order to restrain myself from severely denting Albus’ face with my fist.
“Since she’s not your girl, you won’t mind, right?” He was testing me. He was fucking pushing me to see how far I could go before I snapped and beat him into a bloody pulp. “I mean, Victoria is pretty hot… she’s got ridiculous curves. And Merlin, that arse —” Albus stopped the minute I dangerously narrowed my eyes in his direction. He smirked, and took a drag. “Look at yourself.” He said. “You can’t even take it when someone other bloke jokes about touching her.”
“Don’t you have a girlfriend to get back to?” I snapped irritably as I flicked the stub of my cigarette out the window. “Doesn’t she care that you snogged Victoria?”
“Do you know how I got that girlfriend?” Al asked, completely ignoring my question. “I stepped up, swallowed my pride, and admitted that I fancied her. Now, she’s mine, and I’m the only one who can touch her. Trust me, James, there are a million other guys in this castle who would kill to get their hands on her.”
My jaw clenched at the thought.
He rolled his eyes. “Why don’t you just admit it? You fancy her, you arsehole.”
I grimaced distastefully, looking away once more. “So what if I do?”
“So did you hear?” Layla shuffled over after class and linked her arm around mine. “Priscilla Peters got caught doing the dirty in the broom closet near the teachers’ lavatory on the second floor during the ball.”
I was not surprised. For the past two days, ever since the stupid Masquerade Ball, the rumor mill refused to stop churning. There were countless of students getting month’s worth of detention from getting caught fucking in public areas, and, not to mention, from possession of alcohol. Girls cheated on their boyfriends and boys cheated on their girlfriends. Couples broke up, and girls threw fits.
All in all, it was as normal as any Hogwarts dance could possibly get.
“Doing the dirty with whom?” I asked, crinkling my nose. “Please, oh Merlin, please tell me it was not with Shane Pac.”
“No.” she shook her head. “It was with Mike.”
I frowned. “Hufflepuff Beater Mike?”
“Priscilla’s best friends’ boyfriend, Mike.”
“So Sheryl’s boyfriend, Mike.”
I looked at her. “Layla, Sheryl’s boyfriend Mike and Hufflepuff Beater Mike is the same Mike.”
“But more importantly, it’s Sheryl’s boyfriend Mike.”
I sighed. She was right. “Poor Sheryl.”
“Poor Sheryl indeed.” Layla nodded in agreement. “But anyhow, that’s besides the point. You, my bestest friend in the whole wide world, neglected to tell me that you snogged Albus Potter, or shall I say, the brother of the boy who you’re so madly in love with.”
“News really does travel in this school, doesn’t it.” I stated dryly, completely unsurprised.
“Don’t try to change the subject!” she exclaimed. “What the hell happened? You snogged Little Albus! That’s like.. snogging my younger brother.”
“We didn’t purposely snog!” I defended. “We were still in our masks, and we both looked different. Honestly, I thought he was Potter, and he thought I was Ginger!”
“So you two snogged.” Her tone irritated me more than usual. “Did it not occur to either one of you to — oh I don’t know — check before you go around snogging random people?”
“He really sounded like Potter!”
“They’re brothers!” she retaliated. “Of course they’re similar, regardless of how much they deny it.” Completely out of arguments, and simply tired of trying to defend the most innocently-accidental situation, I remained silent. “Did James find out?”
“Of course he found out. It’s bloody impossible for anyone to keep a secret in this school.”
“I take it that he wasn’t too happy.”
“We fought again.”
“Fought and made up?”
I shrugged. “When do Potter and I ever officially make up.”
Layla sighed. “Oh, you two.” She nudged me playfully, and I couldn’t resist a smile. “I have a theory.”
“Yeah.” She nodded as we passed a bunch of Slytherin’s who wolf-whistled as we passed. I abruptly felt awkwardly average with Layla standing right beside me. She ignored the whistling with years and years of practice, and continued. “I think that you and James and just so similar — both good, and bad — that you two just cannot get along.”
“I don’t comprehend.”
“Think about it. You two are always butting heads, and yet, you’re like a female version of James, and he’s a male version of you.”
“We’re always butting heads because we disagree.”
“And why do you always disagree?”
“Because Potter is so self-righteous.”
“And why do you think that?”
“Because he’s an arse.”
“See! You can’t even give me a proper answer. That’s exactly what James said when I brought it up.”
“That little bugger called me self-righteous?” I asked incredulously.
“That’s besides the point.”
I scoffed. “Arrogant prick.”
“You’re straying off topic here.”
“What is with you and everyone else trying to shove Potter and I together?”
“What do you mean?” she asked innocently. Layla was never good at playing innocent. Her eyes widen, but she fails to hide the playfulness in her expression.
I scowled. “I mean, ever since we were young, it’s always been me and Potter! Would all of you give it a rest already? Merlin, Des even went as far as shooting me with his bloody arrow.”
“Maybe because the two of you could never be more perfect for each other?” she suggested. “C’mon Vicky. If everyone else can see it, why can’t the two of you?”
“Because we just don’t, okay? We’ve never been on that romantic level like the rest of you seem to believe. And we never will be.”
“You know,” the playfulness in her tone dissipated and her gaze moved forward, as if my words had just stung her in the most personal way possible. “The victimized-love-struck Victoria from a couple of months ago would have been ecstatic hearing that. In fact, she would have gone on and on about just how much she was in love.”
“Time changes things.” I answered quickly. “Now leave it alone. We have class.”
Left it alone, she did.
We headed to the end of the corridor where our classroom was located. The large wooden door was propped open, revealing our shameless tardiness. The rest of the class was already seated and scribbling away the first set of notes. I bit my lip as Layla and I rushed towards the door.
“Sorry, Professor.” Layla apologized for the both of us. “We forgot our textbooks in our room.”
As she veered around the next two rows of desks to quickly reach her seat, I blindly followed behind her with my head turned. My attention was directed towards a nearby tapestry down the perpendicular corridor, for there was Desmond, snogging Potter’s baby sister.
Class ended fairly slowly. I sat beside Layla, mentally debating whether or not I should tell her what’s been going on for the past two days. The monsters living within my conscience urged me to fess up, regardless of how Layla may take the news. I was her best friend, and it was my duty to tell her the truth no matter how much it hurts. However, there was another part of me, and a more logical part of me, that didn’t want to tell her, because once the news inevitably shatters her heart into a gazillion pieces, I’d have another Dominique Weasley in my life. And last but not least, there was Desmond. Telling Layla would be like betraying him, but not telling Layla would mean betraying her.
Welcome, ladies and gents, to the life and tribulations of Victoria Rose. Front seat tickets will be a grand total of zero dollars, because my life fucking sucks.
When class was finally over, Layla pulled me out of the classroom and immediately began planning the next couple of weeks while I listened with a closed ear. My mind was elsewhere, and I was definitely not that interested in the next few Hogsmeade trips or the next two Quidditch games.
“Hey, you.” A soft, calming voice captured my attention.
I turned while Layla was still in mid sentence, and came face to face with Austin. “Hey yourself.” I smiled.
“Hi Layla.” He greeted politely.
“Austin.” She nodded curtly. I almost rolled my eyes. Bloody Potter/Victoria shipper. Austin grew quiet while his eyes shifted from Layla, to me, and back again. I suddenly felt awkward standing in between them and made a futile attempt to make myself look as small as possible. “Well then…” Layla began, finally catching on. “I’ve got to go look for my arse of a Quidditch captain to settle some unfinished business. I shall see you later.” She directed to me. “See you around, Austin!”
“Oh, Layla!” Austin called before Layla managed to get very far. “Er, well you see…” he began as he jogged forward to close the distance between them. “I have a friend.”
“You have a friend.” Layla repeated.
“And he seems to be really into you.” He continued, seemingly unsure of himself. His right hand flew up to the back of his head as if he was nervous.
Something Potter usually does.
Fuck, Victoria, stop it.
“What’s your friend’s name?” she quirked an eyebrow.
“Johnny.” He answered.
He nodded. “Look, I don’t know if you’re in a relationship, or what, but I’m just doing the guy a favor. He’s really into you, and he wants to know if you’re… er… willing to spend the next Hogsmeade day with him?”
Layla frowned and I bit my lip with anticipation. I knew Johnny. He was my potions partner in my second year, and a nice guy. But I knew how badly shyness turns Layla off, and Johnny did not stand a chance under her scrutinizing.
“Why doesn’t Johnny approach me himself?” she asked.
“You see… he’s a little… well he’s a little shy.” Austin answered. “You can be a little intimidating, and he’s never really spoken to you before so…”
To my surprise, Layla shrugged and said, “Sure. But tell him to come talk to me before hand.”
Austin looked incredibly pleased with her answer. “Not a problem.” He gave her a lopsided grin before she returned his smile with one of her own. “You don’t have to like him or anything, but it’d be nice if you gave him a chance.”
She rolled her eyes with a smile. “Don’t worry about it, Willow. I’m not going to devour the boy after one date.” She said playfully. “That comes later.” She gave him a teasing wink before sauntering off, and leaving Austin and I in an almost empty corridor.
“I’m thoroughly surprised.” I commented, staring after Layla. “She’s not really the type to give a guy like Johnny a chance.”
“A guy like Johnny?” Austin almost looked offended.
“Oh, no! I don’t mean it like that. I just meant, she’s not the kind of girl who can tolerate painfully shy boys.” I corrected myself. “Layla is more of the bad-boy type.”
He shrugged as we began walking to nowhere in particular. I had a free period, and Austin — I had no idea what Austin had.
“But I’m glad she’s giving him a chance.” Desmond and Lily immediately popped into my mind.
“That actually brings me to what I wanted to talk to you about.” He began as he shoved his hands into his pockets. “Please don’t think I’m prying in any way. I’m just, concerned.” I nodded. “Earlier today, I was on my way to find you before your next class. I haven’t seen much of you lately, and you came to mind, so…”
“So why didn’t you?”
“Well I was just getting to that.” He said. “I ran into Dom, and she told me what your next class would be, so I went, and on my way there, I ran into…” He hesitated. “I ran into Pierce and Lily.”
My mouth went dry and my body tensed. Was that why he offered Layla a blind date just now? “Oh.” Was all I could conjure at the moment.
“Were they always…?”
I shook my head. “No. It all happened very suddenly.”
“I take it Potter doesn’t know?”
“What makes you think that?”
“Because Pierce is still alive.”
I laughed loudly, despite myself. “Potter knows.”
“Well then, I must say, I am very surprised.” She said. “But I thought Desmond and Layla…”
“Is that why you set Layla up?” I asked him. “Because you found out about Desmond and Lily, and you felt sorry for her?”
“No!” he answered immediately. “No, John’s been bugging me about it for a long time now, and well… to be honest, after finding out that things between her and Desmond were potentially over, I took my chance. But no, it wasn’t because I felt sorry for her.”
“She doesn’t know yet.” I told him. “So please don’t say anything. We’re still… Potter and I are still trying to figure that part out.”
Austin nodded silently. “No, of course, I won’t say anything.”
I managed to offer a small smile.
“By the way, what was with that poem you sent out after the ball?” he asked curiously. “Everyone in the castle got it.”
I sighed heavily. “Ignore it. It’s just someone trying to play a joke.” At this point, hiding my bitterness and annoyance became difficult.
Austin, who seemed to have caught on with my current mood, thankfully decided to drop the subject and lighten the mood somehow. “Can I walk you to your next class?” he asked.
“I actually don’t have class until four.” I said. “I was planning on squeezing in a nap before class.”
“Well, I am officially late for charms.” He chuckled. “But hey, er,” He looked nervous again. His hand shot up to the back of his head, and he ruffled his hair with an uncertain expression. “Do you want to watch the Quidditch game together this weekend?”
“Slytherin vs. Ravenclaw?”
“Sure. I’ll meet you after breakfast.” Although, somehow, somewhere, in the back of my mind, there was a small inkling that something or someone would swoop in and plant a more pressing/mandatory event and keep me from going to the Quidditch game. In short, I had a feeling it was never going to happen, but I remained quiet. Instead, I smiled at him sweetly, and nudged his arm. “C’mon, I’ll walk you to charms.”
After walking Austin to Charms, he offered a soft kiss on my cheek as a goodbye. As nice as the gesture was, I found it difficult to muster up a genuine smile. My mood was shot to hell early during the day when Layla informed me of the spreading rumors, and there was no way one kiss from Austin was going to fix that. Regardless, I didn’t have the heart to show him my lack of affection/satisfaction, so I forced one last smile before he disappeared behind the closing door of the charms classroom.
The last thing I heard before the door came to a complete shut was, “Sorry I’m late, Professor. I just ran into the prettiest girl…”
Needless to say, his words made my stomach lurch pleasantly. However, it still was not enough for me to soar up to cloud nine, sit there, and bask in my happiness. Or run around the corridors like a blithering idiot with a goofy smile on my face just because an attractive boy told Professor Flitwick that I was the prettiest girl.
I ran my hand through my straightened hair, effectively messing it up. I made a beeline for the Gryffindor Common Room, with sleep being the only thing on my mind.
Potter was lounging in the common room when I arrived. He had skived his class, and instead, was pouring over a book I had read last year.
“Don’t you ever worry that you’re going to fail Care of Magical Creatures since you’re always skiving?” I didn’t even bother with a hello.
“Hello to you too, Victoria.” He flipped a page.
As I walked by, I reached over the back of the couch, and pinched his nose.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in the library with Layla?” he asked, swatting my hand away. “She went off to look for you.”
“If you happen to see her, tell her I’m going to take a nap before class.” I said, heading straight for the staircase. “I’m exhausted.”
I didn’t bother waiting for an answer before I trudged up the stairs, up the girls’ staircase, and into the sixth-year girl’s dormitory. I shrugged off my robes, kicked off my shoes, unbuttoned my oxford shirt, and loosened my tie before I climbed into bed and snuggled against the duvet. Within a couple of minutes, I was out like a light.
I dreamt that a large man with a strawberry shaped head was chasing me with a muggle shotgun. His face was dark, partially because of his skin tone, and partially because of the shadow created by the large hat he wore on his head. His eyes were as white as a storm, abnormally lacking pupils. In my dream, I was incapable of running. Speed-walking seemed to be my only option, which made it even more frightening. My mind knew it was a dream, but that didn’t stop a very life-like kind of fear to swell up in my chest as I slept. From beneath my blanket, blood turned cold, and yet, my skin remained heated. I wanted to run. I wanted to escape my fear.
Before I knew it, he was screaming my name. He was running after me, shouting my name over and over again with a menacing tone. No matter how much faster I tried to run, my legs refused to listen.
I wanted to keep running.
Please let me keep running.
I woke up thrashing against the duvet with my second pillow flying across the mattress. A large hand wrapped around my wrist just as it impulsively snapped up in defense. The moment my eyes opened, I found myself staring into Potter’s pair of large brown eyes. For a moment or two, my mind failed to register the fact that Potter was in my bedroom, holding onto my wrist, and staring intently. My chest heaved as it struggled for as much oxygen as possible, and my skin felt like it was on fire.
For a while, we didn’t say a word to one another. His grasp loosened, but his hand remained wrapped around my wrist. Wordlessly, Potter finally released my wrist and fixed the duvet to completely cover my body. He wiped away the hair plastered across my forehead, an unfortunate result of cold sweat, and removed the suffocating tie around my neck.
Wordlessly, he climbed under the covers, facing me.
I frowned, unsure of what he was trying to do. As much as I wanted to push myself further across the bed, I stayed put, giving potter less than enough space to accommodate himself. My breath hitched the moment Potter wrapped his arm around my waist and drew me closer. He locked me against his chest and fixed the duvet around the both of us. In less than a minute, I felt myself relaxing in his arms. In the short time we laid together, Potter managed to pull me down from a million miles an hour to something completely human. My chest was no longer heaving heavily and begging for air, and the chills that rushed through my body were gone.
By the time I finally caught myself, Potter was curling a strand of hair in between his fingers, while his other hand traced lazy patterns on my lower back. I pressed myself deeper against him, milking the situation for all it was worth. Surprisingly, Potter pulled me closer the moment he felt me move beside him. He wrapped his arm tighter around me and my head was pressed deeper against the crook of his neck.
“It’s four-thirty.” Was the first thing Potter said. I felt the treble of his voice against my face. “You over slept.”
“Hm,” was all I managed to say.
“Did you know you talk in your sleep?” he asked with amusement in his voice.
My eyebrows knitted into a frown. “What did I say?” I asked.
“James Potter is the hottest, most sexiest, gorgeous guy on the face of this earth…”
I roughly pulled myself away from Potter with a scowl. He laughed loudly, disregarding my display of disgust.
What can I say? Good things never last.
“IT’S HOPELESS GUYS.” Tyler barged in, shrieking like a mad man.
After ultimately deciding that it was not worth it, attending the last twenty minutes of class, Potter and I stayed in my dorm, lounging on my bed. We were not as close as close as my post-nightmare arrangement, but he still managed to steal my fucking breath away with every miniscule movement. Our body heat merged beneath my duvet, making it incredibly pleasant to be snuggled comfortably beside him. We remained silent, knowing that if we even thought about starting a conversation, we would simply start an unnecessary argument.
The moment the door swung open with impeccable force, I bolted upright, while Potter, remained on his back with right arm tucked behind his head.
“IT’S BLOODY HOPELESS!” Tyler cried, stepping through the threshold with Layla hot on his heels. He collapsed by the foot of my bed, while Layla planted herself beside me.
I stared at them with confusion. “Am I the only one who thinks this is totally weird? How did you even get up the stairs?”
“The same way Jamesie came up here.” Tyler answered flatly. “Honestly, Vic, six years of us sneaking up to your dorm and you still don’t know how we do it.”
“Would someone like to enlighten me?” I asked, turning to Potter.
He grinned goofily in my direction. “Not a chance.”
“Like I was saying!” Tyler exclaimed. “It’s bloody hopeless.”
“He was just bombarded with a flock of girls.” Layla explained, trying her best not to show just how hilarious she found the situation. “They were a bunch of blondes and brunettes, and each one of them claim that they’re Tyler’s mystery girl.”
“Why don’t you just pick out every redhead in the castle?” I questioned. “Wouldn’t that be easier? There’s only a handful.”
“The problem is,” Layla began. “The majority of the redheads in this castle are related to James.”
“I think it’s safe to rule out Lily.” I pointed out softly. “And Roxy. If you claim that this girl spent the entire night with you, it couldn’t have been her.”
Tyler frowned. “Why not?”
I stole a glance at Potter, recalling our almost-kiss outside the Great Hall. “I saw her, sometime during the night.”
“She was in the girls’ lavatory with me.” Layla piped up. “She witnessed that little spat between me and some girl.”
“Then who’s left?” Tyler asked.
“Mate, what’s so great about this girl anyway?” Potter questioned. “You spent a couple of hours with her, and now you’re going bonkers trying to find her. She couldn’t have been that special.”
Tyler sighed. “She’s… Mate, she’s amazing. She’s unlike any other girl I’ve met before.” He answered in a dream-like voice. “To be honest, she reminds me a lot of you three.” He pointed to Layla and I. “You two, plus Dom. She’s like the outcome of a merger between the three of you, except she’s a lot more feminine. She’s… she’s so bloody real.”
“Er… and the other girls you’ve been with wasn’t?” I asked flatly.
“She cares about so much more than going to next week’s Quidditch match together, or attending the celebratory party as a pair. There’s more on her mind than just homework, and classes.”
“You got all that from a mere couple of hours?” Potter questioned with disbelief. “Mate, it sounds like you’re in love.”
Tyler laughed bitterly. “To be honest, I think Des did pretty well in messing up my perception of love. All I know, mate, is that I like her. A lot. And I want to get to know her, and walk around holding her hand, and go on dates with her, and fall asleep with her…” In a dream-like state, Tyler sighed happily, and with a smile, collapsed against my mattress. He was love-struck, and this time, not because a Cupid aimed a bow at his ass. This time, it was for real.
“Don’t worry, Tyler.” I smiled. “You’ll find her soon.”
At that precise moment, the door swung open a second time and Dominique stepped inside. Her eyes immediately fell on the four of us, nestled on my bed, staring at her with wide eyes. Tyler was the first to look away. He turned around and glued his eyes on the patters of Layla’s socks. I was the next to look away, feeling incredibly uncomfortable sitting in the sudden tension-filled room.
“Come join us, Dom.” Layla beckoned.
She shook her head as she made a beeline for her bed. “I just came up here to pick up something for Lily.”
“Lily’s downstairs?” James asked.
Dom shook her head. “She said she’d be here in about twenty minutes. She asked me for a favor, and me being the nice cousin that I am, had no choice but to oblige.”
“Did she tell you anything recently, by any chance?” I asked quickly. The four of them looked at me with a look of surprise. I was shocked too, not expecting myself to suddenly break the tension between us.
Dominique’s eyebrows knitted into a frown. “No. She didn’t. Is there something I should know?”
“No.” Potter beat me to it. “Nothing except my mum and dad says hi.”
She rolled her eyes. “Send them my love as well, if you ever get over your laziness and decide to write back to your own parents.”
“I’m seeing them in less than two months, anyway. They can manage.” He shrugged the matter off with a wave of his hand.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The four of our heads turned towards the closed window. Dominique, being the closest, unclasped the lock, allowing the dark brown owl to swoop into the room and drop a letter on my lap.
It was a small piece of hard paper with messy penmanship scribbled on the back.
“What is it?” Layla asked.
I took stole a nervous glance at Potter, only to find him staring back at me with curiosity. “Professor wants to see me for missing class.” I lied. “Apparently I missed a lot of work.”
Without casting another glance in Potters’ direction, I slowly climbed out of bed and grabbed my shoes before heading for the door. Before walking out, I caught the apprehensive look on Dominique’s face, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make a clean getaway.
She followed me until we were standing in the almost empty common room. “Since when do any of the Professors owl students for missing classes?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest. “Everyone in that room can tell when you’re lying, Vicky. And you, were lying.”
“Leave it alone, Dom. Potter would’ve thrown a fit if I told him the truth.”
“And what is the truth?” she interrogated with a hard look on her face.
“Greyson owled me. He asked me to meet him in the courtyard in ten minutes.” I explained. “Please don’t tell him.”
She narrowed her eyes at me. “Are you into this boy?” she asked. “You’ve been spending an awful lot of time with him lately.”
“No!” I exclaimed. “I definitely don’t fancy him. We’re just friends.” I said. “Nothing more.”
A moment of silence passed over us. Dom nibbled on her bottom lip as she kept her eyes glued to the ground. “Hey, er, after you’re finished with Greyson, can we talk?” she asked. “I just… I have some things to tell you.”
Trust Dominique to be the most awkward person when it comes to apologies.
“Sure.” I said. “I’ll meet you in the kitchens in an hour or two?”
I hummed all the way down the stairs, and to the south side of the castle. Today was the epitome of a deviation from my normal school day, and it was exactly what I needed. Staying in after class was more than enough to somewhat lighten my mood, despite my nightmare. I, however, refuse to admit the large part that Potter played in making my day 99.99% better. I refuse.
Passing a large tapestry on the second floor, I decided to take the shortcut Potter and Tyler showed me about two years ago. It led straight to the cellar of the clock tower and placed me perfectly in front of the south court yard. The tapestry was thick, heavy, and much too musty for my liking. The tunnel was no better. It was dark, narrow, and humid. I was positive that by the time I reached the other end, my hair would have transformed into a giant untamable, poof-ball monster. Waking through the dark, empty, and disgusting tunnel was faster than I anticipated. The moment I saw light squeezing through the entrance at the other end, I almost squealed for joy. Only a couple more steps until I can bask in familiar, luscious daylight once again.
Once I reached the cellar door, I struggled with the latch. It was old and rusted by the humidity trapped within the stone walls. Eventually, the old metal clicked and with enough pressure applied, I managed to lift the door with both my hands. I was showered with dust, and I groaned with disgust. Sunlight immediately squeezed through the wider opening just as voices filled what was once silence.
“Merlin, why can’t you just listen to me?” The voice sounded frantic, and awfully familiar. “He saw me! He has an idea who I am!”
“He doesn’t know!” A second voice roared. It was Desmond. My heart jumped and I was suddenly afraid to find out who he was arguing with, and what they were arguing about. “All he knows is that you’re a redhead!”
“And how many redheads are there in this school?” she demanded. “You can count them on one hand, Desmond!”
“So what are you saying, Lily?”
Okay… I would have gasped dramatically, but I realized just how much this did not surprise me.
“I don’t know, okay? We’re already deep in a pile of shit right now. My situation with Tyler doesn’t exactly help.” She snapped irritably. “He’s turning the entire castle over trying to look for me.”
Cue the dramatic gasp.
Well turn me over and fuck me sideways.
A/N: SORRY AGAIN GUYS! i'm trying my best to update quick but i'm plagued with never ending writers block. ): i'm not entire happy with this chapter, but this is as good as it gets for now ): unfortunately.
please review! tell me what you guys think so far! :)
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