Chapter 25 : Let's Spice Things Up
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Chapter 25: Let’s Spice Things Up
Alexei’s breath was hot on the back of my pale neck. “See you later, Srenya!” His tough hands reached in front of me, shoving open the door to the broom cupboard. I stumbled out into the corridor, my face completely void of all color as I tried to catch my breath.
Alexei stepped out as well, sneaking behind me toward the Great Hall again. He turned toward me, winked, and disappeared out of sight.
“Isn’t that Black’s girl…?”
I bit my tongue, gathered whatever self-worth I had left, and started meaningfully off in the opposite direction.
“Who went where with a Slytherin?”
Mary, Stella, and Lily looked up, their eyes catching on Casper’s golden-blonde hair. He plopped down next to Lily, looking across the table at his teammates.
“Which Slytherin?” he asked again, patiently placing his worn leather bag next to him on the bench.
Mary hesitated, unwilling to admit one of her best mates was wading in dangerous waters (and with Alexei of all people). Stella, on the other hand, didn’t have such reservations.
“Serena just left with Ale—“
Lily reached out under the table, delivering a swift jab with her foot into Stella’s shin. Stella’s face contorted briefly as she lurched forward to grab her leg, but the look on Lily’s face—a sort of silent warning tone—stopped her in her tracks.
Casper raised an eyebrow, unaware of the unspoken war raging between his companions. “Serena left with a Slytherin?”
Stella scoffed, her mind whirring with what to say. “Did I say Serena?” she forced an anxious laugh. “I didn’t mean Serena, no, I meant Spencer.” She chuckled again, scanning the Great Hall for any sign of Serena, Alexei, or Spencer. “You know, that little Ravenclaw boy?”
“Their reserve beater?” Casper inquired, cocking his head to the side. His eyes scanned the Ravenclaw table. “So where’s Serena?”
“Don’t know,” Lily piped up. “Haven’t seen her this morning yet.”
“That’s weird,” Casper mused. “She doesn’t normally sleep in quite this late.”
“Well you know Serena,” Mary shrugged. “She’s always late for everything!”
Casper began filling his plate with food, thinking silently about the situation at hand. While he was distracted, Mary’s eyes caught onto Alexei who had just returned to the Great Hall. She elbowed Stella, who began searching for Serena’s familiar face. No luck. Alexei looked over, caught their eyes, held their gaze until he sat down at the Slytherin table, and then looked away—a smirk on his mysterious face.
Lily looked down the Gryffindor table. “Have you seen Sirius or James yet today?”
The group exchanged glances, and slowly they each shook their head or muttered a negative. Mary thought back to the night before, how Serena had come back to the dorm late, completely without energy. She had practically stumbled in, flopped onto her bed, pulled off her loafers, and fell asleep. Mary never had a chance to get her to explain what had happened.
What had happened?
Before long I found myself in the library, sitting in one of the corners no one ever bothers me in, surrounded by a pile of novels. It had been a long time since I last sat there and read, but I was too conflicted to crack any of them open this morning. Too much in too short a period.
I hadn’t seen James at all that morning, nor Sirius, and last I had heard Remus was hiding away in the dormitories nursing his nose back to health. For all I knew, the entire group was there with him, but it seemed unlucky considering what had just happened between them.
Why? In all of James’s conversation, he never once stopped to tell me why they were fighting. “He provoked me.” How does one not provoke James Potter? I chuckled to myself briefly, looking down at the books strewn around me. With a sigh, my mind drifted to Alexei with his rough, Russian exterior and his ulterior motives.
I paused a moment, before standing up and walking toward the library doors. No matter how much I wanted things to be static…things would never be the same. I needed to own up to that.
The weekend ended uneventfully. The only time I saw the devilish four-some was solo or in pairs. There were never more than two of them together at a time, and usually one of the two involved Peter since he seemed to be outside of the current conflict.
McGonagall’s punishment for the boys was relatively lenient considering what they were being punished for. Neither James nor Sirius were allowed to have their bruises magically taken care of—making both of them sport their purple/green battle wounds around the castle. Also, the two of them had double-detentions every evening for the next two weeks to help them “work out their issues.”
Personally, I wasn’t quite sure that would even help.
I slumped in my seat, exhausted from the Charms pop-quiz that morning. Fortunately enough, it kept James and Sirius (who sat on either side of me) from ripping each other’s throats out. Unfortunately, however, it didn’t keep me from feeling the rays of tension on every inch of my body. It was a miracle I didn’t get a sunburn from that class period.
“Are you going to help at all?”
I glanced up at Blake who was, with the help of Severus, creating the group potion we were supposed to be working on. Like me, Sirius couldn’t concentrate on ingredient chopping or whatnot with James sitting just across the classroom. Blake shoved a clove of garlic in my direction.
“Cut that, would you?” I reached for a knife, picking up the garlic between my thumb and forefinger. Blake continued with a sigh. “Truthfully mate, I don’t care if Slughorn notices you aren’t working. But Serena, you’re one of his favorites. It’d be a shame if that changed because of something your boyfriend is going through.”
I straightened myself up, putting the clove on its side and beginning to cut it into thin slices. Nodding to Blake, I pushed the slices toward Severus who sprinkled something brown on them before plopping them into the bubbling cauldron.
“Once your cauldrons come to a complete boil, they should begin to turn from brown to silver…” Slughorn lectured, moving slowly around the room with his hands clasped behind his back. “Once it is silver, you need to watch it like a mad hippogriff. Use your wooden stirring implements to keep it from sticking to the sides and bottom of the cauldron. It should turn thicker as you stir it…”
“What even happened?” Severus asked in a small voice, beginning to stir the concoction.
Sirius, who had previously been keeping tabs on his best mate, turned his head slowly to face the direction of Severus’s voice. His face sort of twitched as he processed the question. The bruise on his jaw moved into a shadow, making him look even more ominous than before. I caught onto the look and put my hand on his leg under the table in a small gesture designed to calm him.
Severus caught Sirius’s look and seemed to shrink back a little bit. “Everyone’s talking about it but no one actually knows what happened… So I thought maybe—“
“Then stop thinking,” Sirius spat. “It’s none of your business, Snevelus.”
I had long since known of the unspoken rivalry between Gryffindors and Slytherins—James and the others on the quidditch team wouldn’t let me forget it—but that did not mean that I agreed with it. Sure, Alexei may have been an egocentric arse, but so was James and I didn’t shun him for it either. And the two of them meant the best…most of the time. But Severus? He had never done anything to me, least of all to Sirius.
“Lay off him, Sirius,” I told him, taking the wooden spoon from Severus who had stopped stirring in his shock. I began stirring, leaning over the table to watch the cauldron boil as I moved around the sticky liquid.
Even though I felt Sirius’s eyes on my back, I didn’t let my eyes leave the cauldron. He opened his mouth, narrowing his eyes, but shut it again as he decided not to start something in the middle of a Slytherin/Gryffindor classroom. Fighting with his best mate was the most he could handle for a while.
Blake eyed everyone at the table warily. Although he admired how easily I could stop a fight between Sirius and Severus, the silence that followed wasn’t something he was a fan of. Sirius went back to staring at James, Severus went back to boring holes in his lap with a dead gaze, and I kept stirring the cauldron like it was the biggest fish I had to fry today.
“Miss Colton? How is your group coming along?” I glanced up at Slughorn who moved over to our table a few moments later. He leaned forward slightly on the balls of his feet, looking into the cauldron and inspecting its contents. “Very nice, the four of you. I’m glad I never have to worry about this group; exceptional as always.” He smiled around the group of silent teens before motioning to the front table. “Now if you would be so kind as to bottle a vial of this for each of you, label them, and place them in the cupboard at the front of the classroom, you’re free to go and I will see you all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Wednesday morning!”
I glanced over at Sirius, but he was already half-way up to the front of the room. He picked up four vials, bringing them back so quickly I thought for sure he would slip and fall on his own bitterness. Sitting back down, he placed the vials by my side.
“Thanks,” I told him as I picked up the first one and ladling in a serving of the day’s assignment. Blake labeled the vials as I handed them to him, and soon enough we were finished and Sirius was already on his feet ready to leave.
“I’ll see you for Study Hall,” Sirius muttered as he leaned over to kiss my forehead.
“Uh, okay,” I answered as he bolted toward the door. When I looked back to the table Severus was already shuffling away and Blake had his stuff all packed up.
“See you later, Serena.”
“Yeah, see you…”
He started off toward the door, hesitated, and added, “and good luck with Black,” before turning back around and leaving.
Feeling a little bit abandoned, I now came to the less-fun realization that everyone had left me to clean up the potions table. I sighed. The majority of the class was still working on their potions, but one-by-one they began to finish—bottling their potions and placing them in the cupboard before packing up their stuff.
I picked up the vials, toting them to the front of the room where the cupboard was. I placed two inside and went to put the other two in when I was bumped from the side, sending my and Blake’s vials crashing to the ground.
“Flying bugger…” I cursed under my breath; turning to see who it was that had pushed me.
“My bad.” It wasn’t his bad. It was his intentional bad. Boyko Danes, the elder of the Slytherin beaters who worked alongside Alexei’s younger brother, did not make mistakes. He intentionally went out and achieved what he meant to do. Always.
“Indeed,” I replied as I wiped the silver goop off my knee.
He moved closer to me, reaching up to put his vial in the cupboard. “Alexei wanted me to remind you that he’s waiting out on the pitch.”
I sighed with a huff. “And your boss does remember that I don’t have practice again until tomorrow morning, right?” Boyko gave me a blank look. “Nevermind,” I added with a shake of my head. “Tell him I’ll be there.”
Boyko narrowed his eyes for a moment and stick up his nose. “Tell him yourself; I don’t deliver messages for Gryffindors.”
After that, I filled up another 2 vials before swiftly washing out my group’s cauldron and putting everything away. I had a notion about why Alexei wanted to see me, but even after our broom-cupboard chat I didn’t really know why he wanted to see me today; I had nothing to offer him.
Pulling my bag up onto my shoulder, I began the trek out of the castle and over to the quidditch pitch.
Alexei stepped forward and I stepped back, pushing myself into the wall of the broom cupboard. “Payment?” My voice was sickeningly pleading. I wasn’t afraid of him—what was wrong with me??
Alexei smirked dangerously, but not in the serial-rapist sort of way. Besides, I was sure I could channel the beast within and make him pay for it if that’s what he wanted from me.
“Yes Srenya,” Alexei continued. “Payment.” He paused for a moment, letting my imagination continue to scramble together thoughts of what he could want. “The Quidditch match is only a couple weeks away, you know.”
Quidditch? Of course he would boil this all down to the one thing she could actually help him with.
“Throw the game.”
“Not a chance,” I replied vehemently, swiveling my head back and forth like a lazy Susan. “Not a bloody chance.”
Alexei shrugged, moving toward the door. “Suit yourself, 07.”
I panicked, grabbing his hand and pulling him away from the door. “Don’t.”
Raising an eyebrow, Alexei carefully watched me. He didn’t say anything, like I thought he wouldn’t, making me search for the right words.
“I can’t throw the game…” I started slowly, trying to control my swiftly-beating heart. “James knows when I’m not playing at my full potential.”
Alexei watched me for a few more seconds, narrowing his eyes. “Then lower your potential.”
I blinked a couple of times. “What?”
“You know what I’m talking about. Get yourself bumped to reserve. We can take that Orion guy no problem; you’re the difficult one.”
I couldn’t help myself from smiling. “Was that a compliment, Borshevsky?”
“As much of a compliment as you’ll ever get out of me, Little Colton. I’ll give you a real compliment when you get bumped off first-string.”
My eyes locked with his, and I couldn’t help but feel conflicted. Orion could save the majority of shots that came his way, it wasn’t like getting put on reserve would really hurt the Gryffindor team, but my priorities had changed a lot since a month ago—had it really only been a month? Quidditch was my brother’s passion and it was quickly becoming mine. Was I really willing to bury James’s mistake in return for losing something I worked so hard for? And even if Alexei didn’t tell everyone, what’s to say someone else didn’t hear something?
“You’ve got a few days to make your decision, Srenya. If you’re not off first-string by Saturday, we’ll see how faithful the school will be to your mate once they find out he socked Gryffindor’s Golden Boy.”
When I walked out onto the pitch, I was surprised to find it empty of all Houses (the Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw game was only a couple weeks after the Gryffindor/Slytherin one and they would have wanted to get practices in too). Alexei was the only one there, standing in the middle of the pitch with two brooms and the chest Madam Hooch kept the game balls in. He was holding the Quaffle, tossing it up and down in the chilly October wind.
“What is this?” I looked around, trying to figure out what angle the Slytherin Snake was playing at.
“I figured since we aren’t going to be able to play each other in the upcoming match, we should play a little one-on-one. You know, for fun.” Alexei adorned one of his famous smug grins, his blue-gray eyes sparkling in the afternoon sun. “You up for it, Colton? Or are you too scared?”
“Ha,” I gave a quick, sharp chuckle before narrowing my eyes at the boy. “I’m never scared, Borshevsky. You should know that.”
“Should I?” He asked in a mocking tone, motioning toward the locker rooms. “Go get your gear on. Unless you want to play in that skirt of yours?”
I rolled my eyes, walking off toward the locker rooms at the far side of the field. When I stepped into the building, a rush a stiff, warm air hit my face like a brick wall. I quickly stripped out of my uniform, adorning myself with the red and gold armor I had become quite fond of over the past few weeks. Practice tomorrow started at six because of James and Sirius’s evening detentions, and although I didn’t know how my muscles would object in the morning, I doubted playing against Alexei today would keep me sore throughout the night. It was just a bit of “fun.”
Moving out onto the pitch, I held my hand out to the broom laying at Alexei’s feet. “Up.” Zooming toward me, I grabbed the broomstick and mounted it. “You ready, Borshevsky?” I asked, looking over at him with a half-smirk on my face.
Pushing off, I watched as Alexei followed suit, Quaffle in hand. “Get in the ring, Gryffindor. I’ve got class in an hour.”
The sun was high in the sky, considering it was nearly three in the afternoon, and even with a chilly breeze it was a hot day for the middle of October. The sun’s rays beat down on the back of my neck and I knew that by the time we were done here I would most definitely be sweating by the heat alone. I closed my eyes momentarily as another burst of cool air surrounded my body. Opening my eyes back up again, I made my way in front of the goalposts.
“You ready, Srenya?” Alexei called from his place in the middle of the pitch. “I’m not going easy on you just because you’re a girl.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to,” I hollered back, watching him carefully with slightly narrowed eyes.
Half an hour later, the fabric of my shirt stuck uncomfortably to my chest. It may have been built with breathable fabric, but the combination of October heat and the massive amounts of calories I was burning seemed to put it out of commission. Alexei was good. And I wasn’t just saying that because he was the Slytherin Captain.
I thought back to Quidditch try-outs, when I was able to figure out my opponent’s tells—their little twitches and such—and figure out where they were going to shoot toward. Alexei? Nope. He didn’t seem to have a single tell at all and it was killing me.
Alexei reached up to his forehead, wiping it off with the back of his hand. When his spoke, his voice came in slightly-raspy gasps.
“Not bad, Colton.”
I took a moment to breathe in some glorious oxygen, rolling my shoulders and cracking my neck to loosen up.
“Not too bad yourself, Borshevsky,” I replied, a smile playing on my lips. “Though you might get a few more in if you actually aim for the rings.”
Despite my attack on his style, Alexei chuckled loudly. The Quaffle was tucked away under his arm as he bobbed up and down slightly in the wind.
“And, although highly unlikely, you might actually save a few more if you open your eyes,” Alexei retorted with a smirk stretched wide across his face.
I flew sideways between the rings, unable to let him go without figuring out a way to bring him down. It was maybe 50-50 between us now and if I did end up playing him in the upcoming game, I wanted to push the odds in my favor.
“Go again?” I raised an eyebrow, watching him as he tossed the Quaffle back and forth between his hands, moving his fingers nimbly as he did so. I wish he was on our team instead of against us, I found myself thinking. We could use his killer throwing arm and impeccable aim.
Alexei looked up at the skies, gauging the time. “I suppose I can waste a few more minutes.” He flicked his gaze to me, winked, and hurled the Quaffle in my direction.
When my alarm went off at five the next morning, I wanted to use an unforgiveable curse on the person that set it. …until I realized that individual was myself. And then I just wanted to blast a hole through it and go back to sleep.
“Serena get up!” Stella screeched in my ear, holding the alarm closer to my bed in hopes it would get me up faster. “We have practice in an hour!”
I tried to turn over, but my body literally wouldn’t allow me to do so. Every muscle in my body screamed at me, howling in pain and agony. I groaned, wondering if it would even be humanly possible for me to get up.
“I don’t think I can,” I responded over the noise of my alarm.
Mary walked out of the bathroom, making a beeline to Stella and smacking off the alarm. “There. Isn’t it her decision whether she goes to practice or not?” Mary said with a shrug. “She’s probably one missed practice away from giving Orion a spot on first-string, anyway. Why not give the boy a chance?”
Stella gave an audible sigh in resignation. “I suppose so…it is his last year here, after-all.”
Reserve… Orion… My mind clicked onto Alexei and I snapped my eyes open. If I got bumped to reserve before I had the chance to make up my mind about Alexei’s deal, I would never forgive myself. “No, no, no,” I moaned. “I’m coming, I’m coming…”
It took concentration in every part of me (plus the help of Stella and Mary) to get me out of bed and onto my feet. Mary gave me a questioning look; Stella was the one to ask questions.
“What, did you shag Sirius so hard you’re still sore?” Stella questioned me, raising an eyebrow.
I narrowed my eyes at her in a way which I hoped said “bugger off.” Felicia, who was already dressed and walking toward the dormitory door, piped up with, “that would be her first time, Stella. Obviously Miss Serena isn’t the kind of girl to shag and run. Why would she be over here?”
Stella thought about it, bobbing her head from side to side. “I suppose not. So why are you so sore, Miss Serena?” Stella teased, punching my arm teasingly.
“Owwwwwwww,” I moaned, grabbing my shoulder.
Felicia narrowed her eyes quizzically, but slipped out of the dorm nonetheless. Even as a reserve seeker, she was never late.
“Seriously, Serena, what’s wrong with you?” Mary asked as she carefully applied a thin line of eyeliner around her baby blues.
I thought for a moment, wondering if I was supposed to keep the scrimmage with Alexei a secret… Especially since that could be considered Quidditch-suicide. For all I know, Alexei now knows all of my secrets… “I was hardcore practicing Quidditch yesterday for a while.”
“Really hardcore, apparently…” Stella said with raised eyebrows.
I made my way toward the bathroom, a fresh pair of skivvies in hand. Ignoring Mary and Stella’s conversion about how I was doomed to pass out ten minutes into practice, I shut the door behind me and proceeded to take one of the fastest showers I had taken in a while. I was still very, very sore, but the scalding water seemed to ease the pain in my muscles a wee bit—enough to make even the slight ache seem nonexistent as I lathered up my hair, covered my body in soap suds, and rinsed everything off again.
Out of the shower within five minutes, I dried off with my replacement wand and pulled on my skivvies before trudging back into the dorm.
Lily, who had rolled over in bed, peaked out through her curtain to see what all the commotion was about. “Put some clothes on, would you?” she scolded, pulling her curtain closed again. “Some of us are trying to sleep and all the talk about you getting it on with Black is making me a tad bit queasy.”
I knelt in front of my trunk, rustling through it to find a clean uniform. “I did not ‘get it on’ with Sirius,” I insisted (with a lot less vigor than I should have used if I actually wanted to convince anyone of my virginity-innocence). “I would like to think that if that had happened, that I would have told all of you of my shagging-endeavors.”
“Minus the fact that I do not covet knowing about of all your shagging positions, I agree with that statement,” Lily called from behind the curtains of her four-poster bed.
Finding a clean jumper and skirt, I pulled them on—careful not to tuck my skirt into my skivvies or anything completely embarrassing like that. I jumped around, pulling on my socks and loafers before remembering I hadn’t put any make-up on yet and my hair was still flopping all over the place like a beached whale.
“Aren’t you ready yet?” Mary groaned, flopping back onto her bed.
Stella shrugged. “I actually have to meet Edmund,” she confessed, glancing over at the clock on her end table. “We planned on grabbing breakfast in the kitchens before practice.”
“Are you insane?” I called from the bathroom as I quickly slopped on cover-up. “Or, better yet, is he insane? Why is Edmund up at five thirty in the bloody morning?” Brushing through my hair, I pulled it up into a ponytail. “Doesn’t he know classes don’t start into half-way through the afternoon today?”
Stella stuck her head in the bathroom, grabbing a spray bottle of her peach-smelly stuff off the counter. “He likes to get up early and run when he can,” she explained rather defensively.
“No need to get all mama bear on me, Stell,” I teased, putting my hands up. “I’m just joking with you.”
“I’m not though,” Mary piped up. “Stella, you better get out of here if you want time with Loverboy before practice. Serena, let’s go before you pass out again.”
I turned my face left and right, making sure my make-up wasn’t leaving weird lines on my face before deciding I was ready for action. I may have been sore as all get out, but that doesn’t mean I had to look it. Stella grabbed her book bag, rushing out of the dormitory in search of her Edmund in Ravenclaw armor. Mary and I made our way rather leisurely down to the Quidditch pitch, not wanting to be too early to something that I, personally, didn’t know if I could handle today and Mary never really was ready for in the mornings (after nearly breaking her arm during James’s suicide drills, she wasn’t really ready to go into practice on any morning, to be honest).
It was a quarter to six when we arrived on the pitch, and it didn’t sound like much of the team was there yet. Blake was wandering around the pitch, tossing the Quaffle up and down, spinning it on his fingertips, and kicking it up in the air with the sides of his feet. Up in the stands, sitting with Felicia, was Turner—both were dressed in their Quidditch uniforms and ready for practice.
Mary and I made our way into the locker rooms, feeling the warm air hit our faces as we went to our respective cubbies. There hadn’t been any Quidditch practice since last week, and I could tell Mary was going to have trouble getting back into the swing of things. We changed quickly (or as quickly as I could with every muscle in my body yelling at me to go back to sleep) and made our way back onto the pitch, passing Stella as she made her way into the locker room to change.
James and a more of the guys were on the pitch now, flying around and warming up. James dropped a Quaffle down and I caught it with an unhappy grunt. He frowned, touching down next to me.
“You don’t look so good, Wolf-Girl,” he told me. “What’s up?”
I examined him. Other than the fading bruise around his right eye, James looked like he always did. His broad shoulders were pushed back, his stance the same as always and his brow furrowed in scrutiny.
“You don’t look so good yourself, Captain,” I replied with a nod to his bruise.
James’s fingers unconsciously reached up to touch his face. He stopped himself, shaking his head and crossing his arms over his chest. “I’m fine.”
I shoved the Quaffle toward him, having no need for it myself as a keeper. “So am I.” James frowned so I continued, “just a little sore, so I might be a tad bit off my game today.”
He nodded, “fair enough.” He glanced over at the clock up in the stands. “Alright, everyone!” he hollered, making me flinch. “Up in the air!” James turned back to me, his eyes flitting over my body. “Just…take it easy today, Serena.”
I almost found myself rooted to the ground as he said those words. They were spoken so softly that it didn’t sound like they came from James Potter at all. Surely, the bruised eye also meant bruised ego and this was just something he would deal with for a few days until he, Remus, and Sirius made up.
I forced myself to move forward, picking a broomstick up off the plush grass of the Quidditch pitch. Mounting the broom, I pushed off and once again felt the sharp jab of my muscles constricting in protest. I groaned, trying to swivel my torso in a desperate attempt to loosen up my body. Stay nimble, I thought to myself. Stop flying like you’ve got a board strapped to your back. My mind jumped back to my first flying lesson with James, but I shook the thought out of my head.
I made my way into the rings across from where Orion stationed himself. The rest of the team touched off, splitting off into two practice teams. James was facing me, bouncing the Quaffle around in his hands for a moment before blowing the whistle around his neck and starting the game off.
James sped in my direction, throwing the Quaffle to Dalton who dropped it on accident when Mary sent a Bludger hurling in his direction. He managed to skillfully avoid the Bludger, but not without losing the Quaffle entirely as Stella swept in, grabbing it, and making her way toward Orion’s goalposts.
Pass. Pass. Pass. It was like a hypnotist was trying to put me to sleep. Pass. Drop, pass. Finally, James got control of the Quaffle again, and he threw it up, bashing it with the end of his broomstick and sending it spinning (quickly) in my direction. My eyes snapped open and I pushed my aching body to react way faster than it wanted to. I dove, but at the same time I did so my muscles contracted so much that I felt like someone had pushed the abort button on my actions. Every muscle in my body locked up and before I knew what was happening, I was hurdling toward the ground.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I know it's been a really long time since the last chapter was updated, and I can't really promise when the next one will up, but I can tell you that I have fallen in love with this story all over again, so the chance of another chapter being up before the month is out, is very probable! I love you all so much for sticking with this story! -KBD
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