“No.” He said fiercely. “Not until she wakes up.” Aiden had an expression on his face that told me not to argue, so instead, I sat down beside him, and watched his face as he glanced down at Lauren.
The thought just came to me, so casually, floating through my mind, but I instantly knew it was true. Aiden loved Lauren. I wasn’t sure to what extent. Maybe it was just a brotherly love. But he did, to some degree.
I felt a piercing pain, in my heart. Because, if I was being honest with myself, I could never have that kind of love. Not if I wanted to live. And my self-preservation skills were kicking in as the end of the year drew nearer. My instincts were naturally flight over fight.
As I watched Aiden worry over Lauren, I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. It was slowly bubbling over, until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and bolted. I ran. I just ran, not paying any attention to where my feet were taking me. I scampered over the stone of the castle, until it wasn’t stone, it was grass, and eventually forest floor.
I curled up in a ball at the base of a big oak, and realized that hot tears were spilling over my cheeks. What had I done? I felt monstrous, like some devil reincarnate. I was trying to destroy the ones I loved. What kind of sick human being does that?
Of course, it was Al that found me the next morning, curled up in the same position I had cried myself to sleep in. He didn’t say anything. He just sat next to me. He didn’t even try to prop me up. He just sat.
Finally, after about fifteen minutes, he broke the silence. “It wasn’t your fault. About Lauren.”
If only he knew.
“I—I know.” I lied, feeling sick.
He helped me off the ground and entwined his fingers in mine. I felt my heart break a bit more.
I stayed in bed on Monday.
I almost got to the Hospital Wing on Tuesday.
“Delilah. Lauren’s awake.”
I don’t remember getting to the Hospital Wing. I just remember ending up there, sitting at the end of Lauren’s bed while the others fawned over her. I sat there, just being thankful that she was alive, until even Aiden left.
Lauren turned her attention to me. “It wasn’t your fault, you know.” She said quietly.
“Yes it is.” I said. Madame Pomfrey passed Lauren’s bed, helping a boy carry another limp girl to another bed next to Lauren’s. She was unconscious, and as soon as the boy and Madame Pomfrey left, I felt it safe to talk. “If I had just stayed at Salem, none of this would have happened.”
Lauren looked at me curiously. “I don’t see how you coming to Hogwarts has anything to do with me getting poisoned.”
And then I spilled everything to Lauren. I was beginning to feel a bit unsafe about my secret. Jared knew, although I hadn’t seen him since the train ride back to Hogwarts after Christmas. Arianna and Cinda of course knew. And now Lauren knew. That made four people, plus me making five.
But Lauren deserved to know. She did almost die because of me, after all.
“And we have an exam coming up in Charms, so we need to study for that, and that essay in History. And there’s that bit of practice for Transfiguration. And, by the way, I love you.”
Delilah, who was bent over her paper, slowly raised her head. Her electrifying blue eyes met mine, showing confusion, disbelief, and a little bit of fear.
“Didn’t catch that last bit.” She said in a shaky voice.
I mentally cursed myself. It wasn’t supposed to slip out that way! There was supposed to be roses, and candles, and a blanket—the library was totally unromantic!
“I—I love you?” It came out as more of a question than a statement. My voice also shook. I didn’t think I could bear it if she didn’t feel the same way, but in an odd way, I’d be okay with it. Delilah was far too good for me. I could understand if she’d want to be with somebody else.
“Um,” She said. Not what I was looking for. “Well—erm.”
I felt myself turning scarlet. I bent back over our study schedule that we were drawing up, and continued down the list.
“And for Arithmancy, we need to study for that quiz.”
She didn’t feel the same way. Dammit, I went to fast. Told her too soon.
“Ancient Runes needs a bit of word too—”
“I love you too.”
I looked up so fast I almost cricked my neck. “What?”
“I love you too.” She tried to hold my gaze, I could tell, but she turned red and looked away.
It was if another, braver person was possessing me. I pushed myself away from the table, knocking my chair over, and strode around the obstacle that was blocking me from her. She looked up at me in surprise and I kissed her on the mouth, hard.
Delilah reacted instantly, standing and wrapping her arms around my neck. I deepened the kiss, and I felt her leaning into me, sighing in content. In that moment I realized, Delilah was perfect. In every way. In the way she moved, in the way her hair fell down her back, in the way her eyes had this way of shining when she was happy. Perfect.
“Inappropriate conduct in the library! Out! Get out!” Delilah and I broke apart to see Madame Pince standing before us with an outraged expression on her wrinkly face. She waved her wand angrily and our books and bags started chasing us to the doors, smacking us over the head. I grabbed Delilah’s hand and dragged her into a broom cupboard nearby.
We spent a moment trying to catch our breaths, trying to avoid each other’s gazes as we took in what had just happened. I chanced a glance at her, and she looked up in the same moment. I couldn’t help it. I giggled. As in, legit giggled.
What is wrong with me? I’m a man! I don’t giggle. James would kill me if he found out!
This time Delilah reached up and kissed me. “You,” She said, drawing away for a moment, “Are adorable.”
And I didn’t even care that she had just inadvertently insulted my manliness. I just wanted to freeze the moment in time forever.