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Chapter 2 : The Bird Without Her Cage
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Again, this is for LyrisLovegood’s BreakUp Challenge, and I don’t own anything except for Melinda Plinkett.
It’s been six months since I broke up with Albus.
Six months of bigger and brighter flowers in my hair.
Six months of acting like a loon without caring what people think.
And six months of being quite alone.
In fourth year, I was an eccentric loner. I had very few friends, and acquaintances were scarce as well. When he asked me to Hogsmeade, I was shocked that someone had actually noticed a bookworm like me.
It was near Valentine’s Day. I was alone in the library, writing a Transfiguration essay. I was so immersed in the textbook that nothing in the outside world could distract me from my work.
And then, as fate would have it, I was distracted. Someone tapped me on the shoulder, startling me half to death. I jumped, sending my books flying all over the table. I had always been skittish. Angrily, I turned to face my “attacker,” ready to tell him off for disturbing my valuable study time.
I blushed and swallowed my harsh words when I saw Albus Potter scrambling to pick up all of my belongings. My anger was banished as quickly as it came. After all, it wasn’t often that cute boys sneaked up on me in the library… Or ever, for that matter.
He stacked the books neatly beside me and sat down. “Hi Melinda,” he began. “I didn’t mean to scare you, but I just had a question.”
“It’s really fine. I’m easily startled by the slightest things,” I squeaked. I wasn’t used to people talking to me. I was a social outcast who spent all of her time studying. No one went out of their way to speak to me except to ask about schoolwork.
An awkward silence ensued as I analyzed the strange situation. He was near the top of our class, and he was looking kind of queasy… This definitely couldn’t be about homework. I decided to go for the safe approach: self-deprecating humor.
“Well, if I haven’t scared you off with my excessive strangeness, then ask away! What can I help you with?”
He laughed nervously, “I was just wondering if… Umm, if you’re not busy this weekend—And if you want to, that is…”
I couldn’t figure out why he was suddenly mumbling and trailing off in all of the wrong places. “If I want to what, Albus?”
He took a deep breath and tried again. “I was just wondering if you’d like to go to Hogsmeade this weekend. With me.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Since third year, I had harbored a secret crush on the boy in question, though we had never spoken before. I often found myself staring at the back of his head in History of Magic and watching him laugh at meals in the Great Hall. And now, here he was, mumbling and stuttering over asking ME to Hogsmeade! At that moment, I decided that I did indeed believe in fairy tales.
But despite my initial elation, I was still a Ravenclaw. “Logic” was my middle name, and Albus Potter WAS a Slytherin. They were renowned for making fun of other students, and their acting skills were top-notch. That adorable stuttering could be part of a master plan to trick me into thinking that he liked me, when in reality, he was just acting.
Instead of squealing like a stuck pig, I eyed him warily. “This isn’t some sort of practical joke, is it?”
He only shook his head and smiled. “Definitely not. I guess what I’m trying to say is that… I like you, Melinda Plinkett.”
“Oh!” I gasped. Could this really be happening to me? “I-I like you, too, Albus. I would love to go to Hogsmeade with you!”
“Good.” He smiled and stood to leave. “I’ll meet you in the entry way at ten, yeah?”
“Yeah…” I watched him walk away, my Transfiguration homework forgotten. I had never felt so out-of-breath in my life…
His smile made my heart flutter and holding his hand left butterflies in my stomach. On that first Hogsmeade date, we hit it off instantly. We had many things in common: a love of Charms; a fondness for The Weird Sisters, despite their tremendous age; an uncontrollable addiction to chocolate… The list went on for days. Over the summer, we wrote endless letters to each other. Even as our fifth year drew to a close, our conversations and laughter were still going strong.
But in the summer after fifth year, we changed. I fell in love with fashionable hair clips, especially flower hair clips, a trend that Albus considered preposterous and childish. He got an internship in some silly Department at the Ministry and forgot to make time for me in his busy schedule.
I only saw him twice last summer, and once was because we ran into each other in Diagon Alley when we were buying schoolbooks. It was obvious that something was wrong with our relationship.
Despite my premonitions, we continued dating when we went back to Hogwarts for sixth year. That’s when the awful fights started. Oh sure, we’d had our tiffs and petty disagreements before, but they were nothing compared to the commotion we’d cause in the corridors.
They would break out with no warning. One minute, we would be laughing about something, and the next, we would be yelling.
“You may practice the Aguamenti charm now, ladies and gentlemen,” Professor Cogswheel said. He had been lecturing us on the practical theory of the charm for nearly an hour, and the class buzzed excitedly as they prepared to fill their goblets with water.
“Aguamenti!” I shouted confidently. In my enthusiasm, I flourished my wand too vigorously and the jet of water missed the goblet that I was aiming for. Instead, it veered sideways and hit Albus in the face.
“Miss Plinkett! A little more careful next time!” Cogswheel was always calling me out for being too zealous with my wandwork in his class. Charms was (and still is) my favorite subject, and I tended to get a little too excited about new spells.
At Cogswheel’s admonition, our classmates turned to witness the spectacle. They burst into laughter at the sight of my boyfriend, who looked like a drowned rat, spluttering as the water dripped down his glasses and onto his robes. Eventually, I started laughing at him, too.
“Oh, Albus, I-I’m so sorry!!” I sounded insincere because I couldn’t stop laughing. Albus cast a drying charm on himself and turned to look at me.
“This isn’t funny, Melinda,” he growled. “You made a fool out of me in front of everyone!”
I looked around, my mirth quashed by his dangerous tone. The people in the room seemed to have already forgotten about the mishap. Not a single person was still paying attention to Albus or me. I had hardly made a fool of him, but I wasn’t going to push my luck by starting an argument.
“It was an accident, Albus! I’m really sorry…” I trailed off as he glared at me again.
“You laughed at me, Melinda. What kind of girlfriend are you, anyway?”
That stung. I sat down, opening and closing my mouth, though no words came out. Albus proceeded to cast a perfect Aguamenti charm seven times over, completely ignoring me for the rest of class.
The apologies were the worst part. He would send an owl to the Ravenclaw common room, requesting my presence in the evening in some random corridor. I was usually the one at fault, or he convinced me that I was, so when I met with him, I gave him elaborate apologies and promises that I knew I couldn’t keep.
Albus’ eyes glittered behind his glasses in the torch-lit hallway. His prefect’s badge, pinned perfectly on his robes, gleamed coldly as if it had just been polished. He was intimidating when he wanted to be. I approached with caution.
I stopped a few feet from him, and he closed the distance between us with a formal embrace. I let myself hug him back, but I knew what he really wanted. After he pulled away, I had my apology at the ready.
“Albus, dear, I am so, so sorry for laughing at you and making a fool out of you in Charms this morning. It was a stupid thing for me to do. I didn’t know it would hurt your feelings so much, but believe me, if I had known, I would never have laughed. I made a huge mistake, and now I wish that I could take everything back. I can’t stand to have you angry at me. Please, darling, won’t you say that you’ll forgive me?” As I babbled, I watched his stony, unwavering expression. I would do anything if he would forgive me, but it was his decision. It was always his decision. All I could hope was that he was in a forgiving mood.
To my great relief, he smiled after I finished, though the smile did not reach his eyes. “Of course I forgive you, Melinda. Just promise me that you’ll try to stop being so silly in public. It’s childish and unbecoming for people like us.”
Tonight, I had groveled enough to earn his forgiveness. I reached out to hug him again, more tightly this time than the last.
“I promise that I’ll do better next time,” I whispered, knowing that it was exactly what he wanted to hear.
He would always accept my apology, as long as he deemed it sufficient. Sometimes, if I was remorseful enough, he would snog me right there in the corridor.
Eventually, his kisses became sloppy and passionless. It was like kissing a dead codfish, for Merlin’s sake! In his heart, he didn’t care for me anymore, though in his words, he assured me that he did. His attitude began to affect me in the worst way possible. I felt like a singing bird in a cage: I wished to be free of my problems, but I was afraid to leave the confines of my cage.
October was full of pointless fights and awkward silences. By the time I finallyadmitted it to myself: He just doesn’t love me anymore, it was near Halloween. We were fighting again.
“Why do you have to be so stupid?!” Albus yelled. “You insist on doing childish things over and over again, and though you say you’ll stop, you never even try! How do you think your behavior reflects on me? My friends laugh at me for dating you! They say that you’re crazy. They say that you wear those stupid flowers to get attention. And you know what? I’m starting to agree with them.”
I was floored. He had made a few comments about my hair-flowers before, but never had he condemned me for them. Never had he called me crazy or cared what his friends thought. He had changed from the sweet boy I once knew into a vengeful control freak.
Tears formed in my eyes as I looked up at him from my seat on the cold, stone floor. “I’m sorry, Albus. I didn’t mean to disappoint you.”
He just looked at me disdainfully and walked away. He didn’t care about me any more, and maybe he hadn’t cared for a very long time.
That was when I knew what I had to do.
I Owled him that night, asking him to meet me on the Grand Staircase the next afternoon. I told him that I truly wanted to make everything better for both of us. It was the first time I had ever lied to him, and the first time I had ever set up a meeting, but he Owled me back, saying that he would come.
Our relationship used to be pleasant, but I knew that we were no longer right for each other. When I told him it was over, he walked away and never looked back. In those bittersweet moments I regretted my drastic actions, but I refused to cry. It seemed foolish to sob over what was once so happy and carefree.
But oh, how I missed him sometimes. For a few weeks, anything could bring up a random memory of our time together.
The snow fell in flurries, adding to the gigantic drifts around the castle. Albus and I were playing in the snow on the day before Christmas break, fifth year. For a while, we threw snowballs at his cousins and made snow angels in a row by the Black Lake. But then, he pulled me aside.
“I want to go for a walk.”
We walked along the lake hand-in-hand, content with each other’s silence. Soon, the noises of rambunctious students died away. We were alone together, and it felt right.
Abruptly, he stopped and pulled me in for a warm hug. I was surprised, but pleased nevertheless. Albus was slightly formal even in those days, but he sometimes did spontaneous things that only made me love him more.
He lifted my chin and kissed me softly. I kissed him back, and soon we were snogging unashamedly.
Almost too soon, the kiss ended, but we were still rooted to the snow-covered ground. An eternity passed as I stared into his gorgeous eyes, wishing that the moment would never end.
He drew me closer in his arms and touched his cold nose to mine. “I love you, Melinda Plinkett.”
It was the first time he had ever told me that he loved me. In all of our conversations, we had skirted around the subject of love, unwilling to ruin our relationship by taking things too fast. For several months, I had been on the verge of saying those three words, but I was so unsure how he felt that I didn’t want to chance it.
Now, I could say it all I wanted.
“I love you, too, Albus Potter.”
Sorry… I still like to think back on the good times every once in a while. I’ve forgiven him for the bad.
Unfortunately, the forgiveness hasn’t gone both ways. Since our break-up, Albus has gone out of his way to avoid me. He won’t speak to me, which is normal, I suppose, but it goes beyond that. He won’t even look at me, and when he accidentally knocked me down in the corridor last week, he kept walking without asking if I was okay. On the one occasion that a teacher partnered us for a project, he left me to do all the work and didn’t help at all.
I don’t mind all of the ridiculous things he does to avoid me now. I understand that he took our break-up to heart, and he has a tendency to hold grudges. We all go through grief in different ways, right?
In the six months that have passed, I haven’t found another boyfriend, and I haven’t really tried to look for one. Boys complicate things, I have learned, and they tend to stay away from nerds like me. Before Albus, no boy had ever taken a romantic interest in me at all. My social life has regained its normalcy. After all, it’s not like I was in high demand to begin with!
Though I am no longer dating him, I have so many memories that I can look back on with a smile. He taught me so much, not just about being in a relationship, but about what kind of a person I am.
My inclination to ignore what other people think of me has been reinforced by my time with Albus. People’s opinions may be good or bad, but it’s my own opinion of myself that counts in the long run. Having someone tell me to change for them to be able to love me just isn’t worth it.
I loved him once, but his chapter in my life has ended. A new chapter has begun, and I am now living life with wild abandon, chasing down my daydreams and achieving my most impossible goals.
Let the caged bird fly free.
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