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Welcome to Blunderland by peppersweet
Chapter 12 : { 11 }
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 10


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At least the water was warm. It was only as I was plunging down below the surface, the air from my lungs turning into a stream of bubbles, that I realised I probably should have used the ladder. The way I’d gone in had resulted in far more splashing than I’d have liked.


But the water was warm, deliciously so, the perfect temperature a bath should be, and when I broke the surface it was like ploughing through a carpet of bluish soap bubbles. I took a deep breath, swept my sodden hair out of my face, then grappled with my steamed-up glasses – I’d forgotten to take them off, and they were hanging off my ear by one leg. I set them on the side, feeling a bit sheepish.


Without my glasses, though, Albus was just a vague blur on the far side of the pool/bath. I couldn’t even tell if he was still hiding his eyes or not.


‘Sure you didn’t look?’ I said, so far under the water that the bubbles touched my chin.


‘Sure,’ he said.


‘Cool,’ I said. ‘Er…I can’t see.’


‘Huh?’


‘My glasses…’ I meant to indicate to my face, but just ended up flailing about in the water. ‘Can’t see too well without them. You’re so blurry…’


He swam forward a bit. ‘Better?’


‘Almost…’


He came forward a bit more, until he was about a metre away from me and perfectly in focus.


‘Better now?’ he said.


‘Definitely.’


‘Good,’ he said, and then ducked his head under the water.


I momentarily freaked out, given all the promises he’d made about not looking. So I took another deep breath and sunk back down through the bubbles too. The first few moments were of suffocation; I was blinded, with my eyes squeezed shut and my breath held – but then I forced myself to open my eyes again.


The soap didn’t sting my eyes, weirdly, although I guess it was enchanted not to do that. I wanted to breathe more than anything but, through the surprisingly clear water, I could see Albus, his dark hair floating around his head like a sort of halo. He waved to me, and ripples spread through the water from his fingertips; it barely even occurred to me that he definitely was looking now. Somehow, it didn’t seem to matter now we were underwater.


It kind of reminded me of when I was small, when my dad used to take me to swimming lessons at the local pool. I didn’t really care much for the actual swimming, though, and it took me way longer than the other kids to get my first swimming badge. I just liked the whole novelty of being in water far too much, and I was always having way too much fun pretending to be a mermaid to actually work on perfecting my backstroke. Except then, it had been drifting underwater with my eyes open and burning with chlorine, and all I’d had for my pretend ocean floor was grotty tiles and the forest of pale, pasty legs kicking past me. And now I just had Albus, grinning and waving at me whilst my laughter came out in strings of bubbles, but I still felt like a child. Still felt awkward and shy and stupid.


So I told myself not to be any of those things, because they wouldn’t do me any good. Of course there was no similarity between the five-year-old me in the municipal pool and the sixteen-year-old me on a date in the prefects’ bathroom, of all places. And so it did me no good to think about that too.


I needed to come up for air, though, and kicked upwards a moment or two later. Albus shot up a moment after I did, hair plastered to his face.


‘I come here all the time,’ he said, sweeping hair out of his eyes. ‘It’s really relaxing, but it’s kind of hard to explain to people where you’re going…’


‘Can’t you tell them it’s the prefects’ bathroom?’


‘Yeah, but they’re not supposed to know…I don’t even want to know what they think I’m doing.’


I giggled. ‘Tell them you’re going to the library, it tends to make anyone shut up.’


‘I already spend enough time in the library,’ he grinned, kicking backwards. ‘They think it’s weird…’


‘What’s so weird about the library?’ I followed him, and the two of us drifted out into the centre, although I still tried to keep everything but my head underwater.


‘Well, normal people don’t tend to go to libraries for fun…’


‘I go to the library for fun!’


‘Yeah, but neither of us are normal, are we?’


I stopped, my toes only just reaching the tiles at the bottom. I was getting out of my depth. ‘Al, you’re, like, mega normal compared to me.’


‘Everyone seems to think that,’ he said. ‘I think they disregard the whole Weird Sisters fanclub, chocolate frog addiction, library thing.’


‘Yeah, but at least you’re not in Hufflepuff…’


‘Hufflepuff is a cool house,’ he smiled. ‘Loyal, hardworking…’


‘Good at eating, more like,’ I said.


‘I’d kill to be in your house,’ he said. ‘Do you actually do these, er, midnight biscuit runs I’ve heard of?’


‘Sometimes,’ I shrugged. ‘Me and Fauna pop over now and again to get cakes.’


He narrowed his eyes. ‘Forget you coming to Gryffindor, you’re taking me to Hufflepuff one of these days.’


I smiled. ‘Your house is a bit more fun than mine.’


‘No excuses,’ he grinned and, before I could respond, had ducked under the water again.


‘Al-’ I started, then breathed in and dived down after him again. Even up close, he was still a bit blurry, the refracted light playing tricks with his eyes so they looked more green than hazel. If his hair was like a halo in the water, I wondered what mine looked like – he seemed to be thinking the same thing, because he reached up and wound his hands through it, mouthing something through the water that might have been ‘cool’. Then, he pulled me towards him and kissed me.


I knew I couldn’t have held my breath for much longer anyway, and the surprise of being kissed made me breathe out, suddenly, in a stream of bubbles that I followed up to the surface, gasping for air again. When Albus popped up a second later, I tried to laugh it off, but I think he could tell I was already pretty on edge and didn’t try to kiss me again.


It sort of made me a bit mad inside. I mean, I’d been frigid, four-eyes Flora for life and I wasn’t exactly doing much to change that.


He held up his hands. ‘Look,’ he said. ‘I’m going all prune-y.’


‘Probably time to get out,’ I said, embarrassed by how quivery my voice was. The cynical bit of me that had somehow come into being over the Christmas holidays was there, in my head, going, oh, come on, get a grip: one kiss and you freak out, how typical.


‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Half an hour to curfew.’


‘I promise I won’t look when you get out,’ I said.


He grinned at me. ‘I wouldn’t mind.’


That said, though, I made sure I kept my eyes respectfully on the water as he got out. It was a bit difficult, though, when I could still feel that underwater kiss on my lips and my heart in my throat.


‘You’re alright to look now,’ he called out, sounding awfully amused. I swam over to the ladder and climbed out; to my surprise, he was already back in his school trousers, shirt half-buttoned.


‘Drying charm,’ he said, noticing how I was gaping at him. ‘Flora, you are so looking.’


‘You said you didn’t mind!’


‘I don’t,’ he shrugged, doing up one of his cuff buttons. ‘Especially since you don’t seem to mind me looking at you-’


I went bright red again, snatching my glasses up from the tiled floor. He chuckled and turned away, fiddling with his other cuff. I was glad he’d reminded me that drying charms even existed. My mind was too blank to have come up with that solution on its own. My own drying charm was pretty patchy (I kept thinking about how ironic it’d be if I overjudged it and set my knickers on fire, liar that I was) and it was tricky trying to shove my damp feet into my tights, but in a couple of minutes I’d wrestled my skirt and shirt back on. I’d done up about half of the buttons when Albus turned around and tapped me on the shoulder.


‘Do you want me to walk you back to your common room?’ he said.


‘If you want.’


It was the tiniest of gestures and I almost didn’t see it, but I noticed his eyes flicker down slightly.


‘Albus…’ I said, and his eyes met mine again. ‘You’re looking…’


He put on an expression of the utmost innocence. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’


I was listening to the cynical voice in my head and trying hard not to be awkward, so I didn’t flinch away or finish buttoning my shirt as fast as possible or anything, even though there was a part of me that really, really wanted to put my jumper on. Instead, I kept my head up, and said ‘thanks for this. It was cool.’


‘Something different,’ he shrugged.


My face was going red again and I was struggling to find something to say. ‘I…I really…it was nice.’


‘Yeah,’ he said.


It was like being underwater again; he wound his fingers into my wet hair like it was rope, pulled me close so that we could kiss. And even though I still felt awkward, I tried my best not to be shy, not to pull away from him and hide my face like I always did. With the cuffs pulled down over my palms, my hands knotted round the back of his neck to bring him closer still. The cold tiled wall bumped up against my back and, in surprise, I actually broke away for a minute, drawing in a trembling breath; his hands unwound themselves from my hair and tilted my face up to his again, closer, as the tip of his tongue traced the line of my lips and then parted them.


It occurred to me more than once how this would look if someone, like, Albus said, came charging in. The two of us, half-dressed, hair still damp, intertwined, my shirt unbuttoned to the waist and left sleeve slipped from my shoulder. It had seemed so innocent when he’d asked me to meet him earlier and I’d never imagined it might end up like this, although it’d be wrong to admit that I hadn’t privately daydreamed about it once or twice. It was easy to forget all this, though, as his hand slipped along the curve of my bare shoulder, along my side, coming to rest on that precise point where my ribcage ended. Despite best efforts to get rid of my shyness, I couldn’t help but flinch and broke away with another gasping breath. He laughed under his breath and kissed me on the cheek instead, but I was still short of air, dizzy, even, breath deep, shuddering. So he pressed his lips to my neck, tracing a careful line above my collarbone, over my artery, and I could only think about how he must have picked up my frantic pulse with every kiss. He was careful as you like, but I was so shy and so unused to all this that, when his teeth brushed against my skin, my gasping breath came out as a sort of pathetic moan.


He pressed his lips back to mine, laughing under his breath again, but I think he could tell I’d freaked myself out; I was gripping onto his arms so tight my nails were almost digging into his skin, putting a clear inch of space between us.


‘Can’t remember if the door’s locked,’ he murmured, lips on my cheek.


The blood rushed to my head in a sudden, dizzying burst, like flashbulbs were going off behind my eyes. ‘Don’t…d-don’t want people charging in…’


‘You’re right. I should probably check,’ he grinned, and I let go of his arms so he could make it over to the door without me hanging on like some dazed barnacle. Once he’d turned away from me, I sunk back against the wall again, head predictably giddy, knees predictably weak. It made me a little jealous to think that he’d probably done this sort of thing enough not to turn into a human jelly like I had.


‘Definitely locked,’ he said, as I fastened up the rest of my shirt with quivering fingers. When he walked back over to me, though, he was frowning.


‘You alright?’ he said, hesitant.


‘Peachy,’ I breathed.


‘I didn’t…freak you out, or-’


‘No, not at all.’


He pulled aside the unbuttoned collar of my shirt and I tensed, thinking, for a moment, that he was going to pick up where we’d left off. Instead, he gently touched a finger to a tender spot on my neck.


‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I’ve given you a bruise.’


My face flushed scarlet again. ‘It doesn’t matter-’


‘Lovebite, whatever you want to call it,’ he said, his grin lopsided, colour rising in his face.


I brushed his hand away and buttoned my collar to the top. ‘It’s fine,’ I said. ‘It was…fun.’


Sure I didn’t freak you out-’


‘No, more like…fun is an understatement.’


He laughed, again, as I stooped to pick up my jumper and pull it over my head. ‘Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you about it getting steamy in here-’


‘Shut up,’ I giggled, feeling the awkwardness brought on by my own ridiculous nerves melting away.


We went about gathering up our robes and bags and, at the door, he stuck out his elbow so I could slip my arm through his as we walked back.


‘Thanks for coming,’ he said. ‘I’m usually alone in there.’


*



It was lucky Albus was a prefect, because it was after nine before we got back to my common room. Outside the door, he kissed me on the cheek before wishing me a good night.


‘Thanks again for this evening,’ I said, calmer than I was back in the prefects’ bathroom. ‘I had a nice time.’


‘Are you free tomorrow?’ he said, and I must have looked really hopeful or something, because he laughed and said ‘I’ve got that History of Magic essay to do and I wondered if you fancied going to the library…’


‘If we can go somewhere afterwards,’ I said, and it kind of surprised me to hear how coquettish I sounded.


‘Cake raid on the kitchens?’ he said. ‘Yes, good. Usual spot in the library at two, then?’


‘Yep,’ I smiled. ‘See you there.’


It was somehow a bit more difficult than usual to walk across the common room. My hair was still a bit damp and I must have reeked of soap, plus my face was probably still a radioactive, luminous pink. A quick scan of the room showed me that Fauna and Scorpius weren’t there, so I just went straight up to my dorm, thinking I’d maybe use an early bedtime as an excuse for getting on with the Runes essay I’d been set that afternoon.


I was about two paragraphs in – even though well over an hour had passed – before the door opened and Fauna came in, looking just as radiantly embarrassed as I had when I’d got back and her school scarf wound around her neck.


‘Hello,’ she said, seeing me sitting up in bed in my pyjamas, parchment trailing over the duvet. ‘Early night, huh?’


‘You’re back late,’ I said. ‘Curfew was an hour and a half ago.’


‘Forgot the time,’ she pulled off her scarf and hung it on the end of her bed. ‘I’ve got that slip Lucy’s cousin signed, anyway, theoretically I’ve got prefects' permission to stay out until midnight…’


‘So why didn’t you?’


She raised an eyebrow at me. ‘Because…we didn’t really want to break curfew?’


‘Live a little,’ I said, realising the irony of that coming from four-eyes-Flora, who was currently writing about the meaning of the rune Eihwaz. ‘What, did you go up there to snog where people couldn’t laugh at you?’


Her eyes narrowed a little. ‘No, I went to show him the constellations.’


‘Is that what they’re calling it these days?’


She pulled off her glove and threw it at me. ‘Shut it, you. Where were you this evening? Scorpius said he’d asked you to come but you were busy.’


‘Out with Albus,’ I said. ‘It was fun.’


She didn’t press on any further, and I wondered if she’d clocked the purplish mark on my neck and put two and two together herself. ‘I don’t mean to rain on the parade,’ she said, kicking off her shoes. ‘But have you and Scorpius fallen out or something?’


‘Yeah, kind of,’ I said.


Her voice was suddenly cold. ‘It’s bloody ridiculous, you never fall out.’


‘Well, first time for everything.’


‘What’s he even done to you?’ she said.


I knew there was no way I could tell her the truth, so I shrugged. ‘You know he hates Albus. Maybe it’s-’


‘He doesn’t hate Albus that much, Flora. As far as I know he didn’t even write to you over Christmas, did he torture Willoughby or something?’


She was trying to joke, but it wasn’t very convincing. She looked far too upset for that.


‘It’s nothing,’ I said. ‘We’ll get over it.’


‘You better get over it. I hate arguments. Will you come tomorrow night? We’re going again, I’ve got this Astronomy homework to chart the sky over the course of a week-’


‘I can’t,’ I interrupted. ‘I said I’d take Albus to the kitchens.’


‘We’re not even going out until seven,’ she said, looking hurt. ‘You can bring him, you know.’


‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’


‘Well you’re not exactly going to make Scorpius warm to Albus that way, are you?’


‘I don’t care if Scorpius likes him or not.’


‘You used to. You really used to.’


There was an awful silence.


‘I don’t care anymore,’ I said. ‘It’s Scorpius’ problem, not mine.’


‘Don’t be so stubborn,’ she snapped. ‘It’s not like either of you are ever going to tell me what’s going on but I know he wants to be your friend still-’


‘Like I said, his problem, not mine-’


‘Well, maybe it’d be a good idea to talk to him one of these days!’


‘We talked at the end of Ancient Runes today, actually,’ I said.


‘Yeah, well,’ she shrugged, and it seemed like the fight had gone out of her. ‘Fat lot of good that talk did, Flora.’


‘His problem,’ I repeated. ‘Not mine.’


Fauna gave up completely, snatching up her pyjamas and vanishing into the bathroom. I tried to restart on my Ancient Runes essay, but it was even harder than before. My mind had been full of the hour or so I’d spent with Albus then, but now it was full of how I was going to try and resolve the whole thing with Scorpius without Fauna ever knowing the reason we’d fallen out in the first place. As much as I felt he deserved getting dumped for it, I didn’t really want her to know that her boyfriend had snogged me before he’d asked her out. And I wasn’t even sure if he was using her to get back at me or what, although I didn’t really think he was capable of that.


When Fauna came back out of the bathroom she was all smiles again, as if the exchange we’d had before she’d flounced off to brush her teeth hadn’t even happened.


‘You’ve got a bit of ink on your neck, by the way,’ she said, riffling through her schoolbag. It kind of amused me to think that she hadn’t put two and two together and thought that it was innocent enough to be an ink smudge, and I actually giggled without meaning to. She sat up, Transfiguration textbook in hand, and gave me a funny look.


‘It’s not ink,’ I said.


She seemed to get it. ‘Oh, right…’


Copying me, she settled down on her own bed with her Transfiguration homework, and the two of us worked silently for a couple of minutes. Well, alright, she worked silently: my mind was still a riot, flipping back and forth between the two boys in my life.


After about five minutes, she looked up and caught my eye.


‘You will…try, won’t you?’ she said hesitantly. ‘I mean, you will try to sort things out with Scorpius, right?’


‘I don’t know,’ I said.


‘It’d mean heaps to me if you did,’ she said. ‘Especially if you’d come out with us tomorrow evening.’


It kind of hurt a little bit to see her so hopeful when I knew we’d both disappointed her so much already. ‘I’ll try,’ I said. ‘But I can’t promise anything.’



a/n: fancied writing something a bit steamy. took steamy a bit too literally. harder to write than I expected, but I hope you liked it anyway! it's been lovely hearing your thoughts in the review box, guys, but please remember to keep it 12+! thanks for reading ♥


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