Chapter 11 : Lose my Way, Like Every Day
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"Quills down! Leave your parchment where it is! I'll collect it," Umbridge ordered. She sounded both shrill and cheerful at the same time. I'm positive that every person in the room rolled their eyes, and I was no exception.
I joined the crowd of students heading for the door as the same high pitched voice called my name. "Ms. Callaghan, I would like word." I paused for a second and closed my eyes, hoping I'd imagined it.
When Mel muttered, "I'll meet you in the hall," I knew I hadn't. Slowly, reluctantly, I spun on my heel and walked in the opposite direction of the door, stopping a few feet in front of her desk.
She observed me for a moment before speaking. "It seems that you've taken my advice to heart, Ms. Callaghan," she stated pompously, a satisfied smile screwing up her already unattractive face.
"What?" I asked confused. I hadn't the slightest clue what she was talking about.
"I told you, only a few weeks ago, that you are the company you keep. It seems that you've seen that I am correct."
"Ummm..." There's no way one person could be this stuck on herself. Not to mention, it bothered me that she watching who I spent time with.
"It seems," she continued, unaware of my blatant confusion. "That you are willing to do what it takes to rise to the top, to be part of the cream of the crop, if you will." She beamed at me. "Oh, you do remind me of myself at your age." I was doomed. I felt utterly ill; Umbridge was the absolute last person that I wanted to be compared to. After a few seconds of silence, in which the squat woman in front of me gazed around lovingly at her wall of cats, and I became paralyzed in fear that I may one day do the same, she spoke again. "You are going into your final year of school next September, you know. Have you considered the possibility of being made Head Girl?"
I literally laughed out loud. It wasn't a booming guffaw or persistent cackles, but a short bark of laughter erupted from my throat. The next moment I realized she was serious, as she hardened her expression. Well that probably changed her mind. She cleared her throat quietly, and leaned forward like she was going to reveal a secret. I felt like I probably should have leaned forward too, but I couldn't bring myself to get any closer to her.
"If such a position is something you desire, I want you to know that I am strongly considering you for the job." She said it in a voice barely louder than a whisper and leaned back again after.
There were another few seconds of silence before I voiced one of the many thoughts that were racing through my brain. "But you don't pick. Professor Dumbledore does." It wasn't a question; it was a statement. She was insane if she thought that Dumbledore was going to allow her to pick.
She stood up a little taller and let out an oddly pitched squeak. "Well, we'll just see about that, now won't we? Now off with you. It's time to eat dinner. Accio parchment." All of the copied lines came zooming toward her, falling into a neat pile on her desk. She sat down and began to look for something in one of her drawers. It was as if I was no longer there, so I took it as my cue to leave.
When I got outside, Mel was chatting with some seventh year Hufflepuff, flicking her hair about and laughing at something he said. As I approached them, he smiled at me politely and then excused himself, heading away from the Great Hall rather than towards it.
"What was that about?" Mel asked me curiously as we began walking. I could hear a laugh begging to escape.
"She's a total nutter is what it was about," I muttered. The last thing I wanted to do was rehash that conversation. No one in their right mind would make me Head Girl. Dumbledore certainly wouldn't, and he also certainly wouldn't let her have that responsibility.
"She should just start a fan club," Mel said, laughing.
"Yeah, I know. It's terrible." I grimaced, and then added, "Can we talking about something else?"
"Sure. How do you feel about-"
"No." I answered simply. I knew what was coming.
"But I haven't even finished my sentence!" Mel huffed.
"Don't care." For the past week, Mel had been scouting out other boys for me, despite my protests that I didn't want to date anyone. I know she thought that I was still upset about everything with Fred, but I can say with complete honesty that I was officially done with him. And I wasn't even upset about it really, so I wasn't going to waste my time thinking about him. It wasn't worth the trouble; besides it was going to be the holidays in a month, and I really didn't want anyone to feel obligated to buy me a present. Unfortunately, my opinion didn't matter, or possibly even exist, to Mel.
I walked around for an entire week as she interrogated me about liking one bloke's haircut or preferring another's eyes. It was maddening. "Well, if you don't want to cooperate with me, then I guess we'll just have to do Hogsmeade together this weekend. It's probably for the better anyway. I need to do some Christmas shopping, and browse around for your birthday present, and honestly, Finn, please just shut up because, like every other year, I'm getting you a gift. I don't care whether you want it. It isn't about you."
"How is my birthday not about me?" I asked her, sitting down to the Ravenclaw table and spooning some potatoes onto my plate.
"You're the one who's made it that way, always telling me that it doesn't matter to you. Well, that's fine, but I've decided it matters to me, so I'm going to make myself happy and buy you a present," She said resolutely and waved her hand dismissively.
"Okay," I replied. Choosing to agree was easier than arguing with Mel; I almost never won, anyway. We both started eating and stopped talking in a comfortable silence.
As we ate, Cho Chang joined us, sitting down to my left. Her best friend, Marietta Edgecomb also arrived at the table, taking a seat on the opposite side of the table. "Hey guys," Cho said.
"Errrro," Mel greeted her cheerfully, though a mouth full of carrots.
I smiled pleasantly.
"So I have something to tell you." Cho was speaking directly to me now, and I nodded my head for her to continue. "It's a little...confusing." She paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and began speaking once more. "So, Harry told me, that Hermione said that Ron was supposed to ask Harry if he would tell me to tell you, that George said that-"
She'd lost me at the second mention of Harry. "Cho, is there a point to all of this?"
She sighed, defeated. "Apparently Fred Weasley really wants to talk to you, but he's stubborn and daft and can't figure out what he did wrong or something. I think that's what Harry was trying to say. I don't really know. Are you dating, Fred Weasley?"
"No!" The answer flew out of mouth, and I think a tiny amount of saliva may have also. Mel crinkled her nose in minor disgust.
"Oh, okay. I was just asking because I think you'd be cute together." Cho accepted my response rather calmly. Her words were bubbly and friendly, and I paused for a moment.
"Mhmm. I think you should go for it," She smiled at me.
What was I doing? "Oh, no. No, I don't, uh..nope." Her smiled shifted slightly, like she knew something I didn't. Then she simply slung her bag over her shoulder, stood from the table, and walked away. She was quickly forgotten, as I thought about what she had told me. Fred wanted to talk to me. Maybe he was going to apologize, but did I want his apology? The truth was I didn't know. I had already established that he'd turned out to be much more trouble than he was worth.
Apparently Mel agreed. "What a git," she announced, verbalizing my thoughts. After a few moments of silence, she punched me in the arm.
"Bloody hell, woman! What was that for?" I hissed and grabbed my arm.
"Because you're going to talk to him," She scolded me. "You think I can't read you or something, but this Fred shit is just written all over you. Why don't you just shag and get married and get on with the whole thing?"
"I'm not going to talk to him." I was surprised at how offended I actually sounded. "Really, I'm not. I swear." She gave me an extremely condescending look.
"Why don't you meet him in Hogsmeade on Saturday? I'll need time to buy your present anyway," she suggested, ignoring my proclamation.
"I'm not meeting him anywhere," I insisted.
"Uh huh," she replied dryly, rolling her eyes. I was also certain that I heard her mumble something about 'except maybe in a broom closet,' but if Mel can selectively ignore my statements, then I can do the same to hers.
I browsed the aisles of Honeydukes on Saturday, searching for a Christmas gift for my little sister, Hailey. In her extensive five years, there were few things Hailey had found that she loved more than sweets, so against all of my father's wishes I had begun buying her wizarding sweets since my fourth year at Hogwarts. For the past two years, I would sneak into her room, after she'd been put to bed, and wake her to give her the present. She was always my favorite sibling, and I adored hearing her giggle and watching her eyes widen at the foreign products I presented.
I started out small with Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. Sure they were weird, but there wasn't anything that would automatically signal something beyond the Muggle world, and she loved them. The more disgusting the flavor, the more pleased she seemed. Last year I'd gotten a little more adventurous, presenting Hailey with a few Chocolate Frogs. The expression of pure amazement on her face as she chased the frogs around her bedroom made the whole risk worth it. It eased my conscience knowing that any Muggle who heard a four-year-old talk about them would simply think she had an over active imagination.
This year, as I examined a box of Fizzing Whizzbees, I debated whether or not levitating my little sister off of the ground was going a bit too far. As Mel came strolling down the aisle, arms full of candy, I decided that a hovering Hailey was perfectly appropriate. Again, no one was going to believe she'd actually left the ground. "Are you ready?" Mel asked, desperately trying to balance the tower of boxes she was carrying.
"Yep," I answered. I couldn't help but smile as I imagined Hailey's reaction.
"That's all you're buying?" Mel questioned, as we made our way to the front.
"It's just for my little sister," I answered her again. Mel knew I bought Hailey candy each year.
"Nothing for your brothers, then?"
"They're just picky," I answered. The truth was my brothers Greg and Sean, at ten and eight, respectively, were more reliable sources, and if their stories ever matched up, then I would have some explaining to do. I always left their shopping until I arrived home for the holidays, where I made it out to Muggle shops to buy them something, along with my father and step-mother. Mel didn't need to know all of the details.
"Okay," Mel replied, seemingly satisfied, as the cashier of Honeydukes rang up her purchase.
Once we had both paid and exited the shop, Mel checked her watch. "It's already noon. Let's split up, so I can get your present, and then I'll meet you in the Three Broomsticks. Alright?"
I sighed and grumbled an "Okay" as I swear I saw her glance around for something, or more likely someone. She smiled innocently at me before turning and walking up the street. I let out a large puff of air and stuffed the Fizzing Wizzbees into my pocket. I had an unfortunate suspicion that Mel had done something that I was going to kill her later for. I prayed that I was wrong.
I pulled my cloak tighter around me and lowered my head against the wind. The sun seemed abnormally bright for late November. I momentarily wondered where Cho and Marietta were, and if I could latch onto them to avoid...other people.
Glancing up, I saw exactly the sight I was hoping not to. Cho and Marietta were nowhere to be found, but Fred and George Weasley, Lee Jordan, and Katie Bell were huddled together across the street. As much as I tried not to notice, the two of them were holding hands. I quickly averted my gaze; there was always something that bothered me about people holding hands. It just seemed pointless. I didn't get it.
I shook my head to myself and began to walk away, when I heard Fred call my name. "Hey Callaghan!" Why couldn't he ever call me by my first name? Ever. I did have one. My whole name wasn't just Callaghan.
For a brief moment, I considered ignoring him, but he'd probably just keep bothering me anyway. I picked my head up a little, and looked in his direction without actually looking at him. Then George, standing a few feet to Fred's left, waved me over. Maybe Fred thought I was less likely to ignore his brother.
I guess he was right because I found myself walking over to their group, my eyes still focused on everything but the four faces studying me. "Yes?" I squeaked out, annoyance ringing through.
"Can we go talk?" The voice sounded like Fred, but it definitely came from George. Even while focusing on the space around them all, I could clearly see George's mouth move from my peripheral vision. Then it occurred to me that of course their voices sounded similar. They are identical twins. I wanted to say no, but I was having trouble plucking up the courage. My feet shifted from side to side, and I bit my lip. Clearly, my legs were hoping that I would just book it out of there. I was trying to not look like a complete fool though, so I kept myself in the same spot. Without meaning to, I actually looked at George, who was patiently waiting for my answer. His eyes locked right onto mine. I stopped moving, and just stood, staring dumbly at him for about fifteen seconds.
It was then that I realized that I was a bloody idiot.
A/N: Oh, hi. Can we talk about how it hasn't been two months since I last updated and it’s the longest chapter yet? It woulda been sooner, too had the queue been open. Reviews?! Comments? Predictions? Criticisms? I’d love to hear ‘em.