Chapter 25 : Never Been Anywhere as Cold as You
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Ophelia Youngblood belonged to the Youngblood family, one of the few remaining Pureblood families in the Wizarding world. She was everything that I had assumed her to be – intelligent, gorgeous...but also kind.
She greeted me with a smile when she saw me and immediately, I knew that Ophelia had earned her position of the “it” girl within Slytherin with charm and grace.
“I'm sorry I'm a little late,” I sat down in a huff, my cheeks pink and my eyes still a bit swollen from the crying earlier. “It's been a long day. Shall we begin with questions? What do you need help in?”
She surveyed me with those hazel eyes, leaned forward a bit and pointed to something in the Potions book. “N.E.W.T's are coming up and I'm still having some trouble with the practical part of the exam.”
“The practical part?” I lifted up my brows in question. Most people had trouble with the theory, but could stumble through the practical part with little difficulty. And some people, I thought, had trouble with both the theory and practical part....
That statement brought my mind back to Oliver and I felt my face heat up again. I tried to shrug it off, and turned back to Ophelia.
“You see,” Ophelia was talking again, her voice much deeper than other girls but perhaps lovelier. “Theory is good in all, but I feel ill-prepared for the practical part of the exam. I know which ingredients to use and which have this particular effect when implemented...but, when it comes down to it...” She looked quite embarrassed for a second. “When it comes down to actually creating the potion, itself, most of my concoctions run awry...”
“That's quite interesting,” I replied. “Why do you think that happens? Most people don't understand the theory behind using, for instance, that particular venom,” I pointed to a picture in the Potions textbook, “in this particular potion.”
“I dunno.” Ophelia bit her lips. “I know that that venom in this potion creates a reaction with this other ingredient,” she pointed to the sketched image of the root. “Especially because that venom by itself is extremely toxic and the root is actually quite acidic in itself...”
“I think, personally,” I pointed to myself to make a point. “That theory helps a lot with the practical aspect. If that venom creates a reaction with this particular root, what would happen if you added too much venom or not enough root? What if you mixed in another particularly volatile ingredient?”
“It would explode.”
“Precisely.” I nodded.
“I'm sorry,” Ophelia looked embarrassed. “I'm still a bit confused.”
“Potions is a bit like...cooking.” I fished around in my brain for a metaphor to help her understand it. “You can understand the recipe – like what you have to put in it, and how much of it to add – but how you execute it is as if not more important.”
“Okay...” she looked set on understanding this.
“For instance, cutting carrots,” I explained. “Sometimes, it matters how thick you cut them. You could slice them to be extremely thin, almost transparent, and you can also slice them to be meatier and thicker. This is important because if you add the same amount of the thin slices as the thick slices into whatever you're making – it's not the same.”
“Because thin slices are not enough compared to how much you need...?”
“Yes, and something too thick would be too much.” I nodded. “So in relation to Potions, let's go back to our previous example with the roots. You know how this particular root will react to this other ingredient, but don't think you think how well you cut the root will play a role in that reaction as well?”
“Ah...” Ophelia was smiling at me. “I think I understand now.” She grinned, now, nodding her head. “Because how thin or thick you cut the root is also connected to how much you put into it. If the slices are too thick then you could potentially be adding too much, which would affect the potion, itself, right?”
“Yup.” I nodded. “See!”
Ophelia surveyed me for a moment. “You know, Charlotte, you're a really good teacher.”
I laughed. “Thanks! A few people have told me so, but my friend Alex insists that I'm very impatient sometimes.”
“Patience takes learning, don't you think?”
“Interesting thought,” I gave her a look of my own. “Do you think that we're not all born with patience?”
“Well, some more than others, I think.” Ophelia laughed, too. “I'm as patient as the earth. If you didn't understand Transfiguration, I would have no qualms with spending three days just sitting here, explaining the same principle to you over and over until you understood it.”
“I've never met such a patient Slytherin before.”
Ophelia smiled a wide smile. “Sometimes, I really dislike the four houses.”
“And why is that?” I was genuinely interested.
“There is such a separation, and a judgement.” She cocked her head to the right in thought. “For instance, all the reputations – Slytherins as being jerks, Gyrffindors as being overly-courageous, Ravenclaws as being brainy and Hufflepuffs as taking any and all leftovers.” Ophelia tapped her quill against the desk. “Don't you ever imagine what it would be like if we didn't have categories like those?”
“Regardless of houses,” I replied. “There would still be categories based on silly things like what year you're in or blood superiority or I dunno, those things...”
“You're right.” Ophelia sighed. “Maybe I'm just really idealistic.”
“It's good to be idealistic, though.”
“Really?” She laughed again. “You're the first to have ever said that to me. Others just tell me to get a grip and to deal with realism.”
“I couldn't agree more...” Ophelia sighed. “Say, Charlotte, have you ever considered taking over the position of Potions Master one day?”
“From Snape?” I inquired, my brow raised in surprise. “Wouldn't I have to pry it out of his hands, first?”
“No, really,” Ophelia grinned at me. “I think you would be a really great Potions Master. Maybe in ten years or something, Snape will retire and you could take his place. Or I dunno, go abroad and teach potions somewhere else? Durmstrang? Beaubaxton? Salem Witches' Institute?”
“I dunno...” I said truthfully. How was I supposed to tell her that I was already on a career path?
“Whatever,” Ophelia shrugged, backtracking. “Don't worry about it! We'll figure it out, right? It's not like the future is rapidly approaching and we better pick something quickly, right?”
I gave a shaky laugh. “Right...”
Ophelia's words still hanging above my head like a giant thought bubble, I exited the library and took a sharp right. I dug my fingers deeper into my pockets, took a deep breath and continued on my way back towards the Gryffindor common room.
It was so interesting how even though every person sorted at Hogwarts was different, we were all sort of similar, too.
Ophelia was a Slytherin and I was a Gryffindor, but the two of us had a lot in common. Mothers who pestered and plotted our futures without much inquiry into what we wanted. Parents who squabbled and fought but somehow, despite everything, still loved each other.
She was ambitious and I was ambitious...but in different ways.
Ophelia did what she want and she did it with a smile on her face and a sharp and cunning mind. I did what I was told to do, all without question and without much emotion.
I snapped out of my thoughts when I heard a familiar voice. Claudia? The tone was something different though. Something vicious and cold and knife-like. Her voice cut through the silent hallway, sending chills down my spine.
Another voice pushed Claudia's out of my ears – more emotional, overwhelming...
I continued a few more paces before stopping cold. Their voices got louder, even though they weren't shouting at each other. It was a chorus of emotion – overwhelming, spilling over the edges...cutting through everything else in its starkness. The words were woven together with precision, with care and thought but it was hard to hide emotion when it was there.
I could see Claudia standing in an alcove, close to someone else but her body was obscuring the other person from my view. I quickly ducked behind a suit of armor and continued to eavesdrop.
Claudia shifted a bit and I saw the other person.
“...Isabella...?” I asked myself softly, peeking from the suit of armor's right arm.
She was crying, but her lips were set in a very stubborn line. Her face was an open book. Fury. Unbelievable fury. Fury that brought tears to her eyes.
What was happening? I had thought that Isabella wasn't on speaking terms with any of our little group...that she loathed and hated us because of whatever delusion she had...
Claudia'a face was unreadable. Her icy blue eyes barely addressed Isabella as she said whatever it was she was saying...but her tone was not unreadable. It was icy and unsympathetic and sharp. So sharp that I could feel my heart thundering in my chest.
Their encounter was so unbelievably strange; it was something I thought I would never see.
Seeing the two standing next to each other, I saw the stark contrasts between the two girls. One, emotional and expressive...the other, cold and distant. Blue eyes staring down brown eyes. One with dark curls and the other with straight hair.
But...there were similarities too – the set of their mouths, the way their brows furrowed when drawn together...the stubbornness; neither girl would give up whatever position she took.
Claudia was talking again, speaking a bit louder this time. I couldn't make out the entire sentence because although I was close enough to see and hear their meeting, I couldn't make out individual words or sentences.
But what Claudia said, I heard. Something about a woman named Anita.
I took a breath and ducked when Claudia suddenly turned, her eyes surveying the hallway like she felt like they were being watched. Her attention was brought back towards Isabella when the latter said something offensive – too offensive for me to even think of repeating.
I peeked again, just in time to see Claudia's face flush red in anger as she pulled her hand back and slapped Isabella across the face.
The sound of it rang through the empty hallway, as alarming as the sound of a bell tolling in the darkness.
Claudia turned her back on Isabella and with her usual poise and dignity, walked away from the girl.
Isabella's hand was clutched to her face, and she had stopped crying. Her eyes were dark, almost frighteningly void of emotion as she turned to watch Claudia walk away. Her lips were set in a thin line again, but she didn't say anything as she walked the opposite way, off towards one of the female lavatories.
Anita? The name rang a bell. Digging into the depth of my memory as I continued to hide behind the suit of armor, I fetched the memory of the name Anita.
I headed back to the library. Sidling past students at their desks or looking up books, I headed to the old school records – the ones I had seen Claudia leafing through ages ago. Squatting down, I fingered the various dates before I grabbed the familiar one that Oliver and I had looked through. Cradling it to my chest, I exited that particular section of the library and positioned myself in a dark corner, far from other students.
Anita Perez. That name! It was in here...and what had Oliver said about it? Could she be a relation of Isabella? Her mother, perhaps?
I flipped hurriedly through the old and dusty volume, coughing a bit as dust entered my esophagus and tickled its way down.
“Anita Perez.” My finger landed on her name and my eyes travelled to her moving picture. She had her arms crossed and grinned with reckless abandon. I searched her face for Isabella's features.
Yes, yes...the same nose...those lips...
Was Anita Perez Isabella's mother?
Questions clouded my brain as I set the volume down. I shook my head, and swallowed some of my thoughts as another name caught my attention.
Pieces of the puzzle suddenly began to fit together.
Claudia's mother looked the same. Still beaming and blonde and...haughty. She was a year younger than Anita and not in Charms Club. She was president of the Drama and Choir clubs...and had been president for three years...
It seemed that she had founded those clubs before she left Hogwarts after her 7th year.
Interesting. I closed the volume and went back to return it to its shelf. Claudia's mother...and Isabella's mother...?
“And the plot thickens.” I murmured to myself. “What has Claudia got herself into?”
“You don't BLOODY appreciate me!” She was screaming at him. Screaming so openly and publicly that a few of the First Years trooped up towards their dormitories to escape the onslaught. “You've absolutely NEGLECTED me for these last few weeks!”
“I don't mean to...” Oliver was mumbling, his hands in his pockets, the look on his face that of a child being scolded. “I've been really...”
“Busy. I know.” Isabella's voice turned cold. “Always busy. Always out doing things. Always in the library. Always with that Charlotte girl...”
I had stepped into the common room when I had heard my name. I paused, the crowd shielding me from their sights.
The crowd had circled awkwardly around Oliver and Isabella.
“What is it that you've been doing behind my back, Ollie? What sorts of girls have you been seeing? What shady activities have you been doing?”
“I've been honest with you!” Oliver's voice had risen slightly. He looked at her sideways, his lips still downturned. “I've been studying.”
“STUDYING?!” Isabella snorted, her brows raised to demonstrate how incredulous she felt. “You think I'm going to believe that you've been studying all these weeks? You've never studied before, Oliver! Never before this year! Why the sudden interest in the books?”
“I've told you...” Oliver's voice had dipped down again, his face as red as a tomato.
It must've been so humiliating to be screamed at in public like this.
“Told me WHAT exactly?” Isabella's hands were on her hips, her face suddenly twisting in a way that she looked utterly sinister. “That you're a FAILURE at Potions? That McGonagall would DROP YOU from the team if you didn't raise up your Potions grade?”
I had never seen a boy looked so absolutely downtrodden before. His face was red with embarrassment...humiliation...
“He's not a failure.” It was Fred who spoke up, coming to his friends defense. He entered the fray brazenly. He crossed his arms as he stood next to Oliver.
Isabella laughed in that haughty way of hers. “I know a failure when I see one. You think that you're so bloody great at Quidditch, Oliver? Let's see you get scouted then! I know for fact that four scouts were at the last match and you have yet to receive an offer.”
Oliver looked at her, his eyes blazing.
“You're a bloody bitch, you know that?” Fred said loudly, addressing her in Oliver's stead. “And what you're saying is absolute bollocks.”
“It's not bollocks.” Oliver's voice was small, defeated. He put an arm on Fred's shoulder, letting him know that he should stop speaking. “Isabella's right...” he looked at her, his eyes full of loathing. “I haven't been scouted yet...”
She was taking out her humiliation earlier on Oliver. She was humiliating her boyfriend to make herself feel better...
And the worst part was that Oliver was just taking it.
Fred looked like he was going to say something, but Oliver shook his head at him.
“I haven't been scouted yet.” He shrugged his shoulders. “You're absolutely right.” Oliver surveyed Isabella with another look. “What else have you got to say to me, Isabella? What else will you accuse me of being? Because I'm not a liar or a hypocrite. I know exactly who and what I am – do you?”
Isabella looked taken aback. She looked like she didn't know what to say.
The entire common room stayed silent.
“I acknowledge that I am a failure and that I have limitations and that I am just not good at some things...” His voice was flinty. “I also acknowledge that you're right; I haven't been giving you the attention you deserve and for that, I am sorry...”
I wanted to say something, wanted to give my two sickles. I pushed my way to the front of the crowd.
“But this isn't going to work between us anymore.” Oliver dropped the bomb calmly, his eyes full of emotion, his voice thick with it. “You can't take out your frustrations on me like this because I am not a plaything.” Isabella's face was shadowed with disbelief. “I don't believe in such public scenes...but when you put me in a situation like this – what do you expect me to do, Isabella?”
Isabella's lower lip trembled and for a moment, I saw her eyes take me in, standing right there in the front of the crowd. “It's because of her, isn't it?” She pointed at me, and there were a few hushed voices.
My lips parted as my head began to shake no.
“It's because of that little...little...whore, isn't it?” Her eyes were filling with tears, her voice becoming shrill and high-pitched. Isabella made to lunge at me, her eyes deranged with everything that had happened. “YOU'VE SLIPPED HIM A LOVE POTION, HAVEN'T YOU? YOU WERE DUMPED BY YOUR BOYFRIEND SO YOU'VE ATTACHED YOURSELF TO ANOTHER WOMAN'S MAN. YOU'RE THE LOWEST OF THE LOW!”
Alex appeared out of nowhere and held her back, her grip tight and her face absolutely stony.
Isabella fought Alex's grip, still screaming at me. “YOU'RE A RIGHT WHORE, AREN'T YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HIM? WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN BREWING IN THE LIBRARY, CHARLOTTE? TUTORING OLIVER? MORE LIKE POISONING HIM WITH YOUR POTIONS!”
I was shaking my head. Shaking my head “no” viciously. Why did she have to drag me into this? Why did she have to pull me into this? What did I do to deserve this.
“YOU LITTLE BITCH.” She tried to lunge again, but this time Oliver stepped in front of me and shook his head at her.
“No, Isabella,” he said, his tone almost apologetic. “I gave up on us a long time ago...please, don't do this. You're making yourself look pitiful...”
“Pitiful?” Isabella's voice dropped. “You think I'm pitiful?” She pushed Alex off of her. “You're just like everyone, Oliver...” And her eyes latched onto me again. “And you...” I felt sudden fear clutch my heart as her face, so twisted with hatred, turned to me. “You enjoy this attention while you can.” Her voice was chilly. It was a warning.
Alex stood in front of me, shielding me, one hand holding mine tightly. She stared Isabella down, daring her to try and lunge again.
Isabella took a deep breath and with as much dignity she could muster, she disappeared up the stairs without any more fuss.
“I didn't do...anything...” I murmured, shell-shocked.
“I know...” Alex had turned to me and wrapped me in a tight hug. I clung to her as though I were going to fall. My legs were feeling like jello, all wobbly and unsteady.
“I'm sorry, Charlotte...” Oliver was there too, rubbing his neck, looking awkward. His face was still red and his eyes were still dark.
“You're not a failure, Oliver.” I looked up at him, my body still shaking but my brain set on telling him this. “You work hard and you're kinder than anyone I've ever met.”
He gave me a small smile.
“So please,” I was still clinging onto Alex, but my eyes begged him. “Please, please don't give up on your dreams...”
Author's Note: I said no excuses before so...no excuses. Here it is. Chapter 25. What do you think? I had a really hard time writing it because I was stuck on 1) explaining potions and 2) having to write all the emotion.
It still feels a bit flat to me. :/ And very jumpy.
I want to also say thanks to Gina (justonemorefic) for helping me with the idea that Potions is like cooking. :3 This chapter wouldn't have been able to continue forward without you! Thanks ♥
Please lemme know what you think. :3
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