Chapter 22 : In The Art Of Misery
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Disclaimer: Think about it, would I be here if I owned Harry Potter?
Dance, this is the way they'd love
If they knew how misery loved me
- Dance, Dance - Fall Out Boy
Night had well and truly fallen. Everything around me was dark, making the lights of the marquee shine in the night time. If I scrunched up my eyes the lights blurred into a world of color and sound. I focused my eyes again, and for a second it was still blurry. I shook myself and everything felt normal.
I was dizzy, light headed, but the pain wasn't there. With every step I felt more confident, more reckless. My heart was in my mouth, my legs had never felt stronger, my ankles were completely stable. I could have run to the marquee, if I wasn't currently on Owen's arm.
Our whole group walked down the steps, under the flaps of the marquee, and into the party.
It was magnificent. Everything was bright and colorful, swirling and shifting before my eyes, almost taking my breath away.
Molly and Arthus were dancing on the huge dance floor, surrounded my cheering and laughing people. The whole room was filled with witches and wizards, talking loudly, laughing, singing along to the popular song from the band that was playing behind the dance floor.
I noticed James, who had followed the rest of us out of the house alone, lookingly abnormally sulky. It wasn't exactly the desired response I had hoped for. James turned away from the rest of us, and headed off in another direction
I turned to Owen, who was admiring the marquee, "Where's James going?"
He shrugged, before he pointed over my shoulder, "Over there, by the bar. Looks like he wants to be alone, I guess."
Suddenly Ginny approached us, looking stunning in a sleek black cocktail dress, "Look at all of you!" she exclaimed, admiring all of her nieces and nephews. Her eyes flickered over me, "You look beautiful," she smiled.
I wasn't used to people telling me that, "T-thanks," I said, "So do you."
She smiled, "It's quite a change." Then she shook her head, "Sorry, that was rude."
"It's OK," I said, "None of this was voluntary anyway."
"You can thank me later," Max snorted from behind me.
"Are you sure you can walk like that?" Ginny frowned suddenly, "Don't you need your chair?"
"I've been practicing walking a lot," I said, "And I took a painkiller." And four more after that, said a voice in my head.
Ginny still looked skeptical, "Take good care of her, won't you all?" She eyed the others, who all nodded profusely.
She walked away to chat with Fred's mother Angelina.
"May I have this dance?" Owen asked me teasingly.
"You may," I grinned, resolving not to be embarrassed any more. Tonight was going to be the best of my life.
As Owen led me into the throng of dancers, I noticed something. Finally people weren't looking at me strangely, wondering why I wasn't wearing clothes that fit me properly, or why I had let my long hair get into such a mess. I felt my new hair brush the space between my shoulder blades and a little smile tugged at the corner of my mouth.
"What?" Owen grinned.
"Nothing," I smiled.
I froze suddenly, remembering that my dancing was not exactly up to scratch.
Hell, my ability to move my legs had not exactly been up to scratch.
Owen seemed to sense my sudden apprehension. He took both my hands in his and grinned, swinging my arms gently back and forth.
"It's easy," he laughed at the terrified expression that was all over my face.
"Didn't realize you were such an expert," I answered skeptically.
The music bounced lightly, the sound of the drums echoed around my head, making me even dizzier. People seemed to be jumping and dancing faster and faster around me, until I could no longer make out their distinct shapes.
Owen answered my skepticism by releasing one hand, spinning me out and then back in.
"You'd better believe it," he laughed. I was so taken aback that I laughed out loud, all my apprehension gone completely.
I started to move, stretching out my legs which hadn't been used properly in months. They seemed to move like water.
"See?" Owen grinned. "Not so bad, is it?"
"It's alright," I agreed.
But just as I had begun to get into the rhythm of the music, it suddenly ended, leaving a much slower one in it's place.
We both stood there awkwardly for a moment, as people seemed to pair off into couples. I swallowed, looking around me for someone I knew.
"This one's a bit easier," Owen said. I turned, finding him closer than last time.
He steadily put both arms around my waist, and I put my arms gingerly around his neck.
Was this how people danced slow? Was I doing it right? Did I have to look him in the eyes? Or should I put my head on his shoulder? Did it mean I had to kiss him at the end? Because I didn't want to. How did you dance with someone who you have a platonic relationship with? Fuck, I was such a loser.
"Nice song," I said, trying to fill the weird silence between us.
"Yeah," was his only reply.
Fuck, now what did I say?
I opened my mouth to spit out another random piece of small talk, when someone spoke for me.
"Can I cut in?"
Owen glanced at the person behind me, and immediately took his hands off my waist.
He rubbed the back of his head awkwardly, "Uh, sure."
I turned, already knowing who it was.
James had an almost sour expression on his face, as he put his hands where Owen's had been, only this time I felt a shiver go up my spine. I put my hands around his neck, wishing it didn't have to be so close.
"What's wrong, James?" I asked him sullenly. I hadn't forgotten this morning, when I had caught him flirting with Fiona.
"Nothing," he said, though his voice was practically a growl.
"Something's clearly wrong," I insisted.
He avoided my gaze.
I glared, feeling angrier by the second. What was his problem? "Fiona's over there, if you need to finish what you started this morning," I said cuttingly, jerking my head towards Fiona, who was busy giggling at some guy's joke.
James glared right back, "Nothing happened."
"You seem pretty sure, for someone who I saw-"
"Roxanne told me what you saw," he snapped, "Or what you think you saw."
"I know what I saw."
"Really?" he snapped, "Because if you'd opened your eyes, you'd see that she came onto me."
"I'm sure Fiona would be happy to confirm that. Let's ask her shall we?"
I remove my arms from his neck and turn towards Fiona. But before I can get more that one step away, he grabs my wrist and brings me around to face him again.
"What?" I smirked, "Afraid she'll tell me a different side to the story?"
He was too close for comfort, the heat from the other dancers building around us.
His eyes bore into me, flickering briefly over my bare shoulders, before they moved back to my face.
"Nothing happened," he insisted.
I almost believed him. I would have, but I heard Fiona's familiar cackle from behind me, setting my teeth on edge all over again.
I pulled my wrist out of his grip, feeling more furious than ever. "I thought after Faye, maybe you'd think a little."
"D'you know what? Shut up!" he snapped, his face livid, "You're all going on about how I should be thinking more, after what happened with Faye. But if any of you had half a brain, or any faith in me whatsoever, you'd know that I would never do something like flirting with my best friend's girlfriend. You must think really fucking low of me."
He threw me a look of contempt, before pushing backwards through the crowd, clearly wanting to get as far away from me as possible.
But soon he stopped, staring at me with a mixture of disbelief and fury.
"Is that why you did this?"
I swallowed, feeling suddenly self-conscious, "Did what?"
"This," he gestured up and down at my dress, "Is this some sort of revenge for you seeing me with Fiona? What is it? Why are you doing this?"
"I-" I was scared. He looked so unhinged. "I don't know."
"Yes, you do," he said, walking back slowly towards me, "You did it to make me jealous. You think that I'll fall madly in love with you if you put on a dress and chop off your hair. Well, if you think I'm going to fall for a few extra inches of leg, or a new hair cut, then you must think I'm truly stupid."
I stared at him, suddenly feeling as though I was in one of those terrible dreams, where everyone was looking at you, and they could see every one of your thoughts. Only I couldn't wake up.
"I didn't do it for that," I said hoarsely, feeling dizzier by the second.
"Really?" he said mockingly, "You hate this crap."
"Maybe I don't," I snapped, "How would you know?"
"You wouldn't spend your whole life pretending to be a boy, if you didn't hate being a girl. You wouldn't spend your whole life afraid of being remotely attractive, then suddenly change your mind just to ensnare some bloke. "
I glared at him, feeling anger boiling up inside me, "That's right, James, that's the only possible reason. I'm so ugly, and so desperately in love with you, that I thought the only way to get your attention would be to suddenly metamorphose into a female, even though I'm petrified by the idea of makeup. Ooh, what's this? A dress? Oh shit, what will I do? I never knew I was a girl until now, because I was just so fucking hideous. But I was just dying to impress you, because I was so enraged with jealousy, because I'm so fucking inferior to you."
He looked momentarily stunned, "Look, Charlie-"
"Fuck you, Potter," I said, and I stormed off, leaving him alone in the crowd.
* * *
I felt as though I would suffocate.
There were too many people around me, moving and pushing me around. Charlie was getting further and further away.
"Shit," I muttered, putting my hand to my forehead. "Charlie!" I shouted after her, "Charlie, wait!"
She was already too far away, running past the crowds of people, the flowing blue silk of her dress being all that was visible. The music had drowned out my words.
Why had I said that? Why did I always have to put my bloody foot in my mouth?
She wasn't ugly. In fact she was so painfully far from ugly that it made me feel physically ill. My stomach was churning with the alcohol that I had swallowed before barging onto the dance floor and getting Owen to back off. Seeing them together had made my blood boil uncomfortably.
I ruffled up the hair on the back of my head, standing there awkwardly in the middle of the crowd. People had started to stare, wondering who I was and why I had just been yelling at the girl who was now at the other end of the marquee.
Suddenly it was too hot. The air was humid and warm, and no matter how I much I tugged at my tie, I felt as though I was choking.
Pushing my way through the throng, I headed straight for the bar. There was no way that Charlie would ever believe me now. No matter what I said, she would always assume the worst. And that was no one's fault but my own.
I had screwed up. I had gone and dated Faye Hamel, and ruined everything between Charlie and I, possibly for good.
The lump in my throat began to feel more and more prominent, and I asked for a fire whisky.
"Mate, aren't you underage?" The bartender asked me suspiciously.
"No, I'm not," I replied, "Just ask my dad. I'm sure you know him. His name's Harry Potter."
The bartender nodded silently, before sliding a fresh bottle towards me.
After that I felt even worse. I never liked using my parentage to get favours.
I took a long swig from the bottle, and the liquid burned my throat. Everything suddenly seemed brighter, louder, faster. It made me giddy.
Stumbling outside, the cool night air hit me square in the face. I took in a deep breath, trying to clear the thought of Charlie from my brain.
It was no use. All I could see was the scathing look she'd given me before storming off. That glare that only meant she loathed me.
I closed my eyes, but that was even worse. Because against my closed eyelids all I could see was Charlie walking slowly down the stairs, her hair, her eyes, her legs. Fuck, what was happening to me?
I opened my eyes, finding myself completely alone, but for one person.
Fiona was standing before me, a soft, sultry look in her mischievous eyes.
"Hi," she grinned, taking a step towards me.
"Hey," I said, and wasn't surprised to find my words had already become slurred. I took another sip from the bottle.
"What are you doing out here?" she asked me, staring at me fixedly.
"I'm not really in the party mood," I replied.
She was suddenly too close for comfort. The smell of her was overpowering. She put her hand on my arm.
"Me neither," she said suggestively.
The tone of her voice was unnerving.
"Want some?" I asked her, offering the bottle.
She took it, and drank. I watched her. She watched me.
"Where's Fred?" I asked her.
She shrugged, "Off talking to that veela girl. They have a history, clearly."
"Sucks for you, I suppose," I replied.
"Not really," she sighed, "Not now that I have company."
I took the bottle back from her and drained it. It burned my stomach, and I scrunched my eyelids closed with the sharpness of the taste. But then all I saw was Charlie, coming down the stairs, almost as if was a film that was jammed.
"Woah, take it easy there," Fiona laughed.
It wasn't like Charlie's laugh. Charlie's was musical, loud and throaty. This was a giggle, high pitched and lilting.
"I've never been one for moderation," I smirked.
Her eyebrows raised, and she took that as an invitation to kiss me full on the mouth.
* * *
I pushed past the laughing, happy people, desperate for air. I could feel tears pricking in my eyes and I brushed them away, heat waves radiating off my face.
I ran outside into the cool night air, and I thought for a moment that I might choke with humiliation and anger.
“Hey, it’s Charlie,” said a slow deep voice from below me.
I looked in its direction and to my surprise I saw Zach, sitting alone against a wooden post that was holding up the marquee.
He lifted up a bottle of something in salute to me.
I folded my arms and stared down at him, “What are you doing out here?”
He shrugged, “I don’t know. What are you doing out here?”
Something was definitely off about him, “I’m storming off.”
“From James,” he said knowingly, “Sit!”
I was so surprised at the command that I actually obeyed, sitting cross legged on the dark grass beside him.
“Can I have some?” I asked him. Water was all I felt like.
He nodded and passed it to me. But with one sip I sprayed it out immediately and coughed, “Th-that’s firewhisky!”
“Yeah, what did you think it was?” he smirked.
“How did you get firewhisky?”
“Open bar,” he grinned, “James’ grandparents are awesome.”
I looked at him curiously, “You’re drunk, aren’t you?”
“Why yes I am,” he chuckled, taking yet another sip from the bottle that was quickly emptying.
It was so out of character for Zach that I couldn't help but stare. Zach had probably never been drunk a drop of alcohol in his life. While James, Fred and Owen lived it up at common room parties, Zach was always on the sidelines, frowning with dissaproval.
“Why are you out here getting drunk by yourself?” I asked him sadly.
He frowned, “Because it’s fun Charlie. I know I’m not much fun, but maybe I should be, you know?”
“No,” I said, “Why should you change?”
“Because I’m boring Zach,” he said, “Boring, bookish Zach. No one likes me.”
“I like you,” I said hesitantly, “Everyone likes you.”
“Not Alex,” Zach replied angrily, taking another swig, “Alex doesn’t even know I exist.”
“Yes she does,” I insisted, although I was pretty sure she didn’t.
“Yeah, sure,” Zach said, “She doesn’t know who I am because I’m boring, bookish Zach. She’d much rather go for someone fun, like James or Fred.”
“Let me tell you,” I said, “James and Fred don't have it all together.”
“Really?” Zach let out a derisive laugh, “Because the way I see it, the only problem Fred has is that he has a gorgeous girlfriend, and a gorgeous ex-girlfriend, who are fighting over him. And the only difficulty James has is that you like him, and he likes you, but you're both too stupid to admit it to one another.”
I rolled my eyes, “Believe me,” I said, “James doesn’t feel that way about me. And I certainly don’t feel that way for him.”
“Please,” Zach scoffed, “I’m drunk, and even I can see that you two-”
“I’m pretty sure James hates me,” I said softly, “You should have heard the way he just talked to me.”
“I’m sure it was terrible,” Zach muttered, “But don’t kid yourself. He only says that crap because he doesn’t know how to say ‘Charlie, you’re fucking awesome, and I want to be with you’. So he says a bunch of shit that he’s really good at saying instead.”
“We’ve given each other lots of practice over the years, I suppose,” I said.
“Please just go and be happy,” Zach mumbled, “You’re lucky there’s someone out there who cares about you that much. Not all of us are that lucky.”
I looked at him suddenly, “Dan likes you, you know. Even if you don’t like her, it’s something. Why do you think she hasn’t dated anyone since Christmas?”
“I know,” he muttered, “But I don’t know why she likes me. I’m a loser.”
“Because one girl doesn’t acknowledge you?” I said, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself!”
“Says the queen of self-pity,” Zach snapped, “Ooh I hate James, he’s so mean. Ooh, I hate Peakes, what a jerk. Oh no I can’t walk, my life is over. Oh no, James is dating a bitch, he must hate me.”
I stared at him, stunned for a brief second. Then I burst out laughing, and I didn’t know why, “I like you when you’re drunk Zach.”
“Why thank you,” he slurred.
"You're still a hypocrite though," I added, "I mean, Dan is gorgeous and funny, and she likes you. She's liked you since our second year."
"And I've liked Alex since our first," he argued.
"And just because she doesn't feel the same way, you're going to give up on girls altogether?" I raised my eyebrows, "For the clever bloke you are, that's a very stupid decision."
"Did you come here to argue?" Zach snapped, "Because if you did James is still around here somewhere, and I'm sure he'd love to do the honors. You both clearly love it, so why not just go and do it? So unless you came here to drink and bask in your own failiure, I'm not interested."
Well, he was clearly in a foul mood.
"I hate fighting with him," I whispered.
"Then why do you?" Zach sighed angrily.
"He just…makes me angry."
"Why? What did he do?"
I paused. Nothing. James had done nothing except argue and yell at me, which I should have been used to by now.
"I don't know, he just-"
"What were you fighting about?" Zach said boredly.
I was desperate to explain, so I did, "I saw him flirting with Fiona, Fred's girlfriend. And he says that she came onto him, which is obviously bullshit."
"It is?" Zach frowned.
"Well, of course, I mean, I saw them," I stammered angrily.
"Or maybe you saw what you wanted to see."
I laughed, "Why would I want to see something like that?"
"Because you'll find any reason to put off telling James how you feel," Zach replied wisely.
"That's ridiculous," I laughed, "You don't know me!"
"OK," he shrugged, taking another sip.
I let out a sigh of exasperation, "No! Not OK! You can't just- I mean - who do you think…"
I trailed off. It was useless, because I had realized he was completely right.
Oh my God. I had made it up in my head. James had been telling the whole truth. And I had basically called him a liar.
"Shit," I muttered.
Zach drank yet again in response, while I let my shame wash over me.
This brought my whole motive for this whole makeover into question. Had James been right after all? Had I secretly been trying to get him to fall in love with me, without even realizing it myself?
"Please go and find him," Zach muttered, drinking heavily from the bottle again.
"Fine," I snapped. I stood up and snatched the bottle from his grasp.
Feeling as though I would need all my confidence to get through this, I drained the bottle in a second. There was still quite a lot left and I felt it burn as it ran over my tongue and went down my throat.
"That was mine!" Zach cried indignantly.
"You've had enough to drink," I said, "It's my turn."
The fire whisky felt as though it was bubbling inside me, rising with excitement.
I rushed back into the tent, gazing around for him. He had to be here somewhere.
Looking about, I saw Max speaking in a low voice to Fred. But I didn't have time to worry about them. I had to find James.
I craned my head, but he was nowhere to be found.
"Charlie!" It was Rose, coming over to me and looking concerned, "Are you alright? You look a bit panicked."
"I-I'm fine," I replied shakily.
"You having fun?" she asked.
"Sure," I replied quickly, "Er…Have you seen James?"
She peered over her own shoulder, "I think I saw him go outside the tent. Just there, next to the bar."
"OK, thanks," I said, making my way quickly through the throng of dancing people.
It was getting progressively warmer. I brought my hand to my forehead, and felt the burning skin. My hand was cold and clammy.
I swiveled around, feeling dizzier as the music seemed to grow louder, and the lights only got brighter.
"Owen," I breathed, seeing him approach me. He was dancing with a pretty blonde girl, but seemed concerned enough to leave her and approach me.
"You OK? You look really ill."
"I'm fine!" I replied, sounding more agitated than I meant to.
"I think you've had enough walking for tonight." he said kindly.
"I said I'm fine," I said angrily.
He took my wrist forcefully, "You need to sit down."
"Leave me alone," I said, wrenching my wrist away, "I'm going to find James."
He gave me a stony look, and I turned away from him and walked back through the crowd, towards the marquee opening next to the bar.
When I reached it, the air was cool and refreshing. I drank it in, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.
Moonlight streamed over the grassy field, spilling over the shadow of the marquee, and over two people, stuck closely to one another.
My stomach seemed to plummet to the earth, as soon as I realized who they were.
He had said nothing was going on. He had said that she had been coming on to him. He'd said.
I couldn't believe that for a minute there, I had felt guilty. I had thought he was telling the truth, and that I was the bitch for not believing him.
My heart was pounding in my throat, and for a second I thought I was going to throw up.
It hurt more than I'd thought it would, because this time I definitely wasn't misinterpreting anything. He was kissing her, outside, in the dark, and I was unable to tear my eyes away.
I felt a tear prick in the corner of my eye.
I hated him. I bloody hated him.
Finally regaining the use of my legs, I stormed back into the crowded tent. It was bright and colorful inside, and I stared around, not sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go.
My heart was in my throat, blood pumping around my ears at an unnaturally fast rate.
Then, through the crowd I saw him. I pushed past the dancers, not even thinking about what I was going to do. My mind was racing with pain, from seeing James and Fiona together, from his lies, from the pounding in my head.
I grabbed him firmly by the shoulders, and the girl he was dancing with stared at me indignantly.
"Charlie-" Owen justhad time to say, before I pulled his face towards mine and kissed him.
* * *
Why was I kissing her? She wasn't right. Nothing about this was right.
It was all wrong. Charlie was inside, angry with me, and I was out here kissing a girl I barely knew.
Why was I kissing her? Why? When the only one I should be kissing was Charlie?
It wasn't some kind of incredible, enlightening moment. It felt like I had known it forever, like it had always been inside of me, but I had never known it was there. It filled me up, impossible happiness.
I wanted to kiss Charlie Walker. Not just because she looked so bloody beautiful tonight, but because she was funny, and fiery and everything infuriating and wonderful in a person. She made me so angry, so frustrated. She was impossible to understand, impossible to talk to. She was unreasonable, idiotic...and completely spectacular.
I pushed Fiona away from me.
"I have to do something," I murmured distractedly.
She looked surprised as she stared at me, "Come back, yeah?"
She winked at me, but I barely noticed. I could see the lights from the marquee, the music still booming loudly.
I walked towards the opening to the tent, anticipation in my every step. Everything was going to be perfect. Everything was already perfect. How I felt now, it wasn't nervous or doubtful. I had never felt more sure of anything in my whole life.
Forgetting Fiona in a second, I pushed through the open marquee flap.
Bright lights flashed, music pounded, only this time I loved it. This was exciting. This was how I would find Charlie, and I would kiss her and I would tell her that I was the biggest idiot on earth for not doing it sooner. And then-
I stopped dead in my tracks.
Charlie - no it couldn't be her. But who else was wearing a dress that blue, with black hair that shiny? She had her hands around someone's neck, and was kissing him.
She was kissing him.
For a second I thought I was definitely going to be sick.
Then I saw that the bloke who was kissing her, the bloke who had sworn that he didn't like her, the bloody bloke who she was bloody kissing, was Owen, and all I felt was fury.
* * *
Owen took hold of my wrists and wrenched my face away from his.
"What's gotten into you?" he hissed.
"I- I don't know," I answered truthfully.
He was glaring at me, shame and disappointment in his eyes. But it was hurt that rang the most clearly in his expression.
"I don't like being used, Charlie," he said sullenly, so low that I almost couldn't hear him.
"I wasn't-" I began, although in truth I already hated myself.
"Tell that to him," Owen said, his voice full of disgust, pointing over my shoulder.
I turned to look. Through the dizzying swirl of dancers and party-goers, I saw him. If the thunderous look on his face was any indication, he had seen the kiss, and he wasn't happy.
We stood there, on opposite sides of the room, staring at each other. Pain, hurt, anger were reflected in each of our eyes, bouncing off each other until it was like an endless mirror that went on and on and on.
It was hot, too hot, and I was suddenly desperate for air, or water, or both.
I thought back to the pills I had swallowed, the copious amounts of alcohol that I had drunk, and I swayed on the spot where I stood.
"You two deserve each other," Owen muttered under his breath.
I took a deep breath in, and felt the wooden dance floor rush up to meet me as I collapsed.
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