Chapter 12 : Midnight Spider Murder
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"Nargles!” I sat up quickly in my bed. Bloody hell, what time was it? The annoyingly bright numbers on my clock informed me that it was three in the morning. Why did I get up again?
"Beth, there’s a huge spider in my house. You need to come kill it!” Al whispered frantically from my side.
Oh, yeah. That’s why. I moaned and lay back down. “Get Eric or Adam to do it.”
"You know Adam’s as useless as me when it comes to spiders. And Erik came over first to kill it but it’s too big for him too. We need you to do it Beth.” Al pleaded from my side.
I pushed myself up, mumbling a choice amount of swear words under my breath. I unwillingly threw off my covers and dragged my legs over the side of the bed. My feet touched the soft carpet, and I considered sleeping on the floor instead.
"Beth!” Al wined again.
"I’m coming, I’m coming.” I sound like an old man.
I staggered to my closet and blindly felt around for my bug killing boots. They were really hiking boots that I got that one summer I went to muggle camp. I hated it, but kept the boots because they were effective in the ancient art of bug squashing. I finally found one of the old shoes in the back of the closet and extracted it from the dark abyss.
"Okay, now back out the window,” Al said, heading towards said window.
"Is that how you got in?” I asked, rubbing my eyes sleepily.
"... Yes,” Al said, one leg already outside.
"I’m not even going to bring up how creepy that is.” I turned towards my door.
"What are you doing?” Al asked. Both legs were outside now and he was holding himself up by his arms.
"Going out the front door you daft child,” I snapped. I’m not a morning person.
"No, just come out the window and hop onto the apple tree branch. That’s how we always do it!”
I threw open my door, “Well it’s not how we’re doing it today. You go that way, I’ll meet you in the back.”
I crept downstairs and out the back door. Al was just touching the ground when I arrived. “Okay, over the fence!” Al sounded way too excited about this. He must really want to get rid of that spider.
I clumsily crawled over the fence and through the strawberry patch lining it. My bloody hair kept getting caught on the fence, so it took a little longer than usual. We slipped in the back door of his house, and crept through the kitchen.
"Erik is watching it right now to make sure it doesn’t move. You know how these things go. One minute it’s there and the next minute it’s gone.” Al said in a hushed tone.
"Whatever. Let’s just do this so I can go back to bed,” I yawned.
"Of course,” Al answered. I was starting to get suspicious. He was way to happy about this, almost as if he was pleased with himself. But why would he be pleased about bringing me to kill a spider? Unless there was no spider and he brought me here for a different purpose.
The wheels in my head were beginning to turn faster as I became more conscious. It wasn’t until we came across Erik, casually standing in front of the study door that I became sure something was up.
"What are you guys-“ But before I could finish, Erik had opened the door and Al shoved me inside. The shoe hit the floor with a loud thud as I tumbled forward. My only exit quickly shut behind me and I could hear two thumps, as if Al and Erik had braced themselves against the door.
I kept my back to the room, my mind still a little sluggish due to the ungodly hour. “Wait… what?”
"Don’t work well in the mornings?” James asked from behind me.
I was suddenly alert as my heart began to do double time and my senses heightened. I slowly turned around and saw a bed-headed James, sitting on his father’s desk. He was wearing nothing more than a t-shirt and chudley canon boxers. He rubbed his eyes, “Yeah, mean either.”
"Then why are we both here?” I tried to sound menacing but I’m afraid I don’t work well in the mornings. It came out as more of a plea than anything else.
"Because I needed to talk to you, but the thing is you don’t want to talk to me. I knew I would have to trick you into meeting me, but you would have picked up on it. I had to do it when you were barely conscious and the only options were knocking you out and kidnapping you or waking you up at an early hour and relying on your exhaustion to slow you down.” He nodded to me, “Obviously we went with the second option.”
I took a few steps forward, “Okay, I’m here. What do you want?”
"To talk about what happened, Beth.” James looked me in the eye. “You have to hear my side of the story.”
I scoffed, “Oh, please. I already know your side of the story.” I began to step closer to him. “You wanted Rebecca, we know that for sure. But you already had a girl on your hands who was mad for you. What kind of person would you be to just pass that up? So you thought you’d have your fun with me, and when you got bored you would toss me off and go for the one you really wanted.” I was inches away from him now. “How about that James, am I getting warmer?” I threw out my arms and accidentally knocked some paper off of the desk.
I bent down to pick them up. “No, I’ll get those.” James said hastily, but I already had them in my hands. I was straightening up again when James’ name caught my eye. I slowed, taking in the words on the parchment in front of me. I quickly rifled through the other papers. They were all the same.
"James… these are offers from professional quidditch teams. They want you as their seeker.”
James’ face reddened. “I’m aware of what they say.”
My eyes raked hungrily over the letters, drinking up their every word. Immense pride swelled in my chest like a balloon. Professional quidditch teams were going after James. My James. I saw big names like, Montrose Magpies, Puddlemere United, Wimbourne Wasps, and Chudley Canons just to name a few.
A smile spread onto my face, “Which one are you going to choose?”
"I’m still deciding, but I think it’s between Montrose Magpies and Puddlemere United.” James ran a hand through his untidy hair.
I smirked and made a point of looking down at his nickers. “I would have pegged you for a Chudley Canons guy, but hey, that’s just a guess.”
A shy grin slipped onto James’ face. “Well they have been on a losing streak recently-“
"Recently?” I cut in, still grinning. I looked back at the letters in my hands. “Merlin, James this is fantastic.”
Silence fell over the room. I was content in reading the letters addressed to James. Every letter, every word, every “congratulations” filled me with delight. In a few short years, the little snot nosed kid who lived next door had become a nationally sought after quidditch player. I was vaguely aware of James watching me but found that this didn’t annoy me at all.
"We’ve spent all this time together,” James broke in, “and I haven’t even asked you what you wanted to do after your seventh year.”
"Healer.” I answered without hesitation, still reading the Wimbourne Wasps letter.
"R-really?” James ran another hand through his hair.
I shot him a sideways smirk. “Why the tone of surprise?”
He shrugged, “It’s just kind of weird that you want to go into a profession about healing people when you spend a lot of time beating them up.”
"Huh,” I paused for a moment, “I had never considered that.” I snorted, “Ironic, huh?” I went back to reading the letter in my hand, “I want to focus primarily on healing sports injuries. Those are the ones I’m most accustomed to, you know with hockey and all.”
James nodded, “Okay, now I see how that attracts you.” He watched me for a little bit longer. “Merlin, will you put those down.” He tried to make a grab at them.
I threw my arm out of reach. “Nope, not done looking at them yet!”
James hopped off the desk to get a better reach. “They’re my letters.”
I backed up my arm still held out uncomfortably behind me. “Yeah, and I’ll give them back to you when I’m done reading them.”
"Beth, I’m serious I want them back.”
I took a few quick steps backward and James followed me. “Stop being such a baby. I only want to read them!”
"Well you’ve read them now give them ba-“ James tripped over the rug and fell forward. He tried to balance himself but stepped on my foot instead. We both fell back hard against the door. My arm with the letters was up above my head, held in place by James’ hand. His other hand was braced next to my head, so I couldn’t really move.
"Sorry.” James’ breath hit my face like a summer wind, and my senses were over-ridden with the scent of strawberries.
I couldn’t seem to move. Beside the obvious fact that James had me trapped, my limbs weren’t listening to me. James and I hadn’t been this close in weeks, and I hadn’t realized how much I had craved it. It was hard to convince myself that I didn’t need him when his chocolate eyes were holding my gaze so steadily.
My fingers itched to pull him flush against me. However, my secret wish seemed to be coming true even without my help. James’ body gravitated towards mine, pressing us closer together.
James’ head dipped towards mine, “I’ve missed you Beth.” It was almost a whisper.
Oh sweet Merlin’s beard how I wanted to kiss him at that moment. But the last time I gave into him he betrayed me. I sucked in my lips so I wouldn’t be tempted to kiss him.
James noticed this and stilled. “What’s wrong?”
"What would Rebecca say about this?” I spat angrily.
James hung his head. “Shit,” He whispered.
I freed the arm pinned above my head and shoved James against the desk. It scooted back with a loud screech. On a normal day I would be terrified that Harry or Ginny might hear us and come downstairs, but today I didn’t give a damn.
"So this is your plan huh? Having one girl isn’t enough? Are you going to do the same thing to Rebecca that you did to me?” My eyes filled with angry tears and I batted them away with the back of my hand. I mentally cursed myself for showing my weak side to James again.
To avoid any further humiliation I turned away. I had almost fallen for it again. Why did this keep happening? Would I ever learn from my mistakes? I had to get out of here before I did something stupid. I forced my feet to move towards the door, but a hand on my shoulder made me stop.
"Beth, wait don’t go.” James pleaded.
Anger flared inside me like a fire under a cauldron. Did he really think he could control me like this? “You’re right.” I spoke softly. “I came here to squash a bug.” And without any other pretense I turned and struck my open hand across James’ face. His eyes widened in shock and he cupped his cheek. “The only thing is,” I said now glaring him directly in the eye. “It wasn’t a spider. It was a cockroach.”
I grabbed the door handle and shoved all my weight against the exit. I heard Erik and Al fall to the floor and found them rubbing various body parts as I opened the door.
Their faces fell and became solemn when they saw my own furious expression. “Erik, get up we’re leaving.” I commanded.
I didn’t wait to see if he obeyed my orders or not. I just went straight home.
* * * * *
I sat on my brightly colored bed spread, painting my toenails and listening to the muggle radio. It’s always so funny to listen to their lyrics. I mean, who writes an entire song about giving a boy their number? And the rich part is, they try to act aloof about it by adding the word “maybe” to the end of every bloody sentence. That one should be shipped off to the loony bin I tell you.
The truth of the matter was I needed a good laugh. Merlin knows I was upset after what happened last night. I mean, who drags a girl out of her warm loving bed to “kill a spider” only to bring her face to face with the only boy she doesn’t want to see. I take it back, that muggle singer shouldn’t be shipped off to the loony bin. The ones that need to be shipped off are my brother and best friend.
I huffed some fringe out of my eyes as it was impairing the vision of my flawlessly painted toe. I just needed to get that one spot at the edge and it would be perfect. I gently lowered my loaded brush to my toe and had begun a soft stroke when there was a loud bang.
I jumped and my arm had a freaking spasm, causing my brush to skit off my nail and onto my toes. “Brilliant!” I yelled in frustration.
"Hey,” Al said from my windowsill. I guess the loud bang came from him opening my window.
"Merlin’s beard, Al! Look what you made me do!” I yelled at him.
He looked at my foot. “Er… sorry?”
I huffed, “What do you want?”
Al’s feet hit my floor and he took a place next to me on my bed. “I wanted to apologize for waking you up last night at three in the morning.”
I began to clean off the excess polish from my toes. “And?”
"And asking you to climb out the window.”
"And forcing you to crawl through the strawberry patch.”
I sighed. If we went through everything he made me do last night this conversation would go on forever. “What’s the big one, Al?” I nudged him along gently.
He huffed and mumbled something underneath his breath. “I’m sorry, Al. I couldn’t hear you. Speak up, please.” I hummed delightfully. Torturing my best friend is so much fun. Some people might call it sadistic, but I call it character building.
Al groaned, “I’m sorry I tricked you into meeting with James last night.”
I grinned, “Apology accepted.” I went back to painting my toes.
"If it’s any consolation,” Al interrupted. “James has a red hand print on his cheek from when you bitch slapped him last night.”
I bit back a grin. “Does he really?”
Al nodded, “My mum took one look at it this morning and said, ‘You pissed off Beth, didn’t you?’”
I laughed, “Merlin, I love your family. Well… most of your family.”
"Will you ever forgive him? It’s getting pretty awkward in our friend group.”
"I wasn’t the one who started it so I’m not going to be the one to end it.” I said matter of factly.
"Oh come on, Beth! You’re miserable, he’s miserable, why don’t you just-“
"Whoa!” I cut across. “I am not miserable. I’m simply not as fun loving as I once was!”
Al frowned, “The old Beth was fun loving?”
"Uh, Yeah!” I said in a “duh!” sort of way. I huffed some fringe from my face and was about to go back to the critical task of painting my toenails when the rest of Al’s comment sunk in. “Wait, did you say James is miserable?”
"Yeah, all he does is skulk around the house all day.”
I thought back to the time I had seen James in the great hall with Rebecca. He had looked miserable. Thinking back on it, he hadn’t looked happy at all these past few weeks. Not once when Rebecca came running up to him did he smile. And I never saw them snogging in the hallways, a first for James.
"Well, it’s nice to know that karma is on my side for once.” I mumbled. But what did this mean? Dear Merlin, I know you think I can figure this out with the clues you’ve given me, but I’m a slow child. Next time just write the answer on my forehead.
I flopped back on my bed in complete defeat. If James wasn’t happy with Rebecca, then is he telling the truth? Has he actually missed me? I mean, I’m a pretty incredible person- it’s hard to forget me. What? That could be true… maybe… not.
"Too many questions!” I yelled out in irritation.
"What are you talking about?” Al was watching me as if I was mental.
Oh shoot, I forgot he was here. “What are you talking about?” Smooth move, Beth.
Al shook his head. “I swear Beth, one day I’m going to get the hang of talking to you.”
"One day? We’ve been friends for years!” I sat up and looked at Al in disbelief.
"And one of these days man, it’ll all click.”
I laughed and shoved him off my bed. “Shut up!”
"Hey, wanna come over to my house? James is out with my parents. They have a meeting with Puddlemere United.”
And just like that, the feeling of pride I had experienced the night before expanded in my chest. I wrote it off as gas and pushed it from my thought.
"Yeah, that sounds like fun!” I stood up and walked on my heels (I didn’t want to mess up my toes) to my window, carefully sticking my feet outside.
"What are you doing?” Al asked, standing by my door.
"Going out my window. This is how we always do it.” And with a wink I slipped out onto the apple tree branch.
* * * * *
My bare feet padded on the cool tile of the Potter’s kitchen floor. It wasn’t until I was half way down the tree that I realized I was shoe-less. I cursed all the way to Al’s kitchen where I sat down at the table immediately, rubbing my feet.
Al closed the sliding glass door behind him as he stepped into the kitchen. “Uncle George just sent me a whole box of new merchandise from his shop. What do you say I run and grab it and we see what’s in there?”
"Uh, heck yes!” I exclaimed, still rubbing my perfectly manicured but wounded feet.
"Cool, be right back!” Al rushed out of the kitchen and I could hear him running up the stairs.
I tried to sit patiently and wait for him. But Merlin, I am many things and patient is not one of them. I shoved my chair back and began to walk around the kitchen. There was nothing particularly interesting about the kitchen. It was almost exactly the same as it was nine years ago when I had first met the Potter’s. Same color scheme, same appliances, and same pictures magiked to the fridge.
I stopped in front of said pictures and ran my fingers over them. I had been over here so many times but I had never actually stopped to look at them. There was a picture of Al and I, arm and arm on our first day of Hogwarts. We waved animatedly on the steps of the Hogwarts Express and every once in a while pointed to the emblem on the train. Next to it was a picture of Lily, opening up a present on Christmas day. She opened up the box and gave a silent squeal of joy before getting up and jumping around the room.
Below that was a picture of James as a baby, zipping around the living room on a broom that barely got two feet off the ground. A pair of legs, which must have belonged to Harry, ran after the laughing baby. Ginny sat in the corner of the frame, laughing jubilantly.
I grinned and tried to remove the picture, forgetting that it was stuck to the fridge by magic. I leaned in and watched the baby James zip in and out of the photo. A warm feeling began to spread somewhere inside my gut. The little face in the picture was so innocent and full of life. Our babies are going to be adorable.
Whoa, our babies? Am I really saying that again? But looking at the baby James, I couldn’t find it in me to hate the older James. I heard Al trotting down the stairs but didn’t look up from the picture.
When I saw him stop in my peripheral vision I spoke. “You know Al, even though I’ve been to your house before I’ve never actually stopped to look at these pictures.” When he didn’t respond I gazed up.
James stood stalk still and looked unsure of what to do. He wore a pair of slacks and a white button up shirt with the first few buttons undone. A tie was draped around his neck, still untied. His mum had obviously tried to retain some sense of order with his hair, because it was combed down and stiffened with a beauty spell. On the side of his face was a large, angry, red blotch that sort of resembled a handprint.
My heart stopped beating and my mouth went dry. Whoa, serious déjà vu! This was almost an exact replay of when I first started dating James, but more specifically of our Hogsmeade date. He looks just as sexy as he did back then.
“What are you doing in my house?” James asked.
“Hanging out with Al. And what are you doing here? I thought you had a meeting with Puddlemere United!” I shot back.
“There was a scheduling mix up. We’re going tomorrow instead.”
Was this another plan to get me to talk to James? Probably not considering James looked just as surprised to see me as I was him. Unless…”Does Al know you’re here?”
James shook his head, “I just got home a few minutes ago and the house was empty when I arrived.”
"Empty? Where’s everyone else?”
"My dad had to finish something up at work and my mum took Lily out shopping.”
"Oh, I see,” was my lame response.
"Do you mind if I sneak passed you? I didn’t get any breakfast so I just came down for a bowl of cereal.”
"Oh, yeah sure.” I pressed my self up against the fridge and he walked past me. The whole thing was incredibly awkward. Especially since there really was no need for me to press myself up against the refrigerator. In hinds sight I really should have realized that there was enough space for the two of us. In the end I just looked stupid.
James pulled out a bowl, poured some cereal into it and walked up to me. “I need some milk,” he mumbled.
"Right, sorry.” I jumped out of the way and James took the milk carton to the table where he poured it into his cereal. A heavy silence fell over the room as James ate his breakfast and I watched him. Oh, Merlin, I’m watching him like a stalker! Now it’s exactly like when we started dating!
I tore my gaze away and looked at the cereal box instead. Wait a second… “No way!” I grabbed the cereal box and turned it over in my hands.
"What?” James asked through a mouthful of cereal- really attractive James.
"It’s Honey Bunches of Oats!” I screamed in excitement.
James looked between the cereal box and me. “Yeah?”
"It’s the muggle cereal you were telling me about! Back when we were… you know.” My voice sort of died out near the end of my sentence, and I scratched my head awkwardly. Way to make the situation worse by bringing up our failed relationship, Beth. I need to say something else. “I guess I just can’t believe it actually exists.” Great, now I’m calling him a liar.
James snorted, “Of course it exists.” He looked at me. “Do you want some?”
I shrugged, “If you insist.” I opened up the box, grabbed a handful of the unusually shaped cereal, and shoved it into my mouth. Yes, I am always this sexy.
"The verdict?” James grinned from the table.
I nodded and sort of grinned. “Pretty good.” We both chuckled but made eye contact and quickly stopped.
Another awkward silence slipped into the kitchen. James ate his cereal from the bowl, and I nibbled the cereal from the box. Merlin, Al, how long does it take you to find a box?
"You’re miserable, he’s miserable” Is what Al said true? I mean sure James seems miserable with Rebecca, but he isn’t miserable right now. It’s because he’s with me. The thought caused butterflies to erupt in my stomach. I flushed and quickly turned around so James couldn’t see me. Could it be true? Could James be happier with me than he is with Rebecca? And what did this all mean for Cal? I bit back a smile that was fighting its way onto my face.
"You okay, Beth?” James asked from the table.
"I’m fine.” I turned around slowly. “How are you James? A-are you… okay?”
James’ chewing slowed and he eyed me cautiously. “What exactly are you asking, Beth?”
"Nothing.” I responded quickly. I walked towards the table. “I was just wondering how you were. You know with the quidditch teams and all you must be pretty tired or stressed.” I supplied swiftly.
"Oh, yeah. I guess I’m fine.”
I nodded, “Okay, okay yeah. Yeah, that’s good.” There was another moment of silence. We seem to be having those a lot lately. “Well, I’m going to go see what’s taking Al so long-“
"I found it! Merlin, it was hidden under a ton of- Crap! James what are you doing here?” Al stopped at the entrance of the kitchen.
"Oh good, you’re here! Al, should we go outside?” I jabbed my thumb in the direction of the door.
"Yeah, sure okay.” Al, probably sensing the awkward tension in the room (seriously you could cut it with a knife), left the house first.
I began to follow after him but stopped at the door. I turned back towards the kitchen table. “And James, that hair style really doesn’t suit you.” I could hear him laughing as I closed the door.
Sorry about the wait (even thought it really wasn't much of a wait at all). I really don't have an excuse. Well, I've been on vacation. Does that count? No? Okay.
Ten house points to the person who can find/figure out the reference to the seventh book in this chapter (disclaimer: the seventh book belongs to the amazing JKR).
Any thoughts? Questions? Comments? Favorite Quotes? I'd love to see them in the comments! That box gets pretty lonely sometimes. :)
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