I wasn’t one for sleeping in. I liked to wake up at 7.30am and be up and ready to go and do stuff by 8.45. I didn’t have a job or anything, but I read and exercised and cleaned and talked to people and went shopping. I had a life of sorts.
And, I thought to myself as I pulled a pair of jeans on the day after my meeting with Albus, it wasn’t like marriage was going to change that.
I came downstairs, fully washed and dressed, and entered the kitchen to find my father and bloody Hilary sitting at the island. Hilary was looking business-like, while Daddy just looked bemused.
“Hello, Arielle,” he said cheerfully. I remembered it was his day off.
“Hi, Daddy – Hilary, it’s quarter to nine.”
She glanced at the clock and nodded in affirmation. “So it is. I do apologize for intruding so early, but, I heard from James just last night that Albus is taking you on a date next Thursday and I just had to pop in and er ... check.”
“Well, you heard wrongly,” I said, already exasperated and kind of surprised that Albus had told his brother about Thursday when it was clear he wasn’t too fond of him. “It’s not a ... a date; I’m meeting him in the morning and we’re just spending some time together.”
“Albus Potter?” Daddy said suddenly. “I didn’t know you knew him.”
“I met him the other day – at Mummy’s last party.”
He rolled his eyes. “Your mother and her parties. Honestly, my girl, the amount of pastries and tarts we get for those things! But Albus Potter ... I’ve met his father, actually. Nice man. He’s quite shy, actually.”
“I met Rose Weasley a few years ago,” Hilary said cheerfully. “She’s meant to be really smart, but she acts like a complete bimbo!”
“Hilary, don’t say that about her,” I said, frowning. I didn’t know Rose Weasley, but I had met her brother Hugo and he was lovely.
“No, I suppose I shouldn’t,” Hilary conceded. She paused. “I mean, she was completely bladdered at the time. Right, missy! We’ve got to get going now.”
“Why?” I said, confused.
“Because, we’ve got to decide what you’re going to wear for your date,” Hilary said as if it were obvious.
“It is not a date! And it’s almost a week away!” I protested as she grabbed my arm – I hadn’t even had breakfast yet! – and pulled me into the hallway.
At that point, my mother came bustling into the hallway, her face alight with happiness.
“Arielle! Wonderful news!” she sang, giving me a light hug and a kiss on the cheek, “You do know of Callum Krum, don’t you?”
I did know of Callum Krum. I didn’t like him. He and his family had relocated from Bulgaria to England in my first year of Hogwarts. Callum was loud, obnoxious and always disgracefully rude to people, including myself and many of my friends. It was hard to believe he was in Ravenclaw. He had, as Hilary liked to say about people she considered stupid, shit for brains. He was two years older than me and a complete idiot. He liked to waltz around the school and thought he was better than everyone else because his father was famous. I mean, Albus and James Potter had famous parents and they didn’t just walk out of lessons because they ‘felt like it’.
Lily did a bit. But some things are just that.
“I’ve...yes, we were at Hogwarts together.”
“Excellent, so you know each other,” my mother beamed. “Well, Arielle, I’ve just heard that he’s split up with his fiancé! Isn’t that brilliant?”
I couldn’t quite see how it was ‘brilliant’ myself, but I could see where this conversation was going...
“This means he’s on the market again, sweetheart!” my mother cried. “He’s a good choice, darling, rich, good-looking. He’s got contacts, as well!”
“Oh, that beats Albus’ glasses by a mile,” Hilary muttered to me and I put a hand over my mouth to stop myself from laughing at the pun. Personally, I thought his glasses were very nice.
My mother blinked when she realized I wasn’t whooping for joy.
“Arielle, why don’t you look more pleased? Callum is just the perfect choice for marriage, and he’s very good-looking, darling. And you know, it is about time you moved out, isn’t it?”
Hilary cut in before I could speak. “Oh, Mrs. Wingrove, Arielle is just leaping with delight inside, but we’ve got places to rob, people to kill...oh, hello, Danyes!”
My little sister had just appeared at the bottom of the stairs, her hair perfectly styled and her face made up flawlessly. She looked at my mother and me, Hilary gripping onto my arm in an attempt to move me.
“What’s going on? I heard Callum Krum’s name?”
“Mummy’s suggested that I should ‘go for him’, I replied to her. My voice was clipped.
“Oh yeah, I heard he’d broken up with Cezanne; she was always a bit of a tart, though,” Danyes said airily. “You should go for him, Elle – he’s too old for me and you’re kind of old to be living at home, you know.”
And with that, she floated into the kitchen with a happy little ‘hello, Daddy!’
Was I really the only one here who thought it was perfectly OK to still be living at home?
But I didn’t have time to ponder on it, because Hilary ordered me to put some shoes on and ‘hurry the hell up out of the house’ while she said goodbye to my mother, who still looked extraordinarily put out by my lack of response to her ‘good news’.
“So you and James...” I asked as Hilary sat down with our drinks. We were in a muggle coffee shop that specialised in over-priced drinks and shiny wooden surfaces, crabbing something to drink before we went shopping for my not-a-date.
“Oh, him,” she said with a sly little grin. “He’s gorgeous, isn’t he?”
I gave a non-committal shrug and sipped my coffee. Ugh. Bitter.
“He seems very...well, he seems like he lives up to his reputation,” I said carefully. Hilary grinned wickedly.
“Oh, he’s a complete man-whore,” she agreed. “But that arse!”
She said it loud enough to attract the attention of the few surrounding people. One woman in particular looked incredibly shocked and got up straight away to move, casting a disapproving look at my friend, who simply sipped her coffee with superb indifference.
“You mustn’t just say things that loudly, Hilary,” I told her sternly. I could feel my face flushing. “And it’s the morning; there’s no need to talk about arses at this time.”
“There’s never a time with you,” Hilary grumbled, “You’re such a ... a prude, Arielle! You never giggle about boys or sex or anything, you just complain that no one in the world’s as polite or as proper as you!”
I ignored her calling me a ‘prude’.
She threw her hands up in exasperation, but I knew she wasn’t done yet.
“Look, Arielle, I’m your best friend. In fact, I think I’m the only proper friend you have. And I know you want to giggle and gossip and shit, but you’re so into manners and crap. It’s not normal, you’re nineteen and you’ve never even had - ”
At this point I slammed my left hand over Hilary’s mouth and the word she was going to say came out muffled and sounding more like ‘zehhcks’.
OK, no. I hadn’t had sex with a boy, or a girl for that matter. But so many people my age were obsessed with getting drunk and screwing whoever they could find, and if I were being honest, I didn’t like alcohol and I hadn’t really met anyone I’d wanted to screw.
And there was no one I wanted to marry.
“Hilary,” I said quietly, taking my hand from her mouth. “Can we not talk about this? No, I haven’t done it with anyone, but so what? That doesn’t mean anything and age doesn’t matter and I...look, can we just talk about what I’m going to do about my mother, please?”
Hilary rolled her eyes. “Fine, fine.”
There was a pause, in which I realized there wasn’t really anything I could do. Of course, there wasn’t really a problem so much as my mother just really annoyed me. She never listened to me.
“Hey, maybe you should get a boyfriend?” Hilary suggested. “Albus?”
“Bit forward,” I grimaced. “We’ve not even been on a date.”
“Well, you’ve never even properly met Krum and your mother’s already thinking about you marrying him.”
“I know but that’s my mother for you.”
Hilary didn’t respond. Then she looked at me. “Are you going to meet him?”
I thought about it for it little bit. There was no harm in it, really. And if he was still the same old git from Hogwarts, all I had to do was excuse myself and then disapparate to somewhere far, far away from it. It wouldn’t be the politest thing in the world, but it was Callum Krum, and even I could make exceptions for dickheads.
“I might ... but the last time my mother tried to set me up on a blind date was about three years ago. I ended up sneaking out the bathroom window and I got stuck halfway out. Anyone who came into the ladies’ room just saw this pair of legs flailing around like nobody’s business.”
Hilary laughed. “I would’ve so loved to see that.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.”
Hilary spent the next hour convincing me to go on at least one date with Krum, and it was eventually arranged later between the two of us that I would meet Callum Krum in The Leaky Cauldron on Monday, with him coming to pick me up first.
I wanted to hide forever, because this, no matter how many times I (and Hilary) tried to convince myself it wasn’t, was a blinddate.
I looked in the mirror of my room, frowning at the dress Danyes had lent me after the shops had proved useless (as far as Hilary was concerned. Apparently my opinion was irrelevant.)
She was stood in my doorway, eyebrow raised.
“You don’t need to look so critical,” she said.
“It’s very short,” I retorted, twisting slightly as to see whether it covered my backside. It did by a few inches. Hmm.
“It’s fashionable,” she snapped back and flounced off.
The dress was pretty, a dark blue with little floaty sleeves and came with a plain gold belt around the waist. But I wasn’t used to something so little and –
“You look so different, Wingrove.”
I turned to see Chloe Patil standing there, a shocked expression on her face. I was unsure of why the hell she was in my house, before considering the idea that she may have been there to see my sister, with whom she was relatively close to. Didn’t really give her the right to just come into my room and comment on the way I looked.
“Er ... thank you?” I said hesitantly.
“No, no,” she amended quickly. “You look great, but I rarely ever see you in a dress so erm ... revealing, so -”
“Revealing?” I said panicky. “Is it too revealing? Come on, Chloe, you’d know about that kind of - oh!”
I slammed a hand over my mouth after I said that. To my relief, Chloe just laughed. “I am, aren’t I? No, but you look fine. It’s not too revealing. In fact, it’s below average in my opinion. Next time really get your boobs out!”
And she went off cackling, probably to go gossip about poor Cezanne with Danyes.
Well, that was reassuring.
Krum rang the doorbell twenty painful minutes later and I felt my breath catch in my throat. My mother’s neck moved so fast I was surprised she didn’t break it, and she jumped up at the speed of light and flew towards the door, me trailing behind her in Danyes’ annoyingly pretty dress.
Mummy flung the door open, putting on her huge “WELCOME TO OUR HOME” smile for the guest.
Well. Callum Krum didn’t look too different. His hair was a bit shorter, a bit sleeker, and he was a tad taller. And wearing a pair of very smart shoes. No one had worn shoes like that at Hogwarts. Wow. Well done Krum.
I wasn’t sure what Callum Krum was doing these days. There had been some talk about business-dealing, but just as much as living off Daddy’s money...
One thing that had changed was his trademark “I-am-better-than-you” smirk. It had gone. It was replaced with something more hesitant, more sheepish, even with my mother’s huge grin.
“Callum!” she gushed, leaning forward and ushering him in, “How lovely to see you, oh, it’s been so long, hasn’t it? You know, the last time I saw your mother was when Arielle was in her fourth year – you’d have been, in your sixth, is that right?”
“Er, yes, Mrs. Wingrove,” Krum said. His voice was quiet, but strong. He would’ve blown the house down if he’d shouted.
“You remember my daughter, Arielle?” my mother said, gesturing to me. Her smile was instantly mimicked by him and he stepped forward towards me, taking my hand and pressing it to his lips.
Blimey. That was two men in just a few days that had done that.
“Of course I do,” he said in a low voice that I assumed was meant to be ... charming? I wasn’t too sure. It was a big change from his previous hesitance. “How are you, Arielle?”
“I’m fine, thank you,” I said carefully as he stood up again. He was very tall, I noticed.
“Well, shall we go?” he asked after a moment of silence in which I debated whether it was wrong to compare Callum and Albus. I mean, how could you?
“Um, yes, I suppose so,” I said, realizing he was peering at me in concern. My mother ushered us out with the air of someone who really wanted us to get along. It struck me at that point that I’d never told my mother about my drink with Albus the other day. Would she have been so eager for this ‘date’ to happen, if she’d known about that?
I didn’t have time to ponder it, though, because as we reached the end of my drive, Callum grabbed my arm. I suddenly felt like I’d been shoved into a very tight box that was pressing in on me at all directions – I could barely breathe, I was going to die, this was how my life was going to end –
It abruptly stopped. Oh.
We’d Apparated, however, not in front of the Leaky Cauldron where I’d thought we were going, but in front of a tall, grand building somewhere on a very empty street. The building was one that I couldn’t tell whether it was a house, or a load of flats, or an office. Curious, I turned to Callum who was now staring at me with the air of someone who actually was out to kill. He still had a grip on my arm.
“Er, Callum...?” I said. I was quite nervous by now, and I wished I’d thought to bring my wand. Why hadn’t I brought my wand??
“Here’s what’s gonna happen, Wingrove,” he hissed, taking a step towards me. “You’re gonna shut up, I’m gonna take you inside, and you’re gonna stay there for as long as need be.”
“W-what are you talking about?” I cried as he began literally dragging me up the steps to the big grand building. I felt my shins skip the edges of the steps. Owch.
“I’m talking, Arielle,” he said, roughly spinning me so I was facing him, his eyes very close to mine, “about the fact that I’m – sorry, sorry, we – are taking you hostage.”
Even in my narrow experience of hostage-takings and the like, I knew this was bad. Like, super-bad.
I didn’t think to scream – who would’ve heard me in that empty street? – and I didn’t think to struggle. He was too strong.
In fact, all I could think about was how vague his threat was. He hadn't said why or who 'we' was and to be quite honest, it was dangerously close to being an empty threat.
But then again, there was something very real in the way he gripped onto my coat and began hauling me up the steps into that building. Almost as real as the fear that was currently gripping my heart.
Omg this story took such a freakin turn! It was going to be all fluffy and cute but NO. Bam. Mazz X
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