If you know me at all, you must know that I always have to be busy.
So if you know that, then it's obvious that I'm a bloke who enjoys projects.
I'm a fixer.
Fixing things or people is cathartic for me; it's therapy and philanthropy all rolled into one neat project.
So when the things I'm attempting to mend go wrong, or the people I'm trying to help are stubborn and resistant to my assistance, I hate it.
I really, really do.
So if you're in my Arithmancy class and you're wondering why I'm staring (glaring) at the back of a certain Hufflepuff's head, that's why.
She is almost infuriating.
Kate Austin has this annoyingly trustworthy face, and stupidly pretty eyes, and a way of making me flush and stumble over my words just by looking at me.
And I kind of stare at her a lot.
She doesn't seem to notice. Or care.
I would stop if I could, but I guess I can't.
I just want to know why she doesn't want my help and maybe if I look hard enough the answers will just come falling out of her mouth.
They haven't yet.
Maybe three weeks of staring isn't long enough for that to happen.
Merlin, I'm such a creep.
"Al, are you eye-stalking the Freak again
I tear my gaze away from Kate Austin and turn my head to the left to look at Tim, rolling my eyes, "It's research asshat."
He shakes his head at me, "Whatever man. It's weird."
I shove him and attempt to listen to the lesson.
For about five seconds.
My eyes travel slowly back to her, coming to rest on the side of her face.
She's biting her lip while she works out a problem.
Why do people hate you, Kate Austin?
I mean, I know the reasons people give. The rumors they spread about her.
But from the conversations I've had with her it makes it kind of hard to believe that she takes pictures of people so she can make a photographic hitlist, or that she worships Voldemort, or that she steals people's hair to make voodoo dolls and stick pins in them.
I don't believe any of that.
She seems, well, too normal to do that shit.
Better than normal.
But in a good way, not a voodoo doll making hitlist photographer way.
I elbow Tim and whisper, "Hey, why do you think Austin's a freak?"
He stares at me blankly, "What d'you mean?"
"I mean, why? What are the reasons?"
He continues to stare at me confusedly before shrugging, "She's just a freak, man. She makes voodoo dolls out of people's hair and shit."
"But has she ever done anything to you?" I press.
He shrugs again, looking back to the front of the classroom, "She doesn't need to, Al. She's just a Freak. Your brother knew that."
Guilt squirms uncomfortably in my stomach.
The one bully I never once tried to stop.
The bell rings and I shove everything back in my bag, standing up and shoving the chair back under the desk roughly.
Tim doesn't seem to notice my agitation and says casually, "Alright, lunch time. I'm starved."
I nod in vague agreement, spacing out as we walk towards the Great Hall.
"Al! Hey, Al!" A voice shouts from behind us.
We turn around to see Claire Upton and her people come speedwalking towards us.
I groan and Tim smiles at them appreciatively.
Getting Upton to apologize to Kate Austin is more difficult than I thought it would be.
The first time I brought it up to her she got all upset and said she couldn't believe I could ever think that of her.
The second time she coolly insisted that Kate Austin is psycho and out to get her and made it all up.
She then suggested that I entertain the idea that Kate probably punched herself in the face for the attention.
You crazy idiot.
Upton smiles widely when they get to us and reaches out to touch my hand, speaking softly, "Hi, Al. I hope you aren't still mad at me for those stupid lies that Austin girl was spreading about me."
I step out of her reach and arch a brow at her, "There was a witness, Claire. I know you did it."
She visibly pales and her eyes narrow, her voice low, "Who?"
I just shake my head at her, "You should be more observant next time you plan to attack someone. Do me a favor, unless you're coming to ask about what exactly you should say to Kate Austin when you apologize, don't talk to me again."
Her mouth drops open and her friends actually gasp as Tim and I walk away.
Tim stares at me with open-mouthed incredulity, "Why did you do that? She's so into you!"
"I'm not into her." I shrug, looking around the hall as casually as I can.
My eyes find her almost immediately.
She's sitting with Curkin again.
They've been sitting together a lot lately.
Tim slugs me in the shoulder as we sit down at our usual spots at the Gryffindor table, "You fucking idiot! Who cares if you're not into her? She's fit and interested. You could have that whenever you want."
"Who are we talking about?" Vince asks, talking around the huge bite of food in his mouth.
We really are a charming bunch.
"Claire Upton. Al here just snubbed her in front of a load of people." Tim shakes his head gravely.
I roll my eyes while taking a sandwich from the tray, "It was not a load of people."
Vince shakes his head at me, "That is one fit arse you just turned down. Are you ill?"
I give him the finger and he gives me a food-filled grin in return.
I try to focus on the people around me.
I really do.
But Kate Austin sits almost directly in front of me a table over.
So when she moves, it naturally catches my eye.
It's normal for my eyes to snap up to her whenever she reaches for something or touches her face or turns to look at something, right? Right.
This isn't as creepy as it sounds.
Except it kind of is.
If she would just accept my help I could fix this and move on and feel safe to forget about her because she would be happy.
Hero Complex? Me? Pffft, never.
Kate stands and my eyes follow as she pulls out her camera and says something to Curkin. He smiles and nods and she grins back before walking towards the door.
Oliver immediately cuts his gaze to meet mine, a knowing smirk growing on his face.
I feel my face get hot from getting caught.
I look down when Oliver tips me an imaginary hat, and when I look up again he's pulling out his pack of cigarettes and walking out of the hall.
"That has got to be the biggest freak show of a couple I've ever seen." Tim says, his voice disgusted.
I frown, confused, "What?"
He nods to the empty spot where Kate and Oliver had been sitting, "Curkin and Austin."
He must have been watching them too.
Wait. They're together?
I clear my throat and ask casually, "They're dating?"
He shrugs in response like usual, already over the topic, "I guess. They're always together. Match made in weirdo heaven."
I'm not exactly sure what this feeling in my stomach is, but I do know that I don't like it.
"So what's it feel like knowing that someone's always watching you?" Oliver waggles his eyebrows at me from his splayed out position on the grass, cigarette in hand and smile in place.
I look away from the tripod I'm connecting Martha to and shoot him a look, "He's not always
Oliver takes a contemplative drag of his cigarette and nods, smoke billowing out of his nose like a dragon, "You're right, he has no way to spy on you in the loo. But then again…"
He laughs and sighs, apparently very pleased with his own wit.
I go back to adjusting Martha so she's pointing directly at the night sky before turning my attention to fuss with the exposure.
"Tell me again what we're doing out here at one in the morning?" Oliver asks, propping himself up on an elbow to look at me.
An excited smile appears on my face as I look back at him, "Okay, so you know how on muggle cameras if you take a picture on long exposure, which is when the lens is open for a long period of time, and it's of the stars they'll come out as streaks of light in the sky? And you can see the curvature of the earth?"
Oliver scratches his head with a finger, smiling at me, "Uh, kind of? I guess?"
I flap a hand at him, "You'll see what I mean. But the thing I want to try is, I want to do that and then develop the picture in the potion that makes the pictures move so we can actually see the stars move in their paths as the earth rotates!"
Oliver flops back on the grass, "How do you come up with this stuff? That sounds amazing."
I shrug and smile, adjusting Martha one last time before laying on the grass beside Oliver.
"What now?" Oliver whispers.
"Now we wait and let Martha do all the work." I sigh, staring at the stars.
Hogwarts is at its best when its inhabitants are fast asleep.
"I hate people." Oliver says, a strain in his voice.
I nudge him, "Don't say that."
He shakes his head, "No, it's true. People will take this amazing thing you do, like your pictures, and make it out to be something to judge you for. It's not right."
I don't know what to say to contradict that so I scoot up to rest my head against the side of shoulder.
Eventually I whisper, "Not everyone is like that. You aren't."
He laughs, but there isn't any humor in it, "One person, Kate. That isn't enough to forgive the rest of them."
"Albus Potter is nice to me." I say, even quieter than before.
I've never seen Oliver like this.
He's the type to laugh it all off.
But I guess everyone needs to be angry every now and again.
"That's because he fancies you." Oliver arches a brow at me, daring me to contradict him.
I don't disappoint, "He does not."
I turn my head to give him look, "He doesn't even know me."
Oliver gives me a smile, "He doesn't need to. You're just one of those people, Kate."
Oliver Curkin makes his way back to his common room, well past 3 AM, with a smile on his face.
He has a friend, and he's very pleased about that.
"Dumbledore." He whispers to the Fat Lady, and she sleepily swings open.
He treads lightly over the plush carpet of the common room, not noticing the person on the couch that the dying embers of the fire have failed to illuminate.
The person makes themselves apparent, "You're out late."
Oliver's heart races in chest as he whirls around, knocking into an end table and just barely saving a lamp from crashing to the ground.
He sets it shakily back on the table and walks toward the couch, exclaiming in a whisper, "Merlin Al, you could give heart attacks professionally!"
Albus Potter smiles and gathers up the books and papers he had studiously been applying himself to, "Sorry about that, Oliver. Thought you saw me."
Oliver shakes his head and grins at his dorm mate, "I didn't. Kate's been making me stay out late with her for a week now, I'm a little delirious."
Albus' eyebrows furrow slightly and it doesn't escape Oliver's notice.
Albus clears his throat, "I uh, never congratulated you on that. So, congratulations on finally landing yourself a bird, Curkin."
It's all Oliver can do not to burst out laughing.
He knows that Albus is close to being a besotted fool, even if Albus doesn't yet know it.
Kate didn't believe him for a second when he told her of Albus' feelings. She proclaimed that you can't fancy someone after only two botched conversations.
If Oliver didn't see the way Albus looked at her, he wouldn't have believed it either.
Oliver gains control of his features and says calmly, "Oh, Kate and I aren't together. I'm a bit out of her league, I'm afraid."
Albus blinks at Oliver's grinning face and smiles widely back, "You're out of everyone's league, Oliver." He stands with his possessions in his arms, "You coming upstairs?"
Oliver stretches out on the couch, "Nah, think I'll stay down here for awhile. See just how delirious I can get."
Albus grins and tips Oliver an imaginary hat, a gesture which Oliver returns, before turning and taking the stairs two at a time.
Oliver folds his arms behind his head and thinks that if Al Potter weren't so popular, he'd find him to be almost good enough for Kate.