Chapter 3 : And The Holes In My Apologies
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Albus' biggest fear is that he belongs in Slytherin. He told me over summer with an alcohol loosened tongue, eyes brimming with sincerity and a certain kind of dread. Your biggest fear. He whispered it with a deadened tone, fingers clenching the grass as the family swooped and soared above us, bludgers bounding, quaffle's looping. It was confession time, me and Albus on the ground, him far too drunk for after lunch Qudditch, me far too fragile.
“Death.” I told him. That I feared death, and his eyes brimmed with drunken tears and he looked at the grass beneath his hands, the mud under his finger nails and he couldn't think of a single damn reply for the dying girl.
It wasn't the truth, anyway.
I'm afraid of death taking too long.
“James has been voted the sexiest wizard of the year by Witch Weekly,” I was informed as soon as I step through the dormitory dorms, breath rasping against my throat, my battered lungs, from the stairs. The fucking stairs. You can't get anywhere without encountering at least three flights.
“Really,” I press my tongue against the roof of my mouth and close my eyes, trying to regain some composure and stop the room spinning, spinning.
“Yup,” Lola confirms Emily's fact, eyes sparking as she looks at me from her bed. “Care to invite him over for visiting weekend? God knows we could do with a little eye candy round here. Besides Al, of course.”
“Lola!” Georgina gasps, sashaying out the bathroom, clutching her towel with one hand. “Really, darling, so vulgar,” but she's smiling.
“Hey, Georgie, didn't you and James-”
“Percy!” Georgina's towel drops as she grabs the pillow with both hands, throwing the missile at Persephone's head. No one bats an eye at nudity; living with girls for six years and suffering puberty with them has that effect.
“Nice thong,” Emily smirks towards Georgina.
“Oh baby,” Percy makes her voice several octaves deeper and husky, “you're making me so hot.”
“That's what James said!”
“Lola, darling! Enough with James!”
“That's not that I heard!”
“Emily, must you?!”
Their banter slips past me as I negotiate the room, all but forgotten about as they descend into an easy going rhythm.
“Dom?” I'm elbow deep in my trunk, rooting around, wincing as my nails scrape the bottom and a load of gunk immediately finds it's way underneath them – bits of owl treats and clothes lint, forgotten about sweets and all other manners of crap. I glance over to Harriet and smile weakly at her. “Albus is looking for you. Albus Potter?” she frowns as if she doesn't know how this could possibly happen. I smile, finally locating my stupid wand and pulling it out in triumph that makes me bash my elbow on the side.
“Thanks,” I'm trying not to wince and grimace, but my smile's more of a bare of a teeth than a grin and Harriet looks scared, backing away as if my canines were already elongating into fangs.
And then I'm leaving, barely noticing the half silence that had fallen, only hearing Percy's scathing, “he's her cousin, you bloody idiot,” and Georgina's admonishment: “Percy, darling! Tact!”
It doesn't take long to find Albus. It would take longer if he stopped trying to play at being a perfect student of Ravenclaw house. But he does, and it takes all of twenty minutes to trek all the way to the library (fucking stairs) and all of two minutes to find him at a table in the corner, sunshine blazing on the empty parchment in front of him.
“Not even a title. Really, Ally?” his green eyes turn from the Quidditch players outside to me, widening, his face lighting up like a damn puppy.
“Dom! Yesterday – I'm so sorry, I didn't mean it – I'm sorry if I offended you, or if I said something or I-”
“It's fine.” He falls into his seat like I've just relieved him of all the burdens he's ever had in the world, tentative smile on his lips. “James' been voted sexiest man of the year.”
“Not just Quidditch player?” I pretend I don't see him tense as soon as his hears his brothers name, than an edge doesn't creep into his eyes.
“Nope. Don't think he qualifies, being only part time and all.”
“Half Quidditch hero, half world-saving Auror. What a champ.”
I just look at him, surprised at the hostility, the bitterness. James isn't even an Auror; not even a Quidditch player. So one team had expressed a minor interest in him, once upon a time. But now he's taking a gap year, trying to 'find himself' or some other such bullshit. Mainly sitting around in his boxers eating cereal from the box. He has a place at some Auror academy, a fast track into the real world. Not that he's ready for that yet.
Albus glares at the Quidditch players the other side of the window. The silence stretches, his essay remains unwritten (as countless others do) and Albus Potter sits for hours on end contained by the walls of the library trying to outdo his brother. I tilt back onto two legs of my chair, glancing around the library. As I do so I meet the eyes of brilliant-at-Charms Finn, his lips curving into a grin as he catches my gaze. How interesting.
“You going to Hogsmeade?” My attention flickers back to Albus who's watching me almost curiously.
“I've been there five times in my life.” The chair's legs hit the floor with a dull thump and I debate pulling a scroll from my bag and actually starting homework. It was a novel idea. I'd missed a week and a half of precious learning already, and what else was a Ravenclaw to do?
“What?” his face screws up in confusion, something that could probably make a thousand witches swoon (and probably a few wizards too, seeing as there's a little ambiguity about my dear cousin).
“To Hogsmeade.” I clarify, and a Quidditch player plummets towards the ground outside, hair streaming. Red. Rose? “I've been five times since third year.”
I tip back on my chair again. “Well, sweetheart, about once a month I turn into this great hulking mass of fur and muscle and animalistic instinct and it tends to fuck up plans a little.”
Albus doesn't answer. He just stares above my head and he's gone whiter than the time he came around to ours and whispered through dumbfound lips that he'd done worse than James in his O.W.Ls and how Ginny was going to kill him and his dad's face, he was going to be so disappointed, and how he'd never measure up, and how could he tell even tell them?
“What?” but he was still staring just above my head which was when it clicked that perhaps he wasn't staring at my head but maybe, just maybe, there was someone behind me. I turned, pivoting on a single leg of the chair to come face to face with some poor person's groin. Nice.
“Well,” said Finn after a pause and there was a look on his face which said oh yes, I heard. “That's interesting.” There's a beat of silence and no one knows what to say. I can practically hear Albus in the background, his eyes widening beyond reasonable limits. “You dropped your quill the other day.” I take the feather from him and my finger graze his outstretched fingers long enough to gauge his temperature. Warm.
“Ta.” And I pivot back around and place the quill on the table, staring at it's elegance and and the intricate white pattern on the black, thinking surely I would -
“Fuck. Dom... Shit.” He's yanking his fingers through his hair as if pulling it out by the roots is really going to help. My heart's beating so fast it feels as though it's about to burst which is probably preferable to sitting here not knowing what to do and freaking out because shit, someone else knows, someone who isn't family and he could be telling anyone or anything, he could be running riot and shouting it down the corridors, the syllables bouncing off the thick stone, extinguishing torches and any hope I have of being normal, or going on as I do, oh Merlin -
“Albus,” I say with significance.
“What?” despite his panic (which is quite sweet if you think about it. But I don't) he manages to inject some fake calm into his voice, only shooting up two octaves instead of three.
I pick up the feather and run my finger down the delicate spine of it. “This isn't my quill.”
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