Chapter 2 : Lennox's Lieutenant
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Georgie looks at me, takes in the green-tinged face and the clamped lips, before rolling her eyes and taking a sip from the flask in her hand.
“Honestly, Lottie. If anyone has a reason to look ill, it’s me and my liver,” she slurs, wincing in the bright light that filters through to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. “Besides, no one’s properly staring.”
Lies. We’ve only been here ten minutes and there’s a steady stream of students who keep passing by, trying to look casual while they whisper in each other’s ears. And these are the shy ones.
Boys like to cat-call and yell stupid suggestions as they pass. They only do it in groups, though – get one on his own and he looks away as if I’m Medusa. The girls are the worst; they sneer and toss their hair in a superior manor, snottily looking down their noses at me and the still-drunk brunette as we lean against the wall for Georgie’s pre-train cigarette break.
She takes a drag and exhales into the face of a fourth-year who strayed too close to our resting point. “Fuck ‘em,” she says.
“Well that would make me much less promiscuous in their eyes, wouldn’t it?” I try to smile with my joke, but it comes out as a pained grimace. Georgie frowns and takes another swig of coffee.
Other than being the sole girl in my dormitory at Hogwarts who doesn’t make me wonder whether evolution is actually taking steps backwards, she’s the only person who’s still properly talking to me after the article. Georgie actually congratulated me on becoming a page-eighteen girl (page three was dedicated to a topless Sergei Ivanovitch and his broom), breaking open a bottle of ‘Dirigible Plum Sourz’ whilst we chatted about life, and my offers to star in some inappropriate cinematography.
We met on the Hogwarts Express in first year. Not in the way that most girls boast about, with the whole ‘we just sat down together and knew immediately that we’d be BFFs for life!’ but more catty comments and decided hatred after she ran her trunk over my foot and didn’t apologise.
Six hours later, Georgie was in the bed opposite me, resolutely not acknowledging my presence and doing her best to turn the other girls in our dorm against me.
It was a fun first year, to say the least.
“Pass us more coffee, or I’ll duel you.”
I pull my own flask from the handbag slung over the top of my trunk. Georgie jams her cigarette between her lips, and wrestles with the lid. Her drunken hands go everywhere.
Last night, she demanded that I ‘unleash the beast’ and join her on an all-nighter before catching the Hogwarts Express in the morning. But due to my invincible liver, and her motto ‘Avoid hangovers – stay drunk’, I’m now sober and hyped up on energy potions, while she’s got three-quarters of the bar contents at Nox nightclub working its way through her system.
Georgie succeeds in accessing my coffee supply, and grins triumphantly. Slurring still, she says “Coffee, cigarettes, and liver that hates me – I feel like my mum.”
“Quite the role model.”
“Fuck off,” she mumbles at me, thought the grin suggests she found my comment funny instead of offensive.
We stand in comfortable silence, letting the din of the platform ring around our exhausted heads. I’m actually rather happy she’s as drunk as she is, usually I can’t get her to stop questioning me over whether or not I’ve spoken to anyone on the team.
“So,” she stubs her cigarette out on the wall, “how’re things going with you and the team?”
Or maybe not.
“Brilliant. Only two of my team-shirts have been ceremoniously desecrated and posted to me this week.”
Her eyes widen and she fixes me with an incredulous look.
“No, Georgie.” I honestly worry about how she actually managed to get straight Os in her OWLs – believe it or not, she’s an absurdly smart girl. Would have been in Ravenclaw if she actually gave a shit about schoolwork. I think alcohol and trying to sort out my love-life are now included in the list of things she ranks above education, so it’s safe to say she’s not a studious one – Georgie describes herself as a ‘drunken academic’.
Georgie scowls at me. “Grab your trunk,” she orders, seizing the handle of her suitcase, “let’s get you on this train before you try to throw yourself under it.”
We cut through the crowd, enduring the stares of not just the students who hadn’t been informed where I was lurking, but their parents too. Some who were at school with my mum, or played on House teams – their children must have shown them the article, having had it sent to them over the summer by the gossip-thriving bitches.
I didn’t want anyone to see it, other than a scout. And then after it was mutated to an undignified smut piece, I wanted it to be incinerated before a soul could read it. Now it’s festered, fuelled by over-protective parents who’ll look at me and see an example of ‘how not to raise a child’.
Thank god Tom and Annette stayed at home. Saying that, she was all for seeing me off for my final year, but then one of the twins fell through a fence panel whilst playing Rugby with Bludgers (fell through/was blasted into it – no difference really) and they had to take him to A&E. But if they had to have parents looking at them, as if it was their fault that I was seventeen and selling myself like a product... I’d feel worse than I did when they first saw the article.
Georgie barges her way between adults and children, running over toes and shouldering pensioners out of the way.
How the hell she’s not in Slytherin, I have no idea.
“How’s it going, Lennox?” asks a particularly smug boy – a fourth-year I think. His mates... I’ve never understood the term ‘guffaw’ before, but it beautifully defines the sound these idiots are making with their goofy laughter.
I yank my trunk onto the train and turn back to look at him. “It’s going swell, thanks.”
“Show us your tits?”
I show him my middle finger, and have Morag snarl at him from her cage. See, this is why I’m a cat-person.
Still fuming, even as Georgie chases a gaggle of Hufflepuffs out from a compartment, I picture those boys being smacked in the face with Quaffles. Their leader gets an imaginary Bludger to his crotch.
Morag springs from her cage the second I open it, leaping onto the plush seat and bounding up to the window with a snarl issuing from her feline throat. I slump on the seat beside her, and watch Georgie slide home the compartment door, blocking out the sounds of people nattering in the corridor.
“Will you stop feeling so sorry for yourself?”
I slump even lower, sliding towards the carriage floor as a group of girls point at me through the glass. “No,” my sulking tone is muffled by the scarf around my neck, “I want to fester in this misery for eternity, until everyone from school is either dead or senile.”
“I swear dementia means you can’t recall anything recent,” I watch my friend pull out a semi-political magazine which she’s already desecrated with her quill, and get to work on the Minister’s photo. “They’ll probably remember this for the rest of their lives.”
More people appear at the window, this time it’s the bunch of lads who stopped me as I was getting on the train. One of them makes a gesture, and Georgie replies with a double-hex, taking the waistband of his underwear and making it rise to his armpits. The other spell causes the glass of our door to turn frosty and translucent, dark letters appearing to form the words ‘COMPARTMENT FULL’ and ‘kindly fuck off’ in a nice scriptive font underneath.
Other than being a charming drunk, she’s a master at drunk-Charming.
Georgie lies down on the seat with her magazine and makes her intention of sleeping all the way to Hogwarts very clear. I try, but the sound outside and eventual movement of the train keep me painfully awake and thinking about the article.
I swear that I didn’t set out with the intention of joining mummy dearest in the world of Quidditch player pin-up girls that day. When I went for the interview, it was under the belief that my incredible catch during our final against Ravenclaw had stirred up interest in my Seeking abilities.
At first, they asked bland questions like ‘which broom do you use?’ and ‘which team’s got your support this season?’, but alarm bells rang for me when ‘who’s inspirational to you and your Quidditch dreams?’ cropped up. No doubt, Mum was the next question. And the next. And the next, until I snapped and point-blank refuse to answer instead of artfully dodging the topic, giving them vague answers.
The shoot started off innocent too; I was put in kit and made to do a few poses as Snitches flickered about the set. Craig, the photographer, kept smirking and telling me to put a hand on my hip. Then he brushed some hair away from my face, made a comment that curdled my blood with disgust, and pulled the neck of the shirt to the side so my bra strap was clearly visible.
That’s the first photo they used. I may be pouting at the camera, barely moving and staring out of the page like a sexualised statue, but my eyes are panicking. I felt intimidated, vulnerable and insecure, with Craig bearing down on me with blinding flashes.
So I did as they suggested, emotionlessly and silently, degrading myself and begging that they didn’t use these – that some editor saw how horrible I felt in these photos and tossed them aside in favour of the demurer ones.
Luckily, time ran out before Craig could accomplish his goal of getting me to actually expose parts of my body that would warrant a spread in ‘Player’ magazine. The comments he made, suggestions as the team packed up the cameras, made me stutter out a response of ‘No thank-you, I’m – n-not really... I don’t-’.
I still get scared that he might turn up one night like a crazed stalker and kill me in my bed, but I guess he photographs plenty of girls – maybe one of them has given him more reason to turn into a horror film villain.
Anyway, Craig is the least of my worries at the moment; Tom hasn’t properly talked to me since the damn article came out, my replacement mother Annette has banned all mention of it, and the devil spawn she produced six years ago have enjoyed saying ‘omm omm omm, you’re in trouble’ like the smuggest broken record in existence.
When children as evil as Lydia and Kieran have a reason to shame you, you know you’ve gone too far.
Georgie was all for laughing about it though. A few days after the magazine was published (and after I’d marinated my senses in alcohol), we joked about how I might sign a few copies of the article on the Hogwarts Express, just to see the look on Lexie McLaggen’s face.
Slytherins are bad enough, but the Keeper? That’s god awful monster is Alexandra ‘Sexy Lexie’ McLaggen, an irritatingly feminist twat who will fly off the handle at anyone who makes a ‘kitchen’ joke, but sits on the lap of her captain Augustus Edge, and simpers like a floozy.
We don’t get on, me and Edge – I actually kneed him in the crotch last Christmas because he backed me into a corner whilst brandishing mistletoe (actually a cover for the wand pointed at my face threateningly). He made a comment, I snapped back, he tried to hex me, and I had a go at rendering him infertile.
I think Edge is still sore that I turned down his romantic intentions in first-year. Since then, we’ve shared a bond of hatred, strengthened by our Quidditch rivalry and the fact that I can’t stand his chauvinistic ways.
Plus the occasional kneeing, don’t forget that.
Going back to that castle isn’t going to be fun at first. Quidditch doesn’t kick in for a couple of days, then you’ve got to manoeuvre try-outs and spy on the other teams to check they haven’t gotten halfway decent over the summer. There’s also the added bonus of knowing that my last chance at captain is passing me by, and that everyone thinks I’m a desperately wanton slut, who’ll pout like a hussy to further her career.
And my team aren’t talking to me for the latter reason. All I’ve got is an emotionally-deadened brainiac by the name of Georgie, and a misandrist cat who hates men.
Roll on seventh year.
“Knock, knock!” calls a mockingly joyous voice on the other side of the glass.
Three hours later, and I’ve devoured most of the chocolate that Georgie’s hangover is preventing her from eating. The train is now coasting towards the north, and the only interruption was when the Trolley Lady decided to lodge a complaint against our door with its sign of ‘foul language’.
I feigned shock and pretended it wasn’t us.
“Roxy,” I say grimly, recognising the voice at once. “To what do we owe the honour?”
She pushes open the door, revealing not only herself, but the Wood brothers and King too. I instinctively have to grab Morag’s collar as she lunges at them, her claws out and directed at King’s leg.
That’s creepy, I think the cat’s channelling my thoughts... go back to sleep, you tiny fiend!
They sit down as I cram my Morag back in her cage. Alfie shoots Georgie a wary look and picks his seat nearest to the door, probably remembering the time he sucked her face at a very alcohol-fuelled party.
Georgie maintains pride over that incident, not embarrassment.
My best friend, now in the early stages of her alcohol-comedown, mumbles something and takes her legs off the seat to accommodate the team. No one look particularly please to be here. Especially not Jack, who’s scowling at the floor and resolutely acting like a petulant child. On the contrary, Roxy appears to be fit for an antidepressant commercial, such is her level of manic cheeriness.
I look up at my captain as she parks herself opposite me. “How did you know this was our compartment?” I ask.
Roxy helps herself to a chocolate frog. “Rumours were circling in the corridor that there were two spinster dragons in here, breathing fire on anyone who opens the door.”
“I’m not a spinster,” interjects Georgie from the other side of Roxy, kicking her legs up onto the lap of Jack opposite her. He looks distinctly uncomfortable with the seating arrangement.
“Yeah,” she brushes her hair over the obnoxiously shiny Captain badge. “The other rumours were that someone was having sex in here.”
“Those rumours were true,” and I lean forward to wink at Georgie.
Roxy slaps me on the shoulder. “Focus,” she commands, “we need to air a few feelings. Now, I know that not everyone is happy about your article-”
“Fuck off, Wood,” I spit angrily, my hands balling into fists at Jack’s words.
He narrows his eyes and is about to deliver what I’m sure would be a scathing retort, but Roxy thankfully intervenes.
“Oi,” she says, holding up a hand to silence him. “I’m the captain. I need a functioning team without the two of you fucking it up, so will you let me sort this out?” We answer her with stony silence. This doesn’t discourage Roxy though, and she turns to me. “Why did you do it?”
I know she’s trying to be fair, but the disgusted look on Jack’s face is pushing me further away from giving her a serious answer. “Because I’m a massive, desperate,slut apparently,” I respond.
Everyone shifts uncomfortably. Everyone that is, except Jack.
“That’s not something to be proud of,” he spits.
Roxy looks warily between us and mumbles “Guys? Can we roll back the hostility?”
Naturally we ignore her.
“I’m not a slut!” yells Jack.
“How many throats did you stick your tongue down at the victory party last year?”
“How many did you?!!”
Our captain massages her temples. “Inside voices, people...” she mutters.
“Two!” I cry. “And one was Georgie, so that doesn’t count.”
All heads swivel to the tiny brunette by the window. Georgie, watching our exchange as if it were a particularly boring tennis match, smirks and shakes her head. “I think I remember that,” she wrinkles her brow and drums her painted nails on her chin. “I’m not sure, my blood was forty percent tequila that night.”
We launch back into the fight.
“If you ended up in a magazine like that, everyone would be laughing and high-fucking-fiving you for being a ‘lad’!” I slam my fist on the seat to demonstrate the unfairness of it all. “Girls would be queuing up around the block to hang off your arm like a simpering bitch, yet I’m a slag!”
“And pathetic,” adds Jack. “You’re a wannabe of your own damn mother!”
“DON’T YOU TALK ABOUT MY MUM!”
I can see it in his eyes, the poison and viciousness that makes me question whether he’d be a good Slytherin. We may fight all the time, but he knows where the line in.
And he’s about to cross it.
“God,” he says slowly, distain dripping from his voice, “she’s been dead ten years. Get over it!”
I snap. Pent-up rage, the tip of a suppressed iceberg, explodes from me as I lunge across the compartment and whip my hand across his face.
There’s a crack. My palm screams with pain as Jack cradles his slapped cheek. Roxy yelps, Georgie hisses, and Alfie and King look genuinely surprised, as if they didn’t expect me to actually lose it.
I could go on hitting him for days, so high is the level of fury coursing its way through my veins. I don’t care that he looks shocked, or that he can’t hit me back because I’m a girl – I just want to batter him senseless.
But I don’t. My hand grabs the door handle, yanking it open so forcefully that a loudsmack sounds, and everyone jumps. Jack reaches out to grab my wrist, to stop me, but I duck out before he gets the chance.
I don’t know where I’m going. My feet are saying ‘storm down the corridor!’ but my brain is telling me that I just abandoned my own compartment –it would really ruin the effect if I had to return sheepishly.
I’ve just about drawn level with the toilets when someone yells “Hey Lennox!” after me. Taking a deep breath before dealing with whichever idiot has the misfortune of teasing me right now, I turn on the spot.
Oh. Not just idiot, Slytherin idiot. Slytherin captain idiot, to be precise.
Edge smirks, looking me up and down in a manner that says ‘I saw your article, and I’m just deciding which of the cleverly-rehearsed lines I’m going to use.’ He takes a few steps forward, his wand rolling about between his fingers.
Shit. My wand is in the handbag next to Morag’s cage – and I’m currently facing a Quidditch rival who’s been baying for my blood ever since the kneeing incident last year.
Oh shit indeed.
“Nice to see so much of you over the summer.”
The thick, suggestive tone to his voice makes my stomach roll over with disgust. “Are you talking about my bum, Edge?”
He shrugs and stops about three feet away from me. “No. Everyone else is, though... which reminds me. Lexie and I were wondering how many people you had to sleep with to get the interview in the first place.”
“Why? Is she curious about furthering her career via prostitution?”
Edge scowls and draws himself up to his full height. He’s intimidatingly tall, and slightly good-looking to the point where it’s just annoying that his face isn’t a mashed-up representation of his inner soul.
“Stupid little Gryffindor,” he spits, pointing the wand at me. “Your team of girls are going down this year.”
“Firstly,” I interject, “original threat. Secondly, I’m on a team with three lads. I know that Slytherin’s made up of androgynous trolls, but that doesn’t mean all the other Houses are as genderless as you lot.”
Fuck, he looks angry. I mentally kick myself for egging him on, as he opens his mouth-
I leap sideways and grab the doorknob to the toilet, yanking it hard. Locked. But Edge missed me – I’m still standing! He’s –
He’s on the floor, victim of a Body-Bind curse.
And stood about a foot behind him, like a sneaky assassin with very tousled hair, is Jack Wood.
I never remember how old we are until I see him get angry. To me, he’s always the same eight year-old wrapped in a Montrose Magpie scarf: bad-tempered, bordering on rude, and always a bit wild-looking. He’d sulk whenever I pissed him off, turn crimson and snarl at me like a terrier.
Nowadays he just looks scary.
I meet his steady gaze, aware of the fact that I’m probably still flushed from our fight. His expression is thunderous, and not directed at the Slytherin by his feet.
“Sorry,” he growls.
My eyebrows flick upwards. “Er... come again?”
And he hugs me. Well, this makes no coherent sense at all – the boy’s emotions are a bigger mess than mine.
“I’m sorry,” he repeats, his head resting on top of mine in the same way he’s always done to stress our height difference. “I really shouldn’t have brought your mum into it.”
“I’m-” I stop myself, “I’m not sorry for anything, actually. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
He exhales, his breath tickling my hair. “Lottie Lennox, swallowing her pride and apologising? No, I wouldn’t think so,” but his tone is relaxed, joking even.
“Whatever, Wood. Can you let me go? You have a tendency to crush my ribs when you hug me.”
He releases me. There’s a moment of silence where we just look each other in the eye, me trying to express that I want to forget about the whole thing without saying it out loud. Jack of course, being the tactless male that he is, doesn’t let me finish my eye-contact conversation and looks at Edge, who is staring up at us with a frozen expression of revulsion.
“What should we do with him?” I ask, nudging the human statue with my foot. Edge’s eyes flicker to me, full of loathing. The look he’s giving me makes me tempted to prop him upright and knee him again, for old times’ sake.
Jack smirks and cocks his head to one side. “Well he was going to curse you. That’s not very nice, especially if it’s a damsel as defenceless as you were.”
“Oi, watch it.”
He leans over Edge and grabs him by the shirt front. Pulling him off the ground as a couple of second-years pass us, Jack’s face is the picture of calm. The twelve year-olds skitter off down the corridor, muttering about the ambush Wood and I must have planned.
“Facies mobilis,” he mutters, wand pointed threateningly between Edge’s eyes. Immediately, the muscles in the Slytherin’s face relax as Jack unfreezes it, and his jaw opens minimally, a torrent of abuse issuing forth.
And naturally, because Jack and I are Gryffindors with egos the size of your average Quidditch stadium, the insults just bounce off us.
“Edge,” he growls at – at Edge, obviously. “Give us a decent reason not to toss you off the train.”
To his credit, Jack can do a mean good cop, bad cop routine with me. Though normally I’m the aggressive one while he’s the voice of reason – and there’s no way I’m being nice to Edge after he tried to kill me a couple of minutes ago.
Okay, maybe not kill. But seriously maim at least.
“Fuck you,” sneers Augustus Edge, in his posh, Kensington accent.
Jack raises an eyebrow and grins. “Was that an offer?” he asks, “Because while I’m flattered, you’re hardly my type.”
Edge’s eyes gleam against his reddening face. “No,” he spits.
“Am I more your type?”
My interjection is met with a genuine snarl from the Slytherin captain. Still suspended by Wood’s grip on his shirt-front, I’ve never actually seen Edge look so helpless. The stab of sympathy I feel is quickly dissolved though, as I realise that I’d be the one in this position if Jack hadn’t turned up.
“Come on,” I watch as the tip of Wood’s wand draws closer to his head. “You’ve got five seconds, or you’re spending the next few days as Gryffindor’s new trophy.”
There’s a flitter of fear in Edge’s eyes – Jack isn’t known for his empty threats. The creative pranks he’s responsible for, however...
“Alright,” he yelps, his voice uneven with panic, “I’ve got something. There’s a new student joining-”
“Boring,” I trill, as my partner-in-crime’s wand advances on him.
Edge issues a strangled growl. “No, it’s to do with Quidditch!”
Ah. Wood and I share a look of apprehension, and Edge knows he’s got us. There’s a triumphant gleam in his smile, even though we have him flat on his back, at wand-point in an oddly-deserted train corridor.
“Joining our year,” he drawls, cocky arrogance returning to him, “to finish off his NEWTs after spending the last year half in study, and half on the pitch, is a notablename-”
“Seriously,” I do my best not to punch Edge in the smarmy face, “tell us or I’ll get my knee out and finish what I started last year.”
“It’s Ivanovitch!” the yelp is so muffled that he has to repeat himself. “Sergei Ivanovitch.”
Images of the shirtless Keeper, famous for his youth and prowess, emblazoned on the front cover of Snitch Weekly flash in my mind. The spectacular saves, standing with the Russian team before the European cup quarter-finals, his transfer to the Appleby Arrows this season...
I look to Jack, and his face says it all.
NEXT TIME: Ivanovitch, hostage situations, a broken sound barrier, but no sympathy.
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