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Chapter 6 : The Worst of Crushes
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The Worst of Crushes
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Gregory Goyle claims he is in love with me, and I am extremely annoyed.
“Is he even smart enough to fancy someone?” I complain to Amaris, who thinks the whole thing is hilarious. Annoyance makes me cruel. Even worse are the murderous looks the pinch-faced Millicent Bulstrode had been giving me ever since the pronouncement. I'm half-convinced she's set her wicked-clawed, enormous cat after me since it keeps hissing at me in the common room.
“Lighten up,” my traitorous best friend says through her giggles. “After all, your mother approves. She's probably just pleased to see you interested in boys at all. It's been long enough.”
"I just don't like talking about things like that to her," I mutter in reply. I had just received a visit from the family owl, a magnificent Silverback called Arrow. He pecked at me until I fed him a bite of my cinnamon toast, then soared off without waiting for a reply, similarly to when my mother would give out orders at the breakfast table.
I tug the letter away from Amaris, rolling my eyes as I skim it again.
Your sister wrote me to explain how Mr. Goyle’s son has declared his interest in you. Now, I know that you are fickle and determined to be single forever, but allow me to point out that young Gregory is a pureblood from an old family whose beliefs and goals align with our own. Before you write him off, consider the uses of a union with another supporter of our cause and the added power and protection this could bring you.
Hopefully your studies are progressing satisfactorily. Your father recently crossed paths with Professor Snape, who said that you are proving quite proficient in his class. Fancy Severus finally teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts? Hopefully you are learning some useful spells and practicing your Occlumency when you get the chance. I am looking forward to hearing all about your successes at the holiday. Send our love to Pyxis and Theodore.
Love from Mum (and Dad)
I roll my eyes and use my wand to incinerate the irritating letter as Amaris keeps giggling - although I've already committed the letter to memory. Unfortunately, this draws the attention of my suitor, who nervously looks at Malfoy for approval before shyly approaching myself and Amaris.
“Hu… hi Tor,” the oaf mutters. “What’s that?” At least the boy's got courage, I think begrudgingly.
I look up at him with as cold a glare I could muster, summoning all my experience of being on the receiving end of Daphne’s.
“Toast,” I say dismissively, and turn towards Amaris, hoping he'll get the hint.
“So… what were you telling me about Professor Slughorn’s paper on amethyst powder and its restorative powers?”
“Why don’t you take a seat, Gregory,” my horrible best friend interrupts. “It can’t be comfortable standing up… if you sit down we’ll be able to talk without straining our necks.”
I glare mutinously at Amaris as she puts a generously sized cinnamon bun on Goyle’s plate. He can’t feed himself now? I mouth to her. She winks at me, folding her hands around a mug of unsugared tea.
As Amaris begins to talk Goyle’s ear off about her summer at the Ministry, I look around at anything to avoid his gaze, which I can tell is trained firmly on me. The common room was awash this morning in giggling rumours about how Goyle was overheard speaking loudly about our 'wonderful' conversation at the ASS meeting and how beautiful I apparently am. Unfortunately, Theo Nott and his dumb girlfriend choose that moment to arrive at the breakfast table, making my day even better.
“Hi, Tor,” Christiana simpers at me, her face pulled up in a horrible smile. “How’s fourth year going for you? Are you finding Herbology any easier?" She only means to be nice, but I can't help but feel a little of my aggressive irritation shift its attention from Goyle to her.
“Fine,” I mumble, watching as she snakes her arm around Theo’s neck and stroke his ear. He seems to ignore it and reaches across her for the pumpkin juice.
Amaris –who is quickly meandering her way into my bad books- turns excitedly to Christiana.
“Your elder brother works at the Ministry, right? In the Department of Mysteries? Now, my internship this summer was involved mostly under High Secretary Umbridge, but I am extremely interested in the Hall of Prophecy and the recent security-”
The bloody traitor. I excuse myself to my friends, nod in a barely civil manner in Goyle’s direction, and stalk out of the great hall. I can still smell Goyle’s odor of sweat, mouldy cheese and something else unpleasant. Why is today already so horrible? I didn’t even finish my Potions assignment.
Fuming, I walk collide headfirst with someone at the entrance to the Great Hall.
“Woah, watch where you’re going please!” the girl says. She has long, straight red hair, the kind of face that’s so fine and delicate and pretty in a confident way, with freckles dotting her nose and a bossy voice. I dislike her instantly, as girls sometimes are by those they find intimidating.
“Maybe you should be more careful where you step, bitch,” I snarl, then without waiting for a reply I glide scathingly past the redhead.
“Hey, you!” She shouts after me, and the air between us crackles. My hand twitches for my wand but I decide she’s not worth it- probably just some wimpy Hufflepuff who will go crying to Sprout the second somebody looks at her the wrong way.
The day keeps flooding downhill. In Potions, Slughorn is disappointed that my assignment is two inches too short. In Herbology, I am bitten by an Arachne Orchid, and have to visit the Hospital Wing to get the venom sucked out. At lunch, I am forced to watch Theo snog stupid Christiana for a good five minutes. Finally Pyxis conjures up ugly little cupids to tap-dance on their heads until Theo notices and swats them away (and then swats Pyxis).
One of the cupids, about the size of my spoon, plops itself down in the middle of my mash and starts feeding itself. When I try to shoo the little thing, it shoots my arm with its puny bow and arrow. After yelling at Pyxis for conjuring such a demonic creature, I storm out of the Great Hall a second time and return to the Hospital Wing to make sure the arrow doesn’t carry any poison, like a miniature portion of Amortentia. I don't have that much confidence in Pyxis' Conjuring abilities - he only earned an Acceptable last year in Transfiguration, after all - but my father raised me to be careful.
By the time History of Magic rolls around, I am angry enough to participate in Phin and Pyxis’ game of Levitate-the-spitball-through-Professor-Binns. When I succeed in getting mine through the back of Binns’ head and through his nose (ten points), the daft ghost chooses this moment to notice and I am told to report to Professor Snape to be assigned detention. Feeling angrier than ever with the pickle-brained boys, I storm back to the common room only to be informed that Gregory Goyle is desperately trying to find me, reportedly to ask me to join him at Hogsmeade next weekend.
“I think its cute,” Christiana declares from her spot on Theo’s lap. Apparently he’s helping her study for Transfiguration – rather sickening. “You and Goyle would make a lovely couple. He’s so… big and strong, and you’re so…so-”
I never get to find out what I am because at that moment Draco Malfoy comes down into the common room. He waves to me, grinning wickedly, his very white teeth flashing in the faint glow of the green lights from the windows.
“Greengrass, don’t move, Goyle’s on his way down now to talk to you. He’s gelled his hair and possibly even put on cologne and everything. He’s prepared to be very charming.”
Stupid smirky Malfoy.
“Gotta go,” I shout in the general direction of everyone. “Sorry, I have to go, er, see Professor Snape to organize my detention.”
I run out of the common room and up the stairs to the entrance Hall. Panting, I hear Malfoy’s cold, high voice echoing through the dungeon corridor:
“Don’t worry, mate, she won’t have gone far, you can still ask her before her detention-”
Bollocks and blast, I think to myself, clenching my fingernails against my palms. Snape’s office is in the dungeons, so they’ll have decided I’m going to his classroom, which is on the fifth floor. I take the stairs two at a time until I’ve reached the seventh floor, shoving past a handful of confused students and taking a shortcut or two. But where to hide in this castle which is so massive but closing in on me by the minute? Maybe its my over-active imagination but I swear I can hear Goyle’s lumbering footsteps. The Room of Requirement? But they’ll expect me to go there.
Why do you care so much? Amaris' voice teases in my head. I scowl. It's more the awkwardness of rejecting the poor boy without physically cringing that I can't stand. If only he could concentrate on girls who are actually somewhat interested in dating him, things would be so much simpler for the rest of us.
Gasping, I pass the Room and into a side passageway that I’ve never been down before.
“I need a place to hide,” I gasp to a portrait of a woman in sixteenth-century dress. Her black hair is piled high on her head and she has a mole on her neck: otherwise she is quite attractive as she moves, peering at me with interest through her two-dimensional world.
“Boy trouble?” She asks sympathetically. I nod, almost crying with the effort of running up all those stairs, and feeling the sweat soaking through my robes.
“Come with me,” she beckons, smiling, and she starts to run through the other portraits lining the small, forgotten little hallway. After turning two corners we come to a nook where a very large, very sad looking suit of armor is standing.
“Password?” the suit of armor says mournfully. I’m not sure what makes him so sad, but its something about the droop of his head, the weary arms clinging onto his sword.
“Bobblydegooks,” the portrait says to me – she’s almost too kind, too helpful, and my suspicions are aroused. It feels quite probable that she might be sending me into a shortcut to the teachers’ lounge, but I sigh and resign myself anyway. Anything is better than dealing with Goyle right now.
“Er, Bobblydegooks,” I reply. The suit of armour nods, but nothing happens. I look quizzically at my new helper-even if she’s just a sneaky portrait, she’s the nicest person I’ve talked to today, though that isn’t really saying much.
“Walk through the wall behind him,” she says cheerfully.
Feeling slightly foolish, I reach out to touch the solid-looking stone wall. To my surprise, it is as if there is nothing there, a wall made of air and color. I stick my head back out at the portrait lady.
“Thanks for helping me,” I say. “I’m Tor, from Slytherin.”
She smiles back at me, painted fingers twitching beneath the heavy rings. “I’m Anne. Now go! Hurry!”
Hastily, though I’m slightly afraid of being trapped forever in the stone wall, I step through.
The room is small but comfortable: it is lined with shelves stocked with some very worn-looking books. The glow of the sunset streams in through huge windows that cover nearly the entire wall, with a startling view of the Hogwarts grounds and black lake. What surprises me most about the scene, however, is the other person in the room.
He jumps up in surprise as I enter, and my first thought is that I’ve never noticed him before, which means he’s probably not a Slytherin.
“Er, sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”
The stranger sets down the book he was reading. I glance at the title: “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.” I’ve never heard of it.
“That’s alright,” he says, smiling at me shyly. He’s taller than I am, but only by a couple inches. His dark brown hair hangs down in his face, and he’s a bit sunburned, with a slightly curved nose, a thin face, and thick eyebrows. He’s wearing jeans and a checked shirt that hangs on his thin frame: robes are lying in a messy heap by his book bag.
“Would it be alright if I… hid out here for a few minutes?” I ask. “The lady outside, in the portrait, told me to hide here… I’m avoiding someone,” I finish lamely.
“Of course,” the strange boy says, shrugging his thin shoulders and looking like he’s laughing at me. “I mean, its not every day a pretty girl bursts into this room, which I was sure nobody else knew of. You’ve earned it, make yourself at home.” He stumbles a little on the word pretty, turning a tad more pink beneath the sunburn.
I nod shyly as he sits down on the wide ledge beside the window, a cushion propped up between him and the wall. He pats the other side of the window seat, and hesitantly I climb up, hugging my knees to my chest, not quite sure where to look.
“Can I offer you anything in my humble abode?” he asks playfully, ceremoniously offering me a tin of biscuits he has stashed.
“Er, do you live here?”
“Only when I’m trying to get away,” he winks. “I’m here often enough to have a stash of food, anyhow.”
I laugh in spite of the awkward nature of the situation, and choose a chocolate biscuit. Outside, I can see a Quidditch team whizzing about the pitch.
“Do you play?” I ask the stranger, my mouth full of crumbs. “Quidditch, I mean?” My hands are cold and sweaty. Why am I so nervous? I ask myself furiously. Hopefully this boy doesn’t know Legilimency, or at least is chivalrous enough not to use it. My Occlumency is feeling rather vulnerable and distracted.
“Nah.” He throws his head back and laughs. “I’m more of a supporter than a player. Like to stay out of the spotlight, you know? Playing seems like a lot of pressure.”
I do know. Praying that there isn’t biscuit in my teeth, I make an effort to sound casual.
“So, you, uh, come here often?”
The boy gives me a serious look. “Its my secret study spot. For when everyone’s being a prat and are more interested in throwing spitballs from old library books than actually revising. I just need to get away and be alone. I do things better on my own: I get work done, I write, I think about life. I’ve been coming here for three years and nobody’s ever disturbed me.”
“Until now.” I nibble at a biscuit.
“Yeah. You’re a sly one.” He seems to be looking me over appraisingly, but not as if he’s checking me out. More as if he’s trying to figure something out.
“Want to play a game?” he asks suddenly. “I’m sorry. I love games – I just don’t really know what else to say.” Again, the pink tint in his skin.
I shrug. “Er, like, wizards chess?”
“No way, its far too violent,” he laughs, and I smile along with him, silently agreeing. My father taught Daphne and I how to play wizards chess from a young age, but I never really was that skilled at seeing the bigger picture. “How about, you tell me three things about yourself that nobody knows, and I’ll tell you three.”
“I’m not sure that’s a game, exactly. And why would I want to tell you my secrets after just meeting you?”
“Well, who else would you tell?” He purses his lips, rueful and knowing. “Why not a complete stranger whose hideaway you burst into as if you’ve just sprinted the whole length of the castle?”
I glare at him. Hopefully I don’t smell of sweat from avoiding Goyle. “For your information, I did just run the whole length of the castle,” I say primly. “A feat which I’m sure you wouldn’t have accomplished judging by the look of you, all caught up with your revising and afraid of a little spitball.”
I’m worried for a moment that he’ll get offended, but the kid seems unflappable. He flashes his teeth at me.
“Feisty, aren’t we? Pray tell, who or what were you running from? Ernie Macmillian’s bad breath? McGonagall on the warpath? Or was it a troll in the dungeons? One broke in to Hogwarts in my first year, you know.”
“A troll isn’t too far off,” I mutter. “I was avoiding a stupid boy who’s decided to proclaim he’s in love with me, just because I was marginally nice to him the other day.” I glare. “Its so unfair! I’m nice to everyone! And he’s a git.”
The strange boy laughs, stretching his legs off the window seat and dangling them towards the floor.
“You sure seem like a nice one.” He winks at me, cheeky. I glare even harder, though a slight smile is fighting to crack through.
“Hey! I am nice! You just caught me on an off-day.” I proceed to tell him all about my awful day, starting with the letter from mum. I conclude by showing him the bites from the Arachne Orchid and the where the darn cupid from lunch managed to spear me. By this time he’s roaring with laughter, and I feel a smile poking at my face.
“Okay, okay,” I stammer, rolling my eyes at my own silliness. “Shall we play this game of yours or not?” I relish the strange urge to tell him something original, to shock the sexy smile right off his annoying face.
“Okay,” the boy says, screwing up his face in mock concentration. “You go first.”
I think for a moment. “I have a fear of wearing the color red. I just refuse to do it, because every time I’ve worn red, something bad happens.”
He raises his eyebrows. “Like what?”
“Well, one time I wore red and my dog died: he ate one of our garden gnomes and died from indigestion. He had pretty big teeth and was a little vicious so it wasn’t that shocking, but kind of sad. Then another time I wore red to Transfiguration and we had a surprise mini-examination. It’s the only test I failed.” I decide not to tell him about the time I wore red and my father disappeared for five days this summer, which cemented my superstition. Talking about that moment might raise questions.
“Alright, fair play,” he says. “I’m afraid of heights, but I haven’t told my dormmates, because while they’re pretty tame and lazy they’re also really clever, and would probably get off their bums and come up with a really good prank involving levitating my bed into a tree or something.”
I chuckle. “But we’re looking out from a height right now,” I gesture to the windows and at the Quidditch pitch far in the distance
“Ah yes, but I’ve thought it out. First of all, this glass is over seven hundred years old, I don’t think its about to suddenly break and suck me out with it. Plus, the entire castle is spelled to be unusually strong. Also, it’s very probable that the castle is enchanted so that if someone falls out a window, their fall with be magically broken. Haven’t you read much of Hogwarts, A History?”he says to my bemused look. “Well, anyway, even if I was very unlucky and none of those things worked, you will notice there’s several spots to hang onto between here and the ground, including one of the greenhouses. And most of the classrooms are below here, so likely somebody would see me falling and would be able to do some quick spellwork. We do attend a school for magic, after all.” He smirks at me.
“Someone’s been doing some over-thinking,” I say, smirking right back at him, and feeling a bit of a blush rise up in my own cheeks as well.
“Your turn, Feisty. But I better not wake up to find my bed on top of the Astronomy Tower and you grinning at the bottom.”
I solemnly promise to never exploit his fear of heights, and prepare to confess my next secret.
“Do you remember last year, when the House flags in the Great Hall disappeared and instead the whole place was decorated with boys’ underpants? Green underpants, blue underpants, underpants with Quaffles on them, underpants with Gwenog Jones’ face on them, underpants with pythons and rattlesnakes on the front that actually squirmed…”
The boy bursts into laughter. “How could any student ever forget? That was one of the best days of my life: I thought Umbridge was going to explode! And Filch leaping around like a lunatic when they started to fly and flutter about of their own accord? And when Mrs. Norris started pouncing on that pair with rats on them…” He collapses in laughter.
I grin, proudly. “That was me.” I remember the expressions on Pyxis, Phin and Taurus’ faces when they came down for breakfast that morning to see their pants promenading themselves below the charmed ceiling, and the sly high-fives Theo and I had given each other.
“No way,” the boy says, looking awed. “I always thought it was the Weasley twins, or…”
“Nope. Yours truly.”
“Then I salute you, good madam,” and he mimes a little bow. “How’d you swing it though? That was some pretty impressive and long-lasting magic.”
“If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you,” I inform him sadly and he leaps back, clutching at his chest. The truth is that Theo was the brains of the operation, but it feels nice to gain some respect for my involvement.
“No! Anything but death at your hands- you’d probably steal the pants right off me and put them up in your dorm.”
“Got anything good?” I ask daringly.
“Only a little garden snake on one pair,” he replies, winking at me again, and then turning red again as he laughs at himself. How have I met the only boy in the world who makes winking look funny and charming instead of awkward and creepy? “And of course, I’m not sure if eagle wings that actually fly are your thing when it comes to pants, but I might have a pair or two of those.”
“The height of style,” I reply, “oh wait, sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up heights…”
He chucks a biscuit at me but I catch it –future Seeker reflexes, right?- and take a bite.
“Okay,” he says, watching me eat. “I know an honest-to-god, descended from fame, tried-and-true Seer.”
I roll my eyes. “Please tell me you’re not talking about Professor Trelawney-”
“Not that Trelawney, but I actually think they’re distant cousins. Seers of old tended to marry their distant cousins, apparently, to preserve the gift. This girl’s the real deal. She gets… feelings about things. Little visions and glimpses. Sentiments. Apparently she already has prophecies catalogued in the Hall of Prophecy – it’s supposed to be a big secret at Hogwarts though because Dumbledore doesn’t want anyone hassling her for prophecies.”
I feel a strange little stab of jealousy. “I don’t believe in Seeing. My best friend is in Trelawney’s class and she says it’s a load of crap- tea leaves and constellations and other nonsense. There’s no way to actually predict the future.”
He laughs at me again. “Say what you want, but this girl’s the real deal. She’s really sweet, especially for a first year, they’re mostly brats-“
I tune out the rest of his rant about first years because I’m so glad to hear that Seer-miracle child is so clearly too young for him and not his girlfriend. Not that I should care, since I have other boy problems like getting Theo Nott to like me and ditching Goyle.
“-so then she told me I’d ace my NEWTs as long as I got the chance to write them, which she wasn’t so sure about,” he finishes.
“Sounds like she’s just telling you what you want to hear, which, to be fair, I would do if I was a ‘Seer,’ and then disappear before the prediction had a chance to not come true-” He’s staring at me as if I’m crazy so when I snap my mouth shut he throws another biscuit at me. I don’t quite catch it this time.
“Is it polite to throw food at people where you’re from?” I inquire.
“Nah, I’m just trying to fatten you up a little, Feisty,” he wiggles his eyebrows as if asking for me to hit him. I throw the biscuit back at him and he catches it in his mouth like some kind of circus dog. “What’s your third secret?”
“I can read minds.” I say, casual as they come. He raises his eyebrows again. I’ve never met someone with such a damn expressive face.
“Well, that’s an original one,” he says, grinning. “I’ve got to run though, got an Astronomy lecture in half an hour and I like to get there early to set up.” He glances at his rather plain watch. “If I run half as fast as you apparently can, then I might make it in time.”
He springs up from the window seat and grabs his book bag. I feel suddenly as grumpy as I did before arriving in this strange little room, wondering if there is any excuse I can find to walk with him to class.
“See you around, kid,” he winks.
“Wait!” I say suddenly as he’s halfway through the fake wall. “You never told me the third secret.”
The strange boy smirks again. “I named my pet pug back home ‘Pansy’ after that Parkinson girl in Slytherin.”
I decide that I rather like this stranger.
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