Chapter 3 : RIA: LIKE HE LIKES IT
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CHAPTER THREE: RIA
LIKE HE LIKES IT
“I can’t believe you’d do something so stupid.” Bella was saying. “I mean, for a second it was like I’d flashed back to second year. You know, before you grew a brain.”
“It was his fault.” I repeated the phrase I’d uttered about twenty five times since first-period potions. It sounded like a weak argument even to me now.
“Shut up. I saw it. You were the instigator.”
“Only because he -”
“I CAN HEAR YOU STILL!” James voice came from across the room. “TALK MORE QUIETLY – IT FUCKING HURTS!”
“You shut up!” I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth against the pain that flared up at his voice. I pressed hard on my stomach, trying to stop it leaping around in there – bashing my lungs and all.
I could hear a pained, frustrated groan from the other side of the room.
Bella raised her eyebrows. “This is bizarre.”
I suspected she wasn’t referring to our yelling at each other. As half of our beaters duo, Bella was more than used to being exposed to that on a daily basis. It was probably the sight of me writhing in agony at the bastards voice.
Madam Bones had thought it best to separate us – well, as much as possible in a not too sizable hospital wing. James was in the bed closest to the entrance and Madam Bones’ office. I was at the far end. We both had a curtain drawn on one side of the bed. It worked. But it was freaking boring.
Fortunately Bella had taken pity on me and dropped in at lunch.
“It’s better than it was earlier. I think.” I told her. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just gotten used to it.”
“This is better?” She laughed. “Christ. How long are you going to have to stay in here?”
“Not overnight, thank Merlin.” I shuddered. “You know he snores like a pig. That’s always repulsed me. And I’m not keen to find out if it causes me physical pain, either. We’ve just got to keep coming back each morning to check the levels in our blood.”
“What about lessons? If you two can’t be in the same room... What about practice?” She didn’t try and hide her priorities. “We’re playing Hufflepuff in three weeks!”
“I don’t know.” I squirmed uncomfortably. It wasn’t like that thought hadn’t occurred to me. And it didn’t look like James or I would be able to be in one another’s company and manage to keep airborne. Not any time soon anyway. It had also occurred to me that if one of us had to sit out, it wouldn’t be the captain.
I didn’t know how I felt about it.
“Maybe we’ll be ok by then.” I didn’t even sound convincing to myself.
“By then, sure. But what about training? You can’t just sit out for three weeks then play. We’d get destroyed! By Hufflepuff. Think of the embarrassment.”
“It’s up to James.” I said, evenly.
Bella frowned. “You’re pissed off.”
“You are! You still blame him, don’t you? Even though, this time, it’s half your fault.”
I folded my arms and pursed my lips. “Shut up.”
“Unbelievable.” Bella got up. “I’ve got to go. Some of us have lessons to get to. And someone's got to let Willow know you're alive.”
I squirmed in my bed. Damn, it. She’d made me feel guilty. This didn’t usually happen. Then again, joining in James’ stupid games as if I was twelve years old again didn’t usually happen.
“Bell, I didn’t mean to. I didn’t think, I -”
“That’s the problem.” She sighed. “You didn’t think and it’s weird. It’s not like you. Not anymore.”
I huffed. She was referring to my very close shave back when I first joined the team in third year. Where my slightly (very) reckless acts and dismissal of advise almost had me kicked off the team within a year.
“Just remember who saved your arse back then.” Bella raised her eyebrows and nodded towards the idiot at the far end of the room. “And stop blaming him now. It’s not like he knew this was going to happen.”
I huffed again. This time more quietly. “He didn’t think either.” I muttered.
“He never does if it’s not to do with Quidditch.” Bella rolled her eyes and looked through a gap in the curtain. “His curtains open. He looks miserable. By the way.”
I knew I shouldn’t. I don’t know what came over me. I knew it would hurt and I very vividly recalled the agony the last time we made eye contact. I don’t know anything apart from I quite suddenly needed to. To see him. My best friend.
The one that I was currently pissed off with and was strongly advised not to look at or speak to.
I leaned forward just a fraction and looked through the gap.
This time I managed not to scream and swear and curse. Just a shuddering gasp as the frantic churning built up in my stomach, the hammering in my chest and – this was new – the shaking in my hands.
“Ria, what -” Bella frowned, grabbing my arm.
I closed my eyes.
The pain subsided a little.
Opened them again.
It was back. I had to stifle a groan.
I sighed, and let Bella yank me back against my pillow. Looked like Bones was right.
And so was Bella. He did look miserable. Fed up. Bored. Slightly less panicky than before when we were both convinced we were dying. But worried nonetheless. It wasn’t an expression I was used to seeing on his face.
And there was a slight (ok, not so slight) chance it was half my fault it was there.
And there was nothing I could do about it.
“Stop that.” Bella was the one looking panicky on this side of the room. She’d shoved me back against the pillow none too lightly, and was now looking at me like I was a crazy person. “Are you insane? Why would you... you knew it would... Are you insane?” She repeated.
“You said he was miserable.” I frowned. “ You made me want to look. I just... wanted to see him.” It was true, I realised. I’d wanted to see him this whole time. That was part of what had made this few hour stint in the hospital wing drag so much. I wanted to see him.
I knew it would hurt. But I still wanted to.
Was it just because I couldn’t? Just because I was worried about my best friend? Just to try and beat this... whatever it was?
“Well, don’t. There’s a reason Bones told you not to, idiot. You don’t know how dangerous this is.”
“That one wasn’t so bad.” I said, trying to bring some colour back into her unusually pale face. “I’m serious.” I added, when she raised her eyebrows. “I think it might be wearing off already. Maybe we’ll even be up and running for Quidditch tomorrow...”
She didn’t need to know that ‘better’ was still borderline agony. And maybe it would get better over night. We didn’t know.
“Really?” She still didn’t look utterly convinced, but her tone was less accusatory.
“Maybe.” I shrugged.
She considered this for a second, then got back up. “Don’t look at him again until Bones lets you leave, ok? I’ll see you tonight.”
“Thanks for coming.” I meant it. I was grateful she’d come. None of James’ bonehead mates had come along. In fairness, they didn’t take Potions. Maybe they hadn’t heard.
Yeah, right. Bella had tried to hide it but, based on the fact that Willow - the peacekeeper of our trio - was yet to make an appearance, I was pretty sure there was some kind of commotion going on at lunch and that it had something to do with us.
Eurgh. I flung my head back against the pillow. Everyone in the school probably had heard about it by now. Last week when that 5th year managed to vanish his clothes in Charms, it had spread around the whole school within an hour.
I gave this two. If Willow had her way. If not, one.
“You said we could! You promised!” I was virtually exploding.
“Ree! Cut it out -”
“Please.” I was probably pleading louder and more brusquely than I intended. I don’t think I can be blamed when my heart and stomach were in cahoots to tear me apart at every little whine James fancied having.
James abandoned all attempts at reasoning with me to shut up and just moaned. What a baby. All he needed to do was man up while I negotiated our release. I was managing.
“Stop, Miss Beales.” This time Bones meant business. “Think of yourself and think of Mr Potter. Look at how this is affecting you both.”
Well I couldn’t quite look at James. To hear his voice was one thing, just a couple of seconds of stabbing pain. But to look was even worse. She probably meant it rhetorically anyway. I scowled and wiped the tears from my face. I didn’t even remember how they got there. My breathing was still a bit shallow. And my arms were clamped firmly around my waist in an attempt to keep it together if it did happen to split. You never know.
I pressed my lips together and waited, scowling.
“After testing the levels in your blood again I’m not convinced it’s safe enough for you both to be out of here. The levels dropped rapidly the first couple of hours -” That’s right – Bones the healer (sadist) had been draining us of blood every hour as if that would help. “- but they’ve been dropping by less each time. The levels are still far higher than I’d like them to be considering the high chance that you’ll have to see each other. You’re in the same house. You have most lessons together. And don’t even get me started on Quidditch...”
She had a point. But so did I. “He snores.” I pointed out.
She paused. Had to take that into consideration.
“It’ll hurt.” I added. “A lot. And I’ll have to get up and actually look at him to get him to shut up which will be worse for us both. And who knows what a lack of sleep will do to us right now.”
James managed to keep himself under control this time while I was talking. All I could hear was his breathing sharply out through his nose. I could imagine his gritted teeth and set jaw. But I appreciated his trying. Trying to keep it under wraps to get us the hell out of here.
“We won’t go near each other if we don’t have to.” He added, and now it was my turn to grit my teeth. “We won’t sit together in class. We won’t... we... I’ll cancel Quidditch. For tomorrow. Then we’ll see what the levels are like tomorrow and go from there.”
Bloody hell. James Potter cancelling a Quidditch training. First time for everything. His stumbling on the words didn’t escape me though. I wonder if he’d been tortured by the conundrum as well. If we’d both been sat here all day going over the same thing in our minds but unable to talk about it.
Probably not. Probably not a hard decision for him at all. Probably just pondering on how to break the bad news to me.
There was an extended pause as Bones considered it all. “Ok. You can go. But one at a time. And after dinner. You’ll eat here, get your things together and go. You will go straight to your dormitories, do you understand me? But I want you both back here immediately after breakfast tomorrow, ok?”
I nodded frantically. I imagine that James did too, seeing as he didn’t vocalise anything. Perhaps he was learning.
First time for everything.
“So can I go yet?” I piped up for roughly the fifth time. Since James had gone. So much for ladies first and all that.
Madam Bones sighed. Something told me I wasn’t her favourite patient. “I asked you to be patient, Miss Beales...”
“I am!” I wasn’t. “He’s been gone five minutes, and he has way longer legs than me. There’s no way I’ll catch up now even if I was trying -”
“Fine! Fine. Go. Straight to the dormitory, remember. And back here tomorrow.”
“Got it.” I nodded, and practically skipped from the room. “Thank you!”
Freedom. It was sweet.
The halls were empty, at this time. It was ten minutes to curfew and pretty much the only people about would be the prefects. Bones really was cutting it fine. If I lost points for this she would be hearing from me. And wouldn’t she just love that.
I almost danced my way up the stairs. This was the lightest and most pain-free I’d felt all day. I’m not quite sure why I was so ultra keen to get the dormitories at such a pace, I was just drawn there. Weird. It’s not like I’d been away for days and days. Just like any other day, really.
But I was. Hurrying, I mean. Skipping almost every other step. Maybe it was the social isolation. Bella had only visited for about twenty minutes at lunch. My only other company had caused me pain when he spoke to/looked at me. That was it.
I came around the last corner before the common room and stopped so sharply I skidded for a couple of feet down the polished floors. I barely had time to take in a crouched figure before It was back.
The pain. My guts. My lungs. My whole entire torso.
“Argh!” I practically screamed, taken completely by surprise. I think that made it worse – the shock. “Are you kidding me, Potter?”
I could just about hear his groans over mine as he tipped backwards over his heels. I don’t know if it was the pain or the surprise. It would have been funny if my internal organs were behaving.
“What the fu -”
“What do you think you’re doing?!” I stumbled backwards, my eyes shut in an attempt to clear the pain. I couldn’t find the corner with my groping hand so I just spun around and attempted opening my eyes. Slowly.
Fine. It was... fine. The pain was subsiding and I could breathe again. As long as I had my back to him.
I could only imagine he’d done the same as I heard his breathing easing up.
“What did you do, sprint up here?!” He demanded, still slightly breathless.
I flinched, pressing my lips together at the flare up in my chest. And a little bit of guilt. I had been hurrying. And I wasn’t even sure why. But that didn’t mean... it wasn’t my fault, I was just...
“What about you?!” I exclaimed. “What the hell are you doing lurking around outside the common room?”
“I wasn’t lurking, I was tying my shoe. It’s not like I expected you to be running up here after me -”
“Tying your fucking shoe? Seriously? You’re about five metres from the common room and you thought you’d stop to tie your shoe? Do you like this or something? Do you like pain?”
“What do you want me to say? I wasn’t thinking -”
“I don’t want you to say anything, I just want you to shut up and go away.” It became too much. I pressed my fingers to my temples and took two very deep breaths. Was pain a mental thing? Could I beat it if I tried?
There was a pause as James ground his teeth at me raising my voice. I felt a little guilty at that. He’d been trying to keep his voice controlled. Snapping, yes. But not yelling.
“I was trying.” He said, evenly. “I was trying to get back. You couldn’t even wait ten minutes to make sure you didn’t catch up? Do you like this or something?”
He had a point. He’d dawdled and I’d hurried. Anyone would think we were idiots or actually enjoying this. Those weren’t the actions of two reasonably intelligent eighteen year olds.
“No.” I said, quietly. It felt... weird. A bit like I should apologise or he should apologise or... something. But not like this. This was ridiculous, if anyone came around the corner. The two of us with our backs to one another. Me shaking like a leaf (I hadn’t even realised) and I was fairly sure I hadn’t heard James stand up yet.
But still... still I wanted to turn around. It was stupid. Completely irrational. But I just wanted to be able to turn around and apologise to... or yell at... my friend. Like a normal person.
For crying out loud, it had been a day. What was wrong with me? Did I always want to look at him this much? Surely not. I’m reasonably certain I borderline avoided it, on the premise that it would likely get me into trouble.
I certainly wasn’t... tempted. Like this. Before.
What was this? And was it just me?
“James, do you feel like...” I trailed off. How could I put it in not-creepy terms? James, do you feel like you want to look at me all the time right now? Smooth, Beales.
“Like what?” He asked. Did he sound slightly guarded, or was I being paranoid?
“Like...” Nope, there really wasn’t a not-creepy way. “Nothing. Never mind.”
There was another long pause. I could hear him standing up now. “Ok. How are we going to do this?”
I let out a breath. It was easier, I think. To manage the pain. “You go. I’ll wait.”
I exhaled, impatiently. Sure? What a waste of a word and a few pain-free seconds right now. “Yes, I’m sure. You go. Now.”
“Ok.” I heard his footsteps, moving away from me. He paused again outside the portrait hole. “Good night, Ree.”
I closed my eyes again. This was weird. Although those words came with the usual flare-up of chest pain, they also felt almost... soothing.
“Good night, James.”
And then I was left alone.
A.N. Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you'd think. This is a little different to my other stories and I'd love some feedback. So far I'm enjoying writing it! Rx.
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