Chapter 2 : The Guilty-Conscience Syndrome
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supermegafoxyawesomehot CI by and.y @ TDA
The corridor is high, and so narrow that if I were to stand with my hands outstretched, my fingers would brush the obsidian, slick looking stone walls. Flickering green flames burn in scones set in the walls every few feet, but rather than lighting up the way, they seem to deepen and darken the shadows. Somewhere, the drip-drip-drip of water is the only sound. The rest is silence.
Suddenly, the eerie quite and stillness of the corridor is rent apart by a scream. It is the most horrible, heart-wrenching sound I've heard, a thousand times more terrible than a banshee's wail. Like someone is being tortured to madness.
And then I run, faster than ever before, only thinking about reaching the place where the screams are from. I need to get there and stop this. What if it's the Cruciatus Curse? I ask myself, even though I know that's illegal and impossible, and my heart thunders in my chest.
I don't notice the loose tile on the ground, until after I stumble on it and go sprawling in the dust. At the same moment, the screams stop abruptly, and a ringing silence follows. I look up from the floor, and see tiny rivulets of some black liquid trickling towards me; it washes over and drenches my hands and paints them black as night.
Shakily, I get to my feet, and turn towards the nearest scone to inspect my palms. Washed with emerald light, the black liquid turns out to be shocking red. Blood red.
I shoot bolt upright, shivering in my bed.
There is no corridor, no blood.
My clothes stick to my skin with cold sweat, my mouth dry as the Sahara and throat parched. My hands are fisted at my sides. I open them slowly, as if expecting to see dry, crusted blood. They are clean, however, white and lined and spotless as usual. With a sigh, I drop my head into them.
It was just a dream, just a stupid dream, a stupid fucking dream... I whisper to myself, trying to calm my racing heart.
I suddenly glance up when I hear an inquisitive "Meow?"
Simba watches me carefully with his slit-pupilled green eyes, perched at the foot of the bed. “Shoo,” I mumble, in a half-hearted attempt to drive him away, but he continues gazing at me, like, “Who, me?”
I smile, throw the covers off of me, and holding him by the scuff of his neck, head to the kitchen for a cup of bitter black coffee.
“I'm coming, I'm coming, bloody hold your hippogriffs!”
I race to the front door of the flat, and after struggling with the bolt for a good three minutes- stupid thing, always gets stuck- during which time, the doorbell, as well as my ears, are abused throughly, I throw it open triumphantly.
A tall, lanky guy with a mop of untidy brown hair, in jeans and a white botton-down shirt, and rimless glasses perched on his nose stands in the doorway, his fingers frozen in mid-air, obviously reaching for the doorbell again.
“Hugo Weasley,” I say, and he sheepishly lowers his hand, “any specific reason you're darkening my doorstep?”
“Well, technically,” he says, letting himself in oh-so-good-manneredly, “it's Bianca's doorstep.”
I shut the door with a snap, and whirl around to face him. He looks around curiously, taking in the decor, comprising of rose-coloured walls, burgundy curtains and various bric-a-bracs in shades of pink, ranging from light salmon to dark fushcia. “Very... pink, isn't it?” he states, gesturing widely with his hands.
“Like you pointed out, this is Bea's house,” I say, and leaning against the door, tell him, “Not that I'm not glad to see you, but last I heard, you were employed by the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Shouldn't you be at work, Hugo?”
He looks up from the copy of Witch Weekly which he'd picked up from the coffee table. “I took the day off. Said I had a terrible headache.”
I snort. “Atleast you could've been creative. Anyway, why? Don't tell me it was just because you wanted to meet my wonderful self.”
“Never,” he grins, “I'm here to ferry you to the abode of one James Potter, as instructed by my dearest Uncle.”
“Ugh, of course. I don't know where he lives,” I reply with an exasperated sigh, and he plops down on the couch. “Anyway, would you like some coffee? It's black.”
“Like your soul?” he quips. “I don't understand how you can stand that stuff, it's disgusting.”
“Sometimes, so are you, but I stand you too, don't I?” I leave to fetch a cup of tea for him and salvation disguised as caffeine for me.
Half an hour later, we're still lounging around my, sorry, Bianca's living room. I'm consuming my fourth mug of coffee for the day (don't judge- I'm inhuman without my caffeine high, and it's better for the society if a stay human and caffeinated) and Hugo is thoughtfully stroking Simba's fur, making the cat purr out in contentment. Hugo's opinion is that James would only be hungover and cranky and irritable so early in the morning (it's 10 o'clock), and we'd better give it some time before we call on him. Frankly, I wasn't complaining. Going to his house was inevitable, I know, but I was trying to put it off for as long as possible.
As you can tell, I'm pissing myself in exitement over the prospect of meeting the object of all my babysitter fantasies.
(That sounded vaguely pedophilic and disturbing, but whatever.)
“So...” Hugo breaks the peaceful-going-on-awkward silence with a stretched syllable.
“So?” I question, because there's nothing better to do, now that even my coffee's finished.
“How did the meeting with Uncle Harry go yesterday?” he asked, and I knew he had no wish to actually know the answer, and it was just an out-of-the-blue, asking-just-for-asking's-sake question, but I still feel myself cringing a little.
“Horrible,” I answer, and sigh a dreary sigh.
He looks surprised, clearly not expecting that reply. “Oh. Why?”
I mumble something that sounds vaguely like “ughustifro'im”. Obviously, speaking without minimal lip movement is a talent I do not possess.
“I cussed in front of him,” I enunciate clearly and miserably. “And talked really rudely.”
“Oh.” A pause. Then, “I never knew you were such a badass.”
“Hugo!” I exclaim, “It's not funny. You don't have any idea how bad I feel.”
I suffer from a condition which Hugo has named the 'Guilty-Conscience Syndrome'. It's my Achille's Heel, my propensity to be guilt-tripped so easily over the smallest of mistakes. Sleepless nights and anxiety chase me as long as guilt bubbles in my soul for stuff like not submitting homework, hurting someone, or, more recently, bad-mouthing authority figures.
“I don't know what happened, Hugh. I was unreasonably angry and frustrated, and I just took it out on him. I am such an idiot.”
“Calm down, Addie. Stop guilt-tripping yourself.”
I listlessly shake my head. “I feel terrible, you know.”
“I know,” he says, warm brown eyes peering into mine, “and you'll continue to feel terrible until you've apologised to him.”
I nod miserably. “It's like lately, I'm the Anti-Midas. Whatever I touch turns to shit. I always wanted to be an Auror, always wanted to work under him. I admired him, heck, I was one of those kids who literally hero-worshipped him. I can't believe I actually behaved that way in front of Harry freaking Potter.”
“I understand, Addie,” he replies, and I look up to find him smiling a little sadly at me, “but you don't need to feel so bad. He'll forgive you.”
I say nothing. Whether or not Mr. Potter forgives me, the fact that I was out of line can't be changed.
I lean my head against the cool glass of the window of Hugo's black Ford Fiesta, watching muggle London blur past. Around 11 o'clock, we'd reached the end of our procrastination capabilities and finally headed out for James'. After assuring me that his cousin Lucy would look after Simba very well, Hugo had proceeded to be surprised to see that the only luggage I was taking was my purse. Then I told him about the Undetectable Extension Charm, and he muttered something about nerdy, pretentious Ravenclaws. (His jealousy of my awesomeness is understandable.)
“A Knut for your thoughts?” Hugo enquires after a long stretch of silence.
“Shut up, Weasley, my thoughts are worth millions of Galleons,” I say, and he laughs at my half-sincere attempt to be sassy.
“Hey Hugh,” I say, once he's stopped chuckling, “What team does he play for? In the League?”
Hugo clearly wasn't expecting my question. He turns sideways to look at me. “James? The Falmouth Falcons. Why?”
I shake my head, turning back to the window. “Just curious.”
We step out on the pavement in front of an imposing building with ornate carvings and an air of luxury and grandeur. You know the kind of place, in the fancier parts of the city, with a doorman and a pristine lobby decorated with ornamental plants and stuff? Yeah, this is the epitome of that kind of a 'posh residence'.
We walk to the doors and the green-uniformed doorman greets us and holds the gold-handled glass doors open.
I look around the tastefully decorated lobby with its marble floors clothed in expensive Persian rugs and sparkling crystal chandelier, and let out a low whistle of appreciation. Beside me, Hugo mutters, “I was surprised James chose to live around muggles. Now I see the reason.”
On the elevator, Hugo notices me tugging the hem of my shirt and restlessly tapping a staccato beat with my feet. “Hey,” he says, “are you nervous?”
“Nervous?” I repeat, twisting a lock of my hair around my finger. “I'm not nervous. I never get nervous. That's absurd!”
I shoot him one last scathing look before we reach the floor with James' flat. He walks to the end of the corridor, and I follow him. Surreptitiously tapping the door knob with his wand so that the door swings open, he turns to me and grins crookedly. “Welcome to Casa de Potter.
I walk over threshold, and immediately, my fallen jaw scrapes the floor, and my mind, losing every bit of coherency, goes, “Holy fucking hell.
The place is beautiful, all white leather and ebony wood and sparkling glass and hard planes and sharp angles. The furniture is expensive-looking and quite minimalist and bare, a lot of understated elegance. It's quite generic, like no one can be bothered to decorate, but it just screams taste and class.
The entire wall opposite the doorway is made of glass, giving the illusion that the living room opens to the sky, and beyond the glass wall...
“Bloody heck,” I whisper in awe, “is that a swimming pool?” Hugo nods in answer, barely able to conceal his grin at the expression of amazement on my face. Yeah, well, anyone would be amazed if they came across an expanse of eye-hurtingly blue water just floating in mid-air, held there by -you guessed it- magic.
“Wow...” I am at a loss for anything else to say, and at that moment, James Potter enters the room.
He saunters into the room and leans against the granite breakfast bar, eyes hidden behind oversized reflective shades. His jet-black hair looks like he spent the morning rolling around in bed, and his perfectly fitted dark stone-wash jeans are slung low over his hips. He is shirtless, which had been the very first thing I had noticed, because, like it or not, Quidditch blokes are fit. Thank Merlin for my years of training at keeping my face impassive.
Even though it's impossible to know what he's looking at, what with his stylish shades and all, I know he's checking me out. I rarely, if ever, dress to impress, and today, with my plain-Jane skinny jeans, dark-blue shirt, caramel jacket and low heels, hair pulled up in a tight ponytail and face scrubbed clean of all make-up, I probably look all pinched and exhausted, like a middle-aged spinster who teaches Transfiguration at an all-girls institute or something. His face, however, gives away nothing. Someone else seems to be well practiced at keeping an impassive expression.
“James,” says Hugo, breaking the awkward tension, “This is Addison Bates.”
He says nothing, continuing his silent assessment of my clothes and face. The silence is becoming painful, which is probably why I said what I say next; there can be no other reasonable explanation.
“You should really pull up your jeans,” I blurt out in a relatively normal voice, “they're in the danger of slinking off.”
James Potter raises an eyebrow questioningly, a dark expression to match his dark hair and dark shades, dripping non-chalance and arrogance.
“I'm guessing you're the babysitter,” he says in a deep and cool-as-hell voice.
“You guess right!” Hugo replies, loudly and cheerfully. James turns to him then, and despite the shades, I swear, if looks could kill, Hugo would be stone-cold and buried six feet under. I suddenly feel angry on my best friend's behalf.
Before I can retaliate in any way, however, James is speaking again. “There are three spare bedrooms here, you can dump your stuff wherever,” then he addresses Hugo, “and kindly show yourself out as soon as you're done.”
With that, he turns, graceful and arrogant, and disappears into a hallway I hadn't noticed earlier.
Speechless, I turn to Hugo. He shrugs, and says, “Turns out he's still hungover and cranky and rude, after all.” I quickly gather that James Potter is every bit as unpleasant as I expected him to be.
Merlin knows how I'll survive a month in the same habitat as him.
A/N: So, I guess a lot happened in this chapter? And I guess that makes up for the not-updating-in-a-long-time thing? Right? Well, I can always hope...
In other news, the response to the first chapter was just asdfghjkl! I can't. Thanks so much charlene, Lily's Sidekick, Tantin, sour_grapes_snape, Serpens_Noctis, missclaire17, Holly_Mist, TimeSeer, Cresent Moon and AlexFan for all of your wonderful reviews. And all the favourites and reads as well!
Now, some questions-
* ooh, the nightmare!
* fave part/scene/line?
* how much do you love Hugo?
* James James James James James!
* Addison was not a whiny brat? Cred to missclaire17 for that, actually...
* predictions? questions? hopes and dreams?
Until next time, chicas!
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