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Human Nature by Flavia
Chapter 15 : Fact of Nature #15: Even Potters make Mistakes
 
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I didn’t hear the footsteps or even notice the person sitting next to me on the step.  I wasn’t aware of anything until I felt a hand on my arm.  I jumped, looking up hopefully; Lucy, she came back, she’s going to forgive me!

But it wasn’t Lucy at all; it was Rose who sat next to me, worry and anger battling it out behind her eyes. 

“I am really mad at you,” her opening words didn’t surprise me.

“I’m sorry Rosie, I really am,” I said, turning my eyes back to stare at the stone step.  “I might not like Malfoy, but I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.”

“Oh please,” She said.  “I was snogging a Malfoy for goodness sake, as if I wasn’t expecting that response.  Not to mention you must have got an awful shock; then again, so did we!”  She chuckled to herself.  “No Al, the reason I’m mad at you is because the girl you claim to be crazy about is currently in our dormitory, crying her eyes out because you can’t control your temper.”

“She’s crying?” I groaned, dropping my head into my hands.  “Mother of Merlin Rose, what have I done?”  To her credit, Rose didn’t respond, she just wrapped her hand around mine and gently put her head on my shoulder.  The pain I’d been feeling in my heart seemed to spread and fill my entire chest, making breathing difficult.

“I’ve seriously screwed everything up, haven’t I?” I choked out.

“More or less,” Rose said.  “But give her some time, apologise for being a complete moron and she might come around.  Lucy’s a pretty forgiving person.”

“She didn’t forgive McMillan,” I countered. 

“McMillan’s an arrogant berk who tried to sexually harass her.  You just yelled at her.” Rose lifted her head from my shoulder.

“Yeah, but I really yelled at her Rose.  I’m so embarrassed.”

“So you should be, but that’s a good thing.  You genuinely feel guilt over what you did, when Lucy sees that I’m sure she’ll forgive you.”

“Really?”  I looked up at Rose, hopeful for the first time since the whole debacle.

“Really,” Rose smiled at me.  “Just give her time to calm down, and then apologise.”

“Rosie, I’ll get down on my knees and beg if I need to,” I said, my voice a little more earnest than it probably needed to be.

“I don’t think it will come down to that,” Rose laughed.  And Al?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re not going to tell Dad about Scorpius are you?”

“No,” I sighed.  “I’m not thrilled, but if you want me to, I’ll keep your secret.”

Rose planted a kiss on my cheek, “I knew there was a reason I liked you so much.”

 




I followed Rose’s advice and gave Lucy some space, waiting until the next day before trying to talk to her.  I lay awake long into Saturday night, staring at the canopy above my bed, rehearsing my apology in my head.  The only problem was that the next day, Lucy was nowhere to be seen.  She wasn’t in the Great Hall when I went down for breakfast, and even though I sat there, nursing a cup of tea until the last person had left, she didn’t show.  I tried the library, the common room and even Hagrid’s, but I couldn’t find her.  Eventually, after my third check of the library, Rose let slip that Lucy was studying up in the girl’s dormitory. 

“I think she just needs a bit more time Al,” She said, looking sorry for me. 

I finally saw Lucy at dinner on Sunday night, but she sat at the opposite end of the Gryffindor table, flanked by Jane and Rose, the latter of whom gave me a little shake of the head when I stood up to walk over to them.  I sat back down, but spent the rest of the meal trying to catch Lucy’s eye, ignoring the conversation around me.  It was no use though, Lucy didn’t look up from her plate until she left the Great Hall, looking determinedly ahead as she passed me.

“Buy her some flowers, or chocolates mate,” Louis suggested after watching me mope around our dormitory as we got ready for bed.  “Girls love that sort of thing, don’t they?”  He looked to Justin for confirmation.

“I guess it might be worth a try,” Justin shrugged.  “Her birthday’s coming up, why don’t you buy her something really significant to show her how sorry you are?”

“I’ve been trying to think of something since I found out when her birthday was,” I groaned, flopping on my back on my bed.  “I can’t think of anything good enough that I can afford.  That’s it, I may as well give it up as a lost cause, she’s too good for me anyway.”

“Well, that might be the case, but I don’t think you should give up just yet.  Just give her some time,” Justin shrugged again and disappeared in to the bathroom to brush his teeth.

“Have you guys got any ideas?” I asked, pushing myself up on my elbows to look at Will and Louis.

“A signed picture of yourself?”  Will grinned and Louis snickered in to his pillow.

“Oh shut up you two,” I grumbled, flopping back down on to the mattress.  “Urgh!  This is hopeless!”

By Tuesday night, I still hadn’t spoken to Lucy, and as I headed down to Quidditch training, I found myself wondering if I was ever going to get an opportunity to apologise.  Add to that the fact that I still hadn’t found a birthday present for Lucy and her birthday was only two days away now!

I was in the broom shed, fighting with the pile of broomsticks that were preventing me from finding my own, when I bumped in to Jane.  “Hawthorn!” I exclaimed, suddenly hopeful as I realised I had a chance here to get Lucy’s best friend on side.

“Al, whatever it is you think I can do, I probably can’t,” She said, looking down awkwardly at her hands.

“But if she’d just listen to me, let me apologise…” I said desperately, as several of the broomsticks nearly crashed down on top of my head.  “She won’t even look at me, let alone talk to me.”  I added.  Jane sighed and began helping me pick up the brooms, a thoughtful look on her face.

“Look, I’m pretty sure she’s just hurt, and she does want to stay friends with you,” She began, and my heart swooped excitedly.  “But she still needs more time.  Sometimes it takes Lucy a little longer to come to these conclusions, but she will, I promise.”

Time, time, time.  That’s what everyone kept telling me Lucy needed, and they were probably right, but it didn’t stop me feeling like I was losing my mind.  During practice, I was hit with a runaway quaffle seven times and at one point, I flew straight into James while he was giving the beaters a few pointers.  I knew I had to give Lucy time, but I was starting to worry that I didn’t have much time left before I went completely crazy.

The next morning however, I found something of a solution in a conversation between Hawthorn, Rose and Gwen over breakfast.  I’d joined them at the Gryffindor table where they sat with Justin and Louis – Lucy was nowhere to be seen.

“So Professor Longbottom said we have special permission to go down and get it from his office early in the morning tomorrow, before Lucy wakes up,” Jane was saying. 

“Just as long as she doesn’t wake up early and catch us at it,” Gwen piped in.

“If she does, we’ll just have to work around it, sneak out when she’s in the shower or something,” Rose reasoned.  “Oh, this is fantastic, she’s going to be so excited!”

“what are you guys talking about?” I asked tentatively.  Three heads swivelled towards me, and then Jane and Gwen both turned to look at Rose, as if waiting to see how she responded to me.

“Lucy’s parents are giving her an owl for her birthday,” Rose said. 

“It’s been delivered to Professor Longbottom and we’re going to collect it to give to her tomorrow morning,” Gwen added.

“She’ll love that,” I said, unable to stop the small smile that crossed my lips.  “Man, she’s going to be so excited.”

I noticed a pointed look being shared between the three girls and I quickly busied myself with spreading jam on my toast.  I was a bit embarrassed about my sudden outburst, but as I started at my knife, I was struck with a sudden inspiration.  I knew exactly what to get Lucy for her birthday.

Choking down the last of my breakfast, I raced upstairs to my dormitory.  Throwing open my trunk, I dug through the mess of clothes, parchment and odd socks.  “Come on, come on.  Where are you?”  I murmured to myself, searching for something I wasn’t sure I even had anymore.

“Bingo!” I exclaimed, pulling out a crumpled piece of parchment bearing the name Hollingsfield & Sons, Hand Crafted Jewellery.  It was a brochure that the shop girl had slipped in to the bag with Lucy’s Christmas present, advertising the range of ‘exclusive, hand crafted crystal charms’ that could be purchased.  ‘Owl orders welcomed’ it announced cheerfully.  I’d thrown it in amongst my stuff, thinking it might be useful if Lucy liked her bracelet, and had then promptly forgotten about it; that is until today when the girls had mentioned Lucy’s new owl.  The brochure featured pictures of the charms, with a five digit number beneath it.  Scanning down the list I found the one I was looking for, one of the choices I’d been presented with on the day I chose the unicorn charm for Lucy.

Charm 35462 was a perfectly sculpted, crystal image of an owl looking rather contended, almost as if it was about to fall asleep.  It was the perfect gift for Lucy’s birthday, and if it drew her attention to the bracelet I’d bought her for Christmas, then she might remember how good our friendship had been before I royally messed it all up.  Glancing at my watch, I realised I was about two minutes away from being late to class, so I shoved the brochure in my pocket, threw my bag over my shoulder and headed out of the dormitory.

At break time, I made my way up to the owlerly.  I pulled the brochure out and, with a quill from my bag, I started filling out the little order form at the bottom of the page.  I triple checked that I had the order number right before tearing off the form, frowning when I noticed the words ‘please allow two (2) days for order to be received.  May be longer if desired item is out of stock.’   There was no way the gift would arrive by Lucy’s birthday tomorrow, but if I was lucky (and I was praying to Merlin, Dumbledore and Godric Gryffindor that I was), then it would arrive in time for her party.

“Al!” It was Rose who caught me at the end of Potions.  “Al, I need to talk to you about something,” Her voice was an urgent whisper.

“Sure, shoot,” I said as we left the corridor that led to the dungeons and entered the entrance hall.

“Um, not here, I don’t want to be overheard,” She hissed, glancing at Lucy, Gwen and Jane, who were walking only a few steps in front of us.

“Ok, how about we go take a stroll outside before dinner?” I suggested, leading my cousin out in to the crisp air.  “What’s up?” I asked once we were a hundred feet or so away from the castle.

“I’ve got a plan!”  She said exciteldly.

“A plan?”  I replied.  “A plan for what?”

“A plan to get Lucy to talk to you again,” Rose beamed at me and I stopped dead where I was.

“What?” I said, a sliver of hope running through me before I remembered the reality of my current situation .  “Rose she doesn’t even want to look at me anymore, why do you think she would want to talk to me?”

“That’s just it,” Rose responded, the smile not leaving her face.  “I think she does want to talk to you Al, she’s just upset, and is forcing herself to hide away.  But I think if you could get her alone for a minute, she might be persuaded to listen to you.”

My heart was thumping loudly in my chest now, and I stared at Rose’s excited face, hardly daring to hope she was right. 

“And you have a plan to make this happen?”  I asked.

“Yup,” Rose glanced around us, as though making sure nobody was listening, even though the closest group of students were well out of hearing distance.  “As we told you at breakfast, Lucy’s getting an owl for her birthday,” Rose explained.  I nodded to show that I remembered the conversation.  “Well, the plan is to sneak it up to the dormitory in the morning and give it to her before we go down from breakfast.”

“Ok…” I said slowly, still not sure where Rose was going with this.

“Well you know Lucy.  What do you think she’s going to want to do with her owl before she heads down to breakfast tomorrow?”

“The owlery,” I said, as Rose’s plan became a bit clearer.  “She’ll want to make sure the owl is settled in the owlery!”

“Exactly,” Rose grinned even wider.  “And guess who’s going to be there waiting for her?”

 




I glanced at my watch again, noting it was now 8:06, only two minutes since I’d last looked at the time.  I’d been waiting in the owlery since 7:30, even though Rose said she doubted Lucy would get up here until about 8am, but I was terrified I would miss her.  This was my only chance to get Lucy to listen to me, to allow me to apologise, and I didn’t want to waste it.

I wandered over to Kenrick, who’d been giving me odd looks for the last fifteen minutes, no doubt wondering why I was nervously pacing the floor.  I was exhausted, having been awake half the night re-memorising my apology.  This needed to be perfect, Lucy just had to understand how sorry I was.  I reached in to the bag of Owl treats I brought up with me and fed some to Kenrick, who gobbled them up hungrily. 

What if she doesn’t come?  I thought to myself hopelessly.  What if she decides not to bring the owl up here, or what if she’s not alone?  Rose had promised me she would convince Jane and Gwen not to accompany Lucy to the owlery, but what if she bumped in to someone on the way?

The creaking of the door caused my heart to speed up, and I watched with anticipation as Lucy stepped through, a small, fluffy brown and white barn owl on her shoulder.  Her face was flushed and she seemed a little out of breath, no doubt from the trek up the tall staircase, but she looked happy, and it seemed to light up her entire face, so that she looked like she was glowing from the inside.  Or maybe she just seemed that way because I hadn’t been able to get a proper look at her since Saturday.  Her eyes met mine and she stopped, surprised at my presence and no doubt about to run away.

“Lucy,” I said as gently and as kindly as I could.  “Please don’t go.”  She continued to stare at me, although I was unsure how to read the expression on her face.  “Happy Birthday,” I added, somewhat pathetically.

“Thanks,” Her voice was soft, but not angry and it sent a thrill through me to know she had just spoken to me.  Yes, it was only one word, but she had said it to me!

“Your parents gave you an owl?” I asked, more nervous than I thought I would be.  Lucy didn’t respond, but kept her eyes on me as she moved to the nearest row of perches.  The small owl pushed off from her shoulder and fluttered gently up to rest above her head.  She wasn’t saying anything, which was making me more nervous by the second, but I’d come here to apologise and I was going to see that plan through.

“Can we talk?”  I asked tentatively, willing her to speak again.  She nodded silently, her eyes still locked with mine.  It wasn’t quite the response I’d hoped for, but I was going to take it anyway.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, the words tumbling out of my mouth.

“So am I,” Three words!  She had spoken again and I sucked in a deep breath, encouraged by those three little words.

“You have no reason to be sorry.  I am so ashamed of the way I acted, I was angry and shocked but I should never have taken it out on you.” The words were coming out in a rush, not exactly the way I rehearsed them, but I couldn’t do anything about that now.  “You were trying to protect Rose and you were completely right, I was a complete git.  Can you forgive me?”  I finished suddenly, surprising myself and no doubt Lucy as well.  My question seemed to hang in the air between us; I’d managed to get out my apology and now it was up to Lucy to deal the blow.

“Of course I can,” Her words were soft, but as clear as the first birdsong at sunrise.  She forgives me! My heart seemed to be swelling in my chest, and I wondered if it was going to burst.  Suddenly, unable to contain myself any longer, I took the few short steps towards her and wrapped my arms around Lucy, my whole body tingling at the joy of touching her again.  Her arms slipped around my waist, and her cheek pressed firmly against my shoulder as I closed my eyes and inhaled her scent.

All too son, I felt Lucy pull away, but there was a smile on her face.  Her cheeks were pink, probably still from the climb up to the owlery.

“Breakfast?” I suggested.  “You can’t turn sixteen on an empty stomach,” I added as Lucy nodded.  The air felt positively electric as we walked downstairs, and I found it difficult to resist the urge to reach over and grab her hand.  We were on the fifth floor before I managed to speak again.

“So have you named your owl yet?” I asked.

“Yep,” Lucy smiled at me, and I couldn’t help but grin back, still mentally pinching myself that she wasn’t upset with me anymore.  “Actually I came up with the name back in second year, around the time I started begging my parents for my own owl.”

“Is it a secret name?”  I teased, and Lucy laughed.

“Flitch,” She replied.  “I know it’s a bit silly, but I always thought it was kind of cute; so it suits her, since she’s so adorable.”  Her eyes sparkled and I could see just how excited she was, how much this new pet meant to her.  I was pretty sure my owl charm was going to go down well too.

After not talking to Lucy for over three days, I found myself feeling the need to make up for lost time, sitting next to her at meals when I could wrangle it and constantly talking to her, whispering little jokes and sneaking notes to her during classes.

I knew I was probably being a bit obvious, but ever since Lucy had agreed to forgive me, I found myself beginning to hope that maybe, even if only in a very small way, Lucy might return my feelings.  I knew that I could just be telling myself things I wanted to hear, but every now and then I would catch a smile or a giggle or a look and wonder if maybe, just maybe, I made her as nervous and she made me.

Saturday morning, I sat down to breakfast at the Gryffindor table with Will, Gwen, Justin, Rose, Jane and Lucy.  The girls had obviously been there for a while, because they were only a few crumbs of the meal left on their plates.  There wasn’t any room to squeeze in next to Lucy, so I sat diagonally across from her, next to Justin.  Will was busy telling the story of the day his Hogwarts letter arrived.  Being muggle born, his parents knew nothing of the magical world until Prefessor Longbottom turned up on their doorstep one day to explain about Will’s abilities, Hogwarts and all the rest.

“So then my Dad takes a swig from his fourth glass of whisky and says ‘He’s not going to like, grow extra arms or a tail or something, is he?’”  The girls all laughed and Justin and I give a chuckle for good measure.  It’s a funny story, but we’ve both heard it several times.

“Well sorry to leave you guys, but we have a study session to get to,” Rose says as she stands up and climbs over the bench she has been sitting on.  The other girls stand and join her, although we boys must look a bit down cast because she adds, “Don’t worry, it’s just for the morning.  We’ll be back to help with the party set up this afternoon.”

I watch Lucy’s retreating back, and smile when she glances back over her shoulder at us.  She looked back, that’s a very good sign, the hopeful part of my brain whispers in my ear.  I start dishing bacon, sausages and eggs on to my plate, feeling happier than I have in a while.

“What’s with the grin?” Will asked as I buttered a piece of toast.

“Hmm?” I mumbled, my mouth still full of bacon.

“You’re looking very pleased with yourself,” Justin laughed as I swallowed my food.

“Well it’s a beautiful day,” I said, indicating the grey reflected in the enchanted ceiling above us.  “Well, it perfect day for a party anyway!”  I laughed.

“I’m glad to hear you say that, dear cousin, because we’ve just volunteered you to help us set up for the big event,” Fred and Louis plonked themselves down next to me with wide grins.  It was Fred who was doling out the orders.  “Straight after lunch, we’re going to set up the common room.  The girls are helping too.”

“Sure, no problem, count me in,” I replied.  Any excuse to spend time around Lucy.

“Since when does the post deliver on a weekend?” Justin said suddenly, pointing to the ceiling where a handsome looking owl was making its descent.  Justin was right, it was very rare to see owl post on a Saturday, although not completely unheard of.  To my surprise, the owl entered a slow and graceful glide, ending on the Gryffindor table right next to my plate.  I quickly reached out to untie the small parcel from the bird’s leg, giving the owl some of my toast for good measure.

“What is it?” Will asked as I looked down at the parcel wrapped in brown paper, bearing a card stamped with the Hollingsfield & Sons insignia.

“Lucy’s present,” I smiled, tucking the parcel into my pocket, leaving the others looking curious and ever-so-slightly annoyed.

I knew that with the afternoon and evening focussed on the party, I should try and get some study in after breakfast, but I found it hard to focus.  I lay on my bed, trying to read the next chapter in my Defence Against the Dark Arts book, but I found that I kept getting up to check on the little velvet bag, just to be sure the owl charm was absolutely perfect.

Eventually, lunchtime came and passed, and the party preparations began.  The girls bubbled with excitement as they hung decorations, trying out different festive charms they had looked up that morning during their ‘study’ session.  I liked seeing Lucy so happy as she perfected the incantation that caused bright, iridescent balloons to inflate from the tip of her wand.  Louis and Fred had everything planned out, showing me the stash of drinks they had procured somehow and were storing under our dormitory stairs.  Fred went down to the kitchens at one point and came back an hour later with a big grin on his face.

“Well we aren’t going hungry tonight,” He beamed.

The girls went down to dinner early, and then disappeared upstairs to get dressed, though why they needed over an hour when they were already pretty good-looking girls was beyond me.  I had gone to some effort, forgoing my usual Gryffindor party mantra of ‘whatever I’m wearing will do’, and wore my nicest jeans and a blue shirt that the house elves had pressed for me.  I even fussed with my hair…well just a little bit, I didn’t want Lucy thinking I wouldn’t make an effort for her!

The girls didn’t show up until the last minute, which meant the half an hour before their arrival was fraught with anticipation, as we moved furniture and organised music.  When they made their descent however, I knew it had been worth the wait.

The polite part of my brain acknowledged that all the girls looked lovely, but the majority of my attention was on Lucy.  I hadn’t thought it possible that I could find her more attractive, but she took my breath away in a red dress that seemed to be made for her.  It was modest, not too revealing or garish, and yet it showed just enough skin (graceful arms, perfect legs and the porcelain skin around her collarbone) to keep my attention and fire up my imagination.  I was glad to see she’d decided against high heeled shoes too, for some reason, I adored the way she looked up at me when we were standing close.

I wasn’t the only one distracted by the girl’s entrance.  Louis was practically gawking, two bottles of butterbeer in his hands as he stared at Hawthorn, a blue miniskirt and black tank top showing off her lean, Chaser’s physique.  I noticed Lucy watching Louis too, a cheeky grin on her face, so I made my way over to her quietly, leaned over her shoulder and whispered in her ear,

“I think he might be drooling.”

Lucy spun around, the smell of her perfume catching me by surprise as she did so.  She seemed to stare at me for a moment and I was able to appreciate the way Rose’s fairy lights reflected in her eyes.

“Can you blame him though?  She does look pretty gorgeous tonight,” she eventually said.

“You don’t look too bad yourself,” I said bravely.  It had to be said, she was positively stunning.  “You scrub up pretty well there Bell, and I love the colours.  Godric Gryffindor would be proud!”  She smiled, seemingly impressed that I’d noticed her gold accessories.  Uncle Ron once told me that girls like it when you compliment them on the little things. 

“That may be the worst pick up line I’ve ever heard!” She giggled, her cheeks turning pink.

“Oh c’mon, it wasn’t that bad,” I laughed.  “And I mean it, the birthday girl looks lovely tonight.”  I softened my voice slightly, impressed that my flirting attempt seemed to be working.

“Well it’s amazing what a bit of effort can do,” Lucy laughed, although it sounded slightly stilted and I wondered if I was making her a bit uncomfortable with all my complimenting.  She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and the glittering of her bracelet caught my eye.  It was the silver bracelet and unicorn charm I’d given her for Christmas, and seeing it reminded me of something else I needed to do.  I reached in to my pocket and pulled out the velvet bag.

“I have a birthday present for you,” I said, holding the bag out to her. “It kind of goes with your Christmas present.” 

Lucy looked at me curiously as she picked up the bag, opening it at the top and tipping it upside down so that the charm fell in to her palm.

“It’s beautiful,” She whispered, and my heart gave an extra loud jolt.  “Thank you so much,” She added.  I took the charm from her, and pulled her hand closer to me, indicating that I wanted to attach the charm to her bracelet.

“I thought it was rather appropriate seeing as though you got an owl for your birthday and all,” I said, trying to keep my fingers steady as they brushed against the soft skin of her wrist.  I attached the owl at the opposite end to the unicorn to balance the bracelet out.  When I finished, Lucy held her wrist up to eye level and inspected the new charm, a smile on her face.

“Thank you so much,” She said again, suddenly looking a bit nervous.  Before I could interpret her expression though, she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around my neck.  I held her tight, trying to control my breathing.  It was my turn to let out a nervous laugh as I became very aware of her body pressed against mine.  When we pulled apart, Lucy’s cheeks were bright pink, and I wondered if mine matched them.  I certainly felt warmer than usual.  Lucy left then, ducking outside to wait for her Hufflepuff friend to arrive, and I walked back over to help the boys with the final aspects of setting up.

“Looking a bit flushed there mate,” Will teased as I began pulling bottles of butterbeer out of a crate and lining them up on the drinks table.  “Everything alright?”

“Just fine,” I smiled.  “Hey, Lucy told me that Hufflepuff friend of hers is coming tonight, you know the pretty one with the blonde hair…?”

“Pippa?” Will asked, trying to keep his voice casual but not doing a very good job.

“Yep, that’s the one,” I grinned.  “She’s not bad-looking is she?”

“I guess so,” Will dropped the pile of napkins he was holding and ducked down to retrieve them, but not before I noticed his bright red face.

I didn’t get a lot of opportunities to speak to Lucy for the rest of the party, she was so busy being the perfect hostess, greeting people, opening presents and smiling a lot.  I had plenty of people to talk to myself, although I found that my gaze was constantly being dragged across the room to the girl in the red dress.  More than once, I caught her looking at me too, and each time, I gave her a confident smile before looking away.  Maybe I’d had too much butterbeer, maybe it was the fact that she’d hugged me when I gave her the charm, and maybe it was the fact that she seemed to blush every single time I caught her looking at me; but the idea that Lucy liked me was becoming more and more plausible which each passing minute. 

As the evening drew to a close, I couldn’t help but notice the slight changes in Lucy’s appearance.  The fabric of her dress had become crinkled from constant standing and sitting, her shoes had been removed and were deserted near one of the sofas she had been sitting on earlier, and her hair had pulled out from her headband slightly, causing little tendrils to flutter around her face.  Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, I found her to be even prettier than normal.

Most people had moved up to bed when the discussion started about playing a game.  It was Will who suggested the muggle game he’d learnt from his brother.

“You basically sit in a circle and put an empty bottle in the middle,” He explained.  “Then you take it in turns spinning the bottle, and when it stops, whoever the bottle is pointing to, you have to…well…kiss them.”

I couldn’t stop my eyes turning to Lucy at this statement, and as Rose burst in to protestations about kissing her cousins, I noticed that Lucy was staring at each person who spoke quite intently.  It might have been my imagination, but I was pretty sure she was avoiding looking at me.  Even when we had organised ourselves into a circle on the floor, she still kept her eyes firmly on the bottle or the rug beneath her or the person spinning the bottle.

The game was an interesting one and seemed to create a sort of excited yet awkward mood in the room.  When Fred spun the bottle and it landed of Jane, I felt Louis tense up next to me, his eyes never leaving the pair as Jane quickly pecked Fred’s cheek with her lips.  When the bottle landed on me, I could have sworn that Jane shot a quick look towards Lucy but it was so fleeting I may have imagined it.  I was relieved when Jane kissed my cheek, both for the sake of Louis and Lucy; I was trying to keep on Lucy’s good side, I certainly didn’t want her to watch me kissing her friends.

And then, suddenly, it was my turn to spin the bottle.  As I gave it a strong flick of the wrist, I found myself repeating a mantra in my head.  Please land on her, please, please, please land on Lucy.  It felt like the bottle was spinning for hours instead of seconds, and as it finally began to slow down, I realised I was holding my breath.  The bottle wobbled slightly as it came to a complete stop, and I watched, unblinking, as it halted, pointing directly at Lucy, who seemed to be trying to bore a hole through the glass with her eyes. 

“Luce, it’s pointing at you,” Gwen whispered at her, and Lucy’s eyes suddenly flicked to her friend as though surprised that there was anyone else in the room before returning to the bottle sitting on the carpet in front of her.  Then, finally, she raised her head and her eyes met mine.  I tried desperately to read her expression, but I couldn’t pinpoint her exact feelings, it seemed to be a combination of panic, fear, embarrassment and excitement.

A small, nervous giggle escaped from her lips.  “Right, sorry, off with the fairies there for a second.” She joked as she began moving towards the middle of the circle.  Louis made a joke and everyone laughed, but my focus was on Lucy as I inched towards her, my heart thumping so loud I was sure it could be heard down in Hogsmeade.

Fred once told me about this theory he had that girls are a lot like paintings.  Some of them are weird abstract things that are interesting to look at but don’t make a lot of sense.  Others are beautiful from a distance, but once you get close up they aren’t all that pretty.  And some girls are like priceless masterpieces; they look incredible anywhere, and the closer you get to them, the more you come to appreciate the perfectly crafted brushstrokes and impeccable detail.

In that moment, as I kneeled on the floor in the middle of the Gryffindor common room with my friends watching on, I realised that Lucy is that third kind of painting.  Only inches from her face, I found myself studying Lucy’s features in awe; the deep brown of her eyes, the soft angel-hair of her eyelashes as she blinked, the plumpness and crimson red hue of her bottom lip, a small constellation of pale freckles scattered across her nose that were barely visible from a normal distance.  Lucy was an absolute masterpiece, and I was about to kiss her.

That sudden revelation sent my senses spinning into overdrive.  My pulse was speeding along, my stomach seemed to be filled with Billywigs and some sort of humming current was running through me, making me feel like I had enough energy to run all the way to London and back.  I kept my eyes locked on Lucy’s as I leaned in towards her.  I’d kissed girls before, plenty of them, but no kiss had ever seemed quite this important.  Was it my imagination, or did Lucy look as excited about this as I was?

Closer and closer, those perfect lips were only a breath away from mine now and in a second they would be locked together.  Half an inch away now, a quarter of an inch…

“Oh hurry it up you two, we’re getting old here!” I’d forgotten anyone else existed besides Lucy and me, so when Louis made his exclamation, the sound shot through me, making me jump in surprise.  Lucy had also been startled, whether by Louis’ comment or my reaction to it I wasn’t sure, and she too flinched, smashing her head against mine.

“Ow!” I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming as pain shot through my head like a sudden bolt of lightning, causing little sparks to ignite behind my eyes.  I smashed my hands against my forehead and was relieved when I realised I wasn’t bleeding.  I blinked a few times as my senses kicked back in picking up the sound of Fred and Louis laughing and Lucy’s knees still lightly touching my own.  I moved my hands and forced myself to focus on Lucy, her outline slightly blurry at first, but sharpening as my sense of sight adjusted.  Her face was crumpled with pain as her finger pressed against her head.  My heart dropped in to the bottom of my stomach at the idea that she was hurt, and I reached out towards her, wanting to help.

Please don’t be bleeding.  Please, please don’t be bleeding!

“Are you alright?” I asked, touching her face as gently as I could.  Lucy eyes locked on mine as I carefully moved her fingers aside.  I let out a sigh of relief as I realised her skin was unbroken and clear of blood.  My sense of relief however, was short-lived as Lucy suddenly pulled away from me, a look of pain and panic in her eyes.

“I think I’d better go upstairs,” She mumbled, pushing herself on to her feet unsteadily.  I tried to reach up to help her, but she was already rushing towards the girl’s dormitories, her bare feet not making a sound on the stone floor.  She was already at the stairs by the time I’d pushed myself on to my feet, but I continued to follow her anyway.

“Lucy, wait!” I called as the bottom of her skirt disappeared around the curve in the stairs, and I felt my feet hit the staircase, forgetting the charm that was placed on them.  I’d made it to the fourth step and my foot was about to touch the fifth when the floor fell out from beneath me.  I let out an involuntary groan of pain as I hit the stone face first and slid down, crumpling at the bottom, sharp pains in my chin and my right knee.

“Al!” I heard Rose gasp.  “Oh sweet Merlin, are you ok?”  Her voice was close and I sat up slowly to see she was kneeling next to me.  The others were watching from their places on the rug, although I was vaguely aware that Louis and Fred weren’t laughing anymore.  “You’re bleeding,” Rose said again and I looked down at the curved gash on my knee where it had obviously hit the stairs.  Acting quickly, she closed the wound and siphoned off the blood before helping me get carefully back on to my feet.  With a loud creak, I heard the slide behind me return to its original stair form.

“I better go check on Lucy,” Jane said, getting up from the floor; Gwen followed suit.

“I should go to,” Rose said as they reached us.  “Will you be ok Al?” She had the kindness to lower her voice as she said this to save me from later teasing at the hands of our cousins.

“Go, go,” I waved her away.  “Make sure she’s ok.”  Rose nodded her understanding of my concerns and followed the other girls up the stairs. 

I sighed as I limped over to the guys, who were determinedly not looking me in the eye; I suddenly felt incredibly tired.  Earlier in the evening I had been so full of hope, so sure that Lucy was responding to my flirting and sneaking glances at me across the room.  But in the moment before she ran away I’d seen something else, something I couldn’t quite identify, something that make me think I’d been horribly, completely, embarrassingly mistaken.
 





AN: Hi all!  I hope you liked this chapter :)  I'm trying to redeem my long absense by writing and updating a bit quicker.  I love all your reviews, so please write one if you have the time, I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Here's your sneak peek at the next chapter, I'll try to get it written and updated asap!

I needed to say something to Lucy, although I wasn’t sure what.  An apology maybe?  If I was right and I’d been reading Lucy wrong since her birthday, then I’d probably embarrassed her last night.  During my sleepless hours during the night, I developed an objective picture in my head of my actions and I couldn’t deny that I’d been very intense.  Even that crystal owl charm, which seemed so perfect the day before, now felt almost embarrassingly over the top.  If Lucy thought I was coming on to her and the attention was unwanted, she’d back right off, maybe even stop talking to me.  After the four days of Lucy avoiding me that I’d suffered through earlier in the week, I wasn’t too keen on that happening, so I had to make things right.
 
 


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