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Chapter 9 : Never Say 'It Couldn't Possibly Get Any Better Than This'
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“What?” I asked warily. “Why are you two talking? What happened?”
“Ophelia, chill,” Fliss soothed me, patting a space on the bed for me to sit on. “She came up and we talked – talked, not yelled – and we sorted everything out. We’re good.”
“Oh. Good.” I went to sit in-between them and hugged them both to me. “I don’t like it when you two aren’t talking.” They hugged me back and after a while, we let go.
Fliss picked up some pale looking liquid in a tube and Lily pulled my hair back and they pounced on me with it before I had a chance to run.
“How was the feast?” Lily asked conversationally, as if I wasn’t trying to squirm away from the stuff they were putting on my face.
“And the prank,” Fliss added, smothering my face and rubbing it roughly.
“Um, it went according to plan,” I winced, “but Jennifer told McGonagall I was in on it and I got taken to her office with the guys.” Lily’s eyebrows rose up to her hair and Fliss growled.
“What a bitch,” she exclaimed.
“What happened?” Lily asked, and Fliss was finally finished with the liquid so she grabbed some powder and what looked like a paint brush but thicker.
“We went to her office and she was basically saying she was disappointed in me and Remus. And then Remus turned round and said that they deserved it and told her about what they did to me,” I explained, closing my eyes and mouth for a second so she could rub the powder over my face.
“A Knight in shining armour,” Lily grinned, and she and Fliss suddenly started giggling again.
“What?” I asked suspiciously. “What are you two on about?”
“Oh, nothing,” Fliss smiled radiantly as she put two large dabs of colour on my cheeks.
“So, after Remus gallantly defended your honour, what happened?” Lily asked, handing Fliss some lipstick.
“Well, uh, McGonagall said that she’d look into what happened. And the guys got off free.”
“That’s good,” Fliss smiled, coating my lips in a pearly pink shade.
“They need to learn their actions have consequences,” Lily tutted, adding eyeliner to my bottom lids with her tongue stuck to the side of her mouth.
Fliss then pounced on my eyelashes, saying, “Yeah, but those bitches really did deserve it though.” Lily sighed in defeat.
They dropped all the makeup and Fliss picked up a tub of hair wax. She got a bit between her fingers, rubbed it and fluffed up my hair with it. Lily found some glittery eyeshadow and smothered my eyelids. They stood back and I looked at them with wide eyes, still sort of wondering how exactly they managed to cover me in make-up in such a short space of time.
“She looks beautiful,” Fliss cooed, clapping her hands together excitedly. Lily nodded her head in agreement.
“She looks like Bambi with her eyes wide like that, so cute,” she added. I rolled my eyes at them.
“We should go down to the guys and tell them we’re not arguing anymore,” Fliss said thoughtfully. Lily nodded and we went to the stairs.
“Oh, by the way,” I said before we descended, “never leave me alone with those four again at a meal.” They laughed at me and we went to the common room, still giggling.
We found the four boys sitting round a table, playing a game of cards.
“So you two are friends again,” Sirius said conversationally, spotting us before anyone else did. He whistled at me. “Lookin’ good, Ophie.” I blushed and batted at him with my hand, and I saw Remus send a glare to him but I ignored it. We took seats next to them; Fliss pointedly sat in-between Sirius and Peter on the sofa, Lily curled her feet up next to James on a two seat and I looked round – no seats left. Remus was on the only armchair.
“I’ll just sit on the floor then,” I said with a laugh, but Remus grabbed my arm.
“Don’t be silly,” he smiled, and he pulled me to sit on his lap. I made a point of not looking anywhere else but the floor, and I could hear the others sniggering at us. Remus ignored them too.
“I’ll squash you,” I murmured, but he tapped my shoulder lightly.
“As if,” he tutted at me. I looked at his hand, not that I could tell whether it was good or not.
“Are you any good at poker?” he asked me, and I shrugged.
“Never played,” I said truthfully. Fliss and Lily nodded their consent, and the boys looked at us in an appalled manner.
“We’ll teach you,” Sirius decided and the rest of the boys nodded eagerly. “You can be in my team, Fliss.”
“Lily, do you want to be in my team?” James asked timidly, and Lily nodded after a second of hesitancy. Remus looked at me hopefully.
“And I’m on yours,” I said good-naturedly.
“What about me?” said Peter, his grin falling, “don’t I get a partner?”
“Aw, Petie,” Fliss cooed, ruffling his hair, “you can join me and Sirius!” He smiled whole-heartedly at that and Halloween ended on a good note, with the boys trying to teach us the intricacies of card games and failing miserably.
The Monday after Halloween was a busy day. Lily and I met Remus in the common room surprisingly early, because he was never up when we were ready to leave. I found out that he couldn’t function without caffeine; this completely endeared him to me and I think I liked him even more.
First of all, we had lessons. The normal business. Deadlines to meet, more homework to be set, a general day. Then Amelia came up to me after Ancient Runes.
“Hi Ophelia, can I talk to you for a minute?” Without giving me a chance to answer, she grabbed my sleeve and pulled me into a hidden passage behind a large tapestry.
“Um, hi Amelia,” I said, confused, “what’s wrong?” She sighed.
“It’s Sirius. I’m confused and I need help, and I know you’re close to him.” She was almost pleading with me.
Oh, emotions. Lily’s right, I’m not so good at this.
“Uh, well I’ll help,” I said cautiously, unwilling to let myself get any further into a promise. She looked slightly crazy and emotional and it scared me and all I wanted to do was leave.
“Great! Okay, I think I like him. And I know he likes me.” Well duh, I wanted to say, Fliss and I caught you two swapping saliva. “And I was just wondering whether you thought it would be a good idea to say yes if he asked me out or not?”
“Because he must have told you something about me! I don’t want to be another one of his girls.”
“He…he said you were different, when he first saw you on the train,” I confessed, “if he asked you out I would probably advise you to…say no, at first. But make it clear that it’s not because you don’t like him.”
Did this sound completely crazy? Probably. She was looking at me with wide eyes, like what I was saying was confusing her.
“I don’t know; get to know him, as a person. Underneath the arrogance he’s a lovely guy.” She frowned to herself and bit her lip.
“I think you’re right,” she said slowly.
“Oh, right, cool. Uh, do you mind if I…” I pointed to the exit nervously, “I’ve got a lesson now…” She nodded to me and walked off in the other direction silently, still thinking to herself. I wiped my brow and exited the tapestry quickly. I was only a couple of minutes late for Potions, and because of my improvements lately Slughorn didn’t seem to mind so much.
When Remus asked me where I’d been I told him about Amelia quietly so Sirius couldn’t hear us, and he laughed at my nervousness. We made a semi-difficult potion and I didn’t do a thing wrong. Slughorn was pleased.
“What are you doing now?” Remus asked as we walked out of the potions lab together, arm in arm.
“Regulus is tutoring me now,” I said, checking my watch, “I’m a little late, actually. Did he let us out late?”
“A couple of minutes.” He seemed distracted. “After lunch we have a free. Want to do some Astronomy revision?”
That sounded like something I could relax and do after a hard time struggling away at potions. I grinned at him.
“Sounds great,” I enthused, “shall we meet in McGonagall’s classroom? She normally lets us use it if we have to, and she doesn’t have a lesson then.” Remus grinned back at me.
“Great, I’ll see you there.” He kissed my forehead and pinched my cheek as it blushed bright red, and we parted ways at the library.
I walked in and immediately spotted Regulus. He looked extremely well-groomed today; his hair was neatly brushed and his robes were pristine, but he also looked nervous.
“Hello,” I grinned, “you’re looking nice today.” He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Thank you. You look beautiful, as always.” I blushed again. I was only wearing my school robes, and they were pretty creased. I was wearing no make-up and my hair was ruffled. I looked a right state.
“Thanks…shall we get started?”
He opened his book and introduced me to a new chapter.
“Read that,” he ordered, and I nodded and got stuck in.
I tried to concentrate for a while, but Regulus was fidgeting and every time I looked up he looked away from me. His leg was tapping and it was bugging me.
“Regulus, are you alright?” I finally asked, looking away from the book and to him. He bit his lip.
“I have to tell you something,” he said quietly, and cleared his throat. I remained silent, waiting for him to say something, but he seemed reluctant to speak.
“Regulus, it’s alright, you can tell me if you want to,” I coaxed, and I put a hand on his on the desk. He gulped and looked at me straight in the eye, and his gaze turned strange.
“I think I’m in love with you.”
I started and heard something crash behind us, but we ignored it. We didn’t talk for a moment, and the silence was overbearing.
He thinks he’s in love with me?
“Regulus?” I asked, because I didn’t need to ask what we both knew I was going to.
“I think…no, I know I’m in love with you.” He said it stronger this time, with determination, and his hand gripped tighter round mine. I couldn’t break free and even if I could, I didn’t think I would, because that was the farthest thing from my mind – his face getting readily closer to mine was what was the most concerning.
“You’re brilliant, Ophelia, your eyes are beautiful and your hair is amazing and your name, God, your name!” He laughed lightly and grabbed my other hand in his large one, holding them between us. “But your looks have nothing on your personality. You’re so…kind-hearted, quiet and thoughtful; you’re so willing to learn and to put the effort in to everything you do. You’re so insanely clever and your laugh…it’s like…I don’t know, it’s musical…I thought you were different, even though you were Sirius’ friend. You weren’t…you weren’t like the rest of them.”
I tried to gently remove my hands from his but he held on even tighter.
“No, don’t you see Ophelia? You’re perfect!” he said urgently, “you’re perfect to me! I could love you so much more than anyone would! I love you!”
I gaped. This was not happening. This couldn’t be happening. How did we go from just barely being friends to him being in love with me?
“Oh, Regulus…” I said softly, trying to buy myself some time. I didn’t know what to say. There was another thud but it remained unnoticed.
“Just tell me you love me back,” he begged, and my heart broke a little at the anguish in his voice, “tell me you feel the connection we have.”
Connection? What connection?
“I’m so sorry, Regulus…” We were quiet for a moment and when he realized I was saying he let go of my hands. I put them safely in my lap, glad to have them back. I tried again.
“I’m sorry if I ever gave you the impression that I felt the same way, I never meant to…” God, two emotional situations in one day; how was I coping? “But I would consider us friends. That’s it, though. I’m really sorry.”
He sighed. “Do you…like someone else?” he asked, and he flinched as though the thought was painful.
“Yes,” I admitted, thinking it was better to tell the truth at the moment.
“Remus,” he said, resigned. My eyes widened.
“W-What makes you think it’s him?” I stammered.
“It’s just…obvious. It was wishful thinking I guess, thinking that you might love me back. How close you are with each other…” He sighed and gathered his stuff in his arms.
“Will you still…be tutoring me?” I asked hesitantly.
“Of course,” he smiled, although it looked like he was trying really hard, “how could I let you go back to potions the way you were?” I laughed a little and he looked at me.
“So there’s no chance of you…changing your mind?” I shook my head apologetically. “But if you do…”
“I know where to find you,” I said, smiling a little, “the creepiest part of the castle.” He smiled back and leant forward to me slightly, and when I didn’t move towards him he placed a hesitant kiss on my cheek.
“Goodbye,” he whispered, and he left the library with his head lowered and his shoulders slumped.
What. The. Hell.
I left the library five minutes later, after staring at the wall in shock. I had about ten minutes until I met Remus so I decided to take a slow walk down there.
“Ophelia!” I turned round swiftly to see Lily running up behind me, her red hair billowing.
“Hey, Lily,” I managed to get out whilst she hugged me. She stopped when she saw my stunned face.
“What’s wrong?” she asked instantly. I thought about it for a moment.
“Do people think I’m good at handling emotional situations or something? Do I look like a bloody advice columnist or someone that deals with her emotions regularly?!” I blurted out, and she raised her eyebrows at me.
“What happened?” she pressed.
“Okay, firstly, Amelia cornered me after Runes to ask me how to handle Sirius and whether she should say yes to him asking her out and I was like honestly, do I look like I would know what to do in that situation?” I took a deep breath and shook my head.
“What Sirius and Amelia situation?” Lily said sharply. I bit my lip.
Fuck, I thought she knew.
“Er…Fliss and I sort of caught them…snogging…”
Lily went bright red with anger, but she pushed it down and said with some difficulty, “Is that it?”
“No, that’s not even the worst part,” I sighed. She put a hand on my shoulder.
“Regulus just told me he’s in love with me,” I winced. She stood in shocked silence for a full minute.
“I’m sorry, he’s in love with you?” And then, unexpectedly, she laughed. “Yeah, right. Love.”
“He said all this stuff about me and my personality and my name and I felt so bad, Lily, I had no idea,” I confessed, and she snorted at me.
“You had no idea? The rest of us knew he fancied you from the first moment he saw you. But I doubt it’s love.”
“The first moment he saw me?” I couldn’t recall ever seeing Regulus before this year. There was no definitive time in which we were introduced.
“Yeah, don’t you remember? Sirius and James were picking on Snape in year five and Regulus tried to stop them, and you and I literally dragged Sirius and James away from them. Regulus caught your little rant at the boys about how you shouldn’t bully people based on looks or house because it was a horrible thing to do, and the look on his face was like you’d saved him and not Snape.”
I remembered that vaguely. Regulus said about how I was different from my friends. I shook my head.
“This is mad. Why couldn’t I see it?” I mumbled, partly to myself.
“Because you can’t see anything, love, you have to have it spelt out for you,” she said sympathetically, patting my shoulder. “Like Remus…” I rolled my eyes.
“I know I’m right about that,” I said, but she just smiled complacently at me.
“Whatever you say…”
“Well anyway, I told Regulus that I liked…well, you know. And I don’t think he’d tell, do you?” I asked, rather worriedly. Lily rolled her eyes.
“Do they keep regular correspondence?” she asked sarcastically.
“Guess not,” I admitted. “Speaking of which, I’m late for meeting him. We’re doing some Astronomy revision. See you later?”
“Yeah, see you later hun. Have fun. Oh, and beware, bad things come in threes.” We laughed and hugged and parted ways, and I started walking quickly to the classroom that I was meeting Remus in.
I stood outside the closed door for a moment, brushing my robes down and composing myself, and suddenly I heard a giggle.
Coming from inside the room.
Confused, I gently slid the door open.
I looked in and rolled my eyes in annoyance. Amber, Jennifer’s Ravenclaw friend, was lounging on the teacher’s desk with her current conquest, and they were glued together at the mouth. They hadn’t heard the door creak open a tiny bit so I opened it fully and cleared my throat nervously.
“Amber, would you mind leaving, I’m supposed to be meeting someone to study –” I started, cut off suddenly as they pulled apart.
Because the boy she was snogging was Remus.
I felt my heart tug and swell to such a size it wouldn’t fit in my chest, and then it deflated into nothing. My eyes pricked.
He looked at me in almost defiance. I blanched. My chest tightened in on my heart, as if it were a black hole, pulling everything towards it with such a crushing force I felt I couldn’t breathe.
I can’t breathe.
I don’t understand. What’s going on?
His expression changed to horror at my reaction, although I couldn’t imagine why. We were silent for a full second, but it didn’t feel like a second – it felt more like an hour, several, maybe a whole day. We stared at each other, and Amber looked between us, a confused look on her face that barely disguised the smugness emanating from her.
“Well, I’ll…just…” I couldn’t even finish the sentence, my voice broke and died and the rest of my sentence hung in the air. I turned swiftly on my heel, keeping my tears in and my face blank until he couldn’t see me, and strode out of the door frame. I closed the door silently behind me but the wood didn’t block out Remus calling out, “Ophelia, hold on!” and Amber’s simpering confused voice asking, “Is she your girlfriend or something?”
I ignored both and walked steadily to the end of the corridor. It turned into a sprint as soon as I hit the stairs, because I heard the unmistakeable creak of the door I had just closed.
I thought of a place to hide.
The Library? Too obvious. Common Room? Too simple.
The Astronomy Tower? It was off limits, but what did I care? And I was halfway up the stairs already without even realizing; my feet must have realized where I wanted to go before I did.
I tore up the stairs as quickly as I could and thankfully, I didn’t hear his footsteps following me. I did a quick Alohamora and the door flew open, and it was only when I got outside I realized it was raining. How appropriate. The dark rain clouds were blocking out the beautiful sky, but I wouldn’t have been able to see it anyway, as my eyes had finally let go and allowed the tears to cascade down my cheeks, mingling with the rain.
Salty water ran down my face and, half-blinded by the new tears in my eyes and already soaked to the bone, I stumbled my way to my favourite corner and quickly fell to my knees. I hugged my sides together, so worried that if I didn’t I’d fall apart.
And then, once my eyes were squeezed shut and I was shaking from the cold and the force of the sobs that wracked my body, I started thinking. And then I couldn’t stop.
Lily was wrong, obviously. He was never going to like me back, never.
How could he ever like me? How could anyone?
My own father didn’t love me, because I’m so horrible and boring and…plain. So plain, so uninteresting. Regulus was lying. There was nothing amazing about me, nothing beautiful. Not if Remus didn’t think so, not if Remus preferred some other girl to me. She was probably a better kisser than I’d be anyway, and sexier, and prettier, and everything that a boy would want from a girl that I couldn’t give them.
I slipped under, letting the thoughts take me. I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t resurface.
Bad things really do come in threes.
“Excuse me, what are you doing in the Astronomy Tower? You should know it’s out of bounds,” I heard Lily’s “disapproving” tone ring through the tower, but I couldn’t bring myself to care enough to even look, let alone answer. It had stopped raining but I was still wet. I hadn’t consciously stopped crying; I didn’t think I had enough water left in my system for them.
“Excuse me, are you even listening – Ophelia?!” I felt a hand on my shoulder and chin and she forced me to look up at her. “What’s the matter? Where the hell have you been?” She asked, her emeralds alight with worry. I must have found water somewhere and I felt tears threaten my eyes again. The first few broke the barrier and spilled over my cheeks and soon my body was wracked with unbearable sobs once more.
Lily bent down hastily and wrapped an arm around me, pulling me into her chest, not caring about my soaking wet clothes.
“R-Remus –” I choked at his name and couldn’t go on. Lily’s eyes widened.
“What did he do?” she asked, suddenly turning angry.
“A-Amber…” I whispered, “He kissed her. He kissed Amber.” She tensed, and then she let the deep breath out through bared teeth.
“I can’t believe it. So that’s what the boys were shouting about tonight up in the dorms before I left.” I shuddered and pulled away slightly. She looked at me sympathetically, slightly unwilling to release the grip she had on me.
“Please don’t worry about what happened, Ophelia, I’m sure it meant nothing to Remus.”
“N-No, I was just shocked,” I rambled quickly, and her eyes widened, “N-Not that I – no, I was just w-worried about our – our friendship, she would’ve r-ruined it if they – ” I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t let myself think they might even go out. I was lying out of my teeth, but I couldn’t stop. She knew how I felt about him so it was pretty pointless me saying all this, but I felt I had to.
Lily was such a good friend. She didn’t say anything, she just let me ramble. She pulled me up and I leant on her, shivering and shaking violently.
“Look at you, you’re soaked through! You’re shaking, too! You’re going to get ill again…” She put her arm round my waist and guided me back through the castle, helping me walk because however much I tried I couldn’t get my legs working properly and I was clumsier than normal, falling up the stairs and tripping over nothing.
We got to Gryffindor Tower, where Lily said, “Tiger Tongues,” calmly to the waiting Portrait.
“Find this one wandering about on your patrol?” The Fat Lady said reprimandingly as she swung open. Lily bustled me into the common room. We heard noise from the boy’s dorm and Lily immediately ushered me up the girl’s dorm, but I didn’t need any persuasion to get up there. She stayed downstairs, to talk to them I presumed.
When I opened the door, Fliss grabbed me in the tightest bear hug I’d ever had. When she let go, I could see she had been crying. She smiled at me and ruffled my hair.
“Please don’t go running off, sugar,” she pleaded, “or at least, if you do, take me with you. I had no idea where you were, I was going spare…”
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly, but she waved it off.
“What happened? The guys wouldn’t tell me but they were edgy, so I presumed it had something to do with them…”
“Remus, he…” I shook my head. I could say it. “He kissed Amber.”
Fliss looked at me in shock.
“No shit! That the fuck?” When Fliss was angry, she swore a lot. “What the fucking fuck does he think he’s doing?” She almost growled and shook her head. “Fucking idiot. Bloody fucking idiot.” She paused for a moment and strung together another chain of profanities. “Go and have a shower, doll. Fuck. I can’t believe it…”
I made my way to the bathroom and stripped down, depositing all my wet clothes on the floor. I turned the shower on and soon enough the water ran piping hot.
I looked in the mirror for a second. It was smudged and steamy but had to look away. Amber was so much prettier than me that it made me feel physically sick.
I stayed in the shower long enough so I wasn’t shaking and my bones felt warm again, but not long enough to enjoy the gentle steaming water pounding my back. I stepped out and towelled myself dry, and as if on auto-pilot I slipped my pyjamas on and opened the bathroom door.
Lily was back up. She and Fliss stopped talking suddenly as I opened the door, and both eyed me warily.
“Night,” I said softly, and padded to my bed. The shock on their faces was evident; I think they expected me to talk about it. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to talk about anything. I didn’t want them to know the humiliation I’d felt, the crushing on my chest, how ruined my heartfelt, mangled and broken, the fact I couldn’t breathe.
They didn’t need to know.
I lay perfectly still under my covers and after a while, I heard them go to bed too. The lights went off. They drifted off easily and Fliss’ unmistakeable snores filled the room. I was the last to fall asleep, and all I could do was stare at my canopy and let the silent tears creep down my cheeks.
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