Chapter 11 : The Proposal
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For hp481516, potterfan310, and Lyd. It means a lot that you shared your thoughts.
Halloween was something of a big deal at Hogwarts. It always had been, but since we’d been at school things had gotten even more dramatic. We wanted things to be bigger and better. Mostly James and me since we were basically competing with the legacy our fathers left.
Our very first year at Hogwarts we’d charmed suits of armor to wear Jack-O-Lanterns as heads and stalk smarmy fifth years. We liked parties. Costumes. By fourth year Ollie was doing the planning since she was really good at putting together things that matched. I just wanted alcohol, music, and maybe a hay stack or two. Or three.
This year Ollie had to buckle down on her NEWTS with Annie (and Andrew, ugh) so we were left to our own devices.
Well, James was left to his own devices.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he whined the morning of. It was a Friday and though we still had a full day of classes, he hadn’t so much as put on a shirt. “The end of the world. Molly is going to pay for this. I am going to string Rune up by his thumbs for this!”
“Really? Thumbs?” I rolled my eyes and leaned back onto the bed. At least he would get to go to the party. Have fun. Drink. Fall into a broom cupboard with (hopefully) Ollie.
I was going to peruse the castle with China and listen to stories about her cats.
“I don’t care. I’m not reasonable!” He rolled over on the bed, hair flopping into his eyes. “Sure you can’t get out of it?”
“Pretty sure the castle needs Prefects.”
He huffed. “They don’t really need Prefects. It’s a power struggle.”
“Do you have everything ready?” I asked. I never thought being a Prefect would mess up my holiday plans. It never had before. “Still the Astronomy Tower, right?”
He nodded. James grabbed a book and draped it dramatically over his face. “Parise is going to challenge the girls to a drinking chess match. He won the Hogwarts tournament last year so it should be in the bag.”
“What happens if they win though?” I said. I pulled on some clothes, though they smelled a little funky.
“Parise sleeps in the common room for a month.”
I considered this. “Any way we can help them?”
“Already thought about it,” he said. “I’m going to try like hell, that’s for sure. Get his stinky gob out of the dormitory for a while. I’m sick of his sweaty workout pants draped over the fireplace. He’s making the room smell like our old room.”
I saluted. “Anything I can do, let me know. Right now we have to get to Transfig and I have to pretend I finished my essay.”
“How’s that work?”
“Say I finished it and then finish it while Molly’s busy asking clarifying questions?”
“Want me to put a spider in Molly’s drink?”
“May make the day better.”
While a magnificent party raged in the Astronomy Tower, the teachers went about their business and I reported to the Prefect office in a sour mood. Molly was pouring over paperwork, rubbing the corners of her eyes.
“Great day,” I said, flopping down on the uncomfortable leather chair in front of her.
“I know about the party, Freddie,” she said, not looking up.
“I’d be confused if you didn’t, as all of your roommates are there,” I replied. “Even the ones who have a thing for Albus, which I still find perplexing.”
“You’re in charge tonight. You better put a stop to it if it gets out of hand.”
“Out of hand? Pfft.”
I considered last year’s party. A group of fifth years made a sport out of jumping out of a window and levitating back up. A Ravenclaw woke up with no memory of the previous six months. A portrait was vandalized with red finger-paint. That one may have been me.
“I’m serious. You’re in charge.” Molly stood up and hoisted her bag over her shoulder. “And watch Ryan. She tends to bend the rules.”
My head snapped up. “What? Ryan?”
“China’s out of town,” Molly said, pulling open the door. “She had to visit her grandmother in Denmark.” She smiled sweetly and left.
Ryan. Great. I was on Prefect duty. On Halloween. With Ryan Davies.
For some reason, I wasn’t shocked.
“Miss me?” Ryan pushed open the door with a smirky smile on her lips. She stood in the frame, hip pressed against the wood, and just looked at me. “I thought so.” She sauntered inside after I didn’t reply and picked up a manila folder.
“Pretty sure that’s classified,” I said. Real straight-edge, Weasley.
“Is it?” She looked bored and tossed it back onto the desk. “Are you ready for this or what? Busting all the Halloween partiers.”
“Where’s Gemma tonight?” I grabbed a clipboard and some documenting slips.
“At your mate’s party.” She rolled her eyes.
“I’m sure it’s a grand party.”
“I’m sure it is.” She smiled in a cheeky way and patted her stomach. I could tell it was a little fuller, though not by much. Ryan was already beginning to wear less-fitted clothes to mask the change. “C’mon, Weasley. Let’s go bust some Slytherins for shits.”
Now that was my kind of Prefect walk.
To my surprise, Ryan and I made it all the way to the dungeons without so much as a disagreement. Probably because we were talking in-depth about if Hogwarts had superheroes. She was convinced there would be a superhero that could turn into a raven at will and I had to admit, it was a pretty slick idea.
Ravenman. Ravenboy. Ravenchild.
“Ravenwoman,” Ryan corrected, her lips pursed.
“My mistake.” I smiled a little. “Tight spandex?”
“What other kind of spandex is there?” Her brow raised. “And no. Probably a really loose toga and a pair of ill-fitting sneakers. You wouldn’t want her to become sexual prey, would you? Look at Cat Woman and all the smut written about her.” She grimaced.
“Says the woman with slinky fabric in her drawers,” I muttered and she shoved me into a wall, laughing.
“Look here,” she said, but paused, eyes alert and straight ahead. “Do you see that?”
I didn’t, as a matter of fact. I saw a lot of darkness and a few shadows on the stone walls from torches. This place could really use some light bulbs. Grandpa Weasley tried to petition for them years ago but Finklehut said no and that Hogwarts would lose its character. Light bulbs would really diminish an entire teaching institution of its character. Good to know.
Well played, light bulbs.
“Just there.” Ryan pointed, her wand stretched before her. It was aimed to the left, but I still didn’t see more than a torch and a wonky shadow. “I can’t quite make it out.”
“Is this a joke?” I whispered, a little nervous. “Because I’m so straight-edge? I’m really trying, you know. Talking to you, and all.” I rolled my eyes, but she didn’t see.
Ryan was knocked backward off her feet from a spell. One minute she was at my elbow, the next she had vanished in a sheet of blue light.
Everything was blurred at the edges. The wonky shadow was now a person, moving from the darkness toward us. Instincts failed me as I staggered back, completely unsure. I had forgotten my training.
I then ignored every bit of training and turned.
Ryan was sprawled out on the ground, not moving. Her wand was about a meter away, nearly at the wall. She looked lifeless, lips parted just barely.
“Who’s there?” I called, returning my gaze to the shadows. My wand was raised. Ready.
Whoever this person was, they were messing with Ryan Davies. Not only would she probably kill them when she figured out who it was, but they had me to deal with. That woman was something special and not just because of what was inside of her. There was a strange mystery that surrounded her I couldn’t quite unlock.
“You’re next.” The voice was male. Unfamiliar.
“Who the fuck are you?”
I snorted. “Really? Doesn’t matter who just knocked out a bloody Prefect?” I didn’t dare turn around again. I only hoped she was just knocked out.
“Correct.” There was a rustling down the hall. “I didn’t want to be overheard.”
I was quickly growing impatient, but knowing the motivation was key or he’d just be given a few detentions for attacking a Prefect. No, this bloke was up to something and he wanted Ryan to be no part of it.
“Go on,” I said, tongue pressed hard against the back of my teeth.
“I would like to offer you a proposal, Fred Weasley.”
“Isn’t that offer a proposal?” I asked. Couldn’t help it.
He ignored me. “Tell your father to stick to Diagon Alley,” he said. “If you succeed, I will donate ten thousand galleons to the shop, which I believe is the amount that will cover the shop’s debts and launch a new product line. Something from this century, anyway.”
I stared at the torch above him. My knuckles whitened. “Who are you and who do you work for?”
“That is classified.” He cleared his throat. “Do you accept?”
“So,” I began, letting out a sigh, “You are asking me to accept a sketchy offer with zero proof of follow-through from a bloke I can’t even see. Right.” My mind was halfway through a marathon. Who at Hogwarts would want us to stay out of Hogsmeade? Everyone was on board. Everyone loved the shop. This was fishy, especially this close to the court battle.
Then it hit me. A conversation I’d had with James at the welcome feast last fall.
“Look at that one,” he’d said, mouth full of chewing gum. He was on his eighth piece to beat Al’s record. “Little greasy thing, innee? What’d they say his name was?”
I shrugged. “Wasn’t listening. He’s last though.”
The kid was sorted into Slytherin. He hopped off the stool, messing up his dark hair, and sat with the other first years. A grin was fixed on his face and it wasn’t a pleasant one. He gave me the creeps.
“Fast friends?” Ollie had said, laughing.
“Eh?” James was trying to blow a giant bubble. I popped it with my fork.
“Did you hear his name?” she said. “I figured you’d catch it, being you.”
I regained my composure in the dark hallway. He hadn’t moved. I didn’t expect him to. “And if I refuse?”
The boy chuckled. “You can’t refuse. You’re not going to win. You’re going to go down in smoke and flames and I am going to rejoice in a gleeful manner.”
“You are a complete twat, you know that?” I said. I couldn’t stop myself. Gleeful manner? What a tool.
“If you refuse, Weasley, then I will make sure that shop doesn’t see the second quarter of next year.” There was a grin in his voice. The same one from the Great Hall a year ago.
I stared into the shadows. “Detention, Zonko, for attacking a Prefect. Fifty points from Slytherin. Also, bring it on. I am not afraid of you and we will be in Hogsmeade by this time next year.”
Gregory Zonko huffed. “You’re going to regret all three of those decisions, Weasley.”
“Twenty more points for skulking around after hours,” I added cheerfully. “Now get back to your sodding common room and think about who the hell you’re messing with.”
His footsteps faded into the darkness and at that moment I definitely agreed with my grandfather. We needed better lighting in the dungeons so people like Ryan didn’t get hurt – Ryan!
I wheeled around and launched myself at her side, skidding to a stop on my knees. I felt for her pulse. She was okay. Unconscious, but okay. Thank Godric.
I smoothed the dark hair away from her face. She looked so peaceful, which wasn’t exactly common. But she’d been thrown backward by that spell and was no doubt injured. She could have even hit her head. I grabbed for her wand and tucked it into my pocket. Then I moved one arm under her knees and another around her back and lifted her into my arms.
She was lighter than I expected. Probably because she’d punched me in the face before. It was easy to carry her up the steps to the Entrance Hall and walk up the marble staircase toward the hospital wing. All the while her head bobbed lifelessly and her hair tickled my arm.
I briefly wondered what she was hiding. What really made her tick and why she hated people and relationships so much. I wondered if Gemma knew.
Bloody Gemma seemed to know everything.
I abandoned Prefect walks once she was safe in a hospital bed. The nurse ran a few scans and found a broken wrist, so she gave her some medicine and wrapped it. I took off her shoes and placed them gingerly at the bedside. Then I claimed a poofy chair, kicked my feet up on the side of the bed, and started reading a copy of the newspaper from three days ago.
She didn’t stir for a long time. Felt like hours. At long last, when the lone other hospital resident was fast asleep, Ryan groggily opened her eyes. It took her a moment to register where she was and when she did her brows raised rapidly and her gaze snapped over to me. “What happened?” she demanded.
I had debated instead of reading the finance section of the paper whether or not to tell her the truth. It was my battle to fight. It was my father’s shop that was being threatened by some twittery rich second year with an attitude problem and too much time to practice spells like that.
But something about her vulnerability changed my mind. I had no reason to be dishonest with Ryan.
I hated that I already knew I wasn’t going to tell Annie what had happened in the corridor. I didn’t want to worry her.
“You were attacked,” I said eventually and her eyes squeezed shut like she should have known. “By Gregory Zonko.”
“That little shit second year?” she said, gaping at me. Not believing me. “Is this a joke?”
“He wants my father’s shop to stay out of Hogsmeade,” I said. “He offered me ten thousand galleons if I kept it to Diagon Alley and let Zonkos be. When I refused, he threatened me. So I gave him a detention, deducted points, and told him to come at me.”
Ryan groaned and rubbed her temples. “Did the nurse do a scan?”
“Just a bone scan,” I said quickly. “Nothing else. I made sure.”
“If I kill Zonko, do you think anyone would miss him?”
“His richy-rich parents?” I offered.
“You have room to talk.”
I rolled my eyes. “Not now, Ryan. I’m still shaken up from all of this. I don’t want to fight with you.”
“Why not?” she asked.
“I thought you were dead,” I said. I kept my gaze focused on the other patient. I couldn’t look at her. “I’ve never had that many things going through my head at once and I’m exhausted. I was goddamn terrified. Moreso than I’ve been in a long, long time.”
Ryan was silent for a while. She shifted in bed and pulled the covers up to her neck. “Thank you for bringing me here, Fred.”
I looked over.
“Don’t get used to the kindness,” she said quickly. “But thank you for looking out for me. Not everyone would have done the same.” Strands of dark hair covered her cheeks.
“Would you?” I asked.
Ryan met my eyes. Her expression was hard and unforgiving. “No,” she said after a moment. “I probably wouldn’t have.”
I leaned back into the chair. The room was mostly silent, but some rain was hitting the windows. I didn’t mind it. Just Ryan and me sitting there listening to the droplets outside and the steady breathing of that other patient. Some strange, unnatural truce between us.
“You know,” I said after a while, “I’m sorry about that appointment. It didn’t seem like I wanted to be there, but I did. I wanted to be there. I just didn’t understand everything.”
She shrugged. “You’re a bloke. A Gryffindor bloke. Can’t expect a lot out of you.”
“I just want you to know that I’m here. If you need me, I’m here.” I could feel the color rising on my face. “Cravings. Appointments. Bitching about Gemma.” She smirked. “Shopping for new clothes or baby rubbish when the time comes. I will never say no to you.”
“Get me chocolate,” Ryan said with a grin.
I pulled a WWW chocolate bar from my pocket and tossed it to her. “Emergency reserves.”
“Good on you, Weasley.” She unwrapped it and started to eat, watching me. “I have a lot of feelings right now, okay? I don’t like it. Most of them make me want to hit people, but sometimes they make me want to cry. So shut up if I ever cry because it’s obviously not my fault. It’s probably your fault, really.”
“Always is,” I agreed.
“Good. Glad we moved past that.” She kept munching on the chocolate bar. “And thank you … or whatever.”
I smiled. “Why don’t you get some sleep? You’ve got a broken wrist so we can’t take down anymore Slytherins tonight, I’m afraid.”
“Will you take me to that stupid party?” Ryan asked, tossing the wrapper onto the nightstand.
“Did you not hear you have a broken wrist?”
“Yeah. I heard.”
I stared. “And you’re in the hospital wing. With a broken wrist. You were just attacked. Don’t you think it would be wise not to leave?”
“Don’t you think it would have been wise not to eat chips with tequila?” she prompted.
“Fair point.” I groaned and stood, looking at her. “Are you absolutely sure? I’ll stay here with you.”
“I don’t do hospitals,” she said.
“This isn’t really a hospital,” I replied, looking around. “Just a room with big windows and some beds. Real hospitals are much worse.” I hated them. Even going to St. Mungos for that appointment was hard.
“Can we just leave?” Ryan asked, scooting to the edge of the bed and sliding her feet back in her shoes. “I want to see if Gemma’s hooked up with anyone. And silently judge all of your friends, which is a hobby of mine.”
“You are a perfect lady aren’t you?” I asked and offered my arm to her. To my surprise, she took it and we moved at a slow pace upstairs and toward the Astronomy Tower. On the way she told me milk chocolate was her favorite, that there was a special place in hell for dark chocolate, and that she used to eat a bar of white chocolate before each Quidditch match.
I listened intently and told her I liked the kind of chocolate with a surprise inside. Like the boxed chocolates with caramel and coconut and fudge. She listened all the same.
The tower was exploding with noise by the time we reached it. Everyone looked to be at different levels of completely shitfaced and all in costume. I’d almost forgotten it was Halloween.
“What are we going as then?” Ryan asked as we closed the door behind us.
“People who get along?” I suggested and she laughed.
“Sounds more like a practical joke.” She let go of my arm and searched the room. “Pretty sure Gemma is snogging your roommate.”
Hell. If Andrew was hooking up with Gemma I would never hear the end of it. From either of them. Only it wasn’t Parise.
It was Mox.
Little skittery bloody Mox was pressing Gemma against the stone wall and kissing her like he’d never kissed a girl before. I quickly assumed he hadn’t. He had his hands in the right spots, though maybe Gemma had placed them there. Whatever happened, I’d have to ask about it in the morning. That was too weird. And a little awkward.
“Would you like to accompany me to make fun of my mates?” I asked.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way.” Ryan followed through the crowd of princesses and slutty nurses and Quidditch player costumes until we found James and Ollie near the rail, overlooking the clearing and forest below.
“How’s the party?” I asked and both of them swung around.
“Freddo!” James cried, jumping into my arms so I had to catch him. “What’re you doing here? Are you busting us? I’d rather you not, as I have just agreed to take part in a shot-drinking contest.” His breath was all about vodka.
“I’m not going to bust you,” I said, laughing and winking at Ryan. I had no idea why I winked at Ryan. It just seemed like the thing to do.
“But you brought her,” he said, pointing at Ryan over my shoulder.
“Her mate is here,” I said, shrugging.
“Fancy a drink, Davies?” James asked. “I bet I could drink you under the table.”
“You couldn’t drink a hamster under the table right now,” Ollie said and smiled at both Ryan and me. “I’m not sure where Annie is. She was on the dance floor with Andrew a little while back.”
Godric. Last thing I needed tonight.
“I’m sure I’ll find her around,” I said and placed James back on his feet.
Ollie squealed when the song changed. “James – dance! Now!” They moved on the makeshift dance floor to a slow beat, something ironically from a baby-making playlist. James waved and then took Ollie sloppily into his arms to sway with her, off-beat.
I laughed. “Go on, then. Do your worst.”
Ryan slid against the rail beside me. “We should dance.”
“Did the nurse give you drugs while I wasn’t watching?” I asked, thunderstruck. “Won’t you break out into hives or something?”
“I am a wonderful dancer, Weasley,” she said. “Though the need rarely arises for me to show how much better than everyone else I am.”
“And modest too,” I said. “Are you sure? Is this some plot to humiliate me because I feel I don’t really deserve it tonight.”
“Let’s go, straight-edge.” She took my arm and tugged me a little violently onto the dance floor, several meters from James and Ollie.
Our bodies fit together easily. Our hands together, my other hand on her hip. Her other on my shoulder. She wasn’t wrong, either. Ryan knew exactly how to dance. She knew where to move and where to step and she never once glanced down at her feet (even though I did several times).
It was a nice change from our usual bickering and hatred.
Her eyes stayed fixed on mine through the song and I could feel the color rise on my cheeks just by her stare. There was something about the way she looked at me that made me nervous. Like she could see right through me, yet I couldn’t see past her eyes. Ever. She was surrounded by clouds.
Our bodies moved easily to the song and after a while I forgot about the people around us. It was just Ryan and me, swaying to the beat. I became very aware of my hand on her hip. It was a little sweaty. I could hear clinking glasses and laughter and conversations, but nothing registered. It was all so far away.
“Weasley?” Ryan whispered suddenly.
“Pretty sure we’re being watched.” She was speaking out of the corner of her mouth. “Three o’clock.”
I stupidly turned to look and right there, just a meter or two away, were Andrew and Annie. In each other’s arms. Dancing.
Andrew was grinning like an idiot. Annie looked confused and dumbstruck.
The fight lasted forever.
Annie followed me up to the dormitory and threw everything she could at me. Everything glass was shattered on the floor and I stepped on shards once or twice while she yelled.
I was a horrible boyfriend. I didn’t even find her when I got there. I was dancing with Ryan Davies of all people.
Anything I had to say, she didn’t care. I couldn’t blame her. It didn’t look good.
It also didn’t look good that I pointed out she was almost cheek-to-cheek with Parise. That got a hamper thrown at me.
She was right about me being a terrible boyfriend. I was. I really was.
I hadn’t wanted to be. I really liked Annie for who she was and the way her mind worked. She was amazing and sweet and kind and I loved kissing her.
“I’m sorry,” I said, fumbling over everything. “Annie, I’m sorry. There is nothing going on between Davies and me. I promise. You know how much I can’t stand her.”
“Didn’t bloody look like it, pig!” she called and threw a book at my head. It narrowly missed. I was very lucky I wasn’t seeing a Quidditch player or that may have landed me in the hospital wing.
“I wanted to go to the party and see everyone,” I plead. “But Molly insisted we had to stay together, so Davies agreed to come with me because Gemma was there. We danced once. Come on, Annie. It’s not like that.”
Eventually her anger slipped into frustration and that into exhaustion. We’d never fought like that before. Hell, my possessions had never been discarded like that before.
Annie sank onto the end of my bed. “I was just upset you couldn’t be there,” she said. “I missed you.”
“I missed you back,” I said and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “I wanted to be there. You were the next girl I was going to dance with but James told me you were already dancing with someone. I’m sorry I didn’t punch him in the face to dance with you.”
She laughed a little, uneasily. “I’m sorry I slapped you.”
“Yes, well, it’s not the first time I’ve been hit,” I said. “And deserved it.”
It was well past one in the morning now. My roommates were waiting downstairs for it to be over, though I was pretty sure they’d found places to sleep by then. Andrew was bunking in the common room because he got too drunk and lost the match to the girls. So we were still staring at our grandmums and he was snuggling with a throw pillow. Not a terrible loss.
“Stay with me tonight?” I asked, nodding to the bed.
“I can’t,” Annie said. She shook her head. “I told Ollie I’d be back.”
Sounded like a shit excuse to me. “We’re going to be okay, right?”
She smiled a little. “Yeah,” she said. “We’re going to be okay. Let’s talk about it soon and move forward. It was just a silly fight.” She leaned down, kissing me. Then Annie was gone, closing the door tight behind her.
After a day like that, all I could do was crawl under the blankets and try to forget about everything.
I’d ask James in the morning if I could switch lives with him for a bit.
Happy Spring! And with spring comes CHAPTERS. Or something like that.
My new environment in Colorado is very inspiring so I've been writing a lot. I hope you enjoy the chapters :)
Leave any thoughts!
UP NEXT: Quidditch. Potions. Freddie goes back on his word.
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