Chapter 16 : Fact of Nature #16: Lost Causes are not Necessarily Lost Forever
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I hadn’t spoken to her since the debacle at last night’s party; she didn’t come back downstairs after running off to her dormitory. Rose and Gwen had returned after about ten minutes to help us pack up anything left from the party.
“Is she ok?” I’d whispered to Rose as we pushed a sofa back into place.
“I’m not sure,” Rose shrugged. “She looked upset but she claimed it was just a sore head. She was going to bed.”
“Is that wise, what if her head is seriously hurt?” I tried to keep the worry out of my voice.
“Jane’s going to stay with her, I’m sure she’ll be fine Al.” Rose patted my arm before heading across the room to talk to Gwen.
I’d stayed awake well into the night, and I half expected to wake up in the morning to hear that Lucy had been taken to the hospital wing, but she was sitting with Jane at the far end of the Gryffindor table when I went down for breakfast. There were no spare seats at that end of the table but I kept an eye on Lucy while I ate, waiting for an opportunity to talk to her when she got up. Annoyingly, I was busy stirring sugar into my tea when Lucy left the table and I glanced up to notice she was gone. Jane was still sitting at the table, talking to a couple of fourth years, so I abandoned my tea and half eaten bacon to get some answers. Jane told me Lucy had said something about needing a book from the library, so here I was, making my way to the library on a Sunday morning, hoping to catch Lucy, but slightly unsure what to do if I did.
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. In my sleepless hours during the night, I’d 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.
I turned another corner and spotted her near one of the Ancient Runes classrooms. I jogged up to her, falling in step easily. She flinched a little when she noticed me, but didn’t say anything, leaving the opening line to my power.
“Hey Lucy, are you ok? You ran off so quickly last night,” I said as calmly as I could.
“I’m fine, just a small bump this morning,” She didn’t stop, or even look at me when she spoke. Her voice was flat and emotionless; was this her way of keeping me at arm’s length?
“I’m really sorry about that,” I said, needing her to know that she didn’t have to be uncomfortable around me; I wasn’t going to do something stupid like try and jump her in Herbology. “And look, I’m sorry about that game, the whole thing was really stupid.”
“Yeah it was,” Her voice was so calm, like she didn’t even care that we’d nearly kissed last night.
“I didn’t mean to ruin your birthday Lucy, I really wanted you to have a good time,” I sounded a bit pathetic, but she still hadn’t turned to look at me and I was beginning to lose hope that she would ever smile at me again.
“Seriously, it’s fine.” Lucy sounded so nonchalant, like she hadn’t given it a second thought since we’d smacked heads. “And I did have a good time, the party was fun. I’m not going to let a little bump on my head get me down.”
I knew I was being over dramatic, but Lucy’s words hurt; they hurt more than I thought they would because this reaction was so unexpected. If she had flat out told me she couldn’t stand me I would have been hurt but not surprised. If she had told me she couldn’t hang around with me because she didn’t want to lead me on, I probably would have gone up to my dormitory and cried like a girl, but once again, it would have been expected.
But Lucy was treating this whole thing as a minor annoyance, not even that really. Her apathy left me feeling like I’d been kicked right in the guts. Maybe that’s why I said the following words, fighting to keep my voice calm as I struggled with the hurt I felt.
“Well it could have been worse, I suppose if you had to kiss me your night would have been completely destroyed. So I suppose we can thank Louis for that one can’t we?” If she didn’t feel anything about this, then I sure as hell wasn’t going to let her think that I felt anything. We stopped outside the library and Lucy glanced at me briefly.
“Yeah, well like I said, there’s no problem. Anyway, I need to go get this book, I’ll see you later ok?” She said, and I hadn’t even finished nodding before she was gone.
With a dejected sigh, I made my way back up to Gryffindor Tower, but I went the long way, down the far end of the castle and up a little stairwell that almost never got used unless there was an astronomy class on. Eventually, I climbed through the portrait hole, ignored whoever was sitting in the common room and stomped upstairs to my dormitory, where I pulled the hangings around my bed and lay in the semi-darkness, feeling sorry for myself.
Friday morning, I found myself in Professor Longbottom’s office, not because I was in trouble, but because I had an appointment. It wasn’t anything special, just the careers advice that all O.W.L students had to go through with their head of house.
“How are things?” Neville asked as I sat down opposite him. A plant I didn’t recognise with violently orange flowers sat on the shelf directly behind him and from my current angle it looked like they were growing straight out of his head.
“Not bad,” I nodded. “Bit busy with Quidditch and exams and all, but that’s to be expected.”
“How’s James? He seems very quiet these days,” Neville knows us far too well, trust him to pick up on my brother’s moodiness.
“He’s…alright,” I said, but my voice was a higher pitch than usual and Neville raised his eyebrows incredulously at me.
“N.E.W.T’s, Girls or Quidditch?”
“Girls,” I conceded. “Well just one girl actually. She won’t go out with him and I think it’s doing his head in a bit.”
“Really? Who?” Neville looked a little too interested for a teacher. He can be such a gossip when he wants to.
“Alice Bell,” I replied. “But you didn’t hear it from me. In fact you didn’t hear it at all.” I wouldn’t normally talk like this to a teacher, but Neville is…well…Neville.
“Alice Bell? She finished Hogwarts last year,” Neville looked confused.
“Apparently my brother like the ladies to be older than him,” I shrugged.
“Alice Bell,” Nevile looked at me for a moment, a sort of knowing smile on his lips. “How ironic.”
“Ironic? I mean I know she’s really smart and all and James loves Quidditch, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything in common.” I felt suddenly protective of my brother.
“Oh no, that’s not what I meant.” Neville defended himself. “Alice Bell is lovely, all the Bells are, really,” He looked at me for a moment, that knowing smile on his face again before he glanced away, shuffling some papers. “But you’re here to talk about your future, not your brother’s love life. So Al, any ideas about what you would like to do after Hogwarts?”
I left Neville’s office feeling better than I thought I would, and I mull over our discussion for the rest of the day. I was still unsure what I want to do for my future career, but at least I had some options now. Dad will be thrilled when I tell him I’m thinking of doing a ministry internship, the few times James, Lily and I have gone into the ministry with him, he was so excited to show us around, tell us stories about the first time he came here with Grandpa Weasley, regale us with the story of how he, Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione snuck into the ministry during the war, disguised as other people (ok, that particular story is pretty cool). He also took great delight in introducing us to pretty much everyone in the Auror department; bit odd, my Dad is.
I’m still thinking over internship applications when I get to Quidditch training the next morning. James was looking like his usual despondent self, and didn’t even bother to roll his eyes at the group of girls in the stands, giggling and waving at him; it’s like he hadn’t even noticed them. Half his luck, I thought to myself as I fly overhead, trying to ignore their over the top ‘oooh’ sounds when I passed them.
Just as James had set me up with Fred and Will to practice hitting and deflecting bludgers, I noticed a solitary figure climbing up into the stand next to the one with the giggling girls. I recognised the purple hat and realised, with a slight drop in my stomach, that it’s Lucy! She didn’t look in my direction, but instead pulled a book from inside her cloak and sat there reading, I couldn’t help but assume she was waiting there for Jane. I kept an eye on her, which was probably not the safest thing to do when you have two blokes pummelling bludgers at your head, but it was about fifteen minutes before she glanced up at me. I wave and smile at her when she did look up, and to my delight she waved back, although the moment was lost when I realised Fred had just smashed a bludger in my direction. Acting quickly, I tucked my legs under the broom firmly and rolled, hanging upside-down in the air for a brief moment as the bludger zoomed past before straightening up again. Even I was impressed that I’d managed to pull off such a perfectly timed sloth grip roll. I felt incredibly confident as I waved and smiled at Lucy again, before turning my focus back to my attackers.
Lucy kept her head buried in her book for the rest of the practice, which seemed to drag on forever. When James finally let us go, I noticed Jane jogging towards the stands, so I headed straight to the change rooms, showering as quickly as I could. Sure enough, as I sat down on one of the benches in the main room to tie my shoelaces, Jane was only just making her way through to the girl’s showers. I yanked my old Gryffindor jumper over my head and headed back out to the pitch. Lucy was still sitting up in the stands with her book so I ran up the stairs eagerly, taking them two at a time. I was still a few steps below her row when Lucy glanced up, looking slightly surprised at my presence.
“Hey there Quidditch fan. Having fun all by yourself?” I joked as I made my way down the row to where she was sitting. Things had gone back to normal between us after our gut-wrenchingly apathetic conversation outside the library, and I was determined to keep things light, although her feeling anything other than friendship for me still seemed like a lost cause.
She held up her book. “I’m not alone, I had a date with Emeric Switch. New man in my life,”
“Lucky guy,” I said, meaning it. I took the book from her and realised it was our Transfiguration textbook from first and second year, not what Lucy was usually seen reading. “Transfiguration huh? Not your usual choice for leisure reading.” I sit down next to her, as close as I possibly can without looking suspicious or creepy.
“Think requirement rather than relaxation,” She explains. “I need to get my Transfiguration grade up before O.W.L’s.”
“I take it your meeting with Professor Longbottom was helpful then?” I smile at her, forcing myself to focus on the conversation as we talk about career options. The problem was that Lucy was looking particularly gorgeous this morning. She had her cloak on the seat next to her, but the sun had obviously warmed her up enough to remove it. She was wearing such a simple outfit of jeans and a grey jumper, but jeans always looked amazing on her and the jumper was close fitting enough that the shape of her body underneath was becoming a distraction. It took all of my self-control to keep my eyes on her face, but even then, her brown eyes are full of expression as she describes dragon reserves and ministry jobs.
“So, what about you?” She asks after a while. “How did your meeting with Professor Longbottom go? Any revelations about your future?”
I sigh, “Nothing life changing. I mean Professor Longbottom said that grades wise I should be able to keep my options open, provided I make an effort with my O.W.L’s, but I still don’t actually know what I want to do. I envy you Lucy.”
“Me? Why?” Lucy looks confused.
“Well you know what you want, and when you know what it is that you want you can just go out there and get it.”
“Trust me, knowing what you want doesn’t necessarily mean you can go out and get it,” Lucy sounds almost annoyed when she says this and I look over at her, intrigued.
“What do you mean? What do you want that’s so unattainable Miss Bell?” I ask teasingly. For a moment Lucy looks like she doesn’t know how to answer and I wonder if I’ve somehow stumbled on something she doesn’t want me to know. But then her face goes back to normal and she answers casually,
“Oh, well you know, my Mum’s a bit overprotective, even if I did want to be a dragon wrangler, she’d probably do everything in her power to stop me. Anyway, did you at least get some ideas from Professor Longbottom?” It was obvious that Lucy wasn’t being completely honest with me, and her sudden change of subject was less than subtle, but I didn’t want to push it.
“Uh, yeah sort of,” I answered her question, and at the same moment I noticed Jane near the change rooms, talking to Louis who had come down to the pitch for some reason (my guess would be either boredom or wanting to flirt with Hawthorn). I smiled, silently thanking my cousin for inadvertently distracting Jane and therefore giving me more time with Lucy.
“They’re so perfect for each other,” I glanced at Lucy and noticed she, too, was watching the laughing couple. “So anyway, you were saying you got some ‘sort of’ ideas?” She turned back to look at me.
“Well just the one really,” I said, before launching in to an explanation of the ministry internships. I hadn’t meant to say it, but suddenly I found myself suggesting Lucy apply for an internship too.
“Knowing my luck I’d probably get eaten by something weird in the department of mysteries!” She laughed.
“I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t send interns down to the Department of Mysteries,” I remembered my parent’s story of their battle in the department of mysteries, and wondered for a moment what it would be like to work down there. “And you can apply for general internships or placements in particular departments,” I continued. “You could just apply to work in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”
“That’s actually not such a bad idea. You’re pretty smart Potter, you know that?” Lucy smiled.
“Yeah, well you might not be saying that after you get stuck with me all summer,” I replied, and almost instantly regretted it. The statement was for too similar to our conversation the day after Lucy’s birthday party, and I wondered if I was walking into dangerous territory.
“Oh I can think of worse people to be spending my time with,” she says, and gives me a smile that’s almost knocks the breath right out of me. My palms a sweating and I can’t help but grin stupidly back at her. There is no doubt in my mind that I am falling for Lucy Bell, hook, line and sinker. You are a lost cause Albus Potter, my inner voice mocked me, and for once I had to agree with him completely.
The fact that my friendship with Lucy was back on track was a relief, and the fact that I still spotted the charm bracelet I gave her dangling from her wrist every now and then gave me hope that I hadn’t completely ruined my chances with her by coming on too strong. With the ever-increasing approach of our O.W.L exams, studying became a huge priority and much to my delight, Lucy seemed quite determined to make sure I passed with flying colours. I had thought that with the pressure of Rose’s revision timetable that I might find myself sacrificing my one-on-one library time with Lucy; yet to my delight we still spend many an evening pouring over books about magical creatures.
It was one such evening when my hope about Lucy’s feelings for me began to re-ignite. It was pouring with rain and we were tucked away in our regular corner of the library, reviewing the defining features of Porlocks, because Lucy had convinced herself that she’d forgotten everything there was to know about the horse guardians.
“Lucy, your ‘I’ve forgotten everything’ level of knowledge still beats my ‘ready for exams’ level,” I joke as she drops a pile of dusty books on the desk before dropping in the chair next to me. I’m torn for a moment, because she usually sits opposite me and I’ve always liked the way I can just stare at her across the table, but then again her closer proximity has its benefits.
“I know there is a really good diagram in one of these,” She mutters, opening covers and running her fingers down two different index pages at the same time. It’s so adorable it makes me want to laugh and kiss her at the same time. “Here!” She exclaims, flipping to an appropriate page and pushing the book between us. “This is what I was looking for.” To my surprise and delight, she scoots her chair closer to mine as we look down at the detailed drawing.
“That hair is incredible,” I mutter, and Lucy absently touches the page, her delicate fingers tracing the ink lines that make up the long, shaggy hair of the creature. “Hey, don’t you reckon he looks a bit like Myron Wagtail?”
“The lead singer of the Weird Sisters?” She looks up at me in surprise and I pause for a moment, surprised at how close her face is to mine.
“Yeah,” I say. “You know, like he was back in the nineties when our parents were into them.”
“You’re so…” She says, shaking her head and smiling as she looks back down at the picture. “Actually, you’re right.” Voice incredulous, she ducks her head closer to the picture for a more in-depth inspection. She sits up jerkily and looks at the picture like she’s not sure what to make of it. “That’s really bizarre.”
“Maybe Myron’s really a Porlock in disguise?” I suggest and Lucy lets out such a sweet laugh that causes my whole chest to feel like it’s about to explode.
“You’re such a dork,” She says. “Ok, see this here, the way the arms curves? I reckon that’s important.” She suddenly interjects, pointing at the arm of the Porlock in the book.
“What do you mean?” I ask, reaching out to push her hand aside since it’s blocking my view of the picture. The moment our fingers touch though, all thoughts of the magical animal are forgotten. Instead of just pushing her hand away, my fingers seem to curl themselves around hers of their own accord. I swear that I hear Lucy’s breath catch and we both look up at each other at the exact same moment. Our faces are only inches apart, I can smell her hair and count the eyelashes framing her deep brown eyes, and there is a tingling sensation in my hand that seems to be quickly spreading to the rest of my body.
Then, suddenly and without warning, a loud crack of thunder echoes outside, startling us both and causing Lucy to look back down at the picture.
“See how it seems to curve out away from the body at a forty-five degree angle,” she says, although if I’m not mistaken her voice sounds shakier than usual and her cheeks seem a little pink. “Al?” She asks, glancing up at me over her shoulder.
“Right,” I snap out of my thoughts and look back at the study material. “Oh yeah, I see that. Do you think that will really be on the exam though?”
“Extra points for accuracy,” She shrugs, before picking up her quill and making a note of it on her parchment.
“Extra points for accuracy,” I echo, picking up my own quill and following her lead, wondering if she’d felt the spark too.
AN: Sorry this has taken so long, I've been focussed on some other pieces lately, but I am trying with all my might to get this finished. Thanks to those who have stuck with me and are stil reading and reviewing, I love your thoughts and encouragement.
I'm working on the next chapter at the moment so here's a little sneak peek...
Perhaps the decision to try and get Rose to listen to Scorpius was a stupid one, but he had just seemed so pathetic the other day when he came up to me in the library that not helping him would have felt like kicking a puppy. And there was the Lucy factor too – I liked to pretend I was being all noble and open minded, but the truth was that hatching this scheme with Lucy was something I’d jumped at because it meant spending more time with her.
And the ridiculous idea I’d come up with that morning to try and get her away from the crowd of people at the party for some ‘quality time’ after we’d reunited the two lovebirds was definitely not the act of a gentleman. The worst thing was, I could feel myself becoming this crazy, creepy stalker bloke, but I couldn’t seem to stop it. I’d say to myself Right, self-control. You’re not going to talk to Lucy today unless she speaks to you first, and then I’d walk into the common room, see her sitting on a sofa reading and two seconds later I’d be next to her asking about a Potions assignment or something else equally flimsy.
You are a poor excuse for a Gryffindor, Albus Potter. The voice in my head mocked me, and I found myself wondering for a moment if I should have just given in to the sorting hat and let it put me in Slytherin. I was being sneaky and underhanded enough to justify it.
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