Chapter 31 : The Flu, Jatrina or Katbus and the Return of the Ex-Girlfriend
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“Fuck off! I’mb fine,” Milla glares at me, just before she sneezes.
I raise my eyebrows and look at her with a condescending expression. “Please, Milla. You are half dead. No offence, but you look awful.”
That isn’t a lie either. Her usually glamorous and immaculate looks are gone: her hair is stood on end and her eyes are red and puffy, her lips chapped and her nose red raw from blowing it. This is ill Milla; in other words: a Banshee.
“You’re coming to the Hospital Wing with me before class,” I tell her firmly, still breathing and talking behind my hand so my voice sounds robotic.
Milla rolls her eyes. “I don’t neeb do go do de ‘osbital wing.”
“You have the flu or something and that is contagious Milla. I don’t want it, thank you very much. Madame Pomfrey will fix you up in no time, so come on!” I reply quickly, still stood quite a distance apart. When she continues to not move and stand there stubbornly, I think quickly. An idea hits me and I smile behind my hand. “You want to be well enough for your date tomorrow don’t you?”
I have Milla there. She freezes and has a calculating look on her face. After a few seconds of intense thought, obviously weighing up the options (risking being ill and missing her date or getting better but letting me be right) she sighs and nods. “Fine, I’ll go. Come on, bud don’ stanb doo close do me, you don’ wand do ged id and miss your own dabe!”
I roll my eyes. “I’m probably not going on a date, Mills,” I mutter as we leave the dorm. I let her walk slightly in front of me, still covering my face with my hand.
“You shoulb. You neeb do pick one, insdeab of runnin’ away,” she tells me as she appears from behind her tissue.
“You were the one who dragged me away from James!” I say crossly as we clamber out of the portrait hole. The Fat Lady looks at Milla with disgust as she swings shut behind us. I ignore it and fortunately Milla doesn’t notice (though I’m not sure whether it’s possible to duel with a portrait, I’m sure Milla could be the first person to). “Why did you do that anyway, Milla?”
Milla rolls her eyes. “Why do you think? Do stob you from doin’ something sdupid-” she goes to say something else but sneezes violently instead. I grimace at her.
“I wasn’t going to do something stupid!” I glare at her indignantly. She raises her eyebrows in way that simply says: “Sure.”
“Well. Whad are you gonna do?” Milla asks me, stifling a cough.
I shrug. “Avoid them until I die at the age 123?”
Milla just stares at me, looking vaguely impressed. “Thad’s a bery precise age.”
“It’s 1-2-3, isn’t it? It’d be cool to die then,” I tell her. She nods in agreement and then shakes herself suddenly.
“Shud ub! Stob digressing,” Milla cries, pointing a finger accusingly in my direction. I hold my hands up in surrender. “Whad are you gonna do dhough?”
“Like I said, avoid them,” I repeat to her as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world.
“You can’d jusd avoid dhem forever!” Milla exclaims.
I fold my arms as we walk along. “Watch me.”
Milla rolls her eyes at me again and she too folds her arms in annoyance. We walk the rest of the way to the Hospital Wing in a dignified silence; neither of us wants to break the stillness- that would be admitting defeat and showing weakness.
I leave Milla in the capable hands of the matron who advises a few potions and a day of bed rest so she’ll be up and well again by tomorrow.
I hurry to double Potions as I glance at my watch and realise I’m cutting it quite fine. I head to the dungeons at a jog and join the queue for the class panting slightly. I join Scorpius in the line who smiles at me and then looks around me and frowns.
“Where’s Milla?” he asks, looking slightly worried.
I stifle a knowing smirk. “She’s got the flu so she’s in the Hospital Wing.”
Scorpius looks alarmed and I know exactly what he’s worried about. “Don’t worry though, I’m sure she’ll still be able to make you’re date tomorrow,” I wink at him.
Scorpius’ eyes widen and he makes shushing sounds. “Don’t say it so loudly! We don’t want anyone to find out until it’s happened!”
I roll my eyes: I whispered it to him. If I’d said it any more quietly I would’ve just been mouthing it. No-one stood any chance of hearing what I said.
“Half-term, the day after tomorrow,” Scorpius remind me. I nod and smile weakly at him. “You won’t forget, will you?”
“How can I, with you reminding me every three seconds?” I snap at him. He doesn’t retaliate, just sighs.
“Just ask your mum and let me know, will you?”
The class start filing into the classroom and Scorpius and I file in behind them. Albus is already stood at his cauldron, looking tired and almost ill, unpacking. Scorpius stands next to him and I take my seat on the table where Milla and I normally sit. Rose is sat in front of me and accidentally catches my eye. We both look away instantly.
Professor Slughorn heaves himself from the chair at his desk and plods over to us, beaming. “’Morning everyone! Now, divide yourselves into pairs. We’ll be working on an immensely difficult potion today: The Befuddlement Draught. You have two hours, off you go!”
I look around the classroom, searching for a partner and determinedly avoiding Rose’s eye. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have found a partner and is already getting their stuff together. I am not working with her. Suddenly, I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn quickly.
To my upmost surprise, it’s Sarah.
As in Sarah Yusuf.
The one who hates me.
“Do you mind if I work with you?” she asks me sweetly. “My friend is ill today so I don’t have anyone to work with.”
I peer over her shoulder and spot Rose gazing at the pair of us, looking oddly satisfied. Well she obviously believes my death is imminent too.
I manage to smile (albeit slightly maniacally) at her and reply. “Of course. There must be something going around, Milla’s ill too.”
Sarah nods and smiles sympathetically. “Yeah, the flu. It seems like a pretty bad case, too.”
I agree with her quickly. She then tells me she’ll run and grab the ingredients we need and I begin setting up the cauldron and flicking to the page in our books. I look up and catch Albus looking at me, his eyes flicking between Sarah and myself.
He raises his eyebrows and mouths, “What’s all that about?”
I shrug quickly and pull a slightly terrified face which he laughs at. Then, abruptly, we both freeze and look at each other, remembering. I shake myself and break the eye contact and turn back to my cauldron.
I light the fire beneath the cauldron and finish setting everything up, waiting for Sarah to return. She does so quickly carrying the load of ingredients.
She sets them down and I swiftly separate them into the order we’ll need them. She blinks at me in surprise and then smiles. “You’re organised.”
I shrug. “I’m quite good at Potions.”
She looks impressed. “Good job I’m partnering you- I’m absolutely rubbish.”
I smile at her, “I’m sure you’re not.”
FOR THE LOVE OF MERLIN. This girl just secretes niceness. She’s so charming it’s irritating, but it isn’t because I’m too busy being complimented by her.
I scan the instructions and pick out a relatively easy job. “Could you take out the seeds from the Lovage and then crush the rest of it?”
Sarah looks relieved at that. “No problem.”
We work in silence while I perform the fairly difficult task of adding the ingredients at the precise moments.
“I’m not angry at you, you know,” Sarah says quietly, not looking up from her Lovage. I stop stirring for a moment and frown at her. “I was, for a little while. I did really like Albus but I realise now I was pretty foolish.” She finally looks up as she passes me the seeds of the Lovage.
I take them and add them too quickly so the potion bubbles violently. I stir it again, calming down the potion, but also for something to do.
She takes my silence as a confused one and continues talking to explain her previous statement. “I knew he liked you. It was obvious, I think, when you looked closely. He used to talk about you a lot, praised you,” she smiles at that, though slightly sadly. “It was always going to happen. You and him. Though I never thought you’d be going out with his brother at the same time.”
I grimace as I squeeze the remains of the Lovage into the potion.
“I’ve got to say, I’m more of a Katbus shipper than a Jatrina,” she tells me conversationally.
I drop the knife I was about to use and stare at Sarah. Once I’ve picked it up, I gape at her. “Excuse me?”
She looks at me, mildly surprised. “You know, your couple names. That Dom girl spread Jatrina around when you and James were going out. Katbus is one of my creations,” she looks oddly proud at that. When I still look nonplussed, she sighs and continues. “Well it’s obvious you’re torn between the two boys. You like, possibly love, both of them.” she frowns at me, scrutinising me for a moment. “You don’t know which one you want, if any, and you don’t want to hurt the other. Personally, I think and Albus are much cuter, just because you’ve like each other for longer.”
I can only blink at her.
“My friend, Jasmine, is more of a Jatrina fan. She reckons Al took too long and James is sweeter. Plus she doesn’t like him because he dumped me. So, which one will you chose? I heard they both asked you out on a date tomorrow.”
“How do you know that?” I ask her quietly.
Sarah winks at me conspiratorially. “I have my sources.”
“Neither, if you’re that interested,” I tell her flatly. When I see her face fall and chuckle. “You’re like Milla.”
“Why neither?” she asks me as she passes me the Scurvy Grass.
“Because I’ve left it too late and I don’t want to hurt either of them anymore. Like you said in you big speech,” I smirk at her, sprinkling the ingredient over the potion.
“They’ll be more hurt if you ignore them for much longer,” Sarah says wisely.
“That’s the thing, I honestly don’t know who I’d chose!” I exclaim, slightly louder than I’d meant. I cough and then shake my head. “I hate saying it like that. It sounds like their things in a shop, not people.” She shoots me a sympathetic glance.
We sink into another silence and work through the potion. Our teamwork and my potions expertise has meant we are speeding through the potion. We’re already at the half way point- we’re on time- so now we just have to wait for twenty minutes for it to boil and then we can finish up. Everyone else is looking very stressed- several potions are billowing black smoke and issuing a rather disgusting stench. Apart from ours, only Al’s and Scorpius’ and Rose and her partner’s resemble what the potions are supposed to.
I sit back on my stool and Sarah follows suit. I set the timer to twenty minutes so we’ll know when we have to start working on the potion again. I begin to stare around the classroom, drifting off into a reverie for a while.
“Well,” Sarah’s voice snaps me out of it and I turn to face her. “This might sound like more a Milla solution, if I’m honest, but you should be open to it. You should…,” she pauses, chewing on the inside of the cheek, obviously trying to pick the right word. “…wait. Don’t pick one straight away. You could- I don’t know how to put this, so don’t go off on one- play around a bit. Not like cheat on them, but you could talk to them and then go on a date with each and see who you like better…” she trails off lamely as she sees my face.
A very pregnant pause settles on us which lasts for a little while.
“So you think I should date both of them and then pick the best?” I say slowly, my jaw dropping.
“You need to get to know them both more so then you’ll have a better idea of what you want out of a relationship and which one is better suited,” Sarah looks down and says this all very quickly.
I open my mouth to reply, when the timer bleeps violently. I leap up, glad for something to distract me, and turn it off. Sarah stands too and we both begin to work on the potion, working in silence. I mull the idea over in my head whilst we work.
The end of the lesson comes quickly. Slughorn is delighted by our Draught and awards Gryffindor and Ravenclaw thirty points each.
“Oho! Brilliant, just brilliant. Just by smelling this I can tell how potent this is! Astounding, ladies, I wonder whether an old dog like me could make Befuddlement Draughts like this anymore,” Slughorn bellows happily, clapping me a little painfully on the back.
As he wonders off to inspect other potions, I turn to Sarah. She looks back at me, evidently waiting for me to have a go at her.
“Isn’t it me who usually creeps up on you?” Albus chuckles quietly. I smile at him as he leans against the corridor wall and catches his breath. I stealthily caught up to him and tapped him on the shoulder, making him jump rather violently.
“Sorry, Bus,” I murmur and I lean against the wall next to him. I stay silent and he does too, both of us listening to his breath slow down.
“I reckon not playing Quidditch has left me incredibly unfit,” Albus jokes quietly and I laugh. I’ve noticed that too- I miss Quidditch. “Are you going to explain why you ran away when I asked you out?” Albus continues after a moment’s pause. I twist my head around to look at him and I’m relieved to see that he’s smiling.
I shrug, trying to act indifferent. “You know me. I did it because I panicked.”
“You didn’t know what to say, right?” Albus adds shrewdly. I nod slowly in answer to that. “You know, the offer’s still open if you fancy it,” Albus says, more gentle and soft now.
I bite the inside of my lip. “I don’t know.”
He frowns at my answer. “You don’t know what?”
I raise my eyebrows and look straight back at him. “I don’t know whether I want to, whether I can, whether I should.” When he continues to look puzzled, I elaborate. “Your brother asked me out, too.”
Albus lets out a low whistle. “Fantastic timing.”
“Just when I was going to find you to say yes,” I whisper. I want to watch his reaction but I can’t bring myself to, so I tear my eyes from his face and stare at the wall opposite us. The portraits there all turn quickly and start conversing with each other, obviously trying to hide the fact that they were eavesdropping on us. My fault- I should have chosen somewhere more private to discuss this.
“Ah. So that’s brought James back into the equation. Made you question how much you like me, if you still like James and who you should chose.” Albus recites this in a flat voice. “I can read you pretty well, Rena.” He adds when he sees my shocked face at the preciseness of that comment.
“That’s what Sarah was talking about in Potions,” I explain to him. “About you and James.”
“What was she suggesting?” he asks me, he too turning his head to look at the wall.
I smile grimly at that. “That I hang out with both of you and then pick the best one. Like you’re, I don’t know, sweets or something.”
I can almost hear Albus roll his eyes. “I don’t think she meant it like that. I think she meant it so you hang out with the both of us and then see which of us you are more attracted to. Unconventional, I realise that, but not a bad idea. Then it should be easier for us all. You’d be able to see how it would go with James, and also see whether you and I are even a possibility.”
I raise my eyebrows, but don’t look at him. “You’re up for it then?”
He shrugs and his shoulders rub against mine. “I’m going to fight for you.” He says it calmly, but a hint of danger lingers in his tone. He pauses for a moment, then, “I know you’re not a prize to be one, you’re no-one’s property, but I’m going to fight for you. I can promise you that. Have you spoken to James yet?”
I had. I’d caught him earlier and explained. He’d listened carefully and then smiled- he always liked the idea of competition. It wasn’t a competition, of course, I hated the idea of that. It wasn’t anything like that, but I suppose it’d feel like that to the both of them. I’d told him not to expect a date tomorrow- too soon, I’d said- and he’d just nodded and taken it well. He’d got my point immediately- he could read me nearly as well as Albus could. It was funny, really. James had said the exact same thing as Albus had:
“I’m going to fight for you.”
When I don’t elaborate, Albus prompts me. “He’s up for it then?”
“Yep.” I reply quietly.
After James had said that, he’d pecked me on the lips and stalked off, looking a lot happier.
“I don’t want to hurt either of you,” I murmur, staring straight away still.
A fumble, and then his hand finds mine. Albus grips my cold hand tightly and squeezes it. He entwines our fingers and I lean against him.
A/N Hello folks!
No, I’m not dead, nor am I abandoning this story! I’m just, you know, casually drowning under the amount of homework and revision I have. No biggie. The updates were so slow because I’ve been battling with the terrible ailment of… “Writer’s block” (*gasp!*). Fortunately, (for you, not so much for me) with the looming exams and the boring revision, I’ll do anything to avoid revision. So writing has become procrastination from my real tasks. I wrote this in two days- not bad, eh? Anyways, bit of a filler chapter, sorry for the monotonous tone. Sarah’s back, though. That was always planned; we might see a bit more of her! Next chapter will be more dramatic and we’ll get more information about Kat’s family!
Love you all, keep reading and reviewing!
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