Chapter 37 : Discussions, Packages and Surprise Dates
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“Yes, I’m starting to think we should too,” Sarah mutters as she appears out of nowhere and sits next to me. It’s breakfast and it’s only a week away from the Easter holidays, though I doubt they’ll be much of a holiday- revision. The Hall is crowded as usual and noise echoes through the hall. It’s pretty perfect- we won’t be overheard.
“Well what’s next then?” I ask quietly as I shovel a spoonful of cereal into my mouth.
“Dating, definitely. Since Milla had her idea used first,” she scowls at Milla as if daring Milla to object. She merely shrugs.
“Okay. So are we counting how they perform on first dates only?” Milla whispers back, cutting up a piece of toast- she cuts them up into tiny pieces and then eats the little squares.
“That’s a plan!” Sarah nods approvingly.
“So, should I mark James on the date we had a few months ago?” I ask and I swallow my cereal.
Both nod and Milla says, “That’s a good idea!”
“Go on, tell us about it. We weren’t friends then, so you’ll have to fill us in,” Sarah leans closer to me excitedly.
“Um, well, we went to a little café in Hogsmeade and ate. He paid for everything – he insisted – and it was nice food so he picked a good place,” I begin hesitantly.
“Ooh, that’s a very gentlemanly thing to do!” Sarah leaps in happily. “Makes up for the incident…”
“But he talked about himself quite a lot. About Quidditch, you know,” I add.
Milla pulls a face. “Ugh, how boring.”
Sarah ponders it for a moment and then says wisely, “I suppose that’s a very Jamesy thing to do. Actually, what I find when boys do that, it means they really like you, so they’re subconsciously trying to impress you – win you over, you know – and perhaps he was nervous.”
I nod; that actually is a good explanation as I could definitely see the sweet, nervous and protective side of James coming out.
“Or he’s just a bit of a self-centred prick,” Milla butts in, trying to look reasonable.
I look at Sarah and we both burst out laughing: I suppose she could be right too.
“He did ask me about myself as well though and took interest in my OWLs if I remember correctly. Plus he asked me to house over Christmas,” I add once we stop laughing. “So I suppose I’ll give him an eight, considering it was a first date, but it could have been a lot better.”
“Right, remind me to note that down later. I agree with that decision; although I might have perhaps marked him as a seven,” Sarah says in a business like tone.
“You’ve also got to consider what you feel with both,” Milla cuts in suddenly, looking thoughtful.
I frown. “What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s all about passion. Who do you feel more with?” Milla explains. “What do you feel when you’re with them? You should mark them for that too.”
“Well,” I begin, frowning slightly as I think. “With Albus, I feel very home-y. Even though I get fireworks, I feel quite relaxed.”
“That sounds boring!” Milla utters as she makes another face.
“I think it sounds romantic,” Sarah disagrees, sighing slightly and tugging on her curls again.
“With James, my mind goes all blank. I definitely feel, well, on fire with him. There’s a spark – not that there isn’t with Albus – but it’s all very exciting. He makes me melt,” I plough on, thinking back to all of the times James and I have shared.
“That’s more like it,” Milla says approvingly.
Sarah accepts that. “That does sound amazing. But,” she adds, slightly sombrely, “How long will that spark hold out?”
“Oh fuck off, killjoy,” Milla grins playfully and rolls her eyes at Sarah. “You have a knack for pointing out serious and fucking uncomfortable things. I think Kati’s picking that up too.” She says it in a relaxed way but she hastily looks down to chew on another square of toast.
I flush and shift awkwardly- she’s referring to the argument we had the other day. Ouch. Sarah looks at me questioningly, but I just shake my head. I think she suddenly understands anyway because as I reach for another spoonful of cereal, I see her eyes widen.
I see Rose sit down at the table just a little way from us; she ignores the sudden increase in whispers and just helps herself to some fruit. It’s good to see her eating and handling everything so well. We haven’t really made much contact since, just the occasional hello in corridors and brief conversations in class. She looks up and catches my eye; she smiles quickly before ducking down again.
Fortunately, we are saved from an awkward moment by the arrival of owl post. I don’t look up to see if I’ve got anything- I don’t tend to get all that much anyway, and I’ve got even less since the argument. I get the usual ‘are-you-still-alive-and-eating-and-working?’ one from Mum, now with a little P.S asking whether I’ve heard from Tyrique. Which, incidentally, I haven’t. All my letters have been sent back unopened and I haven’t received word from him at all since the fight. He must have gone back now, and still nothing.
To my upmost surprise, Fluffy flies over me and drops a package in my now empty bowl of cereal. She stops and hovers for a moment, and I give her some Cheerios to peck on before he soars off, hooting happily. Milla is already unwrapping her present from her mother; Milla’s Mum travels a lot so often sends odd presents back to Milla. Sarah is immersed in her copy of the Daily Prophet that has been delivered.
I open mine curiously- I don’t usually get packages, just letters. I unwrap it and drop it immediately. I gaze down at it and I can feel all the blood draining from my face.
“Are you okay?” I hear Sarah’s voice. “You look very pale. What’s that you’ve got there?”
“Earth to Kati!” Milla waves a hand in front of my eyes. “What is it anyway? A flower? It’s a bit gross. What’s up?”
“An iris flower, I think,” Sarah murmurs curiously and leans forward to pick it up. I bat it away quickly and snap out of my reverie. I rifle through the packaging- no letter, no note, nothing. Just an iris flower.
“What’s the matter?” Sarah repeats, frowning at me and looking worried.
“It’s just a flower!” Milla says, trying to make a joke of it but still sounding concerned.
It’s got to be from James- he knows they’re my favourite flower. It must be a romantic gesture, right? Albus would know not to send one; he knows that I was sent one in the post all those years ago. I look up and see Rose staring at me and the iris. She knows the story too and is looking anxious, as if she’s trying to work something out.
I stand up abruptly at grab the flower and the packaging. I walk out of the Hall, ignoring my friends’ confused calls. And I manage to walk straight into Albus and James. They’re discussing something in hushed voices but stop as soon as I appear.
James still looks angry but manages a smile. “Hey!”
“What’s the matter?” Albus asks immediately, noticing my paleness and the frenzied look I have about me.
“Did you send me this?” I ask James suddenly, brandishing the iris at him.
He shakes his head, looking bewildered. “No, I didn’t. But I can if you want-” he adds quickly, flashing me a winning smile.
Albus interrupts, staring at the iris. “Did it have a note? Anything from who it was from?”
“No, nothing. Just like last time,” I reply quickly, ignoring James’ comment, even though it’s very sweet.
“Not even a message this time?” Albus frowns, leaning forward to look at it closer. I shake my head and his forehead creases even more. “It’s dying. The petals are wilting. It must’ve been sent a long way, I think. It’s practically dead. Who would send a dead flower?”
“Can’t sleep?” Albus voice wakes me up from my daydream.
I jump and turn to see him walking down the stairs. It’s around three in the morning on a Saturday morning and I’ve been staring into the embers of the fire since around two. I smile at him and nod. “Nope, haven’t slept a wink. You?”
Albus shrugs. “Woke up suddenly before and I was wide awake.” He looks at me and takes in my tired eyes. Then he looks at me in this way that always used to make me think he was x-raying me, or perhaps reading my mind. I usually sleep very well, but when I can’t sleep, I really can’t sleep. I can’t get off for the rest of the night and I either do homework or read. Tonight, however, I feel too tired to either of those things- which is incredibly annoying because I still can’t get to sleep despite being tired. I am officially a nutcase.
“Come one,” he says quickly, holding out his hand. I take it and stand, frowning. Before I can say a word, he gestures with his hand and I realise his invisibility cloak is clutched in his fist. He throws it over us and chuckling quietly, we both make our way to the portrait and push it open. Snorting as quietly as we can at the Fat Lady’s exclamations of surprise and confusion, we head down the corridors.
“Where are going?” I giggle, clutching onto his sweaty hand, my stomach still doing summersaults. I needn’t have asked, because within minutes we reach a portrait that tells me exactly where we’re going. “The kitchens?” I ask, somewhat giddily.
Al chuckles and tickles the pineapple, which giggles and the portrait swings open. Despite it being three o’clock in the morning, there are still house-elves milling about. Apparently, and thanks to Rose’s mum, they have proper shifts now so some sleep during the day and work the nights and vice versa. A lot of them are even wearing various pieces of clothing- impressive.
“Come on,” Albus tugs on my hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“Master Albus!” a little house-elf trots up to us and squeaks Al’s name in his high-pitched voice. He looks very young and bounces cheerfully on the balls of his feet. He’s wearing a rainbow striped toga thing across his body and one sock on his right ear.
“Hooky!” Albus greets him cheerfully with a smile. “Nice to see you.”
Hooky bows very low so his long, crooked nose touches the floor. “What can I can you, Master Albus?”
“Just a few snacks if you don’t mind, Hooky,” Albus replies, gazing around the kitchen and smiling at several of the house-elves.
“How often do you come in here?” I ask him, stifling a laugh.
Albus shrugs. “Whenever I’m hungry really.” He pauses and reflects for a moment. “So that means that most of my time at Hogwarts has been spent here.”
I laugh and wrinkle my nose- all the Potter boys do is eat. Actually, isn’t that what all teenaged boys do? I suppose Albus is more work and eat and James is snog and eat. Perhaps at the same time…
“If Master Albus would follow Hooky with his friend…” Hooky trails off looking up at me questioningly.
“Katrina,” I say, flashing him a friendly smile. House-elves are so cute.
“Mistress Katrina, it is a pleasure to meet you,” he says importantly and bows low again, his nose trailing on the floor. I blush at his gesture and mean to stop him from calling me “Mistress” and bowing, but before I can, he stands up straight and scuttles off, indicating for us to follow him.
“They’re funny little creatures aren’t they? Kind of cute, really, but sad about the way they’re treated,” I mutter to Albus as we follow Hooky. I am very aware that Albus’ hand is still in mine.
“I know. Even though they’re much better now, they still have their traditions. I can’t get them to stop calling me ‘Master’ and I’ve only recently got them to call me ‘Master Albus’. It’s embarrassing, you know? But they’re so willing to help and nice,” Albus replies quietly, making sure no-one overhears. Even though they all seem so happy and easy-going, I definitely wouldn’t like to offend them; I don’t like my chances against their elf magic.
“Hooky has worked here for five years now, for as long as Master Albus has been here! My family has worked here for several generations, Mistress Katrina, and Hooky is no exception,” Hooky pipes up shrilly, leading us further into the kitchen. I never realised how huge it is- I’m sure it’s expanded… “I am the great-great-great-great grandson of Hooky the House-Elf. He is very famous even in the wizarding world! Hooky is named after him and Hooky is very proud. My father was Hooky and so was my grandfather and-”
“I think I’ve seen his statue, actually,” Albus interrupts, frowning thoughtfully. Hooky doesn’t mind- he looks delighted that we know the statue. However, before Hooky can launch back into his family history, we are swamped by lots of other house-elves, all looking equally as thrilled to see some pupils in here. They lead us to a small table in the corner and fill it with sweets and savoury foods, some I’ve never tried before and some of my favourites. As we sit, another few house-elves scamper up to our table, brandishing flavours of ice-cream that I could only have imagined in my wildest dreams.
We tuck into our treats as the house-elves scamper off (no doubt to return soon, pressing more pumpkin pasties into our arms). I myself am treating myself with a toffee crisp and raspberry ice-cream and Albus is chewing on some sweet pies.
“I am never going to leave,” I tell Albus as I swallow another mouthful of ice-cream.
He laughs and his eyes crinkle in that way that makes me swoon a little. “And now you know why I spend most of my time here. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I leave school. I think I’m just going to have to be really rich and hire hundreds of them.”
I chuckle and smack my lips together appreciatively for the ice-cream. “That is a plan. But when you’re rich, you can hire me a few hundred too. I’ll be a Healer by then and I won’t have time to cook proper meals,” I add, smiling at him.
Albus nods in understanding, taking a bite of a liquorice wand now. “This is Heaven, seriously. And I can guarantee that you will sleep right away when we get back.”
I frown at him. “Nah, surely all the sugar will keep us awake? Shit, this probably wasn’t a good idea then, was it?”
Albus winks at me. “Ah, young one, you will soon discover otherwise. I swear it must be elf magic or something, because every time I do this, I sleep like a dragon afterwards.”
As I finish my ice cream and start on a brightly coloured pastry, we continue to chat. It’s fun and I’m pretty much wide-awake. Hang on- does this count as a date? We’re together and we’re eating and we’re talking and we’re alone (if you don’t count the watching house-elves) and we’re being quite flirty. I am totally counting this as a date.
I shouldn’t have thought that. I should not have thought that. I am definitely going to become very tense now and freak out, aren’t I? I’M WEARING MY PYJAMAS.
Calm down, Kat. Calm.
“Have you started revising for OWLs yet?” Albus pulls me out of my daydream.
“Sort of,” I answer, trying to act calm and collected and as if I hadn’t just had a huge inner realisation. “You?”
“Yeah… Of course…” Albus says shiftily and I snort at him. “Well, Rose has being going crazy at me about revising for ages now.”
“Rose has been revising for her OWLs since first year,” I grin at him. Then I falter. “Speaking of Rose, how is she doing? Have you spoken to her much?”
Albus shifts slightly. “She’s okay. Stressed and tired. She’s convinced she’s going to be able to have her baby and do her OWLs with the rest of us which is ridiculous. She’s due at the end of May or early June which is when OWL hype starts. Knowing our family’s luck at the moment, she’ll end up having the baby during the OWLs… Either that or she’ll have it just before and they’ll be no way she can do her OWLs whilst looking after a two week old baby or whatever.”
“What have the Ministry and Flitwick said?” I ask, chewing on another pastry (what? They’re delicious!).
“They’ve said that they’d be happy to suspend the exams for her so she could take them later on. She could do them in the summer holidays, if she liked. You know, just so she had a bit longer to settle down,” Albus answers easily pinching my pastry and biting on it. He flashes me what he obviously thinks is a winning smile while I glare at him.
“She’s talking to me again. So are the rest of your family,” I say, trying to act casual.
“I know,” Albus replies airily licks the crumbs off his fingers. Oddly attractive, but there you go.
“Did you say anything to her?” I ask him, mimicking his tone of airiness.
He shrugs. “I just mentioned it to her. She took it into her own hands, though. She was the one who told the rest of the gang to lay off. They’re even talking to me normally. You were evil bitch and even though I was still sort of forgiven, I was still evil spawn to them for a while,” Albus finishes conversationally, laughing slightly.
“Well, thanks for whatever you said. It means a lot,” I say quietly. He just shrugs but I notice he blushes slightly and does look quite please.
We change the subject and chat and laugh for about another half an hour, still pecking at the leftovers. Finally, we decided it’s about time to head back to the Common Room. We bid the house-elves goodbye (and unfortunately have to turn down their offers of food- too risky and we’re absolutely stuffed) and step out of the kitchens. Albus swings his Cloak around us both and he crouches slightly so the Cloak covers his feet. That’s not really a problem for me…
We head up to Common Room but stop just on the landing near the Portrait. The Fat Lady is snoozing loudly and completely out of it.
“Oh, you have something – hang on,” Albus whispers and brushes a little bit of pastry from the corner of my mouth. Involuntarily, I blush slightly as he gazes down at me. Then, very gently, he leans down and kisses me.
It’s very soft but it lasts quite a while. Hey, anyone walking past might have spotted out feet but at this moment in time, I don’t think I really care. Thank Merlin I had a peppermint dragon before I left, otherwise I dread to think what my breath would have smelled like. Once we break away, I feel very breathless even though it was quite a tender kiss. I laugh nervously and smile up at him. He grins and grabs my hand.
It takes about twenty minutes to wake up the Fat Lady (who is furious about being woken up, but her expression softens when she sees us holding hands. A little suspicious, but she supresses a knowing grin). He kisses me again at the bottom of the stairs and once more on the landing leading to our parallel dorms.
As I climb into bed, I feel completely awake and my mind is buzzing with the thought of Albus’ lips on mine. I grin to myself as I draw my curtains around my four-poster as quietly as I can. The rest of them are completely silent apart from the odd snuffle from Milla. Fast asleep- good, I didn’t wake them.
A/N Aloha! First off, sorry if there are any mistakes- I haven’t had time to proof read it and edit but I really, really want to put it up before I go to work as I won’t have time from then on! No updates for about a week unfortunately because of worrrk *cry* but then I should be able to write again!
I hope you enjoyed the chapter, definitely LOTS of drama coming up either next chapter or the one after that. Thanks for reading, please drop me a line down below in the review box!
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