I had to hand it to Ramsey.
The wench sure knew how to throw a detention.
“I can’t believe she’s making us be here at six in the morning,” James grumbled, rubbing the sleep away from his eyes as we dragged ourselves towards the entrance of the thestral stables.
At precisely five-thirty, my cousin and I were rudely awakened by a Howler-esque letter reminding us that if we weren’t at the stables in half an hour, we’d be given an extra detention. Considering my whole promise to Longbottom about not getting into any more trouble (not to mention I already had another pending detention), it’s rather needless to say that I rolled out of bed without another word. James took a little more time getting up, but after a few kicks in the ribs he too was ready to go.
We began our journey by lugging our half-dead bodies out of the dorm, past the common room, through the deserted corridors, across the school grounds and down the dirt path that was along the forbidden forest, until we finally reached our destination. I had never been to the stables before, but I knew from the stench of livestock and dirt that we were in the right place.
The Slytherins managed to arrive before us, looking like a hoard of zombies with their eyes closed and shoulders all hunched over. Their groans filled the air like a chorus of Gregorian monks, trails of dried up drool tracing their chins. They were practically impossible to miss.
“What else did you expect from the reincarnation of Grindewald?” I muttered in reply, leaning against the wooden door frame as I watched the Slytherins huddle together in that secretive way of theirs.
I was met with a few undecipherable grunts that sounded oddly similar to ‘clucking snitch’. His grumbling was staring to get on my nerves, so I tuned him out and began to eavesdrop on what the snakes were all chatting about.
“When is this hag going to show up?” Greengrass asked, inspecting his nails in that typical bored fashion of his. “Honestly, if she’s going to force us to be here at this god-awful hour, the least she can do is be on time.”
“She probably just got caught up sharpening her talons,” Malfoy muttered, looking awfully sombre for someone who was usually as perky as a Fizzing Whizbee. Dark circles hung underneath his eyes and his normally pristine posture had slumped into a rather unflattering slouch.
At least there was one good thing to being here so early. It would’ve been absolute torture having to listen to a hyper Malfoy all detention long.
“Guys,” Al stuttered out nervously. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk about the Head Girl like that. She could show up at any minute.”
“She better, considering she made us haul our arses here at bloody six in the morning,” Castor grumbled, muffling a yawn. “Damn bird, thinking she can control everyone just cos she prances around with some stupid badge on her-”
The subtle yet firm cough tore through the air like a battle horn, jolting us out of our sleepy states. James and I stumbled over towards the Slytherins, who had formed a somewhat uniformed line.
“How wonderful that you all made it here on time,” she greeted, pursing her lips in a smile so fake it would’ve given old Madame Pince a run for her money. “I truly appreciate your cooperation.”
She said this as if we actually had the choice.
“Although it is a bit early-” I snorted at the understatement, earning myself a withering glare. “-I’m sure you all had enough consciousness to assess that you will be doing a bit of manual labour this morning.”
“Normally, Professor Hagrid cleans out the stable every night,” she explained, in that annoyingly patronising voice of hers. “However, due to the current circumstances, I asked him yesterday if he would so graciously take the evening off so that you all would have some work to do this morning. I figured since you all had taken such a liking to the creatures, you wouldn’t mind doing them this bit of service.”
God, she thought she was so clever.
“Of course since this is detention, you will have to clean the Muggle way,” she continued, the smug look on her face growing more and more with each passing second. “So if you would be so kind as if to hand over your wands, I’ll hold onto them until your sentence has finished.”
She held out her hand, glancing at us expectantly as she waited for us to comply. A few moments passed of awkward silence. No one wanted to hand over the most prized possession a witch or wizard could own – especially not to some tyrant like Ramsey. As if she needed any more authority over us.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of interrogating looks, James cleared his throat. “I uh, left my wand back at the dorm.”
Matilda raised her eyebrow. “Did you now?”
“Yeah,” my cousin replied gruffly, his confidence growing now that he’s had a bit of time to wake up some. “I’ve been to enough detentions to know how they run. Only an idiot would bring his wand to one.”
I tried not to blush too hard as I fidgeted with the forbidden paraphernalia that sat in my back pocket. It was habit for me to not leave the room without it, okay? I didn’t exactly have enough time or energy to think that I wouldn’t need it, or that bringing it would mean letting the Head Prat confiscate it.
“I left mine too,” Greengrass added, quickly following James’s lead. Malfoy eagerly nodded his head in agreement, chirping out a “me three” shortly after his cousin.
Goyle grumbled out some combination of undecipherable grunting sounds. Although my Troll was admittedly a bit rusty, loosely translated I think he meant that he also didn’t bring his wand with him.
“Very well then,” Ramsey replied, her mouth tight with disappointment before she moved her stare towards Al and I. “I suppose that just leaves you two.”
“Um, I didn’t leave mine,” Al admitted, casting his gaze down so that he wouldn’t have to look her in the eye. Trembling, he dug his hand into his pocket and hesitantly gave up his wand, flinching when she snatched it up.
Finally, she turned on me.
I could practically taste the snarky remarks making their way up my throat, the bitterness of the phrase ‘over my dead body’ lacing my tongue as it waited to be unleashed. However, before anything even had a chance of making it out of my mouth, something strange happened. My hand, which granted was not exactly the most obedient of my body parts, began to reach its way behind me and into my back pocket. Before I knew it, I too was giving up the one last strand of hope I had of making it out of this detention unscathed.
The hungry look that burned in her beady eyes, glinting with triumph, would have sent shivers down Godric Gryffindor’s spine himself.
Voldemort, was she a creepy bint.
"Thank you for your cooperation,” she hissed, making me wonder if the Sorting Hat had placed her in the wrong house. “Now that that’s all settled, it’s time to assign you into pairs.”
Of course. Of freaking course she would be assigning us partners. I mean, what was one less freedom anyway? It was totally overrated.
“Greengrass and Potter A will be working in row one. Potter J and Malfoy will be working in row two and in row three will be Weasley and Goyle.” I tried not to roll my eyes as she read each pair off of her monogrammed clip board. “At the end of row two is a cupboard that contains all of the supplies you will need to complete your task. There are buckets, spades, pitch forks, etc. Fresh hay can be found outside of the east entrance, which is also where you can find the manure pile. Please do not throw away the soiled hay, since Professor Hagrid uses it for fertilisation. Any questions?”
Al raised his hand like the nerd that he was. “Do we have a time limit?”
“This entire stable needs to be spotless within the next two hours,” she announced. “All those who failed to clean their row by the time I return will be subjected to an extra hour of work. Good luck.”
And with that, she turned on her heel and strode down the path back to school as if she was the damn Minister of Magic herself.
“Someone needs to get that bint laid,” Castor muttered, his face full of disgust as he watched the Head Prat walk away. I gagged at the thought of anyone getting intimate with Matilda Ramsey, although I couldn’t help but think that he might have a point. Maybe a bit of nookie would finally get that giant stick out of her arse.
“Are you volunteering for the position, Greengrass?” James quipped, a smirk lifting at the corner of his lips.
The Slytherin narrowed his eyes. “Shut up, Potter. We all know that bedding hags is more up your alley.”
My cousin blushed at the embarrassing memory. Back in fifth year, when it was the Slytherins’ turn to host the Halloween party, James accidentally drank a roofied bottle of Butterbeer that sent him into one hell of a trip. He had stripped down to his pants, covered his face and chest with some random girl’s lipstick in a very tribal war-paint fashion, attempted to ride on the back of the Slytherin team’s then captain, only for him to fail miserably and face-plant onto the lap of a drunk Hufflepuff.
However, what really stole the show was when he strode up to Eugenia Flint – a seventh year Prefect with the face of a rat – and proceeded to snog her in front of the entire crowd. Freddy and I had tried to pull him off of her, but she had latched her bony fists into his hair and wouldn’t let go. They went at it for a good three minutes, until finally Eugenia’s ogre of a boyfriend (who also happened to be the bloke that James tried to piggy-back ride) walked into the picture and ripped him away from his girlfriend.
Half a second later, my cousin threw up all over the irritated Slytherin before passing out on top of his own vomit. It wasn’t until last January that the Hogwarts’ population finally allowed him to move on from the humiliation.
“Only because you drugged me,” he spat back, cheeks flaming.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Of course you don’t, you dirty snake.”
“Tsk, resorting to petty name calling.” Greengrass shook his head. “I suppose that’s the best you barbarians can come up with.”
“Barbarians?!” James exclaimed, doing that frightening half-scoff, half-evil chuckle he does whenever he gets pissed off. “Oh, I’ll show you a barbarian! You slimy, pathetic son of a-”
“Alright, that’s enough!” I yelled, stepping in between the idiots before another showdown could occur. “Honestly you two! The whole reason you’re here is because of a fight and now you’re trying to get into another one? I know it’s early, but really, use your brains!”
For a moment, neither one said anything – they were too busy huffing and puffing at each other to be reasonable. It wasn’t until Al timidly reminded everyone of our two hour limit that they finally stopped their petty glaring match.
“Whatever,” Greengrass scoffed, turning away from us and towards his assigned row. Al cautiously followed after him, sending an apologetic look towards his brother. James rolled his eyes and stormed off towards the supply cupboard with Malfoy, leaving me awkwardly standing next to Goyle in the now abandoned entrance.
Those two were such girls.
Letting out a sigh, I turned towards my partner who was looking impressively bored about the whole thing. This wasn’t the first time we got paired up with each other. In fourth year, we had to work together for an entire term in Potions class. It wasn’t exactly torture – like that time I got stuck with Jeremy Smith from Hufflepuff for a week in Transfiguration – but I wouldn’t call it a walk in the park, either.
Goyle was someone who I don’t think I will ever be able to fully understand. It was sort of impossible to figure out a bloke that barely spoke more than four words a day. However, he pulled his weight and never complained, which is all you can really ask for in a partner.
We made our way towards the supply cupboard, which I was relieved to find abandoned. I had reached my dose of drama queens for the day. Grabbing a spade and a wheel barrow filled with fresh hay, I headed over to my end of the row. Since each row contained a total of twelve loose boxes (one on each side), we decided to split them between us and do six each. Well, more like I decided to and Goyle grunted out what I could only assume was an agreement.
Since I’ve never really mucked anything out before, I kind of had no idea what to do. I wanted to head over to James’s row and ask him how to go about doing this, but I figured he was still in a pissy mood and I didn’t feel like putting up with that. Goyle was over on the opposite end, working his way up instead of down, so it wasn’t like I could peek my head out and see how he was doing it.
Eventually, I decided that my first task should be getting all of the giant piles of crap out of the way. I took the clean hay stacks out of the wheel barrow, setting them down on the corridor floor so that I would have a place to put all of the poop.
And let me tell you, it was a lot of poop.
I had no idea how a creature could produce that much crap and in only one day. Honestly, how was that even possible? It’s like their diet would have to consist of pure fibre. What did they do, spend the day eating a bunch of straw or...
Right, so moving on.
You’d think that shovelling out manure wouldn’t be such a hard thing to do. Disgusting yes, but not exactly difficult. I just slide my spade underneath the soiled hay, lift and then dump it into the barrow. It wasn’t like it was Occlumency or anything.
There was just one teensy, weensy, tiny problem... the crap wouldn’t stop sliding off of the damn spade!
It felt like I had been working on that same stupid little pile of poop for the past ten minutes. Those numbers didn’t exactly match up to the ones I had calculated in my head. Granted, I was terrible at Arithmancy but still. It shouldn’t be taking me this long to get some hay into a wheel barrow.
I wanted to blame it all on the spade but that nagging voice inside of me knew better. Maybe it was the angle I was shovelling at? Or the amount of leverage I was putting into it? God, I felt like I was doing homework - trying to figure out the physics of mucking out a box and what not.
After what felt like an eternity and with no visible signs of progress, I dropped my spade and decided to give it a break. At the rate I was going at, I was probably going to be stuck here all day. I needed time to figure this thing out, so there was no point exhorting myself in the process.
My fingers were already aching from the firm grip I had been keeping on the handle, the beginnings of calluses forming on my palms.
I was such a wimp.
Figuring that enough time has passed for James to be out of his mood, I decided that I needed to pay him a visit. Not that my cousin owned horses or anything, but since he was taking NEWT Care of Magical Creatures, he must’ve known something about the subject.
As I made my way towards his row, I began to notice how quiet it was in here. I figured that there would be some kind of sound coming from the others – especially from Malfoy. Even if he was half asleep, I didn’t think it would affect his canny ability of being a whiny prick.
But no, the halls were eerily silent. And it wasn’t just the lack of conversation. I couldn’t hear any sound of spades scraping the wooden floors or the rustle of hay being moved around. No grumpy teens cursing under their breath or the squeaking of ungreased wheel barrows.
It was rather unsettling, to say the least.
Picking up my pace, I hurried to see if I could figure out what the hell was going on. Of course, the lack of noise in here made finding James a lot harder. As I walked down the corridor, I had to turn my head at each stall to see if he was in there. He wasn’t in any of them, yet oddly enough, they were all spotless.
No. He couldn’t have been done this fast. Not when it was taking me so long just to move one little pile. It wasn’t possible.
I had reached the final box, still without any sight of him, when I realised that maybe a quick glance for a bent auburn head working hard wasn’t what I should’ve been looking for. Walking up to the door of the stall, I looked down at the floor and found the answer to the mystery.
There, lying down amongst the freshly placed hay with a cedar wand tucked into his elbow, was my dear cousin snoozing away.
“You bloody prick!” I exclaimed, stomping into the stall. I kicked him in the ribs – much harder than I had done earlier this morning – and felt a great sense of pleasure when I heard him groan with pain. “I thought you left your wand in your room!”
“What the hell, Minnie?” he moaned, rolling over on his side. His hair was a mess, pieces of straw sticking up all over the place just like his famous Potter locks.
“You’re asking me what the hell?!” I demanded, placing my hands on my hips as I tried to keep my fury in check. “I should be asking you that! I can’t believe you snuck your wand in here and then lied about it!”
“Well I wasn’t just going to let Ramsey take it from me,” he offered, grunting as he picked himself off of the floor. A twinge of guilt filled me as I saw him clutch his ribcage in pain, but I quickly swallowed that down. I was not about to start feeling sorry for him. “Besides, you lie all the time. What’s the big deal?”
“The big deal?” I repeated incredulously. “The big deal is that it’s not fair that you get to cheat your way through this detention, while I’ve been working for half an hour on the same stupid pile of crap!”
He quirked an eyebrow, “It’s taking you thirty minutes just for one pile?”
“Don’t change the subject!” I scolded, my cheeks flaming with both embarrassment and fury. “And it’s not so much the sneaking and lying that bugs me, but rather the fact that you didn’t even bother to offer me any help. Some cousin you are.”
James let out a sigh, “Yeah that was a bit of a boneheaded move.”
“Damn right it was.”
“Well, what do you want me to do? Go clean it for you?” he offered, dusting the straw off of his trousers. “Because it’ll be rather suspicious if Ramsey comes by and sees that we’ve all finished in less than an hour.”
“Wait, Greengrass and Al finished early too?” I asked. “But Al turned his wand in!”
“Greengrass did his row for him,” my cousin explained. “I saw the Slytherins leave about fifteen minutes ago, right after I finished my last box. I decided to stay behind so that you wouldn’t be left all alone.”
“How thoughtful of you,” I muttered spitefully. “God, I can’t believe I’m the only one who’s actually been working.”
“Just think of it as taking one for the team,” he replied, slinging an arm over my shoulder. He quickly removed it after the death glare I gave him. Clearing his throat, he continued with his half-arse explanation. “If we all had used magic, Ramsey would’ve been able to tell right away. But with you actually doing the work, the stables now have a somewhat authentic feel to it. It really was for the best, Minnie.”
“Bollocks,” I spat. “You’re just saying that to make yourself feel better about being a lousy cousin.”
“Okay so that might be true,” he admitted sheepishly. “But can you really blame me? I mean, it’s too early for me to think of other people right now. The only thing on my mind is my bed and breakfast.”
“Yet it’s not too early for you to come up with an explanation as ridiculous as the one you just rambled off to me?” I narrowed my eyes at him. “You know what, James? Maybe it’s just better that you go on back to the castle without me. I wouldn’t want you to exhort yourself by being my friend or anything.”
“Come on, Min,” he groaned, the guilt finally settling in. “Don’t be like that. You know I love you and crap.”
“Yeah well, I’m not really in the mood for your ‘love and crap’. So just take your selfish arse back to the dorm and let me do some honest work in peace.”
We went on like this for a while – him protesting (although with still no sign of an apology) and me refusing – until finally I had to threaten to set fire to his precious Firebolt 5000 if he wouldn’t just go and leave me be. The moment the stable doors closed behind him, I immediately began to regret my decision.
With the thestrals out grazing the in the forest and the boys gone, a creepy silence had once again fallen amongst the stables. Add that to the fact that the stables were a good ten minutes away from the rest of the castle and that it was only six thirty in the morning, I was more than a little freaked out.
And to make matters worse, I still hadn’t figured out how to get my stupid stall cleaned!
The Fates clearly had it out for me.
After allowing myself a good fifteen minutes (or at least what felt like fifteen minutes, since I really didn’t have any way of knowing the actual time) of wallowing in self-pity, I picked myself up from the wall I was slouching on and headed back to work. There would be plenty of time to curse my cousin’s name afterwards, but first I had to find a way to get through this detention before I broke down in a pathetic heap of despair.
The whole situation was just border-line depressing.
I legitimately almost started crying once I returned to my row. The way those infinite piles of manure just sat there, practically mocking me in that impossible-to-clean manner of theirs. It was enough to make any sensible person fall to her knees in misery.
Fortunately for me, I wasn’t exactly the most sensible person. And so I quickly pushed all feelings of hopelessness aside and grabbed my spade once again. I was going to get these boxes clean even if that meant that it would be the last thing I do.
Because if there was one thing I was sure of, it was that I was not going to allow Matilda freaking Ramsey to defeat me. Not now, not ever.
Less than a second had passed after that little mental declaration of mine, when the doors to the stables burst opened. My spade fell to the floor with a loud clambering sound as the morning light flooded in. My heart begin to race at the fear of it being Ramsey, coming to reap my soul for of the lack of progress.
Bracing myself, I turned towards the entrance only to find absolutely no sign of a vengeful she-devil. Instead there stood a tall male figure, the golden sunlight hitting his back in a very halo-like fashion. I squinted my eyes to get a better look at this glowing guardian angel and noticed a silver badge pinned to the front of his robes.
“Dare?” I asked, utterly astonished.
He stepped away from the entrance and into the cool shadows of the stable, revealing his normally awkward self as the heavenly light diminished. His hair was damp and he smelled like soap, causing for a sharp stab of jealousy to overcome me. God, what I would give for a shower right about now.
“James wasn’t kidding when he said you were the only here,” he replied, glancing around the empty place. There was this odd disapproving tone to his voice, which sort of threw me off. What did he disapprove of – James leaving me or my slow progress? If this had been last year, the answer would have definitely been the last one. However, after this past week (more specifically last night), it was hard to tell where Dare stood on these types of things.
I didn’t want to say that we had become friends, but I’m afraid that that’s exactly what we had become.
And considering the overwhelmingly strange mixture of relief and joy I had felt once I realised that it was Dare standing in the stable entrance, I knew I couldn’t deny that fact. I don’t think I’ve ever been so... excited to see someone before, much less the Head Prick.
“I know he’s my best mate and all, but James can be a bit of a dick in the morning.”
One sentence – one sentence – was all it took to make me forget about any suspicions, misconceptions, doubts, etc that I’ve felt in the last week. Just one sentence and I was already fighting back the urge to fling my arms around his neck with a flurry of gratitude.
“Tell me about it,” I muttered, trying to keep my tone as neutral as possible. Even though we were friends now, I still had my reputation to uphold. “So uh, what are you doing here? Ramsey send you to check up on me?”
Dare shook his head, “No one did, actually. When James returned to the dorm without you and told me what happened, I figured someone should come down to help you. And so here I am.”
I couldn’t help it – my heart did a few back flips after hearing him explain everything. Maybe it was the odours getting to me or something, but I was genuinely touched that he would come all this way just to help me with my detention. So much so, that I was about this close from tackling him to the ground with hugs.
Thank fully, there was still some shred of rationality in me so I managed to keep my dignity.
“How thoughtful of you,” I replied cordially. I threw in a small smile so he wouldn’t think I was a total ice queen. “It’s nice to see that at least one of my friends care about me.”
“Anytime, since we are friends after all.” He paused slightly after the word ‘friends’, making me wonder if he too was flustered by this new development in our relationship.
A few moments of silence passed between us, neither of us wanting to look the other in the eye. Merlin, could we be any more awkward?
“So,” he declared, a bit louder than necessary. “How about we get started on this cleaning? You’ve got a little over an hour left, but if I’m going to help you than we should try to be done before Matilda gets here.”
“Sounds like a plan!” I exclaimed, with a little too much enthusiasm. I turned towards the stalls that were left for me to clean and my heart sank when I realised that it was all of them. “Er, there’s just one problem...”
“You really have no clue about cleaning after horses, do you?” Dare asked, looking at those dirty boxes with a mixture of disappointment and amusement.
“Oh and you do?” I retaliated, before wincing at the harshness in my voice. I have got to stop thinking everything he says is some sort of jab at me. Here he was doing me a huge favour and I repay him by acting like a paranoid git.
Why was it so hard for me to be nice?
“Considering how there’s a stable in my backyard and I’ve had my own horse since I was eight, then yeah, I do,” he remarked hotly, his pride also getting to him. Maybe I wasn’t the only one trying to figure out this whole friendship thing.
I bit my lip, forcing myself to reign in the snarky comments I so wanted to throw at him. “No you’re right. I shouldn’t have sassed you, sorry.”
“It’s fine,” he replied, surprised that I would actually apologise (he wasn’t the only one). After a semi-awkward pause, he cleared his throat and continued. “Anyway, so I guess the first thing to cleaning this mess up would be the right tools. Pitchforks are ideal when it comes to this kind of stuff. If you use a spade, the hay will most likely end up sliding off.”
“Cool, I’ll go grab some.” I moved to head towards the supply cupboard, only to be stopped by a rather warm hand which somehow made its way onto my arm. I froze instantly, my brain momentarily shut down from the sudden onrush of emotions which his touch had stirred in me.
“No need, I’ll just summon it.” His voice was smooth as he muttered the charm, flicking his wand with his free hand. As the two tools came zooming our way, I discreetly pinched my side to snap me out of whatever trance I had fallen into.
It was unnerving the amount of control his touch had on me.
Thankfully, my mind managed to wake up just in time to catch the pitchforks before they smacked us in the face. I handed one to Dare, silently hoping he hadn’t noticed my little… episode.
“Thanks.” He removed his hand from my arm, leaving behind a trail of goose bumps along my skin. “So I’ll do this first one by myself, so you can see how it’s done, and then we can work on the rest together. I’ll even charm the pitchforks so that they work faster.”
“Sounds great,” I told him, my tone completely genuine.
I sat down on one of the fresh hay stacks, making myself comfortable as I watched him go to work. It was obvious that he’s done this kind of stuff before. The way his hands moved so mechanically and in rhythm with the tools. Everything looked so easy for him. I swear, this stall would probably take him less than ten minutes. And I don’t think he even charmed the pitchforks yet.
I was definitely a little bit jealous.
It was weird, though, seeing him work like that. Ever since I first met Dare, I’ve always seen him as a bit of a ninny. With his scrawny build and terrible posture (which I always found ironic considering how his family was so filthy rich), he’s never been that impressive to look at. Yeah, being on the team helps with his image a bit, but not by much. I mean, he’s only a Seeker and they’re supposed to be lightweight.
Lately though, it seems like he’s finally been filling out. Not by much, of course, but it’s definitely an improvement. Although that may be because this kind of work emphasised the muscles in his arms, which were surprisingly toned.
Dare paused for a moment, to wipe the sweat that had begun to form on his brow. He lifted his shirt to wipe though, revealing yet another surprise and sending my nerves into a tizzy. So it wasn’t just his arms that were toned.
He’s definitely been doing something then, because the last time I saw him shirtless the only definition he had was along his ribcage. Then again, that was back in fourth year. Either way, my mouth went dry at the sight and I was starting to feel just the slightest bit uncomfortable.
Maybe that’s why my brain fried whenever he touched me. Because somehow it knew that underneath all the designer t-shirts and vintage jumpers, he was actually this secret sexpot.
“Well, I think that should do it for this one.” His voice was like a splash of cold water, tearing me away from my mortifying thoughts. “You ready to start on the next one?”
I had to clear my throat before I could answer. “Totally.”
He grinned, the whiteness of his teeth enhanced by his tan. “No need to be so nervous, Minnie. It’s really not that hard once you get the hang of it.”
“Who says I’m nervous?” I exclaimed, silently praying that my voice wouldn’t betray me. I grabbed the other pitchfork and headed towards the next stall with as much confidence as I could muster (which really wasn’t that much). “In fact, I bet I could finish this stall faster than it took for you to do that one.”
“Oh yeah?” There was a rare mischievous tone to his voice, his eyes glinting with amusement. “On what terms?”
The idea of a bet got the adrenaline pumping through me, getting rid of any hints of anxiety. I tapped my finger against my chin as I tried to think of something worthwhile. “If I win, then you have to convince Ramsey to drop my second detention.”
“That’s not fair!” he protested, although he didn’t seem too upset by it. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to try and get her to do something that’s not her idea? Getting her to drop your detention would be impossible!”
I shrugged, “Not my problem. If you can’t meet the terms, then you’ll have to forever live with the knowledge of your incompetence.”
“Alright, I see how it is,” he said, pretending to be offended. “Now what happens when you lose this bet?”
“Considering how I’ve never lost a bet before,” I began, flashing him a Witch Weekly worthy smile. “I’ll be generous and let you figure that part out.”
Never mind the fact that I still haven’t properly cleaned out a stall. However, I’ll cross that mountain once I get there.
“Well then, it’s a bet.”
“You haven’t told me your terms yet!” I reminded. A dangerous smirk began to form on his face and he shook his head.
“I’ll be thinking of that while you attempt to clean out that box.”
So that’s how he’s going to play, huh?
“Fine,” I told him, my tone determined. With a pitchfork in hand, I entered the next stall and hurriedly began to work.
“Oi, I haven’t even started keeping time yet!” Dare objected, but I didn’t stop.
“Not my problem!” I shouted back over my shoulder. He was right when he said that pitchforks were much better tools than a spade. I was barely five seconds in and I already managed to move one pile into a wheelbarrow. A rather tiny pile, but it was progress nonetheless.
“You’ve got five minutes then!” he called out, but that only made me want to work faster. I was pretty sure it took him a little more than five minutes, but if he wanted to play dirty than that was okay. I mean, I did start it after all.
“Good thing I’m almost done!” I bluffed. I was probably ten minutes away from finishing this stall and that’s being generous. However, there was always the chance for a slight miracle to happen. Highly unlikely of course, especially considering my reputation with the Fates, but I had to have hope.
“You’re such a liar, Min.” His voice sounded much closer and so I stopped to look over my shoulder. He was leaning against the entrance of my stall, arms crossed and grinning like a mad man as he caught me in the middle of my lie. “James said you took thirty minutes on the same pile of hay.”
“James is also a dick, so you really can’t take much of what he says seriously.”
Dare laughed. “Let’s just call off the bet, okay? I don’t want you to ruin your perfect record because of a skill you haven’t had much practise with.”
“How chivalrous of you,” I replied, mimicking him as I crossed my arms across my chest. “But I think you’re only saying that cos you’re scared I’m going to win.”
God, I really was full of it.
He shook his head, moving away from the post he was leaning on and towards me with an amused look on his face. I tried not to gulp too audibly once he stopped less than an inch away in front of me. He bent his head so that his lips were almost grazing my ear, before whispering. “There is no way you are going to win this.”
My heart started doing that funny ‘about to pop out of my chest’ thing again, but I wasn’t just going to let him defeat me. So I did what any other girl would’ve done in my position – I gave him a taste of his own medicine.
With one hand on his chest for support, I reached the other around him until I found what I was looking for. Once I made sure I had a firm grip on his wand, which was sticking out from his back pocket, I tilted my head up so that my lips were next to his ear. Except unlike him, I made sure to make contact.
I couldn’t help but feel victorious once I heard his breath hitch.
“Just watch me,” I whispered, before promptly shoving his chest as hard as my left hand would allow me. He didn’t go very far but it gave me enough room to book it out of the stall and into the corridor. I wasted no time and started throwing out whatever cleaning spells I could think of (which really wasn’t that much).
It was rather risky on my part, considering my track record with charms, but for once the Fates were on my side. I was able to catch a glimpse of the stalls magically cleaning themselves, before being tackled to the ground by Dare. It wasn’t too hard of a fall, thankfully, but that didn’t stop him from rolling me over and pinning me to the ground. I locked my grip on his wand, knowing that that was what he really wanted.
“You little sneak,” he said, panting slightly. The corners of his mouth lifted up into a disbelieving smile. “That was totally cheating.”
“Technically, we never mentioned not using magic,” I countered, trying hard to keep a straight face. The endorphins in me were flowing freely and I felt like I was on some kind of high.
“You know you could’ve set this whole place on fire,” he mentioned. “Considering your reputation with charms.”
“True,” I replied. “But the look on your face was so worth the risk.”
He just rolled his eyes. “Can I have my wand back?”
“Once you convince Ramsey to drop my second detention.”
“That could take all day!” he whined, but I was having too much fun to give in just yet.
“Good thing it’s a Saturday, then.”
He stared at me for a good ten seconds before responding. “You’re never going to make things easy for me, are you?”
“Glad to see you’re starting to catch on!”
Dare just chuckled. It wasn’t a deep, hearty one but it wasn’t some wimpy little giggle either. He had a rather, neutral voice? Not low, not high but something right in the middle. I dunno, but it was a pleasant sound – especially when he laughed – and I couldn’t help but smile a little bit.
Shaking his head, he let go of my wrists and sat back on his heels, allowing me some room to sit up on my elbows. I saw him bite his lip, trying to hold back a grin so I gave him a questioning look. He motioned to my head and that’s when I remembered I had been lying down on a bed of straw. I reached my hand up to my hair and surely enough there were pieces of straw sticking up all over it.
“Well, this is embarrassing,” I muttered, as I began to pull out the hay. I probably looked like an idiot, what with my stupid straw crown and filthy clothes. Ugh, I just really needed to go and take a shower already.
“I dunno, I think it’s a good look on you,” Dare mentioned, as he plucked out a strand of hay. “Very down-to-earth.”
“Shut up,” I growled, but that didn’t stop a smile from escaping. He laughed – that gorgeously infectious laugh – and I couldn’t help but join in.
If any outsider were to walk in on us they’d probably think we’d gone mental. Here we were – the Head Boy and the girl who couldn’t stay out of detention – lying on the ground and laughing like a pair of loons. We were probably just a stupid grin away from a one-way ticket to St Mungo’s.
“What is the meaning of this?!”
It was almost comical the way we scrambled to get away from each other. You’d think one of us contacted the plague or something. Although I had to admit – I would much rather deal with the plague than face the wrath of Matilda Ramsey.
And boy did she look pissed.
“Matilda!” Dare exclaimed, clearing his throat as he tried to compose himself. He was failing miserably, by the way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so red before. “I was just... ahem... looking for my glasses.”
Someone had to teach this boy how to lie.
Ramsey, of course, was having none of it. “You are a disgrace to that badge,” she spat, absolutely livid. “I expected this sort of thing from Weasley but I thought you’d have more sense than this. Disrupting a detention just so you could canoodle with your girlfriend? I’ve never seen such a blatant disregard for the rules before and from the Head Boy himself.”
“Now just wait one minute,” I said, jumping in before Dare could say something that’d get us into more trouble. He tended to get a little testy whenever someone made a jab at his authority. Besides, I was a much better liar than him.
“In case you haven’t noticed, these stalls are clean. Dare happened to come by right when I was finishing my last box, so don’t even think about blaming him for disrupting a detention or whatever crap rule you made up. And he didn’t come down here to canoodle, either. Bloody hell, who even says canoodle?”
Honestly, what was she? Forty?
“Well why else would he come down here if not for that?” Ramsey asked, clearly irritated.
“Oh I don’t know,” I said, rolling my eyes as I tried to come up with a quick lie. “Maybe because he actually needed to talk to me. Professor McGonagall sent him over with a message about tomorrow’s detention.”
Since I was on such a roll with the whole lying thing, I figured it didn’t hurt to try and take a little more advantage of the situation.
“What about tomorrow’s detention?” she demanded, narrowing her eyes.
“Just that she decided it would be better if Dare was in charge of it, instead of you. Something about maintaining a balance of authority or whatever. I dunno, you’ll have to ask Dare for the details.” I tossed my hair over my shoulder, feeling rather confident with myself. “Anyway, the point is that there’s no need for you to be so upset because we did nothing wrong.”
I wonder if there was such a thing as a professional liar. Because Merlin knows I’d be a millionaire if there was.
“I could write you up for inappropriate public displays of affection,” she threatened, but we both knew it was a weak one.
“Except that it wasn’t in public,” Dare pointed out, finally speaking up. “Minnie and I were completely alone before you came barging in. And as far as I can remember, there aren’t any rules about couples being affectionate with each other in private.”
“That may be so,” she admitted, her tone suggesting that she hasn’t given up just yet. “But what I’m having trouble believing is the fact that McGonagall would actually agree to this whole ‘changing authorities’ rubbish. Especially considering the conflict of interest and all.”
“First of all, it’s Professor McGonagall,” Dare began, and I had to turn my head so the prat wouldn’t see the giant smirk on my face. “Honestly Matilda, have a little respect. And secondly, I could care less about what you believe. If the Headmistress believes that I am capable of keeping my personal life separate from my duties as Head Boy, then that’s all that matters. Why else would she give me the position if she didn’t think I could own up to it?”
Ramsey started to open her mouth to protest, no doubt with a list of reasons why she thought Dare was inept, but he wasn’t finished. That was the thing with Dare – once you got him going, he didn’t stop until he said everything he intended to say.
“So if I were you, I’d be a little more careful with what you accuse people of. Because as far as I’m concerned, criticising the Headmistress’s choice for Head falls under the category of disrespecting authorities.” He paused, most likely for dramatic effect even though we all knew what was coming next. “And last I heard, that’s liable for a detention.”
I could’ve kissed him then. I honestly think I could have. Because hot damn, that was the most impressive, hilarious, attractive – whatever – tell off I’ve ever seen. And the fact that it was towards Matilda freaking Ramsey, just made it even better.
Holy crap, the look on her face was pure gold. I don’t think she expected Dare to go off on her like that – hell, even I didn’t expect Dare to go off like that! I’ve never been so proud of him before. I felt like a mother hen whose chick finally grew up and became a bad ass rooster.
“I… I’ll have you…” Ramsey was just spluttering now, unable to function after such a burn. She kept going on like that for a few moments, while Dare and I did everything we could to stifle our laughter, before finally letting out a loud ‘ugh!’ and storming out of the stables.
“Oi, you forgot to give me back my wand!” I called after her. She didn’t even bother to turn around and just threw my precious wand over her shoulder. It came hurdling towards my face but I managed to catch it just in time.
“Karma’s a bitch, isn’t it?!” I yelled, unable to control myself, but the only answer I got was the sound of a slamming door.
“Well, that was vastly entertaining,” Dare said, looking fairly pleased with himself. “I reckon that now that I’m in charge of your detention, you’d like me to drop it.”
“That’d be lovely, thanks,” I answered, offering my sweetest smile. I also handed over his wand because honestly, he bloody well deserved it.
He just laughed, placing his wand back into his pocket where it belonged. “I suppose there wouldn’t be any harm in that. Now, what do you say to some breakfast? God knows I’m starving.”
Yes, he’s definitely improved.
“You don’t have to ask me twice,” I told him and this time we both laughed. I linked my arm in his as we made our way out of the stables and into the sunshine. The morning was bright, filled with glistening promises and chirping birds.
Maybe it was the sudden bout of fresh air but I was suddenly hit with the thought that maybe, just maybe, Dare and I being friends wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. Then again, that could just be my empty stomach talking.
But, I highly doubted it.