Disclaimer: JKR owns all of it
My counsellor is still making me write these stupid diary entries. But I would much rather continue writing to you.
So here goes.
There are many realisations that one has in life that make everything so much clearer and easier to understand.
So that's why I get a stomach ache when I drink milk, I'm lactose intolerant!
So that's why the feather won't rise, it's leviooosa not leviosaaa!
Unfortunately, realising that you are desperately in love with James Potter, is not one of those realisations.
I've attempted to navigate my first week back at Hogwarts with ease and grace, but what becomes clearer and clearer to me is that in no way does this knowledge make my life comprehensible or easier.
It does the exact opposite.
I've gone from being confident, if slightly uneasy, around him, to a nervous wreck.
He asked me last week if I wanted him to pass me the butter.
I believe my reply was something along the lines of "mpghrrhggghghhh"
To which he replied, laughing, "Merlin, Charlie, didn't any one tell you not to talk with your mouth full?"
As it happened, my mouth was empty at the time. I was just flustered.
I know this is weird for you, considering you're my brother. But considering that you'll never actually read this, and considering I have no one to talk to but my own sub conscious, you'll have to suck it up and deal with the face that your sister is having boy problems.
Speaking of boys, Elliot's presence is not making things any easier.
After I saw him on the Hogwart's express, I was completely gobsmacked, Elliot was actually started to look a bit worried.
He stared at me, "Charlotte? It's me! Elliot!"
When I continued to remain frozen to the spot, he continued, a little more anxious, "From the wedding? My brother married Max's sister? We wrote letters?"
Suddenly my brain went from dormant to maximum speed, and I jolted out of my daze, "Holy fuck, Elliot, what are you doing here?"
It was a little less well-spoken than I had originally planned, but it would have to do.
Elliot looked a little relieved that I recognised him, "I-er-well, I transferred. My parents were waiting for a spot at Hogwarts to come up, and this year it did. They were never very happy with the Marseille Academy of Wizardry. I mean, they didn't provide fresh caviar as an entrée at dinner. What a joke!"
"Oh," was all I could say. Pathetic. Here he was, trying to make me laugh, ease the building tension, and all I could say was Oh.
"It hadn't even occurred to me that you would be here!" he said, trying desperately to continue the conversation. It was becoming more of a non-versation at this point, "So stupid of me, I should have realised."
"Y-you're Max's replacement!" I realised, still stammering like a loony.
James and Dan were looking back and forth between us, half amused at my baffled responses, half embarrassed for us.
"Yes," he nodded, "Er, sorry if I don't live up to the standards."
"Um, sorry, Charlotte just swallowed a fizzing frisbee before you got here, and her tongue has only just regained function," Dan explained to him smoothly, "Excuse us."
She took a firm grip of my arm, led me away swiftly, and into an empty compartment.
"What is wrong with you?" she hissed. "Do you not see how fit that guy is?"
I didn't know what was wrong with me. Only minutes ago had I realised that I was head over heels for James bloody Potter, and barely seconds ago had I realised that the french bloke who was inexplicably into me was going to be at Hogwarts this year. If he's even still into me. I never replied to the last of his letters, after all.
I thought then that he probably thought I was a terrible person. He'd probably forgotten all about me a long time ago. I even considered pretending that I had suffered extreme memory loss, and I didn't even remember our correspondence.
"Is that the french guy Max told me about?" Dan whispered excitedly.
"Max told you!"
"Oh keep your wig on, Max couldn't keep a secret if she tried. Now, go out there and flirt."
She gave me a firm push out of the compartment and I forced a strangled looking smile at Elliot.
James was giving me a puzzled look. His very gaze sends my entire stomach into tremors.
Elliot tried an awkward smile at me.
I decided then that no matter how I feel about James, this guy was kind to me, he cared enough to write me letters. And I owed him at least a friendly hello.
"It's so great that you're here," I smiled at him, "I mean, it's so good to see you."
Elliot looked a bit more relaxed at that, "I was thinking for a minute there you didn't recognise me!"
"Oh, no, I was just so shocked to see you!" I said, which was the truth.
"Well, thank goodness I actually know someone here!" he said, laughing, "I was beginning to worry."
"Well you still don't know what house you'll be in," James said sharply, "You might be in Slytherin, and then you wouldn't really have time to hang out."
"Oh," Elliot looked slightly despondent, "What house are you all in?"
"Gryffindor," I replied, "But he's exaggerating. Even if you're not in Gryffindor, we'll have classes together and everything."
Elliot nodded, then turned to James, "I don't believe we've met, actually."
He held out a hand, which James took, slightly begrudgingly (or was that only my imagination?) "James Potter."
"Elliot," Elliot replied, doing his best to look friendly.
Dan pushed in front of me, her hand eagerly outstretched, "Daniella Abbot," she grinned, "But call me Dan."
"OK," Elliot nodded, smiling at her.
"Well, I'm going to go and change into my robes," James said, "See you all later."
He pushed past Elliot without glancing at him. Elliot watched him go, before murmuring in a low voice, "He seems quite angry with something."
"He's usually not," I protested, "I don't know what's gotten into him."
"He's probably just annoyed he didn't get made Prefect," Dan shrugged.
I almost scoffed because the idea of James having designs on being a prefect is beyond ridiculous.
It still didn't explain his strange behaviour.
Still, after we'd gotten of the train at Hogsmede, James was back to his usual, joking self, and he seemed to be in a good mood for the rest of the evening.
Since then I've been painfully conscious of his moods, and when I'm not I'm wondering what he's doing. It's one of the down sides to being in love with someone.
He had been in a very grumpy mood after Elliot had come into the common room on our first evening, announcing that he too had been placed in Gryffindor, and therefore probably expected a secure place in our little group.
I'm happy that he's here, if slightly uncomfortable remembering all of his letters. Dan is thrilled. Even Alex seems to like him well enough, after realising that he likes Herbology as much as she does. Fred, Owen and Zach are friendly enough towards him, being immediately accepting in the way that only boys can be. But James continues holding some eternal grudge against him.
What I can't figure out is why.
* * *
"What are you writing?"
I looked up, and saw James sitting opposite me in the common room.
"Um, letter to my brother," I answered.
"Which one?" he asked curiously
"Why don't you like him?" I asked him instead.
"Who?" James looked up at me and my heart started to palpitate twice as fast when I caught his gaze.
"You know who," I raised my eyebrows at him.
"I really don't."
I rolled my eyes. Fine, if he wanted to be childish, "Elliot."
"Oh," James nodded, as if it was a surprise, "I do like him."
"I'm not an idiot," I snapped back. It was easy to get irritated with him, even when he seemed to be in every waking thought of mine. No, especially since he was in every waking thought of mine. "And neither is Elliot."
"What have I ever done to offend him?" James shrugged.
"How about the fact that as soon as he enters a room, you get up and leave?" I asked, "Or any time someone mentions him in a conversation, you act like they've brought up Voldemort. For someone who doesn't hate Elliot, you're doing a very good job at pretending you do."
"Well, what do we really know about the guy?" James snapped, "He just waltzes in here, all french and handsome and perfect, and everyone just immediately wants to be his friend."
"We know that he's from Marseille," I replied sharply, "We know that's where he used to go to school. We know his older brother just got married to Max's sister. We know he likes Herbology. We know he can read. We know he can write. We know he can speak English. Really, James, what else do you want to know?"
James brushed me off, "Forget it. If you want to go on thinking he's so perfect, go right ahead."
"I don't think he's perfect, but I would appreciate it is you were a bit less of a dick," I said calmly, even though on the inside I was enraged.
"Right, well, you and frenchey can just run off to Marseille and eat croissants together, and leave me behind if you don't want to deal with me being a dick."
"We won't-what? Now you're just being childish!"
"So I'm a childish dick," he snorted, "I don't know why you put up with me."
"You know what? Neither do I," I snapped, getting up and leaving him alone by the fireplace.
I really hated that french bloke. There was just something about him that rubbed me up the wrong way.
When I'd first seen I hadn't trusted him because I'd wondered what bloke could possibly be that interested in Charlie.
Now I just didn't like him, wondering what it was about him that Charlie seemed to like so damn much.
I mean, sure, he was good looking, if you liked that sort of thing. He was nice, but in my opinion no one was that nice.
After Charlie stormed off I sat by myself in a huff, before making my own angry way up to my dormitory.
I opened the door, only to find Elliot sitting on his bed reading a leather bound books that was propped up on his knees.
Great. Just what I needed.
I attempted not to make much eye contact as I gave him a nod, before walking over to my own bed.
I cleared my throat gruffly, "Where are Fred and Zach?"
Thanks, that's really helpful. Stupid french people.
Elliot looked at me curiously, "You look angry."
"How observant of you," I said.
"Look, I don't know what I did," Elliot said, "But I'd really like it if you told me so that we can move on."
My great uncle Vernon always said we could never trust the french. Now I saw what he meant.
I sat there glumly, saying nothing.
Elliot threw up his hands, "Fine! Don't talk. We'll just sit here in silence then."
That annoyed me even more. No way we he coming off of this looking like the good guy, the mature one in the conversation. I would talk, if that's what he wanted.
"Why did you come here?" I asked him.
He stared at me, "I told you. My parents hated Marseille Academy. They wanted me to transfe-"
"So you didn't come here of your own choosing?" I cut across him.
"Well, no, technically not but-"
"So why are you so happy all the time?" I asked, "If you're here against your will."
Elliot laughed incredulously, "Are you saying you don't like me because I'm happy all the time?"
"No, I just think you settled in here very quickly," I said.
"Well, I had good luck in knowing Charlotte," he said.
"No one here calls her Charlotte," I said sharply, "You'd better get used to calling her Charlie."
Elliot shrugged, "I've always called her Charlotte. It would be weird for me to suddenly call her Charlie."
One part of that answer bothered me, "What do you mean, always?"
"I mean that when we were writing letters back and forth, I always called her Charlotte, and she never corrected me," Elliot said.
Was it just me or did he look smug? He'd wanted me to ask. He knew that I didn't know and he'd wanted me to know.
But I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction.
"Oh, right," I nodded, "Yeah. I mean, I knew you were sending letters."
"Yes, and then she just stopped suddenly," Elliot said, "I suppose she lost interest."
That statement made me feel a wave of inexplicable satisfaction.
"It was probably after she had her accident," I said casually.
The look on his face was like music to my ears.
"What accident?" he asked, sounding alarmed.
"Didn't she tell you?" I asked, feigning surprise, when the only real emotion I was feeling was delight, "She had a huge fall from her broom. She was told she was paralysed from the waist down, couldn't even walk."
Elliot looked gobsmacked, "But how-"
"Through extensive rehabilitation and therapy," I said, "Plus they're developing new drugs for damaged spinal cords."
Elliot was sitting up, putting his book aside, "I need to talk to her."
"She's already gone to bed," I told him.
"Well, I'll just knock on her door to see if she's awake," Elliot said, pushing himself off the mattress and making his way towards the door without another word.
Fred came in a moment later, "Was that Elliot who I saw rushing up to the girl's dormitory?"
"Yes," I muttered through clenched teeth.
"Merlin James, why the hell do you hate the guy so much?" Fred asked.
"Will people stop asking me that?" I snapped.
"Not until you own up to the fact that you're being a tool," he said calmly.
"Why do you like him so much? He's Max's replacement," I said.
"It's not his fault!" Fred said, "You're being unreasonable."
When I didn't respond he sighed and sat on his bed which was parallel to mine.
"You need to loosen up," he said, "Here, what do you say we take the map, and go out somewhere in Hogsmede for the evening.We'll take Owen and Zach, and make it a good time."
"As long as Elliot doesn't come," I said after quick contemplation.
"We wouldn't want to step on your toes, princess," Fred sniggered, "Come on. I need a break from this castle anyway."
* * *
I was still fuming from my argument with James when I heard a knock at the door.
Curiously, I went to it and opened it. To my surprise, Elliot stood there, looking slightly out of breath.
"On peut parler un moment?" he asked me.
I nodded, and let him in. Sometimes he still asked me things in french. Whether it was a slip, or intentional I didn't know.
"I never knew," he said quietly, standing in front of me, frozen to the floor, "About your accident."
I was speechless for a minute, before frowning, "Who told you?"
"It doesn't matter," he waved the question away, "Why didn't you tell me?"
I bowed my head, unable to look him in the face when I said, "I didn't want to."
He nodded, "Of course, you have every right to tell me whatever you want. But I want to know why you didn't want to."
I looked him in the eye then, "Because I was embarrassed."
"What?" he laughed nervously, "Why would you be embarrassed?"
"Because," I burst out, "You thought I was this nice, proper french girl when really I'm a horrible mess. You thought I was Charlotte, but I'm Charlie. Which you would understand if you saw me five years ago. Hell, if you saw me a month ago. I wore clothes handed down from my four older brothers, my hair wasn't cut until August this year, and I pretty much punched anyone who mildly annoyed me."
"But what does this have to do with your accident?!" he exclaimed.
"Because I was racing on that stupid broom before I fell. It was my fault! I was this reckless, impulsive, crazy mess, and I didn't want you to know me."
"Charlotte," he caught himself, "Charlie, do you know how ridiculous that sounds? It was an accident!"
"What do you want me to say?" I ask, irritated at how quickly he was dismissing my fears, no matter how irrational they were, "That I was so crippled with self-loathing that I was too ashamed to talk to you ever again? Would that make it simpler for you? The truth is I never told you for a whole bunch of reasons."
"Like what?" he asked.
"Like…I don't write letters, OK? It was awkward! I don't know how to say things, I don't know how to flirt! I had Max write most of them!"
Elliot looked slightly shocked, "If you really didn't want to then why did you keep writing?"
"I don't know!" I cried, "I liked you, you were nice to me! You liked the way I looked when no one else did."
"Of course I did, you're gorgeous!" he sounded confused, "It's true that I don't know how you looked when you wore…your brother's clothes. But I still thought you were beautiful. You are beautiful."
It was the strangest thing, hearing those words. I swallowed.
"But I also liked you because you were feisty, and you were interesting!" he continued, "Now, it's like you're this half-shell of a person. I may have only spoken to you directly during that weekend, but I can still tell the difference."
"What do you mean?" I asked, my voice wobbling.
"I mean, you're so quiet all of a sudden! And more than that, you look sad. Constantly."
I wasn't sure what to think. Surely I didn't look that bad all the time?
"Is it me?" he asked, "Is it because I'm here?"
"No!" I replied, "I-I don't even know."
"Why do you think somehow people value you more when you cut your hair and you wear nice clothes?" Elliot asked, "I mean, wear them if you want to, by all means, but don't think that people only like you for that."
"You didn't see how everyone used to look at me," I muttered, "I was this insane freak who was always getting kicked off the quidditch team for punching someone. People literally used to recoil in fear."
"I would have thought you liked that," he said, a small smile at the corner of his lips, "People being afraid of you."
"I thought I did," I shrugged, "But I just got so sick of it."
"Well," he shrugged, "I reckon you should do whatever you want, and to hell with the rest of them."
I couldn't help but smile at him, "Maybe I will."
"Good," he nodded, "And then when you feel more like Charlie again, maybe you'll consider letting us start over."
I raised my eyebrows, "You mean-"
"I mean, maybe we can go to this Hogsmede that everyone's been talking about," he shrugged, looking slightly embarrassed.
"Oh," I couldn't hide my aversion to the idea.
He looked disappointed, but not insulted, "...You don't like me like that, do you?"
I shook my head, lowering my gaze, "No. I don't."
"Is there someone else?" he asked.
I looked up again.
He shook his head, "Sorry. I don't want to pry."
"No, it's ok," I said quietly, "And yes, there is."
"There is?" he asked.
"Well, I hope you two work it out," He said, "And if he doesn't feel the same way, he's insane."
I let out the smallest of chuckles, "Thanks, Elliot. And I'm sorry about, you know."
"No worries," he shrugged, with a small smile, "I'm sure I can survive."
"Have another! Go on!" Fred laughed at me.
He pushed the butter beer towards me. It was all they would serve us at the Three Broomsticks, knowing that we were students. But Fred had a handy flask of liquor under his cloak, which he would pour generous amounts of into our drinks when the barman wasn't looking.
"Fine," I grinned, dragging the drink towards me. As I drank I tasted the sweet butter beer, but the edge to it as well.
"So, why are we here again?" Zach asked us.
"We're here to show Jamesie a good time," Fred claps me on the back, "Since he's been all down lately about Charlie's new boyfriend."
I almost spat out my beer as I chocked, "He's - n-not her b-boyfriend."
"Touchy subject, I see," Fred smiled, looking amused.
"They know each other from before though, right?" Owen asked curiously.
"Yeah, she met him at Elodie's wedding," Fred explained, "Max told me they were writing letters."
Great. So had everyone had known about the letters except me.
"But they're not together," Zach pointed out.
Fred shrugged, "Don't think so. I was just saying that to annoy James."
"Thanks," I wheezed, my throat still sore from when I'd choked on my drink.
"I should really get going back to the castle," Zach muttered, "It's late and I have an essay-"
"Siddown," Fred said, even though Zach hadn't moved, "We've had enough of James' troubles, let's hear a little about yours."
"Let's not," Zach replied.
Fred was clearly much more inebriated than I'd thought, when he said, "Still pining after the goody two shoes are we?"
"She's not a-" Zach went bright red, "It's none of your business."
"Oh come on, we're all friends here," Fred laughed, "No need to be embarrassed."
"Why? When you're all going to laugh at me any way," Zach glared.
"Have a drink and unwind," I told him, "It helps."
Surprisingly Zach took the drink offered to him by Fred, and started to drink.
"Steady on there," Owen said, looking a little alarmed as Zach nearly downed the whole thing in five gulps.
Zach let out a breath as he finished it and placed the drink back onto the bar. He looked depressed suddenly, "I wish I could take a get-rid-of-Alex-pill, you know?"
Owen joked "I would take that."
"At least you spend your time hating her rather than being in love with her," Zach argued.
"You're not in love with her," Fred said.
"And how would you know?" Zach asked.
"Because you've never cared enough to actually make a move," Fred said.
"Right, and how long did it take for you to make a move on Max? Five years, was it?" Zach replied curtly.
The rest of us laugh, including Fred, who raises his glass, "And look where it got me! More unnecessary pain. Look, I know you think you love her, but really you just think that she's the obvious choice for you."
"Why?" Zach frowned, "I mean, how is she the obvious choice?"
Fred shrugged, "Because she's clever. You're clever. She's emotionally unavailable. You'll never make a move."
Even Zach had to agree with this.
"You've got to go for the unlikely choice," Fred nodded to himself, "See, I'm pretty relaxed so I went for the biggest hurricane of a girl I could find."
"And how did that work out for you?" I asked him.
"Not well, my friend. Not well."
"Look," Owen said, "I know we've been here before, but Dan is still into you. And you've seen how fit she is."
"If you think she's so fit, why don't you go out with her?" Zach asked him.
"Because she likes you, you thicko," Owen rolled his eyes, "For all the good it does her."
"OK, quick test," Fred leaned forward looking serious, "What colour are Alex's eyes? If you answer wrong, you're not actually into her and you've been wasting six years of your precious time. If you answer right, you're a goner and on behalf of all the guys in the world, I wish you well."
Zach replied immediately, "Brown. Her eyes are a light brown."
Fred looked blank, "Anyone actually know if that's right?"
We all look at one another and shrug.
"I guess we'll never know," I shrugged.
"Can we safely say that I'm right, and your advice has been useless?" Zach asked.
"I think so," Fred said, "Have another drink, James. I'm feeling good and drunk, but I'm not sure you are."
* * *
I was still lying on my bed when Alex returned from the library, with about five books tucked under her arm.
"Enjoy yourself?" I asked her.
"I know you're only asking to make fun of me, so I won't answer," she answered lightly.
I smiled and looked away. Alex was fine. She was a friend. A slightly odd friend, but a friend nonetheless. Still, she wasn't Max.
"Have you finished that essay due for Charms on Friday?" I asked her.
She nodded, "Have you?"
"No," I muttered, "I don't know when I'll get it done either. I don't understand the topic."
"Don't worry," Alex shrugged, "Owen said he didn't get it either."
That made me look over at her in surprise, "Since when are you and Owen friends?"
She looked up at me, looking slightly alarmed, like a deer caught in the headlights, "We're not! We, er, have prefect duties together now. I'm not going to just ignore him."
"You've never ignored him," I agreed, "Blindly hated on the other hand…"
"He's not so bad," she shrugged, "A complete idiot at times, but most of the time, he's actually OK."
"Wow," I grinned at her, "Words I never thought I'd hear you say."
I wondered if Owen had also started to reconsider his hatred for Alex.
Dan came rushing in at that moment, brandishing a magazine.
"Witch weekly came today!" she exclaimed happily.
Alex gave her a small, affectionate smile as Dan threw herself onto her bed and began to flick through the glossy pages.
After a while she said, "Charlie! This dress would look perfect on you."
She shoved the magazine photo into my face to show me the dress she was talking about. It was purple, with a ruffled hem.
"Er, yeah," I said, nodding, "I like it."
She looked pleased with herself as she continued to look, occasionally whispering words to herself as she read the gossip columns like "No, she didn't!" or "Well, that's hardly a surprise."
Suddenly she showed Alex a photo of something, "Wouldn't that colour look fantastic on you?"
Alex took the picture and scrutinised it, a serious, pondering look on her face.
Finally she declared, "No. That wouldn't work."
"What are you talking about!" she said, "It was go perfectly with your skin tone."
"I can't wear that shade," Alex insisted firmly, "It doesn't go with my eyes."
"Of course it would," Dan rolled her eyes.
"Actually, scientifically, if you look at the colour wheel, that particular shade of blue would really clash with green irises. It's simple really. My eyes are green, which means they correspond to a number of different shades in each colour, depending on where they meet in the colour wheel-"
"OK, OK, fine. Don't wear it," Dan rolled her eyes at her, "I just thought I'd mention it."
Alex paused, "Well thanks anyway."
Dan waved her away, "As long as you don't start with that science rubbish."
Alex rolled her eyes, but still smiled at her.
"Well, it's getting pretty late," Dan said, "I'd better go and take a shower."
She picked herself up from the bed and walked to the bathroom.
As soon as she'd closed the bathroom door, there was a rapid knocking at the dormitory door.
Alex shrugged at me, so I got up and answered it.
Owen stood there, looking red in the face and slightly breathless.
I didn't say anything at first, wondering if he was here to talk to me. He still hadn't spoken to me much, and I had a feeling he was still angry with me.
"It's James," he said, still trying to catch his breath.
My brain immediately went into alarm mode, and my breath caught in my throat. What was wrong with James? Had something happened to him?
I stared at Owen, waiting desperately for him to elaborate. Thankfully he did.
"He's pretty drunk," he said, "Actually, he's incredibly drunk."
"What?" I stared at him, "Its a Tuesday night."
"Well Fred thought it would be a good idea to go down to the Three Broomsticks-"
"And they served you alcohol?" I asked incredulously, but then I shook my head "Never mind, what about James?"
"Well Fred and Zach both got a bit drunk, but they've already fallen asleep on the couches and I'm going to levitate them up to the dorm in a minute. But James is still awake, and I'm worried-"
I didn't wait for him to finish. I ran down the steps, Owen and Alex both hard on my heels.
Zach and Fred were both asleep on couches, their mouths hanging open comically.
James was sitting beside them in an armchair, his eyelids drooping.
I moved to his side and crouched down beside the chair, "James? Are you OK?"
He looked over, and it seemed to take a minute for his eyes to focus on me. He exclaimed loudly, his voice slurring, "Charlie! My friend Charlie! You're here!"
"And you smell like vodka," I replied. It smelled cheap, fresh on his lips. I could tell that it wasn't the Three Broomsticks who had served them.
He let out a low laugh, throaty and deep as he leaned over the chair to look at me.
"You know, I…" he trailed off, looking suddenly into space.
"James?" I snapped my fingers in front of him to grab his attention again, "Hello? Earth to James?"
He stared at me again, "You're still here!" he exclaimed.
I looked around at Owen, "Shit Owen, how much did you give him?"
"It wasn't me," he replied defensively, "It was Fred!"
"I don't feel good," James muttered suddenly, looking green.
Owen handed me a wastepaper bin from the corner of the common room. I shoved it under James' face, "If you need to be sick, be sick in that," I told him, patting his shoulder.
"Alex, isn't there some sort of potion you could make?" Owen asked Alex.
Alex rolled her eyes at him, "It would take me at least a day, plus the dungeons are all closed now."
"Fine," Owen raised his hands in surrender, looking annoyed, "What do we do then?"
James continued to sway in his seat, still looking green.
"I'll take Fred and Zach up," Alex said, "You two stay here and keep an eye on him."
She takes out her wand and begins to levitate Fred up the stairs.
If I wasn't so concerned about James, I would have found the way Fred's head lolled backwards, or the way his arms brushed the floor funny.
"Have you got any water?" I asked Owen.
"I'll run up and get some," he nodded.
He ran upstairs, leaving me, James and a passed out Zach alone.
James leaned into me, his face pressed up against my cheek.
OK, breathe Charlie. That's the key. Breathe.
"Let's get you lying down on a couch," I muttered.
I put my arm around his back and helped him up, guiding him over to the couch next to us.
He sat, but grabbed my hand and pulled me downwards so that I was sitting next to him.
Owen came down the stairs, holding a glass of water.
I took it from him and pushed it towards James' lips.
He drank it, thankfully, gulping it down like he hadn't drunk in days.
"How do you feel?" I asked him.
"Better," he nodded.
"Good," I murmured, taking the glass away from him and putting it on a nearby table.
I motioned to get up, but James quickly grabbed my hand and pulled me back so I was closer to him than ever.
He was focused on something below my eyes, like my nose or my lips. Staring at them with intent, like he was trying to say something.
I could feel the heat from his face, smell the vodka, see the droplets of water fresh on his dried lips. My heart rate picked up.
James said in a low voice, "I'm sorry about Elliot."
I lowered my head, anything to break my gaze with his, "It's OK."
"No, I've been a complete dick," he said slowly, "I'm sorry. I promise I'll stop from now on."
"Ok," I muttered, knowing full well that he wouldn't remember a word of this the next morning.
"And you're still my friend?" he slurred, his face closer to mine than ever.
I glanced at Owen, feeling uncomfortable that he was witnessing all of this.
"Of course," I said.
James nodded carefully, looking more reassured, "OK."
He leaned away for a moment, and I felt like I could breathe again.
"Maybe we should think about getting him to bed," Owen said to me.
I nodded at him, "OK, James. You really need to sleep this off."
"Don't leave me," he said suddenly, clutching at my hand with an insistence that almost scared me.
"I'm not leaving you, you idiot, I'm helping you up to your dormitory," I replied, trying to laugh at him.
I slid my arm uneasily around his middle and swung his arm over my shoulder, the better to support him when he stood up.
But before we could get up, James muttered, "Charlie?"
I looked over at him, "What?"
He looked down suddenly, "Never mind."
"Are you feeling sick again?" I asked him quickly.
Owen instinctively brought the waist paper bin over to us and placed it on James' lap.
James shook his head, his arm still tightly holding my shoulder.
I tried to create some distance between us. It was making me more uncomfortable by the second.
He stared at me, drawing in my gaze with his, "I like you, so much."
I tried to laugh at him, "I like you too James."
"No, I mean, like, I like you," he said.
I stared at him, my whole body frozen.
"I mean as more than friends," he said, his words slipping out over his tongue. He was trying to make his words sound as little slurred as possible but it wasn't working out very well.
I stayed frozen. My heart was racing, the blood rushing in my ears until it reached a roar.
"I, uhh," it felt like my tongue had been tied into a double knot, "Uhh."
I had to remind myself.
He's drunk. He's never been this drunk before. He doesn't know what he's saying.
People who are drunk tell their friends they like them all the time. And they don't even remember it the next day.
It was better to say nothing at all. That way, when he forgot everything tomorrow, I wouldn't feel like an idiot.
"I think about you," he said, his words still low, "...All the time."
Don't say anything. He doesn't know what he's doing.
But, he felt so close, so warm, so human beside me. Flesh and bones, just like me, pinned to my side like he wouldn't let go. And I didn't want him to let go.
I could feel his breath on my neck, and the way my hair stood up at the back when he talked. I realised I'd wanted him to say it. This was it. This was what I'd been hoping for.
And yet somehow it was all wrong. Because he didn't mean what he was saying. His drunken alter ego may have liked me, but the real James didn't think of me as anything more than a friend. I needed to accept that sooner, rather than later.
"Say something," James said, his fingers tracing lightly over my waist, his eyes travelling down over my neck.
I wanted to tell him what he wanted to hear.
I love you. I'm in love with you. I think about you all the time too. You're in my constant waking thoughts and all I want right now is to lean over and-
There's a sudden retching noise, and I'm drawn out of my reverie by the sound of James throwing up in the waist paper bin.
Owen leaned over and patted James on the back as he continued to throw up.
I unpeeled myself from him, and feeling suddenly cold I stood up, waiting for him to finish.
When he finally does, he leans back. I can see sweat on his brow as Owen hands him the water glass, offering him some more.
He takes it thankfully, drinking until there's no water left.
"You guys are the best," he said, "I love you guys. Thank you."
"No no," Owen said, "Thank you for aiming into the waist paper bin. You've saved us an hour of cleaning."
The idea of cleaning up James' vomit from the living room carpet only moments after he told me he likes me as more than a friend makes me feel suddenly nauseous.
"Let's just get you up to bed," I muttered.
Owen and I take an arm each, and he gets gingerly to his feet.
We lead him up the stairs, passing Alex on her way down to get Zach.
"Elliot's up there," she said, "He'll help you with him."
When we reached the dormitory door Elliot was standing in the door frame.
He smiled at James, who was too inebriated to recognise who it was.
As I slid out from under his arm, and let Elliot take my place, James looked over at him and said, "Hey! It's the french guy."
"Yes, the french guy," said Elliot, sounding amused.
"You're really not so bad, you know that?" James uttered.
Elliot laughed, "Glad you see it that way."
Owen glanced over at me, "We can take care of him now. We'll put him to bed."
I nodded, my lips pressed firmly together.
Owen and I exchanged one more awkward glance, before he took James into the dormitory. I knew what that glance was saying. It meant he saw what happened, he heard everything, but he wouldn't say anything, if only to spare my feelings and James unnecessary embarrassment.
I walked up to our dormitory, where I found Dan, sitting on her bed and combing her wet hair.
"Where have you guys been?" she asked curiously.
I shook my head at her, suddenly too tired to talk, "Nowhere."
I woke with a raging headache, and the sun blinding my closed eyelids.
"Good morning," said a voice beside me.
I heard a groan from somewhere, and quickly realised it had come from me.
Daring to open my eyes, my head pounded as the light came blazing in through the open window. It seemed a hundred times more bright than usual.
I sat up and looked around me. Zach and Fred were still fast asleep. Owen's bed was empty.
Elliot stood on the other side of the dormitory, fully dressed.
"Er, morning," I said. My throat hurt, everywhere hurt.
"You had fun last night, I gather," Elliot said, sounding somewhat amused.
I paused for a second. When I tried to remember last night, all I got was a messy blur, with snapshots of certain moments. I frowned.
"Wait, what happened?" I asked him blearily.
"Well, you all got drunk, you especially. And then you threw up and Charlie and Owen helped you back to your room."
I stared at him, "Charlie was there too?"
"She came to help when you were too drunk," he explained. I expected to hear a note of disapproval in his voice, but there wasn't one.
I got a sudden flash of me sitting on a sofa, Charlie's face in extreme focus. Blue eyes staring at me. Chapped red lips parted in surprise.
But everything else was a blur.
"I…I don't remember anything," I said.
"That's probably a good thing," Elliot said, sounding amused.
"I didn't...say anything, did I?" I asked him.
"Well, at one point in your sleep you yelled the words, 'No Giant squid, get off me', but other than that, no," he replied, smiling slightly, "Although I only helped you once you got back to your room. You could have said anything while the others were helping you."
The fact that I still didn't know what I'd said to people in my drunken state terrified me. It was like having an evil twin who said things you would never say or mean.
"Did Charlie…?" I trailed off.
"She went back to her dormitory after cleaning you up," he nodded.
"Shit, I'd better apologize," I said. I got out of bed, feeling the pounding in my head as I stood up. "I'm going to take a shower before breakfast," I muttered to him.
As I walked over to the bathroom, I stopped, "And, er, thanks. You know, for helping me."
He shrugged, "Don't mention it."
* * *
Zach, Fred and I made our way down to the common room, feeling more and more ill with every step.
"I'm dying," Fred moaned.
"I'm never drinking again," Zach agreed, "You people find this fun?"
As we left the portrait hole, I spotted two figures ahead of us. One with shorter, dark hair, the other long, wispy brown.
It was Charlie and Alex. It had to be.
I jogged ahead to catch up with them, and called, "Charlie," to catch her attention.
As she turned I saw the immediate look on her face. It was one of distinct discomfort.
Oh God, what had I said last night?
I must have said something horrible to her, or something completely inappropriate.
Alex said quietly to her, "I'll meet you at breakfast."
Charlie nodded, and stayed behind to talk to me.
I swallowed anxiously.
"You're feeling better, I see," she said. Her voice wasn't angry, but something in it was forced and unnatural.
"I heard I did some really embarrassing stuff last night," I replied, "And I heard that you helped. So…thanks for helping, and I'm sorry you had to go through that."
She looked up at me, but she didn't look comforted in the slightest. In fact she looked thoroughly upset.
"It's-it's fine," she said, her voice unnaturally quiet.
I had clearly said something last night that had upset her. I needed to say something to her.
"And I'm really sorry, for anything I said," I elaborated, "You have to know I didn't mean it. I would hate to compromise our friendship over some stupid, drunken comments."
She still didn't look happy, but she forced a smile, "It's fine."
"Are you sure?" I asked her, "Because I'm really embarrassed."
"No worries," she said, waving me away, "I knew you didn't actually mean it."
"So, we're good?"
"Of course," she smiled properly then, and for a moment I thought it might actually be genuine, "Let's go down to breakfast shall we? I'm starved."
A/N: An update! Yay! Let me know what you all thought :)
I'm currently estimating the end of this story to be within about 5 chapters or so, and I will try and update as quickly as possible.
On peut parler un moment? translated directly is Can we talk for a moment?
PS: I am aware that there may be the occaisional (frequent) typo. But writing chapter 26 sounded a lot more fun than scouring this page for the slip ups, please bear with me!