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Chapter 1 : Under the Mistletoe
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“Bye, ‘Tilda, I’m gonna miss you!”
It was the last day of term and I was saying my goodbyes to my friends Josie, Eric and Kathryn. They were going home for Christmas because their families had plans for the holidays: seeing family, going abroad. Not me. My parents were planning on going to Devon to see my grandparents, but I don’t like Nan or Granddad-they treat me like a child and treat my little sister like a princess. Sometimes I could swear that Nan thought I was a boy name Matthew-she was always getting my boy things for Christmas and birthdays. Last year she got me a pack of boxer shorts. No. I am Matilda Hogswerth and 17 years old. I am in my seventh year at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Hufflepuff house. I am an adult completing my NEWTS in charms, transfiguration and potions. I used that excuse to be able to stay at Hogwarts over Christmas-that I had too much work to do. As if.
As I watched the students get into the carriages I glanced around to see exactly who was going and who was staying. Harry potter was watching the carriages with that ginger kid and saying farewell to that bushy-haired nerd. What were their names? Rob and Harriett? Rick and Helga? Something along those lines. They were only in their first year and had already done amazing things-battled a troll for one. Strange kids-all I did in my first year was accidentally give Kathryn a rash on her face because I tried to remove a spot with magic. Let’s see. Not many people staying behind this year. Those two first years, the Weasley twins, a couple of Ravenclaws, one or two Slytherins and three fellow Hufflepuffs. Joy. Looks like I’ll be sharing the common room with Harriett, Gretchen and Ethan. Wait, Ethan?
My heart stopped and butterflies erupted when I realised this. Why Ethan, of all people? It’s not that I don’t like him-quite the opposite. It’s just that I would be spending Christmas with the person that I had made a complete of myself in front of. It was our third year on Valentine’s Day. Being thirteen and obsessed with boys, I thought that I would try my chances with the only boy in the year who didn’t cringe away from me whenever I went near him (I was covered in pimples at the time and had some hideous braces) and tried to give him a valentine’s day card. It was fine, for a bit. But I was waiting for the right moment to give it to him, so that he wasn’t surrounded by people at the time. We were in potions, and I had got it out of my bag so that I could pack my things away without crushing it, but Snape saw it.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” he said, picking the envelope up from the desk. “Why, it is addressed to Mr Thompson. A note, perhaps? Or, given the date, a valentine?”
The class snickered and Snape smirked as I flushed in embarrassment. I couldn’t look anywhere but the floor as I knew what Snape would do. As he did exactly what I feared, I wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and disappear.
“No time like the present, is there Hogswerth?” He cleared his throat as he opened the envelope. “Hair as yellow as the sun, Eyes blue as the ocean deep, my thoughts constantly wander to you; you are there in my sleep. I can no longer hide these feelings As I yearn for you to feel the same, please don’t let this heart be broken Do you even know my name? My message is simple But the meaning complex, I love you Ethan, It feels like a hex has been cast upon my heart. How touching. Perhaps Mr Thompson would like to give you his valentine?”
He looked at Ethan expectantly, whose face was as red as mine. He shook his head. When Snape looked at me again his smirk had almost developed to a smile. The whole class was laughing. Without thinking, I stood up in tears and ran from the room, unable to face the humiliation of what had just happened. Ever since I hadn’t spoken a word to Ethan, just admired him from afar.
And now I was spending Christmas with him. His friends had gone home, and we were the only two people in our year who were staying. Joy. When I looked over to him again, he was being occupied by Harriett and Gretchen-no doubt trying to boost their popularity by dating the hottest guy in the year above them. He was tall with blonde wavy hair and blue eyes. He was slim but looked like he exercised, even though I could swear that he spends more time in the common room than I do, and he had that perfectly masculine look that you can only get from good genes. He was gorgeous. Much better than my average build, curly black hair and green eyes. Watching them, I was thinking about who he was most likely to go out with-Gretchen or Harriett. I suppose that Harriett was prettier, with her dark red hair, brown eyes and freckles, but Gretchen had more personality. I guess it depended on what he likes in girls. Thinking back to the numerous girlfriends he’s had over the years, I’d say he likes them pretty, but with personality. I had no hope-I’m not pretty and I don’t have a very good personality.
When the coaches had departed everyone that was left made their ways back to the castle for lunch. I sat at the end of the Hufflepuff table and Ethan sat in the middle, closely followed by his two admirers. I wonder whose Christmas was going to be worse: my lonely one or Ethan’s crowded one.
Christmas morning I woke up to a pile of presents at the end of my bed. I was alone, so I didn’t get to enjoy the excitement of opening my presents with friends or family. With a sigh as if I was resigning myself to the worst, I reached for a present. There was a soft knock on the door.
Gretchen came in through the door. Her oversized t-shirt showed off her strong arms, and her shorts showed off her perfectly muscular legs. I had never noticed how athletic she looks. Not surprising really-it was quite common to see her jogging around the school grounds.
“Er, morning. Merry Christmas!” she said.
“Happy Christmas,” I answered cautiously-she doesn’t normally speak to me. In fact, she and Harriett hadn’t said a word to me over the holidays.
“Harriett, Ethan and I were wondering if you wanted to come to the common room-open our presents together,” she asked hesitantly.
Gathering up my presents we went to the common room. Harriett and Ethan were already sat with their presents waiting for us to arrive. Everyone’s hair was tousled where it hadn’t been brushed yet and Ethan’s eyes were still slightly puffy with sleep. Harriett and Gretchen, I noticed, were already wearing a bit of make-up. I sat down in the empty armchair that was furthest away from the fire-Ethan was sat the closest to the fire. We all began to open our presents.
My first present was from my grandparents-so I knew it wouldn’t be very good. Turns out it was one of those hideous Christmas jumpers that you only wear to please the person who gave it to you. It was instantly tossed to the side. The rest of my presents were better: my little sister, Abigail, had given me some perfume that smelled of lavender; my mum had given me a necklace with a locket on it-inside was a picture of my baby brother who sadly died of cot death; my dad had given me a new book to read called Wizard’s First Rule (he found muggle books about wizards amusing); my aunt had given me some hair accessories (not that I’d use them); Josie had given me some ear-rings; Eric had given me the bracelet that matches (probably advice from Josie); and Kathryn had given me a book about how to get a boyfriend: Charm Your Own Prince Charming. I quickly hid the last one away from sight of the others, mainly Ethan. All in all, I got some pretty good presents.
Once we had finished opening our presents, we all went upstairs to get dressed. I put on jeans, a red t-shirt that showed a bit of cleavage and, out of principle, my vulgar jumper. After today I’ll just say it got shrunk in the wash. House elves-who needs them? We all went into the grounds to have a snowball fight and to catch some fresh air. We were soon joined by some other students, including the Weasleys and Harry Potter. The Weasley twins bewitched some snowballs to constantly hit Quirrel on his turban, much to the disgust and annoyance of their brother (Peter?) who was in his fifth year. It was really funny-he kept puffing out his chest and showing off his prefect badge whenever he told them to stop. I got hit many times by snowballs-including in the face-and failed to hit anyone because of my crap aim. Oh well. At least we had fun.
When we went back inside for our Christmas dinner, I automatically went to sit on my own again at the end of the table, but Ethan had other plans.
“Oh, no you don’t. You’re coming to sit with us,” he said, pulling on my arm to make me follow.
After Dumbledore had given his merry Christmas speech, food magically appeared on the golden plates. There was turkey, stuffing, ham, duck, goose, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, vegetables and every other type of food that you would expect to see at Christmas. I instantly piled turkey and roast potatoes onto my plate. Bang. I looked up to see that Harriett and Gretchen had pulled a cracker together, as there was confetti raining down on them and Gretchen was now wearing a pink bonnet with flowers decorating it. She was studying a miniature sneakoscope that she had received from the cracker. They pulled another one, and Harriett got a purple wizard hat that was covered in golden moons and stars-it looked like the sort of thing Dumbledore would wear-and a wizards chess set.
“Matilda, fancy pulling a couple of crackers?” Ethan asked.
“Sure, why not?”
We pulled his cracker and out came a women’s sunhat with a pink ribbon around it.
“What do you think?” he asked, putting it on.
“It looks good, but I don’t think it’s your colour,” I laughed.
He looked around for his prize but, judging by the tiny footprints that were in his mashed carrot, it had run away. I picked up my cracker and held it out to him. We both gave it a pull, and I got a giant cowboy hat. My prize was a small pack of Filibuster wet-start fireworks. As we began actually eating our food (Ethan got a fresh plate without miniature footprints) I barely noticed how the turkey was bursting with flavour and how the potatoes were crispy on the outside but light and fluffy on the inside. What I did notice was how Ethan’s deep blue eyes twinkled when he laughed and how he got dimples in his cheeks when he smiled. Spending Christmas staring at his gorgeous face and listening to his deep throaty laugh was the best way to spend it in my opinion.
When it was dark I was sat by an open window in a corridor watching the snow drift past and add to the blanket at the foot of the castle. I was watching the sky as the twinkling stars reminded me of Ethan’s eyes. It was cold but I didn’t feel it-I was too content to notice temperature.
“Mind if I join you?” came a deep voice that made me jump.
Turning around I saw that the voice belonged to no other than Ethan, who was carrying two hot chocolates.
“Sure, go ahead,” I answered, indicating the space next to me.
“It was a fun Christmas,” he told me. “The best I’ve had in years.”
“Same. It was nice to spend it with, well, friends, I guess.”
“What about your family?”
“They’re okay, but I don’t like spending too much time with them.”
It was silent for a few minutes as we sat and drank our hot chocolates.
“You know, I never really thanked you for that valentine. It was really nice. Did you write it yourself?”
“Yeah, I did,” I answered, my face going hot. Why did he have to bring it up now, of all times?
“I think it was really cruel, what Snape did. He had no right to do that.”
“I know. But, why did you have to bring that up now? Today was going so perfectly, and then you had to remind me of that humiliation.”
“Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. You’ve grown up to be a lot prettier though.”
“Now that my spots and braces are gone.”
“Now that you’ve grown into a beautiful young woman with a perfect figure, hair darker than night and eyes green as emeralds.”
I looked at him to find that he was looking at me. We both stared into each other’s eyes. I felt like I could drown in those gorgeous blue eyes that really were the colour of the ocean. A sound at the window made us both look away. There was nothing there. Maybe it was an owl flying past? I looked up at the ceiling and saw something small hanging there.
“Mistletoe,” I whispered.
“So it is,” Ethan replied.
We both looked at each other again. He slowly raised his hand up to my cheek. His skin was so soft. We slowly went closer towards each other. I could feel his hot breath on my cold lips as they almost met. He softly put his lips on mine. When he moved back again my breath came out in a shudder. I’d wanted to do that for longer than I’d care to admit, and now that I had, I wanted more. I put my hand in his hair at the back of his head and brought our lips together once more. We started of softly, slowly, but this increased as our need and want grew. Our soft embrace of lips escalated to a passionate kiss until we were out of breath when we finally let go. It still wasn’t all that I wanted, but I was content for now. We both sat, his arm now around me and my head on his shoulder, staring into the starry night. My Christmas was now perfect, at last.
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