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Chapter 14 : I Want You to Want Me
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Disclaimer: Everything you recognize belongs to JKR! I also don't own the rights to the song I Want You to Want Me by Cheap Trick. Enjoy!
“Hey,” I whispered as Alex made her way into the bathroom. Rose glanced up from her position on her bed. “She’s been acting off, hasn’t she?”
Rose shrugged, her eyes firmly on the door to the loo. “Wouldn’t you be?”
I chewed on my already raw lip. “Yes but…I’m not Alex.”
Alexandra Longbottom was our lifeline. For all the purebloods, or Weasleys, or people like me. She was our unspoken hero, the one who smiled serenely in the face of threats and humiliation. She had never been broken. But now she was quiet, sucked into her mind. Absent.
“I know,” the seventh year sighed. “But it’s almost the holidays, and we’ll be away from this hellhole in a matter of days. She’ll be better then.”
I nodded in acceptance. Maybe that’s what she needed, to get away from everything that had happened. When James and I had returned to the Room of Requirement three nights ago, everything had come tumbling out of her mouth, every detail. How Ivan had knocked out Molly, who she’d been walking with, and had dragged her into a classroom and forced her to drink a black, icy potion.
The potion slowed down Alex’s mind and body by turning everything to ice, until eventually it had put her into a coma while her nerves were simultaneously on fire from the internal damage the liquid was causing. Alex had tried to fight back, but she was incapacitated.
Ivan had instructed Kevin to watch Fred and I, and, knowing where we were, had lured us down to the dungeons by dragging Alex as she screamed, the potion tormenting her. This had been planned meticulously. The potion was something Daley had created on his own and surely had to have been tested and tested for weeks to make sure it worked. They needed to know where Fred and I would go, and had needed to wait for just the right moment to grab her away from her friends and family. This must have been in the making since I’d used my wandless magic on them.
Fred was right. I shouldn’t have lost my temper. Look what it had cost.
Alex walked out of the bathroom and gave me a wan smile. “Thanks for the help catching up on the Charms work Clara, I really appreciate it.”
“No problem Alex, really.” I wiped my clammy hands on my jeans and stood, taking this as my cue to leave. With a wave, I headed out the door and up to my own dormitory. Once the door had been sealed by all the necessary charms and spells, I padded into the bathroom and released my hair from its constricting plait. I washed my face of the oil and grit that coated it, and stripped off my worn gray sweater, bra, and jeans.
I slipped on an old T-shirt of my father’s that bore the name of his favorite rock band, and a pair of cotton shorts. I could still picture my father in this shirt, sitting on the couch with one arm around my mother and one around me, laughing at stupid commercials on the telly and cracking joke after joke.
“Merlin,” I said to myself as I reentered the dormitory, wiping a hand across my face. I fell into bed and stared at the canopy, my body willing to sleep but my brain too wired; it seemed my brain wanted to take a trip down memory lane. “Fuck!” I shouted aloud.
I beat my fist against the mattress. Everything was such a mess. All I’d done since this year had started was screw up the lives of everyone around me. Anyone that had been kind or good to me was now suffering and there was nothing I could do about it. Every time I attempted to fix my mistakes, something even worse happened. It was a vicious cycle and I wanted out, but I didn’t know how.
There was a faint knock on my window but I didn’t respond. Instead, I shifted slightly on the bed to make space. James slid the window open and hopped into the room, resting his broom against the wall. The brief chill that hung in the air sucked the heat out of my skin in an instant.
He walked over to the bed and lay down beside me, also staring up at the canopy. “How is she?”
“Not herself. But you know that.” If he wasn’t with me, he was with Alex. Everyone was now with Alex, all the time. I don’t know if it was because they wanted to protect her from Ivan or protect her from herself.
James coming into my room had become a ritual. The first night, the night that Alex had been attacked, I’d owled him in a moment of panic at four in the morning. Every time I closed my eyes, instead of seeing darkness I saw Alex lying on the ground, her skin blue and her lips stained with blood, or else it was Ivan, hovering above me, and I was unable to move…
James had come the next two nights as well. It had become a bit of a routine. He would lie in bed with me, sometimes telling me stories about his family, sometimes not saying a single word to the point that I thought I was hallucinating, imagining his sturdy form beside me in the darkness.
But the first night…the first night was the best. He’d stroked my hair for hours until I’d finally drifted off. He’d spoken about his home life, described all his aunts and uncles and cousins in great detail. Told me stories about him and his siblings as children, playing quidditch and chasing around gnomes. He was gone when I woke up in the morning, but he was waiting for me on the pitch, the way he’d used to.
The mattress was too narrow for the both of us, which meant our arms and legs were pressed up against one another. Either of us could have enlarged the bed, but we didn't. It was comfortable.
He was wearing a faded jumper that had patches over the elbows that scratched at the bare skin of my arm. I glanced down at our feet. Mine were bare, his in a pair of white socks with a hole in the big toe of his left foot. I tapped it with my own.
Winter break was in four days. I didn’t know if I would be seeing him at all, if he was going away somewhere with his family. If I wasn’t going to be with him, I wanted to know what we were, now. Or else I would go crazy.
“Hey James,” I started, turning my head to find him already staring at me. My words died in my throat as his right hand reached over and slid into my hair, pulling my face to his.
His lips melded with mine eagerly, sending a pleasant buzz through my veins. I sighed happily and curled my arms around his shoulders. He took this as encouragement and propped himself up on his elbow to get better leverage.
His tongue touched mine delicately, then traced a pattern along the bottom of it that made my eyes roll to the back of my head. His free hand cradled the back of my head, and I clutched at his strong forearm desperately, afraid that if I didn’t he would leave and I would be left alone.
“Mmm,” I mumbled against his lips as his fingertips gently massaged the nape of my neck, stroking my skin so softly that I wanted to cry out.
James pulled back, his face taking on the countenance of uncertainty. “I’m sorry,” he blurted, quickly laying on his back and putting as much space between us as possible.
I raised myself up so I could look down at him, my hair spilling over my shoulders. “You have nothing,” I spoke quietly, leaning down to capture his lips with my own, “to be sorry for.”
As I stared into his amber eyes, I realized that I meant it. I forgave him. For ignoring me, for hating me, for speaking to me about my father. For everything. He didn’t reply, just simply grabbed my hand and held it against his chest. With a small smile I returned to staring up at the canopy, pretending not to notice the way his thumb brushed across my own or his foot that was now entangled with mine.
I could get used to this.
Or maybe I couldn’t. For once James wasn’t ignoring me…he was acting like my real friend in public. But the thing was, now I was fairly certain that we were more than that. Right?
Every time I watched Fred kiss Alex’s blonde curls, playfully sweep her off her feet, or carry her books for her, I had to admit that a little bit of envy seeped into my veins. How childish was it for me to have a fantasy about James and I acting like that? Especially with all that’s happened?
“Hey Clara, I’m going to go return this book all right? I’ll be right back and then we can head back to the common room.”
Rose stood and cast a shield around herself as she crossed the cavernous library, as there was a particularly nasty group of Ravenclaws sitting not too far away. We were settled at a table that we had pushed into the stacks so that we didn’t have to worry about stray spells hitting us as we studied.
With a sigh, I began to gather all my various bits of parchment and shoved them haphazardly into my bag, knowing I would just be taking them back out once I was in my dormitory. James had promised to help me with my Transfiguration essay tonight, considering I had barely scraped by on the last one with an Acceptable.
I didn’t even have time to gasp as my wand flew from my grasp and a hand was clamped over my mouth.
“Don’t even bother screaming for help Clara,” he whispered, his black eyes shining with malice. “No one in here cares…well, besides Weasley, but she’s had a sudden lapse in her memory and is on her way back to the common room as we speak.”
My legs shook with the effort it took to keep myself upright, but I forced myself to stare into his eyes. After that night in the locker room, I’d vowed he would never touch me again, but here he was, taking whatever he pleased.
Furiously, I stormed my way out of the library, locking myself in an unused classroom until I could control my emotions. My wandless magic had failed me in my moment of need. All the practice with Fred and James was useless. I was completely at Ivan’s every whim; I was so pathetic that I couldn’t even defend myself. But I was positive that if I’d had just a little more time, that I could have gotten away! You didn’t always need brute force to get things accomplished.
I wasn’t sure whether I should be thankful for Albus’ timely arrival or not. Of course he had stopped Ivan before he had the opportunity to go very far, but he was such a misogynistic prick that it almost made it worse.
All of a sudden, Ivan’s body had crumpled to the ground, so quickly and silently that I had to blink three times before the change registered in my brain. I’d hastily stepped away from the wall and looked around for my savior. I thought it had been James, but I was wrong.
A figure had appeared from around the corner of the bookshelf. I could still see the smirk on his face and hear the smugness in his voice. “No. Sorry to disappoint.”
“Albus?” I had asked in disbelief. “That was you?”
He stepped over Ivan’s lifeless body to stand in front of me. I instinctively leaned back. “You shouldn’t make yourself such an easy target. You’d probably be dead by now if it weren’t for James, Fred, Louis and I.”
My snarl came back. I didn’t care for his intimidation tactics. “Like I can’t defend myself? Yes I’ve been caught off guard by Turner, Daley and the like, more than once, thank you for reminding me, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of saving myself.”
Albus cocked his head to the side and crossed his arms, smirking down at me. Then suddenly my right arm was twisted painfully behind me and my back was pressed up against his chest. My breath caught in my throat and pain ripped through my body as I fought against him.
“Pathetic,” he spat in my ear, pushing me off of him.
Control your anger Clara…use it to your advantage. Without changing my expression, I raised my arm out in front of me and curled my hand into a fist. Immediately Albus doubled over and grabbed his crotch.
Satisfied with my work, I grabbed my satchel, threw it over my shoulder, and bent down so I could look him in the eye. “I’m still learning Albus. I may not be as quick as you, as careful as you, as strong as you, or as ruthless, but I do know that every single man on this earth can be taken down with a quick pinch of his knob.”
“Bitch…” he muttered to himself as I stalked away, skirting the outsides of the room to avoid getting hexed.
Though I was still fuming from my encounter with both Ivan and Albus, I knew I had to contain my anger, lest I become a target for a third person today. It was dangerous for me to be walking alone like this, especially now that I had left the sanctity of the classroom, so I hurried through the corridors, my wand turning the corners first.
I missed the days where I’d been able to roam around the castle as I pleased, always finding companionship with someone. Then I realized that James, Alex, Hugo…none of them had ever had a single day here like that. And the guilt flooded over me once more.
Was it wrong for me to demand anything more from James? We had only just gotten our feelings out in the open, which was challenging enough thanks to the locked box James kept all of his thoughts in. I guess the only thing I really wanted was for people like the Potters and Weasleys to be able to wander the castle with their guard down. Hogwarts should be a safe place for every student, all the time. It was the best wizarding school in the world. Even those who had lived through the times of Voldemort had felt sanctity and happiness here. I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew just who to talk to.
After entering the common room, I immediately headed up the stairs to the girl’s dormitories. I froze in front of the fourth door, wondering if I was being reckless. Then I shook my head and knocked.
“Lily? It’s Clara. Can I come in?”
Though she was only a fourth year, the youngest Potter was wise beyond her years. When she spoke to someone, it was like she was peering into their soul. I had a sneaking suspicion that she knew every single detail about me before I knew it myself. I had to stop myself from begging her for James’ deep, dark secrets. I was still so curious about his stint in Azkaban.
I felt much calmer about everything, now that my thoughts had been sorted. Thanks to Lily, once we returned from our winter break, Hogwarts would be getting a makeover, so to speak. All I had to do was convince the Weasleys to be on my side, and I was golden. And as for James…
I examined myself in the mirror. Gone were the bags under my eyes, due to my nights of companionship. My dark, thick hair was no longer limp and frizzy. My eyes no were no longer fraught with fear, but instead showed something like determination. Feeling like my old self, I straightened up, rolled my shoulders back, and smiled.
Nervously but confidently, I made my way over to my bed, where my Transfiguration notes were all laid out. Sure enough, a few moments later James came flying in, his hair ruffled from the wind and his eyes searching for mine from the second his feet hit the floor.
“Clara, I heard about what happened in the library, Rose just told me, are you all right?”
With a sigh, I tucked a leg underneath me. “I’m not a delicate little flower James, nor am I a pure, innocent angel. Anything that could have happened has happened before. It was nothing new.”
Fury etched its way onto his face, just a flicker, before his countenance became impassive. “Don’t belittle yourself. I know you’re scared of him. And you should be. He’s dangerous.”
“You’re just the same as Albus. So convinced that without your care and protection, I’m a dead woman walking. I can take care of myself.” I was already bored with this conversation. Perhaps I’d had enough of men watching my every move and trying to tell me what I should be doing and how I should be acting.
He set his jaw. “Fine. You want to act like this? Then let’s just get on with the Transfiguration and I’ll leave you be. I could use a night without you whispering his name in your sleep, watching him torture you when you’re most defenseless.”
The pit of guilt in my stomach contracted. “James, I’m sorry. Please don’t be angry with me.”
“Get those pathetic puppy eyes away from me,” he grumbled after a minute, settling himself beside me on the bed reluctantly.
With a tiny grin, I nudged my half-arsed essay towards him. “All right Potter, do your thing. Tell me everything that’s wrong with this pile of sod.”
And just like that, we had returned to our typical light-hearted banter that had brought us together on the pitch all those years ago. It was so familiar that it was all I could do to keep the memories at bay. Of James, of course, but also of Maggie and Ivan and Sierra and Kevin, of my mother and father and the orphanage with its creaky floors and drafty windows.
“Clara, are you with me?” James asked, glancing up from the marked up parchment in front of him.
I chewed on my lip. “Actually, no. I need to ask you something.”
“Okay.” His expression remained placid, and I flushed as I tore my gaze away from his.
“James I just…I want to know what we are,” I blurted out, wincing as I slowly glanced up at him.
His eyes narrowed in confusion. “What we are?”
My fingers knotted into the faded bedspread. “Ever since the other night when I told you how I felt and, and you kissed me, I’ve been dying to know how you felt. About me.”
“You know how I feel about you,” he spoke in a low voice.
“But I don’t! Yes you apologized and yes you kissed me, but I’ve been open with you from the start and you, Godric it’s like your every thought and emotion is locked away in a dungeon somewhere. Ever since I’ve known you I’ve never known what you were thinking. And I need to know, before we leave, before I don’t see you for weeks.” My chest heaved slightly as adrenaline raced through me.
James rubbed a hand across his face. “Clara, you really need to finish this essay be-”
“Fuck the essay!” I cried. “I’ve been waiting for so long just to be your sodding friend, but now that we-now that you- Well, now that you know how much I care for you, I have to know what I am to you.”
He stood up so suddenly that the notes flew off the bed and onto the floor. “You’re the girl who didn’t care what blood ran through my veins. You’re the girl that scared the shit out of me the time you jumped off your broom in third year ‘for the fun of it.’ You’re the girl who was always so certain of herself, and you walked with such strength. You’re the girl who, when no one else was looking, was helping students off the floor and getting them to the Hospital Wing. You’re the girl whose eyes remind me of dew drops on rich, green grass, and the girl who is so beautiful and clever that every time I see you, my mind goes cloudy, and my mouth goes dry.
“You’re the girl who challenges me at every twist and turn, who wants, no, needs me to be a better person, because you believe that’s what I can be. You’re the girl who I’ve always loved, ever since you came to the pitch that morning, and extended your hand to the scared little boy who thought no one cared.”
“Be with me,” I spoke softly, hardly daring to say any more. He was absolutely still, his face still reserved, his eyes dark with determination.
Finally, after a long pause during which my heart threatened to burst right out of my chest, he reached out and took my hand. “Okay.”
A/N: Hello, I'm SO sorry for the wait! Second semester started up and it took me some time to get my bearings. Apologies for the short chapter, but I felt like I should end it there. Big things are coming up though! If anyone is still out there reading, please feel free to leave a review and let me know what you thought!
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