Chapter 11 : Everyone Feels Lost Sometimes
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God, I’m such a freak.
Also, I’m going to hell.
What else is new?
Ugh, thank god it’s Saturday. I really need to go back to sleep. So I curl back up on my beanbag- in a more comfortable position- and close my eyes.
Only then do I remember.
It’s fucking Friday.
“Shit! Shit shit shit!” I scream, jumping up like I’ve been electrocuted.
“What the hell, Jack,” Clark mumbles, rubbing her eyes.
“It’s Friday, Clark! We fell asleep! We’re not supposed to sleep here on school nights!”
“It’s Friday?” Rose yelps, jumping up from her own gold beanbag. After Clark and I showed her the Closet, it expanded to fit a third person and added red and gold decorations to supplement the blue and bronze. We even gave her her own wall; I performed an undetectable expansion charm on one of my book shelves in order to store the other half of my books on it.
“What time is it?” I shriek. “I have Defense first, Albus will flip if I’m late!”
“Calm down Jack, it’s only...” Clark checks her watch, and her inky eyes go wide. “Whoops. Yeah, we’ve got ten minutes before class starts.”
Rose starts to hyperventilate, while I settle into the peculiar calm I experience during crises.
“Clark, you make our uniforms and hair look fresh and nice. Rose, you get the Closet to provide us with make-up. I can pack our bags with books from my wall.”
The two girls nod importantly, and we all start with our respective tasks.
I am ashamed to say, this is not the first time this has happened.
Since Rose joined our little clique, things have changed quite a bit. For one thing, we spend more time in the Closet, since it would weird for a Gryffindor to spend a lot of time in the Ravenclaw dorm, and vice versa. For a second, time seems to be flying by at double-speed, since my teachers have begun to pile on the homework, and every spare second not consumed with school or Al or Clark or the boys is devoted to training Rose how not to care what others think. I’ve been spending more and more time with the red-headed weasel as well, now that Clark has a boyfriend and quidditch practices and isn’t around as much (although Rose will never replace Clark as my best friend / soulmate), and my extremely unorthodox version of therapy seems to be working. Rose is a little less shy, a little more crass (in my book that’s a good thing), and a lot more herself than she ever was before. Yesterday night, as the three of us all sat around eating pizza, I even got her to admit that she didn’t want to work in the Ministry. Now the only problem is telling her parents that; luckily, her chance will come soon, since winter holidays are in just a week.
“Ready to go?” Rose checks five minutes later. The three of us are fresh-looking and straight-haired, with full bags and impeccably made-up faces. What a beautiful friendship, am I right?
“Ready as I’ll ever be for an entire class with Albus.” I make a face. I told Rose about the bet about a week after we started hanging out constantly; I couldn’t not. To be fair, though, I told James that I told her, and he had negotiated that in exchange for this I was never allowed to have sex with his brother.
Like I was ever going to do that.
“Sorry, love,” Rose makes a sympathetic face. Albus has been acting extremely strange lately, all jumpy and awkward whenever I so much as look at him. No one has any idea of what to make of it; it is so not him. Seriously, we’re all very confused.
“I have Ancient Runes with Fred,” Clark said smugly, and Rose and I both shoot her dirty looks. See, even though Al is being a git and Scorpius still won’t look at Rose, Clark and Fred’s relationship is going more smoothly than anyone- including them- could have predicted. Yes, they bicker constantly, but Fred is so easygoing that it barely even counts. Usually Clark just talks at him until he cheers her up with some joke or another. And all this happiness means that she has less time to spend with me, her best friend in the whole wide world.
Not that I’m complaining.
I am legitimately happy that she’s happy.
It will just take a little getting used to, having to share my friend with the first guy she’s ever been serious about.
I also have to share Clark with her quidditch team. Their first match is tomorrow- Ravenclaw vs. Hufflepuff- and even though it’s a given that Ravenclaw will destroy Hufflepuff, Clark has been demanding three-hour-long practices five days a week.
“Are you coming or what?” Rose asks, and I snap back to the real world.
“Coming,” I sigh, waving at Clark, who is heading up where we are heading down. Rose has got Charms during my Defense class, and Clark has Ancient Runes.
“Are you going to talk to Scorp today?” I pant as we sprint down the stairs. Rose, Scorpius and I all have Double Transfiguration together, second class of the day.
“I don’t know if I have the nerve,” she admits, pulling aside a drape and running through a short length of tunnel that serves as a shortcut to the main hallway of the second floor.
“You can do it,” I wheeze, reflecting once again that I really should start running with Clark’s team again. I am seriously out of shape for a not-chubby girl.
“He won’t even look at me, Jack!”
“He’s just afraid to encourage me. He doesn’t like being set up!”
“Maybe he just doesn’t like being set up with me.”
“That’s ridiculous. Rose,” I pull her to a stop, outside of the Charms classroom. “You’re beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
I’m not lying. With her gorgeously wavy red-orange hair, huge sky-blue eyes and smattering of freckles across her porcelain skin, Rose really is a beauty. Not in the in-your-face way that Clark is, but certainly prettier than I am.
It’s okay, though.
I’m still slightly smarter than either of my two friends.
“Thanks, Jack.” Rose smiles sloppily at me, and I wave goodbye before starting to run off to Defense.
“You are too!” she calls after me, almost too late. I turn around and grin right before disappearing around a corner.
Rose is sweet, even if she’s a bit of a white-liar sometimes.
“Five minutes late means five points from Ravenclaw,” Professor Jones sighs as I slide in and take my seat in the front next to Albus.
“Sorry,” I sigh. Jones waves her hand, uncaring. I’m late to Defense Against the Dark Arts literally every other day, I swear to god.
“Where were you?” Al whispers as he copies down the spell chart on the board.
“Overslept,” I reply, pulling out my notebook, inkwell and quill. Then I force a smile and attempt to kiss my faux-beau on the cheek; but he pulls away at the last second, turning red and focusing on his notes.
What the hell.
Told you he was acting weird.
I mean, I know I’m not the prettiest girl in the world, but I’m not fucking repulsive. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with him.
Clenching my jaw, I resign myself to note-taking. I am going to make him tell me what’s wrong, the sooner the better.
Over this past month and a half, I’ve realized that Al isn’t so bad. In fact, I’m even beginning to not hate him; he’s even nicer than Rose, which is quite a feat, and he’s probably the least-violent person I’ve ever met, which is a nice change from the rest of my friends. So even though we’re not truly dating, I still want to know what’s bothering him. Maybe I can fix it! I’m really good at fixing things- I fixed Clark’s issues so she could handle dating Fred; I fixed my friendship with James, Fred, and Marshall; I fixed up Marsh and Ana; I am in the process of fixing Rose; and lastly, I fixed myself. I haven’t dreamt of Jacob since the morning I punched James.
See, I’m good at fixing things.
It’s kind of what I do.
“You can tell me what’s wrong, you know.” The muttered words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.
“What?” Al whispers, surprised.
“I know that something is wrong, Albus Severus Potter. You can tell me what it is. I can help.”
“It involves you, though,” he blurts, and his eyes go wide. I get the impression that he didn’t mean to say that.
He isn’t going to tell me that he loves me, is he? I mean, that would be great! But no. I’d win the bet! But have absolutely no idea how to react.
I don’t know how I feel about this.
“We’re talking after class,” I say definitively. I will not let myself be afraid, no matter what is coming.
“We have Transfiguration next. Tell me as we walk.”
“It’s private, though...”
Shit. He’s totally going to say that he’s in love with me.
“We’ll find a secret passageway, have some time alone.”
“Alright,” he agrees finally, biting his lip. He looks almost... sad. And a little fearful.
Is that how people look when they’re in love? I wouldn’t know, but somehow I doubt it.
What the hell is Al going to tell me?
“Look, Jack, I know you know that something has been up this past month.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed,” I say slowly.
“It’s just... I don’t think we’re working out.”
“Excuse me?” I’m stunned. Is he saying what I think he’s saying?
“I think we should, um, see other people.”
Oh god, he is. He’s breaking up with me.
Default to bitch.
“God, Al, that’s such a cliché,” I say snarkily, tossing my sandy-blonde hair over my shoulder. Inside I’m panicking.
This means I just lost the bet.
“I’m so sorry Jack, I didn’t think you were really feeling it either, we just don’t mix well. Even our friends, they don’t like each other!”
“Why should that matter!” I yell, getting angrier to cover up how confused I really feel. I’m sad- not over Albus, over losing the bet- but I’m also hurt. He’s actually breaking up with me. Acting like I’m not good enough for him.
I’m good enough for anyone.
“Look, Jack, it’s over! I’m sorry, but I know you feel it too; we’re just not meant to be!” And with that, Albus storms out of the secret passage and to the next class we share, Transfiguration. I’m stunned. I’ve never heard him raise his voice before.
I clench my teeth.
I will not cry.
I’m not even sad over the relationship ending, that’s not it at all. I just feel like James was right, what he said months ago when we first made the bet. Maybe I’m not the type of girl that guys fall in love with.
“Since when have you ever need a guy to fall in love with you, Jack?” I snarl at myself. “You don’t need a happily-ever-after fairytale ending. You have your friends, your talent, and you have you.”
The mean voice that tells me to pull it together when I’m sad is right. I don’t need any guy to love me, as long as I love me.
Well, now that I’m all fixed up, all that remains is the bet.
Shit, Clark is going to be so mad that we lost.
I’m still scowling as I walk into Transfiguration, five minutes later. I take a seat next to Rose in the back, with two empty seat on my other side.
“What, not sitting with my cousin today?” she asks innocently as she changes her quill into a goblet and back with a flick of her wand.
“He just broke up with me,” I say frostily.
“Jack, I’m so sorry!” Rose keens in a high-pitched voice, leaning in to hug me. I let her, clenching my teeth angrily.
“I can’t believe I lost the bet! I lost the war, Rose, the entire war!”
She lets go of me, an odd look on her face.
“You’re not even a bit sad over the relationship being over?”
“Um, no. Should I be?”
“Maybe he was right to end it,” she says wisely, pulling away. I gasp in astonishment, but I can’t help but smile at her honesty. I mean, she’s right. Seeing as I was faking everything, I really was the worst girlfriend ever.
“Who was right to end what?” Lars folds smoothly into the conversation as he sits next to me with his trademark flirty grin.
“Al,” I answer, nodding at the raven-haired boy at the front of the class. “Just broke up with me.”
“Good,” Lars snorts. “I was so sick of that guy.”
I look at him for a second, waiting. Then-
“Shit!” he gasps. “What are you going to do about the bet?”
“Exactly,” I nod.
“I think I can help with that,” Scorpius chimes in as he sits down next to Lars.
“What? How-” I start, but am interrupted by Thomas’s light, commanding voice.
“Quiet, class! I am passing out mice to each one of you. Your task is to turn them into beetles. You have the entire class. Begin!”
A grey mouse sails through the air and lands in front of me. It takes a flick of my wand, an ounce of concentration, and about two seconds to turn it into a fat black beetle. That done, I look back over at Scorpius, questioning.
“See,” he begins, then pauses to wave his wand lazily at the mouse. His turns into a beetle just like mine, except grey and slightly fuzzy. Scorp shrugs- close enough- and resumes our conversation.
“The original argument was over whether or not you were attractive to guys, right?”
“Over whether they would date me, really.”
“I’d date you,” Lars winks, and I groan.
“You’d have sex with me, Lars, like you’d have sex with any girl over the age of fifteen. That’s not the same as dating.”
He makes a little humph sound and tries his hand at transfiguring the mouse. There is a puff of smoke and it loses its tail, but that’s it.
“Here,” Rose sighs, switching their mice before Professor Thomas gets a chance to see.
“Thanks, Rosie,” Lars says with a charming smile. Rose, used to this by now, gives him a look and changes his mouse into a perfect beetle with a flick of her wand before gesturing for him to try his hand with hers. Lars, who has always been more interested in (and better at) Charms than Transfiguration, turns back to me and completely ignores his squeaking mouse.
“My point is,” Scorp continues, dragging his attention away from Lars and his mouse. “If you can get some other guy to fall in love with you, you could make an argument that you did fulfill the original premise of the bet, just in a different way. Say... that Albus figured it out or something. James couldn’t argue with that.”
“I don’t want to, though,” I pout. “I’m tired of faking, of pretending to be someone I’m not. It’s really quite time-consuming.”
Scorpius makes a disgusted sound in the back of his throat.
“Fine then Jack, don’t listen to me. Lose the war, and have fun dealing with Clark.”
“Clark!” I remember suddenly. “It’s okay everyone, she’ll know what to do!” Everyone I’m sitting with rolls their eyes simultaneously, and even Lars’s mouse squeaks in derision.
“What?” I snap.
“She’s gonna be so pissed,” Lars sing-songs.
“I still find it odd that you’re not at all upset over the relationship ending,” Rose mutters, disgruntled.
“You should take my advice,” Scorp grumbles.
So, none of my friends are happy.
Lars’s mouse squeaks his agreement.
We all look at Rose, who shrugs and flushes red.
“It was really annoying me,” she protests.
“Nice,” Scorpius says. One word, without inflection, vaguely sarcastic. The first thing he’s ever said to her. Rose turns bright red and looks towards the front of the classroom.
Yeah, we really have to work on the blushing.
“Jack Winters, my friend, there you are,” Grant finds me right after class and wraps his arm around me in that comfortable way he has.
“Grant! Have you seen Clark?”
“Yes, in fact, I have. She and Fred were heading into an abandoned classroom, presumably to practice spellwork. What else would they be doing in there?”
“Shit,” I mutter. I was counting on Clark to fix this. But maybe...
“Al broke up with me,” I blurt to Grant before I can stop myself.
“Shit, the bet,” he curses, not even bothering to ask ‘how I am.’ Aww, he knows me so well.
“Exactly. What do I do?”
“What can you do? Well, you could try to get Al back,” he answers his own question.
“I don’t want to, though,” I say. “I may not hate him anymore, but I certainly don’t like him.”
“Then you lose the bet, the war, and a hundred galleons,” Grant tells me with a shrug. I bite my lip. I don’t want that, as much as I don’t want to fake-date Al again.
“Maybe I could pretend that I’m still not over what James did, and argue for a forfeit of the bet because of it?”
“You could try,” Grant says doubtfully. “But somehow I don’t see James going for it. He knows you forgave him, and you two have been pretty close over the past month.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” I murmur, absentmindedly shrugging his arm off of my shoulders. I mean, what would Christina say if she were to walk up suddenly? She and Grant are ‘going steady,’ as they say, and I don’t want to cause any problems between them. I like Christina, even though we’re not really friends. She’s got her own group, and they haven’t merged with ours. I figure my group has enough members already.
“So what to do, what to do,” Grant murmurs wisely as he points me in the direction of the Slytherin common room.
“Why are we going down here?” I ask as we descend the steep stairs leading into the dungeons.
“Pete and Sun are in the common room, they might be able to help. Besides, you and I haven’t spent quality time together in much too long.”
“True.” I grin up at the guy who might as well be my brother. “I miss you.”
“And I miss you,” he says with that familiar wide smile.
“Get back together with him!” Peter says the instant I tell him what happened.
“I’m sorry, why is this so important?” Sun asks politely, accompanying this comment with a vague- but nice- smile. See, she doesn’t know about the bet.
“Never mind,” Pete assures her, kissing her on the temple. Sun grins and kisses him full on the lips, her silky black hair falling over both their faces.
“Cooties!” Grant and I yell, quite immaturely. Peter rolls his eyes and whispers something in Sun’s ear. She giggles.
“Yeah, they’re so helpful,” I whisper sarcastically in Grant’s ear.
“I agree with Pete,” he whispers back. “You should at least try to get back with him.”
“I don’t want to pretend, though,” I say sadly, leaning back on the emerald-green couch we’re sharing.
“But Jack, you know who you are, so can it really hurt to pretend, just for a few months more? The end result could very much make everything worth it.”
“Or I could have wasted months of my life to resolve a bet and a war that are both pretty much moot by now!” I throw my hands up, suddenly frustrated. None of this makes sense anymore. Life doesn’t make sense anymore. Everything was so simple before this year, and now everything I knew and felt comfortable with is going to hell in a handbasket.
“I mean, Fred and Clark are dating. Marshall is with Ana, so he doesn’t even care anymore! And James and I, we’re friends now. Actual, real friends. What’s the point, Grant, tell me! Because I just don’t get it.” And with that I slumped back into the couch, breathing deeply. Grant, Peter, and Sun are all staring at me, dumbfounded.
“Uh, Jack?” Grant asks hesitantly. “You alright there?”
“No, I’m not,” I say flatly, standing. “I think I need some air.”
“Wait up, I’ll come with you!” my best guy friends exclaims, grabbing his jacket off a nearby table. God, does he just leave it there? Messy son of a bitch (he really is a lot like me).
“Don’t bother,” I snap, even as I’m strangely aware of how illogical I’m being. “Just go find your girlfriend or something, I’m fine.”
Grant recoils as if I struck him, green eyes wide, and guilt starts to seep into my chest. I never wanted to hurt him, I just... have issues.
“Seriously Grant,” I say, more softly. “I’m fine. I just- I just need a minute.”
He nods and sits back down, folding the jacket in his lap. Then, as a last-minute peace offering, he holds it out to me.
“It’s snowing,” he says simply, and I smile. I may be going insane, the war Clark and I have been waging for almost five years may be over, and all my friends may be coupled off, but some things never change. And as I take Grant’s offering, I think- not for the first time and certainly not for the last- that I am truly lucky to have him in my life.
Grant’s jacket is more of a coat. A thick, dark brown, so-stylish-that-it-must-have-been-a-gift-from-Clark, boy-coat. And it smells like him.
More importantly, it’s warm.
Because it’s fucking freezing out here.
I wrap the coat tighter around me and bury my face in the collar, looking out over the half-frozen lake. I’m sitting right on the shore but I can still barely see it due to the torrents of snow that flurry through the air. At least no one else in the school is insane enough to be out here; I have some time alone with my thoughts.
And that’s exactly what I need.
I’m going crazy, you see.
I never planned for this. I never planned for all of my friends- or at least, the vast majority of my friends- to go and couple off, and I never expected to get dumped. Even by my fake boyfriend. And now I am alone, while everyone else has someone.
Clark has Fred.
Rose has Scorpius, and Scorpius has Rose (yes, I know they’re not together yet, but come on. It’s inevitable).
Grant has Christina, Peter has Sun, Lars has his random skanks, Ana has Marshall, even Serra and Rob, who were never really my friends, have each other.
And Clark has Fred.
Clark has Fred. That’s the worst of it all. I bend my head down and touch my forehead to my knees, grinding my teeth together.
I will not cry.
I do not cry.
I’m probably just hormonal. I’ll snap out of this soon enough, and everything will be good again. I’ll help Rose get Scorpius, I’ll help Clark sort out her inevitable relationship issues, and I’ll hang out with Grant and Christina, and do my best not to resent her. And I’ll...
Crap. There’s nothing up there about what I’ll do for me.
I guess now that I lost the bet, there’s nothing for me to really strive for anymore. School is easy, and it’s not like I even know what I want to do when I get out of here; I’m just keeping my options open. I feel so lost...
And then I guess I feel tired, because when I next open my eyes it’s dark and I am freezing and covered in about four feet of snow.
“Need some help getting dug out?” a familiar voice laughs at me.
“I got it, thanks,” I say dryly, struggling to my feet. I nearly fall flat on my face- I’ve never been the most graceful of folk- when James Potter catches me with a grin.
“Now there, I know I’m extremely attractive, but there’s no reason to fall all over me!”
“Oh hahaha,” I mutter sarcastically, yanking out of his grip and brushing snow off of Grant’s coat.
“Lars said you missed Ancient Runes, and Grant told me you’d gone outside a few hours ago,” James continues, undeterred.
“Fell asleep,” I mumble, casting a heating charm on myself and sighing in relief when it works. God, I was numb.
“Is something wrong?” he asks, going from cocky to legitimately concerned in a second flat.
“Nope!” I reply, popping the p, and then I begin to trudge my way back up to the castle.
“Really?” James doesn’t sound convinced.
“Are you sure? Because normal people don’t cut class, go running out into the snow, and fall asleep in sub-zero temperatures.”
“Not necessarily in that order,” I mutter resentfully. How dare he call me crazy.
I mean yes, I am crazy, but still.
How dare he!
“Jack.” James pulls me to a halt.
“James.” I tear my arm out of his grip. He looks at me for a second, his hazel eyes knowing. I purse my lips into a tight line, pointedly saying nothing.
“Have it your way, then,” he sighs.
“AlbusdumpedmesoIlostthebetandthewarandIhaven’ttoldClarkyetandshe’sgoingtobeso madbutIcan’teventellherbecauseshe’salwayswithFredandallofmyfriendsarecoupledoffnow andnoneofthemhavetimeformeanymoreoratleastitseemslikethatIjustdon’tknowwhattodoanymoreIfeelsolost!” I blurt, then clamp a hand over my mouth. Fuck. I never meant to say any of that stuff, much less to James.
“So I won?” is his first response, eyes popping wide in that handsome face.
“Yes, asshole, you won,” I say bitterly, stuffing my hands in the pockets of Grant’s coat and stomping away from my “friend”.
“Jack, no, I mean-”
I stop and raise an eyebrow at him.
“God, I can never say what I mean around you,” he says with a charmingly lopsided smile.
“You’re going to hell!” The words are out before I can stop them. James gives me an odd look.
“Um... alright. Look, Jack, I just meant- well, I couldn’t- I mean, I thought-”
“Spit it out.”
“What kind of goddam idiot would break up with you?”
I sigh, knowing he’s just saying that to make me feel better. It works, though... a little bit.
“Well, thanks, hun. But that doesn’t fix anything. I still lost the bet. My friends still all have boyfriends or girlfriends, and the fact remains that the only relationship I’ve ever had was fake.”
“So? I’ve never been in a relationship that lasted longer than three weeks. I get bored very easily, in case you haven’t noticed the numerous pranks. And as for all your friends coupling off... my two best friends both have serious girlfriends, or haven’t you noticed? Marshall is in love with Ana, and as you said yourself, Clark and Fred are strangely inseparable. I’m just as lost as you are.”
“And what about the bet and the war?” I ask pointedly, raising an eyebrow.
“We call it a truce,” James shrugs, taking a step closer to me. “It’s moot anyways, Clark and Fred are dating, for chrissake. The apocalypse has already come.” I can’t help but laugh at that, and James grins down at me.
It’s only then that I realize how close we’re standing. I can practically smell him, his warm, smoky-resin-y scent that reminds me of... mahogany. I swear to god, he smells like mahogany.
Is that even a thing, people smelling like wood?
I don’t know, but I like it.
Quit blabbing, brain.
Shut up, other half of brain.
You’re just freaking out because you’re within kissing distance of James Potter.
I’m not freaking out; you’re freaking out.
What am I doing?
Shit shit shit, he looks like he’s about to kiss me.
He would totally regret that.
I cannot let this ruin our friendship.
And there’s no this, anyway. He’s probably just caught up in the moment, or maybe he’s just swaying or something.
“Oh look at the time, I gotta go!” I say quickly, taking a step back and examining my nonexistent watch. “Clark and Rose will be waiting!”
And so I run off to the castle as fast as my rather-weak legs will take me, not looking back. If I had, I would have seen James Potter standing there in the snow, a confused and disappointed look on his face.
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