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Chapter 5 : 3.1: Athena
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She had always assumed – happily, too – that her complete disinterest in boys stemmed from an inherent distaste for the trivial, the romantic, and the illogical. Given the extent to which she had prided herself on that, the revelation that she was, in fact, open to the influence of the trivial, romantic and illogical was enough to prompt a full-on identity crisis. Add to that the fact that the source of that trivial, romantic and illogical influence – here she gave up and called it attraction – was another girl, was another nail in the coffin of her carefully-constructed sense of self. It was simply not a possibility she had entertained before – at least not in her conscious mind – and certainly not one often talked about in her circles. She thought about Amelia – not the attraction to her, which she would deal with later – but the way being gay had become one of her biggest identifiers, and how it seemed to be common knowledge among a number of older students. Athena didn’t think she could handle something as personal as sexual preference suddenly becoming part of the way she was known and percieved.
She was a Selwyn. A Selwyn and a Blackmore too, and the honour and reputation of those centuries-old families rested on the shoulders of her and her younger sister Artemis. They were the last of both lines, the only ones able to save the family name from obscurity and the dusty annals of history. And even the briefest...fling with Amelia would be enough to taint it if the wrong people found out – the wrong people especially being the parents of Amelia’s Slytherin classmates.
She didn’t know what had possessed her to jeopardise that – too much vulnerability, too much impulsiveness, too much passion, too much. By the time she landed to shower and have breakfast before her first class, she had decided to end things with Amelia before they began. The logical part of her mind was congratulating her – logic always won over emotion, as it always should – when she ran into the girl in question coming down from the Ravenclaw seventh-year boys’ dorm.
“Hi,” she said, startled.
“Morning,” Amelia returned. Her normally sleek, straight hair was slightly frizzy and she was still arranging her tie as she climbed down the stairs. “Listen, some shit went down last night – nobody knows, don’t worry – but if you hear things…it’s probably bullshit.”
“What kind of things?” she asked, but Amelia had already vanished round another turn of the spiral staircase.
That brief encounter had thrown her plans into turmoil. She couldn’t think why – it wasn’t like there was anything irresistibly alluring about dishevelled, slightly panicky Amelia, or appealing about what she had said – but it was just Amelia herself who made Athena incapable of thinking straight (she had to smile at the double entendre) and she spent her shower worrying about what Amelia had meant – what shit went down? Did she spend the night in the boys’ dorm (the obvious answer was a resounding yes, confirmed by the murmurs she heard in the hallway later) and what was she doing? Did something happen between her and Oliver? – no, she was gay, there was no ambiguity there – unless that was what she was referring to as shit – now Athena was being stupid, and paranoid to boot, but she resigned herself to that stupidity and paranoia until she could find out from Amelia herself.
Which meant, for the time being, that she wasn’t going anywhere.
It was Lisa who filled Athena in on what had happened the previous night.
“Thank fucking God,” Lisa burst out when Athena came back to the dorm after her shower, grabbing her by the shoulders and sitting her firmly on her bed. Lisa didn’t make a habit of profanity – or of shoulder-grabbing – so Athena was all ears.
“What’s going on?”
“I have to tell you oh my God, Isla’s gay – or a little bit gay – or something, because she’s had a thing with Amelia – you know Amelia Greenslade, that’s right, you’ve been hanging out with her a bit – and nobody knew about it ‘coz Isla didn’t want anyone to know, but they had some kind of fight last night and Amelia ended up telling everyone - ”
“They weren’t together. They haven’t been for a while.”
“She told you?” Lisa asked incredulously. “She’s been spreading my sister’s secrets around the whole damn school – and they were, up till last night, Isla doesn’t lie about that sort of thing.”
“She must do, because she’s been going out with Terence Higgs for six months. She must have at least lied to him.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“Since when am I picking a side?”
“You are. Why are you sticking up for her anyway? That was a really bitchy thing to do, telling everybody.”
“Maybe, but so is keeping it a secret in the first place because you’re ashamed of dating someone.”
“It was secret. They were dating in secret, that was the whole deal.”
“Aren’t you a little upset that she didn’t tell you?”
Lisa fell silent, and Athena could tell she’d hit a nerve. She tried, clumsily, to soothe it.
“I’m just saying. Keeping things like that secret hurts people. Different circumstances I know, but maybe you can understand where Amelia was coming from.”
“We’re meant to be really close.”
Lisa evidently didn’t give a damn about Amelia anymore, an
d Athena felt strangely relieved. Her work here seemed to be done – though she wasn’t sure when defending Amelia’s name had become her job – and she headed out to the Great Hall for a long overdue breakfast.
Rumours were still flying amongst the handful of Slytherins and Ravenclaws who knew Amelia enough to be scandalised by her, and Athena began to see the ‘bullshit’ she had referred to earlier – the apparent fact that Amelia and Isla had ended their secret relationship last night was circulating almost as well as the rumour that she had slept with Oliver Hobbs, and she looked absolutely frazzled when she eventually pulled Athena aside in the quadrangle during lunch.
“I assume you’ve heard the bullshit,” she said without preamble.
“You told your dormmates you were dating Isla?”
“Dated. Had dated. Pluperfect tense, not imperfect, certainly not present. Appreciate the difference, Hellenist.”
“No, I know. I appreciate the difference. Why?”
“Why did I tell them? Full disclosure, she kissed me – was I looking particularly good last night or something? – but I didn’t kiss back. I pushed her away, got angry, woke everyone else, and they kind of just put two and two together while I was shouting at her.”
“So you didn’t actually tell them anything?”
“I may have made things abundantly clear as I left. It wasn’t my finest moment, I know.”
“And it’s just kind of…blown up?”
“Honestly, most people don’t give a shit about that when it comes to me. They’ve known I’m a lesbian for the past year, there’s nothing shocking about it. But no – it’s the other rumour which is causing the most problems.”
“The one about you and Oliver?”
“Yeah. And of course, everyone who knows me knows exactly why that’s not a thing, but the Hogwarts grapevine climbs pretty high and I can’t deny that I spent last night in Ravenclaw Tower – there are five seventh-year boys who can attest to that – but because Oliver and I are the Head Prefects, we have to have a meeting with Dumbledore and our Heads of House to “address the rumours.” She grimaced. “I invite you to imagine how uncomfortable that little talk is going to be with Professor Snape.”
“Snape?” Athena repeated, confused. “Oh, right. I forget you’re a Slytherin.”
“So do I, most of the time.”
“Why did you sleep in Oliver’s dorm though? Why not our common room?”
“Well, you were in there. Alone. I figured it would be easier to dispel false rumours than true ones.”
“I can see that. When’s your meeting?”
Amelia glanced at her watch. “Ten minutes. The main reason I came to find you, though – you’ve seen the kind of shitstorm that can come up overnight about this sort of thing, and I thought…well, that I’d offer you an escape route. If you want it. I know you’re a private sort and literally the last person on earth who would want their personal life all over Hogwarts – so. If you want to back out, I understand.”
It was exactly what Athena had decided earlier, and she had an I’m really sorry ready on her lips before her impulsiveness reared its ugly head again. “I’m in if you’re in.”
“Really?” A smile spread across Amelia’s face, lighting her up and making her more beautiful than anyone Athena had ever seen, and she wanted to kiss her again, right there in the courtyard, in the bright daylight, with everyone watching –
“Yes,” she said instead. “But I’d like to keep it – quiet – if that’s okay. Not secret,” she added hurriedly. “I’m not going to – I’m not ashamed of you, and I’m going to tell the people in my life who should know – but you’re Head Girl and I’m a Prefect, and you don’t need another scandal.”
“You don’t need to defend my reputation all the time, γλαυκῶπις. It’s a neverending job. But if you want, we’ll keep this quiet.”
“I’ll see you after class, in the common room?” Amelia was already walking away, a slight jog appearing in her step after she checked the time again.
“Mine or yours?”
“Yours. For future reference, I always mean Ravenclaw unless explicitly stated otherwise.”
“Why are you in Slytherin?”
“Gloria aeterna,” Amelia called over her shoulder, and was gone.
“So,” Michael prompted the moment they had escaped the crowds spilling out of last period Charms. “Are you going to tell me what last night was about?”
“What do you mean?”
He gave her a frustrated look. “You didn’t even sleep last night, Lisa told me. And you were up at the crack of dawn flying, so I know something’s up. You can withhold as much information as you want, but you can’t lie to me and you know it.”
“Technically, lying by omission is still lying. So I can lie to you.”
“Are you going to?”
“I’m dating Amelia Greenslade.”
Michael was silent for a long time, nodding slowly. “Right. That’s ah – that’s a bombshell. Didn’t see that coming.”
“Neither did I.”
“I’m going to go ahead and assume that she hasn’t, in fact, just broken up with Isla Turpin.”
“That happened last year.”
“And nor did she sleep with Oliver Hobbs last night.”
“She slept on the floor of his dorm, but I don’t think that’s what you were getting at.”
“So when did this happen? You and her.”
“I kissed her last night.”
“You kissed her?”
“You made the first move?”
“She did reciprocate. Just so we’re clear.”
“That’s not the part I was confused about.”
“She was hardly going to make a move, was she? She thought I was straight.”
“We all thought – ” Michael cut himself off. “Actually, no. You’ve always been a bit asexual in my eyes.”
“I don’t blame you. But apparently not.”
“Apparently not,” Michael echoed. “Are you going to tell the others?”
“Eventually. I’m not sure how well Lisa would take that news right now – then again, she also doesn’t need everyone she’s close to keeping her in the dark about their secret lesbian affairs with Amelia.”
“When you put it that way…”
“I’ll tell the others after the Hogsmeade weekend. We haven’t even been on a date yet…”
“I know that feeling.”
“I’m probably taking her to Madame Puddifoot’s.” Michael sighed. “I mean, I know that’s the place to go on dates, but have you ever been in there? Doilies. D’you think she’d mind much if we just went to the Three Broomsticks?”
“She’s not much of a Puddifoot’s girl. But if you go to the Broomsticks you’ll have to deal with half the school sitting in on your date. Including all our lovely friends, and probably her brother.”
Michael wrinkled his nose. “Ron’s been weird around me lately.”
“You’re dating his sister.”
“We haven’t been – ”
“You sort of have a thing with his sister.”
“He keeps glaring at me in History of Magic.”
“If you were dating my sister I’d be glaring at you too.”
“Your sister’s twelve.”
“The concept’s the same.”
Michael grunted. “Do you want to go flying? It’s Friday, and if I don’t get out of the castle and on a broomstick I’m going to self-destruct.”
“I’m meeting Amelia, sorry.”
“Oh.” Michael looked momentarily disappointed, then brightened. “There’s an idea, I’ll ask Ginny.”
“That was the most uncomfortable conversation I’ve ever had in my life,” Amelia declared without looking up as Athena joined her on the couch in the reading nook of the common room. “And I’ve had many an uncomfortable conversation over the years.”
“How did it go? Other than the discomfort, I mean.”
Amelia tapped the Head Girl badge on her robes. “Still got this. Oliver still has his. Though we were both given a very stern warning about demonstrating appropriate behaviour.”
“What did you tell them?”
She shrugged. “The truth. I had to, to keep the badge. Have you ever tried coming out to your Headmaster, your Head of House and your Charms teacher of six years? ‘No, Professors, I wasn’t doing inappropriate things with Oliver because I’m only into the ladies.’”
“Please tell me that’s what you said.”
“More or less. Did you know Dumbledore’s gay? He pulled me aside on the way out, told me that although Hogwarts is – what was it exactly – lacking in support for homosexual students, I’m always welcome in his office if I need an understanding ear. Then he gave me that enigmatic Dumbledore smile, nodded and sent me on my way. It’s been quite the afternoon.”
“I told Michael about us,” Athena blurted.
“You did?” Amelia glanced around them quickly – the reading nook was deserted, the rest of the common room mostly empty – and kissed her.
Amelia had a remarkable ability to make Athena’s brain shut down until the only thought running through it was kiss her, hold her, don’t let her go. She was at an awkward angle and there was the ever-present risk of someone finding them, but all that mattered was Amelia, the soft warmth of her lips and the way her hands cupped Athena’s face and held her, the smile that broke across her face when they finally pulled apart.
“Thank you,” she murmured. “It doesn’t seem like much – but it is.”
“C’mere.” Amelia pulled her close and kissed her again. “I should get going, Oliver and I have a meeting with Umbridge about her role as High Inquisitor and what it means for the school yada yada – ”
“Nothing good, I bet.”
“Probably not, but what can she do in a year anyway? We both know she won’t last any longer.” Amelia stood, pulling Athena up with her. “I didn’t think this through. If I kiss you again, I’m not going to leave.”
“That’s a power I’m perfectly okay with abusing.” Athena reached up and kissed her one last time, long and lingering but somehow still too short, before stepping away. “Go. Umbridge awaits.”
Amelia rolled her eyes. “I’ll see you…sometime. Don’t make Hogsmeade plans without me, by the way.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
After she had gone, Athena peered out the window at the Quidditch pitch. Michael was flying alone, so she grabbed her broomstick and joined him.
“No Ginny?” she asked, bobbing alongside him.
He shook his head. “I went to the Gryffindor common room to ask her, but it was Ron who let me in and he was glaring at me the whole time so I couldn’t leave with her and – ”
“I know, I know. But I asked her to Hogsmeade.”
“Did she say yes?”
“She did. As long as I don’t take her to Puddifoot’s. Hey, has Roger called trials yet?”
“I haven’t heard anything, but I think he’s been pretty distracted by NEWTs. They really should appoint sixth-years as captains.”
“The only sixth-years on the team are Cho and Jason, and neither of them are captain material.”
“I was more thinking in general terms.”
“You want the badge next year.”
“In no way should this be news to you.”
“I’ll fight you for it,” he threatens.
“You can try, but I’ve been on the team longer.”
“By a year.”
“Still counts.” In an effort to prove her point, she swooped down towards the ground and pulled back up at the last second, flying a couple of loops around him and grinning.
“You’ve known that for years.”
As the first Hogsmeade weekend of the year approached, Athena’s happiness threw Michael’s misery into sharp relief.
“She’s cancelled the date,” Michael told her miserably, scuffing his shoes on the common room carpet.
“She’s got a thing on.” He took a seat at the table and helped himself to the Butterbeer sitting beside her. “Apparently the Gryffindors are starting up a Defence Against the Dark Arts study group, you know, to actually use spells before we’re thrown into the deep end for OWLs, and the first meeting’s in Hogsmeade this weekend.”
“So go with her.”
“I was planning on it. But it’s not exactly romantic, is it?”
“Nothing at Hogwarts is romantic. Do you know what Amelia and I are doing? We’re getting Butterbeers at the Three Broomsticks and wandering around the village. How romantic do you think you can be with most of Hogwarts hanging around?”
“I know,” Michael said grumpily. “But at least you’ve got one-on-one time with your girlfriend.”
“Oh, Ginny’s your girlfriend now?”
“Take her flying on Sunday.”
He looked thoughtful. “You know, she did suggest doing something on Sunday…that’s a brilliant idea.”
“I’m full of them. What’s the deal with this study group anyway?”
Michael shrugged. “Harry’s leading it.”
“But he’s – ” Athena hesitated. “Second best.”
“Not according to Hermione.”
“What does Hermione know? Don’t answer that,” she added when Michael opened his mouth. “I’m practically halfway to becoming an Auror already, and I have all the OWL and NEWT defensive spells down – whatever. They can have their group.”
“You just wanted them to ask you so you could turn them down. First right of refusal.”
“I’m glad you know me.”
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