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Chapter 25 : Valentine's Day
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For everyone. I'm feeling mushy about you guys since I just finished FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell and I just have a lot of feels. Love you all. Hope you like this chapter. It's one of my FAVORITES.
It was the week leading up to Valentine’s Day and the castle was buzzing. All the inconsiderate jerks who had the audacity to have dates were talking about what they were going to do and how romantic they were and what they were going to wear. Valentines was on a Saturday this year, making it the perfect Hogsmeade Weekend for the students to stay out of the professors’ hair.
“Proposing to Ollie this weekend?” I asked. James and I were stuffed up in the dormitory ‘finishing our Charms essays.’ I had the pregnancy book propped inside of my Charms book in case one of the boys walked in.
“I’d rather not,” James replied. He was making scribble circles on a sheet of parchment. “Something’s weird about her lately. You think she thinks I’m going to propose?”
“Have you been ring shopping together?”
“No. Of course not.”
“Then I can’t see how she thinks that.” I shrugged. “I don’t know much about women, though.”
“You get them to talk to you. You must know something. Why do you think she’s being weird?”
“I really don’t know, mate. Weird how?” I placed my finger in the book and looked up. This was clearly bugging him.
“Weird like we’re not snogging as much as usual.”
“Is the three-year honeymoon phase finally over?”
“She’s not telling me things like she used to.”
“What kind of things?” I said. “If it’s boring, you should count yourself lucky.”
“I think she’s telling them to Andrew Parise…”
I groaned. “Do you actually think that or do you want an excuse to blame him? Either way I’m fine with it, I’d just like to know where we are with the decision.”
“Both,” James said firmly. “We should put on fake mustaches and find out what they’re talking about.”
I paused, finally realizing he was serious. “Or you could just ask her if there’s something between her and Parise. Then you can go about planning your romantic weekend with roses.”
“What’ll you get up to on Saturday? No chance of you and Annie patching things up?”
“You’re as bloody bad as your girlfriend.” I shook my head. “Not a chance. Just wasn’t right. I’ll probably do some homework. I told Rune I’d cover for him for a couple of hours in the castle so I’ll get some reading done or try and see if Chopper knows any complete languages.”
“Sounds … thrilling.” He made a face. A pity face. “Sure you don’t want me to have a talk with some pretty Hufflepuffs or something?”
“I’ll be fine. Really.”
James watched me for a while, even after I’d gone back to reading the pregnancy book and finding out about water retention. More information I did not want, but was now gathering.
“I don’t think you’ll be fine, mate.”
I threw a pillow at him, distracting him into having a pillow-sword-fight with himself in the mirror.
At least I had Quidditch to distract me, as long as I didn’t spend much time with my team. As it were, they loved rumors and with nothing overshadowing the Ryan debacle, that was still fresh in everyone’s minds. Tuesday’s subject was her new maternity dress, which actually looked quite good according to Ollie.
When I walked into the room, though, there was a hush.
Firstly, I did not like hushes. They made me nervous and awkward and my palms went sweaty.
Secondly, hushes made me paranoid.
Rightfully so, it turned out.
Everyone turned toward me as the door shut. Ollie looked nervous. Gee busied herself straightening wrinkles out of her uniform. James was peeking out from behind his locker.
Rose cleared her throat. “Sit down, Fred.”
“Fuck, did Parise land my spot on the team because my turns aren’t that good?” I blurted.
She paused. “What? No, don’t be stupid. He’s a twat.”
I sat, leaning against the lockers. Then that was too casual and I was too nervous, so I leaned forward with my elbows pressed to my knees. “Would someone like to tell me what’s going on?”
Rose placed both hands (awkwardly) on my shoulders. “Your sister is dating Scorpius Malfoy.”
“Rose why would you just blurt it out you have NO TACT.” James threw a piece of chalk at her.
My eyes were the size of tea saucers and I looked from each teammate to the next – even Teo, who knew nothing about what was happening other than it being a disaster. “Are you serious? Is this real?”
I went through several stages of rage all at once – denial, anger, livid anger, murderous rage, sadness, nostalgia, and remembering I had a shovel under my bed upstairs for such emergencies.
“It’s real,” Ollie piped up. “I’m really sorry, Freddie. I guess that Hufflepuff Prefect asked Malfoy out and then it made him realize he actually fancied Rox, but since she was his mate he hadn’t wanted to confess it… then he did and they started snogging in the middle of the Great Hall.”
Great. Not only did I cause it, I also had a colorful picture of my baby sister snogging her brother-figure where I ate.
Now all I needed was to be outed as the father of Ryan’s baby and this day would be fantastic.
James slid onto the bench beside me. “Want to go for a walk?”
“What? We have practice,” hissed Rose.
“Sod off. We had practice until you bloody ruined it.” James nudged me a bit. “Want to talk about it?”
I didn’t know what question to answer. It was Roxanne’s life. She could date the people she wanted to date – not that she was really old enough to start dating – and considering she didn’t ask my advice for classes or clothes or toothpaste, I really had no say.
This was how I found out. Being sat down in the Gryffindor locker room, blurted at by my Captain. And cousin, who knew the relationship I had with Rox. The entire school knew the relationship.
“I’m fine,” I insisted. “Let’s just get in the air because if I’m late to walks again Molly is going to suspend me again.”
I silently dared someone to make a comment about me beating the shit out of Zonko, but no one did.
The shovel stayed where it was. For now.
I tried just not looking when Scorpius and Roxanne passed in the halls, hand-in-hand. Neither looked at me, but both knew I was there. I kept thinking about that conversation Ryan had with Rox over the holiday and how it had done no good. I really thought it would, but it turned out a lot of things changed when we were back in the castle walls.
Including Rox having a Valentine. I, yet again, did not.
Your mum is still knitting everything. Did you know she’s knitting a burp cloth? DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT I’M PICTURING? Flashbacks, that’s what. Of you vomiting all over the sodding carpet. Projectile. It was just wrong.
I’ve got another hearing in the morning, but it’ll be short and it’s just comparing books to make sure they’re accurate since Zonkos accused us of forging books. They may not be impressive, but they’re correct. That’s for damn sure. I’ve taken six accounting classes and hired two people to look at them just to make sure. They take me for a fool.
Before you ask, yes I’ve heard about your sister. Apparently she wrote your mum about it. I’m sure you’ve heard / seen / gagged about it already. Not that he’s a bad bloke, but it’s just weird. I’m boycotting if you’d like to join. But Rox thinks I’m horribly uncool so I don’t think she’ll mind. It’s not like I wear mom jeans.
Have any fun adventures for Valentine’s Day? A night in with the Ravenclaw, perhaps? Are you two getting along for longer than five minutes yet?
As it turned out, my evening wasn’t going to be as alone and boring as I thought.
On Thursday, James came back from the library in stunned silence. I was there, along with Mox and Chopper, but Andrew was missing. As per usual (and thankfully).
James’ mouth was lopsided and there was a deep red mark across his cheek. His fingers lingered on the door before pushing it closed behind him with his foot.
“What happened?” I said, getting to my feet and walking toward him. I did a circle and stared at the mark on his face. As the mark settled, the shape became obvious.
“Ollie,” he sputtered. “Ollie hit me in the face.”
“I see that.” I wrinkled my nose, grabbing for a cloth on top of my trunk. It took a moment, but I froze it and pressed it to his face. He winced. “What happened…before that?”
“I went ahead and asked her if anything was happening between her and Parise because she was acting weird again… I mean, he went to the Caribbean and broke up with Annie when he realized it wasn’t getting to you … so I thought maybe he was trying for my spot on the team instead.” James held the cloth to his face and his eyes were starting to go glassy. “Which is absurd considering I’m a much better player than you.”
“Then what happened?” I said softly. Mox was looking anywhere but at the pair of us and Chopper hadn’t even acknowledged James walked in the door. He was trying to staple his fingers together.
“She asked me how I could dare accuse her of cheating, which I told her I wasn’t doing … I was just asking about Parise … then she said I was a twat for thinking he would ever try and steal Quidditch spots … then I told her he actually admitted to that, so that was a fact … then she told me I was a jealous fool.” He rubbed his face again. “I told her I wasn’t jealous because he was a complete tool. Then she hit me and …” James stopped then and his eyes moved to mine.
He didn’t want to say it in front of Mox and Chopper.
“James,” I said, frowning. “It’ll be okay, mate.”
“She ended it,” he whispered, voice breaking. “Ollie said it’s done and she walked away. She didn’t even look sad.”
To preserve his dignity, I steered James to his bed and closed the hangings. I was quick to put a silencing charm on the fabric and sat inside, at the end by where his legs curled up against him. He started crying into the pillow, the cloth still pressed against his face.
I hated those situations. Everything in society told you to tell the person that it would be fine. Everything would be okay. But I didn’t know everything would be okay for James. Ollie hit him and broke up with him in defense of Andrew Parise. She broke up with James, who she’d been attached at the hip with since fourth year. Over Andrew bloody Parise.
I had no idea if it would be all right, so I didn’t lie.
Instead, I reached out of the hangings and grabbed the baby book. I got back into the bed so we were laying next to each other, both our heads on the pillow, and I started reading out loud about the craziest shit that can go wrong from a pregnancy and the funny terms and the weird things happening to Ryan. His hiccups stopped after a while and then there was only the occasional sniffle. He liked the parts where the baby was the size of fruit.
We read long past when Andrew Parise finally entered the room and retreated to his own four-poster. Mox blew out his candle and who knew what the hell Chopper was up to.
“I hope she’s not going to date him,” James whispered sometime after midnight.
“It’s her loss, mate,” I said because that I did know for sure. “One step forward, okay?”
“But I had reservations for Saturday.”
“What were you going to do, if you don’t mind me asking?”
James shrugged. “Nothing important. Casual. Just a hike up past Hogsmeade and a romantic picnic in the hills and then I was going to get her this diamond bracelet I bought her and we were going to have ice cream with extra sprinkles at her favorite place in the village and then I was going to throw eggs at Zonkos and I had these reservations for a private violin concert on the grounds and then we were going to snog for a while.” He whined.
It broke my heart a bit. The guy really loved her. I wouldn’t have thought of half of that for a Valentines date. Then again, mine consisted of Prefect duty and the possibility of stealing food from the kitchens.
“We can always draft up some new shop ideas,” I offered.
“Yeah,” James said sadly. “I’ll find something to do.”
He fell asleep a few minutes later, snoring into his pillow. I tucked him in and crossed the rug onto my own bed.
So far between Andrew Parise and Gregory Zonko a lot of things had been pushed out of balance at this school. I was starting to hit my limit.
Hell, the only reason Parise wasn’t dead was because Ollie had pulled the plug on James. He was still in shock.
I wasn’t in shock and I never wanted to see James Potter like that again.
It happened at breakfast, as I thought it would. It was a cheap prank, and yet so satisfying.
I was eating and thoroughly ignoring Scorpius and Rox two tables over. Instead, James and I were deep in conversation about the shop and not about real things happening in our lives. We ignored that.
“Would you look at THIS.” Parise stood up and was waving around parchment. “Ms. Rose Weasley, would you do the honors?” He quite literally shoved the paper into Rose’s face.
She scrambled, eventually getting ahold of it. Most of the center section of the table was staring now. Ollie was a few seats down with Annie, both staring at the paper.
“Dear Mr. Parise … We would like to request your presence the afternoon of February 13 at a private tryout for the Chudley Canons. We have been scouting your…”
Parise ripped the parchment back and had that smarmy, disgusting grin about him. “PRIVATE try-out. Do you hear that, Quidditch scum? They’ve been scouting and they want ME to have a private tryout and I’m not even on the team. What does that say about your TEAM, Weasley?”
No one moved. I assumed they couldn’t. I was trying not to laugh, but I had a convincing poker face.
“You have got to be shitting me,” James mumbled.
“No worries,” I whispered.
“He’s even better than me at Quidditch.”
“No worries,” I repeated, firmer, and caught his eye.
He stared. “You didn’t.”
I smirked. “No idea what you’re talking about.” I went back to my toast and listened to Parise go on and on about how no one gave him a proper look because someone (Rose) was playing favorites to her relatives who weren’t even that good and couldn’t properly keep a girlfriend.
James twitched, but I grabbed him.
“Remember what’s in his hand,” I whispered. He settled back into his chair.
“Congratulations, Andrew,” Rose said in a dignified way. “I am looking forward to the results of your tryout as a reserve for Gryffindor on a professional Quidditch team like the Canons.” Her tone was dry. So, so dry.
“They’re in a re-building year,” Parise said dismissively.
“Since my folks were at Hogwarts,” James muttered.
“Better go get my gear together.”
“Unused gear,” Rose said.
“CANONS GEAR,” Parise shouted stubbornly, marching from the Great Hall.
“What an idiot,” Rose said.
“Don’t say that,” said Ollie and James twitched again.
“Fuck off, Ollie,” Rose snapped. “You’re replaceable.”
The rest of the afternoon went quick, mostly because I was finishing up essays and checking on James to make sure he hadn’t reached the “anger” point yet. He was still in sobbing mode under his covers. They had owled to confirm the violin reservation time.
I checked the library around five, but Ryan wasn’t working. The batty librarian asked me what I was looking for and then yelled at me for being a nuisance. I was standing in the doorway.
By dinner, the school was buzzing about Parise’s tryout with the Canons and how wild was that since he wasn’t even on the team. He must have been so outrageously talented. I fueled the fire telling people I’d seen him eat it a few times on a broom, so he must have been hiding his talent from spying eyes so we didn’t learn of his secrets.
This cheered James for a while, especially when we got to the Gryffindor table and Parise was already at the end, eating alone.
Lucky for us, it was Annie who walked in the door next.
“How did your tryout go?” she asked excitedly, but her eyes were giving her away. To me, anyway.
He looked up suspiciously. Then, having decided Annie would probably not pull something like that, he shook his head. “It went well, actually. I’ll hear back in a few days.”
I tried not to snort when I laughed.
I secretly enjoyed watching Andrew Parise feel publicly humiliated without anyone even knowing he was being humiliated. His own form of personal torture, knowing he was a complete tool about how he treated Rose this morning and also knowing he had no shot of getting a private try-out request from the Canons, re-building year or not.
It may not have been as extreme as girlfriend-stealing or threats in pubs, but it made me feel much better when James tried not to laugh into his potatoes.
Then it was Valentine’s Day and everything was cheerful and pink and people had lipstick smeared all over their faces. I got out of bed as late as possible because I had no desire to watch people feed each other eggs. James told me there was heart-shaped toast. He ripped it in half and threw it back on the table before stomping out.
As he heard from Gee, Ollie was planning to venture to Hogsmeade with Annie on a single girl’s night out.
“Better than adventuring with Parise, but all the same … I had plans,” James grumbled before crawling back under the covers.
“Why don’t you have a butterbeer with Gee? She said she doesn’t have plans.”
“Gee’s one of the blokes.”
“No shit,” I said. “It’s not like you want to snog her. You need to get out of that bed so the House Elves can actually change the sheets.”
“Sheets are fine. They’re worn in. They’re familiar.”
“If you tell me they smell like Ollie I will give you a matching red mark on your other cheek.”
James mumbled into his pillow and flipped me off.
“Go hang out with Gee. All her mates have boyfriends,” I said.
“No, you,” whined James.
“I’m covering for Rune while he’s off courting Molly.”
“Fine,” he mumbled. “I hate you and everything you stand for.”
“Yes, yes,” I said, shaking my head. I placed clothes on the bed for him and helped him comb back his hair so he didn’t look (as) homeless. “Just don’t drink, okay?”
“I’m a great drunk,” James countered.
“But you’re also an emotional drunk and I don’t think Gee deserves that.”
“Point.” He shrugged. “Owl if you catch Rune feeling up Molly because you have that shovel under your bed.”
I saluted him. “Will do. Go have fun.”
“You going to go out and find a snog tonight?” Mox asked, who was still under his covers. “I’ll let you borrow Gemma if you want.”
“Shovel, Mox. I am in possession of a shovel.”
“Point,” he whispered and rolled over.
Thankfully, I only caught four couples having nearly-naked snogs in the corridors as I walked them with China. And even better, none of them involved my sister.
“Why do you always get stuck with holidays?” said China.
“Does this count as a holiday?” I wrinkled my nose. “Just an excuse to prove your love to someone. Do you need a day?”
“Be careful who you say that around,” she teased. “Most of the Gryffindor boys might think you belong in my house.”
“I’m probably just bitter about not having a Valentine,” I said, shrugging as we made our way back into the Prefect office. It was late by then and the corridors only lit by torches and the occasional wand.
“Don’t understand why you don’t,” China said, grabbing the stack of paperwork so we could deduct some points from the snoggers. “You could probably have almost any girl.”
“That is a blatant lie,” I said.
“I’m serious! You’re nice and you’re not a jerk and you have a nice smile.”
“Are those the qualifications for a girlfriend?” I asked, rolling my eyes. “I don’t need a girlfriend right now anyway. I have plenty on my plate.”
“Right. I’m sorry. The shop and all that.”
“All that, yes,” I said. I scribbled comments on the parchment and had her sign under my name. “Have a good Valentine’s Day, China.”
“You too.” She frowned.
I should have stayed and apologized for being so cold, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Pfft. I could have any girl? That was easy coming from the other side of things. Not for me. Not after Alessandra. And Annie. Not after all this nonsense with Ryan.
The last thing I needed right now was to drag another girl into my web of chaos. I had too much to deal with, including planting Canons-related merchandise around the dormitory so Parise could be reminded of his jerkery. I wondered what he was up to on Valentine’s Day now that his plan to woo Ollie seemed to be falling through.
I also hoped James wouldn’t put on a fake mustache and convince Gee to follow Ollie and Annie around all night. Gee would go for it, which worried me.
I hadn’t had time in class to ask Gemma what she was doing for Valentine’s Day, so I assumed smoking and pranking First Years was high on her list. Then again, Mox wasn’t in the dormitory when I returned so I wasn’t one to judge.
I fell into bed and grabbed my Charms homework. The essay was due on Monday and I hadn’t so much as considered starting it. Every time I considered considering it, the pregnancy book appeared in my hands and I was reading about labor and breathing techniques. I still hadn’t brought up the baby shower to Ryan, but I hadn’t seen her much in the better part of two weeks, so there was no time. She had tactfully vanished outside of class and I couldn’t very well inquire about a shower theme in the middle of a lesson.
At least I had the dormitory to myself. I snuggled into the pillows, Charms book open on my lap. Okay. I could do this. All I had to do was read a chapter and write a blissfully boring essay on it and turn it in. I’d have to make my letters a little bigger because this chapter was boring as shit.
My eyelids were drooping.
I could just close them for a minute. Just rest them so they had the energy to stay open during the rest of the chapter.
Like five minutes.
So five sounded more like ten anyway, which was a great, even number.
I was jerked awake forty-five minutes later by a giant bird shrieking outside my window. It was clawing at the glass. I nearly fell off the side of the bed and both knees hit the bedpost as I tried to race for the latch.
The bird was a large snowy owl and it straight threw the piece of parchment at my face, scratching my nose before it took off out the window again.
“What the real hell,” I whispered, untying the scroll. I scanned it, blinking the sleep from my eyes so I could read it properly. Twice. “You have got to be kidding.”
I ran for my shoes, putting them on so fast I missed the proper feet, and grabbed my cloak.
It took me a good half hour to get out of the castle and run the path from the grounds into Hogsmeade. I tried not to look at all the couples getting frisky in the bushes under the cover of darkness and one guy appeared to be proposing to a tree just as I entered the village. I didn’t stop to ask questions or consider sanity levels.
The pubs looked crowded and the restaurants were so full the lines stretched into the snow. Even Honeydukes was open late to accommodate the needed chocolate supply.
I ran past all of them, thankful for those extra laps Rose gave me for being cheeky.
I didn’t stop until I was at the end of the cobbled street, close to where James and Ollie would have veered off the road to head up into the wooded hills. To my right was the Hogsmeade police station. I’d been there one time before, in fifth year, to claim James after he got drunk and punched four trees, accusing them of looking at Ollie. They said he was a danger to himself. I found him in the cell telling the guy next to him about the time he defeated Voldemort, but had a scar.
This time I was out of breath when I got in. One guy was sitting behind a desk with his feet on it. “You get the owl?”
I wanted to tell him that no, I guessed that I should be here at exactly this moment and that I should have went into Divination. Instead, I nodded, catching my breath.
“This way then,” he said. He grabbed a ring of keys and pushed through a door in the back of the room. There was a thin hallway with the same cells I’d seen when I was fifteen. “Did some real damage, you know. It got nasty before someone broke it up.”
“What happened?” I breathed, following him swiftly. My stomach was in knots.
“Ask her yourself,” he said, shrugging as we turned the corner.
I almost didn’t want to ask her myself.
Ryan Davies was in cell three. She was sitting on the floor, leaning against the bench in the back. She looked like a nightmare – blood scabbed over her face, arm in a makeshift sling, cuts all over her body. Her maternity pants were sliced open at the knees. She was only wearing one shoe.
I shoved past the officer and rushed into the cell, falling to my knees in front of her. “Ryan? Holy shit, what happened to you?” I cupped her face in my hand, bringing her tired eyes to mine.
“Some bitch opened her mouth,” was all she said.
I couldn’t help it. I kissed her even though her lips tasted like blood. “Come on. Let’s get you out of here.”
“Don’t tell anyone I called you,” she mumbled as I helped her up, easy and slow because she was limping and whimpering a little. “It’s just you are already keeping enough secrets, so here’s another.”
“Full of secrets,” I said with a small smile. I held her against my body as I shoved too many coins at the officer for her bail. I didn’t care how much it cost. I cared that she wasn’t in St. Mungos … or worse.
The night air was back to being bitter now that I wasn’t running in it. There was no way to get Ryan back to the castle in her condition, least of all without getting noticed. I snuck her around the backs of the crowded buildings and up a staircase she pointed to. It was the back way into the inn.
We snuck into the last room and locked the door. I placed her delicately on the bed and lit some candles. Then I made sure the curtains were drawn.
That was when I could fully realize the damage that was done to her. “Ryan,” I said softly, sitting at the edge of the bed.
“You should see the other bitch,” she muttered, closing her eyes.
My heart was still beating wildly as I assessed the damage. Cuts and bruises and blood everywhere. For a while my eyes took in everything, but eventually I went to the tiny kitchenette on the other side of the room and soaked a few rags in cool water. I washed the dried blood off of her skin and used what little training I’d picked up to heal the minor cuts on her face and arms.
“Why’d you beat up another person?” I whispered, brushing the cloth over her arms. “It’s not worth it, you know.”
“That’s what you think. It was completely worth it.” She cleared her throat because her voice was hoarse.
“Do you really want to be the pregnant girl that beats people up?”
“Do I want to be the pregnant girl that lets people say shit unchecked?”
“You’re so tough,” I said sarcastically and lifted her arm to finish off the dried blood and another cut. There was clearly a shattered bottle involved. “What did she say then?”
“Told me I was fat and a slut,” Ryan said indifferently. Little goose pimples popped up on her forearms. “If I’m going to be called fat and a slut, I’m going to be gorging waffles and having a hell of a lot more sex than I do. Hint: Not doing either. That being said, I’d like some waffles.”
I paused, fingers around her slender wrist. “She said that?”
“Why do you think I threw a bottle at her head?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. None of this surprised me, as scary as it was.
I leaned a little closer, wiping the corners of her mouth. I was careful to leave the thin lines of lipstick that remained, trying not to look at her eyes. “She got you pretty good.”
“Mostly because I lost my balance standing on a stool.”
“You stood on a stool?”
“A little, actually,” I admitted. We were quiet for a while and I rinsed the rag and went back to cleaning off her skin. I healed a few more of the cuts by her ear. “She got blood in your hair.”
“Bitch,” Ryan muttered. She groaned, stretching as she arched her back. Again, fought not to stare. I focused on the cuts.
“Treason,” I snickered. “Are you okay though? I mean really? Did she hurt you because we can go to the hospital.”
Typical Ryan eye-roll. “Weasley. I could get up and walk away. I’m just being nice to you right now.”
I knew she was lying, but I also knew if she was actually hurt she’d be at least concerned for the baby. The thing that had terrified me since getting the owl from the police station.
“Absolutely,” I said. “Davies, I do not want to sound like a complete creep but there is no way I can stop the bleeding on your leg unless you take off your pants.” I was blushing. I wished I wasn’t blushing, but I absolutely was.
To no one’s surprise, she burst out laughing. “Perv,” she said, wearing that cocky smirk she sported so well.
“You know me,” I muttered. “Show me a girl in a sundress and I can’t resist.”
“You can cut out the second half of that phrase,” Ryan said as she quickly unbuttoned her pants. She shifted her hips to slide her fingers under the fabric. “Pretty sure any girl and you’re good to go.”
“That’s not true,” I argued. I felt like I was talking to China again.
“Yeah, I know it’s not. You’re one of the dysfunctional ones.” Ryan wiggled out of her pants and kicked them to the floor. I realized I hadn’t been watching. “Weasley. Are you going to stop the bleeding or not because I could get dizzy and die.”
“Right! Okay!” I swallowed hard. I had already seen this girl naked. Why was this bothering me so much? Probably because we were both sober and I was still nervous she was hurt. I took a breath and twisted my body back around to her legs. Just looking at her legs.
That was it.
Okay, so I might have done a quick once-over glance.
Godric, she was right. I was a goner.
I couldn’t help it. She had these bloody curves that she had no business having. These tiny little lacy – NO. Wounds. Okay. Yes. She was WOUNDED. This was IMPORTANT.
Ryan was snickering. My torment was obvious, as was my reddening cheeks and neck.
I brushed the clean rag across her thighs where the blood had stuck to her pants once they were torn. A few of them were deeper than I could heal, so I pressed extra rags to them as bandages and charmed them in place. She watched intently.
“She kick today?” I asked, trying to get my mind away from … everything.
“For a bit while I was at work.”
“You’re on your feet too much there,” I said.
“Do you remember when it was none of your business? I do.”
I shook my head. “Fine.” I saved the wound highest up on her thigh for last. Probably because my breath caught in my throat just thinking about her legs. And her body. And a bathroom stall made a setting by tequila.
“Why’d you bail me out?” Ryan asked after a while. I hated that she was watching me.
“Do you not know the answer to that question?”
“I was really worried about you. Can you not act like it was no big deal?” I said, glancing back to her face. Her hair was scattered over the pillows. I had no idea how her dark eyes could be so intense, but I was always stuck with some puppy-dog stare. “I’m serious. I ran down here. I literally ran. Someone was bloody proposing to a TREE and I didn’t even stop to get the story behind that.”
She didn’t look away. “I don’t know what to say to you.”
“Tell me if what you and Gemma were talking about was actually fucking true,” I said, voice rising to match the room. I was still peeved about the classroom incident and her look afterward. “Tell me if I really am the biggest sodding mistake you’ve ever had and if Andrew Parise would have been a better option.”
“Come on, Weasley. Don’t get pity-party about this.”
“I am dead fucking serious.” My palm was on her thigh, the cloth stretching out against her skin. “I want the truth, Ryan.” I leaned in a little.
“The truth?” she said quietly. It was that kind of scary quiet where you don’t quite know what it is going to happen next. Her hands gripped the sheets.
“Yes,” I said. “Am I just some stupid goddamn Gryffindor?”
“The truth is I think Andrew Parise is ugly,” Ryan said, her eyes narrowing. She looked mad. “The truth is not all Gryffindors are scum. The truth is I don’t hate you all the time, and I hate myself a little for that. The truth is, finding out I was pregnant showed me who actually gives a shit about me at this school.” She paused and I noticed her chest was rising and falling rapidly. “The fucking truth, Fred, is that you are damn sexy when you’re angry.”
Ryan leaned up and grabbed me by the collar of my shirt, yanking me down on top of her. We were kissing hard and my fingers snaked up her back and hers were in my hair. I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to, not when my shirt was gone or hers went next and not when her legs wrapped around me.
This time there was no tequila or snarky comments or bathroom stalls.
As some of you may have heard, this was one of my favorite chapters to write. I'd been planning it for ages and had a blast writing it. A solid turning point for Fred and Ryan on a solid day.
Anyway, I really hope you enjoyed this chapter and thank you to everyone who has popped over to read The Keeper's Daughter! You're the best.
UP NEXT: Dealing with the day after. Fred finds out who called Ryan fat and a slut. Freddie tries not to make this ordeal a habit. And then just when he thinks things are going to be normal for a week or two, Parise steps over the line.
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