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Strained by whitelillies
Chapter 6 : Dreams
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 3


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“Why are you biting your quill like that?”

“Huh?”

Alice turned her head and glanced at Emma dazedly. It was ten in the morning, and they were sitting in the main conference room with fifteen or so other Aurors in the pale light of a March morning. Bennett’s loud voice was the only sound in the room as he discussed Anderson’s last sighting in Redding two days ago.

Alice blinked back at Emma’s shining blue eyes in mild confusion.

“I said,” Emma whispered, lips quirked slightly at Alice’s expression. “Why are you biting your quill so… violently? If you go on like that, the end might snap off.”

“Uh,” Alice muttered, quickly taking said object out of her mouth. “No reason.”

Emma was still looking at her, eyebrow raised skeptically. “Really,” Was the unconvinced reply. Alice could see the tiniest of smirks forming along the corners of her friend’s mouth.

“Yeah,” Alice answered quite simply, then frowned at the look Emma was still giving her—a look she recognized quite well. “What?”

“Looked to me,” Emma started back again, eyes shining mischievously. “Like you were eyeing up Potter over there.”

Alice’s eyes darted Potter’s way of their own accord. His brown hair was as messy as ever—perhaps even more so since it was still relatively early in the morning—and she could see his hand moving rapidly as it took down notes. He had nice hands. Alice reckoned they were large, warm, and slightly calloused. She could almost imagine how inviting they would feel in her own, or even travelling up the length of her—

“Ha!” Emma exclaimed suddenly, and a few people turned to look her way, including Alice. “You so were.”

Alice’s face turned beet red at Emma’s smirk. Feeling that some of the other Aurors’ gazes were still on them, she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and pretended to quickly jot something down on her piece of parchment. All she hoped for was that Potter hadn’t heard any of their conversation. Even though he was a good distance away, Alice had the distinct sensation that her whole body was betraying her true feelings.

In truth, she had been looking at him. She had tried not to, but this whole morning it had been as if her eyes couldn’t tear themselves away from his tall form. Even more unfortunate was the fact that he had seated himself, as if purposefully, right in the middle of her line of vision during the meeting. It was all Alice could do to keep from recalling why exactly she seemed transfixed by him—though she tried hard not to let it, the dream she’d had in the morning kept creeping back into her thoughts.

She’d woken up in a heat, chest heaving, his name on the tip of her lips.

Frankly, she was unsure what it meant.

Well, she knew what it meant, but didn’t know exactly why she’d dreamt about him so… vividly. It wasn’t as if they had been in much contact with each other since Potter had accosted her last week—he hadn’t come to discuss Chapman’s death with her again, and she’d reckoned it was because he’d been busy with more important work. So she was justifiably confused that she’d woken up to what she imagined it felt like to have him touch her.

Quickly shaking herself out of her reverie, Alice looked back down at the notes she had been taking for the past few minutes, and tried to put Potter out of her mind. Then she realized with a confused jolt that they were all nonsensical—obviously, she hadn’t been listening to Bennett and had instead been writing down something along the lines of Anderson is in Redding a few dozen times.

Just as she had begun (almost furiously) crossing out the numerous lines of Anderson is in Redding on her piece of parchment, Emma furtively leaned over to her side once again.

“You need a shag, Alice Woodward,” She whispered. Alice quickly glanced her way to see her smirking that smirk of hers.

No, thank you,” She responded stubbornly. Then, in an attempt to regain some sort of control over the topic of conversation, said, “I think you’re most likely projecting.”

Emma scoffed easily. “I’ll have you know that I had one last weekend.”

“What?” Alice asked despite herself, surprised. “Really?”

“Yup.”

“Who with?”

Emma tapped her nose smugly. “I never kiss and tell, darling.”

Alice couldn’t keep herself from snorting. “Right,” She responded sardonically. “And I’m the Queen of Sheba.”

“Oi!” Emma whispered loudly, looking comically affronted. “I happen to be very mysterious,” She explained. “Either way, that is completely off-topic. What’s on-topic is you eye-fucking Potter over here—”

Shh,” Alice quickly blurted out, looking around to see if anybody had heard. But it seemed that the other Aurors were now either too preoccupied with what Bennett was saying or couldn’t be bothered to listen in on their conversation. “It’s not eye-fucking,” She continued lowly.

“Oh, so you admit that you were eyeing Potter up like a woman in need?”

“I am not a woman in need,” Alice replied, though her face felt rather warm.

It was Emma’s turn to snort. “Yeah, okay. In fact, I think I could tell how you weren’t thinking of him inside y—”

“Oh my Merlin, Emma,” Alice quickly interrupted her, face positively on fire. “Can you please keep it—” She struggled to find the right words. “—I don’t know, PG-13? It’s ten in the morning, for Christ’s sake.”

Emma simply shrugged, unfazed. “Not until you admit how utterly sexually frustrated you are.”

“I’m not sexually frustrated,” Alice responded shortly, though even to her own ears she sounded uncertain.

“You are, you poor woman.”

“I am done with this conversation,” She finally declared, and turned away from Emma’s smirk, going back to trying to listen to Bennett’s lilting voice.

“Alice, it’s a safe space,” Emma went on somewhere to her left. “You can admit that your thoughts about Potter are about as rated R as that leg-crossing scene in Basic Instinct is.”

Rolling her eyes, Alice ignored her friend’s sniggering.




“Can I ask you a question?”

Alice hummed, turning a page of a textbook she had been skimming through lazily.

“So,” She heard Emma say slowly. “When was the last time you slept with someone, really?”

Finally pausing in her reading, Alice turned around, not exactly surprised at the question—Emma was the type to be blatantly curious about people’s sex lives. What she was more surprised by was the fact that she hadn’t made any reference to the conversation they’d had during this morning’s meeting until now, midafternoon. Emma was sitting in the wooden swivel chair by her desk, her chin propped in the palm of her hand, an openly curious expression on her face.

Alice shrugged after a beat. “I don’t know. Does it matter?”

“Uh,” Emma frowned back. “Kind of. How do you not know? I find that unlikely, especially for someone like you.”

“Someone like me?” Alice asked, frowning herself. “What does that even mean?”

“I don’t know,” Emma waved her hands about as if to explain herself. “Someone like you—someone who’s very organized and just generally remembers things. You can’t have forgotten when the last time you slept with someone was.”

Alice thought for a moment, “It’s not like I’ve forgotten when the last time was—”

“Well, what is it then?” Emma asked, an eyebrow quirked her way.

Alice opened her mouth, then paused, struggling to find the right words. In truth, she was embarrassed—after their conversation during the morning’s meeting, she’d realized how long of a time it had truly been, and it had upset her. For the first time in a long time, she’d felt bad about the state of her love life, and guilty, too, for not doing anything about it. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how she looked at it), she’d been able to ignore her thoughts throughout the day by burying herself in work, as was her custom.

Now, however, she had no other option but to face those unpleasant feelings, and it wasn’t exactly easy.

“Well—” Alice paused, rubbing at her eye. She was tired by this conversation already—in fact, the whole day had been tiring. Trying and failing to keep her gaze off of Potter was somehow one of the most mentally exhausting things she’d ever done. “I guess it’s just been… a while, is all.”

“Oh,” Emma let out after a moment, seeming to deflate. “How long?”

“December—” Alice shrugged.

“Well that isn’t too bad—”

“—two years ago.”

There was a pregnant pause as Emma took in the information, her face a comical expression of confusion.

“Wait,” She finally said slowly. “What?”

Groaning, Alice swiftly turned back around to face her desk, immediately regretting her decision of telling Emma.

“Nothing.”

She heard Emma scoff, and promptly roll her way over to her desk. “What do you mean, ‘nothing’? It’s clearly not ‘nothing’. You haven’t slept with someone in two years—”

“This is precisely why I didn’t tell you earlier,” Alice interrupted her, bristled. “Everything’s a big deal with you, even when it’s not! Loads of people haven’t even had any sex!”

“That’s different, Alice,” Emma replied slowly. “It is a bit of a big deal—”

“You know what, fine, it is a big deal and Bennett’s probably got a better sex life than I do. Are you happy? Are we done now?”

There was a tense moment of silence.

“I—” Emma began, then faltered slightly. “Yeah. Sorry.”

Alice, still avoiding her friend’s gaze, massaged her temples roughly, not surprised she could feel the beginnings of a headache coming on. She hadn’t meant to explode like that—they were at work, and deep down she knew Emma was trying to help or at least trying to understand. Rationally, she knew all of this. But she couldn’t keep herself from becoming irrationally defensive at Emma’s probing questions, especially when those questions made her feel so vulnerable.

“I’m sorry,” Alice finally said, and sighed, turning to her friend. “I’m sorry I—snap. I just feel so—on edge sometimes. And it doesn’t exactly make me overjoyed, thinking about how long it’s been, either.”

Emma nodded. “Yeah, I’m sorry, too. I was just… shocked, I think.”

“Why?”

“Well, you’re brilliant,” Emma said. She was frowning, as if perplexed by the whole situation. “And beautiful.”

Alice’s eyes rolled of their own accord.

“What! I’m completely serious,” Emma replied earnestly, still frowning. “I think you’re a brilliant person, so I find it a bit… shocking, I guess, that you haven’t been with anybody in two years. That’s a significant amount of time. And it mustn’t be too difficult for you, either. It took me about five minutes to get Emilio to come over to my house last Friday—”

“Wait,” Alice interrupted, confused. “D’you mean Emilio, as in Valentine’s Day Emilio?”

Emma rolled her eyes. “Oh, shut it.”

“I didn’t even say anything!”

“I can see the disapproval in your eyes.”

“Well, maybe I do disapprove a little—I don’t exactly have fond memories of him,” Alice explained, then paused in thought. “I didn’t even know that you had each other’s numbers, let alone that you were in contact with each other.”

Emma shrugged easily. “Somehow in my drunken state he managed to give me his phone number. It was the first time I texted him and will be the last, so don’t worry about that. Anyway, the whole point of this tangent is that it’s easy to get a shag nowadays.”

“Yeah, I’m aware it’s easy, Emma,” Alice replied, rolling her eyes at her friend’s bluntness. “But I guess I wasn’t ready, or interested, in just a shag.”

“Ready?” Emma asked back curiously.

“Yeah,” Alice began slowly. “The last person I was with was my boyfriend at the time—Charles.”

“Charles,” Emma repeated slowly, looking like she was trying to think of something. Alice would have thought Emma’s parroting funny if it weren’t for the way her stomach tightened at the mere mention of Charles’ name. “I don’t think you’ve ever told me about him.”

And Alice hadn’t. Maybe she’d believed that it would have been too much for her—to admit to someone, even to a close friend, that a person she’d had feelings for and had given so much to had left her without explanation. In fact, the only people she’d told after it had happened were Charlotte and her parents, and she’d only done so because of a slight sense of obligation.

Perhaps, if she was honest with herself, Alice could admit that it was because she was not only embarrassed that Charles had left her, but also that she’d been afraid Emma’s opinion of her might change if she knew about this. Although it seemed only slightly less preposterous to her now, she’d wondered if Emma wouldn’t have seen it as some kind of weakness on her part—that in her only relationship, she’d ultimately been something unwanted and easily discarded.

But even so, that afternoon, Alice finally told Emma about Charles.

And that night, after her weekly call with her parents (in which they both described the many ordeals they had suffered through in the past week, both being secondary school teachers), she again unexpectedly dreamt of Potter—first of his grinning face and loud laugh, and then of the feeling of his lips on her own, her head held in between his hands.




The next morning was, quite possibly, one of Alice’s worst.

She’d woken up in a confused and sweaty state for the second day in a row, and had spent the earliest parts of the day in a frustrated strop. It had gotten even worse when she’d discovered that she’d run out of coffee, Blue having overturned her coffee jar in the middle of the night.

“Fuck!” Alice cried, and glanced down at her left hand quickly. With a jolt of disbelief, she realized that her thumbnail was nowhere to be found—she’d splinched herself.

She was currently in the middle of an alleyway in Muggle London, near a coffee shop she’d discovered a few years back. In the whirlwind that had been her morning, she’d reckoned that a hot latte wouldn’t hurt (though now she wasn’t even sure about that anymore).

After quickly fixing her injury, Alice slumped back against the brick wall behind her, and took a few deep, calming breaths. She had no idea what was going on with her today, but everything felt off, as if her whole day was doomed to be wonky. In fact, she was already getting rather turned off by the idea of a latte—it hadn’t been worth her splinching herself.

However, Alice managed to ignore these pestering thoughts and promptly made her way over to the coffee shop, intent on having at least one thing work out for her this morning. She crossed the street briskly, all while trying to peer inside. From her viewpoint, it looked rather packed—though she wasn’t glad about it (she was a bit short on time), it didn’t surprise her, since the place had gotten quite famous over the last few years.

Just as she was reaching towards the coffee shop’s door handle, Alice suddenly froze. From inside, a flash of blonde hair had caught her eye.

As if of its own accord, her body immediately tensed up. She knew that hair; she was certain of it.

Alice, she berated herself harshly. Your overreactions are getting pathetic. He’s not here. He can’t be. Not on the same day and at the same time.

However, for all her rationalizations, Alice couldn’t seem to ignore what she was feeling, and stayed frozen. Though she wanted to, she was unable to make a single move to go inside—it was as if all of her thoughts had been overridden by a single one, which was the cause of her numb body and pounding heart.

She’d shown him the place—she remembered the day perfectly; she’d joked that for someone from London, he sure didn’t know his own city very well.

As if to prove her right, the owner of the head of blonde hair turned to grin at a man on his left, giving her a perfect view of his profile. Then, Alice watched, paralyzed, as Charles slowly leaned down, and kissed him.




“Woodward?” A voice asked in surprise. “I—did you just get in?”

Alice met Potter’s bewildered gaze with a jolt—she’d just made her way through the Auror Office’s main doors, and had almost run into his tall frame.

“Uh,” She responded after a beat, disoriented. Usually, an encounter with Potter would have made her at least slightly awkward. However, this time she felt nothing of the sort: something was different.

Alice was certain it had nothing to do with her—the whole of the Auror Office seemed taught with tension, and busier than it normal looked. People were briskly walking to and fro, the level of noise like nothing she’d ever experienced whilst working here. Potter himself looked particularly tired and frazzled.

“Potter,” Alice said slowly. “What’s going on?”

“Didn’t you get the owl?” He asked her, frowning.

“What?” She responded, getting more confused by the second. “What owl?”

“Uh—what? You didn’t, then?” He gave her a look, as if he suspected her of being slightly crazy.

“I—no, I didn’t get any bloody owl,” Alice snapped. She was getting tired of Potter’s confusing glances and cryptic way of speaking. It didn’t help that so far her day had been absolute shit, which she couldn’t help but somewhat irrationally blame him for. “What’s going on?”

“He’s been captured,” Potter told her quite simply.

“What do you mean?” Alice asked, still puzzled. “Who?”

Anderson,” Potter explained, and gave Alice another one of those looks. “Anderson’s been captured—this morning. Bennett sent out owls to the whole Auror Office at some ungodly hour. We’ve all been here since six.”

As Alice gazed up at Potter in shock, mouth slightly ajar, it clicked—Blue was never the type of cat to destroy things. Alice reckoned he must’ve overturned her coffee jar because he’d gotten frightened by Bennett’s owl. Or perhaps he’d been trying to wake her up, since her bedroom door had been closed and he was unable to get in.

“Oh,” Alice finally let out, as she realized all of this. “Well, shit.”




Hello!

Well, I want to start by saying that I am so, so sorry for the wait. I know how frustrating waiting for a new chapter can be. This chapter has indeed been a long time in the making (more than four months to be precise, oops), but I’ve finally finished writing it. Woo! Know that I haven’t abandoned this story—I just got a bit lazy and then went backpacking for two months around Spain and Portugal, so, although that was amazing, I didn’t have much time to write then. Now that I’m back home and back at school, updates should be more regular (I hope).

So, thoughts on the chapter? Lots of stuff has happened! Alice not having been intimate for over two years and ~definitely~ feeling something in regards to James (hehe), Charles kissing another man (???), and Anderson finally getting captured. Hopefully the small amount of action makes up for the wait, haha. Although I feel like this story has been a bit slow, I do hope that some of you out there are still enjoying it and tuning in. It’s definitely not an action-packed story generally speaking, so don’t expect anything crazy to happen any time soon. However, next chapter is ~definitely~ when things start picking up, so get excited for that! I’m quite excited to write it! :)

Please let me know your thoughts on the chapter as a whole—any constructive criticism is appreciated, or just general thoughts on whether you like where the story is headed, your predictions, etc. Any review is amazing and gives me lots of motivation!

Thanks so much for reading and I hope you have a lovely day,

Sofia

P.S: I don’t own Basic Instinct (surprisingly enough).



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