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Chapter 12 : In Which Breakfast is Traumatic
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I don’t know how long I stood in that corridor with Al Potter’s arms around me. It felt like all the tears I hadn’t let myself cry over the last few years were coming out at once, and for some reason he was the one to wipe them away.
Eventually, I pulled away from him. I opened my mouth, unsure what to say, and he shook his head and took my hand.
“Come on. I’ll walk you back to your Common Room.”
He squeezed my fingers reassuringly and I followed him along the corridor. I was still wearing his cloak. Some small voice in my head suggested giving it back to him, but the words didn’t reach my lips.
We stopped outside the stone wall that leads to the Slytherin Dungeon. Al reached out with the hand that wasn’t holding mine, and tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear.
“It’s late. You should get some sleep.” He kept his hand in my hair for a moment longer than felt natural, before dropping it back to his side.
I nodded. I knew I should thank him for putting up with me but it didn’t feel easy.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said.
I nodded again.
Al finally dropped my hand. “If you need to talk tonight feel free to send me an owl.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Okay.” He gave a small frown and turned to walk away.
“Al,” I said, calling him back.
He turned his face back to look at me.
“Um. Thank you.”
Al gave a small grin. “It’s no problem. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I watched him walk away. I wasn’t really sure I wanted him to leave, but it didn’t seem fair to ask him to stay. I murmured the password to the wall behind me and it slid open.
Joe and Oz were sitting by the fireplace. Joe was asleep against Oz’s chest, and Oz had a lazy arm draped over his shoulders. When I walked in Oz looked like he wanted to say something, but I shook my head and headed straight towards the dormitories.
I didn’t speak to any of the girls when I got inside. Amethyst looked at me curiously, and Esther gave me a reassuring smile, but I closed the curtains around my bed and lay down, wrapping myself up in Al’s cloak under the duvet, letting the sound of the swishing lake water outside lull me to sleep.
When I woke up the curtains around the other beds in the dormitory were closed. Esther and Clara were either already at breakfast or still asleep, and I’ve learnt not to question why Amethyst spends most of her time behind closed drapes.
The only open curtains were those around Cassie’s depressingly empty bed. I swallowed and ran to the shower, turning the water up as hot as it could go and forcing myself to stay under the water until my skin was pink.
I pulled on a pair of jeans and one of Cassie’s red jumpers, leaving my hair wet from the shower and not bothering to put on any make up. Everything felt like more effort than it was supposed to.
The Great Hall was only half full, and had its lazy, Sunday morning feel. I glanced around the room but couldn’t see Al, so sat down at the Slytherin table next to Clara and opposite Scorpius. He was drinking a mug of black coffee and reading the Sunday Prophet. His hair was messy and he had dark shadows under his eyes. He didn’t look up as I sat down.
Clara smiled. “How are you? Did you sleep well?”
“Yeah. Okay.” I knew she was waiting for me to talk about everything that had happened the previous day but I also knew I wasn’t going to tell her anything.
“Post’s here,” she said with a jerk of her head towards the sky.
I frowned at the two letters that fell down in front of me. At the beginning of term I’d been anxious to open every letter straight away, desperate for some kind of word about Cassie. Now I felt ambivalent.
I turned over the envelopes and sighed. My parents.
Scor was watching me but didn’t offer to help so I slid my finger under the flap of the first envelope.
I really do need to speak to you. Can you let me know when would be a good time for me to floo the school? There are things you need to know.
I pointed my wand at the piece of paper and set fire to it. A meeting with my dad wasn’t really what I wanted at the best of times, and definitely wasn’t going to happen now.
My mother’s letter was more problematic. She’s so pathetic that I feel bad ignoring her words, even though they rarely make me fell good.
How are you? I haven’t heard from you for such a long time darling, I’ve been worried.
How are your classes? Are you making sure you get enough vitamin C? I read an article in Witch Weekly explaining how getting lots of vitamin C gives you thicker hair and helps prevent premature greying. Make sure you have a glass of orange juice with breakfast. You’ve got such lovely hair you should be doing everything you can to protect it.
I’d love to see you and have a little chat about everything that’s been going on at home recently. Let’s meet up in your Hogsmeade weekend next week? A new juice bar has opened up next to that lovely little cafe we used to go to. Apparently you burn more calories drinking their Celery Shake than you get from it. Let’s meet there at two on Saturday? I know it’s Valentine’s Day but it really would mean so much to me to see you. I hear so little from you nowadays. Feel free to bring that nice boy Scorpius along with you.
I love you darling. See you on Saturday,
I put my head down on the table on top of the letter. An outing with my mother. Wonderful.
“What’s wrong? Is it bad news?” Clara looked mildly interested rather than concerned.
“Just my mother. She wants to meet up next Hogsmeade trip.”
“Oh. The one on Valentine’s Day?”
I didn’t respond.
Clara kept talking. “I’ve been looking forward to that one. It’s always really special. Scorpius, would you like to go with me?”
Sensing danger, I looked up.
Scor had put down his coffee cup to look at Clara, hints of a cruel smile flashing across his face.
“Excuse me?” He raised an eyebrow.
“There’s a Hogsmeade trip next week. On Valentine’s Day. I thought you might like to go with me?” Clara smiled and tilted her head, letting her hair swing forwards.
“Why the fuck would I want to do that?” Scor kept his voice level but there was no hiding the malice in his words.
“I…I just thought…” Clara’s eyes widened.
“You just thought while my girlfriend, who I’ve been with for a bloody long time, which you haven’t seemed to notice, and who I fucking love, is fucking missing…you just thought you’d see if I’d like to spend Valentine’s Day with you.” Scor spat out his words, anger carved into his whole face.
Clara’s eyes filled with tears. “I’m…I’m sorry. I was only asking. I…” She lifted a hand to quickly brush the tears away from her face but it was a pretty futile attempt.
“Well, you shouldn’t have,” Scor was shouting now. “I don’t like you. I don’t want to be near you. And I definitely don’t want to go on a fucking date with you just because Cassie’s not around. I’m in love with somebody else, and even if I wasn’t I would never, ever want to be with you.”
Clara sat completely still, tears running down her cheeks.
The whole Hall was silent, and I could feel people staring over at our table.
After what felt like an age, Joe stood up.
“Come on, Clar,” he said, resting a hand on Clara’s shoulder. “Let’s get some air.”
Clara stood up and took Joe’s hand, walking out of the Hall without looking back at us.
I turned back to Scor. He was shaking with anger and his own eyes were looking red and watery.
“Scor…it’s going to be okay,” I said, reaching across the table to squeeze his hand.
He drew his arm away from me and stood up.
I stood too. “Come on, Scor. Talk to me.”
“Why?” He gave a horrible, strangled laugh. “What can I possibly say?”
“You’re upset. You need to talk to someone. And I’m your…”
“Don’t.” Scor cut me off. “Don’t say you’re my friend. You’ve made it pretty fucking clear that that’s not the case. You think I hurt her! ” He was shouting again, and I took a step back.
“No. Don’t talk to me. I don’t want to hear it.”
He looked at me for a moment but I wasn’t really sure he was seeing me. He was pale and furious, and both his hands had clenched into fists.
“You know what?” His voice was quiet again but he might as well have been shouting. The whole Hall was quiet and would hear whatever he had to say either way. “You can just get the fuck out of my life.”
He turned away and stormed out of the Hall, slamming one of the huge heavy doors behind him. The crash as it hit the door frame resonated for a few moments, in which none of the usual chatter started up again.
I chewed my lip, unsure what to do, and stared down at my feet.
I wasn’t sure what I’d expected to happen. Scor has always had his own problems. His family name has left him insecure, and he struggles to make friends. He’s always needed me, probably much more than I need him, and my running away from him was never going to fail to hurt him.
But I somehow hadn’t realised just how angry he’d be.
I could feel the flush creeping up my cheeks. Everyone had seen him shout at me. They all knew that the close knit friendship group I’d always been so proud to have had fallen apart.
It was too much to get my head round. Cassie was still missing. And Scor was furious. And I was alone.
A hand touched my elbow.
“Hey, Liv. Can you come help me with some Charms homework?” Rose Weasley’s voice.
“We can show you Gryffindor Tower,” Louis said cheerfully from my other side.
Rose looped her arm through mine and leant her head against me for a moment, soft red hair tickling my neck.
“Thanks. I just can’t figure out this vinegar into wine malarkey. It should make sense and I’ve definitely got the wand movement right but mine just turns to water. I saw that you got it in class. I don’t understand why it’s not working for me,” Rose said, going straight into her usual practical but friendly chit-chat.
“It’s because, Rosie,” Louis said solemnly. “You’re not very bright.”
Rose leaned across me to punch his chest.
Louis caught her hand and grinned, lifting his own hands. “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
“Lou, I saw your vinegar turn into ice and then explode,” Rose said, shaking her head. “I don’t think you’re in any position to insult anybody else’s intelligence.”
Louis stuck his tongue out.
“How come you were so good at it? You got it straight away,” Rose said, glancing at me.
I frowned. Cassie had insisted we learned how to turn vinegar into wine back in fourth year so we had an endless supply tucked under her bed in the dorm. I wasn’t sure Rose would approve, and also wasn’t sure whether I wanted to talk about Cass.
“I don’t know. I guess it just clicked for me,” I said quietly.
“I hope it will click for me. Imagine. Vinegar into wine. I wouldn’t have to keep sneaking into Hogsmeade to get drunk,” Louis said dreamily.
Rose stopped walking. Her wand was out in seconds and against her cousin’s throat. She’s quite scary sometimes, Rose Weasley.
“Louis Aurelien Arthur Weasley,” she hissed.
Louis let out an audible gulp.
“You have messed up your relationship with your best friend and have made everything horribly awkward for the rest of us because you didn’t stop drinking when we asked you to. You are a hideous and selfish and irresponsible drunk, and you’re not going to be drinking any more at least until you’ve fixed things with Al. I’ve got half a mind to go to Professor Tibble and tell her you shouldn’t be allowed access to this spell.”
Louis looked frightened. I didn’t blame him.
Rose shook back her hair and smiled. “Come on. Let’s get back to the Common Room. Al should be there, Liv. I’m sure he’ll want to see you after we’ve done our Charms.”
I wasn’t sure why she felt the need to tell me this, but it lifted some of the anxiety that was pressing down on my chest so I didn’t question it.
“Here we are.” Rose stopped outside a portrait of an enormous woman wearing horrible pink satin, staring at a glass of wine.
“Password?” The Fat Lady didn’t look up from her glass.
“Grawp,” Rose said cheerfully.
The Fat Lady nodded and the whole picture frame swung backwards to reveal an archway. I saw her take a swig of her wine as we stepped through.
We were in a round room draped with scarlet tapestries and curtains. The squashy armchairs looked significantly comfier than the ones we have in Slytherin, and a fire was crackling in the fireplace. I could see a few faces I recognised. The Moron was sat on a window seat near the fireplace, with Dominique Weasley lying across his lap, and James Potter was curled up in an armchair with a Quidditch Magazine. The whole room felt warmer and more relaxed than the Slytherin Dungeon, and I tried to swallow my jealousy.
Next to me, Louis reached out and squeezed my arm.
“Olivia Bell. Welcome to Gryffindor Tower.”
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