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Chapter 27 : In Which Ripples are Made
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I scowled at him and piled my plate up with bacon. I’d deliberately woken up early so that I could eat breakfast alone, but my moronic cousin had apparently guessed my plan. After lying on the Quidditch pitch the previous night with him, I’d gone straight to bed without bothering with dinner, meaning so far I’d managed to avoid talking to anybody about everything that had happened with Cass. I wanted to keep it that way for as long as possible.
“You need to tell him,” Jason said. He didn’t take any food from the table and just filled a glass with orange juice. Probably on some kind of quidditch diet.
“What if I don’t want to?”
“Then you’re being a hypocrite.” He put the jug of orange juice back down with a clunk.
I frowned. “How did you work that out? I get it’s not very Gryffindor to avoid telling my best friend his girlfriend he thought might be dead is in fact just hiding away because she’s pregnant with somebody else’s child and didn’t think she needed to tell him. But I don’t see how that’s the same as being hypocritical.”
“You’re furious with Al because he knew where Cassie was but didn’t tell you,” Jason pointed out.
“Of course I’m furious!” I snapped. “He saw how worried and upset I was, and he could have helped me. All this time I was thinking she might be hurt or something and Al knew she was okay. He should have told me!”
“Listen to yourself,” Jason said calmly. “Think about what you just said. And now think about the fact you’ve known where Cassie is for the last 18 hours and haven’t told Malfoy.”
I looked down at the table, suddenly feeling terrible.
Jason gripped my arm and looked at me with a serious expression that didn’t suit him off the quidditch pitch.
“It’s okay, Liv,” he said earnestly. “I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. He’ll understand that you were trying to get your head round it yesterday. But I think if you leave it much longer he might be less understanding.”
“You’re right,” I nodded. “I’ll see you later.”
I picked up a whole plate of buttered toast from the table and took it with me as I left the Hall, munching on a piece from the top of the pile.
The corridors were still quiet. It was relatively early in the morning and most people found it difficult to get up on a Monday morning.
I walked past Clara and Esther in the Slytherin Common Room but ignored their smiles and instead headed straight for the boys dormitories, reaching the door just as Scorpius came out.
He looked startled by my presence and dropped the book he was holding. I waited for him to pick it up before speaking to him.
“Come,” I told him. “I need to talk to you.”
To his credit, Scor shrugged and followed me out of the Common Room without asking any questions. I led him out of the castle and back to the quidditch pitch. For some reason I’d decided it was the place to be to think about Cass. We sat down in the stands and I offered him a piece of toast.
“You okay, Ollie?” He said after taking a bite. “What’s going on?”
I rubbed my eyes, trying to force the tiredness away so I could speak to him with a clear head.
“You’re making me worried.” He reached out and rested the palm of his hand against the back of my seat, ready to hold me if I needed it.
I took a deep breath.
“I saw Cassie yesterday.”
Scorpius looked at me, his face suddenly tense. I watched his shoulders slump forward and he lowered his hand so that his piece of toast dangled droopily towards the floor.
“You saw Cass?” His voice was quiet and pained.
“Yeah. In Hogsmeade.”
Scor’s eyes were wide and disbelieving. I put the plate of toast down on the chair next to me so that I could hold his hand. His fingers didn’t wrap around mine, but he didn’t pull away.
“She’s in a cottage there,” I told him. “I think she’s been there for a while…”
I told him how I’d stumbled across her, and told him how she’d looked at me. And I explained how confusing the whole thing had been, and how I’d seen the photograph of us, and how the cottage looked empty but then I’d heard the noise from inside. And then I hesitated, but forced myself to keep talking, to explain why she was missing, and to explain James Potter. And to explain the baby. I kept talking, trying to fill the space between us with chaotic words, wanting to protect Scor, somehow, from what had happened but knowing that I couldn’t keep it from him. Until I ran out of words.
“And Albus knew?” Scor frowned.
I nodded, unsure how to talk about that bit of the story, but luckily Scor didn’t seem to feel the need to question me further.
“I’m going to go back to bed, I think,” Scor said when I finally finished talking. “I don’t think I can face going to Potions.”
“I’ll come and sit with you? I don’t want to leave you by yourself.” I chewed my lip nervously. I’d expected more of a reaction from him.
He shook his head, and this time I noticed the flash of anger behind his cool expression.
“I need to be by myself. Just for a bit. It’s...a lot to think about.”
We walked back to the castle in silence, but I didn’t let go of his hand. Lessons had already started so we didn’t run into anyone, and I was grateful for the emptiness.
When we reached the dungeons, Scor pulled away from me. My hand felt cold without his. I wanted to hold onto him but he’s never been someone that clings to people to feel better.
“I’ll be okay. Just give me some time, yeah? I’ll see you later.” He messed up my hair and then started to make his way back towards the Common Room. He looked strangely small, alone in the gloom of the corridor.
I screwed up my face and rubbed my palms against my closed eyes, trying to get myself into the right frame of mind to go to a lesson. It didn’t really make me feel better.
I pushed open the door to Slughorn’s classroom and held my breath as faces turned to look at me.
“Sorry I’m late. Overslept,” I told Slughorn.
He didn’t even acknowledge that I’d spoken, and immediately went back to discussing some wonderful friend of his that had discovered the restorative powers of fluxweed.
I stood in the doorway, bracing myself to go over to my seat. Al was already sat down. He turned to look at me, obviously trying to catch my eye, but I looked down at the ground as I walked towards him. I could feel him trying to get me to look at him, maybe mouthing some words he wanted me to hear, and I slowed my steps so that it would take me longer to reach him.
And then instead of taking my usual seat, I walked past Al and pulled out Scor’s usual chair beside Joe.
Joey sighed when I sat down, but he didn’t say anything. He rubbed my arm reassuringly and slid a sugar quill across the desk towards me. He must have known what had happened. Maybe one of the Gryffindors told him. I managed to give him a smile and spent the rest of the lesson sucking on the quill, trying my hardest to ignore Al’s presence behind me.
And that’s how things carried on. I managed to avoid talking to Al when I ran into him, and ignored him in lessons we shared. In lessons where Rose and Louis had originally moved seats to allow me some time away from Scor, they shuffled back so I could instead stay away from Al. They both tried to talk to me about forgiving him, but didn’t push it when I said no. When I explained why I felt betrayed, they agreed. Rose hugged me until Louis had to prise her away from me.
Joe was fabulous, as always, moving to sit with me in different classes and pulling faces at me when he decided I looked sad.
Esther and Clara tried to be supportive. They sat either side of me at lunch and gossiped and giggled until I had to pretend to need the loo so I could get away from them. They’d grown on me this year, a lot, but still weren’t who I wanted to see when I felt bad.
Scor stayed in bed all day.
I sat down by myself at the Slytherin table at dinner. I could see Al sat with the Gryffindors across the Hall. He looked pretty much the same way I felt, but at least he was surrounded by people.
The two fifth year girls sitting opposite me stopped talking at my arrival. I saw one of them glance at the other, and then they both tried (and failed) to stifle their giggles. They’d probably been talking about Cassie. Everyone was talking about Cassie. By the time I’d told the Slytherin sixth years and James had told whoever he’d decided to tell, it hadn’t taken long for the story to get around the school. Every so often I felt a twinge of guilt when I thought about Cassie’s carefully guarded secret becoming common knowledge. But then I remembered how furious I was with her and decided it didn’t matter after all.
“Olivia? That’s your name, right?” One of the girls leaned forward.
I gave her what I like to think of as my death glare, but she didn’t react.
“Is it true Cassandra Selwyn is getting married to James Potter once he graduates?” She looked excited by the idea.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. It occurred to me that I actually probably wouldn’t even know if Cass was getting married to Potter, but it didn’t seem very plausible. Cass had never been very interested in the idea of weddings. And although it was out of character for her to be sleeping with a Potter, I thought her hatred of Gryffindor probably remained sufficiently enough to prevent marriage.
“If they got married you could be a bridesmaid at a Potter wedding!” The girl said. She sounded like she was trying to reassure me, as if she thought her words were comforting or pleasing.
I stood up and walked away from the table, leaving my food untouched behind me. I could hear the two girls start whispering as soon as my back was turned but I didn’t let myself think about it. Instead, I walked purposefully out of the Hall and down towards the dungeons.
I didn’t like today. It was far from the first time everything had turned rubbish this year. But I’d started to assume I’d have Al there to help me through it. Somewhere along the line I’d started depending on him. And now I felt uprooted and confused.
The Common Room was quite empty. Most people were still at dinner. A few seventh years were sat near the fireplace studying. I gave Ozzy a vague nod as I walked past.
For the second time in a day, I made my way towards the boys dormitories. This time, Scor wasn’t ready at the door when I arrived. The curtains around his bed were drawn and the room was dark.
I didn’t turn the light on, and instead tiptoed over to Scor’s bed, trying not to trip over any of the mess that littered the floor.
When I pulled back the curtain, Scor groaned from the other side. He rolled over to look at me, squinting in the darkness.
I felt my face crumple but didn’t let myself cry. I’d done too much crying this year. And it wouldn’t make any difference anyway.
Scor obviously noticed the change in my expression, though, because he lifted his quilt and shuffled over in the bed. I climbed in next to him, curling my body into a ball with my head a couple of inches away from his shoulder.
“I didn’t want to be by myself,” I told him.
He didn’t reply but he shifted a little bit closer so that I could feel his arm through my sleeve. He closed his eyes but I kept mine open, watching him.
I wanted to talk to him properly about everything that had happened, but his reaction to my story made me feel like that wouldn’t be what he wanted. His eyes were ringed with red and he’d definitely been crying, but he’d chosen to do so up here by himself instead of coming to find me. I didn’t want to force him to talk about it when he hadn’t given me any reason to think that it would help him.
I lay awake next to Scor for a long time. I couldn’t work out whether he was asleep, but he didn’t open his eyes. After a while, the light flickered on as the other boys came up the stairs. I stayed quiet behind the curtains, listening to their laughter. They sounded happy. Maybe it was a shame that Scorpius had never really let himself get involved with his roommates. Maybe it would have been good for him.
When the room was gloomy again and the darkness was punctuated by Joey’s rumbling snores, I sat up. Sleep didn’t seem very likely and I’d been lying still for a long time.
I got out of bed, pausing to tuck the covers back around Scor’s shoulders. His eyelids flickered but he didn’t fully acknowledge me. I bent forwards and gently kissed his forehead. His skin was hot and I pushed his hair back from his face before moving away, closing the curtains again behind me.
I wasn’t sure what time it was but the castle was quiet so it was presumably past curfew. I wondered whether my tenuous prefect status would still mean I was immune to curfew. I had a feeling I might have sacrificed that immunity with my consistent failure to turn up to patrols. But then again, James Potter was head boy, and I doubted he was in any rush to get into an argument with me.
I wandered vaguely in the direction of the Quidditch Pitch, thinking it might be able to calm me down again, but once I was out in the grounds my feet seemed to have different ideas and I found myself walking in the direction of the lake.
It was getting warmer, and I was still wearing my school cloak, so it felt sort of nice to be out there in the night. Behind me, the castle was still and sleeping, apart from a few windows that still twinkled with light. I glanced up at Gryffindor tower. The windows were full of warmth, and I thought I might be able to make out somebody looking down at me. But it was so high up that it was impossible to tell who it was, and I might just have been imagining it.
I sat down next to the lake and, after a moment’s thought, unlaced my shoes and pulled them off my feet. I dunked my feet into the water, right up to my ankles, letting the cold rush over my skin, and then kicked water up into the air, finding an unreasonable amount of satisfaction when it splashed around me.
Part of me, if I was completely honest with myself, had come out here hoping that somebody would come and find me. Scor hadn’t wanted to talk and I didn’t want to be by myself, so I’d come out into the grounds in the hope that someone would come looking for me.
An even smaller, even more honest part of me had come out here hoping that the person to come and find me would be Al. I felt silly even admitting it to myself, but he’d always been able to find me when I’d needed him, and he’d been able to make it feel better. I was furious with him, definitely, but that didn’t mean I didn’t kind of want him to look after me again.
I kicked my legs again and watched the ripples fade away across the lake.
I reached a hand up to my throat and unclasped the locket I’d been wearing since the holidays. I’d grown used to wearing it and it felt strange to lose the weight of it from around my neck. I turned the silver over in my fingertips.
As a piece of jewellery, it was distinctly unCassie. The chain was delicate and slinky, but the locket itself was clunky and heavy. It was round, without decoration, and unnecessarily chunky for something so small. But Cass had still worn it every day.
I flicked the clasp with my thumb and opened the locket to look at the photograph inside. Cass was sandwiched between Scor and I, one of her arms visible as she held the camera out in front of us. All three of us were glaring at the camera, and then Cass says something and we simultaneously burst into laughter.
A single tear rolled down my cheek and I brushed it away.
I hadn’t looked at the photograph since Andreas gave the locket back to me, and now I could see why I hadn’t opened it. Looking at the picture, at our smiling faces, Cassie’s pout and Scorpius’s surprised laughter, made me feel almost like I was back there. And I wasn’t prepared for it. I could hear our voices, almost, giggling together, sitting by the lake almost exactly where I was sat right now.
“Don’t be so boring, Scor. You can sleep when you’re dead. Right now you have to come back because we’re having a photograph.”
“I’m not doing that.”
“Don’t be silly, darling, of course you are.”
“You never even look at the pictures you take of yourself.”
“But she needs them. So that when she’s old and wrinkly she can remember her better days.”
“Shut up, Ollie. I’m not going to be old and wrinkly. I plan on dying young and fabulous. Now come on, or we’ll lose the light. You too, Scor.”
“If I join in, do you promise you’ll actually keep the picture?”
“I’m going to make you keep it. I’ll put it in a locket and then you can wear it every day and think about how much you love us.”
“Sweetheart, I don’t need a photograph to remind me how much I love you. But I’ll wear it if it makes you happy. Now, come on my cherubs. I’m going in the middle so I look more important. That’s it, come in closer. Pull Slytherin faces.”
I swallowed and snapped the locket closed again. Sometimes when I looked back at my memories of Cass I found it hard to remember why I liked her so much, but then I remembered how genuinely happy I’d been in those moments and it was difficult to see how I’d ever manage without her.
I clenched my fist around the locket and squeezed it tightly, letting my hand warm the metal. And then I lifted my hand up above my head. And almost without thinking, I loosened my fingers and let the locket sail through the air in front of me.
It landed a few metres away, falling into the lake with a satisfying splash.
The ripples it left didn’t quite meet my ankles, but they still looked pretty. I would have liked to paint them.
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