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Chapter 6 : SIX: Disintegrate
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lovely ci by easterlies@tda!
Night had well and truly crept upon Hogwarts. Outside the castle, the world was pitch black, an artist's brilliant masterpiece: a castle loomed out of the darkness, faint smudges of candlelight in some of its windows, the Forbidden Forest an eerie presence in the background that threatened to engulf it, and the moon a gleaming sphere above. Few things moved inside and when the clocks struck half one, Nova Hale became one of them.
One second, she was sound asleep and the next, she was awake. For a few sluggish minutes, there was nothing but the sound of her loud breaths, the quiet snores of her friends and the sheets that stuck to her body like a second skin. Muttering murderously under her breath, she kicked out her legs from under them, relishing in the cool air. She was wide awake and it was half one.
"I'm going to sleep," she whispered firmly and flopped onto her left to do so. Her eyes screwed shut and she conjured thoughts of Albus Potter, purely to entice her into a lovely dream, but it was no use. Even thoughts of the most good looking guy in Hogwarts couldn't keep her frustration away.
Feeling more irritable than ever, she rolled onto her back once more and stared dejectedly at the ceiling of Dormitory 2.6A. Though it was hidden by the darkness, she knew the little patterns that decorated the domed surface above, indistinguishable swirls that soon transformed into little leaves and flowers once one looked hard enough. As soon as she began to picture them in her head, however, she was suddenly struck by an idea that, while it involved breaking a couple of school rules, was far more preferable than simply lying here, feeling all hot and bothered.
Chamomile tea worked a treat for situations like this, she'd heard, and it was very convenient that she happened to be two minutes away from the kitchens, a place where she was sure the house elves had their hands on just about every edible thing in Britain.
Mind made up, she swung her legs out of bed, entertaining the idea of waking Reagan up to have a cuppa before she decided that she didn't particularly fancy being brutally murdered over chamomile tea. Perhaps an English Breakfast would be worth it, but chamomile?
Sighing heavily, Nova groped in the dark for a pair of comfortable socks - her fingers finally curled around two knee high ones made of soft wool, probably mismatched, but she highly doubted that house elves gave a damn about whether she was the pinnacle of fashion - and stumbled towards the door when she stopped short.
How strange, she thought dimly, Nala's not in her bed.
The bed in question was in a similar state to Nova's with tangled sheets and a pillow almost off the bed, as if Nala had simply gotten fed up in the middle of the night and had rolled out of it. Nova considered that she'd simply popped to the bathroom, but a simple strain of her ears informed her that it was well and truly empty. Frowning in puzzlement, she wondered where the bloody hell the girl could be at this time before it occurred to her that Nala was probably at the kitchens too. After all, she had been the one to first introduce chamomile tea to the group.
At least they'd both have some company now. After all, drinking tea really was a social sport - even Nova Hale, Ice Queen and antisocial extraordinaire, knew that.
When she tapped open the door that led out of the Hufflepuff common room with her wand, she expected to be greeted by an empty hallway cloaked in shadows, silence its only occupant. Perhaps the flicker of a torch a little further down the corridor, the shadows it would cast dancing on the walls. Maybe even the silver figure of the Fat Friar soundlessly gliding along.
What she didn’t expect was a shadow to instantly spin around before it rushed into the passageway, forced the door shut again and promptly pressed one hand over her mouth in the matter of a few seconds.
Panic flooded her system, waking her up instantly, but before she could react – bite their fucking hand, Hale, bite the goddamn hand – there was a muttered “Shh…” and she suddenly realised that she recognised that hand, recognised that fresh scent, recognised the shadowy planes of the figure’s face. At the same time that this dawned on her, it seemed to register to him too because he lowered his hand, though he didn’t take a step back.
“Nova,” Albus Potter murmured, sounding relieved. “Thank Merlin, it’s you.”
She stared at him. “What on earth are you doing?”
Immediately, he hissed out a shush again, a finger lifting to his mouth to assist his point. Eyes wide, he pointed to the door and whispered frantically, “Filch, it’s Filch.”
Perhaps it was because he was so agitated, but Nova actually found herself holding her breath. They didn’t dare to move, straining their ears for the sound of the dreaded caretaker – she could’ve sworn she could hear him sneer about how he knew someone was down here, but she couldn’t be sure – until after five long minutes, the boy before her seemed to sag in relief and flashed her a quick smile.
“Sorry about that."
Finally, she felt like she could breathe again. Still, she kept her voice low as she asked, “Wh-what are you even doing down here? It’s two in the morning.”
Raising an eyebrow, Albus said, “I could ask you the same thing, Nova. Where were you off to at two in the morning? The castle can be a dangerous place at night.” There was a teasing lilt to his voice yet he looked at her with utmost seriousness, leaning closer in his efforts to catch an answer.
All of a sudden, the feeling was back. She forgot how to breathe, caught off-guard by the rich smell that clung to his collar, the searing warmth of his body, the little rush of air that ghosted over her hair when he spoke. She flushed scarlet and dropped her eyes, not able to meet his gaze, not when she was this close to him. Thank fucking Merlin they were in the dark.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she responded, her tone more cutting than she had intended in her effort to seem in control. “I tried for ages, but nothing was working so I was going to have one of the house elves make me some chamomile tea and – shit!” She cut herself off with a gasp.
“Why, what is it?” he asked worriedly, glancing over his shoulder as if he half-expected Filch to have suddenly sprung up behind them.
“Nala wasn’t in her bed tonight – it’s why I decided to get up and get some tea because I figured she’d be in the kitchen so she could keep me company - but I completely forgot about that when you came in. Oh, Filch knows how to get into the kitchens, doesn’t he? Oh fuck, I’ve messed up!” she cried hurriedly before letting loose a stream of curses that would’ve made Dahlia as proud as a mother.
When she was done, Albus looked like he was a second away from bursting into laughter. “Well, that was colourful,” he commented. Cocking his head to the side, he added, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you speak like that before.”
She flushed, fidgeting under his curious gaze. “Well, I do have Dahlia Darzi as a close friend.”
He simply hummed in response, peering at her in interest. She met his eyes again, painfully aware of the fact that he still hadn’t moved and that she was getting an intense urge to loop her arms around his neck and kiss him, just so she could do something about all of her nerves.
“If it’s any consolation,” he said as she silently reminded herself that abstinence was the key to success, “Soyinka’s not in the kitchens.”
His words jolted her out of her thoughts. Staring at him in bafflement, she said, “Well, where else would she be, then? Swimming in the Black Lake?”
“Maybe. If she’s doing it with a guy,” he replied, undaunted by her sarcastic response. He cracked a smile at her dumbfounded expression. “She must be with someone if she’s not in her bed at this time or in the kitchens. I don’t know about you, but Soyinka doesn’t particularly strike me as the type to take midnight strolls by herself.”
“Well, yeah, but Nala never meets guys in the middle of the night.”
“Plenty of people do it at some point. Case in point: Scorpius is off with Rose at the moment – which I really didn't need to know when he told me – and I’m pretty sure Holden McCullough is losing his virginity to Valerie Smith tonight. Xanthe mentioned that he was off with some girl, Maria DeMarco was planning to meet up with –”
“I get it,” she cut him off, not wanting to know any more personal details about people she barely gave a shit about. “I’m not even going to ask you how you know all that.”
He smirked. “It helps to have your ear to the ground. You never know what sort of information might turn up. But my point is that Soyinka is definitely meeting someone – if you’re not at the kitchens at this time of night and you’re out of bed, it's 100% likely you’re getting it on.”
Before she could consider otherwise, she blurted, “But we’re not.”
For a moment, he seemed to be thrown off-guard by this statement before a glint appeared in his eyes. It was an unfamiliar gleam, though it was still somewhat playful, and it stole her breath away yet again, gave her the sense that something about this encounter was different. Cocking his head to the side once more, he threw Nova an intense glance, seemingly emboldened by the late hour.
“Are you suggesting we should do something, Nova Hale?" he asked in a low murmur. "After all, neither of us is at the kitchens or in our dormitories.”
To her utter humiliation, she squeaked. Actually fucking squeaked. “I practically am.”
“Practically,” he agreed, slowly leaning in towards her, “but not literally.”
He was all she could see, all she was aware of. Every cell of her body was conscious of the mere inches that separated them, was humming with anticipation, tensed for his next move. She really didn’t know what the fuck to do about his sudden switch in behavior – part of her was begging her to bite the bullet and to kiss him, the other part panicked about whether she was even able to kiss someone properly.
When he was almost nose-to-nose with her, he stopped.
And then snickered.
Pulling back, he struggled to stifle his chuckles, biting hard into his lower lip. “I’m sorry, I just had to tease you. The look on your face –” He dissolved into further laughter. “Are you really that put off by it? You looked like I had hit you with a Beater’s bat or something. I just - Oh, Merlin.”
Disappointment tasted bitter on her tongue. Shrugging it off, she said with only the slightest hint of a bite: “Well, I’m glad I amuse you, then.”
Still grinning, he assured her, “Don’t worry, Nova. I’d never kiss someone without their permission. You’re safe from these hands.” He paused. “Unless you ever decide you don’t want to stop at the kitchens, of course.”
In response, she pushed him away from her.
Now that he was a few steps away, her mind was clearing and her heart was slowing down to its usual pace. She turned on her heel, moving deeper into Hufflepuff’s sanctuary, and heard Albus follow suit almost instantly. He fell into step beside her, looking inexplicably forlorn.
“Are you going to bed?”
She shrugged. “I really do need to go to sleep.”
“But are you even tired?” When she didn’t answer, he nudged her gently and suggested, “Why don’t you sit in the common room with me? We can just talk until you’re ready to knock out. This way, you don’t have to drink tea that tastes like piss to go to sleep.”
She laughed. “How would you know what piss tastes like?”
Nova stopped beside the common room’s most beloved sofa – a lemon-coloured monstrosity which had been worn away over the years and was covered in the signatures of countless Hufflepuffs, a sofa so large that one simply sank into it like a cloud – and threw him a weird look.
“I don’t think I want to know the story behind that answer.”
She couldn't help but laugh at that; just like how she couldn't help but accept his offer and settle down in the common room to while the night away with a companion until her eyelids grew tired and heavy. As she pulled a thick blanket over her bare legs, he dropped down into the seat next to her, looking oddly satisfied when he seemed to be engulfed by the sofa.
"I like this," he declared, shifting around to make himself comfortable. "It reminds me of the Burrow."
"That's because Hufflepuff is brilliant," she informed him confidently.
"If you insist."
"What, you don't think we're brilliant? Just because we don't have the greatest reputation doesn't mean that we're not as good as the other houses, you know."
"I think Hufflepuff's a great house," he replied. "I just happen to prefer Slytherin."
She eyed him shrewdly. "If you insist."
They spent the next hour or so immersed in conversation. Nova didn't know how she managed to keep it up - she wasn't known for being aloof for no reason, after all - but something about Albus comforted her, even as she felt butterflies erupt into existence in her stomach, and she could bounce off his comments with her own easily. Their interactions weren't stilted anymore with long, awkward pauses in which she fretted about how boring she seemed; she could talk to him about almost everything.
They spoke about home, about Hogwarts, about NEWTs and future plans. She told him about her scrapbook and how she really wanted to travel for a while - wander through time in colossal ruins, experience new cultures, try new foods, have the world as her oyster. He confessed that his ultimate goal was to play for England in the Quidditch World Cup "because then I know I've made it" and then mentioned an early memory of his parents teaching him to ride a broomstick.
Conversation didn't simply consist of deep, philosophical thoughts, either - on the contrary, most of the hour was stock full of ridiculous anecdotes and passionate debates about pointless matters. Things actually were pretty intense when the Jaffa Cake debate cropped up and they had to leave the matter on an "agree to disagree" note to avoid a lethal jinx being thrown.
And Nova fucking loved that.
Honest to God, she truly appreciated that she could speak to Albus for hours about pointless shit. She loved the warmth that blazed in her when he smiled or tugged on a strand of his hair in mild frustration if he couldn't word something properly - because it really wasn't a bad sensation, this feeling. Aside from that little incident back at the common room door, he didn't make her question everything she knew or cause her to panic about her worth. And after hearing some of the things her friends had confessed sadly when they had liked someone, Nala in particular, she understood that this was a pretty rare thing too. Just for that, she fell for him even more.
"So your dad's a writer, then?" he asked, looking at her out of the corner of his eyes. She could barely see the colour in the dim lighting, but could picture the vivid jade green in her mind, curious and intense and gorgeous. "Has he published anything?"
She shook her head with a small laugh. "No, it's just a hobby for him. Something for him to channel his ideas and emotions into, I guess."
"Oh, right. He's like Roxanne, then. Except Rox likes to write shit poetry and leave them in weird as fuck places to apparently inspire people."
He sounded so bloody fit when he swore.
(A voice that sounded distinctly like Reagan's murmured, "My ovaries have exploded," in the back of Nova's mind.)
"Are you implying that my dad's shit at creative writing, Potter? Because that gives me permission to attack you, you know."
Somewhere down the line, they had shifted positions and were now leaning in towards each other, the blanket covering their legs, though both kept their limbs to themselves. The sofa cradled their heads, surrounded them in a tacky yellow halo as they faced each other, close enough to touch.
"Only a Hufflepuff would warn someone that they're about to attack them," he commented in wry amusement.
She sniffed. "We Hufflepuffs believe in a fair game."
"We Slytherins believe in winning the game."
Nova opened her mouth to respond with a witty retort, but her brain seemed to think better of it and she yawned into his face instead. Classy as she was, of course. Feeling more than a little embarrassed, she pulled back and struggled to rise from the sofa. Her bed was calling again.
"I should really be going to sleep. I'm absolutely knackered," she told him, finally managing to push herself up. The blanket fell away from her, exposing her legs to the icy air. Goosebumps erupted along them, a landscape of little olive mountain ranges, weathering the cold climate of Scotland. When there wasn't a fire in the hearth, shorts really weren't the best choice to wear to bed.
Albus' eyes swept over her, lingering on them for half a beat. "Hm? Oh, right. . . It's - er, it's past three, isn't it?"
Nodding, she stretched her arms up high above her head, working out the kinks in her body. "Thanks for staying up with me, Al. It was really good of you to do that since you weren't obligated to keep me company or anything."
Flashing her his characteristic easy smile, he slid off the sofa and stood beside her, more than a few inches taller. "Who said chivalry was dead, eh? I'd even drop you off to your dormitory too, but I don't fancy triggering whatever repulsion system you have and injuring my body. They say a Seeker needs to stay alive to win the matches."
"You're in luck, then. We don't have one."
He blinked. "You what? You don't - you don't have a repulsion system? Guys can just - walk into the girls' dormitories?"
"Well, yeah," she said, adding, "We're kinda big on trust in Hufflepuff. Besides, I think Helga Hufflepuff was smart enough to realise that if guys wanted to get it on with girls, we could just easily slip into their dormitories for it. So guys are allowed to go into the girls' area. We do have a system for any unwanted visitors, though so nothing bad happens."
He was still staring at her in shock. "Damn it," he muttered under his breath. "Should've been a fucking Hufflepuff."
With that revelation still playing in his mind, Albus walked with her to Dormitory 2.6A. Each step down the corridor caused the calm from their conversation to melt away and a little worry to trickle into her thoughts. She couldn't help but replay the incident from earlier on - how he had leant in so close to her, how she had wanted it more than anything in the world and had feared wanting it that badly - and remembered that it was pretty common for people their age to casually do so much more than that.
Did Albus want more?
Unbidden, the memory of Cass' suggestive "but if Albus Potter walked into this dormitory right now - naked - and said that he was ready to shag you all night long, would you not do it?" and an image that was far from appropriate flashed into her mind.
Oh for the love of Merlin, what the fuck was wrong with her? She couldn't just picture someone naked, especially when they were right next to her!
"This is my stop," she said, dragging herself out of her thoughts when a familiar round door emerged out of the shadows.
Albus glanced at the parchment pinned to the wood, one that announced this door lead to DORMITORY 2.6A, its occupants DAHLIA DARZI, REAGAN DAVIES, CASSIDY GREENGRASS, ALICE LONGBOTTOM and NALA SOYINKA. Underneath the list was her own name printed in Alice's neat handwriting.
"Why is yours in-"
"Because I'm technically not part of this dormitory," she explained with a sheepish shrug. She pointed to a door a little further down the corridor. "Technically, I'm supposed to be in there. But ever since second year, I've moved in with my friends."
"But - how?"
"I move my bed and furniture on the first night."
For a long second, he looked at her uncertainly, as if unsure whether she was playing him for a fool. Then, he released a laugh, shaking his head. "You just - you just move your bed every year? That's just - God, Nova Hale, you really are so much more than you seem."
Her cheeks flooded with blood. The way he spoke that last sentence had been so - so intimate. And since she was Nova Hale, she really didn't know how to deal with that, so she responded the only way she knew how to: by squeaking goodbye and getting the fuck out of there.
"Listen to me, you little wanker, you'd better get your own fucking toast platter or I swear to every god in this universe that I'll bash your head in with this one!"
Once again, Dahlia's dulcet tone and delicate turn of phrase rang loud and clear in the Great Hall. Her voice prompted Nova to look up from her own breakfast. . . to see the girl in a vicious argument with a second year from Gryffindor. How the fuck she landed herself in these situations was beyond anyone.
"Gryffindor's ran out of it and-"
"Well, Gryffindors need to learn to slow down and eat less, don't they?" she snapped.
"You're the one trying to eat five slices!"
"EXCUSE ME, I AM A GROWING WOMAN. I AM FULLY ENTITLED TO HAVE FIFTY PIECES OF BLOODY TOAST IF I FUCKING WANT TO."
Alice shook her head mournfully. "Why. What did I do to deserve a best friend that argues with second years over toast? The poor boy hasn't even hit puberty yet."
"I JUST WANT ONE SLICE OF TOAST," the brave soul in question screamed.
Never let it be said that Gryffindors weren't valiant.
Dahlia nearly throttled him right there and then. Slamming her beloved platter of toast down onto the table, she hissed, "Alright, you little shit, I have had it up to here with you-"
"Why can't you give me one slice of toast?"
"BECAUSE I AM CURRENTLY BLEEDING THE LINING OF MY FUCKING UTERUS OUT BETWEEN MY FUCKING LEGS AND I WANT TO EAT THE ENTIRETY OF THE FUCKING GREAT HALL TO BE HONEST, SO IF YOU DON'T FUCKING SHUT UP, I'LL FUCKING EAT YOU ALONG WITH IT."
Needless to say, he scarpered after that.
Satisfied, she turned back to face the rest of the group and angrily tore off a strip of toast with her teeth, tossing back a goblet full of water to chase it down. She slammed it down onto the table. As always, she was the poster child for classiness and grace.
Noticing Nova's disgust, she pointed at her warningly. "Don't you dare."
She smiled sweetly. "You look lovely today, Dahlia."
"Dahlia!" came Alice's reproach.
"Alice!" she mimicked with a roll of her eyes.
The last cry came from neither of them but belonged to Aria Hale who plopped down opposite her sister with an incredulous gasp. She looked particularly bedraggled today, dark hair unbrushed and eyes rimmed in heavy, smudged kohl as per the fashion for the lower years. Her haughty features were bright with delight.
"Guess what I just heard about you and a certain Potter?" her sister exclaimed.
Instantly, Nova's mind jumped to the other night when she had spent over an hour alone with Al Potter in the common room. Though all of it had been completely innocent, if it ever became common knowledge, Nova knew she would find she was apparently no longer a virgin and had had a hot romp on the signed sofa by the time it came back to her.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said automatically.
"Really?" Her eyebrows waggled mischeviously. "So you don't know about all these flying lessons that you're apparently getting off Albus Potter? Apparently, you're riding his broomstick."
"Aria, you're thirteen! You should not be making innuendos like that!"
"What innuendo?" she smirked, a glint in her shrewd eyes. "I just said you're riding his broomstick."
"I will genuinely murder you. I mean it."
"Sure, whatever." She waved a dismissive hand and then leant forward. A gleeful expression lit up her features; coupled with her unkempt appearance, she resembled a little child on the Naughty List, out to catch Father Christmas in action and demand a reward. "The point is that you're with Albus Potter -"
"- I'm really not - "
"- which means that you can ask him for favours -"
"- I really can't -"
"- which means that you can convince him to get James Potter to give me flying lessons," she concluded triumphantly.
Nova stared at her. "James Potter is in seventh year," she said flatly.
"I'm aware of that."
"You're in third. That's four years."
"Age is but a number," she declared passionately.
"You're thirteen. He's nearly eighteen. He's not going near you with a fifty foot pole or else I'm going to jam that pole up his arse and through his bun."
Dahlia snorted in approval.
Expressionless, Aria stared down at her, arms crossed to convey her displeasure. Braver men and women would've backed down at such a look, but there was a reason that Nova Hale was known as the Ice Queen. As usual, she simply was not fazed in the face of such blatant rage and raised a mere eyebrow instead. It had to be said that she looked far more impressive than her younger sister.
"You're no fun," she said glumly, retreating in defeat.
"I'm your sister. I'm not supposed to be."
Breakfast continued on smoothly with no further disturbances. Keeping in mind that Dahlia was suffering through cramps, the girls left her alone for the most part, engaging in light and lazy chatter about what their day held in store for them. For the first time in weeks, everything was the way it had been a year ago - Reagan was making sarcastic remarks that had them cracking up and Alice's rebuttals deserved quite the admiration, Cassidy happily munched on a bowl of cereal and Nala spearheaded the teases about Alice's love for Damien Nott. It was as if the past few weeks hadn't happened at all, a thought that lifted Nova's heart to immeasurable heights.
If only such perfectly mundane moments could last forever.
When Psycho Sophie had called Cass fat, the backlash had been violently explosive. Barely a heartbeat had passed before the girls of Dormitory 2.6A had kicked into action - Dahlia and Cassidy springing forward to attack, Alice out to draw blood but not to kill, while Nova and Reagan handled the situation with Cheating Callum. Of course, Cass had struck many a nerve over the past couple of years and was not new to the consequences of this - it was something that simply happened. Not only was she available, she was gorgeous which most guys appreciated and the girls that fancied them didn't; she was a threat and many treated her that way.
Fat had been something new, though. No, Cass couldn't pass for a size four even if her life depended on it, but she usually owned it, controlled it, turned what would be an insult into something to envy. Unfortunately, demons could come forth from even the most unexpected of places and affect even the most unbreakable girls. Unbeknownst to Nova, sixth year was the period in Cassidy Greengrass' life where hers arrived to haunt her, a time when she needed her friends more than anything else in the world. Somewhere in the back of Nova's mind, she had picked up on this to some extent and had adjusted to accommodate it, but it simply was not enough.
She didn't realise that until they found Nala.
The afternoon was bleeding into the evening, dusk creeping into the castle along with a chill, and Nova exited Dormitory 2.6A with an Ancient Runes textbook in hand, Cassidy hot on her heels.
"So you're flirting with him in both History of Magic and Ancient Runes now?" she mused, bumping her hip playfully into Nova's. "I see how it is now."
Rolling her eyes, she answered, "Oh yes, we have such steamy conversation over Elder Futhark. Of course, I don't flirt with him in class! I don't flirt with him at all, to be honest."
She simply hummed in response, somehow managing to lace the noise with all of the disbelief in the world.
Nova nodded in conviction. From the bottom of her heart, she knew that her conversations were nothing more than what they seemed, as lovely as they were. She may have loved to replay some of them in her head, to create fantasies of Albus dramatically declaring his love for her, but they were still conversations. She was still Nova Hale, someone who was shockingly bad at flirting, and he was still untouchable. They were incongruous, impossible, illogical.
"We're just friends," she said, even as the label fit awkwardly into her mouth.
Cass raised her eyebrows. "You weren't in the dormitory the other night, you know. Neither was Nala."
At the suggestion in her words, Nova's nonchalant manner instantly dissipated into nothing. Pink from head to toe, she coughed awkwardly, trying extremely hard not to picture just what was being implied and searching desperately for a neutral expression to wear. In the end, she settled for an incredibly flimsy attempt at feigning obliviousness.
"Um, wh-when was this?"
"Oh, you know when this was. And I might've thought that you were simply at the kitchens and not off with a certain someone - if it hadn't been for your reaction just then. Honestly, for the supposed Ice Queen, you really are too cute whenever Albus is mentioned."
Nova dropped the stupid expression, her face giving way to another wave of embarrassment. Muttering, she said, "I don't know what you're talking about."
Cass merely laughed and linked arms with her, pulling her close. "I'm sure you don't. Anyways, about the other night - I saw you muttering to Reagan the day after you snuck out too, you know. Highly suspicious behaviour if you ask me."
"Funnily enough, I didn't ask you."
They were nearing the Slytherin common room now, passing through the corridors with the ease of people who had been here often. Up until recently, Nova hadn't had much reason to walk past these dungeons unless it was to attend a party hosted by those who dwelled here; Cass, on the other hand, visited quite regularly whether it was to see her cousins or any other people who had somehow caught her interest. Their footsteps were quiet and their voices quieter still which was probably why their ears managed to catch the faint sound of a familiar giggle.
The teasing glint in Cass' eyes turned downright wicked. Clutching Nova's arm tightly, she whispered in the utmost excitement, "Is that Nala's laugh?"
She held her breath, her head slowly moving down into a nod of confirmation. An odd feeling came over her then, as if the two of them were little girls about to enter a highly restricted area and see something they were expressly forbidden to lay eyes on. Smiling in glee, they exchanged a significant look and began to creep along to the mouth of a passageway branching off from theirs.
There was nothing malicious about their actions - the two weren't exactly going to barge in on Nala and whoever she was with or gather information to blackmail her. They were simply intrigued in who exactly was her latest crush. . . Although, Nova had to admit that it wouldn't hurt to have some material to tease Nala with in the inevitable event that her crush on Albus was being taken the piss out of as a joke.
They leant around the corner, eyes straining to make sense of the shadows. She spotted two figures pressed against the wall in a tight embrace, the taller one bending down to press his mouth against the girl's. Nova had enough time to process the blonde curls that tumbled from his head when Cass let out a loud gasp.
Instantly, Nala and Xanthe Greengrass sprang apart, head snapping to the end of the corridor that Nova and Cassidy stood at, frozen in their shock.
She repeated it again. "Fuck! You - you guys - oh, fuck. What the - what the hell is going on here?"
Horror graced Nala's dark features. Almost as if she was in a dream, she stepped forwards towards them, hands out in the universal sign of surrender. Her eyes shone placatingly, but there was no denying the guilt that lurked deep in their midst.
"I - I can explain," she said, reaching for Cass' arm.
She wrenched it away with a humourless laugh. "Oh really? You can - explain? Don't bother, I already know the story. I told you that Xanthe was bad news, I told you that he was only out for one thing, and you - you ignored me. Not only that but you've been lying to me - to all of us for weeks!"
"No, Cass, you don't understand-"
"You know what, you're right! I don't understand. I don't understand how anyone can be so. . . so stupid and selfish! Merlin, what the hell is going on in your brain?"
At the sight of the anger that flashed over Nala's face, Nova pressed a hand against Cass' back, as if to warn her to keep her tongue in check. Now was not the time or place for this - the discussion would have to continue in their dormitory where they were warm and at ease, away from the cold dungeons, away from Xanthe Greengrass' curious gaze as he slipped back into the shadows, somewhere where they could do this properly.
"Let's go back to the dormitory," she began, but the girls were having none of it.
"Stupid? Selfish?" Nala echoed, mouth flattening into a line. "How am I stupid and selfish? I'm not the one banning my best friend from dating someone! If anything, it's selfish that you're doing that."
"I'm trying to look out for you."
"I don't need looking out for!" she cried. "You have this twisted idea about Xanthe in your head - I mean, yeah, he has messed around with girls in the past, but people can change if they meet the right person. And me - I am the right person for him, I -"
"God, do you even hear yourself? Life isn't a fairytale and it doesn't work like that! You're living in this stupid fantasy-"
"Guys," Nova broke in desperately, "can you just stop shouting at each other and calm down, please? Is this really worth it?"
The two best friends stared at each other harshly. Then, Cass shook her head, looking less enraged and more betrayed. Eyes burning a hole in the floor by sheer force of will, she said,"You know what, if it had been any other guy in the world, I would have been fine with it. I would've been happy for you, but. . . Xanthe? I can't accept that."
"It's not for you to accept. None of this is your decision," Nala said, her voice shaking. "Damn it, Cassidy, why can't you just be happy for me? Not everyone can easily get a guy like you can and for once, I have managed to find someone that genuinely likes me, might even love me, and you're ruining it all. Can't you see how wrong that is?"
It seemed like Cass hadn't even heard her. She spoke quietly but firmly. "You know, these past few weeks have been awful for me. I've been going out of my mind every day, convincing myself that everything is okay, that I'm not - that I'm okay. I've been trying to fix everything that's wrong with me so I can finally be -" She cut off and began again, her voice stronger and completely unforgiving. "I have never needed you as much as I have needed you recently and you didn't even - you didn't even notice. Because of Xanthe. You were too busy hooking up with my cousin - who's probably also shagging half of Slytherin, by the way - to notice that your best friend is going out of her bloody mind! If it had been anyone but Xanthe, I wouldn't have cared about that, but that's obviously not the case. Clearly, you have no respect for me or yourself. Clearly, you don't give a damn about how I'm coping after Psycho Sophie said - after she called me. . .
"Just don't - don't speak to me, Nala. I don't want to look at you, don't want to talk to you, don't want anything to do with you. If Xanthe is so fucking great that you didn't notice anything was wrong, you can have him for company instead. Oh, and when he breaks your heart, don't say I didn't tell you so."
Nova could only stand there and watch her toss Nala a final disgusted look before she promptly stormed off, roughly brushing away the tears from her eyes. The other girl remained arrested in her shock, and then fled back down the corridor, a small sob tumbling out of her mouth. In the end, it was simply Nova who remained, watching the strength of Dormitory 2.6A crumble before her and damning the day she decided to take on Ancient Runes.
DEDICATION: To Paula, Ineke and Ysh for waiting so long for this chapter. You guys genuinely keep me going with all your gifs and just everything really.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: How long has it been? A month? A year? A DECADE? Sorry for the huge delay in this chapter, it happened for a couple of reasons: one) exams are the bane of my muse's existence and thoroughly killed any inclination to write, and two) writers block is a bitch, making me sit there like "wut r wurdz." I feel like I've been away from my fics for so long that I've actually forgotten how to write them.
So lots of stuff happened in this chapter. We had a Scene with some pretty heavy Novus in it and we had some drama with the girls. If anyone is wondering why there seems to be a heavier element coming in, the answer is simple: read my author's note in CH1. Even though Novus is a significant part of this fic, what's happening with the girls is actually the main point of everything, even if it might not seem like it (and if it doesn't, there's a reason for that!).
Anyways, some things to think about: do you think Cass is wrong about Xanthe? What do you think is going to happen in the next chapter between them? When will Nova and Al get it on? Are you so sure that Nova and Al are going to end up getting it on? Finally, what are your favourite lines and where do you think I need some improvement/ Let me know your thoughts in the review box below.
30.05.16: ci added
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