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Chapter 7 : SEVEN: Secrets and Sins
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this beauty of a ci was made by page thirteen.@tda <3
SEVEN: Secrets and Sin
"You need to talk to Cass."
Life in Dormitory 2.6A had taken a turn for the worse. Once held together by their brutal honesty, undying loyalty and willingness to accept their friends as they were, flaws and all, the girls were now in a state foreign to them, lost and divided, cast into confusion. None of them knew quite how to approach the situation having never actually been in it before - sure, they had argued and sometimes those arguments had been explosive and bitter. But in the end, they were six girls united by their love for five people who didn't fit the mould made for them, strands of acceptance linking them throughout their days.
An elephant had taken up residence in their dormitory, right between the beds belonging to Cassidy and Nala respectively. When one was in the room, the other made it a point to leave despite the pleas of Nova, Alice and Reagan. Even Dahlia had been thrown off-kilter by their behaviour and had awkwardly requested that they sort it out where she once would've loudly demanded so. But the two former best friends refused to so they were subjected to tense silences instead.
Nova herself had tried to make them see reason. She had first attempted to convince Nala to do so, knowing that if the other girl approached Cass first, the Greengrass would take to it well. But that had proved to be a fruitless endeavour.
"No, Nova," Nala had said firmly as they had sat on a stony bench in the courtyard. "I know you're just looking out for us, but I did nothing wrong."
"You lied to - her," she had reminded, cutting off the us that had been on her tongue. There was no need to make the situation worse than it already was by pitting the entire dormitory against her. "And about her cousin too."
"I lied because I was scared that this would happen. That she wouldn't understand. I mean, as you said, he's her cousin for crying out loud, so how can she not know that he's not all bad?"
"Yeah, but he also has a reputation for playing with people's feelings-"
Nala had turned away in disgust. "None of you get it. I care about Xanthe and he cares about me. You're too blinded by all of the rumours to see that - which really is ridiculous considering the amount of bullshit that flies around about Cassidy."
"What's that supposed to mean?" she had asked, a steely note of warning in her voice.
"It means that some people are convinced that Cass is some sort of - sort of harlot or whatever, but we still know better. Because in the end of the day, all they are is rumours. Have any of you ever considered that it's the same for Xanthe?" When Nova hadn't said anything, Nala had continued, "I'm not going to lie, I miss her. She's my best friend. But I'm still not going to apologise for falling in love with someone and being attacked for it. It's up to her to fix this."
With those words playing in her mind, Nova had retreated into the castle, heading towards the library where she knew Cass dwelled. Honest to God, she could put herself in Nala's shoes and understand where she was coming from - at the end of the day, all she really had done was fall in love with someone.
But that someone happened to Xanthe Greengrass, notorious for the many notches on his bedposts and the trail of broken hearts he collected. And if Cassidy, his own cousin, could admit there was such a side to him, surely they had a duty as Nala's friends to make her see the truth?
Nevertheless, she had passed on Nala's message to Cass although she had softened it with her own words to appeal to her yet that proved just as useless.
"She's been sneaking around with Xanthe for weeks, maybe even months, because she knows that their so-called relationship is nothing more than a facade," she had replied harshly, her dark eyes volatile over her Arithmancy notes. "And maybe I would've been okay with that if she hadn't forgotten about the rest of us for that prick of a Slytherin.
"And him! He knows that my friends aren't players in his little games yet he chooses now of all times to ignore the rules and she is more than happy to accommodate. I'm not apologising for shit, Nova."
It seemed that the elephant in the room refused to budge and threatened to suffocate them all instead. All of the badgers who dwelled in the Hufflepuff basement had eventually noticed the strange behaviour of the girls. Where once they sat in the common room, happily shuffling a deck of Exploding Snaps, letting loose a hearty stream of swear words, attaching themselves to large gaggles of their peers - Cassidy, Alice and Nala would initiate the conversations, Dahlia demanded respect, Reagan and Nova lingered on the edges as they watched on in quiet amusement - they were all seen together less frequently now.
Nowadays, Cass made a nest in her bed and one at the library, flocking between the two throughout the day, while Nala often spent time in the arms of Xanthe. The remaining four oscillated between the two, differing on opinions of what to do and when to do it and how to do it.
One matter had been unanimously agreed upon, however: Xanthe Greengrass was a fucking prick.
Though the personal reasons of the others remained largely unknown to her, Nova couldn't help but harbour a deep mistrust against the seventh year. He had been the one to unravel one of the strongest bonds currently in the house of Hufflepuff, had been the one to slip away from Cass' wrath and abandon Nala to the worst of it, had lured the soft-hearted girl to him yet still managed to convince her that it was best to keep their relationship under wraps. If he was so in love with her, why was he afraid to declare it to the rest of the world?
Yes, the girls of Dormitory 2.6A were stranded in unfamiliar terrain with no map to guide them down the right path. They were doing the best they could to reconcile Nala and Cass despite their obstinance, and their efforts had caught the attention of the entirety of Hogwarts. For once, it wasn't simply Cassidy's name being whispered in other classrooms, but there was also Nova and Nala and Reagan and Alice and Dahlia. People had noticed when the last one's mood had turned even blacker than usual, when Nala and Cassidy hadn't been seen in each other's company for over a week, when Nova Hale's only escape from the problems filling up her mind seemed to be the company of Albus Potter.
Consequently, the day Scorpius Malfoy offered to be her partner in the Transfiguration practical, Nova wasn't all too surprised at his statement that soon had followed.
She turned to look at him in vague interest, a transparent attempt to delay her reply.
Scorpius was a rare specimen in Hogwarts' pool of boys; while he shared the natural good looks of his cousins, he chose to take after his father and a family renowned for their iconic feaures. Where Cass was all soft edges and curves, Scorpius was sharp with high cheekbones and a defined jaw, platinum blonde hair and sloping shoulders, a boy from the cover of Gladrag's Mag.
"I have talked to Cass," she finally said, fiddling with the wand in her hand. They were to change the colour of each other's hair this lesson, something Professor Reed promised was much harder than changing the shade of one's eyebrows. "She won't listen to me."
"You need to wear her down," Scorpius said. "She's a stubborn one, but she'll come around eventually."
"Don't you think I know that?" she snapped before she closed her eyes in frustration and let out a controlled sigh. There was no use in treating Scorpius so harshly, it wasn't his fault that her nerves were so frayed recently. "Look, how much do you know about what happened?"
Scorpius shrugged. "I'd say I know a fair amount."
Nova merely looked at him.
"I know about the argument," he said when she remained silent. "I know why it happened and who it involved. I know what was said."
Relief trickled into her veins, a feeling she had missed sorely over the past week. Had Scorpius claimed not to know what laid at the heart of the mess, she would've prevented the conversation from going any further on this topic, not interested in betraying the confidence of her friends. Hearing the implication in his words, however, was a sweeter sound than any silence, for she was fucking tired of discussing the same old things with the same old friends, of travelling in endless circles. Perhaps Scorpius would provide some fresh insight on the situation, show her the way out of this.
"What - what do you think about all this?" she asked in a low murmur, careful to keep the desperation out of her voice. "I mean, Nala did hurt Cass, but it was a bit of an overreaction on her part-"
"To be honest with you, you probably won't like what I have to hear," he cut across her not rudely.
Her face set in stone once again. "And what is that?"
Scorpius tilted his head to look at her, weighing up the options in his head. Even a fool could realise that he was calculating the risks of speaking his mind, considering whether or not he would end up in the Hospital Wing by the end of their conversation, before he shrugged once more and confessed, "I don't give a damn about Nala Soyinka. She means nothing to me and I've never interacted with her. What I do know is that she's creating a rift between my own family and she needs to bloody well stop."
Anger rose up in Nova. Hissing, she said, "She's not the one who created the rift. If you want someone to blame, look at Xanthe. This has his fingerprints all over it."
"You're right, it does. But Soyinka needs to realise that the way she's affecting Cass is not limited to a few hurt feelings. If that was the case, I'd leave your business to you since it's really not my place to intervene." The intensity in his eyes coloured them charcoal grey when he paused. "Cassidy's not eating."
It was strange how three words could cause the entire world to slow to a stop.
It was as if everything around them had ceased to exist, trapped in the seconds before Scorpius Malfoy had let loose those words from his tongue, and Nova's anger faded along with everything else. Fear overwhelmed her system, confirming the suspicions she had harboured for a little time now - and for a brief second, she hated him for doing that.
Because now there was no turning back, no more hiding under her covers and throwing herself into her fantasies about Albus Potter. None of that mattered because Cassidy's not eating and to think otherwise would be beyond selfish on her part and Cassidy's not eating and they needed to do something and Cassidy's not eating.
She said nothing.
Scorpius took this as a prompt to continue, his voice dropping as he leant in closer. "I've seen it happening from my table, Nova. In the beginning of fifth year, her appetite dropped, yes, but she was still healthy so I didn't think much of it - but this year, it's worse and I can't have that. Now, maybe your friends have also noticed but from what I've observed, you're the only one to have actually picked up on it, so you're the one who needs to help her in all the ways that I can't."
For the first time since her first year, her voice sounded thin when speaking to someone not in her immediate circle, nothing more a weak whisper. "I don't know how I'm supposed to do that."
"You do. Or you will," he said firmly. Leaning back, he added after a moment's pause, "You know, I never took much notice in you before this year, Nova, but from what I've seen, it's a shame I didn't. Al was right about you."
The sound of his best friend's name sent a pleasant spark through her yet it was dulled by the echoes of Scorpius murmuring Cassidy's not eating. Firmly shaking her head, she put all thoughts of the jade-eyed Slytherin out of her mind since now was not the time to wonder what on earth the boy before her meant by his words.
Instead, she picked up her wand and pointed at Cass's cousin. "Crinus muto," she murmured, but his hair remained as pale as snow.
"Can we not just bash their heads together and be fucking done with it?"
Dahlia's exasperated question placed her firmly on the receiving end of three unimpressed scowls courtesy of Nova, Reagan and Alice. The seventeenth hour of the day was dawning and they were on their way to grab some food for Cass after having discussed her loss of appetite at great length as well as her issues with Nala while the girl in question hid away in the library. Excuses about studying be damned, they couldn't just allow her to starve herself.
Nova eyed the handle emerging from the pear she had just tickled and wondered whether she could rip it off to smack Dahlia's head with it.
"What a brilliant idea, Dahlia," Reagan said pleasantly to her. "I don't know why on earth we didn't think of that."
In response, Dahlia shoved her, sending her tumbling into Nova. Unfortunately for the two, the door to the kitchens had just swung open so they crashed over the threshold in a painful tangle of limbs.
"I am actually going to murder you, Darzi," Nova growled, pulling herself out from underneath her best friend and crawling onto all fours. "God knows why the Hat thought you should be in Hufflepuff, you're clearly as fucking insufferable as some of the Gryffs."
Daintily, Alice stepped over their bodies and held her hand out to help them up. "As the daughter of the Head of Gryffindor, I resent that."
Once they were back on their feet, albeit bruised and their dignity a little worse for wear, Alice set to work on speaking to one of the many house elves who had swarmed around them, eager to help. Meanwhile, her best friend turned to the other two with the face of a woman on a mission, stretching her arms high above her head and working out the kinks in her neck.
"So, what are we going to take to her anyway? Veggie pizza?"
Nova shook her head, remembering the night of the detention when Cass had declined to eat her slice. "No, she won't like that. We need light food, something healthy."
"But veggie pizza's her favourite. Though I don't see why since the Asian-style pizza is clearly superior, even if it's not even spicy."
Reagan sent her a furtive look. "What're you on about? The Asian-style pizza always sets my throat on fire," she said and Nova nodded in agreement.
"You're weak," she smirked.
"It's not our fault," protested Nova, running a hand through her hair as she pondered what food Cass might like. "You're half-Indian, half-Arab."
"Actually, I'm 1/4 Arab and 3/4 Indian. And you're weak."
"Weakness aside," broke in Reagan, "we need to decide what we're sneaking into the library. And no, we can't get pizza. How do you even sneak a bloody pizza into the library?"
"Yves Lewis does it all the time," Dahlia argued.
"Yves Lewis isn't the one that's not eating. We can't get pizza because she won't eat it so forget about it. We need to get fruit."
Dahlia made a face to which Nova lightly smacked her on the arm before suggesting, "How about blueberries?"
"Ew, who the fuck wants blueberries?"
"Er, blueberries are fucking divine, actually."
"Blueberries look like shit."
"Yeah, well, so do you," Nova retorted. "We're getting blueberries and that's that since I love them and, more importantly, so does Cass. Remember we need to pretend that the snacks we're bringing are mostly for us and that we're just offering them to her, but really they have to be stuff she'd eat."
"Since when the fuck would I bring blueberries?"
If looks could kill, Nova would have been carted off to Azkaban.
In the end, after several bitter struggles - Nova had to wrestle the blueberries away from Dahlia before she squashed them due to her deep hatred for them, Alice accidentally broke several bowls and someone decided it was high time that the floor of the kitchen was covered in melted dark chocolate - they were ushered out of the room by house elves glad to see the back of them. Their bags were bulging and their tongues were sharp as they pinned the blame on one another, but they were in somewhat giddy moods until the topic of Nala Soyinka somehow emerged again.
"I don't understand why she'd be with Xanthe Greengrass," confessed Reagan as she tugged Nova toward the library. "I mean, he's Xanthe fucking Greengrass."
Nova shrugged. Personally, she had never seen the true allure to the Slytherin Quidditch Captain, either - sure, he was extremely attractive and a smooth talker, but he was also someone who happened to have a reputation which preceded him, one that was far from glowing. If one's personal mission was to have a little reckless fun for a night, then he was the perfect man to be with. . . but the sort of relationship Nala was after?
Not so much.
"It's Nala," was all she said. "Liking guys is sort of her thing."
Predictably, a snort sounded from the general direction of Dahlia Darzi. "I don't see why. Guys are too dumb to be worth the effort."
"You can't just write off half the world's population like that," said Alice in mild amusement, adjusting the strap of her bag self-consciously. She had managed to cram a huge container of frozen yoghurt in between her Charms textbook and the articles she'd picked up for extra reading in her Defence Against the Dark Arts class. "That's awfully misandrist of you."
"But is it misandry when I hate most of the world, male or female or otherwise?"
"Always a charmer, aren't you?" answered Nova. When Dahlia's answering smile was as venomous as a viper's, she continued, "But no, I don't blame her for liking people, it's only natural. Not all guys are dumb, either."
"Oh yeah, like who?"
"Like Al. He's had intelligent conversation with me before - and not only once but a fair few times."
"That's because Albus Potter wants to get you into his bed."
Nova's cheeks exploded with colour at the statement, said as matter-of-fact as most declarations from Dahlia. The thought warmed her from head to toe, casting shadowy suggestions into her mind which she somehow managed to shrug off, clearing her throat as she did so. Though it would be pretty damn great to entertain such notions - she recalled a figure leaning in towards her beside the common room door, bright jade eyes staring at her as if she was some sort of goddess as snow cascaded around them on the Quidditch pitch, a muttered damn it, should've been a fucking Hufflepuff - she was no optimist. Her heart only opened so much to fantasies, dealing out ample realism where necessary to prevent heartbreak.
Albus Potter did not want her in his bed.
"Al and I are just friends," she said and her voice was steady, as if to suggest that to suggest otherwise would be absurd.
"Oh, come on. He's Albus Potter."
"You don't fucking say."
"What I think she means is," Reagan explained, rolling her eyes at Dahlia's indignant expression, "that the Potters aren't exactly known for expanding their social circle to just any old person. Sure, they socialise - everyone knows that James Potter with his beautiful man bun is pretty fond of getting to know people, if you know what I mean - but the list of who they actually stay with on a regular basis isn't a long one. And this year, you've suddenly been added to it."
She opened her mouth to argue against that point before she paused to consider it. Not the matter of whether Albus Potter wanted to entice her into his bed - that was bloody ridiculous - but whether she could be considered to be a part of the Slytherin Seeker's social circle. Did a few conversations now and then really account to that much?
Maybe she was better at this flirting business than she believed she was.
"You're just proving my point," she told Reagan.
She simply raised an eyebrow, the action transforming her from someone who looked twelve years old to a girl pushing fourteen. "Au contraire, Hale. You don't think it's a little strange how Albus Potter, someone with no real reason to interact with Hufflepuff's most notorious introvert aka the girl who created the Resting Bitch Face, would suddenly want to become friends with you? Most of the times that he's taken this much interest in a girl has resulted in a girlfriend of some sort."
Of course, Nova was aware of that. She might not have been considered the leading expert on crushes, but she was well aware of the fact that one tended to research thoroughly about one's crush once it had been determined one did, in fact, have said crush. It had been almost too easy to discover the basics about Albus Potter. Mostly because she had already been aware of all the information on some level.
When it came to girls, Albus' experiences paled in comparison to his brother's; while James Potter was almost as notorious as Xanthe Greengrass (excepting the fact that the Slytherin liked to toy around with feelings while James preferred Cass' approach of honesty being the best policy), his younger brother had a grand total of two girlfriends in the past.
Devon Montague had been his first girlfriend back in forth year, a Slytherin two years older than them, and the other relationship had been a brief fling with Holly Cassoway, a Gryffindor who shared some of their classes. Both, Nova had been disappointed to notice, were pretty striking. Neither had been conventionally pretty - Devon had looked like she was made of rock, all rough edges and sharp lines with a pixie cut that stood out from the crowd whereas Holly had a soft, maternal look to her - but they were oddly breathtaking girls.
Meanwhile, Nova simply looked like an emotionless statue.
"But there were some times that it didn't end up like that - like with Maria DeMarco for example," she insisted as they reached the library. She pushed the door open, instantly lowering her voice as they entered. "And I genuinely believe that this is one of those times."
There was silence.
And then, Dahlia said, "For someone so smart, you really can be a fucking idiot."
But it didn't matter. The matter was dropped in favour of hunting down Cassidy and convincing her to eat a bite of something; Nova even caught Dahlia fervently promising herself under her breath to personally shove some down her throat if she had to (which probably would do more harm than good, if she thought about it). Much to Alice's chagrin, the Greengrass was in the Herbology section, right in the middle of two towering bookcases full of tomes with bits of dirt still trapped between their pages.
"Hello," Hufflepuff's sweetheart still said cheerily, dropping into the seat opposite her.
Cass looked up, pushing the strand of hair in her eyes back. In the past week, it seemed that she had stopped putting any effort into her appearance other than the basic requirements - her hair was swept back into a messy pile on her head, her skin a little pasty and her eyes were perpetually red with tiredness. Briefly, Nova felt a small spark of jealousy at how gorgeous she managed to look even without makeup.
"Hey," she said with a small smile. "What're you guys doing here?"
Nova extracted a sheaf of notes from History of Magic, saying, "We have another project to do." In truth, there was no new assignment, but she felt a little white lie would do no harm here.
"And I've decided to finally get a move on and revise," said Reagan.
"I'm bored as fuck, but I thought that my day couldn't get any fucking worse so I came along."
"Because studying with me in the library is the perfect remedy for that," Cass joked. When she smiled, the curve of her mouth was a little tremulous but genuine. "Ah well, I have plenty of room here for you so long as you don't turn the table into a pigsty."
Near to an hour passed as the friends revised in the library, though not much studying actually occurred. Nova noticed that Reagan honestly did try to make an effort with her Potions revision, flicking through half a sizeable stack of flashcards about the different ingredients in various concoctions, until she gave into the almost relaxed atmosphere. Underneath the veneer of their easy laughs, however, there was a current of tension as everyone tried to convince Cassidy to eat.
Nova had been the first, something that had been decided on without discussion since she had been the one to bring the issue to light. About five minutes into their so-called revision, she had extracted the packet of blueberries from her bag and had begun to nibble on them, feigning nonchalance all the way. Out of the corner of her eyes, she'd noticed Cassidy stir, glance at the blueberries and then away before she'd repeated the routine thrice more.
"You like blueberries, don't you, Cass?" she had said after a while.
"Hmm? Oh, they're alright, I suppose."
Dahlia had scrunched up her nose. "Ew. Healthy food."
Nova's foot had jammed into her leg with a sharp movement. Above the table, however, she had been all smiles. "Do you want some? As per usual, the house elves thought I needed enough blueberries to survive the winter so there's more than enough to go around."
Her head had been shaking from side to side before three words were even out. "No, no, I'm alright. I just ate."
And honest to God, Nova's heart had skipped a sudden beat at those words, spasming in her chest.
What had unsettled her so badly was not that Cassidy had been lying through her teeth - it was that she had sounded completely normal with every syllable that left her mouth. If it hadn't been for the lack of effort in her appearance, she would've seemed exactly as she did every other day. . . which begged the question of how long this had been going on for. What if both Nova and Scorpius had only noticed something after several long months? What if they were now too late to make a difference? What if, what if, what if?
For half a second, Nova's smile had dropped, leaving behind a blank mask before she'd forced it back on again. "Oh, come on, Cass. You can't just leave me to eat my own weight in them by myself. Besides, blueberries are great for your health, so it's not like we'll actually be pigging out or anything."
"I don't know, Nova, I don't think I'm hungry."
Even Cass hadn't sound convinced by her own words that time. By the time the minute was over, she'd reached out and had taken a handful to munch on. Nova had noticed that she'd ate slowly, making each blueberry last as she'd flipped through her notes. Savouring the taste of her failure, though the girls had counted it as their first victory.
By the time the hour passed, however, only Reagan had managed to cajole her into eating another filling snack: pitta bread and hummous. Every now and again, the two had made a feast out of it in the dormitory - Alice disliked the taste of hummous, Nova had long since written it off as an option that simply did not have her name on it, and Dahlia dismissed it as "too fucking bland" - so Cass had quickly caved again.
When it came to Dahlia's dark chocolate and Alice's frozen yoghurt, however, she remained obstinate. Even the mere mention of their treats had her swallowing in distaste, Nova noticed, and her fingernails digging deep into her palms. When it became apparent that their lack of success was causing Alice to nearly be reduced to tears, Nova knew she herself needed to take a minute to breathe away from it all. She couldn't handle the rising tensions, not this time, not for this long.
Murmuring an excuse of finding a book for her project, she escaped to another set of bookshelves, slipping in between the dusty historians of the past. Their names were of little interest to her yet she pretended to study them all the same, her fingers tracing Peverell, Wrainbright, Emerus. Releasing a controlled breath of air, she pulled out the book she intended to take back to the table - when she realised she could see Psycho Sophie through the gap it left behind.
The younger Hufflepuff was with that fucking tosser, Cheating Callum, at a table for two, studying diligently for one of her classes. One arm was wrapped around his waist while the other flicked through her textbook and he mimicked the position, occasionally turning his head to murmur into her ear. Briefly, Nova wondered how the fuck they could be bothered to hold onto each other so tightly and for so long. It was so fucking unnecessary, as if they feared the other would run away if they didn't grab at each other at all costs.
Then again, Cheating Callum had clearly earned his name.
Maybe it wasn't so unnecessary, after all.
Gazing at the two of them through the little gap in the bookcase filled Nova with an anger that could quell even the bravest of men. Perhaps it was irrational to think so but in her eyes, Cassidy's current state was all thanks to Psycho Sophie for failing to recognise that it took two to tango and that her boyfriend had been more than willing to cheat on her. It had been Psycho Sophie who had implied Cassidy was fat, Psycho Sophie's words that had been taken to heart. All of it was her fucking fault.
Not the first time in her life, Nova genuinely felt the urge to hex someone.
For the first time in her life, she was actually considering going through with it.
"Hey, Nova," a voice suddenly said and she jerked back from the gap in the bookcase, guilt imprinted on her face as if she had already cast the jinx, to face Albus Potter. Surprisingly, her body didn't tingle with anticipation at the mere sight of him as it usually did; only anger continued to hum in her nerves.
"Al," she said with a soft, strained smile. "Er, what are you doing here?"
Oddly enough, the question caused him to turn a little red. Coughing hastily, he indicated the mouth of the aisle they were in, saying, "Er, I was just - walking past to - to get to my mates. Yeah, to get to my mates. . . You know, like Scorpius, Elijah, Maria and Adam the P - and Adam."
A silence fell between them that seemed to stretch for an eternity. Neither of them appeared to know how to break it or appeared to be inclined to walk away. They didn't even meet each other's eyes, Nova staring hard at his shoulder while he kept his trained on his shoes, hands pushed into his pockets like a bashful school boy.
"What were you looking at?" he finally said curiously, tilting his head to peer through the gap before she could protest. She abruptly realised how creepy she must've looked to him, spying on a couple on the other side of a bookcase. ". . . Psycho Sophie?"
Heat worked its way up the back of her neck. Clutching the book in her hands to her chest, she blurted, "I'm not a creep, I promise."
He raised an amused eyebrow. "Just casually interested in Psycho Sophie and Callum Gardener?"
Huffing, Nova wondered how the hell she could explain her predicament (that she wanted to hex them for single-handedly shattering the confidence of the most self-assured girl she knew and one of her best friends at that) without betraying the trust of the one party involved whom she cared about.
"I'm not a creep," she repeated.
His eyes were glittering in amusement, a thousand flashes of green that still managed to take her breath away after all this time. "So you've said."
"I just - I wanted to hex them. For what they did."
Surprisingly, he didn't question her for an elaboration, instead opting to nod thoughtfully, as if tossing her words over in his head. When he spoke, the question he proposed was not one she anticipated: "How?"
Her mind was blank.
"Well, I can see how that would hurt them."
Laughing despite herself, she lightly smacked his arm. It was bare, the sleeves of his robes pushed up in the fashion of all of the guys in the upper years. In the back of her mind, she noted the feel of it under her arm - the smooth hair which grew so lightly, the riverland of his veins, the strength coiled up in each cell.
"It was more of a spur of the moment thing," she told him, a smile in her voice. "I don't usually plan these things."
He cocked his head to the side, sighing in mock disappointment. His hand absently brushed back a wayward strand of her hair from her shoulder. "Oh, Nova. Don't you know that planning such things is the key to getting away with them? You can't expect to pull this off without a great plan."
"I didn't even know I wanted to do it until two minutes ago."
"Well, how badly do you want to do it?" he asked, sounding eerily like they were on the Quidditch pitch with his Nimbus 2222. Like he was her commander, pushing her to edges she wasn't even aware existed, but also like he genuinely cared about the way she felt about doing that. "On a scale of one to ten, I mean. One would be the lowest and ten is the highest, all that bullshit."
An answer was supplied without hesitation. "Ten."
"Well, if you feel so strongly about it and you don't know how you're going to do it. . . I'd say you should leave this one to the Slytherins. Luckily for you, you happen to know one of them," he said with a wink that sent waves of heating crashing through her bones.
Turning away from her to return to his friends, he sent a smirk over his shoulder: a wicked, wolfish half-smile that nearly unravelled her, a smile specially reserved for boys out to stray others from paths neatly carved out with the best of their intentions. It was a smile that was sinfully Slytherin.
Until the end of her days, Nova would come to remember exactly what she was doing when all hell would break loose at the Hufflepuff table the coming morning - she would remember the taste of butter as she slid her teeth into her toast, the dazzling light reflected off the surface of her goblet, and she would remember Cass' empty seat on the bench. When the next day would arrive, she would notice all of this the moment that Psycho Sophie would stop by the girls of Dormitory 2.6A and would deliberately snog her boyfriend, Cheating Callum, in a rather revolting display of ownership in the Great Hall.
And Nova would remember the speed at which Cheating Callum would tear away from her and would spit out the tiny jumping frog in his mouth with a high shriek. She would remember the look of horror on Psycho Sophie's face as more and more of them tumbled out of her mouth, turning into stone within moments of entering the air - and how they would be more than real when they were in the back of her throat.
But at the current moment in time, Nova had no idea what treat was in store for her the next day, so she simply committed the memory of Albus' smile to her mind and then returned to help save her friend.
DEDICATION: beka_wotter who has reviewed most, if not all, of the chapters of Dormitory 2.6A. Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your days to let me know what you think and thank you for reading so far!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here's another chapter for ya. I actually finished it a couple of days after I uploaded CH6, but I wanted to wait for a bit to see if I didn't like any bits when I returned/to space it out and ended up caught up in life.
As always, let me know what you think in the box below. You may be interested to know that there's about three chapters left of this fic after this. There was initially only supposed to be six. That's right. Six.
(edit 09.10.16: ci added)
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