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Moonlit Meetings by KilledByDrapery
Chapter 32 : The Winter Chronicles
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 10


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 Moonlit Meetings

Chapter 32: The Winter Chronicles

“GO!”

I don’t think I had ever seen Stella quite so invested in anything since our game against Slytherin earlier that semester. Her curly blonde hair was tied back in a high-ponytail, her green eyes—perfectly lined—flashed as she watched her boyfriend, Edmund Withers, grab hold of the quaffle when Hufflepuff chaser, Leon Agnoli, was hit with a bludger.

Edmund, always one for a bit of show, flashed the audience his award-winning smile before taking off down the pitch, pushing past Hufflepuff’s defense with ease. He threw the quaffle up into the air, smashing it with the end of his broomstick. It went shooting toward the rings, but Alfred Summers, Hufflepuff’s keeper, batted the quaffle away like it was merely tossed his way. James was right, Summers was wicked fast.

The game thus far, about forty minutes in, was 30-50 in favor of Ravenclaw, but it didn’t look like Hufflepuff was going to take the loss lying down. Their captain, Sean Lewis, was sweeping the pitch, his eyes searching for the snitch. If he caught it now, or soon, it wouldn’t matter how good Ravenclaw’s chasers were; he would be able to gain the extra points as well as end the match.

“Oh that was completely bull-crap,” Stella exclaimed, throwing her arms up into the air. “He had that!”

Felicia, who was sitting in the stands on my other side, scoffed. She pushed her red hair over her shoulders, cocking her head to the side. “There was no way he was getting that in,” Felicia retorted. “Hufflepuff’s keeper is far superior to Edmund’s skills as a chaser.”

Stella shot her a look that could have killed a whole field of flowers. “Edmund is an amazing chaser.”

Felicia raised one of her perfectly pristine eyebrows. “I never said Edmund wasn’t a talented chaser. I merely said that Summers is more talented as a keeper.”

Stella turned her attention to the pitch, silently fuming as she glared over at Summers, who was flying around the Hufflepuff rings like he hadn’t a care in the world. Behind me, Mary leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “are all Quidditch matches this...toxic?”

I chuckled, tilting my head toward her as I replied, “not quite. But then again, everyone seems to have a vested interest in the outcome of this game.”

Mary leaned back in her seat, and I flicked my eyes further down the Gryffindor section of bleachers, catching onto the boys. They were sitting on the other end of the bleachers, each with their eyes firmly glued to the pitch, though they were all talking animatedly, grinning and scoffing at each other’s comments. One of these days, I’m going to steal you away, Colton. Just wait and see.

I turned my attention back to the game.

Hufflepuff now controlled the quaffle, and—lead by lead chaser, Agnoli—they made a play toward the Ravenclaw rings. Poppy, a bright but troubled girl clad in blue guarded the rings. Rumor had it she had been having issues with her arm since a rugby accident past summer vacation, but she had played a near flawless game thus far, so it was difficult to tell if those rumors were true. Agnoli ducked down, faking left before driving up right, throwing the quaffle with such force that it didn’t surprise anyone when—in the midst of trying to block—Poppy didn’t have a flying chance in Azkaban of saving the goal. What did surprise everyone was the scream that left Poppy’s mouth as she recoiled her left arm into her chest.

It seemed like Ravenclaw had been braced for this possible occurrence, because the switch between Poppy to their reserve keeper, Carlson—an eager but inexperienced fourth year—was out on the pitch before the scorekeeper had even recorded Hufflepuff’s addition of ten points.

“No, no, no!” Stella exclaimed, bashing her fist against the wooden railing with each word. “He did that on purpose!”

Felicia rolled her eyes. “Not everyone is out to get your precious boyfriend, Stella.”

Stella flicked a glare her way. “It was Poppy who got hurt, not Edmund.”

“That’s true,” I put in with a chuckle. “If it was Edmund, there would have been a massacre on the pitch by now.”

Stella waved her hands toward the pitch. “Are you two watching the same match as I am? It’s ridiculous! Hufflepuff shouldn’t even be able to keep playing if they’re going to slowly knock off all the Ravenclaw players...”

“They’re not doing it on purpose,” Felicia tried to reason with her. “Poppy has been having issues with her arm since this summer. Any reasonably astute observer could tell that Agnoli was aiming for the ring, not her arm. Why in the world would he actively try to injure her when he would get kicked out of the game and possibly toss his team’s chances of winning? That’s just common sense.”

Stella quieted, but I could tell she was still fuming on the inside. I desperately hoped that her negative feelings would subside after the match, because living with her after this would have been positively dreadful otherwise.

And that’s when Sean Lewis caught the golden snitch.

I felt my jaw go lax as the stands erupted in cheers. Despite everything else, Hufflepuff had done it—they had won the match against Ravenclaw and it didn’t even come down to goals, so in the end, it hadn’t mattered that Poppy left the game. The Winter Ball... I tried to push the thought out of my mind, simultaneously begging myself not to look over at the guys. As much as I wanted to know how the two of them were reacting to Hufflepuff’s win, it was my own reaction that I didn’t want them to see because I wasn’t quite sure what my face was doing and I didn’t want to chance upsetting either of them.

I had tried to figure out how I felt about the entire wager all week, but I hadn’t gotten any closer to really sorting out my emotions—and that moment was no different. I had so many thoughts running through my head that I decided it would be best just to push them all down and deal with them later. After I figure out how James and Sirius are taking it...

I chanced a look at their side of the bleachers to see that they were shaking hands. Shaking hands? I wasn’t quite sure why that hit a nerve, but I was suddenly a lot more annoyed by the entire situation than I had been twenty minutes prior. I took a breath, ignoring the cries of anger from Stella, and weaved my way toward them.

Sirius gave me a half-hearted smile when I approached, and I walked over to him, throwing an arm around his waist.

“I really thought Ravenclaw was going to win,” he said apologetically. He spoke slowly, softly, like he thought I was going to deck him for the entire thing.

“You and me both,” I said, pushing myself up on my toes so I could kiss his cheek.

James smiled, bowing and holding a hand out to me. “It would be my absolutely pleasure to escort you to the Winter Ball, Milady,” he said in his best posh voice.

I chuckled, making a big deal out of rolling my eyes. Inside, my stomach was a tangle of knots. “I suppose it wouldn’t be entirely horrible. I could even sneak off to make-out with Sirius in the loo. You know, make it even more like a muggle romantic comedy.”

James narrowed his eyes at me, but Remus laughed from his side. Everyone glanced at him, and his cheeks flushed pink. “I appreciated the reference,” Remus explained, his chuckles turning into a cough in his embarrassment.

I smiled at him, grateful that he had inadvertently cut a bit of the tension between the group (which, of course, was mainly in my head). Sirius placed a kiss on the top of my head.

“I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” he told me with a smirk.

James took a loud breath, pointing toward the castle. “And that’s my cue to leave. Peter, Remus, you lads coming?”

The three of them headed off, Remus waving goodbye as they did so. I waved back, giving him a warm smile. Ever since I had smudged mascara all over his shirt, the two of us had gotten back into the friendly groove we used to be in—which had been inadvertently ignored while I was working to understand my new relationship with Sirius and dealing with all of my lycanthropy issues. I missed hanging out with him, and in the past week we had even managed to sneak some duo-study time in between classes, my relationship, and Quidditch practice. Since James had been worried he’d lose his captain-ship to Sirius for the rest of the semester, he had been drilling us even harder than usual in practice. And while I appreciated the jump-start back into Quidditch, my thighs didn’t.

“Do you want to take a walk down by the lake?” Sirius asked me, a smile on his lips. It was only days away from being December, and the autumn chill had broken free into winter’s cold like a gusting wind. Underneath all of my layers, however, it wasn’t as horrid as it might have been otherwise.

“Sure,” I agreed—half from a want to spend more time with him and half from a guilty conscience.

We made our way down to the lake, glove-in-gloved hand. It wasn’t too far of a walk, but with the brisk wind nipping at our noses, it felt like it was dragged out. No one else was silly enough to be outside, what with the sky being covered in dark, gray brooding clouds. I wondered if we would be getting more rain, or if it might actually snow.

“I miss spending time just one-on-one with you,” he admitted once we were close enough to the water to smell its oceanic-esque scent.

“I have as well,” I agreed. It wasn’t a lie. I really did miss him, I had just been too busy feeling guilty about the kiss that I had been avoiding spending that alone time with him. When I was around James, the electricity was nearly stifling, but when I thought about Sirius, I just felt...warm. It was like being wrapped in a blanket so warm that the coldest winter nights wouldn’t bite through it. “I’m sorry I’ve been so busy lately. It’s just that with exams coming up and everything...”

He stopped me, tilting my chin up with one of his powerful fingers. “You don’t need to apologize for being all studious and such,” he chuckled. “To be honest, I should be doing that myself.”

He leaned down and kissed me, pressing his lips deep into my own and I uncoiled into the kiss, allowing myself a few moments of bliss before my world came crashing back down to me. James. My brow furrowed and I broke apart, quickly covering with a smile.

“I can always help you get started if you wanted to come over to the dark side...” I told him, my voice coming out more powerful than I thought it was going to.

“The dark side?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“The side of studying,” I teased him, squeezing his hand. He chuckled and I felt myself beginning to relax again.

Sirius’s cheeks and nose were red from the cold, and I wondered if mine were too. It had gradually gotten colder as we stood by the lake, though the sight itself was quite majestic. The water wasn’t completely frozen over, but it definitely started to, with a thin sheet of ice covering the majority of the water as far as I could see. Something wet touched my nose and I paused, glancing upward. The first snow of the season... Sirius wrapped his arms around me, looking up at the sky as well.

“Happy beginning of winter, Serena,” he told me with a smile. He leaned down, placing a chilled kiss on my lips.

“Happy beginning of winter, Sirius.”




By the time the Winter Ball rolled around, the Hogwarts grounds were covered in a half a foot of snow, with flakes falling near non-stop the entire day. Midterms were over, and the entire castle was abuzz with anxiety since the following day would mark the arrival of the Hogwarts Express, and therefore the beginning of the winter holidays.

“Are you sure this dress is alright?” I asked Stella, Mary, and Lily up in our dormitory, nervous as all hell. Felicia was in the bathroom putting the finishing touches on her brilliant, red curls. I turned from side to side in the mirror, nervously chewing on my button lip.

“First of all, yes,” Stella said with a sigh. She then moved forward, angrily batting at my face like an annoyed mom. “And second of all, stop biting your lip! You’re going to get lipstick all over your teeth.”

Lily moved forward. “I can fix that,” she announced with a flick of her wand. My lips suddenly felt silky smooth. When I looked at her, confusion on my face, she added, “it’s a spell to keep your lipstick on. It’ll wear off by tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks,” I said, smiling at her. “That’s one less thing I’ll need to worry about.” I turned back to my reflection.

My dress was floor-length, like most of the girl’s choices for the night. It draped down in ruby red rivers, clinging to each of my curves (even the ones I was trying to ignore) and flowed out behind me a couple inches in a silky waterfall. It was sleeveless, with wide straps that curved down into a sweet-heart neckline where a small, orange gem rested on a thin, silver chain around my neck. A long slit rode up the left side of the dress, resting so high on my hip that I had been forced to wear a thong underneath so it wouldn’t show out the side of the dress. My hair was curled, and piled on the top of my head in a precarious show of 50’s muggle fashion, matching up with my bright, red lipstick, nude color-pallet around my eyes, and dark, winged eyeliner.

And I looked positively ridiculous.

“I should just change!” I exclaimed, moving my hands to begin removing the ungodly amount of pins that were holding my hair up.

“NO!”

The scream came from four different directions as every single one of my roommates rushed forward to stop me from destroying the “masterpiece” (as they called it) on the top of my head.

“I swear to Merlin, Serena...” Stella muttered under her breath, yanking my hands down to my sides.

“Don’t you even dare think about ruining what we did for you!” Mary cried, aghast at the idea of their hard work being squandered.

“Serena, you’re being positively ridiculous,” Lily told me.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Felicia scolded me from the doorway leading into the lavatory. “Any guy would kill to see you looking like this after always watching you sweating out on the Quidditch pitch.”

“But I look silly,” I tried to reason with them. They were the ones being ridiculous. I looked like a prostitute.

Stella moved closer to me, her face dead serious. “If you remove a single pin from your hair, I will personally rip out every single one of your fingernails while you sleep tonight. Individually. With tweezers,” she added for extra effect.

Lily scrunched up her nose, looking over at Stella. “That’s a bit much, don’t you think?”

Stella’s face dropped and she shrugged. “I just wanted to make sure she wasn’t going to do something stupid!”

“It was a bit much,” Felicia hollered from her place at the bathroom mirror.

“Nothing is too much when it comes to saving one of the eight wonders of the world,” Stella retorted, putting her hands on the hips of her blue, sparkly ball gown.

“Stella, there are only seven wonders—” Lily tried to tell her, but Stella cut her off.

Eight if you count the masterpiece of one Serena Colton,” Stella announced proudly, waving her arms toward me.

I put my hands up in surrender. “I won’t mess with it, I promise! Just, please don’t rip out my nails...”

Stella grinned ear-to-ear, throwing an arm over my shoulders. “That’s my girl!” She seemed to remember something, and wobbled her way over to her bedside table, digging around for a moment, before reemerging with a camera. “Now, to commemorate the moment that our little Serena turned into a real woman!” She winked at me, raising the camera. “Strike a pose!”

She snapped the picture, grabbing the polaroid as it popped out the bottom. She shook it for a moment, before looking at it with a grin on her face. Magical cameras were a bit faster than muggle ones, the picture filled up the entire piece of photo paper, and...

I looked down at the picture as she handed it to me. And they moved. Which meant that I was forever immortalized in this prostitute dress sticking out my tongue at her, before grinning and rolling my eyes. At first, I was horrified that I would have to look at that picture for the rest of my life, but then I started to smile when I realized that it completely encompassed the entire process of getting ready with my friends—annoying, funny, and amazing.

“Thanks, Stella,” I said, surprising her by throwing my arms around her in a hug.

“Oh, Okay,” she stumbled, awkwardly trying to hug me back through her shock. “I didn’t think I’d get a hug for threatening you.”

I let go, holding her at arm’s length. “Thank you for being my friend. Well, all of you. So thanks.”

Felicia walked out of the lavatory, turning off the light. She was stunning in her thigh-length black sheath dress. It had long sleeves and a deep V-neck that reached so far down that not only did it uncover half of her chest, but her belly button—complete with her golden lion piercing—as well. Her heels were tall and gold to match her jewelry, and her red hair was curled and pulled to the side, tumbling down over her shoulder like a wall of flames, standing out beautifully against her black dress, dark make-up, and nude lips. “Alright, ladies. I think it’s time to get out of here before Serena starts crying and gets her make-up all messed up. We worked too hard on her to let it all go now.”

“Where’s Sirius meeting you?” Mary asked as we made our way out of the dorm. She was dressed in a simple, sky-blue gown that matched her eyes and pulled up into a halter around her neck.

The girls nervously looked between me and Mary. “I’m actually not going with Sirius,” I informed her, trying to settle my increasing heartbeat.

“What?” Mary’s question came out sounding incredulous. “What do you mean you’re not going with Sirius?”

“Long story,” I said, waving her off. “Abridged version: James and Sirius got into this bet over the Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff game and Sirius lost, so I’m going with James.” I paused, looking over at Lily in her gorgeous, golden mermaid-gown. “So Lily’s going with Sirius to keep him out of trouble,” I added, winking at her.

Lily rolled her eyes. “I’m not sure how that’s entirely possible, to be honest, but I’ll do my best.”

Mary looked more confused than ever. “Lily’s going with Sirius,” she repeated.

“Yes,” Lily nodded.

“And you’re going with James...” Mary continued, as we made our way down into the common room.

“Yes,” I agreed.

“And I’m going with...” she stopped, looking up to see Orion waiting for her by the fire. He was wearing a simple black suit with a powder blue shirt and a dark, navy blue tie. “Orion, hey.”

Orion walked toward us, nodding a hello. “Are you ready to go?” he asked her, putting his arm out.

When Mary told us she was going to the Winter Ball with Orion, I think I was actually the only one surprised by the news. I had been in a heated battle with Orion over who would start up as acting first-string keeper once we got back from the winter holidays. So far, it was looking promising for myself, but that had obviously left Orion with some sour feelings toward me. Plus, with all of the other things going on in my life, I had seemingly missed all of the flirtatious gestures between Mary and her date.

“Yeah, let’s head down,” Mary responded, looping her arm around his. She smiled back at us before departing, leaving the four of us standing dateless in the common room.

“I suppose we should do the same,” Lily said after Mary and Orion had disappeared through the portrait hole.

Stella grinned at us, her teeth sparkling white. “Alright, ladies! Let’s get this shin-dig started!”




The castle itself had been blanketed (magically, of course) with thousands of small, twinkling lights, but it was the Great Hall that was the most majestic of all. All of the lights had been extinguished; save for a pattern of floating, eternally-burning candles that looked exactly like the night sky on a clear night. The floor had been covered in snow that was warm and tingled when it touched your skin, which slowly fell from the ceiling to give the illusion of being outside—without the frost bite. The walls had been charmed to look like a line of pine trees, and the entire Hall even had the faintest scent of pine needles and maple syrup.

Remus stood with Sirius, James, Peter, Orion, and Blake on the side of the dance floor, away from the mayhem that was beginning to collect. Professors were moving through the densely packed crowd, working diligently to make sure things were perfectly proper for the ages gathered there. fourth years and younger weren’t permitted to attend, as the Winter Ball was a perk left to those who were beginning to take their upper-level exams, and therefore needed more de-stress activities than their younger classmates. As such, there were plenty of raging hormones to keep in check, and while many couples across the dance floor had their faces plastered together, they at least came up for air every few minutes.

Remus scooted closer to James, keeping his voice low. “You better know what you’re doing, mate.”

James looked at him, slowly raising an eyebrow. “What ever are you talking about?”

Remus’s brow knit, but he tried to keep his voice light. “You know what I’m talking about. Don’t make things harder for Serena than they already are.”

James looked at Remus, trying to read his face. It didn’t seem as though he meant anything in particular by the comment, but he had to make sure. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that watching you and Sirius bat at each other all of the time can’t be fun for her. If you two fight tonight...”

“We’re not going to fight,” James assured him. “It was a wager, man to man. Sirius can understand that and so can Serena.”

Remus frowned, obviously not convinced. “I know you think it’s no big deal, but nights like these—what with the romance and the courtship—“

“There is no romance and courtship, Remus,” James said, making a big deal of rolling his eyes.

“For you there is,” Remus said pointedly. “I couldn’t begin to pin-point how Serena feels toward you, but I know that she cares deeply for Sirius and she’s a bleeding heart. She doesn’t like to hurt people.” He paused, leaning closer to James. “If you make her upset with this whole thing...” he trailed off, but the meaning was clear. Remus didn’t want to see his friend hurting anymore, and even though he couldn’t be certain, he had an inkling that James was one of the things that had made her upset a few weeks back.

“I’m not going to hurt her, Remus.”

Remus just watched him for a moment, searching his face with narrowed eyes before finally looking away. “Be careful, mate. I don’t want to see you hurt either.”




The sight of the Great Hall nearly took my breath away, but it was the sight of the guys all standing in a row that actually did.

“Ladies,” Blake greeted us, sweeping down into a low bow. He straightened up, grinning at us before turning his attention to Felicia. “Felicia, you look positively radiant.”

Felicia cocked an eyebrow at him. “Don’t even try,” she warned him.

Blake winked at her. “I don’t know to what you’re referring.”

Felicia rolled her eyes, a small smile playing at her lips. “Casper, would you like to dance?”

Casper’s eyes lifted from the floor to meet hers, expertly dodging mine. “I would be honored,” he agreed with a smile and the two of them left for the dance floor.

I looked over to Sirius, who was beaming at me. “Love, you look...amazing.”

I smiled, making my way over to him and throwing my arms over his shoulders, kissing him square on the lips. “And so do you,” I replied, gesturing to his deep violet suit. “I never thought I would see you wearing purple.”

Sirius looked offended. “I wouldn’t. It’s indigo.”

“Don’t listen to him,” James piped up. “It’s purple.” He chuckled and I let go of Sirius, taking in the sight of James’s three-piece Italian, slim-fit suit. It was all a light gray, paired with a blood-red shirt and a light gray slim-tie. I had to admit, standing next to him, we probably looked like one of the best dressed couples of the night.

James swept into a bow, mocking Blake, who shot him a look. He extended his hand with a quick, “Miss Colton.”

I watched him for a moment, chuckling to myself. “Potter.”

He stood back up, straightening his vest and blazer as he did so. “Well, if your boyfriend doesn’t mind...” he glanced over at Sirius.

Sirius placed a hand on my back, giving me a gentle push toward James. “I’ll always mind, mate. But I also shouldn’t be ignoring my beautiful date for the evening.” He turned his attention toward Lily, giving her a warm smile. “Miss Evans, you look wonderful.”

Lily blushed, not used to receiving compliments for her looks. “Thank you, Sirius. You also look quite dashing.”

“In that case,” James began, turning his attention back toward me. “May I have this dance?”

The band, a group of witches and wizards from the northern islands of the Philippines, had just begun to play a slower, orchestral song. Each note was long, resounding even longer against the walls and ceiling of the Great Hall.

“I suppose a dance couldn’t hurt. It is a Ball, after all,” I said, trying to sound like I didn’t care one way or another.

James took my hand, leading me away from the group as Lily and Sirius made their way over to the buffet. We were well into the crowd when James yanked on my hand, pulling me into his strong arms. I fell into place with ease, my left hand in his and my right hand placed on his shoulder, his other hand snaked around my waist. He pulled me in close to his chest, his mouth by my ear.

“You, Colton, are quite the vision this evening,” he told me. His breath was warm on my neck and it gave me goose bumps, causing me to shiver in his arms. “Are you cold?” he asked me.

I shook my head, watching the floor as our feet gracefully moved us around the dance floor. “No, I’m fine.”

“So is it working, then?”

His words confused me. “What?” I asked him, pulling back a little so I could look him in the eyes. “Is what working?”

“My quest for your heart,” he said with a wink. “Before today, I thought you had forgotten all about me, and then you show up tonight...” his eyes trailed down my body, taking in the entire sight hungrily. “Your words tell me no, but your attire tells me an entirely different story.”

“Yes, and that story is that the ladies of Gryffindor felt some sort of intense pleasure dressing me up like a doll. And by ‘doll,’ I mean Prostitute Barbie,” I told him, rolling my eyes. “I didn’t do this for you.”

“Prostitute Barbie?” James asked, confusion on his face.

“It’s a muggle doll,” I explained.

“Muggles have a doll that’s a prostitute?” James cocked an eyebrow at me. “How in the world would you know that, Miss Colton? Something as sexual as that shouldn’t be around someone with your delicate sensibilities.”

I scoffed. “Delicate sensibilities? I think not.”

James’s lips were on my own, hungry, yearning, and I was yielding to his every touch. My wrists were still clamped down to the chair, and I pulled against them. I wanted my hands tangled in his hair; I wanted to be able to trace every line of his body. His fingers were buried in my own hair, gripping it hard as he pulled me closer to him. I could smell his skin, a musky scent swirling with my own sweat, and it was intoxicating.

“And no,” I continued, pushing the memory from my thoughts. “Muggles don’t have a prostitute doll. That’s my point. I’m like the prostitute version of Barbie.”

“I highly doubt that,” James shook his head with a laugh. “You’re far too beautiful to be a prostitute.”

“Look at you!” I exclaimed, my eyebrows raised. “James Potter: condemner of prostitutes across the globe. Careful,” I warned him. “First comes thoughts, then words, and the next thing you know, you’re going all Jack the Ripper on prostitutes in dark alleys. I don’t want to have to bail you out of muggle jail.”

James chuckled, letting go of my waist and twisting me into a twirl before pulling me back into his chest. “Just say thank you for the compliment, Colton.”

I glared at him, sticking out my tongue. “Thank you, Potter.”

“Now it’s your turn,” he told me with a wink.

I raised an eyebrow. “To stroke your ego? No, shan’t.”

James pulled me into a dip. “Oh, come on, Colton. You know I’m driving you crazy in this suit right now,” he teased me.

I watched him from my angled perception. “Are you just going to leave me down here? The blood’s starting to rush to my head.”

“I’m not pulling you back up until you admit I look good.”

I rolled my eyes. “You know you look good, or you wouldn’t be fishing for compliments.”

He leaned closer to me. “But I want to hear you say it.”

“You look nice, Potter,” I said finally, starting to get light-headed. “Now pull me back up, you moron.”

James pulled me back up, laughing. There was a smile on his lips so wide that I nearly thought it would break his face straight in two. “That really means the world to me, Colton. Thank you for those kind words.”

I punched him in the chest quickly before returning my hand to his shoulder. He laughed, feigned pain, and the two of us fell into a comfortable silence, which was quickly broken when James was tapped on the shoulder. He turned, just holding my left hand, to face Alexei. Alexei was wearing a full black suit, tailored to his exact proportions, with a black shirt and a silver tie. It was actually quite stunning against his pale skin. His black hair completed the picture, with his blue-gray eyes shining in the candlelight.

“Potter,” he greeted with a curt nod before turning his eyes to me. “May I cut in?”

James’s grip tightened on my hand. “I don’t think—”

“It’s okay,” I told James, squeezing his hand. James looked over at me, a mixture of shock and concern on his features

Alexei looked smug, smirking between the two of us as he held out his hand for me. “Srenya,” he stated plainly, my name a smooth hiss off his tongue.

James slowly let go of my hand, stepping aside. “I’m going to find Remus,” he told me, but his eyes never left Alexei as he said it. He waited a moment, and then excused himself.

Alexei took my hand, expertly giving me a twirl before pulling me into the most perfect form I had ever seen for ballroom dancing. He guided me across the floor with a precision I wasn’t used to; it felt like we were gliding.

“My parents were always very adamant that a proper gentleman know how to sweep a lady off her feet, so to speak,” Alexei explained, guessing my thoughts. “All Borshevskys have to take dancing lessons in the summertime.” He paused for a moment, thinking. “We attend a lot of galas where it comes in handy. Politically and otherwise.”

I nodded, intrigued. “You are quite the talented dancer.”

Alexei’s lips twitched into a smile. “Don’t feel pressured to flatter me, Srenya. Your pet and I are different in that way.”

I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about him calling James my “pet,” but I ignored it.

“It was just an observation,” I replied coolly. We danced in semi-silence for a while before I piped back up with, “How’s Ethan?”

Alexei looked down at me, a quizzical look on his face. “What about Ethan?”

“He was injured in the match we played last month. Is his ankle alright?”

Alexei looked away, his eyes catching on something across the room. He twirled me around, causing me to face where he was looking. There, over by the punch bowl was Ethan, dressed in an all-white ensemble, talking to his twin, Casper. They seemed civil enough, as they had been ever since the accident.

“He’s perfectly fine, it wasn’t a bad break. His concussion is gone, as well,” Alexei explained. “It’s a good thing our next match isn’t until next semester. I would have hated to find him a replacement.”

I looked up at him, catching onto those striking eyes. “So why are we dancing, Alexei?”

He cocked an eyebrow at me. “Need I have a reason to dance with a beautiful woman? You look absolutely stunning, by the way. I bet you’re having a hell of a time trying to wrangle your men in that get-up.”

“Men?” I asked him, annoyance in my voice.

“Well,” he began with a shrug. “I know that Sirius can’t keep his eyes off you, even though he’s here with your friend...Lily, right?”—I nodded and he continued—“And there’s no question that your pet, Potter, is having issues keeping his hands to himself.” Something about the way he said that statement struck a chord with me, and I found myself looking away from those too-blue eyes that always seemed to know more than I told him. “Though Ethan’s other half doesn’t seem to be having any connection issues with you this evening.” He paused, considering. “Or these past few weeks, rather.” He looked down at me, tilting his head to the side slightly. “Why is that, Srenya? Are you and the eldest Gerald in an argument?”

I looked over to where Ethan and Casper were talking. “It’s none of your business, Borshevsky.”

He chuckled deeply, whistling as he did so. “Well, it seems I have salted a wound, as they say. You have my deepest apologies.” The song was coming to an end, and he slowly guided me into one last twirl, before gently releasing his grip on me. Alexei swept into a bow, placing a kiss on my hand, before letting go of me completely. “I should return you to your pet before I get bit. Thank him for me, won’t you, love?” Alexei flashed me one last smile, winking, before he disappeared into the crowd.

When I didn’t see James right away, I decided to do something about Casper before my nerves were completely shot. Before I could stop myself, I made my way through the dance floor, coming to a stop before Casper and Ethan. They halted their conversation, looking at me.

Ethan was the first to speak. “Serena, right?” he began, raising an eyebrow slowly. “You look nice. For a Gryffindor.”

“Thanks,” I replied quickly, unsure if that had actually been a compliment or not “Do you mind if I borrow your brother?” I asked, gesturing to the older of the two.

Ethan shrugged nonchalantly. “I don’t see why not. Have at it.”

Casper didn’t say a word, but followed when I made my way out of the Great Hall and into a connecting corridor that seemed empty. I turned around once I was sure we were alone, facing him nervously.

“Casper, you can’t just keep ignoring me.”

He watched me for a moment, hands in his pockets. “I’m not ignoring me.”

I frowned. “Well you aren’t quite making an effort to talk to me, either.”

“That’s true,” he stated bluntly. “I don’t really have anything to say to you.”

Ouch.

“I told you something that I’ve only told one other person in my life and you don’t have anything to say to me?” I asked incredulously. “I assure you that you’ve never had anyone tell you quite what I did... How can you have nothing to say to me after that?”

Casper’s face was blank, but dark. I had never seen this side of him before, and to be honest, it kind of scared me. “What you told me...” he began slowly, thinking out each of his words carefully. “You’re not who I thought you were.”

I felt my jaw drop. “It doesn’t,” I began, but my throat caught for a moment. I took a breath and began again. “It doesn’t mean that I’m different. I’m the same girl that you’ve always known—”

“No,” Casper shook his head, his voice beginning to rise. “No, you’re not. You’re not the same at all.”

I moved forward, pleading with him. “Casper, I’m the same girl you grew up with! The same girl you taught to play Quidditch when I was just a kid...”

Casper took a step back, putting his hands up. “That girl isn’t you,” he told me. He lowered his voice, “werewolves kill people.”

I lowered my voice as well, feeling my throat tightening further. “I would never do anything like that—”

“How the hell am I supposed to know that?” he asked, his eyes wide with disbelief.

“Because you know me!” I exclaimed, unsure of how else to explain it to him.

“No, I don’t!” he yelled. “I don’t know you! You’re... You’re a monster now!”

He stopped himself, seeing the pain on my face. He seemed torn, so he added, “Serena, I just don’t think I know you anymore. Maybe...one day... Maybe one day I will, but, to be honest, I don’t see that happening.” And with that, he turned and walked back into the Winter Ball.




It took me a grand total of five minutes to get to the Room of Requirement and then another thirty to get trashed off the stock of firewhiskey that I found there. The room was plain, just a typical living room—two couches, a love-seat and armchair, a giant shag rug, fireplace, and three shelves lining the walls filled with all sorts of food and drink. I lounged on the floor, watching the fire while taking shots of firewhiskey straight from the bottle. I was still crying, the words “you’re a monster now” running through my head on repeat.

Casper had always been there for me. He was a protector, a brother, to me. It was the worst sting to hear something horrible come out of the mouth of someone I trusted more than air. It meant so much more—it cut deep. Like James... Like when James said all of those things to get me to separate myself from the wolf.

But that just proved it, didn’t it? I really was one with the wolf. I really was a monster now. Casper was right. I’m not the same girl I was all those years ago, playing Quidditch on brooms in the backyard. I felt another round of sobs catch in my throat, so I took another swig of firewhiskey—the burn pushing my tears back down.

I leaned back, laying down on the rug and staring up at the ceiling, the bottle feeling light in my hand. I heard the door open and close, but I didn’t look over at it.

“Serena...?”

It was James’s voice. Of course it would be him. Who else would know to look for you here?

He walked closer, but stopped a few feet away. “Serena?”

I turned my head to look at him, my vision coming shaky, like a stop-motion picture. I pushed myself up, so I was sitting on the rug. “James! What can I do for you on this lovely evening?”

I was still wearing my dress, though it was hiked up high on my thighs. My hair was half up still. I had been slowly picking away at the pins, and some of them had fallen out on their own, but the majority were beyond my abilities at that particular moment.

“Serena, what are you doing?” he asked, concerned. He knelt down beside me, reaching over me for the bottle. I held it away from him, but he managed to snatch it. “Was this full when you started drinking it?”

I nodded. “What, are you going to turn me in for bad behavior, Mr. Potter?” I asked, shoving my wrists toward him. “Go ahead! Take me to the headmaster, I won’t argue.”

James chuckled slowly. “Are you kidding me? We’d both be in a lot of trouble if anyone saw you like this.” He sighed deeply and moved the bottle away from me. “No, you’re just going to need to sober up before we leave.” He stood, making his way over to the shelves in an attempt to find some water or food to settle my stomach.

I watched him for a minute, before stumbling to my feet. Hearing me do so, James came rushing back, holding up me. “What are you doing, Serena?” he asked me with a sigh. “You should just sit down before you hurt yourself.”

I slumped to the floor, bringing him down with me. He was still holding my forearms, and I felt a tingling where his skin touched mine. I looked up at him, locking onto his eyes as well as I could in my state. “Do you think I’m a monster?” I asked him.

James looked confused and shocked all at the same time. “No, of course not! Why would you even need to ask something like that?”

“Well you said...”

James sighed, looking ashamed of himself. “Listen, Serena. What I said that night was all to get you back in your own head, okay? I don’t think it’s true. I just needed to separate you from the wolf.”

I looked at him, tilting my head to the side. “So you don’t think I’m a monster?” I asked again.

“No, I don’t think you’re a monster,” James repeated.

I paused, my eyes trailing down from his eyes to his lips. The same lips that had been on mine the last full-moon. The same lips that I felt a pull toward, even though they weren’t my lips to kiss. “What do you think of me?” I heard myself ask. My voice sounded breathy, deep, and far-off—not my voice at all.

James tensed, his entire body freezing up as he listened to my question. He seemed entirely conflicted, his own eyes trailing from my eyes to my lips and down my body. “I think...” he began, taking a ragged breath. “I think you’re amazing.”

“Kiss me.”

“What?” James looked as shocked as I felt that those words had come out of my mouth. I wasn’t thinking straight, and he knew that. We both knew it, but we were both ignoring it because when I repeated myself, it didn’t take a single second before his lips were on mine and we were back in that vat of electricity, our bodies pressed up against each other as he wrapped his arms around me, lifting me onto his lap. His hands were on my face, in my hair, down my back, on my thigh, under my dress...

I don’t know what I wanted that night. I don’t know what I wanted in general. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly thinking too hard about the entire thing. All I was thinking about was the feel of his skin against mine. It was new. It was exciting, forbidden, and extremely carnal. It was everything I needed to forget about the way that Casper looked at me like he didn’t know who I was. I felt my face moisten with fresh tears.

By the time the two of us paused, I had been released of my dress, and James was above me in just his trousers. And I’m not sure which one of us looked more shocked at our current situation. My head was still fuzzy from all of the firewhiskey, and—to be perfect honest—I wasn’t feeling too hot in the stomach area.

“Oh Merlin...” James mumbled, pushing himself off of me and sitting next to me. Our legs were still touching, but at the moment that was the least of either of our worries. “Serena, I am so sorry.”

I sat up, starting to feel extremely self-conscious in my skivvies. I pulled my legs up to my chest, wrapping my arms around my thighs. “It’s...” I tried to clear my head. “It’s not your fault, I told you to—”

“Yes, but you’re drunk!” he exclaimed, his voice getting more and more anxious. “I never should have... Serena, I am so sorry,” he repeated.

I shook my head. “I’m the one who should be apologizing to you; I practically threw myself at you...” I trailed off, realizing that was exactly what I did. I threw myself at him. How was I going to move on from this?

You were going to sleep with him.

James started to frantically search around him. Finally, he found his shirt in a pile of clothes beside us, and handed it to me. “Here, put this on.”

I took the shirt gratefully, pulling it on and buttoning it up the front until I felt less...exposed. Tears were falling from my eyes and I wiped them away with the back of my hand before reaching up to pull the rest of the pins out of my hair. I started making a pile of them next to me. Maybe, I thought. Maybe if I get all of the pins out of my hair, I’ll feel more like myself.

James seemed to notice how upset I was getting, trying to find all of them, and moved forward. “Let me help,” he offered. I paused, letting my arms fall to my sides and he moved behind me, beginning to take the rest of the pins out. I just sat there in front of him, crying silently and wiping my tears away as they fell.

Tyler never would have gotten himself into this mess.

When James was finished, he stood up and made his way over to one of the couches, plopping down and resting his elbows on his knees, cradling his head in his hands. We watched each other for a really long time, before he finally said, “this can’t keep happening.” I nodded slowly. “I can’t keep doing this to you; putting you in this position.”

I looked down at the ground before pulling my eyes back up to him. “Tonight was a mistake,” I agreed. “I was drunk—well, I still am—and I took my frustrations out on you. Everything that’s been happening with Casper...” I stopped, feeling the sting of Casper’s words coming back to me.

“You know, Colton,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m usually not one to turn down a girl who just wants to use me for my body. Usually, it’s what I aim for.” He laughed, rubbing the back of his neck as he stretched.

“I’m sorry.”

“Me too,” he said with a smile. “I’ll always care about you, you know that right?”

I gave him a half-hearted smile in return. “I know.” I felt my eyes well up with warm tears once more. “And I’m so sorry.”

James pushed himself off the couch, coming to kneel in front of me. His facial expression was so soft, and he smiled at me in a way that broke my heart up into thousands of little pieces. “It’s okay, Serena. Some love stories aren’t meant to be told. But that doesn’t make them any less powerful.”

I choked on my laugh, feeling a few tears break free, falling down on my cheeks. “That almost sounded insightful,” I teased him, my throat clenching tight.

“Almost?” James joked. “Colton, I’m a guru of wisdom and knowledge. Everything I say is insightful.”

We looked at each other for a moment, something comfortable settling between us. “James, will you stay with me tonight?” I asked him, nervous.

James looked anxious, and he shifted on his knees. “I don’t know if that’s a great idea, Serena...”

“Please,” I pleaded. “Just... Just stay with me one last night and I’ll never ask you to do it again, I promise.” I thought about going back to the dormitory, my chest tightening at the idea. “I can’t do back to the common room like this.” I paused, looking at him. “And I don’t want to be alone.”

James helped me up, bringing me over to one of the couches and finding a blanket, handing it to me. “Lay down,” he instructed. I did as he said, and he propped me up on a pillow, covering me with the blanket. “Stay up like that, okay? It’ll help you from feeling so nauseous.”

“Are you going to...” I started to ask, but I watched him settle down on the other couch, cuddling underneath a blanket of his own.

James looked over at me. “Goodnight, Serena.”

“Thank you, James.”




A/N: Oh snap! Well, I hope you're not all horribly mad at me after this chapter. I assume some will be happy, some will be upset, but mostly I'm expecting mixed reactions for everything Serena's been through lately. Things are going to calm down in the romance department for a bit (probably, no promises), and perhaps amp up on the lycanthropy side...? We'll see!! PLEASE RATE/REVIEW!!! :D -- KBD


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