Chapter 9 : A Grave Misunderstanding
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He was very defined, she noticed, far more than she would have expected from a guy his age. The bronzed tan he had gotten during the summer had almost vanished, but his muscular chest looked also very attractive in the much paler shade of his sun deprived skin. But it wasn’t just his appearance that was so alluring about him, it was rather the confidence that lay in his very presence, in his smallest gestures even.
“What’s wrong?”, he asked casually when he noticed her frozen stare, flinging himself onto his rumpled bed. It was obvious that he was not the least embarrassed to show himself without a shirt, not without reason obviously. But still, Cassiopeia hated to admit the fact that he was so unnervingly handsome. She couldn’t let his looks fool her into forgetting how much of a prick he had been towards her during their whole life. One evening without a shirt wouldn’t change his personality.
“Nothing”, she mumbled quickly, batting her eyes and forcing herself physically to turn away from him. “Promise me you won’t look when I undress.” She heard him turning around between the sheets. “Sure”, he said. “Promise.” With a deep breath, Cassiopeia decided to take him by his word and quickly slipped the silky dressing robes off her shoulders, from where they glided down to the floor smoothly and remained lying to her feet like a rose-coloured puddle after a heavy summer rain. Seconds later, she was wearing the jersey Albus had given her. Even though it was big on her, she nervously tugged at its hemline, desperate to make it a little longer. She wasn’t sure if she felt comfortable enough to show that much of her legs. Not everyone was as confident as the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain.
After turning around, she noticed that he had held his word and was facing the wall. “When am I allowed to turn around again?”, he asked mockingly, but she ignored his teasing comment. “Where am I supposed to sleep?”, she asked in return, crossing her arms in front of her body. As though he hadn’t thought about it before, the boy sat up in his bed. “Well”, he started, tousling his black hair even more with his right hand, “you could sleep on the floor somewhere. You might only need to clean up this mess a little.” With these words, he turned around, but when he saw her standing in his rather short jersey, he suddenly blushed as well. Cassiopeia felt very awkward under his mustering gaze.
“I’m definitely not sleeping on your dirty floor”, she exclaimed with an appalled look at a pair of cloth lying between the empty bottles of the party, looking suspiciously like a pair of used boxers. He shrugged and answered casually, just like he hadn’t thought about it before now: “Well, I guess you could also sleep in my bed. I just thought you’d prefer the messy floor to the physical closeness to me.” She responded to his mocking tone with a disparaging roll of her grey eyes, but she didn’t refuse his offer. “Fine”, Cassiopeia said finally in a quite defeated matter, “move over, then.” With every step that brought her closer to the bed Albus was lounging in already, she felt tension ascending inside of her.
Nervously, she laid herself down, trying to not look at the handsome boy that was so close to her. Cassiopeia pulled the duvet up to her chin to cover as much of her body as possible and turned herself around, facing the opposite wall, but the whole situation was still feeling really awkward. As he lay only centimetres away from her, she could sense his bodily warmth against her back and his gentle breath brushing against her silvery hair. Subconsciously, she knew that he was looking at her, but she didn’t dare to turn around or even move. With a small sigh she couldn’t suppress, Cassiopeia tried to breathe as calmly and deeply as she was capable of, and without speaking a word she was waiting for Hypnos’s soft embrace to carry her with wings of down into a tender sleep.
It were the gentle rays of early morning sunlight creeping ever so shyly through Albus’s east side window that tenderly gushed over the handsome boy, the golden flecks of light painted abstract patterns across his dormant face after Aurora, swathed in her eternal maidenly blush, had asked the feeble sun to their matutinal waltz. The brightness of the dawning day caused the sleeping boy to stir, and moments later he was blinking against the silken light of morning somnolently. Something had happened the night before, something that he should remember but seemed just too far away to grasp, out of his reach, and as he was not fully awake, the answer slipped through his fingers every time he tried to think of it.
He had slept splendidly, and in his dreams, he had been surrounded by luscious fields of wild growing lavender, filling the air with its sweet, tantalising odour. As a matter of fact, he could make out the pleasant scent even now, after he had woken, lulling his slumberous mind back to sleep. Albus tried to turn away from the bright morning sun that had disturbed his peaceful slumber, but his motion was thwarted as something weighed him down on his back. Perplexedly, and now fully awake, the boy opened his eyes to look at the disruptive element, but what he saw had him gasp for air. Now he remembered.
From his neck down a waterfall of silvery hair poured over his chest, as a sleeping Cassiopeia had nestled herself into his arms subconsciously, and he was tenderly embracing the fragile body of the dormant girl. Even as her face was hidden from sight, covered with her fair hair, he could sense the peacefulness and tranquillity the picture of the resting girl emitted. It almost seemed like he was still dreaming, and as if he thought the image might vanish like a mirage, he raised a gentle hand to caress the shimmering strands to make sure he was, in fact, fully awake.
But his soft movement broke the spell that had seemingly bewitched the room and Cassiopeia was woken from her dreams. He could feel her feathery eyelashes brushing against his neck like the softest, most delicate butterfly kisses, and as she pulled away from him his first instinct was to reach for her once again, but he restrained himself. “Good morning”, he said awkwardly, and he noticed an embarrassed look on her half-awake face. “Oh Merlin, I am so sorry”, she mumbled, and sat up as far away from him as possible.
Albus felt embarrassed too, for he had acted so foolishly trying to stroke her hair, to hold her close, even when he knew that she did not like him in the least. “Didn’t know a girl like you could be so heavy”, he remarked in the most sarcastic tone he was able to come up with, but even in his ears it didn’t sound the slightest bit convincing. And it couldn’t have been further from the truth- he had been rather worried to crush her fragile body in his light embrace. But Cassiopeia seemed to be completely oblivious to his stilted Sarcasm or the way his heart started to beat so loudly when he looked at her that he was sure the whole Hen House would hear it.
Instead, she got annoyed with him, like she always did when he teased her. “I’m so sorry I was such a burden, but if I remember correctly it was you who said I could sleep here- no, who said that I had to sleep here! I certainly would have been much happier staying with James, you stupid git!” Cassiopeia crossed her arms before her body and frowned at him, causing Albus to smile at her rather sadly. If she only knew.
Because he knew by now. All the time he had been too scared to admit to himself how he felt about her. She was a true Malfoy heiress, always remembering her heritage and house Slytherin. A girl like her didn’t even consider going out with him, a Gryffindor, and son of Harry Potter no less, the man that had defeated her entire family in the wizarding war. In addition to that, Scorpius was his best friend and trusted him. Even when their first-year pact, that relatives were off-limits, seemed a bit silly by now, he couldn’t break the vow he had given to someone who was like a brother to him. But nevertheless, even though he knew his feelings were not reciprocated, and even though he felt as though he was betraying Scorpius by even thinking about his younger sister, he couldn’t help but feel the way he did. It was hopeless.
“I think it’s best when we get you home now”, Albus said abruptly, averting his eyes from the fair-haired girl. He didn’t want to think about his hopeless feelings any longer. She shouldn’t have stayed the night and the earlier she would be gone, the sooner he could try to forget her. “I’m going to fetch the Floo Powder from my parents’ room, they’re always up quite early. Didn’t want to wake them up yesterday. Just stay here for a moment.” And with these words, he slipped through the door and left Cassiopeia alone in his room.
Cassiopeia debated if she should change back into her robe or not, but before she had the chance to even pick up the dress, Albus stepped back into the room again. “Let’s go!”, he exclaimed cheerily and waved a little ornate box through the air. Quickly, the girl took her dishevelled silky dress robes she had left on the floor so carelessly the day before, slipped into her shoes and followed the impatient boy down the stairs. She didn’t know if she should be offended by his eagerness to get her to leave, but of course his feelings towards her had never been even civil. Even though she didn’t like to admit it, it had not exactly felt bad waking up in Albus’s arms. Moments before she was fully awake, it had even felt like he had caressed her head ever so lightly. But of course, she must have imagined that. Albus would never do such a silly thing.
They finally reached the bottom of the seemingly endless staircase. Tailing after the tall boy, Cassiopeia crossed the light-flooded hallway and stepped into the large living room. She almost bumped into Albus as he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. There, assembled around a truly large dining table, was the whole Potter family sitting at breakfast. More than 20 pairs of eyes were lasting on the two people who had just entered the room. An awkward silence filled the room.
Immediately, Cassiopeia knew how the situation must look to Albus’s family. He was only wearing his worn-out sweatpants, she was dressed in his old Quidditch jersey. The dress robes she held in her arms were rumpled from her nap, but looked rather like they were taken off in the heat off the moment. She was still in her make-up from the day before, both their hair was messy and they had evidently just woken up. It looked as though she had just hooked up with Albus.
“It’s not what it looks like”, Albus said finally. Cassiopeia noticed he was mortified by his whole family witnessing her departure. She herself was so embarrassed, she couldn’t even move, let alone talk. Her gaze wandered over the more or less familiar faces that had turned towards them. James had just raised an eyebrow and looked as though he couldn’t believe his eyes. Next to him, his younger sister Lily tried to suppress a laugh, but failed. “Well, that’s a great way to introduce your girlfriend.” Albus glared at her, but didn’t answer. Wordlessly, he grabbed Cassiopeia’s shoulders and lead her almost roughly to the fire place across the room. She could still feel the eyes of the Potters on her back.
Placing the golden box into her hands, he leaned forward and whispered: “Well, that was not supposed to happen.” She shrugged coolly as she took out a hand full of the Floo Powder, but the crimson shade of her face gave away how uncomfortable she really felt Without saying another word, she let the powder fall into the flames and hurriedly stepped into the emerald fire. “Malfoy Manor.” As she closed her eyes and felt the familiar spinning sensation, she heard the faint decrescendo voice of Lily: “You didn’t even kiss your girlfriend goodbye, Alby!”
Back at Hogwarts, Cassiopeia tried to have a normal Monday and to forget the events of the past weekend. Until now, she had at least been successful in her purpose to avoid running into anyone from the Potter family, even though a normal feeling didn’t seem to set in anytime soon. “You didn’t even kiss your girlfriend goodbye, Alby!” The words still appeared to linger in the air, piercing through her head whenever her thoughts had finally stopped to revolve about the surprised, or rather shocked faces of the whole Potter family clan as they laid eyes on Albus and her stepping into the room. Even though the girl knew she couldn’t hide forever, she hoped that they had forgotten all about the incident when she would inevitably bump into one or another of the Potters or Weasleys in the halls of the castle.
The only problem was, that she herself couldn’t forget. The way Albus had slipped his worn-out Gryffindor jersey over his head so casually, how nonchalantly he had tossed it in her direction with a strong, almost graceful movement. He must have sensed how uncomfortable she had been, but he had probably rather enjoyed her fussiness. After all, he had always liked to put her on the spot, to break down her reserve so that she would lose all her sense and her composure. It worked every time and nobody could make her as mad as Albus could.
And how grudgingly she had to admit to herself just how handsome he was. The way she couldn’t avert her eyes from his defined chest after he had taken off his shirt, the way he looked like a statue of an ancient Greek Hero cast in marble and the way his omnipresent self-confidence made her cheeks flush in pinkish embarrassment. All of this was very unfortunate. How he had held her, overly gentle, as if he was afraid she might break in two if he made a sudden movement. But, she remembered prosaically, she mustn’t let her thoughts get away with her. She could have imagined all this, she could have dreamt this after all. Cassiopeia was sure Albus would be so smug if he only knew how he had rattled her thoughts and got under her skin, for this was all he ever tried to do.
And then, he wanted her to go as soon as possible. Because in reality, their feelings towards one another hadn’t changed, she knew. He still resented her, and she was still annoyed by his mere existence, like it had always been.
But the worst thing was coming out of his room with his whole family getting a completely wrong idea about what had happened between them. As the whole scene was playing before her inner eye once again, her cheeks flushed with the same crimson colour it had been painted with the morning before.
Cassiopeia had a free period before lunch, so she sat in the Slytherin common room, bent over her copy of Numerology and Grammatica; with a couple of number charts as well as an empty roll of thick parchment spread out on the table in front of her, trying to get her head as free as possible and to concentrate on her schoolwork. The essay wasn’t due in another week, but she tried to occupy her thoughts with something different, something that didn’t make her feel so embarrassed. Just as Cassiopeia had written down a few sentences, the wall, which was the entrance of the Slytherin common room, began to grind to the side very slowly with a loud crunching noise. Before the girl trying to concentrate on her Arithmancy essay had even noticed her friend entering, a furious Melia Nott had already built herself up in front of the table Cassiopeia was working on.
“I can’t believe that you have been shagging Albus and didn’t even tell your best friend!”, Melia squealed fiercely, her shrill voice piercing through the common room like a sharp razor blade. A couple of other sixth year students raised their heads from their books and parchments and looked at the two girls inquiringly. Cassiopeia winced, startled from the penetrating sound of Melia’s accusation, and seemed to choke on the air out of perplexity. She felt as though someone had punched her so hard that all her breath had vanished from her lungs.
Looking at her cousin in disbelief, she asked a little breathlessly: “What are you talking about, Melia? Don’t be ridiculous.” With a glance at the other people watching them eagerly, she added: “Now, can you please calm your voice a little?” It felt as though the floor was pulled away below her feet. There she had been, hoping for the misunderstanding to be forgotten. How silly of her. “Who told you that?”
The brunette girl walked around Cassiopeia’s table and let herself fall in the big leather armchair next to her cousin. “It’s all the Gryffindor Quidditch team talks about today. You know that I like to spend my free period with some of the boys on the team, they asked me about it. I said you didn’t tell me a single word and rushed right here to set you straight!” With a pout, she crossed her slender arms in front of her body and looked at Cassiopeia with a downright scrutinizing stare. “Would you please tell me what’s going on? What happened?”
Cassiopeia took a deep breath and tossed her quill on her almost empty roll of parchment. There was no way she would be able to concentrate on her essay now. “It’s a huge misunderstanding and I thought no one would ever know about this”, she began diplomatically. She then hurriedly gave a quick account of all the occurrences so that her friend would understand what had happened- or rather, what hadn’t happened-, consciously leaving out the fact that she had woken up in Albus’s arms. When she had finished, she shot Melia a desperate glance. “I don’t understand any of this. Why would Albus spread the rumour that we hooked up?”
Melia pulled her humiliated friend into a reassuring hug. “Forget it, Cassiopeia. Boys are all the same. He probably just wanted to brag in front of his mates that he can get any girl. You are certainly very pretty and everyone knows you can’t stand him. Not that it makes the situation better, of course, and that’s not excusable behaviour.” With a smile, she wiped a single tear from Cassiopeia’s face. “Cheer up, now. You don’t have time to cry over a stupid boy.”
After she was finished giving her cousin words of consolation, a melodic giggle escaped Melia Nott’s mouth. “Oh Cassiopeia”, she chimed, still laughing, “You must be the only girl at school who can go to sleep next to Albus Potter and not be sorely tempted to throw yourself at him. I know I would.” She touched Cassiopeia’s arm tenderly. “Let them talk. We’ll get through this together.” Her voice was quivering with compassion.
“I can’t believe you, Potter!” After the first sensation of shock and humiliation clouding her emotions like thick autumn fog had cleared up from her mind, the feeling that had now taken over Cassiopeia was nothing but pure, seething anger. The way she stormed through the Great Hall to the far wall, where the Gryffindor table was located, her black cloak billowing around her slim figure like angry clouds heavy with rain, she bore a bewildering likeness to a vengeful fury come alive, and with her she brought a thunderstorm made of wrath. “How dare you!”
The object of her rage, Albus, was sitting at lunch surrounded by his Gryffindor friends, the rumours didn’t seem to bother him in the least. When he heard Cassiopeia’s infuriated calls, he looked up from his fully loaded plate. All eyes in the hall were lasting on them.
Slowly, the tall guy rose from his seat. Even though he was towering high above the silver-haired girl, he was a little taken aback by her anger. He had never seen her so livid. “How dare you”, she repeated herself. “Going around telling lies to the whole school! I should hex you on the spot.” Quivering with fury, she pulled out her wand from the belt of her cloak and pointed it at Albus standing in front of her threateningly. Her normally icy grey eyes seemed even frostier than usual, and the look she was giving him was ruthless.
As if he was about to surrender, he raised his hands in the air very carefully. “What’s your problem, Malfoy?”, he asked. His voice was monotone and conveyed the impression that he was rather bored of the whole scenario. His composure seemed to fuel her rage even more. Her voice started to tremble as she spoke again: “Don’t act like you’re so innocent, Potter. You know all too well what I’m talking about.” The way she spat out his last name made it sound as though it was the greatest, most offensive insult she had ever known. And in that moment, for her, it was.
“Oh, come on Malfoy, I’m not responsible for all your mood swings.” His exterior was cool and completely unbothered by Cassiopeia’s raging temper. More even, she could make out a faint, complacent smile playing around the corners of his mouth. Disbelievingly, she lowered the outstretched wand in her hand. He was so unaffected by her that she was brought back down to earth with a jolt. He just didn’t care. “You’re not even worth it”, she remarked. With these last words, she turned on her heel and left the Great Hall with all the poise that was left in her.
What she hadn’t anticipated, however, was that the tall boy came after her. With long strides, he caught up with her just as Cassiopeia had passed the Entrance Hall and was about to descend the narrow lithic staircase leading down to the dungeons. “Wait”, he called, causing her to stop dead in her tracks. “What am I supposed to say? What do you want to hear?” The girl looked over her shoulder, and her eyes were narrowed to dangerous, almost feline looking slits. She rather looked like a wild cat, ready to attack its prey. “How about that you’re sorry?”, she hissed back at him.
Albus seemed baffled by her remark. Gritting his teeth, he said with a strained voice: “I have nothing to apologize about.” Frustrated by his cold answer that he wasn’t sorry, Cassiopeia tried to continue her way down to the dungeons without deeming the dark-haired boy worthy of an answer, but before she could even take one step, he held her back by the wrist. “Do you think I like this? As a matter of fact, I feel terrible, and your brother won’t even talk to me! I’ve lost my best friend already; don’t you think that’s hard enough on me? Why would I choose to start a silly rumour if I knew it would end a friendship with someone who is like a brother to me? How can you even think for a moment I would do something like that!” He pulled back his hand so quickly as though his fingers had been singed by the soft skin of her arm.
Stunned by his words, her jaw dropped in shock. She had never thought about what consequences the misunderstanding might bring for him. “But I’m sure Scorp will believe you when you tell him the truth? He has to! It’s the truth, after all.” Sadly, Albus shook his head and lowered his eyes to the ground. “He won’t see reason”, he said gravely, and his voice was tinted with sorrow.
When she saw Albus looking so distraught, Cassiopeia couldn’t but feel sorry for him. Her seething anger cleared away in mere seconds. The picture of the vengeful fury she had conveyed only a few moments before vanished, and the spell that had lain over her had lifted.
A/N: Hello my lovelies!
I'm dreadfully sorry about how long it took to actually finish this chapter. And while I played this particular storyline out in my head month over month, I couldn't bring myself to commit my thoughts to paper.
I hope I have not driven you away with the long literary droughts between my chapters. This story is not abandoned! I just suffer from poor time management.
With this chapter, however nice it was to write, I had my problems... but I hope it did turn out enjoyable for you as well.
Your motivation and kind comments keep me going and are always appreciated. Thank you so much for all your positivity.
Stay with me!
As always, lots of love, wanderlust xxx
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