A/N: This chapter is dedicated to my faithful reviewer, desibookworm. I thought I should probably dedicate something to you seen as how you're the only one prompting me to keep writing this story :P. ~K :D
Let me just state this one plain and simple: there is no crutch for the crippling amount of homework that the teachers were giving us. And there is no simple solution to being dead on your feet at midnight and dragging yourself into bed only to wake again at seven. Technically seven hours of sleep are enough, but not when I was running around every chance I could get avoiding Nikki and trying to get Jase by himself. It seemed that every minute with Nikki got worse and every minute with Jase only got better and I so didn’t want Nikki around anymore to ruin things. She would plod down the stairs even later every morning and make Jase wait for her in the common room, and I stayed with him like a good best friend and my other friends went down to the Great Hall to eat. Then she would float into the room, enchant Jase beyond all recognition—I thought I saw drool on the side of his mouth once—and then I would be stuck as the third wheel all the way down from Gryffindor Tower. I tell you, it’s exhausting trying to break up a couple that seems so interminably in love with one another.
It was sickening watching Jase fawn over Nikki’s every wish. “I’m thirsty.” “Oh I’ll get you something to drink.” Or “Oh I’m tired.” “I’ll walk you to your room.” One could only guess what happened when they got there because sometimes Jase didn’t return down to the homework table for an hour or so, and sometimes he didn’t return at all. It was as if Gigi’s theory about Nikki being a sex-goddess and leading Jase around by his male parts was true down to the last equation. And I hated it. I needed an opportunity to show him the new and improved me but every time I found myself looking at the case that held my new contacts or the outfits that Victoire set out for me most mornings, I cringed away from them and decided I didn’t want to be like Nikki just to steal my best friend back from her.
And so I was exhausted and continued to be thus well into October. Then the first Hogsmeade trip was upon us all and everyone but me was thrilled at the chance to get out of the school.
I dressed that morning and for once I gave in to at least half of Victoire’s outfit selection, deciding that the shirt did look pretty darn good on me. The green complimented my dark brown eyes and the long sleeves that ended in frilled cuffs hung outside the cuffs of my tan suede jacket that I decided to wear. I even blew dry my hair so that it didn’t frizz into oblivion. And the best part about the ensemble, complete with blue jeans and sneakers was NO SWEATER!!! Yaay! It was going to be a good day.
Starr and Gigi had gone down to wait by the throng of students in the Great Hall while Melody, Victoire and I waited for each other to head down together. Despite being good friends with both Starr and Gigi—more Gigi than Starr what with us having all the same classes—it would always be Melody, Vic and I. We were a trio of very different tastes but we somehow seemed to fit together nicely. I’ll never work that one out, but I really don’t want to.
“Teddy’s meeting me down in the Hall but then would you girls like to walk down to the Village with us?” Victoire asked as she gathered up her snow-white jacket and flattened her platinum-blonde hair. Unlike her father’s hair, Vic had inherited Fleur Delacour’s striking appearance.
I glanced at Melody and she just shrugged. Teddy wasn’t our favorite person because he and his gooney friends always seemed to be doing something totally ridiculous, as well as when he was with Vic he was a sap with a capital S. But we would suffer him for our friend. “Sure,” I returned.
“Great!” Vic said. “Oh, Allie, I love that shirt on you. You look divine.”
“Yeah,” Melody agreed. “Green and tan are definitely your colours. And I do love your new haircut.”
My hand went instinctively up to my hair and I tugged on the tassels of my jacket self-consciously. I seemed to be asking a question with those movements, though I didn’t really know it, because Vic answered, “Don’t worry. You look great. Jase is terminally ill for not seeing that.”
“Totally,” Melody said, pulling her colorful fall jacket on and grabbing her bag that was covered in musical notes. Melody was always known to use color very stylishly, not like the way Gigi did with her patchwork array of colours both on her clothes and in her hair.
“Ready?” Vic asked.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I replied.
We exited the dorm, walked through the deserted common room and then down the several flights of stairs towards the Great Hall. All the students from third year to seventh year were milling around the bottom of the steps and the doors at the front of the castle. I saw the spiky and colorful head of Gigi bobbing around near the front and Starr with her elegantly cut black hair was beside her. We weaved our way through the crowds to their side and waited for the chaperone professors to say the coast was clear and we could go. First trip was always a hassle because the professors were trying to work out the third year permission forms and they wouldn’t let anyone else go until then. Pain in the butt to be sure, but what can we do really?
“Where’s Barbie and Ken?” Starr asked me.
I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t know where Nikki and Jase were. Nor did I really care.
“What’s a Barbie and Ken?” Vic asked having come from a completely entrenched wizarding family. The rest of us had been on both sides of the track because we either had parents or relatives who were muggles. My aunt was a muggle and she’d given me a Barbie and Ken doll duo for my ninth birthday. Barbie ended up charcoaled by the end of my first year of school at Hogwarts and Ken had followed soon after.
“They’re dolls,” Gigi answered. Gigi’s father was a muggle, an eccentric dresser who also happened to play bass guitar in an amateur rock band in London. She usually spent some of her summer holidays with him. Her mom and dad had split when she was seven but everyone knew that her dad was her idol. “Barbie is an annoying blonde with perky boobs, a tiny waist and a huge ass. Ken is the epitome of a male figure minus the package. I was given a couple Barbie’s when I was younger. My dad’s sister tried to culture me into the whole veil of female nonsense. I chopped all their hair off and gave them to my dog.”
“Ha,” I laughed, “Mine ended up the victims of a terrible explosion.” I patted my side pocket where my wand resided.
“Ah,” was the collective response. I loved my friends.
I whirled around to see Jase pulling out of a small crowd and strutting towards me. He looked really good today. His blonde-brown hair was combed and neat as usual and he wore his tweed jacket with a white T and blue jeans. He was beautiful. “Jase!”
“Hey Alls, Hogsmeade then eh.”
“Uh, yeah. That's usually what all this hub-bub means.”
He laughed, “Yeah well, mind if I tag along?”
“Not at all,” I was thrilled, but… “Where’s Nikki today?”
I must’ve sounded excited that she wasn’t glued to his hip at the moment because he raised his eyebrow and I immediately dropped my ecstatic smile. “She’s got a little head cold and she said she was staying in bed, which is fine. She isn’t used to this cold weather.” He simply shrugged as if he almost didn’t understand it or was annoyed with it or I dunno, but somewhere I could tell he was glad to have a day to himself. “Ladies,” he inclined his head to my friends.
All four of them instantly gave him the biggest grin they would manage. “Hey Jason,” they said in unison, which was really creepy. Gigi nudged me in the back to push me closer to Jase while Melody stepped forward and said, “Yeah, you should hang out with Allie today, Jason. She’s been really down lately, homework and all.”
“Yeah,” Starr chimed in beside her. “And we should definitely meet up later at the Three Broomsticks because this might be the only Hogsmeade trip we can make what with practices starting soon. Quidditch Cup this year Jason?”
Jase laughed, “Definitely. I’ve got my ‘Starr’ player.” We collectively let out a groan at the horrible pun. “We’re holding try-outs next Saturday for new players. We have to fill Kimmi Lane and Jordan Hawke, who both graduated last year.”
Starr nodded, “Mhmm, filling Chaser and Beater, how could I forget?”
Jase also held a Chaser position with Teddy Lupin. Kimmi had been a Chaser since her second year having come from a Quidditch entrenched family and was up for Captains position along with Jase, but Jase’s popularity had beaten her out. Jordan had been a Beater since his third year and so he was pretty high class meat as well, and he had been a big guy. Jordan’s partner, Alec Frost was in seventh year now like the rest of us and he was a mountain on a broomstick. The only other position on the team was Seeker, filled by Bradley Coogan, the boy who always seemed intimidated by me.
“Quidditch nerds, chill out,” Gigi interrupted, “The line’s moving. Allie, Jase, Three Broomsticks at 4.” And she turned to usher Vic, Melody, and Starr out the castle doors.
I wanted to smack her for her not-very-subtle shove and probably smack Starr as well for her implying I had been really ‘down lately’. I watched them walk out the door and turned back to Jase with a smile. They had let me have him for pretty much the whole day though, which I was pretty happy about, so I couldn’t complain. They were trying to be helpful.
“Shall we?” Jase said and we started to walk out the doors ourselves. It was a cool day but the sun was shining so I wasn’t complaining about that either. Jase and I walked through the main gates and as we shuffled along with the throng of students making their way down I stupidly tripped over a rock and almost did a face plant. Luckily Jase’s hands steadied me before I tumbled over and my face met grass. “Whoa there, Tiger,” Jase said. He hadn't let go of my arms yet and when I looked back up into his eyes every single coherent thought evaded me. “Are you alright?” he asked.
The only thing that could have made this situation worse was if Nikki showed up just then to see Jase’s arms around me. At least I thought that was the only thing that could ruin this moment. But no, I was able to ruin it all on my own. My notebook, filled with little catch phrases I’d compiled came immediately to mind and I said the first thing that popped up, “My saviour.”
He chuckled and I almost fell into his arms on purpose in order for him to hold me close but instead he let go and I stumbled back again. “Seems we’re always getting each other out of some fix or another,” he commented.
We started walking again and this time I was careful not to stumble, though it did cross my mind to do it on purpose once or twice just so he would catch me again. “Yeah,” I replied, “we do kinda pull out all the stops for each other eh.”
“Like that time in Potions when you melted your stir rod into the cauldron.”
“Oh yeah,” I laughed, “and on the instructions it clearly stated that if that happened I needed to back up at least ten paces in case of an explosion.”
“And you’d forgotten that part and so when the first rod melted, you just pulled out another one, and then another one because you were so afraid to just mention it to Professor Dibbs.”
“Then you saw, what, the fourth rod melt and jumped to my rescue before my cauldron exploded and then melted right through the table and make a nice crater in the dungeon floor.”
“I do recall the back of my head getting a little singed,” Jase said.
“Yep, you had a bald patch for about a week before it finally grew some hair and it looked almost even again.”
“I never did understand why you didn’t just look down at your book and read that it was a bad thing to keep melting stir rods. You are a bookworm after all.”
I smiled sheepishly. I really did hate being called a bookworm, but I let it slide when Jase called me that. It was almost a nickname for me when he said it. “I didn’t think about it. All I was worrying about was that it had said to continue stirring for twelve strokes counter-clockwise and every three strokes my stir stick melted into the black goo.”
“Ah,” Jase said as we turned onto Main Street of Hogsmeade Village. “Professor Dibbs was not very happy about that.”
“That short, fat, balding wizard has never been very happy with anything I’ve produced in that class.”
Jase shook his head, “It’s not your gift.”
“What is my gift then? Books? Seriously?”
Chuckling he punched me playfully. “Nope. I’m your gift. Charming, handsome, very charismatic. I’m the perfect talent to take to a dinner party,” he teased.
I shoved him back, almost too hard and he nearly tripped over a couple of first years. “Ha, ha, you are so hilarious,” I said sarcastically. “I’m being serious, you fruitcake.”
“A seriously then? I’d have to say your gift is being very cheery. You are pretty much always smiling, which I kinda love about you. And you bring light to a rather dull and dusty bookshelf.”
I was about to say that his last compliment wasn’t really a compliment, but I glazed over the fact that he'd said he loved my smile. I was completely smitten so I ignored the dull and dusty bookshelf statement. “I’ve given you a great many titles to read that you’ve enjoyed, haven’t I?” I asked.
“Sure,” Jase returned. Then giving me a lopsided cocky smile he said, “You’ve educated me.”
I’d take whatever I could get. I now felt that there was nothing Nikki could do to push me out of Jase’s life. We still had everything we’d always ever had; chemistry, a great sense of loyalty, a firm friendship, and I wasn’t about to let Nikki ruin it. My day now had a mission: to avoid the topic of Nikki.
As luck would have it, and I was running on pure luck today, we made it to Honeydukes, Zonko’s Joke Shop and the Post Office to buy a few cards for upcoming birthdays and holidays, etcetera before we came to the equivalent of Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions in Diagon Alley called Rina’s Everyday Robes. Rina’s shop included several eccentricities however, such as Halloween costumes.
“Hey did you know that the professors are letting us have a dance?” Jase said as we browsed the robe racks.
“What? Really?!” I said, really excited all of a sudden. A dance. That would be perfect for an unveiling of my new look. It would create the perfect setting all by itself.
“Yeah, I heard it on the grapevine, plus all the fifth year prefects are talking about it. Apparently it’s going to be sometime in April.”
“April!” I groaned.
“Why do you say it like that? It’s not like you dance anyways. I’ve never seen you dance, not that we’ve ever had a chance during school, but still.”
I looked away and felt my stomach do a back flip. He was right. I didn’t dance. I hadn't intended on dancing when I’d made the decision to have a complete makeover. But I didn’t want to have to wait until April before I could tell Jase I loved him. Yes, time would give me a chance to learn how to dance, but it would also give Jase time to solidify his relationship with Nikki and I did not like the sound of that. Breaking it while it was still new and fresh was the way to go, but I didn’t see how I could do that now. Maybe I didn’t have to wait until April, maybe it didn’t have to be this huge staged unveiling. But when else could I do it? Halloween? Costume? No, too corny. Christmas? Mistletoe? Also corny, but better. Oh hell, I didn’t know anymore.
I looked back at Jase and studied him for a long time. He was examining a new pair of Quidditch robes. Was he worth waiting until April for? Did it have to be a big thing like that? He lifted his head and caught me watching him. Instead of frowning or asking me what I was looking at he just smiled and winked taking the robes he’d been looking at to the back change rooms. Oh yes, he was so worth it. I’d just have to do a little bit more reconnoitering with Nikki’s background and how exactly she fit into Jase’s life, other than sex toy or eye candy. I would also have to try and tolerate her presence that much more. It was easier knowing I was well on my way to stealing Jase back from her, but now that there were seven months ahead of me I knew my efforts had to double tenfold. I just hoped against hoped that I didn’t come to like her in those months.
Jase came back out into the main store to model his robes. I grabbed a deep violet sparkly robe and walked in his direction. I thought I might as well buy something to make my life seem at least a little worth while. “What do ya think?” Jase asked as posed with the robes of a rich red and warm gold color. “I’ll have to sew on my number, but that’s no biggie.”
“Don’t you mean I’ll have to sew it on?”
“Well, yeah, that’s what I said, wasn’t it?”
I rolled my eyes. “What’s the difference between these ones and your old ones?”
“My old ones have a hole in the bottom right corner of the hemline where I accidentally pulled it on a nail last year. You remember that one; the nail caught my robe while I was flying towards the opposite end of the pitch and it grabbed it so well that I was pulled off my broom and left hanging there.”
“Oh yeah,” I laughed, “I remember that now. I kept trying to tell people that you did it on purpose to cover your ass for that total goof-up, but no one believed me.”
“Yeah well,” he flushed a deep red colour that matched his robes.
“Yes, I like them then. Those other robes need to take a hike down the walk of shame. Just like those old Nike sneakers, your baseball cap and your Chudley Cannons jersey.” All of those items had come to some terrible end. A nail went through the sneaker while we were walking past a group of girls back in Cambridge during the summer. The baseball cap had gotten a tear in it from a fish hook coming from Jase’s own fishing line as he cast on his boat in Ireland. His shock when the hat had left his head caused him to leap forward after it and he tipped the boat and we both went flying into the water. His orange and black Chudley Cannons Quidditch jersey was mixed in with his mother’s and sister’s laundry by accident and it turned a murky brown colour with patches of orange and black and no distinguishable logo left. He hadn't realized it was like that until he'd take his jacket off at a match and everyone started pointing and laughing at him. They had all bit the dust and run their course and all had been a big part of our memories.
“Yeah, I know,” Jase sighed. “What are you doing with that?” He pointed to the robe I was holding.
“I’m going to try it on,” I told him, sticking my tongue out as I passed him to go into the dressing room. I did a quick change and looked at myself in the full length mirror and then flattened my hair out so the static didn’t make me look like a freak. I opened the door and whirled out into the store when Jase was now standing in his regular clothes having changed out of the Quidditch robes. “What do you think?”
He looked once and then had to do a double take to actually see me. I bit nervously on my bottom lip. Was something wrong? Did it look bad? Oh no!
The robes were made of two parts, the dress part underneath had a deep V-neck that sparkled and shimmered before flowing down to end just below my knees in a handkerchief hem. The second piece was a sort of short-sleeved overcoat that was a sort of see-through shade of lavender that had a deep purple sash to tie it around my waist. The overcoat ended just past my butt in the same handkerchief hem as the dress. I’d taken off my shoes and socks to try it on as well because I didn’t think they would go so well.
Jase still hadn't said anything so I sort of coughed to get his attention. “What? Oh, yeah, I like it. You don’t usually like purple do you?”
I shook my head, “It doesn’t go with my ugly brown eyes. Or my green rimmed glasses.”
He simply nodded, “Yeah.” He didn’t contradict the ugly brown eye part so I assumed he didn’t hear me or he thought my eyes were actually an ugly brown color. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.
“So?” I had to nudge him further. “Yes? No?”
He was still looking down at the dress and so again when I said something his head snapped up. “I said I liked it, didn’t I?”
“You did. Anything else?”
“What are you going to wear it for? There aren’t many fancy occasions at Hogwarts to wear…ahem…something like that.”
He was choked up, which could only mean one thing; he liked what I was wearing. I hated that only these kinds of clothes could make him nervous like this, but then again I loved that he was really looking at me and stumbling all over his words like a fool. It was really cute.
He was right though. Maybe I wouldn’t buy it…now. I’d come back to get it later. One never knew when an outfit like this could come in handy. I turned back to my dressing room, “I’ll just get changed. Be out in a sec.”
I pulled on my jeans and green top again and replaced the dress and overcoat on the hanger. I grabbed my jacket and purse and went out to find Jase at the counter talking to the sales lady about return policies. I came up beside him and the lady asked how the dress had fit. I looked over and saw Jase flush the same deep red colour as before and I answered, “It was great, but I won’t be needing it today.”
“Well perhaps another time then,” the lady said, smiling at me.
“Perhaps.” I handed her the dress and she said she’d return it to the rack.
Jase and I exited Rina’s, he with his bag of purchases and me with mine minus the robes. We walked up the street towards the Three Broomsticks as it was almost 4. We walked in and I saw my friends over in the corner along with Teddy and Brad. I waved and we weaved through tables towards them.
Gigi was gesturing violently towards me. I moved towards her and she whispered into my ear. “Red Alert. Red Alert.”
“We have a problem. She’s—”
“—here.” Gigi finished just as Nikki appeared from around the corner and rushed over to Jase. After what seemed like an eternal lip-lock she stepped back. I groaned and sat down beside Gigi who was currently glaring daggers at Nikki.
“Nikki,” Jase said. “What a surprise, I thought you decided not to come in because of your cold.”
“Yes well I thought it seemed an awful waste to not come in and see Hogsmeade. Besides, my cold isn’t that bad. I just decided a half hour ago and I came. And I missed you.” She walked her fingers up Jase’s chest and they landed on the bare skin at his throat.
I thought I saw Jase’s eyes flicker briefly towards me but I could have just been imagining things in the dingy, low-lit pub. It was only a moment after that thought however that Jase replied, “I missed you too,” and my shoulders sagged back into the bench where I was sitting. How could he miss her? He hadn't said a word all day when he was with me. Yeesh!
Beside me Starr and Melody were fake-vomiting over the gooey scene we were forced to watch. I smiled slightly and Vic who was not usually prone to acts of violence actually cracked her knuckles in fists in Nikki’s direction. I had to give that a small chuckle and then Brad from across the table passed me a Butterbeer. I nodded my thanks and he simply paled white, which I didn’t get. I sipped my drink, enjoying the kick that it brought when hitting the back of my throat and I decided that from now on I wouldn’t be going up against Nikki alone. I was liable to do something really bad, like throttle the living daylights out of her, if I had to deal with her by myself.
I was just thinking that when from their standing embrace I saw Nikki glance over Jase’s shoulder and give me a look akin to victorious. Oh yeah, it was so on!
A/N: So, this is when things get really complicated. Just remember that all her friends are there with her so that's not gonna change, though further on I might have a huge fight scene...I'll keep ya posted. Please leave a review, however small and insignificant. I keep writing for you. Thanks a million, K :D!