Chapter 6 : Decisions, Decisions
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A not-so-macho, (but very pretty) chapter image by aphrodite@tda
I've recently discovered that I make a lot of bad decisions.
When Al asked me to be his girlfriend, what I should have done is say NO WAY IN HELL.
But no, I said yes and as a result it seems that everyone in Gryffindor house has conspired to hate me, and overnight I have become about as popular as spattergroit.
Seriously, I think that even if I found the cure for cancer, baked each individual Gryffindor student a cake and got on my knees to beg for forgiveness in front of the entire school they'd still act as though I'd personally resurrected Voldemort from the dead.
The only person who has any right to be angry is Rose. I mean, her best friend quit the quidditch team just weeks before the opening game and then started dating her cousin, who she's been fighting with since the beginning of the school team. She's also got it into her head that it's some little plot I've concoted to make James jealous, which it is not.
Seriously, it's not.
But when you look at it that way I look like a rubbish best mate, so I understand why she still refuses to acknowledge my existance.
"Rose, please let me explain-"
"Is that a new haircut, Lexie? I like it!"
"Er, thanks Rose."
"Seriously, Rose you don't understand-"
"Did you finish your potions essay Ray? I've barely started!"
And so on.
Yep, saying yes to Albus' ridiculous plan was definitely some shitty decision making on my part.
Luckily Ray is still talking to me, meaning that not all hope is lost for Albus at least. When I asked Ray if she shared the others' opinion of me she answered no, because quidditch is just a stupid game, and she didn't know why everyone was making such a fuss.
Finally someone with their head screwed on properly.
She is the only one who will sit anywhere near me. I could go and sit with Albus at the slytherin table, but I'm afraid this might provoke the gryffindor's to start throwing food.
Now that is one bad decision I'm determined to avoid.
I seem to be the queen of bad decisions. Really, all the bad decision makers should bow to the power of my idiocy.
If you don't believe me I'll give you a few examples.
1. I was four when I decided to offer half of my biscuit to my first crush, Tommy. Tommy wasn't too pleased with my offering, so he threw the biscuit back in my face and as a result, out of my deep feelings of hurt and humiliation, I decided to make his cup of orange juice rise up off the table, of it's own accord, and splash it's contents in Tommy's face.
I had to change preschools.
2. I was nine when I thought it would be funny to eat a whole box of fever fudge in one go. I had to be taken to the emergency word at St. Mungo's. That was a fun night.
3. I was eleven when I decided it would be a good idea to make friends with Rose Weasley (see bed decision 4).
4. I was twelve when I decided to accept Rose's invitation to spend the summer with Rose's family. As a result I met James, fell madly in love and the rest is history.
5. I was sixteen when I decided to permanently quit the quidditch team and let Eve Collins take my spot, losing all means of contact with James.
Such is my depressing life.
It's Sunday morning. I'm about to make yet another bad decision, but at least I already know that. I have to go down to the pitch, find Rose after practice and force her to hear me out. She has to know the truth, that I'm not quite as shitty as she thinks I am.
And alright, I kind of want to see how Eve Collins plays. I bet she's rubbish and James just offered her the place just to get in her pants. Sigh.
* * *
I'm both pleased and disappointed. I'm disappointed because from my secluded spot behind a bush beside the pitch I can see that Eve is actually a very good keeper. But this means that James doesn't want to get into her pants.
Eve doesn't catch every shot, but at least she doesn't look like she might fall off at any moment.
James blows his whistle. Cameron throws a last shot from the side, which Eve misses.
I could have caught that, I think.
James appears to realise this too, because he yells, "A monkey could have caught that!"
At least he remains the arsehole that he is even though she's pretty. That's a comforting thought, although apparently I'm on the same scale as a monkey.
James blows his whistle again and yells, "Time's up! Good work today team!"
Everyone flies down to the ground. I catch sight of Rose, her bright red hair flickering in the breeze, and realise that I don't even have a plan. Walk up to her now in front of everyone? No, she can escape easily on her broom. Plus the whole team would start giving me death stares. I decide to wait until she's the only one left in the changing room. Rose takes so long in the shower that she's always the last one out. I watch as the team make their way to the changing room and I wait.
The first to leave is Fred, and not long after him come Roxy and Archer.
Eve appears. I scrutinize her face, to see if she's hurt by James' monkey remark. She doesn't seem too bothered, although the slight way she's drooping her head tells me that she thinks it could have gone better.
I would make such a good spy.
James is suddenly walking speedily behind her, "Eve, wait!" he calls after her. She stops and turns around.
"Oh, hi James," she says.
"Look," he sighs, "I know I was hard on you then."
My mouth drops open in outrage. He never apologized to me! And he called me much worse than a monkey.
"You should know," he continues reluctantly, "Wood is quite a hard act to follow."
My mouth drops open even further, like in a cartoon.
Was that a...compliment?
"She should be keeper then," Ever replies touchily.
"She's made her bed," James sighs, "Now she has to lie in it. My point is that you're good. It'll just take some time before the team is used to you, or you're used to us."
Together they begin to walk up to the castle and the rest of their conversation is inaudible.
I stare in awe after James. He thinks I'm good! He thinks I'm better than Eve!
I smile dazedly at the cloudless sky for a few minutes.
I should seriously consider this spy business. Imagine how much I could find out about his opinion of me if I did this all the time! And I reckon I'm pretty good at it too.
I jump up in shock and see Cameron, who's spotted me behind my bush and in frowning at me in confusion.
"Oh, hey Cameron," I laugh nervously, brushing dead leaves off my jeans, "Fancy seeing you here!"
"Yeah," he murmurs slowly, "What are you doing behind a bush?"
"I was just er..." I pause, thinking desperately for an idea, "Birdwatching."
He frowns, "Birdwatching," he repeats, even though it's clear that he's not buying it.
"Yes," I confirm.
Even Cameron isn't that stupid. A smirk appears on his face, "Really Artois, there's no need to spy on me."
Oh, no, wait. Apparently he is.
"I mean, I know I'm good looking and all that, but this is taking it a step too far, don't you think?"
I stand up to my full height, even though I only reach his shoulder, and glare at him. The time to be amused is well and truly over.
"For the last time Cameron," I snap, "I don't fancy you."
"Of course you don't," he winks, and continues to grin.
"Doesn't the fact that I'm dating Albus give you a clue?"
"Well, it is possible that Potter junior isn't satisfying your...needs."
I shudder at his suggestive tone, "Just forget I ever mentioned it."
"Well then, Artois, riddle me this," he sighs, completely ignoring my last request, "If you don't like me, then who does?"
"I can't say," I mutter, "It's a secret."
"Then why would you tell me?" he whines.
"I don't know," I cry, "Can't we just forget it?"
He wags a finger at me. "No can do," he says, "Out with it."
"No," I mutter stubbornly, and I try to move past him.
He blocks my way. "Come on Artois," he murmurs, and by the sound of his purr I can tell he's going to try and find out via seduction, "You know you want to tell me."
As he leans in his smell becomes intoxicating as he moves in closer. I keep my eyes fixated on the ground, determined not to give in.
"This isn't going to work," I tell him, but even then my voice sounds a little shaky.
"Yes it is," he chuckles.
I muster up all my strength and push him away forcefully. I breathe in the cold air and my brain clears. Yes! I have conquered the seduction technique! Cameron looks a little surprised.
"I'll never tell you," I laugh triumphantly, "Lexie would kill me!"
My smile freezes on my face. Cameron's eyes wide in genuine shock.
"What?" he gasps incredulously.
Lexie is going to kill me. This is how I'm going to die. I always thought I would die of embarrassment.
Now it turns out I'm going to die because of my big mouth.
It's funny how life turns out, isn't it?
"What did you say?" he asks more forcefully.
"Nothing," I squeak, avoiding his eye, praying that he didn't hear me.
"Lexie?" he asks.
So he did hear me. Fantastic.
"Lexie likes me?" he repeats, still sounding shocked, "What? How? When?"
He asks each question with increasing force, and he's so shocked that he's almost rooted to the spot, unable to move.
I start laughing nervously, "Lexie? No! Merlin, no! It's just a friend of hers! A friend who told her in confidence!"
"Lexie likes me," he repeats, not listening to a word of my excuse.
I sigh sadly, "Yes, okay. But you can't say anything to her!"
"What?" his eyes widen, "I can't be around her now!"
I frown at him, finding a brief moment to feel a bit confused, "Cameron, you're around girls who fancy you all the time."
He looks awkward and uncomfortable, shrugging to himself and not meeting my eye as he mumbles with increasing incoherance, "Yeah, but this is Lexie. She's...clever. Different."
"Cameron if you say anything I will kill you," I growl warningly, but I have to reluctantly add, "Before Lexie kills me."
He seems to struggle with conflicting emotions, before he finally gives in, "Fine!"
"Thank you!" I breathe a sigh of relief, "Now, gotta go! See you later!"
"Ta ta!" I cry, pushing past him before he can change his mind.
I run away, making speedily for the changing rooms. Everyone else has gone, so now Rose will be alone. I burst into the girls changing rooms. Rose is fully dressed in her school uniform, and is busy tying her hair up into a pony tail when she notices me.
"This changing room is for team members only," she says scathingly, "You're not a team member, last time I checked."
I can't help but glare at her then, suddenly feeling furious.
"You know what, Rose?" I snap, feeling anger burst out of me, "Just shut up!"
For a moment she looks surprised, and she stares at me.
"I've been trying to tell you, explain to you, but all you've done is assume the worst! I mean, how long have we been best mates?"
She picks up her bag, slings it over her shoulder, "I don't have to stick around for this," she mutters, trying to move past me.
I firmly block her way, "How long have we been best mates, Rose?"
She looks at the laces on her shoes and slowly mutters, "Five years."
"Exactly," I snap, "Now after all that time, I'm hurt that you just assume that I would start dating Al, out of the blue. I mean, you didn't even think to ask why! You just assumed that I was trying to hurt you! And after all the time we've been friends you would think that, that makes you the shitty friend! Not me! Did you even wonder, for one second, why I'm dating Al when I've told you over and over again how I feel about James? Did you?"
I'm ranting, as though I'm on a constant angry high. Rose isn't looking at me as I continue to babble at her.She's studying her cuticles, looking guilty.
I feel as though this is an appropriate moment to storm out, so I sigh huffily and dramatically fling the changing room door open. I march outside. Only to bump straight into James himself.
I stumble back a few paces. James stares at me.
My breath catches in my throat as I remember the last words I said to Rose, or rather yelled at the top of my lungs, and I wonder just how much he heard.
Rose comes out. James looks from her to me.
"What's going on?" he asks, his tone full of suspicion.
"Nothing," I mutter.
"I heard yelling," he adds.
"It was nothing," I say more forcefully, pushing past him, and I start marching up to the castle, desperate to get away from both of them.
I freeze. It's not Rose's voice. It's James'. He called me Stella.
I turn around and I can't help but gape at him. James really is full of surprises this morning.
Even he seems surprised by his outburst and coughs once to clear his throat, "Wood, I don't want to see you on the quidditch pitch during our practice again."
I glare furiously back at him, seeing him back to his usual self, "Who are you? My teacher? My dad? Stop bloody telling me what to do!"
I'm on such an angry roll today.
James is visibly ruffled, "Who knows why you're here Wood? You could be spying for the slytherins."
"Right," I snap at him, "Because that's obviously what I would do! You know what, Potter? Why don't you go and find your brother and ask him why exactly I'm dating him? Maybe that'll convince you that I'm not completely evil! Because clearly the fact that I was on your quidditch team for four years, and put up with your crap for four years isn't enough!"
James opens his mouth to argue back, but Rose puts an hand on his arm to stop him. There's a long awkward pause in which James and I glare angrily at one another, and Rose gazes anxiously up at me.
Unable to stand it any longer, I turn on my heel and march away.
* * *
"I'm sorry," Al mutters, "I didn't know it would cause this much trouble. It was a terrible idea."
I sigh and lean my head against a bookshelf. We're in a secluded corner of the library. It's the only place we could find where I wouldn't get death glares.
"No, it wasn't," I lie, "At least Ray is still talking to me. Have you had the chance to talk to her yet?"
"It's been barely a week," he murmurs apologetically.
"Oh god," I moan, "You're one of those guys, aren't you?"
"What guys?" he frowns.
"You've got like a five year plan or something," I mutter, "Year One, stalk her. Year Two, say two words to her. Year Three, have a conversation with her. Year Four, have another conversation with her-"
"Okay, Stella, I get it," he says touchily, "You're angry."
I can tell that he's a little hurt so I lower my eyes, "Sorry. That was mean."
"It was," he sighs, "But I deserve it. I mean, I'm the idiot who can't even get up the courage to say one word to a pretty girl, and has to drag his friend into his shit just for one ridiculous plan that probably won't even work."
"Well," I smile, "Ray's not just a pretty girl. In fourth year, when Jason Davies tried to feel her up she personally made sure that he spent two weeks in the hospital wing. And she did it with her bare hands."
Al winces at the mental image, "I'm screwed, aren't I?" he smirks.
"Definitely," I chuckle, "But don't worry, if it makes you feel any better, I'm just as screwed in the love department."
"How is operation Argue-Back-With-James-So-He-Becomes-Less-Of-A-Prick going?"
I sigh, "Not that well. I mean, I enjoy yelling at him. Problem is that it doesn't seem to be making much of a difference."
Al nods, "It will, in the long run."
"How do you know?" I mutter.
"Because I just know," he says, tapping the side of his nose mischeviously.
I roll my eyes, before I remember what I heard earlier today, "He did pay me a compliment this morning!"
Al looks surprised, "Really? What did he say to you?"
"Well, he didn't say it to me," I admit, "I overheard him tell Eve Collins that I was a tough act to follow."
Al raises his eyebrows, looking impressed, "Wow. This might be working."
"But," I interrupt, "He then accused me of spying on them about five minutes later."
Al shakes me suddenly, "Stella!" he hisses, "Do you know how much of his pride that cost him just to admit that you're good? Trust me, you're having some kind of effect on him."
He's just trying to be nice, to give me some kind of false hope.
"Sure," I mutter sarcastically.
He grins, before thankfully changing the subject, "So, what do you want to do? I reckon we should just 'break up'. It'll get them to cool off."
I shake my head, "Nah. They'll just laugh at me, say I got what I was coming to me or something. It wouldn't help anything."
"I can talk to Rose for you," he says, "I can tell her the truth."
I nod more eagerly, "Please do. In the meantime though, we can stay as a couple."
"Ah, can't resist can you?" he grins cheekily.
I elbow him, "No, I just want you as a trophy boyfriend. It looks good to have someone as good looking as you with me."
"You're using me!" He puts his hand over his heart mockingly.
"Yep," I grin, taking my hand in his and dragging him out into the main part of the library, where everyone is sitting.
"You sure about this?" he mutters to me.
Something about the envious glances I'm getting (as well as the death glares) makes me feel powerful.
"Yes," I put a happy grin on my face, and walk proudly down the library aisle, Albus firmly in hand.
We're almost at the door, when someone steps in front of us. I almost expect to get bitchslapped, my feelings of invincibility evaporating in a second.
"Um, Stella, would you mind if I talk to you for a minute?"
I focus on the person in front of me, and almost do a double take as I see that it's Eve Collins.
She doesn't look angry, her wide, cornflower blue eyes almost anxious.
My hand instinctively slips out of Al's.
"Um, I'll see you around then?" he asks me. I nod.
As soon as Al's gone Eve smiles nervously at me.
"Er..." I pause awkwardly, "What's up?"
"I know that you probably don't like me very much," she says softly, her voice sweet and melodious.
"No!" I object, "Of course not!"
OK, that's kind of a lie. But I can hardly tell her that!
"I replaced you as keeper," she raises an eyebrow, "I don't imagine you exactly want to give me a hug."
"Well, no, not exactly," I admit, "But I hardly know you well enough to not like you."
I privately want to say that I know you fancy James, and that's enough to make me want to rip your head off.
"Well, I know this is a long shot," she murmurs, "But I really need your help."
I stare at her. Eve Collins needs my help? What next, pigs flying? McGonagall smiling? Professor Binn's stripping in History of Magic?
AH! HORRIBLE MENTAL IMAGE ALERT!
"My eyes!" I mutter to myself suddenly, shivering all over at the thought of Professor Binns accompanied by a pole.
Eve frowns, "What?"
"My-my help?" I stammer dumfoundedly, forcing the picture out of my mind, "You wand my help?"
"Yes," she confirms, "Thing is, I've played quidditch before, and I like it, but I don't think I'm quite good enough yet."
"Yes you are!" I retort.
She frowns bemusedly, "How do you know?"
Shit, no. She can't know I was spying. Then she'll just think I'm weird. And I'm not. Even though I was actually spying.
"Er..." I pause, "I mean...I imagine you are."
"Well anyway," she goes on, buying my excuse, "I was wondering if you could possibly help me, maybe give me a few tips, or a few sessions of practice."
Hang on, she wants me to teach her how to be a good keeper? Seriously? Me? I almost laugh out loud at the mere idea of someone asking me for lessons in a sport that terrifies me to the bottom of my very soul.
I'm staring so obviously at her that she waves the idea away, "Never mind. It's a stupid idea. That's probably the last thing you want to do."
"I'll do it."
What the hell? Where did that come from? I swear it wasn't me who said that! What I meant to say was 'no, sorry'. My lips are acting independently of my brain! Mutiny!
Eve's face breaks into a dazzling smile, "Really? Thank you so much! We could do it this Saturday? Or is that too soon?"
It takes a few moments before I swallow and nod, "Saturday is fine."
So now we know why I make bad decisions. When it comes to making the decision I have some sort of funny chemical imbalance where I'm compelled to answer stupidly. That must be it.
* * *
Later that evening I lie flat on my back, on the dormitory floor, staring at the ceiling.
So now I'm coaching Eve, so that she gets better at the sport I hate. My best friend has avoided me all day. I haven't even seen James since I yelled at him, yet again. I let slip to Cameron that Lexie fancies him, so I have about a week to live until Lexie kills me with her bare hands. Fred still isn't speaking to me and my only true friends in the world are my fake slytherin boyfriend, and the girl who my fake slytherin boyfriend is secretly in love with.
I wonder if I could use that curtain rope to hang myself with.
Someone suddenly runs into the dormitory, and without seeing me, they trip over my stomach which sends them flying.
I sit up immediately and I see that it's Rose, lying half on top of me.
Great. Now she can add 'gave me broken ribs' to her 'Reasons to hate Stella list'.
She picks herself up and brushes her hair out of her face. Her brown eyes pierce mine, but I immediately notice that it's not in an angry way.
"I've been looking for you everywhere," she says softly.
I stand up to face her. She looks almost...sorry.
Suddenly she bursts into a flood of tears and throws her arms violently around me. At first I think she wants to strangle me and I resist, wriggling away from her grasp. But she just holds onto my middle tightly, like she's hugging me.
"I'm s-so s-s-sorry S-stella," she gasps through her tears, "Y-you w-were right! I-I've b-been s-such a-a t-t-terrible friend!"
Relief floods through me. She's apologizing to me?
I detach myself from her and I look at her, seeing tears running down her face.
"I'm the one who's sorry," I say, "I shouldn't have yelled at you this morning."
"Al told me everything," Rose said, taking deep, shaky breaths "How you're dating him to help him out with Ray. And how one of the conditions was that he leaves Scorpius and I alone. You're such a wonderful friend, whereas I'm just crap."
I hug her then, "You're far from crap Rose," I laugh, "I should have told you about Al. I just...didn't think."
"It's fine!" she cries, "Really! I can't believe I've been such a cow to you!"
"No, I was the cow!"
"No, I was!"
"We're so not arguing about who's been a bigger cow."
Rose giggles. It's the first time she's smiled in ages and she wipes away her tears.
"Even though I don't really understand how Al's plan is going to work," she admits, "I think it's such a nice thing that you're doing. I mean, everyone hates you now!"
Gee, thanks for reminding me.
"But hopefully it'll be worth it," she continues, "Hopefully it'll work."
There's a long silence, because we both know that Al's plan, seducing a terrifyingly tough girl while he's 'dating' her friend, has a one in a million chance of succeeding.
"But...be honest," she says, "Are you also trying to make James jealous?"
"No!" I cry, but my outburst is too quick and Rose raises an eyebrow.
"I don't know," I admit.
Rose sighs, "Are you sure you really like him Stel?"
"Yes," I say immediately.
"No," she says, "I mean, really like him. I get that he's a good-looking bloke, and you've always had a crush on him, but do you actually have genuine feelings for him? I saw the way you were yelling at him this morning. There's definitely something else there."
"Like sexual tension?" I ask hopefully.
"No, more like absolute loathing."
Still, I was close.
"So are you sure you really like him?" she asks me pitifully.
I stare at her for a moment.
"I'm pathetic, aren't I?" I moan, sinking onto the bed.
Rose shakes her head.
"No!" she simpers sweetly, sitting down.
What that really meant was yes, but I love you anyway.
I put my head in my hands, "I just...don't understand him," I moan, "I don't understand why he hates me so much."
Rose pauses, and for a moment I can see something funny in her expression. Like she's struggling with her own thoughts.
"What?" I ask.
She shakes her head again and the moment's over, "Nothing."
She sighs and puts an arm around me, "If it helps Eve is a rubbish keeper."
I raise my eyebrows, "No she's not."
"Fine," Rose mutters, "But you're better."
I lean my head on her shoulder.
"Thanks Rose. And you've made up with Al then?"
She nods, "Yeah. He was just trying to help, even if he did it the wrong way."
She puts her arms comfortingly around me.
And for the first time in several days I feel like everything might actually turn OK.
This is madness.
Really, I should turn around, right now, go back up to the castle, and tell Eve that I'm not coaching her.
To do so would be like me willingly eating brussel sprouts, for no personal gain whatsoever.
FYI - I hate brussel sprouts.
But at least it's a nice day.
See? I can be optimistic in times of crisis. My life isn't all shit.
No, I mean, Rose is now talking to me again. Fred is still talking to me. Cameron still walks around looking like he's gone into cardiac arrest, ever since he found out that Lexie likes him.
Honestly, at the rate he's going, I'll be dead by Christmas. Lexie's bound to find out sooner or later.
No, I must think happy thoughts.
Raindrops on Roses, and whiskers on kittens…
No! Not those kinds of happy thoughts!
And who thinks happy thoughts about brown paper packages tied up with string?
Just putting that out there…
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