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Chapter 14 : Patterns, Secrets, And All That Jazz
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“Ah, Mr. Nolton and Ms. Fields. Just where do you think you’re going?”
Jett and I both freeze in our tracks as the voice comes ringing towards us. Of course this would happen. Of course we would get caught out of class right when we’re on our way back to class. Why wouldn’t it? Everything else is so messed up, why shouldn’t Wizard God just smite me with everything he’s got?
“Professor Parkes,” Jett says, grimacing while pivoting slowly on his heel.
“Indeed, it is I, your beloved headmaster, wondering why on Earth you two are wandering through the corridors when you should be at your lessons.”
“And wondering why I have already received several reports of you two skipping lessons today.”
“And wondering why -” Wesley stops abruptly as he nears us, apparently noticing the obvious redness of my eyes. “Aria? Are you all right?”
I blink and shrug noncommittally, refusing to meet his gaze. Seeing as I’m not responding to his question, Wes turns to look at Jett, who responds simply, “Girls can be bitches.”
Wesley exhales softly as he continues to stare at the two of us. “You know I can’t just let you go without consequences. Normally this would call for a detention, but considering the... delicacy of the situation, I’ll just dock you both five house points and we’ll call it done. Sound fair?”
Jett and I exchange grateful glances and nod quickly, and Wes serves me a friendly wink before striding away. Just as we’re about to head off towards Potions, however, class lets out and students flood the corridors.
“I guess this is where I leave you,” he says above the bustle of the hallway. Jett smiles lightly and gives me a quick hug before heading off towards his Divination lesson. I, unfortunately, have History of Magic.
What a spectacular day this is shaping up to be.
Surprisingly, though, the rest of the day goes rather smoothly. Well, as smoothly as a day can go in which you find out that the whole school thinks you’re a whore. But yeah, other than that, not horrendous.
That is, it wasn’t horrendous until now - my last class of the day, Transfiguration with Professor Chang. I’ve always really enjoyed Transfig; it’s far more logical than Charms or any of that other nonsense. But now, I’m not liking it so much.
Because it is in this class that I just remembered what I have to do this evening.
I don’t know why this didn’t click sooner. He is the one who recommended Quidditch Through the Ages to me, after all.
But it’s just...
How can you be around someone after a situation like that happens? How can you even look at them?
And it’s not just the awkwardness that I’m worried about.
It’s the fear.
The uncontrollable, pure fear. The heart racing, the adrenaline pumping, the blood rushing. The feel of breath on your neck, pressure on your body, completely immobilized. That feeling just doesn’t go away. It stays, and every time it’s just as bad as the first.
So when class lets out, the only thought in my head is to avoid. Don’t go to practice. Protect myself, because I’m selfish.
I’m selfish. And I’m okay with that. I have to be, because otherwise I don’t know how I could handle things. I’m not brave. I’m not a Gryffindor. I can’t face down obstacles - I’d just break apart. Running away is the only thing I know how to do.
And normally, it works. I ran from James because he scares me. What he said scares me. How he feels scares me. But even more so, I scare me. How I feel - no, could, hypothetically -
So running from Quidditch practice should be manageable, right? If I can break someone’s heart so simply, it should be as easy as falling out of a tree to skip practice.
Should being the operative word.
Because I failed to take into account one factor.
“Come on, Aria,” he grunts, fingers latching onto my arm.
“You have to.”
“No,” I repeat, wiggling determinedly into the common room’s couch.
“You’re the bloody captain, for Merlin’s sake!”
“No, now just -”
“We have our first match tomorrow!”
“Leave me alone.”
“Why won’t you go?”
“That wasn’t a yes or no question,” he mutters as he pulls with all of his weight on my arm.
“Aria, please. We need to win tomorrow - I need to win tomorrow.”
He huffs with frustration and plops down beside me on the couch. “You don’t understand,” he says softly, staring at the fire. “It’s my last year here. It’s the last chance I’ve got to win the House Cup. All I’ve wanted for seven years is to be able to hoist that trophy, see how proud my dad is. It’s my last shot and I’m not going to let you ruin it.”
A beat of silence echoes between us. It’s amazing, really, how dedicated he is to this - to everything. He wants this. He wants this so badly that it makes me wish I could say yes. I wish I could tell him that I could go, that we could perfect the drills and the plays so that the match goes off without a hitch.
“I’m sorry. I just - I can’t,” I say, hearing the desperation in my voice.
Aiden sighs with resignation, resolve clearly breaking. Without another word or backward glance, he hops off of the couch and stalks out of the common room. I wince as the door slams and the vibration echoes loudly around the room. My fellow Ravenclaws jump at the noise and stare at me curiously.
It’s not the way people usually look at me, and this is honestly the first time that I’ve noticed. Usually, people look at me like they would any other human. Be it boredom, anger, or friendliness, that emotion is still there. But with these people, it’s a look of cold objectivity, like I’m a foreign species put up for display. It’s like I don’t fit in - like I never will.
So, rather than be subjected to unnerving microscopic inspection, I gather my things quietly and head up to my dormitory, only to find myself curling up underneath the window and staring blankly out towards the Quidditch pitch.
It’s funny, really. The pitch has always been like a second home to me. I guess that’s a given, seeing as I practically grew up on the thing. What with my mom always being caught up in stacks of paperwork, I had to have somewhere to go when I wasn’t at school. My parents couldn’t just leave me at home.
I remember how I used to sit up in the stands, tiny, only a couple of years old, and wave at my dad as he would fly past. Every time he would make a goal, I would jump up and down and clap because that was just the coolest thing in the world to me. He was the coolest thing in the world. And sometimes, if I was good while he practiced, afterwards he would let me fly around on his broom and help me throw the Quaffle through the hoop.
I suppose I was really doomed from day one, wasn’t I? I mean, it’s not enough that the man read Shakespeare to me for bedtime stories. No, he had to also force me into Quidditch, a sport notoriously known for not exactly being the most female-friendly in the world.
But back to the point. The Quidditch pitch has always been this welcoming place for me, somewhere where I just don’t have to think. Everything else just disappears for a little while - it’s just you and the ball. And there’s something freeing about that. It’s exhilarating, the rush you get from zooming through the air, executing the moves, dodging the other players.
But now - now I’ll do just about anything to avoid that God damned pitch. I guess it’s more so the person on the pitch than the pitch itself, but still.
Everything this year has become completely reversed. Nothing is the way it should be, and I don’t like that. In fact, I hate it.
I hate it here.
I hate everything about this place.
I just want to go home.
By the time the next day rolls around, the entire school is humming with energy. I swear, every time there’s a Quidditch match, it’s like this whole God forsaken place is hopped up on drugs. Everyone divides to root for one team or the other, God forbid you just go to watch the match. No, you have to dress yourself from head to toe in the colors of a house you don’t even belong to and scream like an idiot along with the rest of these -
Sorry. I’m a bit cranky today.
Today is, of course, the Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff match. Thus, the entire school is decked out in either yellow or blue, and as I enter the Great Hall for breakfast, I see that it’s pretty much an even split. The Gryffindors seem to be rooting for us, which I suspect has something to do with the fact that Louis and Al are on the Ravenclaw team. Most of their relatives are in Gryffindor, after all. The Slytherins, meanwhile, have taken a firm position with the Hufflepuffs, simply due to the fact that they will never side with the Gryffindors.
I take my seat across the table from the boys and find my fingers anxiously fiddling with my fork before a minute is up. All I can do is stare at the food, appetite non-existent.
“Eat,” Al says, pushing a plate of food towards me.
“Aria, you have to eat.”
“I said I’m not hungry.”
“Al’s right,” Louis says quietly. “You didn’t eat anything yesterday and you weren’t at the feast the night before. You need to eat. This isn’t healthy.”
“After the match,” I promise.
Albus shakes his head and pushes the plate towards me again. “No. Now.”
I respond with silence as I stare down at my plate. I’m simply not hungry. In fact, the thought of eating just makes me feel sick. When I’m not noticeably hungry, I can’t eat. True, I’m hungry pretty much all the time, but still. Sometimes this just happens.
I’m shaken out of my thoughts by a large piece of toast being stuffed into my mouth haphazardly by Louis, who looks completely unapologetic when I glare at him. I swallow a single bite and feel the dry, scratchy toast snake its way down my throat.
“There. I ate,” I comment wryly.
“Oi! Morning, mates!” Fred calls cheerfully as he plops down beside his cousins at our table.
“Morning, Fred,” Al mutters darkly as Fred proceeds to ruffle up Al’s already messy hair.
“So, we’re expecting a fantastic match from you lot! You’re not going to disappoint, now are you?”
“Of course they won’t, Freddie,” Dom says as she joins us at the table, dragging Connor with her.
“I’ve got ten Galleons riding on Ravenclaw to win, so they better not.”
“What idiot bet on Hufflepuff over Ravenclaw?” Connor asks, taking the once bitten toast off of my plate and chewing into it himself.
“Er - that one!” Fred exclaims brightly as he points to the Gryffindor table.
“Scorpius?” Dom inquires in disbelief. I glance over to where he’s sitting with Rose, the two of them quietly pouring over a piece of parchment.
“Scorpius says that, statistically speaking, Hufflepuff’s got a better chance of winning,” Fred says, flourishing a piece of parchment suspiciously similar to the one Rose and Scorpius are staring at.
“Let me see that,” Connor says as he snatches the paper from Fred’s waving hand.
“Oi! What do you mean statistically speaking?” Al asks indignantly. “Hufflepuff’s got a shit Seeker!”
“And we were second in the House Cup last year!” Louis adds.
“Yeah, second to Gryffindor,” Jett says from behind me.
I jump in my seat at the sudden sound of his voice, while he simply laughs and high fives Connor before sliding in next to me on the bench.
“Al’s right, though,” Connor comments, glancing up from the list. “The Puffs do have a shit Seeker.”
As the five of them continue bantering along happily about Quidditch, my nerves begin to amp up. I’m not nervous about Quidditch, Merlin knows I’ve played enough games to last anyone three lifetimes, it’s just - I don't know how to explain it.
There’s simply this impending sense of dread as the match ticks closer and closer. I don’t want to play with him. I don’t want to even look at him.
Truth is, I’m scared. This isn’t a problem that I can just avoid. He’s not going to go away, no matter how hard I try. This isn’t something I can control. And I just don’t know how to deal with that.
“We should go,” Al says, glancing at Louis and I.
At his words, I feel my mouth go dry. It’s time. This is it. No more running away. Well, I suppose I could fall down the stairs or something... That might be a bit extreme, though.
“Hey,” Jett says as I pull myself off of the bench. “After the match, do you think we could have a talk?”
“Um, sure,” I mumble.
“Great. I’ll meet you on the pitch, yeah?”
“Okay, sounds good.”
At least, that’s what I say. What I really want to do is scream “NO!” and run up to the dormitory and bury myself under the covers of my four poster.
God, what does he want to talk to me about? I would say that he’s going to break up with me, but that’s already happened. He’s angry about something. He has to be. He wants to “talk” so he can yell at me about how I’m a horrible person and how I didn’t deserve him in the first place. I know it. That’s what has to happen because I was actually in a good relationship for far too long. I wrecked the status quo, and now the universe is just setting things right again.
Fantastic. Now I have this little chat to look forward to on top of the Quidditch match.
“He wants to get back together with you, you know,” Al comments as we make our way down the sloping grounds to the Quidditch pitch.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Al,” I say lightly, watching with complete dread as the pitch looms ever closer.
“I’m not. He’s my brother’s best friend - he practically lives at my house. I know him. He does something really rash and impulsive one day and regrets it the next.”
Al seems so sure of himself, but I just can’t believe that it’s true. Everything’s so wrong right now that I can’t bring myself to hope for something good. So, as I push open the door to the girls’ locker room, I let everything slowly drain away into the background. I flick off my mind as I prepare for the match, turning the world into one monotonous drone, this meditative state of pure nothingness.
Sometimes, it’s just nice to not think. Thinking causes problems.
I don’t like problems.
But then, as I enter the boys’ area for the team meeting, everything turns back on. The buzzing noise of the school gathered in the stands reverberates in my ears, the anxious faces of my team fill up my vision. Specifically, the mussed up blonde hair and glinting green eyes of the last person on Earth that I want to see.
As my eyes lock with his, that rushing sensation of adrenaline pulses through my body. And for a second, just one second, I feel so helpless again, like I did on that night. The left corner of Alex’s mouth twitches up in a slight smirk, and in that instant, I know that he knows the power he has over me.
You know, as much as I hate to say it, if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s quite possibly the worst human I’ve ever met, I’d find him pretty attractive. Sure, his jaw is still a bit messed up from where James punched him, but even so... Isn’t that the way it always works? The hottest guy turns out to be the biggest jerk? I would know, I’m the world’s leading expert on finding jerks. I swear, it’s like I have a special scent that draws them to me or something.
Louis coughs subtly and mouths the words “pep talk” at me, which I take to mean that I’m supposed to make a pre-game speech.
“So - er - uh - let’s just -” I begin falteringly, but am cut off by Aiden standing up and pushing me down into his seat.
He clears his throat loudly and says, “Right, so we’ve got a great team this year, and I really think we can win it all -”
I drop my head miserably into my hands and tune out his sure to be long-winded speech with ease. I suck as a captain. I don’t know why Chang made me one. Aiden’s been doing all the work, all I do is wear a little pin on my robes. I can’t even make a God damn speech to motivate my team.
“Don’t worry about it,” Louis whispers. “You got further than must do.”
Al bites his lip and nods in confirmation. “Yeah, he usually doesn’t even let the captain get two words in.”
“Really?” I ask hopefully. “So I’m not a total failure as a captain?”
“Definitely not,” Louis says.
“You may not be a failure on the pitch,”Alex hisses from behind me, “but we all know what you are off it, sl-”
“Harrison, that’s enough,” my Beater, Asher Samuels, says, cutting him off.
“Oi! I’m trying to give a motivational speech, here!” Aiden screeches.
We all fall silent and turn back to Aiden, who quickly resumes his speech. I won’t lie, I don’t hear another word he says until he finishes up with a succinct, “Dignity. Always dignity.”
I fight the urge to roll my eyes, as I’m pretty sure he’d murder me if I did. The seven of us gather our things quietly and exit the locker room, only to have our ears practically blasted apart from the amount of noise issuing from the stands.
“You’ll be fine,” Louis whispers reassuringly.
I nod grimly and march off to shake hands with the Hufflepuff captain, and in what feels like merely seconds, the whistle blows and the match begins.
My hand grips the broom so tightly that my knuckles turn pure white as I kick off from the ground. My entire body shakes with nerves and everything around me flows in rapid movement. A snatch of yellow streaks past me, and I just barely catch the sight of the Quaffle blending into the yellow.
I just feel so out of my element right now. It’s like I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. Everything’s just one giant blur, and I don’t know why. I shouldn’t be nervous, but I am.
“FIELDS! GET YOUR ARSE MOVING!” Aiden screams from the goal hoops as he knocks a shot by the Hufflepuff Chaser away.
I watch as Alex grabs the ball out of the air and begins to dart down the pitch, a flock of Hufflepuffs on his heels.
And then I realize something.
There’s no way in hell that I’m going to let him score more goals than I do. Not a freaking chance.
He might be able to scare me senseless on the ground, but this - this is my territory. I might be a girl, but my dad taught me how to play rough. So, I lean forward on my broom and speed off after him, ducking as a Bludger whistles over my head.
“Watch yourself there, Captain,” my other beater, Tanner Macavoy, calls, whacking the Bludger towards one of the Hufflepuff Chasers.
As I catch up with my fellow Chasers, Alex tosses the Quaffle to Louis, who then throws it to me. The feel of the Quaffle under my finger tips is so familiar, so comforting, that I find myself instinctively driving towards the hoops without a second thought. And before you can say “holy Snidget,” the Quaffle goes flying out of my hand and towards the goal posts.
“What are you doing? I was open!” Alex shrieks as we both watch the ball travel through the air.
I grin at his annoyed expression, and that grin grows even bigger when the Hufflepuff Keeper fails to stop the Quaffle. It sails cleanly through the middle hoop, the crowd screams, and Ravenclaw scores the first goal of the match.
Game on, Alex.
The Keeper tosses the Quaffle back to one of his Chasers, who Asher then gleefully pelts a Bludger at. The poor Hufflepuff scrambles out of the way just in time, but manages to drop the Quaffle in the process, which I then pick up cleanly as it falls beneath him.
“Hey, Alex! Still open?” I yell at him before chucking the Quaffle directly at his head. He scowls but catches it before it can hit him - damn - and shoots off towards the goal.
And so, the match goes on. I guess the thing I like the most about Quidditch is that it’s so repetitive. You can have a thousand different plays, but at the end of it all, you just want to get that scarlet ball through the hoop.
Plus, I get to throw the Quaffle at Alex’s head every time I pass to him. It may never actually hit its target, but it’s oh, so satisfying. I’m about to hurl the ball at him for the eighth time - yes, I’ve been keeping track - when the energy of the stadium suddenly ramps up.
The entire atmosphere is charged with electricity as the crowd goes into a frenzy. Over the roar, I just barely hear the commentator yell out, “Ravenclaw Seeker Albus Potter has seen the Snitch!” My eyes dart around immediately for Al, who I find streaking low to the ground, hot on the trail of a tiny golden blur.
No matter how many times I play Quidditch, I’m always awestruck by this part of the match. There’s this moment, this moment where everything else is just suspended in time. Everyone simply stops - the Keepers, the Chasers, even the Beaters, and all eyes are just glued to that little winged Snitch.
And then, just like that, it’s over.
The world explodes back into motion as Al’s fingers curl around the Snitch. “Potter has caught the Snitch! Ravenclaw wins, two hundred and thirty to sixty!” the announcer screams into the microphone.
Aiden’s face crumples with relief as he descends onto the ground. As soon as his feet reach solid earth, he full-on sprints over to Al and tackles him in a hug. “I love you, Albus Severus Potter!” I hear him yell over the escalating volume of the stadium.
Louis rolls his eyes as we both touch down on the grass and says, “You’d think that he’d be used to Al catching the Snitch by now. But no - every time, it’s the same reaction.”
And then comes the stampede. Apparently, they allow all the students onto the pitch after the match here. Seems like a pretty stupid idea if you ask me, but no one ever does. I mean, honestly. They’re practically trampling us.
“Congrats!” Dom squeals, running up to me and squeezing me into a hug. “You were brilliant!”
“Um, thanks,” I mutter. “Where’s -”
“Oi! I want my ten Galleons, Malfoy!” Fred’s voice cuts through the din.
“No way, Weasley! I want my ten Galleons!”
“Like hell - I won that bet -”
“Er - Dom?” I say, watching nervously as Fred and Scorpius get dangerously close to each other.
“Don’t worry. They do this after every match,” she comments. “Now, where’s my brother? I should probably congratulate him...”
I continue to watch nervously as Fred and Scorpius inch ever closer, screaming about technicalities and fouls and what not. Apparently, the bet was a lot more complicated than just who would win the match.
“I should have known better than to ever trust a Malfoy!” Fred shouts, poking Scorpius in the chest.
“And I should have known that you would try to weasel your way out of this one!”
“HA! That’s so fricking clever! Been hanging around with Daddy, have you?”
“Do not even go there, Fred,” Scorpius growls, looking thoroughly pissed off.
“Actually, I believe you both owe me ten Galleons,” Rose says as she approaches from behind Scorpius.
And from there, it all goes to hell. It’s quite entertaining now that I know they won’t rip each other’s heads off. This manages to occupy my mind for the better part of five minutes. In fact, I would be quite content to just stand here and watch them all day. However, Wizard God seems to have different plans.
“Aiden!” Sophie yells as she approaches our little circle of friends, cutting right in between the Fred-Rose-Scorpius screaming match.
Aiden’s head perks up at the sound of her voice and he turns around slowly, a blush creeping over his cheeks as she walks towards him. “Hi, Sarah - er - Sophie! Did you enjoy the match?”
At least he seems to have his stammering under control now. And he can form complete sentences. It’s really quite an improvement.
Sophie doesn’t say anything, she just stares at him for a few seconds in quiet observation. Finally, she reaches out her hands, wraps them behind his neck, and pulls his head down so she can meet his lips.
Well, it’s about time.
Sophie pulls away and looks up at a dumbstruck Aiden, who chokes out, “Uh - er - um - would you - do you want to - I mean - would you be interested -”
“I would love to go to Hogsmeade with you,” Sophie says, tucking her auburn hair behind her ear and smiling.
“Well, I’ve only been waiting for you to ask me for a month.”
AXKLJAGHLKFJ. I knew it! That little - I knew she liked him! All that shit about not wanting me to set her up - I knew it! I am so good at this. Gosh, I just want to scream with happiness -
“Congratulations,” Jett whispers in my ear, jolting me out of my Aiden/Sophie induced mental happy dance.
“Thanks -” I begin, but he cuts me off with a kiss.
Well, that was unexpected.
He kisses me, and it’s like suddenly the whole world flattens out again. Everything that was spinning out of control comes back into orbit and all the problems just melt away. He’s my pattern. Not my usual pattern, but my pattern nonetheless. Patterns are safe and comfortable and controllable. Patterns are good.
My hands find their way behind his neck, pulling him and his familiarity closer. This is exactly how things should be. This is right. This is my pattern.
“You wanted to talk?” I ask softly as he rests his forehead against mine.
“We can talk later,” he murmurs before kissing me again.
“Wait,” I insist, trying to pull away. “You said - Jett, stop - I’m serious -”
You know, it’s really hard to form a coherent sentence when somebody keeps cutting you off with his lips. In fact, it’s really hard to form a coherent thought, forget a sentence.
“What?” he groans as I move my head away from his again.
“You told me yesterday that we couldn’t do this. You told me I need to take time for myself -”
“I know,” he says softly, locking his eyes with mine. “But you know what? I’m selfish. And this is what I want.”
“But you seemed so set on it -”
My words are lost once more in a kiss, and before long, I can’t even remember what I was protesting about in the first place. Merlin, I just love kissing this boy. It might not be electric or set the world on fire, but it feels so good. But more than good, it just feels safe. That’s the way he always makes me feel. Entirely safe.
“You were saying?” Jett whispers as he pushes a strand of hair away from my face.
He chuckles at my answer, but soon his face turns serious again. “I know what I said yesterday. I wish I could let you have your space to figure things out, I really do. But I can’t. I just can’t. Truth is, I think I’m falling for you.”
Oh, God. This can’t be happening. Dear God, this can’t - but - no - he -
“Am I freaking you out right now?” Jett asks quietly.
“A little bit,” I squeak.
“I know this probably sounds completely insane, but I just need you to understand. It’s so hard for me to trust people. So hard. But I met you, and it was just like - I don’t know. It’s you and you listen and you get me and you’re so perfect -”
Why is this happening? He’s wrecking my pattern - this isn’t supposed to happen -
“- I mean, I’m not in love with you, but I think I’m getting there,” Jett finishes.
“I - I - I don’t even know how to respond to that,” I say truthfully.
“That’s okay. You don’t have to say anything. Well, actually - just say that you still want me. Tell me that you do. Tell me that I didn’t completely screw things up for us.”
For us. Us. I want an us, don’t I? I’m so far out of my comfort zone that I don’t even know what to think anymore. Of course I’m still into him - God, he’s so adorable - but I just don’t know. I’ve never even come close to this point with any other guy I’ve dated - scratch that, I’ve never even had a guy like him before.
I feel like I don’t even know how to be in a healthy relationship. Before him, I don’t think I ever had one. Every other guy, they were all such jerks. Of course, they were sweet at the beginning. But after the first few dates, it would always go downhill. It was like all they wanted to do was make out or whatever, and then when they were done, I would just get tossed away.
But that was my pattern. And as bad of a pattern as it was, I was okay with it. I even liked it, to an extent, because I always knew what would happen. I knew how things would end. I had control.
And now? Now I don’t know anything anymore. This is all so different, so new - he broke my pattern before I could even fall into it again. I don’t have control anymore. And God, that’s what scares me the most.
But I do like him, don’t I? I care about Jett. I do. And he’s my new pattern, isn’t he? I said that myself. New and different, yes, but a pattern all the same.
“Aria?” he murmurs.
“Yes - yes. Merlin, yes, I want you,” I decide, letting my fingers wind up into his hair.
“Yes, Jett. You know, you really are a tickle-brained hugger-mugger,” I giggle.
“Wait - that’s that sphere bloke, right?” he asks, furrowing his brow as he thinks on it.
“Right, that guy.”
“You were close.”
“Damn right I was.”
“I’m going to go and change. Wait for me?”
“Of course, love,” Jett says, laying a kiss on my forehead.
“Be right back,” I promise before heading off into the locker room.
Twenty minutes later, I emerge freshly showered and changed, only to find the pitch still crawling with people. I glance around for Jett and find him leaning against the outside wall of the locker room, chatting with Fred. James is leaning against the wall as well, and it’s the first time I’ve seen him all day. He looks at me, and the expression on his face is one that I’ve come to know all too well.
I close my eyes, willing myself to forget the look of hurt sketched across his features. I don’t want to see it. I don't want to see it ever again, because it scares me how much his pain makes me hurt, too.
When I reopen my eyes, Jett is still talking to Fred, and James hasn’t looked away. I’m about to walk towards them when the door to the boys’ locker room swings open and Alex comes sauntering out.
Please, Wizard God, just let him go away. You’ve been so nice to me today, all I ask is for a little bit more. Please.
But apparently, I’ve already reached my quota for the day.
Alex walks directly behind me, hand trailing along my back. At his touch, I feel my entire body freeze up, lost in the fear that just never goes away when he’s around. My breathing grows faster and my heart rate kicks up a notch, pumping so rapidly that I can feel its pulse against my chest.
James doesn’t take his eyes off of us, but straightens up so that his back is no longer against the wall. The look of hurt is gone from his face, replaced by one of intense attentiveness.
Alex stops walking when he reaches my right side and leans in close to my ear, gently pushing the hair behind it with his hand. “So, Nolton gets it for free,” he whispers, lips nearly brushing against my skin.
My hands begin to visibly shake and my heart beats even faster, reaching a rate that should be near impossible. Blood races through my body, pounds in my head, and it’s just a rush of pure emotion. Pure terror.
“Obviously, I don’t get it for free. So what’s my price, whore?”
I feel him press the smooth surface of a Galleon in my hand, and all of a sudden, his words sink in. They sink in, and the feel of the coin makes his meaning all too clear. As I twist the Galleon around in my hand, I feel hot tears sting at my eyes and cut down my cheeks.
This isn’t about him getting what he wants. This is about him getting even.
I shut my eyes and let out a shuddering breath, but the tears just continue to flow.
It’s like he knows exactly what to say, exactly what to do, to break me down. All it takes is that one word, that one implication -
“Alex!” James yells. My eyes fly open at his voice, startled by his sudden outburst. “What do you think you’re playing at, huh? I told you - I warned you - ever touch her again -”
By now, James has closed almost all of the distance between us, and now that he’s closer, I can see the look on his face clearly.
He looks absolutely murderous.
Jett and Fred turn around to look at us, clearly confused by the scene before them. “What’s going on here?” Jett calls towards us. He’s too far away to see that I’m crying, but nonetheless, he knows that something’s wrong.
Alex smirks as James approaches. “What are you going to do, James? Nothing. You can’t, or you’ll get suspended from Quidditch.”
“Just try me,” he snarls, shoving Alex in the chest.
“James, don’t,” I say, catching his arm with my hand.
He simply shrugs me off, never removing his gaze from Alex. “This isn’t just about you, Aria. I’m so tired of sitting around and watching him play his little mind games. I’ve had enough. I’m not putting up with him anymore. I’m not.”
“How very noble of you,” Alex taunts, the smirk never leaving his face.
“Don’t,” I plead again.
“Listen to your puppet master, Jimmy. We all know she’s the one who’s got you on a string.”
“Shut it, Harrison,” James growls, hands curling into fists at his side.
“Oi! James! Cool off, mate,” Fred says as he and Jett reach our group.
“Aria, what’s wrong?” Jett asks immediately, reaching for my waist. I simply shake my head, unable to tear my eyes from Alex and James.
“I bet it hurts. God, I can’t even imagine how much it must hurt. It’s just killing you on the inside, isn’t it?” Alex continues as he stares calmly at James.
“What’s going on?” Jett demands, grabbing my hand and looking from me to James to Alex.
“Alex here needs to learn some respect,” James spits out.
“Oh, respect? That’s what I need to learn?” Alex asks sarcastically. “Please, elaborate.”
By now, Jett and Fred are not the only ones who have joined us. Other people who had been milling around the pitch have begun to gather in a little circle around us, watching the scene unfolding intently.
“I don’t like the way you treat girls, I don’t like the way you treat your teammates, and I don’t like the way you treat your superiors,” James responds coldly.
“Superiors? Superiors like you, Potter?”
“Maybe if you acted more like me, Harrison, we wouldn’t have this little problem,” James says, voice shaking with rage.
“Oh, I see,” Alex says. “I should act more like you. So I should go and snog my best mate’s girlfriend behind his back?”
Jett stiffens and tightens his grip on my hand, but doesn’t say a word. I glance over at him and find his face set in a mask of indifference as he stares at Alex. The only telltale sign of his anger is a slight twitch in the muscles of his jaw.
“Here’s a little tip for you, Jimmy,” Alex sneers condescendingly. “The next time you two want to snog on the train, you might want to try shutting the blinds on the compartment door. People might see things you’d rather keep private.”
“The train?” Jett asks quietly. “The bloody train?”
“Mate -” James begins, but Jett cuts him off.
“The train! The fucking train! Where was the mistletoe then, huh?” Jett’s hand lets go of mine, and he backs away from James and I slowly, fury apparent in his tone alone.
“No! Don’t even start! Don’t even! God, I can’t believe you, James! How could you? We’ve been best mates since we were seven! And this is how you treat me? By screwing around with my girlfriend behind my back? You just couldn’t stand the fact that I had something you didn’t, could you? You couldn’t just let me have this one thing to myself. You just had to prove that you’re always going to better than me, that you can always have what I have.”
“No, mate, that wasn’t -”
“How long? How long has this been going on? How long have you been fucking me over, huh? Did you have a good laugh about it? Look at the poor bloke, he doesn’t know what we’ve been doing!”
“Jett, it wasn’t like that,” I say, trying to calm him down.
“No! You don’t get to start with me, either!” he screams. “I trusted you! I let you in! God, do you even know how many times I stood up for you? How many times I defended you when people called you a whore? Well, you know what? I’m really thinking that I shouldn’t have, because I’m starting to believe it’s true.”
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper, tears falling even faster now.
“Go to hell. Both of you just go straight to fucking hell.”
James and I simply stand in silence as Jett walks away, both of us utterly incapable of moving. All I can do is cry silently, wishing this moment to end. Wishing this year to end. Wishing I had never come here.
“Throw that bloody Quaffle at my head one more time, and I will turn your life into a living hell, understand?” Alex asks, staring pointedly at me.
I nod minutely and listen to the soft treading of Alex’s feet as he walks off the pitch, but it barely registers in my mind.
“I’m sorry, Aria,” James says quietly. “I’m so sorry. I never meant -”
“Oh, you’re sorry?” I say sarcastically, feeling my body and mind come back under my control. “You’re sorry? James Sirius Potter is sorry, everyone, so that makes it all better!” I yell deliriously to the group of onlookers.
“I’m sorry, just don’t shut me out -”
“I don’t care that you’re fucking sorry!” I scream. “Did you see him? Did you see his face? Did you see how hurt he was? Sorry doesn’t fix that, James! Sorry doesn’t fix anything! Do you even know that he’s the first guy I’ve cared about in years? Do you even know how happy he made me? Do you?”
“No! This is all your fault! Everything is your fault! Every bad thing that has happened to me here was because of you. My life was good before I met you! You ruin everything!”
By now, my voice has gone ragged from the screaming. It’s raw and hoarse, but I don’t care. I just don't care anymore.
“I know I screwed up. But please, please don’t shut me out. I just lost my best friend. I can’t lose you, too. I can’t. Please don't run away from me,” he pleads, desperation pulsing through every word.
“God, how many times do I have to reject you before you get it through your head that I don’t want you?”
“Don’t say that,” he begs. “Please -”
“Stay away from me, stay out of my life, and don’t ever talk to me again,” I hiss.
And with that, I walk away, trying my hardest to convince myself that I hate him. But I can’t, and that only makes my heart hurt all the more.
A/N: So, long time, no see, am I right? *cowers behind desk* Don’t hurt me! I’m sorry! I really am! Life got busy, and this got put on the back burner. But I swear I was thinking about you guys the entire time. And honestly, I’m so sorry about the horrible update time, and I know this chapter probably doesn’t make up for it. But I would love it if you would forgive me and leave a review. Oh, and if you're feeling especially forgiving today, my Meet the Author page is very lonely :( So, if you want to stop by and drop me some questions, that'd be cool. Shameless self-promotion for the win! But anyway, please don’t hate me. Things are going to get better, I promise :)
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