Chapter 16 : In the Dark
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I was a puddle of splat on the concrete.
Okay, so maybe not literally, but I totally was in the most metaphorically sense of the word and that was enough for me. No one likes being a puddle of splat.
Now you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m going on about but I swear there’s a point to all this. I mean, there I was in the middle of Starbucks with my boyfriend and best mate and yet I was a puddle of splat – I swear I was. It was like in those old school cartoons where the piano free falls from the top of a multistory building onto someone, thus turning them into a puddle of splat on the concrete.
And, well, to put it plainly, I was that puddle of splat on the concrete.
And I had blasted dazed birds flying over my head and the puddle of my general splatness and everything. Because I was a puddle of splat.
A bleeding puddle of splat!
I would like you to think about the scene in question, and I mean really think about it: I was a puddle of splat on the concrete (I believe I’ve made myself quite clear on that front), massive ebony piano resting upon my broken and confused person, and birds floating above my head singing the words “From school, from school,” over and over and over again in my head in the most mocking way possible. Wouldn’t you think, with all of this occurring, that your supposed boyfriend and best mate would free you from this situation? That they would have the decency to lift the fucking piano from your broken and confused torso and thus proceed to re-inflate your said crushed person?
The answer to that question would be yes, yes you would think that. It would be only natural for you to think that.
But no. Apparently my boyfriend and best mate abide by different rules of the universe and are, frankly, just a bunch of self-absorbed arseholes.
I mean, come on, twelve seconds ago I had just been informed that Robyn – my best mate of nine freaking years – went to school with James. James. A Non-Muggle. A Non-Muggle that goes to a boarding school with other Non-Muggles, making Robyn, by default, a Non-Muggle as well.
Now after stating all of the facts, is there any other way for me to possibly stress, to emphasize exactly how seething I was over the fact that in our nine years of best mateship, this not so small or miniscule detail went unmentioned? Someone explain to me how that even happens! I mean, what kind of friends did that make us seeing that she’d been one all this time apparently and didn’t even bother to share this bit of information.
And even worse, I still didn’t even know what a Non-Muggle was! I mean, throw me a fucking bone here; it wasn’t fair of them to allow me to ride the waves of ignorance, waiting for a goddamn fucking lifeline as an invitation into their world.
I think it goes without saying that I felt very wronged in this mess, like a bloody puddle of splat. And I deserved an explanation, damn it. A bloody good one, at that. Or even like a “Oh hey, Spencer, James and I are both Non-Muggles which is a – insert what a Non-Muggle is here – and we go to the same school and all but it’s totally not a big deal because we’ve never dated so this tension between us is not at all weird or sexual and this whole being a – insert what a Non-Muggle is here – is totally stupid and not at all a big deal so you have nothing to be jealous of or feel left out for.” I’d be way cool with that! That there, is a quality, best mate worthy explanation. And did I get that? No!
But you know what I did get? I was bloody ignored! It was like I wasn’t even there!
My Muggle, unimportant – yet perky – tush was left out of the following chat because evidently this was matters for only the Non-Muggles of the group.
Which was everyone but me.
And thus, I was completely ignored.
Have I mention that?
“What the hell do you think you’re playing at, Potter?” Robyn spat, hands flinging into the air in a graceful manner that I could never achieve. While her execution was pretty impressive, the fluidity of her movements weren’t enough to distract me from the fact that I kind of didn’t like the way she said my boyfriend’s name like it was a dirty word.
“Er, Robyn –” I began, hoping to not only emphasize how not cool what she did was but to remind her that I was still there and curing my confusion was the priority here.
“What exactly is that supposed to mean?” James snapped back at her, effectively cutting me off and looking rather affronted instead of, you know, paying attention to me.
Seriously, did no one want to explain what was going on?
“This is my Muggle, Potter, get your own Muggle,” Robyn cried out, attracting the attention of several people sitting at the surrounding tables. Neither Robyn nor James seemed to notice this as they were rather invested in their own little row. Since I apparently wasn’t permitted to be a part of said row, the most I could really do was look back and forth between them, bewildered.
James rolled his eyes. “You can’t take ownership of a Muggle, Neumann. It’s very well within my rights to date her if I want to.”
Seeing that this discussion was so clearly about me, I thought I should take this as my cue to interject. I cleared my throat again. “Erm, guys,” I piped up, hoping to cut in.
I was ignored.
Robyn’s hands were resting firmly on her hips, one leg popped out, positioned in what I liked to call her Bitch Stance. James made the mistake of effectively not being afraid. “Yeah, well, how’d you even meet her anyway? She told me she met you on the train which is obviously a lie!”
I sighed. “You know, I’m kind of standing right here –”
James scoffed, his eyes and attention still on Robyn. I was, it seemed, the last thing on either of their minds. Which was pretty unbelievable, considering that they were talking about me. “Not that it really concerns you, but I met her on the platform. Have a problem with that?”
The way he said that last bit made it like a challenge, like he was actually daring her to have an issue with it.
This was escalating kind of quickly.
I tried once again to cut in and act as a buffer of sorts.
“Hey guys –”
“Which platform?” Robyn bit back, her face hard and fairly composed. However, her eyes told a different story. One look into the pale green and all I could see was fury and sheer panic. “And it better not be the one I’m thinking of.”
I swallowed nervously, having a bad feeling that it was in fact the platform she was thinking of. My distant memory of the place, of Wonderland, was fresh enough to recall the abnormality of it all. I still hadn’t put all the pieces together, but this was clearly no ordinary platform and the people who used it were no different. And judging by the look on her face, this was her worst nightmare. This was the sort of thing that kept the ever unsinkable Robyn Neumann up at night: Wonderland – and keeping me from it.
I had to stop this, to do something before a physical altercation ensued and we were eternally banned from Starbucks. “Guys –”
James’s returning smile was deliciously evil as it began to spread over his features slowly like molten lava – he was going in for the kill. “Why it was Platform Nine and Three Quarters, of course. You know, the one that gets us to Hogwarts.”
Everything was suddenly dead silent between the three of us; if it weren’t for the other customers around us, you’d probably be able to hear a pin drop. I didn’t really know much about James’s Non-Muggleness but I did know that ‘Hogwarts’ was the name of his school – and I was certain Robyn didn’t really appreciate his bringing it up.
I held my breath and my gaze traveled to Robyn to gage her reaction. Her eye was giving a not-so-subtle twitch as her jaw completely locked, her left hand balling up into a fist while the other inched toward her pocket before retreating when seeming to think the better of it.
James just looked smug as hell.
This was where I had had enough. Endlessly frustrated, I stomped my foot, hoping to finally gain their attention. “Guys –”
Disregarding me as per usual, Robyn glared at James, slightly more collected than a moment before but still looking as if she could spit fire. “How the hell did she get through there?”
That was it; I snapped, I went completely and utterly ballistic. Hands grabbing at my scalp and tugging on the brown roots of my hair, I screamed, “WOULD SOMEONE LIKE TO PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?” And when all was quiet, I kicked the leg of one of the chairs at our table for extra effect.
All eyes were on me, and when I say that, I really mean that all eyes were on me. My audience included, but was not limited to Mr. and Mrs. Major Prat McGee in front of me, the people at the surrounding tables, everyone standing on line, and the workers behind the counter. It seemed that everyone had halted what they were doing to openly gape at the extremity of my actions. Like literally, everyone. I mean, I wouldn’t actually be surprised if the person in the loo had heard me and stopped what they were doing as well.
“Er,” I began to announce tentatively, unnerved by all of the eyes boring into every angle of my person. “We’re gonna take this outside…Yeah.”
And at that, I pivoted on my heel and stomped toward the exit, steam coming out of my ears, thinking that heaven forbid, if they didn’t follow me…
But they did. Through all of the obscenities and threats that were going through my mind, I could hear two pairs of reluctant footsteps trotting behind me.
The moment the three of us were out of the door and away from the prying eyes of each and every Starbucksian, I rounded on James and Robyn, eyes aflame and intent on making my displeasure clear.
“Well?” I asked expectantly, eyebrows raised and hands on my hips. “Care to explain?”
Robyn had the decency to look abashed; James was running his fingers through his hair but it wasn’t the nervous gesture he usually used. He seemed to do it more out of annoyance than anything and I had a feeling it was directed more towards Robyn than me.
“How much do you know?” she asked carefully, her eyes intensely studying my face so as to measure my reaction.
“Nothing, she knows nothing,” James sighed in exasperation. “I wouldn’t just tell her; I’m not an idiot, you know.”
“But I know I’m a Muggle,” I added forcefully, my response quick before Robyn could get a word in and thus ensue yet another conversation that didn’t include me. My eyes landed on her and she appeared to be extremely tense as I stared at her critically. “And I know that you’re not.”
This bit of information seemed to alarm Robyn and she immediately went to berate James, but he beat her to it, rolling his eyes as he spoke. “She doesn’t know what a Muggle is, alright? She just knows that she is one. Now will you calm the fuck down already?”
“No!” I barked, stomping my foot onto the sidewalk’s concrete. “You’re going to tell me what it is right now; I’m sick of being in the dark. And you,” – I turned from James to glare at Robyn – “You have no excuse. I’ve known you for how long and you didn’t even plan on telling me, did you?”
I saw a flash of guilt on her face but as soon as I had seen it, it was gone, a hard look replacing it. “Oh as if you ever showed any interest in my life,” she said, rolling her eyes.
I gaped at her, feeling like I was just slapped across the face. In a way I kind of had been. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Don’t act like you don’t know,” she snapped, her glare fierce and unforgiving. “Every time you come home for the hols, without fail I find you knocking on my door to tell me about yet another mess you’ve landed yourself in. And you just expect me to pick up the pieces! What about me, Spencer? You think I don’t have problems?”
“Of – of course I know you do,” I spluttered, jaw dropped and utterly aghast at how this whole thing had turned on me. I mean, I wasn’t in the wrong here, I didn’t do anything; I had nothing to feel guilty for.
“Well, have you ever asked me about them?”
I was about to protest, to insist that yes, yes I had in fact taken the time to deviate from my own problems and ask her about hers but I hesitated. And I thought about it – and I mean, really thought about it. In a matter of seconds I went back to all the conversations we had ever had, especially the more recent ones. And then I froze. Because was I really that self-centered?
No. I pushed it all to the back of my mind. I didn’t want to think about it, to even consider it. Because she was wrong. I wasn’t self-centered. I just wasn’t.
And how dare she accuse me of it.
“I’m sorry that you feel that way,” I shot back, hands balled into fists, anger making its way through my system. “But I’ve taken an interest in your life in the past and I still do.”
Robyn rolled her eyes yet again. It made me want to rip them from her eye sockets. “That’s bollucks, and you know it.”
My expression hardened. “Fine. Don’t believe me. But what did you expect me to have said? ‘Sorry this may be random and completely without reason, but do you by any chance happen to be a Non-Muggle?’ I mean, it wasn’t until a week ago that I knew such a thing existed, but that was no thanks to you.”
“Oh don’t play the stupid card, Spencer, I know you’re good at it,” – that stung more than I thought it would – “Of course I couldn’t have expected you to ask such a thing, but you don’t think that it’s even slightly connected?”
“I know plenty about your life,” I insisted. “And I know about your school.”
“Alright then, tell me. Go on. Tell me all the things I told you when you didn’t ask.” Her tone was really mocking which I didn’t like at all. I could very well just walk away if I wanted to, but I couldn’t give her the satisfaction of not knowing anything. So I indulged her. But I didn’t do it with a smile on my face.
“Yeah, well, I know it’s in Scotland and really expensive which is why I couldn’t go but you’re there on an academic scholarship,” – It suddenly occurred to me as I said it that this bit of information was probably not true if she went to a school for Non-Muggles, that the real reason I couldn’t go was because of my being a Muggle. But I kept going. – “Everyone there is a huge fan of the Norwegian Lacrosse Team, the Ravenclaws; you have a poster on your wall with their team colors, bronze and blue – which I happened to ask you about when you got it. Oh! And it’s called Strawgoh Academy of Higher Education.”
“Strawgoh?” James cut in, thoroughly startling both Robyn and me. I hate to say it, but I had forgotten he was even there. “Isn’t that ‘Hogwarts’ spelled backwards?”
His question was met with silence. And my whole world crumbled down.
I stared at Robyn, feeling utterly betrayed with this new piece of information. She could argue all she wanted about how I never took an interest in her life, that I didn’t care, that I was self-centered. But there was no justification for this. Because of course I had asked her the name of the school when she told me she was going. So this? This was deliberate. She had never wanted me to know. She probably had a line-up of excuses stored away in case I had asked the right questions. And she never thought twice about it.
So I didn’t think twice about what I did next.
Feeling an odd mixture of humiliation, guilt, and grief, I turned on my heel and headed down the street, hands balled into fists and tears steaming down my face.
After about two minutes of stalking down the streets of London, I felt a hand grab onto my shoulder and give it a light squeeze. Already knowing who it was, I turned to see James, hair sticking up in about a million more directions than it had been when I left him with Robyn and a sad smile playing on his lips. This for some reason triggered even more tears, and before I knew it, I was pulled into his arms, sobbing into his blue t-shirt while standing in the middle of a crowded sidewalk.
I hadn’t had any contact with Robyn in over three days. This probably wouldn’t have been unusual for most people, but unless it was during the school year, we at least texted one another once a day even if it was just to say ‘hi’ (her school didn’t have much in the way of service so communication took a bit longer as we waited for each other’s responses to come by mail). But yeah, three days and absolutely nothing – from either of us. No one wanted to make an effort or the first move to patch things up.
It had bothered me, the things she’d said, and while James did the good boyfriend thing and assured me that I wasn’t self-centered, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was. I mean, I didn’t think he was lying or anything, but maybe I just wasn’t that way with him. Maybe it was something that I reserved for Robyn because I viewed her as my personal shrink.
So I tried to make an effort to ask more questions instead of just answering them. One day while my dad was parked in front of the telly, during a commercial break I asked him how work was. He said it was fine. And then it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t entirely sure what he even did for a living. And I wasn’t sure how to go about asking such a thing.
I tried to not let it bother me when I went out with James that night. It was three days post the Robyn break up but I still hadn’t really bounced back from it quite yet. I wasn’t my normal self and not very good at putting up a happy front – which I knew wasn’t fair to James seeing that we were on a date and all. I just couldn’t help it; I was kind of miserable about the whole thing.
“Alright, say it. I know you’re thinking it,” James said with a sigh, breaking me out of my Robyn filled thoughts. We were sitting in some sketchy coffee shop with dim lights and indie music. The people in it were a little weird but Starbucks had of course been off limits given the recent events that had occurred there and we had happened upon this place earlier by accident.
I don’t know what it is with us and coffee shops; I don’t even drink coffee.
I took a sip from my hot chocolate, giving him a ghost of a smile. I took the bait. “Is there any chance now you’ll be telling me what you are?”
This must have been the question he had expected because he didn’t seem at all surprised by it. But this may have also come with the territory of being asked it about a million times over the course of over a week and a half. Regardless, he leaned back in his chair, the front legs lifting off the ground so that he was balancing on the hind two as he raised a hand to ruffle the back of his hair. “I don’t know if it’s my place anymore, you know?”
I nodded, reluctantly understanding what he meant. Despite the fact that Robyn had purposefully kept all of this from me, she probably wanted to tell me herself – that is, if we ever spoke again.
That just sounded so goddamn depressing.
James leaned forward so that the front legs of his chair handed on the floor with a hard thud. His brown eyes were wide, gazing at me with an utterly bewildered expression. “That’s it? You’re not gonna fight me on this?”
I shook my head. The movement was dejected, pathetic.
Christ, I was like a kicked puppy.
He raised an eyebrow. “Not even a little bit?”
I shook my head again.
He stared at me for a moment. And then, “You sure?”
He surprised me then by letting out a groan and then proceeding to violently tug at his hair. “Will you at least say something? Anything? You being quiet is kind of bugging me out.”
I scoffed and rolled my eyes. “So sorry to inconvenience you.”
James smiled at me cheekily and reached across the table to give my hand a pat. He’d lost the tense posture that he usually takes on when we’re discussing his Non-Muggleness. Now that he was presently distracted and the topic had been dropped, he seemed much more relaxed, less guarded. “There’s Spencer. How nice of you to finally join us.”
“Did you guys date or something?” I asked suddenly, taking a hold of his hand and blurting out one of the many things picking at my brain lately.
James appeared to be taken aback by the randomness of my question. He shook his head, looking at me as if I were crazy. “No.” The way he said it, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had tagged an ‘Ew’ onto the end of his statement.
“The two of you seemed tense though,” I protested, choosing my words carefully and thinking back to the first part of the argument that hadn’t included me. “As if there were history there,” I then whispered dramatically. This must have been really funny or something because James nearly choked on his coffee. And when he had finally swallowed properly and let out a hearty laugh, I added, “I’m not making this up, I swear!”
“I don’t think you’re making it up – more like…misinterpreting,” he said with a smile, giving my hand a squeeze.
And then he just left it at that.
Why would he just leave it at that?
I raised an eyebrow when he didn’t go on. “And?” I prompted.
“It’s nothing,” he said, brushing it off with a wave of his hand.
“But I wanna know,” I whined, my bottom lip jutting out in a pout.
He laughed at my expression. “Why? It’s not like a good story or anything.”
“Well I wanna know why you hate my best mate.”
“I don’t hate her,” he mumbled, taking another sip of his coffee. “She hates me.”
He looked like he’d been about to finish off his drink but instead he sighed, resigning to my stubbornness and placing his cup back onto the table. “We were partners in potions last year. She’s still mad at me because we got low marks when I blew up a cauldron at the end of term.” I stared at him, completely lost as to what he meant by all this, part of me wondering if this were for real or if he was just taking the mickey out of me. I mean, making potions in a cauldron? That sounded a bit to me like, like…witchcraft or something. But he rambled on without notice of the crease in between my eyebrows or the slackness of my jaw, almost as if he were in his own little world. He was barely even looking at me when he spoke; the only indication that he even remembered my presence was the lazy circles he was rubbing into my skin. “She insists that I did it on purpose but she knows that I’m bloody well rubbish at the subject. The only reason I even made it into N.E.W.T. level potions is because of my dad, him being the Wizarding World’s savior and all that crap.” He said this all with a shrug, taking another sip of his coffee.
But then James noticed the frozen, stunned look on my face. I couldn’t believe it. Wizarding World’s savior, he’d said. Wizarding. World.
Suddenly I knew exactly what he was.
And I knew in that next moment he’d also realized what he had just revealed because then he froze as well, only getting out one more word:
A/N: I AM SO SORRY. I honestly did not mean for this update to have taken so long; I started and restarted this chapter over and over again, trying to get it the way I wanted it to but it just wasn't working. Thankfully, after about 7 tries, I got to a start that made me happy and gave me something to work with for the rest of the chapter. But what did you think? HE TOLD HER! Accidentally, but still! Are you surprised? What are your feelings on the whole Robyn/Spencer fight? How do you think Spencer will react to the news that her boyfriend and best friend are magical? Please leave me a review and let me know; I absolutely loved the response I got for the last chapter (over 70 reviews? You guys are amazing!)
Which brings me to my next line of business: reviews. I know I haven't really been answering them lately but I do read and love them and I'm going to try to catch up. Between this, The Month I was a Hipster, and my new James/Lily oneshot, A Hundred Million Freckles, I have like 85 unanswered reviews so please bare with me. I will answer them eventually :D
Also, I'm leaving for college on September 2nd so I don't know how much time I'll be able to write so updates might be slow. Then again, they were already slow to begin with so I don't know how much of a difference it will make.
Another point: Many of you in your reviews said that Robyn's screaming on the phone tipped you off for her being a witch. I just want to say that was unintentional but kudos to all of you that picked that up; I honestly didn't even think of that while writing it. She's a Muggle-Born so she should be able to use a phone properly, but she shouts just because I thought it would be funny if she and Spencer yelled at each other on the phone.
Until next time,
PS: I'd like to credit Rebecca (explosion) for coming up with the couple name Spajames; I stole it from one of her reviews and forgot to mention it in my last author's note.
PPS: I do not own Starbucks; if I did, I wouldn't have had to take out so many student loans for school. I applaud Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl for thinking of their children's education when building a career (Really Dad? You're an Insurance Adjuster?)
PPPS: This is the longest author's note ever. I'll stop here.
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