Chapter 1 : Code Black (aka Run for the Hills!)
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'Look at her; I'm surprised any of the guys can lift her.'
'Only Andrew can, because he's the strongest. That's why he's always her partner.'
'That leotard is so unflattering, how does she have the nerve to wear it?'
'She's just so fat. I can't believe she thinks she can be a ballerina. I mean, how can you be a dancer when no one can even lift you?'
I couldn't stop the voices from taking over my thoughts. I crouched down in the corner of the dressing room, my hands over my ears, wondering what my friends would say if they could see me now. Confident Cadence, they used to call me. Nothing ever bothered me, no one could ever get to me. I was a prefect, a leader, a respected student. I lived my life the way that I wanted, and I was happy. But now I was miserable.
'I am disgusting,' I thought, blinking back tears as I stood up and stared at myself in the dressing room mirror. I pinched a roll of fat between my thumb and forefinger. I loathed myself with every fiber of my being, and I hurriedly pulled on the last leotard so that I could stop staring at myself naked. Ugh, I looked like a walrus. Or a hippogriff. I really had let myself get so out of hand this summer, no wonder the boys at American Ballet Theatre had trouble lifting me. They lifted all the other girls so easily, but I was the challenge. The one that no boy wanted to partner. I yanked off the leotard and redressed myself in my jeans and long-sleeved gray shirt, which I wore despite the heat of summer.
As I paid for all of my dancewear, I noticed a gaggle of teenaged girls laughing as they crossed the street and entered an ice cream shop. They all looked so happy and beautiful and thin that it made me sick to my stomach. I shook my head, this time successfully clearing my thoughts, and headed out the door with my purchases. Unfortunately, the sun was so blinding that I ran right into someone.
"I'm so sorry!" I blathered as I bent down to pick up the parcels that I had dropped. "I couldn't see where I was going because of the sun…"
A hand reached down to grab the last bag and handed it to me. A flash of light rebounded off of a familiar looking ring with the Gryffindor crest on it. As we stood up, the person blocked out the sun and my suspicions were confirmed as I caught sight of a familiar face.
"Oh, hi, Charlie!" I said, blushing. "I'm so sorry for running into you.”
The tall, stocky male stood, handing me the last parcel. "It's really no problem, was just an accident. Heading into Diagon Alley, I presume?"
I tucked my hair behind my ear. "Yeah, I was just buying some new dance clothes before meeting Amelie outside Madam Malkins'."
"Right, right…well, I was just heading there myself, so would you er, care to walk with me?" Charlie asked, stuffing his hands. This was so awkward. Charlie Weasley had never exactly liked me.
I nodded shyly. “Sure.” We began walking stiffly. After a few moments Charlie asked me how my summer had gone.
"Oh it was really good; I spent most of it in the States doing a ballet program." I fidgeted with my sleeve as I thought about the hell that was American Ballet Theatre.
‘You know, you’re lucky I’m even doing this for you.’ Collin was stripping my shirt off, kissing me down the neck. ‘There’s so many other girls who I could be with right now. Girls who don’t have thighs the size of tree trunks.’
Charlie raised his brows. "Really?" he said as he tapped the brick. "That's pretty, er, wicked. Beats the ruddy hell out of my summer. I worked at the Magical Menagerie, a lot, and made up a bunch of quidditch plays for the new season."
There was a good chance that my face was on fire, it was so hot. I casually brushed my fingers up against my cheek. Nope, no fire. "Oh it really wasn't a big deal… And that still sounds pretty great. I love that shop, with all the owls and puffskeins." The two of us stepped through the newly appeared archway.
He chuckled. "Funny story about those puffskeins actually. So, about two weeks ago, I was opening up the store, and this woman walks in, and-"
"Charlie!" a shrill voice from behind us called out. "Charlie Weasley!"
We both stopped short and turned around, only to find ourselves face to face with (the devil) Abigail Whitaker. Her honey blond hair was perfectly tousled, her blue eyes outlined with charcoal, and her smile revealed the whitest teeth I had ever seen. I got tanner just from the glare her teeth gave off. Damn her. I was, for the first time in my life, having an actual conversation with Charlie Weasley.
"Oh, hello Abigail, how are you?" Charlie asked, smiling absently as he looked down at her. She seemed like a midget in comparison to the two of us, standing at a resounding 5'3".
She tossed another megawatt smile his way and flipped her golden hair over her shoulder, looking like a donkey braying. Not that I was bitter. "Oh, I'm fantastic now that I've run into you! Over the summer I came up with a bunch of proposals to give to McGonagall about having a cheer squad for our quidditch team!" As she bounced up and down her massive (fake) chest went all over the place. I looked away while Charlie openly stared, crossing my arms over my own miniscule breasts.
He forced himself to look her in the face again. "Sounds great Abigail. I'm sure this new season will be smashing."
She laid a hand on his forearm. "Of course it will be; we have you as our captain! Now, I'm afraid I have to run; I promised Griffon and Anders that I'd meet them at Florean's! Such is the busy life of Abigail!" she giggled. Gag me. "Well, I'm off! Bye Charlie! Oh, and you too Weaver, I suppose." With another fake smile tossed our way, she turned on her heel and flounced away, her shoes clacking on the cobblestone.
Charlie coughed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, I'd best be headed to Quidditch Quality Supplies. I promised my mum I'd be home to help her with our garden. We've got a bit of a gnome problem," he added at my curious expression.
I nodded and smiled slightly. "Ah, sounds like a ton of fun. I'd best be off as well, or else Amelie will have my head."
He nodded faintly. "Well I, uh, suppose I’ll see you on the train then. See you around Weaver."
"See you," I spoke shyly. Charlie abruptly walked away, and I headed in the opposite direction. That was probably the most interaction I had ever had with Charlie, despite the fact that we were in the same year and house at Hogwarts, and had all of our classes together for seven years.
I sighed and turned the corner past the apothecary. I caught sight of an extremely tall, lanky girl with a flower headband crammed into her long, brunette tresses looking around impatiently. She spotted me only a moment later and then flew over to me, her skinny but deceivingly strong arms catching me in a vice-like grip.
"Cadsy! It is soooo good to see you, I've missed you so much my darling!" she cried, spinning us around in an awkward circle as I tried not to lose my footing.
I managed to break away from her strong-hold and stepped back so that people wouldn't get the wrong idea about us and assume we were lesbians, as I'm sure many people at Hogwarts did. I gave her a quick once-over. Still tall, still awkward, skin still covered in paint smears…all in all she was still completely Amelie. "Phew, I thought a summer with Marguerite would change you into an Abigail!"
Amelie had spent the entire summer with her father and new step-mother, Marguerite, in France. Her step-mum was the perfect trophy wife: blonde, thin, vapid, and eager to please. In short, mine and Amelie's worst nightmare.
Amelie threw her head back in laughter. "Please! She gave up on trying to "improve my looks" after two days. I pulled my wand on her when she tried to dye my hair in my sleep."
I gasped. "She did not! Why didn't you mention that in any of your letters?"
"I'd quite prefer to forget about it." Amelie cringed. "I still wake up in sweats thinking about her wand at my temple and her French tips digging into my skull."
We shared a glance and shivered simultaneously. "Eurgh. I'm so glad it's time to go back," I said happily as we entered Madam Malkins'.
The two of us were still laughing about the Marguerite situation as we walked through the door, but as we caught sight of a head of familiar yellow hair we both froze.
"Amelie," I whispered out of the corner of my mouth. "Is that Humphrey Hummers over there?"
She nodded in horror. "It is. Quick. Code. Black," she muttered without moving her mouth. Immediately we ducked and covered, running behind the racks of robes towards the dressing rooms. Right before we hit the home stretch, my bags snagged themselves on a hanger and tore open. Bollocks.
I squeaked in horror and hurriedly tried to gather my things, but it was too late. We'd been spotted. I looked helplessly up at Amelie, who gave me a wide-eyed look before fleeing into the dressing rooms. Tosspot.
"Oh my, Cadence! Here, let me help you with that!" came the nasally voice of Humphrey Hummers, Hufflepuff Head Boy extraordinaire.
I worked faster, shoving tights and gauzy skirts back into the torn bags. "Really, I'm all right, no need!" I cried, my voice squeaking slightly in fear.
I tried to stand up on my own but then Humphrey's arms were around my shoulders and dragging me up.
"Gee, thanks, Humphrey," I said, struggling to keep the contempt out of my tone.
He touched my arm, much like Abigail had done to Charlie only minutes earlier, and my skin crawled. Great, now I would have to disinfect. "My pleasure Cadence. I am always happy to be of assistance to fair maidens such as yourself."
I heard Amelie snort from the dressing rooms and quickly turn it into a cough. "Er, right, well, Amelie is waiting for me so…" I trailed off as I took a step towards my cow of a friend.
"Wait, before you go, I just personally wanted to let you know how sorry I am that you didn't receive the position of Head Girl. I think it's a right shame, as we would have ruled extremely well side by side." Humphrey sounded so condescending that I actually turned back around to face him.
"Oh, that's so sweet Humphrey, but actually, I told Dumbledore specifically at the end of last term that I didn't want the position, as I'd be far too busy this year with ballet and my studies, and to take me out of the running for the spot," I said with a fake smile on my face.
He frowned. "Well…I'm still sorry to hear it! We would have made a great pair," he sighed wistfully. I managed another fake smile and then rushed after Amelie into the dressing rooms, sighing in relief as the door shut behind me.
"I hate you, you monstrous She-Beast," I declared as I flopped down in a chair across from a mirror. I glanced at my lumpy frame and then immediately shifted my gaze away, pulling at the shirt material by my hip.
Amelie grabbed a shirt off of the rack where items had been returned and held it up to herself.
"Paisley brings out your She-Beast qualities," I sulked. Amelie just laughed and put the shirt back. We hid for a few more minutes until we heard Humphrey leave the shop, his awkward "power" stride (or so he called it) very audible, and then returned to the main section of the store.
I wandered over to a rack where all of the robes were in various shades of red. "Why do you suppose they put dress robes on the list for school?" I asked as I picked a particularly Gryffindor-colored robe off of the rack. One can never have too much red as a Gryffie.
"Ooh, I like that, it's very Lioness," Amelie said. "And I'm not sure. There's obviously going to be some sort of dance. We'll find out tomorrow at the feast anyway. Hey, maybe it's because Dumbledore's getting married and they're holding the wedding at Hogwarts."
I raised a brow. "Out of all the possible scenarios you could've come up with, you chose that one? Amelie, the man's like seventy-five! If he hasn't married by now, he probably won't ever!"
"You are such a Negative Nelly! You're worse than the Grinch! 'He'll never get married before he croaks.' Sometimes Cadsy, I don't know how we get along so well," she sniffed, holding up two different robes, each one horrifyingly frilly and pink. "Which one?"
Choking, I snatched the eye-sores out of her hands and shoved them back onto the rack. "Amelie, just no. Here, look at this one!" I stuffed a violet, lacy robe into her arms. "And anyways, some people just aren't meant for love. They have other aspirations, such as being the greatest sorcerer to ever live, like Dumbledore." I sighed and avoided the mirror in front of me as I compared my skin tone with a blue robe.
"That's a load of horse-hockey and we both know it. There's someone for everyone. For example, I think Humphrey Hummers and Rachel Stevenson would make a smashing couple. Their children would be absolutely terrifying, but the couple itself would be a match made in heaven." Amelie looked at me knowingly as she adjusted her headband before gasping and whirling me around. "Cadsy, look! That dress and robe, they're perfect for you!"
The dress was a silver evening gown with a bodice made of ruched material that gathered at the hip before falling elegantly to the ground. There were two jeweled, conjoined straps going over the right shoulder. The robe was made of a gauzy silver material with diamonds studded into it in various swirls.
I scoffed. "Amelie, that's probably the most expensive thing in the shop. I'm not exactly made of money." My mind wandered to my nearly depleted bank account.
"Just try it on, please? For moi?" Amelie pouted and gave me the puppy dog stare with her deep brown eyes.
I folded my arms across my chest and held my position for five full seconds before cracking. It was so difficult saying no to her. "All right, but only if you stop looking at me like that. You're making me feel like I just pushed Professor Flitwick over or something."
Amelie squealed in glee and whisked me off into the dressing room. Oh no, another dressing room. With mirrors. I undressed and redressed myself in record time, nearly tearing the robes in my hurry. I took a breath as I did the side zipper up, and, without looking at myself, opened the door.
Immediately I was caught up in a flurry of dark, mussy hair as I was embraced. "YOU LOOK LIKE A FAIRY! A bloody fairy! You're so beautiful Cadsy; all the lads over in Fatty-a-go-go land must've been in love with you. Just look at yourself!" Amelie demanded. If only... No lad had ever been in love with me. Not even Collin.
I watched from across the dance studio as Collin played with Savannah’s hair, leaning in slightly as he whispered to her. This didn’t hurt, this didn’t hurt, this didn’t hurt. Savannah looked over at me and smirked, reaching her hand out to touch his bicep. Okay, now it hurt. What was so wrong with me?
Bringing myself back to the present, I forced myself to look in the mirror. I actually looked…all right. The dress was a little lacking in the chest area, which I have to thank years of ballet training for, but that could be fixed with a few charms and chicken cutlets. The fabric clung to my hips in just the right way, complimenting my very faint hour-glass shape. The robes, the best part of the ensemble, were almost ethereal. I did a little twirl and it looked like I was giving off sunlight. I giggled and held my friend close. "I feel like a princess!"
"You look like one!" She laughed. "Now take it off so I can buy it for you!"
I stepped back. "What, no! Amelie, you can't! It says this is 299 galleons! That's a fortune!"
Amelie shrugged. "So…it can be your birthday and Christmas present…for the next five years! Please let me do this Cadsy, you'll never find robes like this ever again, and it looks so bloody good on you. Boys will be tripping over themselves to romance you."
I chewed on my lip. Though I doubted the part about the boys, the dress actually made me feel good about myself, which made it the only thing to have been able to do so for the past three months. And the robes…I would be the envy of every girl in the room. "All right, but this means I'm buying you those boots for Christmas this year."
She broke out into a smile. "Now go change!" she cried, slapping me on the bum.
After I changed and Amelie paid for the violet robe and my robes, we exited the shop. We were in there for so long that the sun had gone down and Diagon Alley had emptied.
We stood there with our purchases for a moment just surveying the sunset on the cobblestone of the street.
"I love this place," I sighed.
Amelie nodded. "Almost as much as I love Hogwarts. I can't wait to be back."
We hugged each other and promised to find each other on the platform the next morning before departing. I apparated into my kitchen and stumbled slightly on the landing due to all of my bags.
My mother was standing at the kitchen counter with my step-father, Will. Both were nursing drinks and laughing.
"Hey mum, Will," I said before immediately running up to my bedroom. I wouldn't say that I was unhappy with my home life, but it'd been a bit of a struggle at times. We weren't exactly well-off, and dance is a very expensive passion to have. She wanted me to quit, and I nearly did several times, but I just couldn't bear to give it up. I began touring with professional companies over the summers on scholarship and I couldn't go back after that.
Then there was my step-father; he was a bit of a dead beat. He worked in construction and despite the fact that he could be going out and getting a better job with his own benefits, he wouldn't, even when we were struggling to buy groceries. Sometimes I felt like I was going to suffocate in his selfishness.
My mother was a sales representative, currently unemployed. Her company was downsized and that was that. She had been doing odd jobs to pay the bills, and I know that killed her. Three degrees and walking ponies around on a kiddie-farm…but she did it so that she could take care of me, and help me finance my true passion. I have always loved her so much for it.
I shook my head clear of my thoughts and surveyed my room. I couldn't even see the floor. There were piles of school clothes, regular clothes, dance clothes, regular shoes, and dance shoes on my carpet. Textbooks and school supplies were littered across my bed. A ton of toiletries and pictures and posters were piled on top of my purple trunk. "Oh Merlin," I muttered, cursing my procrastination. I had barely managed to get my summer school work done this past week.
I opened my trunk and peered inside. The only thing that had been packed so far was my toothbrush; I'd forgotten to bring it last year and had to have my mum owl it to me. And seeing as how my mum wasn't the greatest with wizard mail, I wanted to make sure that I had it with me this year. I picked it up and placed it with the rest of my toiletries. Using my wand, I packed all of my school things, followed by my shoes and clothes, toiletries, and photographs. When I was done, my room was scarily empty. Posters were gone from the walls, leaving blank patches, pictures were gone from their place on my dresser, and my closet was barren.
A sudden wave of exhaustion hit me as I thought about this particular moment. I was about to leave for my final year at Hogwarts. After this I would be done with my schooling, and out in the real world, supporting myself. My future was so unclear at this point in time. Perhaps this time next year I would be back in America at a ballet company, or in Germany, or Russia, or Italy. I quickly change into pajamas and crawl into bed with thoughts of magic and school and…Charlie dancing around my head. Oh, Merlin save me.