"He's barely said a word since the morning we were leaving. I left him alone for less than ten minutes."
"I'm sitting right here," I mutter, curling my fingers around my hair at the back of my head and pulling tightly in an effort to stop myself from saying anything more. I'm sick and tired of them talking about me.
"Then talk to us," Lucy snaps worriedly, as though she'd read my mind.
I sink further in my seat and continue to ignore them. I shouldn't, they're my friends and they're worrying about me, but I have bigger things to worry about right now. How do I tell Louis that it's over? How do I tell him why? What's it going to be like for Lucy when she has to revert back to going back and forth between us, only this time it's not something that just happened but was forced to happen? Because I can't be around him all the time, that will just make the whole breaking up ordeal completely pointless. Louis using it to try to get us back together is already a possibility I've acknowledged. I can't let it happen; I won't have the strength to leave him a second time.
"Don't be like that, Ciaran. We're just trying to help," Kyle scolds me.
"I neither need nor want your help. And who said he could officially join this group?" I say childishly. He calls me an immature brat for the third time since we boarded the Hogwarts Express; I don't give a damn.
"We did, when we hung out with him over the holiday," Jack states, his tone telling me I have no say. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
I don't answer that. I grab my stick and get up, pushing past their arms when they try to grab me, until Louis tells them to let me go. His voice is so sad. I almost turn around, kiss him and apologize, letting things go back to how they were. But I don't. I keep walking and turn left, remembering which way we turned to get here, and make me way to the end of the train. My stick is up, a little way off the ground and pointing outwards, and I don't listen to other students' protests when they're walked into and prodded. It's their own bloody fault; they should look where they're going.
I keep walking until my stick hits a wall and I know I'm at the end of the train. I use my hand to find it next, then turn and lean against it. I hate this. I hate every obstacle that has ever gotten in my way and ruined my life. I hate me; part of me is wondering exactly why I'm doing this, when a great guy who loves me doesn't see my inability to see as an obstacle and wants to be with me.
But nothing good in my life ever lasts. What if Louis' love doesn't last and he leaves me later?
I don't think I could cope with that.
I shouldn't have left the bedroom, I should have done as Louis said and stayed in the room. If I had, we wouldn't be here right now; he wouldn't be so upset, knowing there's something wrong, and I wouldn't be planning on breaking up with him. But I won't make him choose between me and his family, that's not fair, and I won't let him put his life on hold to help me. We'd end up hating each other in the end.
And the end would be inevitable. I know that now.
I'm too focused on my own thoughts, too exhausted because my thoughts have been keeping me up at night, to even flinch at the sudden, yet familiar, voice which comes and ruins my silence. A voice that was once cocky and easy going and is now lacking any emotion. I only turn my head to the right. "Hello, Luka."
"You sound about as cheerful as I do."
"I'm a barrel of laughs," I mutter. "Why are you out here?"
"I saw you through the window. Do you want the other side of the carriage, I promise I won't talk to you unless I absolutely have to."
I believe him. I don't thank him, I just walk in and take the seat on my left, not even caring if that was his original seat. His lack of protest tells me it wasn't, so all is good in his little, solitary bubble world he created after Kyle dumped him. Maybe even before that.
Will Louis do the same? He rarely tells his family anything, only his brother who doesn't go to Hogwarts anymore. Even Hugo and Lily know not to snoop into Louis' life. Ever. He had his own little bubble world before we met, it's not hard to imagine he'll go back.
I hope I've popped it, that it's so far gone he can't ever get it back; he needs his family, no matter what they say to him or what he thinks.
I lie across the seat, wanting sleep to catch up with me, to take over my body quickly and so deeply I can't dream at all. Luka keeps his promise and doesn't speak to me, but I can feel his eyes on me. I'm too broken for it to be uncomfortable. Yes, broken. Jack tells me to man up all the time, to 'be a man' and take action when I usually turn and run. To be honest when I'd rather lie than admit to weakness. It's not something either of us do easily, look how long it took for him to tell Lucy how he felt, but it's what his mother taught him, growing up with Dyslexia. Well, I'm man enough to admit when broken, even if it's only to myself.
Mrs. Ryder said admitting it to yourself is the first step. I used to think that she sounding like the shrinks when they wanted me to talk about my feelings or a counsellor talking to addicts. Now I think I understand what they're all talking about. By admitting it, you are beginning to accept it and I accept that I was even before Louis, I still am and will always be broken.
I close my eyes, pushing the acceptance to the back of my mind for now, and fall asleep, Luka's breathing acting as a distorted lullaby, like a CD that's been scratched; it works, but it jumps and the song never really sounds the same anymore.
He's broken, too.
I'm roused from sleep by the voices; two soft, very distinct voices, whispering about me again. Only this time I don't understand what's being said. I focus on the hand that's running through my hair in soothing circles and hope it lulls me back to sleep before anyone notices I've woken. But it's not going to happen, maybe I make a move he catches, maybe my eyelids flutter, all I know is that he knows.
"Ciaran?" Louis murmurs. "Baby?"
I don't remind him that I still don't like that name. I turn onto my back, my only acknowledgment of his present being one muttered word. "Traitor."
The one the word is for understands straight away; that's why he's Head Boy. "I said I wouldn't speak to you, I never said I wouldn't tell him you are here. That's not fair."
"What's the matter, CJ?" Louis asks softly.
"Just. So. Tired," I whisper back, only half lying. "Alone time is good."
"Why are you so tired?" he pleads with me. "Something is very wrong."
I'm falling back asleep, I can feel myself fall. His soothing circles is working. "Heard," I manage to hear. I think it's from me. I'm not sure until Louis tells me he doesn't understand. My voice is never above a whisper. "Lo -" I don't finish that sentence, though I'm more aware than before that I said it, it's cut off by a yawn. "Broke."
"Sleep, baby." He's still confused, I can just about tell. "You can tell me later. I'm not going anywhere."
I knew he wouldn't. Despite everything, I don't won't him to. I should be cutting ties, starting the painful process of not being with him everyday and hoping one day it'll fade into a dull ache that will never quite go away. Just to remind me that he was real and here. But I can't, not tonight. I'll start tomorrow. Just before I fall completely, I hear just one more whisper, one I'm not so sure I was even supposed to hear, and I think maybe he's starting to understand.
"I hoped we'd be unbreakable."
For five days I am mostly able to avoid Louis, or not talk to him at least, since he's still in all of my classes. I focus on my NEWTs, my practices and revision with Abby in the library and for five days I manage to hide the painful process of the break-up. I should have done it already, but I need to plan ahead, to know what I'm going to say, so I can just go to him and say it. If I don't have to pause and think about what I want to say, Louis can't use the time to try and stop it. That way I can get out quickly.
Okay, I'm a coward. I've never done this before and I never plan to again. I was better off when I was a single loner.
No, that's not true. But part of me wishes it was, that would definitely make it easier to deal with. The other part of me, the bigger part, hates me for even thinking of wishing that was true, making it sound as though I regret ever being with Louis. I don't. I never will.
I'll only regret not being with him long enough.
I hope he doesn't ever regret being with me. Dom told me not to leave him, hurt him, I remember his words on New Years Eve. But this is not me leaving because Louis is going through he issues and I'm just not being supportive, this is me wanting him to keep his family and his life. I hope they understand that, I don't won't him to have regrets.
I turn discreetly when I hear Jack's voice in the dorm, speaking to Simon. I'm still asleep in their eyes, I want it to stay that way. Jack won't talk to me, the last time we spoke we were on the train about to get off a few nights ago. He told me to get my shit together and make the first move, to talk to him willingly, because he's given up trying to force me. He told me to be a man. Then he walked away.
He didn't listen to Louis yell about that being too harsh, he didn't wait for Lucy who was conflicted about who to turn to until I told her to follow him and make sure he calmed down. Already, there's a divide between us. I feel so sorry for Lucy, she'll be stuck in the middle of my problems no matter what, it seems.
I wait for Jack and Simon to leave the room, listen for the door to click shut and count how long it takes for them to leave the common room for breakfast. I've been counting steps for as long as I can remember, I know by heart that unless you're stopped for some reason, it takes a person barely even thirty seconds to get from the dorm to the common room and about another five to get out. At average walking speed, that is.
Once I'm sure they're gone, I kick the covers off and pull back the curtains and step out, already dressed. I reluctantly asked Declan if he would set some clothes onto the top of my trunk for me, but after a long, wasted effort trying to find sleep that wouldn't come, I pressed the button on my watch telling me it was almost four am, got dressed and paced the common room before throwing myself onto the couch. Despite it being a Saturday, I made sure I was back in my bed by six, not wanting Lucy to know I was up. I know she gets up early to revise before breakfast. No one knows I'm even up, they'll think I'm in bed for a few more hours, which means no one will come looking for me. Not that I expect them to, given no one will speak to me at all.
There's only one. And he'll give me till noon.
I quietly open the door and listen out for any noise at all downstairs. I'm met with silence, so they must all be at breakfast by now. All the one's who are up anyway. I still walk down without a sound all the way to the door, just in case, my stick hugged to my chest so it doesn't beat against the hard floor.
It's a case of ducking every time I hear a voice, whether it be student, teacher or ghost, until I get outside and onto the school grounds. The sun is bright for an early morning, hot against my skin, a huge contrast to my thoughts recently. I wish it was raining. I bang my stick against the ground, counting the number of times I do so in order to block all other things from my mind, and that's when it hits me; I'm right back to where I started at the beginning of the year. I'm alone, my original wallflower self, distracting myself from something. There's always something.
"Well, well. All by yourself, James?"
I groan at the voice and stop. I can't tell where his voice came from. "As soon as you piss off, yeah."
"So rude," he fakes a sigh, his tone mocking.
"How has Digby not kicked you out yet, Scott?"
"My charming personality," he says, clearly smirking. I don't need my sight to know that.
"Is it a repelling charm?"
He is right in front of me now. I try to push past him, but he puts his hand on my chest and forces me back. I whack his hand away, but don't move.
"Trying to be brave now that Weasley isn't here to do your dirty work?"
"Leave him out of this," I growl, really. After putting myself through days of crap, because I'm man enough to admit that my choices have caused this, I don't need him to make it worse. And he is; my temper feels almost uncontrollable. I'll snap soon enough. "I don't need Louis."
He laughs like he knows I'm lying. It's the first time he's ever directed a genuine laugh at me. It's his next words that tell me why. "So, it is true. I hear you and the boyfriend are having problems. Could you no longer take his God awful people pleasing nature? Or did he just have enough of you? He's like that." It's obvious now why he hates Louis so much; he's defending Justin. "But rumor is that one of you is about to dump the other, and given who the two of you are, they honestly can't say who." I glare even more if that's possible; I don't care why he does this, they're as bad as each other and I hate them. I always will.
"But Louis looked heartbroken when I saw him at breakfast this morning and he heard for the first time," he continues. All I hear is the implied message; I told him, he's saying, and he's proud of it. "And you've been avoiding him, you won't talk to him yet. You're dumping him. He heard that, too. Don't worry."
"Fuck off, Scott." I lift up my stick as discreetly as I can.
"Oh, no. The world is ending, little Ciaran swore. Or is he finally growing up?"
"Leave, Daniel." It's not me this time; we both sound shocked by the new voice, by Justin helping me. "Leave him alone, it's not worth it."
"I haven't done anything," Scott defends himself. "Yet."
The added 'yet' is what motivates me; I don't give him the chance and ram the end of my stick into his stomach, winding him. Breathless, he falls forwards. "I can take care of myself, asshole. Leave me alone."
I let him fall to the floor and accidentally - or not, depending on how you look at it - kick Scott in the groin when I step over him. "I tried to warn you," Justin's mocking tone reaches my ear as I walk away.
He must have seen me; I should have known he was helping his friend, not me.
The rest of my walk is hassle-free and angry. I find the tree by the lake, our spot, mine and my friends, drop my stick onto the ground and lean back against the tree's trunk. I sink to my feet, the rough bark digs into my skin. On the floor, I pull my legs up and wrap my arms around them, hugging myself. Given how I was told, it's right to assume that Scott was telling the truth and it's enough for Louis to suspect that's what's wrong. He'll look for me much earlier now, if he's not leaving my dorm already. Scott probably had time between telling Louis and finding me, Louis would have left for my dorm straight after.
He'll be looking for me right now.
There's only two places he'll look before coming here; the library, where I work with Abby and Jack, and the kitchens, where I like to sit and talk to the house elves. They give me desserts. If the math in my head is right, I only have about five more minutes of alone time before he -
"I was on my way to the kitchen and Justin told me you were on the grounds, then I came out and Luka told me you were walking this way." He pauses, hesitates. Then he's forceful, angry. "Is it true? What Daniel said about you breaking up with me, is it true?" I say or do nothing to confirm or deny his question, but he knows. "Why?"
"I -" I falter after barely one word. It's so hard to tell him.
"Do you even have a reason?" he asks harshly. I almost flinch. Louis grabs me by my hands and pulls me to my feet, turning my head in his direction. He's looking me in the eye, even though I can't do the same. "I want to know why. What did I do? We were having fun, everything was good, but I leave for ten minutes and you decide to dump me. I deserve the truth."
The anger disappears as he talks, he's too upset to even try to sound strong about this. I should have known breaking myself would break him, too. That's what we all seem to be, fragile creatures kidding themselves into thinking they're stronger than they really are. We were made to be broken. We're only human.
I don't have it in me to create a story, a way to lead into it. I don't want one. I tell him straight out, letting the tears fall. "I heard you. I heard your voices and I left the room and I heard everything that was said in English."
"She doesn't know what she's saying," is the first thing Louis says. "She doesn't mean it."
"I got what she meant perfectly," I say bitterly. "And she's right. I need someone around, not to do everything, but there are things I'll never get to do, even little things. Louis, I don't even pick out my own clothes! I don't want you putting everything on hold for me. I made you write the lists so you could stop doing that!"
"So, you're leaving me to make my life easier," he sums it up sarcastically. "Not interested. You have no right to decide my life for me, saying I can't be with you because things will be hard sometimes. I don't care. If I did, I wouldn't have asked you out in the first place. I would never put you through that. You're stuck with me whether you like it or not, you know why if you heard everything."
"You love me," I whisper.
"Yes. I love you." He laughs, it's small and unsure. "You can be such an idiot and sometimes I wonder what I'm going to do with you, but I love you. You know I would never say that lightly." I nod my head; I know that. "We all have our issues, Ciaran. There are things that you'll have to be patient for, but it'll be okay. And as long as you keep things organized and remember what is where, you could probably pick out your own clothes."
I hope I'm meant to laugh at that last part because I do. It's cut short when he kisses me, his right hand in my hair and his left at the base of my back to keep me in place, not that I can go anywhere when I'm between Louis and the tree. It's soft and quick and over before I get a chance to return it. "I love you," he murmurs.
It not like when I heard it the first time, he was telling his grandmother about me, or like the other two times here, he was confirming what I'd said, like stating a fact. Now he's finally telling me. I hesitate; I'm more than sure I feel the same, but I've never been in love before. Louis has, with Ellis, I figured out that part of his secret. His secret is the last barrier we have.
"I don't expect you to say it back. Don't say it until your ready," he pleads with me. It's important to him, like my first times are important to me. I nod.
Louis pulls me to him then, gives me something I think I've needed since I overheard his conversation with his grandmother, something we've both needed; a hug. Simple, yet effective. He buries his head in my neck, the same side where my hickey has yet to fade. It's been commented on a lot. "Please don't scare me like that again."
"I just didn't know what to do," I answer honestly. I squeeze him tighter. "I'm so sorry."
"Don't apologize, she should never have said those things. Our relationship is not something she has the right to dictate." He pulls away slowly. "But you'll talk to me next time, right? And we can get past this now."
"What did you mean when you said you won't make the same mistakes again?" I'm soft, hesitant. I don't want to upset him anymore than I already have. "This mistake and your relationships and Ellis; it's all connected, I'm not stupid. You haven't let it go. You'll talk to me about it, right? What if I can't compete against that, against him?"
Louis sucks in his breath, creating a whistle-like sound, and is silent for a few moments. "It's a story for another day, but yes, I will tell you. And you can't compete against it, there's no point." I feel like I've literally deflated when he says that; it's not what I wanted to here. He curls his finger under the chin to get me to look up. "You are so far past it, it'll never beat you. He'll never beat you. I promise you that."
"Really." He kisses me again, making it feel like he's sealing his promise. I approve. "If you're hungry, we can go to the Great Hall; Lucy might have saved you breakfast. Plus, Jack is worried about you."
"Lead the way," I say, finding his hand. He picks up my stick and put it in my free hand. I almost don't know what to do with it; when I'm alone, having the stick is normal, like it's a part of me, it's weird having it when I'm with Louis. He's there to show me the way, so I don't need it. I tuck it underneath my arm and swallow my whole new reason for being afraid. "To the Great Hall."
"So, he's normal again now?" Kyle asks skeptically.
"What happened in the first place?" Lucy demands.
"Well, now that everything's sorted I can tell you. Yes?" he asks me. I nod, I have no idea what to say. "I had an argument with my grandmother about our relationship and about knowing it'll be hard sometimes and Ciaran overheard. He kept thinking about it and it upset him. But we've talked now and it'll be okay."
He squeezes my hand, I'm grateful he left out my plan, Lucy may have killed me now that I think about it, and my other thoughts. I told him about them on the way to the hall. To say he wasn't upset would be a lie. "Yes. I'm okay now." He squeezes again. "And I'm very sorry," I add. I lean in. "I didn't forget that part."
"Just making sure."
"You're still an ass," Jack states quietly. "But what happened in France was mean and I understand, so I forgive you." He puts his hand on my shoulder and I think I'm going to get one his manly, slightly painful, pats on the back. He surprises me completely by hugging me tightly. "You really need to listen to the honesty lectures."
"I try; I zone out when I hear the word 'lecture'. Or is it when I hear 'honesty'? I forget. Probably because I don't listen."
Jack pushes me away playfully. "Smart ass."
Lucy hugs me next, short and quick.
Kyle does nothing. "I don't hug very much, you have to really earn it, and you fucked off to sit with Luka, so you don't get one. How -" he coughs. "How is he?"
I almost tell him to go find out for himself, but I stop myself quickly. I was in a similar situation to Luka, only instead of letting me keep quiet Louis told. Kyle can't do that, I understand, Luka's family aren't like mine; they most likely haven't had a bet and a laugh about it. They'll take it seriously, especially his mother. Add that to the train journey, to how I felt and how I knew Luka was feeling, and I definitely understand some of what he's going through, even if the reasons for it aren't the same.
But I also know what's it's like to be thought of as not good enough for another, I almost did what Kyle did do, and I think he regrets it even though he's sticking to it. And he's sticking to it until Luka does something. Because he loves him. I understand what Kyle is going through as well.
So, a push should help them along, give them that motivation to do something about their relationship, with each other and with Louis, and I'll start with Kyle because, well, because he's the one right here, right now, in front of me. Plus, the fact that he was the one trying to get Luka to talk tells me he's the less stubborn of the two. I could break him down and get him to go to Luka; they need to fix things or there'll be no point in Luka talking to his parents. They'll just be stuck in the same place.
I only say one word. The same word that has been running through my head and telling me that's what I am, what Luka and Kyle are, what we all can become.
The biggest pushes always were the most painful.
A/N: You know it's serious when Ciaran swears. And is deep and meaningful. My baby is growing up (is this what it feels like when you're coming to the end of a story?)
Good news, though. Because I'd never break them up, it took me long enough to get them together in the first place... But the ride is still a little bumpy...
I hope you enjoyed. Please let me know what you think. :)