I'm glad the teachers really aren't evil to us students and I was able to take my NEWT exams the way I did with OWLs; in a room by myself, telling my quill what to write after being read the questions. It's horribly slow and tedious, but the professors understand that magical glasses do not grant a person with the sudden ability to read and write. The students of Hogwarts, however, seem unable to get that. I swear if I hear one more "so, are you going to do your exams like the rest of us" type question, I will not give an explanation as to why I cannot, I will not answer with a simple no, I will punch them in the face, laugh as they bleed and because I lack the upper body strength to pull that off without putting myself in a tremendous amount of pain, I will pretend I'm fine, then find Rose. She's good at healing charms.
I nod to the professor who was assigned to help me today - the Arithmancy professor, because she's completely impartial as I'm not in her class and she's not teaching this... Obviously - and drop my quill. She picks up my paper and she only manages to get out "you can" and I'm on my way out of the door.
I feel like I can breath again once I'm out in the corridor, I almost collapse onto the floor. That is not an over-exaggeration; my legs feel like lead and my back is stiff as a board because I've been sat in that old classroom, alone apart from the teacher, all day. I let myself fall slowly instead. My exam timetable is a little different to everyone else's; everyone's exams are spread out, giving them time for a little extra revision and free time to, well, relax, and they're timed. Mine are timed, too, they don't give me that much leeway, but I get a little longer because my exams are all spoken. And because I have longer for the actual exams, my free - well, extra revision - time is cut short, so I can finish when everyone else does. A crammed revision timetable, a lonely classroom, a bad back - exams suck!
And we've only just started. I still have a week of this crap.
But at least Charms and Transfiguration and done and out of the way. No more wandwork revision, no more hours of practise and moaning and giving up.
At least, I'm not completely alone in this. Jackson's a slow writer. I'm not sure how he managed it back in fifth year, something about a fair chance at being able to finish, but he's also able to use a magical quill and take his exams like I do. Which means he should also be coming out of his classroom with a bad back, but he won't moan like I do; he's had worse injuries. Personally, I don't think that's very fair - Jack's a slow writer because he's always been lazy with his Dyslexia.
I won't tell him this, though. He's been trying really hard these last couple of years. If I had to bet money on why, I'd say it started when he started crushing on Lucy. So, he doesn't have my complete acceptance for doing his exams my way, but, hey, trying is trying.
And he's not allowed to use the quill in class, so he can't get his own way completely (God knows he tried - then again, so did everyone else). All is good.
"Ciaran! How did they go?"
It's Lucy who asks, but when I look up, it's not just her I see; Jack, Louis, Kyle, Simon, Miranda and Declan are here, too. I get up off the floor and stretch, wince when my back cracks, and move to stand with them. "They were alright. Long, but I have a good feeling. I definitely did not fail, I know that," I say honestly and, if I do say so myself, a little modestly.
If it turns out I didn't do so well in Charms and Transfiguration, I have no hope for the others. Despite my moaning about wandwork, these are actually my best and favorite subjects. I'll miss these lessons when I graduate.
"No way will you have done bad," Simon says, Miranda nodding in complete agreement it seems. Not that she knows me all that well.
"Yeah, isn't Burns family or something?" Declan asks.
"Godfather," I remind him.
"Right, so he'd never let you fail Transfiguration," my friend finishes.
"I don't know," I admit. "He was the one teacher telling me I should take my exams like everyone else."
"He was joking," Lucy says, rolling her eyes. Then she frowns and turns to the rest of the 'group'. "At least, I think he was. It's really hard to tell with him."
"He'll take that as a compliment," I laugh. "He doesn't like people understanding him. I still don't know why he chose to be a teacher."
"He needed money," the Arithmancy professor butts in in her way past. She doesn't sound very happy about that. But Lucy's said that one of the things she loves about Arithmancy is the professors's enthusiasm about teaching, so I guess I can understand why.
I nod in her direction. "There you go. So, common room?"
"Or you could follow me?"
We all turn to the new voice, James', and they seem just as stunned as I am. I don't know about them, but I'm wondering where the hell he came from. It only lasts for the second James is there; when he moves away, I move forwards.
And I follow.
He takes us to the fourth floor, around corridors I don't think I've ever been down, and we stop in front of what I assume is an old classroom.
"No way," I mutter. "This is real? You really did this?"
James nods, trying to be cool about it, but his eyes are wide and bright with enthusiasm. So, I know I'm right. Back when Fred Weasley was in school, when he was in his first year and there was so few Weasleys in this school - him and Victoire, along with Ted Lupin, my cousin Jay and Jay's friend Jennifer - there was a rumor that he had a room in the castle that was, like, the VIP room of Hogwarts. It's not a club, exactly, more like a common room. If you knew about the room, it was a place to hang out and be around friends. It's not the best thing in the world, when you say it like that, but when it can't be found, it's huge news. And no one could find it unless you got an invite from Freddie Weasley. When he left, he must have passed it on to James.
They have a few rules, nothing big - the biggest one was no homework, so obviously Lucy wasn't invited before. I wasn't sociable enough. But the looks on Louis', Jack's and Kyle's faces tell me they knew about it. Jack's never gone though, that I know. I knew when he was disappearing to leave with Lucy, I'd have been able to tell if he'd been disappearing to come here. That's rule two, you see; don't tell anyone. It adds an air of mystery to the place. Or something like that.
"We decided that we like you, even if you're kind of weird," I roll my eyes, "and since Lucy and your three friends here are graduating, and they're your friends, they should get to see what the big fuss was all about before they left." James pushes the door open and steps aside. "After you."
I step to my right and let everyone else in first, including James, because I want to shake my head and think he's weird without him smirking at me. Then I go in. The door shuts behind me, I barely hear it, because I'm focused on the room - I was right, or the rumors were right; they've just turned an old classroom into some kind of common room to hang out. I understand the appeal, there's no teachers to monitor them, though I'm sure that's just in terms of studying. People are sitting around, talking and laughing, playing games like chess and exploding snap. It's laid back and relaxed. There's no pressure for exams and finishing school for the year, or, in my case, forever. It's sort of cool, for a common room.
I don't recognize a lot of people, but that's okay because there are still people I can talk to. I find my way to my friends, who have found a circle of chairs in a corner. I laugh at Louis when I see he's sitting a huge circular chair, spinning it slightly from side to side with his feet.
"It's the best," he answers, raising an eye-brow as though daring me to disagree. I don't. I sit beside him. Since its big enough for two, he can share the best chair.
We all stay for about an hour, then one by one my friends leave, until its just me and Kyle. It would have been me, Kyle and Louis, but he has prefect duties. Kyle leaves me a few minutes after Louis, being called away by one of his other friends.
"Come over with me," he says.
I start to shake my head, but his look tells me that's unacceptable, so I amend my previous answer. "Maybe when I get back, I have to find a bathroom."
"Alright," Kyle nods after a moment and moves away.
I take one step forward, barely even that it seems, and I find I'm no longer alone. Rose comes out of no where, her eyes are a little red, but she's not crying and she looks fierce and determined. I jump back. "Where the hell did you come from?"
"I want to talk to you about boys," Rose spits out the word 'boys' like its poison and I automatically feel sorry for the poor bastard she's directing her anger at. Rose pushes me down onto the chair and sits beside me. "Why are boys such immature brats?"
"I speak for every boy when I say we're sorry. Bye." She pushes me back down. Yeah, I'm not going anywhere for a while. "Look, Rose, I'm very bad at relationship advice. Go and ask Hugo; he's still no where with his friend."
"I agree with you. I think Hugo was just trying to get rid of me because he was the one who told me to go to you. I thought I'd try anyway." I narrow my eyes; that kid will pay. I open my mouth; Rose holds up a finger and am sure her glare is scarier then mine. No talking from Ciaran; understood. I can listen. "You try so hard to get him to notice you and nothing. I'm not even close. I've hinted and I've prompted, I've practically told him. What else do I have to do?"
I sit, nod and "umm" until Rose smacks my arm and I realize that now she wants an answer. "Why don't you actually tell him? No hints, no prompts. Just go up to him and say 'Scorpius, I like you. Lets go out'."
"What makes you think I'm talking about Scorpius Malfoy?" she asks suspiciously.
Probably because I'm not an idiot. I don't say that, though. "People talk to me. Well, Hugo and Lily talk to me. Plus, since I got these glasses, I've been able to see the way you look at him."
"But what if the reason he hasn't gotten the hints is because he doesn't feel the same?" Rose asks, sounding sad now.
I want to tell her that I think he does, but I don't want to give her too much hope now because that would spoil the surprise if she asks him. "You'll never know until you try." I'm really starting to feel uncomfortable now and I remember that I still need to use the bathroom. "Now, Rose, I promise I'll come right back and talk to you about this, whatever you want to discuss, but when you've gotta go, you've gotta go, and right now I really have to go."
She gets what I'm implying. "You'll really come back?"
I come out of the bathroom feeling so much better and walk back to the Hogwarts VIP room - I don't know what they actually call it - at a slower pace than before. I don't really want to go back, I want to go to Hufflepuff and change out of my uniform before dinner, but I made a promise to Rose and I don't dislike her enough to break it, nor has she done anything that warrants breaking it.
It takes me a while to find my way back, there are too many turns, but I soon recognize the way and I'm almost there when I see a familiar face. "Luka!"
Luka, my newest friend and probably the one most like me, turns his head and walks over. "You're finally in the 'club', eh?"
"Nah, not really my type of place," I admit. "Too many people. You know I hate people."
That gets a chuckle. "Then why are you down here?"
I stick to honesty and say with a grimace, "I promised Rose I'd talk to her about her and Scorpius Malfoy."
"You're giving relationship advice again? But we both know you're crap," Luka mocks me.
"Well, it's not like I asked for the job. People keep sending them my way and they make it really hard to leave," I defend. "And then there are rare moments when you become friends with a person and want to do something."
"Don't," he says, sort yet fierce.
"I'm not afraid of you, you can't make me shut up," I scoff. Then I turn serious. "Just talk to him. I get that you think he needs to be the first, he dumped you and all, but can you blame him for doing what he did? Can you look me in the eye and honestly tell me that you wouldn't have done the same if the roles were reversed? Would you have been happy being somebody's secret?"
Luka says nothing, as I suspected would happen. He looks uncomfortable and sad again and this time I did it. Which makes me uncomfortable and sad. Clearing my throat, I finish whatever words are forcing themselves out of my mouth, so I can leave. "You can fix this; he just wants to know that you're serious about your relationship, that you won't hide forever. Beside, you need to talk eventually. What you're doing now, avoiding each other, is not good for you or anyone. One of you will snap. Just think about it. If you don't want to be the bigger man, then hope I can get Kyle to be."
I add that last part to get a reaction, something that'll make him think, and I think it works; his eyes narrow and I get the finger before he turns away. But he didn't look like he hated me, he didn't look like he'd ignore me. He looked... Thoughtful.
I can handle thoughtful. If people are going to send others to me for advice, maybe brutal honesty will help. If it doesn't help them so they don't have to come back, it'll anger them into not wanting to coming back. I know who can be test number two, since I'll consider what happened with Luka test one. "Hey, Scorpius."
"CJ," he smiles nervously. "You're talking to me?"
"Yeah, I do that occasionally." I wave a hand nonchalantly, like it means nothing to me. Which it doesn't. "Listen, Rose likes you. Go ask her out."
Then I walk away.
"How do you know that?" he calls out.
"Just do it!"
I walk over to Kyle when I go back. Rose looks confused and disappointed, but it quickly turns to awkwardness when Malfoy walks in. I watch him go to her, I watch their lips move even though I have no idea what's being said. I can probably guess thanks to the shy smile on her face, though. Then she nods her head happily and he leaves. But not before he doubles back to kiss her cheek.
Ha. Now she can leave me alone.
"Thank you!" she squeals, yes, squeals, down my ear. She hugs me, which I'm usually used to, but right now she's really freaking me out. Rose let's go just as quick, but she either doesn't notice my distress or is too happy to care. "What did you do?"
"I told him the truth, then I told him to do what I told you to do."
"You told him that I like him?"
I nod and step a little further back, pressing myself against the table in an effort to keep away from her, and whack Kyle because he can't stop laughing. "Then I told him to ask you out."
"What if he only did it out of pity?' she asks, sounding scared.
Seriously, someone needs to knock some sense into this girl. "Then you obviously don't pay attention!" I shout. While in front of her, but not at her, obviously. Rose gets that... Why is she smirking at me?
"He likes you, you like him. Go out, break up, do what you want. I don't care. You wanted him, you got him. My work is done. Why are you still smiling?"
"It's just funny watching you crack. Sorry."
I should have broken my damn promise.
"That look in his face," Kyle points at me, prodding my cheek until I knock his hand away, "is Ciaran's nice way of saying fuck off."
I hit him again. "So rude."
Rose rolls her eyes. "Boys," she mutters. "Kyle, still an asshole, I see."
"Always, Rosie. But only for you. I'm a dick to everyone else, but you're special." He drops his annoyingly charming smile. "Leave."
"You're a lot nicer to people after you've -" Rose doesn't finish that sentence, but we both know what she was about to say and it doesn't help. Probably because it's true, only despite the rumors that have been spread, Kyle hasn't even had a date since Luka, let alone... That.
"Bye, Ciaran. Thank you."
She runs away. Shaking my head and pretending none of that happened seems to be the only thing that makes sense to me, so I do so and it helps. A little. Enough to ask what Kyle wants before I run away. "Why did you want to talk to me?" He pulls a letter out of his pocket and hands it to me. I don't take it, I barely even look at it. "What is it?"
"Right, yeah. We're going to have another reading lesson tomorrow. Anyway, this is your acceptance letter to the music school," Kyle singsongs - seriously? - and makes it dance in his hands until I have to take it from him. "I told you can could get you in."
"I don't want to know how; your methods scare me. But thank you."
Kyle rolls his eyes. "I have a family friend who works there. He taught me how to play, got me my first guitar, and he knows I'd never lie about talent. There were still places available, so he was willing to listen to the CD I had made from the music you gave me. That's how you got in; your music. I just... helped a bit."
I put the letter carefully into my pocket. "Thank you," I repeat, meaning it. "I suppose I'll have to get used to going to another school with you in September."
"Gee, thanks," he says sarcastically.
"I'm leaving now. I'll see you later."
And like I promised myself, I run away. I think I'll always run from that room.
I'd woken up this morning feeling refreshed and reedy for the day, but now, after two more exams - Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts; yeah, I almost cried - the library is not where I want to be right now. I want to go back to bed. But no, Kyle said if I was serious about learning, I had to come. So, just to prove that I'm serious, here I am. Maybe he'll accept that I'm serious and give me the benefit of the doubt, let me go.
No, he doesn't. Kyle doesn't even seem to see me, he's writing something, and he pats the bench next to him. "Sit."
I don't particularly like that it sounds like an order, but I tell myself I'm too tired to argue and sit. I even take out a pencil - I don't own a normal quill, but my old notebook came with a pencil and for some reason I kept it in my trunk. Lucky me - and wait for further instructions. After a moment of silence and I loud thud as I hit the table, Kyle turns back to me, handing me two pieces of paper.
"The first one is the alphabet, the second is a few short sentences. We'll learn the words, read, copy out. Get you used to writing."
"You look exhausted," Kyle answers sympathetically. Well, at least he's noticed. "An hour tops, I promise."
"Alright," I nod. "Let's get started."
Kyle takes me through the alphabet. I pick it up quickly enough, I'm learning with an almost eighteen year old brain, not a four year old one. That's gotta count for something, right? He has me copy it twice and he doesn't laugh at my messy handwriting, then he has me do it without looking. The sentences are mostly simple; one's my name, another is about a cat. The longest sentence is 'Louis Weasley is a git, Kyle doesn't know why Ciaran puts up with him. He must be good in bed'.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" I smirk, copying the sentence. Kyle just winks, so I change the subject. "I thought we were having a reading lesson. Writing is easy, I'm pretty sure my handwriting will always be messy, but it's legible and I can do it. Mostly. It's reading I need to learn."
"We're writing instead of reading because you're finding it easy to pick up. You're tired, so this is it. I don't want you falling asleep on top of the book. Now finish the sentence, without looking since its so easy."
I roll my eyes, turn the page over and write the Louis sentence again. I remember the sentence easily. It's just actually writing it down. But I manage it. "I talked to Luka yesterday," I tell him casually.
Another easy thing to do is being able to talk to Kyle about his relationship stuff. With Luka, I'm secretly wondering if the next time will be when he snaps and yells at me or punches me, but Kyle is always calm, he likes to humor me and he makes a joke about my suggestions. Then, just as calmly, he informs me that Luka is an idiot and can be the one to talk first. He's equally as annoying as Luka, but definitely easier to talk to.
"One my back to the 'club'. I told him he can't blame you for breaking up with him when he'd have done the same if he were the secret, then I told him if he couldn't be the bigger man I hoped you'd be because I knew it would piss him off and hurt his pride."
I feel Kyle's eyes on me for a full minute, I count, then he finally mutters, "Good."
"Because I pissed him off and hurt his pride?" I ask, turning to face him.
"Because you said he'd have done the same," Kyle answers without hesitation. He looks relieved, like he needed to hear that. Maybe that's all he needed to hear. "Do you think it was the right thing to do?"
"I have no idea, but what do I know?" I shrug. "Louis makes me talk about it, so I make him do the same. That helps, being honest, no matter how brutal. People need to hear it. You both need to hear it, but from each other, not from me and not from anyone else. You need to sit down and talk."
"Yeah, you do," I nod, glad he's agreeing with me. Hang on. Rewind. "What did you just say?"
"I said we do. I need to talk to Luke, or all of this will drive me crazy. I'll talk to him when he gets back," Kyle promises.
He's obviously forgotten that I've been stuck alone in a room all day. "Back? Where'd he go?"
"Literally a few minutes after his exam, Digby came over saying there was a family emergency and his mother needed him," Kyle explains. "His dad's been sick, so Luke went. So, I'll talk to him when he gets back."
"Or you could talk to him now."
Like with James, we both jump and turn to the new voice, Luka's voice now. "How long have you been stood there?" I ask.
"I got here just as you asked where I went. Louis said you were here, so I came here," he replies quietly, his eyes never leaving Kyle.
It feels like a personal, couple-type moment, so I pick up my bag to stand. "I'll leave you to it."
"No, stay," Luka says, this time turning to me. "After all of your meddling, you should be here for the finale." I don't move until Kyle pulls me down, back to my seat. "So, I went home. The big emergency Mum needed me for? It's wasn't about Dad. Well, not completely. No, because Dad is sick, she had no help setting up the garden for her stupid party and I needed to come and help. Yeah, some emergency."
His voice cracks near the end and I think both me and Kyle notice his red eyes and still falling tears at the same time. "Luke, what happened?" Kyle half asks, half demands to know.
"I did exactly what CJ said I'd do; I snapped." Luka wipes the tears away forcefully. "I screamed at her, told her I had more important things going on. When she asked for an example, I told her everything. I told her about you; how we started, how long we've been together, how I ruined things."
He laughs and its empty. "I'd never seen my mother speechless before. I barely heard her when she told me to get out. Dad heard everything, said it would be better if I stayed away for a while and let Mum calm down. So, I came back here. I am homeless and I am alone and I thought you should know. What do you want to talk to me about?"
This is definitely my cue to leave, only Kyle forces me back down again. I think I've turned into moral support. I'm not sure how I feel about that.
"I want to talk to you about making things work."
"Why?" Luka asks, clearly shocked, on the verge of laughing again, like he thinks Kyle's joking. Maybe he just doesn't want to believe it.
But Kyle isn't joking. If I thought he were, I'd hit him. "Because I love you and I miss you and I don't care about your mother. I'm sorry, but I don't. You know I can't stand her." Now I know what I'm here for; making Kyle go back to the original point. I nudge him. "But that doesn't matter," he says, standing up. "I hate that I broke up with you, every moment was horrible, but I can't regret it because now we know where we stand. I won't be a secret, but I won't let you go again. Well, say something."
"Just when you were being romantic," Luka says with a teary smile.
"I'm better at it than you are," Kyle defends.
"I'm not even going to try," Luka counters, pulling him forwards to kiss him.
Yeah. Third time's a charm. "Now I'm really going and nothing you can say will stop me. I have my own boyfriend to get back to." I push past them, when they move apart enough to breath. "Oh, and you're welcome.
I do not appreciate being told to get lost.
But at least I no longer have to help them. No more meddling for me. You hear that, universe? I am a wallflower. Always have been, always will be.
And I'll bloody well keep it that way.
A/N: I hope you enjoy this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)
I cut this short, so there'll no be 34 chapters, rather than 33.