I'd like to dedicate this chapter to Puffs Plus Lotion.
As it turned out, Ryan Davies was reading a book of poetry by Theodore Roethke. She had a thin blanket wrapped around her legs and did not so much as look up when I approached her. So I kicked the book out of her hand like any gentleman would.
“What’re you doing?” Ryan said, eyes snapping up to mine as she leaned over and snatched the book from a patch of beige grass. She then hit my shin with the book. It burned.
“Bothering you,” I announced.
“Clearly.” She settled back in against the tree and began to flip through pages looking for where she left off.
“Is it any good?”
“Do you think I would be outside reading for pleasure if it wasn’t full of just that?”
“Sometimes I forget how spicy you are, Davies.” I sat down beside her, facing the lake. The reflection of trees across the surface reminded me of oil paintings. Ones that didn’t move. “So how are you feeling?”
“Any more morning sickness?” I asked curiously. I wondered if I should open that book again.
“Has Gemma started guessing?”
“She’s fine too.” Ryan turned another page.
“Does the hospital wing know?”
“The wing itself?” Ryan shot back. “You know, I haven’t been conversing with bed posts about my unwanted pregnancy.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Why are you here?” she said, snapping the book shut. “Why aren’t you up there spending your evening with scarlet and gold worshiping prats?”
I paused. “Is that what you think we do? Hang a piece of felt in the corner and bow to it?”
“Wouldn’t shock me,” she said, a small smile creeping up her lips. “Where’s your girlfriend anyway? Won’t she be pining for you by now?”
“I worry about the way you view Gryffindors,” I replied, ignoring the Annie comment. I hadn’t told her where I was going. I may yet win the award for worst boyfriend after Alessandra stole the girlfriend title. “Where are your minions then?”
Ryan jerked her head toward the Quidditch pitch. Several figures on brooms were moving above the stadium. A whistle blew.
My stomach sank. Sure, I didn’t know much about Ryan Davies other than what she’d told me or I heard from other sources. But it was hard just thinking about not being able to play Quidditch. And I wasn’t even that good. It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. From what I gathered from her and Albus, it was exactly what she wanted to do. What she was bred to do.
I thought about not being able to go to the shop and work or invent things with James.
“I’ll quit,” I said suddenly.
“Quit what? Breathing? Please do.”
“You’re insane. Sod off.”
I grabbed her book and tossed it to the side, which got her attention quickly (not in a good way). “I swear. I’ll quit right now.”
Ryan groaned. She stretched out her legs and kicked away the blanket, her eyes moving to the branches above us. “Look,” she said after a while. “One of us should get to do what we want. Enjoy yourself. Drink and party and snog your girlfriend’s face off. I will plan a Muggle movie night for Princess Molly and study.”
“You don’t study,” I added.
“Right. Damn.” Ryan wrinkled her nose and sighed, annoyed. “I’m feeling fine. Yes, I’m still throwing up at inopportune moments. Gemma hasn’t been guessing out loud, though I know she keeps eyeing everyone even though I told her it was someone I met over the summer. No, my appointments have been in confidence at St. Mungos. I have another tomorrow morning.”
“What about class?”
“I’ll conveniently have the flu. Charming, hmm?”
“I see what you did there.” I chuckled a little and watched the waters of the lake wash up onto shore. It was calming. “Can I go?”
“Where? Into the water? Sure.”
She really wanted me gone.
“To your appointment,” I said.
I shrugged. “I want to.”
I shrugged again. “Can I go or not, Davies?”
“No.” Ryan pulled her legs to her chest. “But I need you to do something for me.”
She frowned and didn’t reply for a while, almost like she was trying to convince herself of whether or not it was a good idea. “I need you to help me find and get rid of all the cigarettes in my room. Gemma feels like a whore for smoking around me, which is always nice. At least I only smell it on her clothes.”
I never understood the appeal of smoking. The most it did was calm my nerves, but a glass of bourbon did the same thing. And tasted much, much better. Besides, kissing a girl who smoked was like kissing an ashtray. I tried to remember exactly what kissing Ryan was like, but the night was too blurry. Thank you, tequila chips.
“I’m in,” I said.
“You’re going to get a sick pleasure out of this, aren’t you, straight-edge?”
“Not sure I’m fond of that nickname.”
Ryan let me help her up (still unsure why) and we made our way back to the castle. For a moment, I wondered if I should go back and check in with Annie, but I knew she was probably peeved for us getting their room.
At least James wasn’t engaged.
“Do you have plans for Halloween?” Ryan asked as we went. I knew she only said it to break the silence, but I still appreciated her curiosity.
“Not yet. James usually sets up some kind of party that Molly always hates. Rose mentioned wanting to have it on the Quidditch pitch if we can get away with it. What about you?”
“Gemma’s found a way into Hogsmeade, so most of the sixth and seventh year Claws are going drinking,” Ryan replied. “I just found a new volume about the first wizarding war I was looking for, so I’ll probably put on some cat ears and enjoy it. Eat my weight in candy corn.”
We continued up yet another flight of steps and in that moment, I wondered with so much magic, why couldn’t Hogwarts invest in an elevator? I had heavy books.
And Ryan had a baby in her. So she needed an elevator. At the very least escalator. Those Muggles were onto something.
She told me about Halloween last year. Gemma and Ryan dressed in black and toilet papered village houses. They were caught, arrested, and had to get all of it down with no magic.
What would it be like to be arrested?
First off, Mum would skin me alive. The only brushes I’d had with law enforcement were my own family. Though Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron didn’t really count. They broke half the rules anyway.
Part of me figured Dad might be proud of I got an arrest record. Or at least a shiny detention record.
Maybe I was straight-edge.
Ryan answered the riddle with ease and we walked into the Ravenclaw common room. I’d been in there before during Prefect training and rounds, but now I was able to appreciate the high ceilings and plush furniture. A few people glanced over as we passed, but most of them left Ryan be.
Everyone in Gryffindor Tower would be craning to get a look if someone brought a Ravenclaw inside.
“This way,” Ryan said, catching my arm to steer me up a staircase to the left. “Ignore the onlookers. They hate any distraction from their precious Transfiguration books.”
“Funny. Other way around in Gryffindor.” I followed her, careful to look anywhere but at her, and spotted a familiar face curled up in a chair.
Roxanne had her feet draped over the arm and a book propped against her knees.
She looked up, met my eyes for a moment, and looked back down.
“You coming?” Ryan called.
It took a moment to register what she had said. I turned and followed her quickly up the remaining steps and to a dormitory marked with her year.
How could the Hufflepuffs and Slytherins live underground?
The views from her dormitory were about as beautiful as my own. Her windows overlooked the lake, still sparkling, and the treetops in the Forbidden Forest as they inclined into the mountains. I could stare at that all day.
“Are you always this easily entertained?” Ryan moved to her bed, which was the furthest from the door. It was directly in front of a fireplace, which meant to me she had threatened anyone who considered taking it.
Gone was the scarlet and gold of the dormitories I was used to. In Ravenclaw, their beds were donned with soft satin sheets and blankets in navy blue. Everything was the same rich, navy color. They each had small desks to replace one of the bedside stands and wardrobes across the room (though Ryan’s was to the side since the fireplace was there).
I didn’t answer her question since I would have only nodded. “So where do we begin? Where do you hide these things?” I checked under her pillow and was surprised to find a pack there. “Wow. Seriously, are they everywhere?”
“Technically speaking, we’re not allowed to keep them at Hogwarts,” Ryan explained.
“And you’re a Prefect!” I teased. “Treason!”
“A lot more I should be getting lectured for, don’t you think?” Ryan tapped her stomach with her first two fingers and then laid back on her bed. “Go on, then. Just stay out of the drawers below the wardrobe doors.”
“What’s in there?” I asked, pulling open her desk drawers. Already I had a small pile of cheap cigarettes. Where did she get them? Maybe she knew someone in the village or one of her mates had parents who sent them in.
Gemma was her only mate. Maybe Gemma got them from somewhere.
“Lingerie,” Ryan answered, fluffing the pillow behind her head. “I’d rather not share that.”
I felt my skin color. “Right.” Lingerie. She had lingerie in that drawer. I made sure to keep my gaze far from hers as I opened another drawer, pulling out a half-empty pack.
“Why? You want to see it?” Ryan rolled over. I felt her eyes on me. Wished she’d bloody look away. Like I needed her gawking at me when my face was red.
“I’m fine, thank you.”
James would kill me if I ever told him I refused to see Ryan Davies’ knickers, on or off her. Absolutely kill me. He was still trying to gain access to Ollie’s lingerie drawer.
“Are you?” She was fighting back a laugh. Ryan rolled into the blankets and they wrapped around her like a burrito. “Are you entirely fine? Say, when was the last time you were laid, Weasley?”
It was really hot in Ravenclaw Tower. Like, very hot. My torso was sweaty.
“I’m sure these cigarettes are really good quality,” I said, moving the pile over to her trunk, which I opened and began to root through.
Ryan snickered in a wicked way and got off her bed. She moved to her knees beside the wardrobe and opened the drawer she’d told me to keep out of. “When was the last time you saw a girl’s underthings, hmm?”
“I’d like to leave.”
“Do you think Annie is more of a black or red sort of girl?”
I refused to look at what she was doing, though I doubted Annie liked black or red. She seemed more of a pale pink sort of girl. Pastels. Good things. Bunny slippers and rabbit ears.
“I would say black,” Ryan said. “Look at this one. What do you think?”
Absolutely not. I shook my head, pulling out a pack of cigarettes disguised as a business card holder.
“Fuck,” Ryan muttered and I heard her fall from her knees to her bum. “Bloody hurts.”
“What?” I looked up, concerned, to catch her smirking at me. Smarmy thing.
She was holding up a black corset with satin ribbons loosened from the back. There were lace panels on the sides. A pair of lacy underwear had fallen onto her lap.
“Here’s the question, Weasley,” Ryan said, still smirking. “Would you rather see Annie in it, or have another go in the bathroom stall?”
I shit you not, I actually faltered.
Right there, staring at the corset she was holding up while I was supposed to be searching for cigarettes. I had no idea what else could be in that drawer. It was an entire drawer! Where these things being showed to?
“What a gentleman,” Ryan said, laughing. “Maybe I was wrong about you, Weasley. Hell, maybe you were too. You may not be as straight-edge as I thought.”
I snorted. “Right. You think I should wear white robes.”
“You did shag me in a bathroom,” Ryan said, tucking the corset back into the drawer. I caught a glimpse of other lacy things and something that may have been leather. “Leading to a bundle of less-than-joy.” She tapped her stomach again, the same way as before with her first two fingers. Like it was a prop in a movie. Then she re-opened the drawer, grabbed two packs of cigarettes, and threw them at me.
I piled them all neatly in front of the fireplace (careful not to let them fall in) and looked back at Ryan. “Can you think of any other hiding places? Under the mattress?”
“They’d smash,” she said, wrinkling her nose. “Thanks anyway, Weasley. Anyone smoke in the Tower of Light?”
“That cannot possibly be what you call it.”
“Gem and I do.”
“You would. You ought to be Slytherins.”
“Should have asked the hat.” She shrugged and pulled herself back onto her bed. “Hell,” she said and pushed off from the plush blankets, rushing past me and into the bathroom. The door slammed and the noise that followed wasn’t the most attractive. But nothing I hadn’t heard before. Or seen, for that matter.
I sat there for a few seconds, neatly pressing the boxes together. Everything was so put-together in Ravenclaw. I wondered what my sister’s room looked like. Or how much room those drawers had. Ours were practically miniature. I kept most of my socks and boxers in my trunk because of drawer space.
I didn’t want to go opening drawers. Not that one, anyway.
Though I didn’t have to look at what was inside.
I just had to look at space. See if they were getting more space than we were. If they were, I’d have to take matters to the Headmistress. I wouldn’t be coy about it either. Drawer space is important.
Hell, Ryan was right. I was too straight-edge for my own good.
I leaned forward and yanked the bottom drawer open.
Screw the size – the black corset was on top. I picked it up, turning it over in my palms. It was so soft. So silky. Bugger. Under was an assortment of lacy things and silk things and corsets and bras and undergarments and tights and fishnets (Godric) and that was definitely a pair of handcuffs.
I didn’t know girls could own this many things. And girls did not own them if they didn’t think they’d be seen.
So who was seeing these?
“Couldn’t keep your hands off, could you?”
Having my back to the bathroom door was not my finest idea.
Ryan kicked me hard on the thigh. “I’m in there bloody throwing up and you’re in here having a blast with my lingerie. You’re fucking sick. Get out.”
“I was checking the drawer size!” I cried stupidly.
“At least lie better, twat.” She kicked me again and I felt it begin to bruise. “Out! Now, you pig! Don’t make me get Gemma.”
Gemma didn’t scare me like Ryan did. I’d been on the other end of her punches.
I grabbed the cigarettes like I’d been told to and scrambled out the door and down the staircase into the common room. It wasn’t until I saw Rox that I realized I hadn’t even gotten a bag. I was carrying an arm-full of cigarettes.
She stared, unleashing a menacing glare across the room. No one else looked up. They were busy reading, writing, and quizzing others with flash cards made from cut parchment.
Come on, Ravenclaws.
Then Rox snapped her book shut and walked to the other side of the room, curling up in another chair before going back to her reading.
And Dad told me to try and talk to her. Perhaps now was not the time.
It was the time, however, for Scorpius Malfoy to come sauntering down the other staircase. He looked at her abandoned chair, raised a brow, and then smiled when he saw her across the room. He sat on the arm of the chair. She laughed at whatever he said.
I left with my arm-full of cigarettes.
“Where’ve you been?” James asked once I came through the door. “Do you smoke? Is this peer-pressure because I did not find the urge to smoke after the bar. You can’t pressure me into this and I’m telling Uncle George you’ve taken it up.”
“They’re not mine,” I said through my teeth, giving him a look.
“Oh. OH!” He shook his head. “Nevermind. We’ll find someone else to pawn them off on. Probably Chopper. He looks like that kind of bloke, doesn’t he?”
“What’re you doing down here anyway?” There weren’t many people in the common room anymore. “Where are Ollie and Annie?”
“Making themselves cozy in our room?” He shrugged. “Listen, I have some bad news.”
I let the boxes fall from my arms and onto the coffee table. “What kind of bad news?”
“The kind that isn’t good.”
James made a face. He didn’t want to say it.
“Tell me,” I pressed, suddenly worried. “Has my dad owled? Is he okay?” With all the stress of potentially going to court, his episodes may have gotten worse. Mum could have sent something. Hell! Did Dad tell Mum about Ryan? That was just I needed. Mum showing up at Hogwarts unannounced and giving me a good slap across the back of the head.
“The girls weren’t happy about giving up their room,” James started, his face red. “And I have to admit this may have been a bit my fault as Ollie is handy with a wand. And a broom, but that is neither here nor there, only that she threatened me with both.” He took a deep breath. He needed it. “They may have put a charm on the room.”
“What kind of charm?” I imagined floating objects or asking the Baron to hang out.
“The kind that doesn’t promote inviting a lady back.” James made a face and turned, leading the way up the spiral staircase. It didn’t turn into a slide, for which I was puzzled. Usually you needed a girl to accompany you up the stairs to combat that kind of spell. Hogwarts was tricky. James pushed open the door to the girls’ room and immediately I knew exactly what kind of charm.
The walls were covered, and not in their usual ivory glory. Instead, with the large, moving photographs of the grandmums of everyone who was occupying the room. Immediately, Grandmum Weasley was staring at me in a disapproving way from above the windows. Grandmum Johnson had her knitting in her hand as she peered down at me. She shook one of the needles. Bugger!
“Where’s your other grandmum?” I asked, looking around. I obviously knew the story of James’ family, but I thought all was fair in war.
“Ollie told me they thought she was too pretty when she passed away,” James said. I loved that he was proud of it. His chest puffed out a little.
Everywhere I looked there were either copies of my grandmums or grandmums I assumed belonged to Andrew, Mox, and Chopper. The twitchy little thing with an obvious wig had to belong to Mox.
James answered my question before I said it when he pulled open the curtains and motioned to the underside of the four-poster. “Yes. Both of your grandmums will now watch you sleep. And whatever else you’re doing in this bed.”
I groaned. “What did you say to them?”
“All I told them is that I was enjoying moving day.” He shrugged.
“And that our room smelled like old gym socks and sweat.” James’ face colored again. “How was I supposed to know they would do this? They’re ruthless! You need to go talk to Annie. She didn’t even know you’d gone.” He lowered his voice since someone was showering in the bathroom. “Where did you go anyway?”
“You saw the cigarettes.” I shrugged and sat on my bed, careful not to let Grandmum Weasley bother me. At least she wasn’t making noise. She’d probably scold me about the way my hair wasn’t lying flat.
“How is she?” James whispered, sitting beside me. “She still hate you?”
“Kicked me out of her room.”
“I had a moment of weakness.” One I didn’t care to talk about. “I don’t know, James. This is wild. I don’t blame her for being pissed. Do you?”
“She doesn’t have to be a bitch all the time, you know.”
“She’s not. Not all the time.” I thought about her smiling as she teased me. The way she got so much enjoyment out of poking fun of Gryffindor. “But imagine if what we wanted was kind of just taken away like that, you know? She can’t play Quidditch. Can’t smoke. Can’t drink. Those are three quarters of her activities anyway. Not saying they’re good, but I’m not exactly a scholar either.”
“You barely pass half your classes,” James noted.
Thanks for that.
“I’m just saying maybe I should cut her some slack,” I replied. “Her need to play Quidditch is like us and the shop.”
“Can’t she just play after she pops out the kid?”
I paused. “Do you understand how much work a kid is?”
“Do you?” James asked.
“Not really.” I scrunched my nose. “But I’ve heard a lot. About how they need constant attention. How is she going to focus and have a career when she has to give constant attention to a baby?”
“Her parents?” James guessed.
“I’ve never met her parents, but she doesn’t seem like the person to rely on others, does she?” I found a piece of wall not occupied by a photo and stared at it. “Have you ever seen them at Quidditch matches?”
“Are you asking me if I’ve ever had the notion to look for the parents of Ryan Davies in the crowd?”
“Good point.” I groaned. “I just wish there was something I could do.”
“Think you’ve done enough,” he said with a laugh. I shot him a look. “Lighten up, Freddo. There’s nothing you can do. She’s told you she doesn’t need you or your money. She’s an independent woman. She’s decided to quit Quidditch, to which my brother is still sniffing around for motives. Just let it go, give Annie a snog, and go about your life.”
I knew why James thought the way he did. He was always on the outside of problems. He didn’t have any real problems other than his grandmum staring down at him. His list of life problems included what was being served for dinner and if an invention wasn’t quite working the way he’d like it to. Or if his grades were slipping, though Ollie was always there to tutor him back to a good mark. His parents cared deeply for him. His entire family did.
So I couldn’t blame him for saying what he did. If it was just a few weeks ago, I would have said the same thing. Laughed it off.
But it wasn’t. It was now and I’d seen the look in Ryan’s eyes. I’d barely glimpsed what she might have been going through, outside reading alone when her mates were playing Quidditch. Planning to read a book the size of my head while her friends went to Hogsmeade for Halloween and got drunk. She was slowly being pushed out of her own circles.
“You going to the Muggle movie night?” I asked.
“That lame thing thrown by the Prefects?” James made a face. “That sounds horrible. Of course not.” He paused at my expression. “You’re one of the Prefects throwing it, aren’t you?”
I smiled in very insincere way.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the word.”
More than one person was rightfully skeptical when the time came. China, who was quite the artist, made up some banners for the event and Ryan planned everything. She had me select the movies, though.
As I was going through a tough time transitioning (rather roughly, I had to admit) into adulthood, I selected several animated classics involving talking animals. The Lion King. The Aristocats. 101 Dalmatians. Among a couple other backup options. China insisted on drawing a lion cub and Ryan said it was pro-Gryffindor and threatened to rip it up during a raging mood-swing.
I then stuffed a cookie China baked into her mouth to shut her up.
Molly was pacing. “People aren’t going to come,” she said, examining the Great Hall. There was a large projector screen set up in front of the head table and the long house tables had been moved in favor of a large assortment of mismatched pillows and blankets. “They’re going to think this is a very stupid idea and they aren’t going to come.”
“Aren’t Head Girl’s supposed to be positive?” asked Ryan, still chewing.
“They should get rights to demote anyone they please,” Molly shot back. “But alas, I do not have those duties and thus you are still under my command.”
“You sound like a drill instructor,” Ryan said. “Got something up your bum?” She took another cookie, biting it in a ruthless way.
“Watch it, Davies. I can take points away from Ravenclaw, you know.”
“Drop it, Molly,” I said. “Ryan put this entire thing together. And it’s not like anyone came to the abstinence rally last night you and Rune put together.”
Her face flushed. “Someone came.”
“You and Rune do not count,” I said.
“Mox came,” Molly shot back.
“Doesn’t count either.” I grimaced. “Regardless, it looks great. The cookies taste great.” I checked my watch. One minute until. It was probably time to admit defeat. Even James found something better to do. Probably named Ollie.
“This is absurd, Fred.” Molly tapped her feet. “Enjoy your movies. I’m going to finish the duty schedule for next week. Davies, you’re taking all of the shifts no one wants.”
“With pleasure,” Ryan spat with a snarky smile.
Molly clicked her way out of the Great Hall, slamming the door as she went.
China sighed and looked at the spread of baked goods over one of the tables. “This was a lot of work,” she said, frowning.
“Exactly. Let’s not let it go to waste.” I grabbed an end of the table and dragged it into the center of the Great Hall. Both girls followed, confused. “Go on. Sit down. Shame to let good pillows and blankets go to waste, isn’t it?”
“You have got to be kidding,” Ryan said. “Doesn’t this pretty much make it easy for us to leave without doing any more work?”
“We put the effort into it,” I said, grabbing the controller and settling into a seat directly in front of the table. I reached behind me and grabbed a muffin. “We’re going to enjoy it. Besides, relax a little. There aren’t any exams tomorrow.”
China sat to my left, a few feet from me, and curled up in some blankets.
Ryan sat to my right. She snatched several more cookies. I wanted to give her an entire plate and insist she was eating for two, but that would have gotten me hit. Hard. So I offered her a pillow, which she took, and started The Lion King.
My family was fond of classic animated films. Dad had an entire collection in the basement and on nights we were sad or bored or snowed in, the four of us snuggled around the fire and put one in. The Lion King was always my favorite. And always, always I tried to hide my face when Mufasa died.
“Are you crying, Weasley?” Ryan whispered. The warm colors of the movie were dancing off her skin.
“I have something in my eye,” I muttered, quickly wiping it away. “Dust or an elephant herd or something.”
She snickered and I noticed my eyes were not the only glassy ones. “How many times have you seen this movie?”
“Too many,” I admitted. “You?”
“Just once. When I was very little.” Ryan leaned forward and laughed. “China’s sleeping. I wonder when she fell asleep.”
“It isn’t exactly early.” I leaned back and my eyes moved to the film. I couldn’t help it. Being without a father was something I couldn’t fathom, yet something that crossed my mind entirely too often when Dad locked himself in the study.
“Don’t get any ideas,” Ryan said, scooting back a little. She moved onto her side, plopping a pillow onto my lap. And then she snuggled in against my body, facing the movie.
I didn’t want to be, but suddenly I was very aware of everything. Where she was. What parts of her body were touching what parts of mine. The way she breathed. A sniffle as she tried to fight back emotions from the movie.
My fingers moved into her hair. She shuddered, but didn’t shove me away. Or punch me. Her hair was soft. Everything about her was soft.
My attention turned back just as the singing started again, fingers moving through her hair lazily as I watched. Pretty soon I heard her soft snores.
I smiled a little. Couldn’t help it.
James was wrong about Ryan Davies. She was a bitch a lot of the time. She was rotten to others, ruthless, and selfish. But there were times she was none of those things.
I didn’t think she even knew it and I certainly wouldn’t be the one to take the fall for telling her.
For a while I wondered what would happen when everyone found out. When the school discovered she was pregnant. That I was the father. What my family would say. What the rest of my friends would say.
But the more I rested there, Ryan breathing somberly against my leg, the more I realized that what would come would come. The only thing I could do now is wait and do what I could to help.
If Ryan would let me.
A/N: Would have had this chapter out sooner, but I've been (really) under the weather. I hope you enjoyed it. A lot of Fryan time.