Rosie looked out of the window and saw members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team flitting about on their brooms in the evening sunlight. Just knowing that James was out there, being superior and laughing with his friends made her feel both angry and anxious. It was made even worse by the fact that he was completely friendly to every one else. No one else had to put up with the constantly icy wall that he kept up between them. And it wasn’t even the kind of wall that she could ignore. Now that he had wormed his way into her head, she was aware of where he was when she sat down at the Gryffindor table. She was hideously conscious if he walked within two feet of her in a busy corridor. She could tell precisely where he was in the common room, even if she had her back to him. The other day, she had gone into the library and had almost walked out again, convinced that he was lurking behind one of the shelves, just waiting to give her a condescendingly cool stare as he walked past her. It was as though she had some particularly ghastly crush.
She jumped slightly as Sophie flung her bag onto the table that Rosie was sitting at. “What are you doing? You’re just gawping out of the window.”
Rosie smiled absentmindedly. “Just thinking.”
“You know perfectly well that I don’t accept such pathetically winsome answers as that.” Sophie pulled her bag towards her and dragged a battered quill out from beneath a sheaf of parchment. “Are you thinking about James? Again?”
“Rosie, you’ve been obsessing about him and this ridiculous feud that he’s started with you for about a fortnight now. Give me your essay, I want to make sure I haven’t left anything out of mine.”
Rosie pushed the neatly written essay at her, and stared. “I haven’t been obsessing.” She looked out of the window again and then dragged herself back to the present moment. “Anyway, it’s hardly a feud. He’s just ignoring me. Putting us back to the way that it always was, where we didn’t even know that the other existed or had any significance.”
Sophie rolled her eyes. “And he’s doing such a good job of it, because you aren’t sitting there and worrying about why James Potter doesn’t like you. It’s precisely like you never even met.”
“Well, I don’t know what I’ve done wrong!” Rosie pulled her essay back angrily, smoothing the corner that Sophie had already managed to bend. “It’s natural for me to worry about it! What if I inadvertently manage to start an argument with someone else?”
Sophie pulled the essay back again, with a long-suffering sigh. “I sometimes wonder how I managed to make friends with someone as neurotic as you. Relax. You did nothing, as I have said about ten times. James is a prick. You are not. Let it go. Live your life. Explain what this point here means.”
Rosie wrinkled her nose as the grotty end of Sophie’s quill jabbed at a sentence. “I honestly did nothing?”
“You can’t help what your parents did or didn’t do. So relax.”
“Then why can’t he see that?”
Sophie pushed Rosie’s essay back into one pile and glared at her friend. “Because he is a boy. Ergo, he is an idiot. It comes with their hormones. Now will you please stop driving me mad? Come on, we’re going out for a walk while the sun’s still up. And you are forbidden from talking about James. Or any other feuds that you may have.”
Rosie smiled and placed her essay back in her bag. “Come on then. You can tell me precisely what you were doing with Mark Webber in the Charms classroom.”
Sophie stood up. “You heard about that?”
“The whole house has heard about that. Come on.” Rosie linked arms with her and the pair of them made their way down to the lake, giggling.
James shot his broom down to the ground and dismounted lightly, almost entranced with his own fluid movements. Waiting for his friends to follow, they all began to walk back towards the castle. Laughing about the pass that Richard had fumbled, the evening breeze ruffling his hair, James felt remarkably content.
As they turned towards the school, James glanced towards the school and his whole face froze. He could see the pale blonde of Rosie’s hair shining in the dim light of the sunset, instantly noticeable. She was clutching at her sides, laughing helplessly as her friend mimed what looked like a terrible kiss, their faces contorted in mirth. Richard looked at James and saw his expression, and followed his gaze across to the lake. “Still hating her?”
“Trying to blank her out,” James answered and turned resolutely away. And yet, he couldn’t help but cast one last look over his shoulder at her. “She’s bloody well everywhere though.”
“She’s in our house James. You’re going to see her.” Richard rolled his eyes, and tried to walk a bit faster, anxious to make his way back to the common room and find the Quidditch groupies.
“That kind of remark isn’t helpful. You don’t understand.” James let the front door slam harder than was necessary behind him. “I know where she is if I walk anywhere near her. I can tell if she’s in the same corridor as me, if she’s in the library with me, if she’s just sat down at our table! It’s insane!”
“Mate, you’ve got a crush on her.”
James stood stock still in the middle of the corridor. “That’s insulting.”
His friend turned around and laughed at him. “You know where she is, and she makes you feel the strongest emotions that any girl has ever made you feel.”
“Hatred is not the same thing as having a crush Richard,” James drawled, trying to regain a modicum of control over the conversation.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
“Oh very wise. Who did you steal that off?”
“Elie Wiesel, and it wouldn’t kill you to culture yourself a little more.” Richard gestured at the corridor up to the common room, anxious to carry on moving. “If you honestly didn’t want anything to do with her, you would have cut her off. Instead, you’re putting more effort into pretending to ignore her then I’ve ever seen you put into anything else.”
“That’s because she’s done horrible things” James muttered as he followed Richard up the corridor.
“Pull yourself together Potter. She hasn’t done anything. Her dad did something, and apparently he was forced into it. Cut her some slack, she seems nice enough.”
“Fantastic support from my friends then.” James said sarcastically.
“Only when you need it. And you certainly don’t need more help to make yourself look like even more of an arse. So drop it.”
James opened his mouth to retort, but Richard was already in the common room and talking to the giggling Gryffindor girls who had draped themselves over him. He looked in, knowing perfectly well that if he went in, he would have his very own rapt audience to laugh at everything he said and agree with him on every point. It didn’t seem as appealing as it might have.
Turning around, he walked back down through the castle. As he got to the main entrance hall, he paused. He knew perfectly well that he was gravitating towards the lake. He didn’t know why. Maybe he was in the mood for a fight after what Richard had said.
As he stepped out into the dim evening light, he dragged a deep breath in, almost able to taste the crisp autumn air. It was just a walk around the lake, he told himself. Rosie probably wasn’t even out any more. And even if she was, he would just walk past her. Ignoring her. Not hating her, not feeling any strong emotions to her, and not noticing anything about her. It would be fine.
Sophie looked back at the castle. “It’s getting chilly, do you want to go inside?”
“No, I’m good.” Rosie was looking at the cool, rippling waters of the lake and felt remarkably more peaceful than she had in the past fortnight. “You can go in though.”
“Sure?” Sophie stood up, rubbing her hands along her arms. “Don’t stay out too late.”
“Yes mother. Go on, I’m sure Mark is waiting for you!” She rolled her eyes and laughed at the expression on her friend’s face.
She watched as Sophie retreated back to the castle and then turned back out to the lake. She was staring absentmindedly at the calm water, daydreaming about nothing in particular when she heard a footfall coming from the opposite direction to the one that Sophie had just left in. Suddenly aware of the fact that it was growing darker and that she was alone, she reached for her wand, its warmth reassuring in her hand.
Scrambling to her feet, she watched as a tall figure drew closer to her. Her nerves screaming at her, she prepared herself to fire a spell. Just as she thought her mouth was going to shout the words without the consent of her brain, she recognised the face on the figure and dropped her wand promptly, feeling like a complete idiot.
“Getting ready to attack me? Like father like daughter,” came the sardonic drawl that she was quickly growing to despise.
“And already I’m regretting not doing it,” she muttered. “What are you doing out here, lurking in the dark?”
“I could ask you precisely the same thing.”
“I’m out here to get away from the constant tension that you’ve managed to create,” she spat.
“That I’ve created? This is all your doing Malfoy!”
“How is it my doing Potter? You’re the one that decided you wanted to create this argument out of nothing and then do your very best to make me feel uncomfortable in my day to day life!”
“I’m trying to ignore you!”
“Well you aren’t doing a very good job, are you?” She shouted, infuriated beyond belief.
“That’s because you’ve…you’ve wriggled your way under my skin! I can’t just pretend that you don’t exist because I always know that you’re there!”
“I haven’t done anything to you! How the hell have I gotten under your skin?” She watched as he sat down where she had been sitting, his skin pale in the dark. She looked back at the castle, it’s windows bright and inviting now that night had fallen. Turning away from the safety that her school would provide, she sat down tentatively next to James and looked surreptitiously at him from beneath the curtain of her hair.
James looked at her and saw that the fall of her platinum hair couldn’t quite hide the curious brown eyes that were looking at him. “Please tell me that this is infuriating you as much as it is me.”
“Why do you think I came out here?” She half laughed, unable to believe how surreal the situation was. “I came out here because I thought it would be the one place where I could get away from you. You seem to be everywhere, and it’s driving me mad.”
James looked back out across the lake. “Why is this happening?”
“What makes you think I know?” She snapped back, angry not to have the answers. “It doesn’t make any sense. You don’t make any sense.”
“One minute you’re being all flirty and offering to teach me how to fly, then you turn on me because of who my dad was, and then you’re ignoring me but making me feel more uncomfortable than my mother does when she tries to talk to me about sex.”
“That uncomfortable?” He looked at her and she gave a reluctant smile and nodded. “My mum wouldn’t have the talk with me. She left it to my dad, and I think it was the most awkward thing that I’ve ever had to endure. He just rambled about love for a bit and then tried to talk about protection, and I thought he was going to have a heart attack, he was going so red.”
Rosie laughed and the pair of them sat in silence for a minute looking at the lake. “I ought to go back in, or Sophie’s going to think I’ve fallen into the lake. And your groupies will be missing you.”
“It’s been more…interesting out here.” James admitted.
They stood up and began to walk back towards the brightly lit school. Each was highly conscious of the other, anxious not to accidentally brush hands, or to make any kind of contact. The brief moment of ease that they had had while sitting down had vanished into the night, blown away on the breeze that was pushing Rosie’s hair in every direction.
James looked down at her, her eyes fixed firmly on the floor, and almost fell over. Cursing himself for not paying more attention to his surroundings, he found that he still couldn’t quite take his eyes off her. She had looked at him as he had stumbled and given him a hesitant smile, her white teeth framed by her plump lower lip. Against every rational thought in his head, he was suddenly overwhelmed by a stream of images and sensations: his lips pressed against hers, his teeth gently pulling at that curvy lip, his fingers laced into the sheet of shining hair.
Shaking his head, he tried to drag back his animosity. There was too much of a difference between them. How was the son of the Boy Who Lived meant to do anything with the daughter of a Death Eater? And yet, for the first time since the whole episode had begun, he could understand what the others had been saying: that she wasn’t responsible for the actions of her father and that maybe he had been slightly unfair to try and punish her for it…that maybe he could put his stubborn nature to one side temporarily and bury the hatchet that he had seen fit to wield.
Rosie could feel his eyes on her, dragging the blood to her cheeks. Grateful that it was dark, she concentrated on not dragging her feet through the grass, conscious that if she fell over where he had merely stumbled, the blush that would overwhelm her would probably make her head explode. Why was he making her feel like this? How had he managed to go from one extreme to another: from hating her and from cold enmity to this warmer, almost joking James, who was able to laugh about the ineptitude of parents with her.
As they let themselves into the entrance hall, James turned to look at her. She was smoothing her hair down, trying to get it into some kind of order. He smiled and reached out to push back a strand of hair that was tangled in her eyelashes. She knocked his hand away, all the ease of the lake gone. “You can’t do that.”
“Can’t do what?” His eyes narrowed, unaccustomed to such blatant and vehement rejection.
“I don’t deal with faux-schizophrenia. If you want to be two different people, fine. But I’m not going to let you screw around with my mind by being Mr ‘I hate Death Eaters and their spawn’ in public and Mr ‘Look at me, I’m funny and nice’ in private. Play your mind games with someone else.” Turning her back on him, she began to make her way up the stairs.
“I’m not playing mind games!” He shouted, and ran up after her. “I just don’t know how to act around you! And you’re playing mind games – Miss Sweet and Shy out by the lake and now you’re this….this termagant!”
“A termagant!” She stood on the step above him and was furious that she wasn’t taller than him. “If I’m a termagant then you’re…a cad!”
“How am I a cad?” The pair of them were storming towards their common room, shouting as they strove to outdo each other.
“You play with girls and their emotions! I’ve seen how you treat all the girls who like you?”
“Oh, is that why you’re being so bitchy? Are you worried you’ll get hurt if you open up your heart to me?” He spoke sarcastically as they approached the portrait of the Fat Lady.
Rosie let out a low scream of aggravation as they scrambled through the portrait hole, struggling to retain some dignity. “You should be so lucky!” she shrieked. Glaring at each other, breathing quickly, they both slammed off in opposite directions, leaving the common room giggling and whispering.
As she lay on her bed, curtains drawn, a horrifying thought occurred to Rosie. For all that they had shouted and screamed, they had never once fallen out of pace. Any body language expert would tell them that they were perfectly matched.
AN: So that took a bit longer than I expected...ooops. Sorry everyone! All reviews appreciated! xxx
AN: So that took a bit longer than I expected...ooops. Sorry everyone! All reviews appreciated! xxx
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