Author's Note:  Okay, so...I lied.  I said this story was going to have twenty-eight chapters.  I was wrong.  It's twenty-seven.  Oh well.  Either way, this is still chapter twenty-one, and I still hope y'all enjoy it.  It's kind of long (yay!), so I hope that makes up for the slight wait.  Anyways, I hope you guys find it up to par, and leave me a review when you're done!  Thanks!

McGonagall cornered me after dinner today.  I’d sort of been expecting it after all the glares she’d been sending me for the past week.  I was just surprised it took her so long to get around to it.

I’d been walking back up to the dormitory, alone for once because Aidan was working on a History of Magic project and Riley was studying in the Library with Brian.  A few days earlier, it had finally dawned on my clueless friend that Brian was interested in her.  We’d talked about it, and though she wasn’t sure how she felt about him, she decided she liked him well enough to give him a chance.  So they’d been hanging out quite a bit.  Everyone else had headed up a few minutes earlier, but I’d spent a few extra minutes in the Great Hall with Aidan, I suppose trying to make up for the fact that Oliver fancied me and I knew it and wasn’t doing anything about it.  I refused to think about what my mother had written, and I refused to let her opinion sway my feelings for Aidan.

It’s slightly odd walking through the castle all alone, so I’d been hurrying my pace enough that I wouldn’t be the only person wandering the corridors (Filch likes to torment loners).  I’d been somewhat lost in my own thoughts-what with Aidan and Oliver and Quidditch and class and my friends and my friends’ relationships and trying to deal with the fact that we’d be leaving school pretty soon, I had a lot to think about- when McGonagall appeared out of nowhere.  I jumped about a foot, and she looked disapproving, as if Seekers weren’t ever allowed to be jumpy.

Then again, McGonagall almost always looks disapproving, so I figured I was probably imagining things.

“Miss Appleby.” she sniffed. 

“Oh…erm, hello, Professor.” I said awkwardly.  Minerva McGonagall was…unnerving, to say the least.  And I never had any idea what to say around her, even in her class, because she always acted as if she only tolerated me because I was her House’s Seeker and she needed me to win Quidditch matches. 

“Could I please see you in my office?” she asked, sounding slightly pleasant about it.  I knew she was just trying to get me to lower my guard.  For one thing, she phrased it like a question, but we both knew she was issuing me a command, and we both knew I would obey.  For another, she never sounds pleasant around me, so…yeah.  She was up to something.

“Um…sure, Professor.” I answered diplomatically.  I followed her back down to her first floor office, pretended not to pay attention as she lowered the wards around the door, and sat across from her desk in an uncomfortable chair when she motioned to it.  She seemed content to let me squirm, because she didn’t say anything for a few minutes.  She just flicked her wand and summoned a file over, which she then opened and appeared to read for five minutes.  Finally, the silence grew to be too hard to bear.

“Erm, Professor, not that I dislike sitting and doing nothing in your office, but what is this about?” I asked.  “If it’s about that victory party the Weasleys  threw in the Three Broomsticks this past weekend, I swear, Madame Rosmerta agreed, and none of us knew about it before—“  She quelled me with a single look.

“No, that’s not what you’re in here for.”  she said, staring me straight in the eye.  I tried not to fidget.  “Would you care to take another guess?”

I thought for a moment.  “No, Professor.” I finally said.  “That’s really the only thing I can think of.”

“I see.” she replied, pulling several sheets of parchment out of the file before placing them in front of me.  It was a series of what appeared to be essays.  The first ones all had large Os and Es at the top, but the grades gradually decreased until the last two papers had apparently received Ps.  I looked up at McGonagall. 

“Excuse me, Professor, but what are these?”

She looked at me over the lenses of her spectacles.  “In a minute, Miss Appleby.  First, I’d like to discuss something with you.”  She paused for a moment before continuing.  “What is it that you’d like to do upon leaving school?”

I stared for a moment before I relaxed.  “Actually, I’m planning on becoming a Healer.  Is this about my Potions grade?” I asked.  “Because I’ve been doing alright with Snape this semester.”

“No, it’s not.” she replied.  “On the contrary, Professor  Snape has commented, albeit grudgingly, that your Potions work has improved drastically since the beginning of the year.  You’re averaging at least an E for the majority of the work.”

I felt a little bubble of pride within me.  Potions has always been my weak point, and I’d been trying to concentrate more, trying to improve my essays, so that I could pass the class.  The only reason I continued with the class after O.W.L.s was because I needed it in order to become a Healer; I wanted to specialize in Spell Damage, which meant I would need far less skill in Potions than say, Potions and Plant Poisoning would require.  Still.  The fact that I was doing well pleased me.  Until McGonagall continued.

“Those papers in front of you are the essays I’ve received from you since the end of the holidays.” she said sternly.  “Each week, you fall farther behind.  To be honest, Miss Appleby, I’ve contemplated telling you to think about dropping the class.”  I could feel my cheeks burning in shame.  “However, you’ve always been an excellent student, until now.  A bit unfocused, but your work has never suffered.  Still, I have to warn you, St. Mungo’s will not accept your application if you continue to receive these grades.  And it might be best if you gave up some of your…distractions.”  She paused as if to give me an opportunity to defend myself, but I couldn’t say anything, so she went on.  “I’ve noticed that your work started slipping when you moved to sit with Mr. Montgomery in the middle of term.  Also, you seem to have been feuding with Mr. Wood for a while now.  Are the three of you having….problems?”  Great.  Just what I needed-McGonagall interested in my love life.

“No, ma’am.” I lied.  “I just can’t focus around Oliver.”

She seemed almost amused.  “You apparently can’t focus around Montgomery, either.  If there’s no other problem, you might try sitting with Mr. Wood again; the pair of you could probably pay more attention sitting next to each other.  That way, you wouldn’t have to send longing glances at the back of his head, and Mr. Wood might be able to face the front of the class again instead of staring at you all period.”  My cheeks flushed again.  “However, if your next essay doesn’t improve to at least an A, I’m afraid I’ll have to insist you be removed from the Quidditch team.” My mouth fell open in horror.  “If that doesn’t work, I will remove you from my class.  If you feel you need extra help, you can always ask Mr. Wood; unlike others, he takes excellent dictation.” I made a mental note to find my automatic quill- all I had to do was set it to parchment and it would write down everything McGonagall said.

“Yes ma’am.” I said quietly.  “I’ll work harder.”  I might not get any sleep for the rest of the term, but if it killed me, I was going to bring my grades up, and I was going to get accepted at St. Mungo’s.  I didn’t have any other options; Ministry work would drive me crazy, I wasn’t cut out to be an Auror, and I didn’t want to play professional Quidditch.  I loved the game, true, but I’m one of those people who needs something to do.  The life of professional athletes isn’t extremely long, especially in my position; Seekers rarely played past thirty-five.  It’s hard to keep playing when you’ve broken every bone in your body eight times, when everyone around you is younger and therefore faster.  And sure, many players went on to coach teams or manage them after retiring, but that would drive me crazy.  I like ordering other people around, but it would kill me to be involved with a professional team and not actually be able to play.  No, professional Quidditch wasn’t for me. 

Of course, I wasn’t precisely sure that being a Healer was the best choice for me, either.  But I like problem-solving, which is essentially what Healing is.  And I also like being able to fix things, fix people, their problems.  So maybe it was a good choice.  If I could only pull my grades up.

For the next week and a half, I worked my arse off trying to improve my grades.  I was so busy playing Quidditch and studying that I barely saw Aidan.  At first, he was okay with it, but then I told him that I had asked Oliver to help me with Transfiguration.  We argued about it, especially when I told him an edited version of what McGonagall had said.  He told me that if I needed help, he was there to ask, and when I told him that I couldn’t concentrate around him according to McGonagall, we argued even more.  We ended up reconciling, but we were both a bit cool for a few days.  So it was a surprise when he, too, cornered me to talk after dinner. 

He’d stopped walking me up to the dormitory after our argument, so when he asked to accompany me, I said yes out of sheer surprise.  By the time we’d reached the statue of Lachlan the Lanky just around the corner from the Fat Lady, he’d apparently gotten up the courage to say whatever it was he needed to say.  “So…” he started, leaning against the wall with one arm.  “Do you know what the date is tomorrow?” he asked.  I’m sure I looked at him oddly.  This was what he had wanted to talk about?

“Erm…yeah.  It’s the fourth.  Of March.” I clarified, just in case he was completely brain-dead.  Aidan chuckled.

“Right.  And that means your birthday is in three days.  And you haven’t once mentioned what you wanted me to get you.” he told me.  I stared.

“Maybe I didn’t mention it because you don’t need to get me something.” I heard myself mutter.  It wasn’t what I’d planned on saying, but that was what came out.  He chuckled again, but this time it sounded slightly forced.

“Do you think Oliver will get you something?” he asked.  I thought about it for a minute.

“Probably.  I mean, he always has.”  I said before I thought better of it.  “But so do all the rest of my friends.” I added hastily.

“Right.” Aidan said quietly.  “So it makes sense for me to do so as well.  Right?  I mean, we’ve been dating, what, almost four months?  I want to get you something.”  He wrapped his arms around me, and I didn’t pull away.  I’d never thought of it, but some part of Aidan must be jealous.  And I didn’t need to be a crazy bint and hurt his feelings by refusing to let him get me a birthday present.

“Well, when you put it like that….” I forced a smile.  “Fine.  But don’t expect me to tell you what I want.  Just as long as it’s not pink or feathery or anything Wasp-related.”  Aidan smiled back before kissing me gently. 

“Okay then.  But don’t complain that I didn’t get you what you wanted afterwards.”

“I won’t.”

“So, speaking of birthdays…do you want to do something for yours?  Something special, I mean.”

I winced slightly.  “I wish we could.” I said honestly.  “Something with just the two of us.  But the truth is, we always have a party in Wood’s dorm, after we kick out his dorm mates, I mean.  It’s become a team tradition, almost.  Riley and the other girls, not to mention the Weasley twins, have been planning it since last April, probably.”  Aidan thought about that for a moment. 

“I don’t suppose I could convince you to let me in.” he sighed.

I smiled ruefully.  “I wish I could, Aidan.” I told him.  “But I’m already on probation with McGonagall for my grades.  The entire House knows about this, even though no one else really comes.  If someone saw you and told her, I’d be dead.”

Aidan sighed again, and I hated knowing that I’d disappointed him by being unable to put him above my future career.  I hated knowing that I’d upset him by not saying I could skip the party just this once, even if it had been planned for almost a year.  But I couldn’t.  I just couldn’t.  “Well, alright then.” he finally said.  “If you eat supper with me at my table, I guess it’d be okay.” He smiled at me and I knew he was trying to reassure me that everything would be okay.  It was one of those times where I just wished he’d stop trying to make me feel better and actually demand something of me.  Part of me wanted him to scream that I had to make a choice, him or Oliver.  Until one of them did, I was divided.  I couldn’t be sure of either of them until I knew there was nothing else for me to hide behind.  And for now, Aidan was acting like my own personal mask; his good temper and cheerful disposition allowed me to be a stupid, indecisive bint who didn’t deserve either of them.

He finally left, and I went into the Common Room feeling more unsure and more horrid than I ever had before.  The fact that Oliver was waiting for me near the fireplace, most likely so we could go over our assignments on Human Transfiguration again, didn’t improve my mood.  It just proved that yet again, I was caught between two blokes who thought they were perfect for me.  Unconsciously, I looked between the still-open portrait hole, where I could still see Aidan jogging back down the staircase, and Oliver, who was waving and grinning and pointing to our textbook.  The Fat Lady swung shut.  And I made my way towards Oliver.

My eighteenth birthday finally arrived.  It was Sunday, so there was no class, and McGonagall had handed back our last essays on Friday.  I could have sworn she almost smiled as she handed me mine, branded at the top with a bright red ‘E.’  Oliver had given me a high-five, Aidan his heartfelt congratulations, and McGonagall that almost-smile.  My parents, along with Smith, had sent me letters that morning.  Mum’s made no mention of my lack of reply to her last missive, but instead congratulated me on surviving another year.  Dad’s was mushy and touchy-feely, and basically all it said was that his little girl was all grown up and that even so, I shouldn’t contemplate having children with that ‘fine young man’ I was with for another six or seven years.  Smith’s, true to form, made no mention of Aidan, or really the fact that it was my birthday.  Instead, he rambled on and on about how Oliver was going to take him to a Puddlemere game this summer, and how he’d caught a frog and put it in his teacher’s seat at school.  He also said something about how I should thank him for helping Oliver with my birthday present.  I figured that meant I was going to die or something, but I laughed all the same. 

All the same, I had a sinking feeling that the day was going to turn out awful.  I was wrong.  Fred and George made no attempts to prank me, so I wasn’t covered in swamp water or something equally ridiculous.  Angelina didn’t try to give me a makeover, Alicia only insinuated that Aidan’s gift was going to be a sexual one once, and Riley and Katie were actually not completely oblivious for once.  Riley had decided that Brian was romantic material and chattered about him for an hour straight at breakfast, but I didn’t really mind.  I was just relieved that the day wasn’t turning out to be absolutely awful.

Of course, I should have trusted my gut instinct.  But being me, I didn't.

After Aidan and I finished our (relatively) private dinner, he insisted on walking me back up to the Common Room again.  Since he wasn’t carrying a present and we weren’t supposed to do magic in the corridors, I had hoped he’d given up on the whole gift idea.  I turned out to be very, very wrong.

Just outside of the Fat Lady’s portrait hole, he pulled a long black velvet box out of the inside of his robes.  My heart sank.  It was pretty obvious he’d gotten me some sort of jewellery, and I wasn’t sure he had very good taste.  He must have caught the horrified expression on my face, because he laughed.

“It’s your own fault if you don’t like it.” he insisted.  “But I think you will.  And before you ask, I’ve gotten jewellery for my mum before with my aunt, so I know the difference between what’s ugly and what’s not.”  He handed me the box and I fingered it for a few minutes, unwilling to actually open it.  He solved the problem by flipping the lid open himself.  In spite of myself, I gasped.  Inside, nestled in a swath of white satin, was a gorgeous bracelet that even I should have no problem wearing.  There was a series of pale green hearts set around a thin loop of gold.  It was probably the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  And, I realized with that sinking heart again, probably the most expensive.  Aidan misread my expression.

“The stones are actually green topaz.” he told me.  “I thought you’d like it, and, well, it matches your eyes.”  My hand came up to my face.  Aidan continued talking animatedly for another two minutes before I finally had the brains to stop him.

“Aidan, it’s lovely.” I said slowly.  “Really, seriously beautiful.  But I can’t accept this.” 

He was already fastening it onto my wrist.  “Of course you can.  I’m giving it to you.” he insisted. 

“No, Aidan, really, it’s too expensive.” I protested as he clicked the clasp shut.  “I really can’t accept it.  It must have cost a fortune.”

He looked at me then.  “It’s my money.” he said simply.  “If I choose to spend it on you, that’s my choice.”  I would have protested more, but he stopped me by brushing a finger across my cheek.  “You can always refuse it, but I want to give it to you.”  Once again, he was steam-rolling me with his very niceness.  I couldn’t say no, even though I wanted to rip the bracelet off and throw it at him.

“Alright.” I said quietly.  “Thank you.  It’’s beautiful.  Thanks.” Though I was starting to feel queasy, I stood on my toes to brush a brief kiss across his lips.  “Goodnight, Aidan.”

He smiled at me before stepping away.  “Goodnight.” he replied.  “And Kenna?”

I had already turned to give the Fat Lady the password, but his words brought me back around.  “Yes?”

“Happy Birthday.”

My heart was practically sunk down to my toes, but I managed to walk into the Common Room, head up the stairs to the boys dormitory, and smile like I meant it when Oliver opened his door and handed me a butterbeer.

The room was loud due to the music Fred and George had already started playing.  My female friends were all dancing in the middle of the floor; Oliver had shrunken the beds so that there was room.  Fred, George, and Lee Jordan were standing by a table full of gifts, right next to another table filled with food.  I knew that the Weasleys had snuck into Hogsmeade the previous evening to stock up on butterbeer and firewhiskey, and that Lee had probably gone down to the kitchens earlier and conned the house elves into providing the food.  Normally, the sight of all my friends partying together would bring a smile to my lips, but not even the mild buzz of the butterbeer was settling my stomach and my thoughts just then.

As Oliver ushered me in, the sound stopped.  All at once, the eight of them started screaming ‘Happy Birthday!’ at me.  Fred and George set off fireworks.  Riley gushed.  Oliver grinned and hugged me.  And I felt just the tiniest bit better. 

“So, how’s it feel to be older than me?” Oliver asked.  I felt a laugh bubble up.

“I’ve always been older than you, Ollie.” I retorted, and he grinned at me.  “I’ll still be older than you in a couple of months when it’s your birthday.”  The fact that I was two months older than Oliver had alternately been a sore point with him and a cause of great amusement.  I supposed he took pleasure in the fact that I was older, but he was far taller.  And for the night, I was happy to let him laugh at my expense.  Anything to keep me from thinking about the stones encircling my wrist.

“Yeah, well, how’s it feel to be the centre of attention?” he asked.  I smiled back at him, my usual good humour restored for the evening. 

“It feels just like it always does.” I said archly.  “Wonderful.”  He laughed at that, and I found myself laughing back.

“Happy Birthday, Kenna!” I heard Riley squeal.  I turned around and she just about crushed me with her embrace.  Tiny she may be, but her hugs pack a punch. 

“Thanks, Riley.” I told her.  The music had turned back on, so it was a little hard to hear, but we managed a conversation while we went to go get food.  Fred and George had rigged up some sort of chocolate fountain, so naturally, we spent most of our time in front of it.  We are female, after all.

All of us were happy to just sit around on the floor and talk for about an hour, with the occasional pause so that whoever was talking could eat a bite of whatever they had on their plates.  Finally, when I was starting to feel full, Fred stood up.

“Speech, speech!” he started chanting, and George joined in.  Eventually, everyone else did, too.  With a reluctant sigh, I stood.

“Fine.  A speech then.”  There was some good-natured laughter, a few comments on my oratorical abilities, but I managed to speak without much interruption.  “I’ll never understand why everyone insists my birthday is the day to party; I’m not the oldest, I’m not the youngest, and I’m not the shortest.  However, since you all seem willing to feed me, praise me, and give me tons of gifts, I’ll overlook the fact that we don’t party for anyone else.  So can we get to the good part?”

Alicia hopped up.  “Ooh, yes!” she yelled.  “Let’s!”  She grabbed George by the hand, and they started dancing again.  I rolled my eyes, figuring someone would start handing me presents soon enough.  To my surprise, Katie grabbed Lee and Riley by the hand and the three of them started spinning and jumping and laughing and a bunch of other stuff that counted as dancing but really wasn’t.  Before another thirty seconds had passed, Angie had dragged a reluctant Fred to join to masses, and it was just me and Oliver, sitting on the floor with butterbeers while our friends acted like a bunch of fools. 

We sat there for a few minutes, neither one of us huge fans of the whole dance craze.  So I was a bit amused when he stood up, offered me a hand, and pulled me to my feet. 

“What do you say we join them?” he asked.  I figured that since everyone was just sort of dancing in a big group now that that was what he meant, so I nodded at him.

“Sure!” I said.  “Why not?”

To my embarrassment, the song immediately changed from the whole group-dance-like-idiots thing to a dance-with-your-favourite-person-of-the-opposite-gender one.  My cheeks flushed, and we just stood there like a pair of dummies for a few seconds.  Then Oliver grabbed my hand again.

“Hey, it won’t be too bad.” he said with an encouraging smile.  “I promise not to feel you up.”  Since there was no way I could bow out without embarrassing all of us, there was nothing for me to do but say yes.

“Okay.” I agreed begrudgingly, though inside I was secretly excited to be that close to Oliver again.  He pulled me up against him and wrapped his arms around my waist.  They were warm and firm and made me feel entirely too mushy inside as I wrapped my own arms around his neck.  As we swayed slowly to the music, I caught glimpses of Fred and Angelina wrapped up in each other, of George and Alicia laughing like a pair of loons.  And then I saw Lee switch between Katie and Riley, and I almost laughed myself.  I probably would have if I wasn’t so caught up in touching Oliver.  He didn’t say anything as we danced; he just stared at me in that way that made my insides start to squirm.  I felt myself leaning towards him, saw him lean towards me, but then the music changed.  The spell was broken and I felt horribly guilty.  Then I caught sight of the bracelet on my wrist and my guilt increased.

Luckily, Katie chose that point in time to walk over and switch off the Wizarding Wireless.  “Come on, everyone.” she pleaded.  “Kenna hasn’t opened her presents yet!”

Immediately, everyone but Oliver rushed over to grab their gift and pile it at my feet.  Riley shoved me down to a sitting position, and they gathered around me like puppies.  All of them clamouring for me to open their gift first.  Again, except for Oliver.

If he hadn’t gotten me something, I was going to feel deprived.  Then foolish, then stupid, and then I was going to kill him because he was the reason I couldn’t convince Aidan to not give me that damn bracelet.

I started out with Riley’s gift.  She laughed as I tore the paper away to find a huge pile of Honeydukes’ chocolate, a pair of fuzzy green socks that looked like an experiment gone wrong, and one of those muggle romance books.  Inside the cover of the book, which showed a nearly-naked blonde bloke pinning some bint up against a wall, she’d written “Because some of us would like to be ravished up against a wall by some gorgeous man.”  I laughed, too. 

Fred and George had pooled together to get me a series of gag gifts, fake love potion included, along with some of the prank supplies they wanted to market for themselves.  I knew one thing for sure- Smith was never getting anywhere near the fireworks they’d given me.  If he did, we’d all die in our sleep.

Lee, proving that he was a nice, thoughtful boy, got me a book on Quidditch that I’d mentioned in passing.  I thanked him warmly before eyeing Alicia’s gift warily.

It turned out to be a pair of what she called “fuck me shoes.”   They were black, had heels that were four inches high, straps that looked like they could break quite easily, and were something she called stilettos.  She insisted that Aidan would love them, along with any other bloke I wanted to use them on.  I made a mental note to donate them to charity.

Katie handed me a pretty purple box with a matching bow, and I opened it carefully.  It turned out I shouldn’t have worried- she’d gotten me a Puddlemere United Quidditch kit, which was sort of weird, considering I was an Arrows fan, but I figured she would know I had about twelve of those, so I suppose it was thoughtful.

Angelina’s gift turned out to be another muggle romance, a pair of shoes, thankfully not heels, and a self-inking quill.  Seeing as Oliver had disappeared, I decided hers was the last gift, so I rose and hugged all of them.  Except the Weasleys, because they looked entirely too smug and no intelligent person should trust them.

But just as I was about to suggest we all go back to our own dormitories, Oliver reappeared carrying a small brown box with holes in it.  He handed it to me.

“What’s this?” I asked warily, remembering that Smith had said he’d helped Oliver with the gift.  With my brother, that could mean there was something explosive inside.  Or something that only boys understood.

Oliver grinned.  “Open it and find out.” he suggested.

I did as he asked, tearing the cardboard carefully in case whatever was inside was dangerous.  When I was done, all I could do was stare.  Inside the box was a tiny black kitten, fast asleep.  As I watched, it mewed softly, batting a paw through the air.

I tore my gaze away and brought it back up to his.  “ bought me a cat?” I asked incredulously.  He just grinned again, removing the kitten from the box and putting it into my hands.

“Well, I would have gotten an owl, but I figured you might kill me, so...” he trailed off when I said nothing, and the grin faded.  “It was a stupid idea.  I can take her back if you—“  He reached for the kitten in my arms, but I pulled back.

“No.” I said firmly.  “You can’t have her.”  The kitten chose that moment to wake up.  She opened her tiny eyes and stared up at me with bright gold eyes.  I was completely enchanted.  “Does she have a name?” I asked Oliver as I sat back down carefully.  He rested on his palms beside me.

“Yeah, she does.” he told me.  “It’s means ‘beautiful’ in Ancient Egyptian.  When we were on holiday, my neighbor’s cat had a litter.  I asked Smith if you liked cats, and he said yes, so I went to go pick one out.  I was going to get this little calico one, but then...well, this one reminds me of you.”  He turned that intoxicating grin on me and I knew I was in trouble.  He’d gotten me a kitten he said was named Beautiful.  And that she reminded him of me.  Oh, I was in deep trouble.

Before I knew what he was about, Oliver plucked Nefertiti from my hands.  “Watch this.” he said as he settled her into his lap.  For a minute, the kitten seemed content, but then she bit his hand when he tried to pet her sleek black head.  When that got boring , she sauntered down his leg, tiny kitten claws extended, and then proceeded to attack his shoe with great pleasure and great violence.  He flicked the laces at her, and she pounced.  Everyone laughed at that, and then he handed her back to me.  She scratched my hand as I took her, and Oliver grinned, the kitten’s tiny back legs still held firmly in his grasp.  “She’s violent and temperamental, not to mention energetic and insane.  So naturally, I knew she was the cat for you.”  Our fingers brushed as I took Nefertiti all the way away from him, and there was a jolt that I could no longer deny. 

To my disbelief, I felt tears pooling in my eyes, but I managed to keep them from falling.  “Thanks, Ollie.” I said calmly.  I even managed to grin back at him.  “She’s wonderful.”  Not to mention she was already back asleep.  “I love her.  And now little Miss Nefertiti and I have to go to sleep.  We’ve got a Transfiguration exam to take tomorrow.” 

Everyone protested that it was way too early to turn in, but I insisted.  I really did need to get to sleep.  Not to mention get away from Oliver.  As I rose to my feet, the bracelet glinted on my arm again, and my stomach, which was already pitching in protest, sank again. 

I managed to make it to the dormitory without incident.  Everyone else was staying behind to help Oliver put things to rights.  But I just couldn’t.  I gently dropped the still-sleeping Nefertiti onto my bed and sank down beside her.  I nearly tore Aidan’s bracelet off because I couldn’t stand to wear it for another second.

The tears I had refused to let fall didn’t want to come as I lay there, staring at the ceiling.  I was still caught between Oliver and Aidan, not to mention their gifts.  And I was still torn about what to do.  But now it was worse. 

Because now, I’d finally figured out what everyone had been telling me all along.  I was completely and utterly and foolishly in love with Oliver.  I didn’t know when it had happened, didn’t want to know.  I didn’t want to be in love with him.  I didn’t want him to be thoughtful and funny and gorgeous and annoying and fascist and crazy and intelligent and wonderful.  But he was.  He’d gotten me Nefertiti, a cat who attacked shoes and drew blood in spite of her diminutive size.  He’d given me up when I couldn’t handle him, but hadn’t actually given up.

I was in love with him.  And I was dating someone else.  Someone who was also thoughtful and funny and cute and intelligent and wonderful.  Someone perfect by any standards.

The problem was that the time had come to make a choice.  Either I broke up with Aidan and possibly broke his heart in the process....or I broke my own heart by trying to fall out of love with Oliver.

The question was, who was more important?  Me....or Aidan????

A/N: Well.  She finally figured it out!  Aren't you guys excited??  I know I am.  But I'll warn you, don't get too excited; they've still got five chapters and an epilogue to go through!  But either way, she's no longer clueless.  So I hope you're all happy.  But anyways.  What did you guys think?  Do me a favor and leave a review or two.  I promise I'll love you forever if you do! :)

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