It was only moment after that the Hufflepuff Team left, one by one, the crowd began to deplete. Jack and I sat alone with Perry.
“He’s going to be alright you know.” I reassured. “He always is.”
“You don’t know him like I do,” Jack replied quietly. “Perry has taken so many hits to the head, each time he gets a little quieter.”
I didn’t reply. It was exactly what the Slytherins had been teasing each other about earlier. I stood up from the arm of his chair and prepared to take another on the other side, yet someone else caught my eye.
On the bed where Albus once sat, was another.
Scorpius ran a hand through his blonde hair and jumped up, walking over to Jack and me. His uniform was sweaty and dirty, his robe ripped and his sleeve rolled up on only one arm. Yet I found comfort in knowing he was there when his arms wrapped around my body.
He stroked my hair and laid a cheek on the top of my head.
The others had left; there was not one other in the room apart from us four. Madame Lore had spent the past half hour or so pottering around the room, before leaving through a back door in to a cupboard and not returning. The crowd from outside seemed to have either quietened through suspense or left through boredom.
I tried to move my features to save him from the expression that would hurt him so. When we pulled apart he still kept his hand on the small of my back.
“It’s about time that I took your side in an argument.”
I scoffed and look down to the cobbled floor. “Don’t be here because you feel obliged to be.”
He shook his head and waited for a moment. “I’m not.”
I swallowed a gulp of much needed air and let my arms fall limp, finally letting my lungs power in to overdrive.
“Come here,” he ordered, pulling me in again. “Ranny, he didn’t mean it. He never does.”
My breath steadied a pace, but my eyes did nothing, not one tear fell, nor threatened to. No colour came to my cheeks, only my lips still pouted a little.
“He’s not Albus anymore,” I said. “He doesn’t care.”
“Oh Ran,” Scorpius mused, despite the situation he seemed to find slight amusement in it all. “He may be being a complete and utter twat at the moment, but not for one single moment, will he stop caring about you. There isn’t much that, that boy wouldn’t do for you. You have to believe me.”
I couldn’t say that I did. I would never stop caring about him. He would always be Robin Hood, good or evil.
“Why am I Friar Tuck when you’re the voice of reason?”
Scorpius simply chuckled. “Hey, sometimes John has the answers too.” He rubbed my back and steered me back towards Perry’s messy, wrinkled cot, on which he lay upon without his robes replaced with a gown, on top of the covers. “It broke him, you know, when you asked for the hat back.”
I blinked. “I didn’t realise that he could feel.”
“Oh, don’t be like that,” he said, throwing words back in my face, words that I had hurt him so with only days before. “You know he can feel, you know that you can, anyone can. I swear that he was actually tearing up.”
“That would be the cherry on the cake.” Jack said glumly. “For Albus Potter to cry; he broke Perry’s wrist.”
“I thought that Tom did that?”
Scorpius shook his head. “Woman, you have to start actually watching these games. Albus aimed the Quaffle, but I think it was an accident.”
“Then why did Tom-“
“Take the blame?” Scorpius finished. “Well it was Tom that knocked him out, that’s what you hinted at over there – Al did the wrist, unintentionally, I reiterate. Besides Tom knew that if you thought Albus had done it, you would have gone loco and so he just took the general blame.”
“And lord knows that dearest Thomas doesn’t want Ranny to be upset.” Jack deadpanned. “Ranny honestly, my brother thinks that you’re ‘the shit’, just please, for the love of Circe, just tell him that you don’t want to be the barer of his children.”
I furrowed a brow. “I’m not saying that.”
“Well maybe not that exactly,” Scorpius reasoned “But something similar.” He took the seat opposite Jack. “How is he?”
“Madame Lore said that he will be awake in a few days,” Jack answered, taken back by Scorpius’ friendly tone. “But his head was hit pretty hard. It’s nothing that he can’t handle.”
“He’s like King Arthur.” I said quietly.
Even Jack’s unmoving form stirred at my words. “I’m not sure that I understand.”
“King Arthur did anything that his Kingdom required him to do; he battled through every hell for the sake of his people.” I explained. “The Quidditch Team is Perrys Kingdom, and you – his team – are his people.”
“I’d never thought of it like that before,” Jack reasoned, his eyes widening a little. “The idea of Perry as a King is a little ludicrous. I’ve always pictured him more as the type of person to be writing novels, or working in a pub.”
“Aiming for the skies there Jack,” Scorpius said with a cheeky grin.
He laughed. “Well, if he keeps getting hit on the head he’s not going to be able to do much else – his career might be terminal St Mungo’s patient.”
I took a seat on the arm of Scorpius’ chair. “You’re not being positive,” I snapped. “You’ve got to think of the bright side of every situation.”
“The bright side of this situation is that he may regain half of the working functions in his body by tonight,” Scorpius replied wittily. “It’s time we’d be going, love. I don’t want you to be here when James wet’s himself.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Tactful, Malfoy.”
“I’m the poster boy for tact,” he said smugly. “Ran, I’m headed back to the Slytherins, but I’m guessing you don’t want to be there.”
I shook my head. “Can I just walk back with Jack later?” I asked. “I won’t go by myself, I promise.”
Scorpius pondered for a moment, before kissing my cheek goodbye and standing up. “Okay, but you’re sticking with Gates.”
“I’ll take good care of her,” Jack said happily, his tone getting a little cheerier. It had dampened at Scorpius’ arrival.
I watched the blonde leave and stole his chair. Popping my feet up on to the metal frame of Perry’s bed, I sat back and grinned at Jack.
But his smile wasn’t as friendly as mine. “Why do you let him do that to you?”
“Boss you around?” Jack continued, the dimming light in the Hospital Wing, aided by the silence around us only intensified the bitterness in his tone. “You basically asked his permission to stay here.”
Nodding I scratched my dry hair. “Yeah, and?” I tried. “Scorpius is only protective because it’s in my best interest.”
“Your best interests?” Jack echoed “Of what, the bogey monster? I heard he’s around a lot at Hogwarts.”
“Jack,” I begged. “When Scorpius is around, people aren’t mean to me.”
He leaned forward in his chair. “People aren’t mean to you if he’s not. I get that your roommates are a bunch of cows – Circe, I would love to strangle the lot of them, but no one else is – well, with the exception of the Gryffindors, and the – well, I take it back.”
“And I would rather not face them.” I admitted. “My roommates are always there, they take my stuff, and call me names, and break my belongings. I dislike them a lot.”
“I would have to agree with you on that.” He said. “And so, they like Scorpius, so they are nice to you if he’s by your side,” I nodded at his assumption. “That’s warped logic.”
“It’s strange alright, but it works.” I muttered with a shrug of my right shoulder. “It used to work with Albus but then –“
“He got mean?” Jack offered.
I shook my head. “He got a girlfriend.”
My gaze switched to Perry as he lay still in the cot. He team uniform had been stripped down or undone around his neck to loosen the pressure. His long robe had been pulled off and left to fall on to the floor. I stood up and took the black and yellow robe from the concrete and hung it on the end of his bed, folding it nicely.
Jack’s eyes followed me the entire time. “You didn’t deny it,” he said.
“That Albus got mean.”
I heaved a sigh and walked around to the other side of the bed. “Maybe he did Jack, I don’t know what’s gone on with him for the past few months, but he’s not my Al anymore. He’s always been a bit of a git, but-”
“Maybe it’s a good thing,” Jack interrupted. “Maybe it’s time for a change of heart, or a change of your heart.”
I furrowed my brows and let my warm palm grasp hold of the cold, white metal of the bed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Jack refused to make eye contact; instead he chose to gaze at the cracks in the wall. “My brother really isn’t a bad guy, Ranny. He deserves a bit of a slap at times, but he’s always lovely to you. He really does like you.”
I felt the pounding in my chest before I heard it, or felt the rush of blood – the consequence. I didn’t like it. I wanted the aching back, the longing for something more. I didn’t like the backrush of emotions flowing through like a river breaking through the walls of a damn and flooding its surrounding areas, in this case, my body.
My lungs felt supressed since I walked away from Albus. The moment I asked for the hat back, since the words left my lips, I regretted them. But I couldn’t take them back; I could never take them back. He may be hurt, but I hurt more.
Tom is sweet. He is kind. He is gentle. He would never hurt me. And yet, somehow the idea of him didn’t suffice in my head. In blunt terminology, he didn’t make the cut. Kind, gentle and warm – it was how I used to think of Albus. His quick descent left me wondering if Tom was capable of doing the same.
I liked who he was when it was just the two of us, before I saw how he was with his younger brother. Jack is a darling, he is lovely and sweet. He is the guy that you could sit with for hours and keep up a constant conversation. It was difficult to shut the boy up – yet a bludger to his friends head seemed to quieten him a tad.
Pushing the previous, horrible and heartless thought from my head I turned back to Jack. I realised that I hadn’t replied to him. I had nothing to say, nothing that he wanted to hear. I stood up and nodded.
“I’m going to go to bed.”
“In Hufflepuff?” Jack asked quickly.
I nodded. “Yes.”
“No, it’s okay. You can stay here with Perry.” I rounded.
“But I promised Malfoy that I would come with you.”
“What Scorpius doesn’t know can’t hurt him.” I said bluntly. “I would really like to be alone if that’s okay.” Because my heart hurts.
Jack nodded slowly. “I understand. I’ll meet you in the Common Room though, yeah?”
The journey back wasn’t as lonely as I had hoped. The halls were still filled with students, returning to their Common Rooms after the evening dinner. It was madness.
People seemed to be walking faster than I had expected them to, my surroundings blurring as they did. It was only as I reached the lower levels of the castle that I realised that my eyes were blurring and I was looking through teared vision. But I did not cry.
I reached the Hufflepuff Portrait and walked through, entering an inviting room of yellow and black. The walls with a golden hue made everything seem better, a little brighter. Assisted by the magic windows, that gave you a realistic outdoors scene, despite being underground.
I veered left, towards the girls dorms and hoped for a peaceful night, hoped being the operative word.
The four girls of my dorm sat in a huddle on the bed closest to mine. I checked routinely through my belongings. My trunk was untouched and my bed was intact. Not one picture frame was out of place. There was a point on my forth year when I simply didn’t unpack.
It was then I noticed the lovely shade of golden hair. “Nina?” I questioned. I felt my lungs close up once more.
She smiled politely and waved from the circle of her friends. “Ranny, how are you? Were you in the Hospital Wing with Albus?”
I couldn’t help but notice the way her voice skipped over his name. Their argument must have been worse than I had first thought.
“He’s fine,” I said quietly. I knew where it was headed and decided to skip the conversation between. “Perry isn’t as good though.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh gosh, Perry is lovely. He helped me through Potions last year, doesn’t say much though does he?”
“James is a hottie,” Marilyn said sharply. “That’s all I need to know.”
I took my own advice and tried to see the bright side of the situation; at least Nina wasn’t heartless. Her natural lipstick was faded and her blush smudged a touch. She looked … almost human. She wasn’t Captain Hook to me anymore, she wasn’t dating a Prince. She was just another person, lost in a fairy tale, searching for her own story to write.
Marilyn spoke again, her words formed snottily through her ruby red lips. “Hey, freak, pick a country.”
The brunette sat next to her sniggered. I figured that I had no way out of this and might as well play along. My eyes felt heavy, I could meet Jack later. I wanted my bed – I needed my bed. Walking away wasn’t an option in my tired and dramatic brain.
“Norway,” I sighed. Daddy and I spoke about going there when I was older, to see the Northern Lights. Scorpius had always expressed an interest in coming along too. He could take his camera.
My thoughts were interrupted by the witches cackling. Marilyn pulled her wand from under her pillow. “Good choice,” she sneered before pointing her possession towards my bed and muttering a single word. Before I had time to blink, my bed disappeared in to thin air. “Because that’s where your beds gone.”
I heard them howl, crying with laughter. Marilyn’s cackle could be heard above the rest. She was Maleficent; the evil witch who cursed sleeping beauty. But this was a reverse, she didn’t want the kingdom to sleep – she wanted them to stay awake.
“I should have picked somewhere more tropical,” I said, mostly to myself. When my bed returned, it would be cold, covered in snow and possibly inhabited by a reindeer.
Sighing I turned around; I could find a temporary chair in the Common Room to rest my eyes. I didn’t dare meet Nina’s gaze, I knew what it would be, surprise, or worse – pity. I wasn’t in the mood for either.
I heard the door close behind me as I walked back through the tunnels and towards the large, open Common Room. Being claustrophobic and a Hufflepuff wasn’t a good combination; despite being airy and light, in the back of your mind, you always knew that your room was underground.
There was no way that I could make friends with them. No way. Not even if I wanted to.
Ignoring the calling of my name, I carried on to the Common Room. My mind quickly processed the situation. I greatly disliked my roommates; they were nasty girls, every single one of them. Girls tended to overthink a situation and make a deal out of something that wasn’t a problem. Boys were simpler. If they had a problem, they didn’t sugar coat it, they didn’t bitch and they were mostly upfront – not that my roommates weren’t upfront enough.
I am by no means masculine, and by no means wanted to be. In fact, Daddy always told me that I am incredibly feminine. My short height makes more of the little curves that I obtain. My eyes are large and my lips seem to be a shade of red that I have seen girls try to create themselves. But my skin is worn, and my hair is dry, and my mental abilities to uphold a conversation are somewhat lacking. I am nowhere near becoming the Princess that I want to be.
Dealing with girls like Rose and Marilyn is something I have had to deal with my entire life. I was blessed to being born in to the world with two older cousins, each female, and each a little more vain that the other. When they bored of their clothes, they handed them off to me. My overflowing wardrobe is full of clothes that I cannot name, but other’s seem to want. And yet I chose to ignore the intended digs and insensitivity of their actions and see only the kindness that I hope was intended.
I brushed past a group of bickering fifth years and came to a halt in the main room. All of the chairs were taken.
“Ranny!” Nina called again, placing a hand on to my shoulder. “I’ve been calling after you since you left, didn’t you hear me?”
I shook my head. “Sorry.”
“Don’t apologise,” she dismissed. “Ranny, I am so sorry, that was awful. I can’t believe they did that to you.”
“I can,” I said shortly. “They’ve been doing it to me almost every day for over six years now. It’s doesn’t affect me.”
Nina brushed her hand over mine in an attempt to take it. I granted her that and let her place my small hand in her soft palm. “It should. It would affect me. And Rose is awful to you too – why?”
“I don’t think that I have an answer to that, to be honest.” I admitted. “I think it’s because I don’t fight back. I always figured that they would get bored, but they never do.”
I led her to the newly freed sofa in the middle of the room, the ‘L’ curve being the centre piece, beside the bookcase that lined the side wall. She said down quietly next to me, my hand still in hers. Her golden hair seemed to glow, while I sat like a lemon, next to the Princess.
“I don’t know if it makes you feel any better, but your beds there now.” Nina said. Marilyn’s magic never lasted for long, my things always came back. “I made Marilyn promise not to do it again. She said that she wouldn’t.”
And I believed that Marilyn would keep that promise – until the moment Nina turned her back. I somehow came to the conclusion that she would take that moment to make all of my belongings disappear.
Nina took my silence as an answer that she wanted to some sort of unspoken question. “You could tell on her, Ranny. I’m sure that your Head of House would listen.”
I raised a brow. I wasn’t a tattle tale, if there was anything that I learnt from being around the Slytherins, it was to keep your mouth shut. “I only have a few months left here, at Hogwarts.” I said quietly. “Then I will never see them again.”
“But those few months are supposed to be the best of your life,” Nina said. “Please come back with me to Gryffindor tonight, Ranny, you can share with me.”
Chewing down on the inside of my cheek, I shook my head. “Why now?”
She furrowed her perfect brows. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, what makes tonight any different?” I asked. “You have been stood beside Rose almost every time she makes a snide comment, I know that you’ve seen Marilyn do this to me before, why, in my last year, do you choose to help me? I don’t want your sympathy, and I most certainly do not want your pity.”
“No, not at all,” she spluttered back, letting go of my hand as if it were on fire. “Ranny, it’s just that … it’s hard – no, that doesn’t make sense. It’s … different, this year. I had never spoken to you before I had met Albus. This is going to come out completely wrong, but it’s the truth so please listen. He encouraged me to speak to you, I listened to Rose, I don’t know quite what she has against you, but there is something there that she doesn’t like and she would make you seem so mean.”
“And so you believed her?”
Nina nodded. “I did. But Al made me see otherwise, he made me see how kind and gentle you are. I can’t see one reason how anyone could dislike a single bone in your body, Ranny. You’re beautiful, inside and out. I want to help you stand up to Marilyn; I want to be your friend, if you’ll let me.”
“I’ve never really had a girlfriend before,” I admitted with a shrug of one shoulder. “I have always found boys easier to get along with.”
Laughing, she hunched up her shoulders. “I can try to be masculine if you’d like, but I’m not sure how well it would turn out.”
I cracked a smile, for the first time in hours, I felt a real smile form its way on to my lips, instead of one I plastered on, or felt like I should picture. Nina dropped her shoulders as Jack came through the entrance.
He walked over to the sofas and collapsed in to the cushion next to me. “I see you got back safely, Ran. Hi, I’m Jack Gates,” he introduced. “You’re Nina right, I’m sorry, I don’t know your second name, but I know that you’re Albus’ girlfriend and that you’re in my Herbology class. The baby mandrake roots always try to grab on to your hai-“
I cut him off with my hand to his mouth. “He speaks a lot,” I explained.
She smiled. “It’s nice to meet you Jack. I’m Nina Clark.”
“Nina Clark,” he repeated through my fingers. “I’ll remember that now.”
I pulled my hand back as he lightly bit down on my index finger. “How is Perry?” I asked. “Any different?”
“Not really,” Jack admitted with sad eyes. “But then again, he’s only been out for a few hours; his record is just over two weeks. Madame Lore had to feed him through a tube.”
My mouth gaped open and I pulled my floral leggined legs to my chest.
“Perry James?” Nina questioned. Jack nodded and she resumed. “He’s lovely, I can’t believe he’s out again; I was telling Ranny earlier that he is the only reason that I passed potions last year. He can take quite a battering, can’t he? I remember this one injury during your team practise, where he was hit with the beaters bat.” She gestured to her right eye.
Jack let out a cheerful burst of laughter. “That was Donnahugh – our beater at that time,” he added for my benefit. “He was swinging the bat around and smacked Perry in the face. Perry was only a small lad in his third year, and Donnahugh was massive!”
“I remember him!” Nina replied with light laughter lacing through her voice. “He was a bear. He used to trudge around like a troll!”
“He certainly was a special boy,” Jack teased. “But that left Perry was a cracked skull and a black eye. Madame Lore has a soft spot for him though; Perry isn’t exactly a breakable lad, but he always seems to be hurt in some way.”
“How come?” I asked.
Jack nipped my arm playfully. “He can’t justify why Ranny, he just is. He’s King Arthur remember, he lives for making others his servants – aka, us.”
The three of us sat together for a long while, taking and joking about Perry’s previous accidents and tumbles. Nina recalled when he fought with a Ravenclaw between classes in his fifth year and the pair of them tumbled down a moving staircase and fell three flights only to be caught by Professor Longbottom with a cushioning charm.
Perry James had never struck me as the violent type, he was strong and silent, yes, but not violent. His aura portrayed that he lived for peace. But I couldn’t help but think that maybe his words spoke differently.
The conversation was light hearted and teasing, all until the moment Nina went to return to her Common Room and once again, offered a sleepover in her dorm. I politely declined and she left still with an apologetic smile.
It took no more than a second after the entrance way to the Common Room to close for Jack to pounce on me.
“If they’re being mean you can always stay in Perry’s bed,” he pressed for the third time that evening. “It’s not like he’s going to be using it any time soon.”
“Jack!” I exclaimed. “I’m not going to say it again, I don’t need to be anywhere but my own dorm.”
He raised a critical brow. “Ranny, your eyes are basically closing; you’re falling asleep where you sit. If you had no problem with your dorm arrangements, you wouldn’t be sitting here with me now.”
“I thought that I would be polite and spend time with you; if you want me to be rude I can just go.” I argued in a small voice. But Jack saw right through me.
I watched as he shook his head slowly. “Ranny, we could go back to the Hospital Wing if you wanted to, sneak back in after hours and spend the night there with Perry.”
“Is that what you want to do?” I asked.
He scoffed and shook his head. “I’ve got a nice warm bed waiting for me; I don’t need a Hospital Wing cot.”
“I’ve got a bed waiting too,” I pathetically argued.
Jack ran his fingers over a pillow that he squished in to his lap. “Come and stay in Perry’s bed, I don’t feel right leaving you with your harpy dorm mates.”
I shook my head. “It’s not like I haven’t slept there before, in fact I’ve been doing it a lot more this year. Besides I don’t know your roommates, Jack. How would they feel about it?”
“I don’t think they’d mind to be too honest. You’re a very pretty girl.” He pinched my cheek and gave it a little tug, I slapped his hand away. “And let’s face it, you know as well as I that you wouldn’t be the first girl to spend the night in that dorm room – although you may be the first one to actually stay there and sleep.”
“Jack!” I exclaimed again, smacking his arm in the process. Taking a deep breath, I spoke again. “Thank you for the lovely offer, but I am going to go to my own bed.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m going to go to my own bed now!” I corrected, standing up automatically and trying to make a break for the girls’ dorms.
He caught my arm. “Ran, you don’t need to be embarrassed, not in front of me of all people; I know what it’s like to have other people make you feel like shit.”
Somehow my cheeks had flushed a light shade of pink, a shade that Jack had rightfully placed as embarrassment. In an odd way, it felt better to know that he knew how I was feeling.
Instead, I chewed down on the inside of my cheek again, gnawing away at the gum. “I’m not embarrassed, Jack. I’m mortified. It makes me feel so pathetic to feel nervous about sleeping in my own bed. I feel like a child all the time! And the worst part is, others don’t mind helping me because they feel sorry for me.”
“If it’s any consolation, I don’t offer my help because I feel pity or because I feel obliged to, or even because I feel like I can relate.” He grinned. “I offer it because you’re my friend.”
And somehow, that comment made me feel stronger, even when I climbed in to my own bed and pulled the sheets up over my head. Even if I woke up in Norway, at least I knew that someone else knew what it felt like.
AN; thank you for all of the lovely reviews on this story so far! I’m grateful for everyone and am trying to reply to them as quickly as I can. I’m having a bit of trouble when it comes to free-time at the moment, meaning I don’t have as much of it as I would like ;)
I tried to update quickly on this chapter, so I hope that you like it.
It seemed that all of the lovely people who reviewed on the last chapter were happy about Ranny finally standing up for herself, and it was addressed a little in this chapter by Jack (who I absolutely adore to write!).
I hope that you all enjoyed this chapter – I think that I’ve said that before, but anyway :P – if you did, again, a little review would be lovely, or even if you didn’t. The same words apply if you’d like to use them, ROBIN! If you liked it or HOOK if you didn’t!
The next chapter is called Guinevere, and it brings a whole lot of realisation to Ranny. Here’s a preview, if you wish:
“I just worry about Little Jack, you know. If he sees the girls’ anatomy he may faint from shock.”
“Yes because I hear that you’re so acquainted with it.” I teased, unsure myself whether it was sarcasm or not. Tom was respectable, he always was. But with the constant stream of girls coming in and out of that dorm room, I couldn’t be so sure.
Tom sucked in his cheeks. “Ranny, I could hit you with these books of yours, I really could.”
Finally, some alone time with Tom and Ranny – who seems to be a couple that some of you are routing for, which I find quite funny; I hadn’t planned for them to be together at all ;) but I hope that you enjoy it all the same. :)
I will update when the queue re-opens, and if you go to see the film, I hope that you enjoy it – I know for a fact that I will be blubbering like a baby, simply because it’s the last one :D
Thank you again!
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