---Chapter 16 - The Aftermath---
The sun filtered in through the long oval windows as I was making my way quickly through the busy corridors after having just said a half-hearted goodbye to Miranda. I could already feel a tad bit sweaty from all the layers I was wearing even indoors but I didn’t cease my chase.
I had to reach him in time.
I accidentally stepped on a girl’s foot and got someone else’s elbow in my gut but finally managed to grab hold of the black and yellow robe.
“Justin!” I wheezed out unattractively.
He turned around, his blue eyes striking on his soft boyish features and I had an urge to hug him like we used to. He looked down at my messy bun and half tucked in oxford shirt. “Hi Keegan.”
“You are a quick walker, you know that?”
“I didn’t,” he gave me a small smile. “But thank you.”
“Can we talk somewhere a little more private?” I asked, gesturing to half of the school’s population that were currently bustling past us.
He nodded and steered me down the corridor, round a corner and into a dingy old classroom that I don’t think anyone’s used since the first Wizarding War.
“Uh…” I began, poking at a cobweb. “This will do.”
“So what is it you wanted to talk me about?”
I looked down at my feet like the coward that I was. “I wanted to apologise about last week. I should’ve come and explained straight away but…” I forced myself to look into his eyes. “But well that’s the thing. I couldn’t! The idiot Weasley twins had permanently stuck me to Oliver because of that stupid bet and everywhere he went, I had to go minus a few places of course… but you wouldn’t believe what he made me do! I had to sit there and watch him wax his broomstick then when he decided he was tired, he made me do it! Three times!”
Justin chuckled lightly. “Keegan, it’s all right.”
“But you were so angry on Friday!”
“I was,” Justin rubbed at the back of his neck awkwardly. “But you know it made me see that I will always be at a disadvantage with Oliver. I could never compete with him.”
“What?” I stared at him befuddled. “What are you talking about, compete with him? There is no competition!”
“There is,” he told me with a comforting smile. “You two have something there, you may not see it yet, Keegan but there’s a reason why you both always end up being brought back together.”
“Yes and that reason was two lanky-arse gingers,” I pointed out.
Justin laughed and pulled me into a hug. “We’ll always be friends, okay?” I nodded still rather muddled up by what he had just said.
He gave me one last smile before kissing the top of my head and exiting from the classroom.
Okay. Someone tell me what in Dumbledore’s name was he talking about? Oliver and I have something? Pshhht yeah, something ridiculous and utterly crazy!
Justin’s off his rockers!
Soooo convincing Seamus to see he still was head over heels in love with our little blonde friend was a hell of a lot harder than we had thought.
The boys tried to no avail and even their plan in getting him uproariously drunk again backfired. All it managed to do was cause Seamus to grumble incoherently about how hated this and that, and pass out halfway between the corridor and the boys’ dorm.
Miranda and Penny cornered Seamus on Tuesday as well and that ended up disastrously. Basically, Seamus told them both to bugger off which then caused Miranda and Penny to end up arguing over whose stupid idea was it to corner him.
I couldn’t be there at the time (thank the flipping gods) since I had been given the ‘babysit Lucy’ shift. She was more or less the same as she had been all weekend: quiet, sad and just completely a shadow of whom she once was.
In any case the only comfort I took from this whole surreal affair was the fact that someone (or maybe more than one) has been continuously torturing Bletchley with pranks since Monday morning.
I may or may not have inflated his head like a helium balloon while running away giggling like an escaped asylum patient. To be fair, Oliver was giggling too. Okay, well he never giggled but he was quite hysterical as well.
Oh yes, Oliver and I have garnered quite a lot of attention over the past few days. I suppose it was a bit of a rare sight for everyone at Hogwarts, including the professors—even Professor Lupin asked me the other day if we were dating to which I had told him a firm no and silently asked him to be mine forever but unfortunately, he couldn’t read my mind so he just smiled and said okay with a knowing look.
But you know, people wouldn’t have really been that surprised if they had known us before Hogwarts.
It wasn’t a new occurrence. It felt more like going home to the old days.
“My mum owled me last night and said that I’m going to have to stay at yours Saturday night,” Oliver told me as we walked towards the Great Hall for dinner.
“Oh okay but where are your parents going?”
“They have some fancy business dinner in France that’s probably going to go late and figured they might as well stay instead of apparating back so late,” Oliver shrugged. “And so they figured it was probably easier if I just stayed at yours.”
“Why? Is there an issue? Are you beginning to fancy me now or something? Worried you won’t be able to contain yourself if we’re alone?” he was smirking at me and I rolled my eyes.
“We’re alone now, you imbecile,” I muttered under my breath.
Just because we were friends now did not mean I liked that smirk. It was altogether too obnoxious.
“Hey, I’ll catch you later,” I quickly called to Oliver as I began running after the tall broad boy that I called my teddy bear.
He stopped at the top of the staircase and looked down at me. He gave me a beaming smile and it made me want to hug him tightly and never let anyone hurt him again.
“Hi Keegan,” he said good-naturedly. “Are you here to tell me you’ve killed Oliver and need me to help hide the body?”
“Ha, ha, ha,” I rolled my eyes. “No, not quite yet.”
His booming laugh rang across the empty corridor, and we began to walk together in companionable silence for a few minutes—till I couldn’t handle it anymore.
“Seamus, you know I consider you one of my closest friends, right?”
“Where are you going with this, Keegan? Because I’ve had enough ‘talks’ this week,” he grumbled.
“I know, I know,” I said, putting up my hands in defence. “I’m not going to tell you what I think you should do but I have something else to tell you.”
Seamus stopped walking and turned to look at me warily. “What is that?”
“Lucy,” I said and I put up my hand before he could protest. “I’m telling you this because I’m worried about her. She’s lost a lot of weight, Seamus. When I hug her, all I feel are bones. Her eyes have lost their colour. I mean do you remember back in fifth year when Lucy convinced us all to go swimming in our underwear in the Great Lake? God, it was freezing! And I can still remember the way her eyes sparked up with mischief.” I laughed. “But that’s gone now. She doesn’t speak anymore. She didn’t even have a crude thing to say when she saw that Oliver and me were friends again!” I shook my head sadly. “I miss her, Seamus. I miss our bubbly little blonde.”
I was a cruel, cruel person. But hell, if this worked then the world really did need to build a monument towards me. Or I could just write that guidebook.
At first, his eyes didn’t soften one bit, he just stared blankly at me but then just when I had lost all hope, there came the most beautiful sound in the world: Seamus sighing heavily.
“Keegan, you know me better than anyone, of course I miss her too,” he wandered over to the wall and sank down to the floor. “I see her in the halls, in the common room and it takes all my self-control not to just go over and shake some sense into her.”
“Then do it, Seamus,” I encouraged sneakily, putting my arm around the boy.
Oh Keegan, you crafty minx, you.
“I don’t know.”
“What are you scared of?”
There was a pregnant silence as I waited for Seamus to reply.
“Of getting rejected,” he answered with a heavy sigh. “I don’t think our friendship could ever recover if I got rejected again.”
“Lucy’s not going to!” I quickly said to him.
“Keegan, look at her,” he shot at me grimly. “I hardly think she’s in the right mental state to start anything up with me right now.”
“But you can’t just leave her like this.”
“I’m not! Not really,” he argued. “I’m giving her, her space for now.”
“She thinks you hate her.”
He snapped his head to look at me. “She does?”
“Yes, she thinks you’re too good for her and that you’ll never forgive her for what she did to you.”
“I don’t know, I just…” he trailed off. “I just think it’s best if I stay away for a while. The holidays are coming up soon anyway and I’m away with the family in Spain so I’ll see how I feel when I get back, okay?”
It wasn’t okay but there was nothing more I could do about it. Seamus had made up his mind on the topic and if I was any friend to him, I would respect his wishes.
I nodded. “Okay”
“Keegan, my dearest, my love, the light of my life.”
I narrowed my eyes at the person walking towards me. “Is there something you want, George Weasley?”
“Awe, don’t look at me like that,” he smiled happily. “I mean didn’t I bring you back your childhood mate?”
I narrowed my eyes.
“Okay, okay,” he chuckled. “I came here to tell you that you still owe me a date.”
“Oh no,” I groaned. “I thought that was all over!”
“Well no,” he said, swinging his arm around me and steering me towards the Great Hall. “You went out with Fred but not me.” He gave me a pout. “That makes me feel a little sad, you know, Keegan?”
“You’re out of luck anyway because we’re going home tomorrow,” I pointed out to him triumphantly.
“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong again!” George proclaimed, whirling me around to face him. “We’ll go on a date over the holidays! It’ll be perfect. And when Oliver comes to the Burrow for New Year’s, you should come too and then we’ll carry on with the challenges then.”
“Nah uh, no way, no bloody way!”
“Keegan, Keegan, you promised,” George whined loudly causing a few stares to be thrown our way.
“Would it help if we said you could bring your Ravenclaw friends?”
I considered this. I have heard that the Weasleys threw a hell of a bash over New Year’s and it might just be the chance Lucy and Seamus needed to fall head over heels in love with each other again.
“It might,” I admitted with a defeated sigh. “But I’m warning you, George Weasley, any misbehaving on your end will earn you a good bloody walloping from me.”
He nodded severely. “Aye, aye, Captain!”
“Okay, you can piss off now,” I chuckled, as I watched the redhead wink at me before strolling off towards the Gryffindor table.
I made my own way over to my own house table where my friends were already sat waiting for me. I took my seat beside Miranda who was also sat next to Lucy while Penny sat on Lucy’s other side. The boys sat across from us. Seamus was on the far end, as far as physically possibly from Lucy anyway.
“So I just got asked by George to come spend New Year’s at the Burrow,” I informed them. “He said I could bring you guys.”
“Ooh! A party!” Adam chirped, clapping his hands happily. We all rolled our eyes at him.
“I’ll be going,” Penny mentioned. “Percy invited me ages ago and I promised him I’d finally go this year.”
“Eurgh! Percy!” Elbie muttered with a mouthful of—well I really didn’t want to know what but it was disgusting.
“Insult my boyfriend again and I’ll hex you,” Penny warned. “I dare you.”
Elbie stayed silent, fortunately for him, because Penny was serious and deadly good at hexes. She was, after all, Head Girl and the top student in our graduating year.
“I’m up for it,” Miranda said to me. “I don’t think I can deal with another boring family do anyway.”
“Well if she goes, I go,” Elbie smiled at his girlfriend who smiled equally as sweetly back at him. Sometimes I forget that they were actually quite inseparable and utterly in love.
It made me nauseous.
“Seamus, mate?” Adam asked his friend tentatively.
Seamus looked up from his food; his eyes darted to Lucy’s for a brief second before returning back to his food. “Uh… I’m in Spain. Sorry, guys.”
“Lucy?” Miranda looked to the blonde.
Lucy smiled weakly; she had bags under her eyes and her hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail, like it had been for the past week. “I…” her voice cracked painfully from the lack of use. “I… I should stay home,” she croaked out. Her voice was so soft that I had to strain forward to hear her.
“Nonsense, Lucy!” Adam interjected gleefully in only the way that Adam Nicholson could. “You will be coming as my date for the evening and I promise I won’t even look at another girl.” He crossed his heart. “As long as you don’t wear a ponytail that is.”
Lucy looked over at him and giggled and I have never felt more joy come from a giggle than in that moment.
We all turned towards her and broke out into wide quite cartoon-ish grins and I swore I saw Seamus’ lips twitch upwards a bit.
I had high hopes for this Christmas holiday.
Really high ones.
Oliver, Edan and I stood at the front of King’s Cross Station with our trunks at our feet. Oliver and Edan were chatting animatedly about something or another but my mind was elsewhere.
I know I wasn’t a child anymore but I had never wanted to see my dad more. I don’t know what it was but I felt like I was five years old again, had just come back from my first ever day at school and couldn’t wait to be with him because to me, at that age, six hours away from my dad was a nightmare.
I saw the familiar blue car pull up to the curb and the dark brown mop of greying hair popped out of the front seat.
“Hey kids!” he greeted us. He was a big man, a bit round at the belly, but he was my dad and Merlin, I’ve missed him.
I quickly ran over and bounded into his arms, basking in his distinct cologne. “Hi Daddy.”
“Keegan!” he laughed, the sound rumbling through him. “What’s this all about? Did you miss me that much?”
I turned to look into his eyes, the same colour as mine. “Yes actually.” I chuckled softly but then pushed back suddenly a bit self-conscious. “It’s just been a bit hectic that’s all.”
“Well in that case,” he grinned and pulled me back into another hug. “I’ve missed you too, sweetheart.”
“Oi you two! It’s bloody freezing,” Edan complained as he stood tapping his fingers on the roof of the car impatiently.
“Come on then, Keegan, better get the trunks into the boot, Princess there is getting a bit cold,” my dad joked as he gestured towards the back of the car. Oliver and I started chortling, which made Edan glower at us.
“It’s okay, Mr. Riddell,” Oliver said. “I’ll do it. Big Quidditch muscles and all now, you know?”
My dad roared with laughter. “Ollie, you will always be that skinny little kid that kept getting my little girl into trouble to me.”
After much bantering, we had all finally managed to stuff the trunks into the boot of the car and piled in. Edan sat in the front with my dad while Oliver and I sat in the back. I leaned against the window and placed my legs across Oliver’s lap. For a while, we all sat listening to Edan tell my dad about Cameron and school and his friends.
We were exiting towards my village when my dad suddenly exclaims, “wait a second! Why are you two not fighting?” He looked at us suspiciously from the rear-view mirror, eyeing the way we were sprawled out on the backseat. Well I was sprawled out.
“You two dating now?”
“No!” we both answered in unison.
“No, no,” I quickly continued to explain. “We’re just friends again.”
My dad looked to Edan for confirmation, who just shrugged. “Don’t even ask. It was as much of a shock for me as it is for you, Dad.”
“Mr. Riddell, I can assure you we’re just friends,” Oliver laughed. “Keegan’s way too annoying to date.”
I kicked him with my foot. “Oi! I am bloody lovely!”
“Now that’s the Keegan and Oliver that I know and love,” my dad laughed.
The car turned down a country lane and we passed many similar-looking thatched roof houses till we finally arrived at a lone one at the very end. The only difference between this house and the other ones was the dodgy-looking porch swing at the front garden. Oliver, Edan and I had broken it many years ago when we attempted a new game of trying to jump in each other’s lap while it was swinging.
I think I nearly broke Oliver’s nose that day.
My dad parked the car just outside and helped us levitate the trunks all the way into the house. Within the first step in through the door, Edan quickly bounded up the stairs with his owl, King Lennox (named after Lennox Campbell, a famous Seeker of the Montrose Magpies). He said he had to write to Cameron immediately.
“That is some mushy rubbish,” I commented, going to sit on the kitchen island that counted for the breakfast and lunch table. Actually, we didn’t own a dinner table; we just ate on the sofa while we all watched some telly.
I dug my hand into the dog-shaped cookie jar and pulled out a chocolate digestive
“When are you going to get mushy with someone, Keegan?” my dad asked me and I snorted as a response.
“Actually Keegan was quite friendly with a Hufflepuff this year,” Oliver winked at me and I threw my half-eaten biscuit at his forehead.
“Shut up!” I hissed.
“A Hufflepuff? Really, Keegan?” my dad queried with a look on his face that I think meant ‘but their Quidditch team sucks!’ “Well did he treat you well? Or did you end up killing him?”
I rolled my eyes and assured him. “He’s still very much alive, thanks Dad.”
“Unfortunately,” Oliver grumbled.
My dad looked to Oliver and a peculiar expression flashed across his face before he began chuckling softly to himself.
“All right, kids, I’m off to the grocery store, spaghetti Bolognese good for tonight?” he announced and we nodded. “Good because that’s all I know how to make. Be good and I’ll see you in a few.”
As the door closed behind him with a click, I turned to Oliver. “So what now?”
“Erm… fancy seeing if it’s still there?”
“Oh,” I mouthed as it dawned on me what he was talking about. “I haven’t been back there since… well since that day.”
Oliver and I quickly pulled our coats back on and exited through the backdoor.
It was funny, I sometimes still look at him and get this strong urge to kick him but then I remember that we were trying to be friends again.
But life is odd that way, wasn’t it?
Six years of hating him, six years of all these repressed emotions, and all it took was one well-worded apology from him—well that and seeing two of my closest friends dwindle down to nothing; it kind of puts your life into perspective when that happens.
We pushed open the rickety old gate and began making our way up the all-too-familiar hilltop.
“So the twins told me you were considering going to their New Year’s party,” Oliver mentioned.
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’m still stuck with being their judge for their stupid challenges.”
Oliver chuckled. “Oh yeah, I forgot about those.”
“Why didn’t they ask you or Lee or someone they actually knew well?”
“Because they thought it’d be biased,” Oliver explained. “They wanted an objective judge.”
I groaned. But why me? Merlin, why me? Those two just attracted trouble to them like a moth to a flame. I mean remember the first date I had with Fred? Yeah that went swimmingly, didn’t it?
“So are you going to go?”
“I don’t know, probably.”
“Good,” Oliver turned to look at me. “It’d be nice if you were there.”
“Yeah,” he said and for a moment, we both stopped walking and stared at each other as the wind blew against our wrapped up bodies. I shivered against my coat and Oliver moved forward towards me. “Cold?”
He moved his hands towards me but then dropped them to his sides. “Okay, we better hurry then and get back,” he murmured, breaking our gaze and walking brusquely down the other side of the hill.
We walked in silence for some time, past old park benches and bare willow trees, and I relished in the silence of winter. There was no one out here but us. Us, and the sound of our feet crunching against the thin layer of snow. We moved through the thicket of trees, our feet having memorised this path a long time ago, and finally stopped in a small round clearing.
Oliver counted his footsteps till he reached a spot under one of the trees. He dug with his hands and I stood there watching him.
“Look!” he announced joyfully. “It’s here!”
I hastily walked over and knelt down beside him. “Oh my god, it’s still here.” I laughed elated and excited that after all these years no one has managed to find the tin box that we had buried here when we were eleven.
“Come on,” Oliver stood up and pulled me by the hand out of the clearing. “Let’s go open it inside where it’s bloody warm.”
We swiftly found our way back up the hill towards my house and never once did I notice that Oliver and I were still holding hands—not when we kicked open the gate door together, not when we fell into the house laughing about what we had hidden in the box and definitely not when we stood there in front of Edan, who looked in disbelief from him to me and back to him again.
“You two actually found it?”
“You know what this is?” Oliver asked, sound a bit shocked. “It was supposed to be a secret!”
Edan snorted. “You two were as good at keeping secrets as a dog is good at catching its own tail.”
I harrumphed and crossed my arms. “Well… you still aren’t allowed to know what’s inside!”
Edan sighed and shook his head in disdain. “Honestly, you two. Sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t better when you two hated each other.”
“What’s his problem?” Oliver gestured towards my brother as we both watched Edan walk up the stairs. I shrugged. Oliver shrugged as well but immediately forgot about the whole thing as he placed the tin box on the kitchen island, a childish grin lighting up his face. “Come on, let’s open it!”
Oliver took out his wand and pointed it at the rusted metal lock and murmured, “Alohamora.” We both watched in silence as the lock fell away. The tin sprung open just a tiny fraction and I inhaled loudly. I don’t quite remember what we hid in there. It was probably a load of junk, goodness knows Oliver and I hadn’t really been insightful children, but I was still a bit apprehensive.
“Look, Keegs,” Oliver laughed, holding up a brown ticket stub. “Our first match together! Remember that?”
“Oh yeah,” I exclaimed, taking the ticket from him and examining it gingerly in between my fingers. “Shame it had to be a Puddlemere match.”
Oliver frowned and snatched the ticket back. “Oi!”
I smirked before pushing him to one side to peer into the tin box. “What else is in there?”
There were a few old photographs of Oliver and me as kids. I had an awful fringe haircut thing going on and Oliver was lanky and tall like an ostrich or a giraffe. He definitely grew into his body, not that I’ll ever admit that to him.
I was rummaging through the photographs and random Quidditch paraphernalia when something pricked my finger.
“Shit,” I cried out, snatching my finger back and sticking the injured appendage into my mouth.
“What was it?”
“I don’t know! I’m sort of busy,” I pouted, sticking my bleeding finger into his face to show him the extent of my injury. Oliver grimaced and rolled his eyes.
“You’re such a girl.”
He pushed me to one side, just as I had done earlier, and picked up the offending object. It was a small gold encrusted sapphire broche; the pin on the back was broken and jutting out, which was what had pricked my finger.
“Isn’t this your mum’s?” Oliver asked me. He turned his full body towards me now and I knew that he was searching my face for any sign that I might spontaneously combust because of the mere mention of my estranged mother.
I cocked my head to one side and frowned. “Yes, it is and I am fine. Stop looking at me like a baby bird with a broken wing, Oliver Wood.” He put up his hands in defence and backed away.
I took the sapphire broche and turned it over. The gold was fading and the sapphire had dirt covering the gem, diluting its luminescence. I remember this broche all to well. Dad had given it to her on their anniversary two years before she left us and I remember how happy it had made her. I remember in my childish naiveté, I thought that she would for certain come back to us and when she did, I would have the broche safe and sound waiting for her; that was why I had it stashed in Oliver and mine’s tin box.
It has been six long years and she hasn’t come back.
So what do I do with it now?
A/N: heyyy guys! sorry for the wait... i started work and blahblahblah! as always, leave a review please! favourite lines, etc... opinions and so forth - what do you think about Oliver and Keegan's new friendship?? Seamus and Lucy?! eh? ;)
ALSO THIS IS DEDICATED TO KRISTINA FOR FORCING ME TO FINISH THIS CHAPTER ;-)
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