Chapter 16: Of Good Girls and Bad Influences
The sound of my name echoed in my head and with a jolt, I realised that I had been sleeping. Forcing my body to wake up, I struggled against the drowsiness that made my head feel heavy, blinking rapidly at the concerned face of Bernice, which was hovering only centimetres above mine.
“Katie!” I spluttered the first thing that had come to my mind; how could I have fallen asleep when my best friend was missing? “Where’s Katie?”
I had scrambled to an upright position in the wingback chair in which I had settled last night, throwing off the woollen blanket that had probably been provided by the cleaning house elves.
“She’s upstairs,” said Bernice with a slight frown, “in her bed.”
“What?” I almost fell from my chair as an immense wave of relief flooded my body. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” Bernice was still looking at me, traces of concern etched into her angular face. “Have you slept down here?”
I nodded, twisting my disheveled hair into a knot. “What time is it?”
“What?” I practically leapt from the comfortable chair; the shock of adrenaline had pushed all sleepiness out of my system. If it was really eight o’clock, I had barely half-an-hour to get ready for my morning classes.
“Maybe you can get Katie to wake up,” Bernice said as she watched me pull on my bathrobe over the flannel pyjamas, my wand tucked safely into the front pocket.
“Katie isn’t awake yet?” I asked, raising my eyebrows at her; sure, Katie wasn’t exactly a morning person but she usually never overslept on schooldays.
Bernice shook her head in response. “No, Ursula and I tried to shake her awake but she just grumbled and told us to go away.”
“Oh, okay, I’ll check on her,” I said, already crossing the room to get to the stairs. “Thanks for waking me up, Bernice.”
“Sure, no problem!” she called after me, and I waved, sprinting up the stairs to the girls’ dormitories.
Katie was fast asleep when I drew back the thick curtains surrounding her four-poster bed, her hair sticking up from her head in wild curls and her sparkly dress, which had dusted her sheets in teal glitter, was wrinkled. Otherwise, she looked unhurt however, and I felt the muscles in my neck relax a little.
“Kat!” I sat down on her bed, poking her shoulder softly. When she didn’t react, I shook her a little harder.
“Katie! You’ve got to get up!”
She stirred and finally turned towards me, squinting through the mess that had once been her perfectly done make-up; she looked scary, really, with thick streaks of black on her cheeks and red stains from her lipstick all over her chin.
“Where the bloody hell have you been?” I asked, not entirely sure I wanted to know the answer. “I have been looking for you everywhere!”
“Ah Seth, don’t talk so loudly,” she croaked miserably, covering her ears with her hands. “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.”
She looked like it too, but I bit back the remark and instead repeated my first question. “Where were you? Did you get lost?”
She shook her head, sitting up slowly in her bed. “I ran into this group of guys and they showed me how to do jello shots.”
For a moment, I only stared at her blankly, trying to make sense of what she had just said. “Jello shots?” I finally repeated, raising my eyebrows at her in disbelief. “Are you saying you ditched me for jello shots?”
Surprisingly, Katie blushed violently all of a sudden - something that happened very rarely - and quickly peeled herself out of her bed, obviously avoiding my gaze. “Don’t be so melodramatic, Seth. I didn’t ditch you. I just - I couldn’t find you anymore when I returned.”
“But,” I said bewildered, watching her as she tried to rub off the clumps of mascara that had glued her lashes together, “I didn’t move. I was right there where you left me.”
“Rubbish.” She shook her head as though I had just said something completely outrageous, and then stumbled into the bathroom to wash her face.
I followed her immediately; there was something off about this conversation. “Where were you the entire night? I was worried sick!” I was standing behind her, watching her smeared face in the mirror.
“I’m sorry you were worried,” she said briskly, “but I’m fine, OK? I just need a shower.”
With these words, she had edged me out of the small bathroom and closed the door in my face. I remained stationary in front of the wooden door, staring at it in disbelief as the muffled noise of the shower filled the dorm room.
As Professor Hockanum strode among the backrows, I chanced a subtle glance at Katie; she was bent low over the saucer in front of her, listlessly taping her wand against it to add a couple of flowers to the pattern. We hadn’t spoken all morning and it felt not only uncomfortable but also unnatural. We had only been fighting once; in the summer before our fifth year, when she had introduced me to Kevin and I had asked her if he had been hit by a Bludger several times in a row.
This, however, was different. We weren’t actually fighting; Katie was simply giving me the cold shoulder and - because I was unbearably stubborn - I followed suit.
“That looks lovely, Miss Woodley,” Professor Hockanum commented on my blue-patterned sugar bowl, which, at the beginning of the lesson, had been a mouse, and scribbled something on his parchment. “Good work.”
“Thank you, Sir,” I mumbled, glancing over at Katie again, who usually would have given me a massive eyeroll by now, calling me a nerd. However, she didn’t even budge, continuing to stare at her transfiguration work as though she hadn’t even heard the conversation.
When the lesson had ended and everyone was pushing out of the classroom to get to the Great Hall for lunch, I hung back a little awkwardly, waiting for Katie to pack up her things. She seemed to take extra time and looked somehow surprised that I was still standing there when she finally swung her bag over her shoulder.
We walked out into the corridor in silence, but it wasn’t one of those comfortable silences that had settled between us; it was tense and strange.
“I’m starving,” I said when I couldn’t stand it any longer, trying to sound cheerful, but it came out rather strained. “Aren’t you?”
Katie didn’t answer; she didn’t even seem to have listened to me but was only staring - somewhat fearfully - at the Entrance Hall ahead, which loomed at the end of the corridor.
“Katie,” I finally sighed, feeling thoroughly exasperated. This was ridiculous and I wasn’t going to just put up with this awkwardness between us. “Could you please talk to me? What is going on?”
But Katie had stopped abruptly, a deep frown creasing her forehead. “I just remembered, I need to check something in the library.” And she simply turned on the spot, leaving me behind in the bustling corridor, feeling completely helpless.
It was an unusually nice day for early November; although the pale sun that was shining from the sky couldn’t provide much warmth, the temperatures were still pleasant. Not that weather really mattered to Ted Lupin; inured to extreme conditions from six years of playing Beater on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, he seemed to be of the opinion that the only kind of sport that counted, was sport outside.
“Alright ladies.” He threw a dazzling smile into the group, his turquoise hair rippling in the soft breeze. “Today we’re going to do some running.” A collective groan resounded, but Lupin, as usual, ignored it. “Now, last time, it didn’t work out that well-”
A couple of girls grinned at each other; Lupin had insisted we each have a ‘running mate’ to keep us motivated, which, naturally, had ended in everyone ambling around the lake, chatting away happily to their friends.
“So today,” he continued, producing a list from the pocket of his tracksuit bottoms, “I have taken the liberty of personally assigning your running mates.”
Desperate shouts of protest rose immediately, lead by Demeter Notte, who insisted Lupin re-assigned her running mate after being paired with Chelsea Best, a scrawny Ravenclaw with beady eyes.
Instinctively, I turned to grin at Katie, but she was staring straight ahead, her mouth not even twitching. Her behaviour towards me hadn’t changed after lunch and I stubbornly reassembled an icy expression to match hers.
“Woodley and Carrington,” he yelled, “you’re next!”
I looked over to find my cousin standing among her usual group of friends, her dark, straight hair up in a perfect ponytail. After the Quidditch Kick-Off, we had - in appropriate Woodley fashion - gone back to our usual routine of polite disregard towards each other, which just seemed more natural within the castle walls.
It felt a little weird, running next to Vala; we hadn’t even been running together when we had been kids. Unlike me, she had always known how to behave, drinking afternoon tea with the adults while I had barely even managed to sit still without kicking my legs underneath the table.
“So, what’s up with you and your little sidekick?” Vala suddenly said into the silence and I looked up at her with utter bewilderment.
“That friend of yours?” She rolled her eyes “What happened? You always seemed to be attached at the hip.”
“Nothing,” I said quickly, not feeling like pouring my heart out to my cousin; I actually rarely poured my heart out to anybody; except for Katie.
I could feel Vala’s glance from the side. “You can’t fool me,” she finally sighed. “We come from the same family, remember?”
I couldn’t help smiling a little at that. We had reached the lake by now, running along the shore, our steps weirdly in sync.
“I actually don’t know,” I finally admitted, glancing over at Vala; her long ponytail was swinging back and forth like a pendulum. “She gives me the cold shoulder but I don’t know why.”
“Maybe she is jealous.”
“Of what?” I couldn’t help the sarcasm. It was a ludicrous idea, Katie being jealous of me.
Vala, however, gave me a knowing smile. “James Potter, maybe?”
I was so shocked by her answer, that I forgot to lift my foot properly and fell over an exposed tree root, scraping my knees on the pebbled ground.
“I saw you talking at the party yesterday,” Vala explained as she watched me get up, brushing the dirt off my leggings, “and people are talking.”
“About me?” I stared at her, feeling as though something heavy had dropped in my stomach.
“Oh dear,” Vala sighed, rolling her dark eyes at me. “You’re hanging out with James Potter. In your pyjamas. Of course people talk about you.”
“I’m not hanging out with Potter,” I told her firmly; the mere thought of it was simply ridiculous. “We barely even get along.”
Vala raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows, suddenly bearing a frightening resemblance to our grandmother. “It didn’t look as though you weren’t getting along yesterday.”
“That was - it’s not-” I groaned with frustration as I failed to find the right words. “It doesn’t matter,” I finally sighed, eager to drop the topic of James Potter. “I know that Katie isn’t jealous of me. She has never been - it’s just not how our friendship works, if that makes sense.”
It was true; jealousy had never been an issue between the two of us; whether I had gotten better marks or Katie had had yet another boyfriend, we would have never begrudged each other these things.
Vala only looked at me curiously for a moment before shaking her head and glancing at the small figure that was Demeter Notte, running a couple of metres ahead of us.
“Oi, Woodley!” I heard Professor Lupin yell and was sure he would tell us to get on with running. After my inglorious crash, we had simply fallen into a kind of stroll, which definitely did not qualify as proper workout.
“Woodley, over here!” He called out again and both Vala and I turned our heads towards Lupin, who was standing on the small mound that raised above the lake.
Talking to James Potter.
I had sprinted up the slight slope, partly in an attempt to show at least some athletic effort but mostly, because I was anxious to hear what nonsense Potter had been telling Lupin to make him call me back. Ted Lupin wasn’t one to take workouts lightly.
“Professor,” I panted, bending over as I tried to catch my breath.
“Woodley, you’re terribly out of shape,” Lupin asserted, somewhat wondrous, as he watched my pathetic attempts to stabilize my pulse with raised eyebrows.
“I know. Sorry Professor.”
Did he call me back for that? To tell me that I was unathletic? James chuckled and I looked up to glare at him with all the energy I had left. Of course, he wasn’t reprimanded by Lupin - everyone knew that, having practically grown up together, they were as good as brothers to each other.
“We’ll have to work on that,” Lupin continued after having scribbled something on his clipboard. “The headmistress wants to see you.”
“What?” I jolted up, looking from Lupin to Potter, who - I had just realised - was holding a crumpled note in his hand; even through the wrinkles, I could discern McGonagall's typical green-inked writing. “But why?”
I had gathered my things from the changing room rather haphazardly, feeling slightly panicked. It rarely meant something good when the headmistress summoned you during a school lesson, even as a Prefect. It either meant you were in serious trouble or it was to tell you that something tragic had happened to your family.
“Do you know why she wants to see me?” I asked James as we hurried up towards the castle, my bulging sport bag bumping against my hip as I struggled to keep pace with him. If McGonagall had given him the order to get me, maybe she had specified as to why she needed to see me immediately.
“Nope,” James said and I was surprised to see an amused smile curling his lips. What the bloody hell was wrong with this boy?
“But, maybe she hinted at something? Did she mention my family?” I didn’t care that I sounded overly anxious; My heart was beating in my ears by now and I could feel the impending panic attack prickling in the back of my head.
“Relax Woodley,” he laughed and I was shocked to see him scrunch up McGonagall’s note and, quite unceremoniously, stuff it into his uniform trousers. “You’re worse than my aunt Hermione.” He suddenly swerved, abandoning the path that led up to the castle entrance and I stalled, feeling utterly bewildered.
“What are you doing?” I called after him and, when he merely grinned in response, I reluctantly followed him to a group of beautiful ash trees that were still carrying a couple of brilliant orange leaves.
“It’s pyjama-girl!” Freddie Weasley shouted over the chattering group that was sprawled lazily over blankets in the grass, soaking up the late afternoon sun. “Come on, have a butterbeer!”
“What is going on here?” I had turned to James, who had taken off his uniform jacket, rolling up the sleeves of his white shirt. “What about McGonagall?”
“Ah, the good old ‘the-headmistress-wants-to-see-you’ trick,” Freddie, who had gotten up from his comfortable lounging place, sighed as he handed James a bottle of butterbeer. “A little worn out but works every time.” He held another bottle out to me, but I shook my head, not exactly feeling like having a drink right now.
“You lied?” I asked, somewhat aghast. For the past five minutes I had gone through every horrible scenario that might have been in store for me, just to find out that Potter had played a practical joke on me.
“To get you out of class, yes,” he said, as though it should have been obvious, taking a swig from his butterbeer.
“Blimey, James,” Freddie said with a chuckle, “pyjama-girl doesn’t look too happy about it, does she?”
Freddie Weasley was right - I wasn’t. And not only because I felt wholly uncomfortable skipping class, but also because James Potter had taken the liberty to decide that I should, simply assuming that that was okay.
“Well, pyjama-girl is leaving now,” I growled, hoisting the slipping handle of my heavy Hogwarts duffle bag further up my shoulder. Maybe I could still make it back in time for Herbology.
“What, no,” James laughed, “come on, Woodley. It’s alright - you’re not going to be in trouble.”
I simply shook my head, feeling completely out of place. Athena Notte and the pretty blonde from the party yesterday had started sniggering, pointing very obviously at my dirtied leggings and sweaty ponytail.
“I need to go,” I only sighed, feeling exasperated, and, with a quick nod at Freddie, I finally turned around and began to walk away.
“Woodley! Wait!” I heard James call out behind me.
“For Merlin’s sake let her go, James!” Athena’s voice rang out loudly and I could almost hear the massive eyeroll that accompanied her words.
James, however, seemed to ignore her as he caught up with me almost simultaneously, walking down the rolling hill we had just climbed a couple of minutes ago. “Hey, where are you going?”
“I’m going back to class,” I said simply, “if I hurry up I might still be able to take a shower and change before Herbology.”
James watched me for a second and I could see the crooked smile on his face from the corner of my eyes. “Come on, it’s just a bit of fun! Don’t be such a nerd.”
“But I am,” I said, almost laughing as I remembered the countless instances in which Katie had called me a nerd. “I’m a total nerd and I really don’t like skipping class.”
James regarded me with an expression of utmost bewilderment, as though he couldn’t believe I had just said that about myself.
Clearly, we were living completely different lives at Hogwarts.
“Goodbye, James.” I gave him a small smile before turning away again to jog down towards Greenhouse Seven, leaving him behind.
And this time, he didn’t follow me.
Soft rain was tapping on the library window, lulling me into a comfortable stupor as I stared down at my half-finished Arithmancy essay. Usually, Katie and I spent our Saturday mornings together, finishing off what was left of our homework and eating the sweets we had snuck in under Madame Pince’s nose. It was strange to not be sitting here with her, listening to Hogwart’s latest scandals whilst flipping through dusty pages, looking for useful information.
She hadn’t been to dinner last night and when I had gone to check on her, she had pretended to be asleep - it had been rather obvious that she wasn’t, considering that it had only been seven o’ clock, but I hadn’t challenged it.
It hadn’t been any different this morning, really; the curtains around her four-poster bed had still been drawn when I had left the dormitory and I hadn’t dared waking her up. I still had no clue why she was acting like this towards me, but I knew that I needed it to end; right now. I needed my best friend back and, for that, I needed a plan.
I snapped out of my daze with a jolt, throwing the heavy book off my lap in the process. However, when I looked around me, I was completely alone.
Bewildered, I shook my head and bent down to pick up the book again; maybe I had dozed off a little without noticing. I had been studying for quite a while now and my brain was getting tired.
There it was again, and this time, I was sure I had not imagined it.
“Who’s there?” I whispered as I slowly got up from my chair, pulling my wand from my bag for good measure.
“There is a plot,” the mysterious voice said; it was barely louder than a whisper but I was sure by now, that it belonged to a girl, “against you. You have to be careful.”
“What? Who are you?” I demanded, talking a little louder this time, but there was no response; instead, a couple of books fell from the shelf behind me and I whipped around, my wand raised in front of my face, ready to defend myself. However, the aisle was completely empty.
“What are you doing?” Madame Pince had suddenly pelted around the corner, a look of fury on her heavily lined face. “Throwing around books! Desecrating the library! Shouting-”
“I - I’m sorry,” I stammered and quickly began to stuff my books into my bag quite haphazardly, ignoring the enraged rant of the librarian, who was hovering above me by now.
“I really need to go, sorry,” I told her as I scooped up the mess of parchment and quills that was left on the table and then simply ran past her towards the exit.
My head was going to explode; I was sure of that. Voices telling me that someone was plotting against me really was the last thing I needed right now.
I stormed into the room, dropping everything at once as I stalked towards the only four-poster bed in the room whose thick curtains were still drawn close. Rather recklessly, I pulled at the bronze drawstrings and the blue cloth swiped open, revealing a rather disheveled Katie, leaning against the bed frame with her legs propped up and a copy of Witch Weekly in her lap.
She looked up at me with utter bewilderment but didn’t protest as I kicked off my shoes and plopped down on the other end of her bed.
I still didn’t really have a plan, and I had realised that I didn’t need one; not with Katie.
“James Potter got me out of sports yesterday so that I could skip class with him and his friends. I told him that I was a nerd and walked away.”
“You - what?” Katie’s magazine slid off her lap as she sat up straight, her mouth opened in shock.
“Sam has a secret affair with Hector Chang, which I actually shouldn’t know about and just now, a bodiless voice in the library warned me that someone is plotting against me. I might be going insane.”
“What?” Katie repeated, her eyes wide as she stared at me with such a Katie-ish look on her face that I almost had to laugh. Just sharing these things with her made everything already feel so much less horrible.
“I slept with Tarquin,” Katie suddenly blurted, burying her face in her palms.
“You did what?” I exclaimed with a mixture of shock and utter disbelief. “But that’s gre-”
“Don’t,” She cried out from behind her hands, “say the word ‘great’! It’s awful! He shouldn’t have!”
The grin on my face faded instantly as a horrible idea formed in my head. “Did he make you? That little bast-”
“No,” Katie groaned, peeking out at me from behind her fingers. “I made him; kind of.”
“What?” I was properly confused by now, frowning at her as she dragged her hands from her face quite theatrically.
“Remember, I told you I ran into this group of boys at the party?”
I frowned at her. “The ones with the jello shots?”
“Yup.” She nodded, looking thoroughly miserable. “Well, first I was flattered but I actually got bored pretty quickly and I went back to find you but, well- you were talking to James Potter at the bar and I kind of felt a little-” she paused, giving me a somewhat embarrassed frown, “jealous.”
“I know,” she groaned, slapping her hand against her forehead, “but I was drunk and weird and I left the party to go to the Hufflepuff common room and, well-” she trailed off, her face burning crimson by now.
“I still don’t get it,” I said into the silence, mostly to bridge the obviously awkward moment for Katie, “How did you make him have sex with you?”
“Well,” she sighed, grabbing her pillow and pressing it to her chest as she gave me a sheepish look, “I might have told him to man up and stop being such a wuss when he insisted I was too drunk to make this decision.”
“Oh Katie,” I groaned, slapping my hand over my eyes; I could practically see my best friend - a force of nature - telling a bewildered Tarquin to shut it and show her his dorm room.
“I know,” she moaned, shaking her head to herself. When she looked up again, I knew that she was about to apologise but - finding that she really didn’t need to - I only gave her a crooked smile and nudged her leg with my foot.
“So, jello shots…”
The gesture was understood immediately and Katie simply grimaced, reciprocating the friendly nudge. “God, they’re awful.”
A/N: I just want to say that I’m overwhelmed by all of your wonderful reviews and kind words for this story! And, at the risk of sounding like the sappy old cat-lady that I am, I can’t even tell you guys how much every one of them means to me! All of your reviews are greatly appreciated, occasionally read out to my boyfriend (who knows nothing about fanfiction but puts up with my nerdy-ness nonetheless) and always read aloud to my cat Hobbes.
You are all amazing people and the reason I am writing! I hope you enjoyed this chapter :)... more action is to come :)
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