(c to the wonderful scintilla)
'Well,' Freddie sighed dramatically, getting to his feet. 'Time to spend the night with the endearing old Professor Archibald! I wonder what mind numbing form of torture he's got planned for me today. Maybe I'll be licking the seals to envelopes! Or kissing his polished dragonskin oxfords!'
'I should go too,' muttered Luke, pushing his food away and getting up. He turned to Ella, eyebrows raised. 'You coming?'
Luke, ironically, had been dragged into Longbottom's questionable plant duties with her.
'Oh—yeah.' She shot me a look, something between disappointment and resignation (she'd been trying to subtly question me about why Dom was sitting at the Hufflepuff table and not with us and why we were so obviously avoiding each other, barely breathing through the suffocating weight of awkwardness in our dorm room), and swung her legs over the bench. 'I'll see you at later?'
She stressed the words, implication hanging heavy in the air: we're not finished.
'Yeah,' I said, appetite vanishing. I managed a strained smile. 'After practise.'
I felt James' heavy gaze burn holes into my skull.
The three of them met up with Holly, Marisa, Gamble and Dom at the entrance. I noticed that Freddie greeted Dom fairly cordially (meaning he raised his eyebrows and pressed his lips together and grabbed Luke and steered him away instantly), not letting on that he knew what she'd done.
Confunding me, that is.
In case anyone had forgotten.
Because I hadn't.
Because it was all I could think about.
Dom—hopeful a second ago—was crestfallen. Hurt flashed across her features before she quickly rearranged them to a bland look of disinterest, turning back to Marisa who was drawling away.
I looked away, feeling sick.
Freddie was the only one who knew; he'd found me, using the Map no doubt, and let me cry and rage and rant and sob into his shoulder for almost an hour. I don't know how he managed to slip past James and Luke (the former of which who probably knew what Freddie was doing—after all, it was his Map—and was dying to prove that he'd been right all along, never mind Dom was his cousin). But he did.
I desperately wished he was with me now.
I'd tried to figure out with him what all this meant now with James and I definitely disassociated for a full ten minutes wondering if anything in the world was real while Freddie reassured me everything would be all right. He also tried to convince me that obviously James was not to blame whatsoever and that Dom was a crazy sociopath that he was going to confirm that he shared no DNA with but—well.
He did share DNA with her and my head was a mess and I still felt heartsick every time I looked at James.
Part of me was glad that she was giving me space but more than anything the sight of her made me bubble with a furious anger.
I was just so sick of her. Of being anywhere near her.
'You spoke to Dom,' James said after a while, more an observation than a question.
I tore myself out of my reverie and met his espresso eyes.
I hadn't told him that she'd Confunded me yet.
'What gave it away.' I pushed my food around the plate, feeling abruptly murderous. 'The fact that she hasn't spoken to any of us or my uncontrollable blackhole of rage?'
'Mostly your uncontrollable blackhole of rage … that fucking idiot. What the fuck is wrong with her? I'm going to kill her.'
I inhaled sharply through my nose and buried my head in my hands, elbows propped up on the table. 'I have never met anyone so insane in my life. Someone so selfish and—and—fucking strange. She was doing this for weeks and she didn't see anything wrong with what she was doing and I still don't understand why she'd do something like that. I thought I was her friend—'
'Why did she say she did it?' he asked. 'Why did she do any of it?'
'Because she was jealous? I don't fucking know!' I spat the words out like they were poison; I couldn't justify repeating any reason Dom had for what she'd done; it made my blood boil. 'She really thought Luke fancied me—'
'Maybe he did—'
I looked up in pure disgust. 'Be serious, just for a second.'
'Serious is my middle name.' Then at the look on my face added, 'He really could've.'
'But he didn't and he doesn't and you know your best friend even less than I thought—'
'All right all right! Merlin! Fine! But even Dom believed it could be true!'
'Yeah and what a great benchmark for sound mental cognition! Have you spoken to Flora yet?' I demanded before he could interject.
He scowled. 'No. Haven't really had time in between sleeping, waking up and going to class.'
'She's in basically all our classes!'
James studied me blankly. 'Can you, just for one second, not talk about her?'
'How do we talk about anything if don't talk about her first?'
'Because she has nothing to do with us?'
'And that's all that matters right?' I snarled. 'Everyone else might as well be a mountain troll.'
James cast his gaze skywards. 'Fine. I'll fucking talk to her ... It would be easier if she were a mountain troll.'
'You somehow managed to convince her your head isn't composed ninety-nine percent of bone—you'll figure it out!'
'Why does it matter to you so much anyway,' he snapped, for the first time betraying a flicker of annoyance. 'If she forgives me or not?'
'I literally could not care less if she forgave you.' How was I supposed to tell him that I could hardly stand to look at him if he was the kind of guy who could fuck over a girl that badly and not bat an eyelid. 'As your friend, I am telling you you cannot be that much of a fucking prick to a girl. To anyone. You should say something. Anything. Literally anything.'
I felt his foot accidentally touch mine and our knees knocked.
A legion of butterflies unleashed in my stomach but—that was just because I'd barely eaten anything. Yep! Nothing to do with James! Just my hunger!
I moved my leg away, heart racing.
'Jenny,' he said, lowering his voice and meeting my eyes with the kind of vulnerability he used to have. You know, pre-breakup.
My heart lodged itself somewhere in my throat, burning like a flame and beating furiously.
'Everything's a mess between us. I just want it to go back to normal.'
'You can't just erase every bad thing that's happened.' I snuck a sideways glance down the table and found Hannah Wiltshire's blue eyes staring straight at me. She jumped and quickly turned away. I tried not to roll my eyes. We always attracted attention when we were left alone together. And with James looking like a wounded animal and all … I had to wrap this up. 'Look, I want more than anything for everything to go back to normal, but you can see how weird all this is right?'
'Yes … But there has to be a way we can sort this out.'
'She started all of this,' I said, lowering my voice into harsh whisper. 'But everything else … that's been me and you. The whole thing. The whole mess. We can't just sort that out.'
'Jenny, you're all that matters to me. You're the only thing that's important. The rest of it is just—bullshit. White noise.'
How was my best friend fucking up my entire life white noise?
'Did you sort things out with Luke then?'
He made a noise of exasperation. 'Who fucking cares about that. We talked a bit last—' he broke off, frustrated. 'Listen, I want to talk about us, not him.'
'You don't seriously still have a problem with him do you?'
He glared at me. 'No!'
'You are a terrible liar. You know he hasn't done anything wrong, right? That Dom told him—'
'Yes!' His features twisted in a scowl. 'Apart from flirting with you right in front of my face he definitely hasn't done anything to warrant a punch in the face!'
'Stop shouting!' I grabbed his hand over the table and squeezed hard to shut him up. Too bad for us we both realised at the same electrifying moment that we were touching—touching for the first time since we almost had sex in the Muggle Studies trip to Satan's personal bedchamber.
I let go like I'd seized a hot iron.
A blush pooled into my cheeks. My heart fluttered pathetically.
'I don't know everything that happened,' he said. 'I don't know why Dom said those things about Luke and I—I can't even comprehend how I remember asking you about him and you can't. But I don't care anymore. I'm tired of avoiding how I feel, Jenelle. About you, specifically. I'm willing to forget the mess, if you are.'
That was what I wanted. To forget this mess, to forget about Dom, Luke, Flora, everything. For him to forget too.
But how could we?
'Can we talk somewhere else?' I asked suddenly.
James stared at me, then gestured out the Great Hall doors, eyebrows raised.
We walked back to the common room in relative silence, ignoring the wide-eyed stares of the other students around us. The news would spread no doubt, and soon—within the night maybe—and the whole school would be whispering James and Jenny are back together and it would just be another lie.
'Boomslang Skin,' I said miserably.
The Fat Lady swung open and I followed James up to his dorm room. I jumped onto his bed with an easy familiarity that I only realised, minutes later—after he'd dropped his bag on the floor and removed his robes—was kind of inappropriate for the situation.
He sat down cautiously at the complete other end of his bed.
An abyss could've fit between us.
'So?' I said, nervous all of a sudden. I looked desperately around his dorm room: messy, overflowing with Quidditch gear, Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes and sheets of loose paper. What did I have tell him? I had to chose my next words with care, because this was it. It feels Big with a capital B. If I didn't say what I needed to now, I never would.
'You should've just come to me James. Before Dom. Before any of this happened. Why didn't you just talk to me if you were feeling … feeling confused? We could've avoided so much of this.'
'I was an insecure prick, all right? I couldn't stand the idea of being so … so into you and you liking someone else—my best friend no less—and I wanted to be the one to end it … It doesn't sound good, I know, but it's the truth. I was an idiot, Clarke. There's no other way to say it. That's my only reason, my only excuse I was angry with you—and I know now that I had no right to be,' he added quickly, catching my look of exasperation. 'I was jealous and I was wrong—wrong on so many levels I'm not sure what's right anymore or what the truth is but I do … I do I know that … you're all I think about.'
His gaze darted away. I noticed a dull flush creep across his cheekbones as his hand shot up to run through his hair. He was embarrassed. And nervous. He never expressed much, not in the way of his own emotions and not so clearly. It was hard for him.
I could tell.
I softened my demeanour.
'You were jealous? Of Luke? Honestly, James …'
His jaw worked furiously, clearly annoyed, for once not at me, but himself. 'Look, I said I was insecure. I really liked you. I mean, I still do. That's—that's the problem. I can't … stop the way I feel about you. And trust me, I've tried. And I was jealous of everyone who even looked at you a different way. It's like I couldn't … couldn't believe you were even with me. When I'm not around you … it kills … and I just … feel nothing. I just want to be around you. Constantly.' He looked up at me, meeting my eyes and I was startled to see that he seemed uncertain. 'I was an idiot—I am an idiot. I can't say it enough, honestly.'
He couldn't believe I was with him? Was he mentally insane? I couldn't believe he was with me.
I stared at him wordlessly, because truthfully, I didn't know he felt that way. I knew he liked me—I'd have to be seriously damaged if I wasn't aware of that—but I didn't know how badly his feelings were wrought up in insecure self-doubt. He wasn't like that with the other girls he'd been with so there hadn't been any warning signs. No red flags to speak of.
He'd always been more certain about our relationship than I was—I doubted he was in love with me, partly because I was a destructive hybrid of pessimism and insecurity—but it was clear to me now that his feelings had never wavered.
It was a little scary.
I knew what I felt for James but I was never paranoid, never jealous, just happy.
Which, I supposed, was strange considering he was the one with a long line of girls, and stories of girls, that he'd hooked up with.
Shouldn't I have been the jealous one?
But now ... now I just felt uncertain.
'And Luke … He always looked at you different. And you—' James made a noise, halfway between a laugh and a groan. 'I was jealous. Very jealous.'
'But I was dating you,' I pointed out stupidly. I chose you, I wanted to say, but that felt a little dramatic. 'You had no reason to be jealous.'
James shook his head, a wry smile twisting his lips. 'I really don't think I needed a reason, Jenny. And Dom was kind of there at the right moment, wasn't she? Right in the middle of my worst thoughts … I didn't know why she'd lie and tell me all that but, I mean, half of why I believed her so easily was because I was thinking it anyway. The way Luke looked at you … it's not hard to believe.'
My chest tightened.
But it wasn't true.
Where I was right now in my head was an odd place to be. I'd been screwed over by my best friend, my boyfriend's cousin, who had not only hurt me, but hurt him. She had toyed with Luke's emotions—with her own—complicating mine and James' in the process … And I didn't know whether to let it go or let it fester like a cancerous tumour.
'Jenny, please,' James said, voice low. 'I need to know what you're thinking.'
'I'm … not sure,' I said lamely.
Talking to him, I had constantly remind myself to keep the knot with Dom out of it—but the two threads were hopelessly tangled together, weren't they?
Without one there wouldn't be the other.
'I don't know if I can trust you. You ended things so abruptly last time, how can I be sure you won't do it again? Or that you won't come talk to me before you go believing another stupid lie?'
James looked away, jaw working furiously. 'I already admitted it was a stupid thing to do. I'm not perfect.'
'I don't care about you admitting your stupidity and trust me, I know you're not perfect. I just … I need to know you won't do it again.'
'How do I do that?'
I bit my lip. 'I don't know.'
'Jenny,' he began exasperatedly.
'What do you want hear, James?' I asked, echoing a conversation I've committed to memory. 'That I still want to be with you? That because you're not with Flora anymore and admitting you're wrong fixes everything? You hurt me and you hurt yourself and so many other people—Luke, Flora—' I had to stop myself before I truly lost my cool.
This was so frustrating.
'I get that you were jealous of Luke—though it was completely baseless and unfounded—' James opened his mouth to argue '—No, trust me, I get it. It's not like I didn't know what you were like. I knew you got … For me, I think it was just that I didn't realise how much of our relationship was me reassuring you that you had nothing to worry about. That isn't healthy, James. For you to constantly doubt me—'
'It's not about you—'
'—Yes it is! Because when you get jealous that I'm talking to a guy it does mean, even if you don't see it, that you don't trust me!'
'No it doesn't!' James argued hotly. 'I trust you completely! It's the fucking guys I don't trust! I've been around them, Jenny! I know what they say! I know what they've said. Every fucking guy in this school wants to be with you. I'm sorry if that fucks me up a bit sometimes! I am only human!'
'I know you are!' I said, raising my voice to match his. 'That's not what I meant! But this is what I'm talking about! You have these issues with the guys but they affect me and I can't do anything about it and I am not getting into another relationship where it's just lather, rinse and repeat with you!'
James snapped his mouth shut, eyes dark and swirling, flecked with amber and gold. He was undeniably handsome, with his year round tan (I was 98% sure he used a spell), high cheekbones, bowstring pink lips and a toned body that was all broad shoulders and lean muscle … but the most attractive thing about him were his eyes. Almond shaped and framed with thick lashes. Eyes that could burn with every emotion like an open book—easy to read, simple as breathing.
He was less easy to read these days.
James looked away, fidgeting with a loose thread on his blanket.
'I know I need to see things your way,' he said finally. 'I'm trying to. It's just not easy. You think one way for such a long time …' he bit his lower lip and cast his gaze skywards. 'I'm gonna work on it. But you've got to try and see things my way too.'
I pointed my gaze at my hands; laced together, thumb tapping incessantly.
No matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did or said, what lies I told myself at night, I couldn't let this—him—go.
He was as a part of me as my wand, my limbs, my heart, my soul.
I just wish I knew what that meant.
I looked at James and wished I could feel what I felt for Luke. I thought about the way my stomach erupted in butterflies whenever I was near him, the way my skin seared, the way my heart beat furiously, the way I couldn't think, the way I was had no fucking idea if I was in love with James Potter or even liked him. The way it didn't matter, because we were toxic.
And, just like always, Dom had been the catalyst to clarity.
'Don't act all wounded,' I ground out, hating the disappointed curve of his mouth. 'Don't act like the victim here. Dom may have told you lies but you believed them and you broke this. This is your fault and now I just—I just don't know what do!'
'You can't seriously still think that way,' he said, looking astonished. 'I just told you how fucking—fucking insecure I felt and you're still blaming me? Dom literally fucking lied to me and to Luke and made us think you didn't want to be with me and you honestly blame me?'
'Yes! No!' I shot up off the bed, heart in my throat, blood pulsing behind my eyelids. I felt hot and flustered and confused. 'I don't know! I just don't know what I feel!'
'So how can I fix this? What can I do?'
'Nothing.' And it was true. 'There isn't anything you can do.'
He grabbed my elbow and spun me around, pulling me towards him, and I let him in surprise. Immediately, his warmth spread through my body, a breeze of gold and starlight. His hands on my arms were hot and his eyes burnt.
'I fucked up so badly. I was an idiot. But this is not all on me. We should at least try, Jenny.'
I tried to wrench free. 'How! Why am I supposed to—urgh let go of me!'
'No,' he said stubbornly, and our eyes met in a clash of mingled hope and defiance.
How badly I wanted to believe him, to trust him and fall in love all over again.
'I was angry before, but I'm not anymore.'
I raised my chin up defiantly.
Now it was my turn to be angry.
Let him ache.
'Let go of me,' I ordered.
'I can't.' James' eyes were desperate. 'I tried. I thought Flora—' I flinched '—would be different. I thought I didn't care. But God, Jenny, can't you see?' His voice took on a frantic, burning edge. 'I want to be with you. It's all I've ever wanted. I would have never, never broken up with you if Dom hadn't told me anything! If anyone was going to end this, it would have to be you. Dom can't be the reason this is over—we can move past it!'
'This isn't easy for me,' I said harshly. 'Okay? I can't just—decide. You've had ages to figure out how you feel about everything. And you've had Flora to help you along the way. I was the one who let you kiss me, let you into my bed—it was me, not you, so don't think I haven't wanted—I wanted it then and now I just don't know, okay?'
He regarded me with the same, unfalteringly insouciant expression that I supposed had become his defence now, a protective second skin where once he never needed it. The silence that fell on us flared with white chaos—there was not a sound, not a single one but for our breathing.
There was a beat.
'Is that all you have to say?'
'I don't think you'll like what I have to say.'
'Oh just do it.'
'I thought I could stop wanting you, but I can't. I am sorry about Flora—it was immature and—I'm going to apologise to her—not for you, but for her. Flora was huge mistake. Because I was insecure and selfish and I wanted to hurt you the way I thought you'd hurt me. But I'm—I'm—I think I'm—I think I—' He was struggling to say the words; his cheeks were red, flustered, his whole demeanour radiating am I about to make a mistake.
So I saved him the effort.
'James, let go.'
The moment hung, suspended in time; we looked at each other, my hands limp in his, and I recognised the glint in his eye. The one that meant that a reckless, idiotic plan was forming in his reckless, idiotic brain.
He ignored me as his hand went around my neck and his thumb brushed against my jaw, fire flickering. Then he dipped down and pressed his lips against mine.
It was pathetic how I didn't even contemplate stopping him.
My response was visceral, damaged, bordering on violent—we both were. A fire, pure, white-hot and simmering exploded inside me. He absolutely flattened against me, kissing me hungrily, lips moving hotly, forcefully over mine, and I could taste his desire, like spearmint and pumpkin juice. I wound my hand through his messy hair, bringing his lips closer to mine, desperation clinging to our edges, pushing our bodies together, and his other arm snaked around my waist. Before I knew it, we were on his bed and I was flat on my back, his body burning lividly against mine.
'James—' His mouth covered mine, shutting me up effectively, and I was lost again, kissing him back fiercely, as if I was falling off an edge and he was the one holding me back. His hands moved all over me, up my untucked shirt, over my bra and down again, leaving a trail of sparkling electricity, and his lips didn't stop either, kissing, biting. My heart fluttered like a hummingbirds wings, caught in a cage.
We were wild, brimming with lust, wanting our skin on each other's, as if we'd die without it.
Finally, I came to my senses and pushed him away, chest rising and falling rapidly, and we were both breathing hard, tangled in each other's limbs. He eyes were unwavering as my hands snaked up his chest, over his shirt to cradle his head, fingers splayed around the back of his neck and thumbs grazing his lower lip.
James' eyes were molten, liquid gold, like stars.
'You shouldn't have done that,' I said breathlessly.
'I'm glad I did.'
'This doesn't mean anything. It just means you can snog.'
James laughed, a loud, singular peal that felt so good to hear again.
'Give us another chance, Clarke.'
I withdrew my hands from him.
'I'll … I'll think about it.'
'Good enough for me.'
Already immeasurably exhausted by this day that had felt like three thousand years, I changed into my Quidditch robes, unspeakably happy to be in them again. I grabbed my Quidditch bag, with my broomstick and gear, and met Harper down by the entrance.
She beamed when she saw me. I smiled back.
Harper Rogers was unarguably one of the loveliest people to come out of this country in centuries. Unfailingly polite, kindhearted and gentle, she was the single brightest light in this castle. Her honey brown hair was pulled up in a high ponytail and her bright hazel eyes shone with excitement.
'Hey, you ready?'
'I can safely say that for the first time in two weeks, I genuinely am.'
It was so good to be back.
Ten minutes later both the Slytherin and Gryffindor Quidditch teams were in a face off that wasn't entirely constructed by me, but mostly it was my fault. Mostly because I never told James that Blaze booked the pitch and now they were yelling at each other. It was then, I supposed, also my fault that that everyone was shouting.
'You fucking idiots—it's booked—'
'We bloody booked it first—'
'It's raining. Does it bother no one that it's raining—oi, don't hit me—'
'We've got the next match you shits—leave off—'
'Wave that wand around again, Nott, do it—I dare you—'
But … but. You know what was not my fault?
I could safely say that I did not contribute whatsoever to the rain that was pouring down on us. In fact, it might have even be the universe's way of letting me know that I was a good and gentle soul for not telling anyone about Blaze's pitch detail, because who was going to be able to fly in this miserable condition anyway? My gear was already weighing me down and I wasn't even in the air yet, not to mention visibility had dropped to nice, solid zero.
At this point, all this back and forth arguing about who got the pitch was just a whose-dick-is-bigger contest.
I was just waiting for someone to pull out a ruler at the point.
'For the last time,' Blaze snarled, stepping up to James—who was much taller and bigger than him—with a scowl. It was also really annoying because they were friends and so all of this was very silly. 'I already told sister mine that we booked the pitch so it's not my bloody fault you're down here like a bunch of morons! She should've told you! We're not leaving! Just get off!'
'Look, I generally don't despise you,' James began, and not very promisingly might I say. 'But your attitude—'
'Fuck off Blaze.'
'You fuck off!' Blaze shouted back, eyes narrowed into slits.
She raised an eyebrow coolly in response.
Harper Rogers snorted. 'Is ickle baby going to start crying now?'
Blaze swivelled his simmering green eyes to her, mouth curling in curious disdain. 'Who the hell are you?'
'All right,' I intervened, eyeing everyone warily. They were getting a little too heated about this in my opinion. 'Clearly, there's been a mix up—'
'Which is all your fault,' Finnegan Moss, a fellow sixth year and Slytherin Keeper pointed out in an irritating drawl.
'Don't you start on her.' James stepped in front of me, blocking me from the Slytherin's view. The move was so insanely ridiculous all I could do was lean to the right, my disembodied head appearing from his side, scowl deepening.
'He wasn't starting on me,' I said the same time Moss protested, 'I'm just pointing out the obvious Potter!' Our voices clashed and what it actually came out sounding like was 'He wasn't just pointing me out Potter!'
Which didn't make sense.
James glared at me over his shoulder as if I planned that with Moss on purpose.
'What's even the point?' Rachel Underwood whined, Slytherin Chaser. She looked up at the sky in misery, rain running like tears down her face. 'We can't even play in these conditions!'
Thunder cracked, followed by an ominous bolt of lightning, as if to puncture her point.
But as always, as soon as anyone said something sensible around these idiots, she was instantly ignored.
'James,' I muttered. 'Underwood's right. Let's just get out of here. There's no point—'
'Yeah, be a good girl like Clarke and fuck off Potter. You don't want to stray too far from that leash!'
'Say that again, Nott,' Eddie Parry snarled, moving forward. The tip of his nose was tomato red and I didn't even know why he was bothering because for all the ferocity in his tone, he looked like a sick mouse. 'Say that the fuck again.'
'Or what? You're going to hit a girl?' Moss asked, injecting his tone with so much sarcasm I was sort of surprised Parry didn't flinch.
Involuntarily, I gave Moss a once over. A curiously cursory glance, studying him. He was in most of my classes, save for Care of Magical Creatures, Astronomy and, obviously, Muggle Studies, so I knew him fairly well, though I didn't bother much with getting to intimately know the Slytherin Quidditch players. They weren't my friends and they didn't need to be. He was fairly quite in classes, minding his own business, hanging out with his own friends, who, if my observations were correct, were not on the team.
His blonde hair was pasted to his forehead underneath his Keeper's helmet but he was about the only one who didn't look like a drowned rat, drenched in misery and Scottish rain. But then again, I couldn't really see his face could I.
'No, but I might just beat the living shit outta ya—' Parry growled, pushing past me in his vain attempt to prove his manhood to Moss.
I stumbled to the side, heart flying to my throat as I skidded across the mud, feeling the cruel powers of gravity pulling me down—but Alastair Lewis, our Keeper, caught and righted me just in time.
'DON'T PUSH MY FUCKING SISTER!'
'Oh bloody hell,' I groaned.
James and I exchanged a we're fucked glance and turned just in time to see Blaze grab the much bigger and older Parry by the front of his robes, clearly looking for a fight.
This captured my full attention at once.
A chorus of groans and one impressed whistle went off as Parry punched my moron of a brother in the face. Blaze stumbled back, astonished, green eyes wide as they flickered up to Parry. And was that—was he amused? God what an—all my disparaging thoughts stopped abruptly, however, when Parry grabbed Blaze by his robes, lifting him a few inches off the ground, and stuck his wand in his throat.
Yeah … this was all my fault.
'Parry!' I screamed, and I wasn't the only one.
'Eddie put him down!' Harper cried.
The rain was positively hammering down on us all now and the noise had become deafening, effectively drowning out our voices.
Was it just me or did Hogwarts amplify every fucking thing that happened to us? Showers predicted for Scotland? Hogwarts was flooded by a hurricane. Crime rates increased in the Highlands? Hogwarts got Voldemort.
I trudged up to Parry, boots dragging in the mud, and yanked on the back of his robes to pull him off, but my efforts were squandered by the squelching earth. Instead of finding purchase, my feet sank. I shouted in frustration as Parry easily shrugged me off, cursing the downpour of rain and my apparent need to start fights. I should've just told James they booked the bloody pitch.
Why did I think this would be funny!
'Help me you fucking idiots!' I glanced around at my stupefied-into-stupid-silence team, gritting my teeth, ready to lunge at Parry again. But my gear was too wet and heavy and I felt like a pile of twigs underneath a rock. All I could do was stand behind Parry and tug his rock hard arm back pathetically.
James immediately jumped into action and so did Finnegan Moss. I saw James shouting reason to Parry, fingers vice-like around his wrist, trying to pull his wand arm away from Blaze's neck, but he might as well've been attempting to move a statue. While this was all happening, out the corner of my eye, I noticed Moss calmly walk up to us.
What was he doing?
Blaze's face slowly turned purple on account of being strangled by his own robes and it was clear that Parry's punch had split his lip cleanly. I watched Moss squeeze Blaze's shoulder in what appeared to be a comforting way—when he right hooked Parry clean across the face, sending the two of us flying to the ground. With a garbled cry of surprise and pain, I landed on my flat on my back, mud splattering all over me, as Parry, knocked unconscious, absolutely flattened me.
'Jenny!' I heard Henry Watson, our other Beater, hoarsely yell.
'Oh my god,' I wheezed, rolling out from underneath Parry, stomach pressed against the mud, positively lathered in it now.
Watson murderously stomped over to me and helped me to my feet, eyes blazing. He had this is ALL your fault written all over his face. I ignored him, caught and ignored Rose's deceptively blank look that I knew was supposed to be amusement, and turned to Blaze.
He was massaging his throat, also looking quite murderous.
While all the Slytherins surrounded us, pulling out their wands, shouting obscenities and waving nebulous threats of severed body parts, Alastair Lewis, Harper and Watson dragged, with some effort, the unconscious Parry back to the changing rooms, drenched to the bone, all yelling over the rain at each other. James gathered his bearings against the tempestuous anger of the Slytherins before us, probably trying to negotiate a peace. Rose stood back, seemingly unbothered by it all, watching the scene unfold impassively .
I, on the other hand, tended to my shithead brother.
I marched up to him and ripped his hand away from his mouth, fingers circling around wrist like a vice ('Ow!') and studied his split lip. My eyes met his angrily and he bared his bloody teeth back—then he winced, of course, because that must've hurt like a bitch.
'When will you stop starting fights with people bigger than you?' I hissed. 'He could've sent your head clean off your shoulders if he'd actually bothered!'
'I'd like to see him try,' he muttered darkly, except it came out more like 'I'd like foo thee him thwy' because of his lip and all. Which, I observed, was starting to swell very nicely.
'Oh yeah, forgot about your meathead shadow.' My eyes flicked viciously up to Finnegan Moss, who sneered back, pulling off his Keeper's glove to examine his hand.
I was a little insulted by how much effrontery he'd managed to put into one, fleeting look.
I faced Blaze again.
'Go to Madam Pomfrey. Fix yourself.'
My brother scoffed. 'No. It doesn't fhurt. We fhooked huh fitch. We are thaying.' He gaze flitted up to mine, challenging me, but I knew that it was pointless to argue the matter seeing as we were out a Beater anyway.
'Fine,' I spat. 'I hope you get pneumonia and die.'
'Hey fwait,' he said before I could fully turn. His green eyes were grey in the stormy swath of the evening and his usually dark brown hair was jet black, plastered against the crown of his head. 'Fwfhat's fhwith you and Fhotter?'
While the question came out garbled and barely comprehensible, I, unfortunately, understood him perfectly.
My eyes flashed surreptitiously up to Moss, who was tactfully turning over his red knuckled hand, pretending to be utterly engrossed by his injury, though he was probably listening in with keen ears.
Gossiping was a beloved Hogwartian pass time, second only to Gobstones and Slughorn's Christmas parties.
'Isnth he dathing that girl—Flola Wha'ver?'
'What? What are you even fucking saying? I can't understand anything you're saying. Also it's none of your business—'
Blaze expression darkened. Then he promptly turned to Moss, who appeared to not only be his muscle but his manservant too. Moss rolled his eyes, clearly understanding the look on my brother's face. I looked back at James and Rose, the former of whom was shouting at the Slytherins, then Blaze, but he wasn't paying attention to me anymore.
Blaze approached James, at least an inch shorter than him, ready to sort out his team composed predominantly of students older bigger than him.
I really had to give him credit. For a fifth year, he had a lot of confidence and power.
Across the expanse, my eyes met Rose's.
She mouthed all your fault at me.
It was clear that it was over—the Slytherins had the pitch, for whatever that was worth.
And now my mind was free to wander the cords of thoughts that were tethered to him.
Without another word, I whirled around in the pouring rain, bones shivering, and headed back up into the castle.
Finally clean, I realised how bone weary tired I was despite not doing anything worth the exhaustion. The closest I came to any sort of physical activity today was when I was wrestling James in his room and trying to prise Parry off my brother.
So I'd taken it upon myself to wander around castle, until curfew, to expel all the bad thoughts that I'd recently accumulated in my head. Like what did I ever do to Dom that made her feel like I would ever hurt her by somehow turning around one day and falling in love with Luke, as if I wasn't already clearly happy with James? What made her think it would be okay to Confund someone, even just slightly? Did she only hang out with me because I was friends with Luke? Was I ever her friend?
Just, you know, these normal, dark and unfriendly thoughts.
I leisurely walked down the Grand Staircase, eyeing up the paintings. When they spotted me, however, they made faces and disappeared through the frames. I was unreasonably hurt by this.
It wasn't like I fancied making conversation with them anyway!
I jumped on to the Entrance Hall landing, thinking maybe I'd go pay Twinkle a visit in the Kitchens, eyes grazing over the hourglasses—Gryffindor was in the lead, I noted with a hint of pride—as usual really—and turned to the Hufflepuff entrance—
'Ow! Watch it!'
'You,' I registered with poison, recoiling immediately.
Finnegan Moss' gloomy expression soured even more as his insolent blue eyes flicked up and down my body.
'Hi? Hi? You—'
'If you're going to say it was my fault that you're out a Beater,' he interrupted before I could tell him exactly that. 'You'll find that you're wrong. If anything, it was your fault.'
I would like to have just ONE fight in my life and win.
'Well,' I said, giving him a once over, eyes narrowed into slits.
He'd clearly just come back from what looked to be worst practise of his life. There was a purple bruise flowering on his left cheek and his eyes expressed the kind of misery you'd only expect from an orphaned child. Also he had a bag of frozen peas on what appeared to be a lump on his forehead.
'Slytherins just love to pretend like they haven't done anything wrong, don't they? Isn't that your House motto? Leave us alone, we're in denial.'
Moss raised his eyebrows, disdain flickering across his features.
'Are you finished or is there more?'
Urgh, I hated him. I didn't even know him but I hated him. If Blaze liked him, then he must be a moron and I hated that not only did the bloody paintings refuse to be around me but so did he. Still, he was here and I had all this pent up anger and I hated everyone and almost everything and it was his fault that I didn't get to fly on the pitch today, even though it was the one thing—the one thing—that I'd been looking forward to the past two weeks and I knew it wasn't any of his fault, but like I said, he was here.
'Where's the rest of your crew,' I asked viciously, wanting to keep the momentum of rage going.
I wanted to hit something. I wished I could punch him. I wanted him to give me a reason to hit him.
'The Hospital Wing,' he replied dryly. 'Blaze is there too.'
I knew he was trying to get rid of me but the mention of the Hospital Wing actually brought me up short.
'Wait—they're all in the Wing?'
Moss sighed. 'It was bad out there. Dark, pouring down. No one could see a bloody thing … then Shafiq let out the Bludgers. Things went south fairly quickly after that …' He raised his eyebrows, bringing attention to the lump on his forehead. 'So if you'll excuse me, I'd very much like to take a bath and wallow in my pain now—'
I moved aside automatically as he brushed past me.
After a moment's hesitation, I followed after him. He stopped, however, when he realised that I was. Following him, that was. His blue eyes widened in what seemed be confusion, but also maybe a little alarm.
'Is there something you wanted?' he asked, stressing each word with precision as if I might be slow.
'Yes,' I said, but I could hardly elaborate because the rest of the sentence would go something like: 'I'd like to have an argument with you.'
There was no one better to have a fight with than a Slytherin. Jasper had been notoriously feeding me with slights and jabs over the years so I've been saving up for a moment just like this.
'What exactly?' Moss snapped, clearly fed up now.
My frustration peaked, the world tipped, and I think I'd like to have just one good row with someone before I went completely insane.
Instead of actually following through with my pent up emotions, however, I found myself doing something quite different.
'Do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me this weekend?'
The surprise on Moss' face really couldn't get more satisfying.
His eyebrows shot up past his hairline, mouth dropping open stupidly.
I watched with a degree of impatience as the cogs and wheels whirred and clicked painfully slow in his head. He was probably wondering if this was some sort of test or trick, and the way his eyes rocketed around the hall you'd think he was waiting for Blaze to jump out from behind a suit of armour and cry 'Got you, foolish clown!' But when no such thing happened, his gaze met mine dubiously, mouth curling in a sneer.
'Go to Hogsmeade … with you?'
'I'm not entirely repulsive, I swear.'
I'd never asked a guy out before so I was little wary of rejection but at least I was comforted by the knowledge that I didn't actually fancy him and that all I wanted was to think about something else for a change.
I blinked at him.
'Pardon?' I said, unsure if I'd heard right.
'No,' he said again, this time sincerely, tone annoyingly superior. 'I do not want to go Hogsmeade with you this weekend.'
'Wha—Why not?' I demanded angrily.
I knew I said I was wary of rejection but this was just bollocks!
'Because,' he said, with the air of having to explain to a two year old child that her favourite toy broomstick had snapped in half. 'I don't particularly like you. And, contrary to what you may have heard, not all Slytherins have a death wish.'
'What the hell is that supposed to mean?'
'Listen Clarke. Your boyfriend is a fucking psychopath and I am not getting in between whatever … war you guys are currently waging. I rather like my bollocks where they are. Safe and sound in my pants, swinging freely.'
I didn't whether to be disgusted that he'd talked about his balls like that or angry that he'd called James a psychopath.
'Like I said,' Moss interrupted smoothly. 'I have pain that needs soothing. See you around Clarke.'
'Well! That's just the stupidest thing you've ever said! Wrong again Moss!' I yelled after him, brain blistering with frustration and anger. 'Because James is not my boyfriend!'
Glancing over his shoulder, Finnegan Moss looked as though he'd been hit over the head with a Beater's bat as he betrayed, for a fleeting, infinitesimal second, a flicker of confusion.
I whirled around and stormed back up to the Gryffindor common room, raging at my own stupidity and hubris.
Come to think of it, he probably had been hit with a Beater's bat.
Literally posting this at 1AM because I'm insane and it's not like I have to be up in 6 hours anything ... but I just couldn't wait once this chapter was done lol. Hope you guys enjoyed it! let me know what you think!
Love always, P xxx
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