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Disclaimer: JKR owns everything you recognise.

 

 


 

It was the type of afternoon that just warranted laziness; the kind of sloth that was unhurried and sluggish, where everyone seemed to move slower and speak in deeper tones. I was no exception, perched contentedly in one of the blue soft armchairs of the Ravenclaw Common Room, my Herbology book open but words untouched by my distracted gaze.


 

Mia was laying out on one of the couches next to me, dark hair spread behind her like a fan, plump red lips and wandering eyes like an invitation, and it wasn’t hard to say why Will Davies, who was lying next to her, had become so enamoured in only a few weeks.


 

“I think we’ll have a good shot against Slytherin,” Will told me, while his arm around Mia absentmindedly stroked the bare skin on her exposed shoulder. “I mean, Gryffindor had a close match with them a few weeks ago, and we’re more than equal to them.”


 

“You do know we killed Slytherin, right?” I asked skeptically. The match a week ago had been an easy and uneventful task, Moose only instructing we drag it out awhile so that we could rack up a substantial amount of points to secure our spot as first for the Cup.


 

“All I’m saying is that a Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw final could be in the making,” said Will easily, and I had to admire how he didn’t get overly defensive like Moose would, or begin insulting me like a certain James Potter might.


 

“Slytherin will for sure come in last,” I agreed, but deep in my mind I was doubting his confidence in his team.


 

“This topic is seriously putting me to sleep,” Mia groaned, and she began to feign a yawn but somewhere in the middle it morphed into a real one, her mouth opening so wide that I reckon she could have fit her entire fist into it.


 

“Do you need me to wake you up?” Will smirked, his sandy hair falling into his eyes slightly as he moved his body slightly to the side, and Mia giggled, clutching his tanned biceps as he hovered above her.


 

“Okay,” I stood up, straightening out my skirt so it didn’t ride up. “I’m leaving. Have fun sucking face.”


 

“God, you’re so uncouth, Nellie,” Mia pronounced, but she was smiling despite herself, and as I drifted out of the Common Room I managed to glimpse Will tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear before kissing her slowly, the act so personal and intimate that I felt the need to immediately glance away, like I'd witnessed something I shouldn't have.


 


 

 

“Alright, Nellie,” Benjy pointed at me the moment I sat down at the Ravenclaw table for tea, more crumbs falling out of his moving mouth than were contained inside of it. “Settle this debate for us.”


 

“Benjy and I think Flitwick that would absolutely annihilate Slughorn in a fight,” Beck explained from across the table. “But the Snakes here think that somehow two-hundred year old Horace Slughorn could win.”


 

“Slughorn is just as skilled as Flitwick is!” Albus protested with Flynn nodding vigourously next to him, and I could tell from the way Beck rolled her eyes they had already aired these arguments multiple times. “Potions work is the hardest discipline there is!”


 

“But you’re forgetting that Flitwick’s specialty is charms,” Beck insisted. “As in spellwork. As in, he could knock Slughorn on his arse before he even decides what bloody potion to make!”


 

“So?” Benjy asked me eagerly. Everyone turned expectantly.


 

“I’m going to say Slughorn,” I admitted finally, and Beck and Benjy both groaned, Beck even slamming her fist down onto the table in frustration. “Only because he could just sit on Flitwick and end the match right there.”


 

“You have betrayed your own House.” Benjy told me darkly, and I shot him a sweet smile before changing the subject.


 

“What’s everyone doing tomorrow?” I asked brightly, reaching for a chocolate biscuit. “I think the Room of Requirement thing will be fun.”


 

“Isn’t a certain James Potter and co hosting that?” Beck asked wryly, not even bothering to mask her disapproval, and I shrugged off the question.


 

“Yeah, but he told me to come and bring whoever. ‘Spect it’ll be a big thing anyways.”


 

“So, are you going to go?” Benjy asked me. His straight dark hair was sticking up slightly, and as I looked at it he caught my gaze and began smoothing it down.


 

“Yeah, I think so,” I said, frowning slightly at his tone. “Why?”


 

Benjy and Beck exchanged looks, and my scowl deepened at their alliance.


 

“Sorry Al - but don’t be so thick, Nellie,” Beck said, and I know she didn’t mean for it to sound so harsh but it did. “Potter makes people feel like the center of his world and then changes his orbit just as fast. You know what a prick he is, so don’t fool yourself into thinking anything’s different, because it isn’t.”


 

“Do you think it’ll be like that?” I turned to Al next to me for a second opinion, my brain almost refusing to take Beck's words as the truth.  


 

Albus sighed. “I don’t know. James doesn’t usually get this...I don’t know, personal or invested with girls. But, no,” he said hurriedly, as Beck shot him a warning look. “Beck is right. I’m sorry, Nels.” he offered, as his final answer.


 

“So, you won’t go to the party?” I asked Beck instead of responding directly to Al’s comment. It had hurt more than I wanted to admit, and although I could keep telling myself over and over that I was just hooking up with the eldest Potter for fun and not for actual feelings, I knew it wasn’t really true.


 

“It’s a bloody party. Of course I’ll be there,” said Beck brusquely. “But I’m not going on James sodding Potter’s invite.”


 

“Yeah,” said Benjy, one of his signature grins already taking impish shape. “I wouldn’t even go with Albus sodding Potter, the tosser.”


 

“Heard he's a real git,” said Flynn solemnly, who had been uncharacteristically quiet throughout the whole James Potter conversation. 


 

“I kind of like the sound of that,” said Al, musingly. “Albus Sodding Potter. Makes for a better middle name than Severus.”


 

Everything makes for a better middle name than Severus,” Beck told him, and we all murmured in agreement, Albus himself even shrugging along with it.


 

“So we’re all going, then, right?” I asked, a few beats off of the current conversation but I didn’t really care.


 

“I will, as long as the She-Wolf unsucks her face from Davies for half a second,” Flynn muttered, disgust coating every word, and I groaned.


 

“Are you and Mia fighting again?” I asked him exasperatedly.


 

“When are they not?” Al muttered. Benjy grunted in affirmation.


 

“But you’ve been so civil lately!”


 

“Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted,” Flynn shot back at me rather nastily, and I made a face at him.


 

“Where is Mia, anyways?” asked Beck. Her dark hair was plaited into the French braids that she usually wore to Quidditch practice, but it suited her, accenting her high cheekbones and bringing all attention to her face.


 

“Still with Will, I think,” I said, and for some reason that made Flynn scowl even further into his tea.


 

“Hey,” Albus nudged me, as Beck started talking about something comical Longbottom did in Herbology, Benjy adding things in every once in awhile even though he wasn’t even in her class. “I need to tell you something.”


 

“What’s up?” I asked him, and an odd look crossed Al’s face before it disappeared and his eyes grew sharp and purposeful.


 

“Hey Catherine,” he called abruptly, turning away from me slightly towards the brunette sitting a little ways down from us with a couple of Ravenclaws in the year below. “Are you going to work on that Potion’s essay tonight?”


 

“What? No, I’m not even taking Potions!” Catherine McDonough exclaimed. “I’m so relieved, too - I hear NEWT level is torture.”


 

“It is brutal,” I agreed, glancing back at Albus and raising my eyebrows at him, but he was still focused on Catherine.


 

“So then you must have to do that Transfiguration assignment,” Al pressed on, strangely insistently. “Are you working on it tonight?”


 

“No, I’m on patrol,” Catherine frowned slightly in confusion. “Didn’t you see the schedule?”


 

“No, yeah, I did - I’m just asking because Rose told me I could borrow her notes on Animagus theory but she’s using them tonight.”


 

“Oh,” Catherine brightened. “Of course you can use mine! I’ll give them to you at supper!”


 

“Great,” Albus told her, warmly. “Thanks so much.”


 

“No problem!” Catherine grinned, and after shooting her a quick smile Al shifted back towards me, frowning to himself like he was concentrating on something difficult.


 

“Let’s go to the tower tonight,” Al told me abruptly, just as I opened my mouth to ask him what was going on. “Invite Scorpius when you see him in Study, okay?”


 

“Sure...” I told him, rather slowly. “Are you okay?”


 

“Yeah, yeah,” Al said, distractedly. “I’m fine.”


 

“Oi! Nels! Have you lot seen Diana Jerkins’ new hair colour?” Beck leaned forward, and as we all fought to input our opinions on it Albus’s strange countenance was lost for my mind. But I did remember his idea for later that evening, and so when I was with Scorpius walking back from our Study Hall I brought up what Al told me.


 

“Hey, want to go to the tower tonight?” I asked Scorpius, nudging his arm slightly. “We can go with Albus and whoever else. I think Al needs it; he’s in a weird mood.”


 

I expected Scorpius to be excited - we had barely spent time all together this semester, anyways - but instead his face sort of froze until he leaned his head back and groaned.


 

“Ah, no, I can’t,” he lamented. “I’ve got a bloody patrol tonight.”


 

“But…” I frowned, thinking back to the schedule that had been pinned up in the corner of Ravenclaw since the first week of school. “Tonight’s not your night, is it?”


 

“No,” he shook his head. “But Catherine made me switch again, something about having to do the essay for Potions.”


 

I was about to respond when I stopped, the words about to roll off of my tongue silenced into abrupt nothingness.


 

Catherine has just said that she was so thrilled she wasn’t taking a Potions NEWT - and then suddenly everything just sort of clicked together, as easily and as naturally as an old key turning a lock, because I knew exactly who Catherine’s patrol partner was.


 

“It’s Rose Weasley,” I told him, quietly. I could feel my shoulders sag with the disappointment of my own stupidity, because how did I not see it before? “She’s who you’ve been with. She’s your secret girlfriend.”

 

 

Scorpius merely stared at me, jaw unhinged, until he found something to say. ”What? No, that’s absurd-”


 

“Just fucking save it, Scorpius,” I said tiredly, because I was tired, so freaking exhausted of all the scheming and hazy relationships and lack of truthfulness that already seemed to characterise our Sixth Year at Hogwarts. “How long?”


 

I’d still been holding onto the tiniest sliver of hope that I was wrong, but as Scorpius looked away from me it disintegrated, leaving me with a pit in my stomach and a sour taste in my mouth.

 

 

“Since July.”


 

Five months?”


 

“I should’ve told you-”


 

“But why didn’t you?” I asked plaintively, and I think my sudden emotions caught him off guard, because when he next opened his mouth nothing came out. “After we’ve been through everything together you couldn’t tell me something this important?”


 

“I should have told you,” Scorpius repeated. His pale eyes were bright and earnest, but I couldn’t look straight into them; they had deceived me for so long that whatever emotion they conveyed could not be trusted. “I’m so sorry.”


 

I didn’t know what to say. I had no fucking idea what to say or what to do, because the person I loved and relied on most in the entire world was now a complete stranger to me by their own choosing.


 

“I’m so sorry. I just - I don’t know. There’s no excuse.”


 

No, there isn’t! I wanted to yell, but I couldn’t. I was frozen, in a way, in this state of indecision, my body and mind not yet knowing exactly how they wanted to react.


 

“I never wanted you to find out like this, I swear was going to tell you before Christmas break - I am so fucking sorry, Corn. I'm sorry. Corn, please just look at me!”


 

“What?” I snapped, finally glancing up, and he recoiled slightly at my expression.


 

“Can you just,” Scorpius gestured helplessly, then let his arms fall back down to his sides. “I don’t know, tell me what’s on your mind?”


 

“Why should I?” I responded coldly, and instead of hurt I could feel anger building up inside of me, hot and boiling, ready to lash out and poison everything it touched. Ready to hurt him back. “You don’t extend the same courtesy to me.”


 

His face crumpled. “I didn’t mean to-”


 

“To what? To lie repeatedly to my face? To sneak around behind my back? To deny everything when I asked you multiple times if something was going on?”


 

“Corn-”


 

“No. You know what? Have fun with the choices you’ve made. Hope they were worth it, because you clearly don’t care about anything else.”


 

“Are you kidding me?” Scorpius cried, the sound of it desperate and bordering on hysterical. “You know you’re the most important thing to me, ever-”


 

“Then why the fuck did you not tell me?” I yelled, and my anger turned to blind fury in a second, the kind of violent rage that was irrational and instigative.


 

I don’t know!


 

“Well, there had to be some reason why you decided to live a double life and keep everything hidden from me-”


 

“Oh, but when you never tell me anything it’s just fucking fine, then, is it?” Scorpius snapped, his eyes flashing with their cool silver anger. “You never let me in-“


 

“That is bullshit-“


 

“No it’s fucking not, Nellie! You’ve never opened up to me! You’ve never talked to me about anything! You’re the one who doesn’t care!”


 

“Oh, so now I’m callous - really, that’s fucking rich,” I spat. “At least I’ve never lied to all of my family and friends for five bloody months!”


 

“I did it for a reason-”


 

“For your own personal benefit! You know, you’ve become much more Pureblood than I ever thought you could, Malfoy,” I sneered, and I relished my own vindictive tone. “Your father would be proud.”


 

“Well at least my father is around enough to be proud,” he retorted. “And at least my mother didn’t-” And then he froze, the words halting so abruptly that if I hadn’t been looking at him I would’ve thought he was hit by a Stunner.


 

“At least your mother didn’t what?” I asked, low and dangerously.


 

Scorpius didn’t respond, just kept standing like a statue, like a scared, horrified, regretful statue, but after what he just said he didn’t deserve any of my sympathy. He didn’t deserve anything.


 

“Didn’t give fuck all about anything? Didn’t leave on her own? Didn’t fuck over her entire family?”


 

“Corn-“ Scorpius whispered, strangled and agonised, and he reached out slightly to touch me but I pulled away.


 

“Don’t talk to me.” I told him, and it was so unequivocal that he didn’t even try to follow me as I took off in the opposite direction, passing through halls and staircases and corridors that barely even registered in my disrupted consciousness.


 

Although in my life I was already accustomed to spending a great deal of time by myself, living in an empty home with ghosted hallways and locked doors, I had never felt more alone than I did right now.


 

 




 

I slept until one o’clock on Saturday, and I didn’t bother getting out of bed or showering until four in the afternoon, where I went right back into my bed afterwards to continue my isolation. I survived on leftover chocolate frogs Adam had sent a couple of months ago and a leftover bag of sugar quills, and I mindlessly read and doodled on spare pieces of parchment, not able to focus on anything much.


 

It was almost nine at night when the curtains on my Four Poster were pulled apart with enough force to send the empty boxes of sweets toppling off of the bed in my shock.


 

“Albus told us what happened,” Mia began carefully, Beck and Willow behind her. “Do you want to-”


 

“No.”


 

“Stop sulking and get drunk?” Beck finished for Mia, and Willow held up a bottle of Elfin Wine.


 

“Yes,” I said immediately, and then again. “God, yes.”


 

“Then, cheers,” Mia grinned, producing a glass or two out of thin air. “And get dressed, we’re leaving for the RoR soon.”


 

“Must you abbreviate everything?” I sighed, but I did as she said, mainly because in all of my rumination over the cousin situation I had completely forgotten about the potential for fun that the night held. And Beck had been right; I really did need to stop sulking around, and so I had a glass of wine and gossiped about some Seventh Year Beck liked and something stupid one of Willow’s twin brother’s did to earn him a week’s worth of detention. It was nice and fun, and I was really trying to be as in the mood as everyone else was, but even as we got to the Room of Requirement something was still off about me, like it took much more effort than usual to smile and laugh and interact in general.


 

As we began circulating and saying hello to everyone I noticed that Rose Weasley was missing. With a sickening pull in my stomach I realised that she was probably absent for the same reason that Scorpius was, and another wave of hurt and fury washed over me before I managed to push it down and leave it for later. Beck had shot off to the bar the second we walked in but now was already back, handing out shots like they candy canes on Christmas, and I accepted mine eagerly, hoping that maybe a bit more alcohol would boost my energy.


 

“How’d you get so many drinks so fast?” Willow marveled, already double-fisting two glasses like a pro. Her blond waves were settled easily down her back, and it was impossible not to be envious of how naturally enchanting she was without wearing any makeup or product.


 

“Isaiah Cromwell is on drinks,” Beck shrugged and gestured to the bar with her head, where the Slytherin Seventh Year was indeed at the liquor counter for the time being.


 

“You are an icon, Rebecca,” Mia pronounced, and then we all took our drink at the same time, wincing as it went down but feeling so much better once it did.


 

“I’m a revolutionary,” Beck told her, and then blanched, tapping Willow and Mia hurriedly. “Oh, shite, Nellie - Satan’s Love Children are on their way towards you - quick, escape before they attack!”


 

“Who?” I wrinkled my nose, but the three of them had already disappeared into the crowd, and once I turned around to face whatever threat they had run away from I cursed my lack of intelligence.


 

“Nellie!” Calliope Yaxley exclaimed, the sound of it somehow flat even as an epithet. “How wonderful to see you here!”


 

It was a bit strange to see the Slytherins at a party like this; usually the three of them only frequented their own events, deeming the other House parties unworthy, but since I knew that they had sought out my location in the venue I played along because I had to.  


 

Feigning quick surprise, I forced the stiff muscles in my cheeks up into a smile. “So wonderful! How are you all?”


 

“Trans-fig is murdering me,” Lyra groaned while somehow managing to fix her cleavage to be even more noticeable than it already was, and Seph gave me an ignorantly warm smile and exclaimed, “Great!”


 

“I’m sublime.” Calliope said, in her flat and unemotional affect, swirling the olive in her martini slowly. Of course she would choose such a classy drink at a party full of teenagers - she almost obsessively needed to portray the elegance and wealth of the Purebloods. “But, how is James Potter?”


 

I’d been stupid enough to hope that the rumors wouldn’t drift to the dungeons, but clearly that was a naive mindset.


 

“He’s so fit, Nellie,” Seph said kindly, whily Lyra simply glared at me, her dark painted nails tapping impatiently on her forearm, in time with the beat of the bass from the ear-splitting music.


 

Calliope stepped forward purposefully, her dark eyes unforgiving. “Can I give you some advice? Cousin to cousin?”


 

She knew I hated when she referred to me as her cousin, even though it was the truth, as it was with essentially all Pureblood families.


 

“Of course, Calliope.” I said in a clipped voice. Seph beamed at me.


 

Calliope narrowed her eyebrows further, the neon lights reacting strangely on her pale skin. I could smell her perfume now; it was sickly sweet and almost suffocating, like a thousand red roses had all been condensed into one drop.


 

“Maybe you should hold off on the sweets. They look nice, but they always do more harm than good. Better just stick with the greens.”


 

“The salads here are fantastic,” Lyra added, evidently not understanding the metaphor that Calliope had constructed.


 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I told her coldly, and she nodded once curtly before continuing to walk past me towards the bar, Seph and Lyra trailing behind her like the obedient followers that they were.


 

“Well that didn’t exactly look friendly,” someone commented from behind me, and it was such a different tone from the Purebloods that I turned towards it quickly, perhaps too eagerly.


 

“Always so astute,” I raised my eyebrows at James Potter, and I felt that rush of adrenaline return like it always did whenever he was near, powerful and addictive in its excitement. I always tried not to fantasize about him and not to like him and not to wonder if we were a thing or not, but right now I was thinking about all of it, and I think wanted to be a thing even if I would never admit it until he did, and I so badly wanted him to say something indicative of our relationship.


 

“Aren’t I?” James responded, smirking. I’d forgotten how tall he was as he looked down at me, and the lights were shining in a way that made it difficult to see the expression in his eyes clearly. “How’s your night going?”


 

“It’s been better,” I told him, but even though I meant what I said I made my tone still sound light and happy.


 

“Well, that’s really too bad,” James Potter told me, but it was almost flat in the way he said it. “You should get some more drinks, then. Let loose. Have a good time."

 

 

"Maybe I should," I replied, brushing the hair out of my face slightly, and for some reason it made me think of Will and Mia yesterday, the way he touched her face so gently. 

 

 

James shrugged. "I mean, that's the point of parties, isn't it?" He wasn’t making any moves to touch me or even step relatively close to me, and before I could respond with something equally as un-flirtatious we were interrupted.


 

“Oi, Potter!” one of his friends called, and James turned around grinning, already reabsorbed into whatever he was doing, leaving me standing awkwardly behind him, waiting for him to continue the conversation.


 

He makes you feel like the center of his world and then changes his orbit.


 

I didn’t even wait to see if James would turn back around or finish with his friend, because I was already feeling so angry and frustrated about yet another person treating me like I meant nothing that I was done, done trying to capture the attention of someone who couldn’t be bothered to lend me it in the first place. So I walked over to the couch that Kato Millican was on and collapsed down next to him, grabbing the drink in his hand and finishing it in one gulp.


 

“Hey,” I said glumly after I swallowed, and Kato gave me a sympathetic grimace back, shifting his body so that he was looking at me full on.


 

“Hey,” he said, grimly, leaning in closer so he wouldn’t have to shout over the music. “Beck just told me about Scorpius and Rose Weasley. How’re you holding up?”


 

“Not well,” I muttered, and Kato frowned at my statement. “I can’t even look at him.”


 

Just then, a huge cheer erupted, and as we turned to see what the commotion was about I could plainly see James Potter standing on a table, throwing miniature nips of Firewhiskey to the adoring population on the ground beneath him. It reminded me of the way he had commanded attention in the compartment on the Hogwarts’ Express, and it made me more furious at him even though I really had no reason to be this upset in the first place.


 

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Kato roll his eyes at the spectacle, but when I faced him again he had fixed his expression back into neutral territory.


 

“Why not?” Kato resumed our conversation like it had never been interrupted, and I appreciated the way he always seemed to be so tactful.


 

“He lied to me for months,” I told him, and I don’t know why I suddenly felt like I needed to explain or justify my hurt, but I did. “I asked him so many times if something was going on and he kept saying no, and we’ve always told one another everything, and...I don't know, it just feels like the ultimate betrayal. Like it was purposefully against me, even if it wasn’t.”


 

“Nels,” Kato said sympathetically, and in another second he was pulling me into an embrace and I was letting him. I hadn’t realised that was what I really needed, just someone being a good friend, and so after we pulled away I smiled gratefully at him.

 

 

“Have you talked to him yet today?” Kato asked, leaning back against the couch. 


 

“I’m too upset about the lying to even listen to his point of view yet,” I told Kato, and he nodded like he understood, which he probably did. That was the thing about Kato; he was always fun and lively but he could calm down enough to show that he genuinely cared, and I remembered that last year when I was dating Henry I would always come and talk to him when things were rough.


 

“Well, you know what you can do in the meantime?" Kato grinned, and I caught onto where his energy was headed immediately. "Get fucking blacked."


 

“Oh, always,” I laughed, and he lifted me up easily to my feet and dragged me to the bar where Benjy and Moose were, Moose so ruddy-faced that he looked like he’d been hit with a Skin-Colouring hex. I ordered something fizzy and light while Kato ordered something tall and dark, and we joked about Quidditch and Jack Robinson’s attempts to grow facial hair and Hufflepuff assuredly losing to Gryffindor, and in all the fun and banter I almost forgot that Kato’s arm had been draped over my shoulder casually throughout most of it.


 

It must’ve been an hour later that I noticed James Potter glaring at me, and while Kato and Benjy started trying to balance shot glasses on their heads I walked over to him, despite everything in my brain screaming at me not to.


 

“Having a fun night?” Potter asked, but his tone was cold and steely, like he was somehow mad at me.


 

“What is that supposed to mean?” I was immediately on the defensive, and I crossed my arms just as James did the same. 


 

“Oh, I’m sure you know,” James continued in that same manner. “So, are you having a really super time?”


 

“Well, I was,” I retorted. I couldn’t understand where his anger was coming from - he was the one who had blown me off, and my anger started to build like it had so easily since my argument with Scorpius. “And you?”


 

“Oh, not bad,” James replied. “I mean, I turned around to talk to one person and then you disappeared for an hour, but other than that it's been great."


 

“Well, I figured your time was better spent commanding your disciples from on top of tables,” I bit back, and I knew that I shouldn’t stoop to his level but I was pissed enough not to care. “Isn’t that what you just love doing? Having people worship you every hour of every day?”


 

James stared at me, then ran both of his hands through his hair at once, so forcefully it was as if he were trying to rake through his scalp. “How does every conversation I have with you get so fucking personal?”


 

“No idea,” I said coldly. “I’m going to leave soon. Nothing here seems particularly appealing to me.”


 

“Have a great night, then!” Potter snapped, smiling in this fake, sarcastic, over-exaggerated manner that was somehow worse than if he had scowled at me like he usually did.


 

“Same to you!” I called, just as immaturely, and he gave me a petty salute as I stalked off in the opposite direction, so infuriated and just so so done that I didn't even care half of the school had probably witnessed that fight.


 

“Lover’s quarrel?” Calliope Yaxley asked snidely as I passed, her dark eyebrows raising up high.


 

Without a word, I pushed past her, away from the thick of the crowd and out the main exit, and when I looked back the door had molded into a wall once more, so dull and unremarkable that no one would ever to be able to tell what secrets truly lay inside there.


 

 




 

It was still early for a Saturday night by the time I returned to Ravenclaw. The public fight with James had seemingly put a damper on my already foul mood, and I wanted nothing more than to just put on leggings and a sweatshirt and curl up with a book on the sofa.


 

Mia was nowhere to be found, occupied with Will Davies, no doubt, and I knew Flynn and Milo must’ve be going back to Slytherin soon, where Milo would probably stay the night out of sheer laziness to walk back, so after I was changed I settled on the soft couch and observed the bluish flames flicker and flaunt, no rhyme or reason to the way they moved.


 

Maybe it was a result of the drinks I’d had earlier, but as I watched the hearth I began to think about how when I was young, I used to try to get my hands as close to the fire as I could without touching the flames, but I always believed I could go much closer than I actually could. And maybe that’s what had done with James Potter, but perhaps it wasn’t so implicit - I wasn’t Icarus, flying towards the brightest thing in the world with the obvious knowledge that it was hot; I was Cornelia, approaching the flame with the wishful notion that perhaps it wasn’t as dangerous or unkind as I thought it to be. And so I always got burned, not for lack of smarts, but for the strongest of desires to ignore them.

 

 

Sighing loudly to the empty room, I leaned back into the cushions of the stars and busied myself with watching the ceiling instead. The enchanted stars were out tonight, vast and glittering over the Common Room, and so I stared up at the thousands of constellations, finding my favorite ones in the comforting order I always did it in.

 

 

Orion’s belt. Ursa Major. Ursa Minor. Taurus. Gemini. Sirius. Canis Major...

 

 

Before long, I had drifted off into an accidental sleep. I was awoken some time later by the Raven’s Head chirping out a riddle (much too whimsically for the time of night), and instead of being answered immediately like it usually was, there was a groan and a long string of curse words.


 

“How the fuck’re we supposed to solve this?” someone asked, rather crossly. They were clearly male, and by the sounds of it not in Ravenclaw.


 

“We can...send Patronus?” a second voice suggested. He was also male, but unequivocally inebriated, and at the sound of it I sat up straight, fatigue forgotten.


 

“Mate, you are not in any shape to use your wand,” said the first voice. “C’mon, let’s just go back to the-”


 

“No! I need to - let me in!” the second voice shouted, pounding on the door, and with a jolt I knew exactly who was outside. “...need Cornelia Burke!”


 

Before I was aware of what I was doing, I was crossing the Common Room and wrenching open the door - and there was James Potter, being almost entirely supported by none other than Fred Weasley.


 

“James?” I gaped at the pair of them. “Fred? What are you doing here?”


 

“Cornelia?” James mumbled, reaching out for me half blindly.  


 

“I’m really sorry, Nellie,” said Fred, still holding him up. “He wouldn’t stop asking for you.”


 

I fought for something intelligent to say, but only came out with, “Why?


 

Fred shrugged helplessly. “After you left he kept drinking and - I really don’t know.”


 

“Put him over there, then.” I moved out of the way so Fred could drag James through the door, and with a surprising display of strength managed to deposit him on the couch, his head on the middle couch cushion and his legs draped over the end. I sat down next to his head at the top of the couch and in response James shifted slightly, laying his head down so it fell in my lap and grasping one of my hands tightly.


 

Fred smirked audibly, but when I glanced up at him he seemed sincere as he mouthed, “I’ll wait outside,” then disappeared in three long strides, leaving me alone with an utterly and completely pissed James Sirius Potter.


 

It was strange to see him so vulnerable in this way. He was always so collected and controlled and cool, so when he wasn’t it was almost as unnerving as it was adorable. Any anger that I’d been holding onto from earlier just sort of faded away, and even though it was almost natural in a way for us to be acting like this I couldn’t help but think that I finally had the irrefutable upper hand over him.


 

Perhaps James seemed to think so, too, because he squeezed my hand again and burrowed his head deeper into my side.


 

“You smell so good,” he mumbled. “I love how you smell. Like lavender and rain ‘n...honey.”


 

“Thank you,” I said carefully, but those simple words seemed to agitate him.


 

“No no no,” James began to shake his head. “No, don’t thank me.”


 

“Why not?”


 

“Because I messed up,” he slurred, now winding his fingers aimlessly through my hair. “I did something, and I’m sorry, ‘Nelia, I’m so sorry.”


 

“I’m sure whatever you did will be fine,” I said, trying to calm him down. I caught one of his hands in mine and squeezed and he squeezed back, so tightly it was like his life depended on it.


 

“Iss not fine,” said James. His grip grew slack and his head drooped down, lolling into my lap loosely as if it had become unhinged and he could no longer handle the weight of it, and for some inexplicable reason I began to feel nervous, as if I too were guilty of something.


 

“What did you do?” I asked carefully.


 

After a few moments, James looked up at me. His eyes were wide, as big as saucers, and the way his eyebrows curved up somehow made him look young and innocent, like the expression of a child who had let go of their new balloon, watching it go up and up and up, away and out of reach forever.


 

“What?" I asked again, more urgently.


 

James blinked at me. “Marina,” he said, finally. “I just slept with her.”


 

 



 

Author’s Note: Sorry I've been dying over finals but this one had TWO bombshells in one so I think I should be forgiven! The next chapter will be out shortly, and then after that comes one of my favourite chapters of the story. Please keep reviewing - it encourages me so much to read them - and I'll try to respond to them all soon! In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy!

 

 

 

Up next...A story of archaic parties, vampires, and cowards.

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