Guess what happened in my life? No, it's okay, I'll tell you.
Ironing featured heavily. Three hours, to be precise. Thank god I had basically no work to do for college (I've already designed my Christmas card for graphic design, and done all I could for freakin' mixed media). It was for my aunt, in the hopes that she'd give me some much-needed monay. (Much-needed, that is, so I can buy 'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell', which is TEH NU HARRYPOTTER!eleventy-one!. Seriously, though, I couldn't call myself a rabid fantasy fan if I didn't get it, but it's twenty-five euro.)
Three: A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
In shallow shoals, English soles do it,
Goldfish in the privacy of bowls, do it.
Let’s do it,
Let’s fall in love.
It was a strange thing, Hermione mused, that suddenly realising you fancied someone did not automatically render them perfect. Clearly it was an expectation that went hand in hand with nerdy, wishful thinking of flawless first loves, walks on sunset washed beaches, lots of red satin hearts and the impossibility of disagreement. Hermione had always thought herself immune to such queasy charms, as indeed she was; of expectations founded on nothing she was not.
Black appeared at school next day, as surly and moody as she’d ever seen him. He was not late for any class, which was not a good sign; as a rule, he loved making an impression, and a standard way to achieve this aim was waltzing into a room five minutes after the bell had rung. He offered Hermione no explanation for his absence and she found herself suddenly too shy to ask.
That was another fact of her newly awakened feelings towards him: she hesitated to even think what previously she would have had no qualms about contemptuously expressing, no matter what he thought about it.
Consequently, they spent the day in an uncomfortable silence; Hermione perched on the edge of her seat, not daring to even glance in his direction, while Black determinedly lounged back on his chair, staring fixedly out of the window. It was a situation every teacher found impossibly amusing, and caused much interest in the staffroom.
Severus was sure that something of a sexual nature had transpired between them, which one or both were now regretting. Lupin took a more romantic view, stating that one of them had evidently declared their feelings, and the other was too abashed to reciprocate. Severus wondered aloud which was which, and Lupin snapped that it hardly made a difference, he was merely theorising about students’ love lives like the sad bastard that he was. This said, he stormed out, snarling like a wolf, to Severus’ bafflement and not a little hurt.
Binns got it dryly spot on by remarking that all that had probably happened was that Hermione had realised she fancied Black and couldn’t handle it. Marie pooh-poohed that idea, preferring her own: they’d both discovered they had the same father. Dumbledore, when asked for a comment, merely crinkled his eyes to express his enjoyment at the blossoming of love between two young people.
Minerva went about with an odd little smile on her face.
Sybil insisted she’d known it all along, and that as an Aries and an Aquarian they were supremely compatible.
And the week rolled on, and it was the weekend.
Blaise was standing at her dressing table mirror, applying lipstick with all the fierceness usually reserved for confronting enemy troops. Hermione stood by, uncomfortably tugging at the hem of her shirt.
‘I don’t think this is such a good idea,’ she began.
Blaise turned to face her, lipstick held at the ready like a loaded gun. ‘Don’t give me that,’ she said. ‘You told me earlier that you could spare half-a-day’s study. So you can well afford to come out with us tonight.’
‘Yes, but – ‘
‘Look, Lavender and the twins aren’t exactly AA Gill, but we’re going to a bar. You can’t expect a lot in the sparkling conversation stakes.’
‘But what’s the point?’
‘Oh, let me think,’ Blaise pretended to consider, and inadvertently striped her cheek with Strawberry Splash. ‘Shit! Well – to enjoy ourselves, and maybe get lucky.’
‘But I thought you fancied Harry!’
Blaise turned back to the mirror, grinning. ‘Who said I wasn’t going to get lucky with him?’
Hermione turned away to regard herself uncertainly in Blaise’s full-length wardrobe mirror. Short skirts and strappy sandals and flimsy silk shirts were all very well – for someone else.
‘You look fine,’ Blaise said firmly.
‘You can see my bellybutton!’
‘Yes. That’s a crime you know.’ Blaise peered closer. ‘Hey, I never knew you had it pierced!’
‘Neither do my parents, so they most definitely cannot see me dressed like this. This shirt is barely decent anyway.’
‘That shirt is totally cool. And it cost me fifty pounds, so don’t you dare insult it.’
‘I could pay you five pence for every time. By the end of the night you’d make up fifty.’
‘Cheeky! What is that body bar?’
‘Oh – its a little hand holding a jewel. I didn’t have much time to choose, my mother can do the groceries in an hour flat.’
‘Its wicked. I’m too scared to get mine done.’
‘I was going to do my nose, but that’s too conspicuous.’
‘So you got pierced just to cover it up all the time.’
‘You say that like it’s a bad thing.’
Blaise laughed in amazement and slung her arm around Hermione’s shoulders. ‘You never fail to surprise me. C’mon, lets go.’
‘I knew I shouldn’t’ve worn these shoes,’ Hermione grumbled. ‘My feet are killing me.’
‘Nearly there, you whiner,’ Blaise jollied her along.
They came to a halt outside a pub decorated with peeling green paint. ‘The Leaky Cauldron’ was picked out in weatherworn gilt letters above the door.
‘Jeez, what kind of a dive is this?’ Hermione sneered.
Blaise shook her head knowingly.
Draco almost didn’t go out on Friday night. He kept having these sudden urges to wallow, wear a frilly nightdress and demand a continuous supply of chocolate biscuits. He was finally shoved out of the door by an exasperated Narcissa, who declared that she’d had enough of his moaning and that she’d never seen anyone react so asininely to the news that they were to inherit a fortune. Thus it was that Draco found himself unceremoniously turfed into the street with only a fiver in his pocket, wearing the clothes he was standing up in. These turned out to be incredibly grubby jeans, his oldest pair of Nikes and a voluminous black T-shirt emblazoned with a skull spitting out a snake.
With a sigh, Draco ambled off down the road to Greg’s house.
Selina had chosen the film they were seeing, the restaurant they went to, the number of the taxi that transported them from A to B, and the most expensive items on the menu and wine list.
After all this effort on her part, it was no wonder Sev felt obliged to pay. For everything.
Sev spent most of the film wondering what the significance of Remus’ earlier outburst was. When Selina asked him how he liked the movie, all he could say was that the leading man reminded him awfully of Remus.
Selina gave him an odd look at that, but was far more interested in dissecting the film scene by scene, giving her scathing opinion on each, followed by a total denunciation of the acting skills of the Oscar-winning actress who’d starred in it.
Sev mentally shook himself. Here he was, in close proximity to a beautiful, seductive young woman who had sought him out, and all he could think about was his co-worker’s angsty mood. He decided he needed to buck up fast.
Selina talked and talked. And talked some more. By the end of the meal, which had put Sev out of pocket over two hundred pounds (not including wine, which Sev found himself imbibing more and more of as the night wore on), Sev glassily reflected that he should suggest she write to the Guinness Book of Records for a nomination: Most Words With Least Interest Quotient spoken per minute.
He felt mildly pissed off, and not just because of the 15 per cent proof Chablis he’d been snorkelling like it was oasis water. Why was it that every woman he had ever dated was so – well, so self-obsessed? Given, Selina had every reason to be, with a figure to rival Britney Spears’ and a face to match. However, it would have been nice if these facts had not made her think that she could heedlessly neglect the cultivation of her mind to match her smooth skin and shiny hair.
He nearly fell asleep in the taxi on the way to Selina’s flat; he spotted the young taxi driver giving him a knowing look in the rear view mirror. He was roused out of a near stupor by Selina’s chirpy announcement to the effect that they’d arrived.
Warning the taxi driver to keep the meter running, which he did with great alacrity, Sev stumbled out after Selina, head bobbing in time to her flying high heels as he fought to keep his eyes open. On top of everything else, the cool night air was making all those bucketfuls of wine repeat severely upon him.
Selina was standing at her door, waiting impatiently for him, by the time he caught up. The wine, going to his head in a sudden whoosh, had caused him to take the scenic route up the short, crazy-paved path, encountering a lot of interesting shrubbery on the way.
Selina was framed to best advantage in the half-shadow of the nearby street light, and knew it. The light edged her dark hair like a corona as she tilted her head up towards his.
Knowing what was expected of him, and wishing he didn’t feel so bloody drunk and bored, Sev perfunctorily dropped his mouth on hers. Immediately she responded, thrusting her tongue between his lips with an enthusiasm Sev found impossible to match. In fact, he found himself thinking it was rather akin to sucking one of the rubber bungs in his lab...then he was hard pressed not to laugh, which would have been unforgivable.
‘Do you want to come up?’ she asked breathily, breaking off at last.
‘Uh...no, I’m really bushed,’ Sev stammered, hoping he came across as intimidated as opposed to completely disinterested. Even if Selina was a boring twat, he didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
‘Oh.’ Selina frowned – only for a second. (Sev remembered her saying that she avoided frowning whenever possible, to reduce the possibility of wrinkles. She rarely smiled, for the same reason.) ‘Okay then. I’ll see you Monday?’
‘Sure,’ Sev said in relief, just preventing himself from dashing off down the path as fast as his legs would take him. In this he was aided by the excessive amounts of alcohol he’d consumed, which were definite in their wishes to make him move very, very slowly.
He sank into the passenger’s seat of the taxi with unconcealed relief. The taxi driver – who had rather a cute grin, Sev noticed woozily – shook his head at him.
‘Not go so well then?’ he asked condescendingly. ‘Not your type, is she?’ He dragged his eyes over Sev’s outstretched body – from the long, leather-clad legs, the washboard stomach draped with a midnight blue shirt, unbuttoned at the neck to reveal tiny whisps of dark chest hair, to the lolling, blue-black head – with undisguised interest. Sev, almost oblivious – but not quite – smiled back, revealing his crooked white teeth, while hanks of hair flopped over his forehead as the little car zipped dangerously around corners and other vehicles.
‘Not my gender, actually,’ Sev admitted in a moment of foolish, alcohol-induced honesty.
‘Really?’ The driver drawled out the word, holding Sev’s gaze with bright blue, long-lashed eyes, while Sev gripped the edges of his seat and feared for his life.
They sped through a light that was on the rosy side of green, and Sev couldn’t help breathing out an audible sigh of admiration mixed with terror.
‘I like living dangerously,’ the driver laughed, eyes now fixed on the road. His taut posture gave Sev full time to appraise himself of the virile attractiveness of the man’s smooth, shaven cranium and the sexy green snake tattoo that adorned one muscular forearm.
‘How about you?’
Draco was almost asphyxiated by the overpowering smell of Hugo Boss. It hit him like a ten-tonne mallet as he opened the door of Greg’s bedroom. By the time he’d entered the room fully, it had taken on a practically independent existence.
Greg was hunched over his mirror, flicking prissily at his spiked hair, which was wet-look-gelled to within an inch of its life. Vinnie was sprawled across Greg’s bed on his stomach, gripping the pads of Greg’s PS2 with an enthusiasm he only ever showed to one other thing, tuna sandwiches.
‘G, V, thanks for the heart-stoppingly enthusiastic welcome, as always,’ Draco drawled, waving a hand frantically in front of his nose and trying not to breathe.
‘‘S you, then,’ Greg pointed out needlessly. ‘What do you think?’
He whirled around, aping a simpering mince with alarming authenticity. He was dressed in a very loud lime green silk shirt and white jeans that were so tightly fitted the seams appeared bolted to his legs. A heavy gold chain with a pendant in the shape of a boxing glove completed the picture of a complete and utter prat.
‘Very nice,’ Draco said dutifully. After all, he wasn’t supposed to find it attractive. He just doubted that anyone would. He turned his eyes to Vinnie, who was dressed in his best, matching, navy and red Adidas tracksuit.
‘Where are we off to?’
‘The Leaky Cauldron. You coming?’
‘Why not? Mum said if she saw me back before half ten, she’d throw devilled eggs at me. So I have to do something to fill the time. Have you a coat I can borrow, though?’
‘Wardrobe’s over there,’ Greg said, turning back to his mirror. Unbeknownst to him, Draco watched as he nodded approvingly at himself, gave himself the thumbs up and mouthed, ‘Baby, you steamin’.’
Draco rolled his eyes and riffled Greg’s vast array of – for the majority, leather – jackets. On impulse, he peeked at himself over Greg’s large round head. He looked – not to put too fine a point on it – bloody awful. So there was not much he could do that would actually make him look worse.
Grinning wickedly, he reached into Greg’s wardrobe once more.
Hermione was pleasantly surprised to discover that the interior of the Leaky Cauldron in no way matched its condemned-building facade. On the contrary, it was tastefully decorated in muted blues and purples, with beaded silk lampshades that gave the impression of being in a high-class harem. All the seat cushions were upholstered in the same violet silk.
‘That must be a devil to clean,’ she said, approvingly, for things often should be measured by the amount of effort that goes into them.
Blaise rolled her eyes, but refrained from comment. Hermione’s positive reaction was a good sign, after all.
They made their way to the bar, palely lit with bright fluorescent bars beneath the glass counter. Rows of exotic and luridly-coloured drinks lined the blue-tinted glass shelves behind it.
‘Um, Blaise,’ Hermione muttered, as a thought occurred to her, ‘We’re under age. How are we going to get served?’
‘No worries,’ Blaise smiled. ‘The police never bother this place, I know for a fact. Not sure why. ‘S like magic, or something. Plus, my dad is friends with the owner.’
‘The guy serving, is it?’ Hermione nodded her head towards the wizened, wrinkled old man behind the counter, who had a face like a pickled apple.
‘Oh, no, that’s just Tom,’ Blaise laughed.
‘Did someone say my name?’ Tom called to them.
‘Yes – two Fat Frogs, please,’ Blaise said, dragging herself unceremoniously onto a barstool. Hermione hopped onto the one next to it.
‘What’s in Fat Frogs?’ she asked suspiciously.
‘Apples,’ Blaise said, too quickly, then amended, ‘Well – mostly apples.’
Within seconds, two bright green pint glasses were set before them. Blaise took a long draught of hers before turning to check the door. Hermione prodded the surface of hers with a finger. It bent slightly before her nail broke the surface. Wincing, Hermione gingerly pushed it away.
‘Oh, look!’ Blaise said, waving at the door, where three figures, dressed in enough clothing to decently dress one small child, and enough glitter to supply Hallmark’s for a decade, were tripping in on three-inch heels.
‘It’s Lavender and the twins,’ she added, with every appearance of happiness.
Lupin was most thoroughly pissed off. He had agreed to have dinner with Lucius and Sirius, and was most severely regretting it. Watching them eat spaghetti – off the same plate – was enough to make one want to torture and slowly kill Italians everywhere. Then, they brought out a video. Crossroads. Lupin sat, arms crossed, in mounting rage at life in general and the film’s utter dreadfulness in particular. Lucius and Sirius were spared the agony, engrossed as they were in a marathon lip-lock.
By the time credits rolled, Lupin was in a mood to tear the heads off of small fluffy kittens. The couple on the couch were writhing with increased athleticism. With nary a glance backwards, Lupin strode out.
He ambled along the dark street, the fire of his frustration dampening as it came into contact with the biting cold outside. He shoved his hands deeper into his brown corduroy pockets, wishing he had thought to wear gloves. It was barely eight o’clock. What was he going to do all night? He couldn’t bear the thought of seeking out a bar, alone, and drowning his sorrows. It had never been his style.
With the vague idea of seeking out a Blockbusters and hiring out something that would scourge the memory of Crossroads from his mind, he wandered down a darkened alley and found himself almost lost. A sudden shaft of moonlight saved him, shining down onto a wonky street sign, nailed into the wall, which pronounced the place to be Knockturn Alley. Oh, so that meant he just needed to take a left, and a left, and he’d be back on....
Catching sight of himself in a shop front gave him pause. He stood for a long while, contemplating his reflection. A tall, lanky man looked back at him, dressed in a threadbare brown and white wool jumper, worn brown corduroy trousers and scuffed decks. His wristbones jutted out from the tattered ends of his sleeves, glowing oddly in the moonlight. His face was lit by the same luminescence; his long hair almost obscured one side of it.
Eventually, he jerked free of his musings, taking in as he did so the name, picked out in silver Gothic script, of the shop he’d been using as a mirror. It was the Shrieking Shack. A smaller line of lettering added: ‘Hair and Body Emporium.’
Lupin squinted up at the sky, pushing his hair free of his face as he did so.
Full moon. Time for a change.....
Seamus had spent most of the day calming Dean’s highly irrational fears about his first date with Ginny Weasley. He had finally desisted after he suggested (being almost at his wits’ end) that Dean ask Ginny to get some dope from Ron for him, to calm him down. Dean had nearly decked him, and Seamus had retreated in high dudgeon.
Dean had approached him after the final bell, a hang dog conciliatory look on his face, and three bars of chocolate in his hand. Seamus allowed himself to be mollified, and was immediately roped in to help Dean choose his outfit.
So it was that Seamus was standing in front of Dean’s wardrobe, hand on hips, biting his lip in consideration, while Dean watched with his eyes partially lidded, lounging half-off, half-on his bed.
‘I don’t care,’ he moaned. ‘Pick anything that looks okay. You’re the gay one, you should know about clothes.’
‘That is an unjust and unfounded stereotype which I fundamentally resent,’ Seamus announced. ‘However, superficially – well, I know more about threads than you, I have to admit.’
‘I was going to wear this,’ Dean said, flipping over to rummage under his bed, while Seamus looked out of the window to avoid the tempting image before him. Dean emerged triumphantly, waving aloft a significantly crumpled black silk shirt.
Seamus regarded him balefully.
‘A silk shirt. A black silk shirt.’
‘Oh, so it is. I hadn’t noticed.’
Seamus ignored him. ‘You cannot wear that. I don’t care about stereotypes, nothing shouts ‘gay!’ louder than black silk shirts.’ He paused for a moment to ponder. ‘Unless it’s purple silk shirts,’ he added thoughtfully. ‘And as your friend – I think I’ll just appropriate this.’
‘You’re stealing my shirt.’ Dean raised his eyebrows at Seamus.
‘You make it sound so dirty. I’m saving you from social embarrassment, that’s what I’m doing.’
‘So choose something! And hurry, I’m picking her up in an hour.’
‘Do not rush my genius.’ At Dean’s thunderous expression, Seamus hurriedly turned back to the wardrobe. He bit his lip again, and slowly pulled out some items.
‘Here.... here.....and here.’
Dean leaned over to inspect the items that had been thrown on his bed. A sharply ironed white shirt with faint blue check, black trousers and a long caramel coloured coat. Aside from the trousers, he’d never worn any of it, nor even bought it – his mother had, out of hope more than expectation that he would wear them.
Something of his thoughts must have spilled onto his face, for Seamus glared at him menacingly. ‘Just remember,’ he said through gritted teeth, ‘You’re going on a date, not to a freaking football match.’
Seamus was idly flicking through the channels on Dean’s family’s television when Dean finally appeared. Usually nothing could capture his attention like the wonder of Sky, which his parents adamantly refused to have installed, but tonight he felt restless and distracted. He told himself it had nothing at all to do with Dean’s impending date with a member of the opposite sex, and almost believed it.
Seamus caught his breath when Dean mooched in, looking lachrymose and frowning, and tugging at the sleeves of the coat. With his lean, catlike frame, Dean looked good even in the nondescript tracksuits he insisted on slobbing around in. But there was no denying he scrubbed up awfully well. Seamus frantically thought about Jordan to stop himself getting turned on by the sight of his friend in a proper shirt and trousers that accentuated rather than hid his muscular thighs, light brown hair restlessly shoved straight back.
‘Do I look okay?’ Dean demanded. ‘Because I feel like a twerp.’
‘You’ll do,’ Seamus said, in a strangulated voice. ‘Got the tickets?’
‘Yep.’ It had been with difficulty that Seamus had persuaded Dean that Ginny would prefer ice-skating to mud wrestling, but he’d managed it in the end.
‘Right so, you’re ready and raring to go.’
‘What are you doing tonight then?’ They usually hung out together.
Seamus shrugged. ‘Might go down to the Leaky Cauldron. Or watch my Lord of the Rings video again.’
‘My Lord of the Rings video.’
‘Okay. Good luck.’
And Dean was gone.
Hermione kept having to remind herself who she was, feeling that if the Fat Frog – which, over time, had become more appetising – did not make her forget, Lavender’s company surely would.
Blaise was moping slightly because Harry wasn’t there, but she was more than amply distracted by setting up Lavender with a random blonde bloke called Zach. His mates, too, seemed very solicitous to Hermione and her – she could call them friends, she supposed. It was occasion for much giggling and hair flipping, and Hermione found herself wandering, a little foggily, why Lavender just couldn’t go up and say she fancied him, why she had to indulge in all this frippery and deception first?
Her subconscious reminded her that she was a fine one to talk, having not spoken a word to her own crush in over three days.
She promptly treated her subconscious to another Fat Frog.
As she was lowered the glass subsequent of draining it of its last luminous dregs, she spotted Black’s blonde head over the shorter, stockier figures of Greg and Vinnie. She jerked in shock and got an irritated poke in the side from Pav, on whose hand, she realised, she had been trying to slam her glass. Blaise shot her a knowing look, but refrained from commenting, for which Hermione was eternally grateful.
As the three boys fanned out, heading for the opposite end of the bar, Hermione got a proper look at Black for the first time, and nearly snorted out what remained of her drink. What was he wearing…
Draco calmly took a seat next to his two best mates, who were already eyeing up the talent. He quickly ordered three Heinekens, making Greg pay – his scoring time (with, admittedly, girls who were only good looking when seen through beer goggles) was so lightning fast that if Draco didn’t get a drink now, he’d be left dry for the night. A fiver wouldn’t get him far in the Leaky Cauldron. He tugged up the collar of Greg’s enormous sheepskin coat, briefly wondering if donning it had been the wisest sartorial strategy. He quickly dismissed his misgivings with naturally careless confidence.
He took a drag from his bottle and scanned the room. Greg was winking at a group of girls, already well on the way to becoming well oiled, and ready to share the bounty with Vinnie, as he always did. Draco’s eye alighted on another gaggle of females, considerably better dressed and looking than Greg’s posse of choice. Then his eyes widened in shock.
It was Hermione.
But.... Hermione in a short...really short skirt, an almost see-through top, and since when did she have endless, long, slim legs? Draco felt almost disgruntled by the realisation that Hermione was – well, generally fanciable. In a physical, not mental sense. And getting rather seriously crisised by a group of Duncan Blue lookalikes. Draco’s eyes narrowed with loathing. Who were they to chat up his bookworm, huh?
He turned back towards the bar in a dark cloud. He was all too well aware, now, of his dirty jeans, scruffy t-shirt, ridiculous coat and rat-tail hair, which had all clumped together after its rapid shampooing earlier that evening. He wasn’t ashamed of it, but was uncomfortably certain that it couldn’t match up to the smooth, gelled, primped fanboys currently leeching around Hermione like a pack of midges.
‘Hey, Greg, lend me fifty, I’ll pay you back tomorrow.’
Draco was going to get quite seriously drunk.
Yes. I know Fat Frogs are made from Smirnoff Ice, Barcardi Breezers and, er, some other vodka (dammit, henbock knows). I just wanted to use my favourite Pterry line, okay?!!?