A/N: This takes place between chapters 13 and 14 of Show a Little Faith. You'd need to read that to understand this. Enjoy!
- Erin -
She could hear his footsteps trailing behind her moments after she'd left the common room. What had she been thinking? This was the last thing she wanted to confront. She'd been running from this for what, a year now? Longer? Albus Potter had put her through more than she had ever bargained for, and half of it was her own damn fault. Why had she kissed him? What could have possibly made her think that was a good idea? Letting her emotions get the best of her wasn't uncommon. But it was always the rash emotions that created a wake and left destruction. Those were the ones that showed up more often than the more tender and compassionate ones.
He was gaining on her. Picking up her pace, she rounded a corner and made her way up to the second floor. The sound of his footsteps grew closer.
"Erin!" she heard him call from behind her, just as she reached the top of the steps. As much as she wanted to run, she knew the Slytherin Seeker was fast enough to catch her. No matter how much of a lead she had on him. Stopping on the landing at the top of the stairs, she let out a shaky breath and turned to face him. She did her best to put on a mask of innocence. If she was going to face him, she would do what she did best and bury it all as far down as she could. He was standing at the bottom of the stairs, his hand resting on the railing, and watching her carefully. Eventually, he slowly made his way up the steps until he was standing in front of her. He stopped two steps bellow, bringing his face even with hers. He studied her face for a moment, a perplexed look on his own, before opening his mouth to speak.
Al started at her interruption and gave her a questioning look. She'd panicked, but was thankful that she had stopped him from saying whatever it was he was going to say. She carried on with her apology that, under normal circumstances, she wouldn't be making. Anything to not confront this. To not let him have the first word.
"I'm sorry for everything. We've both been idiots but I should know better than to antagonize you. And I should realize that most of the time you're only trying to be my friend."
His eyebrows rose and his mouth twitched with the hint of a smirk.
"Most of the time?"
She slapped him on the arm and he let out a light chuckle, but it was still laced with tension.
"You have good intentions all the time, does that sound better?" she offered.
He nodded but didn't say anything. They continued to just stand there facing each other and his expression appeared contemplative. His silence made her nervous.
"I shouldn't have made that bet with your sister," she said, disrupting the quiet.
Al let out a regret filled sigh.
"And I shouldn't have tried to force my own opinions and ideas on you," he said sincerely. "So I'm sorry too."
She gave him a soft smile.
"So are you," he said, flashing her a genuine grin.
They simply looked at each other for a few moments, grinning like idiots as the tension melted away. She'd missed Al. More than she would ever feel comfortable admitting to him. It warmed her to know she had him back. But as they stood there, smiling and basking in the renewal of their friendship, it wasn't long before she realized how close they stood. She could make out the slight stubble on his chin and upper lip that he hadn't shaved in a few days. She blushed slightly as she remembered feeling it as she kissed him. The green eyes that he had inherited from his father were speckled with a light brown. She had never noticed that before. And those eyes were rapidly moving over her face - studying her. She was so tempted to just kiss him again. But she'd made the first move, so wasn't it his turn? As soon as she thought it, she realized he seemed like he was about to. Her pulse quickened as he went up one more step, looking down on her so that she had to tilt her head back to keep eye contact. She could feel his breath on her face - sharp and quick, as if his heart were racing. She contemplated letting him make the move. The move that would likely lead to something more between them. But if she evaded that now, they could go back to how things were. To their friendship. And she didn't trust that he wasn't in it for a laugh. Not yet. Her fear got the better of her and she took a step back, smiling coyly at him. She tried to stamp out the disappointment she felt in herself.
"So, friends?" She stuck out her hand for him to shake, and he looked at her with a puzzled and slightly disappointed expression before gripping her hand in his. He let a smile grow on his face and he continued to hold onto her hand as he joined her on the landing.
She smiled and dropped his hand, turning to continue up the next flight of stairs and onto the second floor. He walked beside her. His hands were in his pockets and he kept throwing glances at her. They were heading towards the Gryffindor common room. At least she was.
"Planning on walking me to the tower?" she asked.
"Don't see why not. We haven't exactly spent a lot of time together lately. It'll be nice to catch up, don't you think?"
She nodded and smiled at him, but still felt the rather large elephant in the room. By the time they'd made it to the fourth floor, he hadn't said anything else. For wanting to catch up with her, he was doing a bang up job of saying a whole lot of nothing. She knew it still hung between them, no matter how much she wanted to run from it. Maybe they'd be able to talk like two normal human beings if she addressed what happened in the common room. She swallowed her nerves and clenched her fists to keep her hands from shaking.
"I'm sorry about before, too. I shouldn't have done that."
"Done what?" he asked. She rolled her eyes at him. Trust him to make this more difficult than it needed to be.
"You know what. I don't want it making things awkward, especially since it didn't mean anything."
She looked straight ahead as they walked, unwilling to make eye contact until he said something. But being the impatient person she was, she couldn't help but cast a sideways glance at him after the first fifteen seconds of silence. His brow was furrowed and we was worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. She glanced away before looking back, not turning away this time. Catching her watching him, he relaxed his face and gave her a smile.
"Yeah, you're right. And don't worry about it. We can forget the whole thing, yeah?"
She wore a smile, but she felt an ache in her chest. It was possible that she just missed her shot at something more with him, but were they really ready for that? Would they ever be? He seemed to brush it aside very quickly once she'd given him an out. He'd taken it willingly.
"How's training going?" she asked, determined for things to return to normal.
"Not bad. We have a new keeper and he'll work out alright. He's only a third year so he's got time."
By the look on his face and the enthusiasm with which he spoke, she knew she'd picked the right topic. He now seemed perfectly at ease. They continued talking about Quidditch and eventually made their way to topics like classes and family. When Erin made a comment about going through her great-grandmother's things, Al quickly changed the subject. This struck her as odd, but she merely brushed it off and followed the direction he was taking the conversation. By the time they reached the Gryffindor common room, they were in an intense discussion about their mixed feelings for Muggle Studies.
"He's a great bloke and a brilliant professor," Al was saying. "But I wish he hadn't assigned us a bloody big book to read. We've got enough to get on with as it is this year, what with N.E.W.T.s and all."
"True, but I'm rather liking it so far. It's a little slow in parts, but the characters are so rich, you know?"
Al gave her a bemused smile as they stopped in front of the fat lady.
"I suppose so. And I guess we could learn a thing or two from them as well, yeah?"
"Probably," Erin said with a chuckle. In an effort to avoid another awkward silence, she quickly gave him a small wave, gave the fat lady the password, and disappeared into the common room.
Al stood there for a few moments, contemplating everything that had just happened. He'd pushed her so much lately, and he wasn't keen on doing it again. Especially if it meant he might lose her for good. But he would be lying if he said he didn't want things to change. He should have gone ahead and kissed her on the landing. Why did he second guess himself? This night could have ended so different if he weren't such a bloody coward. Was he happy they were friends again? Absolutely. He wouldn't change that for the world. But did he want more? He'd been skirting around the idea for a while, in denial of what he might feel. There was no turning back now - he was falling for one of his oldest and best friends. He ran his hands through his hair and sighed before heading off towards his own common room. He could live with the friendship for now. In fact, he even preferred it at the moment. She still hadn't come to turns with her great-grandmother's passing. And they had a lot on their plates as seventh years. Things could stay as they were. The rest would come when it would. If it ever did.
A/N: I know I swapped POVs at the end, but I'm choosing to go with it :)
Hope you enjoyed! If there are any other snapshots you'd like to see from other parts of the story, let me know!