Written for Cuba's Picture Challenge on HPFC. Oneshot inspired by pictures 3 and 10, found here (without spaces): http://community . livejournal . com/prettysynonyms/3196 . html
To Catch a Dream
You float along on your cloud of suspense; a happy cloud way up there in the sky where everything is blue and bright, and so clean and pure that you wish it would never come down, this cloud. You bury yourself in its puffy whiteness, molding its turrets and edges into shapes that catch your fancy as you pretend that things will always be here, in this high that comes from not knowing what will come next; what he'll say to you; how he'll laugh with you; if he'll finally smile at you with that special look in his eyes tonight.
"'Licia, pass the potatoes?" he asks you, meeting your gaze for only a split second. You startle out of your daydream; fumble around the table.
"Here, Oliver," you reply, tacking the name on the end because it feels so beautiful coming out of your mouth. Oliver, strong and sturdy sounding; just harsh enough with the sudden end that you find yourself questioning him, and what's he really like?
On the cloud the sun has come out, and so you walk to the edge and peer over the precipice, gazing onto the ground so far below; shivering at the long fall. But look at how the sun is shining and how bright the outlook from up here is—you don't need to worry, because you will never have to fall.
"Everyone in!" Oliver shouts, peeling off from the goal-posts like a falcon as he jets to the ground, obscured only by the mud splattered across your goggles.
"Not good enough," he huffs as the team lands. "Not good enough to beat bloody Slytherin, at least." He glares at all six of you, but it feels like he paused at you the longest—why would he pause at you the longest? For you, more than Harry or Angelina or Katie or especially Fred and George, flew as hard as you could today; flew like you couldn't feel the rain or the wind or the cold; flew because you had to, had to for him.
Your eyes prickle, hot, and you tear off your goggles; pretend to swipe away mud as you stare at his retreating figure and wonder what it is that makes him so passionate about this, and why it is that this seems to be the only thing he's passionate about.
(Wonder why he can't be this passionate about you.)
Your cloud turns damp beneath your feet and you stare at its surface, suddenly grey; not unlike the rain on the pitch. Miserable, you pull at the swirls of it until a sort of cover forms, but that part of the cloud rains too, and it's useless to hide beneath it, because all it does is make you damper, sadder, angrier.
It feels like the sky is crying over you; dropping watery tears for your pathetic longings and daydreams. You sink to the ground, curling your knees to your chest and trying to cover at least your heart. The rest of you will dry over time; will heal over time—but hearts don't heal, and your heart least of all.
You snap your head in his direction, cursing your breath for quickening as he says your name. "Hm?" you reply, carefully nonchalant; carefully avoiding saying his own name.
"Extra practice tonight. Seven until you get it right."
Beneath your feet, you can feel your cloud de-solidifying. Really, why shouldn't it? Everyone knows that clouds are only pieces of moisture; not really there at all, but a trick of the light across the sky. But even so, you remember the precipice you stared over that time so far gone, when you scoffed at it and said it didn't matter, because you were never going to fall.
Now, you are going to fall. Rain pours around you, seeping up through the cloud as you stay curled in that ball, body around your heart in a breathing, flesh and blood umbrella.
A breathing, flesh and blood, useless umbrella, because nothing you can do will stop this castle in the air you've built from sending you tumbling down in ruins.
"What do you mean," you ask, the first time you've really let yourself be annoyed at him, "Until I get it right?"
He blinks at you, like he's flicking a gnat out of his vision. "You're part of the team, and the team needs to get it right."
"But Ihave been getting it right!" you shout, looking right into his eyes and wondering who this stranger is that stares back at you.
You feel yourself slipping, moving into the center of your cloud that was built on suspense and the exhilaration of the unknown. It's not an imagined cloud anymore, with moldable walls and the perfect amount of sunshine, but has become the way it ought to be, thick with moisture and brightness even through the rain.
You slide between the layers of the cloud, knocking into solid objects that certainly don't belong in the world you built up for yourself—and yet, don't belong in this very real cloud either, because what cloud has household things swimming though it's middle? Seconds pass, and you fall faster and faster, with nothing you can do to stop yourself from soon landing right in the sky; soaring right down to earth.
And then hitting ground. It's not the fall, you realize, that will hurt. It's the jarring pain that comes when there's no more air to plummet through.
"Merlin, get all defensive on me!" he mutters, shaking his head. "Don't be a baby, 'Licia."
You glare at him, stung. "I'll see you on the pitch. But don't expect me to fly like I did yesterday for you. Because I pretended I was on the Harpies so I could be good enough for that practice out in the mud, but I could have even won the World Cup, me scoring twice as much as Ange and Katie together!—but you didn't notice. Or else, just didn't care."
For now you're still falling through the layers of your cloud, so you grab onto and discard item after item as they fly by you. Nothing makes sense to you anymore; perhaps that's why there's a toaster hovering by your left arm.
You break out into the sky, clutching on the last thing you held. An umbrella; bright red like your robes, like your House, like the twin's hair . . . like your heart, bleeding from the lines that he's managed to unknowingly gouge through it.
"I thought—" He has the sense to look confused after your outburst; in fact, you think with satisfaction, he looks quite taken aback. "I always just put the six of you into one. The Team. That's why we're so in touch with each other."
You know that you should quit now; that you should stomp out to the pitch and get on your broom and batter the Quaffle with your anger, but there's as much addiction in making him stutter as there used to be in memorizing his every motion.
"You've never been in touch with me!" you cry, unable to use mud this time as a guise for your tears. "Never in the past three years! Or else you're thicker than a bloody Flobberworm!"
Rain pounds into your body, so you open this blood umbrella, not caring about protecting your heart anymore. One more ache won't make a difference. Instead you tip your head back and raise one arm, letting the umbrella furl above you and catch the wind; slow this freefall.
Not that it matters anymore. One way or another, you'll be pounded into the ground in moments. Why try to buy yourself pointless time?
"What in Merlin's name are you going on about, Alicia?" he asks, sounding still angry, still exasperated, but with a softer edge to his voice. An edge like, he might have realized. An edge like, he's finally caught on.
You don't know how to reply.
Blue-grey sky is all around you; and far away in the distance, you can still see the receding shape of your cloud. Below you, you know the earth fast approaches—but the end hasn't arrived yet. You're still floating. You still have time for a last thought.
"I—" You're stuck for words, fumbling around like you always do, with him. "I loved you, Oliver."
His mouth forms a startled O, and you don't think how kissable or beautiful it is. You just think how glad you are you made him feel something.
Wind rushes around you, but you manage to clasp onto the umbrella with both your hands. Painstakingly, you pull it down, pull yourself up, until you stand on top of it, feet firmly planted on its blood red, heart red, top; a feat that could only be accomplished in this world of crumbling suspense.
And at last, riding this piece of cloth, you feel in control as you come back to earth.
"Alicia," he says, voice strained. "I never knew."
"Now you do," you reply quietly. "Now you know that I loved you."
As you gaze around, you realize you have stopped your crushing freefall, and that instead you're floating gently downwards, supported on the top of the red fabric.
A castle makes itself apparent in the ground below you, but this isn't a cloud castle of fancies. It's a rugged, brick and stone castle, set around a huge lake. It's Hogwarts. It's real.
Oliver sighs. "Look, I—" He pauses, rubs his hands over his face. "Never mind. Let's just cancel practice tonight."
Before you have a chance to reply, he turns and stalks out of the portrait hole, leaving you staring at his back wondering what you've done.
The umbrella touches down right outside the Quidditch pitch, just fading into the ground until your feet are firmly planted. You stand there for a moment, indecisive on what to do or where to go without that familiar sensation of the unknown.
But you're so close to the pitch, and it seems to beckon you—so you crawl under the bleachers and out into the night, feeling the breeze whisper along your cheeks. You'd almost forgotten how lovely nights are.
You spin around to that familiar voice. Naturally he'd have come here—Quidditch is him, just as that cloud was you.
"When did you get out here?" he asks, taking a half step forwards and a half step back.
"Not long ago," you reply. "After you, I guess. If you want me to, I'll leave."
But he shrugs and shakes his head, and when you sit down in the grass, he follows suit, sinking down beside you.
It's funny, you think, how when one piece of a castle starts to crumble, everything starts to follow. Funny, that I could be sitting here with him; the perfect scenario, and not feel a thing. After all, I've already lost my castle of dreams.
Oliver, beside you, looks up into the night. "Look at all the stars you can see from here, 'Licia," he says. "There's not a cloud in the sky."
"No," you reply with a smile. "No, there's not a cloud to be found."