My head snapped back to look skywards as the familiar sound of hundreds of feathered wings filled the Great Hall. My speckled black and white, and rather dopey looking, owl Iggy swooped down to land in front of me, came in too quickly, stumbled and fell off the other side of the table. With an affectionate sigh, I held out my arm for Iggy to climb up, which he took gratefully, waddling back onto the table. Iggy stood in front of me, talons slowly sinking into my breakfast of (now) ruined cornflakes for a few moments, and cocked his head to the side with the usual glazed look in his ice-blue eyes.
I leaned in towards him as he stared blankly at me, "Forgetting something?"
His head almost horizontal, Iggy blinked, then opened his beak and let my Daily Prophet drop into my bowl, splattering milk and cereal into my face. Iggy nibbled my nose affectionately before flying away, his talons dripping.
"Thank you, Ig," I muttered to myself as I tossed my useless copy of the Prophet aside and began wiping my face with a napkin. I didn't even bother looking up when I heard the familiar tapping of expensive shoes approaching.
An overly extravagant rustle of robes and an attention demanding hit of the table later, and my room-mate was sitting opposite me. I held a napkin over my face, perfectly still.
Ivy took her customary deep breath before exploding at about three times the normal rate of the average person, "Oh my wizard God, you will not believe what just happened- what are you doing?"
"If I stay very, very still," my voice muffled by the napkin, "you may not see me, and move on, leaving me unscathed."
"What a stupid idea, it would never work... Now, give me that, I have huge news!" Ivy snatched the napkin away to reveal my reluctant face.
"Works with bears..." I muttered, then sighed. "Alright, what's this news then?
Ivy was clearly in her element; gossiping. Her long, peroxide blonde hair was parted on the side, a fringe covering half her forehead, stopping just above her right eye. Choppy layers created tiers of blonde down to just past her breasts (which she regularly took advantage of in the privacy of our dormitory, scattering her push-up bras all over the floor). Although it was 8:30 on a regular Wednesday morning, Ivy had painted it on an inch thick; her wide, heavily massacred dark blue eyes were skilfully framed by a thick line of liquid eye-liner, her ruby red lips standing in stark contrast with her tanned skin, tones of gold shining on her cheeks.
The picturesque beauty of Ivy was somewhat spoiled when she shovelled a large portion of a mixture of egg, sausage and baked beans into her mouth before continuing.
"Well," her left cheek bulged comically as she attempted to speak with some dignity, "I just heard from Becky, you know that Hufflepuff girl with the weird eye thing, that Oliver Wood and Kendra Night, the Ravenclaw with the big teeth we sit two desks away from in potions, were making out in the Quidditch locker rooms after the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw teams double booked the pitch and there was that huge fight over who was allowed to practice! I mean, did you ever pick them to hook up, how weird is that?" This whole statement had taken less than ten seconds to say, after which Ivy swallowed, then took in a much needed breath.
"Nah, it's probably not true, I think he's gay," I interjected before Ivy began talking again as I reached for some toast.
"Me too," Ivy said a little too enthusiastically. "I mean, it's kind of suspicious how close Wood, a totally hot jock and yet somehow not a man-whore, and that goodie-goodie loser Weasley are, always having those study sessions in the back of the library, a dorm all to themselves, plus Wood's the only one able to make Weasley actually smile." Ivy leaned in as she said this, awe-stricken by the fact that Percy's ever smiled in his life.
"What are you talking about, Percy smiles," I put down my toast and mimicked Ivy, leaning in closer and speaking in hushed tones. "Once, when we were doing our Prefect rounds," I glanced around dramatically, "he even laughed."
"Seriously?" Ivy retorted playfully.
I returned to casually devouring my toast. "Well, it was either that or a hiccup, I'm not sure."
Ivy smiled and rolled her eyes, then returned to her unbelievably large breakfast. Suddenly, there was a loud thump and a yawn.
"Morning Alexis," I greeted the newest arrival to the breakfast table.
She simply grunted; Lex often had trouble forming human speech in the morning.
"Oh my God, could you possibly fit any more greasy crap on your plate?" Alexis turned on her sister beside her as Ivy lifted another over-laded forkful to her mouth.
"I'm hungry," Ivy shrugged off her twin's scorn.
Alexis shared Ivy's DNA, but that was all they shared; Alexis was a sharp-witted Ravenclaw with wavy light brown hair with golden shimmering tones flowing down her back. Her eyes were the same shape and shade of blue as Ivy's, but instead of Ivy's trust and sense of play Alexis' eyes radiated a sense of family and wisdom beyond her sixteen years. Her skin was also much paler than Ivy's, never having been subjected to a wand-enhanced tan.
"The only way you could be that hungry was if you were pregnant again," Lex reached across to my plate and took a piece of toast. I smirked; I was used to the Reynolds twins, having been close friends with the pair from our first year.
Ivy swallowed, and it seemed to dawn on her; "Actually, now that you mention it, I think my period was due last week..."
"No, that was me," Alexis chomped on my toast.
"No wonder you're so cranky," a new voice interjected. Chelsea sat opposite Alexis in the seat beside me, took my last piece of toast and winked at me. "Thanks darl."
"Does this count as a pregnancy scare, do you think?" I asked as I speared one of the three sausages on Ivy's plate with a fork. "That would be, what, nine now?"
The three of us laughed as Ivy retorted with a sarcastic "Ha ha."
"Wait, it would only be eight," she continued, attempting to retain a little bit of dignity in the conversation, "because that one last summer was only food poisoning." She finished with a tone which seemed to say 'Stick that in your pipe and smoke it'.
"Yeah, food poisoning from the Chinese restaurant Bobby Write took you to before you had unprotected sex with him in the back of his mum's car," Alexis scorned.
"We were careful! We used a type of contraceptive," Ivy retorted, not willing to let her sister get the better of her again.
"Ivy, pulling out at the last second is not a contraceptive," Alexis reasoned.
"Hey, it works, so my point is no less valid," Ivy stood her ground, although she knew her sister's taunts were just her way of being playful. "Oh!" We were all startled by Ivy's sudden loud outburst of excitement as she remembered our previous conversation. "Hey Chels, you talk to Oliver Wood right?"
"Well," Chelsea pretended to consider the question carefully, "we're in the same House, same year, take all the same classes and we both love Quidditch... so yeah, I talk to him a lot." Her freckle-ridden nose wrinkled slightly as she smiled and asked, "Why?"
Chelsea was the ultimate tom-boy hottie; her ginger hair was styled in a casual pixie cut, her fringe being the longest part. Small wisps of hair curled around her ears and stuck up at the back. She never wore make-up (a habit which Ivy was determined to change), and her skin was naturally tanned from countless hours spent outdoors playing sport, swimming or just enjoying the fresh air. Chelsea's eyes were a deep amber colour, like thick honey, and contained an endless amount of warmth and fierce pride.
"Well," Ivy continued, the thrill of gossip evident in her voice, "we heard that he and Kendra Night-"
"It's complete bollucks," Chelsea interrupted, "Wood and Night have never even spoken to each other."
"How do you know?" Ivy was rather upset at being cut off mid-rant.
"He told me."
"Do you talk to him often?" Alexis tried to sound nonchalant as she asked, but we could see the colour rising in her cheeks.
The three of us glanced at each other, smirking.
"What?" Alexis acted defensively. "I don't like him, not like that, I just think he's-"
"Alluring?" I interjected.
"Hot?" Chelsea provided.
"A sex god?" Ivy teased.
"Interesting," Alexis finished. "It doesn't matter anyway, everyone knows he's gay."
Ivy and I nodded, and Chelsea agreed, "Oh, totally."
We all smiled at each other, before I glanced at my watch and sighed.
"Alright Poison, we better get going," I said to Ivy, stood up and continued, "Flitwick will curse us if we're late for Charms again."
"But it's only quarter to, it won't take fifteen minutes to get up there," Ivy whined, clearly enjoying speculating about other's sexualities.
"Yeah, but we both know when we walk past the toilets you're going to want to fix your make-up," I teased, "and that'll take up enough time so that we still have to hurry to get the class."
Ivy seemed to consider this for a moment, then her face split into a grin and admitted, "Yeah, you're right." She jumped up with her usual enthusiasm and hurried towards the end of the long table.
I said a quick goodbye to our remaining friends and met Ivy by the doors leading into the Entrance Hall. She looped her arm into mine to hurry me along, emitting a constant stream of words including "Alexis", "Wood", "cute couple" and "gay", until we got the fourth floor. As we stepped off the staircase and onto the fourth floor, we mingled into the usual movement and commotion of Hogwarts; younger students hurried along in small, tight packs, weaving through a forest of older, taller students, First-years anxiously looking around them, lost and frightened so early in the year. I was taken by surprise when my arm was jerked sideways as Ivy turned to enter the girl's toilets.
I disentangled myself from Ivy's arm (not wanting to listen to her gossip as she expertly applied another layer of make-up) and let the door close behind her as she rushed towards the old, speckled mirror. Leaning against the wall to keep out of the way of passers-by, I saw Percy and Penny (a Ravenclaw he'd been seeing since late last year) walk past, and he smiled and waved. I returned the gesture, and the pair returned to their conversation.
That was the good thing about being in such a small year; you got to know everyone. For most of us Houses didn't seem to matter, originally because there were so few of us that we had to mingle with each other, or be alone, and no nervous First-year wants to be alone in this vast castle for a moment. Everyone got along.
Well, I thought as I spotted an unwelcome face in the crowd headed in my direction, almost everyone.
I couldn't help but tense and look away, pretending I hadn't seen him. Unfortunately, when I glanced back to ensure I was safe, Richard Stinsen had broken off from his pack of slow-witted followers and was leaning against the wall beside me, far too close than was pleasant. He was in sight, for instance, which was never a good thing.
"Hi, Lyra," he flashed his teeth in what I'm sure he hoped was a charming smile when he spotted me looking.
"Hi, Dick," I retorted, emphasising his name, clearly implying 'Dick' wasn't just a shortening of Richard.
He tried to disguise a cringe and gritted his teeth, his smile now slightly menacing.
"I've asked you not to call me that, Lyra."
"I've asked you not to call me Lyra, Dick," I adopted his forced, humourless smile.
"What else am I suppose to call you?" Richard maintained a light, casual tone, but underneath I could hear his impatience; we had repeated this conversation many times before.
"Ideally nothing at all," I turned to him and maintained the same pleasant tone. "Shutting off all lines of communication between us would just be wonderful."
We both continued to smile those threatening smiles and said nothing. Richard's dark blonde hair fell into his light blue eyes, his strong jaw clenched. It wasn't until I saw someone out of the corned of my eye in the crowd behind Richard that we broke eye contact, and my forced, menacing smile quickly turned into one of real, poorly contained excitement. Richard turned to see who I was looking at, and I saw his shoulders tighten with anger.
Without looking back, Richard strutted (yes, that's right, strutted) towards a boy in our year I had spotted, and within moments he had reached him, giving him a very forceful shoulder-bump as he walked past.
"Watch where you're going, Huffle-fag," Richard growled at Sam Blake, and continued walking away.
"He is so into you," I jumped into the air and my heart skipped a beat when I heard Ivy's voice so close to my ear.
"How long have you been there?" I exclaimed when I had regained my senses.
Ivy just smiled and again looped her arm through mine, and we walked towards the stairs to the fifth floor, and to Charms.
"Richard is totally hot! Why don't you just go out with him?" Ivy's voice just seemed like background noise as I twisted my head to try and see behind me, and find Sam.
"Because," I answered, still looking around, "I know for a fact you dated him last year, and I am not letting anything which was in you anywhere near me."
"Oh, sweety," Ivy continued at her usual fast-pace, "he wasn't in there for long I can assure you, it was really fast."
"Oh my god!" I couldn't help but turn to her, disgusted. "I meant his tongue!"
"Oh," Ivy continued, "well, that was in considerably longer."
I gagged. "I'm not even going to dignify that with a response."
"Oh, Lyra," Ivy said patronised. "One day, you'll understand."
"Get away from me," I said as we entered our Charms classroom and she let go of my arm, but I couldn't help but smile.
We separated and I headed to my desk a few rows in front of Ivy's; in our first year we sat together, but after a few weeks we were forced to sit apart. Something about the combination of our magic seemed to result in things being set on fire, and Professor Flitwick's moustache was the last straw. Ivy now sat next to a quiet Hufflepuff girl, which suited her fine, as she bombarded the poor girl with a constant stream of one-sided conversation. The girl, Anna, didn't seem to mind, or at least she hadn't cursed Ivy yet, which was the same thing in Ivy's view.
The chair beside me was pulled out and I smiled as I looked up and saw Sam Blake sitting down. We had met the same way Ivy and Anna had, and it had significantly increased my liking of Charms. Sam wasn't particularly tall or short, he wasn't muscular or charming. His brunette hair was always messy and unkempt, light green eyes framed by dark rimmed glasses. Sam always seemed to be floating through his own private world. He wasn't extraordinary in any way other than the simple fact that he was Sam Blake, and that was enough for me.
Of course, he had no idea...
He smiled at me after he had sat down, "Hi."
"Hi." That's right, I thought calmly to myself, no need for any more word vomit today... "I'm really sorry about before, with Stinsen. I mean, it wasn't funny at all, it wasn't even a pun. If he wanted to imply something ambiguous about your sexuality he could have at least said 'Huffle-poof', you know, because that would be a better pun..."
Sam's smile had faded as I proverbially vomited on him, and I quickly continued, attempting to redeem the situation.
"Or he could have just walked by you and said nothing... that would probably have been ideal," I finished lamely, slightly pink in the cheeks.
"Yeah," Sam looked away, pretending to rummage through his bag on his lap. "It's just that I was hoping you hadn't seen today's episode of 'Let's Hate Sam for no Apparent Reason'."
"Stinsen doesn't hate you, he's just," I struggled to find the right words, "a dick-head."
Just then Richard walked through the door, surprisingly alone. Instinctively protective of Sam, I automatically reached out and put my hand on his arm, not taking my eyes off Richard as he spotted us and walked our way, clearly angry. Just as he passed Sam (who hadn't seen him), Richard casually swung off his backpack, conveniently hitting Sam in the back of the head. He exclaimed in surprise, but when he turned to see Richard glaring at him he faltered, and quickly turned back to his bag.
When Sam wasn't looking, Richard continued to his seat, but didn't get more than a few steps because when he was beside my desk I quickly stood up and grabbed the front of his robes, pulling him down until his ear was almost touching my lips.
"I can kill you and make it look like an accident," I whispered so quietly Sam didn't even look up. Richard's adam's apple moved up and down as he swallowed, and I let him go. I didn't look back as I heard Richard storm off to his seat in the back row.
Turning back to Sam, I could see the colour in his cheeks, and his hands were slightly shaking. I wanted to comfort him and take his hand, but I knew I didn't have the courage to even show that little bit of affection when it meant so much more with him than anyone else.
Sam put his bag on the floor and, without looking at me, said quietly, "Worst part of it is that you always see it."
I wasn't sure how to respond to this, never having seen Sam really effected by Richard's taunts. "I'm sorry."
Sam turned to me spoke quickly, as if he'd been holding something back, "But that's just it, I can't blame you. It's obvious why he only bullies me while you're around, but I can't very well ask you to date a total jerk just so I don't get shoulder-bumped in the corridor once in a while. He's making me look like even more of a loser than I already do to you, which is a total waste of time anyway because we all know there's no way I'm any competition for him." Sam's tone had gotten more and more heated as he spoke, and as he finished he looked away from me, a mixture of resentment and embarrassment in his voice.
What the hell just happened?
Still not completely sure of what had just transpired, when I felt that the awkward silence had gone on long enough, I attempted to start a completely unrelated (and hopefully therefore not awkward) conversation, "Flitwick's running a bit late."
Sam looked at me out of the corner of his eye and raised an eyebrow, silently mocking my lack of conversational skills. I responded by flashing him the biggest, cheesiest, apologetic grin I could muster, making him smile and roll his eyes.
"You always manage to avoid seeing the elephant in the room, don't you, Lyra?" he teased, still smiling.
"Got to be good at something, Sam," I shrugged.
An hour later Ivy had returned to one of her favourite platonic positions and looped her arm through mine as we walked out of Charms, her voice once again becoming background noise, until;
"And don't think I didn't see you and Rich having a little intimate moment," she teased.
"I was threatening to kill him," I answered simply before she had a chance to ask. Something about the tone of my voice obviously made her believe me, because all she said was a quiet "Oh..."
My head was still reeling with my pre-class conversation with Sam. I had convinced myself years ago I would never even register on Sam's proverbial radar, so it had taken me almost half the lesson to realise exactly what 'the elephant in the room' was. But now that I knew, I still wasn't sure what to do about it. Ahead of us Sam was walking with a group of Hufflepuffs, and I watched as he stopped, patting his pockets, and, obviously forgetting something, called to them to keep walking while he turned around and began walking back to Charms.
"Ivy, look!" I quickly pointed down the opposite end of the hall.
"What?" Ivy gazed wide-eyed down the hall.
"I think I just saw Alexis run past, looked like she was crying," I lied.
Ivy gasped, "What? I'll see you later." She hurried down the hall to comfort her sister (who of course was nowhere to be seen), and I suddenly felt guilty for using trusting Ivy's love and intense desire to protect her sister to my advantage. But then I saw Sam leave the Charm's classroom with his lost quill and I forgot all about Ivy, and instead hurried towards him.
"Sam!" I called out, and he stopped and turned to find me close behind him.
He smiled as I approached, and I suddenly realised I had no idea what to say.
"Yes?" he asked politely when I was standing in front of him.
Say it, say it say it!
"Hogsmeade," I blurted, then continued more composed. "This weekend's the first Hogsmeade trip of the year, and I was wondering if you were going?"
I think I'm going to throw up. I tried my best to look composed as I waited for Sam's response.
"I don't really know yet," Sam answered simply, clearly obvious to my intended question. "I haven't talked to my mates about it so I don't know who else is going."
"I'm going." I was less nervous now that Sam was being his normal slow-on-the-uptake self.
"Yeah, but I don't really know your friends that well," he said, then realised this may have offended me he continued quickly, "not that I don't like them, I mean, from what I do know they seem great, I just meant-"
"Sam," I swallowed my fear and put my hand on his shoulder, "my friends won't be there."
Sam's eyes flickered from my face, to my hand and back again before they grew wide with comprehension.
"Oh, I see," he said nervously. "Er-"
Before he said anything else I mentally cringed and quickly took my had away from his shoulder. Merlin, why do I always make a fool of myself?
"It's ok, you don't have to answer," I said quickly, wanting to get away from there as fast as possible. "I just thought, you know, what you said before... obviously we were seeing different elephants, and I won't be offended if you say no." I smiled warmly while my heart pounded and my stomach clenched.
Sam looked panicked, "No!" I nodded and began to turn away. "Wait, not no to Hogsmeade, no to you," he cringed at his own babbling and continued awkwardly. "Not no to you either, I meant no to what you said before about the different elephants and me saying no to going with you to Hogsmeade," he finished lamely.
Confusion had now replaced my terror, which was obviously apparent on my face because Sam took a deep breath and smiled.
"Hogsmeade sounds great," he seemed slightly breathless and his face was pink.
Catching up, my stomach slowly unclenched and I grinned, "Great! I'll meet you in the Great Hall on Saturday."
"Great," Sam was still smiling.
"Great. Glad it's all sorted." Still smiling I bit my bottom lip, "I should go, I'm late for class."
"Of course, yes," Sam seemed to return back to earth and shook his head slightly, "me too. I'll see you later."
"Bye." I smiled and walked away.
I could feel my cheeks were flushed and my hair was a mess from me running my fingers through it all Charms (nervous habit), but I didn't care. Nothing could wipe the smile off my face, because I had finally seen that wonderful elephant in the room.