Chapter 7

It's a strange thing, having thousands of emotions running over you at once. I'm surprised my legs didn't collapse from under me; I didn't know whether to laugh or cry (or both). I was so relieved that my body did almost go limp in Albus's arms. That wouldn't have been a problem, necessarily, but I managed to hold myself up. On top of my sheer relief was a feeling of shock. Not a bad kind of shock, though; it was a kind of shock that encompassed all of my happiness, excitement, and unbelief into one, strange emotion. My face must have been priceless.

Not that Albus would have cared. I don't even think he noticed, actually. We sat in the floor of that classroom for at least another hour, Albus sitting against the wall and I against his chest. It was almost too good to be true. His chin rested on my head and his arms wrapped around my waist; I had probably pictured this a thousand times in my head. None of my fantasies could have compared to this moment. For the most part, we didn't even talk. We were both still processing the reality of it all. My arms rested on top of his, and we just sat there.

I could feel his heart racing. No doubt he could feel mine, too. I mindlessly played with his fingers as my mind whirred.

This is really happening, I kept telling myself. He's finally yours. All at once, a million images ran through my head. I saw us walking hand in hand through Hogsmeade; sitting at a picnic by the Black Lake. Sneaking through the castle past hours… Which, technically, we were doing right now.

My daydreams were then rudely interrupted by another thought.

"I guess James won't be too fond of this on the Quidditch pitch," I said, reluctantly breaking our content silence.

"James can think what he wants," Albus said lowly in my ear. "He can kick me off the team, for all I care. As long as I have you, I wouldn't care if I didn't get on a broom again."

I couldn't stop smiling. We didn't talk anymore; we just enjoyed each other's company. I don't know how long we stayed there. We could only tell that time was changing by the moonlight stretching further across the floor.

We might have stayed there all night if it wasn't for the quiet clank of metal outside. I felt Albus tense up.

"Oh, perfect," I huffed in an annoyed tone. I could identify that sound anywhere. "Filch has started his rounds." I looked up at Albus and saw a glint of excitement in his eyes.

"Well I guess we had better outrun him," he said wryly. "Come on."

I got up slowly, trying to be as silent as possible. If Filch caught us… I didn't even want to think about it. Albus hopped up spryly and grabbed my hand. Without another word, he led me out of the classroom and into the dark corridor.

We couldn't see Filch, but the eerie sound of his ancient lantern still haunted the halls. There was no way to tell where it was coming from. Albus darted down the corridor in the direction of Gryffindor tower, tugging me along like a dog on a leash. I willingly followed, not really knowing or caring where we ended up.

Albus stopped abruptly, pulling me close to him against the wall. I thought he was going to kiss me again, but he pointed silently around the corner. I could see the glow of Filch's lantern. I looked up at Albus nervously; he put a finger up to his lips, signaling me to be quiet. I held my breath and hoped for the best.

The clanking stopped and the light remained where it was. I clung to Albus's arm desperately. For a moment, I thought we had been caught. Then, as if perfectly on queue, we heard a stack of books tumble over in some classroom opposite our direction. The crash was followed by a devilish cackle.

"That blasted ghoul," We heard Filch mutter murderously. He began clomping in the other direction, mindlessly rambling about all of the ways he would torture Peeves- that is, if it were possible to physically punish a poltergeist.

I let out a sigh of relief. At least we had Peeves on our side. "That was a bit close, don't you think?" I whispered with a bit of a laugh.

"Oh, that was nothing," Albus said mischeviously. It made me curious about what other close encounters he and his friends had had with Filch. "Come on."

Our trek across the castle resumed. We sneaked past prefects and ghosts alike; Nearly Headless Nick apparently spotted us hand in hand, but all we heard him say was "It's about time."

We stopped just outside the Common Room. The Fat Lady was starting to nod off. Albus looked down at me, studying my face as if he still didn't believe it. He slowly pushed a stray piece of hair behind my ear. I felt like I was going to burst with happiness. I wrapped my arms around his neck and hugged him, burying my face in his sweater. He hugged me back and kissed me gently on the head.

"You two," The Fat Lady slurred. She was obviously coming in and out of consciousness. "Inside."

She must have been really tired, because the frame just swung open without the password. We walked quietly into the Common Room. I was expecting my friends to be waiting at the door for us, but I was wrong. There wasn't a soul in there.

"Goodnight, then," I whispered. I quickly kissed him on the cheek.

"Goodnight," he replied, grinning sheepishly. We both hesitated a second, not wanting to walk away. "See you in the morning."

"See you," I replied. Though I wanted to stay there all night, I turned and walked to the girls' dormitory. I looked back when I reached the door, and Albus was still there with his content grin, watching me. I smiled back as I slipped through the door.

I tried to shut the door quietly, as the lights were off and my friends asleep. To my honest surprise, they actually were asleep. Everyone except for Rose, that is. She was sitting on her bed, knees pulled against her chest like a small child. She had been waiting for me. Rosie didn't squeal when I walked in; she didn't scream like the others would. She was simply beaming. I tiptoed to my bed next to hers, trying to stifle my own grin.

"Muffliato," she whispered quietly, just in case the others woke up. "Well?"

"Oh Rosie, you will never believe all that's happened," I breathed dreamily, falling back onto my bed. I sat there and told her everything, from the shouting, to the kissing, to the running around the castle like rogues. She listened to it as if she were listening to a bedtime story- a fairy tale. No interruptions, except for an occasional sigh or a "Did he really?". When I finished, she had surreal look on her face.

"You'd better not take any of this for granted. This is something special," she said, smiling in an almost I-told-you-so manner. "The rest of them are going to be on your case in the morning." Rose nodded towards the other girls, who were all fast asleep.

"I guess it's all part of it, though," I sighed happily.

"Are you going to tell them?"

"Might as well. Who knows what kind of stories they'll invent if I don't tell them the truth."

"Good point," Rose said, pulling her covers up around her face. "I'm so happy for you, Charlotte. I'd wish you sweet dreams, but you'll have them anyway."

"Good night," I replied with a laugh.

Once again, I was reminded of how great of a best friend Rose really was.