[A quick snippet, not really a full conflictful story, but something to get me started, spurred by the competition's suggested title, which fit in perfectly with what I already had in mind.]
I felt like a little kid when I was around her.
After the success of the first resumed Triwizard tournament, there was a student campaign for the event, and the accompanying yule ball, to be held every three years rather than five, so that no student in any participating school should miss out on the chance to participate before they left school.
Even among the enthusiastic (if misguided) muggle-themed decorations and friendly Beatles music I couldn’t escape the feeling of alienation. The room was divided into little groups, and it seemed, me outside of them. My fellow ’puffs were having a ball on their own.
I hadn’t seen Haley yet; she was out looking for Seth. Libby and Jane were dancing with each other to All You Need Is Love, in lieu of dates. Simon and Jeremy had brought third-year dates. Adam was flirting with a couple of Beauxbaton boys.
I kept looking at a group of well-dressed Slytherins across the floor: three pairs, and one girl on her own, younger than the rest, probably in my year. Short and curvy, flippy raven hair., a spray of freckles over her pale nose and cheeks. Bouncy. I may have stared a lot. The fact that she was there alone, among all her friends, gave me some sort of hope, because she didn’t look like a loser. And then a tall boy with hollow cheeks asked her to a dance.
The song was Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which was awkward, and grinned the whole time like she was about to burst into giggle fits.
Haley tapped me on the shoulder. I told her I didn’t know where Seth was but that if she found him, to remind him that he still owed me a galleon.
This was met with an impatient shake of her head. ‘Stop staring at Anthony. It’s obvious and a bit pathetic.’
‘That’s his name,’ she said, nodding in the direction of bouncy’s gaunt companion. ‘He’s their new quidditch captain, are you that out of touch?’
I watched him for a moment. I’d heard that the Slytherins had been assigned a new captain since their last one resigned; apparently, this was he. ‘I’m not staring at him.’
Rather than question, dear Haley changed the subject. ‘Joshua wants to dance with you.’ She was grinning. Together with her chocolate curls and her light floaty gown for the evening, she looked a bit like the queen of candyland, but it suited her.
‘Tell him to tell me himself,’ I said dismissively. But then, of course, I saw him walking towards me from a safe huddle of Hufflepuffs, and without another word I slipped through the crowd, before the smell of his cologne could hit me for the second time that night.
I stopped at the buffet table and tried to remember why this had seemed like such a good idea in the first place. Crowds, noise, horny fourteen-year-olds, inebriated seventeen-year-olds, Joshua...
I scanned the floor for the bouncy Slytherin again and saw her make her way to a cluster of Durmstrang girls, including Anouk, their Triwizard competitor.
And then our eyes locked, and I finally recognized her from my own year, a girl who kept to the back of classes. Until now, her hair had been a witchy lime green. As with so many other transformed students, the change was likely just a glamour for the night.
I didn’t know her first name, but the teachers called her Miss Cure.
It was a lovely finish to her outfit: a black-laced dress of deep green plaid, tied like a corset in the front with matching ankle boots and black stockings. She was the poster child for the tasteful extravagance that was still the Slytherin legacy. She put me and my little pink rayon shirtdress to shame.
I’d thought that when I finally identified her, my obsession would cease, but in that moment, she kept looking back at me, and I found myself unable to pretend I’d been looking at someone else. She turned back to Anouk and casually ended their conversation. Then she was heading for the buffet table. Bollocks.
I did the sophisticated thing and ran into Luke. He’s easy to knock over.
I don’t suppose he had reason to be surprised by my way of greeting; he’d already known me for four years, after all. But he could have pretended. I offered him a hand. ‘Haley’s looking for you.’
‘Thanks,’ he said, getting up. ‘Where is she?’
I made a vague gesture towards the place I’d last seen her. Then I looked back at Bouncy Cure. ‘If the goth chick in the green’s still following me, please distract her for a minute.’
Before he could ask me what that meant, I darted off for the ladies’.
I’d forgot about the damn galleon again.
That was the end of that night for me. I’ve never been able to handle embarrassment very well. I went back to the empty common room and curled up in a chair. I woke up the next morning as everyone passed through the common room on the way to breakfast.
The rest of the holidays were slow until I bumped into her at the library.
I didn’t actually bump into her, though. I was trying to finish my abandoned arithmancy homework. She sat down next to me, all casual, considering there were plenty of other places to sit and the library was nearly empty. She was in her own clothes: a hot pink shirt with Japanese characters over a striped long-sleeved top, black combat boots and a dark denim skirt. Her hair was still black, and now twisted into two high little pigtails.
It was obvious she was trying to provoke a reaction, so I said nothing.
For a couple of minutes. Finally, taking a peek at the advanced transfiguration text she was reading, ‘Nice day for it.’
She jumped on it, snapped her book shut, abandoned all pretense and looked at me intently. ‘You’re Zoe McKelly.’
‘I know,’ I mumbled.
‘Ivy,’ she said, and shook my hand.
‘How do you know who I am?’
‘Asked your boyfriend. I wanted to tell you I liked your dress.’
‘Thank you, but Luke’s just a friend.’
‘Excellent,’ she said. She put her book back into her satchel, pushed her chair back with some noise and left the library with a cheery, purposeful stride.
Slythers like to play with ’puffs. We are their mice. They’re not all gits, but enough of them that I was a mite concerned that Bouncy – I mean, Ivy – was making fun of me.
I wanted to have a more direct conversation with her, but for the rest of the week I only saw her at mealtimes, and I was not ready to go up to the Slytherin table to confront her.
So it was that when the school term resumed and my third class was potions with Slytherin, I watched her very closely and waited for my chance to pounce her after class. She was intensely concentrated on her classwork the whole time, but Haley wasn’t, and she nudged me a couple of times.
Of course Anthony wasn’t a fourth year, so this time there was no mistaking who I was staring at.
‘It’s not going to happen,’ she stated matter-of-factly.
‘It’s not going to explode in her face. She’s been making a real effort lately – you’re not going to witness a hilarious disaster. At least not if you don’t take an occasional glance at your own cauldron.’
She had a point there. My concotion was looking – and smelling – pretty angry. I turned my attention to it for the rest of the class.
There was a break period after class, so I followed Ivy up the stairs out of the dungeons and out into the grounds.
I only lost my nerve when she lay back on the fresh grass and closed her eyes. I kept on walking, a little flustered.
I’d given up by dinnertime, but that’s when she chose to strike. This time she was positively nonchalant as she sat down at the Hufflepuff table.
‘We should get to know each other,’ she said.
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘Because I like you.’
My cheeks burned. I wished I could go back to thinking about things that weren’t her.
She looked at my hand on the table. I was instantly self-conscious about my long, squareish pianist fingers and neglected nails. Finally, she whispered, almost dirtily, ‘I want to hold your hand.’
Suffice it to say she held my hand.