Chapter 25

Avery was back. The cloud of impending doom that had for so long loomed over Hogwarts was back. No telling how long he’d stay, but he was back…

Sorta…

He was…different…He was still Avery—the overly-tall, pessimistic, extremely moody, high-maintenance Gryffindor—yet he had changed…in a way… kinda…

It was complicated.

Avery rested his head against his favorite tree (the one under which most of his brooding had been done) and sighed softly. He had not expected to be coming back. But he had returned to the hell-hole from which he had long-since escaped. All good things, clearly, do come to an end.

He peered around and saw no one. A few firsties here and there, actually, but no one he cared about…not that he really cared about anyone anymore.

He sincerely hoped he would not run across Aggie. Nor did he wanna see Aiko. He wasn’t sure, but he had a gut feeling that the last time he saw her he did something to make her more skittish. Just great. Seeing Donal wouldn’t be too bad. But he felt as he did with Aiko. Something was not right. He wasn’t sure how Donal would react to seeing him. That went for Vivs and Brian too. He’d kept up no correspondence with any of the Scoobies. More than anything, he was terrified they would hate him. Probably just his paranoia, but still…

Avery ran his fingers through his hair, staring blankly out across the lake. So…I’m back…someone please stab me…

Vivienne Moor completed a triple barrel loop with a flourish, leaned back, spread her arms, and floated in the sky like a fairy tale Princess. It was certainly like a day out of a fairy tale. The sun streamed down, forming bright ribbons that warmed her face and fingers; below the sunlight caressed the landscape, revealing deep green and blue hues, water color swirls on a Monet canvas.

Vivi sat up, running a hand through her loose black hair. It was longer than it had been in ages, down past her shoulders, and it curled loosely around her face. She wore faded cut off shorts, a white tank top, and no shoes. It was very hot outside, and she had dressed for that.

Swinging the broom around, Vivi glanced over at a tree on the edge of the field, attracted by a hint of motion. Most students were lounging by the lake or inside in the cool, so she was a little curious as to who had invaded her Pitch.

Flying closer, she gasped.

It can’t be, she thought, not daring to believe it. No…no…oh Merlin. It is.

Diving towards the ground, Vivi jumped off of the broom before she even stopped it, yelling, “Avery!” A wide grin spread across her face, as she sprinted the last few steps, half throwing herself at him in a huge hug. “You’re back!”

It took a moment after the enthusiastic greeting for Vivi to realize that she was now on the ground, splayed on top of Avery, wearing short shorts, a barely there tank top, and no shoes. Blushing fiercely, she hastened to get off of him, standing awkwardly before sitting cross legged in the grass.

“Hi.”

Avery flashed a rare smile. He definitely didn’t expect that sort of welcome from…anyone. Sure he was miserable, as always, but Vivs standing awkwardly before him as if she had done something stupid brought joy to his otherwise pitiful existence.

So at least she didn’t hate him.

But there could still be some awkward-ness thrown into the mix. Sure, she was happy to see him (as the glomp clearly indicated), but she could not exactly forget the whole “fake girlfriend” thing, all the times he had hexed her (or tried to at least), all the problems with Aiko, all the drama that had, most likely, been stolen from a muggle soap…

Something was bound to mess things up.

“Hey squirt,” he said, having neither the energy for a psycho-hyperactive reunion, nor any idea how to handle the semi-awkward situation.

“Hey honn,” Vivi said, as the floodgates she had erected in her mind to hold back the memories burst. She had so much history with Avery. “I didn’t think you’d come back,” she confided, carefully skirting mentioning their relationship the last time she had seen him. It had been a long time.

Avery smirked. “Neither did I, actually.”

Oh the irony. Hogwarts had, at one time, been the greatest thing that had ever happened to him. Then came Aggie, Aiko, Donal, Brian, Vivs, and with them, all the drama that had, for around five years, messed with his mind and caused far too much pain. With each progressing year the urge to burn the school to the ground nearly overtook him. Only the fact that a fifth year could not burn the school down stop him. Otherwise, anything remotely related to his pain would be gone.

The Scoobies included.

Especially Vivs.

Not that he did not care about her. He did. Probably more so than he did for the rest of the gang. But with her, his psyche had been put on a never-ending roller coaster. He was emotionally drained from the drama. For once, he could not tell what she was thinking. For the most part, Avery was a good judge of character. Even though he would often suppress true feelings for those he fabricated to fit his needs, he generally could figure people out. But Vivi made him insane. He felt, more often than not, that she hated him or didn’t wanna be around him. That incorrect realization tore him to mental shreds, as he, again, cared more for her than for nearly any other person he knew.

Why did life have to suck so freakin’ bad?

“I liked being,” he paused, “away. I wouldn’t have come back, ‘cept…err…” he scratched his head nervously. “Ack. Never mind.”

At one point he could have told Vivi anything. Now he was hiding stuff from her. Things just kept getting better and better.

“I’m glad ya did,” Vivi said without even thinking about it, for once. It was the complete truth, and she wondered after saying it whether she should have let that slip out so soon or not. Oh well.

“I mean, I’m glad you came back,” she clarified. Nervous fingers shredded the hem of her jeans, creating jean fuzz.

Why? she wondered, the thought whirling around like a caged animal in her brain, Why did things ever have to get so hard?

It had been so simple when they were just friends. Yet with the introduction of Aggie into the equation, the emotional twister had started. Avery had hurt her. Possibly he had not meant too, even probably, but he had, completely demolishing the trust she placed in him. Injured, she lashed back at him out of spite. Really they had only been talking to each other a few months before he disappeared, yet in that time she had completely placed her faith in him again, to a point where it caused her first ever fight with Aiko.

So it was true. Avery had her practically wrapped around his wand, though neither party seemed to know it. Goodness, three minutes back and she was already looking at him with…what was the eloquent phrase Agatha Swales had used? Oh yes. Vivi was looking at Avery with, “pathetic cow eyes,” although she was completely unaware of it.

So Vivi didn’t hate him. Nor did there appear to be any hard feelings for any of the many times he had tried to hex her, or for the Aggie thing, the problems with Aiko, or any of the other innumerable stupid things he had done.

Well… I’m probably the biggest son of a bitch there is, Avery thought.

The more he thought about it, the more he realized how big of a jerk he was. And the more he thought about that, the more he wondered how the heck Vivs and the rest of the gang had put up with him for so long.

Over the summer, Avery had reverted many times to former states of depression, rather than frequent flares in anger, due to all of the junk going on. He often sat in a corner and sulked, trying to rationalize away problems and confusion. But a few months ago that had stopped. He figured it was in the past and he would no longer sulk. The tendency, however, was slowly creeping back. He sat silent for a few minutes, staring at a particularly interesting piece of green grass, thinking intently about something…. Even he wasn’t exactly sure what.

She’s glad I came back? Why? Seems like she’d be happier without me here. There’d be no problems with Aiko, Aggie wouldn’t be as mean to her, Donal… Well, Donal, possibly, has a reason to want me back.

Vivs doesn’t.

At least there was not one that Avery could think of. He had been ruthless to her and countless other people, yet she was glad he was back. Was there something he was missing? Most likely.

“Really?” he choked out after a few more minutes of lovely, uncomfortable silence. “Why?”

So much for this not being awkward.

Vivi glanced up sharply, surprised. Avery wanted to know why? It was obvious, wasn’t it?

Well, if it’s obvious, then what’s the answer? Vivi wondered, at a loss for a moment. Why did she want Avery back? Why did it matter what he did? Why did she care?

“Cause I like ya, Avery,” Vivi said finally, flicking a piece of jean fuzz at him. It fell short, but the next one hit his shoulder. Too bad—she had been aiming for his nose. “Good enough of a reason?”

“Um. Yeah…” he muttered distractedly. “That works.” Okay. Well, that’s not ambiguous. Not at all.

Vivs had left her response open-ended and it made Avery less than comfortable. What exactly did she mean by “like”? “Like” or “like-like”? Avery had always misunderstood things and had, as a result, always made a fool of himself. Thus, he made a point to first figure out the person’s true meaning before he said anything stupid. Not that that would work in this case. Kinda unique and personal. How fun.

But would it really matter? Say she did have deeper feelings for him. Would he really care? It was Vivs- the short, annoying Huth who he had, somehow, befriended. If she did have feelings for him, would that really make a difference?

Or, say she had no deeper feelings—how would that affect him? Would he care that there was nothing deeper or would the thought never cross his mind?

Well, the thought was crossing. Quite quickly, actually. So to heck with that theory.

Avery stood and walked a few steps away from her, staring off into the incredibly interesting distance. Oh, wow. A cloud. How fun. And, oh, a pine tree. Yay. That’s just so much…fun…yeah.

“So…um…” he began, stopping short. He had nothing to say to her. He had apparently dropped suddenly off the face of the earth just to come back into her life just as suddenly. What could he say? Not like anything that had happened in recent history was any of his business. Not that she cared what he had been doing…

Not that he could tell her…

“Yeah.” he muttered, running his fingers once again through his hair.

Oh the pain of all awkwardness.

“Avery?” Vivi questioned, wondering what had made him get up so suddenly, and why he seemed to be avoiding looking at her. What had she done now? Merlin. Nothing with him is ever simple.

Jumping up, she dusted herself off and followed him. What about the fact that she liked him had Avery so confused? It wasn’t that hard of a concept. Then again, considering, maybe it was.

“Look,” Vivi sighed, lightly touching his arm. “Let me try that again.” She paused, trying to think of a way to word what she wanted to say. It was hard, because there was a lot she could say, only a little that should be said, and less than that to say that Avery would understand. Talk about a pickle.

“I like ya Avery. I’m not Aiko, who’s afraid of ya, or Aggie, who used ya. I’m talking to ya because I like talking ta ya,” she paused, suddenly fascinated by the same pine tree he was looking at, heart a little faster than normal. Why oh why did this have to happen around him?

Swinging around so she was facing him, Vivi smiled. It was so nice, talking to him again. Looking up, she asked, “Okay?” Hopefully it would be okay. She really didn’t feel like being hexed for causing too much physical contact.

Avery just blinked. A lot.

His brain was two seconds from reducing to a thick pink goo and oozing out of his nose, and his sanity was about as far from hitching a ride.

He was not used to human contact—to people actually caring for him. He was disowned by his parents and taken in by a family who seemed to want him. Then that went to heck.

There had always been the Scoobies, but it had not quite hit home that they really liked him. He had always felt they were just nice people who he could laugh with. He never really realized that they were his friends. Real, true, genuine friends.

He wasn’t ready for that.

He had always been a loner. He cut himself off from human contact to avoid the pain. Avoiding happiness, he reasoned, reduced the pain, simply because if one wasn’t happy, one couldn’t become upset when the happiness was gone.

It was his twisted way to protect himself.

And, honestly, it didn’t work too well.

Avery looked down at Vivs who, if he wasn’t mistaken, was about as nervous as he was. Kinda odd…

So….would I care? he thought, returning to his messed up head to figure out something equally as messed up. Say she doesn’t like me…that wouldn’t bother me…would it?

He looked back to the same pine tree, sighing heavily. Yeah…it would.

He hated human contact and strong emotions and all the junk normal people felt. But, for the first time, he realized that never being happy, never having any positive emotions, and always cutting himself off from the world was not exactly healthy.

And he wondered why his psyche was all messed up.

So, after years of protecting his heart from the pain and years of suppressing happiness, Avery decided to change his outlook on life.

Life didn’t completely suck all the time. Sometimes, yeah, but there was a reason to live.

People that love you…

As odd as that was to him…

“Vivs…” he muttered, awkwardly turning to face her. She looked up, eyebrows raised slightly, in a sort of weird anticipation.

So he was going for it. Screw his messed up psyche. If things went to heck, he couldn’t get much more messed up than he already was, right?

Right…?!?!

He was not entirely sure.

So, despite all qualms and fears (of both rejection and the aforementioned human contact), he kissed her, hoping against all hope that she wouldn’t slap him, then impale him with her broom.

But, oddly enough, she was kinda kissing back.

But it was too good to last. For across the Pitch, standing with look of clear anguish and disgust twisted onto her face, stood none other than Agatha Swales.

Yes, that’s right.

Agatha Swales.

Impossible. Hideous, hideous, hideous and impossible, she thought faintly.

He was back. Of that fact she had been aware for the last hour. Little escaped her, but yet she had done nothing. Was it possible that she was nervous? Uncertain of herself? Of how to act or what to do?

Agatha Swales had seen from a lofty position high up on a distant staircase the reappearance of Avery Berke. She had told herself that his vanishing act had been the best thing which could have happened to Hogwarts. Had almost convinced herself of her indifference to the gormless Gryffindor, who was so unworthy of the notice of a pureblood Swales.

After all her parents had but that very Christmas introduced their teenage daughter to many eligible suitors, amongst them Cheswicks and Ashboughs, Keswicks and Willoughbys. One boy in particular had caught her eye. Matthew Willoughby of Durmstrang, with his well groomed good looks and perfect manners, had held a special place in her affections for more than one term.

Yet when she saw the lofty form and heard the mutter of the voice of Avery Berke she knew it was all a sham. Humiliating, embarrassing, but true. She did not let him see her but retreated backwards swiftly into the shadows until she heard the outside door clang faintly behind him.

And for the next hour she went back to the Slytherin dorm and shut herself in, fighting against her own will and more importantly her own pride.

She lost.

She fought herself and lost.

There was nothing else for it.

Once Agatha made up her mind there was no reversal. She had decided and now she had to see the blasted thing through.

She checked her appearance in her mirror, flicking her newly long white blonde curls over her shoulder. “Divine darling, too, too divine,” the mirror sighed in admiration and Agatha nodded her agreement.

Once outside she had no intention of muddying her beloved white kitten heels, so she levitated herself slightly and with a tiny breeze at her heels went after her target.

At first she saw him and only him. She was focused and calm. Until she realized with a tiresome inevitability that someone had gotten there before her.

Stupid midget Veruca was already ogling Berke with her piggy little eyes. Of all the annoying, bratty Huthlepuths, that girl was something else. Agatha felt her temper rise within her, but as ever her ice cold exterior would not have betrayed her to a passing witness; should there have been any. She rested neatly on the ground nearby, but insultingly they seemed oblivious of her. Of all the cheek.

Why Avery even gave the sniveler the time of day was beyond her. But what if a sudden horrible thought struck her. What if all this time they had been secretly corresponding? What if she had known of his arrival? What if Veruca knew more than Agatha? Surely not.

But then something so inexplicably, fundamentally awful happened that Agatha was forced to clutch at the Birch sapling at her side.

Impossible. Hideous, hideous and impossible.

Berke bent down (And it was a long, long distance to the sniveler, Agatha noticed) and kissed Veruca right on her piggy snout.

The sniveler responded.

It was too much.

Agatha lost her temper.

The “lovers” were so wrapped up in each other that it was all over and far too late by the time they could have thought of responding.

Agatha took out her ash white wand and aimed straight at Veruca’s small back.

Lingua vamos!” she cried and the sniveler’s tongue (which was somewhere in Avery’s mouth, which Agatha didn’t even dare to think about) immediately extracted itself from its root and flew into Agatha’s waiting jar. With Veruca unable to defend herself, lacking the power of speech, Agatha fired quickly, “Petrificus Totalis!” and knocked over Vivi’s mummified body.

She had intended on capturing the tongue and locking it away, but some miserable interfering teacher or other was bound to make her give it up and looking over Avery’s shoulder she saw a much better option.

Agatha flung the open jar, containing the tongue into the lake and laughed out loud when a Siddlejink arm reached up and grabbed it. It would not be long before idiot Hufflepuff’s tongue would be its next meal.

All of this had happened in such startlingly rapid succession that Avery Berke was still standing there, in much the same attitude as he had been in when kissing the sniveler. Agatha crossed the space to him and gently caressed his cheek with one bejeweled hand. She would forgive him. It would all be all right in the end. They would start over from here.

In a soft voice she murmured, “Avery Berke, why did you not say you were returning?”

She turned the full force of her considerable beauty and charm on him.

Veruca Snore was no match for Agatha Swales.

Avery gaped. Every thing happened so stinkin’ fast. He was kissing Vivs, as odd as that was, then Agatha appeared, hexed Vivi’s tongue into oblivion, and then began advancing on Avery.

What exactly was going on?

He was about to be sick. And as much fun as it would be to vomit on Aggie’s perfect Gucci, or Prada, or Versace…whatever…top and see her look of utter disgust, he decided against that.

Save it for later, perhaps, but he needed to fix Vivs.

“Sorry. Just got back,” he said, snaking an arm around her waist and pulling her closer. He leaned in and, lips inches from hers, whispered, “Any way to make up for it?” he smiled evilly and kissed her, hoping she wouldn’t hex him for doing…this.

Never know with Aggie.

After a few seconds, he withdrew and smiled again. “Ya know, Aggie,” he said, stepping back a few feet, “You should keep a tighter hold on your wand.” Smirking almost sadistically, he held up her wand and began twirling it through his fingers.

He had picked her pocket.

“Little thing I picked up when I was gone. Definitely not as cultured as you’d like, I’m sure, but it’ll have to do.” He eyed her. “Just hold on for a sec, ‘k? Dirimo Temporis!” Having pocketed Aggie’s wand, he cast the spell, stopping Aggie in her tracks. Sure, she was still moving—just really, really slowly.

How fun.

“And for Vivs’ tongue…um…what’s the dang spell?” He ran his fingers through his hair and scrunched up his nose.

“Oh yeah.” He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, extended his hand, and muttered, “Accitum.” In a swirl of white lights, Vivi’s tongue, all wet and slimy, appeared in his hand, thankfully uneaten.

He shoved her tongue in his pocket and reversed the petrification spell. Though a bit shaken (and quite tongue-less), Vivs looked fine. Now for Aggie…

Finite,” Avery muttered, reversing the slowing spell on Aggie. “Ya know, I might have been more receptive had you not hexed my girl. Mind, I still have your wand. But talk.” He raised his eyebrow slightly, just daring her to try to weasel her way out of the jam she was in.

The look on Agatha’s face could have curdled milk.

She looked from Veruca Snore to Berke and back. The whole thing was other worldly and utterly obscene. It could not be. It would not be. Berke had not just gone from kissing her to standing up for the idiot midget Huthleputh.

Agatha gritted her perfect teeth and tossed her beautiful white locks. She looked again at the midget, narrowing her devious green eyes, just to ascertain she was not mistaken, but of course she was not. The girl may have grown a centimeter or two (in four years!) and appeared to be wearing the rudiments of some cheap makeup or other, unprofessionally applied, but Agatha was extremely aware that her own numerous physical charms were far superior. So what was Berke playing at? Why save the kid? And the words. It was of course the words rather than the deeds which shook her most.

Hoping she was betraying nothing to the waiting pair, she then ignored Veruca entirely.

“Your….girl?” she said, her voice loaded with sarcasm and, as she looked at Avery an odd mixture of hatred and hurt filled her eyes. She wanted to say a million other things, but feared to humiliate herself, an unspeakable crime in front of any Huthleputh or other inferior being.

She waited for Avery to explain, to take all the horror away, to share the joke with her.

Avery realized as Agatha and Vivi looked at him that life’s an extremely long list of rather choice expletives. Why couldn’t the fates be merciful and crack a big, convenient hole in the earth into which he could then jump? Though that would, most certainly, be painful, he would be able to escape the more painful situation he was in.

Because here were both Aggie and Vivs.

Two of the people he, surprisingly, cared most about…

Fates, be nice…

First, Aggie. Despite being perhaps the biggest bi—err…witch…ever, Agatha was sometimes, occasionally, and when she felt like it, a decent human being. At least to Avery.

For the short time they were together, his judgment had been clouded and he had hurt more people than was particularly healthy, but he was happy. Aside from the evil Scoobies conspiring against him, he was completely happy. Agatha, somehow, had brought that deeply hidden emotion to the surface. Had she not dumped him, things might have worked out.

Or, of course, if she had not hexed Vivs.

Ickle Vivs. That stupid Huth, at times, had made him laugh entirely too hard for the good of his sanity and internal organs. She was, probably, the single person he cared most about. As messed up as their friendship was and as hectic as things had gotten, he had always cared for her. Even when he was Aggie’s lap dog and was being incredibly inhuman and cold, he cared for her. When he chose Agatha over her and crushed her little Huthleputh heart, he’d been torn to shreds. Even though he was utterly inhuman and seemed not to have a shred of decency in his extremely tall body, he didn’t want to see her so upset. He had never meant to hurt her and, had he not been so blinded, he never would have.

He loved her.

He was not sure how exactly, but he knew he did. And he never wanted to lose her. She meant way too much to him.

And as much as Agatha meant to him, Vivs meant at least twice as much.

So…the cruel truth: Someone had to get hurt.

Should Avery hurt Vivs, she would most likely kill herself from the overwhelming drama of it all. But, should he hurt Agatha…well…Agatha would retaliate…she always hid her inner feelings with outward indignation. Always. If Avery hurt her, he would suffer…

…a lot.

But, as much as he cared for Agatha, as much as he did not want to hurt her, and as much as he wanted things between them to work out, she had hurt Vivs.

That did not sit well with Avery.

Agatha still had not grasped that she was not the only person in the world. That the world didn’t revolve around her criminally large ego.

She didn’t see that she couldn’t hurt people to get what she wanted.

Life doesn’t work that way.

She had to learn that.

But she seemed, as far as he could tell, completely genuine. It seemed to him that she had decided to screw her previous qualms and chase after what she truly wanted, whether or not it would later bite her in the butt. Agatha, ignore that he was a Mudblood? Wow.

Avery took a deep breath, his feelings and thoughts finally making sense, and nodded slowly. “Yup. My girl.”

Worst part’s over. Well, all except the part where she chops my head off with a meat cleaver.

“Yeah. As much as I’d like things to work out between us, Vivs and the others mean more to me than you ever will. You hurt her, Agatha. You were gonna—actually, began to- feed her tongue to some funky creature in the lake. No decent human being does that.”

He pocketed his wand in the pocket opposite hers and snaked his arm around Vivi’s shoulders (She was too short for him to reach her waist- he could barely reach her shoulders as it was.) “I don’t wanna lose you, ‘specially when you decide to screw what your parents think…and what you feel,” he said softly, “but it will bite me in the butt again. Has before, will again.” Taking his arm from around Vivs and stepping forward, he flashed what was possibly the most vindictive smile he had ever given. His eyes flared red (for the first time in years) and he lifted his wand, pointing it at Agatha. “That aside, you hurt Vivs. That doesn’t settle well with me.”

“You dare to point your wand at me you filthy mudblood,” Agatha hissed and the golden snake bracelet which wound gracefully round her arm tightened its grip. She faced him squarely, wand-less but unnervingly fearless.

“Who do you think you are? A nothing, a nobody, a jumped-up mudblood scum. Who are your family? Who are your friends?” Agatha’s eyes flicked to the Puth behind him. “You’re pathetic Berke and I hate you,” she cried, her temper getting the better of her. “You know what, you two deserve each other,” she added bitterly. “But never forget that you could have been better, could have been great but you dropped yourself back down in the mud. I hope you drown there.”

He looked angry enough to attack her, but as yet made no move. No harm in going first though, consequences be damned. He had turned his back on her, even though he knew what it cost her in terms of family, friends, and reputation, all, even to speak to him, let alone to…

She could not think clearly, but the snake, her family’s device, meant to ensure her full obedience to their ideas, inserted a tiny needle-like tongue into her veins. She knew what to do. “Look at her Berke,” she said. “Is that what you really want?”

And of course he looked. The dumbstruck, love-struck bird-brain turned to the cow-eyed one and in a lightning second Agatha struck.

She snatched her wand from his back pocket and as he turned and grabbed roughly at her, she fired the spell in his face. “Fortis yeux et mains!” she hissed and the bright light which emanated forth scorched his eyebrows she was so close. A jet of light streamed from the wand and Avery practically fell into the Huthleputh brat (who got rather squashed—unsurprisingly for a midget). The light became liquid and attached itself to both Vivi’s and Avery’s hands and mouth.

She saw Avery fighting with the spell and his wand, which the light had glued into his hand at an odd angle and she flicked her wand sharply downward twice to release the thread of spell.

She smirked. If she could not have what she wanted then she would certainly make sure that every step of their lives was from now on as difficult as she could make it. Avery she wanted to suffer. The brat—well she would not care if she killed her—as long as she could make the “accident” convincing enough.

Something to think on anyway.

The light had solidified now and she looked at them. Much joy. Berke and Veruca were stuck on each other for sure. They were locked by permanent glue by both hands and lips in an everlasting embrace. With no hands to use a wand and no voice to command it they were stuck like that until either some chance passer-by helped them out or they managed to shuffle up to the Hospital Wing.

“I’ll be seeing you then Berke, Veruca,” she said, cold laughter in her eyes and voice. “I guess you’ll be sticking around a while longer,” she smirked and turned back to the castle.

One tear fell from her eye and was angrily wiped away.

She loved him.

Vivi felt sick. It was not the sort of stomach sickness that comes just before throwing up, but an overwhelming, dizzy sort of dread. She was, once more, thrown violently around, and this time, rather than losing her tongue in the lake, she lost it inside Avery’s mouth. Moving to pull away out of necessity, for her feet barely touched the ground, Vivi found that she couldn’t. She was stuck, stuck on Avery Berke like they had lathered their mouths in super glue and then set down for a good make-out session.

Excepting the phenomenal fact that Avery standing up for her made Vivi possibly the happiest girl at Hogwarts, it was beginning to seem that staying in bed this morning might have been the smarter choice. Yet out of the corner of her eye she saw Agatha turn, walking back towards the castle, lacking some of the luster that normally shrouded her person.

Good. At least that demon child was gone, for the moment.

Now, they needed a solution. It was particularly irking to be attached at the mouth to Avery, no matter how much she loved him, and also demeaning to have both hands locked in his. It allowed no freedom of movement whatsoever, and would make shuffling their way up to the Hospital Wing nigh on impossible. It could be done. It would just be slow, cumbersome, and utterly blah.

Vivi would have paid a substantial amount, at the moment, to have either the assurance of Agatha Swales, dead, or to at least to have a go at her in a ring where magic was not allowed. It was most probable that Vivi could land a good, solid punch on one of her perfectly made-up eyes, or yank out some of that fake blonde hair. True, Vivi was short, at 5’3, but she was feisty. With four rough and tumble cousins, she had known the meaning of multiple bruises early on, and even learned how to fight like a farm boy. It involved a lot of shoving, elbows, and in the case a younger, smaller girl, well placed kicks. Extensive Quidditch training had given her strength, if not bulk, and so a bet wagered on her might not have been misplaced money.

Alas, however, the chance would probably never arrive. Aggie never went anywhere without her wand, and sneaking up on the Snake was like waking a sleeping giant. It just was not a good idea.

Mentally she sighed, preparing herself for a long walk, that is, shuffle. Avery would have to take the first steps. His legs were longer, and besides, his back was facing the castle. There was little she could do at the moment.

Avery, also, was less than pleased and quite a bit more than simply murderous.

He didn’t just want to kill Agatha: he wanted to slowly torture her in various, incredibly cruel ways. Then, after publicly humiliating her, kill her. Painfully.

So what if he still had feelings for her? She had hurt Vivs and attacked him.

And she said she still loved him?

She was going down…

…just as soon as he got Vivi’s tongue out of his mouth. Despite enjoying kissing her, her tongue in his mouth for an extended period of time was disturbing and kind of gross.

Oh Agatha was going to die.

Avery realized how long it would take them to get back to the castle, let alone to the Wing. He was over a foot taller than Vivs and they were at a terrible angle. It would take them a good three hours-minimum-to reach the Wing. That was if they hurried.

He wasn’t in the mood to wait to kill Aggie.

Vivi was light enough to carry, he figured, so he leaned back, lifting Vivi a few inches off the ground. He could tell it was a bit painful, her hanging off him by only her mouth and hands. But if he carried her, they’d get to the wing more quickly. Vivs could then get a painkiller, and Avery could find Agatha and eviscerate her.

Once, of course, he had annoyed her by publicly snogging with Vivs.

He turned around and began waddling toward the castle, glaring at the firsties who were staring at him along the way.

An hour later Vivi silently hastened along the far wall of one of the many courtyards at Hogwarts. This particular section was an older, quieter split level courtyard, with a winding staircase that led to the upper level. Vines tumbled down over the crumbling stones from flower boxes above, and the sound of a softly tinkling fountain echoed through the area, although there was no fountain in sight.

Vivi led Avery by the hand, having exited the Hospital Wing in a hurry, only after thanking the Professor who had undone Agatha’s curse. Preventing further questioning was paramount, so she fled, bringing Avery along with her. Now she was searching for a place she found, once, a place where they would not be disturbed by anyone. Even Agatha Swales did not know of the secret courtyard she was heading for, Vivi was positive.

Coming to the spiral staircase, Vivi whispered, “Just a little further, I promise.” She smiled down at Avery from her place on a higher stair, and then skipped up the next flight, to stop on the darkest part of the covered stairway. Running a hand lightly over the right-hand wall, she raised her wand and commanded, “Alohomora!”

The wall shifted, squeezing to each side just enough to allow one person to fit through the narrow slit. Vivi slid in, and then waited for Avery (who would have to duck). Before them was a tiny, but very pretty, garden. The noise of splashing water intensified as a gurgling, life size Unicorn came into view. There were flowers in bloom everywhere, yet the smell of floral was conspicuously absent, and no breeze disturbed the foliage. It was enchanted, all of it.

“Thank you.” Vivi said as the stone door ground shut again, leaving Avery and herself alone inside. “I really mean it, Avery,” she emphasized, glancing down at the ground, unsure of herself. He had stuck up for her, but exactly what implications on their current standing that had, she didn’t know. “Thank you.”

Avery smirked. For once, Vivs was feeling awkward while he was just fine.

Perfectly fine.

…well, aside from the overwhelming urge to figure out how to most properly kill Agatha.

That was for another day though—another time at least. “Vivs…” he began, grabbing her hands and sitting on the ground (said action made aforementioned awkward conversation slightly less anatomically difficult).

“Look at me,” he said, placing a finger under her chin and tilting her head to meet his gaze. “Do you honestly think I’d have done that for Aggie?” he laughed softly. Even if he would have wanted to do that for Aggie, she would not have let him. He, the filthy mudblood, would most likely have gotten in the way.

“Vivs, this’ll go wherever you want it to go. But you should know how I feel by now…no person in their right mind threatens to hex Agatha without unofficially forfeiting his life.” His smile broadened as he pulled a flower off the bush next to him. He extended his hand, offering the Huth the flower, and said, “And would I ever give this to Aggie unless it was highly radioactive? Which gives me a great idea…” he shook his head. “Later, Berke, later.”

For Vivi, it felt a little like being run over by a feather light freight train. On the one hand she was floored, and in a near state of shock from the events of the day. On the other, she was entirely blissful in a way she had not even known was possible.

Avery is…we are…that is, this means that…the thoughts surrounded her; Vivi almost could not breath. Yet with a command and a gentle touch, Avery made her look up to see him, and to see his sincerity. Then, that is, we are. It was final, true, and real.

After Avery handed her the flower, Vivi stood for a second in a frozen reverie. Then, mutely, she tucked the flower into her hair, to make a brilliant pink adornment that stood out against her dark locks. She felt about ten seconds away from beginning to sob, just from being so happy, so instead she chose a different course of action.

Vivi wrapped her arms around the kneeling Avery, and leaned into him, and kissed him. The motion and her weight sent the two tumbling back into the grass, which provided a soft landing.

Breaking off the kiss, Vivi looked down, once more into his eyes. “I’ll wear heels.” She vowed solemnly, before breaking into helpless giggles and burying her head into his shoulder. She was ecstatic, but maybe hysteric as well. Either way, she was with Avery, and that was all that mattered.

Vivi was giggling? She actually giggled? When had she giggled before? Avery thought, bewildered, Vivs…giggling?

And now giggle doesn’t even seem like a real word…

Vivs kissed him and, consequently, they fell backwards on the ground. Avery cushioned her fall, but he thumped hard against the ground (which was not as soft as one might think). Potential bruise aside, things seemed, for once, perfect. The little Huth was lying on top of him, giggling incessantly in his shoulder, and his arms were wrapped loosely around the hysterical girl. As odd as it was, the whole situation just seemed (for lack of a better cliché) right. It seemed as if the stuff that had messed with his mind was spilling out of his head and floating away into cozy oblivion.

He couldn’t complain.

Things looking up, he started laughing, trying to imagine how odd they must look. A guy on the ground covered in a girl who was a good foot shorter than him. That was odd enough, but when considering the numerous times he had tried to hex said girl…yeah…

Well, if anyone said anything, he would have to hex them into a peaceful oblivion.

Avery smiled what was perhaps his first genuine smile since before he left the school. As odd as things were, and as much as he wanted to grab the hammer and dig out the Evil One’s spleen, things still seemed perfect.

He kissed the top of her head, then looked up at the sky, waiting for Giggling!Vivi to stop with the incessant giddiness. It was, honestly, quite unnerving.

After a few moments, Vivi stopped, and rolled off of Avery into the crook of his arm. Her lips still tingled from the new sensation of kissing, but she had regained her senses and stopped giggling, though a silly smile still lingered on her face.

Cuddling up next to Avery, she closed her eyes for a second, content with just being near him. After a moment, however, she opened her eyes again and whispered, “So does this mean we’re going out?”

Surely it did, but she felt it important that there were no misunderstandings. Assuming had never led to any happy endings, although Vivi guessed that, after all that had happened, asking whether or not they were boyfriend and girlfriend was a bit superfluous. “I mean,” she clarified, sitting up a little so she could see him, “Publicly and all?”

Two choices for Avery: 1) make the sarcastic comment he was dying to make or 2) be serious. The former, though definitely more fun, might lead to some serious problems. Vivs, after all, had been terrified for years that he would hex her into oblivion.

Not good to have Giggling-Girlfriend!Vivs revert to Paranoid!Vivs. That part of the collection of Vivi-emotions had long since been tossed in the metaphorical shredder.

No need to bring it back from the place shredded stuff goes.

Okay then…moving right along…

Avery smirked. “Definitely. Even I’m not cruel enough to lead someone on this much then shoot ’em down. I’m close, but not there yet.” The thought made him laugh. He was, after all, a first-class SOB—not too hard to believe he would do something like that.

So, they were going out. They would, consequently, suffer Agatha’s insatiable wrath.

Avery figured Agatha would not really hurt him—torture him, yes, but never hurt him. Vivs, on the other hand…Aggie might just kill her. Literally. The Snake was just that evil.

So, equip Vivs with some rocket launchers and flamethrowers, and she should be good to go…

…just great.

As much as he wanted to discuss how to torture Agatha (and possibly kill her), he figured it would be best to wait for Vivi’s giddiness to die down before he sprung something that fun on her. So instead he asked, “So where now? Castle, Pitch, wanna stay here? Your call.” He peered up at her, head cocked to one side.

“Makin’ sure, Avey,” Vivi said, “and you’re not cruel. Jus’ inventive.”

She grinned. Inventive he certainly was. Avery had a long list of crimes associated with his name. He had petrified Vivi and soaked her with cold water, thrown Aiko out of a window, broken several of Donal’s ribs…

The list went on.

Still, though, Vivi had never considered him cruel, exactly. A jerk and some words she was not allowed to say, but it was Aggie that was cruel, not Avery. Besides, right now she considered him her hero, and no hero could ever have the title “cruel”.

“Home,” Vivi said after a thoughtful moment, answering his question. “For the summer, I mean, not right now. We’ve barely a week left of school…and I’d like ya ta stay the summer with me, if ya wanna.”

She left it at that, hanging up in the air. It was easy enough to guess that, with Avery’s long absences, his home life was not normal, or even up to par. She knew her parents would not mind (they were always pestering her about bringing home some of her friends from school) and there was a guest bedroom at her house.

It would work perfectly.

If he wanted to.

Avery’s eyes lit up. So he wouldn’t have to go back to that empty, partially blown up house after all.

“Definitely!” he said, face still glowing with happiness…or something like that.

He was not sure what exactly he was feeling, but it was definitely good. He would be with Vivs the whole summer, and he wouldn’t have to go back to Ireland. His brain thanked both him and Vivs—had he gone back home, aforementioned brains may have been splattered on his bedroom wall.

No…The kitchen wall. His bedroom had kind of been incinerated.

Avery kissed Vivs on the cheek, still beaming. “Thanks, Vivs. You have no idea how great this is…”

“Welcome.” Vivi said, beaming. Happy, happy, happiness.

Bouncing up, Vivi smiled. “I better send a letter ta my mom, then, let her know,” she said, already planning what she would say. The letter would also contain a warning to her family to at least try to act normal, but she doubted that it would do any good.

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