Columbia Greybridge

You Don't Want No Problem With Me

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The castle was still mostly empty on New Year's Day, and it was possible to walk from the seventh floor to the first without running into anyone. Columbia hadn't seen Irene all holiday, even though she knew that Irene was, in fact, at Hogwarts for Christmas. Perhaps Irene was avoiding Columbia; Col knew that ,as Gary had been snogging her, there was a good chance Irene had already heard about what had transpired between her and Silas. (What a mess it all was.) 

 

But after searching the castle, quite literally, from top to bottom, Columbia finally found the Slytherin girl, tucked away in the trophy room. Columbia usually never came in here; it wasn't like she had any extracurricular accomplishments to speak of. Irene, however, was a prefect; with her badge, she was practically a trophy herself. Columbia wondered if Gary had seen Irene like that: like a prize. 

 

"Irene!" Columbia called, all smiles. "I heard you've been snogging my boyfriend." 

 

Columbia paused, and then burst out laughing. "That came out more harshly than I intended it to."

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Irene was a picture of inelegance: dressed in sweatpants, a baggy sweatshirt Luke would probably swear once belonged to him but hadn't since they were first years and armed with eight textbooks the Slytherin had barricaded herself against a towering case of trophies - none of which held her name.  They were a cutting if effective reminder that she had accomplished little in her time at school when so many people before her were actually worth the space it took up to store their memorabilia.

 

The latest catchy tune from the radio was humming along in her head as she reviewed three subjects at once, so she didn't get bored, and at footsteps in the corridor her head turned to see who would ever come into such an odd place. She was certain she'd finally found a place no one would bother trying to snatch as a make out spot.

 

One finger brushed a book to hold her place, ready to greet Columbia (the owner of said footsteps) but the next words out of her mouth stilled every cell of her body. Oddly Columbia didn't seem upset but Irene's brain couldn't process that yet.

 

The sugar quill she'd been sucking/chomping on for the rush froze for a heartbeat and then fell out of her open mouth and shattered across two pages of notes.  The sticky end started to congeal almost immediately hiding half a paragraph under ice blue crystalizing mush.

 

"Uh..." Quickly she took in Col's posture: no closed fist, beaming face, lack of the prefix 'ex' with relation to Gary - the only person she had even accidentally kissed in over a year, so they had to be talking about him... "I'm not sure that's an entirely accurate statement," she decided on that as her response but her words were weak as they came out. Careful fingers reached up to pull at the collar of her sweatshirt.

 

This was all very odd. The data did not correlate. Irene's calculator of a brain hurt.


Edited by Irene Redgrave

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It didn't make up for three months of torment, but seeing Irene's visible confusion over Columbia's statement was rather satisfying. Columbia grinned and practically skipped closer to Irene. The prefect might have been in sweats, but they couldn't hide that her body was bloody flawless. Gary perhaps enjoyed that. Columbia didn't mind looking at it herself (WHAT a MESS it ALL was).

 

"Don't worry, Irene," Columbia said, and for the most part she meant it. "I suppose we're even." Columbia paused, knowing that mentioning Silas at the moment would be excessive and petty. "Because I snogged Silas," she explained.

 

"AnyWAY," she said, waving their messiness into the past, "I don't really care. Of course it... makes me upset that Gary kissed you, but I'm not upset with you. I'm sure Gary likes you a lot, and Silas definitely likes you a lot." As a matter of fact, Silas felt much more strongly about Irene than the Slytherin girl knew, but Columbia wasn't going to break Silas's confidence about that. "And these are two boys who are bad at being friends with people." She thought of Silas's defense of his one-on-one "friendships" with girls.

 

"I've thought about this a lot, Irene, when I was deciding whether or not I should be angry at you. Maybe you've thought this stuff, too. But then I thought of a much better solution than just driving each other mad." She took a big breath. "We need to become good friends."

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Irene was not aware of the way she physically recoiled in response to Columbia's assertions. Her only two hints were the whisper of skittering parchment and the new cold seeping through her pants when she pushed herself back and onto cold, previously unoccupied stone. Both were ignored in favor of staring at the potential powder keg that might be a jealous(?) Gryffindor.

 

Col's words didn't make a lot of sense to Irene. It was on the tip of her tongue to mention that Columbia snogged Silas months ago while Irene had made out with Gary like... a few days ago but that could possibly be the worst idea ever. Even though Silas hadn't given her any indication he thought of her outside of cautiously trying to rebuild their friendship and they'd broken up over a year ago - hearing Columbia reinforce the Gryffindor's intimate relationship with Silas cut at Irene.  She could only imagine the situation in reverse happening to her last year: outright admitting that she'd tried to help Gary mend his own broken heart did not seem like a plan designed with her own self-preservation in mind. Irene would have gutted anyone who kept Silas from coming back to her, at the time.

 

On the one hand she was very conflicted - Irene had done nothing wrong, Col's cavalier and forgiving attitude were out of place and slightly offensive. Irene had done nothing over the last few months but be supportive of Gary, her friend, and tried to help him get Columbia back on any number of occasions. She wanted to stand up for herself, defend her actions. On the other hand, she wasn't stupid enough to light a match next to explosive material that material named Columbia.

 

However, when she mentioned Silas again and with the audacity of someone who thought she could speak to his inner workings with any kind of authority Irene's eyes narrowed dangerously. Columbia had no idea what she was talking about and tread on very thin ice covering very deep water. Irene would not be taunted with Silas and his non-existent feelings no matter what pound of flesh Col thought she was owed. She had suffered enough with that particular torment.

 

She stayed quiet and still until Columbia finished and then carefully uncurled each of her fingers from the fist puncturing the skin in her palm.

 

....

 

"...O...kay..." Maybe Irene had hit her head. Maybe Columbia had already hit her in the head with something and now Columbia's Welsh and Irene's Aussie were getting all garbled in translation and that's why none of this made sense and felt like a bad dream.

 

Cautiously Irene scooted back to her original seat and considered Columbia again. "Are you sure you're," pausing Irene gestured to her head, "Okay up there? I mean it's the new year and people might be having a party or some potions or some drinks..." Irene trailed off hopefully. Best case: Col was drunk on something and wouldn't even remember this conversation. "Not that I'm saying no," she tacked on quickly. "I like friends. Love friends. Can't keep them for crap but they're nice while they last." Of course as soon as she agreed the logical part of her brain kicked back in.

 

She doesn't want to be friends with you, she wants to guilt you into not making out with her ex-boyfriend anymore because she's still territorial. Classic girl move. And you fell for it -good job Irene.

 

Irene made room amid her piles of study material for Columbia to sit if she wanted, "But uh, lemme guess." Her smile was genuine but rueful. While she didn't like it she had to admit Col's gumption. "Since we're like besties now, you probably would prefer I maintain a respectable distance from our mutual friend, your ex-boyfriend?"


Edited by Irene Redgrave

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Irene was the kind of girl who only got prettier when she got angry, and prettier still when she began to look confused. As if it wasn't already apparent from their time with Columbia, Silas and Gary had excellent taste. Columbia took a seat next to the Slytherin prefect.

 

"I'm perfectly fine," Columbia said, laughing a bit as Irene suggested she was drunk. 

 

"But uh, lemme guess," Irene added. "Since we're like besties now, you probably would prefer I maintain a respectable distance from our mutual friend, your ex-boyfriend?"

 

Columbia raised her eyebrows in surprise. So Gary hadn't mentioned to Irene that he and Columbia had gotten back together. Of course, Columbia herself hadn't mentioned it to anyone, beyond Peggy Foster; she was too worried that it had all been a momentary illusion, or worse, that her friends would be furious at her for giving into Gary so easily. "I guess so," she said, "If by 'respectable distance,' you mean 'not snogging.' Unless you snog all your friends? Am I next?" She wondered what Gary would think of that, and blushed. 

 

"But I'm not suggesting that you and Gary stop being friends," she added. "Just like I don't want Gary to ask me to stop being friends with Silas. I want your help, actually. And I think you're the only person who can help me with this—I'm not drunk, I mean it—I want to convince Silas and Gary not to hate each other." She smiled. "Because Silas is my best friend, Irene. And Gary is... well. He's... he's my boyfriend. For the third time, now." Columbia froze, unsure of how Irene would react to that.


Edited by Columbia Greybridge

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"Mmmm," had been Irene's non-committal response to Col's assertion that she was just fine. Irene would reserve judgment on that for herself as the conversation went on. She took it as a good sign when the Gryffindor sat next to her instead of taking out her wand and making threatening gestures. Definitely progress over her last confrontation with a red-wearing female concerning a boy.

 

Irene was paying such close attention not only to Columbia's words but her facial expression, the way her eyes crinkled at the corners when she talked, the tilt of her mouth that might indicate sarcasm; that she almost didn't process the conversation. Irene blinked at Columbia.

 

It was the second time in as many minutes that she'd brought up snogging. The girl was either fixated and hinting at wanting some kind of apology or resolution, hinting at something that was flying way over Irene's head or maybe she was just really, really randy. "Goodness, Greybridge if you wanna make out just ask." Irene mumbled wondering if she should also include like dinner or something first - she'd kissed four people in her life and none of them had taken her on proper date or anything of the sort. It might have been nice.

 

But Col continued on and Irene was surprised to feel a little pressure lift in her chest when she didn't mind if Gary was still her friend. Like a clamp had taken hold without her realizing it, waiting for Col to squeeze down and finish the job of separating her from one of her few friends. She didn't want to stop being friends with Gary. He was a little self-involved and simplistic in his emotions but he was genuine and he made her feel good about herself when they hung out. He was a rarity.

 

Her spirits almost soared when her help was needed - it was her secret weakness: being needed! Alas, the task she set forth was no meager mountain. Irene made a chortling noise. "Good luck with that. Stuck your foot in that a bit, eh?" Irene laughed thinking of how Columbia had gone and attached her face to Silas right after breaking Gary's heart - yeah, like he'd get over that anytime soon. She'd met Gary... right? She glossed over her surprise at hearing that Grace wasn't her best friend, distracted instead by ---

 

"Boyfriend, you say?"

 

...

 

There was a timeless instant where neither girl said a word or even breathed.

 

"Oh my stars! COLUMBIA!" Irene threw her arms around the other girl's shoulders and squeezed. "I knew he could do it!" She crooned, as if their personal relationship was somehow a feather in her own cap. If only Columbia knew the lengths she'd gone to for this moment.  Gary wouldn't be broken and heartbroken and lifeless, forever trapped in a cycle of unrequited love and misery. He wouldn't be Irene.

 

"This is so exciting. It's about flacking time, you know." She leaned back and then grabbed Columbia's face with both her hands and planted a loud, smacking kiss right on her. "There. Now you're practically even."

 

She was giddy with happiness for Gary's happiness - assuming that was what he wanted and Columbia wasn't just some psycho who was pretending to be his girlfriend, a possibility she could investigate later. For the moment: shared joy!

 

"I doubt you have much to worry about with the whole Silas thing though, like forcing Gary and Silas to try and be bestiebros is a terrible idea, no offense. I'm pretty sure Gary will just be happy enough to have you around again and in your good graces. He's pretty oblivious to anything else when you're around, if you haven't noticed." Irene winked and leaned back against the wall.


Edited by Irene Redgrave

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"Oh, um," Columbia said, freezing up as Irene actually bloody kissed her. Irene, she realized then, was in all likelihood unfashionably heterosexual, despite their flirtations; if she had actually been attracted at all to Columbia, she would have picked her moment. Clearly, the girl was just... overjoyed? It was odd. Col hadn't expected the girl to be this happy, and in fact was a bit upset about it, for reasons she couldn't quite place—if you wanted Gary and I to get back together, why did you snog him to begin with?

 

"That's not what—I'm not—" Columbia protested after Irene called her idea terrible, but perhaps she had a point. She tried to refine it further. "I don't want them to be 'bestiebros.' I just—I haven't told Silas about Gary yet. Because Silas thinks that Gary is a bully. And perhaps Silas was just jealous that Gary was snogging you—yes, he knows that—but I don't think so." She shuttered and leaned back with Irene against the wall.

 

"I'm worried," Columbia admitted, "because I think I... it's melodramatic but... I need Gary. I can't... when we're together I just feel... it doesn't matter, I guess. But I think Silas will be disappointed in me when I tell him. He'll think I'm weak." She was weak, she knew. It was impossible for her to stand near Gary and not feel weak. 

 

She felt self-conscious, suddenly, and wondered if she had told the Slytherin girl too much. It wasn't like Columbia knew Irene that well; surely she shouldn't trust her with this information. But Columbia hadn't talked with anyone about this yet. It felt good to tell someone her fears, at least. She took Irene's hand.

 

"I can trust you, right?" Columbia asked, searching Irene's eyes.

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"Woah ok, I've let it slide because it's not really your business, but look here... you - you have some kind of misconception about me and -" She was going to explain that she hadn't be constantly snogging Gary for three months straight, clearly Gary did a piss poor job of explaining himself to this young woman he supposedly loved. But her teeth snapped together. Silas, Silas, Silas. Irene was stuck in a bad episode of BachWiz. "Everyone, apparently." 

 

Tension stiffed her shoulders again. She took a deep breath, tried to be understanding. Clearly Columbia was having some emotions and those required some leeway in the witchiness department. Never mind the tiny slices of her own emotions she felt bleeding fresh at every cut Columbia took at her ex. You can do this, you can be supportive for your very good friend and his rekindled girlfriend - do not mess this up for him.

 

A weak smile plastered itself on her face. "But we can deal with that later," she waved off her own defenses and her own feelings. Par for the course, really. Her tone took on a more haughty one, "Silas is wrong about any number of things its just no one calls him out on it." Irene reached out again and laid her hand on Columbia's shoulder. She did, actually, understand needing someone. "His way of pushing out things he doesn't want to deal with is to deem them unworthy or manipulate a situation to make you think what he doesn't want is wrong." Her voice got quieter. "It's not weakness to open yourself up to someone."  Irene thought about the times she'd wished for nothing more from Silas than for him to look at her without some mask carefully put up. "You have to be very brave. Most people aren't." It was obviously to which 'people' she referred.   

 

She surreptitiously attempted to wipe under one of her eyes and was glad they were not facing each other. At Col's question Irene was drawn back to the sour feeling soaking in at the cavalier way Columbia sawed at her heart strings.

 

"Well, I'm not sure you should trust anyone's answer to that question point blank..." Her honesty compelled Irene to provide a very cerebral response rather than the emotional and immediate affirmative Col probably expected, "But Gary trusts me. So I suppose by extension you might consider me trustworthy on his behalf at the very least."

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Columbia was, in fact, a bit taken aback by Irene's response. This was, she thought, a classic Slytherin-Gryffindor dynamic. In one corner, Columbia Greybridge, a gushing flood of feelings and tenderness, the definition of the word "mess," vulnerable and needy and filled with love and anger and righteousness and self-righteousness at every moment. In the other corner, surprisingly ripped, there was Irene Redgrave, the natural martyr, a merciless observer, a snob who was justified in her snobbery, a fighter whose own tightlipped self-control was her greatest strength and her greatest weakness. They were, clearly, uncomfortably needled by the other in this moment, while they both were caught off their guard; they were, right now, perhaps their truest selves.

 

Columbia tried to meet Irene halfway, and turned more Irenelike."Thank you," she said simply, to Irene's advice about Silas. She wondered if Irene still loved Silas, like he did her. She wondered what Irene would do now if Columbia told her how Silas felt. Angry, Columbia thought. Even if Irene desperately wanted to hear it, she wouldn't believe it, not from Columbia. But Columbia knew what Irene meant when she said "It's not weakness to open yourself up to someone."  And she had to restrain herself from telling Irene just how brave she believed Silas was.

 

"I understand you've been to Gary's house, from Hogwarts. By floo," she said. "How?"

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It took a great deal of effort not to sniffle and when she all but felt Columbia shutting down beside her she knew she'd never get that 'turn' of hers to clear the air. Perhaps Columbia had thought Irene was taking cheap shots at her 'best friend' by having an opinion on Silas, but once again Irene wasn't going to apologize for something she felt entitled to - something she'd earned and paid for with her own beating heart. 

 

"I understand you've been to Gary's house, from Hogwarts. By floo," she said. "How?"

 

Irene's eyebrow lifted and she turned to face Col and get off the floor. "No, you understand very little." A fat drop leaked down one side of her face before she turned to shuffle her materials into a stack. "I'll come back for those. Let's go then." She headed for the door without waiting for the other girl. 

 

"I didn't use a floo in Hogwarts to visit Gary," she spoke while she walked half-conversation, half as if she were giving a lecture in a classroom. "I used one in Hogsmeade. I'll escort you to the edge of the grounds. Prefect badge might as well be good for something."

 

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Columbia only now noticed that Irene had been crying. She wondered if this was something she should ignore—Irene's comments about what she "understood" made her bristle. But she finally took Irene by the arm and slowed her to a halt. 

 

It was... not entirely selfless.

 

"I can't visit him dressed like this," she explained to the Slytherin girl. She was a bit of a tomboy; perhaps she didn't get it. "Things need to be done to my face. My hair needs to be done. I need to go through my wardrobe and find the shortest, tightest dress. So, you see, this prep? Will probably take the whole afternoon. Which gives you plenty of time to tell me what's wrong. Are you mad at me? Think I'm a tart? Or do you—" 

 

Oh. Yeah. This was about Silas, wasn't it?

 

There was no good way for Columbia to bring it up. Really, Columbia was beginning to see, there was probably no easy way to be friends with Irene at all, given their histories. And Columbia was actually trying. Gary and Silas becoming friends really would be impossible.

 

"So what don't I understand?" Columbia finished.

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When Irene was stopped she didn't quite understand what Columbia meant. Col wanted to sneak out and see her boyfriend not go to the opera, what was the big deal? Rolling her shoulders and releasing an aggrieved sigh Irene took in Columbia's current state: she had the sort of fair skin that would look good with almost any color, her hair was glossy and looked soft to the touch, she even tasted fine - as Irene could now attest.  Though she couldn't go amiss with some flavored lip gloss, of course. There was always primping to be done, she supposed belatedly.

 

"Not the whooooole, afternoon. No need to be melodramatic," she said melodramatically. "However, I take your point." She allowed. "I'm not mad at you I just..." Somehow it was easier to say to someone she didn't have much of a relationship with, "Silas was my best friend too, until he was more. And then he was Everything, until he was gone." The feeling signifying tears pricked in the corners of her eyes and Irene knew she'd start crying full out if she didn't do something fast to stop it. 

 

"You need Gary and you lost that piece of yourself for three months. Well, I'll never have mine again. So I'd take it as a kindness if you could stop mentioning how he and Gary both care about both of us," her disbelief rang clear, "and in return I will share with you something that apparently Gary has neglected to explain." She shook her head at Gary and his typical 'Guy'ness and lifted a finger.

 

"I haven't been snogging Gary since you broke up. I happen to be an affectionate person just in general, and when Gary told me about your break up he was gutted. I embraced him once that day innocently and supportively because he needed someone to show him that they would be on his side. You have a clan of people - Grace, Silas, the whole Foster-sub-family. He doesn't. I know what that's like to feel like you've lost everything and everyone around you in one fell swoop. I didn't want him to hurt."

 

Irene lifted a second finger, "I really kissed Gary once later on because he was being stubborn and I used it to prove a point - that he didn't want someone who wasn't 'his Columbia' even though she was off snogging Silas and rubbing it in his face," her tone of voice said what she thought of that behavior though, "and that since he did still want you even after that, he should fight for you and tell you how he felt."  The way I always dreamed Silas would come after me.

 

The last one was harder. "The last and only other time I kissed Gary was quite recently, before Christmas." She frowned, "In Gary's defense that one might have been more me projecting my own needs rather than trying to be there for him."  But how could she explain? Columbia couldn't understand, Gary would never be able to hurt Col by hiding his feelings - feeding insecurities. She didn't have the words so she left it unexplained but added, "And then he immediately found and recaptured you so I honestly don't know what the bloody hell you're doing here when you could be off with someone who loves you?" A rare and precious gift incapable of being appreciated by those who held it. 

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So Irene was just "affectionate." Columbia would have preferred that Irene just call herself "lonely." It seemed more honest. Col listened to her defense, though, even if she thought it was wholly unnecessary. 

 

"You kissed Gary more than I ever kissed Silas, if that's what you're hoping I'll clarify," Columbia said pointedly. She did not add that she hadn't kissed Silas under any delusion that she was doing it to help Irene. "I don't care about that, though. It's awkward, I know, for us to be talking about this. But I do understand Gary's motivations here." Perhaps more than Irene understood her own.

 

It was becoming increasingly clear that Irene was really not over Silas, and Columbia realized that this, most likely, was Irene's basis for her actions with Gary. He was a damaged person who missed his ex, just like Irene; that was certainly an attractive kinship. They could fool around and still mutually pine after other people—and better yet, Irene could push him to reunite with his ex, something that Irene couldn't bring herself to do.

 

Columbia struggled with how to address this without breaking Silas's confidence. Then again—perhaps there was something to be said for breaking his confidence for the sake of his greater happiness. Was there? She doubted that explanation would satisfy Silas. 

 

"Look," she said softly, "you're wrong. Silas does care about you. A lot. And look, I know that he... I know you open yourself up to him, and it's hard for him to give you the same thing. But I think he knows this, Irene—he knows it's something he does that hurts people. I think it's something he's working on. Grace and I—we've noticed that he's willing to give up more of himself lately."

 

"And I know for you it's still something where, like, he needs to apologize. Not for going to save his friends, but... well, maybe for not being a full partner to you. I might be off base here, and I'm sorry, because I definitely don't know everything you went through. I'm an outsider here. But from my outside perspective, you need to be willing to forgive him if that moment comes. Because I think you still love him, Irene. And I know... well, I know how Silas feels about you."

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Irene sighed. She wasn't hoping for anything except to discourage Columbia from thinking Irene had gone off and had a long romantic encounter with her now-again boyfriend, that she had taken advantage of his weakened emotional state or tried to steal him.  But clearly she was as bad at communication skills as she accused other people of being.

 

"Alright, well I'm glad you understand Gary's feelings at least then." It was something to hold on to: nothing she'd done would negatively impact Gary's ability to reconnect with Col. She supposed it wasn't really necessary for the Gryffindor to understand Irene's feelings or motivations. Despite her statement that she wanted to be friends, Irene didn't appear to be much to Columbia except perhaps a nuisance.

 

Her lips pursed while she listened to the rest: things she didn't want to hear and certainly not from some other girl whom Silas apparently had no trouble spewing all his insides to. Had Columbia not listened when she just asked nicely not to talk about this? Or like Silas, did Columbia just think she knew what was best for other people and to hell with what they actually wanted... that was more likely, Irene decided.

 

"I don't want an apology from Silas and he knows that." Irene's voice was dull, resolved to the outcome she'd attained. Her shoulders moved restlessly, "There's nothing for me to forgive. Not that I really feel like it's your business... but I told him how I felt over a year ago. He didn't reciprocate. He never came after me or told me I was wrong. Not once has he said anything to me in the last year--" She pulled at her fingernails. "I think you're mistaken if you think he feels anything for me other than the sort of obligatory protective instincts he has for all of his friends. It's taken me a really, really long time to get to a place where I can be okay with that, where we can be friends again and I'm trying my best not to let my own feelings get in the way. I'm not willing to risk losing him as a friend just because I'll probably never get over him." She laughed mirthlessly, "Now I'm the one sounding melodramatic, but it's been over a year. I thought it would fade, you know? They say it does - your first heartbreak. The anger did but the rest of it," she shrugged.

 

"Whether or not he wants it, he'll always have the biggest piece of my heart. I've tried but I don't think I'll ever not be in love with him." Irene was looking at her shoes now.  "Didn't you have like... primping or something you wanted to do?" Quickly, Irene dug in her pockets for something, anything as an excuse and came up with her trusty stand-by: lip gloss.  "You can borrow this if you want." She examined the color briefly and then extended it, "I've never wore it around uh Gary." It felt awkward but there weren't any olive branches handy.


Edited by Irene Redgrave

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"It's not my business," Columbia agreed. Irene and Silas, she thought, were probably hopeless—at least as long as both would rather wallow in their misery than face the truth in front of them. Columbia had come as close as she felt she could to telling Irene that Silas still loved her, and still Irene ignored it, persisting instead in insisting her own feelings were unreciprocated. Perhaps it would be better for them both to get over each other—however impossible Irene insisted that was. 

 

Still, maybe Silas would be more reasonable. Whatever obligation Columbia felt to him to keep their conversations confidential, she felt no such obligation to Irene. It would be nice, Columbia thought, for her to let Silas know how Irene felt. Or better yet—show him? She wondered if she could possible get access to a pensieve. 

 

She sighed and walked over to the shiniest trophy in the room. Her hair was fine; her eye make up would do. She took Irene's lipgloss and swiped it across her mouth; then, with her wand, she quickly tailored her dress so that the neckline lowered and the hem rose. 

 

"Looks desperate, don't you think?" she said, grinning at Irene. "I hope so. I am desperate. Why don't you walk me to where this fireplace is, eh?"

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Irene laughed and shrugged while the other girl made her adjustments, "You've got no reason to be. Gary's crazy about you. He's gonna lose it when he sees you." Col's lithe figure was accentuated so that even Irene could appreciate it. Irene might be taller than Columbia but damn if the Gryffindor didn't have legs for days. "Do the shoes right after you land, you'll need the running start from your flats and you don't want anything nicer to be sooty." She advised knowingly.

 

"Okay let's go." As they walked she explained how to lean around the side window of the Three Broomsticks and keep a keen eye until the barkeep loaded up dishes; that was her opportunity to make a dash inside for the fireplace so long as she already had her floo powder in hand.

 

They arrived at the edge of the road between Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.

 

"If he sees you before you get in, he'll try to stop you what with him being a decent and responsible adult and you being an unsupervised adolescent. But coming back you'll just get a disapproving glower." At least that had been her own experience. "Do you have a mirror?" Irene took her own out to tap it to Col's and sync their contact info. "If it's dark or whenever you come back and want help sneaking back I'll come for you."

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The entire plot was more spy-movie like than Columbia could have realized, though she didn't fear a roving bartender as much as she did Peggy Foster's disapproving gaze; she kept looking back as she walked to the village with Irene, making sure her foster mother wasn't covertly following them. But finally, they were in town.

 

Col took back her mirror and smiled at Irene. "Thanks, Redgrave," Columbia said, before the two went their separate ways. "I... appreciate it. I'll give Gary a kiss for you." She paused. "Um, that was a joke."

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"Sure. Or you could just tell him I say, Good Job. And you know... if you want to mention I was right," Irene shrugged, smiled and gave Col a wink before turning to head back towards the school.

 

She'd been planning on mirroring Gary later because it was New Year's and all, but now she realized he'd be busy with Stuff and Things and Columbia so she'd probably spend the evening with some riveting Ancient Runes homework instead. #highlife

 

Gravel crunched under her shoes as she left the road for the bridge to Hogwart's castle. Happy New Year, Irene. She re-entered the castle thinking about resolutions and change.

 

Fin.


Edited by Irene Redgrave

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