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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

The ghost in me was true but you were haunted too

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

Ryszard had arrived early at the Great Hall, eager to get some food in before making his way back down to the duelling chamber. It was a rather convoluted life plan, but at least he’d managed to drag Jack along with him.

 

”This book,” he said, setting down the copy of Wandering with Werewolves that he had acquired from the duelling chamber (thank you @Mr Bhaduri) on the Slytherin house table. “I’ve been reading it, and it’s...bad,” he added, wrinkling his nose.

 

Too little, too late, he realised that Jaxon was sitting right across from him.

Edited by Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

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Jaxon Sinclair

Dinner hadn't properly started yet and, having arrived earlier than usual, Jack had opted to harass the other Jack (and, by extension, her perpetually heart-eyed puppy named Ryszard) while he waited for @Adrina Althaus-Valerio to finish up Quidditch practice or freeing fairy eggs or flouncing with unicorns...he wasn't sure what she was doing, actually.  He thought he'd heard her say Quidditch practice, but she'd given him a LookTM like what she actually intended to do was skip off and find a safe place for those fairy eggs she'd snatched from Professor Qin.

 

That was why he only had a glass of pumpkin juice in his hand.  There was a mouthful in his mouth when the book landed on the table with a loud thump between all three of them, announcing the arrival of the aforementioned puppy with the heart eyes and the near permanent frown.

 

Jack's eyes flicked to the book and he choked on the pumpkin juice in his mouth, half inhaling it into his nose so that he was gagging there at the table, unable to discern if he was laughing, crying, or fighting the urge to punch Ryszard in the mouth.  

 

It took time, but he did manage a remark.  "Look, it's your autobiography, Ry."

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Jacqueline Frost

Judging Ryszard's life choices wasn't a hobby at this point, it was part of daily life, a necessity to maintain the balance of the universe, and there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Jack was 3000% judging Ryszard for the book he retrieved from the dueling chamber. The bloody dueling chamber of all flacking places. "Burn it," Jack had suggested at the time after staring at the cover and its author for two seconds she would never get back, but the Slytherin didn't listen.

"I told you to burn it," she deadpanned, taking another bite of caramelized nearly-raw bacon. "You know when I mentioned the existence of a werewolf handbook, I told you to try your luck with Jack Sinclair's and I wasn't being serious about it. Besides, if such a thing existed, it wouldn't be well that."

Cue noticing that Jaxon was right there.

"Jack," she greeted, offering him some of the bacon. "Tell him what he's reading is worse rubbish than Twilight and that he should burn it." 

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

It was true that Jack had told him to burn it, but that involved fire and burning books wasn’t something he felt like he could advocate for. It sounded like something his father would do. So, instead, Ryszard had opted to keep the book for a little while longer. Maybe he could pass it off to Winston as some light reading.

 

It was certainly worth a try.

 

“I can’t burn it, Jack,” he replied, scandalised, before he was interrupted by what looked like his roommate literally dying right there on the table. Ryszard looked alarmed, neck swivelling around to stare at the other Jack. He wasn’t sure how he would feel about witnessing Jaxon’s untimely death. It would probably make him sad, but Ryszard’s insides were padded with an emotion-free straitjacket. He wouldn’t be feeling anything any time soon.

 

Finally, the other Slytherin managed to come down from his near death experience. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snapped. “We’re not even friends,” he added, rolling his eyes.

 

”Twilight wasn’t that bad,” he mumbled in reply to Jack’s comment, and flipped open the book. “This, on the other hand...I bet I could write something better about living with werewolves.”

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Jaxon Sinclair

Jack, like Ry, could not advocate for the burning of books.  He could, however, advocate for the burning of literal garbage.

 

After nearly dying and with the sensation of pumpkin juice still burning his sinuses, Jack finally managed to draw a real breath instead of the half-choked one he'd managed before he'd opted to spend that air insulting his roommate.  Or rather, teasing his roommate.  It wasn't an insult, was it, to be told that you spend all your time with werewolves?

 

The sudden animosity was not anticipated and Jack's eyes narrowed.  There was an urge to pluck up the glass he had and dump it all over Ryszard's head for being such an incredible arsehole without warning.  "Not friends, huh?  Guess you don't have to stay up all night then, do you?  I mean, why would you, right?  Since we're not friends."

 

His attention turned sharply, zeroing back in on Jack Frost, who wasn't being a visible-from-space douchenozzle.  "Why would I?  He can read garbage if he wants to.  We're not friends, remember?"  No, he wasn't bitter.  The comment hadn't hurt at all.

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Jacqueline Frost

One second there were jokes and the next Ryszard had a complete 180 and snapped at Jaxon Sinclair like they were back to square one five months ago. She adored him, really, and Sinclair was high up on the list she'd do anything for, but unlike some people Jack wasn't attention seeking or dramatic. Instead, she (gently) kicked the side of Ryszard's leg and (slightly not as gently) elbowed him to snap out of whatever game he was playing. She also gave him a Look™, that unspoken what the flack are you doing look she hadn't given him in a very long time. They were supposed to be past this.

If Ryszard didn't get the hint in the next thirty seconds, then it would be Jack Frost not Sinclair who would dump their pumpkin juice on Ryszard's head, goblet included. AGAIN.

Geesh, Ry, talk about wanting to relive the past.

"At least we agree it's garbage," she addressed Jaxon, giving him an apologetic smile and a mouthed sorry for what his roommate had said. "Anything you'd like to contribute, Ryszard Althaus-Valerio?" 

Edited by Jacqueline Frost

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

The kick and the elbow would have been enough to annoy him and egg him on to continue being rude, but Jaxon’s words were something else entirely. The retort he had been about to throw at his roommate died in his throat, and Ryszard instantly regretted the words.

 

”I didn’t mean it like that,” he said, quietly. “Of course I’ll stay up all night.” The “for you” was implied, but Ryszard didn’t feel brave enough to say the words out loud, so he hoped the message came through loud and clear. He swallowed hard, all humour involving the book suddenly gone from his face.

 

He looked at Jack, then, almost as if asking for her help. The kick and the elbow still echoed phantom pain at each point where they had connected, but he knew he had deserved that. He grimaced. “That’s never stopped you from telling me if something is garbage before,” he shot at Jaxon, trying to regain his previous energy. He hadn’t meant to start taking pot shots at his roommate, but apparently, that was how they coexisted, now.

 

That, and the way Ryszard’s heart immediately starting beating a staccato against his chest, fingers trembling ever so slightly, every time he caught sight of him.

 

”I think the book’s terrible,” he replied, after staring at Jaxon for a minute too long. “Whoever wrote it clearly didn’t know a single actual werewolf.”

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Jaxon Sinclair

"How else could you have meant it, A-V?" he snapped.  Something stung in his chest and there was another feeling, akin to panic, that rose in his throat.  After the assemblies, the Quidditch matches, the protests in the hall, the fight he'd had with Ryszard and then the subsequent tenuous truce they'd entered...

 

Well, he wasn't sure he could go back to the horrible, wretched way he'd felt when Ry had been constantly belittling him and referring to him as 'not human.'  

 

Jack clenched his teeth and opted to ignore the obvious elbow nudge that Ryszard had received from Jack Frost, who was either a therapist or a wingman.  He wasn't all that sure yet and, regardless of which she was, some element of it was failing in that moment because Ry was right back to being a proper flackhead and if he had any sort of crush, he was adhering to the toxic, age-old trash-saying, 'If they're mean to you, it means they like you.'

 

The blond's fingers tightened around his goblet and he shot a sharp, irritated look in his roommate's direction.  "I'll tell you what's garbage," he informed him curtly, climbing to his feet with the goblet in hand.  He subsequently turned it over Ryszard's head, threw it on the table, and scowled.  "Your hot and cold attitude.  Make up your goddamn mind."

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Jacqueline Frost

They were supposed to make fun of one of the worst books ever published, at most they were supposed to make fun of Ryszard for reading Twilight (and then proceed to question whether he read all the books, watched the movie, was he #Team Edward or #Team Jacob), and instead Jack had a front row seat to a blast to the past. Not only that, she was seconds away from having to get in between two Slytherins she frankly didn't want to be in the middle of. She didn't want to fight either of them, but she would if she needed to. She'd fight them both if it meant they would be so flacked up by the end of it that they'd have to rely on the other to get back to the common room in one piece.

She didn't want to but she'd do it.

If necessary.

And then Jaxon dumped his pumpkin juice and threw the goblet and that was the last straw for Jack.

"FLACKS SAKES YOU TWO!" Jack snapped, rising to her feet and flipping over the tray of bacon in front of her. "Ryszard likes you like you like Adrina and he doesn't want to, THAT'S WHY HE'S BEING SO AWFUL! Oh sh—"

She wasn't supposed to say that. 

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

This had been about a damn book, but Ryszard had completely forgotten about it, hidden as it was, underneath his plate. It wasn’t important; it had been a joke, but his casual comment about not being friends had turned on him, and now Ryszard felt like he was going to be sick.

 

There was a sudden pain in his chest, and he found himself grinding his teeth as Jaxon snapped at him. “I can’t flacking believe you’d say that to me. Not after everything we’ve talked about,” he said, still seething about the mention of the nights he’d stayed up to watch over his roommate, holding on to the edge of the table to anchor him somehow. Otherwise, Ryszard had a feeling he would turn tail and run away.

 

Oddly enough, he hadn’t expected the goblet. He had seen his roommate playing with it — he had even watched as his fingers moved over it intently — but he hadn’t expected to find himself dripping in pumpkin juice. The clang of the goblet caused him to wince, and he felt like Jaxon had thrown it at his face instead of the table.

 

He didn’t get a chance to reply in kind, however, as Jack spoke up before him.

 

Jack,” he hissed, jaw clenched. Ryszard released his grip on the table — his left hand had turned red from the pressure — and turned to look at his friend, willing her to shut up. This was the one thing Ryszard had wanted to keep from Jaxon. They had been flirting and jokingly calling each other pretty, and Ryszard had even pretended to confess to having a crush on the other boy, but he had never intended for any of it to come off seriously. He didn’t want Jaxon to know.

 

His heart was beating something impossible against his chest and he kept his eyes on Jack, careful to avoid Jaxon’s gaze. He had a feeling he was a second away from falling flat on his face. The pumpkin juice slowly dripping down his face and wetting the top of his robes and shirt didn’t help matters, either, as he looked like the world’s biggest spectacle. The only thing missing were the slugs.

 

This was a disaster.

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Jaxon Sinclair

First thought:  It was blasphemy to flip a tray of bacon.  Jacqueline Frost was going straight to hell.

 

Second thought:  Find the nearest rock, dig a hole under it, and live there for the rest of eternity.  He was never going to recover from the flush that rose to his cheeks, a mix of rage and then surprise.  

 

Sure, they'd joked about it, but that had been it, right?  It was a joke.  It was just better than getting his face punched in every other minute or being compared to that Kafka book about the cockroach, told to look in a mirrorsee what you really are.  What everyone said he was, what even some of the other werewolves thought they were.

 

Blue eyes, cold as ice chips, flicked between the two of them behind his glasses and Jack felt his breath come in shallow, short bursts.  He felt like he was sinking—suffocating—drowning in a bottomless pool of water and he couldn't claw to the surface enough to catch his breath.  He was going to die here.  He was going to die here at the age of fourteen because his girlfriend's brother had a crush on him.

 

The obscenity of it.

 

And that was what left his mouth first.  "I'm dating your sister!" he exclaimed.  "I'm flattered, A-V, but honestly—you were the first person I told about...this—"  He threw his arms up, gesturing to himself and to Jack Frost as if to indicate the lycanthropy that existed within each of them.  "And you were pissed as hell that I was going to hurt her?  Pot.  Kettle.  Black."

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Jacqueline Frost

Jack made Mistakes™.

Taking back what she said would have made it worse, she knew that much, she couldn't even throw in a laugh and a just kidding comment. Frankly, right now she wanted the aliens to zap her from this planet, and drop her in another where she couldn't cause any damage. That wasn't her secret to share, that was something she liked to tease Ryszard about but everything happened so quickly and she couldn't hold her tongue.

This was a disaster.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, barely audible and unsure who or what she was apologizing to, and she struggled to keep herself from walking away from the damage she'd created. Worse, Jack realized she flipped over the bacon tray and that was the biggest sin of all. The bacon did not deserve that. She glanced towards both Jaxon and Ryszard, unable to form any other words.

They were supposed to make fun of a book, how did they end up like this!?

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

The only thing Ryszard could of was to: deny, deny, deny. Claim that Jack was lying, that she wanted to create drama between them, that it was all an elaborate joke — but Ryszard refused to throw someone he considered his closest friend under the bus like that. They would certainly be having words later, but he wouldn’t humiliate her in front of Jaxon.

 

He turned his eyes on his roommate, then, trying to judge his reaction from the way the shock had brought a flush to his cheeks. Ryszard had to avert his eyes, then. Jaxon was right: this was obscene.

 

One hand curled into a fist and the other caught around the apparently forgotten book, Ryszard turned narrowed eyes in Jaxon’s direction, shame and guilt and panic giving way to a hot fire that was igniting his rage. “You think I don’t know that?” He snapped, words dragging themselves out from between his teeth. “Why the flack do you think I haven’t told you, you arsehole?”

 

Ryszard was beyond angry, and he could feel his hands shake with the intensity of it. He punched at the table with his closed fist, then, jolting whatever still remained on the table in front of the three of them. “Why do you think I’ve been fighting this ever since I realised? I don’t flacking want this, Jaxon. I really don’t. It makes my life difficult and unbearable in ways that you can’t even imagine.”

 

His head snapped in Jack’s direction, then, as he heard her uttered apology. For one second, he looked at her with the same seething rage, but then he deflated. Ryszard wasn’t about to take her head off when she had only been trying to help. This was, after all, his fault; he wasn’t going to let her take the blame for it. “It’s not your fault,” he said, quietly, giving voice to his thoughts. “It’s karma,” he snorted. “Guess being a terrible person is finally catching up to me.”

 

Ryszard didn’t even know why he was still there. He ought to turn around and find somewhere to seclude himself; a place where neither Jack would be able to find him.

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Jaxon Sinclair

Jack's fists curled up in the gloves he'd been given by @Adrina Althaus-Valerio.  His nails dug into the leather, sparing his skin the scarring that would have surely blossomed in his palms.  They were already there, in fact, those crescent moons that indicated a tightly leashed rage.  Every episode like this just made them thicker, more noticeable...a bigger reminder of what he really was.

 

He wasn't angry at Ryszard.  It was important to note that.  Jack was not the sort to ever blame someone for something they couldn't control and he couldn't control who he was attracted to.  He could only control how he responded to it and Ry hadn't done anything wrong.  He hadn't said a word about it.  There'd been harmless flirting, but that was just it—it was harmless.  It included no discernible action.  It had been Frost who said the words, who spilled the secrets, who brought all this...apparent Romeo-esque pining out into the open.

 

Christ, he was going to need a list of people to avoid at the rate they were making heart eyes at him.  It was either that or Addy was going to start fostering a kill list and go all Arya Stark on the population of Hogwarts.

 

Jack barked out a short, irritated laugh and ran his fingers through his hair.  "It makes life difficult for you?  Unbearable for you?  Why don't you think about how difficult and unbearable this just made things for me and your sister, you selfish little pri—"  Somewhere above them, an owl screeched, effectively muting Jack for the sake of remaining PG.

 

Unwilling to be censored, even by barn animals, Jack turned on his heel and left.

 

[Exit stage, pursued by a bear an owl]

Edited by Jaxon Sinclair

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Jacqueline Frost

Jack winced.

The exchange wasn't directed at her but it was one taking place because she couldn't keep quiet in the first place. It might as well have been said to her, in fact, she deserved the anger. She deserved to face the consequences. Not only was it the right thing but she could take it. Still despite the glare flashed in her direction, Ryszard wasn't lashing out at her like he should have.

He shouldn't have been angry at Jaxon, and vice versa.

They should have been angry with her.

She watched as Jaxon walked away, debating following him and trying to set things right but somehow she doubted she could. Her words created this mess, and her words weren't going to get her out of it. Not this time.

"Ry?" 

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

The secret had been burning a hole in him for so long, that Ryszard wasn’t sure how he still had blood and oxygen pumping through his body. Surely, by now, something should have stopped working. He felt the way he kept breathing and his heart kept beating away an unsteady rhythm, and wondered how none of it had crashed by now.

 

(He wished it would.)

 

”That was my whole point, you idiot,” he yelled at a retreating Jaxon’s back, but Ryszard wasn’t sure he had heard him. It didn’t matter, anyways: his roommate hated him again, and whatever budding friendship they had been closing in on was gone. Just like that. There was a bleak sadness permeating every inch of Ryszard’s body, as he realised what had just happened, and how much his roommate’s presence in his life had meant.

 

The worst part? It was all Ryszard’s fault.

 

Without even a second glance, — without looking at Jack, ashamed as he was — he turned from the table, the book dropping on the floor, and ran right out of the Great Hall.

 

several dramatic moments later...he’s finally gone.

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