I'm Marlene McKinnon, 7th year Gryffie. I'm fabulous, end of story.
When the tears started hosing their way from Marlene, Bertie lost his remaining self control. The dam broke and his own personal flood began as well. For so many days now, he had remained silent. He accepted what had happened, but that didn’t make it any less scared. And, more than being just scared, Bertie was ashamed. Though he hadn’t yet devoured his remaining coron, they still rested in idle wait for the moment he would inevitably decide he needed the magic to course through his veins. He tried to respond, tell her that they were both okay in response to her exclamation of fear, but he couldn’t choke out any words without it becoming exceedingly obvious that he had officially broken down.
But hiding the fact proved futile as their eyes met while still locked in their embrace. Next thing Bertie knew, her hand was wiping away the wetness on his face. A part of him wanted to turn tail before this could progress any further. Nothing had changed, he still knew that she could have— deserved— better than Bertie Higgs. But as he stood their contemplating the best way in which to break their ties again, her lips met his and any pretense of remaining brave and separated from Marlene dissipated with the action. He was a coward, allowing his lips to dance with hers, but he didn’t think he could bear to remain isolated anymore. Besides, he told rationalized with himself, two people who could share a kiss like this obviously weren’t meant to remain separated.
Too soon, but Bertie wasn’t actually aware as to how long, their connection was severed as Marlene moved back slightly. She reached behind his neck and he was glad that some tangible proof that they were both okay, connected, was still present. He listened to her declaration, the one that insisted she wanted to be with him, and he knew in that moment he would allow it. The cowardice within him took over, but he pushed the nagging doubt in his mind to the side. For now, he would accept the title of ’coward’ if it meant being with her. Without a doubt, Bertie could not go on as a solitary silhouette roaming the castle.
“I.. I don’t think you should have to.” And he leaned in for a quick kiss, emphasizing his point. Finally remembering that they were in a public location, Bertie’s eyes scanned the hallway. For a moment the figures around them took form as the Death Eaters that had surrounded the four-some in Hogsmeade, but Bertie shook his head and looked closer. Their peers were now gawking at him and Marlene, and Bertie became embarrassed. “How about we get out of here. One more day of classes won’t matter. Least of all potions. And.. we can talk. Figure everything out. Plus,” he leaned closer to her so that only she could hear, “Dumbledore told me not to discuss events with anyone. But I don’t think this silence extends to you.”
Taking her by her hand, he led her right past the small cluster of students around them without looking into any of their eyes. A part, one of the darker parts within Bertie that had just recently surfaced in his being, contemplated the fact that if he was to take a coron in this moment, he could easily hex the majority of these shamelessly gawking faces. The thought had a physical effect on Bertie as he felt his body’s temperature rise. He shook his head slightly, knowing that the thought had been out of place within him and attributing it to being an after-effect of the battle they had experienced.
He wasn’t exactly sure where he was leading her until they ended up outside a painting that he was very accustomed to visiting. They were on the third floor, with the closest class being Defense Against the Dark Arts but even that was on the other end of the floor. He was satisfied that nobody was going to see where Marlene and himself were going to disappear to. With the knowledge that nobody would be roaming in this direction currently, Bertie took a moment to examine the intricate detail that had gone into the piece of work hanging in front of them as he always did before entering. It was a simple painting of a bowl of fruit sitting on a wooden table. One that he assumed many people had painted in their day. However, while most of the paintings in school danced with life, the bowl remained motionless. This immobility wasn’t a hindrance to the detail, however, as the picture looked almost three dimensional. Bertie had been enticed when he had first seen it, which led him to discover the room behind.
Lifting his hand, the one disconnected from Marlene’s, Bertie reached in to the painting and wielded the knife sitting on the table next to the fruit. Then realizing he needed both hands, he looked at Marlene apologetically before removing his spare from hers. Picking up a piece of fruit at random, he began slicing it to even pieces. As he did so a dog appeared within the picture while looking up hungrily at the fruit. Without further ado, Bertie began dropping the pieces of fruit into the dogs mouth. Once seemingly satisfied, the dog let out a booming bark and walked off the edge of the painting once more. A small click signified the ability for Bertie to open the ‘door,’ which he did. He looked at Marlene, instead of the entrance appearing before them, wanting to see her reaction.
Marlene’s breath caught in her throat when Bertie answered her, and her heart leapt in joy. She met his kiss happily, pushing up on her toes and wrapping her arms more securely around his neck. But too soon, he pulled away and looked around the hall. Marlene’s eyes followed his gaze and saw, with a start, that they were no longer alone in the hallway. There were half a dozen or so students standing around them, watching Bertie’s and her display with gaping mouths.
Normally, Marlene would have done something silly like stick her tongue out at them or bow, but instead, she looked down in something near embarrassment as her face colored. She was grateful when Bertie suggested skipping classes for the day; she was suddenly sure she wasn’t ready to handle the pressure just yet, and all the whispering that was sure to follow them into class. He was right - they needed to sort things out first. He whispered in her ear again and her face burned for a different reason as a shiver rippled down her spine. As he took her hand in his to lead her away, she pressed in close to his side, ashamed at her sudden lack of confidence. She just couldn’t shake the feeling.
As they walked along, Marlene was content to simply let Bertie lead her. She was so tired of having to think, to plan, to work. Their fingers were twined together in a perfect fit, like two puzzle pieces. She kept close to him, unwilling to leave the warmth of his side. A small smile bloomed across her lips as she looked up at him. “Thank you,” she said warmly. “I don’t think I could have made through class today like that. And I forgot my bag anyway, so I wouldn’t have been very prepared,” she added wryly. He looked down and returned her smile, and she was struck once again by how attractive the boy was, even if he didn’t seem to see it himself. But really, that quality only served to make him more appealing.
When Bertie stopped walking, Marlene looked around curiously. She recognized their position to be on the third floor, opposite the side where the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom was located. But why they were standing in front of a painting of fruit in an empty hallway, Marlene couldn’t say. She leaned toward it, thinking it quite simple at first glance. Upon closer inspection, she discovered that the artist was actually quite brilliant, having captured perfectly the sheen of the apple’s skin, the dimple on the top of the orange, the smooth peel of the banana. It was captivating, and she wasn’t even quite sure why. Maybe because it was one of the few paintings she’d seen that wasn’t moving about. The bowl of fruit sat steadfastly on a solid wooden table.
Perhaps because of the subdued nature of the painting, Marlene was understandably confused when Bertie reached toward the painting with his free hand. But instead of colliding with the canvas, his hand passed through the surface and into the picture. If she hadn’t been so used to magic and, well, Hogwarts in general, she was sure she would have gasped out loud in delight. In fact, she was so impressed with the painting that she didn’t mind when Bertie extracted his hand from her grip and stuck it in with his other to slice up a pear he picked out. When the knife started slicing, a dog appeared next to the table, turning his gaze up to the fruit. Bertie obliged the animal by tossing the cut up pieces to it until it barked happily and padded away.
A small click echoed out from the painting and Marlene looked up at Bertie in confusion. A smile was dancing around his eyes as he surveyed her reaction. He gripped the edge of the frame and tugged on it, revealing a doorway cut into the stone behind the portrait. She couldn’t see into the darkness, so she pulled out her wand and whispered, “Lumos,” aiming the light into the hole. Glancing back at Bertie, she started through when he waved her on. Eagerly, she hurried into the shadows to see what lay before her. She fully trusted him, and knew that wherever he took her, it was sure to be an adventure she would enjoy. Another click sounded from behind her, which she assumed to be Bertie closing the entrance.
He caught up to her easily, capturing her hand in his once more. The hallway they were in ended abruptly as they stepped out into a large circular room. “Nox,” Marlene said quietly, her gaze moving around in awe. “Bertie, what…?” she started. The question dangled uncompleted as she smiled at him before moving deeper into the room, pulling him along with her. The walls of the room were completely covered in yards and yards of sheer fabric in colors of silver and purple. The floor hosted several different rugs, in the same color scheme, but all different shapes and sizes and materials. Enchanted candles floated above their heads, casting a warm light over everything. Overstuffed couches and chairs were haphazardly strewn about the room, and set into one wall was one of the largest fireplaces she’d ever seen. Bookshelves stood sentry at equal intervals along the walls, and were filled with all manner of books and trinkets. It was the coziest, most inviting room she’d ever seen. Marlene was sure she could spend all day examining the shelves and still not see everything they contained.
Spontaneously, she threw her arms around Bertie’s neck and squeezed him tight. She was a bit surprised, but pleasantly so, when he responded by holding her close and spinning her around. Laughing as he set her down, she grinned up at him and took his hand, leading him to one of the couches. He sat down and pulled her in next to him, and she curled up into his side as his arm went around her. Her head once again found that perfect spot on his chest and she sighed contentedly, forgetting for the moment all the things that had been troubling her lately. She tilted her face up to him and kissed his jaw. “Bertie, this room is just… beautiful. I think I could stay here all day.” Her eyes wandered back around the room as she smiled.