Disclaimer: I own nothing but the idea.
My English teacher always says, "Write what you know."
Professor Snape is hovering over me, and I feel a shot of anxiety slip its icy tendrils through me. My heart rate increases, and I'm wringing my hands nervously, though the skin on them is very nearly raw from wringing them so often. "Longbottom," Professor Snape drawls, and I feel my stomach clenching, my teeth chattering. "Longbottom," he reiterates, quieter this time. "I see that, once more, your incompetence has decided to raise its head. What, pray tell, is this?" My shoulders are quaking, and I'm jittering my leg with disquiet. "My," I rasp out, before clearing my throat, "my potion, sir."
My hands are twisting in my lap, fingernails digging into flesh, and I fix my eyes on them. Behind me, I can still feel the scorch of Professor Snape's malevolent sneer. "Do you take me for a fool, Longbottom?" he enunciates, "10 points from Gryffindor for talking back to a teacher. 'Potion,' indeed."
My housemates around me groan, and I feel shame threaten to consume me. The guilt is swirling in my stomach and suffocating me from the inside out. I attempt to assume an apologetic expression, but my teeth keep coming out to gnaw on my lip, and my brows are knit in a concerted effort to keep myself outwardly calm. "Clean this mess up, Longbottom," Professor Snape breathes callously in my ear, "and next time you decide to ignore my instructions, there will be far worse consequences."
I breathe out a tiny, shaky breath as Professor Snape steps away. There are half-crescent dents in the flesh of my pale hands, and I taste the coppery tang of blood from where my teeth tore at my lip too harshly. I'm slowly relaxing, the pressure of everyone's attention slowly being relieved, but still my eyes are prickling with tears.
I clean up my materials, starting when my trembling hands overturn a bottle of ink. I'm muttering apologies before I even register what I've done, apologizing being my instant reflex to any situation. The class just stares at me, a mass of unforgiving glares, and I lapse into silence once more.
By the time we are released from class, my hands are soaked in ink and my brow is soaked in a fine sheen of sweat. My eyelashes are sparkling with crystalline droplets and there are soft tear tracks running down my face. I shuffle out of the class, eyes trained on my feet. My legs are wavering beneath me, and I feel the looming menace of collapse. Devil's Snare, I think to myself, it's like Devil's Snare. The more nervous I get, the faster it coils around me.
Devil's Snare I could deal with, I think. I like plants in that they are unassuming and unable to judge. Wrapped up in Devil's Snare, I'd be able to relax, be able to appreciate the subtle beauty of even the most terrifying of plants. Wrapped up in the confines of my own anxiety, I can find no escape. Wrapped up in the confines of my own anxiety, I find only more anxiety.
I trudge to my next class, foreboding building up once more.
Ryan surveyed himself in the mirror with poorly concealed irritation; the pale blue shirt draped over his skinny figure and the jeans were held loosely in place by a belt that he had managed, with difficulty, to retrieve from beneath his bed. The clothing tented over him and made him appear disembodied. Before he had the chance to rip them off, however, Spencer barged in, beaming.
“Excellent, perfect fit. Now, let’s go! Jon’s waiting.”
Ryan looked up abruptly, brow creasing. “Excuse me?” he said, dread beginning to course through his veins, “Did you just say that Jon will be coming with us?”
Spencer’s smile widened. “No, Ryan, I said ‘Jon’s waiting’. But yes, he’s coming with us. Is there a problem? There shouldn’t be… He was even kind enough to donate some shoes to your cause!”
Ryan eyed him with trepidation, and sure enough, Spencer whipped out a pair of flip-flops. “There,” Spencer said, thrusting the shoes toward him, “These will complete the ensemble nicely.”
Ryan didn’t think he’d ever seen such a ridiculous outfit in his entire life; upon hearing him voice this opinion, Spencer guffawed jovially. “Nonsense, Ryan,” he said, with a sly smile, “Last time we went out, you wore a tawny sweater vest over top a lime-green turtle-neck and salmon suit pants.”
Spencer seemed impervious to Ryan’s scorching glare; seeing it, he merely ruffled Ryan’s hair affectionately and man-handled him out of the apartment. “I’ll lock up!” he said, unaware that this comment served only to aggravate Ryan all the more.
Having locked the door, Spencer proceeded to sprint down the six flights to the main floor, towing the reluctant Ryan along behind him. He galloped over the threshold of the apartment building, Ryan’s bare heels scuffing on the ground as he was dragged along. Stopping outside a car, Spencer flung open the door to the backseat, lobbed Ryan in and shut the door with a snap. He then ripped open the passenger seat door and pulled himself in, closing the door behind him.
This was more adventure than Ryan had encountered in weeks, and he had trouble adjusting himself to it. He curled in on himself in the backseat, cradling his head in his hands.
“Are you okay?” Jon asked, concerned. Spencer, however, did not let Ryan’s antics deter him from his supermarket mission. “Ryan, put on your seatbelt now. He’s fine, Jon.”
Jon continued to look at Ryan in alarm, as Ryan dejectedly drew the seatbelt around his thin frame. Seatbelt finally fastened, Jon drew away from Ryan’s apartment building, peering back at Ryan anxiously every so often. Meanwhile, Spencer was talking a mile a minute about Ryan’s slob-like living environment.
Ryan’s frustration grew by the minute; who was Spencer to divulge the clandestine secret of his squalor and who was Jon to act all worried? In Ryan’s marked opinion, Jon’s most irritating quality was that he was too nice to hate.
In due time, Jon pulled up alongside the supermarket, and Ryan breathed a sigh of hope, trusting that an opportunity to escape would soon present itself. Unfortunately, no sooner had he exited the car than he found his arm clasped in Spencer’s warm fingers. On Spencer’s other side, Jon’s arm was gripped in a similar fashion. Spencer marched the two of them enthusiastically towards the store.
Against the wall stood a man surrounded by a flock of young women. He was playing an easy tune on his acoustic guitar and was humming along, faintly. Catching sight of Ryan’s party, he jumped forward mid-tune and gallantly held the door for them. Spencer skipped forward, leaving Ryan to stare at the man incredulously and Jon to smile at him in gratitude.
“Thanks, man!” Jon said.
“Anytime, my friend!” said the man.
Ryan gaped at them. “Excuse me,” he said to the stranger, “but did you just stop mid-song to hold the door open for us?”
The man of unknown identity grinned. “Yes,” he said, “but it was no trouble, really… Your friend looked like he had his hands full with the two of you and I thought opening the door would be an unnecessary hindrance. However, both of your friends seem to have scampered off now.”
Ryan glanced about him; it was true. It was just like Spencer, he thought, to insist on their encountering the outside world together, only to abandon him. He conveniently forgot that abandonment and consequently, escape, was what he had prayed for.
“So they have. I’d expect it of Spencer, but Jon’s been trying to get on my good side. I’m surprised he took off.”
“Good side?” exclaimed the man who had left his eager crowd entirely, in favour of chatting with Ryan. “Why, I’ve yet to see a bad side.”
Ryan’s permanent scowl deepened; he despised being mocked. He prepared himself to take off in a huff, back to his apartment to hide from the world, when the guitarist clamped his hand down upon Ryan’s shoulder.
“I’m Brendon,” the man said, ignoring the way Ryan writhed under his touch.
“That’s nice,” said Ryan. “I must be leaving.”
With that, he wrenched his arm from the smiling Brendon’s grasp and bolted for his home.
His hands were poised carefully over the keyboard, pads of his fingers resting lightly over the keys as he attempted to summon the appropriate words. Somewhere in his cramped apartment, a phone rang, buried under piles of papers and clothing. Ignoring it, he focused on the rather blank document in front of him.
He was a man of unassuming beauty, he typed finally, and a proper gentleman. His good character was matched in quality only by his superior intellect and women of all ages seemed to fawn over him. He, however, neglected to heed their affections, as his own interests lay only in the arts. A most prolific songwriter, he charmed everyone he encountered with his beautiful verse.
Here he stopped, frowning at the words despairingly. His index finger wavered over the backspace button, unsure. This piece of writing seemed to him to be preposterous and most self-indulgent. He sighed, but left the words as they were, hoping he could later avert the story from becoming a trite romance. Pushing his laptop away from him in frustration, he stiffly swung his legs over the side of his bed and slowly stood up. He rubbed a hand through his unwashed hair and began to stagger blearily to his washroom, tripping over something on his floor as he did so. This object turned out to be his phone, which was still ringing. Glaring, he picked it up, waiting expectantly.
“Ryan,” a voice said through the phone as the seconds dragged on without a greeting from he whom had answered the call, “finally.”
Ryan remained silent, unwilling to prompt the speaker on the line into elaboration.
“God, Ryan, don’t be like that. You’re lucky I called you, anyway. I could’ve just shown up without warning. I’m taking you to the supermarket today, whether you like it or not, and I’m going to be there in half an hour. I expect you to be showered and dressed when I arrive.”
Without giving Ryan a chance to respond, the speaker hung up, leaving Ryan to mutter darkly to himself. Nevertheless, Ryan obliged, and dropping the phone back into a nest of clothing, he threw himself into the bathroom. Here he stripped himself of his meager clothing, which consisted solely of his underwear and a pair of wooly socks. He turned the water to a scalding temperature and pulling the curtain shut tight behind him, he stepped under its harsh spray.
He did not often remember to shower, but when he did, he liked to take as much time as possible. He scrubbed each limb thoroughly, at least four times, and he lathered his hair lavishly with generous quantities of vanilla scented shampoo. Massaging the suds over his skin with care, he continued murmuring to himself in aggravation about ‘controlling best friends over-stepping their boundaries.’
Pacified none by the knowledge that he would not be able to properly enjoy his shower with his friend’s looming threat of the supermarket hanging over him, Ryan reluctantly wandered out of the shower and proceeded to search for a clean looking towel. Retrieving one from atop a heap of unopened mail, Ryan took special care in wrapping it around his thin waist. He wanted to drag the process of clothing himself out as long as possible, so as to delay the no doubt inevitable trip outdoors with his friend.
Mercifully, this wasn’t hard to do, as finding presentable clothing proved much more difficult a task than locating a towel.
It was as he was drawing a limp looking pair of slacks from beneath a crumpled blazer that he heard the door open, and his mumbling began anew at the thought that his friend must have somehow procured a key to his apartment.
“Ryan?” his friend’s voice called, ringing obnoxiously through the apartment. “You’d better be ready to go.”
Sparing no concern for Ryan’s privacy, the other man burst through the door to Ryan ‘s bedroom and was immediately confronted by an onslaught of bundled-up socks.
“Ryan,” he stressed, angrily, “stop throwing those at me. They smell like they haven’t been washed in weeks!”
Ryan glowered at him. “I will do as I wish in my own home, Spencer. You, apparently, do as you wish not only in your home, but in others’ homes as well.”
Ignoring this comment, Spencer regarded Ryan with exasperation. “You haven’t dressed yet. What’s taking you so long?”
“I have yet to find an article of clothing that is not stained or encrusted with dirt from our last jaunt about the town,” he stated in reply, with an attempt at being dignified. Spencer laughed raucously.
“Ryan, stop being so uptight, and while you’re at it, you can stop being so neglectful. Doing laundry hasn’t yet been proven harmful, you know, “ Spencer said, nudging his toe against a wrinkled, flowery top. Ryan began to respond, but found himself unable to retaliate as Spencer lifted the flowery shirt.
“Ryan,” he said, humour rife in his voice, “is this a blouse?”
Ryan gritted his teeth. “Spencer, I did not invite you here to criticize my wardrobe; in fact, I did not invite you here at all.”
Spencer, as he was apt to do, paid Ryan no mind. “Luckily for you,” Spencer said, “I had an inkling that you’d be lacking in the clothing department, so I brought along some of my clothes for you to wear. Oh, don’t look so anguished, Ryan. They’ll be a little big and maybe not as girly as you’re used to, but they’ll allow you to step outside without looking like a pretentious hobo.”
Ryan’s scowl only deepened at this analysis of his habitual appearance, but he accepted the proffered clothing all the same. “Are you going to remain in the room with me as I change, Spencer, or might I at least be allowed some modicum of privacy?”
Spencer grinned at him and said “Though our friendship is unrivaled, my dear Ryan, I can’t think of anything I would less like to do than watch you change.”
He was subsequently shoved out of the room by an infuriated Ryan, who was at long last left to clothe himself.