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Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

Avoiding people was slowly becoming an art form for the Eckenrode boy. He had spent the start of the year doing his best to not be seen by anyone he knew. A task that ultimately would be impossible, of course, but he had to try his best. Ben's biggest target for evasion was Bloom. It was also the hardest one to avoid. She was everything to him at one time. She was a big reason he had even survived his time under the mask. What little resistance he could muster would always be aided by remembering their time together. His memory was still partially broken from those days, but he knew he had never physically harmed Bloom. Though emotionally, distance might have been a bit much. He wondered what would become of them with his return. Ben was too afraid to seek her out.

The library was always a good place to hide away. It was deep, full of nooks and crannies, and quiet. A Ravenclaw in a dark corner of this room would never seem out of place. It was a danger that he'd see people he knew studying here, but he needed the space himself. Studying in the commons was too dangerous for seeing Bloom. The last thing he needed was to be cornered by her. Yet, he did not wish to hurt her feelings. Ben cared for her deeply but had no idea where to even begin.

"Lumos." He whispered to himself as he settled into a corner and began reading his book for charms class.

Ben was afraid. He had been responsible, so he told himself, for so much pain. The mask he once wore was infamous among the students by now. His mind was a mess of fractured memory so he did not even know who to properly apologize to and avoid. Bits and pieces would come to him when sparked by a smell, a sight, a sound... but the whole picture might elude him forever. Had he said something hurtful to her? He couldn't know for sure. Asking her, even the idea of asking her, made Ben freeze in a sort of panic.

Bloom, I wish I knew what to tell you.., He thought to himself as he lost himself in the reading.

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

First day had gone by so quickly. Entering the school and seeing some of her old friends from last year had made her feel some sense of joy. It almost had her forget about the new addition to the Silverton family. The thought of her parents not talking to Bloom or her sisters about this decision was breathtakingly strange. The most off-put part of it all was that the adopted child was a Muggle. How can a Muggle fit into a wizarding world family? Muggle-born, fine, but a Muggle? Bloom's twelve-year-old mind was unable to wrap around the "logic" her parents had in adopting Arye.

Shaking the thought of her new baby brother out of her mind, she lay on her bed, staring at the canopy of blue and bronze above her. She was unable to sleep. There was way too much on her mind for her to doze off. She needed to get up and do something.

Looking at the other beds that were comforted with their owner, Bloom decided that she was not ready to go to bed yet. She wanted to explore--to get out. Perhaps it was not the best way to start the year, but laying down in bed for minutes to hours on end was not how she wanted to enjoy her first night back at Hogwarts.

Bloom quickly and quietly got out of bed and threw on a robe over her pajamas. She put on her shoes and made her way out of the girls dormitory and into the common room. It seemed that there were some people who were already up, but they were focusing on their own studies or chatting among each other. Luckily, the girls dormitory had spit out right in front of the exit of the common room. Slowly and quietly, she made her way out of the painting, closing the door behind her, and to the corridors.

Bloom felt free. But where to go? She could go to the Owlery, but for some reason it did not have the same feeling or effect on her as last year. Perhaps the outdoors? Bloom shook her head. The outdoors was where she almost died from the acromantula. Maybe someplace a little safe for the first night of the year, she thought. Bloom made her way to the fourth floor of the castle to the extravagant library.

The library was dark and gloomy. The stain glass windows were shining brightly by the moon's light, giving an eerie tint on the mahogany shelves. Taking a deep breath in when she walked into the room, Bloom could smell the old pages of the books. It smelled almost that of cedar wood.

Touching the shelves as she walked around, little did she know that someone was already peering around the library. It wasn't until she heard someone's voice say a spell that she knew she was not alone. Bloom wasn't scared, though. She was curious. It was a voice she recognized but was unable to put her finger on it.

The shelves reached to the top of the ceiling, but there seemed to be a glow at the end of the aisle. Slowly, she walked down the aisle of the library, touching the spines of the books as she went along. When she got at the end, she saw the one person she wished she never would have seen: Ben Eckenrode, her ex-boyfriend (at least that is what he was after disappearing on her for months).

Bloom had no idea what she was feeling. Anger? Sadness? Depression? Frustration? She wanted to yell at Ben, but yet hold him close. Instead, she stood there, frozen... Motionless. One thing was for sure was that it was too late to walk away. Perhaps it was time to confront the matter. But how? She was at a loss of words.

"Ben...," she started, her voice cracking.

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

A quiet night in the library was too much to ask for it seemed. Ben heard someone approaching and figured it was some random student seeking a late night book. Instead, he realized too late that Bloom had found him. Her voice sounded hurt and broken already. All she had said was his name but it cut him to his core. He dropped his book as he seemed to freeze and lose any grip strength. His eyes locked onto her own. So many thoughts flashed through his mind as he considered the girl in front of him.

Ben's memories from before the mask were still quite full. Every happy moment with this girl replayed in his mind. Their first meeting, that kiss, their walks in the snow, and even their awkward moments. Bloom was someone that kept him strong in the past. Now she was someone that broke him. The young muggle-born wizard had no idea where to even begin.

"Bloom..." Ben said in about the same cracking voice.

It was a rough meeting so far. The boy felt himself spinning in the room. Her anger, real or not, was all he could consider. She had every right to hate him. To despise him with every fiber of her being. Ben had been a failure for her. He blamed himself completely even for what he did under the mask. If he had fought harder, been stronger, been smarter, or did something different... they'd have been better. Doubt spun through his mind but somehow he was able to speak to her again.

"I... I am so sorry..." He sputtered out, eyes welling up against his own willpower. "I'll ... I'll go."

Anger filled his mind once more. The mask had residual effects still on his mind. Where Ben ended and the mask began had become such a blur. Every fiber of his being wanted to lash out now. Yet he didn't. That small part of Ben that would never hurt Bloom was still there somewhere. These incidents had begun to stop but seeing her sparked it.

"I... should go." His voice was darker, bolder, and deeper.

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

Emotions were running high in her mind. What should she be feeling right now? Should she be yelling at him? He did disappear with no word. Should she hug him? Although he avoided her, she always had lingering feelings for him. Should she run away from him? Was Bloom ready for the confrontation that was spread thin?

Her focus began to tunnel vision, but his voice. Ben's voice brought her back to reality. Bloom was able to get out of her head and listen to the crackle in the voice before her. It was nearly the same. Was he feeling the same way? Bloom had wanted to be mature about this, but her hormones got the best of her, she went from someone who wanted to talk things out to being rash.

"Sorry? Eckenrode, you told me you loved me and then you disappear on me for months without even a reason," she started, her body shaking from the confrontation. Water began to collect in her eyes.

"NO! You're not leaving. You're not leaving me," she shouted and she slowly lost feeling in her legs from her anger. She slowly came down to her knees, facing Ben, the water in her eyes streaming down her cheeks. Looking down to the ground, she wiped them away with the sleeve of her navy robe.

"You broke my heart," she finished with a whisper, her breathing heavy from the emotions that flowed through her body. Her heart pounding as a result. Her chestnut eyes, covered by strands of her bangs, moved from the ground to the Muggle-born who, too, was crying.

Silence. Was this feeling closure? She had pretended he never existed when he disappeared to help herself feel better about the situation. But now that he was here in front of her, she had to face the reality. Perhaps it was her that he was avoiding. Even so, speaking what was on her mind for the first time in months on the situation had made her feel better.

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

That was roughly what Ben was expecting to hear from Bloom. The sound of her voice helped pull back the mask rage. Ben slowly came back to his senses as he listened to her speak. She always did soothe the mask even when he actually wore it. Not that she even knew about the mask. He was honestly unsure if anyone knew or not. His mind was fractured still as to exact details of the situation. Did he dare try to explain it to Bloom? Was there anyone he could tell? He was afraid once again but now at least able to speak to her.

"I did... I do..." Ben stammered again as he fought the tears. "Not sure I can... explain..."

Ben's mind flooded with mask memories. It seemed he had mostly avoided her while the mask was on as well. That was likely for the best. If she had been hurt... he'd never have survived losing the mask. A lot of him still had not survived it if he was being honest with himself. Ben was a totally different person after the experience. Would Bloom still love this version of him? Could she? Could she understand that the mask was to blame as well? Even he blamed himself partially so she had to blame him. It was all for loss.

"You should... keep away from me, Bloom." He would make the same decision as he had before, but more honest this time. "It's for the best."

His heart hurt. Ben still loved her but he was unstable. He was dangerous. Could he ever trust himself near her? She was too important. Now all he wished was to hide himself away. Maybe returning to Hogwarts this year was a mistake. Ben wondered why he bothered returning. He was a broken boy not to be trusted. Hurting his friends was the last thing he needed.

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

Shaking her head, she did not like what was coming out of Ben's mouth. This was not what she wanted to hear. She wanted to hear him crawl back to her-- something that would make them come back together. But instead, he opts for separating some more. Just when she finally saw him for the first time in forever, he wants them to stay apart for a longer period of time. She could not handle such an answer coming out of him.

"Are you kidding me? You want me to keep away from you?" she asked, baffled at the thought. Instantly, she remembered meeting him and how much he turned her world upside down with laughter and brightness. Both of them learned that they were Prefects together while sitting by the fireplace in the Ravenclaw Common Room. She also remembered the corridor where they shared their first kiss-- although a bit awkward. She also remembered when they were playing in the snow and how carefree they both were. And now? Now he wanted to stay away from her for good.

"Are you with someone else? Is it Serena Towers? Delilah Stewart?" she asked, wondering if it could possibly be that he just wanted space so he could be with someone else and just did not have the courage to break up with her. "Tell me why you don't want to be with me anymore!" she demanded, her eyebrows crossed, yearning for the answer.

Bloom did not know how to pry the answer out of him. It seemed that anger was not the solution. He backed out quickly when she gave him anger. She began to think of other emotions in her body that she could use to find out what is wrong. With some searching, she felt the warmth and desire that was simmering beneath the anger. She crawled towards him with whatever distance was left and looked at his face, tears swelling in his eyes.

"Please... Tell me," she softly said and slowly moved her face closer to his. Her breathing heavy. She hadn't been this close to him before. Her lips could feel the magnetic pull encompassing his. "Is it because of me?" she asked, looking at his lips and quickly back up to his eyes. Her long eyelashes stenciling her curious eyes.

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

It was just like Bloom to push him. She wouldn't listen to Ben about her own safety. Worse yet she accused him of going after another girl as his reason. The rage was starting to rise again. It was a mistake for her to confront him so boldly. She couldn't know, but he had tried to send her away. Ben should have known better than to try to get rid of her. This is why he had tried to avoid her completely. Now that was no longer an option it seemed. Did he dare tell her... the full truth? It seemed fair but it terrified him. The rage would take over before he could ever talk to her. That is, until her voice softened and he was pulled back out.

"Ssssshhhh!" Came the voice of the Librarian to the pair who were out late.

"No. No... You're wrong." He whispered, his entire being wanted her to know but it was so crazy. "I don't want to be away, I have no one else, and I want to be with you... but..."

Ben paused as he considered what to even say to Bloom. The mask was a secret. His entire life was a mess. She was this girl with a perfect life until Ben the Muggle-born came and ruined it. She should just move on and grow up without such a broken boyfriend. Or even a friend. Ben would speak the truth to her but he was unsure how she would take it. Not much else to do but spill it all. When she ran away afraid that would be for the best.

"Bloom," Ben whispered as he began to reveal it all. "The Ben you knew last year, after Easter, was not me. My body was... I was... a magical mask took me over. I hurt people... I still could..."

He stopped again. There was no way to dive into his memories. So much of it was still fractured. There were big holes in what Ben even knew. Only so much could fit together still. Maybe she'd be content with it. Maybe she'd think he was lying. Maybe she'd think he went crazy. He had to try though because either way she was safer knowing.

"It's gone now, but... it still haunts me. You're safer away from me." Ben whispered again, tearing up and almost unable to talk. "I love you, but it isn't safe."

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

Her breathing, loud, suddenly subdued when he finally was explaining why he left her all those months and she leaned back to listen to him, still looking at him. A mask? she thought. Where did he find such a magical mask? What did the mask do to him? Should she believe him? It seemed too outrages to be the truth. Couldn't he have told her before?

So many questions were running through her mind. She had no idea whether to believe Ben and his mask charade, or to find it all a sham to get out of their relationship. She paused and her tunnel vision came back. Bloom looked at Ben's eyes for comfort. She could not find any, but she did see truth. There was something in the way he was looking at her that she knew he was telling the truth. How?

The situation felt different. Starting out with anger; yelling at him to ease her own pain and then sadness on wondering why he left her. She could not help but to accept those feelings and crawl back to him. Why? Bloom, already close to him and without even thinking, she scooted next to him and placed her head on his shoulder.

"I'm not leaving your side because I love you. But if you really don't want to be with me, then...," Bloom had no idea how to finish that sentence. Would she just leave... Really? Would she just forget that all of this happened. If anything, she wanted to put the ball on his court. Twelve-year-old love was wild. There was no idea how to go about. She had no experience in this. Would adults leave each other or would they stay?

Her head, still on his shoulder, felt at home. She then tried to find his hand and slowly held it, wondering if that was okay. She missed this. Did he? Would he push her away now?

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

Ben stared off into the sea of bookshelves. He was unsure what to even tell her after that. Had she believed him at all? She seemed to not believe him. Her question was set up to let him escape. The boy wondered how anyone could believe such a story. Anger swelled deep down but this seemed different than just the mask personality acting up again. This time he was mad at himself for letting it happen. Bloom deserved someone normal. Ben did not see himself as normal after so long being controlled and afflicted. His mind was a mess and he was unpredictable.

Even before the mask had found Ben, he had his doubts about where this could go. Bloom and Ben were so young. Did 12 year old kids date long? Was this doomed to end anyways? If so maybe it was best to end it before he hurt her more. A once sweet Ravenclaw boy had become an unpredictable liability. To be honest, he was still trying to find out who he was now. That was a poor time to be dating someone.

It was undeniable that Ben still cared for Bloom though. His thoughts were more of protecting her than anything else. He could remember his mom saying that true love meant doing what was best for someone even if it wasn't what you personally wanted. That's why she sent him to Hogwarts despite wanting him at home in a normal, Muggle world. Could the same logic apply here? Should Ben let her go to protect her or should he be close to her? Selfishly he knew what he wanted. He knew what Bloom wanted. Maybe if she still wanted to be with him despite the risks, he should allow it.

"You should hate me, not love me," he started as she trailed off, her head rested on his shoulder. "But of course I want to be with you."

Ben missed her so much. The entire summer was spent trying to avoid returning to Hogwarts at all, but it was her that helped pull him back. It was stupid to avoid her and want to be with her at the same time. Maybe she could help. Maybe his anger would go away someday and he'd be normal. Maybe she'd get hurt and he'd hate himself forever. The future was impossible to read clearly.

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

His words were riddles. How could he tell her to hate him, but yet tell her that he wants to be with her? Is that even possible? A thought had crossed through Bloom's mind: Am I being selfish? Obviously she wanted to be with him. She wanted the happy moments of last year to keep going this year, but was that really what he wanted? He often said something that would push her back and then ended it with something she wanted to hear.

As much as she enjoyed his words about wanting to be with her, the thought of him wanting her to hate him kept ringing in her mind.

"Ben...," she started, thinking that what she was going to say was perhaps the most mature thing to do-- especially for a twelve-year-old girl who's hormones and desires are on the rise. Bloom let go of his hand and began to play with her fingers in figuring out what to say next.

"I'll never hate you. But... If you want me to stay away from you... I don't want to... But for you, I will," she finished, looking at the boy before her.

If he did want her to leave, would that make them an item? Perhaps not considering that they would hardly be spending time with each other. Though, it was his choice to make now, not hers. One thing's for sure is that her heart was closing slowly through every second of this conversation.

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

Bloom was just confusing him more and more. It wasn't enough that Ben struggled to even see her. She was trying to be kind. He knew it was best for them to be apart but he wasn't mature enough to keep up that front for long. Her desire being made obvious just made him want to risk it all. The mask demanded pain even after it was long gone. Ben hardly could put her at risk, but he also wanted to be with her.

"You'd risk yourself to be with me? I don't know if I feel good about it," He replied quietly, swallowing a hard gulp as the tears tried to push out again. "The last thing I wanted... last thing I want now... would be for you to stay away. But... maybe... it's for the best."

It hurt so bad to say it yet again. The pain Ben felt in saying that out loud was worse than anything he had felt beforehand. Bloom was his first girlfriend and he had daydreamed of her being the last too. Silly 12 year old emotions and lack of world knowledge. Ben glanced over to his girlfriend... ex girlfriend... maybe girlfriend... whatever she was.

"What if the mask comes back and I hurt you? What if the bad people come back for me and you're in their way?" His voice picked up, but still not too loud. "As much as I want to stay together, it scares me that you might be harmed. If you want to take the risk I... I'd like it... but I could never ask that of you."

The boy began to fidget with his hands nervously. He hated this entire situation so much. Would this be a time of pain that led to them being closer? His mom said that arguments made couples closer sometimes. Was this an argument? Ben was a little unsure of what to call this. He had been a horrible friend, not to mention the boyfriend aspect. Why was she being so accepting of him?

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

The answers Ben gave Bloom were circling round and around. There was no common area for them to decide upon: should they stay together or should they be apart? They obviously want to be together, but the underlying tone that she was getting (and feeling) was that it was better to be apart. Does Bloom really want to bet her chances of getting hurt? Granted, even when he was "the mask" she never got hurt to begin with. But was that something she should be taking a chance on?

Shaking her head, she knew what she had to do. Although she wanted to be there for him, she couldn't put herself in dangers way and he had been telling her to leave him every moment he responded to her. Perhaps she should listen to him...

"I want to be there for you, Ben. But... I don't know how I can. This is all too much," she said without thinking. She looked down to the carpeted floors of the library. Dust bunnies forming in the corner across from them. "What if you hurt me?" she asked, wondering about the idea of their relationship going sour because of whatever was happening to him. Even she did not entirely understand.

Bloom took in a deep breath. "I want to take the risk... But I can't," she said, tears rolling down her face fast the moment she said those words. It pained her that she was unable to be strong enough for Ben. "I love you, Ben. I'll always love you, but I can't. This is too much for me," she said, wiping her tears with the sleeve of her navy robe. Her mind whirled. She needed to leave as it was too much and the more she stayed, the more she would want to be with him-- which is truly what she wants, but it was not the time.

"I'm sorry, Ben," she said, and she soon got up and quickly walked away. At the end of the aisle, she looked back at what was perhaps now her ex-boyfriend and instantly turned to run out of the library. She made her way to the Ravenclaw Common Rooms, into her dormitory and cried out all that she could of this event.

[Bloom has left the scene]

Book of Love  PV Bloom   Finished 

NPC: Unknown Student
It was the first night of school. Most students were probably busy unpacking or hanging out in their dorms, excited to see their friends after the summer break. He had heard some rumours of some textbooks belonging to former students that had been donated to the library, that had additional notes on it. There was no way of knowing if these were true or not but apparently, the extra notes would certainly be useful for the coming year. It would help him to pass the exams that he was constantly struggling with.

The library was quiet, of course. It was late and far too early for students to be studying. He thought he had the advantage by coming here early. He would be able to grab all of the useful second hand textbooks he could find and avoid having to work hard at all Even Ravenclaws did not study on their first night. The library would be empty. Or so he thought. Scanning the shelf in front of him for the charms textbook that he required, he paused as he overheard voices.

Eurgh’ was all he could think as he heard a female voice start barking. Something pathetic. About love. The older student could not help but roll his eyes as the voices sounded so dramatic. He did not care what happened. Perhaps one lied to the other, cheated on them or broke up with them. He did not care much for their bickering. Whatever it was, he was sure it would be something boring and lame. That was until he heard something of interest.

"The Ben you knew last year, after Easter, was not me. My body was... I was... a magical mask took me over. I hurt people... I still could..."

His eyes widened slightly. A male voice was claiming to have hurt people. The word ‘mask’ caught his attention. There had been rumours, unconfirmed by any Professor, of a masked figure going around late at night. Towards the end of last year, students claimed to have been attacked by a masked man. The colour drained from his face.

Was this boy admitting the rumours were true?

Was he the masked man?

Peering through the books, he tried to spot their faces. They looked familiar but he could not quite place them. They wore Ravenclaw house robes. Students that appeared to be younger than him. He called her Bloom. She called him Ben. A gasp almost escaped his lips as it dawned on him. Ex-Ravenclaw Prefects, Bloom and Ben… He knew they looked familiar.

Prefects were role models… Or so, the rest of the student body believed. And yet… One of them was claiming to be the masked figure that haunted other students for months? Those rumours were… true? It could not be… He never believed the rumours but this boy - this former Prefect of all people was claiming it was true. That he was responsible.

The two former role model Prefects were hiding in a quiet place, just before curfew. The female did not even seem phased by this news. Did she know? Did it mean this was true?

Looking around carefully, he tried to find a way to sneak past the couple. He wanted to get away, unnoticed. That was his only goal now. If this boy was capable of hurting people, there was no way he would be safe if he caught him. Quietly, he stepped away from the shelf after sliding the book back into the place. He sunk down onto the floor, avoiding detection as he tried to steady his breathe and this awful news.

These… rumours were true. The horrible dark rumours of a masked man attacking students was all true. It was a student, no else. A former student that was granted the title of ‘Prefect’ by the professors. Were the teachers here at Hogwarts corrupt too? Did they all practice dark arts too? Or did they simply not care?

The Professors must have known and yet, they let him stay here? They did not expel him? So many questions flooded to the boy’s mind. He did not know what to do. Who could he trust? The teachers were meant to protect them… They had failed to do that. He was on his own. The students were all on their own. They needed to know. Everyone needed to know the truth. The danger they were under. They needed to know, they had the right to know. It was only fair and it was his job to tell everyone.

Some stories should never be told...