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Chapter 3: The one with the Hogwarts Express.
My robes were uncomfortably tight as we reached the platform and I almost wished I’d given into Mum’s nagging and had gotten some new robes fitted... but she always insisted on buying some with ‘growing room’ which meant that I was going to be walking around drowning in my robes like a naive first year. I had thought that too small was better than too big. I was a fool.
Anyway, it wasn’t like my height had increased all that much (although mum was adamant that I was just about to hit a growth spurt and was probably going to be as lanky as Uncle Ron, which I wasn’t sure was a good thing. Hugo then added ‘or maybe even as lanky as Rose’ which had caused Rose – who has become sensitive about her astronomical height – to throw ‘Hogwarts: A history’ which had caused an out and out argument at the annual Wesley barbeque. If there’s one rule in the Wesley-Granger household it is do not disrespect books, especially books as sacred and precious as ‘Hogwarts: A history,’ This only reaffirmed by belief that I did not want to grow to fantastical heights like Rose, but a little extra height – just enough to put me above James – was completely welcome). The problem was I’d been so bored I’d started playing Quidditch with the rest of them. As a beater which, for some reason, is the position no one wants. So, as Nana Weasley kept lamenting, rather embarrassingly, I’d ‘filled out’.
This basically meant I now had muscles. This really meant that James could no longer get away with murder because I had the ability to stand up for myself. This meant that it was definitely going to be a good year.
“Al!” Jan exclaimed, leaving her parents and her sister to throw her arms around my by way of greeting. All I caught a glimpse of as she came flying at me was that she’d changed her hair colour, gotten a tan and – for some reason – was looking a little bit too attractive.
And there go my hopes for the year being good.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but there was something slightly different about the way Jan was holding herself. The change in her hair wasn’t that different it had just turned a little lighter during her holiday in Florida and the tan wasn’t the big difference either. It was her face – she seemed to have grown up a little and looked less like a kid and more like...
Would saying a woman be too cheesy even for internal thoughts? I think it might be.
She’d done the opposite of me and instead of filling out (although she had a little – not that I was trying to look, because I really wasn’t. Jan’s my best friend after all) but she’d definitely grown. She was about the same height as me.
I decided I definitely wanted to be as lanky as Uncle Ron.
Anyway, the point was – it wasn’t like she’d suddenly become more attractive, because she’d always been nice-looking it was just... I’d noticed it. And I wasn’t enjoying it.
Instead I was going to blame it on the lack of females that weren’t related to me all summer (although most of them had invited friends over at some point during the week and no matter what our female cousins protest – their friends are not off limits.) I’d just have to look at someone else or something.
“Where’s James?” Rose asked from the compartment doorway, sighing as she sat herself down on the bench next to Jan – opposite me. I shrugged. “School’s only started ten minutes ago and he’s already up to something with Freddie – I can tell – and Malfoy’s already being even more an idiot than last year,”
“On the bright side,” Jan grinned. “He has grown a lot over summer.” Rose didn’t comment on this so I supposed there must be a fair element of truth to her statement. Jan didn’t fancy him though, did she? And would this mean that Lily’s little crush would continue to fester and ruin our lives with its stupid presence? Dad had practically choked when Lily had said something slightly too flattering about his Quidditch playing (given James had been detailing how he’d lost due to a mixture of the Slytherins cheating, blackmail and Veela for the hundredth time that summer). She’d blushed visibly at the same time, which had hardly helped her cause, but it was more than obvious in her ‘would-be-casual’ tone as she commented on how ‘strong’ he was.
There was nothing all that great about Malfoy though, was there? He was too pale and blonde. And creepy. Malfoy was creepy. “Seriously though, where is James? We could actually do something now, you know Al – now that we’re prefects.” I inwardly cringed. “Speaking of which, do you think we should be patrolling or something?”
“No,” Jan said pulling out a pot of nail varnish from her bag and beginning to paint them electric blue. “Don’t leave me on my own; I haven’t seen any of you for three weeks. You’ve all changed! Rose you’ve got all tall and Albus has turned into the hulk and Malfoy’s gotten pretty attractive, and to be quite frank – even James is looking relatively appealing.” Both Rose and I stared at her blankly. “What? I’ve been stuck with my parents and my sister practically all summer, and I do have eyes you know and he suits being all tan and with the new hair...”
“You fancy him.” Rose accused looking mildly sick. I was feeling more nauseous than I had done after sampling James’s polyjuice potion experiment, or that time when he decided to make me a birthday cake and force-fed it to me until I eventually turned blue and had to be taken on an emergency trip to St Mugos. And that was saying something.
“Oh come off it,” She said. “I haven’t completely lost my mind, he’s still a...” but we never got to hear the end of that sentence because we’d all just noticed that we were slowing down and pulling into Hogsmeade station. Then, the second we stopped there was a loud explosion and the train shook violently. “What was that?” Jan demanded, grabbing hold of my arm tightly.
“I don’t know,” Rose said darkly. “But I’d bet my prefect badge that James had something to do with it.”
I was pretending to listen the speech, because I felt I should at least pretend with the esteemed, and embarrassing, prefect badge pinned to my chest like a giant ‘KICK ME’ sign. As James continually reminded me even Dad wasn’t a prefect and he was – according to James – ‘a suck up’ which isn’t really how I’d define the whole friendship thing he had going on with Albus Dumbledore, but that’s James for you.
Jan was finishing off painting her nails with that familiar bored expression on her features. Rose was actually listening (‘of course Rose is a prefect, both her parents were – it runs in the genes’ however for you to be a prefect? That’s shameful mate. Shameful.’). I wasn’t particularly interested in where anyone else was.
“Watch out!” Jan exclaimed suddenly, her gaze fixed just above my head.
I looked up and found myself face to face with a levitating Chicken’s arse.
Then it ceased to be levitating and dropped onto my face with a loud squawk. My mouth was partly open due to the shock of the event and thus my mouth became very familiar with the chicken’s tail feathers for a short period of time before I managed to choke enough that the chicken was dislodged fell of my face and onto the table – where the dinner had just arrived.
The normal talk and chatter that accompanied the arrival of dinner had not come and instead everyone was staring at me and my battle with the chicken. It made a very loud shrieking noise and then set off running – stepping in several dishes and loosing feathers in some of the others – and I decided that there was no way in hell I was going chase after the thing. It wasn’t mine, after all, it had just appeared.
And it wasn’t particularly hard to guess from where...
“There’s a note.” Jan muttered darkly, confirming all my worse suspicions and making my heart drop uncomfortably in my chest.
“I’m not reading it now,” I said. “Everyone’s looking,” And then I helped myself to as much food as I could to eradicate the disgusting yet distinctive taste of a chickens arse. And lots of pumpkin juice. Lots.
“Hi Albus,” Jenny Bell said in that slightly scary almost cat-like purring way of hers. I nodded at her distractedly but paused when I noticed something dramatically different. She’d dyed her hair. Blonde, I assumed. I couldn’t stop looking at her. I was more than alarmed.
Her hair was actually yellow. Sunshine daises and Hufflepuff yellow. I’m not even kidding. It looked like a primary school kid had attempted to colour her hair in blonde but only had a limited pallet of block colours. Bright yellow. Spectacularly odd.
And I was still staring at her. She smiled a strange and alarming smile. I looked down quickly, my eyes wide. Her hair was yellow. Yellow. Who would dye their hair yellow?
Oh crap. She probably thought I fancied her now. I wasn’t sure if I was capable of fancying someone with yellow hair. I’d just get really confused looking at her and be reminded of that time James had convinced me that the sorting hat had confided in him and told him specifically that I was either going to be in Slytherin or Hufflepuff. For the next three months all my dreams had been in haunting shades of fluorescent yellow and sap green. I inwardly shuddered and busied myself with my plate.
“The note,” Jan said nudging me after the chicken had been vanished for a good ten minute (by some quick thinking member of staff) and everyone – including Jenny Bell – had lost interested in my activities. I slipped it under the desk already knowing and dreading the words that were sure to be written, in that familiar messy handwriting.
I need your help!
“Let me get this straight,” Jan said with an expression of pure disgust on her nice features. It was an expression I’d definitely missed over summer, and served as I reminder to why she was my best friend and why I loved her. “You blew up the Hogwarts express.”
“Only part of it!” James exclaimed irritably. “I don’t know why everyone’s making such a big deal out of it, we thought it all through – we even set off a dung bomb first so that everyone would clear off. No one was hurt!”
“Oh well that’s considerate of you,” Jan said sarcastically. “Although I suppose it does explain the smell.”
“You could have killed someone,” I said frowning at my brother who had most definitely gone way to far this time.
“You sound like Dad,” He muttered standing up and pacing across the room edgily. Ah. They’d spoken to them then. That would explain his irritable mood and complete lack of humour about the whole thing. “It was just a prank... I didn’t realise the explosion would be so big.”
“You blew off two carriages!” Jan exclaimed. “Where did you even get the bomb? Actually, don’t even answer. This is stupid. There’s no way Albus is going to help you after you’ve done such a stupid and idiotic thing, is there Al? There’s no way!”
Did Jan really fancy James? And did she really think that Malfoy was good looking?
I ignored her.
“What did Mum say?”
“Nothing.” James snapped, folding his arms and resuming his pacing. My eyes widened. Silent treatment – from Mum? That was madness. Unheard of. She loved to shout. I could barely imagine her speechless. “Dad made up for it though,” James said. He looked as if he was about to punch something. Hopefully not me.
“And if you’re so very upset about the whole thing, how did you manage to tie a note to a levitating chicken?” Jan muttered in a voice that quite clearly conveyed she was extremely pissed off and knew she had a very good point.
“That was Freddie,” James said. “Angelina and George had just gone so I asked him to deliver a message to you; he claims he couldn’t find an owl. His parents saw the funny side at least.”
“This isn’t just about Mum and Dad, is it?” I asked warily.
“No.” James said clenching his fists. “I’ve got detention every Saturday until Christmas and if I miss a single one she said she’ll expel me.” Even Jan couldn’t think of anything to say to that. We both stared at him in silence. He’d definitely stepped over the line this time.
Blowing up the Hogwarts Express? So not cool.
“So,” James said, “I need your help.”
“There’s no way he’s getting you out of detention this time Potter, you deserve it.”
“No,” James agreed. “I’ve got to attend every one – that’s fair. I mean... I can do that. There’s just one problem and I’m going to need both of you to help.”
“What?” I asked.
Jan swore having just realised exactly the problem with this. James was our Quidditch captain and star chaser. Quidditch matches were on Saturday. James could not miss a detention. We could not lose at Quidditch after last year’s awful defeat to Slytherin. It wasn’t an option. We had to win.
“The team are going to be hard to win over,” James continued. “But I reckon when I tell them about the substitutes they’ll be all right with it.”
“For me and Freddie.” James said slowly.
“I got that bit,” Jan muttered. “But who are the substitutes?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” James grinned.
I groaned and turned to Jan with a grimace. “We are the substitutes.”
“If you fancy her you should just ask her out,” Jan snapped.
“I do not fancy her!” I exclaimed turning to her in mild horror. I wasn’t sure where exactly she’d gotten such a ridiculous and stupid notion into her head. There was no way... my gaze slipped back towards the back of her head. Such a bizarrely bright shade of yellow.
“Then why do you keep staring at her?” She hissed.
“Her hairs hypnotising!” I whispered back, purposefully trying to talk as quietly as possible so that she couldn’t eavesdrop. I didn’t want to insult the girl or anything, but it was honestly the brightest shade of yellow I’d ever seen. Brighter than the sun, maybe. Definitely brighter than any Hufflepuff although... that wasn’t hard, they were a dim lot.
Jan rolled her eyes and glanced at her thoroughly chewed nails. That meant she was stressed about something. I wasn’t going to ask though, if she wanted me to know – she’d tell me.
“So,” I said because the conversation had just got awkward. “Quidditch match on Saturday,”
“Hmm.” She returned beginning to write notes for the first time since that beauty potion incident last year. She must be mad. I wasn’t all together sure why she was mad at me though. She was probably just PMSing.
“We’ve been practicing for weeks, what do you think – we’re in for a shot?”
“I’m probably the best chaser Gryffindor has.” Jan said dipping her quill in her purple ink pot, deliberately not looking at me. I frowned at her. As true as it was – Jan was a brilliant chaser and would most definitely be on the team next year, if not this year (James didn’t like one of the chaser’s anyway, so I wouldn’t put it past him to chuck that guy off) – but Jan was always a little more humble than that. Even if she knew she was good, which normally she is and does, she doesn’t voice it.
I wasn’t a bad beater but I wasn’t half as good as Freddie had been, still... it was almost too good to be true that I’d started playing in that position only that summer. It was almost like James had designed it. Still, he’d never go that far.
“Probably the best chaser in the school.” Her lips twisted a bit. “But don’t tell James I’ve said that.”
“James has been quiet recently,” Jan said, turning to me with her eyes raised. “I mean... its October and... he’s only asked you for help once.”
“Still, it’s sort of an ongoing thing,” I muttered. “And he can’t do anything else – he’ll get expelled.”
“You don’t think that... that he’s grown up a little?” Jan suggested. I was suddenly reminded of Jan’s comments on the first day back. I turned away from her and continued looking at the back of Jenny Bell’s head thoughtfully.
“Do you think that maybe... you want to think he’s grown up a little?” I suggested.
“I do not fancy James Potter!” She hissed angrily.
“I mean, he blew up the Hogwarts express,”
“I don’t fancy James!”
“I mean, I don’t mind if you do – whatever, although it would be a bit weird, considering he’s my brother and everything -”
“I fancy someone else.” Jan interrupted, flushing and folding her arms over her chest. “Someone who can be a bit like James, on occasions.” Who was a bit like James? I questioned half turning back to the front, catching sight of Jenny Bell’s bizarre hair and finding my gaze stuck to it again. It was just so... yellow.
“Do you think her hair looks even more yellow when the suns not out?” I asked, squinting at it to see if it made any difference. I didn’t much.
Jan swore and called me something her mother wouldn’t like. “What is your bloody obsession?! I know she’s blonde and has large -”
“Jan!” I exclaimed, gesturing at where she was sat – mere centimetres away.
“I don’t get what’s so great about her.”
“Nothing, I mean, I don’t -”
“I know she’s blonde and everything but -”
“Yes, blonde is good but -”
“Well if you fancy her so much -”
“Her hairs yellow!” I hissed. “It looks like she showers in food colouring!”
“Jenny!” Jan said, and the yellow hair freak turned around and smiled at both of, making a point of blinking at me stupidly. It made her slightly repulsive. I didn’t help that she had so much mascara on it looked like it was taking physical effort to hold her eyelids up – maybe that was why she kept opening and shutting them? I resisted the urge to shudder. “You know Albus is playing as beater on Saturday,” I flushed slightly wondering what the hell Jan was playing at. I also noticed that Jenny’s eyebrows were a normal brown colour, and not yellow. Actually, in this light... there was a slight green tinge. Had she intended for this to happen? “Do you want to go out with him on the weekend after next?”
Wait. What? What?
“Sure,” She said with a smile, before turning round to face the front again.
“There,” Jan muttered shoving her books and parchment and shit in her bag violently before stalking out of the room and leaving me sat there wondering how the hell I was supposed to sit through a whole date with Jenny Bell and not ask her what she’d done to offend her hairdresser. Or start making yellow-related comments or something else that could possible offend her.
And why the hell had Jan asked her out for me?
“What time are we meeting?” Jenny asked, her yellow hair falling round her face like some monster on a seriously budgeted horror movie. It was genuinely terrifying. But, this was it – this was my chance to get out. To get rid of this whole date with the yellow-haired-monster.
“Erm, ten,” I said. “Can’t wait.” I added – lying through my teeth – before running out after Jan fully intending to spy on her and work out whoever this ‘a bit like James’ idiot was so I could display how strong my new muscles were. Stupid bastard.
“Never.” Jan said, leaning on my shoulder and grabbing hold my Quidditch robes with so much strength that the creases would probably be permanent, even if Nana Wesley attempted to iron it (she is the ultimate ironer – the speed and precision is immense).
“Right,” I half laughed looking out at the other members of the team who were talking game tactics or something or other that we weren’t quite involved with yet. “What are we going to do with our time after this is over?”
“Probably help James out with his next hair-brained scheme until one or more of us are dead. Personally... I’m hoping its James.” I laughed again and took a deep breath. I wondered if James was ever this nervous before big games. And if he was, why would he subject himself to this slow form of torture? Surely there was no enjoyment to be found from a situation when the whole school (bar the six other slytherin students that weren’t on the team – the house had been so unpopular since the war) were depending on you to kick their arses.
I didn’t do kicking arses not even with my crazy Prefect powers. I left that to Rose who managed to abuse her Prefect powers just enough so that people respected her and would only talk about how much of bitch she was in very low voices that only their best-friend-for-ever could here. Personally, I think it’s her height.
“I’m always nervous before games,” James said strolling into the changing rooms and offering the others a thumbs up before walking over to us. “Hey,”
“You should be in detention,” I said warily. He sat himself down between us, throwing an arm around each of our necks and patting us on the backs.
“It’s all right, Whatzit said as I’d been really good recently so I could have ten minutes to go talk to me team. No, that’s a lie – and you both know it – I locked him on the toilet. I’ll let him out when I’m back and pretend I haven’t been gone, it’ll be fine. I had to come talk to you guys,” He said pulling our heads in closer for a more intimate chat. “I just wanted to thank you, really, I mean – I don’t know where I’d be without you guys and there is most definitely a place for you on the team next year if you want it,”
“Nah,” I said, “Freddie and Bode are much better than I am,”
“Yeah,” James nodded. “You stick to your prefect duty, that’s enough for you to handle and you’ve got your hands full at the minute, if you know what I mean.” He finished with a wink.
“Jenny Bell?” James said with a grin. “Although I thought you said her hair gives you nightmares. Although, to be fair, I don’t blame you – that stuff is vibrant. It looks like that cheep butter. Weird.” He said shaking his head and looking comically confused. “And Jan, what’s happening with you and Wood? I hear you’re going to Hogsmeade next Saturday?”
“Hmm.” Jan said, looking up at where Wood was throwing water at Bode.
“Not sure I approve of inter-team dating...” James said seriously. “And I thought you dumped him because he tried to push you to...” He waggles his eyebrows suggestively. I inwardly cringed and outwardly had to fight the urge to make sure Wood could never ride a broomstick ever again. “And you’ve gone blonde! What are all these changes!?”
“It’s not really blonde,” Jan said lifting a hand to her head self-consciously. “I mean... it was pretty blonde before and now it’s just... more so.”
“Thanks, anyway,” James said, making a point of turning to me and punching me (hard) on the shoulder. “I love you man,” James grinned. “Best brother ever.”
“Yeah yeah,” I muttered. “Love you too, but next time – you’re on your own.” James grinned before standing up again.
“Well, good luck team,” James said clapping us on the shoulder. “I better return to detention.” He stopped at the doorway, turning to the whole team and looking very seriously at all of them. “If you don’t win I’m going to ask Dad to undo his hocus-pocus and set Voldermort on your arses, bitches! Then you’ll regret not killing yourself to get the snitch! Regret not lying down on that broom to go that bit faster! Regret not stretching that bit further! Regret not hitting that bit harder! And you know why? Because Voldermort had a really annoying stupid laugh – and it’s really going to pisss you off. Think about it.” He tapped his head for effect. Then he bowed and sprinted off in the direction of the castle.
A/N - So who likes Al? Jan? James? Do tell :)