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Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to J.K. Rowling, as always. :)
“Do chocolate frogs go bad?”
The following silence meant Lucy must have been asleep. I glanced over at the bed next to mine. Lazy cow was out indeed, sprawled across her quilt in her uniform. I rolled my eyes and chucked the suspiciously unmoving bag at her.
“What?” she snapped, her eyes flying open. She glared upside down at me.
“Chocolate frogs... do they go bad?” I asked slowly, like I was speaking to someone daft. She shrugged and rolled over. “Really, Luce? It's half nine,” I mumbled. She grunted, attractively. Lucy was kind of like a werewolf. During the sunlight she was all girlish smiles and squeals and giggles, but once the sun went down and she was properly tired, she turned into a grunting, snoring mess. I sighed, accio'd the bag back onto my bed, and decided to give them a try anyways. Chocolate was chocolate.
Jill glided into the room a moment later, humming to herself, fresh out of the shower. “It does,” she told me, obviously having overheard us from the lavatory, and dropped her towel. Like there weren't four other girls (me, Lucy, Maddie and our fifth house mate, Amity Vasquez) in the room, wide awake (except Lucy). Jill was famous for it. She disrobed anywhere and everywhere and never gave a damn, citing something like lots of sports teams and lockers rooms during her childhood as her reason. I guess if I looked like she did in her knickers, I would too. I spit out the admittedly funky tasting chocolate, thinking miserably for a moment about the stretch marks on my hips. Bugger.
Amity, our resident half-Spanish hottie (or so I was told), wandered over in her t-shirt and what I thought were a poor excuse for shorts. “They look fine to me,” she said with a shrug, pushing her dark curls out of her face.
“Yeah, but they taste wonky... go ahead,” I said, handing her the bag. She pondered it, and was about to try one out herself, when Sam Potter burst through the door.
Amity, Jill, and even Maddie all jumped and shrieked a bit. Sam stared at them, shocked.
“What?” he said, as if he hadn't just burst into the (technically) female-only seventh year dormitory while we were all in our knickers ans pajamas.
“Sam, just because you're...” Amity trailed off.
“Gay!” Maddie filled in for her.
“...exactly... just because you don't like girls, does not give you access to our dorm whenever you feel like it! We could have been naked!” she said, sounding horrified at the thought.
“Yeah, Circe forbid he he catch us during our ritual naked hour,” Maddie quipped sarcastically from her bed, which she was currently slumped upside down over the side of. Sam joined her, lying down likewise and staring out at us. Apparently, it was a shame Sam was gay, or so Lucy told me often. I guess I could see how he was good-looking. His hair was the exact color of honey and seeing as he was a Quidditch player, he was very fit. I guess it really was a shame, for us anyways.
“How is it I always miss naked hour?” I mumbled with a snort. There was silence, the kind of silence that falls only when people aren't saying what they're thinking. No one wants to see a fatty in her knickers. I glared around for a moment, before Sam, as usual, shifted the subject to Quidditch.
“Well, loves, just popped by to let you know Quidditch try-outs will be at four on Tuesday,” he said, sitting up. “Don't expect any of you that aren't already on the team will be trying out but,” he paused, glancing pointedly at Amity, “I reckoned I'd let you all know. I'll be off, and you can all proceed with naked hour.” He stood, righted his robes, and was gone as quickly as he had come.
Amity sighed and threw herself onto her bed. “Will he ever drop the Quidditch thing?” she asked no one in particular.
“Nope,” Maddie replied, grinning cheekily. Maddie and Sam had been on a mission since fourth year, to get Amity on as seeker. She was the obvious choice; wicked fast, incredible coordination and gorgeous to boot. I'm sure some of they zeal was due to the fact that Roland Urqhart, our team captain, wanted to see her a little less clothed than usual, and she thought so too. But maybe this year they'd convince her.
“Never,” Amity said to Maddie's fervent nodding. “I'm here to learn, not to fly around chasing snatches.”
“Whatever.” Amity pulled the quilt back, slipped under it until just her hair peaked out the top, and apparently went to sleep.
“Gus, why don't you try out?” Lucy mumbled beside me. She was somewhat coherent now, sitting up but still bleary eyed. I gawked at her.
“Sorry?” Maddie, too, was staring at her like she had grown a tail or something.
“You... we used to play when we were younger, and you were always such a good beater,” she said, stifling a yawn. I snorted, thinking back oh, ten years?.
“We were seven, Luce.”
“All the same, you should try...”
“I don't think that's a very good idea.” Was there an echo in here? I glanced across the room at Maddie. She was shaking her head as adamantly as I was.
“Why not?” Lucy was getting up slowly, rooting around in her trunk for her pajamas. “Couldn't hurt to try,” she said with her usual daytime pep.
“Well, erm... it's just that...” I was silent, because I knew there was about to be a blow here. Maddie was trying to be delicate, and that never meant anything good.
“The broom wouldn't be able to lift her off the ground,” Jillian said absently while brushing her hair. There was a communal gasp and Jillian dropped her brush, just realizing what she had said. “Oh, Merlin, did I say that out loud?” She spun around from the mirror to face me, looking absolutely mortified. I felt my face turn red hot, and I stared pointedly at my hands. “I overheard some fifth year saying that and I told them off, I swear, I am so sorry, Gus.” She sounded about to cry, and that would have just made this whole thing worse, so I shook my head, and looked up.
“S'fine,” I said flatly, grabbing my toothbrush off of my bedside table and heading off the lavatory in complete silence.
The next morning, I had accepted my fate. I was destined to be the fat, awkward daughter of the Herbology professor, but I'd be damned if that was going to stop me enjoying the first decent breakfast I'd had in months. Porridge with chocolate chips, a mug of steaming coffee and toast slathered in marmalade... it certainly didn't get better than this.
Jill was quiet all morning, apparently still feeling rotten about last night. I privately thought she should, since it was a little harsh, no matter whether or not the bottom button on my uniform shirt was buttoned or not. But I felt a bit bad, since Jill being quiet meant she was really distraught. I tried to be as pleasant as I could, but it ended up just being forced, so I gave up and decided to focus on my toast.
“Ready for double N.E.W.T.'s Potions?” Lucy asked, joining me late. She sounded genuinely excited, but the thought made my heart sink. I stared at the lovely marmalade, thinking this could have been such a good day if only it weren't for Potions.
“Mm. Thrilled,” I mumbled. Lucy nudged me, making me spit up a bit of half-chewed toast onto my plate.
“Come on, Gus, it's not that bad.”
“Says you. Are we at least with Gryffindor?” I asked, glancing hopefully towards Al. He was my saving grace in Potions; he always partnered with me since he liked the work anyways, and usually let me copy his essays. Lucy followed my gaze, and then got that really irritating look her eye that made me want to throttle her sometimes.
“Why? Hoping to end up working with Al again?” she said suggestively, giving me another unpleasant nudge in the ribcage. Right about then, I was glad I'd gained a few pounds around the middle; Lucy had knives for elbows. I rolled my eyes.
“Lucy, I am telling you, it is not what you think.” She nodded.
“Right, of course it isn't.” I glared at her.
“Will you stop that?”
“That smiling, that stupid 'I know, you know, we know' grinning thing you do. There's nothing to know, I don't like Al like that.”
“Alright, then tell me, Augusta,” she said, folding her hands. “Why is it you always partner with him?”
This was where things got tricky. Lucy was appalled by the idea of any kind of cheating, so I couldn't exactly tell her the truth, which was that Al and I were completely platonic friends that happened to be in the mutually beneficial academic partnership (he helped me out in Potions, I wrote his History of Magic essays for him). So instead, I bit my lip and shook my head.
“Think what you want,” I conceded. She gave me another one of those knowing glances and I shuddered. Lucy was always trying to infuse some hint of romance into my life. She could never accept that I had a totally platonic relationship with any of my male friends, even Sam. The truth was, boys had never much interested me, but I think it was that exactly that made Lucy so determined to extrapolate any friendship into unrequited attraction.
Luckily, it was nearly time for class, and this blasted conversation could be over and done with. While I mourned the good start to what was probably going to be a rotten day, my thoughts were interrupted by Headmistress Sinistra calling us to attention.
Sinistra was a real piece of work. She looked like the muggle idea of a witch, black hair, widow's peak, pale skin, dark eyes and she liked wearing these long, deep purple robes. Dad told me she used to be the astronomy professor, but now she was headmistress. She was strict, and downright terrifying if you crossed her, but since I hadn't, she was just a vague, intimidating presence. Until this morning, when she delivered the news that put the last nail in the coffin of my perfectly good start to the day.
“Students! I am pleased to announce that we have yet another new flying instructor!” Her voice was deep but breathy, and had a lilt that made me suspect she hadn't always lived in England. Sometimes, I barely noticed what she said, I was so lost in trying to figure out where she was from.
The fact that we were getting a new flying instructor wasn't really shocking news to anyone. Madame Hooch, who had been at Hogwarts since before my dad was a first year, had called it quits back in my second year. In her place, we'd had a series of 'celebrity guest instructors', as my dad called them, none lasting more than a year. Last year, we'd had Oliver Wood, former star keeper and now owner of the Puddlemere United team. I'd had to convince Sam not to show up to all his lessons, since only first years got flying instruction and it was weird for a sixth year to hang around. Mr. Wood was fit, but he was old, and I thought Sam did enough shameless flirting with him while he refereed the Quidditch games anyways. There had been a record number of fouls on the part of the Hufflepuff team that year, which of course had ended in Sam 'arguing' with the referee.
“This year, we are pleased to welcome former Holyhead Harpies chaser and senior Quidditch correspondent for the Daily Prophet, Ginevra Potter!” Well, that was actually kind of surprising! Seemingly materializing out of nowhere, Aunt Ginny joined Sinistra on the teacher's dais, looking a little comical in her old Harpies uniform. I stood and clapped, poking Lucy, who I guess hadn't known about it either. If she had, she probably would have warned me about what was happening next.
“And, if I may have you attention once more,” Sinistra continued, the hall falling silent immediately, “She will be assisted by her son and keeper for the Appleby Arrows, James Potter!”
The hall erupted at this point. James was still famous here it seemed. Lucy shouted and cheered with the rest of them, barely noticing that I had sat back down and was staring pointedly at my toast again. This really could have been a lovely day...
I would like to say that James and I had some dark, secret past as lovers, or accomplices in a murder, or something to explain the tension between us. But the truth was actually more mundane. We had been best friends when I was little, the big-brother-little-sister types. He'd protected me from Freddie and his pranks, and Rose and her bossiness, and Hugo and his penchant for smearing his boogies on everything (a phase that thankfully ended when he was four). When he'd gone off to Hogwarts two years before me, he'd written me weekly, telling me all about it. When it was my turn, we were inseparable once again, despite the fact that I was a Hufflepuff and he was a Gryffindor, and I was an awkward teenage girl which acne and a knack for creating noxious fumes in Potions and he was a Quidditch playing son-of-the-hero whom every female of age was lusting after. It was the last bit that did us in.
I never, ever felt anything more than brotherly affection for James. He was good looking enough, and charming for sure, but it's hard to fall for someone you used to run around in your knickers with when you were little. But, of course, others girls found it just so easy. In his seventh year and my fifth, he had his first proper girlfriend, Sumati Patil, daughter of serial divorcee Padma Patil. She was tall, and beautiful, and in Slytherin. Everyone thought it was so romantic, the star-crossed lovers from rival houses, beating the odds for love or whatever nonsense girls like Jill cooked up to gush about at sleepovers and afternoons at Madame Puddifoots.
The only hitch in the love story was me, awkward little Gus Longbottom, who for some reason still spent all her time with James in the library, in the kitchens, sneaking out to swim in the lake at two in the morning. I guess it would be enough to drive any girl to suspicion. Sumati wasn't quiet about her loathing for me; she teased me, and I'd heard her say more than a few nasty things about me to her friends, but who was I to speak up?
It wasn't long before I realized that maybe it was a bit weird that James and I hung out so much. I thought of how Sumati must have felt, like an outsider I imagined, whenever James and I did homework together, or flew around the Pitch or whatever else we got up to. So I stepped back. I didn't seek out James, and when he found me I made excuses to slip away. Eventually, he caught on and we stopped talking all together. By the time he graduated, we were almost perfect strangers, save for the unbearably awkward moments when we would make eye contact and both turn away quickly.
It wasn't a horrible situation. I missed him sometimes, but friends drifted apart all the time, and it wasn't like I was totally abandoned. I still had Lucy, and her sister Molly and I were quite close when she was at school too. It probably would have happened anyways, since James graduated that year. He and Sumati broke up shortly thereafter, but we hadn't spoken in two years. That is, until yesterday, at the train station, and that didn't exactly count.
And there he was, standing up there with his mum, looking at once like a stranger and the boy I'd known my whole life. Like my sham of life could not get any more ridiculous, I was now going to be haunted by the memory of the friendship I'd had once upon a time. I buttered another piece of toast. At least I had toast.
A/N: Well, this has to be a record. Two chapters in less than 48 hours! I guess the first one was a bit clumsy, but I got on a roll with this and I'm pretty pleased with it, so I wanted to get it up. I made it a resolution to get this to five chapters, so I guess I'm doing well! Now to get to work on The Winning Side... Anyways, review and let me know what you think! - Elle :)