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Those People by Faux Pax
Chapter 8: Bets, Potions, and Going Pro
AN:SOOO sorry about the wait guys, I really didn’t mean for this to happen. Hopefully I’ll get the hang of this validation thing by the time the sequel comes around.
Alright guys here’s THE chapter eight. It’s a monster of a chapter so can you guys give me a monster of a review? Please? I know a lot of you already had an idea of what went wrong between Jo and James, and I think many of you had it, but I want to know how close you were. Also I’m really interested in hearing what you have to say about Jo’s story. Did it make you hate her or like her more? Or something else entirely?
FW: So Jo, can you tell the court about your pregnancy—the first one?
JM: I don’t see how that has any bearing on the case at hand.
FW: Just answer the question.
JM: I was a stupid child who thought only of myself, as all stupid children do.
FW: I see and—
JM: I’m not finished Freddie.
JM: Like all fallible humans, I make mistakes and that’s what James focused on; a single horrible mistake. He never considered the fact that I never make the same mistake twice. Isn’t that right, James?
I hadn’t been ready to face James—not at all. I hadn’t been ready to see so much hatred in his eyes. He’s mad and I get that—hell, he has every right to be, but just because I understood it doesn’t make it any easier for me to see.
Even though fate had already made my decision for me, I was still at war with myself over whether James knowing was a good thing or not. Listening to Alex and James talking so easily and seeing just how quickly James had stepped into the father role made me feel like an ass for keeping it form him, but then again seeing how quickly he turned on me made me think I was justified.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t care what he thought of me, but I could handle him hating me—I knew I deserved it. But as perceptive as Alex is, that is something he would never understand and if James couldn’t reign himself in, he would forever drive a wedge between them.
Alex had always been a momma’s boy (given the situation there really was no way he’d be a daddy’s boy, now was there?), so it was no surprise that he would side with me but I hadn’t been expecting him to actually attack James. That just made it all the more important that James and I clear the air between us—I didn’t want that kind of relationship for them.
Had it been too much for me to hope that Al could keep the secret for at least a few hours? I’m not talking about long—just long enough to sleep and wrap my mind around the craziness of the day. I guess so. I felt bad for putting something like this on his shoulders—really I did—but there had been no way to avoid it after him bringing me to the hospital.
It’s not like I really had a choice or anything. I mean this was my kid for god’s sake and splinching myself trying to get to him wasn’t going to help anyone. Hell with my luck what was left of me would have landed in his hospital room scaring the kid for life.
But I guess the thing about life is that you can’t choose which curveballs it chooses to throw your way. All you can do is swing and hope they don’t wind up hitting you in the privets when you miss.
After James left I figured I might as well eat the eggs Alex wouldn’t. There was no point wasting them and they did not taste like but (even if they were a little cold by now and I was too lazy to walk over to the microwave). I don’t know where that kid got to be so damn picky—it’s not like I knew anyone who could cook too much better than I could—but at least he was polite about it.
I hadn’t even finished when the doorbell rang and I could tell by the tone that it wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness. I put my fork down and sighed, sure that James’s impatiens had gotten the best of him and he was coming back for the talk early.
I flung open the door, fully expecting to have to yell at my asshole of an ex and to my surprise there stood Max holding a Publix bag.
He smiled before raising the bag up to my face and shaking it tantalizingly. The words that fell out of his mouth were music to my ears.
“I brought Ice-cream.”
When the ancient Greeks spoke of Ambrosia, the food of the gods, I am convinced they were actually talking about this shit right here. Nothing can patch a wounded soul quicker than a date with Ben and Jerry. Especially when said wound is in the heart.
“You must be a seer, I swear,” I said motioning for him to come in as I took the bag from him. Inside was a quart of chocolate fetish. Oh god, why are all the good one’s gay?
“Not quite,” he said, slipping off his shoes in the door way, “Your son stole your cellphone and called me from the bathroom at school. He seemed to think you needed a friend right now.”
“That kid really makes it hard to punish him sometimes,” I muttered and Max gave a rather unattractive snort. Oaky, so it’s not like I ever really punished Alex, but he’s a good kid…I’ve never needed to. All it take is the ‘mom’ look and he’s back in like. Or maybe he just had me wrapped around his fingers. Who knows?
Besides, every time he does something like this his motives are completely sweet.
“Don’t worry, I told him to turn it completely off when he was done so it wouldn’t get taken,” he said beginning to sit down at the table.
“You’re a lifesaver Max,” I said grabbing two spoons out the drawer and motioning for him to fallow me into my room.
“Speaking of which,” I asked, turning around to face him curiously, “why are you here? I get Alex called you, but don’t you have work? I mean you could have waited until lunch.”
He laughed. “That’s the beauty of owning your own company: you get to make your own hours so when a friend needs you…”
“Thanks,” I said softly.
“Besides, Viv’s aunt in in town and she asked for the day off to send time with her and with you gone too there’s no way I can get anything done. It’s all clean up anyways. I don’t have to be there for that.”
“Oaky,” I said, not sure how much of it was him being a good friend and how much was true.
“In all honesty, Jo, this is actually a favor to me.”
I looked at him a little funny. Max was the kind of person who never took a day off, no matter what. That one time he came to work with dragonpox, I had to put him in a body bind before dragging his ass to a healer. Yeah, he’s that bad.
“It was either this or stay there and deal with all the reporters that are clamoring to get the dirt on why you hit him.” I could tell by the look on his face that although he was taking all this with good humor, he wasn’t joking.
“Oh god,” I breathed, resting my head against the wall and ignoring the corner of the picture frame that decided to burrow itself into the flesh of my scalp.
“If only they knew, right?” Max could do sarcasms mode with the best of them and I couldn’t help wonder that had just gotten better or worse since hanging out with me. Apparently, I tend to have that kind of effect on people.
“So are you going to tell me or what?” He asked, unable to contain his curiosity any longer. Honestly I was surprised that hadn’t been the first thing out of his mouth this morning. Perhaps he is growing as a person.
“You want to know what happened between me and James?” I asked sitting down on my bed, careful not to get under the covers otherwise I knew I would pass out.
“You really want to know?” I asked. As unlikely as it was, I was kind of hoping he would say he could wait so I could get some sleep.
“No, I’m just asking to be polite—of course I want to know.”
“It’s a long story,” I warned, knowing he wouldn’t take it. But still a girl’s got to try, right?
“I’ve cleared my schedule.” He deadpanned.
I sighed and nodded, motioning for him to sit down beside me before handing him a spoon. He looked at it with wide, theatrical eyes like I had just handed him the Holy Grail. Close enough, really. Max was gay enough to understand the importance of comfort food to a broken-hearted, overly emotional girl.
“You’re sharing?” he said placing his hand over his heart in mock surprise.
I snorted as I peeled the top off the container and took the first big bite. “You brought the quart sized. Of course I’m sharing.”
“You know I’m adopted, right?” I began after swallowing. I figured it was as good a place as any to start.
“I wouldn’t have guessed. Your dads are both dark haired, tan, and definitely male. You have red hair and your skin comes in two shades: Casper and Casper’s ass. I can see the resemblance.”
My eyes narrowed. Ice-cream bearer or not, I was too tired for this. “Do you want to hear the story or not, smart ass?’
He made a sweeping gesture with his hand as if to say ‘by all means’
“I was adopted so I’m sure you can imagine that it came as a bit of a surprise when I got me letter a few days after my eleventh birthday.”
“A bit?” he said, the spoon sticking out of his mouth.
I gave him a look that clearly told him that he was getting on my nerves and that if he wanted any of the good stuff he knew what to do.
My letter came less than a month after my eleventh birthday. No one in my family had even heard of magic outside of the Vegas kind so needless to say, me being a witch was a complete surprise.
The whole family was sitting down to breakfast and I remember thinking how weird it was; usually it was dinner that was the family affair but a new session of Dad and Poppy’s travel show was starting up and because Connor and I went to one of those lovely year-round schools, we couldn’t go with them.
The forced meals were their way to get as much quality time in as possible before things got hectic. They weren’t so bad, really, if I somehow managed to block out Connor’s atrocious manners.
I had just reached for my second helping of pancakes when I noticed something odd. There was an owl sitting on the window ledge staring at me as if it were trying to get my attention. It was a beautiful creature; jet black and dotted with white.
After a while Poppy noticed me starring and turned around. When he saw the owl, he started screaming bloody murder. For some strange reason, he has always had this pathological fear of birds—we think it’s because Nanny Maggs used to keep all sorts of stuffed birds hanging on the walls when he was growing up—and that made it all the more funny when he grabbed the broom and tried to shoo it away.
It was funny to watch. Every time he took a swing, the bird would dodge and land somewhere else, which only made Poppy madder. It probably didn’t help that Connor, Dad, and I were just sitting back howling with mirth.
Eventually the bird got bored with his little game and preceded to perch right on top of my head, which just made them laugh harder. I ignored Poppy’s protest about how unsanitary the beast was and just tilted my head up a little.
“If you shit in my hair, we’ll be having roast bird for dinner. I promise.”
I swear the bird smiled down at me before sticking out his leg right in front of my face. I was completely surprised at the letter. I mean really, who used parchment anymore?
When I first read it, I thought Connor was pulling a prank on me—an elaborate, ingenuous prank, but a prank none the less—so I ignored it. Coming from a magical family I don’t think you would know this, but ignoring them doesn’t work; those birds are persistent bastards. Now I wonder if it’s specifically breed into them or something.
After ignoring the letter, Spot made it a point to stick around, much to Poppy’s dismay, and wound up becoming something like the unofficial pet I had never had (Dad doesn’t like animals, and Poppy’s a bit of a germaphobe—so no Fido or fluffy for me). I started feeding him little bits of my breakfast and he started bringing me dead rodents as we got close. Really, Connor had already paid a fortune for a trained owl in this crazy prank of his—I might as well get some use out of it.
After a few days though, more showed up and I begin to wonder if this wasn’t as much of a prank as I thought…or at least that someone else was behind it besides my brother. He would have gotten board earlier and there was no way he had the money for this—not even if he completely drained his college fund.
I felt really stupid doing it, but I wrote a little note back to whoever was behind this: If this is some sort of prank, please stop. My Poppy isn’t happy with all the birds. I attached it to the leg of one of the other owls (I wasn’t ready to part with Spot just yet) and hoped it worked.
A few days later this strange man showed up at our door. He was dressed in normal people cloths, but not really. I kind of looked like he had just pulled random things out of a good will box, but after we heard what he had to say, things began to make a bit more since. He explained the he was from the Salem Academy for Witchcraft and Wizardry (Yes Max, I’m well aware that I went to Hogwarts—let me finish).
So where was I?...oh right, Professor Shirley.
He explained everything—that I had been born with magic in my blood; that there was a whole world hidden form sight just for people with magic with schools and everything and I had been selected to go to one of them. When he was done, he wanted my answer; was I going or not?
Although they were supportive, my family ultimately left the choice up to me. That’s just how it went in my family; they could offer help, but my life was mine to live. And really, for an eleven year old kid who just discovered that magic was real, was there actually a choice? Would anyone have actually said no, that they would prefer to go to a normal school full of assholes and Barbie’s? I think not.
The moment I said yes, Shirley took my entire family to Millagan Alley, and honestly it looked like a bastardized version of something Tim Burton would do. Everything there was so different from what we had been used to. My family loved it. Dad and Poppy was fascinated with the culture and Connor was enthralled with just about everything, especially the sports shop. I think he was jealous that I was the one who got the letter but he didn’t say anything—he was trying to be supportive.
And as cool as I thought everything was, a lot of it didn’t make since to me. It was like half the stuff wizards did, they did just because they thought it was neat. Like what was the point of having photos that moved if they didn’t tell a story? Or enchanted books that attack you or turn invisible? And why have owls deliver mail when cellphones worked so much better (not only were they faster but you didn’t have to feed them)?
Once we got everything on the list, we stopped by the wand shop. I didn’t understand how a stick could choose someone but that’s just what happens. Pine, dragon heartstring, fourteen inches. Right here, baby!
Anyways when we went home Shirley was a little surprised that Spot refused to leave—the bird had grown too attached, so I got to keep him. Later that turned out to be a good thing because there were moments over the summer when I needed to be reminded that it wasn’t a dream or a prank. I would read my books and look at my supplies but it still seemed all too good to be true.
Well, one of the extra books I got was about the different wizarding schools—basic history and such—and I fell in love with the idea of Hogwarts. Come on, It’s a thousand year old castle with moving staircases, secret passages, a giant lake full of merpeople, and was surrounded by an enchanted forest. Salem on the other hand a cross dimensional car garage and a founding father as a teacher. Again, there wasn’t much of a choice between them.
The idea of Hogwarts became so obsessive that I knew I had to go. After another family conference I decided to write a letter and ask—the worst that could happen was that they say no.
But they didn’t. I had gotten my request in by the July thirty-first deadline, and because I wasn’t trying to transfer out of a school I was already actively attending there was no problem. Even getting the proper documentation was a million times easier than in the muggle world.
When the day came for me to actually board the train, my parents cashed in some frequent flyers and the whole family came to see me off. We hadn’t anticipated one thing though. None of us had any clue how to get onto the platform. You would think they would mention this in the letter or something, but no, not a word.
We got lucky. I heard the father of a small passing family mention Hogwarts so I approached them and asked. The father seemed a little uncomfortable around my family but I was used to that—it was one of the hazards of having two dads. I later learned that it wasn’t just my parents’ sexuality that had Mr. Malfoy a little uncomfortable; the fact that we were muggles didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t rude, he just had a little bit of trouble getting over the prejudices he was raised with.
His son, Scorpius and I wound up finding the last empty compartment on the train and we became fast friends. He explained the different houses to me and other things that would be common sense for anyone else.
About half way through Scorp’s explanation, the door opened and there stood Rose and Al. Apparently their entire family had already crammed into a car and there wasn’t room. I scooted my stuff over and signaled them in. They later told me that, had there been any way to say no without being really rude, they would have just because of Scorp.
I guess it’s a good thing I was so forceful because it didn’t take long for us to get along as if we had always been friends. Eventually the conversation got on to what houses they wanted to be in and I learned that Al was terrified of being put into Slytherin just because of its reputation for turning out dark wizards and Scorp actually wanted to be in with the snakes just because his entire family had been there since about the beginning of time.
That explained a bit about Scorp. He had tried so hard to be just like his dad that I wondered how much of the haughty attitude was really him and how much of it was what he thought a Malfoy should be. I reached over and shook his hair out of that horrible slicked back style he had stolen from his dad.
The looks on their faces when I called both of them stupid was priceless. Wasn’t the whole point of the sorting was to put kids where they belonged? If they wanted to be put one place over the other, wouldn’t that mean they were put someplace they weren’t best suited for?
‘The first step to happiness is to always be yourself, no matter what,” I said, proud of my own profoundness. Trust me, at that age it wasn’t something you saw every day. The advice was something Dad had always told me—something he had learned the hard way, but of course I couldn’t leave it at that, I had to add my own particular brand of smartass. “Besides, you look like you’re trying to intimidate someone, and trust me, no one is going to intimidated by a boy whose voice hasn’t even cracked.”
He just stared at me kind of like he was trying for evil and I shrugged, “What? It’s not like I’ve grown boobs yet either. We’re still kids; it’s a fact of life: kids can’t look intimidating outside of a horror movie.”
Scorp was the first of us to be sorted later that night and he got put into Slytherin. For the longest time I was disappointed because I thought it was just out of tradition but it didn’t take me long to figure out that he belonged there. That boy could make up some of the most vicious pranks…
Next was my turn. I sat under that hat for what seemed like forever as It dug as deep as it could into my brain in an attempt to judge me; what was I more? Brave? Sneaky? Smart? None of the above? As much as I hated being labeled, I had promised myself that I would not interfere—I would let the hat do its job.
After almost five minutes it whispered into my ear giving me a choice. I had placed right on the line between Slytherin and Gryffindor. Once I was sure that I would belong in either one I made my choice. If I asked to be in Slytherin, people would expect me to be sneaky and so when something went wrong I would be all the more likely to be fingered. With Gryffindor they wouldn’t expect it and I would be able to get away with more. It may have been the ultimate Slytherin move but I used the house stereotypes to my advantage.
The hall went silent as Al’s name was called and I felt for the guy. I mean it can’t have been easy knowing that the only reason people were so interested was because of his last name. The Gryffindors were already silently celebrating, secure in the knowledge that they would soon welcome another Potter into their house.
So imagine their surprise when the hat shouted out Slytherin.
As much of an ass as James had been before that, teasing his brother with the possibility, I don’t think he actually believed it possible. He was inconsolable the rest of the night, even when Rose came to join us at the long house table.
The next day class started with first year potions. The Slytherins sat on one side of the room and the Gryffindors on the other, not out of some rule but rather out of tradition. Well, I always hate tradition just for tradition’s sake; I mean really, if we only followed traditions, nothing would ever progress. My parents would never be allowed to be together and who the hell knows where I would have wound up.
I got up, walked across the room and tapped Scorp on the shoulder before motioning for him to join Rose on the other side of the room. They were completely confused, but I refused to let prejudice dictate who I let my friends be. I knew that if we made a show of it early on—before the ideas of inherited hatred could take root in our classmates—then everyone else would get used to it and we would catch less hell later.
Well James heard about it and decided to give Al hell for sitting with Scorp in the first place; being a Slytherin was one thing, but being friends with a Malfoy was a whole different ball game.
As you can imagine, I didn’t take too kindly to some fucktard insulting my friends. The fact that one of the people he was ragging on was his brother didn’t help things. I had been raised believing that you stood by family no matter what because sometimes they were all you had.
I wound up breaking his nose three times in the first semester alone. Don’t look at me like that, it was easy enough for the nurse to fix and it was a great way to take out my frustrations.
See, when I had asked to switch, I didn’t realize that for some reason muggle technology didn’t work within Hogwarts walls so right before I left, my family decided to hook me up: I couldn’t pack all my books so they got me an e-reader; they thought I would be board on the trip so they got me a couple new video games; and they even got me a new laptop so we can Skype.
Needless to say I was pissed when they didn’t work.
I was determined to get around that. There had to be a way; some loophole or something. And that became my project well into second year until Al found out. Instead of calling me stupid like I was sure he would, he introduced me to his aunt. At the time I didn’t realize just how high up in the government Hermione Weasley was—not quite minister yet, but definitely high enough to help me.
She loved my idea. Of course I wasn’t going to admit that it was just because I wanted to play a few videogames and check my Facebook, so I spun it as more a cultural diffusion kind of thing—you know, if people had more contact with muggles (or at least their society) then they were more likely to be open minded and less prejudice just because of blood. It was only fair after all, as a muggle entering the wizarding world I was expected to give up almost everything of my heritage and assimilate wholly into magical culture while I could share almost nothing of where I came from.
But it worked. After months meeting with various government officials, the board of governors, and the headmaster, I got what I wanted—at least partially. My third year we started having muggle movie nights at least once a month and by my fifth year they had grown to a couple times a week with the occasional marathon. And by watching them set up the equipment, I was able to figure out how to get my games to work when no one was looking.
There was a lot of animosity between James and I back then and looking back I don’t know if we really hated each other of if it was some kind of childish form of flirtation. Probably the latter because after third year he started asking me out. I would always say no because I thought he was an arrogant ass but that wouldn’t stop him from asking.
But that changed during the beginning of fifth year.
Some traditionalist Slytherins—the ones who were still big into blood purity and all the shit—had cornered a third year Ravenclaw and were doing everything to make his life miserable just shy of hexing him. See, both Micah Sander’s parents had lycanthropy and he was born with it too. His condition hadn’t exactly been a secret per se, but it hadn’t been advertised for exactly that reason.
When James saw what was going on he flipped out. He didn’t even go for his wand; next thing everyone knew, he had the boy jacked up against the wall. Rose was able to stop it from coming to blows, but James made it clear what would happen if he tried that kind of stuff again.
After that I began to see a different side to James—a side that I guess had always been there, but I had been too blind to see. Under all that arrogance and bravado there was a good heart.
That didn’t stop him from royally pissing me off at every turn, but after that I would actually walk him up to the hospital wing after punching him in the face. It was the least I could do, after all.
Throughout the year I started warming up to him but that didn’t stop him from being the target of most of my pranks, especially when I had money riding on something. The last quidditch game of the season was a big deal that year—not only was it the cup, but it was Gryffindor verses Slytherin and each team had a Potter as captain—and I had placed a ten gallen bet on Slytherin (don’t give me that look; two of my best friends were on that team. That trumps house loyalty any day).
The game wasn’t until the afternoon, so that morning at breakfast I slipped a mild sleeping potion into his drink. As much fun as it was watching the entire team freak out when they couldn’t find their seeker, having him sleep through the match wasn’t what I had in mind—winning the bet that way would be unsporting after all.
When the entire house went to look for him while the entire team went down to the pitch, I made sure I was the one to find him. He was curled up in a little used corridor of the castle looking rather sweet and innocent in his sleep. So much so, in fact, that I almost felt bad for what I was about to do. Almost.
I took out my wand and used it to draw dicks all over his face in a sort of unwashable ink that would not dissolve until I allowed it. When I was done I gently shook his shoulder. ‘James, everyone has been looking for you. There’s only ten minutes till the game.’
His head shoot up and he took off like a bat out of hell. He didn’t even give me time to point out what some jackass had managed to do to his face while he slept. I did a quick loumous spell just in case someone wanted to look at the last spell I did before I followed him. I knew it would incriminate me in his eyes but it was worth it. After all, where’s the fun in a prank if you don’t get to see the target’s reaction afterwards?
It took him a few seconds to get one of his teammates to stop laughing long enough to tell him what was so funny. When he saw it, he knew it was me but he didn’t say anything—he couldn’t, I had spent too long cultivating a certain image in the eyes of most of the school. It was like how no one would ever think nerdy Clark Kent could be Superman even though they looked so much alike.
Wood, the referee, came to see what was taking the team so long and even he couldn’t help but snicker when he saw my handiwork. Unfortunately (for James at least—I had looked up in the quidditch rule book just how this would play out before I did it), this wasn’t a legal reason to postpone the game. James had two options: not play and leave the team without a seeker or go out in front of the entire school as Dick-faced Potter.
Guess what he picked?
Watching him go out like that and listening to Louis’s commentary was so worth losing the bet, but afterwards James wouldn’t talk to me, at all—not even an ‘excuse me’ when he passed me in the hall—and believe it or not I wasn’t as content with that as some would think.
For weeks I didn’t hear a peep out of him until one night when I was out on patrol. He was sitting in a windowsill along one of the deserted hallways waiting for me. There was a flask full of firewhisky in his hand but he wasn’t drunk.
I don’t know what made me say it—I’m not really one to confess my mischief—but it just came out. ‘You know it was me, right? The thing with the—” I motioned to my face.
“I figured as much” he said, motioning for me to sit beside him, ‘why did you do it?”
“A bet,” why lie?
He looked at me a little funny like he was half surprised and half expecting that very answer. In that moment I couldn’t tell if he was one of the few people who could see through the image I had so artfully crafted or not.
“You would do all that for a bet?” I wasn’t sure if it was meant as a question or an observation but I still answered.
“I don’t like losing,” I muttered, kind of hoping that he didn’t press the issue. If he couldn’t see past the mask on his own than I wasn’t sure I wanted him too, even if my pride wouldn’t let me lie to keep that from happening.
“And I don’t like being embarrassed,” He said rather wistfully and oddly enough I could tell he wasn’t mad at me for it. Not really.
I couldn’t help but notice the way the moonlight silluetted his face in the darkness. James had always been like a too hot sun on a summer’s day; burning bright and luminous, not caring who got burned in his presence. Tonight he was so different that for the briefest instant I wondered if he had been replaced by some imposter. But it couldn’t be. This new side of James had the same inner strength as before but it was different. Now he was a full moon reflected off the shimmering surface of the lake; just as luminous but as quiet, contemplative, and unobtrusive as a lovers caress.
I didn’t recognize it then for what it was, but that was the moment I fell in love with him. It was the moment I saw him for all he could be, not just what he let the world see.
“I guess we both had a bitter pill to swallow over that game,” I couldn’t be silent but I didn’t know what else to say.
I looked at him and studied his face, only half visible in the moonlight. I couldn’t read him—not the new James. Too much was different but at the same time nothing had changed.
He gave me a sad little simile in the darkness and I couldn’t help but miss the dimples that had always seemed to dominate his face when he laughed. “Why do you hate me?” He whispered so low I almost thought I had imagined it.
I just shrugged, for some reason my pride would not let me show him how he had softened me. “You were an ass to Al over being in Slytherin.”
The slight flash of pain and confusion had me backtracking just the slightest bit. “Well, that and it’s so much fun to pick on you.”
There was a beat of silence before he replied.
“You know I’ve liked you since third year, right?” he said, staring out the window.
The intensity of this situation was making my skin craw and I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not. All I could think about in that instant was how this could give that one scene in Attack of the Clones a run for its money in the urst department—you know, the one with the fireplace and the smoldering pretty boy.
“You’re drunk,” I said, happy to give him an excuse. He could have blamed it on the firewhisky as I grabbed the flask form him. I wouldn’t have called him out on the fact that the damn thing was still full. Or at least it was till I tipped my head back and took a big long gulp of the fiery liquid. One of us might as well be drunk for this conversation, and if it wasn’t him…
“What in the world would make you like me?” I asked with honest confusion. It wasn’t like I had some deep-seated issues in the self-worth department; I just knew I had kind of been an ass to him. I mean, he had totally started it but still.
“I think it was how hard you worked to get what you wanted,” he said, putting his thumb to his lips—not quite biting—but still looking more vulnerable than I was comfortable seeing right then.
“Here’s a question:” he said, turning to face me, and I wanted to run with everything in me but at the same time it was everything in me that wouldn’t allow it. “If all that was for a bet, why not just let me sleep through the match? Then you know Slytherin would win.”
It was a fair question; one even my best friends had asked, but that just wasn’t the way I worked. I had a code—a complicated, convoluted thing that even confused me sometimes—that would not let me go that far.
“You can rig the game all you want to, but it’s not a game if the other side doesn’t have at least some chance of winning.”
It was the best explanation I could give but I think there was more to it than that. Maybe it was more like I couldn’t leave him with no chance—maybe if the big game had been against Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff I could have done it, but not against Gryffindor, not against him.
“You have a very odd definition of honor,” there was no curiosity or accusation in his voice. It was as if he had known and accepted this fact long ago.
“You’re just now figuring this out?” I asked, trying desperately to lighten the mood but failing terribly. I sighed before continuing, walking deeper into a terrifying conversation I never wanted to have. “But really, why are you being so nice to me? I thought you hated me, at least now.”
I paused and looked down at the flask, “Oh god, you poisoned it, didn’t you?” I wasn’t trying to be funny; I was dead serious but that didn’t keep him from letting out ringing laugh that blessingly seemed more in line with the James I knew.
“It would serve you well wouldn’t it? But no,” he said taking the flask from my hand and making a toasting gesture in my direction before downing his own long draft of the fiery liquid, “I just decided that, because your little stunt wound up being a good thing, I’ll forgive you.”
“A good thing? How?” I asked, thankful that the conversation was steering into familiar waters and unable to contain my curiosity. He just smirked infuriatingly and took another drink.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out.”
I snorted, “Oh real mature.” As much as I tried, I couldn’t help pouting a little. I really wanted to know.
He sighed, almost as if he were debating with himself before deciding. “I’ll make you a deal, since you like bets so much, let’s make one.”
I stared at him, equal parts weary and curious.
“I bet my secret that you are too chicken to walk all the way back to the common room naked,” he said, smug in the conviction that he was right—that I would back out and he would be safe in his surreptitions.
But James should have known better by then. The more someone thinks they can predict what I will do, the more I make it my job to upstart them.
“That’s more like a dare, Potter,” I said crossing my arms.
“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure no one sees you.” he said shaking the corner of his invisibility cloak at me. this part was the liquor talking—if he had been smart he wouldn’t have had to tell me anything; my sensibilities would have kicked in—but he kept prodding.
I spent a moment debating with myself before deciding what the hell; I was drunk and it’s not like I had forgotten to shave this morning. Snatching the flask out of his hand I drained the last few drops before starting to undress.
I made my movements as slow and sensual as I could, just to mess with him and couldn’t help the hint of a smile that graced my lips when I heard his loud gulp. He had realized just how over his head he was with this—which was a good thing, because I was just as out of my depth. Maybe now we could be on even footing.
His eyes brunt into my back as I walked as slow as I could, drawing his torment out as much as possible. We were about half way to the common room when he whispered a word that was far more at home coming from my lips than his.
“Filch.” He said, holding his enchanted map up so I could see.
The moment was a million times more sobering than even the best hangover potion I could make. If I was caught I very well could have been expelled. I might have been able to talk my way out of it—but not with my prefect status intact—and there was no guarantee that I would be able to get James out of it as well. It all depended on which teacher Filch brought us to.
“Quick, under here,” he said lifting up the edge of the cloak. I slipped under it and stayed perfectly still. Filch came over and although he passed right by us his cat didn’t do the same. That horrible mangy creature just stared at us like it could somehow see us right through the cloak.
Flitch stopped, noticing that Mrs. Norris (that the cat) had seen something he hadn’t. He reached out, almost as if to snatch the cloak off of us. James saw it coming and gently placed a hand over my mouth before stepping backwards with all the dexterity of a gypsy pick-pocket; the cloak didn’t as much as rustle and Flitch was none the wiser.
We stood there for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for the lonely old bastard to decide there was nothing to see. His body molded mine close and I couldn’t’ help being hyper aware of the way James’s warmth mingled with the cold night air and the fact that I was completely naked as his arms wrapped around me and his sent infected every sense.
We didn’t make it back to the common room. After Flitch left, James pulled me into a hidden room not far from where we were. The walls were still scorched from the battle that had cemented his father’s place as one of the greatest wizards in history and the ashes of whatever objects the room had held scattered the floor.
“God that was close,” he breathed, slumping against the wall with an adrenaline filled smile.
“You think?” I said, my heart racing just as fast as his had to be.
“What’s that?” he said motioning to the small potions vial resting against my collar bone. I guess he hadn’t missed me fiddling with it just before he offered to extend the shelter of his cloak to me as well.
“This?” I asked, looking down.
“A single dose of delirium potion just in case I’m about to get caught doing something crazy. I can take it and have an excuse as to why I’m doing something crazy. As far as the teachers would know, someone slipped me some as a prank but would never be able to prove anything—it’s a simple enough potion that my skills wouldn’t be a dead giveaway. It would be embarrassing being caught like that but between my excuse and your cloak we would have—maybe—gotten off Scott free, but that plan would only work once though and I was trying to decide if there was a chance I wouldn’t have to use it.”
He blinked a couple times, digesting the information and then laughed the dimples spreading across his face in mirth.
“No wonder you and your little friends have never been caught. You’re always two steps ahead of everyone else,” there was a note of wonder in his voice and had I not been more than a little tipsy, it would have made me incredibly uncomfortable.
“I just consider more angles than everyone else,” I said with a shrug. If I was really two steps ahead of everyone else, I would be better at chess, right?
There was a moment of silence as I studied his face in the firelight. I don’t know if our little adventure had acted as some form of aphrodisiac or if it was the liquor (probably both) but tonight I found myself noticing every little detail that I had always seen but never really registered; the intense blue of his eyes, his long lashes, and perfect cupid’s bow lips.
“James?” I said, not knowing where the words came from and, for the first time in my life, not allowing myself to think everything through—to analyze every possible outcome before making my move.
“Kiss me,” I whispered, wondering if he were somehow immune to the tension in the room.
“What? Why?” Ouch, was I that bad at seduction? But then again the dryness of his voice told a different story.
“I want to see if I really like you or if this is just the product of the firewhisky and a near death experience,” I said, being up front about my motives. I wasn’t going to play him, not if I could help it.
He kissed me and as cliché as it sounds, I saw stars. Despite being a wild child, I hadn’t had any experience in that department outside of reading the not so occasional harlequin, but I knew enough of what I was doing to know that the boy was talented.
I couldn’t help but run my hand through his hair as I tasted the remnants of the firewhisky on his lips. I gripped tighter, wanting to stay like that forever but eventually we both had to come up for air.
“What did you think?” He asked and I couldn’t tell if he was trying to hide the vulnerability in his voice or not.
“I think it’s not fair that you’re the only one with cloths right now.”
“Oaky,” he sighed, handing me my robes but I didn’t take them. I knew what was going through his mind: he thought he had ruined the only chance I would ever give him. What an adorable idiot.
I took a step closer to him and slowly began to unbutton his dress shirt. “That’s not what I was talking about.”
“So what was the big secret?” I asked curled up beside him, running my fingers gently over the skin of his chest and smiling at the occasional twitch as I hit a particularly sensitive spot. He gave a particularly violent twitch when I hit a spot down his left side like he was trying not to let me know he was ticklish there. I filed away the information; I could have fun with that later.
“What?” he asked, too caught up in the combination of the afterglow and my explorations to really register my reference to what had led us here in the first place.
I smirked, smug in the knowledge that I was the one to plaster that dopy grin across his face. “You know…the reason you decided not to hate me because I drew dicks on your face?”
“Oh that,” he muttered nonchalantly before looking at me with an odd expression. “Can I trust you not to say anything?”
I admit I was a little insulted but I took it with a grain of salt, after all I had just admitted to being a lot sneakier than I had previously let on.
“We just cashed in each other’s V-cards and now you ask if you can trust me? You are such a teenage boy.” I huffed teasingly before softening my voice, “I won’t say anything.”
James put his hands behind his head on the pillow and didn’t even bother trying to keep the self-satisfied smirk from dominating his face.
“There was a scout for the Chuddly Cannons watching the game,” he said with the barley continued excitement rarely seen outside of a child on its first trip to a theam park. I had only seen an expression like that on one other person—Connor looked just like that when he talked about his plains for going pro after college—and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was just an athlete thing or if it was something that happened to everyone when they were so close to their dream.
“And even though he was originally there for a seventh year Slytherin,” James continued not noticing my musings, “he was impressed with my guts. He said that when I get out of here there’s a good chance I could have a place on their team—especially since Evens is planning on retiring as seeker after next year.”
The implications of his words were not lost on me and I couldn’t help but be worried. In muggle football (the American kind) I knew people were rarely recruited outside of college. This gave the players something to fall back on when they retire or if for some reason they weren’t able to play anymore. But I didn’t know if the same sort of logic was applied to quidditch.
“You’re not going to quit school are you?”
He laughed. “No, of course not. Mom and Dad would kill me, besides, the Cannons don’t take drop outs.”
“Oh…” I muttered not sure what else I could say. I briefly wondered if he would have dropped out if they would take him, but then decided it didn’t matter.
His stomach growled right by my ear.
“What time is it?” I asked and immediately smacked myself. James could be just as much of a smartass as I was and there was only one way to answer that question.
“Time to eat.” I saw that one coming, asshat.
He looked at his watch, serious this time. “About half an hour till breakfast is over.”
I nodded and got up, knowing there was no way James Potter would miss a meal…especially a Hogwarts one. Besides we did have classes that day and my O.W.L.s were too close to justifying skipping no matter how pleasant the alternative seemed.
It only took a couple of spells to clean ourselves and our cloths so that we didn’t have to obviously be doing the walk of shame and it’s not like we actually did anything in our clothes to get them too dirty for a second wearing.
We went down to the great hall to get something to eat and didn’t bother hiding the fact that we walked there together, before sitting down me sandwiched between Rose and James. She leaned in close so I could hear her question over the roar of the hungry masses clamoring for food.
James was no exception. He had somehow managed to stuff three pieces of bacon (the big English slabs, not the little strips we have in the states), two eggs, and a big spoonful of potatoes into his mouth at once. He didn’t even swallow before trying to chug down his pumpkin juice.
I shuddered and turned my attention back to my friend.
“Where were you last night?” she whispered, trying to be discreet; if there was one thing in Hogwarts that spread quicker than dragon pox, it was gossip.
Of course Rose would notice that I didn’t come back to the dorm after rounds. I had completely forgotten that she was supposed to help me with my charms homework. Opps. Needless to say, I had been preoccupied with something a bit more enjoyable than an essay on the proper way to turn a rat into a teacup (how the hell do people come up with things like that—I mean really, it’s not like it will have any practical use anywhere…but I digress).
There was no point lying, unless last night was actually a very vivid hallucination, she would figure it out eventually.
“James and I wondered the halls naked and wound up doing a rather good impression of rabbits,” I deadpanned.
James choked on his food and I reached over and gave him a solid thump on the back, not even looking over at him.
“Very funny Jo, but really where—” she said blowing me off before she got a good look at James’s flaming face. Her eyes widened and an ecstatic grin spread across her face with all the swiftness of a whore’s legs. “Oh god, you’re not joking. Are you?”
“Nope.” I said, popping the p as I took a long draft of my own drink.
“So are you two together?”
“I don’t know,” I said nonchalantly not even bothering to keep my voice down as I turned to James, “are we Potter? You’re not the love then and leave them kind of guy are you?”
The talk around us had hushed slightly—they had heard just enough of our conversation to put the pieces together and were waiting for James’s answer almost more excited than Rose and I was. He shook his head in embarrassment.
“Good,” Rose muttered before turning back to her food, “Now Scorpius owes me twenty gallens.”
James’s jaw dropped. “What?”
She shrugged and began reading the Prophet as she answered. “We had a bet going on whether or not you two could stop fighting long enough to realize that you were the perfect couple. Scorp thought that after the whole face thing—“she looked at me apologetically, not sure if she had blown a secret or not. I rolled my eyes and shrugged, telling her he already knew before she continued, “he thought there was no way, but I thought it would take more than that to ruin your chances. Besides, you have been doing shitty things to James for years and that didn’t stop him from following you around like a lost puppy, now did it?”
James leaned over, ready to chastise her for the bet, but I beat him to it.
I leaned over to whisper in his ear and—just for the audience of people gawking at us—I made sure to make the movements as sensual as possible, as if what I was whispering was a lot naughtier than it really was. “Don’t worry about it. I have about fifty gallens on when she and Scorp will get together.”
He looked at me with an eyebrow crooked and one corner of his mouth pulling up in a smile before shaking his head and letting out a ringing laugh that reverberated off the walls, causing the rest of the hall to fall silent.
The news of our relationship spread fast and seemed to have something of a polarizing effect on everyone. Those that only saw the careful façade I put up didn’t understand how we could stand to be in the same room for an extended period of time; in their minds we were just too different—me a good-two-shoes and him a carefree loveable jackass.
But those that knew the real me—mostly James’s family (which was about half the school)—seemed to know better. I think all of them breathed a sigh of relief at the news because, to quote Dominique “It’s about damn time.”
I stayed much of the summer with his family not just out of some desire to be close to him, but because it seemed almost as if my family were beginning to drift away from each other. Since I had started Hogwarts Dad and Poppy’s show had gotten nationally syndicated, Connor was constantly busy with being the star of his college football team, and I had been spending more and more time with the Potters even before I started dating James.
Something happened about half-way through my sixth year that changed all that and almost shattered my world into something unrecognizable in the process.
The year began great. James and I were so wrapped up in each other the rest of the world might not even have existed. I was enjoying the slight lull in workload the teachers assigned in the year between the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s while at the same time enjoying the frazzled look James got anytime you mentioned his N.E.W.T. level homework.
I was good at potions and transfiguration and his strengths were defense and charms so we set up a system to tutor each other. It would help us catch up in subjects we did poorly in and at the same time review those we were more advanced in but we wound up spending more time studying anatomy than anything else.
In the days before Christmas break began the excitement in the air was palatable especially around the fifth and seventh years. I knew they needed the break but I also James wouldn’t do shit over the break, so I bribed James to have him get everything done before then (don’t ask me what I bribed him with. I don’t care how much you want to know, Max, there are just some details I am not going to share with you).
We were sitting in the library and I was trying to explain to him the subtle differences between different kinds of healing potions and why some would work in some case while others wouldn’t. He was getting it a lot better than he had at the beginning but I was a bit too distracted by who had entered the library to praise him.
For some reason I hadn’t often seen a teacher in the library. I guess when they didn’t have to actually write the essays all that research wasn’t actually necessary. Or maybe I just happened to miss them—I wasn’t as much as a bookworm as my reputation would lead you to believe.
Either way I found it unnerving when I did see them there—like they didn’t belong. Professor Longbottom’s troubled expression didn’t help things.
“Miss Marsden, can you come with me please?” My blood ran cold at his words and I couldn’t help but wonder just which of my schemes he knew about, because if it were some of them, there would be no saving me.
I got up to follow him, and I think James saw the worry in my face because he insisted on coming with me. I didn’t think Longbottom would go for it but between James pulling the “Uncle Neville” card and me voicing my consent, he relented. And when all was said and done, I was glad—I needed James for this one.
When you live this far away from your family, there were just some things you never want to hear—hell, you wouldn’t want to hear then when if you lived next door to them.
My mouth went dry as the professor tried to explain what had happened (at least to the best of his abilities. I get the feeling he didn’t know much about the muggle world and some of the things he was talking about barely makes since coming from the mouth of an expert.). But I understood more than enough to make my blood turn to liquid nitrogen and my heart harden into glass.
There had been an accident.
They already had a portkey ready to take me home. James insisted on coming and I was too in shock to admire the fierceness in which insisted on coming with me. He wouldn’t leave me alone. Not now. Not like this.
I couldn’t’ bear to see Connor like that. Had it not been for the cuts and bruises on his face and the liquid filled tubes and beeping machines surrounding him, he could have just been sleeping.
It was one of those rare car accidents, I would latter learn, where no one was really at fault: Connor hadn’t been drunk, speeding or messing with his phone or radio; he just hit the ice wrong and couldn’t correct in time. That didn’t keep the car flipping four times and skidding a hundred feet on the ice, completely crushing the driver’s side and my brother along with it.
The doctors weren’t sure if he was going to wake up.
I listened as the doctors tried to explain what was going on in big, complicated words that I didn’t understand, but I caught the gist of it.
Connor was dying and there was noting the doctors could do—not until the swelling in his brain went down and by then it could be too late for their medicines to work.
And I couldn’t do anything either. I knew the law. When I had worked so hard to get access to muggle technology in school, I had practically memorized the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy word for word. It was forbidden to use magic to heal muggles unless the malady was caused by magic to begin with. Even “privileged” muggles were left to suffer.
I didn’t care though. What was the point of being a witch—what was the point of having magic at all—if I couldn’t use it to save someone I loved?
As I sat at his bedside stroking his hair, my mind ran through my options. I could slip him some healing potion and he would be back to normal in no time. The ministry—or American equivalent—would clear up the memories of the doctors and nurses. Given the circumstances I don’t think I would spend more than a year in prison and having my wand snapped was infinitely better than leaving him like that.
I think James saw on my face what I was thinking because he grabbed my arm and narrowed his eyes at me, careful not to let my parents see his expression. He pulled me out into the hallway under the pretense of a snack run and waited until we were a decent ways away before turning on me.
“What are you planning?” he hissed.
“What do you mean?” I wasn’t playing dumb; I just didn’t see how he could already be one step ahead of me when I hadn’t even cemented my plains yet.
“Don’t play with me.” he knew me too well for that to work, but for some reason I didn’t want to tell him—I didn’t want to drag him into this mess.
“What do you expect? I can’t just leave him like that!” I said, barely keeping my cracking voice under control.
His voice softened and that just made me want to hit him as he spoke a truth I already knew—a truth I just didn’t give a shit about. “He’d never forgive you if you ruined your life for him.”
“Fuck you Potter, if it was Albus laying there you would be thinking the exact same thing!” I said a bit too loudly but I guess the ICU staff was used to raised tempers because they didn’t even look up from their paper work.
I started to walk away, but he wasn’t done. “And I would count on you to stop me from doing something stupid…especially if it was unnecessary.”
I stopped midstride and turned.
“Unnecessary?” I was on the brink of hysteria. Of all the fucking things the fucking idiot could have said. What did he expect? Was I just supposed to let my brother die?
He could see the anger on my face and knew the conversation was about to get ugly. Giving a quick look around, he pulled me into the hospital chapel. After quickly making sure we were alone, he took out his wand and cast a few quick spells to make sure we weren’t bothered or overheard.
“Whatever potion you were planning, how long would it take to make?” he asked, throwing me off guard.
“What?” I didn’t understand what that had to do with anything.
“Just how long?”
“Including gathering all the ingredients? A week. Maybe…” Some of that stuff would be a pain in the ass to get ahold of; especially when I wasn’t familiar with the North American wizarding community, but what else was I to do?
“What if I can get you could make a potion quicker that would help him, and not land you in Azkaban?” I chose not to correct him about which prison I would end up in but instead just raised my eyebrow. Connor was my top priority right now, but if I didn’t have to serve time…
“The Ocius Curatio potion,” he said pulling out a copy of Moste Potente Potions that he had stolen out of the restricted section of the library for a prank out his bag and riffling through the pages. “Instead of curing the injuries like most potions, it speeds the body’s ability to heal itself—like muggle medicine, only much faster. It’s not used much anymore because it’s not instant but…”
I saw where he was going with this and wanted to kiss him. Because it wasn’t instant it would still help him but not draw unwanted attention of the ministry or religious nuts wanting to call him miracle boy. The doctors would just think he was reacting unusually well to the medicine.
“But James, half the ingredients are class C non-tradable goods. How are we going to find them?” I asked, before correcting myself. I wasn’t supposed to know this, but half the stuff in his uncles’ shop was heavily based on black market goods. If anyone had the connections to get them it would be James.
“How are we going to get them in time.” Every second wasted is another second my brother may not have.
“I have a plain…”
He explained it and I can honestly say that I was impressed, even more so when I realized just how quickly he thought it up. It was a beautiful plain in its complexity and it was in that moment I knew he had been spending too much time with me. After a few quick alterations we were ready.
Honestly I felt bad for allowing James to become an accomplice to something like this—something that, had it of backfired, it would have destroyed his future as well as mine. But I knew him well enough to know that once he gets an idea in his head it is almost impossible to change it. He would have done it anyway and at least this way I could act as an alibi.
James summoned his family’s house elf Kreature, and told him to go to Hogwarts and get his invisibility cloak and map out of his trunk and to make sure he was not seen under any circumstances. When he came back he was to transport James back to his house (only the best could apparate internationally without splinching themselves, but house elves seemed to work on a different set of rules as well as being near silent) where he would dip into the stash of pollyjuice potion his dad kept on hand for his job.
From there he would sneak into his god-brother’s room and steal some hair off his brush. Teddy and his wife would both be at work and all the enchantments around the house had been set not to go off at family. From there he would have Kreatcher apparate him into the shrieking shack in the middle of the night where he would use Teddy’s ability (he’s a metamorphmagi) to turn into some random person who couldn’t be traced back to us or incriminate anyone else. Then he would use the cloak to get into the potions storeroom.
I wondered why he didn’t want to just use the cloak when I realized that some of the teachers had to at least suspect he had one. After all, more than a few of them had fought alongside his father during the war and so they knew that Harry had one. It wouldn’t be too far of a leap to say that James had it too.
But the Potters’ weren’t the only ones who had a cloak and that, combined with the facts that James wasn’t going to look like himself and that he was staying out of all but the most well-known of “secret” passages meant that we should be in the clear.
I was sure to have him take more than just what was necessary for the potion. The pure volume of what was needed would definitely be missed and that combined with my brother’s condition and his eventual recovery, it wouldn’t be difficult to put two and two together. With the list of ingredients I gave him, it could be any of a few dozen potions—most of which were more commonly known and easier, thus making them more likely candidates.
From there he would use the cloak to get back to the shrieking shack where Kreacher would bring him back here. And as far as the rest of the world knew, he was with me the entire time.
We made the potion together—me doing the actual mixing and him controlling the temperature (I wasn’t considered of age yet so any spells done by me would be not go unnoticed by the authorities and considering what we were doing wasn’t exactly legal…).
With the help of the potion Connor woke up by the end of the week and by the time the break ended he was lucid enough to convince me to go back to school—the he would be fine despite the fact he could barely move. I didn’t want to, I really didn’t, but he was right—me staying here wouldn’t help anyone.
So I went back to school. All the teachers were really accommodating. They weren’t able to say anything directly about it, but got the feeling they would understand if I slacked off a bit, but I didn’t take advantage of that as much as you would think. I needed the distraction.
I went back every weekend to visit and he was getting better—not near as fast as I would have liked but still faster than the doctors anticipated. When he first woke up they were sure he would be quadriplegic; when he began to regain feeling in his hands they were convinced that he would be paraplegic.
I knew that if I did the potion right, eventually none of that would be true. He would be perfect—just like he was before or maybe even better. But that knowledge didn’t stop the cold, slimy fingers of doubt from gripping my heart. What if I had made a mistake? What if me listening to James cost my brother his legs? What if I had lost any chance to help him?
I had spent enough time reading old magazines in the hospital lobby to know that stress can make an otherwise punctual woman late, but something told me that wasn’t it. Four muggle test later and I knew I was in trouble.
I knew James would take responsibility; it wouldn’t have surprised me if he popped the question at the news (wouldn’t the papers just love that: James Potter’s shot-gun wedding). I would have to quit school and forgo any chance of a decent career of my own, and I sure as hell wasn’t stay-at-home-mom materiel. I hated kids, they were loud, messy, and needy and I sucked at all those little spells needed to keep a home. Besides I knew I would go crazy in a week without something important to do.
There was only one thing to do. The potion was easy enough—I already had the ingredients left over from when James raided the storeroom—and it only took a few minutes to make. Within an hour it was like it never was.
James never knew. I didn’t tell him. He was a much better person than I was—I knew what he would have wanted to do, and I would have done it. I had already let him talk me into allowing him to risk everything to help my brother and I knew I would follow him anywhere.
And that’s why I didn’t tell him. I couldn’t give him an opportunity to tell me he wanted it, because if he did I would have kept it and at the time I just knew I would have hated him for it, but I would have done it none the less.
I wish I could say that I was tortured about it afterwards—that I regretted it—but I didn’t. Things went on just as they always had. It was like I had never been pregnant and that’s just how I wanted it.
One weekend about the middle of February, I was visiting Connor and we had a conversation that changed that a bit.
Despite the fact that he was healing better than expected, he could not play football anymore so the school retracted his scholarship. I didn’t understand his reaction to the news; for as long as I could remember, football had been his life…his dream, everything to him.
“But I thought you wanted to go pro?”
He snorted. “Everyone wants to go pro Jo. Just because my dream is in the dust doesn’t mean my entire life is. It just means it’s time to find a new one.”
And that’s when the doubts came. Maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t have been as hellish as I thought. Maybe the brat would have been a good thing. It was kind of too late to have those thoughts, though, and so I forced myself to put them away. There was no way to change what had already been done so I pushed the thoughts away. I forced myself to forget them.
But there were moments when my mind wouldn’t let me forget what could have been. Every so often an errant thought would cross my mind: it would be kicking by now…girl or boy… would my baby have looked as cute as that kid…
The thoughts weren’t enough to torment me, but they were just enough to haunt.
Late next year, about a week before N.E.W.T.s, I found Rose crying her eyes out in the dorm room. At first I figured that the stress of exams was getting to her, after all she was the kind of person who took this kind of ting way too seriously. When I mentioned the test, she just started crying harder.
“Great! Another thing I have to worry about.” That sent up red flags. Rose wouldn’t just dismiss the test, not now and not ever. Something else was going on—something big.
It took a bit of coxing but I got the story out of her. Apparently, she and Scorpius had been finally realized that there was a bit more to their fierce competition than just the desire to be the best in our year. They had started dating at the beginning of the year but didn’t tell anyone.
Now, what you have to understand is that there was a lot of bad blood between the Weasley’s and the Malfoys; I mean at one point it was almost like Romeo and Juliet level animosity. Their dads and their grandfathers had been arch-enemies at school and they fell on radically different sides of the line during both wars.
Rose had been afraid that their families wouldn’t be able to put aside their rivalry and she would be forced to choose between her family and Scorp. She and I both knew what she would have chosen—her family was a lot like mine in their ideas of togetherness—but it would have torn her into pieces to do it.
Personally, I don’t think it would have been as bad as she feared. Ronald and Hermione knew Scorpius through being Al’s friend, and they knew that he wasn’t into the bigotry his family had been known for. Scorpius’s family may not have liked it (as I said, old prejudices die hard) but they wouldn’t have said anything against it. They loved him too much for that.
But I’m getting a little off topic here.
See Rose was in the same position I was. She and Scorp had been doing their own rabbit impersonations and were about as smart about it as James and I were and now she was freaking out about it.
“Maybe I should just get rid of it!” she balled. I knew she didn’t really mean it—that she just said it in her own grief, but that didn’t stop me from saying what I did.
I stared out the window over the grounds before answering her. “No you shouldn’t, Rose. You’d regret it. Perhaps even more than I do.”
Her head snapped up, questioningly. “You?”
I nodded, looking at her in the moonlight.
“And James let you?” she sounded incredulous and I got a little mad. James may have been my boyfriend but I didn’t need his permission to do anything. Then again given the subject matter, maybe asking for his impute wouldn’t have been a bad thing.
“James doesn’t know,” I said, half softly and half as a warning. There were just somethings better left unsaid now that there was no fixing them.
“Listen I’ll help you out with this,” it was a desperate and shameful attempt to change the subject, but it worked so I couldn’t’ complain. “First thing’s first, have you told Scorp yet?” she shook her head, “oaky, you need to do that. Then you need to calm down and focus on your exams. You won’t be any help to anyone if you fail.”
She starts wailing harder and I tried to back track.
“But you’re one of the most over-prepared people I know. You’ll do great. And we’ll all worry about how to tell your family when that’s out of the way oaky?”
They decided to tell everyone at once, which in hindsight was probably not the best idea. Having the entire Weasley clan in the same room as the Malfoys (including Scorp’s blood-purest, ex-death eater grandfather) at such a delicate moment could only equal trouble, but they thought it was best—Rose kind of figured that she didn’t have it in her to do this a million times.
Which kind of made since until you considered that fact that there was no such thing as secrets in that family. All they would have to do is tell a few key people—like her parents—and then it would spread on its own. And then all they had to do was talk to Scorp’s parents and let them handle the grandparents, but this was how they chose to do it and there was nothing more I could do but provide the distraction (but we’ll get to that in a moment).
The minute the truth came out, things got loud. Ron started screaming at Draco about what his “delinquent son” did to his little girl while Hermione tried to calm him down. Lucius said some things about Rose that I won’t repeat which if course set off Mr. Weasley while Draco’s mom started telling her husband off. Soon the entire family joined in.
It got ugly.
Rose started sinking deeper and deeper into her seat like she was trying to disappear, until Ron turned to her.
“What the bloody hell were you thinking?” The pure disappointment in his voice even made me squirm so I couldn’t even imagine how bad it was for Rose.
I understand now why she did it. Reflecting attention is something all kids do when they’re in trouble, but then it just seemed like a betrayal. After all, could it really have been that impossible for her to just keep her mouth shut?
“I don’t know, would you rather I had an abortion like Jo?” she slapped her hands over her mouth almost before the sentence was finished and I knew she hadn’t meant to say it, but that didn’t stop the damage from being done.
I never thought such a crowded room could go so silent so fast. Even the Malfoys had stopped bickering to look at me.
James turned to look at me, almost afraid of what he would find.
“Is this true?” he whispered and the shattered look on his face just killed me, but what could I say? It was true, all of it—every horrible word.
He took my silence for a confession and didn’t even wait for an explanation, although I didn’t really have one.
“James—” I began, trying to say something—anything—to make it all better but he appareated out before I could finish.
Even though I had no idea where he went, I apparated after him. I know I had promised to be there for Rose, but I couldn’t even look at her then. Not after that, besides James was more important. He had always been more important.
I had no idea where to even begin to look for him—all his closest friends were his family and all his family had been there—so I started with his flat. There really was nowhere else and even if he wasn’t there, he had to show up eventually, right?
Music was coming from inside as I began to pound on the door insistently, calling his name. For hours I kept at it, but he didn’t so much as open the door to tell me to go away—he just turned the music up louder and louder, drowning out my cries.
I stayed there until my voice was raw and my hand was numb before realizing that it wasn’t’ going to work. He wasn’t going to talk to me.
There was only one place I had left: home.
I explained everything to them and despite the fact it was all my fault, Connor still wanted to pound James into jelly, which was comforting in an odd way, especially considering he wasn’t completely up to par yet.
I wrote James every day, and although the letters all pretty much said the same thing, I kept hand writing them all out. I owed him that much, even if he wasn’t reading them. I even went as far as buying another owl so that he would get the message every day until he answered.
The messages got more frequent when I realized I was pregnant again. I was keeping it this time, without a doubt. I don’t make the same mistake twice and besides, if James was going to cut me out of his life completely, it would be nice for me to have something left of him.
He admitted to only reading three of the letters, but even if I had known that I think I still would have kept writing them. They were therapeutic, if nothing else.
A part of me kept berating myself. You would think that after last time, I would have been smarter than to let it happen again. I know it’s weird, but a part of me wants to believe that Alex is just that other baby, coming back to me; like he just really wanted to be born or something. I mean, it doesn’t excuse what I did, but it’s a nice thought none the less.
A little over six months after the break up I finally got a reply. He had sent a howler. I won’t repeat exactly what he said but he made it clear that he didn’t want to hear from me again. I knew that was the end—that I had to let him go for his sake. Maybe without me bothering him, he could move on from what I did.
The last message I ever sent him I sent to his parents’ house so I know he got it. Fine James, you win. And that was it.
I went into labor not too long after that. I had insisted on going to a Muggle hospital despite how much I hated them, which probably wasn’t a good idea in hindsight (but I guess I’m saying that a lot about that year). I wanted Alex to have James’s last name, even if (or perhaps especially because) it looked like James wasn’t going to be and that wasn’t something I could do in a magical hospital, not unless I wanted a crowd of tabloid trash writers at my door step. And that wasn’t the way I wanted James to find out.
Alex was two months premature and I hated seeing him hooked up to all those machines—it was too much like Connor for me to show any strength. There wasn’t much I could do but watch and wait. We had to rely on his own strength and a bunch of medicine I didn’t know or understand. He was too young for me to slip him potions but he pulled through.
When I got home from the hospital, I wrote James a long letter explaining everything—why I did what I did with the first pregnancy, about the second pregnancy that he refused to let me tell him about, everything—I even included a photo of Alex. The envelope was sealed and addressed but I couldn’t bring myself to send it.
Part of my hesitance was because I had promise, but it was more than that. I knew I would never be strong enough to see the hate in his eyes—his opinion had always mattered far too much for that not to shatter my heart into a million pieces.
And well you pretty much know the rest.
I looked at Max, waiting for his response. I could tell he was debating exactly what to say. Part of him wanted to be blunt and say what was on his mind, while part of him wanted to be as good friend.
I sighed, knowing what he wanted to say. “Go ahead say it.”
He looked up at me, still digesting my story, but I knew his mind had gotten through enough of it to come to the only conclusion his heart would allow. “That’s kind of messed up, Jo.” I got the distinct impression that there was no ‘kind of’ about it, but I appreciated it all the same.
“I know,” I whispered, but he wasn’t done.
“You used the ingredients he stole to help your brother—”he began, as if i didn’t already knew where I went wrong. As if I hadn’t been over it a thousand times in my head.
“I know!” I shouted, my voice far more frazzled than I had ever let it be in his presences, “It’s not like I pained that or anything. I just already had them and would it honestly have made it any better if I went and got them myself, when I already had some?”
“You both fucked up,” it was oddly comforting to hear him be so blunt—to hear someone besides Connor and my parents say that it wasn’t all my fault, “It’s your fault you broke up but it’s his fault that you didn’t reconcile. You tried, right? I mean, I don’t think you would ever get back tougher, but at least then he would have known about Alex.”
“So you’re taking my side on this?” I asked, trying and only halfway succeeding to put a note of playfulness into my voice.
“You’re my best friend,” he said with a sad little smile, “of course I’m taking your side.”
“So how did he take meeting Alex?” I couldn’t tell if he was actually trying to change the subject or if he was honestly curious—probably both—but I was grateful.
“He was obviously freaked, but other than that they seemed to get along fine,” I said bringing a spoonful of fattening goodness up to my lips.
“That’s good.” I don’t think Max really knew what to say right now, after all he was supposed to be on my side with this and I don’t think he decided if that inherently meant he had to be against James or not.
“At least until James showed his ass and started yelling at me …then Alex started throwing soap at his head,” I said with a grin. As mortifying as it had been at the time, no one could deny that it was funny, particularly the look on James’s face. Priceless. I guess no one could never deny that my kid’s got style.
Max let out a full bodied laugh at the image. “Reminded me to get that kid a Gameboy or something.”
That seemed to be the default response from my parents, Max and especially Connor whenever Alex did something cute like that. Honestly, I hit the freaking jackpot as far as kids were concerned. With the way everyone treats him he could have easily turned into a nightmare. Or maybe it was because he was so easygoing that people wanted to spoil him. Got to love a paradox.
“I think he already has several.” I muttered, putting the lid back on the ice-cream.
“Look, you said you’re meeting him at eight, right?” Max said looking at his watch.
“Well it’s almost noon now so I’m going to let you get your beauty sleep.”
“Good idea,” I muttered, “will you do me a favor?”
“I’ll pick up Alex from school and drop him off at Connor’s.”
Actually I was going to ask him to put the rest of the ice-cream in the freezer, but that works too.
“You’re a life saver.”
“I know.” He said, walking towards the front door. And a thought suddenly hit me.
He stopped and turned. Part of me didn’t want to continue—to just say never mind and let him go on his way—but if fate was forcing me to face my demands, maybe it would be good for him to face his too.
“Albus told me something when he was here.” I paused not sure how to continue. “He said that the reason he knew I was here was because your parents have been showing off newspaper clippings of you.”
His expression darkened but I couldn’t tell if it was out of anger or confusion.
“Good night, Jo,” he said, walking out the door and I couldn’t help but wonder if I had done the right thing telling him.