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Reputations Expectations by countrymusicfanatic
Chapter 13: Defying Gravity
A/N: IMPORTANT: I am truly sorry but this story has become too much for me to take on right now. I’m in my freshman year and this story has lagged on way longer than I anticipated. I do want to finish it and I’ll probably re-write it to make the pace faster but for the moment I am putting this story on HIATUS and changing the status to abandoned. Have a good holiday and new year everyone!
Summary: She was Hogwarts' Bad Girl. He was Hogwarts' Golden Boy. All of her teacher's complained about her. All of his teacher's loved him. She stayed stayed away from the limelight as much as possible. He smiled for all the cameras. They're both stubborn, have a knack for trouble, and are training to become Aurors. Has the Ministry met it's new Auror power couple or will their differences lead to the destruction of their lives as they know it?
Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or the Defying Gravity lyrics from the musical Wicked.
My mum grew up listening to Muggle stories and watching Muggle movies.
When I was little she used to read me the same stories she grew up with and I lapped up every word. One night, when I was five, I asked her when she was going to lock me up in a tower. She asked when I wanted to be and I told her not until I had a wand. She asked why and I told her it was because I wanted to be able to kill the dragon myself. She wanted to know why I wouldn’t wait for the prince to take care of it and I said it was because he was on a horse and I didn’t want the pony to get hurt. White horses were my favorite.
She had laughed after I said that, not knowing how she was supposed to react. Finally she said,
“What about your prince? Don’t you want him to be safe too?”
“No,” I told her. “He should be able to survive the dragon by himself.”
It was just a silly little five-year-old thought at the time because I bought into the whole prince riding up on a white horse to whisk me away to his fancy castle thing. But I didn’t like the idea of him saving my life, much preferring the fantasy of taking the dragon on by myself.
When I got to Hogwarts I took the offensive with all my relationships. I initiated the stuff with guys, usually at parties or when it was clear that they were into me so that I didn’t have to worry about rejection. I would hook up with them, no questions asked, but if they wanted a relationship they had to ask me out.
“Why should I date him if he doesn’t have the guts to ask me?” I used to tell Meg Ann who would sit on her bed and listen to me talk, taking in every word of my very screwed up view on love and boys.
I always tried to be on offense when it came to ending relationships as well. I’ve been dumped twice but the first time happened when I was sixteen. He dumped me because he was graduating and didn’t want to keep it going while I was still at Hogwarts. I wasn’t upset that the relationship was over, I was upset because I was planning on breaking up with him two days later.
Okay, I’ll be honest. It’s not as though I’ve never fallen for a guy. The first guy I ever really fell for I met when I was just twelve years old. He was a Muggle and lived in the town a few miles from the Davenport’s house. He was the guy who I fell for over and over again every summer when I saw him. We had a summer romance right after my fifth year but that ended when I went back to Hogwarts and I didn’t see him again after that. I heard he was getting married, but I don’t know the girl.
The second occurrence was two years later, a few months after I turned eighteen. He was a year older than me, an ex-Slytherin, and worked part time at a Quidditch supply shop. We hung out and hooked up and were pretty much together…unofficially. It was the perfect relationship for me at the time. We were at a party over the summer, just a month after I graduated, and he stated simply that he didn’t want to date anyone else.
“You can if you want to,” he said. “I’m not trying to force you into anything; I’m just letting you know that I don’t want to see anyone else.”
Of course, four months after that he got an internship at some broom-making company and it all sort of went downhill. He wasn’t into the danger of my career and I found his totally and completely dull. We had other things to talk about, of course, but we decided to stick with the whole ‘just friends’ thing before he left.
Both experiences were painful but I wasn’t destroyed, always cautious with how much I let them in. Drake, the Slytherin, was all about the here and now—more like me at the time. We didn’t really talk about our past and instead focused on what was going on now and what we wanted to do in five years. What was done was done and it was never a relationship that got stuck in the past, allowing me to have fun without having to deal with super emotional stuff.
The summer romance with Robbie was just that, a summer romance. I never told him I was a witch and I never wanted to. I wasn’t allowed to use magic out of school anyways and I was in touch enough with the Muggle World not to slip up.
Robbie knew more about my past than Drake but it still wasn’t intense. I don’t do intense, I don’t do big falls, and I don’t take chances when it comes to romantic relationships. My friendships are few and far between and mean the world to me. To lose one of my friends would be ten times worse than losing any guy I dated. They know everything about me and I take them seriously. My romantic relationships are relaxed and there when they are convenient.
When I asked my mum about getting locked in a tower I had a lot of friends who came and went on the farm and in town. I wanted to fight but I also wanted the prince charming with the white horse and a castle. By the time I was fifteen I had friends that I knew I would have for life and boyfriends who came and went. In ten years, my whole philosophy had changed from five-year-old fantasy to fifteen-year-old teen cynicism. Now, almost five years later, I wasn’t sure which side I was supposed to be on but I knew that I hadn’t completely moved away from the cynicism yet.
* * * * *
“Okay; I have my luggage, my purse, my sunglasses, my fake excuses for why my parents aren’t there, my money, and my Firewhiskey. I think I’m ready,” Natasha said, scanning our bedroom and living room quickly.
I stood up from my place on the couch and gave her a hug. She looked ready to travel in skinny jeans, close-toed pumps, and a cropped jacket. Her blonde hair was in a slick, high ponytail and big, dark sunglasses were perched on her nose. It’s a good thing Magical Transportation doesn’t require security like Muggle airports or she would be screwed.
“Have fun,” I told her as we pulled away. “Meet and hook up with a lot of cute boys for me. And get me something Greek, would you? Greece has been on my list forever and I still haven’t seen it.”
“Will do,” Natasha promised. “And if you get time off work come join me, yeah? We could use a vacay and I’ll be there for a month at least.”
“Are you still planning on going to America in November?” I asked, leaning against the open door. “Mum said you were thinking about hitting New York with her.”
“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Natasha shrugged non-committal. “It’ll either be America or Spain; it kind of depends on Damien. He’s touring with that Dance Company, you know?”
“Yeah, well see you when you get back. Write me if you want me to pick you up, I’ll probably be at the ministry anyways.”
“Okay, don’t have too much fun without me.”
“I never do, darling,” I laughed. “Love you.”
“Love you too,” Natasha yelled over her shoulder and I let the door shut, feeling a little guilty that I was actually relieved she was gone. A little bit relieved, not majorly relieved. But I was exhausted from work and there are times when Natasha, as much as I love her, just doesn’t get it.
Her dad pays for her part of the rent (and mine too, I just put money away to cover it when something gets a little messed up. Usually when he’s on trial or when someone he works with gets caught while Mr. Nott is still in prison) and she has full access to her parents vaults whenever she wants or needs it. My mum may not be poor like she was when I was little but I’ve always wanted to do things on my own and I was never able to understand how Natasha could be so fine living off of other people’s money.
Sure, she works for my mum but I’ve been doing that since the store opened and she joined me pretty quickly. It’s not like it doesn’t take up energy or anything it’s just…not something I would ever consider doing for the rest of my life and I know she doesn’t want to be a salesgirl forever either. She just needs something that she loves to do. Damien (her older brother) used to say that the only way she would ever really put her heart and soul into something was if she started it herself. Though what business she would start I wasn’t really sure.
She can’t cook worth a damn. She hates cleaning. She likes fashion but doesn’t have the patience to make pieces. The girl was hopeless.
The pocket watch I had been using since I stayed at my mum’s house started going off from the bedroom, indicating it was time to start getting ready. I dumped the rest of my tea down the drain, rubbed my red eyes in a lame and useless attempt to feel more awake, and stepped into the shower with the water as cold as I could make it so that my body would be shocked awake even if my eyes still felt heavy.
I had originally thought that after boot camp finished we would be forced to back to the same paper-filing duties of Auror trainees but I had been (thankfully) mistaken. Apparently, as soon as we finished with our instructional whatever everything got kicked up a notch and all of the Aurors around us took every opportunity to test us, sending hexes when we walked by their office or storing Boggarts in our desk drawers. The mentors had all gotten together as well and every week there was a new task we had to face, sometimes together and sometimes on our own.
But despite my paranoia from the random hexes, the soreness in my wrist from hours of paperwork and spell practice, and the bags under my eyes from not having a chance to get a goodnight sleep in a few weeks, I still wasn’t prepared for what they threw at us this time: Group therapy.
Now, I’ve been to a therapist before. In fact, one of my mum’s best friends from America, Tipper, is a therapist and a pretty good one from what I’ve heard. But I also know about the whack jobs. You know, the ones on TV who keep talking about how you feel. Like in the Muggle movie when the mum and daughter switch places and the daughter has to take her mum’s place and has no idea what to do so she keeps asking the depressed guy how he feels and he keeps saying “depressed” but she just nods and tries to look sympathetic.
I mean, let’s face it; having a sixteen-year-old who’s mad at the world for your therapist is not a very good way to go.
But as it was James, Kyle, Abigail, Jack, and I had to troupe out of the ministry with our mentors and apparate into Diagon Alley where we were interrogated by a middle-aged lady who had no sense of when to shut up. The interrogation started with James and went something like this:
Therapist: So James, your father is the head of the department…
James: (Stating the obvious) yeah.
Therapist: That must be a lot of pressure…
James: Not really.
Therapist: But how does having everyone’s high expectations affect you?
James: (ruffling his hair while his eyes dart around the room) err…it…motivates me—Yeah!
Therapist: (leaning forward and looking concerned) and how do you feel about the negative comments.
James: (leaning forward and resting his arms on his knees) they motivate me even more!
Me: (internally crack up and try desperately to act like I’m taking this seriously)
Abigail came next and it went something like this…
And then she switched over to Jack who she could easily interrogate about his home life:
Therapist: Jack you have a lot of weight on your shoulders.
Jack: Not really.
Therapist: You are taking care of your younger siblings while in a committed relationship and training for a very dangerous and demanding job. Are there times when you feel overwhelmed?
Therapist: Do you want to share some of those times?
Jack: Uh…(obviously trying to come up with some story)…well there was this one time when my sister needed to go shopping and so we were in Diagon Alley and then my brother smashed a window and I had to go to work in two hours.
Me: (internally snort at the lameness)
Therapist: (Apparently doesn’t know how to tell when a person is lying) and who did you lean on for support?
Jack: My girlfriend.
Therapist: And how did her support make you feel?
Jack: (Looks extremely uncomfortable and quickly changes the subject).
Kyle’s was by far my favorite.
Kyle: Well, I’ll save you a bit of time here. So, my parents are divorced and it made me feel extremely sad but it’s okay now because I know they’re both happy. My girlfriend and I have been together a long time and it is hard being in such a committed relationship with such a demanding career. She makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I have lots of siblings but being outshined isn’t really an issue because they’re all idiots. My dad has a radio show and he talks about us all on air which makes me feel good because I know he’s thinking about me and family love is extremely important.
Mine came last and went just like this:
Therapist: Taylor you’re the newest recruit.
Therapist: How does that make you feel?
Therapist: Do you ever feel nervous?
Therapist: How does your family feel about your career choice?
Me: Uh, they’re…supportive.
Therapist: And how does that make you feel?
Therapist: And how does their support make you feel?
It was so totally and completely cliché I couldn’t believe it. The therapist wore too much make-up, she had a clip-board that she took notes on, and her go-to question was ‘How does that make you feel?’ The mentors were talked to as well and Teddy was hammered on being married and expecting a child while being a young mentor but they all handled it with ease, giving obvious answers and often times lying through their teeth.
“Don’t forget to bring your bags to the ministry,” one of the mentors said just before we broke for lunch.
“What bags?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, I always forget about the newbie’s,” he said, smirking. “So bring a bag filled with clothes and any other necessities to the ministry at two.”
“Why?” I asked.
“We can’t tell you, it’s an Auror initiation ritual since they banned us from using the Imperius curse way back in the 1940’s.”
That crept me out a little.
“Just don’t show up without anything packed,” James added. “I made that mistake my first time because I assumed I didn’t really need anything since my dad wouldn’t tell me what was going on.”
“Thanks for the tip,” I muttered but went back to my apartment and packed a duffel-bag filled with clothes and toiletries, assuming that was what they meant by necessities.
When I got to the ministry, ten minutes before two, everyone else was already there and Harry was bringing in what I assumed was a portkey as I couldn’t think of any other reason for him to be holding a dirty fishing boot. Still not knowing what we were doing I followed everyone else’s lead, placing a single finger on the sole and keeping my left hand firmly clasped around the handle of my polka-dot bag.
My perfect record with portkey’s ended with this trip and I wound up falling to the ground, taking James with me. James then knocked Kyle down, who knocked Teddy down, who knocked some girl I don’t know onto her back.
“Where are we?” I asked curiously as I pushed myself to my feet.
“We,” Teddy said dramatically. “Are at one of England’s numerous safe-houses so that you can learn how to survive off of what they give you and continue your defensive training. There are safe houses all around the world that you could end up at if you have a mission go wrong.”
“So where is this one?”
“Don’t know,” Teddy shrugged. “Harry gets to pick where they send us and we have to get by with what they give us—just like you would in a real mission if they send you a portkey to get away.”
“Come on then,” the girl who Teddy had knocked over said briskly. “Let’s see how out of date this one is.”
We had to trek down a hilltop towards a pink cottage that was in the valley between two large hills. The house looked as though it had been hit with a jelly-leg jinx that allowed it to be morphed and twisted before being hit with a freezing charm. It glittered in the sunlight and had two towers on either side. It wasn’t particularly large but the brightness combined with the fact that it was the only house around made it seem very out of place.
“Aren’t safe houses supposed to blend in?” Abigail asked as we walked.
It didn’t look very far when we arrived but we had been walking for ten minutes and it wasn’t getting any closer.
“If they’re in the middle of a town or, you know, visible then yeah,” a guy who I didn’t know said. “If they are loaded down with protection charms, in the middle of nowhere, and can’t be seen unless you were told it’s location by the secret keeper, a.k.a. Harry, then it doesn’t really matter.”
“First come first serve,” the girl who Teddy knocked over announced when we arrived after a 30 minute walk. Everyone immediately began to run in different directions, leaving me and the blonde pixie in their dust.
“So you’re the new girl,” the blonde said, looking me up and down. She was a few inches shorter than me, as unusual as that is, and I realized with a start that she was the one I saw walking out of Harry’s office.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” she went on.
“I’m guessing it’s not all good,” I muttered and she laughed. It was as small and high as I had been expecting and she shook her head.
“It was pretty varied,” she admitted. “I’m Marigold, by the way, but you can call me Mari. First come first serve is overrated,” she announced as I followed her to the right. “You see, the idea is that everyone looks at all the bedrooms and then picks the best one but that never works out because everyone always picks the first one they come across so waiting could land us with the worst room or with the best. Depending on how many bedrooms there are we may have to share.”
“Are most safe-houses…well, houses?” I asked.
“Not most, no,” she said. “In fact, most are in the city somewhere but you’ll see a few others in your training as well as a bucket-load once you’re in the field. Personally I think they get a bit overused but not many people seem to agree with me. They think I’m reckless because I prefer to battle it out instead of taking extra time to plan everything.
“Once you get your opportunity, you take it. I don’t like waiting for everyone to agree on the best solution because then you lose your opening and miss your chance. Harry usually agrees with me but Ron and Ms. Clearwater, the two Assistant Head Aurors (whatever the heck that means), are big on plans and not taking ‘unnecessary chances.’ You’ll figure out what type you are soon enough. I’ve been trying to figure it out since I heard you were in but your file contradicts itself quite a bit. The only thing I’ve managed to be definitive on is that you won’t be good at checking in. You’re too much of a scatterbrain.”
I wasn’t sure whether or not I should be offended by her statement but knowing Natasha for almost nine years, I decided it was best to just take her words at face value and not question it.
“I have to admit I was a bit surprised that they accepted you. Normally they don’t do records because they’re worried about the MLE trying to get their clause into our work but I can see why they made an exception for you. You’ve got some experience under your belt.”
“If by experience you mean getting in trouble while I was in school, then sure.” I shrugged her comment off but my stomach was starting to feel queasy, wondering just how much she could have found out.
“Oh no, I meant when you went off grounds. I mean, most of it was just flimsy theories of having too much fun like ‘Suspected of causing MLE officer Brad a concussion whilst trying to escape from a party on 2nd and 3rd street, underage’ or something. But you’re defense was pretty good at making all of that sound completely implausible. He should have been paid well.”
He was, but I wasn’t about to say anything. The records were supposed to be sealed but I knew better than anyone that being sealed didn’t really stop people from finding out what was in them.
“And then there were the few times you got caught but you were let you off remarkably easy. What was it, community service and a fine at most in terms of sentences?”
“Something like that,” I mumbled, really not wanting to talk about it.
“Well I guess if you really did all that they said you did, it would have been impossible for you to get away completely clean. The graffiti was my favorite, I have to admit. I usually prefer to think of it as art rather than vandalism though I suppose your messages weren’t exactly supporting peace and love, were they?
“What really intrigued me, though, were the gaps I couldn’t fill in. I searched top to bottom but some of that stuff is hidden deep. Either way, your hot head definitely got you into some trouble. But I think that’s why they put you with Teddy, because your record proves that you can be impulsive and a bit reckless when your emotions get the best of you. Teddy’s very even-tempered and good at the little things. Well, it looks like we’re bunking, do you mind?”
I shook my head, feeling overwhelmed by her information overload. Our room was in one of the towers—large and circular with three beds. One was a queen-size directly across from the door and the other two were bunk-beds. The top one was a single bed and the bottom one was a double bed that went perpendicular to the top one. I took the bottom bunk and Mari took the queen. The bedroom was decorated in green and gold, a slightly ironic color scheme considering, but it worked. We dumped our bags with minimal unpacking and then started to head downstairs.
On our way down I learned that she was a Scorpio; her favorite color is red; she was in Slytherin; she has one younger brother who is in his seventh year at Hogwarts; she is 32; her trainee is Jack (she got him when he transferred to England); she has a fiancé, Clearance, who is a journalist for Quidditch Weekly; and she, like me, knows absolutely nothing about the sport.
“And what’s with those black balls?” I asked as we walked down the steps and back into the kitchen.
“I know! They’re going to cause permanent brain damage at best. And you know approximately five people a year die from it?” she replied.
“Do they die from the balls or the game in general?” I asked.
“I don’t know but Clearance did an article on it and all I remember after reading it is that an average of five people a year die; personally I think that is too high for any sport.”
“Agreed, it’s stupid,” I replied and she nodded as we rounded the doorway.
“Oh good, they’re still alive,” one of the three guys I didn’t know said.
“Shut your trap Travis,” Mari snapped. “Not having ‘house rules’ for the first five minutes won’t cause us all to die.”
“We’re supposed to treat this like a normal mission,” Travis said coolly. “And during a real mission you don’t take thirty minutes to unpack.”
“I do,” Mari said, sitting down on one of the stools by the counter and popping open a butterbeer.
“Well, those of us who haven’t gotten caught in a safe-house before don’t,” Travis replied through gritted teeth. Mari acknowledged his comment only with a roll of her eyes and a swig of her butterbeer.
Travis had the potential to be very good looking. He wasn’t tall but he wasn’t exceedingly short either, landing somewhere between Abigail and Jack. His eyes were a dark brown and his hair was kept short in a military-type cut. His skin was a shade darker than Kyle’s but it was just as flawless. Unfortunately, his perfectly tailored robes, shiny shoes, and generally polished appearance made him appear more uptight than handsome. Then again, I’ve never been a fan of people who put so much obvious effort into how they look. You can at least spare an extra five minutes to make it look less forced.
“Well,” Teddy said, clapping his hands together in an obvious attempt to diffuse the tension. “What do you say we start talking about how we are going to survive these next three days? Billy, any ideas?”
“Err—” Billy said, clearly caught off guard as he looked up from his game of Exploding Snap with the third mentor I had yet to meet. He didn’t get a chance to answer before his cards blew up and he cursed under his breath, focusing back in on the game.
“Oh for Fucks sake,” Travis exclaimed, slamming his butterbeer down on the counter and walking over to the table that was playing host to the card game. Teddy waved his wand at the golden liquid that had sloshed onto the granite counter top and waited patiently as Travis picked the cards up from the table and yanked the rest out of the two player’s hands. “We’re supposed to be teaching those five how to act in a safe-house in case they need to use one during a mission. Playing Exploding Snap doesn’t do shit.”
“Chill out mate,” Billy said, not even bothering to try and get the cards back. A wise decision since I have a feeling Travis is the type to get angry when he isn’t listened to. “We were just passing a bit of time. Weren’t we Pattrick?”
“Sure were,” Patrick nodded. “But I think that before we get started on rules we should introduce ourselves to Taylor. I’m Patrick, James’ mentor.”
Patrick had flaming red hair that could be seen from a mile away but it was darker than most of the Weasley’s hair. His eyes were a sparkly blue and his arms and face were all covered in freckles.
Billy, it turns out, is Abigail’s mentor (strange, I know) and Travis is Kyle’s.
“But what if no one feels like making dinner,” Billy pointed out the flaw in Travis’ cooks-and-cleaners plan (that is seriously what he called it).
“For Merlin’s sake, we’re only here for three days,” Marigold groaned. “So this is how it’s going down: tonight, Jack and I make dinner, tomorrow morning Billy and Abigail make breakfast, tomorrow night James and Patrick make dinner, next morning is Kyle and Travis, and Taylor and Teddy have Wednesday night. We leave Thursday morning and everyone’s happy. Planning done.”
“Wait,” Abigail exclaimed. Marigold groaned and turned back around, her hands braced on both sides of the doorframe.
“Yes?” she asked, sounding so forcibly calm that it was obvious she was annoyed.
“We haven’t checked the defensive spells yet and don’t you think we should clean this place up?” Abigail said. “It’s a bit dusty, no one’s stayed here for a while and I don’t do well with—with,” she paused in her speech for a moment to sneeze and gratefully accepted the tissue Billy offered her. “I don’t do well with dust.”
“Then I suppose you should dust,” Jack said, clapping her on the shoulder and following his mentor out of the kitchen.”
“But defensive spell check,” Abigail called after them. In the end, it seemed only she and Travis were concerned about defensive spells though I would be willing to bet that was mostly because the chances of being attacked while we were here were slim to none.
I decided not to let the few allotted hours of rest go to waste and followed Marigold upstairs, stripping off my robes and climbing into bed.
“Tired?” Marigold asked, looking amused.
“Exhausted,” I countered, yawning and turning over.
Shouts could be heard from some of the guys who had gone outside after our pointless meeting but I was able to block it out and fell asleep within a few minutes. When I got up a few hours later Marigold had left the room and the sun was beginning to set though it wasn’t yet dark. I changed into a new pair of robes and went downstairs to see what Marigold and Jack had made.
“Hey, do you have plans tonight?” James, who was sitting beside me, asked, talking quietly enough that we wouldn’t be overheard but not so quietly that it would make people suspicious.
“Yeah, I’m going to this huge party just down the road—it’s supposed to be a real rager,” I replied sarcastically, unable to stop the smirk from forming on my face. We’re in the middle of nowhere, what in the world would I be planning on doing? James just grinned, completely unembarrassed.
“Meet me the front at ten,” he said quietly and I raised my eyebrows but he had already tuned back in to the heated debate that was going on about two Quidditch teams that had a match coming up. I caught Marigold’s eye and she rolled them at me. I grinned back and finished the bowl of lentils that were really good for food that had been sitting around for who knows how long.
“I’m turning in early,” Marigold told me as I stood up to start helping clear the table. “I’m a pretty deep sleeper so don’t worry about waking me whenever you come in.”
“I think I’m going to be up for a while,” I told her. “A three hour nap gave me a bit of energy.”
“Have fun with James,” she said quietly as she brushed my side. I laughed and raised my eyebrows at her when she turned around in the doorway but she just grinned and winked before going up to our bedroom, leaving me and the other seven non-dinner makers to clean up.
At ten to ten I went up to the room Mari and I were sharing to put on boots and grab the few clothes I had brought that were meant for colder weather. I still had no idea where we were but it was cold.
I was outside before James so I sat down on the turquoise steps and waited until he came out, a broom held in each of his hands.
“I’m not flying,” I told him, skipping the pleasantries.
“Why not? It’s fun,” James said tossing the brooms down onto the grass and taking a seat beside me on the top step. “You haven’t really given it a fair chance.”
“I have given it plenty of chances and I don’t like it,” I stated, leaning back on my arms.
“You don’t like the height, that doesn’t mean you don’t like flying,” James said stubbornly.
“You can’t fly without height.”
“No, but if you don’t look down you won’t notice the height,” he shot right back.
“I’m not flying,” I repeated and he rolled his eyes.
“Chicken,” he muttered childishly. I couldn’t help it—I started to laugh.
“Are you going to start flapping your wings and clucking at me? If I did things just because people called me a chicken for not, I would be dead right now.”
“Flying won’t kill you,” he shrugged.
“No but the ground that I hit after falling off the broom can. I have no interested in breaking my neck at nineteen. Sorry.”
“Come on Tay, just try it,” he tried to convince me. “I won’t let you fall, I promise.”
“Nope,” I shook my head.
“You are too damn stubborn for you own good,” he muttered, running a hand through his hair.
“You sound like the Davenport’s,” I grumbled, annoyed now.
“Well then they’re smart people.” He put on his most charming smile and I looked away but couldn’t help smiling too. It was creepy how contagious his good moods were.
“About some things,” I admitted slightly grudgingly.
“Just one flight,” James persisted, picking up a broom and holding it out to me. “You’re going to have to fly at some point in the field and it can’t hurt to get more practice in. We’ll stay as low as you want to.”
I sighed but took the broom, straddling it and pushing off so that my feet were just grazing the grass.
“Happy?” I asked in annoyance. He shrugged and kicked off himself, going as high as he used to for Quidditch and flying in circles, turning upside down and making steep dives just for the fun of it. I stayed where I was and watched.
“If I promise never to try and get you to play Quidditch, will you go on one ride with me?” James asked stopping right beside me.
I considered it for a minute, wondering if there would ever be an occurrence where people would try to get me to play.
“You’ll never so much as ask me to play?” I clarified. “And if other people try to convince me to, you’ll get them to lay off?”
“I’ll do my best,” James promised, patting the back of his broom. I kept my eyes shut and it made the entire experience a lot more fun, it wasn’t unlike riding a rollercoaster and since James actually knew what he was doing, it wasn’t nearly as scary as it was when I was in control. It was a new concept for me—being comfortable when I didn’t have complete control.
Just as the last light in one of the bedrooms turned off I agreed to try my own broom, using the full moon as our source for light. The overall darkness made it easier for me to ignore how high up I was and while I was about as graceful as a foal I did feel better. I still prefer walking, no questions asked, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I had made it out to be in my head. At least with James starting from the beginning it wasn’t.
“Loosen your grip,” he instructed as we hovered a few feet off the ground. “You’re more likely to slip if your hands get sweaty from holding it so tightly.”
“More likely to slip?” I repeated nervously, trying to let my grip relax a bit.
“I told you I’m not going to let you fall,” James tried to calm me down. “Now think of it as though your levitating yourself, when you want to go down just tilt the handle a little bit down like your lowering a pillow and when you go up, just tilt it a bit up. To go forward you lean forwards and to slow down you lean back. Got it?”
I nodded and he let go of the back of the broom, leaving me to hover on my own.
“Okay, go forward,” he instructed and I did as he said. When I accidentally started to speed up too quickly James was there to grab onto the back of my broom and stop it before it could send me rocketing back to the ground.
“I think I’m good for the night,” I said a little shakily after another close call. James didn’t protest and instead lowered himself to the ground, waving his wand at both of our brooms which immediately whooshed around to the back of the house.
“See, it wasn’t too bad, right?” James asked. Still feeling a little off balance I let my knees buckle and lied down on the moist ground.
“It was fine…I mean, I didn’t die or end up in St. Mungos,” I said, paraphrasing
Scorpius’ words to me about his lunch with James. Not having been there, James didn’t notice, but I didn’t need him too.
“You never gave it a fair shot,” James reiterated. “You were too worried about falling.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I waved him off. “Throw my fear in my face. So what about you? What’s the great James Potter afraid of?”
“Nothing,” James shrugged.
I rolled my eyes but I’m pretty he didn’t notice. “Yeah right, everyone’s afraid of something. What form does your Bogart take?”
“That I’m not telling you,” he said, pointing his finger at me.
“Why not?” I asked, offended. “You know my biggest fear!”
“Yeah, but mine’s different. Loads of people are afraid of heights.”
“Come on,” I begged him. “I promise I won’t make fun of you.”
“It’s not that,” he said hesitantly and I suddenly realized why he was so nervous about it.
“It’s something the press could use, isn’t it?” I asked accusingly and he sighed.
“No one finds out, okay?” I nodded, remembering all the stories that had come out about me the first time I visited America—all of the theories, all of the accusations, all of the press.
It wasn’t exactly the same but I had still dealt with press and I still knew how bad it was when you felt like you couldn’t trust people and held everything in. I didn’t know why I cared so much, and honestly I wasn’t in any hurry to figure it out, but I wanted him to talk to me, to know that I wasn’t going to run off to Witch Weekly with the latest scoop; to believe that I wasn’t one of those girls.
“My boggart is centaur,” he admitted and it took all of my self-restraint not to laugh. “And that doesn’t mean that I’m prejudice or—”
“What caused it?” I asked, cutting him off before he had a chance to defend himself like he was at a press conference.
He sighed and ran his hand through his hair again. “Nothing. When I was little I was scared of horses and first year my friends and I all snuck into the Forbidden forest where we saw a whole heard of them and it freaked me out even more than horses did.”
“So is that why you took Arithmancy—”
“Instead of divination, yeah,” he nodded, messing up his hair for the millionth time that night.
“Huh, I took it because the lady freaked me out. Natasha always had the craziest stories about her. When Scorp started taking the class he realized that all he had to do in order to satisfy her was make up a bunch of really painful ways to be tortured or killed so we started researching it in the libraries. Seriously, our knowledge on the subject is scary. Meg An slept in my mum’s room for a week after she read a letter I had gotten where Natasha was talking about all the one’s she had found in her dad’s office. He has a bunch of books his dad used to have—you know, Death Eater stuff. It was really pretty creepy.”
“Even worse is that they did all of that,” James said darkly.
“Yes, but I don’t like to think about that,” I said lightly. “Especially when we’re outside, it’s dark, the moon is full, we’re in the middle of nowhere, werewolves are hungry, and there are probably dark wizards who would love to come and find us right now.”
James looked at me, amused. “Scared?”
“I prefer apprehensive,” I grinned before turning serious. “But I actually looked up some stuff from the war. Most of it is really biased though and I was thinking, since I have to read a bunch of books about how great your dad is we should go to Knockturn Alley and find books from the other side. Books written by people who supported Voldemort,” I told him.
The idea had been in my head for a while but I knew none of my friends would do it. It was too close for comfort for Scorpius, Tyler would be too scared, and Natasha wouldn’t be interested. She hates everything about the war and thinks and talks about it as little as possible. I kind of followed her lead about the whole thing after we met, never having heard of it before.
“Are you crazy?” James said. “I can’t go down there, what if someone saw me?”
“We just have to make sure no one knows,” I shrugged. “You can even take Polyjuice Potion if you want. But come on, if you’re going to make headway with your family you have to know about the other side of the matter. They may have been wrong but it was a war. Everyone who’s fighting in a war—willingly—thinks that they’re right. Sure, years later it’s pretty clear who’s right and who’s wrong but in the moment people only know what they believe, they don’t know what society is going to think thirty years later—or even hundreds of years later in some cases.”
“I’ll think about it,” James sighed. “But I wanted you to read the books so that you could make headway. If you want to convince my family that Scorpius is a good guy then you have to know your facts.”
“If I’m going to make headway?” I repeated in surprise. “No way, our agreement was that I would study up and you would be on his side.”
“I will be on his side,” James promised. “But I don’t know him like you do. And Rose will need an ally through this whole ordeal. How did that go anyways?”
“It was good,” I admitted. “She knows how to lighten up. We had fun.”
“Good,” James said, looking legitimately relieved.
“But you’re not changing the subject that easily. I owe you absolutely nothing in this situation and I don’t know your family well enough to have any sort of pull.”
“You know my dad,” James countered. “And Uncle Ron, and Fred, George, Angelina, and Roxie, and you were roommates with Dominique—”
“It doesn’t matter,” I cut him off. “I was never friends with Dominique and things have been tense between Fred and I for years, partly because of my friendship with Scorp.”
George, Angelina, and Fred already knew my views on the matter and it hasn’t changed anything for them. Besides, we made an unspoken agreement a long time ago that I wouldn’t press the matter of my dad being a prat and they wouldn’t press the matter of my friendships. It was a boundary that we created when Fred and I finally started speaking again in Seventh year.
“And as for your dad and Ron,” I went on. “They’re my bosses, James. If they were anyone else I would have no problem giving them an earful for their shit but there is a line there. I get that it’s different since he’s your dad but to me he’s just my boss.”
“And the guy who saved the world, right?” James asked, laughing hollowly. It was easy to detect the bitter undertone.
“I don’t care that he saved the world,” I said honestly. “He’s my boss, that’s it. I’m not so cowardly that I won’t stick up for my friends just because he’s famous but yet again I point out that he’s my boss. There are boundaries.”
“You have a lot of boundaries,” James stated, the bitterness still apparent.
“They’re helpful,” I said simply, stopping myself from picking off a chunk of nail polish just in time. “Look, we better get inside before they realize we’re gone and send for re-enforcement.”
I was done with the conversation and had no wish to get in a legitimate fight about it. Thankfully, James didn’t seem eager for a battle of wits either.
“Yeah, that’d be bad.”