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Tug Of War by platform 9 3_4

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 20
Word Count: 132,426
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Characters: Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Hugo, Rose, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: James/OC, Rose/Scorpius, OC/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 06/10/2011
Last Chapter: 03/24/2014
Last Updated: 03/24/2014

Summary:
Insane banner of awesomeness by iriki @ tda





                                                   Let the madness begin. 


Chapter 1: Muffins
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Disclaimer: JKR owns the magical world of Harry Potter. Sadly I own zilch.











 

Super quick authors note: Hellooo! So this is a story that just wandered into my mind one day, so I put pen to paper and out popped this! I hope you enjoy it! :)

 

 










 
Stella Wood

This piece of awesome was made by by shudder@tda

 











 

Let me start off by telling you the two unspoken rules of quidditch.

 

Forget the rules about foul play, penalties etc. These rules are different.

 

They aren't written down in a handbook. They're just kind of known. I make them sound so serious and daring. But in reality they're both fairly simple.

 

The first one is that to play quidditch, you have to enjoy it. Pretty standard stuff, right? 

 

But being the incredibly moronic person that I am I've already broken this rule.

 

I should explain. From the first moment I held a broom I knew it wasn’t for me. 

 

I mean, hello? I was supposed to straddle this thing, kick off the ground and somehow, somehow rise into the air. 


 
And then to top it all off I’m supposed to swoop around in the bloody air, and I’m supposed to stay on! More like hang on for dear life.

 

And then I was supposed to concentrate on the game as  well?

 

That’s pushing it a bit.

 

Anyway, my point is that if I knew, from the first moment I touched a broom, that I would hate it, then why the hell am I standing on a quidditch pitch, wearing quidditch robes, holding a broom and staring about at my teammates like someone who actually enjoys quidditch?

 

You know how you wake up in the morning sometimes and think, who am I? What is my purpose here? What does it all mean?

 

Yeah, I know, clichéd high school girl questionning her purpose in life.  Well, relax because I don’t wake up in the morning and question my purpose. The first things I think of when I wake up are…muffins. What? They’re yummy and they come in all sorts of varieties. My personal favourite is blueberry.

 

But muffins aren’t the point.

 

The point is that I really should think a little, you know? Maybe question what I’m doing with my life when I wake up in the morning. Not just automatically get dressed and run down to the quidditch field for practice without a second thought.

 

Because when I held that broom for the first time, I knew that I would hate it.

 

Problem is, playing quidditch is in my genes.

 

My dad used to be the keeper for Puddlemere United. Now he’s their coach. He’s absolutely obsessed with the sport.

 

And when I say obsessed I mean really obsessed. He loves it so much I’m sure he’d marry it if he could. But, I’m glad he didn’t, because then I wouldn’t be here. And that would be bad. Really bad.

 

I tend to get carried away and say awkward and inappropriate things. Just stop me if it gets too weird.

 

So, like I was saying, my dad’s been training me to be a quidditch champion since I could walk. And annoyingly I got all the quidditch genes.



It was pretty half and half, my chances of being good at it I mean. My mum is rubbish at quidditch. She can barely get a few feet off the ground. And she isn’t a big fan of it either.

 

Somehow I got dad’s skill and mum's lack of interest. Yippee.

 

As soon as I went to Hogwarts my dad said, “Now Stella, it doesn’t matter what house you’re in. Just get on the team.”

 

Thanks dad. Very Supportive.

 

Sense the sarcasm.

 

So now, here I am, sixth year, Gryffindor keeper. Dad couldn’t be prouder.

 

Except that the more I play quidditch, the more I hate it. I get queasy and nautious. The other players get a thrill, a sort of adrenaline rush, but I just get scared. No, terrified is more correct. I'm not competitive. I don't care who wins a match because I'm already putting so much into staying upright on my broom that I find it difficult to also play at the same time.

 

Now, you’re probably thinking, if you hate it so much, then why don’t you quit, you crazy bint?

 

Well, that question can be answered with two words.

 

James. Potter.

 

James is the captain of the team. He's a Potter, and he’s also a git. He’s a pompous, arrogant git, and I think I’m in love with him. 

 

He doesn’t like me much. In fact, he doesn’t like me at all. He knows I hate quidditch, and he’s forever whineing about how he's wasting his time trying to get me to cooperate.

 

Oh yeah, and as far as quidditch obsession goes, he’s almost as obsessed as my dad.  And that’s saying something.

 

I sometimes wonder why I’m in love with someone who doesn’t like me and who loves the one thing I despise (meaning quidditch).



I think I might have been dropped on my head as a baby. That would explain why I’m so fucked up.

 

Which brings me to the second unspoken rule of quidditch:

 

Don't ever fall in love with your captain.

 

Especially if they know you've broken rule number one.

 

Things will only go downhill from there.

 

And of course, I've gone and broken this rule too. I am a disgrace to the name of quidditch. 

 

I’m afraid I can’t offer a better explanation for my love for him, other than the fact that he’s hot. Yes, that's right, he’s a fit, hot quidditch captain. 

 

Ah, young love, purely based on raging teenage hormones and awkward sexual tension. 

 

“Wood!”

 

I mean, he’s really sexy. Even when he’s yelling at me, the way he is now.

 

“Wood!”

 

Mmm, just the way his hair sticks up. It looks like he spends his free time sticking his finger into an electric socket. I really shouldn’t be attracted by that.

 

“Wood!”

 

Merlin, look at his eyes, they’re hazel, with dark brown flecks. Like pools you could just dive into.

 

“WOOD!”

 

I snap out of my reverie and realise that the guy I’ve been practically drooling over for the last five minutes is glaring at me.

 

“Sorry?” I look at him, wiping the corners of my mouth with the back of my hand in case I've actually started drooling. Luckily I haven’t.

 

Well, maybe he hasn’t noticed I was looking at him.

 

“Get your arse up into the air like the rest of the team, instead of staring at me like a lunatic.”
 


Oh. 

 

Grudgingly I swing my leg over the broom and kick off hard.

 

I immediately feel queasy as I sail towards the goalposts. The rest of the team passes the quaffle back and forth. James catches it from Rose and chucks it in my direction. I throw myself forwards onto the broom and catch it between the tips of my fingers. I lean back and it slips, falling towards the ground.

 

“Come on Wood!” James yells, “You’re half asleep today! Go and pick it up!”

 

The things I do for love. 

 
 

*         *          *

 


“You know,” Rose smirks, “You don’t have to make James so mad. It turns out really badly for the rest of us.”

 

“He’s the one with the anger issues,” I mutter sulkily.

 

We’re sitting in the great hall at breakfast. I glance down the table and I see James with his mates, Fred and Cameron. They’re currently playing a game of ‘who can stuff the most food in their mouth at once’. James is winning. He's got a bit of fried egg dangling over his bottom lip.

 

The guy I'm inexplicably in love with, Ladies and Gentlemen.

 

“You’re the one who was too busy staring at him to pay any attention to what’s going on at practice,” Rose grins slyly at me.

 

Rose knows all about James and I. Or rather, the fact that there is no James and I, and how I want there to be a James and I.

 

I don’t even know if I want there to be a James and I. He’s still a git, whether I’m attracted to him or not. A fit arsehole is still an arsehole.

 

“I was not staring at him,” I lie.

 

“Of course you weren’t,” she chuckles.

 

“I wasn’t!” I insist.

 

She doesn’t even bother to answer this, because we both know I’m lying.

 

Rose has been my best friend since our first year, and I think she's awesome. People assume that because Rose is the daughter of Hermione Granger she's must be the smartest person in our year, but she’s not. She’s intelligent, obviously, but she enjoys breaking the rules once in a while. And she’s not a prefect. Her cousin, and our other best friend, Albus was made a prefect instead, and for that Rose mocks him mercilessly.

 

Her younger brother Hugo is best friends with my little brother Mark. So we’re all in one happy little circle of friendship. Plus Mark has had a huge crush on James and Albus’s little sister Lily since day 1. He deals with said crush by teasing her alot. If they were in the playground he would spend his time pushing her off the swings and pulling her pigtails.

 

I refuse to acknowledge that we share any DNA whatsoever. 

 

“You know what?” says Rose, “I think I’m going to lock you two in a broom closet. That’ll speed things up.”

 

I choke on my piece of toast, spraying crumbs over the table. Rose wrinkles her nose in disgust.

 

“Those are some lovely table manners you’ve got,” she says, “Maybe you and James really do belong together.”

 

My eyes begin to water as I start choking again.

 

“A broom closet?” I manage to get out.

 

“Yeah, you know, all that sexual tension overflowing.”

 

“There is no sexual tension,” I say sadly, “Plus that’s a tacky cliché.”

 

Rose shrugs. “Fine,” she says, “We’ll just have to wait it out.”

 

“Wait what out?” 

  

“You know,” she grins, “You like him. You argue. Finally you snog and he falls madly in love with you.”

 

How profound.

 

Although it does describe just about every dream I’ve ever had about James.

 

“Rose, when did you start reading all trash in Witch Weekly?”

 

Rose doesn't reply, and flips over the page of her magazine that lies on the table.

 

“Seven Steps To Your Dream Wizard,” she reads aloud, “Step One. Make him notice you.”

 

She looks up at me and says, “Well we already know he’s noticed you. He spends half of practice yelling at you. So we can skip that.”

 

“Rose-“

 

“Step Two,” she ignores my protests, “Find something in common with him.”

 

Well, that’s hopeless. When it comes to interests we’re about as far apart as Earth and Mars. Even Rose looks a little troubled as she tries to think of something.

 

“Step Three,” she continues, moving past the awkward silence, “Wear something nice at a party to get his attention.”

 

“Look Rose this is bullshit,” I interrupt, “I don’t need James.”

 

Alright, that's a complete lie, but Rose closes the magazine decisively, “You’re right! You’re a strong, independent woman, and you don’t need a man! James doesn’t define you!”

 

God she’s weird. I mean, one minute she’s coaching me on how to get his attention, and the next she starts giving me a bloody suffragette style pep-talk. Seriously, Rose may not be defined by her intelligence, but her mood swings sure are noticeable.

 

“You don’t need him!” she repeats.

 

“Don’t need who?” comes a voice that makes my insides curl. I can tell James is standing right behind me.

 

“Oh, hi James,” says Rose, putting on a false smile.

 

“What’re you up to Red?” he asks suspiciously.

 

Rose glowers, the way she does whenever James calls her 'Red', and says, “I’m helping Stella get over someone.”

 

I almost jump over the table and tackle her in fury. Instead I go for a more passive option I give her a look that says way-to-be-discreet.

 

She avoids my eye. Crazy bint. I hate her, I really do.

 

“No, she’s not,” I say through gritted teeth. 

 

I can’t believe that after everything we’ve been through she would just tell him, flicking of her bright red hair over her shoulder as cool as cucumber.

 

Yeah, that’s right, Rose, I was lying when I said your hair was auburn, and not red. It’s completely red. It’s so red that its tomato red. Ha! Take that!

 

I just insulted my best friend in my head. Dear Merlin’s striped roller skates I need help.

 

“Really Wood?” asks James, sitting down beside me,  “Someone actually gave you the time of day?”

 

I ignore him, and ignore the loud thumping of my heart, now that I know he’s sitting inches away from me.

 

“Or maybe it’s someone who hasn’t even given you the time of day yet,” James guesses correctly, a smirk spreading across his lips. 

 

Arse.

 

Luckily he doesn’t seem too interested in my personal humiliation because he stands up.

 

“Well,” he says, “Wish I could stay and chat but I have no personal fascination with Wood’s love life. Or rather…her non-existent love life. I just came to tell Rose that Al was looking for you earlier.”

 

“Tell Al to stop looking,” Rose mutters angrily.

 

I raise an eyebrow at her. What’s going on between Rose and Al?

 

James walks away and I resist the urge to stare after him.

 

“He can be a prick sometimes,” Rose says kindly to me.

 

“You don’t think I know that?” I ask, but I refuse to be sidetracked, “What’s going on between you and Al?”

 

Rose looks annoyed.

 

“He keeps trying to tell me how Scorpius feels about me.”

 

That explains her anger, because if there’s one thing that Rose hates, it’s talking about Scorpius Malfoy.

 

He told her he loved her last year, and she told him to go and die in a hole.

 

She’s a real charmer, that Rose Weasley. 

 

You can’t really blame her, though. Scorpius used to torment her for fun when we were younger.

 

And yes, he's still a git.

 

But despite all of his gitfullness, she decided she’d give him a chance. And he went and blew it, of course. Don’t know why she trusted him in the first place. He is a Slytherin, after all.

 

Rose went looking for him to tell him that she was ready give it a shot...and found him snogging some girl from Ravenclaw in a broom closet.

 

Like I said before, it’s a tacky cliché.

 

And trust me, Scorpius paid for hurting my friend.  No, just kidding I’m not that evil. But I did knee him in the groin. While Rose watched. And laughed.

 

Since then he’s been begging for her to take him back, and as his best friend and Rose’s cousin Albus feels obligated to push them closer together. Rose is having none of it.

 

“Malfoy’s a douche,” I assure her.

 

“You don’t think I know that?” Rose smirks.

 

*                  *                 *


 

I’ve decided to take Rose’s advice to heart. Screw James! I don’t need him! He’ll clearly never be interested in me. I’m awkward, weird and I hate quidditch, which is enough of a turn-off for him, trust me.

 

I suppose I’m not that bad looking. I’ve got dark brown hair that’s wavy, and brown eyes that some would say are large, so I wouldn't say that I'm ugly. I've had two boyfriends, neither of which lasted long. 

 

Fine, one of them was Gregory Phillips. We were in the same kindergarten class. He offered me a bite of his cookie, and I offered him my juice carton. From there on began a beautiful, romantic relationship. It lasted about six hours.

 

But still, I have managed to attract some people.

 

I did have a boyfriend last year, for a new record time of about a month. He was a Ravenclaw named Oscar Jacobs. 

 

Oscar was nice to me, at first. Then he dumped me when I wouldn't shag him. 

 

After that he spent a week in the hospital, thanks to good old Freddie Weasley.

 

Based on my limited romantic experience, James would never go for me. And not just because of my complete lack of allure. For one thing, I'm a whole year younger than him. There are plenty of girls in his own year who he would probably rather go for. I probably have the same amount of sex appeal to him as a first year. Then, of course, there's the matter of his annoying good looks. The ones that I can't compete with.

 

James, Fred and Cameron are all ridiculously good looking. Really, it's like some God picked out the three best looking babies in England, and made sure that they were all put in the same year at the same school, and then gave them all equal amounts of pig-headedness. 

 

Cameron, with his blonde hair and baby blue eyes, hits on anything that breathes. His constant target is Rose, and James has given him warning after warning. It often goes like "Touch-her-and-you'll-wish-you've-never-been-born."

 

Fred spends a lot of his time shagging unfortunate girls (although they consider themselves very fortunate, which is very sad). All he has to do is flex his biceps and they all come running.

 

Which just proves that girls can be almost as stupid as boys.

 

I've never really understood Fred. I mean, he beat up Oscar after he dumped me. He defends every one of his female cousins from any guy who gives them a second look. He claims that they're all womanizers. Which is exactly what he is.

 

And then we come to James, definitely the best looking out of the lot (I may be a little biased.) He's less obviously flirty, but don't get me wrong. He's still a manwhore. 

 

His most popular pick up line is "I'm the son of the saviour of the wizarding world." I'm ashamed to say that it works every time.

 

All three of them are pigs, and they're all on the quidditch team, which helps to inflate their already over inflated egos.

 

"Stella!" 

 

It's Fred, looking overly enthusiastic as he swings an arm around me.

 

We're in the common room. James and Cameron are playing exploding snap with wild enthusiasm.

 

"Come and join us!" Fred grins.

 

"Thanks but-"

 

"I will not take no for an answer!" he insists with exaggerated grandeur, sitting me down on the couch. James takes one glance at me and immediately looks annoyed.

 

"What's she doing here?" he asks Fred, saying the word 'she' as though it's poisonous.

 

Gee, thanks. What do I see in this guy again?

 

I have no clue...

 

"Come on Jamesie," Fred leans back placidly, "Give little Stella a chance!"

 

Yeah James, give the girl who's been in love with you since forever a chance.

 

But little? Little Stella? As if I need to emphasize the age gap between me and James any more. I am a child in their eyes. They might as well buy me a pushchair, hand me a dummy and start singing the wheels on the fucking bus.

 

"Quit the team, and I might consider it," James says, finally looking me in the eye.

 

"But Stella's the best keeper we've had!" Cameron argues.

 

Yeah, come on James Potter. Recognize, bitch.

 

But telling Potter how awesome I am probably won't help. Especially if I tell him myself. So I keep my mouth shut.

 

"I don't care if you're the best beater the world's ever seen!" James said, "It's just a joke to you."

 

Hey! I take my stalk-James-time (also known as quidditch practice) very seriously!


 

Come on, come up with a quick comeback!

 

"Whatever Potter," I sigh, getting up.

 

Oooh, Burn. Wow, I can really blow people away with my words.

 

But I don't care how hot he is, whenever he starts whining about me not taking the team seriously I just want to fall asleep with boredom.

 

Often I just end up staring dreamily at him. Which pisses him off even more.

 

"At least consider quitting Wood," James smirks, "You'd have some extra time to work on your comeback skills, if you did."

 

Until now I didn't think it was possible to love someone, and yet hate them with every fiber of your being at the same time.

 

Which brings me back to my original question. What the hell am I doing?

 

I'm fighting to continue playing a sport I hate, so that I can continue to spend time with a guy who hates me, and who wants me to stop playing the previously mentioned sport.

 

Like I said, I'm an idiot.

 

It's the only rational explanation.


 












Authors Note: Hey guys :) So since this is a new story I've started I'd really appreciate feedback, whether it's positive or negative! Let me know if you want more :)

 

Adios muchachos! x

 


Chapter 2: Born To Run
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Disclaimer: JKR owns everything. Lyrics for Born To Run belong to Bruce Springsteen.

 








James Potter

 
Yet another beautiful chapter image by shudder @tda

 







 



The idiocy of some people never fails to surprise me.


I should be used to it by now, with this constant rush of stupidity running through my brain. I mean, I'm still playing a sport I hate, and still trying to impress an older bloke who hates my guts.  


Yeah, stupid.


But maybe it's the idiocy of other people that baffles me. Because sometimes my friends can do some seriously dimwitted things.


I'll go into further detail shall I?


1. My brother, Mark. To my parents he plays to sweet adorable, younger sibling, but I know better. He's evil I tell you. EVIL. But aside from being evil he can also be incredibly thick. I caught him smoking with Hugo Weasley behind Hagrid's hut one day, and he tried to get out of it by telling me that it was part of their Herbology homework to experiment with a new kind of magical tobacco.


Pfft. As if I would believe that.


Alright I did at first, but it was a very convincing story, OK! Don't judge me!


Moving on...


2. My best friend, Rose. She loves Scorpius, but he's a git so she won't admit it, and pretends as though Scorpius is the scum under her shoe, when everyone knows she's liked him since our first year.


3. Fred Weasley, who seems to be on some kind of shag-athon. He spent last night at dinner pointing out to Rose and I the six girls he'd shagged in the past three weeks, and rating the shag from 1 to 10.


4. Cameron Mitchell. The Tweedledum to Fred's Tweedledee. Enough said.


And finally we come to Scorpius Malfoy. Despite him being a git, Scorpius and I have managed to get on fairly well. After Rose caught him snogging another girl when he was supposed to be in love with her I felt it my friendly duty to Rose to knee him in the groin, and since then we haven't spoken much.


That is until I find him doing something that is so idiotic I wonder if there's any possibility of me having any normal friends and relations.


The next day I'm sitting in the library, trying to finish my transfiguration essay, when something catches my eye. A foot disappears under the table. There's a flash of blonde hair.


I smile bemusedly and duck under the table.


"Psst. Scorpius!" I hiss at the blonde head that's crouching under a table.


He looks back at me and beckons frantically to me.


I scurry under the table beside him.


"What are you doing?" I whisper.


"Shh!" he hisses at me. I follow his gaze and I see Rose sitting with Samuel Green.


No, it's settled. There is no chance of me having any normal friends.


"Nice," I grin, "Go Rose."


Samuel Green is hot. He's a Ravenclaw in our year, with brown eyes and dark hair. Rose could do a lot worse.


Scorpius glares at me.


"What does she see in that guy?" he asks angrily.


"They're just talking," I chuckle.


"He's practically undressing her with his eyes!" Scorpius protests.


I look closer. Samuel's hand is inching towards Rose's. He says something funny and she laughs.


"Ooh Samuel you're so funny!" Scorpius mutters bitterly.


"Ooh Scorpius you're so jealous," I mutter in his ear.


"Oi!" he says, "I am not."


I snort with sheer ridicule. He goes back to staring at Rose.


"I don't care any more," he says, "Maybe I cared once, but I'm completely over her."


"Sure," I say, "Of course. That's why you're hiding under the table, spying on her like a normal person."


I mean, really, Scorpius should at least make an effort to conceal his feelings. Because denying them just makes him look stupid.


"I. am. not. spying," he utters each word slowly as though I'm thick.


"Yeah," I say, "You're right. You're looking at her from a distance."


Before Scorpius can deny this someone crawls under the table beside us.


"Hey guys," says Fred, eager and happy as ever, "What'cha doin'?"


"Scorpius is observing Rose in her natural habitat," I answer simply.


"Oh buzz off," Scorpius mutters, "Both of you."


"And here we have the species Rosus Minervarus Weaslus," Fred whispers under his breath, as though we're wildlife program presenters stalking an exotic animal, "It can be recognized by it''s bright red fur and friendly, warm yet sometimes violent nature. It is usually spotted around the library, being hit on by fit blokes. Typical habits include ignoring douchy blonde guys who cheat on her and enjoying being hit on by previously mentioned fit blokes."


Fred may be a serious manwhore, but he sure is funny.


"Shut it," Scorpius mutters warningly as we both start chuckling.


Me and Fred are too busy convulsing with silent laughter to pay him any attention.


"And I didn't cheat on her," he adds angrily, "We weren't even dating."


"No," says Fred coldly, "You just couldn't wait to shag some bint, instead of waiting for my cousin to decide on whether to give you a chance."


See? This is what's great about Fred. He's a complete idiot, only looking for fun, but when it comes to defending his younger female cousins, he's completely loyal.


"She told me to go die in a hole," Scorpius argues, "Excuse me if I think that means she isn't into me."


"Of course she is," I mutter.


"God knows why," Fred adds.


"True," I agree, "But Rose does, somewhere deep down-"


"Really, really deep down," Fred mutters.


"She does like you," I finish, elbowing Fred.


"Sure doesn't look like it," Scorpius mutters, turning back to Rose. Samuel leans in slowly, inching further and further towards her.


Suddenly, without warning, Scorpius leaps out from under the table.


Scorpius approaches them.


Ooooh this is going to be good.


"What's he doing?" Fred asks.


"He's being a git," I answer.


"So, the usual then?" Fred smirks, "Ow!" I've elbowed him much more sharply in the ribs this time.


Rose looks up at Scorpius in anger.


"What the hell do you want, Malfoy?" she asks, her voice full of contempt.


"Rose!" he says smilingly, "Here you are!"


Why is he smiling? Does he not see the way she's glaring at him? 


Run Scorpius! Run!


Scorpius doesn't move.


Idiot.


Rose looks confused.


Oh god, what's he going to do?


"What are you talking about Malfoy?" she glares at him.


"Well when you asked me to meet you, I didn't think it'd be in the library," Scorpius chuckles, still smiling at her innocently, "I thought we'd go somewhere a little more...private."


"Oh no he did not," Fred utters excitedly, "Wish I'd brought popcorn."


If it were any other cousin of his Fred would have stepped in a long time ago. But this is Rose. I mean, hello? She was raised by Hermione Granger! Rose can take care of herself.


Rose is gaping at Scorpius. Samuel looks a little shocked.


"I-I'd better be going," he mutters.


"No," Rose says, still glaring fiercely at Scorpius, "Stay."


"I-I-I have something to go finish-Hey is that a book?" Samuel gets up and walks away from Rose as quickly as possible.


A book? A book? We're in a bloody library! Wow, he must really be desperate to get away from her now that Scorpius has insinuated that Rose is using him as her booty call. But he really needs to invest in a better imagination.


Scorpius is still smirking. 


Now he'll have to deal with Rose's wrath. And Rose's wrath is something you want to stay away from at all costs.


She looks like she might boil over. Neither Fred or I move an inch, waiting for her to strike.


Scorpius stands there looking at her. Rose brings her hand around in one swift movement.


The sound of the slap resonates throughout the library, making everyone look up.


Fred and I both wince as Scorpius grabs his cheek in pain.


"Ouch! Jeez Weasley what was that for?"


She takes a step towards him and hisses,


"You bloody well know what that was for Malfoy."


"Alright, but I was just saving you from Green! You should be thanking me!"


Rose's eyes widen in disbelief.


"Here it comes," I mutter.


I'm referring, of course, to the rant that is about to explode out of Rose any minute.


"Y-you were s-saving me?" she repeats incredulously, "From what? The nice bloke? Oh thank you Malfoy, it was torturous, horrible! You really are my knight in shining armour! Oh, save me! Save me! I'm a damsel in distress who can't handle a conversation with a nice bloke who just wants to talk to me! Oh, it was so scary and awful! Thank you so much Malfoy, I couldn't have gone on living without you!"


Luckily Scorpius senses the tone.


"He was looking down your shirt! He was undressing you with his eyes!"


"Oh, of course," she says, "It's not like this is the real world where I can speak for myself! Where I can handle my own life! So the guy's a perv! So what? I'll tell him to back off if I think he's creepy. Not you, me."


"I was just looking out for you!" Scorpius argues.


"By referring to me as some kind of cheap slag who meets you for shags every now and then," she utters coldly, "Yeah thanks Scorpius, that really defends my honour."


"No! Rose! It wasn't-"


"Just leave me alone, Malfoy," she says, "And don't bother me with your childish, immature bullshit again."


With that she marches away, leaving a bruised looking Scorpius in her wake.


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the wrath of Rose Weasley. And be afraid.


Fred whistles.


"Damn," he says, "That was harsh."


"Ten galleons says they're together by the end of the year," I say.


"You're on," Fred grins, and we shake hands, "I say they're together by the end of the month."


I really shouldn't make bets on my friends happiness.


But. hey! How else can we make things interesting? 


...


Yeah, ok, I'm a terrible friend. 


But what can I say? I'm surrounded by idiots. It's only normal that the state of my own sanity would deteriorate a little.


 

*       *      *

 

Ah, quidditch. 


The sport where wizards and witches sit on tree branches and fly through the air as though they're on a roller-coaster. The sport where three of the players pass a giant red ball to each other and try to put it through giant hoops. The sport where giant killing-machine balls zoom about, trying to knock the players off their twigs to possible death. The sport where one of the players tries to catch a tiny golden ball that's barely visible to the human eye.


And people wonder why I don't like it.


But to top it all off the quidditch captains are absolute arseholes.


Exhibit A: James Sirius Potter. Complete and utter dickhead. 


I mean, I know I'm in love with him and all, but the guy can be a serious arse.


For instance, last year, when it was snowing, he made us all run for a bloody hour. He said it was a warm up. Well, catching hypothermia doesn't qualify as a warm up. 


"Go! Go! Go!"


Yep, laps. Laps, laps and more laps.


Fred and Cameron are in the lead, jogging on determinedly, almost trying to race each other for fun.


I'm glad some of us are enjoying it.


Then there's Roxy, Fred's little sister. She's Lily's age but she's short, which makes her a good seeker. She's really pretty, with her ebony back hair and caramel brown skin. 


Fred has a hard time keeping all the boys away from her, but Roxy's tough, and Fred knows it. So he leaves her be. Unless the guy's a jerk to her, in which case Roxy gives Fred her permission to punch the shit out of him. That is, if she doesn't punch the shit out of him first.


Roxy runs doggedly on, doing her best to not fall behind. Rose is hard on her heels, looking red in the face, huffing and puffing.


After Rose there's Archer Daniels. He's also in Roxy and Lily's year. He plays beater with Fred, so he has a heavy build. He's two years younger than James, but he's almost as tall. And he's actually a nice guy. So there's proof that playing quidditch doesn't make you an arrogant flirt.


And then finally, at the end of a long line of fit and healthy quidditch players, there's me. Panting and wheezing, silently thinking about all the ways in which I can brutally murder James for putting me through this torture.


It makes a nice change from fantasizing about his abs.


But obviously I wouldn't kill him because then who's abs would I fantasize about?


"COME ON!" James roars. He's jogging at a leisurely pace ahead of us, looking back as he enjoys watching us go through pain..


"I HATE YOU JAMES!" Rose yells with as much anger as possible.


"LOVE YOU TOO RED!" James yells back, grinning at her.


I love it when he smiles.


But he's still an arse.


We've been running for ages. I've forgotten how long. All that matters is the mind-blowing pain in my lungs and they way my mind is racing with agony.


FUCK THIS HURTS!


"LANGUAGE, WOOD!"


I said that out loud? Whoops.


"MAYBE YOU SHOULD GET IN SHAPE LIKE THE REST OF THE TEAM!" James continues to yell at me. I can tell that he's enjoying my torture.


Maybe I should. But I like cake, and muffins. I don't want to give those up. And putting myself through this hell sounds like a lot of work.


Seriously though, it feels like someone's got a rope around my chest and is trying hard to choke me.


I was not born to run.


Great, now I have 'Born to Run' stuck in my head.


We gotta get out while were young

`cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

 


Fuck that song is awesome.

 

"STOP SINGING BORN TO RUN!" Roxy yells back to me.

 

You know, I should really start paying attention to what actually comes out of my mouth.

 

"JAMES PLEASE LET US STOP!" Archer bellows out.

 

I second that motion.

 

"THREE MORE LAPS," James shouts to us.

 

Fuck my life.

 

 

*       *       *

 

 

"Right," James says, looking authoritative, "Now that Wood has stopped trying to vomit her guts out, let's get on to tactics."

 

"I wasn't the only one!" I argue.

 

Sure, I was bent double for much longer than everyone else, but Rose spent over ten minutes cursing James and using a lot of very foul language.

 

I feel proud to call myself her best friend.

 

"James do you want to end up with no quidditch team?" asks Roxy boredly.

 

"Please," James smirks, folding his arms, "You're not going to quit. You love it too much."

 

Ahem. I beg to differ.

 

"No," says Roxy, "I meant that if you keep insisting on trying to kill us, we'll all die, and then there'll be no more quidditch team."

 

"Stop being so dramatic," James says lazily, "Now, our first game is against Slytherin. And as you all know this...sucks."

 

He means that it sucks because Al is the Slytherin captain this year. Now he's captain James and Al will finally compete, one against the other. 

 

"Fifty galleons says they kill each other before the match even starts," Cameron mutters to Fred.

 

"It's all going to be civil," James says, "But I will say this once: We must kick some slimy Slytherin arse or else we will have to live with my brother and his Royal Gitfullness Scorpius Malfoy running around the halls like they own the place. So we've got to win."

 

"Here here," Rose agrees loudly. The others cheer.

 

"So that's why we're all going to start running to get in shape. And then we're going to pull whatever stunts we need to make this Slytherin's worst defeat ever."

 

The team looks pumped. I would feel motivated too, but the idea of 'pulling stunts' doesn't exactly give the impression that the match will be a walk in the park.

 

"Roxy," says James, turning to her, "You should work on your dives. In case you spot the snitch below you. Your wronski feint needs practice. Fred and Archer, you should practice hitting targets. Preferably people on the team. And then, the other one of you need be there in time to defend them."

 

My mouth drops open.

 

"Are you insane?"

 

James turns to look at me in surprise.

 

I've never seen that look on his face. It's always a smirk or an angry scowl, never this look of disbelief. I guess I've never really stood up to him like that before.

 

"What?"

 

"Y-you're insane!" I say, "The beaters are going to hit bludgers at us! While we're practicing!"

 

"Yes, but one of them is going to be there to hit it away from you," James frowns.

 

The rest of the team is staring eagerly from me to James.

 

"And if they don't? You're really willing to risk that? Those stupid bludgers could kill us!" I protest, "It's just a game! A stupid game!"

 

The rest of the team is now staring at me as though I've just told them that McGonagall is running naked across the quidditch field.

 

Basically they look shocked.

 

James is still frowning at me. But it's different. Usually he frowns when he's angry with me, which I'm sorry to say is fairly often. But this time I can see that he's frowning because he's confused.

 

And I like it. I like that for once he can't figure me out. I've always done whatever he says, because he's my captain. It's not like I take his abuse lightly, I go kicking and screaming. But I still do it. 

 

"Really?" James asks, "Well if it's such a stupid game, then maybe you shouldn't be playing it."

 

Silence. There's complete silence around us. James has his arms folded, and he's glaring at me.

 

I can tell he's testing me. This is what he wants. He wants me to quit. But he knows I won't.

 

No, he thinks I won't.

 

"Fine," I mutter.

 

"Good, then we can get back to tactics," James says, turning back to the team, accepting my defeat.

 

"No," I interrupt him again, "I mean, fine I quit."

 

 








 

A/N: Thanks for reading! (I know it was a shortie, but the next'll be longer, I promise) Reviews make me smile :) x

 


Chapter 3: An Actual Tug of War
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Disclaimer: JKR owns everything. Well...not everything, just Harry Potter.

Anyway...








And here we have Rose Weasley


Gorgeous CI by shudder@tda
 






 

 

"And just like that?" Lexie stares at me, "You just...quit?"

"Yeah," I mutter monotonously, "Just like that."

"Wow," Lexie grins a little, "I'll be honest. I didn't think you had it in you."

Lexie is one of my dormmates. She's usually very sweet and kind, with these big brown eyes that are always full of compassion and love. Sometimes she uses them to get the last muffin at breakfast, or to get Rose to write the introduction to her essays. It's like her superpower.

"I didn't think I had it in me either," I admit.

"It was pretty funny actually," says Rose, chuckling a little as she flips over another page of yet another magazine.

I glare at her. Bitch.

"But why?" Lexie looks concerned.

Thank you! Finally someone who questions my current state of sanity. I'm pretty sure the state of my sanity was extremely damaged at the moment I quit the team.

"I don't know!" I whimper, "All of that running must have driven me crazy! Why the hell else would I quit?"

"Because you don't like quidditch?" Lexie reminds me.

"Because you're an idiot?" Rose offers.

Unfortunately I think I have to go with Rose's theory.

I do hate quidditch, but if I've survived four years of being on the team, then why the hell would I quit now? 

Because I'm a dumbass, that's why.

"So what do I do now?" I ask, leaning towards them in desperation.

"About the idiocy?" Rose grins cheekily, "I'd suggest therapy."

"Shut up," I mutter grumpily, "I hate you."

"I suppose you can get a free pass this time," says Rose, "Seeing as you're madly in love with the biggest git on the planet, besides Malfoy of course."

"We are all fools in love," Lexie adds wisely.

It disgusts me how true this is. James hasn't spoken to me since I stormed out, and I've been too terrified to confront him about it.

I really do Gryffindor justice, don't I?

I can't tell whether he's so angry that he never wants to speak to me again, or whether the fact that I quit means so little to him that I'm not even on his radar.

And I don't know which is more depressing.

"What are you ladies chatting about?" 

We all look up and see Cameron, leaning casually against the bookshelf.

"Stella's idiocy," Rose says.

"Can I join in?" he asks eagerly, sitting beside her.

I hate them.

Really, I do. In fact, I'm going to spend the next half an hour plotting terrible deaths for both of them.

OK, maybe I should consider the therapy.

Cameron swings an arm around Rose's shoulders.

"How've you been Rosie?" he grins seductively.

Oh good, I'm glad that Cameron's perpetual lust for Rose has distracted him long enough to change the subject.

"I'll be fine once you get your arm off me," she says calmly, smiling sweetly back at him.

He releases her but continues to grin.

"Oh, Rosie, you hurt my feelings!"

"It's Rose," she says, "Drop the Rosie."

"Have I told you how hot you look today?" he asks her.

"Yes, earlier at practice," she replies curtly, "I would think you'd remember seeing as James threatened to make sure you never saw daylight again."

"Well, you look great," he continues to grin like an idiot, putting a hand on her knee.

Merlin, this guy does not know when to stop.

"Oi! Perv! Get your hand off Rose," I smack him hard over the back over the head.

His hand immediately releases Rose and rubs the place where I hit him.

"Ouch Artois!" he cries out in pain. Rose looks satisfied.

Cameron has called  me Artois ever since I told him my real name. When I told him it was Stella he immediately started calling me Artois, which is apparently the name of a muggle beer. 

He thinks he's so clever. I'm pretty sure that it just makes him a potential alcoholic.

"Careful, Artois," Cameron turns to grin at me instead, "I might have to turn the charm on you."

Oh, shit. 

OK, do not make direct eye contact, do not make direct eye contact.

Cameron leans into me and I can smell his cologne. It smells really nice.

OK, stop breathing! I breathe in my last breath, and his smell fills my nostrils, and I feel instantly dizzy.

Merlin's beard no wonder Cameron manages to shag so many girls. 

I look up at him. Damn it! Now I've made eye contact. 

Cameron uses his baby blue eyes to charm girls. If he's flirting with you, and you look into them, you're screwed. It's a bit like hypnosis.

He props his chin up on his elbow, flexing his biceps a little.

"Stop it!" I cry feebly.

"I don't know what you're on about, Artois," he says, saying the name as though its water, and he's really thirsty.

Bloody hell, this is like torture. He can keep the charm going as long as he wants, until I give in.

"Fine!" I cry loudly, "I'm sorry for hitting you!"

He relaxes his arm immediately and sits back in his chair happily, the charm completely turned off.

"Apology accepted, love," he grins.

Bloody git.

"Now, are you going to tell me why you quit the team?" he asks gently, but I can tell he's taking the piss.

"Because James was being an idiot," I whine, "But I think all that running impaired my judgement."

"You should have seen James' face after you walked out," he laughed, "It was like-"

His eyes grow so wide they might pop out of his head. 

Rose laughs as she recognizes the impression.

"What did he say afterwards?" I ask, trying to sound as casual as possible. Cameron still has no idea that I'm in love with James.

Or maybe he does, in which case my attempts to be some sort of subtle secret agent have been futile.

"Nothing," Cameron answers, "Just stared into space for a few seconds, and then started talking about tactics."

Oh. And here I was thinking me quitting the team would leave a lasting impression on him.

Well, I've just got shit for luck, haven't I?

"James doesn't talk about his feelings much," Rose tells me in an attempt to be comforting.

"It's true," Cameron adds wisely, "We think he might be dead inside."

"So..." I pause, "Should I go and talk to him?"

"No!" Rose cries immediately.

"Let him come to you," Cameron says. He winks at me like he knows my secret.

Bollocks.

I wonder if James has picked up on all this secrecy. If he has I might as well go and throw myself off the astronomy tower right now.

In every one of Rose's magazines they give advice on love. Its always, 'Ooh I've liked him for soooo long, but I don't know if he likes me back' and the answer is always 'Tell him how you feel. It's scary, but you'll feel much better once you do.' 

That is the biggest load of bullshit I've ever heard.

If I ever tell Potter how I feel, he'll laugh. 

Or maybe throw himself off the astronomy tower.

Yes, maybe I am being a little dramatic.

Besides, I don't need to find out how Potter feels about me. He makes his feelings towards me pretty clear.

Cameron gets up from his chair and smirks.

"Well, I hope you get back on the team soon," he says to me, "I'm off. I'm meeting someone in a few minutes."

This is code for him meeting someone for a quick shag. Cameron is such a creep.

"He disgusts me," Lexie mutters, watching him leave.

 

*      *      *

 

"Just so you know," Albus chuckles, "I'm not sorry you quit."

We're in potions. Albus and I have been partners since the beginning of the year. It was our professor's diabolical plan to pair Gryffindors with Slytherins so that we would all grow to hate each other even more.

Luckily I got paired with Albus and since Albus and I have been friends since first year Potions has turned out pretty well.

"Why?" I ask him as he begins slicing up a shrivelfig.

"Because you're a good keeper, and now we have a better chance at beating Gryffindor at the game."

"You almost make me want to rejoin," I say.

"But why did you quit?" he asks.

"Because your brother was being a barabaric dictator."

"Isn't he always?" Albus frowns.

"Yes," I admit, " But I guess I'd just had enough."

"Of the quidditch, or of James being a prat?" Al asks.

"Both," I say.

He pauses as he stirs the cauldron. It turns a perfect shade of pale pink. See, this is why I like being with Al for Potions. Al is great at potions, whereas I seem to have a knack for just blowing things up. Together we make a great team.

"It must be hard," Al says in a low voice, "Having the guy you're in love with be a total prat."

I immediately start coughing.

"W-what are you talking about?" I whimper unconvincingly. 

Pathetic. I might as well be wearing a t-shirt that says I Heart James Potter.

I think his fan club actually print t-shirts like that.

But that's just creepy.

Albus raises an eyebrow, "Give me some credit," he scoffs.

"I-I am not!" I stammer, "That is the stupidest, most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!"

"Well you're stupid if you think that the rest of us haven't noticed," Albus adds complacently.

"Yeah, well your face is stupid!" I retort. 

I'm pathetic. I have now resorted to 'your face' jokes as suitable comebacks.

"And he isn't that much of a prat," I add sadly.

"But you have to say that," Albus grins cheekily, "You're his stalker!"

I hit him hard on the arm.

"I do not stalk him," I utter angrily.

"Right, sorry, what do you girls call it these days? Observing from a distance?"

"It's not just girls who do it," I argue, "Your best mate was hiding under a library table the other day, 'observing Rose from a distance'."

Albus smirks, "I tried to warn her."

"Are you and Rose even talking?" I ask. Albus flinches a little at the question.

"She's being childish," he mutters, "Keeps saying something about how I always take Scorpius' side."

"You do," I say.

"Do not!" Al says, "The day Rose caught him with that girl I gave him a black eye."

"Yeah, and the day after you were back to being best mates," I remind him.

"Well, guys aren't like girls," Al argues, "Guys get the fight over and done with, and then they get over it."

"It's called fraternizing with the enemy," I snap, "That's at least how Rose sees it."

"Look, I'm still going to be friends with Scorpius because the only thing he did wrong was falling in love with the wrong girl."

"So you don't think that Scorpius and Rose are meant to be?" I ask, raising an eyebrow, "No more Scorp and Red forever!"

"Of course they are," Al says, "Rose just doesn't know it yet."

We work in silence for a while. Or rather, Al works and I observe. 

"So why do you have a thing for my older brother?" Al asks, changing the subject back, "I mean sure, he's good looking, and girls practically throw themselves at him..."

Ah yes, just a little more salt into the wound? Great, thanks.

"Do you have a thing for older guys in general?" Al asks, "Is that what it's about?"

"No!" I exclaim, "I don't know what it is..."

"It's not like you have anything in common," Al adds.

OK, seriously Al, just take that knife and stab me with it, why don't you? It'll be a little less painful.

"Plus he hates you."

Seriously, kill me now, kill me now.

"I know he bloody well hates me!" I snap.

"Is that what quitting was about?" Al asks, "To get his attention?"

"I don't even know," I whine tragically.

"He's been acting really weird the past few days," Al pauses to consider, "Really twitchy and angry with everyone. Cameron called it PMS, but Cameron's an idiot."

"Word," I add.

Oh merlin, was that my failed attempt to be gangster?

Please tell me Al did not hear that.

"Did you just say 'word'?" he laughs, staring at me incredulously.

"No!" I cry.

"MC Stella in the house," he continues to laugh.

I start hitting him hard on the arm until he stops.

"Shut up, bloody prat," I mutter.

"You'd be good for James," Al says suddenly. I look up at him quizzically.

"Just a minute ago you said we had nothing in common, and that he hated me."

"Yeah, well, James, dearest brother of mine that he is, is an idiot," Al explains, "He loves two things. Quidditch and...oh sorry make that one thing. He thinks too much of himself, takes quidditch too seriously and thinks that any girl that doesn't have an arse isn't worth his time."

"Are you describing James?" I ask, "Or every member of the male race?"

Albus ignores this. It's not like he has to. I mean, he's so sensitive he's practically female. 

Don't tell him I said that.

"I think you'd be good for him because, even though I should hit you over the head for this, you don't like quidditch."

"Great," I sigh, "Opposites attract and all that shit. What's your point?"

"You should argue back," Al suggests, "Don't just listen to his crap."

"Ah brotherly love," I say sweetly.

"Please," Al scoffs, "He's my brother, I love him, really, but I can still see that he can be an arse when he wants to be. He can be great during the holidays. He taught Roxy how to swim, and he spends his time teaching quidditch to Molly. He actually gives a crap about his family, but once he gets to school, it's like he doesn't give a crap about anyone but himself."

He teaches his little cousins how to swim and play quidditch? How cute is that?

It's insanely cute, that's what it is

"I'm just saying that you should argue with him a bit. Show him that not the whole world wants to obey his every command. Show him that not every girl is in love with him."

"Ahem," I point out, "Isn't that a little hypocritical? Considering that I am in love with him?"

"Yes," Al admits, "But, I mean, you yelled at him, and quit the team a few days ago. And ever since then he's been angry and tetchy just because someone disagreed with him."

I pause. Had I really made that much of an effect on him? No, it was probably just Al trying to convince me to launch a war against him. 

"Why do you care so much?" I ask, "Don't you find it weird that one of your best friends is in love with your older brother?"

"Yeah, but I care about James. He needs to have someone who tells him what's what occasionally. That could be you."

"You understand that telling someone to challenge your brother is incredibly fucked up," I say.

"I do, yes," he answers, "But it's like ninety percent fucked up and ten percent pure genius."

"You really do give yourself too much credit," I mutter.

"Fine, if I'm so rubbish," Al smirks, "I'll just let you finish the potion, shall I?"

Oh, shit.

There's no way I can do that.

Time to suck up.

"No, no, that's fine, darling Albus, supreme ruler of all that is awesome," I simper kindly.

"That's more like it," he grins.

He gets up from his seat and starts pouring over the text book studiously.

"You're so smart and brilliant," I continue to drawl, "Really, you could be the next minister-"

"I'm doing the potion Stella, you can stop sucking up now," he grins.

"Right, OK," I smile cheerily.

Suddenly a dark shadow falls over the desk and I look up guiltily.

Professor Wilde stands above me, her arms folded, with her mouth drawn into a tight line.

Despite what her last name might tell you, Professor Wilde is a ruthless, strict spinster, who hates anyone who's not in Slytherin.

I know, why do all the Slytherin heads have to become Potion teachers? It's like the job is reserved just for them. Maybe it's the dungeons. Maybe that's what makes these Slytherins tick.

"Miss Wood," she glares at me, "I expect you have a reasonable explanation for why Mr. Potter here is doing all the work, while you sit here and do nothing."

OK, come on Stella, think. THINK.

"I just...wanted to give Albus a chance to have a go at making the potion."

Dear Brain,

You suck

Love and kisses, Stella.

"Miss Wood," Professor Wilde's expression darkens even more, "The purpose of this lesson is so that you learn."

Huh, could've fooled me.

"Five points from Gryffindor for laziness. Five points from Gryffindor for making your partner do all the work. And I won't deduct an additional five points if you can tell me the name of the potion Mr. Potter is making."

I stare at her. Dear God, how can I not even know that?

"Uhh...." I mutter.

"Five points from Gryffindor," she sneers, "From now on if I don't see you and Mr. Potter sharing an equal amount of the work, I will fail you."

She swoops away.

"It's a Deflating Draught, in case you were wondering," Al mutters nervously.

I bang my head down on the table.

"You have to help me," I cry desperately at him.

"What?" he looks a little afraid.

"Help me!" I cry with a little more force, shaking his shoulders, "You have to help me learn potions, otherwise we'll both fail."

"But she said she'd only fail you..." Al looks confused.

"But if we work together, I promise I will mess everything up, and you'll fail too!"

"Shit," he mutters, "Fine. I'll help, but you have to do something in return."

"Anything," I say eagerly, "Anything for you supreme ruler of all that is awesome."

Albus pauses to think, but then an idea comes to him.

"Can you talk to Ray for me?"

I bang my head down onto the table for a second time.

"Anything but that."

"Oh come on!" Al implores, "It's not that difficult!"

It actually is that difficult.

Rain, or Ray as she is more commonly known, is Cameron's half sister. Cameron's mum left, and his dad remarried a tree-hugging hippy named Willow. Hence, they had a daughter named Rain.

Now when I first heard her name was Rain, I expected her to go all Luna Lovegood on my arse and start babbling on about nargales and wrackspurts.

But, no. This could not be further from the truth.

She started off by making us call her Ray. And she said that, and I quote, If-you-don't-I-will eat-you-all-alive.

Ray is very similar to Cameron in looks. She's got bottle blonde hair that falls in soft waves and baby blue eyes. The picture of innocence.

Yeah, spawn of satan is more accurate.

The similarities between her and Cameron stop there. Cameron can be a bit thick, but Ray is sharp. She's brilliant, last year she got eight O's in her OWL's, without even lifting a finger.

Ray has never dated, or been interested in anyone in her whole life. It's not like she couldn't get someone. I mean, if she drops her books in the corridor, about six boys are always immediately there to pick them up for her. She's never bothered to flirt with anyone, unlike Cameron, and if anyone flirts with her it's probably for two reasons.

1. They were just hit in the head by a bludger, and have a severe concussion.

2. They have a death wish.

Thankfully Al has never been hit by a bludger, nor does he he have a death wish. So he steers clear of Ray. He just admires her from afar.

And he has the nerve to call me a stalker. At least I can work up the balls to talk to the object of my affection.

Albeit, it's usually received with a Go-away-you-quidditch-hating-bitch look.

Anyway, Al has yet to say a sentence to Ray. He's too bloody scared of her. And for good reason.

Even though she's sort of become our friend, we're all still nervous around her. She's like this constant ticking time bomb that might blow up at any moment.

"How do you honestly think that's going to go?" I ask him exhasperatedly.

"Well, you, Rose and Lexie all know her pretty well," he explains.

LIES.

"You could just slip something in casually about how nice, intelligent and good looking I am."

"You left out modest," I snorted, "And even if I do, it's not like she'll pay you any attention."

"So, what do you think I should do then?" he asks pathetically.

"How about liking someone who won't rip your throat out if you come within a few inches of her?"

"Please," Al whines, "I'll help you with potions. Anything you need to be the best in the class, I'll do it."

Shit, this boy really is a goner.

"Fine," I mutter, already regretting my decision.

 

* *   *

I wake up on Sunday morning at six a.m. I immediately crawl out of bed and absent mindedly start tying my hair back into a tight pony tail, ready for quidditch.

Rose emerges from the bathroom and stares at me.

"What are you doing?" she asks.

"Getting ready for practice, of course," I mutter sleepily.

"Except you quit the team, remember?" she reminds me, her tone sounding worried for my mental state. 

I'm a bit concerned about that too actually.

"Shit," I mutter, falling back into bed, half dressed, "I forgot about that."

The reality hits me. I have no quidditch practice anymore. I can sleep in. Do things in my free time. Hell, I'll actually have free time.

"I'll give James a kiss from you," Rose grins cheekily on her way out.

"You'd better not!" I hiss after her.

I try to go back to sleep, but I can't. I've been waking up at six on a Sunday for so long that there's no way I can go back to sleeping in.

I'm bored, so I get up and start walking around the room, muttering the alphabet song under my breath so as not to wake Lexie or Ray. 

"Now I've sung my ABC, next time won't you sing with me," I whisper the grande finale.

Now what do I do?

Now I have no quidditch to fill up my life, it feels strange and empty.

I could repeat the alphabet song...but that's getting a little repetetive, so instead I make my bed, shower, get dressed. I then start organizing my clothes in my wardrobe. 

After that I finish an overdue Transfiguration essay that was due last Thursday.

I sit on my bed twiddling my thumbs, growing more and more concerned for the state of my sanity now that I have no quidditch.

At around eight Lexie and Ray awaken to find me practicing the macarena. Which is more than a little embarrassing.

"You need quidditch," Lexie says wisely as she comes out of the bathroom a little later.

"No!" I argue, "I don't! I'm doing just fine!"

"You're reading Advanced Potion making for fun," Ray points out skeptically.

"I need to brush up on my potions," I explain, "Wilde is going to fail me otherwise."

"You'll need a hell of a lot more than a book," Lexie points out, "You're terrible at potions. Might as well start looking for a new brain."

Why am I friends with these people?

It can't be good for my self esteem.

"Albus is going to tutor me," I explain, ignoring the new brain comment.

I glance up at Ray. Apparently the mention of Albus's name has no effect on her whatsoever.

But hey, it's worth a shot.

"You know," I continue, making sure to make my voice loud and clear, "Because he's so kind and intelligent and-"

Ray interrupts my speech by marching into the bathroom and slamming the door behind her.

Lexie looks at me, clearly amused by my efforts.

"And if you're trying to make Ray interested in Al, then you should also start looking for a new brain for Ray."

She has a point. I've known Ray for just over five years, and she's still a complete mystery. No one really knows how she works, except Cameron. He seems to be able to read her like a book. It must be that whole sibling, bonded by blood thing.

Lexie pulls a grey jumper over her head, which fits nicely over her skinny jeans. She takes a little eyeshadow on her fingertips and begins to blend it into her eyelid.

"And where are you off to?" I ask her.

"Nowhere," she says, "I'm just doing some tutoring."

"Is that Lexie code for a date?"

She stares at me, "No! Why would you say that?"

"Well, I doubt the first years you're tutoring are the ones who you want to impress."

"I'm not trying to impress anyone," she frowns funnily at me, and leaves the dormitory.

Ray emerges from the bathroom and starts putting on her clothes. They're all very simple: blue jeans and a grey t-shirt. Ray doesn't dress to impress. And yet, somehow, guys still drool over her.

That takes some serious skill.

"So, like I was saying," I make one last desperate attempt, "Albus is tutoring me in potions. He's so kind to help me, don't you think?"

"Ugh, just date him already," Ray sighs, putting a few things in her bag before she leaves.

I stare at her in horror.

"What?" I splutter.

"You like him," she says, as though it's obvious, "so date him. All this 'will he, won't he' stuff drives me insane. Please just save us the drama and date him, if you like him."

Oh, no no no no no no no.

She thinks I like Albus?

Albus? As in Albus Potter? One of my best friends, whose older brother I'm madly in love with?

Oh shit, no. 

"I'm off," Ray says, almost cheerily.

"No wait!" I cry, "I don't like Al! He's just a friend!"

"Yeah, that's what they all say," she sighs grumpily, shutting the dormitory door behind her.

I fall back onto the bed and start beating myself over the head with Advanced Potion Making.

Albus is going to kill me.

 

*        *         *

 

An hour later I'm sitting on my bed. Quidditch practice finished about fifteen minutes ago, so I would normally start doing normal things by now. 

But I still feel hollow, bored and completely useless.

I decide to write a letter to my dad, explaining to him that I've quit.

It might go something like

Dear Dad,

Last week I decided to crush your hopes and dreams, so I quit the quidditch team.

Your loving daughter, 

Stella

Yeah, no.

However, it seems that I can't come up with anything better. I write letter after letter, wasting more and more parchment. Each time I give up, roll the parchment into a tiny ball and launch it towards the bin.

I miss every time. There is now a large pile of rumpled bits of parchment littered around the floor.

"Well, it's a good thing you're not a chaser."

I spin around in shock.

James is standing there, dressed in ordinary clothes, leaning against our doorframe, with a typical self-satisfied smirk on his face.

"What are you doing here?" I try not to squeek.

"You missed practice," James said, coming into the room properly and folding his arms in a authoritative way, "So I assumed that you were either dead, or dying. I see now, that you're neither. So you'd better have a better explanation than 'I thought it would be fun to practice my aim'."

Maybe I should be more concerned for his state of mind, rather than mine. Clearly he has short term memory loss.

"I...quit," I remind him tentatively. Does he even remember that happening?

"I remember that Wood, I'm not thick," he says sharply.

Now I'm even more confused.

"Hence, I didn't show up for practice. Since I'm no longer a part of the team."

"You don't expect me to take you seriously, do you?" he frowns, his eyebrows knitting together in a mixture of confusion and anger.

He looks SO hot.

Seriously, it's a wonder I'm not jumping him right now.

But despite my overpowering feelings of lust I feel anger. A pure, raging rush of anger. And it's directed straight at him.

"Well usually, I quit means...I quit," I explain slowly.

He grows visibly more irritated.

But then something weird happens.

I start enjoying it. Watching him bristle in front of my eyes, watching my words get under his skin, makes me even more pleased than just staring at him adoringly while he goes on a rant.

"Please," he scoffs, "I know you wouldn't quit just like that."

"Well, I did," I snap, "Isn't this what you've been practically begging me to do since I joined? I would have thought you'd be over the moon. But apparently you'd rather waste your time by coming up here and yelling at me."

"It's my duty as captain to make sure all teammates show up for practice," he says.

OK, clearly he isn't getting the message.

"I quit!" I insist again, "Quit usually means you stop doing something! Means I don't have to listen to you, I don't have to go anywhere near the quidditch pitch, and I don't have to go anywhere near you either!"

Fine, the last part saddens me a little, but he doesn't need to know that.

"You didn't quit," he smirks, "Not really. Admit it, the only reason you're up here right now, is because you're bored and you have nothing else to do!"

"For your information," I say angrily, annoyed by the fact that he's got me spot on, "I was writing a letter to my dad, telling him I quit. Maybe I should write you one too, put it in writing?"

I march over to the desk and snatch up some more parchment. I grab my quill and dip it violently into the inkwell.

"Wood," James sighs in boredom.

"Dear dipshit," I interrupt him, saying my words out loud as I scribble them, "I quit. Hasta la vista. Stella Wood."

"Stop it," he mutters angrily.

When I don't stop, he aggressively grabs my fist and tries to wrestle the quill out of it. I hold on to it tightly.

"Give me the quill," he growls.

"No," I snap.

I'm forced to stand back from the desk, and we're now caught in some sort of bizarre tug of war, each clinging onto the quill as though our lives depend on it.

I'm actually surprised at my strength. Usually James vs. Stella would have the same outcome as James vs. Chocolate Chip cookie.

Damn, now I really want a chocolate chip cookie.

But my gargling intestines are besides the point. My quill is about to tear in two. 

"This is pathetic, Wood," James holds on tighter to the feather.

"Really?" I utter with the last of my strength, "Then what do you call coming up to our dormitory to beg me to come back?"

"It wasn't begging," He starts to grimace with the effort.

I don't know where all this superhuman strength is coming from.

You know how they say that sometimes people get inexplicable bursts of energy, when someone they love is in danger? Like when a mum can lift heavy things if their baby is stuck underneath something.

Maybe that's it. Except, what is James in danger of? A quill?

That would look great on an obituary. James Potter. Death by quill.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm enjoying arguing with him so much. I mean these feelings of rage and annoyance could have possibly accumulated to make Stella, the new superhero with superhuman strength.

Yeah, that's probably it. Screw the laws of physics.

"Let. Go. Of. The. Quill," he utters angrily at me, still clinging on for dear life.

He's right. This is pathetic.

"If you do, I'll let you back onto the team."

This statement surprises me so much that I let the quill go for a millisecond.

Unfortunately the laws of physics mean that he goes flying backwards, and the last bit of the quill that remains between my fingertips jerks me violently forwards, and towards the floor.

I land heavily, but the floor isn't stone like I'd thought. Maybe it's charmed to feel softer when you land.

It's warm too...what kind of charm is this?

"Wood, would you be so kind as to get off me?"

Shit, never mind.

I scramble clumsily off him, my fingers still burning with the remembrance that they just touched James Potter's chest. I just touched his chest! A fully clothed chest, but a chest nonetheless!

I could die right now, and I would die content.

OK, maybe that's a little sad. Don't judge. You haven't seen his abs. I swear they were sculpted by the greek gods themselves.

He picks himself up off the floor, and brushes himself off.

"What did you mean, you'll let me back onto the team?" I hiss, "It kind of defeats the purpose of quitting doesn't it?"

"Well, you obviously weren't in your right mind," he says.

"Obviously?" I fold my arms in annoyance, "Face it Potter. I don't want to be on your quidditch team anymore."

He starts smirking in that really irritating way that he does, even though I also think it's drool-worthy. 

Hormones. I swear they're going to ruin my life.

"Fine," he says, making his way out of the dormitory, "But you know you'll come crawling back to me eventually."

"By eventually do you mean when hell freezes over?" I snap.

James lifts his hands to his biceps and pretends to shiver.

"Ooh, hell's getting a little chilly."

I give him a withering look, and he responds with another smirk.

"Well, when you change your mind, I'll be waiting."

Before he shuts the door he says,

"Just admit it, Wood. You miss being on the team."

He shuts the door with a click. 

I throw my copy of Advanced Potion Making across the room. Mostly because I know he's right. 

 











Authors Note: So? Reviews? I like favourite quotes, favourite characters, favourite scenes. I also like rainbows and ice cream, but that's beside the point.

Anyway hope you enjoyed! Next chapter will be up as soon as I can figure out what to do with Stella. She's a bit of a lost cause really, but I'll see what I can do.

I love you all for reading :) byeee!


Chapter 4: The Mark Wood Complaint Association
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A/N: Disclaimer: JKR owns harry potter :)

 

 








 

  Fred Weasley and Cameron Mitchell

This very macho chapter image was made by aphrodite@tda

 








"Your brother's an idiot."

 

Ah, it wouldn't be a typical hogwarts dinner without receiving the usual number of complaints about my brother.

 

It's not like I can do anything about it. People expect me to wave my wand and all of a sudden Mark will turn into a polite, mature, well-mannered 15 year old. It seems a mystery to everyone why he acts like such an imbecile.

 

He's a 15 year old boy. Case closed.

 

Lily, James and Albus's younger sister, plonks herself down beside me at the dinner table.

 

"I'm sorry," I say cheerfully, "The Mark Wood complaint asociation is temporarily unavailable. Please try again soon."

 

"Stella," Lily says warningly, "We need to talk about your brother."

 

"I don't know who you're referring to," I utter casually, "I don't have a brother."

 

Lily raises her eyebrows at me.

 

"You know? Mark? About my height, dark hair? Always smirking? Complete gitface?"

 

I feign remembrance, "Oh, that brother! I still swear he's adopted. I mean, how could something that stupid be related to someone as awesome as me."

 

This comment makes eyebrows raise along the table. Rose snorts into her cereal.

 

I have mean friends.

 

"What did he do now?" I ask Lily in boredom.

 

My brother, charming young fourth year that he is, has a huge crush on Lily. 

 

This doesn't surprise me. Lily's beautiful, with her long red hair, brown eyes, and fiery personality. These qualities are bound to provoke love-struck feelings in teenage boys.

 

Unfortunately my brother lacks the ability to express said feelings. Instead he decides that he's going to make her life miserable.

 

My brother sure knows how to get with the ladies.

 

All the while I've been thinking, Lily's been ranting about what my (cough) adopted (cough) brother did to her. I haven't been listening to a single world, just nodding along.

 

Don't blame me. I'm sick of hearing Mark did this...Mark did that... And it's not just Lily. Teachers seem to think that I'm somehow responsible for him.

 

 

"Miss Wood, your brother-"

 

"I'm sorry. The Mark Wood complaint association is temporarily unavailable. Please try again soon."

 

"Excuse me?"

 

"Oh! Whoops! Sorry, professor McGonagall, thought you were Lily Potter!"

 

"And what would give you that idea?"

 

"Well, you just look so...youthful, professor! Really, I would have thought you were a...fifteen year old girl!"

 

"A what-year-old girl?"

 

"A fifteen-Never mind, that's creepy."

 

"Detention Miss Wood, along with your brother."

 

 

Yeah, me and McGonagall have good times together.

 

"Isn't that such a horrible thing to do to someone?" Lily asks me. 

 

Rose and Lexie both look horrified.

 

"Um...yeah," I say nervously, "My brother's such an arse."

 

"So what do you think I should do about it?" she asks me.

 

Shit. 

 

So Professor McGonagall had a point when she said I should listen up more.

 

"Why me?" I squeak, "Why are you asking me?"

 

"He's your brother!"

 

Oh. Okay, think, think. 

 

THINK, GODAMNIT!

 

"Um, Pumkin Juice?"

 

Why brain? Why?

 

What did I ever do to you?

 

"What?" Lily asks me, staring at me like I'm a lunatic.

 

"Pumkin juice comforts the soul?" I offer, "Everything tastes better with pumkin juice."

 

Lily shakes her head.

 

"I give up, you're too weird."

 

She bites into some toast, but then swallows hard to ask me something else.

 

"Speaking of annoying, idiotic brothers, what did you do to mine?"

 

I frown at her. Rose and Lexie lean in, looking interested.

 

"Which brother are you talking about?" I ask her.

 

"James of course," she says, "Just the other day, I asked him if he was planning on holding new keeper tryouts, now you're no longer on the team. And he said : 'I don't need to hold tryouts because we've already got a keeper.' So I said: 'Oh is Stella back on the team?' and then he said: 'Whatever.' "

 

She stared at me, like I was supposed to have some sort of explanation for his 'bizarre' behavior.

 

"So?" I ask slowly.

 

She sigh exasperatedly, "So what did you do to make him so angry?"

 

"Nothing." I say, "I don't know why he said that."

 

Lily sighs again.

 

"See you later then," she smiles, "Tell your brother that the next time he brings dungbombs to potions class he should be prepared to meet some serious crucio-ing."

 

Merlin, what did my brother do? See, this is what happens when you don't listen.

 

Lily walks away, and immediately Rose and Lexie lean even further forward, looking very serious.

 

"Spill," Rose says, staring me down.

 

I glance at them nervously.

 

"In my defense, he was acting like an escaped mental patient," I stammer, "He just came into our dormitory and started ranting about how I hadn't really quit, and how he knew how badly I wanted to be back on the team."

 

Rose smiles and waggles her eyebrows seductively.

 

I would expect her to be a bit more concerned about the state of her cousin's mental health, which is clearly deteriorating rapidly.

 

"And?" she urges me to go on. 

 

"And we had a tug of war over a quill," I mutter.

 

Lexie raises an eyebrow questioningly.

 

"Well, Al came up with this idea..." I murmured, trying to explain the concept of Al's supposedly 'genius' plan,  "He said that I should start standing up to James. Mabe if I started arguing back, he wouldn't think that every girl is madly in love with him."

 

"Ahem," Lexie points out, "Isn't that a little hypocritical? You are in love with him."

 

"Yes," I admit, "That's what I said. But even so I really enjoyed bruising his ego yesterday."

 

Rose just continues to look happy.

 

"You are so meant to be," she sighs happily.

 

I stare at her. So does Lexie.

 

Rose would normally tell me that's what her idiot cousin deserved. Now she's going all lovey-dovey on us?

 

It must be the magazines. I need to get rid of them as fast as possible. This new Rose is freaking me out too much.

 

"She's hardly doodling Mrs. Stella Potter on her binder," Lexie snorts.

 

Yeah, thank Merlin I haven't sunk that low yet. I mean, I'm in love, I'm not crazy. 

 

No! Really! I'm actually not mad.

 

Don't listen to what Rose tells you. 

 

...

 

Well maybe I am just a little bit.

 

 

*      *       *

 

 

"Oi, Stella!"

 

I turn around in the corridor. Fred approaches me, looking unusually serious.

 

"What's up Freddie?" I ask him worriedly.

 

"I need your help," he says, "Are you on your way to the library?"

 

"Yes," I answer nervously, "Fred, what's going on?"

 

"Not here," Fred mutters.

 

Now I'm beginning to get scared.

 

"It's about James," he murmurs urgently.

 

Oh god, what if he's hurt himself? What if he's dead? What the hell would I do then? I mean, I'd have no one to stare at, no one to yell at, no one to be angry at!

 

"What's wrong with James?" I hiss.

 

Fred takes me shaprly by the wrist and drags me along the corridor.

 

"Right," he says, once we're alone, "I really need your help."

 

"With what?" I ask him frustratedly, "What's going on Fred? What's wrong with James?"

 

He takes a deep breath.

 

"Should I...use a fever fudge potion or a puking pastille potion in Professor Wilde's drink?"

 

I stare at him for a minute. He still looks completely serious. Cleary to him, this isn't a joke.

 

"What?" I whisper incredulously.

 

"We have decided to spike Wilde's drink at dinner tonight," he says slowly, "It's really important that we choose the right thing to spike it with."

 

Dear Merlin.

 

There are no words.

 

"You're serious?" I ask him.

 

"Absolutely," he frowns, "I'm not laughing, am I?"

 

"And what exactly does James have to do with this?"

 

"Well he's in on the prank, of course!"

 

Of course.

 

"The fact that you take your pranks on the teachers as seriously as your NEWT preparation makes me genuinely afraid," I mutter.

 

"Just pick one!" he cries.

 

"Fever fudge," I mutter tiredly.

 

"Thanks Stel, you're the best," he grins, going from anxious to relaxed in the space of two seconds, "So now will you tell me what went down between you and James?"

 

I stare at him, "How do you know about that?" 

 

"I thought the point was that I still know nothing about it. Yet," he says, nudging me, "Did you snog?"

 

I stop in my tracks, gaping at him once again.

 

"What? NO!"

 

Sadly I wish the answer was yes.

 

"That would be...that would be..."

 

Amazing?

 

Mindblowing?

 

"Horrible!"

 

Fred gives me a knowing look, "Don't give me that Stel, I can read you like a book. You like James and you always have."

 

Damn Freddie, always so observant.

 

...When he wants to be.

 

I don't answer, just open and close my mouth in a series of shocked and abashed doubletakes. Freddie doesn't buy it.

 

"Look, despite what my dear sister Roxy will tell you, I'm not thick. I've seen the way you look at dear Jamesie. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that you like him."

 

I sigh, finally giving up the pretence.

 

"And...how does he look at me?" I ask hopefully.

 

Freddie sighs, smiling kindly, and puts a hand on my shoulder.

 

"He hates you Stel, there's no doubt about that."

 

Oh.

 

"Well then why did you assume you snogged?" I retort angrily.

 

"I snog girls I hate all the time," he says, frowning at me as though it's obvious, "And girls who hate me."

 

I raise an eyebrow skeptically, "Why?"

 

"Dunno," he shrugs happily, "It's that whole sexual tension thing. Plus what can I say? I'm a chick magnet."

 

...I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

 

"So you think that James would randomly start snogging me?"

 

Freddie nods eagerly.

 

I honestly fear for the female population of Hogwarts, if this is what they're attracted to. A pig headed man child with the brains of a giant squid and the emotional maturity of a baby flobberworm.

 

Which is apparently mind-blowingly sexy.

 

Well, according to Annalisa Taylor, a bimbo who shares our dormitory, who's also one of Fred's snog buddies.

 

"Freddie, don't you ever wake up and wonder what you're doing with your life? Don't you ever want to settle down?"

 

He frowns at me, "Settle down?" he repeats it as though it's in a foreign language.

 

"You know?" I smile encouragingly, "Find a girl who likes you for you, and all that shit? Don't you ever wake up in the morning and think about the consequences of your actions?"

 

He laughs.

 

"Stel," he puts an arm around me condescendingly, "When I wake up in the morning there's usually someone in bed with me, so no, in answer to your question, I do not think about the consequences of my actions."

 

He chuckles when he sees the revolted look on my face.

 

"You disgust me," I mutter, shaking his arm off me.

 

He laughs again, but then he looks serious.

 

"But seriously Stel, what happened?"

 

I sighed, "We argued over whether I was still on the team or not," I said.

 

Fred looks significantly more depressed, "That's it?"

 

I shrug non chalently, "Yep."

 

"Not even one, tincy, incy little snog?"

 

"For the last time Freddie, no, we did not song," I snap, "Now stop asking me, it's getting weird."

 

"Look," he sighs, "I'm just concerned. You're my friend Stella. I care about you."

 

I gaze up at him fondly, "That was sweet Fred."

 

He takes him arm abruptly off my shoulder, flexes his muscles and grunts a few times in what's supposed to be a manly way.

 

"Whatever," he says, "It was manly, that's what it was."

 

"No really," I chuckle, "You're such a great friend. You always understand me. I can talk to you about anything."

 

"Okay, stop," he says, "I'm manly. Manly men don't talk. We grunt, lift weights and chop down trees."

 

I grin evilly at him.

 

"You can tell me your problems and shit," he mutters, "Just don't start telling me all that personal, emotional baggage you girls carry around."

 

"And you think guys don't have personal emotional baggage?" I raise my eyebrows.

 

"Of course we do," Fred snaps, "We just keep it all bottled up inside like normal people."

 

"Yes that does sound like a healthy lifestyle."

 

"My overall point is that, again, despite what Roxanne will tell you, I am not female. Tell me if you and James snog. Any other feelings, emotional traumas etc. are off limits to a stud muffin like me. Clear?"

 

"Why would you want to know if James and I snogged?" I ask, "That's a little weird, considering he's your cousin."

 

"Well I would need something to blackmail him with."

 

"Ah. I see."

 

He flashes me one last cocky grin before leaving.

 

"See you around Stella," he calls over his shoulder.

 

"See you, stud muffin."

 

"You'd better believe it."

 

"I don't."

 

"Oh, go and read your book in the library, nerd."

 

"Oh, go and shag someone, slut."

 

"Don't mind if I do."

 

Ugh.

 

I hate boys.

 

I storm off huffily into the library and sit down at a table. Something catches my eye however. 

 

It's Lexie, sitting beside someone who's been concealed by a bookshelf. She's laughing, her hair let loose down her back.

 

Lexie never lets her hair down. 

 

I peer around the corner to see who she's sitting with and almost fall off my chair in surprise.

 

It's Cameron.

 

Lexie's got a book open in front of him, one hand on his as she shows him how to perform a charm. 

 

So that's the guy she's tutoring. 

 

I mean the 'Cameron needing tutoring' part makes a fair amount of sense. He's not the brightest crayon in the colouring box. But the way Lexie's blushing makes no sense at all. 

 


*                     *                     *

 

Two hours later Lexie's apparently had enough of laughing like a hyena at Cameron's so called 'jokes'. 

 

They pack up and Cameron lumbers off. Lexie steals an appreciative glance at his arse. Classy.

 

She picks up her bag and makes her way out of the library. I follow her eagerly.

 

"Hey Lex!"

 

She jumps at the sound of my voice and then laughs nervously.

 

"Stella, didn't see you there!"

 

I nod awkwardly and we fall into step beside each other.

 

"Were you in the library?" she asks me touchily, "Just now? Because I didn't see-"

 

"Since when are you all goo-goo eyes for Cameron?" I interrupt her, because I refuse to beat around the bush.

 

She blushes furiously and starts muttering that she doesn't have any idea what I'm talking about.

 

"Is that who you were making yourself all pretty for the other day?" I ask her, "Cameron?"

 

My voice says his name with a mixture of disbelief and disgust. I mean, Cameron? Really? Really?

 

"I mean, geez Lex, of all the guys you could have gone for, Cameron is definitely the worst."

 

"Shh," she hisses at me, as my voice gets louder, "There are people around!"

 

We've reached the portrait hole. Lexie mutters the password and begins to drag me up to our dormitory with a tight, fierce grip on my wrist.

 

Once we're safely in the dormitory she sits me down on the bed.

 

"It's just a little crush," she says, "Nothing serious."

 

"But....but....Cameron?" I repeat desperately, "Why?"

 

"He asked me for help with charms. So I've been tutoring him."

 

"And checking him out while you do it," I add unhelpfully.

 

She glares at me, "I just happen to think he's good looking," she says.

 

I stare at her very seriously, "Lex, you do realise that Cameron flirts with Rose every time he sees her? And he's shagged basically every girl with the brains of a peanut."

 

She nods, "I know he's a pig. But when I'm tutoring him...he's really...sweet, and so funny."

 

Her facial expression changes to a dreamy gaze. I stand up and slap her on the arm.

 

"You do like him!" I shriek

 

She clasps both hands immediately over my mouth as the door opens. Rose is standing there, looking from me to Lexie curiously.

 

"What's going on?" she asks.

 

"Nothing," Lexie eyes me meaningfully. Rose takes that as a reasonable answer.

 

She walks into the room, but when her back is turned Lexie pretends to zip her mouth shut to me. Then she pretends to slit her own throat.

 

I know what that means.

 

It means, if you tell anyone, you die bitch.

 

 

*     *      *

 

 

"So?"

 

I look up to see James. Immediately my heart starts clanging noisily against my ribs.

 

I start smiling dreamily at him, but then I mentally slap myself. I'm supposed to hate him.

 

"So what?" I snap, trying to make my voice convincingly hostile.

 

He sits down in the arm chair next to mine.

 

"Have you realised that you didn't really quit yet?"

 

It's a wonder he can't hear my heart it's beating so loudly.

 

"Hmmm," I pause, "No."

 

"Wood, all this indecisiveness is really pissing me off."

 

I glare at him.

 

"I'm not being indecisive, it's you with the problem! For the last time, I hate quidditch. I quit. Capiche?"

 

He rolls his eyes and smirks at me. The smirk sends a shiver down my spine, but it still manages to send a hot flush of anger over my face.

 

"Look, Wood," he sighs, leaning back in his chair, "If that's really the way you want it, I'll hold tryouts for a new keeper."

 

"Good."

 

He glares at me, "Good!"

 

"Fine."

 

"You'll be sorry."

 

"Okay," I snap, finally losing my temper, "You know what? I have no idea what your problem is! When I'm on the team you tell me I shouldn't be on the team! Now I've done what you've asked, you take to stalking me, begging me to come back. Would you please, please make up your bloody mind, you supercilious git?"

 

"Now now," says Cameron, sitting down beside me, "Let's not use ugly words."

 

"Shut it," I snap angrily at him

 

"Fine Wood," James sighs. The smirk is gone, and now he just looks angry, "I'll hold tryouts. You'll never have to play that horrible, scary sport again. I don't even know why I even bothered to stop you from quitting. You always were a waste of space on that team. I can't deal with having a whining princess who hates the sport no one's forcing her to play. You're off the team for good."

 

"Why?" I ask, managing to spit out the question I've been wanting to ask ever since I met him.

 

"Because you blood hate quidditch!" he says scornfully, "What is the point if you hate it? You ruin the whole morale of the team! You quitting is probably the best thing that has ever happened to us, now I think of it.."

 

"No, I mean, why me?" I snap, finally letting my anger boil over, "Why do you hate me so much? Do you really love your precious quidditch team so much that you always insist on making me feel like crap?"

 

He stares at me for a moment while I sit there, slightly breathless. Wow, I can't believe I just did that. I've finally stood up for myself. 

 

"She has a point," mutters Fred, taking a chair beside Cameron, and pulling out a pack of exploding snap cards, "You do love that quidditch team too much."

 

"Yeah, really mate," adds Cameron, "You need to get out more."

 

I'm waiting for him to fall to his knees and beg my eternal forgiveness, but he seems stunned.

 

I still feel out of breath, and the look on his face makes me wish that I had never opened my mouth.

 

Oh god, he's never going to speak to me again. He'll spend the rest of his life avoiding me. I'll never see those amazing hazel eyes, or watch him run laps again.

 

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

 

Woah, woah, control yourself Stella.

 

God, one minute I'm yelling at him, the next I'm fantasizing about him.

 

I really do have issues.

 

"I like my team Wood," he says, giving me a withering look, "I care about my team. And you're right, we shouldn't have a keeper who doesn't give a crap."

 

"I'm glad you think so," I say scornfully, getting up, "I hope you and your quidditch team are very happy together."

 

"Have a nice life," he shoots me an extremely scathing look, and then starts dealing the exploding snap cards.

 

Unable to come up with any other kind of retort I storm off up to our dormitory, where I find Ray. I enter nervously, because whatever Ray is doing, you never know when she might pop.

 

She's like a ticking time bomb. It's impossible to tell when she might explode in your face.

 

But I might as well use this time as an opportunity to try to explain to her that Albus and I are friends. And that's all.

 

Her head snaps up from the book she's reading, her blue eyes piercing me sharply. Her gaze is so intense that it takes me a moment to focus.

 

"I've been meaning to apologize," she says to me, her voice low and gentle.

 

I'm so surprised at her tone that I can barely string my next sentence together.

 

"F-for what?"

 

"Well, yesterday when you told me you liked Albus-"

 

"Actually, I really need to clear something up," I cut across her, needing to correct her before she keeps going.

 

"Just let me finish," she sighs, "I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. It's none of my business."

 

"But, see, the thing is-"

 

"I hope you two are very happy together," she smiles.

 

Ray never smiles. This moment is so rare and so precious that I almost feel bad for spoiling it.

 

"But you see, Albus and I will never get together."

 

"Why not?" she demands.

 

"Because I don't like-"

 

"Stella," she cut me off yet again, standing up, "It's OK. Don't be embarrassed."

 

"Listen!" I cry, "Albus doesn't like me!"

 

She pauses and frowns at me.

 

"Well that's unfortunate," she says.

 

"But-"

 

"But this is good!" she exclaims, "I mean now, you can get over him."

 

Her efforts to be kind are admirable. I mean, Ray doesn't reveal her girlie side on just any old day. Too bad she's trying to help me get over someone who I HAVE NO INTEREST IN.

 

"No, come on Stella," she says, rolling her blue eyes as she mistakes my pained expression for one of doubt, "You can do it! He's just a guy! You're taking it so seriously!"

 

"I'm not!" I cry indignantly.

 

"Just don't act too desperate," she says.

 

Yeah, I am desperate. Desperate for her to listen to me!

 

"Just talk to Rose," she sighs, moving towards the door, "She's much more experienced than me. Plus I don't really care, to be perfectly honest."

 

Ah, the old Ray is back.

 

"Just listen-"

 

Too late. She's already gone, shutting the dormitory door with a firm bang behind her.

 

Fuck I hate my life.

 

 

 

 








 

A/N: Hope you enjoyed it! Reviews are appreciated :) x


Chapter 5: Rock Bottom
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Disclaimer: JKR owns it all








Albus Potter

 
Yet another very macho chapter image by aphrodite@tda
 







 


"Here you are!" Rose sighs, sitting down and looking flustered.

 

I'm sitting alone at the dinner table, fiddling with my mashed potatoes as I glare at James, who's laughing with some girl further down the table.

 

Rose sits down opposite me, a look of anger on her face. I hardly notice this, however, as the girl throws back her head and lets out a high pitched giggle that sounds like a hyena.

 

I deepen my frown.

 

"Oh, ha ha, James, you're so funny," I mutter angrily.

 

What does he see in her? She's not even that pretty...OK, fine she's totally gorgeous.

 

It's not like I've never seen James with other girls. It's almost unusual to see him without some ditz drooling all over him. I mean, he even has a fan club.

 

Yes, you heard that right, a fan club.

 

A FAN CLUB, I TELL YOU.

 

The head of this little club is a psychopathic Hufflepuff named Leila Vane. When the club was started up it was more of a His-dad-saved-the-entire-wizarding-world-and-ohmygod-he's-so-hot club.

 

Ever since Leila became the leader it has become some sort of religion, where James is god.

 

Fine, I'm being dramatic.

 

But they do stalk him like there's no tomorrow.

 

According to Rose, who was once invited up to their dormitory for a creepy, so-you're-the-cousin-of-the-hottest-guy-in-school interview, Leila's four poster closely resembles some kind of shrine to James. Rose was possibly exaggerating a tad as well.

 

I glance over the Hufflepuff table, where most of the members of the JPFC are staring enviously.

 

What losers.

 

Oh wait...

 

I begin to glare at James again, but Rose says something that almost makes me spit out a mouthful of pumpkin juice.

 

"Scorpius tried to snog me today."

 

I stare at her.

 

"W-what?"

 

"I punched him of course," she reassures me.

 

Oh, thank goodness, I wouldn't have been able to sleep properly if I hadn't known that.

 

"What happened?"

 

"We were in the corridor," she explains to me, "And when no one else was around he asked me if I was dating Samuel Green. So I said that thanks to him, I wasn't. Then he tried to snog me, so I shoved him off and I punched him," she shakes her head, "Wanker."

 

"Hi guys." We both look up to see Albus sitting down beside Rose. As soon as he comes in contact with the bench Rose stands up.

 

"Bye," she says coldly, glaring at Al.

 

"Oh, come on Rosie," he says, "You have to eat!"

 

"My appetite's gone," she snaps before flouncing off. Al sighs.

 

"Scorpius tried to snog her," I explain.

 

"I know," he mutters, "I told him to."

 

My mouth drops open, "Some cousin you are!"

 

"I figured she'd snog him back," Al whines, "I didn't think she'd actually use her common sense!"

 

"Why are you so determined to get them together?" I asked him, helping myself to some lettuce.

 

"Because Scorpius is miserable," he says sadly, "He won't admit it, but he is."

 

"But Rose doesn't like him," I argue.

 

"She does," he replies knowingly, "She just doesn't know that bit yet. But speaking of girls who don't know they love someone yet, have you talked to Ray?"

 

Shit.

 

Shit. Double shit, with fried eggs on top.

 

Sorry, that was weird.

 

I take a deep breath, worried that it might be my last, "I tried, but for some reason beyond my own control, she seems to think that I like you and that I keep asking her advice on how to 'seal the deal' with you."

 

Al stares blankly at me, and seems to be perpetually in shock. His face is very pale as he says in a hushed voice, "Wow. You've fucked this up more than I could have possibly imagined."

 

"I really did try to tell her!" I protest desperately, "But she's impossible to talk to!"

 

"No, she's not!"

 

"Really?" I raise my eyebrow, "When was the last time you spoke to her?"

 

"Er," he pauses, "Aha! In Transfiguration, last week, I asked her what page we were on, and she said page two-hundred-and-three, and I said thank you! So there! Take that!"

 

Oh yeah, the fascinating topic of page numbers is bound to be the basis for a profound and meaningful relationship. Touché, Al, touché.

 

"Fine!" I cry in exhasperation, "Even though it seems to be a bit of a hopeless cause, I'll try again. But you have to make sure I get and Acceptable in Potions, at least."

 

"Deal," he agrees.

 

His expression changes suddenly to one of extreme fear. Ray appears beside me and sits down.

 

"Oh good, are you two finally getting together?" she asks us.

 

Wow, she's impatient. I only told her last week! Well, at least she thinks I told her last week.

 

There's a long silence.

 

Come on Albus, now's your moment! Tell Ray about your feelings, and then you can ride off into the sunset together, I'll get an Acceptable in Potions and everything will be peace, love, kittens and lollipops.

 

But no, Al looks dumbstruck, his mouth opening and closing like a fish. Thank goodness Ray hasn't noticed yet, because she's too busy looking expectantly at me.

 

"Um, actually-," I begin.

 

"Yes," Albus pipes up, looking struck by an idea and finally having regained control of his tongue, "We are getting together."

 

I stare at him. Did he just say what I thought he said? I start laughing nervously, because he's joking right? Right? RIGHT?

 

"That's so funny!" I laugh, "For a minute there I thought you said that we were getting together!"

 

He smiles sweetly at me and takes my hand in his again.

 

"It's OK, Stella," he says, "Ray should know about us, she's your friend!"

 

Now it's my turn to look like I'm dumbstruck.

 

ARE ALL MY FRIENDS CRAZY?

 

Albus has officially gone bonkers. That much is obvious.

 

Ray frowns a little at my horrified expression, but then she shrugs.

 

"Well, I'll leave you two alone. It looks like Fred and that idiot I call 'my brother Cameron' are about to start a bread eating contest."

 

She gets up and walks away.

 

Al looks nervously at me. Yeah, he'd better have a good explanation for this, or else I'll kill him.

 

"Just let me explain," he says, holding up his hands to stop me from throwing something at him.

 

"You'd better," I mutter threateningly.

 

"I've just realised that Ray doesn't even know me yet," he says, "It'd be stupid to try getting her to like me when she's barely aware of my existance."

 

He's only just realised that now? For a smart guy he sure can be thick.

 

"But if I'm dating you she'll have to get to know me! She might even get jealous!"

 

I stare at him, "How in the name of Merlin's spotty pajamas is that ever going to happen?"

 

"Just...trust me!" he insists.

 

"After that I'll never trust you again."

 

"Please do it? As a favour?"

 

"No."

 

"But-"

 

"No."

 

"Please?"

 

"No!"

 

"I'll help you with Potions. I can help you get an Exceeds Expectations!"

 

...That sounds interesting.

 

"Exceeds Expectations?" I repeat.

 

"Yes!" he says eagerly, "Whatever it takes! Plus you never know, James might get jealous."

 

That sounds really interesting.

 

But it's also impossible.

 

"I'm going to regret this," I mutter to myself, "Fine, I'll do it!"

 

"Yes!" he looks relieved, "Thank you so much! I owe you!"

 

"But no kissing," I snap, "Handholding in the corridors is as far as I'll go."

 

He nods fervently, " Yeah, no, absolutely! I wouldn't even consider it! Ew!"

 

Gee thanks. I glare at him darkly, "And what exactly do you mean by that?"

 

Albus's eyes widen in fear and he starts stammering, "I mean, not that you're not-! I mean, it's not like you don't -! I-I just don't feel that way about you! But, don't get me wrong, you're a looker! Which I don't mean in a pervy sense at all, believe me, it's not that I've been looking at you or anything! Not that you're not worth looking at! Any guy would be lucky-"

 

"Stop talking now," I tell him sharply. He falls silent.

 

Moving on...

 

"One last condition," I continue, "You leave Rose and Scorpius alone. Let them fuck this up by themselves."

 

This particular condition makes him go through an internal struggle, but finally he nods.

 

"Deal."

 

"Geez Albus," I mutter, astounded by his willingness, "You'd better make sure that Ray is worth this."

 

He beams happily at me, "She is."

 

Never underestimate the lunacy of a love-struck teenage boy. 

 

Something zooms past my left ear. I turn to look at it and see it's a piece of fever fudge. I look back to see James and Fred watching it fly eagerly, James guiding it with his wand.

 

The fever fudge soars along the Gryffindor table, flying so fast that barely anyone notices. It flies up to the high table. James' timing is perfect. Just as Professor Wilde turns away to ask Professor McGonagall a question, the fudge drops into the glass and immediately dissolves. James and Fred high-five each other.

 

"Did they just spike Wilde's drink?" asks Albus.

 

"They did indeed," I reply grimly.

 

"I'm ashamed to be related to them," he mutters. I glare again as the girl with James laughs happily again.

 

"Ugh," I mutter. Albus follows my gaze towards the girl and winces.

 

"Ouch," he says pityingly.

 

"Who is she anyway?" I ask bitterly, glaring at the girl.

 

"Her?" Albus raises an eyebrow, "That's Eve Collins."

 

"And what's so special about this Eve?" I ask him.

 

"She's fit, duh," he replies. I glare at him.

 

"I mean," he begins to stammer again, "She's like, fake hot, you know? I bet they're not even real! She's probably ugly on the inside!"

 

His attempts to make me feel better are kind, but they only make me feel worse.

 

"I'm sorry," he says sadly, "Isn't that what girls say when there's someone you hate?"

 

I smile at him kindly, before banging my head down on the table in despair.

 

Suddenly Lexie approaches me, looking nervous as she sees my downcast expression.

 

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Stella," she says, "I've only just seen it!"

 

"Seen what?" I ask, frowning.

 

"The notice board!" she says.

 

"What about the notice board?" I ask anxiously.

 

"Oh," she murmurs, now realizing that i have no idea what she's talking about, "There' just something about quidditch tryouts for..." she trails off because I get up abruptly and start marching towards the exit. 

 

There's a large crowd outside, all looking at the notice board. I push and elbow my way through the throng.

 

Right in the middle is a large, eye-catching poster.

 

WANTED: GRYFFINDOR QUIDDITCH KEEPER.

 

TRYOUTS: TONIGHT, 7 p.m

 

Not necessary to have own broom, but necessary to be a decent flyer.

 

No Slytherins. We are not responsible for actions we may take against you if you spy on us.

 

Gryffindor's come one! Come all!

 

James Potter, Gryffindor Quidditch Captain.

 

"You're welcome to come Wood," I turn to see James, smirking triumphantly at me.

 

"I'll pass," I mutter.

 

He raises an eyebrow skeptically, "This is your last opportunity Wood. I'll be giving the spot to someone who actually cares. Someone who won't quit whenever things get a little bit rough."

 

"Goodie for you then," I snap, pushing through the crowd. For once in my life I actualy want to get as far away as possible from him.

 

I'd always thought that if someone else took my spot I would feel relieved. Instead I just feel sad, and even a little bit empty.

 

That's weird.

 

 

 

*    *   *

 

 

 

I sit back down at the dinner table, feeling thoroughly depressed.

 

"Why so down?" I look up to see Cameron, his head tilted to one side as he contemplates my sad expression.

 

"James is holding keeper tryouts," I mutter.

 

"Ah," he says, sitting down beside me.

 

There's an awkward pause.

 

"You are a decent keeper, you know," he says finally.

 

"Thanks," I mutter, "Too bad I can't even get off the ground without feeling like I'm going to hurl."

 

"I feel like that too sometimes," he admits.

 

"When?" I snort disbelievingly.

 

"When I'm going too fast, or I lunge for the quaffle too quickly," he explains.

 

He shrugs quickly, however, and begins helping himself to some sausages.

 

He begins chewing them noisily, barely pausing for breath. 

 

I really don't understand why Lexie is attracted to this.

 

If I were Lexie I wouldn't even bother being attracted to him. Not that Lexie isn't pretty, she's bloody gorgeous. But Cameron flirts with everyone. He even flirts with McGonagall at times, for which he gets at least three detentions a month.

 

I've never seen him flirt with Lexie. I don't think it's ever occurred to him to flirt with Lexie. His usual target is Rose, so when she's around Lexie isn't noticed much. But it might be interesting to find out if Cameron has noticed her at all. It would be interesting to see him in a relationship with a girl who has some substance.

 

"So Cameron," I ask, "What do you think of Lexie?"

 

He frowns at the random question.

 

"Why?"

 

"Just wondering..."

 

"She's my tutor for Charms," he utters through a mouthful of sausage.

 

How attractive.

 

"And what do you think of her?"

 

He shrugs, "Why do you want to know what I think of her?" he repeats the previous question, eyeing me suspiciously.

 

"Do you think she's..."

 

Oh, what's the word...fit? No, too obvious. Pretty? No, too girly.

 

Nice? Too general.

 

"Desirable?"

 

What the fuck? Desirable? Is that word even used in modern day language? 

 

Cameron frowns at me like he's not even sure what desirable means.

 

Again, why Lexie is attracted to this, I do not know.

 

He shrugs again. Well, aren't we being helpful?

 

This plan of action clearly isn't working.

 

There's another long, awkward pause, filled only with the sound of Cameron's knife and fork cutting savagely at the sausage.

 

"It's not a race," I tell him.

 

He looks at me oddly again. Then he continues at the same, unrelenting pace.

 

"I know somebody who likes you!" I cry out before I'm able to stop myself.

 

I almost hit myself in the head with a nearby goblet. Cameron looks up with interest.

 

"Ah, Rose has finally warmed up to me, has she?" he asks, grinning, "Knew she couldn't resist the charm."

 

"It's not Rose," I say, desperate to dethrone his ego.

 

"Who then?" he frowns.

 

"Just...someone I know," I utter, vowing silently not to reveal anything else.

 

He starts grinning again, a broad smirk developing on his face that stretches from ear to ear.

 

"No need to be embarrassed," he grins.

 

"I'm not embarrassed," I say, frowning at him. What is he on about now?

 

"Well, now this I wasn't expecting," he grins again.

 

Has he guessed already? Maybe he's smarter than I'd thought...

 

"I'm not sure how Albus would feel about sharing you though," he says slyly, raising an eyebrow at me.

 

My eyes widen as I finally understand who he means.

 

"Not me, you git!" I cry. 

 

Scratch what I said before. He's still the idiot I know him to be.

 

He continues to smirk, however, "Don't worry, Artois, your secret's safe with me. You're not the only one to have fallen for the charm." He winks.

 

I almost vomit up my dinner in disgust.

 

He pushes his plate away from him all of a sudden and stood up.

 

"You coming?" he asks, "Keeper tryouts in ten minutes."

 

"No," I answer, "And I don't fancy you either."

 

"Keep telling yourself that Artois," he swaggers out of the hall, the picture of arrogance.

 

I open my mouth to yell after him. But what's the use.

 

 

 

*           *            *

 

 

 

After drowning my sorrows in a substantial amount of pumpkin juice I walk out into the entrance hall, and begin to make my way up the staircase.

 

"Stella!" I look up to see my brother, Mark, marching angrily towards me, "You quit the team?"

 

Whoops, forgot to mention that to him.

 

Whatever, he's in Hufflepuff. It's not like it makes any difference to him. It's against their nature to be angry.

 

"Go away, Mark," I mutter tiredly, turning towards the staircase.

 

"Dad's going to be sooo mad," he says, grinning devilishly.

 

Oh, so that's why he's interested. Blackmail.

 

This kid should have been in slytherin. I'm serious.

 

Look at that grin! That's totally I-want-to-kill-you-in-your-sleep material.

 

"What? Are you going to tell on me?" I snap. My words are sarcastic, but secretly I'm praying that the answer isn't 'yes'. 

 

"No!" he exclaims, "What d'you take me for?"

 

I smile at him in relief. There are times when I really hate my little brother, but this is not one of those times.

 

"Thanks Mark," I say. Then I remember Lily's rant, "And stop bothering Lily."

 

He smirks, "Did she tell you to tell me that?"

 

"It's hardly the way to get her to like you," I tease.

 

He frowns, but looks immediately uncomfortable, "Who said anything about getting her to like me?"

 

Before I can tease him any further someone taps me sharply on the shoulder.

 

I turn to see Annalisa Taylor, another girl who shares our dormitory. We pretty much just stay out of each other's way. After all, she doesn't speak pathetic weirdo, and I don't speak irritating ditz.

 

"You're dating Al Potter?" she says. Her voice is cold, and sharp, so her comment is more like a statement than a question.

 

Oh right, yeah. Almost forgot about the fact that I have a fake boyfriend. I'm not sure how many people will actually buy this crap. I mean, Al is gorgeous and popular, plus he's the captain of the Slytherin quidditch team. I don't exactly look as though I fit in next to that.

 

"Er...correct!" I say awkwardly, "Five points to Gryffindor!"

 

She just glares at me. She can't possibly be jealous. Could she?

 

"You traitor!" she cries loudly, making several people turn to stare.

 

"Pardon?" I ask her, eyebrows raised, completely dumbfounded.

 

"First you quit the team," she says, "And now you're dating the captain of the team we're playing next month?"

 

Oh. That sounds pretty bad, when she puts it like that...

 

"How do you know about Al and I?" I ask helplessly, not sure of what else to say.

 

"Oh, everybody knows!" she snaps.

 

How could they possibly know already? We agreed on this just under ten minutes ago!

 

"How could you, you scheming bitch?"

 

I stare at her. Okay, she may be taking this a bit too far.

 

"Merlin, keep your knickers on!" I cry out, "It's only quidditch!"

 

Judging by the shocked look on everyone's faces around me, that was definitely the wrong thing to say.

 

James has apparently overheard our conversation and he approaches us, glaring coldly at me.

 

"You're dating my younger brother now, Wood?" he says stonily.

 

FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!

 

"Er," I pause. Do I tell him the truth and save my arse from possible isolation from the entire Gryffindor house? Or do I choose to be a good friend, and try to get Albus into Ray's good books? "Yes," I reply solemnly. 

 

I hate it when my conscience starts working.

 

James shakes his head, looking thouroughly betrayed, "Haven't you done enough damage to the team?"

 

With that he walks out of the castle, presumably down to the quidditch pitch where he will soon find a replacement for me.

 

The other Gryffindors around us are glaring fiercely at me.

 

Right about now I feel like curling up into a little ball and crying.

 

Okay, this is definitely rock bottom. But that is the one bit of silver lining. From here I can only go up.

 

I turn around, about to make my way up the staircase, when I bump straight into Rose. She looks angrier than I've ever seen her, and I've seen her get very, very angry.

 

"What is the matter with you?" she hisses, "You know that Al and I aren't speaking, and now all of a sudden you just decide to forget about my feelings and bloody date him? And what about James? Are you suddenly, mysteriously over him? Or are you just trying to make him jealous because that would be seriously crappy of you."

 

"Rose-" I begin.

 

"This whole thing is crappy of you!" she cuts across me, "Are you going to spill all our team's secrets now?"

 

"No!" I cry idignantly.

 

"Whatever," she mutters, throwing me a contemptuous look, "I hope you and your new boyfriend are very happy together. At least you'll have him as a friend."

 

I turn away from her, feeling like I might be sick, and crash straight into someone. As I stand back I see that it's Eve Collins, the blonde girl who James was flirting with earlier.

 

"You're Stella right?" she offers me a smile.

 

Bloody hell, she's even more annoyingly pretty up close.

 

"Yes," I murmur, shocked that she even knows who I am.

 

"I-"she lowers her gaze, "I'm sorry ab-"

 

"Oh!" Rose cries out suddenly, pushing herself between us, "You two haven't met yet."

 

Eve lowers her head in even deeper embarrasment.

 

"No," I say slowly, unsure of where this is going.

 

"This is Eve," Rose says cooly to me, "Gryffindor's new keeper."

 







 

 







 

 







 

 







 









 

A/N: I know, I know. I'm not sure if a bigger pile of crap has ever been dumped on one character in so short a time. But do not fear! Things will defeinitely get better :) James is an arse, Stella's an idiot, Al has issues and Rose has possibly the biggest mood swings ever. But it WILL get better i promise.

 

In fact, here's a preview:


 


Eve appears. I scrutinize her face, to see if she's hurt by James' monkey remark. She doesn't seem too bothered, although the slight way she's drooping her head tells me that she thinks it could have gone better.






I would make such a good spy.






James is suddenly walking speedily behind her.






"Eve, wait!" he calls after her. She stops and turns around.






"Oh, hi James," she says cooly.






"Look," he sighs, "I know I was hard on you then."






My mouth drops open in outrage. He never apologized to me! And he called me much worse than a monkey.






"You should know," he continues reluctantly, "Wood is quite a hard act to follow."






My mouth drops open even further, like in a cartoon.






Was that a...compliment?






"She should be keeper then," Eve replies touchily.





 




I concur.








 

See you all next time! x


Chapter 6: Decisions, Decisions
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Disclaimer: JKR owns everything.









Eve Collins
 
A not-so-macho, (but very pretty) chapter image by aphrodite@tda
 








I've recently discovered that I make a lot of bad decisions.

 

When Al asked me to be his girlfriend, what I should have done is say NO WAY IN HELL.

 

But no, I said yes and as a result it seems that everyone in Gryffindor house has conspired to hate me, and overnight I have become about as popular as spattergroit.

 

Seriously, I think that even if I found the cure for cancer, baked each individual Gryffindor student a cake and got on my knees to beg for forgiveness in front of the entire school they'd still act as though I'd personally resurrected Voldemort from the dead.

 

The only person who has any right to be angry is Rose. I mean, her best friend quit the quidditch team just weeks before the opening game and then started dating her cousin, who she's been fighting with since the beginning of the school team. She's also got it into her head that it's some little plot I've concoted to make James jealous, which it is not.

 

Seriously, it's not.

 

But when you look at it that way I look like a rubbish best mate, so I understand why she still refuses to acknowledge my existance.

 

"Rose, please let me explain-"

 

"Is that a new haircut, Lexie? I like it!"

 

"Er, thanks Rose."

 

"Seriously, Rose you don't understand-"

 

"Did you finish your potions essay Ray? I've barely started!"

 

And so on.

 

Yep, saying yes to Albus' ridiculous plan was definitely some shitty decision making on my part.

 

Luckily Ray is still talking to me, meaning that not all hope is lost for Albus at least. When I asked Ray if she shared the others' opinion of me she answered no, because quidditch is just a stupid game, and she didn't know why everyone was making such a fuss.



Finally someone with their head screwed on properly. 



She is the only one who will sit anywhere near me. I could go and sit with Albus at the slytherin table, but I'm afraid this might provoke the gryffindor's to start throwing food.

 

Now that is one bad decision I'm determined to avoid.

 

I seem to be the queen of bad decisions. Really, all the bad decision makers should bow to the power of my idiocy.

 

If you don't believe me I'll give you a few examples.

 

1. I was four when I decided to offer half of my biscuit to my first crush, Tommy. Tommy wasn't too pleased with my offering, so he threw the biscuit back in my face and as a result, out of my deep feelings of hurt and humiliation, I decided to make his cup of orange juice rise up off the table, of it's own accord, and splash it's contents in Tommy's face.

 

I had to change preschools.

 

2. I was nine when I thought it would be funny to eat a whole box of fever fudge in one go. I had to be taken to the emergency word at St. Mungo's. That was a fun night.

 

3. I was eleven when I decided it would be a good idea to make friends with Rose Weasley (see bed decision 4).

 

4. I was twelve when I decided to accept Rose's invitation to spend the summer with Rose's family. As a result I met James, fell madly in love and the rest is history.

 

5. I was sixteen when I decided to permanently quit the quidditch team and let Eve Collins take my spot, losing all means of contact with James.

 

Such is my depressing life.

 

It's Sunday morning. I'm about to make yet another bad decision, but at least I already know that. I have to go down to the pitch, find Rose after practice and force her to hear me out. She has to know the truth, that I'm not quite as shitty as she thinks I am.

 

And alright, I kind of want to see how Eve Collins plays. I bet she's rubbish and James just offered her the place just to get in her pants. Sigh.

 

*          *          *

 

I'm both pleased and disappointed. I'm disappointed because from my secluded spot behind a bush beside the pitch I can see that Eve is actually a very good keeper. But this means that James doesn't want to get into her pants. 

 

Eve doesn't catch every shot, but at least she doesn't look like she might fall off at any moment.

 

James blows his whistle. Cameron throws a last shot from the side, which Eve misses.

 

I could have caught that, I think.

 

James appears to realise this too, because he yells, "A monkey could have caught that!"

 

At least he remains the arsehole that he is even though she's pretty. That's a comforting thought, although apparently I'm on the same scale as a monkey.

 

James blows his whistle again and yells, "Time's up! Good work today team!"

 

Everyone flies down to the ground. I catch sight of Rose, her bright red hair flickering in the breeze, and realise that I don't even have a plan. Walk up to her now in front of everyone? No, she can escape easily on her broom. Plus the whole team would start giving me death stares. I decide to wait until she's the only one left in the changing room. Rose takes so long in the shower that she's always the last one out. I watch as the team make their way to the changing room and I wait.

 

The first to leave is Fred, and not long after him come Roxy and Archer.

 

Eve appears. I scrutinize her face, to see if she's hurt by James' monkey remark. She doesn't seem too bothered, although the slight way she's drooping her head tells me that she thinks it could have gone better.

 

I would make such a good spy.

 

James is suddenly walking speedily behind her, "Eve, wait!" he calls after her. She stops and turns around.

 

"Oh, hi James," she says.

 

"Look," he sighs, "I know I was hard on you then."

 

My mouth drops open in outrage. He never apologized to me! And he called me much worse than a monkey.

 

"You should know," he continues reluctantly, "Wood is quite a hard act to follow."

 

My mouth drops open even further, like in a cartoon.

 

Was that a...compliment?

 

"She should be keeper then," Ever replies touchily.

 

I concur.

 

"She's made her bed," James sighs, "Now she has to lie in it. My point is that you're good. It'll just take some time before the team is used to you, or you're used to us."

 

Together they begin to walk up to the castle and the rest of their conversation is inaudible.

 

I stare in awe after James. He thinks I'm good! He thinks I'm better than Eve!

 

I smile dazedly at the cloudless sky for a few minutes.

 

I should seriously consider this spy business. Imagine how much I could find out about his opinion of me if I did this all the time! And I reckon I'm pretty good at it too.

 

"Artois?"

 

I jump up in shock and see Cameron, who's spotted me behind my bush and in frowning at me in confusion.

 

"Oh, hey Cameron," I laugh nervously, brushing dead leaves off my jeans, "Fancy seeing you here!"

 

"Yeah," he murmurs slowly, "What are you doing behind a bush?"

 

"I was just er..." I pause, thinking desperately for an idea, "Birdwatching."

 

He frowns, "Birdwatching," he repeats, even though it's clear that he's not buying it.

 

"Yes," I confirm.

 

Even Cameron isn't that stupid. A smirk appears on his face, "Really Artois, there's no need to spy on me."

 

Oh, no, wait. Apparently he is.

 

"I mean, I know I'm good looking and all that, but this is taking it a step too far, don't you think?"

 

I stand up to my full height, even though I only reach his shoulder, and glare at him. The time to be amused is well and truly over.

 

"For the last time Cameron," I snap, "I don't fancy you."

 

"Of course you don't," he winks, and continues to grin.

 

"Doesn't the fact that I'm dating Albus give you a clue?"

 

"Well, it is possible that Potter junior isn't satisfying your...needs."

 

I shudder at his suggestive tone, "Just forget I ever mentioned it."

 

"Well then, Artois, riddle me this," he sighs, completely ignoring my last request, "If you don't like me, then who does?"

 

"I can't say," I mutter, "It's a secret."

 

"Then why would you tell me?" he whines.

 

"I don't know," I cry, "Can't we just forget it?"

 

He wags a finger at me. "No can do," he says, "Out with it."

 

"No," I mutter stubbornly, and I try to move past him.

 

He blocks my way. "Come on Artois," he murmurs, and by the sound of his purr I can tell he's going to try and find out via seduction, "You know you want to tell me."

 

As he leans in his smell becomes intoxicating as he moves in closer. I keep my eyes fixated on the ground, determined not to give in.

 

"This isn't going to work," I tell him, but even then my voice sounds a little shaky.

 

"Yes it is," he chuckles.

 

I muster up all my strength and push him away forcefully. I breathe in the cold air and my brain clears. Yes! I have conquered the seduction technique! Cameron looks a little surprised. 

 

"I'll never tell you," I laugh triumphantly, "Lexie would kill me!"

 

My smile freezes on my face. Cameron's eyes wide in genuine shock.

 

"What?" he gasps incredulously.

 

Oh god.

 

Lexie is going to kill me. This is how I'm going to die. I always thought I would die of embarrassment.

 

Now it turns out I'm going to die because of my big mouth.

 

It's funny how life turns out, isn't it?

 

"What did you say?" he asks more forcefully.

 

"Nothing," I squeak, avoiding his eye, praying that he didn't hear me.

 

"Lexie?" he asks.

 

So he did hear me. Fantastic.

 

"Lexie likes me?" he repeats, still sounding shocked, "What? How? When?"

 

He asks each question with increasing force, and he's so shocked that he's almost rooted to the spot, unable to move.

 

I start laughing nervously, "Lexie? No! Merlin, no! It's just a friend of hers! A friend who told her in confidence!"

 

"Lexie likes me," he repeats, not listening to a word of my excuse.

 

I sigh sadly, "Yes, okay. But you can't say anything to her!"

 

"What?" his eyes widen, "I can't be around her now!"

 

I frown at him, finding a brief moment to feel a bit confused, "Cameron, you're around girls who fancy you all the time."

 

He looks awkward and uncomfortable, shrugging to himself and not meeting my eye as he mumbles with increasing incoherance, "Yeah, but this is Lexie. She's...clever. Different."

 

"Cameron if you say anything I will kill you," I growl warningly, but I have to reluctantly add, "Before Lexie kills me."

 

He seems to struggle with conflicting emotions, before he finally gives in, "Fine!"

 

"Thank you!" I breathe a sigh of relief, "Now, gotta go! See you later!"

 

"But-" 

 

"Ta ta!" I cry, pushing past him before he can change his mind.

 

I run away, making speedily for the changing rooms. Everyone else has gone, so now Rose will be alone. I burst into the girls changing rooms. Rose is fully dressed in her school uniform, and is busy tying her hair up into a pony tail when she notices me.

 

"This changing room is for team members only," she says scathingly, "You're not a team member, last time I checked."

 

I can't help but glare at her then, suddenly feeling furious.

 

"You know what, Rose?" I snap, feeling anger burst out of me, "Just shut up!"

 

For a moment she looks surprised, and she stares at me.

 

"I've been trying to tell you, explain to you, but all you've done is assume the worst! I mean, how long have we been best mates?"

 

She picks up her bag, slings it over her shoulder, "I don't have to stick around for this," she mutters, trying to move past me.

 

I firmly block her way, "How long have we been best mates, Rose?"

 

She looks at the laces on her shoes and slowly mutters, "Five years."

 

"Exactly," I snap, "Now after all that time, I'm hurt that you just assume that I would start dating Al, out of the blue. I mean, you didn't even think to ask why! You just assumed that I was trying to hurt you! And after all the time we've been friends you would think that, that makes you the shitty friend! Not me! Did you even wonder, for one second, why I'm dating Al when I've told you over and over again how I feel about James? Did you?"

 

I'm ranting, as though I'm on a constant angry high. Rose isn't looking at me as I continue to babble at her.She's studying her cuticles, looking guilty.
 


I feel as though this is an appropriate moment to storm out, so I sigh huffily and dramatically fling the changing room door open. I march outside. Only to bump straight into James himself.

 

I stumble back a few paces. James stares at me.

 

My breath catches in my throat as I remember the last words I said to Rose, or rather yelled at the top of my lungs, and I wonder just how much he heard.

 

Rose comes out. James looks from her to me.

 

"What's going on?" he asks, his tone full of suspicion.

 

"Nothing," I mutter.

 

"I heard yelling," he adds.

 

"It was nothing," I say more forcefully, pushing past him, and I start marching up to the castle, desperate to get away from both of them.

 

"Stella!"

 

I freeze. It's not Rose's voice. It's James'. He called me Stella.

 

I turn around and I can't help but gape at him. James really is full of surprises this morning.

 

Even he seems surprised by his outburst and coughs once to clear his throat, "Wood, I don't want to see you on the quidditch pitch during our practice again."

 

I glare furiously back at him, seeing him back to his usual self, "Who are you? My teacher? My dad? Stop bloody telling me what to do!"

 

I'm on such an angry roll today.

 

James is visibly ruffled, "Who knows why you're here Wood? You could be spying for the slytherins."

 

"Right," I snap at him, "Because that's obviously what I would do! You know what, Potter? Why don't you go and find your brother and ask him why exactly I'm dating him? Maybe that'll convince you that I'm not completely evil! Because clearly the fact that I was on your quidditch team for four years, and put up with your crap for four years isn't enough!"

 

James opens his mouth to argue back, but Rose puts an hand on his arm to stop him. There's a long awkward pause in which James and I glare angrily at one another, and Rose gazes anxiously up at me. 



Unable to stand it any longer, I turn on my heel and march away.

 

*                                  *                                   *

 

"I'm sorry," Al mutters, "I didn't know it would cause this much trouble. It was a terrible idea."

 

I sigh and lean my head against a bookshelf. We're in a secluded corner of the library. It's the only place we could find where I wouldn't get death glares.

 

"No, it wasn't," I lie, "At least Ray is still talking to me. Have you had the chance to talk to her yet?"

 

"It's been barely a week," he murmurs apologetically.

 

"Oh god," I moan, "You're one of those guys, aren't you?"

 

"What guys?" he frowns.

 

"You've got like a five year plan or something," I mutter, "Year One, stalk her. Year Two, say two words to her. Year Three, have a conversation with her. Year Four, have another conversation with her-"

 

"Okay, Stella, I get it," he says touchily, "You're angry."

 

I can tell that he's a little hurt so I lower my eyes, "Sorry. That was mean."

 

"It was," he sighs, "But I deserve it. I mean, I'm the idiot who can't even get up the courage to say one word to a pretty girl, and has to drag his friend into his shit just for one ridiculous plan that probably won't even work."

 

"Well," I smile, "Ray's not just a pretty girl. In fourth year, when Jason Davies tried to feel her up she personally made sure that he spent two weeks in the hospital wing. And she did it with her bare hands."

 

Al winces at the mental image, "I'm screwed, aren't I?" he smirks.

 

"Definitely," I chuckle, "But don't worry, if it makes you feel any better, I'm just as screwed in the love department."

 

"How is operation Argue-Back-With-James-So-He-Becomes-Less-Of-A-Prick going?"

 

I sigh, "Not that well. I mean, I enjoy yelling at him. Problem is that it doesn't seem to be making much of a difference."

 

Al nods, "It will, in the long run."

 

"How do you know?" I mutter.

 

"Because I just know," he says, tapping the side of his nose mischeviously.

 

I roll my eyes, before I remember what I heard earlier today, "He did pay me a compliment this morning!"

 

Al looks surprised, "Really? What did he say to you?"

 

"Well, he didn't say it to me," I admit, "I overheard him tell Eve Collins that I was a tough act to follow."

 

Al raises his eyebrows, looking impressed, "Wow. This might be working."

 

"But," I interrupt, "He then accused me of spying on them about five minutes later."

 

Al shakes me suddenly, "Stella!" he hisses, "Do you know how much of his pride that cost him just to admit that you're good? Trust me, you're having some kind of effect on him."

 

He's just trying to be nice, to give me some kind of false hope.

 

"Sure," I mutter sarcastically. 

 

He grins, before thankfully changing the subject, "So, what do you want to do? I reckon we should just 'break up'. It'll get them to cool off."

 

I shake my head, "Nah. They'll just laugh at me, say I got what I was coming to me or something. It wouldn't help anything."

 

"I can talk to Rose for you," he says, "I can tell her the truth."

 

I nod more eagerly, "Please do. In the meantime though, we can stay as a couple."

 

"Ah, can't resist can you?" he grins cheekily.

 

I elbow him, "No, I just want you as a trophy boyfriend. It looks good to have someone as good looking as you with me."

 

"You're using me!" He puts his hand over his heart mockingly.

 

"Yep," I grin, taking my hand in his and dragging him out into the main part of the library, where everyone is sitting.

 

"You sure about this?" he mutters to me.

 

Something about the envious glances I'm getting (as well as the death glares) makes me feel powerful.

 

"Yes," I put a happy grin on my face, and walk proudly down the library aisle, Albus firmly in hand. 

 

We're almost at the door, when someone steps in front of us. I almost expect to get bitchslapped, my feelings of invincibility evaporating in a second.

 

"Um, Stella, would you mind if I talk to you for a minute?"

 

I focus on the person in front of me, and almost do a double take as I see that it's Eve Collins.

 

She doesn't look angry, her wide, cornflower blue eyes almost anxious.

 

My hand instinctively slips out of Al's.

 

"Um, I'll see you around then?" he asks me. I nod.

 

As soon as Al's gone Eve smiles nervously at me.

 

"Er..." I pause awkwardly, "What's up?"

 

"I know that you probably don't like me very much," she says softly, her voice sweet and melodious.

 

"No!" I object, "Of course not!"

 

OK, that's kind of a lie. But I can hardly tell her that!

 

"I replaced you as keeper," she raises an eyebrow, "I don't imagine you exactly want to give me a hug."

 

"Well, no, not exactly," I admit, "But I hardly know you well enough to not like you."

 

I privately want to say that I know you fancy James, and that's enough to make me want to rip your head off.

 

"Well, I know this is a long shot," she murmurs, "But I really need your help."

 

I stare at her. Eve Collins needs my help? What next, pigs flying? McGonagall smiling? Professor Binn's stripping in History of Magic?

 

AH! HORRIBLE MENTAL IMAGE ALERT!


"My eyes!" I mutter to myself suddenly, shivering all over at the thought of Professor Binns accompanied by a pole.

 

Eve frowns, "What?" 



"My-my help?" I stammer dumfoundedly, forcing the picture out of my mind, "You wand my help?"

 

"Yes," she confirms, "Thing is, I've played quidditch before, and I like it, but I don't think I'm quite good enough yet."

 

"Yes you are!" I retort.

 

She frowns bemusedly, "How do you know?"

 

Shit, no. She can't know I was spying. Then she'll just think I'm weird. And I'm not. Even though I was actually spying.

 

"Er..." I pause, "I mean...I imagine you are."

 


"Well anyway," she goes on, buying my excuse, "I was wondering if you could possibly help me, maybe give me a few tips, or a few sessions of practice."

 

Hang on, she wants me to teach her how to be a good keeper? Seriously? Me? I almost laugh out loud at the mere idea of someone asking me for lessons in a sport that terrifies me to the bottom of my very soul.

 

I'm staring so obviously at her that she waves the idea away, "Never mind. It's a stupid idea. That's probably the last thing you want to do."

 

"I'll do it."

 

What the hell? Where did that come from? I swear it wasn't me who said that! What I meant to say was 'no, sorry'. My lips are acting independently of my brain! Mutiny!

 

Eve's face breaks into a dazzling smile, "Really? Thank you so much! We could do it this Saturday? Or is that too soon?"

 

It takes a few moments before I swallow and nod, "Saturday is fine."

 

So now we know why I make bad decisions. When it comes to making the decision I have some sort of funny chemical imbalance where I'm compelled to answer stupidly. That must be it.

 

*                   *                    *

 

Later that evening I lie flat on my back, on the dormitory floor, staring at the ceiling.

 

So now I'm coaching Eve, so that she gets better at the sport I hate. My best friend has avoided me all day. I haven't even seen James since I yelled at him, yet again. I let slip to Cameron that Lexie fancies him, so I have about a week to live until Lexie kills me with her bare hands. Fred still isn't speaking to me and my only true friends in the world are my fake slytherin boyfriend, and the girl who my fake slytherin boyfriend is secretly in love with.

 

I wonder if I could use that curtain rope to hang myself with.

 

Someone suddenly runs into the dormitory, and without seeing me, they trip over my stomach which sends them flying.

 

I sit up immediately and I see that it's Rose, lying half on top of me. 

 

Great. Now she can add 'gave me broken ribs' to her 'Reasons to hate Stella list'.

 

She picks herself up and brushes her hair out of her face. Her brown eyes pierce mine, but I immediately notice that it's not in an angry way.

 

"I've been looking for you everywhere," she says softly.

 

I stand up to face her. She looks almost...sorry.

 

Suddenly she bursts into a flood of tears and throws her arms violently around me. At first I think she wants to strangle me and I resist, wriggling away from her grasp. But she just holds onto my middle tightly, like she's hugging me.

 

"I'm s-so s-s-sorry S-stella," she gasps through her tears, "Y-you w-were right! I-I've b-been s-such a-a t-t-terrible friend!"

 

Relief floods through me. She's apologizing to me

 

I detach myself from her and I look at her, seeing tears running down her face.

 

"I'm the one who's sorry," I say, "I shouldn't have yelled at you this morning."

 

"Al told me everything," Rose said, taking deep, shaky breaths "How you're dating him to help him out with Ray. And how one of the conditions was that he leaves Scorpius and I alone. You're such a wonderful friend, whereas I'm just crap."

 

I hug her then, "You're far from crap Rose," I laugh, "I should have told you about Al. I just...didn't think."

 

"It's fine!" she cries, "Really! I can't believe I've been such a cow to you!"

 

"No, I was the cow!"

 

"No, I was!"

 

I sigh.

 

"We're so not arguing about who's been a bigger cow."

 

Rose giggles. It's the first time she's smiled in ages and she wipes away her tears.

 

"Even though I don't really understand how Al's plan is going to work," she admits, "I think it's such a nice thing that you're doing. I mean, everyone hates you now!"

 

Gee, thanks for reminding me.

 

"But hopefully it'll be worth it," she continues, "Hopefully it'll work."

 

There's a long silence, because we both know that Al's plan, seducing a terrifyingly tough girl while he's 'dating' her friend, has a one in a million chance of succeeding.

 

"But...be honest," she says, "Are you also trying to make James jealous?"

 

"No!" I cry, but my outburst is too quick and Rose raises an eyebrow.

 

"I don't know," I admit.

 

Rose sighs, "Are you sure you really like him Stel?"

 

"Yes," I say immediately.

 

"No," she says, "I mean, really like him. I get that he's a good-looking bloke, and you've always had a crush on him, but do you actually have genuine feelings for him? I saw the way you were yelling at him this morning. There's definitely something else there."

 

"Like sexual tension?" I ask hopefully.

 

"No, more like absolute loathing."

 

Still, I was close.

 

"So are you sure you really like him?" she asks me pitifully.

 

I stare at her for a moment.

 

"I'm pathetic, aren't I?" I moan, sinking onto the bed. 

 

Rose shakes her head.

 

"No!" she simpers sweetly, sitting down.

 

What that really meant was yes, but I love you anyway. 

 

I put my head in my hands, "I just...don't understand him," I moan, "I don't understand why he hates me so much."

 

Rose pauses, and for a moment I can see something funny in her expression. Like she's struggling with her own thoughts.

 

"What?" I ask.

 

She shakes her head again and the moment's over, "Nothing."

 

She sighs and puts an arm around me, "If it helps Eve is a rubbish keeper."

 

I raise my eyebrows, "No she's not."

 

"Fine," Rose mutters, "But you're better."

 

I lean my head on her shoulder.

 

"Thanks Rose. And you've made up with Al then?"

 

She nods, "Yeah. He was just trying to help, even if he did it the wrong way."

 

She puts her arms comfortingly around me.

 

And for the first time in several days I feel like everything might actually turn OK.




 







 







A/N:  See? Things are looking up for Stella, even though she remains an absolute lunatic :)


 

My work is piling up, so it might be a while till the next chapter, but I'm getting there.


 

Until then, let me know what you thought, and here's a preview:




This is madness.


MADNESS.


Really, I should turn around, right now, go back up to the castle, and tell Eve that I'm not coaching her.


To do so would be like me willingly eating brussel sprouts, for no personal gain whatsoever.


FYI - I hate brussel sprouts.


But at least it's a nice day.


See? I can be optimistic in times of crisis. My life isn't all shit.


No, I mean, Rose is now talking to me again. Fred is still talking to me. Cameron still walks around looking like he's gone into cardiac arrest, ever since he found out that Lexie likes him.


Honestly, at the rate he's going, I'll be dead by Christmas. Lexie's bound to find out sooner or later.


No, I must think happy thoughts. 


Raindrops on Roses, and whiskers on kittens…


No! Not those kinds of happy thoughts! 


And who thinks happy thoughts about brown paper packages tied up with string?


Just putting that out there…







 

See you next time! 





 


Chapter 7: Silver Linings
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Disclaimer: It all belongs to JKR.

 








Lexie Clarke

This beautiful Chapter image was made by haley jade @ tda
 







This is madness.


MADNESS.


Really, I should turn around, right now, go back up to the castle, and tell Eve that I'm not coaching her.


To do so would be like me willingly eating brussel sprouts, for no personal gain whatsoever.


FYI - I hate brussel sprouts.


But at least it's a nice day.


See? I can be optimistic in times of crisis. My life isn't all shit.


No, I mean, Rose is now talking to me again. I got an Exceeds Expectation on my Potions essay. Although, Cameron still walks around looking like he's gone into cardiac arrest, ever since he found out that Lexie likes him.


Honestly, at the rate he's going, I'll be dead by Christmas. Lexie's bound to find out sooner or later.


No, I must think happy thoughts. 


Raindrops on Roses, and whiskers on kittens…


No! Not those kinds of happy thoughts! 


And who thinks happy thoughts about brown paper packages tied up with string?


Just putting that out there…


Let's see…happy thoughts…happy thoughts.


Aha! Ray has finally spoken directly to Albus!


He did look like he might have a stroke, but I've told him baby steps is key.


It's been over a week and James hasn't yelled or glared at me once!


I think that's a reason to celebrate, honestly.


Even the Gryffindor house seems to have cooled off, ever since Rose has begun to talk to me.


Most of them still give me the cold shoulder, but no one's yelled any insults my way so far.


Overall, today is a good day.


And I'm ruining it by coaching the girl who took my spot on the quidditch team.


Not that I care, I mean, I'm bloody thankful to be shot of it. 


Still she took my spot, and by the laws of physics that means that I must immediately dislike her with a passion.


"Hello!" comes a sing-song voice from behind me.


I swivel around. Eve is approaching me, her long, honey blonde hair blowing gracefully in the wind. Her face is cheerful and smiling.


Ugh, I wish it wasn't so difficult to dislike her.


"Hi!" I exclaim back, just as cheerily.


Her happiness is infectious. Don't judge.


We're standing at the edge of the pitch, which is completely empty. At least no one will be here to witness my failure.


See? There's a silver lining for everything.


There's an awkward pause. Eve looks at me expectantly.


Oh right. I'm supposed to be teaching her.


"So," I pause, "Shall we warm up?"


She nods eagerly and kicks off.


I reluctantly swing my leg over the broom and shoot off into the sky.


It's been over three weeks since I've even touched a broom so it takes a while for me to regain my balance and I feel that familiar feeling of nausea mixed with terror rising in me.


Out of the corner of my eye I see Eve looking at me doubtfully. I don't blame her. If my teacher were wobbling about on her broom like me, I'd be worried too.


However, as soon as I approach her in mid air she's smiling reassuringly again.


"It's been a while since…" I trail off hopelessly.


She smiles again, "It's OK! I get it."


Damn, I really wish this girl wasn't so hard to hate.


Why isn't she a blonde ditz? Why can't I make fun of her? This is exceedingly irritating.


"So," I say uneasily, wobbling about on my broom, "Shall we…"


I have to trail off as the first wave of nausea sweeps over me. I haven't realized how high up we are.


"Warm up?" Eve finishes for me.


"Yeah, that," I gasp.


"Are you feeling OK?" she asks, "Shall we do this another time?"


Yeah, how about never?


"No!" I cry out immediately, "Really, I'm fine."


She doesn't look convinced, but she nods anyway.


I shake myself. Don't think about how high up you are, Stella. Don't think about how easily you could slip off your broom. Don't think about how easily you could plummet to your death. 


Happy thoughts, Stella. Happy thoughts.


There is a silver lining in this…somewhere.


"I'll go and get the quaffle," she offers, speeding quickly towards the ground.


While she's gone I take a moment to get a grip.


I can do this. I can bloody do this.


When she comes back, quaffle in hand, I feel more confident.


"Okay," I say decisively, "Let's start with a few passes."


She nods and immediately throws the quaffle in my direction. I reluctantly lift my hands off the broom handle and catch it.


I throw it back, and feel another lurch in my stomach. But I shake myself again. Stella Wood is no coward. She can handle a bloody quaffle.


Eve catches it, but only just, flinching slightly as it comes in contact with her fingers.


She throws it back and relaxes, but as soon as I throw it back she becomes instantly tense, and she almost drops it.


After a few passes I immediately notice what her problem is. 


She's scared of the ball.


I almost laugh because it sounds ridiculous. A keeper who's scared of the quaffle? Really?


But then again, so does a keeper who's scared of flying, so I decide not to give her any grief. 


"Why did you try out as keeper?" I ask her, throwing it gently towards her.


She catches it.


"I love quidditch," she says, "I would take any spot on the team that was open."


Yeah, my spot, I think bitterly.


"Why do you like it?" I asked, as I catch it and throw it back.


She catches it more easily this time, because she's focused on something else.


"I love the speed," she says, "The pumping adrenaline that runs through you."


It's called nausea. Get it right.


I nod, "Do you have any brothers and sisters?"


"Two," she answers, "But they're both muggles. I'm muggle born."


"Really?" I ask, with interest, "And do your parents like you playing quidditch?"


"They think it's dangerous," she admits, "They don't like that I'm on the team now."


Neither will my parents.


"And you don't think it's dangerous?" I ask.


She shakes her head, "Nothing worth having came without risk."


I catch the ball and pause, those words ringing in my head.


I feel like I'm going to be sick, wave upon wave of nausea running over me. I shudder, but I push the feeling away.


"Okay," I say, feeling as if I might pass out from terror if I have to catch another ball, "I'm going to throw this ball really, really hard at your face, and you have to catch it."


I immediately see the flash of fear that passes across her face.


"O-OK," she stammers nervously.


"Don't be scared of the ball," I tell her.


She opens her mouth to tell me she's not, but I raise an eyebrow and she hangs her head in embarrassment.


"It's so stupid," she mutters, "I'm a keeper, and I'm scared of the ball."


"It's not stupid," I tell her, "And all you need to do is relax."


"But I can't!" she cries.


"Really?" I ask, "Have you even thought about how scary the ball is while we've been talking?"


She pauses, and a broad grin spreads across her face.


"No," she answers breathlessly, "I didn't think about it at all actually!"


"Okay," I grin back at her, "So when I throw this ball I want you to think about someone. It can be anyone. Think about something. Happy thoughts in general will do."


She nods. I lean back and launch the ball hard towards her head. I pretend that her head is James'.


It helps. A lot.


The ball rushes, hard and fast towards Eve. She remains completely still, before she throws herself towards it and grabs it in her outstretched hands. I feel nauseous all over again.


Eve sits back happily on her broom, looking very proud of herself.


"Wow," she mutters, "You throw really hard."


I must have a lot of pent up anger towards James.


Rose's words flash across my brain.


I saw the way you were yelling at him this morning. There's definitely something else there.


"WOOD! WHAT IN THE NAME OF MERLIN ARE YOU DOING ON MY PITCH?"


Ah, speak of the devil.


We look down immediately to see James, who is looking up at me furiously.


"We were just practicing, James! Stella's helping me for our first match," Eve calls out in my defense.


"I don't care if she's training you for the quidditch world cup, I told her not to come onto my pitch!"


I want to yell out a retort, but the feeling that I'm going to be sick is too strong. I fly down to the ground, unable to spend another second in the air.


Eve follows, yelling after me, "No! Stella! Wait!"


I get off the broom and clutching my stomach I stumble across the pitch.


James frowns at me.


"What's wrong with you Wood?" he asks.


Eve comes racing after me, "Stella was just helping me to get better at keeping!" she cries indignantly.


"Yeah, so she could spy on us and get our tactics," James hisses, "Why would you agree to that?"


If I wasn't about to be doubled over, I would punch him in the face.


"I asked her," Eve snaps, "She's doing it as a favour to me."


There's a tense silence.


James looks at me, looking embarrassed.


"Is that true?" he asks.


I look at him once in the eye.


Then I feel a lurch in my stomach and I'm sick.


All over his shoes.


. . .


Okay, it's becoming really hard to think of happy thoughts right now.

 

*                 *                 *

 

"This is ridiculous," I mutter as James leads me into the hospital wing.


"Don't be an idiot, for once," he snaps, "I'm not just going to let you go off when you're clearly sick."


I pause. Does he actually care whether I live or die then?


"I wouldn't just let my keeper be sick, and not let her see Madame…" he trails off.


I glare at him. 


"I'm not your keeper, remember?" I hiss, "You've got no right-"


"There are still traces of vomit on my shoes, Wood," he reminds me, "I'd recommend you stay quiet."


That shuts me up. To be honest I'm not sure if I've ever felt more humiliated.


James sits me down on a bed and lets go of my elbow. Shame.


"Wait here," he commands, "I'm going to find Madame Pomfrey."


He comes back a minute later, a concerned looking Madame Pomfrey in tow.


"She threw up," he explains.


"I see," Madame Pomfrey says, "How much have you had to eat?"


Oh, Madame Pomfrey, you don't want to know.


This morning there were muffins for breakfast. Let's just say I got very excited.


"A regular amount," I lie, "I mean, I had breakfast."


"And why did you start feeling nauseous?"


Because I'm the most unfortunate person on the planet.


"Because I was playing quidditch."


"I see," Madame Pomfrey murmurs, writing something down on a clipboard, "And do you usually suffer from motion sickness?"


"Yes," I mutter reluctantly, "When I'm on a broom."


"Well, perhaps it's a good thing that you're no longer on the team, Miss Wood," she says kindly, but I still want to hit her for saying that. Potter must be having a field day.


"I'm just going to get you a potion that will take away that faint feeling," she says.


As soon as she leaves, I turn to James, "Look, I'm fine now. You can g-"


"I didn't realize it was this bad," he cuts me off.


"What are talking about?" I ask irritatedly, "I'm fine now."


"No," he continues, "I mean, I didn't realize that…that every time you fly you feel like throwing up."


I lower my head in shame, preparing for another wave of verbal abuse.


"You…you should have said something," he mutters, sitting down on the bed beside me.


My breath catches in my throat. Partly because he's inches away from me, but also because what he's saying could actually be deemed a decent thing to say.


I open my mouth, unsure of what I'm going to say, but Eve bursts into the hospital wing before I can say anything.


"Are you alright?" she asks me, thrusting a glass of water towards me, "I got this for you."


"Thanks," I reply, lifting the glass to my lips. It immediately makes my head stop spinning, but my stomach just feels empty, "I'm fine."


"I'm so sorry," she gushes, "If I'd have known you were this unwell I would never-"


"It's OK, Eve," I murmur, "I'm fine."


Or I would be fine if James would stop sitting so close to me. It's not good for my respiratory skills. I seem to have stopped breathing.


Thankfully he gets up as Madame Pomfrey comes towards us.


She hands me a potion. "Drink up," she smiles.


I drink willingly, and immediately the faint feeling of an empty stomach disappears. Warmth spreads over my whole body. I can feel blood rushing to my face again.


"I want you to rest here for an hour or so, then you can leave," Madame Pomfrey says, then she leaves.


"Well, I'd better go and tell Albus," James sighs, turning for the door.


"Why?" I ask him without thinking.


He frowns at me, "He'll want to know if his girlfriend is in the hospital wing."


Oh. Fuck. I keep forgetting about that.


James leaves and there is a tense pause.


"So," Eve sighs, "Are you feeling any better?"


"Yes," I answer.


"I think he was completely out of line back there," Eve says, "I mean, who made him king of the quidditch pitch?"


I silently agreed, yet felt compelled to defend him, "He as good as apologized."


"Maybe you should be giving me lessons on how to deal with James Potter as a captain, rather than lessons on how to catch the ball," she chuckles.


Ha. Ha. Ha.


It's like the fates are laughing at me.


The hospital wing door bursts open and in walks Fred, looking his usual, happy self.


"Stella!" he cries, "Heard you were having trouble keeping your breakfast down!"


I groan and fall back onto my pillow.


"Oh, Stella!" he puts a hand on his heart, "I'm hurt! Don't you want to see me?"


"No!" I moan into my pillow.


"Well in the meantime I think I'll just make myself comfortable," Fred grins, putting his feet up on the end of my bed.


"She's been really sick!" Eve cries out, "Show some compassion!"


Fred raises an eyebrow, but his deliriously happy smile remains plastered on his face.


"I will when you will, gorgeous," he winks.


She looks extremely offended.


"That doesn't even make sense," I groan under my breath. Neither of them acknowledge me.


"Who do you think you are?" Eve utters angrily, facing him and glaring him down.


Fred seems unfazed by her aggression towards him. Of course he's not. It's Fred. He lives in a world of happy thoughts and silver linings. 


"I'll be whoever you need me to be, love," his grin broadens.


Eve lets out a sigh of frustration and looks at me as though I have an explanation for Fred's revolting optimism.


"His spirit can't be broken," I shrug, "He's programmed to be cheerful about everything."


"Doesn't that get annoying?" she whispers to me.


"You have no idea," I groan, falling back onto my pillow.


"Hey, you could have a worst guest," Fred shrugs, "You could have Cam-"


As if on queue, Cameron comes bursting in, bright red in the face and looking panicked.


"Artois! I can't do it anymore! I won't do it anymore! I won't just sit around and pretend as though I don't know about Lexie!"


I grab the other pillow and attempt to smother myself with it, but Eve wrestles it off me.


"Ooh!" Fred exclaims keenly, always desperate to be in on a secret, "What about Lexie?"


"Don't any of you care that Stella's been very ill?" Eve cries at both of them.


Her defending me feels nice enough, but at this moment in time it's unhelpful. At this moment in time the last thing I want is more attention. Not while I'm in muddy quidditch robes and my face is green. 


Cameron looks at Eve briefly. But he ignores her and looks back to me pleadingly.


"I've been holding this in for too long," he whines, "I have to say something!"


"You've known for two days, you spineless moron," I retort impatiently.


"Known what? Known what?" Fred asks eagerly, bouncing up and down on his seat like an excited puppy.


"None of your business," I snap.


Cameron ignores us, "Please Artois!"


"NO!" I cry.


"What about Lexie?" Fred implores, "I won't tell, I swear!"


"Leave her be! She needs to relax!" Eve cries.


"Come on Artois, I can't take this anymore!"


"Can't take what anymore?"


"I'm going to get Madame Pomfrey!"


"What about Lexie? Just tell me Stella, please?"


"I can't pretend anymore!"


"SHUT IT!" I roar.


Silence falls immediately over them.


Fred and Cameron exchange nervous glances.


"So you won't tell me, even just a little bit?" Fred whines.


I throw my pillow at him.


"Okay, Okay!" Fred raises his hands in surrender, "I'll just go and ask Lexie what's going on."


"NO!" I exclaim loudly.


"Then tell me."


"No, Fred you're being annoying."


"For once I agree," Cameron adds.


"Fine," Fred sighs, "I guess I'll just go then."


"Ok," I say cheerfully, waving him goodbye.


"I'll just let you two talk about a secret that you don't trust me with."


"Great, thanks," Cameron says.


"Even though I'm your friend. And I've always told you my secrets."


"Yep," I agree.


"I even told you about-"


"Goodbye Freddie," I wave him goodbye again.


He hangs his head, "Fine."


He sulks out, looking thoroughly betrayed. I lean back on my pillow, thankful that I may have finally broken Fred's spirit.


"So anyway," Cameron continues, "I can't hold it in anymore."


"Why not?" I ask exasperatedly. 


"Because," he whines.


"Cameron," I utter in a low tone, as I spot Eve coming back with Madame Pomfrey, "If you don't grow some balls and pretend like you know nothing, I will make sure that every girl on school grounds knows about your…problem."


Cameron looks confused, "What problem?"


I furrow my eyebrows and whisper back, "I haven't thought of one yet. But when I do, trust me it'll be monstrous."


He looks terrified at this prospect, and almost runs out of the hospital wing.


As Eve and Madame Pomfrey approach I put a broad smile on my face, hoping she'll let me go early.


"Why are you smiling like that?" Madame Pomfrey asks, "Are you feeling delirious? Maybe I should keep you overnight!"


"No!" I cry, dropping the smile immediately, "Seriously, no, thanks, I'm good."


She narrows her eyes in suspicion before handing me another tonic, "Take a sip of this every fifteen minutes or so."


I take it from her. Eve sits down beside me as Madame Pomfrey leaves.


"So thank goodness those idiots have left," she chuckles.


Yeah, thank goodness. Thank goodness that I'm stuck here in the hospital wing, forced to talk to a girl THAT I'M SUPPOSED TO HATE.


"Maybe we won't play quidditch for a while," she says comfortingly.


"Ok," I mutter.


She suddenly narrowed her eyebrows at me, "How long have you fancied James?"


I swear to Merlin, I'm a good person. I'm fake dating my friend so that he can meet the girl of his dreams. I didn't tell my parents about the one time I caught my brother smoking cigarettes. I don't deserve this!


I open my mouth. Then I close it. Then I open it again.


"A while," I finally admit.


She flicks that beautiful, blonde hair out of her face and smiles at me, "I don't mean to pry. It is obvious though."


"Great," I mutter.


Mother Earth please swallow me. Right now would be great.


She stretches out a hand and touches mine comfortingly. It only makes me want to hurl some more.


"Trust me, I've been there," she sighs, "Hot older bloke crush."


"He's not that much older," I retort, "Only by nine months! And I don't just fancy him because he's fit."


I had to say that, because I don't want Eve to think I'm shallow. She leans back and folds her arms, frowning quizzically, "Oh so you fancy him because of his other redeeming qualities? Such as…"


She drifts off and leaves the space open for me to fill.


I roll my eyes, "Well off the top of my head…"


I can't answer! Wow, maybe James really is that much of an arse. 


"Face it, you don't like him very much," Eve sighs, "It's not a crime to think James is fit, and still abhor his personality."


"No, I'm pretty sure it just makes me shallow," I moan, dumping my head back onto my pillow.


"Nah," Eve smiles, "It just makes you human."


My heart suddenly drops like a stone, "You won't tell him, right?"


Eve throws back her head and laughs, "What d'you take me for? Of course I won't!"


I breathe a sigh of relief, but Eve stops laughing and suddenly looks serious, "As long as you won't tell about…you know, how I'm scared of the quaffle."


I nod, "I won't."


She nods back and there's a kind of silent agreement that forms between us.


Bloody hell I actually like this girl. She's sweet and caring, and did I mention nice? Merlin she is making this really hard for me!


"I don't know why James is so mean to you," she pauses to look at me, "You clearly don't deserve it. I mean, you're so nice!"


I manage to flash a small smile at her to show my appreciation, but all I can think is that I don't know why either.

 

*              *               *

 

After an hour of sitting in the hospital wing Madame Pomfrey finally lets me go free.


I walk down the corridor towards Charms when Albus catches up with me.


"Heard you had a little accident," he chuckles.


I reply with a quick shove into his arm.


"Ooh, touchy," he laughs, "But people are starting to stare."


I glance about us and I notice that several people are pointing and staring. Oh right. I'm supposed to be dating Albus, not hitting him.


I awkwardly lace my hand with his and we continue along the corridor.


"So what actually happened?" Albus asks me.


"I was coaching Eve, and I got nauseous," I answer.


"Wait?" Albus splutters, "Eve? As in Eve Collins? The girl who replaced you?"


"Shut up," I mutter, "I know. It was a stupid idea."


"Actually I was thinking it was kind of genius," Albus says.


I frown at him, "What do you mean?"


"I mean, you can find out all kinds of stuff about her!" he answers, "And then you can use it against her!"


"For what purpose?"


"To get back onto the team!" he exclaims.


"I'm fine not being on the team," I scoff, "It honestly doesn't matter to me."


Albus raised an eyebrow, "Please. I'm no fool. The fact that you even attempted to coach her shows that you miss quidditch more than you want to admit."


"You see right through my transparent soul," I snort, "Come on Albus, don't be ridiculous."


"You're telling me that if you had the chance to go back you wouldn't take it?" he asks me, eyebrows raised as though he doesn't believe me at all.


"If you had the chance to go back to what?" came a voice from behind us. 


I recognize the voice immediately. Albus withdraws his hand from mine and we both turn around to face James. The first thing that strikes me was that his typical smirk isn't in place. In fact, he shows no sign of arrogance on his face at all. 


"I'll see you in charms," Albus murmurs to me, leaving us alone. 


What? No! Why is he leaving me here alone with him? TREACHERY!!


I look helplessly after him as he goes into the Charms class, and eventually have to turn back to James, who still has that unnerving look on his face.


He avoids my eye.


"What do you want Potter?" I sigh.


He clears his throat once before forcing himself to look at me. I have never seen him so uncollected. 


"Albus told me everything, Wood," he answers.


"Everything?" I ask.


My heart stopped. Surely Albus would never tell him the full truth?


"How you're dating him to help him with Rain Mitchell," he elaborates.


I let out a sigh of relief, "And he didn't tell you anything else?"


"No," he frowns, "Why?"


"Never mind," I mutter.


"Anyway, I guess I owe you an apology."


I instinctively reach up to the skin on my arm and pinch it. It hurts. A lot.


So I'm not dreaming. Am I hallucinating? Because there is no way that James Potter is acknowledging that he's actually done something wrong in the real world.


I'm in too much shock to make any sort of comment so he continues, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have judged you. I guess what you're doing for him is nice."


I nod awkwardly. 


"Is that it?" I ask.


"Yes," he replies, "I'm sorry."


It's forced, too forced. He shrugs his shoulders and looks instantly more relaxed, like he's done what he'd come to do and now that he has he's bored. 


Oh, to be young and in love with an arsehole.


Even though I can tell that he's genuinely sorry, it just doesn't feel like it's enough. After four years of both hating him and loving him with such intensity, this doesn't feel like a decent climax. 


I still want to scream at him. I want to scream about how much I love him, how long I've loved him for, and why hasn't he bloody done anything about that? I just can't help being in love with him. Rose had said only the other day that maybe it wasn't love, maybe it was just a crush.


But the way that this apology hurts, the way it didn't make anything better, it only made me feel sick to my stomach, I could tell that this was proper, heart-breaking, completely unrequited love. And I still hated him for that. The apology didn't change a thing.


"I'm sorry," he repeats. I can tell that his words are genuine. There is real regret in his voice, it sounds hoarse and dry.


I can feel tears pricking in my eyes and I immediately lift my hand to brush them away. I can't even look at him in the eye, so I stare at his shoes.


He's completely frozen. The silence that passes seems to go on forever.


"Go to hell," I utter, before turning my back on him and opening the door to Charms.


I feel almost triumphant, as though the spell has been broken and tomorrow I'll wake up miraculously not in love with him. And yet, at the same time, I know that this hasn't changed a thing, and I'll be as hopeless as I've always been.


I'm still looking for the silver lining.

 

 







A/N: REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW!! 


Chapter 8: Hogsmede
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Disclaimer: It all belongs to JKR










Here we have the unlikely couple Albus Potter and Ray Mitchell
 
another gorgeous chapter image by haley jade @tda
 








"Where's your boyfriend? Did he dump you yet?"


Ah, now this is how I like to start my Saturday mornings. No lie in. No extra helpings of muffins. No fantasizing about James' abs. A couple of nasty, taunting Gryffindors is all I need.


I glance along the table and spot Rose sitting a little further down. She beckons to me frantically, clearly eager to tell me something.


I ignore the kid who threw the insult, but unsurprisingly that doesn't help anything.


The whole pack of them laugh, and somehow the noise gets into my head more quickly than I had imagined, "He probably dumped her as soon as he got his glasses fixed and saw her properly."


"Why would Albus want someone like her?"


"And why did she quit? I heard it was because she's too scared to fly."


"Nah, she just wanted to give all our secrets to the other team. Slytherin-loving bitch."


"I heard she threw up last week!"


"How weak? Seriously, what does Albus see in her?"


"What did James ever see in her?"


"Quitter."


The words echo around my head so fast that something makes me turn around and glare fiercely at them. My hands are shaking uncontrollably.


"Shut it!" I yell, "You sickening little creeps. You-You are horrible, mean jerks!"


Personally I think I sound rather terrifying. People around me look intimidated. But the girl who's clearly the leader of the group isn't so bothered.


She picks up the soft boiled egg that sits in her egg cup and she lobs it firmly in the air towards my head.

I feel the soft thud, and then the warm yolk spreading all over my hair.


The whole pack of them burst into raucous laughter again as the egg shell falls at my feet.


I just stand there as the yellow liquid trails down my face, feeling like I might actually burst into tears.


Rose is at my side immediately. She puts a protective arm around my shoulders and gives one of her famous death stares towards the girl who did it. She looks immediately subdued, and the laughter subsides quickly.


Rose leans over towards them and hisses, "If I so much as see you breathe any where near her again, I'll make sure you feel serious pain. Got that assholes?"


None of them nod, they just look terrified. See? Why can't I be terrifying like that? I think it's the red hair. It just makes Rose look…more fiery. 


She links her arm with mine and says loudly, "They're just jealous."


With that she marches us firmly out of the great hall, keeping her nose in the air.


Once we're out of everyone's sight she immediately lets go and begins fussing over me.


"Are you okay? Did it get in your eyes?"


"No, really I'm fine," I murmur, "My hair's a bit gooey, though. And I'm sure I won't smell too great for a while."


She immediately raises her wand and flicks it at my head. I feel the stickiness evaporate off my face.


"We need Albus to hurry up with his plan of wooing Ray," she tells me.


"Agreed," I  nod decisively.


"That's what I was about to tell you, before those jerks egged you. I've been thinking of ways we could force them to talk."


And with that she grinned slyly at me.

 

*              *           *

 

"Won't that be weird?" Albus looks extremely doubtful. 


"No." 


"You're suggesting that you, me, Rose and Ray all spend the day in Hogsmede…together."


"That is correct."


"And Ray will be the only one who doesn't know that our relationship is fake?"


"Correct again."


"And we're supposed to act like a couple, while I try to make conversation with her?"


"Five points to Gryffindor." 


"That'll be weird!" He moans.


"Stop questioning my authority!" I snap.


"Sorry! But I'm getting there, really. I don't need you and Rose to intervene or anything."


"Albus, there are still remains of egg yolk in my hair. Just do what I ask, and I won't be forced to hit you."


He nods vigorously, looking slightly guilty, "Aye aye captain."


We're standing outside the girl's dormitory. The Hogsmede visit starts in an hour and Rose's plan is fully formulated and ready to be put into practice. This, right here, is stage one. That's right. No broom cupboards required.


Both Rose and I agreed that Ray and broom cupboards are not a good mix. Ray goes into a fury if anyone tells her what sort of cereal she should have for breakfast. If anyone tried to lock her up with a bloke she would most likely explode. And that wouldn't be good for anyone's sanity, so we've decided against it. 


We're going for a more relaxed version of that. Ray has to choose to spend time with Albus, not be forced into it.


Albus looks sickeningly nervous.


As though on queue, Ray appears behind him on the stairs, "Oh, hello," she says, edging past Albus and through the open dormitory door.


"Hey," I grin at her, "You want to meet us in Hogsmede today, outside Honeydukes?"


She narrows her eyes, looking extremely unwilling, "I don't want to be the third wheel."


"Rose is coming too," I add.


Please Merlin, if you want to be kind to me, just this once, make Ray reject all of her normal instincts and just come with us. PLEASE?


Ray shrugs, "I suppose. I didn't have any other plans anyway."


"Great!" I grin at her. Thank you Merlin.


She nods once at me, before glancing at Albus.


"Hi Albus," she says.


"H-h-hey R-ray," is his eloquent reply.


She doesn't seem to mind, however, and she goes back into the dormitory.


"Smooth," I hiss, "And yes, you definitely need to speed things up."


He sighs, looking defeated, "Okay, meet you outside Honeydukes in an hour?"


"Yep," I answer, "Oh, and wear something nice."


He nods before making his way down the staircase. Rose immediately pokes her head out of the dormitory, "Did it work?"


"Yes," I grin.


She waggles her eyebrows, and rubs her palms together evilly, "Excellent."


"Are you sure we shouldn't tell him that we're not going to show up?" I bite my lip guiltily.


She waves me away, "Please, did you hear how nervous he was just at the idea of us being there? He'll be too scared to come out of his dormitory if we tell him he's going at this alone."


"Who's going at what alone?" Ray calls from inside.


"Nothing!" Rose and I call back in unison.


Once Ray is out of earshot, Rose grins, "We're geniuses."


We go inside, where Ray is busy pulling on an old t-shirt on.


"You sure you don't want to…dress up a little more?" Rose prompts her encouragingly.


Ray looks at her sharply, "And why would I do that?"


"Because...it's Hogsmede," Rose answers feebly. The stare that Ray replies with is so piercing that Rose looks away and mutters, "Never mind."


Lexie comes out of the bathroom. She's dressed in her usual school uniform, with no make up, and her hair tied back tightly in a pony tail. She's followed all the rules of anonymity.  


"You coming to Hogsmede?" I ask tentatively.


"No," she answers quietly, "I'm tutoring Cameron."


She passes me on her way out.


"What's with you?" I whisper.


She glances back at Rose and then beckons for me to come outside with her.


Once we've shut the dormitory door behind us Lexie sighs, "He's been acting really weird."


"Who, Cameron?"


"Who else?" she says, "I don't know, it's like he's all twitchy and on edge all of a sudden."


I shudder. For Merlin's sake Cameron, can you not keep your bloody feelings to yourself?


"I think he might have caught on," she hisses, "Maybe I came on too strong." She clasps her hand to her forehead, "I feel so stupid."


I clap her on the shoulder feebly, "You're not stupid."


"No, I am," she sighs, "I fell for a guy who would never, ever like me. He's probably off flirting with some girl, thinking about how he has to go and meet his weird tutor, who clearly has a stupid, girly, pathetic crush on him."


She looks close to tears, but before I can begin to comfort her she turns on her heal and dashes down the staircase at top speed, clearly wanting to be alone.


I'm not sure if I've ever felt more guilty than I do right now.


"What was that about?" Rose's face peers out into the stairwell.


I shrug, but the lump in my throat is more prominent than ever, "Nothing."


"Well, come on then!" she hisses, "I've just convinced Ray to wear earrings!"


I sigh. This just goes to show that meddling in your friend's love lives hardly ever ends up the way we want it to.


Hopefully Ray and Albus will be the exception.

 

*        *       *

 

"This just seems really mean," I whisper.


"Nonsense," Rose snaps, "He'll be fine."


We're crouching behind a few dustbins that stand around the corner from Honeydukes. Rose has out a pair of Omnioculars that are glued to her eyes, so that she can watch Albus' varied expressions of worry, confusion and doubt in extreme detail.


"We should really just go over there," I say pleadingly, "He looks like he's about to leave."


"Not likely," Rose mutters, still staring into the omnioculars.


"And how can you be so sure?" I snort.


"Because Ray is already here," she says.


I glance behind Albus, and sure enough there's Ray, blonde hair blowing in the wind, wrapped in a thick, intentionally unflattering overcoat.


I grab the omnioculars from Rose, and fix them to my eyes.


Even with Ray's typical moody expression so firmly in place, Albus' face so obviously lights up at the sight of her that I have to pause what I have just watched, so that I can rewind and watch it again.


"Watch," I shove the omnioculars back to Rose, "Look at the way he's looking at her."


Rose watches for a moment, before sighing, "That poor boy is a goner."


She picks up her half of the new Wizard Wheezes extendable ear, one that no longer has a long cord, but can pick up sounds from long distances.. The other end is attached to Albus' jacket.


She lifts the ear so that we can hear what they're saying.


"Oh," comes Ray's voice, sounding very resistant, "Hi Albus."


"H-hi Ray," Albus says, before letting out a drawn out squeak, because apparently all words have failed him, "heeeeeeh."


Rose rolls her eyes, "Bloody hell, can't Albus pack it in and just act normally for once?"


"Where are Rose and Stella?" Ray asks. I'm pleased to hear the ever-so-slightly warm tone in her voice.


She must be warming up to Albus. I hope.


Albus looks around desperately, seeing if he can spot us anywhere. He looks back at Ray despondently, "I don't know."


Ray's eyebrows narrow suspiciously, "Strange."


There is a lingering silence, one that becomes almost unbearable.


"Should we...wait for them?" Albus asks hesitantly.


But Ray, being the decisive person she is, shook her head, "No, let's go to the Three Broomsticks. I'm not waiting in the cold for them to show up. They can find us there."


She turns down the street, hands stuffed into her coat resolutely. Albus stares stupidly after her for a moment, hardly able to believe his luck. He has just been invited to go to the Three Broomsticks with Rain Mitchell, most intimidating, and most gorgeous girl in the entire school.


"Well, are you coming?" she asks sharply.


"Yes," he answers, a little too quickly, before taking off after her.


Rose shoots me a gleeful look, "You may now bow down to me."


I snort, "Oh wise one, let me honour your wisdom that shall forever surpass my own."


"Please, Stella, don't make a scene."


I check around the corner. Ray and Albus are making their way down the street towards the pub.

 

"So what do we do now?"


"We follow them!" Rose gives me a look that tells me how obvious it should be.


She pulls a shimmery cloak out of a small backpack.


"Under here," she grins, "I stole it from James' trunk."


I duck underneath, and everything immediately becomes cramped.


"Great plan, Rose," I mutter.


"Well we can hardly just walk into the Three Broomsticks unseen," she says, "To give them time alone we have to remain invisible."


"We could just leave them be and not spy on them," I suggest as we shuffle out of the alleyway and onto the main street. 


Rose scoffs, "Clearly you've had no lessons in scheming."


"Well, it's not my fault that James and Fred, the best schemers at Hogwarts, aren't my cousins."


And thank merlin for that. But as I mentioned James it felt like I had received a blow to the stomach. Because there he is.


"Speak of the devil," Rose mutters.


James has come out of Honeydukes, his arm around a girl. The girl is tall, pretty with long legs and a nice smile and I immediately hate her.


James hasn't spoken to me in days. Ever since I told him where he could go, after he profusely apologized for being an arse, he hasn't bothered to make any sort of contact whatsoever with me. In fact I'm sure he's deliberately avoiding me. It really is quite heartbreaking.


"Wonder what this one's name is," Rose says, eyeing the girl with disdain.


"I honestly couldn't care less," I lie cooly.


"What happened with you two?" Rose asks curiously, "One minute you're at each other's throats, and the next you don't give a rat's arse. Is there something I don't know about?"


"No," I answer immediately, "I've decided that I'm done with your cousin. It was a waste of time pining after him anyway."


Rose looks surprised, "That may be the only sensible thing you've ever said."


"Aw, Rose, you're making me blush."


Rose sniggers, "Well, whatever her name is, he won't remember it next week, so I suppose there's no point in introducing ourselves."


"I suppose not," I mutter grudgingly, because it hasn't yet slipped my mind that I'm completely in love with him.


"Here we are," Rose whispers excitedly, and I look up. The Three Broomsticks' door is wide open, welcoming in students with a warm breeze that smells faintly of butter beer. "Ten galleons says they're already madly in love and snogging."


I raise an eyebrow, "That would make Albus the worst boyfriend in the world. And give Ray some credit. Ten galleons says they're both sitting there awkwardly, with no idea of what to say."


"You're on."


We go inside, narrowly dodging the students coming out, who start complaining that someone just stood on their foot.


"Honestly, Stella," Rose mutters.


"Sorry," I hiss, "It's very cramped under here."


Inside the pub it's also extremely cramped, what with it being lunch time on the Hogsmede day trip.


"Prepare to lose ten galleons, Wood," Rose says, scanning the pub for a bottle blonde head next to a jet black one.


I spot them. "Yes!" I hissed, a little too loudly, "Their heads are too far away for snogging."


Rose looks in the direction I'm pointing, looking sulky because now she owes me ten galleons.


But it turns out we're both wrong. Ray and Albus aren't snogging, but they're not sitting in awkward silence either.


They're talking. And not in the strange, tense way that Ray usually does. Ray is smiling. Smiling


And now she's laughing. And so is Albus. In fact he looks completely relaxed. 


How can this have happened so quickly? We can't have been that far behind! It looks as though we've forwarded our lives five years, when Ray and Albus will actually talk to one another properly.


"Did Ray just laugh at something my cousin said?" Rose stares, before snatching up the extendable ear and pressing it to the side of her skull.


"What are they saying?" I whisper, glancing back.


"They're talking about…Professor Trelawny," she says, frowning as she listens in closer. She chuckles at something Albus has just said, and mutters, "So true. What an old fraud."


Albus replies to something Ray says animatedly, and grins. Madame Rosmerta sweeps past us with two butter beers and puts them on their table. Albus thanks her, and pays her a few sickles.


"You realize what this is, right?" Rose whispers.


"What?"


"It's a date."


"Well, not really."


"Albus just paid for her drink, they're sitting alone at a table, talking about something that's really funny. Sounds like a date to me."


"Great," I muttered, "So half the school is here to see my boyfriend on a date with another girl."


Rose laughs, "Yeah, I'd be pretty embarrassed if I were you."


To respond I give her a quick shove and she bumps into a girl, who reels back, looking surprised.


Rose glares at me and we back away quickly from the girl, who is looking wildly around for evidence of who crashed into her.


The girl spins around and whines, "Scorpius, someone just crashed into me!"


And then Rose and I notice the blonde hair, the swagger, the always controlled expression of smooth confidence belonging to Scorpius Malfoy, as he steps into view behind her.


"Harriet, don't worry, it was probably just a gust of wind from the door."


Harriet pouts and folds her arms, "I know what I felt Scorpius. Someone pushed me."


"Let's get you a butter beer," he grins, putting an arm around her and swinging her out of sight.


I breathe a sigh of relief, "Sorry, that was close."


But Rose doesn't say a word. She's too busy staring at Scorpius and his date as they move through the crowded pub.


"That's her," she whispers shakily.


"That's who?" I ask, frowning. I only recognize Harriet as a Ravenclaw in our year. But Rose has a thunderous expression on her face.


"That's the girl I found him with, you know after he declared his undying love for me."


I stare, "Surely he wouldn't date her!"


"Well, apparently he would," she growls.


There's a long, tense while Rose seethes at my side. If it weren't for the fact that we're stuck under an invisibility cloak, and therefore unable to reveal ourselves, I would be running as far away from her as possible. Just because of a little something called 'Rose Weasley's mood swings'. And about ninety percent of them have been caused by Scorpius Malfoy. 


"Just leave it Rose," I mutter.


"I will not! He can't just take out the bimbo he practically cheated on me with!"


"Technically…"


"No! Not technically!" she hisses, "Technically he told me he loved me, and then he snogged Harriet."


"After you told him to go and die in a hole," I add, always the impartial third party.


"It doesn't matter, you don't go and snog someone when you're supposed to be in love with someone else!"


I pause, frowning quizzically at her, "Are you jealous?"


"Of course I am!" she snaps, "How dare he date that slag? After he had the nerve to stop me from talking to Samuel Green!"


"I'm sure he's just doing it to get over you," I murmur comfortingly, "She's probably means nothing to him."


But Rose isn't comforted, "Does it look like that to you?"


And before I can stop her, she swoops out from underneath the cloak and into the middle of the pub.


The people at the nearest table are staring at her, at the girl who has just materialized out of thin air. 


"What are you looking at?" Rose hisses, before marching off to the other end, thankfully away from Ray and Albus' table.


Should I be keeping the cloak on at this point? I'm assuming that, since Rose has gone off to have a tirade, our top secret mission has been aborted. I should probably continue spying on Albus and Ray, who we've been ignoring ever since Rose crashed into Harriet.


But somehow I really want to see what Rose is about to do. So I follow her through the pub.


Scorpius and Harriet have found a table in a far off corner, and are just getting cosy when Scorpius gets up and starts walking towards the bathroom. Rose marches after him.


I scoff quietly to myself. Honestly, what's her brilliant plan? Corner Scorpius in the men's room? Attack as soon as he reemerged? Either way, Scorpius has no idea what he's in for. 


Rose is quickly getting further and further away from me. I speed up, almost completely tripping over a chair. The chair scrapes across the floor, but thankfully no one seems to notice the disturbance.


By now Scorpius has reached the deserted hallway that leads to the toilets. Rose finally catches up with him. I edge in closer so that I can hear.


"Malfoy," she hisses, tapping him on the shoulder.


Scorpius turns and sees Rose. He doesn't look smug at the sight of her livid expression, but he doesn't look very scared either.


"Weasley," he replies cooly.


"And just who do you think you are, buying that slag drinks?" she snaps.


"Free country," he says.


"You're the one who said I can't date Samuel Green. You're the one who tried to kiss me two weeks ago. Is this your way at getting back at me?"


"Yes," is his only reply.


Rose is speechless for a moment, after having suspected that he would deny any sort of ulterior motive.


"So, you're just doing this to make me jealous?" she narrows her eyes, clearly trying to get a reaction out of him.


"No. You don't want me, I get it now. I thought you'd like it if I tried to move on," he says calmly. I'm struck by the change in him.


Rose glares suspiciously, "Sure, moving on with the girl you cheated on me with."


He looks almost bored, "I didn't cheat on you. How can I have cheated on you if we have never dated?"


"You said you loved me," she hisses, "You said."


"Loved you," he puts a lot of emphasis on the past tense, "I don't get you, Weasley. I thought this was what you wanted. I thought you wanted me to leave you alone."


Rose opens her mouth to reply, before I get the shock of my life as someone taps me hard on the shoulder.


I spin around. Through the silvery material I can see Fred, peering through the material as if he can see through it.


"Hi Stella!" he grins, waving at me.


I made an attempt to run, dashing past him and trying to remain undetected, but he grabs me decisively around the middle.


Some of the people in the pub stare at Fred, who appears to be clutching empty air. He pulls the hood of the cloak off of my head and grins at me.


"You thought you could escape me. That's cute."


I shake him off angrily, brushing my disheveled hair out of my face, "How did you know it was me?"


"Well, you were following Rose around," he shrugs.


"But how did you know?"


"I heard you two whispering from a mile off. You really need lessons in spying. Plus, I've had a lot of experience with this cloak, when random chairs start scraping on the chair, I know what's going on."


I glare at him, "I was busy spying on Rose and Scorpius' argument, before you interrupted."


"Oh, sorry!" he cries eagerly, "It's OK, we can keep spying if you want. If we can find them again."


"We? There is no 'we'-," I pause, "Wait, they're gone?"


I spin around, and sure enough the corridor leading to the bathroom is now empty, and Rose and Scorpius are nowhere to be seen.


"I'm sure they'll turn up," says Fred cheerfully, slinging an arm around me, "Let's have a nice drink in the meantime."


He leads me over to the bar and we take the two vacant stools. 


"Having a nice Hogsmede outing?" Fred asks casually.


"Just peachy," I growl, "Rose has gone, meaning that Scorpius is probably being murdered in the back alley, and everyone is speculating about why my boyfriend is apparently on a date with Ray."


Fred orders us butterbeers, ignoring my tirade of anger, "Rosmerta!" he grins at the pretty, but now slightly aging barmaid, who unwittingly blushes, "Two butterbeers, for me and my friend here."


"Of course," she grins. She turns away and I give a meaningful look to Fred.


"What?" he says defensively. I make the look even more meaningful and he relents, "I can't help it if women find me attractive, Stella. I didn't design this face, it's merlin's gift to all of you."


I almost dry heaved.


"So, what brings you to The Three Broomsticks?" Fred asks jovially, ignoring my dry heaving imitation.


"Me and Rose are trying to set up Al and Ray," I explain, "They're over there talking. But they can't see us, otherwise they'll know we've been spying."


"Don't worry about that," Fred grins, eyeing the pair at the other side of the pub, who are deep in conversation, "They're too preoccupied to notice us."


"At least the plan is working," I say.


Fred smirks, "Setting up Al with the girl of his dreams? Wow, you're the best girlfriend ever."


I roll my eyes at him, and sip at the butterbeer that Madame Rosmerta passes me, "Problem is, once Ray likes Al we have to break up, and Merlin knows how everyone will laugh at me then."


"I saw the egg yolk incident," Fred says grimly.


I finally look at what he's wearing. A smart dress shirt and jacket.


I snigger, "Fred, aren't you a little overdressed for Hogsmede?"


Fred shrugs unapologetically, "Hey, I've got to bring my A game for…is that your lovely friend from the hospital wing?"


I look in the direction he's gesturing to. On the other side of the bar Eve is talking to a dark haired guy who I recognize as the gorgeous Ravenclaw captain, Luke Corner.

 

Of course Eve is chatting to one of the fittest boys in school.


As I have recently learned, Eve isn't just annoyingly pretty, she's also fan-freaking-tastic. She's basically one of those girls.


You know the girls I'm talking about. The one's who are just so bloody perfect. Pretty, smart, cute, funny, nice, the whole package. Guys are just drawn to them, unable to resist.


It's like she's wearing essence of dude


I frown at Fred, "Who? Eve?"


Fred doesn't take his eyes off her, "Yep." And before I can stop him he's gotten off his barstool, and is swaggering towards her and Luke Corner.


I call after him, "Oh Freddie don't go over there."


Too late. Fred shoves himself between Luke and Eve, turns to Eve, completely blocking Luke's view.


Eve recognizes Fred and stares, speechless, waiting for him to explain his rude behavior.


"Hi, Eve, right?" he says charmingly.


"Yes," she replies slowly, "What do you want?"


He holds out a hand, letting out a little chuckle, "Bond. James Bond."


Luke raises his hand in outrage. I don't blame him. Hell, if someone stood in front of me so they could chat up the girl i was talking to, I would be pretty annoyed myself.


Eve doesn't find Fred's advances funny, despite his blissful smirk that I myself have known to be quite infectious.


"Off. Piss off," is her cold reply.


Fred isn't fazed, "Pleasure to meet you," he puts out his hand again.


"Weasley, go away," Eve snaps, losing her patience, "I don't have time for this."


"Seriously mate, what's your problem?" Luke asks, forcing Fred to turn around and face him.


"My problem?" he smirks, "Is there something wrong with introducing myself to Eve?"


"If you're invading all of our personal space, then yes, there is," Luke replies angrily.


I grab the corner of Fred's sleeve, and apologize profusely to Eve, "Sorry, I'm so sorry. Come on Freddie."


I give his sleeve a jerk and pull him away.


"Lovely to meet you!" he smiles at Eve, "You're really-"


"Enjoy the rest of your drink!" I cut across him, "Sorry again!"


I drag Fred out of the Three Broomsticks by the ear, with him crying out in pain every step of the way.


"Ouch Stella!" he cries, "That hurts!"


Once we're outside I hit him hard on the arm.


"You prat!" I snap, "You can't just hit on someone like that?"


"Why not?" he shrugs.


"Why not?" I repeat incredulously, before smacking him on the arm again.


"Stop doing that!" he whines.


"Just…go up to the castle, Freddie."


"Hey! You can't tell me what to do!" he pouts.


"Then go and amuse yourself in Zonko's," I relent.


He looks excited, "Will you lend me a sickle so I can by a sugar quill?"


He has the mind of a four year old, but I sigh, slapping a sickle into his outstretched palm.


"Now remember," I smirk, "Don't accept sweets from strangers, look both ways before you cross the road, and don't do anything stupid."


"Yes mum," he rolls his eyes, before taking off for Zonko's at top speed.


I shake my head at him, before looking up and down the busy street for any sign of Rose or Scorpius. Hopefully Rose will look peaceful and approachable, and Scorpius will look…well…alive.


I glance back at the pub, and am surprised to see Luke Corner coming out. He's holding the cloak in his outstretched hands.


"I think this is yours," he hands it to me, "You left it at the bar."


I accept it gratefully, thinking of any possible consequence should James find out Rose and I stole his most precious possession, "Thanks."


There's an awkward pause. What is it about fit quidditch captains? I can't seem to string together a coherent sentence when I'm around them.


Suddenly he gestures over my shoulder, "So...is Weasley your boyfriend, or something?"


I glance back at Fred, who has now begun to skip towards Zonko's out of pure happiness, "Who? Fred? No!" I almost laugh.


"Good, because that would have been painful if you had been, what with him hitting on Eve like that."


I nod, "Sorry about that…again. He hasn't been trained well enough to go out in public yet."


He gives a small smile.


"Eve isn't…your girlfriend?" I wonder, half hoping that she is, because that'll mean that she is off limits to Fred and, more importantly, James, but also half hoping that she isn't, because Luke Corner is really, really fit. 


"No," he shakes his head, "She's my potions partner. We just wanted to meet to talk about our next project."


I nod, and there's another awkward silence.


"Sorry, I didn't catch your name," he says politely.


"Stella," I reply, just managing to stifle a squeek, "Stella Wood."


He nodded, recognizing my name, "Right. The old Gryffindor keeper. I'm Luke."


I almost scoff. Of course I know who he is! The fact that he assumes that I wouldn't just shows how humble he is.


"You were pretty good," he says, "My chasers always had a tough time against you. Why did Potter have retrials?"


"I quit," I reply, "It was a…personal thing."


He nods, "I heard you're dating Albus Potter now."


I grimace, "Yeah."


"Sorry, bit personal."


I shrug, "I don't mind. No one else is apologizing for throwing eggs at my face."


I can tell that our brief conversation is over, and I kind of wish I hadn't mentioned the eggs. Now he's looking at me a bit strangely.


"Well…it was nice to meet you," he says, before nodding politely and going back inside.


"Yeah…you too," I murmured feebly.


He walks back into the Three Broomsticks and I clasp my hand to my forehead,  jumping up and down in frustration.


I stop when I realize that he can still see me through the open door, and is still looking oddly at me.


"Just wanted to…warm up," I chuckled weakly, "Generating body heat, and all that."


He replies with a weak smile, before almost running away.


I roll my eyes at myself. It's official. Me and Quidditch captain's are not a good combination.


After bundling the cloak into my bag, I realize I haven't paid for the butterbeers. I make my way back into the crowded pub, and give Madame Rosmerta the money. But before I turn to leave again, I notice Rose and Scorpius, finally reemerging from the corridor that I had lost them from.


"Where the hell have you two been?" I hiss. 


Rose looks utterly disgruntled, and Scorpius looks more angry than I've ever seen him. 


"Nowhere," Rose mutters, "Let's just go."


"I'm going back up to the castle," Scorpius says, and it is clearly not an invitation.


"Great," I say, "Let's all go up there now."


"I have to go to…Honeydukes," Rose mutters, "But you two go. I'll see you later, Stella."


Scorpius is already pushing his way towards the front door, wanting to get as far away from Rose as quickly as possible. 


"Come on, before Ray and Albus notice us," Rose hisses.


We move quickly through the crowd, but not before I catch another glimpse of Ray and Albus, still sitting together at the table, and still absorbed in a conversation that both of them are finding very funny.


"Laughter looks weird on Ray," Rose mentions, voicing the exact thoughts that are passing through my mind.


It's an almost complete transformation. Ray is so cut off, so guarded. I mean, this is the girl threatened to cut a guy's nipples off because he tried to feel her up at last year's quidditch victory party. Now she's sitting with Albus, laughing as though he's the funniest person on earth. Which he isn't, trust me.


"Do you think she likes him?" I ask.


"Maybe," Rose whispers, "Let's hope so."


Once we're outside, Scorpius, completely ignoring Rose, starts walking up the road that leads towards Hogwarts.


"You sure you have to go to…Honeydukes?" I raise my eyebrows at Rose, who blushes deeply.


"Yeah," she replies, "You go with Scorpius."


I nod and jog casually to catch up with Scorpius.


"Going up to the castle?" I ask feebly, because his face is completely thunderous.


"Yes," he answers shortly.


Theres a pause, where all you can hear is the tread of our feet on the ground.


"So, you and Rose, are you cool now?" I ask.


"Does it look like we're cool now?" is his mocking reply.


"Well, no, not really, that question was more a prompt for you to tell me what went on in the fifteen minutes you disappeared, because I'm pretty clueless. And now you seem pretty mad, and she just seems nervous, and it'd be pretty cool to know why-"


"Stop rambling, Stella," he snaps.


"Stop being all angry and defensive," I retort.


"I'm not!"


"You are!"


"I'm not."


"You're being defensive right now!"


We've come head to head with another couple walking down the street in the opposite direction. To my horror I see it's James and the girl who we will henceforth know as Evil McBitchface.


Okay fine, so my unrequited love for her date has made me extremely vindictive. But right now I don't care.


Evil McBitchface smiles at us, and tugs at James' arm to steer him around us. But he doesn't move. He stands stock still, and I look down at the ground in embarrasment.


"Hi," he says, eyes clamped on me.


"Hi," I mutter, not looking him directly in the face, but I can feel his gaze penetrating me.


"Hi," Scorpius adds, frowning at the pair of us.


"Hi," James replies, still not taking his eyes off me. I'm beginning to feel extremely uncomfortable.


There's a strange pause.


Finally, I can't take much more, "Come on, Scorpius," I grab Scorpius' arm and drag him around James and Evil McBitchface, who looks confused. The tension snaps, and I feel like I can breathe again.


"Who was that?" she whispers to James.


"No one," I hear him reply simply.


I ignore my thumping heart. So that's it. Now I'm no one. He doesn't even know me anymore.


I let out a little sigh.


"That was weird," Scorpius says, frowning at me.


"It was," I agree begrudgingly.


I march him purposefully up to the Hogwarts castle gate.


"Are you going to tell me what happened with you and Rose?"


"Just drop it, Stella," he sighs.


He doesn't seem angry anymore, only isolated and disinterested.


We don't talk for the rest of the walk, but Rose is always on our minds.

 

*          *          *

 

Later that evening, when everyone has returned from Hogsmede and still buzzing about the events of that day, Rose and I sit in silence at the dinner table in the great hall. Rose is unusually subdued, occasionally stealing glances over my shoulder at the Slytherin table.


I look in the direction she's looking, to see Scorpius sitting with his mates and eating casually. He glances in our direction, sees me and Rose staring at him, and looks away immediately.


I look back at Rose, "So, what happened?"


She looks nonchalantly at me, "What happened when?"


I narrow my eyes suspiciously, "Don't give me that. You and Scorpius disappeared for fifteen minutes, and when you reappeared he was angry and you were embarrassed. What happened?"


She shrugs, "We talked."


"About what?"


"Nothing!"


I open my mouth to argue some more, but Albus slides into the seat beside me, a dreamy look on his face.


"Thank…you…so…much," he whispers reverently.


Both Rose and I grin unanimously.


"Did you have fun?" Rose asks, grinning happily.


Albus closes his eyes and leans his forehead onto the table heavily.


"You two are evil," he groans, "Now, thanks to you, I'm more in love with Ray than before."


I pat him consolingly on the arm, "I'm very, very sorry Albus."


"She's so amazing," he says, "You have no idea. As soon as we sat down for drinks it was like she was a different person," he gazes dreamily into the distance, "A different, amazing, beautiful, incredible person."


"Hey guys." 


It's Ray, standing on the opposite side of the table from Albus and I, looking mildly interested and entirely clueless.


"Hey Ray," says Rose, "Sorry we didn't show up…Stella ate a bunch of puking pastilles by mistake, it wasn't pretty."


I glare at her. Ray raises her eyebrows at me. 


"Yeah," I agree, glaring at Rose, who mouths 'sorry' at me.


"It's OK," Ray gives a small smile, "Albus and I had fun today."


She looks from Rose and I, to Albus, and breaks out into a big grin. Albus' expression is undeniably one of complete infatuation. 


"Yeah, we had a really good time," he grins.


"Didn't you want to show me that book you were talking about?" she asks.


"Oh yeah!" he cries eagerly, "Shall we go now, before the library closes?"


"OK," she smiles at him.


Albus gets up, looking as though he can hardly believe his luck. Rose and I are smiling to ourselves.


Ray looks at me, "You have a really great boyfriend, Stella."


I open my mouth, then close it, and eventually settle for an awkward smile. Albus chuckles weakly. He pats me affectionately, yet extremely platonically, on the back.


"Oh…Stella is great too."


"Just don't get up to anything while I'm not around," I sing, giving a little laugh to make it sound like a joke.


Ray apparently find this notion so hilarious that she bursts into a ripple of laughter. Albus gives me a short, but piercing glare.


"No worries!" Ray laughs, before beckoning to Albus, "You coming?"


She sets off for the exit, Albus mouths an extremely grateful thank you to us, before charging off after her.


Rose sighs, "Well, that's Albus' love life done and dusted."


"Yep. Looks like our fake relationship is coming to an end."


"Yep," she replies despondently, "At least he's happy."


A comfortable silence falls between us, but I feel suddenly depressed because Rose keeps stealing glances over my shoulder and I know that Scorpius is looking back at her. And in the meantime I can see James and Evil McBitchface eating dinner and looking happy.


I glare at my plate of food. 


When I finally look up I catch James looking at me. He looks away guiltily, turning back to his meal, pretending as though he hadn't even looked up.


Too late. I stare blatantly at him and he doesn't look back anymore.


It's at times like this when I can't help wondering whether James really does hate me, or whether it's something else. Something that he's not telling me.


"Come on," I say to Rose, "Let's go up to the dormitory, and eat chocolate to mend our broken hearts."


Rose nods, not even bothering to deny that her heart has been broken for a long time, and without questioning who it is that's broken mine.


We walk together out of the great hall, past James, past Scorpius, and I grin. Because no matter what, I'll always have Rose.

 










 

A/N: Sorry for the wait! Forgiveness? Please?




 

I hope this one was to your liking :) please review to let me know what you thought! 




 

Chapter 9 coming soon! Until then, here's a preview, x:





  You can imagine my surprise when, the next morning, I open my eyes to find none other than James Sirius Potter staring down at me.

"Morning Wood," he says casually.

I stare at him.

"…the fuck?" I mumble.

Is this a dream? James Potter isn't a stranger when it comes to my dreams, but even this seems to be pushing it a bit.

Instead of having a soft romantic gaze, as he does in so many of my nightly visions, his look is wild and manic.

"Come on, up!" he says, "I haven't got all day."

"I don't know what you want, Potter, but fuck the hell off," I murmur, pulling my pillow over my head.

He drags open my four poster bed curtains and light floods in, blinding me momentarily.

"It's twelve o clock," he says.

"On a sunday," I groan.

"Lazy," he says.

"Arse," I reply.

"I'm not leaving until you get up. You can't stay in bed all day."

I glare at him, "Watch me."

He sighs, "I hoped it wouldn't come to this."

And from behind his back he draws out a camera. He snaps a quick picture of me, sitting up in bed, looking like a madwoman, with hair in all directions and my eyes glaring with fury. The flash makes me blink several times.

"You…what the hell?" I grimace, rubbing my eyes, "I'm blinded!"

"If you don't get up, I will be forced to show this to everyone. And you are clearly not a morning person," he shakes his head mockingly.

I stare, feeling instantly nervous, "You wouldn't!"

He smirks, "Watch me."

He dangles the camera in my face and I make a wild grab for it. But he swings it quickly out of my reach.

"Fine," I growl, "I'm getting up. But at least tell me what it is we're going to do."

"We," He makes his way towards the door, "are going down to the quidditch pitch. I'm going to teach you how to play, and not be scared."

I stare at him, momentarily speechless.

"You have five minutes. Chop chop," he grins, before shutting the dormitory door behind him.





 

 


Chapter 9: Lessons from James
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Disclaimer: JKR is, and will always be awesome.








Lexie Clarke and Cameron Mitchell

 

beautiful CI by SophieScarlette@tda

 






 

 

You can imagine my surprise when, the next morning, I open my eyes to find none other than James Sirius Potter staring down at me.


"Morning Wood," he says casually.


I stare at him.


"…the fuck?" I mumble.


Is this a dream? James Potter isn't a stranger when it comes to my dreams, but even this seems to be pushing it a bit.


Instead of having a soft romantic gaze, as he does in so many of my nightly visions, his look is wild and manic.


"Come on, up!" he says, "I haven't got all day."


"I don't know what you want, Potter, but fuck the hell off," I murmur, pulling my pillow over my head.


He drags open my four poster bed curtains and light floods in, blinding me momentarily.


"It's twelve o clock," he says.


"On a sunday," I groan.


"Lazy," he says.


"Arse," I reply.


"I'm not leaving until you get up. You can't stay in bed all day."


I glare at him, "Watch me."


He sighs, "I hoped it wouldn't come to this."


And from behind his back he draws out a camera. He snaps a quick picture of me, sitting up in bed, looking like a madwoman, with hair in all directions and my eyes glaring with fury. The flash makes me blink several times.


"You…what the hell?" I grimace, rubbing my eyes, "I'm blinded!"


He holds up the camera to show me, "If you don't get up, I will be forced to show this to everyone. And you are clearly not a morning person," he shakes his head mockingly.


I stare, feeling instantly nervous, "You wouldn't!"


He smirks, "Watch me."


He dangles the camera in my face and I make a wild grab for it. But he swings it quickly out of my reach.


"Fine," I growl, "I'm getting up. But at least tell me what it is we're going to do."


"We," He makes his way towards the door, "are going down to the quidditch pitch. I'm going to teach you how to play this game, and not be scared."


I stare at him, momentarily speechless.


"You have five minutes. Chop chop," he grins, before shutting the dormitory door behind him.


I fall back onto the pillows. 


You have got to be kidding me.


As I crawl out of bed (which feels much like a newborn being torn away from it's mother) and haul myself into the bathroom to shower, I begin to reminisce. The first time I ever met James was almost uncannily similar to that brief and uncomfortable meeting that happened not five seconds ago.


And he hasn't improved with age.


I had arrived at the burrow late the night before. Rose had come downstairs eagerly in her pajamas, there had been time for a quick tour of the downstairs living room and kitchen, before she showed me to her room and we both fell asleep.


It was the early summer and Rose and I, then the impressionable and silly first years we were, had planned to spend the whole summer with one another. I had only met two of her family members: Albus, who coincidentally also became a friend of mine, and James.


Although, to be more truthful, I knew who he was, whereas he had no idea what Rose meant every time she mentioned 'Stella'. I didn't have a crush on him then, but I was intimidated by his confidence. Despite this, however, I didn't really care about having to spend the summer with him.


I should really have given that a bit more thought.










 

"Wake up, Rosie!" came a loud screech from above me. 


I opened my eyes and stared. Rose's older cousin, James, stood above me, dressed in full quidditch gear, a broomstick slung over his shoulder. His hair was scruffy and his eyes were wild with excitement.


James looked back at me and frowned.


"Who are you?" he asked.


"Stella. Why are you in Rose's room this early?"


"It's almost midday!" he laughed, "You should be awake."


"Well, Rose is still asleep."


"No, she's not," he pointed to the vacant bed beside mine.


"Well, then why did you call me Rose?" I asked.


"I thought you were her!" 


"Oh."


He lowered the broom off his shoulder and looked at me expectantly, "Well, are you getting up then? We're playing quidditch soon."


"No!" I replied indignantly. The prospect of quidditch was no way to tempt me out of bed.


"Why not?" he asked, folding his arms.


"Because…I'm not getting out of bed just because you say so!" I snapped oh-so-wittily.


He scoffed, "Okay, FINE! Stay in bed. You'll miss the breakfast muffins."


Damn, how could he know me so well already?


I wrestled with my thoughts. For too long, apparently.


"Come on!" he cried eagerly.


When I didn't oblige he dropped his broomstick on the ground and threw the covers off me.


"HEY!" I cried, grabbing my bare legs in shock.


He laughed, and threw me over his shoulder, pyjamas and all.


"GET OFF ME!" I roared, "PUT ME DOWN YOU JERK!"


"No!" he roared with laughter.


He marched down the corridor, holding my legs as my fists pummeled his back as hard as they could. My long, dark hair swung violently back and forth, getting in my eyes.


"LET ME GO!"


We passed several kids on the landing, all in various stages of dressing for quidditch, brought out of their rooms by the racket I was making.


One boy started laughing, "Nice one, James. Who's this then?"


"Tessa, or something," James laughed.


"STELLA!" I roared, hitting him even harder with indignation.


"Hey Stella," said the boy, almost doubled over with laughter. "I'm Fred. Nice to meet you."


"MAKE HIM PUT ME DOWN!" I yelled. In reply Fred just laughed as though James was the funniest person alive.


James moved down the stairs when he came face to face with Rose, who looked absolutely furious with him.


"JAMES!" she roared, "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?"


"LANGUAGE!" came a roar to my left. A short, tubby old lady emerged from the kitchen, staring fiercely at Rose who became immediately subdued.


"Sorry, Nana Molly," she sighed.


Nana Molly turned her gaze to me, and it became much softer.


"Oh, hello dear," she smiled, glancing up and down.


I could feel James trembling with laughter underneath me.


I could hardly yell at their grandmother, so I gritted my teeth, "Hello."


"James, put the girl down," Rose's aunt Ginny appeared from the kitchen, frowning with disapproval at James' antics.


James hesitated, before grabbing my waist and lowering me steadily down to the ground. I brushed my hair out of my eyes and glared at him.


"See? Now you're wide awake," he grinned.










 


"Took you long enough," James raises his eyebrows at me, looking impatient.


I shrug as tie my hair up into a pony tail, "Well, I prefer to shower. Personal hygiene beats crazy lunatic forcing me to play quidditch on my day off."


He rolls his eyes, "Come on then. I've booked the pitch for an hour. Let's not waste any more time."


He leaves the empty common room, and I reluctantly follow him.


I already know that this won't end well.


"So, why are you doing this?" I call out from behind him, jogging to catch up. Man, he walks really fast, "Is it out of the goodness of your heart or is there some sort of hidden motive you're not telling me about?"


He smirks, "What? Is it so difficult to believe that I might have a good side?"


"Yes."


We walk down the stairs towards the entrance hall, and I realise that I am walking towards the quidditch pitch with James Potter, the person who makes me happiest and yet most miserable, and I'm doing nothing to stop myself.


"You know what?" I stop, forcing him to stop and face me. As usual he looks bored by anything I have to say, but I continue nevertheless, "I'm not doing this. I'm going to go and eat breakfast. And then I'm going to do my transfiguration essay. And then I'm going to talk to Rose about Scorpius, because those two still won't tell me what happened when they were alone at Hogsmede. Goodbye."


I turn around, but a hand immediately grabs my sleeve. I expect nothing less. Potter doesn't accept defeat easily.


"Wood," he says in a warning voice, "You're coming with me."


"Says who?"


"Says me."


"Oh, sorry, forgot you were the King of everything. Please forgive me, your highness."


"I'm going to teach you how to play quidditch and not be scared," he says slowly but surely, "And I'm not letting you walk away."


"Too bad," I mutter, "Because I'm doing it anyway."


But to my utter surprise, as I turn around again he grabs me around the middle, swings me over his shoulder in one swift movement, and begins carrying me off, through the entrance hall and out onto the school grounds.


"What the-put me down you prick!" I cry out loudly.


This cannot be happening again. Seriously, how can he just take me down to the pitch against my will?


"No," he answers.


I start banging my fists hard against his back, like I did the last time, but it has even less of an effect. After all, in five years he has far more muscles than he did when he was thirteen. And that's when I notice it. His muscles.


I've been so caught up in my rage that I haven't even noticed that this is possibly the closest I've ever come to James. I should be savoring it, not wishing for it to end. But I continue to pummel his muscles anyway. His firm, warm…okay i'm getting ahead of myself here.


I can feel his hands on my calves. Did I shave my legs when I was in the shower? Yes, I did. Thank Merlin.


"I'm not letting go, Wood. You can save your energy," he says lazily.


"You are an ARSE, James Potter!" I roar as loudly as I can.


"So you've said."


I let out a yell of frustration in response.


"Reminds you of when we met, doesn't it?" he says, and even hanging behind his back, I can tell that he's smirking.


"No idea what you're talking about," I grumble.


"Are you still mad about that?" he laughs good-naturedly.


"Not as mad as I am about this," I reply.


"So you do remember."


"Of course I bloody remember! You humiliated me in front of your entire family by carrying me down stairs in my pajamas. Do you know that every time I meet your grandmother she addresses me as, 'Oh yes, the girl that slept in until midday and then ate all the muffins'," I snap.


"It's not my fault you ate all the muffins," he points out.


"Hey!" I shout, "Shut up! You know all too well that I should not be held responsible for my actions when there are muffins involved."


He lets out a short laugh of disbelief, "You're crazy, Wood."


"Yeah. I'm not the one who kidnaps their ex-keeper, takes them down to the pitch and forces them to play a sport they don't like on their day off," I retort


"Jeez Wood, you like a good whine don't you?"


"Ugh, just shut up and put me down. All the blood is rushing to my head and it hurts."


"Stop whining."


"Stop being a douche bag."


"Stop hitting my back."


"Stop carrying me like a sack of potatoes."


To my surprise that last request actually works. He grabs me by the waist and sets me down on my feet. I try to find my balance, stumbling around dizzily. Once the scenery comes into focus I see we're standing on the vast quidditch pitch.


"Here we are," I mutter angrily.


"Yep," he says, purposefully marching off for the broom lockers, "Back in a minute."


Once he's gone I take a deep breath. Okay, okay, you can do this. He's just a guy. A guy you're in love with. A guy you're in love with, and alone with.


...


I can't do this.


I'm probably going to freak out, tell him everything, or end up jumping his bones or something. Yeah, sounds like I would do something that awkward.


No part of me wants to be here. I mean, sure there's always the part of me that would be happy to spend all day staring at him, but right now that part is ready to be squashed into oblivion.


And everything about James aside, I have absolutely no desire to get on a broom, and face my fears. Contrary to popular belief, facing your fears is not something that is easily accomplished. In fact it's scary.


I mean, my last broom escapade ended up with me vomiting on James' shoes, an experience which I have no wish whatsoever to relive.


I need to get out of here, before James comes back and forces me to do this. I immediately start walking for the castle, but before I can get more than a few steps, there he is, two broomsticks in hand, looking purposeful and grim.


Merlin's beard, is every expression of his sexy? This is just not fair.


"Here," he hands me my broom, "Now let's warm up shall we?"


"S-sure," I reply nervously, gripping the broom handle with the hope that I can squeeze all my inhibitions away.


"Five laps around the pitch," he says, kicking off hard from the ground.


Before I kick off myself I take a deep breath. I can do this. I can. I can. I can. James seems to be in a good enough mood, and so far , kidnapping and insulting aside, he's actually been quite, dare I say it, nice.


"Wood, get up here!" James shouts from above my head. 


Yep, I spoke too soon.


I kick off and soar into the air. The all-too familiar feeling of nausea returns immediately to my stomach and I grimace. 


"Now, why don't you start by doing those laps?" James says, but I can tell it's more of a command than a suggestion. 


"I'm pretty sure that'll just make me even more  nauseous," I say. 


"You have to face up to your fears," he says, "And to do that you have to do the exact opposite of what you're comfortable with."


I give him a short lived, but piercing glare, and fly off towards the edge of the pitch. Right now I'm regretting ever having met James Potter.

 

*               *                *

 

Forty five minutes later James looks exasperated and I am on the verge of tears.


"Come on, Wood," he shouts, "You have to dive! Not fly down and then level out!"


"I'm trying!" I roar back.


"You have to face your fears!"


"WOULD YOU SHUT UP ABOUT FACING MY STUPID, FUCKING FEARS, YOU PUSHY, MEAN, ARROGANT SON OF A-"


"JUST DIVE!"


"NO! YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!"


In case you haven't already guessed, things are not going quite as swimmingly as either of us thought they would. 


James underestimated that forcing me to face my fears was no where near as easy as he had anticipated, and I underestimated James' ability to make me hate him.


"WHY AREN'T YOU AT LEAST TRYING TO DIVE?" he shouts, but he looks more desperate than angry.


Merlin, I though that by now it would have been crystal clear, " BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO!"


He looks even more frustrated at this, "WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT!"


I glare at him, "SCREW YOU, POTTER! I'M DONE!"


And with that I land back down on solid ground. 


I can hear him landing behind me. "You're a coward, Wood," he says angrily.


In response I threw my broom onto the ground and stormed away.


"Oh yeah? Sue me!" I yell back at him. 


"Why won't you just try?" He implores me.


It's like a switch flips itself off inside me. I spin around, finding him much closer than I expect. I stop before my face comes any where near his, momentarily losing my train of thought. Man, his eyes are really, really brown.


"Anything you want to say, Wood?" he murmurs, staring unabashedly back at me.


I take a step back, and find my brain instantly clearer, and I am able to string together a coherent sentence.


"Why are you doing this?" I ask, "You've been avoiding the question all day."


"No I haven't," he says.


"Yes, you have," I retort, "What possible reason could you have for doing this? I am no longer on the team, after all. And you have never exactly liked me."


"Maybe I feel bad," he murmurs.


I fold my arms. The atmosphere feels distinctly calmer, "You feel bad?"


"Yes," he replies, "I feel bad because it may or may not have been entirely my fault."


"What's your fault?" I ask, "I mean…feel free to pick one out of your many, many faults."


He rolls his eyes, "I may have exacerbated your hate for quidditch by being…an arse."


"Wow, really?" I reply exasperatedly, "Really? You may have?"


"Fine, I did," he admits.


I sigh, handing my broom back to him, "Well, whatever you did or didn't do, the damage is done. I'm not getting back on a broomstick because it scares the living crap out of me."


"Does it really?" he asks, and I detect a touch of amusement in his face.


"Yes!" I retort, "What? Think I'm making it up. Typical, Potter, you always think the worst-"


"Hang on a second, drama queen," he interrupts, "Just think for a minute. You were scared when you started flying, correct?"


"Yes," I reply slowly, not sure of where he's going with this.


"But just now, not five minutes ago, when you were yelling bloody murder at me, were you scared?"


"Ye-" I have to pause and force myself to consider what was going on through my head at that moment.


"Were you?" James repeats, looking at me more intently.


I realise that I was so busy yelling at him, that I hadn't even had time to think about the nausea that I usually felt. In fact the height hadn't bothered me at all. What had bothered me was James not shutting up,  "No. I wasn't."


James looks rather self-satisfied at this revelation, "So? That's it then!"


I raise my eyebrows incredulously, "What? When I'm screaming at you I magically stop being scared?"


"Hey," he puts up his hands in surrender, "I'm not trying to understand how that strange mind of yours works. The point is screaming seems to work for you."


"So what's your plan?" I ask, "Make me scream my head off, while I'm trying to focus on flying and catching the quaffle? What else Potter? Juggling tricks?"


Yet again he rolls his eyes, "You really are a drama queen, aren't you Wood?"


"Yes, I am," I snap, "Is that going to be a problem?"


"Never," he grins mischievously, and for a moment I have to stop and consider my current situation. James Potter is smiling at me. Sure, half of that is because he's just plain amused by me, but there's definitely some warmth there. For just a second I catch a glimpse of the old James. The one who thought it was the funniest thing in the world to throw a girl you've never met over your shoulder and carry her downstairs in her pyjamas to meet your whole family.


"But it isn't so crazy," he continues, and his expression becomes one of clarity, and I can tell by his manner that he's doing his best to convince me, "I mean, it's a distraction, isn't it? Screaming? You don't have room to think about much else."


"That's all well and good," I reply hotly, "But there is no way I'm getting up on that broom, and screaming for the entire world to hear. You hear me? No way. Face it Potter, the plan is crap."


"And you're a pessimist too," he comment, still unnervingly amused.


I suddenly have the horrible feeling that he's messing with me. He isn't exactly being nice, but he's far from his typical scowl, an expression that he reserves just for me. It's almost as if this eager, optimistic, and surprisingly helpful attitude he's suddenly adopted is to lull me into a false sense of security. Is this some sort of a trap?


I half expect Fred and Cameron to materialize from thin air, accompanied by a muggle camera crew, all yelling 'FOOLED YOU!'


Yes, I have to keep reminding myself. James is an arsehole. He has never treated you properly. No matter how nice he is acting now, that is likely to change within the next minute or so, when he will start acting cold, distant and mean.


"Come on Wood, you should at least give it a try," he says, "You never know. It could work."


"Stop it!" I cry out, unable to take another second of this weird niceness.


James looks utterly bewildered, "Stop what? Have you finally lost it?"


"Stop being nice to me!" I yell, "It's weird, and don't think that I trust you for a second!"


"I'm just trying to be helpful!" he argues back, his face looking pretty enraged by now, "Merlin, Wood, why does it always have to be complicated with you?"


I scoff loudly to show how ridiculous I think that is, "Oh, yeah, as if you're Mr. Straightforward!"


"Why are you doing this? What's the point?" he mimics me, looking even more annoyed, "Sue me for trying to do you a favour!"


"You're right, Potter," I reply angrily, "I should just forget about the fact that it has been your aim to make quidditch my personal hell ever since I joined this stupid team."


"No it hasn't!" he shouts, "Stop making up stuff in your head! I was tough on you, yes. But I was tough on you because babying you would have been much, much worse. I would never try to make it your personal hell! That's just you being a drama queen again!"


"Me being a drama queen?" I exclaim in outrage, "Wasn't it only a few weeks ago you told me that me quitting was the best thing that had ever happened to the team? That I was a waste of space? And you think I make this stuff up!"


"I was angry when I said that stuff," he replies heatedly, "You had just quit the team!"


"Judging by your attitude, you should have thrown a 'Good riddance to Stella Wood party', not yelled at me!"


"I NEVER WANTED YOU TO QUIT THE TEAM, OKAY?" he shouts. Immediately he looks as if he would like to retract that statement.


I stare at him for a moment. I swallow. I try to string together a string or two of coherent sentences. Nope, my brain is mush. Thanks a lot brain, just when I needed you most.


There is a long and seemingly never-ending silence. James coughs.


"You shouldn't have quit. You're a good keeper."


I stare, "But…but…but you told me to quit. You wanted me to quit."


Apparently all words that he might use against this statement fail him completely. His eyes are burning, and I swear I can almost feel heat radiating off him. His whole expression was flared somehow, every line, every crease was contorted with confusion, anger, and general annoyance at my existence. I detected a muscle in his cheek, his jaw was on completely edge, and I had never seen him so angry.


But the worst part is that I can tell that he isn't angry with me. He is angry at something, that's obvious, but not me. It's as though I'm witnessing an internal struggle within him, the way the conflict simmers on the surface of his face, and the way those eyes are almost on fire with antagonism. 


"And you say I'm complicated," I whisper, a sound barely audible to James, let alone

 

Albus, who surprises us by appearing next to James, clapping him heavily on the shoulder and saying, "Um, guys? We've booked the pitch?"


James clearly registers, even though he's too busy glaring fiercely at me to respond. I glare back. What the hell is his problem? He's clearly so conflicted about something, yet he isn't talking.


"Slytherin practice?" Albus continues unhelpfully, "Now? Guys?"


I can't move until James says something, something that will break the tension.


"Wow, who died?" Albus stares at the pair of us, beginning to look concerned.


"Shut it Albus," James growls, snatching the broom from my grasp and storming off.


"Seriously who died?" Albus continues to stare in bewilderment at me.


"I'll tell you what died," I mutter, "My hopes of James ever becoming a nice person."


"What the hell were you two doing down here alone?" Albus frowns suspiciously.


"I don't know!" I cry out exasperatedly, "He just dragged me out of bed and said he's trying to get rid of my fear of flying, and then we got into a huge fight, and then I don't even know what happened!"


Albus pats me comfortingly on the back, "He's a confused bloke."

"What is there really to be confused about, though?" I mumble sulkily, staring at my shoes.


Albus shrugs, "How he feels about you, I guess."


I lean into him tiredly and let out a frustrated groan. He pulls me into a comforting hug.


"Kissy kiss kiss," chant his teammates from behind us.


Albus laughs, "Shove off the lot of you!"


"Aw, don't be embarrassed, captain!"


I roll my eyes, "How mature."


"Kiss her Al!"


"FUCK OFF!" Al roars.


They all laugh and continue to jeer.


"I'd better go," I smirk, "I've already missed breakfast, which means I have to visit the kitchens. Most important meal of the day and all."


"Okay then," he smiles, "And don't worry too much about James. He has his own issues that he has to work out on his own."


"Speaking of working out issues," I mutter low under my breath, as I spot Scorpius crossing the pitch towards us, "See if you can find out from Scorpius what happened between him and Rose yesterday. I can't get it out of either of them, and it is killing me."


Albus raises an eyebrow, "Merlin, Stella, it's called patience."


I elbow him, "Yeah, I've been patient, remember? Made a move on Ray yet?"


He glares, "Low blow, Wood."


"Whatever," I snort, "Let me know when we have to break up, won't you?"


"Of course, my sweetheart."


"Glad to hear it, cutie pie," I snigger.


"Gross," Scorpius wrinkles his nose as he approaches us, "You two need to get a room."


"Bye Scorpius," I reply immediately, before whispering directly into Al's ear, "Find out what happened and tell me later!"


"Ugh, I never want to know what you just said," Scorpius mutters, "I hate couples. Love is crap."


Scorpius' woe is me attitude is definitely suspicious. I glance meaningfully at Albus, who gives me a confirming nod.

 

*               *             *

 

I am still completely confused by that afternoon. I sit in the library, potions text book open in front of me, as I listen to Albus drone on about some sort of potion where using fluxweed would have really serious consequences. 


"Do you think James has multiple personality disorder?" I interrupt, gazing off into the distance. 


"Do I…what?" Al stares at me, "Are you even listening to me?"


"Of course I am!" I reply indignantly.


Albus doesn't buy it. He shakes his head, "This is not the way to get an exceeds expectations, Stella."


"Seriously though," I lean forward intently, "That would explain the mood swings, now wouldn't it?"


"No, Stella," Albus frowns, "James doesn't have multiple personality disorder. He's just your good, old fashioned, mixed up bloke."


I lean back sulkily in my chair, "You can't deny that it was a good theory. Your theory doesn't comfort me at all."


Albus shrugs, "Luckily for you, not all of us are like that." 


I raise my eyebrows, barely able to contain a laugh, "Yeah, thank god you're not one of them. You wouldn't date one of your best friends so you could have a shot with her roommate. You're one of the good ones."


"Okay, okay," Albus interrupts, "I'm lame. I get it. Can we move on with this potions stuff?"


"Fine," I mutter begrudgingly.


But before Albus can proceed to bore me to death someone approaches us. We both look up to see Lexie.


She smiles warmly, which is a big change from yesterday, when she looked so depressed I thought she might be in danger of jumping off the astronomy tower. 


"Hi guys," she grins.


I frown at her, narrowing my eyes to see if I can detect what has changed her mood, "Hi Lex. What's up?"


She glanced over her shoulder, "Oh, nothing. I'm just tutoring Cameron."


I look behind her, and sure enough there is Cameron, staring dumbfoundedly at the text book on the table in front of him.


"Seems to be going well," Albus remarks bemusedly.


I let out a little snort at this. Cameron looks so agonized at all this knowledge that is being shoved down his throat that he looks about ready to pack up and leave. But Lexie isn't fazed by our cynicsm.


"I'm off to find this book on experimental charms," she continues, "Stella, come with me?"


She gives me a meaningful look, and I obediently stand up, shrugging to Albus as I follow her towards the bookshelves.


Lexie leads me into the maze of books, away from anyone with prying ears.


"You don't need a book, do you?" I murmur nervously.


"Oh, I do," she lets out a happy smile. This is more like the old Lexie. Always happy and bubbly. So why is it making me nervous? 


"Then why do you need me?" I ask.


"Oh, I just wanted to tell you that yesterday, when I was all depressed, that's over."


"Really?" I say brightly, feeling instantly less nervous, "Cameron back to his usual, dimwitted, vacuous self?"


Lexie rolls her eyes, "Yes. Thing was, last weekend, before you spent the day in the hospital wing I think, he was acting really weird and twitchy. Then yesterday, I came  here all depressed, and I was pretty sure he was going to laugh at me or that maybe it would be awkward. But it wasn't. We just sat down and got on with it. It was like he had completely moved on."


Internally I breathe a sigh of relief. Thank god, Cameron had got enough common sense into himself, and decided that nervous and desperate wasn't a good look in front of the ladies. 


Maybe he's gotten over it completely. Lexie can move on, and we can forget this ever happened.


"That's great Lex," I smile.


"Anyway, just wanted to let you know," She says, "Only problem is I still like him."


Crap. Of course, nothing is ever that simple.


"But I can work it out," she adds, "You haven't said anything to anyone, right?"


Guilt sweeps through me like a tidal wave. I almost break down right there, and tell her the truth about my big, fat mouth.


Then I remember that she has dragged me into one of the darkest corners of the library, where no one ever goes. It could be days before someone finds my body.


I decide that should the time come when I am forced to tell Lexie the truth, I will tell her in an open, public place, preferably with lots and lots of witnesses.


"No," I answer.


I am going to hell. I am going straight to hell.


"Anyway," she says, leading me out of the bookshelves and towards Cameron, who is still sitting, staring at the text book with such confusion that you'd think the book was written in a different language, "I should get back to tutoring."


We reach the table together. Cameron looks up at us, smiles at Lexie, and then looks at me. His eyes widen like he's trying to tell me something. Like he's trying to send me some sort of confused signal.


Maybe that's the face he uses when he's thinking. It's pretty rare, after all.


Lexie throws up her hands and sighs, "Oh damn, I forgot the book! Be right back."


Cameron smiles weakly at her, before grabbing my attention with another piercing stare as soon as she turns her back.


"What's wrong Cameron?" I ask flatly, "Blink once if you can hear me."


"You have to help me," he hisses frantically. 


I widen my eyes in panic. Clearly Lexie was mistaken when she said that Cameron has changed. "I thought we were past this Cameron! For the last time you can't say anything to Lexie!"


"I won't, but you have to help me," he insists, emphasizing every word with increasing urgency.


I frown, pausing to look down at the text book, "Merlin, Cameron. Charms isn't that hard to understand. I thought Lexie was helping you."


Cameron shakes his head, pushing the book away dismissively, "It's not that! You have to find me another tutor. Lexie's being so nice and patient, and I can't stand it. It's driving me insane!"


I frown in even deeper confusion, "She's a good tutor. Being nice and patient, that's what it's all about."


Yet again Cameron shakes his head, "No, she's too nice. You have to talk to her."


"Come on Cameron," I roll my eyes, "Being too nice? That's hardly something to complain about."


Finally Cameron takes a deep breath, calms down and lowers his voice to a low and almost incoherent mutter, "The problem isn't that I don't like it. It's that I do."


My eyes widen as I finally understand what he means.


"A-are you serious?" I gasp, almost speechless, "Y-you like-?"


Cameron glances over his shoulder and sees Lexie coming towards us at a faster pace than either of us would like.


"This doesn't have to be a big deal, ok?" he insists, "But you have to talk to her. Get her to stop tutoring me, because this is too damn hard."


Before I can protest Lexie comes over, a typical, sunny smile in place, "Found it!" she exclaims.


I offer her a weak grin, before giving Cameron a quick nod and turning back towards Albus.


"What was all that about?" Albus frowns at me.


"Nothing," I reply lightly, before sitting down.


"You and Cameron seemed to be talking about something pretty intense," he frowns suspiciously.


"Oh you know, the usual intense conversation. His hair."


I give myself a mental slap in the face for coming up with that excuse of dog crap. Albus raises an eyebrow in disbelief.


"His hair?"


"Yeah," I laugh nervously, "He tried out a new conditioner, but it's too much strawberry, not enough coconut."


Albus keeps his eyebrows raised, "Cameron uses strawberry and coconut conditioner?" But after a moment it all seems to make sense to him, "Yeah, I can actually see that happening."


Oh, thank Merlin for Cameron's vanity.


I lean back in my seat and stare pensively outside the open window.


So Cameron has actually developed feelings for Lexie. Instead of betraying my friend by spilling the beans to Cameron, I may have actually set the grounds for a real relationship between them.


I glance back to Cameron. Lexie chats animatedly to him, pointing out different things in the text book. Instead of following her finger, and taking in the information that she's saying to him, Cameron's eyes are fixated on her face, almost unable to look away.


No way am I telling Lexie to stop tutoring Cameron. Not when they both feel like this about each other.


"You have a weird look in your eye," Albus points out.


"Do I?" I reply, tearing my eyes away from Lexie and Cameron.


"Yeah, like some sort of evil, diabolical plan is being hatched in your mind right now."


"Maybe," I grin.


Albus shakes his head, "You should stay away from the matchmaking, Stella. It doesn't turn out well for anyone."


"Hey!" I exclaim indignantly, "You and Ray are now closer than I would have ever thought possible, all thanks to my plan!"


"Actually, I believe that was Rose's plan," he smirks.


"Same difference," I mutter.


"And those two wouldn't go near each other with a ten foot pole," Albus says knowingly.


"Who? Lexie and Cameron?" I ask him indignantly.


Albus raises his eyebrow, "Who said I was talking about Lexie and Cameron?"


I glare at him, "Ooh, you got me. And who's to say they wouldn't go near each other? They're sitting together right now."


"Yeah, but as a couple?" Albus glances at the pair, "You really think that would work? Cameron is a serial womanizer, and Lexie is so bookish that she practically lives in the library. Please explain how that would work out."


I shrug, "Opposite's attract."


Albus sighs, "Speaking of which, Scorpius remains mum on the subject of Rose."


I let out a groan of frustration, "Why won't they just tell us what happened?"


"Probably because it's too embarrassing," Albus admits.


"We'll have to get it out of them at some point," I say matter-of-factly.


"Of course," Albus says, "But for now let's go back to potions, shall we? Where was I? Oh yeah, fluxweed."


Right. Fluxweed.


My very own form of escapism.

 









A/N: Thoughts? i'll be honest, I quite like this chapter. I think it sheds some light on James, how he used to be, and how confused he is.

But moving on from all that serious stuff, did you miss anyone this time? I missed out quite a few characters, because otherwise it would have been all over the place, but did you enjoy it? What do you think James' deal is? Are you at all intruiged by Rose and Scorpius? Do you agree with Stella or Al on whether Lexie and Cameron would make a good couple? Let me know!

No preview yet, sorry, i haven't quite got started...please don't hate me!

Please, please review! I love reading them, and although I don't answer right away, I will do eventually! Favourite quotes, a mark out of ten, even simply whether you liked it or not, I would really love to know!

Right, off to study for my maths exam. Oh, how I love the IB.


Chapter 10: Confrontation
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Disclaimer: JKR owns it all








Scorpius Malfoy
 
Ridiculously awesome CI by SophieScarlette@tda
 






 

 


If there's one thing James Potter hates, above all else, it's losing. 


It's something I learned on the first day I met him. You know, after he woke me up, threw me over his shoulder and carried me downstairs in my pajamas for all the world to see. We ate breakfast, with a furious look on my face, a smarmy one on his. Then he proposed the activity I hated most: quidditch. This put him instantly on my hate list.


 

"Come on lads!" he cried. The rest of the family traipsed behind him, not quite as enthusiastically.


"I'm not a lad!" Rose shouted after him.


"Could've fooled me," Hugo muttered. Rose responded by shoving him into a nearby rose bush, from which Hugo emerged covered in gnomes, yelling at the top of his lungs. I was slightly alarmed but everyone seemed to think nothing of it, and they all laughed at Hugo, who now had a grand total of five gnomes hanging off various parts of his anatomy.


"Right," James said, standing at the front of the pack with a clear look of a leader about him, "Teams! I'm team captain, obviously."


Clearly this was a given. Everyone else seemed to accept it, so I did too.


"Who else wants to be a team captain?" he asked.


Albus put his hand eagerly into the air and the two brothers promptly began choosing teams.


"I pick…" James narrowed his eyes, "Fred."


Fred went to his side, throwing me a brilliant white smile before he joined James.


Albus' eyes fixed on me, "Stella," he said.


He was just trying to make me feel welcome, but I appreciated the gesture all the same so I joined his side.


They picked the rest of the teams. Once we were all assembled we picked spots.


I was given the spot of keeper by default, being too shy to ask for any other position. Not that I wanted any other position. I was slowly beginning to dread this game.


"Right everyone!" James shouted over the masses, "Let's kick off!"


Everyone did as they were told, swinging their legs over their brooms and kicking off hard. 


Nausea swept through me like a wave almost immediately. I clutched at my stomach as I flew to the goal posts, trying to keep my balance.


I reached the goal posts just as the game began. 


"Hey, everyone!" James yelled. "Say hello to Stella! She's new and she can't really play but let's just be nice to her, OK?"


He laughed. The smaller additions to the Weasley family thought it would be funny to laugh along with him. 


Rose glanced at me. In any other circumstance she would be yelling at James without hesitation, but she and I already knew that I was pretty good at the sport that James thought I 'couldn't really play'. So she kept her lips sealed, knowing I could defend myself.


The game started. James quickly grabbed the quaffle, gave a few gentle passes to one of his smaller cousins. She caught it happily and threw it back.


"Good job, Molly!" he grinned.


I started to relax. Clearly it was just a nice, friendly game.


Then, without warning, James was zooming towards me at top speed. He threw the quaffle hard towards my head.


It was like an instinct: my hands flew over my head and caught it.


The whole group looked surprised. Rose and Albus looked proud. Fred was impressed. But James was clearly annoyed.


"Good job, for a beginner," he said.


The game went on for a bit, before he tried again. He threw harder this time, from the side, which, after ignoring the rising queasiness, I caught easy-peasy.


James was beginning to look very disgruntled, "Lucky catch," he muttered.


I smirked to myself.


It wasn't long before he tried again. But I caught it with little difficulty.


After that the rest of the team hovered in mid air, doing nothing, while James tried time and time again to get past me. But to no avail.


"Hmm," I said, after his fifth failure to score a goal, "You know what? I quite like this game."


James was clearly not accustomed to losing. And he didn't like it either.


* * *


We landed an hour and a half later. James was hot and sweaty, and I was beginning to look like someone who had just run a marathon.


"OK, you're not a beginner," James said angrily, as soon as we were all on our feet.


"Good observation," I said coolly, brushing my long hair out of my eyes as I tried to catch my breath.


"Why did you say you were then?"


I frowned, looking to Rose, who mimicked my expression, "I don't think I said that, did I Rose?"


"No, don't think you did," Rose smirked.


James glared, before opening his mouth and uttering the words, "Mr. Potter, do you mind waking up your partner? She seems to have dozed off."


I frowned, "What?"


He continued, "Clearly the theories of swelling solutions aren't enough to keep her attention."


"What are you talking about?" I asked more loudly, beginning to panic.


"Miss Wood! Miss Wood!"


"STELLA!"


I jolt awake. My entire potions class is staring at me, including the very unimpressed Professor Wilde, who's looking at me with a mixture of annoyance and suppressed glee.


"Now that we have your full attention Miss Wood," she smirks, "Would you be kind enough to enlighten us? What are the three fundamental ingredients of a swelling solution?"


"Er…" I mumble incoherently.


"Sorry, Miss Wood, that's incorrect. Ten points from Gryffindor for forgetting which hours of the day are allocated for sleeping. Hint, not these ones."


She goes back to the front of the classroom. I let my head fall back onto the desk. 


"The funny thing is I was up all night revising for this lesson," I mutter.


Albus looks at me sympathetically, "Sorry. I would have woken you earlier, you just looked so peaceful."


I glare at him, "Thanks a lot."


"Pleasure."


I suddenly frown, "Wait, I looked peaceful?"


"You were smiling. Why? Were you having a nightmare?"


"I was remembering the first time I met James."


Albus smirks, "You really can't get away from the guy, can you? I don't remember that day, though."


"It was the day I realized that if I had to play quidditch, I would have to be keeper," I say, "It was the only time I beat James at quidditch."


"Ah, no wonder you were smiling then," Albus smirks, "Have you two had any more training sessions?"


"You mean since the one where we ended up yelling at each other and he stormed off? No, not since then. In fact I'm pretty sure he's been avoiding me."


I'm not exaggerating. Earlier this morning I was walking down the stairs to breakfast. James was on his way up. He actually jumped over the bannisters to avoid coming face to face with me.


He jumped. He risked breaking a bone just so he didn't have to talk to me.


Needless to say my self esteem has taken some severe blows. 


I shudder, but decide to change the subject, "How is it going with Ray?"


Albus looks immediately sidetracked, a dreamy expression forming instantly on his face, "Better than I could have ever dreamed."


I snort, "Yeah, Ray is totally dreamy."


Albus glares, "OK, shut it. I think I love her, Okay?"


"Right," I mutter, "Sorry Alberta."


"You're not funny."


"Yes, I am."


"No, you're not."


"Ye-"


The bell rings, cutting off what could have been a highly logical and well thought out argument.


"I'm going upstairs to the library," Albus says angrily, "To study with Ray."


"Have fun!" I say, "And remember, girls like Ray are only after one thing."


Albus frowns, "What are you talking about?"


I sigh, "Come on Alberta, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"


Albus' gaze darkens, "OK, I'm going now."


"Just remember," I yell after him, "Inner beauty is what counts! Be yourself! Don't change for her! If she doesn't appreciate you then she's not worth it!"


"Shut up!" Albus roars over his shoulder.


People are beginning to stare. Understandable. If I'd just witnessed that conversation between two people who are supposed to be dating, I'd be a little confused myself.


"THERE YOU ARE!" 


Suddenly I find myself attacked my a wild, red headed animal, hurtling at me through the air, grabbing my wrist sharply and dragging me through the corridor.


"Rose!" I gasp, running to keep up with her "What are you doing? Where are we going?"


"The quidditch pitch!" she cries.


I frown, "What? Why?"


"We have practice," she says, dragging me outside onto the front lawn, "And practice started ten minutes ago!"


I wrench my wrist out of her grip and frown even more darkly, "Is this some sort of joke? Why did I bother quitting the team, if none of you will ever leave me in peace?"


Rose rolls her eyes, "Calm down. I have practice. You're going to talk to James."


"Are you mad?" I scoff, "He's been avoiding me all week. There's no way he'll want to talk to me while he's training."  


"Exactly, he can't run away this time," Rose says deviously, "Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide."


I raise an eyebrow, "You don't have to make it sound like we're hunting him down." I feel suddenly sulky at the idea of making the first move after our fight.


Rose looks at me kindly, "Come on Stel, you and James need to make up and start over."


I fold my arms sulkily. Rose is doing her best to be kind, but I feel like being difficult, "And I want you to tell me what happened between you and Scorpius, but that's not happening any time soon either."


Rose looks immediately terrified at the idea of being further interrogated, "Jelly legs jinx!" 


My legs react almost immediately, jumping quickly out of the way of the spell, and it hits the grass. I stare at Rose, open mouthed, "You tried to jinx me!"


Rose looks alarmed, horrified at what she almost did, "I-I just want you to make up with him."


"Well, tell you what, I'll go down there and make up with him, if you spill the beans on Scorpius." I fold my arms, and stare her down.


Rose bites down on her lip nervously. "Fine!" she exclaims, giving in to my piercing gaze, "I'll tell you."


I stare at her in anticipation. 


"We broke up," she says.


I frown, "I must have missed the memo saying you were together."


She corrects herself, looking even more flustered, "I mean, I broke everything off between us. I told him to stop talking to me, stop thinking about me, stop…everything. Everything that ever happened between us is forgotten. We'll act as if we don't even know each other."


I pause, contemplating what she's just told me, "That, Rose, is without a doubt the stupidest idea I have ever heard."


She rolls her eyes at me, "We've only ever caused each other pain and jealousy. It's just easier if we let that go, forget we ever met one another."


I scoff, "Rose, you and Scorpius will never, ever be able to do that."


"Well you're not giving me a fair chance if you make me continue to talk about him," she sulks, walking off down to the pitch.


I follow her, "You're sure this is what you want?"


"I'm sure."


"And you still think this will work?"


"It will if we stop talking about it, so that I can forget him for good."


"Fine, we'll stop."


"Good, so now you can make up with James."


I scowl. Somehow it doesn't feel like Rose is upholding her end of the bargain. I'm extremely disappointed with the truth about her and Scorpius.


But I follow her down to the pitch nevertheless, where Fred, Cameron and Eve are waiting for us.


"What's going on?" Rose asks the rest of them, glancing around, "Where's James?"


Fred smirks, "Behind the changing rooms, trying to shake that clingy Kathy Fawcett."


"What?" The word escapes my lips before I can stop it. Any mention of James and another girl makes me so jealous I can barely control my own thoughts. Merlin, I'm a mess.


"She followed him down here and now he can't get rid of her," Cameron is laughing to himself, "This is what you get for asking a girl to Hogsmede."


"At least James was a gentleman," Rose says scornfully, glaring at Fred and Cameron, "At least he asked her. Unlike some people, who don't even bother with first names."


Cameron, as pervy and inappropriate as ever, slings an arm around her, "Aw, Rosie, are you sad I didn't invite you to Hogsmede?"


"Fuck off," she shrugs his arm off her shoulder and moves away. 


But it's my turn to glare at Cameron. He skillfully avoids my gaze, looking guilty. Bloody tool. One minute he claims he fancies Lexie, the next he's hitting on Rose as if nothing's changed.


"James couldn't have predicted that Kathy would turn out to be clingy," Rose says in his defence, "She seemed perfectly nice when they were walking around Hogsmede."


I rack my brains to remember who this Kathy is, but at that moment James comes around the corner from the changing rooms and my question is answered. 


Ah, of course, Evil McBitchface, as I so eloquently named her. She's undeniably pretty, with nut brown hair that blows around in the wind, tall with long legs. Legs that are walking as far away from James as possible.


She doesn't look pleased as she storms off up to the castle, throwing James an occasional glare over her shoulder.


I can't help but smirk a little to myself.


James approaches us, looking thankful to be shot of her, before noticing me standing beside Rose, and his expression darkens.


"Wood," he says gruffly.


"Potter," I answer back, equally frosty.


Rose elbows me, but before I can open my mouth to make conversation with him, James has already tried to escape.


"Er, I forgot my…gloves," he mutters, stumbling off in the opposite direction. 


There's a beat of silence, "What the hell was that?" Fred asks me.


"Who knows, Freddie?" I mutter, "Who the bloody hell knows?"


"Where are Roxanne and Archer?" Rose asks, looking around for the two missing teammates.


I can barely hear her. I'm focusing hard on the back of James' head. Bloody coward. I'm sick of him walking away, refusing to answer me when I ask him something, refusing to give me an explanation when I want one.


I start to follow him, then I pick up the pace and start to run.


"Potter!" I shout. He ignores me. "POTTER!" I yell after him.


He has clearly heard me because he flinches, yet he still continues to walk.


"Damn it, Potter! Don't walk away from me when I'm shouting at you!"


He stops. He turns around to face me.


"What?"


I feel immediately aggravated, but I force myself to keep calm, "You've been avoiding me."


"Yes, I have," he says.


I'm a little surprised, expecting him to immediately deny it, "Glad we've cleared that up. Why have you been avoiding me?"


He turns his back again, and keeps walking toward the changing room. I follow him adamantly. He calls over his shoulder, "Isn't it obvious? I've been avoiding you because I don't want to talk to you."


He reaches the door to the changing rooms, but I stop him, putting a hand firmly on his outstretched arm.


"I really think we should talk," I say in a low voice, "About...what you said."


"Let's agree to disagree, shall we?" He offers me a cocky smirk.


He opens the door to the changing rooms.


I think about protesting again, but my voice immediately dies out because we both see Roxanne and Archer, their lips pressed tightly together, their hands in each other's hair. Suddenly, they jump apart so fast it's as though they were struck by a bolt of lightning. .


I feel a little struck dumb. After three years of Roxanne and Archer being my teammates, I never guessed that there was something going on between them.


Judging by the seething glare on James' face, he hasn't caught on yet either. 


"Hey, Fred!" he roars over his shoulder, "Come over here!"


Roxanne gives James a pleading look, but it's too late.


"What?" Fred comes jogging over towards us.


He glances inside, sees Archer and Roxanne standing on opposite sides of the room. He visibly begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together.


Fred may be stupid, but he isn't that stupid. 


He flies across the threshold, collides with Archer, and immediately begins to pummel him. Archer puts up a good fight, but Fred is a good deal stronger.


Roxanne screams, bringing out her wand and pointing it between Fred and Archer. A loud bang forces them apart.


Fred is seething with anger, glaring murderously at Archer, "What the hell do you think you're doing with my little sister?"


"Stay out of this Fred," Roxanne says, "It's none of your business."


"Oh so it's none of my business that this bastard had his hands all over you, is it?"


"Hey!" Archer mutters as he tends to his bleeding lip, "You didn't even see, alright?"


"Believe me," Fred says aggressively, "You do not want to piss me off right now."


"Archer and I have been dating," Roxanne says defiantly, "There's nothing you can do about it, Fred."


Fred offers her a menacing look, before uttering threateningly, "We'll see about that, won't we?"


He storms out, slamming the door behind him. James follows, leaving me alone with Roxanne and Archer.


"Congratulations," I squeak, before running outside after James.


"Potter, what about our talk?" I shout after him.


"Little busy, Wood!" he shouts over his shoulder, before running after Fred who has already left the pitch in a fury.


Damn Roxanne and her raging hormones. 

 

*               *                *

 

That afternoon I sit in the library studying with my boyfriend, and the girl my boyfriend is still in love with.


No biggie.


"So, what are the three main ingredients of a wit-sharpening potion?" Albus asks me.


"Ginger root, scarab beetles and armadillo bile," I answer like clockwork.


"Good."


I grin and clap my hands together, "I think I'm really getting the hang of this potions thing."


"Just try not to fall asleep in class, and you should be fine," Albus smiles.


"Ha ha," I answer, scowling at him.


"Leave her be," Ray says gently to Albus.


Albus has begun to have a strange effect on Ray. When she's around him she's calm. She isn't sharp, rude or aggressive. In fact she's quite mild.


"I'm only teasing," Albus says, smiling at Ray.


Ray smiles warmly back at him.


 And suddenly I've become the third wheel. How embarrassing.


My heart aches to see them looking at each other like that. Not because I don't want them to be happy, I do, but because the day James mans up and looks at me like that will be the day we can figure out our issues and just be straight with one another. And we all know that day's not coming any time soon.


Albus packs up his textbooks, "Gotta go. Prefect rounds," he says, getting out of his chair.


Ray looks reluctantly back to her text book. Albus kisses me once on the cheek for show, before leaving.


"You two are sweet," Ray says after Albus has left.


I frown suspiciously at her. I'm not sure if I like the new Ray. She's possibly even scarier than before. Now I live in fear, knowing she might lash out at any moment.


"I don't think so," I mutter.


Ray frowns, "What do you mean?"


From behind the shelf I see Albus looking at us tensely, nodding expectantly at me.


I sigh, "I'm thinking of breaking up with him," I tell Ray.


Her blue eyes widen, "What? Why? Did he do something?"


I remind myself, It's all part of the plan. It's all part of the plan.


"No!" I tell her, "Albus is lovely, he's been the perfect boyfriend. He's kind, caring, understanding …" I trail off, running out of flattering adjectives. From behind the bookshelf Albus gives me a big thumbs up.


"Why are you breaking up with him then?" Ray frowns, looking confused.


"It's me," I say dully. This was the part of the plan that I feel the most annoyed about. I reckon I would make a pretty good girlfriend...given the chance. But, then again, this was for Al's benefit, not mine. "I just…don't want a boyfriend right now."


"Oh," Ray says, looking sympathetic, "Understandable. Why do you think I've avoided one all this time? Boyfriends tie you down. None of them have pure intentions either. It's always so they can brag about you to their mates."


I'm not sure what to say to that. It's a typical response from Ray, but I'm sure it's one that Albus is unsatisfied with.


"Albus wasn't like that," I say.


"Not saying he was," Ray shrugs, "But a boyfriend is a boyfriend, no matter how amazing of a person he is."


"So, are you saying you don't want one at all? Not even if the right person came along?"


Ray raises an eyebrow, "That's the worst part! Actually having feelings, that means you could get hurt."


I can almost see her logic, but Albus is looking incredibly depressed from his hiding spot.


"Look," she continues, "I see all the girls that Cameron shags. I love my brother, but he's can be an absolute tool sometimes. And guys look up to him. I don't want to be one of those girls. They're desperate, and pitiable."


This rather sad statement has made Albus disappear. Clearly he doesn't care to hear to anymore of Ray's opinions on men.


"Stella? I was hoping we could talk."


I turn in my seat to look at the intruder.


Oh, it's my new friend Eve. Or, as I like to call her, the sweet, kind, beautiful, blonde pain in the backside.


She's not annoying, per say. No...she's extremely annoying. She's so bloody perfect. I'm pretty sure the birds from Cinderella fly in through her window to help her dress every morning. 


Ray glances at Eve, before packing up her books, "It's fine. I've got to go anyway," she says, "Got to run to the owlery before dinner."


Eve smiles one of her perfect smiles, and sits in the now vacant seat.


"Sorry to bother you," she says apologetically, "I was hoping we could talk."


"Talk away," I reply, feeling less than enthused.


"Well, I know our last coaching session didn't go quite as we'd planned," she says tactfully. I shudder as I remember the details of that fated afternoon. "But I was hoping maybe you would consider giving me another shot."


I immediately shake my head, "Sorry," I reply, "I'm really not in any condition to fly again…Madame Pomfrey said I should wait."


This is an absolute lie. Madame Pomfrey said that I was as good as new, that was ready to fly at any moment I wanted to, provided I didn't go overboard. She'd even given me a few potions for motion sickness.


But Eve doesn't have to know that.


"Oh," Eve looks slightly disappointed, "I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have asked, it's just-"


She stops herself from talking, looking suddenly self-conscious.


"Just…what?" I ask curiously.


"It's getting worse," she whispers.


"What?" I frown, "You being scared of the quaffle."


She nods frantically, "I can't practice the way you showed me, where you distracted me by asking me questions, because I can't ask the others to help me. If James found out he might kick me off the team."


I bite my lip, "I don't think he'd do that." Though in reality I'm not so sure.


"It's pathetic," she laughs softly, "A keeper afraid of the quaffle."


"Why are you so scared?" I ask her.


She gazes at me, then looks back down, looking abashed, "I wasn't always scared. See this?" She pushes back a long strand of blonde hair to reveal a thin scar that runs down her hairline. It's short, only about two centimeters long, but it's very prominent against her skull.


"How d'you get that?" I ask her, staring at it.


"When I was thirteen," she murmurs, "I was in a car accident. Both my parents are muggles. We were driving around one afternoon and all of a sudden this motorbike came out of nowhere. It hit the front windscreen and it shattered everywhere. A shard of glass flew right here," she ran her finger along her scar, "it sliced me right open. They stitched us up, and none of us were properly injured. But after that I get terrified any time something flies towards me."


I'm silent for a while.


"So…if you're scared, how have you managed to be on the team this whole time?"


"I love quidditch," she says, "Sometimes, if I focus properly, I can forget that the quaffle might come flying at me at any moment, and I just focus on flying."


I pause, contemplating her for a moment. I hate that I've suddenly become her confidante. My track record of keeping secrets is not a very good one.


But what she's saying is intriguing. It's difficult, but she wants to zone out her fear so she can do what she loves. My motion sickness isn't something I can control, but maybe my problem is that I associated it too much with the sport. Maybe I actually like quidditch, but hate the nausea. It's certainly an interesting thought.


"Anyway," she sighs, "Never mind. It was silly of me to ask."


I feel guilty again, but before I can open my mouth and change my mind, she changes the subject.


"I hear things with you and James aren't exactly going swimmingly."


"Oh no," I protest, the tone of sarcasm promenant in my voice, "He's just being an egomaniac. Other than that things are right as rain."


"It must be hard, having all these feelings for him."


I feel my whole body tense up at the mention of feelings.


"Sometimes I'm sure I hate him. But then he just…ruins it."


Eve smiles gently, "You have to call him on his crap. If you want him to respect you. Not that he doesn't. I'm pretty sure he respects you more than any other quidditch player he's met."


"How do you know that?"


"James won't stick around to fight with someone he doesn't respect," Eve laughs. Her smile drops, and she looks momentarily horrified, "Oh God."


"What?" I frown, but her outburst is quickly explained.


Fred appears out of nowhere, grinning from ear to ear. A change from this morning, when he had his hands around Archer Daniel's neck.


"Well, hello ladies. Fancy seeing you here!"


Eve does her best to ignore him, shuffling around inside her bag for some unknown item, but Fred isn't fazed.


"Are you lost, Fred?" I ask.


"I have been to the library before, Stella."


"Really? Are you sure you're not just here to look up horrible spells which you can use to curse Roxanne's new boyfriend."


"He's not her boyfriend," Fred snaps quickly, "He's a perv."


I smile gently, "They like each other Fred!"


"He had his hands all over her," Fred whines


"She had her hands all over him!" I laugh


Fred grimaces, "Gross! That's my little sister!"


"You're being immature."


Fred ignores me, and focuses on Eve, "Well, aren't you a sight for sore eyes?"


Eve raises an eyebrow at him, "I'm wearing my uniform."


"Exactly."


"Fred, go away, you're disgusting," I snap.


"No I'm not, I'm awesome. Eve thinks so, don't you Eve?"


She frowns, "I really don't."


He shrugs, oozing self confidence, "I think I'm pretty gangster."


I snort, "Fred, you are quite possibly the least gangster person-"


He puts a finger to my lips, "Hush, vanilla."


He sits down casually, swinging both his legs over the table, leaning back in his chair in a way which he clearly thinks makes him look desirable.


"So...Eve," he says, "You and I should go out some time."


Eve looks flustered, something which Fred mistakes for seduced.


"Thought so," he grins, "How about next Hogsmede trip? Next one's in a few weeks and-"


"Thanks Fred, but I'm busy," she says.


"Doing what?"


"None of your business."


"Come on," he grins, "Go out with me."


"Thank you for the offer," Eve says calmly, although I can tell her patience is running thin, "but I'm really not interested."


Fred grins, "You know you want to."


"And how the hell do you know what I want?" Eve snaps.


"Trust me love, I'm an expert on women. I know what you all want, and it's me."


I almost vomit internally. Eve looks thoroughly unimpressed.


"Well I'm a woman, and I don't want you. How d'you explain that?"


But despite Eve's obvious disinterest, Fred still looks unfazed, "Nothing says 'I'm a woman' like shagging me."


"Nothing says I'm a pig like you," Eve quips.


Fred laughs, "Feisty. I like that in a woman."


Eve rolls her eyes, "I'm not going out with you Fred, so just shut up about it will you?"


"You'll cave. I know you will," he smirks, "But now the reason I actually came over here: Stella."


He turns to me and I find myself slightly dismayed, wondering what Fred could want to talk to me about.


"What?" I ask nervously.


Fred sighs dramatically, "This feud with Jamesie has gone on long enough. Cameron is all for locking you two in a broom cupboard together. But I've decided to take a more mature approach. It's high time you and James let bygones be bygones."


"I've tried," I reply indignantly, "It's not my fault if James is an immature prick who won't even try talking to me. I've tried. It's him you should be talking to."


"And he's perfectly open to the idea!" Fred says optimistically, "There's just one small problem..."


"That he shuts up every time you mention my name?" I predict.


"Yes!" Fred exclaims, "See? With our minds as in sync as this, we can fix any problem."


"How about you stay out of it?" I roll my eyes, and begin to pack my textbooks back into my bag.


"I told you a broom cupboard would be easier," Cameron remarks, coming out from behind the bookshelf.


"Would everyone please stay out of this?" I ask in frustration, "It's got nothing to do with any of you."


"Ah, but see it does, Artois" Cameron tapped the side of his nose, "See, when you and James aren't talking, which these days is most of the time, James tends to get a little…"


"Horrible? Angry? Mean? Douchy?" Fred runs down a list of extremely unflattering attributes, "Pick any of them."


"He schedules practices at 5 in the morning," Cameron adds, "And he makes us run laps for an hour before we even kick off."


"Sounds like not much has changed," I remark.


"It's worse," Eve, Fred and Cameron insist in unison.


I sigh in frustration, "Fine! I'll try talking to him again. But you'll have to be the ones who find, trap and gag him."


"Ah, now that's already done and dusted," Fred smiles proudly. He points over my shoulder, "Look."


I glance in the direction of his finger. James is sitting in a chair, staring out the window with an extremely disgruntled expression on his face.


I frown, "Did you-"


"Stunned him from the shoulders down," Cameron grins, "He can't move."


"I see Lexie's been teaching you well," I reply in a low voice, making him blush fiercely.


"Go on then!" Fred exclaims with excitement, "What are you waiting for?"


I sigh, "I blame all of you for this."


"We're OK with that," Fred says, "Run along now."


I growl with frustration, before getting up and marching over to James.


He doesn't look pleased to see me.


"You mind telling me what the hell is going on?" he asks me angrily.


I sigh, "Fred and Cameron were born, and seventeen years later, here you are, stunned to a chair."


"Well are you going to do the counter curse, or not?"


I got out my wand and promptly whispered the counter curse.


James began to stretch out his limbs, "So why have I been trapped to a chair?" he asks grumpily.


"I think they want us to talk," I reply.


"About what?"


"You already know."


He sighs, "Why do we have to talk about it?"


"Because you told me you never wanted me to quit the team," I murmur, "After you spent years giving me shit because I wouldn't. Don't you think I deserve an explanation?"


"It's not a big deal, Wood," he sighs, "I don't know why you're acting like this."


Something inside me snaps.


"You're immature," I say, "You're pathetic and immature."


"I'm what?" James laughs, almost in outrage.


"Don't laugh at me," I snap, "You're pathetic and immature and a jerk."


"What has gotten into you?" he stares.


"Maybe I'm just tired of waiting around for you to decide how you feel about me. How about you come talk to me when you grow up?"


I storm off, grabbing my bag from the table.


"That was fast," Fred remarks.


I ignore him, slinging my bag over my shoulder, and walking straight towards the door of the library.


*          *            *

 

"I'm proud of you," Rose says, "He completely deserved it."


"Whatever," I reply, "Unless he's ready to explain himself, I've had enough of him and his mind games."


"Good for you," Rose smiles. Suddenly her smile evaporates into thin air and she ducks, "Shit!"


I look ahead to see Scorpius coming towards us.


"Rose," I hiss, "I though you two were just going to pretend nothing ever happened."


"Yeah, but I hardly want to bump into him in the corridor, do I?" she snaps, "I'm going back to the common room."


"Yeah, seems your flawless plan isn't so flawless."


"Shut up," she growls, running back through the crowd.


Scorpius reaches me, "Was that Rose?" he mutters.


"Yeah," I sigh.


"She's avoiding me, isn't she? 


"Yeah."


"So much for pretending it never happened," he mutters angrily, "Oh, whoops. Wasn't supposed to tell you."


I pat him comfortingly on the shoulder, "She told me everything."


Scorpius looks surprised, "Everything?"


"Yeah. Just so you know, I think you're both making the right decision."


Scorpius spluttered, "Yeah, sure."


I frown, "Was it Rose's idea?"


"It was all Rose's-" he pauses, staring at me in amazement, "She didn't tell you the whole truth."


"What?" I stare, "Of course she did!"


"Oh really?" Scorpius raises his eyebrows, "Did she tell you what happened before she came up with our little agreement?"


Dread begins to fill up inside me, "No, What happened?"


Scorpius keeps silent, but I can tell rage is bubbling up inside him.

 

"Scorpius, what happened?" I insist urgently. 

 

"We snogged, okay?" Scorpius cries, "She dragged me out behind the Three broomsticks to yell at me for going on a date with Harriet, then she changed her mind, and snogged me instead. And when she was done she said it was all a mistake, and asked me to pretend we'd never met."


I'm left speechless. Rose certainly left out that part of the story.


"Scorpius-" I begin.


He brushes past me, "I'm tired of Rose's mind games, Stella. I would confront her about that, but according to the agreement I don't even know her."


And with that Scorpius walks away, probably to some distant corner to sulk his way through Herbology.


Rose has some serious explaining to do.


"What was that about?"


I turn, and see James, standing there looking slightly sheepish.


Immediately turning around, I walk away from him.


"Wood!" I hear his voice shouting after me, but I don't stop. I've decided to savor the sound of his voice saying my name.


"Wood, would you stop?" 


He grabs my wrist and swings me around to face him.


"What do you want Potter?" I ask, wrenching my wrist from his grip.


He sighs, "OK, fine, I'll talk."


I fold my arms and wait for him to continue.


"I'm sorry I've been a jerk," he says awkwardly, "I've been a jerk, no other way around it. I didn't want you to quit the team because you're a good player. You're damn annoying, but you're a good player. I guess I wanted you to quit because it was annoying me that you didn't take the team seriously. Well, I thought you didn't take it seriously. And then I found out it was all to do with nausea, and that's why you hate it, and then I got confused. I'm rambling, I'm sorry. What?" 


I'm incredibly surprised to find that I'm smiling from ear to ear. And I'm laughing.


"What's so funny?" he frowns, looking very embarrassed.


"I just…nothing."


I stop laughing, but I'm still grinning.


"Thanks for the apology, Potter."


He smiles. He actually smiles at me.


"I get very confused around you," he says, without elaboration, "I don't like confrontation. It's probably why I can act like a jerk, sometimes."


"Sometimes? Understatement of the century," I say.


"Will you just accept the apology?" he asks, "I'm embarrassed enough."


"OK."


He nods, "OK."


There's a long, awkward pause.


"So…" I say, "I'll be going now."


"I've been thinking," he interrupts me, "I had an idea of how you can work through your quidditch fear."


The smile drops off my face, "Potter, if you're talking about another screaming match with you, count me out. I'm-"


"This idea is different," he insists.


"How is it different?"


He smiles, a knowing smile, "Because this time you don't have to leave the ground."

 

 





A/N: Just realized it's been about 3 months since I updated...for which I am very, very sorry! I've been so incredibly busy, but I won't bore you with the details

Please let me know what you thought! James has made his apologies, but stormy skies are still ahead. And now the truth about Rose and Scorpius is out, how will everyone react? Does Albus still stand a chance with Ray? And, most importantly, do you think Fred could make it as a gangster? Make your predictions/bets/I don't cares in that review box below!

I'll try and update asap, but for the moment I can't make any promises :(

Reviews may or may not speed up the process...just saying.

 


Chapter 11: Thump Thump Thump
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Disclaimer: OK, you got me. I don't own Harry Potter. Big surprise, huh? For a second there, I almost had you fooled.








Stella Wood 

  Stunning CI by lilscratchy@tda









Ah, October. Don't you just love October? With the pretty leaves, that fresh autumn smell in the air. With Halloween at your doorstep and christmas not far behind that. All the beautiful colors, in every shade of red, yellow and gold you could imagine. October really is just perfect.

 

Except it also means one thing.

 

Quidditch season begins.

 

And it is for this reason, and this reason alone, that October is quite possibly my least favourite month of the year. How did you guess?

 

"I heard that you and Albus broke up," says James as we walk down to the quidditch pitch one fine October morning, with the Gryffindor Slytherin match fast approaching us.

 

He keeps his voice measured and calm. He could continue with "Please, Stella, marry me and make me the happiest quidditch captain on earth!" Or he could continue with "Nice weather we're having, isn't it?"

 

Point is, I have no idea what he means by that.

 

"Er…yeah," I say uneasily, "We decided it was for the best."

 

"It probably was," he says.

 

He doesn't elaborate, so I'm left pondering the meaning behind his words again.

 

He's right, however, breaking up with Albus was definitely for the best.

 

It had been quiet, simple, no big announcement. We sat together in Potions class, Professor Wilde had just turned up her nose at my potion, but hadn’t made any nasty comments (a great improvement).

 

Albus turned to me, and just came straight out with it, “We should break up.”

 

I raised an eyebrow at him, “Honestly, Albus. That’s no way to ask someone to break up with you! What would your parents say?”

 

“Fine,” he grinned, crouching down low, so he was on one knee, “Stella Wood, will you break up with me?”

 

I grinned and pulled him upwards into a hug, “I though you’d never ask.”

 

After that word spread quickly. Luckily, however, Ray still continues to speak to him, after getting my permission of course, and, after a few taunts about me getting my just desserts, the entire school has gone back to ignoring me. For once, invisibility is something I'm extremely grateful for.



 

"Do you think he'll get together with Ray any time soon?" James asks me.

 

"I don't know," I confess, “I hope so.”

 

We walk on in awkward silence. Occasionally I slip a glance at him, but he keeps his face unemotional, betraying nothing.

 

"Are you going to tell me what this so-called amazing plan of yours is?" I ask him, unable to bear the suspense any longer.

 

"You'll see when we get down there," he replies, a little smugly.

 

"I'm not sure I like this," I mutter, "I mean, if I don't even have to leave the ground, why are we going down to the quidditch pitch?"

 

"You'll see," is all he says.

 

"Are you sure this isn't some trick to get me on a broom again?" I utter nervously.

 

"Look, Wood," he says, stopping to face me head on, "Do you trust me?"

 

"No."

 

"Well, you should."

 

"Really? Evidence suggests that I have no reason to."

 

He rolls his eyes and continues walking. I follow him.

 

"You can't blame me for being curious," I say, "Just give me a hint!"

 

"Fine," he says, "It requires talking. You shouldn't have any problem with that."

 

I ignore the mocking tone of his voice, "But does it involve a broom?"

 

"Yes it does."

 

I feel a rush of anger, "Potter, you swore-"

 

"Merlin's beard, Wood, just calm down!" he says, but the angry tone he usually uses when yelling at me is mysteriously absent. "I didn't say it involved you on a broom, did I? So just zip it."

 

"I will not," I snap.

 

"I expected no less," he replies, smirking at me.

 

We walk down to the quidditch pitch in silence, after that. I feel an impending sense of dread building inside me.

 

The green pitch spreads out before us, and I notice a lone figure at one end, standing beside a broom.

 

"Who's that?" I ask James nervously.

 

"Victor McLaggen," he replies, "Gryffindor second year."

 

"He doesn't play quidditch does he?" I frown.

 

"No," James replies simply.

 

Victor McLaggen swaggers towards us, presenting the usual second year arrogance the rest of the school is already familiar with. It's the ooh-I'm-so-cool-because-I've-already-been-here-a-year swagger. The ooh-I’m-so-cool-because-I-can-find-my-way-back-to-my-common-room-without-asking-for-directions swagger.

 

As you may have guessed, I am not fond of little children.

 

He's tall for his age, with thick blonde hair sweeping over his forehead in a look that's apparently very popular at the moment, but doesn't necessarily make you more attractive. He flicks his hair away, revealing cool grey eyes that stare at me condescendingly.

 

"Victor," James says, "Meet Stella."

 

Victor doesn't hold out a hand to shake the one I offer him. Instead, he looks pointedly at James.

 

"Are we going to get on with this then?" he asks impatiently.

 

I raise an eyebrow and turn to James, "Get on with what, exactly?"

 

He bites his lip for a second, looking nervous. Fuck, why does he do that? He might as well hold up a sign that says 'snog me senseless'. James looks at both of us, "You're his new quidditch coach."

 

"What?" I hiss, but it appears Victor is just as horrified. This is James’ big plan?

 

Darn, I had been expecting something with a little more grandiose surprise. Maybe fireworks. Maybe a private concert with the Weird Sisters. I don’t know, something cooler than coaching a moody second year.

 

"I thought you were going to be my coach," Victor cries indignantly.

 

"I'll be supervising," he replies.

 

"Supervising what?" I exclaim.

 

"You're giving Victor some private coaching," he replies.

 

"I asked for lessons from the quidditch captain, not the drop-out," Victor says snootily.

 

I glare at him, "Say that again, blondie?"

 

"Okay, okay," James says, trying to break up the impending fight between us, "Look, Victor, Stella may not have my expertise-"

 

I show my appreciation for that comment by scoffing noisily. James gives me a look.

 

"-But she's still a good quidditch player. And more than that, she's a keeper. You want to be a keeper, don't you?"

 

"Yes," Victor replies sulkily.

 

"Good, so don't worry, I'll be here the whole time."

 

"You make it sound like I'm about to murder him," I mutter, although the prospect seems increasingly likely.

 

"Fine," Victor agrees begrudgingly.

 

I look shrewdly at James, "James? A word?"

 

I grab him by the forearm and drag him several paces away, out of earshot of Victor, "This is your brilliant plan? Coach a pompous, spoiled git on how to catch a ball?"

 

"He didn't make the team," James says, "His dad asked for private lessons until he's good enough. But seriously, the kid is shit. Your job is to turn him into something that isn't."

 

"This will only end badly," I hiss, "You know that, right?"

 

"No doubt," he grins, "But in the meantime, you'll be teaching him how to be a good keeper, and you don't even have to leave the ground. I promise, it'll remind you that you actually like this sport, even though you're too cowardly to admit it."

 

"I-" I pause, he's clearly winding me up, "I'm not too cowardly. Alright, I'll coach the brat."

 

"This is what it's all about, Wood," he says, "Compromise. Now, do you think you could get off my arm? You're cutting off my circulation."

 

I reluctantly let go of his bicep and turn back to Victor, "Right, McLaggen, give me twenty push ups."

 

"What?" he looks a little gobsmacked, "I want to learn quidditch, not fitness, now teach me something real, woman."

 

Woman? I laugh, grinning all over my face, "I'm just kidding! Give me forty."

 

He stares, "What?"

 

"McLaggen," James interrupts, "If you want to be a good player, the first step is being in perfect shape. As Wood here will tell you."

 

He offers me a little smirk, before sitting himself down on the stands to watch.

 

McLaggen seems to take James' word for it, and drops angrily to the ground. He manages about ten, before he collapses into a sniveling heap onto the ground.

 

Weakling. Okay, fine, I can barely manage five. With all those muffins you can hardly expect me to be an olympic marathon runner. Honestly.

 

"Alright, McLaggen get up," I snap, even though I’m secretly enjoying torturing him.

 

Yes I may be slightly unhinged. No I don't think it matters.

 

He pulls himself up, looking red faced and sweaty.

 

"Right," I say, pulling the quaffle out of the open ball trunk a few meters away, "Passing."

 

"Uh, Wood," James calls from his spot on the bleachers, "Don't you think you should teach him flying techniques first?"

 

"Not if he's planning on being a halfway decent keeper I'm not," I reply angrily, annoyed that he's undercutting me in front of McLaggen.

 

James gets up from his seat and walks over to me, "Shouldn't he know how to balance himself so he doesn't plunge to his death?"

 

"Maybe we should do what he says," McLaggen adds, somewhat nervously.

 

"Maybe you should shut it," I snap, before turning to James, "I thought you gave me this student for me to teach. We'll start with passing. Then we'll fly."

 

"Flying is what quidditch is all about," James replies, sounding a little frustrated.

 

"And passing and catching is what being a keeper is all about," I snap.

 

"Not if you can't sit upright on a broom properly. Passing and catching is for chasers, Wood, try not to get them confused."

 

"I'm the teacher, you're the observer, try not to get that confused, jerk-face."

 

"Moron."

 

"Git."

 

McLaggen folds his arms, looking unimpressed, "Um, how about you two go and work out your sexual tension in a broom cupboard somewhere, then come back and I'll learn some proper quidditch, yeah?"

 

I blush furiously. Why oh why did McLaggen have to go and say something like that? James mutters something low and uncomfortable under his breath, and I feel my heart drop to the pit of my stomach. He’s embarrassed. He’s embarrassed by the idea of someone thinking he might like me. My bottom lip, in spite of my better judgement, trembles.

 

I bite down hard on it, wince at the sharp outburst of pain, and snap quickly at McLaggen, “None of your backtalk.”

 

He shrugs. I roll my eyes and the moment fortunately passes. James rubs the back of his neck, like he does when he’s uncomfortable. He curls him fingers into a fist and looks increasingly unfocused.

 

He says, “Right McLaggen, we already know that you do push ups like a girl, let’s see if you throw like one too.”

 

“I resent that,” I snort.

 

“Right, forget I said it,” he says in a low voice. He glances up at McLaggen, “You’re lucky you’ve got Stella to teach you. One of the best keepers I’ve seen.”

 

I stare at him. He doesn’t look at me, keeping his gaze firmly fixed on McLaggen. His fists are more tightly curled than ever, knuckles slowly turning white.

 

“I forgot,” He continues, still not looking at me, “I have to meet Fred in the library. I was supposed to help him with his Charms essay.”

 

“Oh,” I reply, “See you later then.”

 

“Sorry to leave you here like this,” he says, glancing at me quickly.

 

“Apology accepted,” says McLaggen.

 

“I wasn’t talking to you, git,” James snaps at him.

 

“It’s…fine,” I say, although it isn’t fine. I don’t want him to leave me here with this kid. Now I’m stuck with him.

 

James nods once apologetically, before running off.

 

I stare after him. What the hell was that?

 

“What, sad your boyfriend ditched you?” McLaggen sneers from behind me.

 

“You know what?” I turn to him, “I think you can manage a few more push ups. What do you say?”

 

*              *                   *

 

That evening I sit down heavily in an armchair beside my friends.

 

“Rough day?” Rose asks me.

 

I reply by groaning, "What's worse than a brattish second year, who cries when he does push ups?”

 

Albus looks up, deep in thought, "Horcruxes?

 

Ray counters that, "Bellatrix Lestrange?

 

"The Wizarding world war?” Lexie offers.

 

"Voldemort?” asks Rose

 

I roll my eyes and mutter, “Okay well there's always those things.”

 

“What’s on your mind Stel?” Rose grins at me.

 

“I’m now giving Vincent McLaggen some private lessons in quidditch,” I reply heavily, “And it’s shit.”

 

The others look utterly confused. “Why the hell are you giving him lessons?” Albus asks.

 

“It was James’ stupid idea,” I snap, “He said that doing it would reignite my love of quidditch. The only thing it ignited was my hatred for second years. And then, after ten minutes, James just ran off to help Fred.”

 

“Wait, he just left you there?” Lexie raises an eyebrow.

 

“Someone say my name?” Fred asks smoothly, sliding into the armchair beside mine,  “I’m glad I found you, Stella. I was wondering, do you think you could talk to your friend for me?”

 

“Who?”

 

“You know, tall, blonde, stunningly beautiful, completely into me.”

 

I raise an eyebrow, “You mean Eve?” Fred already knew her name very well, she was on the same quidditch team as him, but he couldn’t very well admit that he actually knew that name of a girl he was trying to shag.

 

“That’s the one!” Fred replies happily.

 

I roll my eyes and decide to let him have it, “What do you want me to talk to her about?”

 

“How into me she is. Really, it’s starting to become embarrassing.”

 

I start getting annoyed by this point. Fred can be so stubborn. “Fred, she’s not into you.”

 

“Now, what would give you that idea?” he laughs.

 

“Well, if I do talk to her, that will be the fourth time she’s rejected you.”

 

At this point Rose and Albus start to laugh. Fred begins to look slightly indignant.

 

“Please, those weren’t rejections,” he scoffs.

 

“What part of ‘Fred, please go away, I’m not interested’ isn’t a rejection?”

 

 “Jeez Stella, sure know how to make a guy feel good,” he mutters, sinking low into his chair, while Rose and Albus continue to laugh at him.

 

I realize suddenly that Fred is completely aware of where he stands with Eve, and he isn’t happy about it one little bit.

 

I put an apologetic hand on his arm, “I’ll talk to her if you like. But not about her infatuation with you, I’ll see if she’ll give you a fourth chance.”

 

“Thanks, Stella, you’re the best,” he grins.

 

“Freddie’s in loooooove,” Albus sings at him.

 

“Fuck off, I am not,” Fred snaps, “These are manly feelings. Manly feelings of lust.”

 

“Ew,” Rose looks as though she’s tasted something bitter in her mouth.

 

“Freddie and Eve, sitting in a tree…” Albus starts.

 

Fred gets up, looking ready to pummel him. I grab him by the shirtsleeve and sit him back down.

 

To distract him from Albus’ mocking grin, I say, “Did you finish your charms essay in the end?”

 

Fred frowns at me, “What Charms essay?”

 

“The one James was helping you with?”

 

“I haven’t seen James since breakfast,” Fred frowns.

 

“But he said he had to help you…” I say, an expression of bewilderment beginning to form on my face.

 

“Look, Stella,” Fred laughs, “The day James starts helping me with homework is the day I stop being awesome, and we all know, that’s not happening any time soon.”

 

The realization hits me, and I lean back in my chair, hissing, “That son of a bitch…”

 

“Oooh, what’d he do now?” Fred asks eagerly.

 

“Fuck!” I cry out suddenly, now feeling anger pour over me, wave after wave.

 

The bastard just left me there! He just ran off, and lied about why. He fed me some bullshit about being sorry, how he wanted us to start afresh, and for all I know it had just been a lie to mess with my head again.

 

I stand up, my fingers trembling slightly. Fred now looks slightly alarmed. “Seriously, Stella, what did he do?”

 

I don’t answer him. Across the room the portrait hole swings open and James himself appears. Something inside me snaps. I decide that I’m done with waiting around for him to change.

 

I march over to him with as much determination as I can muster. Usually my confidence dwindles after a few steps, but something is burning inside me, and I power forward towards him.

 

His eyes fixate on me moving, and I immediately detect panic in his eyes. Panic is good. Panic means he knows that I know.

 

In a fit of rage, I grab him by the front of his shirt and drag him backwards through the open portrait hall.

 

“Wait-what-Wood!” he cries out, “Where are we going? What are you doing?”

 

“Just shut up,” I snap, and even I’m surprised by the level of anger in my voice, “We’re going down to the pitch.”

 

“But- it’s dark outside.”

 

“What? Afraid of the dark Potter? I said shut up,” I reply.

 

“At least tell me what this is about-“

 

I let go of his shirt collar and swivel around to face him. I can feel anger boiling up inside me, ready to overflow, “I don’t know why you left me there this morning. I don’t know why you thought coaching Vincent McLaggen would be a good idea. I don’t know why you lied to me about Fred. That’s your issue.  But I’m sick and tired of you bossing me around, telling me to do this and do that. We’re going down to the pitch, and I’m going to fly, but on my own terms. So in the mean time shut your lying trap.”

 

He stares at me, completely gobsmacked. Thankfully, he doesn’t say anything after that until we reach the pitch.

 

James had been right, it’s dark, and growing steadily darker. The pitch seems to extend for miles in the night time, blending in with the black sky.

 

OK, I may or may not be a little afraid of the dark. Goosebumps crawl over my skin and the cool night air picks up. I shiver and contemplate going back inside where it’s light and warm.

 

Pull yourself together, Stella. Now.

 

“I feel I don’t need to tell you that we’re breaking about 5 school rules by being out here,” James says cautiously.

 

“Are you going to tell?” I ask him coolly.

 

“No!” he says quickly. I can tell that he’s quite terrified of getting in my way now, nervously twitching every time I look in his direction.

 

I grab two brooms from the broom cupboard behind the stadium.

 

“Here,” I throw one towards him. He catches it easily, looking apprehensively towards me.

 

“Are you sure-“

 

“No,” I reply quickly.

 

But before I can think about anything else, before I can think about how high up it’ll be, before I can contemplate the nausea, I swing my leg over and kick off hard.

 

I soar into the sky, faster and faster. I can feel the nausea, the fear, the sickness rising in me, but the anger that’s still burning overrides that, and I power through. I fly faster, going higher up, never stopping.

 

“WOOD!” I hear James roaring after me.

 

I glance down, and see him flying towards me, hard on my heels. I fly away sharply to the right, spinning and twisting, feeling air howl around me, inside my ears.

 

“WOOD! WAIT! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!”

 

He’s right. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m so dizzy I can barely distinguish one goal post from another. But I can’t stop,

 

No, I don’t want to stop.

 

The feeling inside me isn’t nausea, it isn’t fear, it is exhilaration.

 

I race towards James and scream as I pass him, “I’LL RACE YOU! THREE TIMES AROUND THE PITCH! GO! GO! GO!”

 

He shakes his head at me, and laughs, “YOU’RE CRAZY, D’YOU KNOW THAT?”

 

I laugh manically back, speeding off ahead of him. I have no fear. I feel like a bird that hasn’t stretched its wings. The air fills me up like a balloon, and I wonder if I might burst.

 

I’m well ahead, but he’s trying to catch up. I don’t look back after that, and race forward, focusing on the open space that’s rushing towards me.

 

Something has changed in me. Why hasn’t anyone told me it’s this good? Why hasn’t anyone told me how it feels to let go of all your inhibitions and just fly?

 

Before I know it I’ve made three laps of the pitch, and James is still behind me.

 

I finally stop, breathlessly happy. James stops beside me, and he looks out of breath too.

 

“Again,” he grins at me.

 

“Fine, if you can handle losing twice,” I reply, before flying off.

 

He’s hot on my tail now, unlike before, and speeding up until we’re neck and neck. We race, glancing sideways at one another.

 

And I feel it again, that rush. It fills me up, and I fly even faster than before. James falls behind, not having the same confidence to go as fast as me.

 

I let off a cry, a long and happy scream that fills my throat and echoes all around me.

 

Suddenly I forget all about the race and I dive, dipping down and down, and then pulling up at the last minute before I hit the ground, only to soar higher into the sky, yelling war cries of happiness all the way.

 

I’m level with James once again, and he grins at me. I’ve never seen him look at me the way he’s looking now. It’s half pride, half amazement.

 

“Come on,” I grin back at him, “Let’s see how well you can dive.”

 

“Ok,” he says, “But I warn you, you’re going up against a very good diver.”

 

“Yeah, less talking, more diving,” I reply.

 

We both dive at the same time, closer and closer to the ground, as close as we possibly dare. Impossible amounts of adrenaline course through my veins. My hands are shaking on the broom handle. He pulls up before I do, but only just. I’m so close to the ground that I could kiss it, and I pull up before I collide with the earth.

 

I laugh at him once we’re back up in the sky. He smiles at me.

 

“You want to try something fun?” he asks me.

 

“What is it?” I reply.

“Come lower,” he says flying slowly towards the ground. I follow him.

 

 

We’re barely a two meters above the ground when we stop.

 

“Watch me,” James says.

 

He sets off at a fast pace, getting faster and faster. Then suddenly he lets out a wild yell, and jumps off the broom, throwing his body forwards. Miraculously he lands on both feet.

 

He bows to my applause, then straddles his broom and kicks off again.

 

“Just…jump,” he says, once he’s returned to my side of the pitch, “You have to jump forward though the air, and try to land on your feet.”

 

“OK,” I reply eagerly. Normally something like this would terrify the living shit out of me, but this is different. I feel like I could try anything.

 

I race forward, feeling the air rush past me, until it gets louder and louder.

 

It’s now or never, I decide, and I throw myself off forwards. It’s only a small drop of about a meter, and I land in a crouch, not on both feet like James did.

 

“You have to do the yell!” he laughs from the other side of the pitch, “It won’t work if you don’t yell!”

 

I kick off again and fly over to him.

 

“Like this,” he says, and he demonstrates again. He flies forward and jumps, letting off the yell louder than before, only this time he lands on his front.

 

I gasp, “SHIT! Are you OK?”

 

Luckily my question is answered with a groan, and then a laugh. He rolls over onto his back, laughing and laughing.

 

I laugh with him, and race forward, faster and faster, until I’m going so fast I’m not sure if I can slow down.

 

Suddenly the broom jerks a little in the wind, and the speed seems to pick up even faster. I’m losing control of the broom.

 

I throw myself into the air, yelling loudly as I go.

 

And I land. On top of him.

 

He let’s out a gasp of air as I crash into his chest.

 

Then he starts to laugh. And then I laugh. We’re both laughing hysterically, almost crying with the hilarity of the situation.

 

My face is level with his, my hair falling down over my face in a windswept mess.

 

His eyes are closer to mine that I’d realized, and I stop laughing almost immediately. His laughter dies down to.

 

His eyes are fixated on mine, brown flecked with amber and gold, all the tiny little colours reflecting each other. I can’t seem to look away.

 

“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” I ask him hoarsely.

 

His right arm lifts up. His fingers, rough and calloused from the broom, slowly brush away my falling strands of hair, and tuck them gently behind my ear. I can barely breathe.  

 

I can hear my heart pounding in my chest. Thump. Thump.

 

“No,” he replies. His voice is low and quiet, husky after all the shouting and screaming. Thump. Thump.

 

Suddenly the world has never seemed more quiet.

 

Both his arms are somehow placed on mine, holding me to him so that I can’t escape. Not that I would ever want to. Thump, goes my heart again.

 

Our faces are inches from one another, inches that I could so easily close if I just pressed my lips onto his. Thump. His lips that are frozen beneath mine. Thump. His body is so warm underneath mine, so solid and firm. Thump.



 

His eyes bear into me. I swear they just trailed over my lips, and then back up to my eyes. Thump Thump Thump.

 

Thump.

 

Thump. Thump.

 

And suddenly, out of nowhere, I’m scared. No, I’m terrified. I can’t do this.

 

My whole body is frozen with fear one second, the next second I’m scrambling to get on my feet, rolling off him completely, and standing up clumsily, so quickly that I’m not sure it actually happened. James is still frozen on the ground, staring at me in bewilderment.

 

“I-uh-I-uh-I have t-to go,” I stammer awkwardly at him, before running off, stumbling away with my heart racing in my mouth.

 

Thump. Thump.

 

 

 

 

Thump.

 

 

 










A/N: Ahem, some of you may want to murder Stella right now. I would ask you to please take it up with her, I had nothing to do with it, I promise. Please don't throw things at me.

I realise there was much of an update on the other characters, but hopefully i made up for it with lots of James/Stella action, or lack thereof. Ha ha, good one, right? (Seriously, though, please don't throw anything)

Next chapter is the fateful quidditch match. It'll be a much faster update than this one was, hopefully within the next week.

Here is a pathetically tiny preview, but a preview nonetheless:


 


 

“Is there something wrong with you?” Ray asks me, frowning curiously, “You’re all…twitchy.”


 

“What? No I’m not!” I flinch at the sounds of cheering coming from all directions. Everyone is already sat in the stands, screaming and flying their banners. Tensions are running high, the way they always are at a Gryffindor versus Slytherin match. “Can we just go and sit down there?”


 

I point towards a low corner of the stands, completely out of sight of someone high in the air.


 

“Don’t you want somewhere with a better view?” Ray scans the crowd, looking for a spot in a higher location.


 

“No,” I mutter, “We should keep out of sight.”


 

“Okay,” Ray frowns even more suspiciously at me, “We’ll sit here then.”

 

 

 

We take our seats, and I glance a few times over my shoulder, but thankfully James is nowhere to be seen. He’s probably giving his team last minute tactics.



 

If anyone thinks James is stressed during normal quidditch practices, then they haven’t seen him before a match, and, more importantly, a match against his younger brother.


 

I would hate to be anywhere near him right now, even if I hadn’t almost planted one on him.


 


Chapter 12: Idiocy Thy Name Is Stella
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Disclaimer: Fortunately for you, JK Rowling created the entire Harry Potter universe, not me.







The Potter Boys - James and Albus

 Chapter image by Elenia@ TDA

 






You know when you do something really, really stupid?


I’m not talking about quitting the quidditch team. It’s more stupid than that.


It’s not pretending to be your friend’s girlfriend so that he can slowly seduce the girl of his dreams. Even though that really takes the cake.


No, I’m talking about being centimeters away from the love of your life, the person who you can’t get out of your head, having the opportunity to snog them senseless, and not taking it.


Oh, that never happened to you guys?


It’s probably because you’re not idiots like me.


Seriously, though, James was right there. He was so close. I literally had him trapped. He couldn’t move. And he was gazing at me, at least, that’s how it felt at the time.


Maybe he was just in shock after I’d crashed into him. I have been eating a lot of muffins lately.


Now I’ll never have the opportunity again. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.


I’m lying on my bed, flat on my back, eyes closed, letting the full extent of my stupidity wash over me. 


I could have kissed James. He was right there


But no, I had to get up as clumsily as possible, mutter a few incoherent words of mumbo-jumbo, and then just run off. Merlin, I’m such a loser.


“What’s wrong with you?” asks Ray.


I look up, only to find Ray isn’t talking to me. Her words are directed at Lexie, who has just appeared in the doorway, looking frantic.


“He-He found s-someone else!” she looks ready to burst into tears.


I sit up and stare at her, “Who? What are you talking about?”


“Cameron!” she cries, flinging herself onto the bed beside mine, “He told me he’s found a better tutor!”


“What?” Ray looks outraged, “Who’d he pick over you?”


“Valerie Stevens,” Lexie mutters bitterly.


I frown. Valerie Stevens is a Ravenclaw 7th year. She is, to put it nicely, a heinous bitch. She seems to consider it her life mission to make everyone else’s lives hell. 


But why Cameron would ask her makes no sense. Valerie is athletic, unusually tall with bandy legs and pimply skin. There is no way Cameron would ever consider her worth his flirtatious time.


“Why would he choose that bitch?” snaps Ray. She’s clearly still bitter since their throw down in the corridor in Ray’s 5th year. Hair had been pulled, teeth knocked out. It wasn't pretty.

 

“I don’t know!” Lexie wails, “He just came up to me this morning at breakfast, and cool as cucmber just said it wasn’t working out.”


“He’s an idiot,” I murmur soothingly, although privately I'm seething. How can Cameron be such a class-A douche bag? Honestly, for a guy who claims to have a way with the ladies, he’s pretty clueless when it comes to a girl he actually likes.


“My brother is such a git,” Ray mutters.


“Agreed,” I reply. My fingers itch, hoping to grapple with Cameron’s throat.


“I think I’ll have a word with him,” Ray says menacingly.


“No!” Lexie cries, looking alarmed, “You have to promise not to say anything! I-I don’t want him to know I’m upset.”


Ray stares at her, coming to a sudden realization. She then looks exasperated, clasping her hand to her forehead and sighing.


“Oh god. You like him.”


Lexie hangs her head in shame, “I’m sorry.”


“Don’t be,” Ray sighs, “Lots of people have fallen for Cameron’s so-called charms. Just know, he flirts with everyone.”


“I know,” Lexie mutters.


“It’s very easy to fall under his spell,” Ray warns, “Whatever feelings you’re feeling-”


“I know, I know,” Lexie cries, “Okay? I’m just as stupid as every other bimbo here. I like him, and I wish I didn’t.”


It’s like she’s reading my mind. 


“Okay,” Rose says, emerging from the bathroom, “I have to go! James will kill us if we’re late for the match.”


The mention of James sends my stomach into another round of turmoil. Ever since I had nearly kissed him, or he had nearly kissed me, I’ve done everything in my power to avoid him. How the tables have turned. Now whenever we spot each other at the end of a distant corridor, it’s me who runs away, not him. 


“Good luck,” I say to Rose. She’s already dressed in her scarlet quidditch robes. I remember that I have an identical set hanging in my wardrobe.


“Are you sad you aren’t a part of it?” Rose asks me tentatively.


“I don’t know anymore,” I reply.


It has been several days since my night time flight, and I’ve turned over my feelings in my mind again and again. I loved it, there’s no way around it, I had never felt more alive, or more free.


“I’ll see you guys down there,” Rose grins.


We all wish her good luck, and I feel increasingly nervous. I realize that I’ll be down there, and he’ll be down there.


And I won’t be able to run this time.

 

*             *              *

 

“Is there something wrong with you?” Ray asks me, frowning curiously, “You’re all…twitchy.”


“What? No I’m not!” I flinch at the sounds of cheering coming from all directions. Everyone is already sat in the stands, screaming and flying their banners. Tensions are running high, the way they always are at a Gryffindor versus Slytherin match. “Can we just go and sit down there?”


I point towards a low corner of the stands, completely out of sight of someone high in the air.


“Don’t you want somewhere with a better view?” Ray scans the crowd, looking for a spot in a higher location.


“No,” I mutter, “We should keep out of sight.”


“Okay,” Ray frowns even more darkly, “We’ll sit here then.”

 

We take our seats, and I glance a few times over my shoulder, but James is nowhere to be seen. He’s probably giving his team last minute tactics.


If anyone thinks James is stressed during normal quidditch practices, then they haven’t seen him before a match, and, more importantly, a match against his younger brother. 


I would hate to be anywhere near him right now, even if I hadn’t almost planted one on him.


“Pssst!” come a whisper from behind me. I glance around, frowning when the noise comes again, “Psst! Stella!”


I catch a glimpse of a blonde ponytail, a flash of gold and scarlet robes.


I frown and get up from the stands, muttering to Ray, “I have to go and check something.”

 

“What?” she looks confused.


I ignore her protests and get down from the stands. Behind the rows of seats stands Eve, looking absolutely petrified.


“Eve?” I stare at her.


“Stella,” she whispers, “You have to help me.”


“What’s wrong?”


“I’m scared!” she hisses, “I’m not ready. I’ve been practicing as much as I can, but I’m worried that once I get up there I’m going to seize up!”


“Okay,” I put both hands on either side of her, “Keep calm. Breathe.”


 She lets out a shaky breath, “But-“


“You’ll be fine,” I interrupt her, “Just think about something, anything that will distract you from the fear.”


“O-okay,” she sighs. She looks at me with concern suddenly, “You didn’t…mention it to anyone, did you?”


“Of course not,” I reply.


She breathes a sigh of relief, and smiles at me, “I knew you wouldn’t have. Merlin, Stella you’re such a good friend.”


“Sure,” I mutter.


“No, really,” she insists, “You are such-“


“Oi! Collins! Get in here, last pep talk!”


I feel a shiver run through my body as I recognize his voice. Eve looks towards the changing rooms, and I releuctantly turn with her. 


James is leaning out of the door, staring at both of us with his typical frown on his face. His perfect face. His perfect face that I could have snogged senseless.


God why am I such an idiot?


James goes back inside, slamming the door behind him. I wonder if he’s angry with me. He’ll probably go into defensive, saying things like 'I don’t care, whatever, nothing happened' mode, and I’ll be left wondering how I could have gotten it into my head that we might have kissed.


“Come with me,” Eve says imploringly, “I can’t face him alone.”


What are you, five? It’s James for crying out loud.


Okay fine, I’m absolutely scared shitless of him too, but, to be fair, Eve didn’t chicken out when she had the chance to snog him.


I glance quickly at Eve. I wonder if she fancies him. I wonder if she ever had the chance to kiss him. She’d probably take it, because she’s not a moron.


“Are you sure you need me there?” I ask Eve uncomfortably.


“Oh god, I’m so insensitive,” Eve clasps a hand to her forehead, “Of course you don’t want to go in there. It’s the first match that you’re not a part of.”


Gee, thanks for rubbing it in. I’m suddenly reminded of the exhilarating feeling I had when I flew last week. It was unlike anything else, and I knew I had to try it again. Maybe I should be on the quidditch team. For a second I feel a wave of jealousy towards Eve rush over me.


“I could go in there if you really need me to,” I reply, “For moral support.”


...OK, and to identify James’ feelings. Maybe he’ll be so angry that he’ll yell at me in front of everyone. Maybe he’ll try and embarrass me to show me he doesn’t care. Either way, my curiosity to find out what’s going on inside his head overrides my common sense.


“Are you sure?” Eve says as we walk towards the changing rooms together, “I mean, I don’t want to pressure you.”


“I’ll be fine, Eve,” I lie to her, “Believe me, my quidditch days are truly behind me.”


We walk into the changing room together, to see the rest of the Gryffindor quidditch team looking nervous and on edge. James stands at the front, both hands behind his back in a way that makes him look even more like a leader.


“OK, team,” he says, “Just one thing before we go out onto the field.”


His eyes travel across every face. They even look at me for a brief fraction of a second, then they look away.


 “If any of you have any problems about going out onto the field today,” he begins, “You should speak up now. Better that than you play and we lose the game because of your incompetence. So if anyone feels they aren’t ready to play, talk. I have substitutes lined up. They would kill for a spot on this team. But I’ve given it to you, the best of the best. Don’t screw up this opportunity, and our chances at the cup, by telling me you’re ready, when you’re not. So if anyone has anything to say, say it now.”


There’s silence. I look pointedly at Eve, but she keeps her face calm and unemotional. Wow, she must really want to play.


“Let's put it this way," James says, "If you say something now, I won't kick you off the team. If you wait until we've lost the match to tell me that you've had tonsillitis for two weeks and you're off your game, there will be no second chances. Do I make myself clear?"


Fred chuckles, “Honestly, Jamesie, who would want to miss out on the quidditch game of the year?”


“For the last time, Fred, my name is not Jamesie,” James snaps, and everyone can tell he means business. 


“Sorry, mate,” Fred mutters, “Of course we’re all ready. Anyone stupid enough to join this team would never be stupid enough to miss a game like this.”


“Thanks, Fred,” James says through gritted teeth.


“Any time.”


“What are you doing here?” Rose whispers in my ear very suddenly.


“Eve needs me for moral support,” I murmur.


“What? Why?” Rose frowns.


“Just…don’t ask,” I say.


James sizes up his team. He paces the room back and forth, runs a hand through his hair, and then stops to look at us again.


God why is he so fit? It’s like the universe decided to make him even fitter after I ran away from him, just to make me realize that not jumping his bones was the worst decision I’ve ever made.


“Are we ready to go and kick some Slytherin arse?” he shouts at the team.


They all yell in an uproar.


“Good, let’s go out there then,” he says, leading the charge out of the changing room. I stand to one side, and let them all go out as a team.


Another pang of jealousy hits me in the chest, much harder than I expect. Suddenly I want to be out there on the field with them, kicking slytherin arse, and watching the whole school cheer me on.


Before quidditch games use to be like a sort of personal hell for me. I would sit there, terrified of falling, the noise of the shrieking crowd echoing in my head, making it pound. But that night with James has changed everything.


James marches right past me, barely acknowledging my presence, before running out of the changing room and out onto the field to tumultuous applause. The rest of the team charge out after him, looking excited and full of life.


Eve passes me, gives me a hug, a tremulous grin on her face.


“Good luck out there,” I smile.


“Thanks,” she says shakily.


I’m nervous for her. She’s as white as a sheet, and looks absolutely terrified.


I follow her out of the changing rooms, but not before grabbing the back of Cameron's collar and slamming him with all of my might against the wall.


"What the hell, Artois?" he squirms out of my grip.


"You dumped Lexie!" I hiss at him.


"What? We never went out!" he stares at me in confusion.


"I meant you found a new tutor, and just told Lexie to get lost!" I say through gritted teeth, finding it hard to control my anger.


"I can't have her around me, okay?" he hisses, "She's distracting!"


"How is she distracting? She's a good tutor!"


Cameron looks desperate as he whines, "She's just…so pretty, and she smiles too much. She smells nice. "


"She smells nice?" I smack him on the side of the head, "What is wrong with you? Pull yourself together!"


"I did! I got rid of her! Now she can't distract me!" He looks ecstatic, as though he's just found the bloody cure for cancer.


I smack him on the head again, "Not that way, you idiot! You're supposed to go out with her!"


He frowns, as though the idea has never even occurred to him before, "What? Go out with her? Why?"


"So that you can be together! You're supposed to be together!"


"Says who?"


"Says me!"


He folds his arms, "Why do you get to decide everything?"


"Cameron, in the name of Merlin's polka-dot socks, pull your head out of your arse and realize that you like her, and she likes you. I can't think of any reason why you shouldn't be with her."


"How about Cameron Mitchell doesn't date? Cameron Mitchell isn't a one-woman man? Cameron Mitchell-"


"-needs to stop talking in the third person, or I'm going to smack him again."


He flinches, "Please don't."


I sigh, "Why not ask her out? Do you still want to be with other girls?"


He shrugs sulkily, "Not really. Now they all seem kind of…shallow and…fake."


"And yet you still don't want to be in a monogamous relationship with Lexie? She's clever and genuine. I mean sure, she's shy and she's never really dated, but-"


Cameron smirks arrogantly, "I'm a little out of her league, don't you think?"


"If that's the league of girls who require a date before they shag you," I glare at him, "Now stop being an idiot for once and go and be happy with her."


"How do you know she'll make me happy?" Cameron points out, "When I'm around her all I am is insecure and nervous and twitchy and-"


"You know what? Fine!" I snap, "Be an idiot. But you owe her an apology for replacing her with Valerie Stevens, at least. Valerie Stevens? That's an insult even if Lexie didn't fancy you."


"Hey! At least with Valerie Stevens I won't get distracted by her pretty black hair, or her neck or her-"


"Wow," I grin mercilessly at him, "You really are a goner."


"Shut up, I am not," he insists.


"You so are."


"I'm not," he repeats, "I have a quidditch game to win, excuse me."


He pushes past me, broom in hand, and walks out onto the field. 


I follow behind him and take my seat next to Ray in the stands.


“Oh, there you are,” Ray says to me, “Where did you go?”


“Nowhere,” I mutter, keeping my eyes fixed on Eve as she picks up her broom and stands with the rest of the team. 


Archer gives Roxanne a quick kiss, he squeezes he hand, and Fred glares bloody murder at the pair of them.


The Slytherins approach the center of the field, Al in the lead, looking nervous. Ray's clear blue eyes follow him keenly, and she bites her lip nervously.


“It wouldn’t be so terrible if Al won, would it?” Ray asks me slowly, “I mean, I know I’m in Gryffindor, and you’re not supposed to cheer for the Slytherins. We’re supposed to hate them. In fact, I made a rule not to talk to Slytherins. They’re nothing but trouble. All they do is lie, and cheat and we’re better off without them.”


“OK,” I mutter, frowning at Ray, who seems to have gone bright pink.


“But I mean, Al is, well, that is to say he’s different. Different from all the other…slytherins. It wouldn’t be so bad to want…to cheer for him. I know he's your ex-boyfriend, and all…but even you said that he's a good guy.”


“Sure,” I reply, "He is."


"He's a really, really great guy," she reiterates.


"Sure," I repeat slowly.


Ray shuts her mouth, keeping her head down to avoid me seeing the blush that is quickly creeping up her cheekbones. I smirk just a little to myself. But then, once I realize what that blush means, my jaw drops.


Holy shit.


Albus’ crazy plan actually worked. Bloody hell, she likes him. He tamed the wild beast that is Ray Mitchell.


I almost burst out laughing, but Madame Hooch distracts me by asking the captains to shake hands. James and Albus nod curtly at one another, and shake hands in a friendly, but unaffectionate way.


"Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen," says the commentator, "Welcome to the game everyone's been waiting for: the first match of the season: Slytherin versus Gryffindor!"


The crowd cheers in approval. Across the pitch the green mass that is the Slytherin supporters all wave their banners excitedly. The Gryffindors on our side respond with cheers and screams.


"Now one of the reasons we're all so excited to watch this match, is because we've got the famous Potter brothers going head to head for the first time. James Potter has put together a fantastic team, even though Stella Wood, who's been keeper for three years recently quit. Newcomer Eve Collins should be interesting to watch."


My eyes flicker immediately to Eve, who looks nervous as she looks around at the crowd.


Madame Hooch blows her whistle and everyone kicks off. Eve zooms off towards the goalposts.


"Isn't it weird that you two are friends?" Ray asks me.


"No," I lie.


"But she took your place. Isn't there a part of you that hates her?"


"Not really," I reply, "She's really nice."


"So?" Ray frowns, "Don't you want your spot on the team back?"


 "I…" I pause, "I don't know. But I don't hate her."


"Okay," she replies with uncertainty, "If you say so."


The commentator interrupts our conversation with a yell, "AND THEY'RE OFF! The quaffle has been released, and Slytherin is in possession! Hendricks passes to Thomas! Thomas to Ackerly! Ackerly zooms towards the goalposts, and SHE SCORES! A GOAL THIS SOON IN THE GAME! First goal of the day goes to Slytherin."


I feel increasingly uneasy. Eve obviously flinches as the ball passes back over her shoulder and into the hands of the chasers. James, not far off, looks angry with her. I swallow hard because it's clear that Eve's prediction that she would freeze once she got up there is quickly coming true.


"Gryffindor in possession! Captain James Potter has the quaffle! He passes to Weasley! Weasley passes to Mitchell! Mitchell drops it!"


The crowd around us gasps as Cameron lets the quaffle slip through his fingers.


"Nice one, brother," Ray mutters, "Shame Lexie isn't here to see this. Maybe it would convince her that Cameron isn't perfect."


"Trust me, she knows," I reply, "It's one of the reasons she feels so crappy about it."


Cameron, looking surprised, shakes himself and gets back into the messy race for the quaffle.


"Ackerly in possession of the quaffle again! AND SHE SCORES AGAIN! 20-nil to Slytherin!"


The Slytherin crowd is going wild, cheering and screaming. Ackerly pumps her fist at them. Eve begins to look very depressed as she hovers above her goal posts.


"Come on, Eve," I mutter, as the Gryffindors around us begin to look more and more despondent.


"Collins is really off her game," the commentator says, "Then again, we don't know if she had any in the first place."


I grit my teeth. This commentator really isn't helping anything. I notice Eve's face slowly turn a very pale shade of green.


"She looks ill," Ray says, "Does she even know how to catch a ball?"


"And Collins misses a spectacular goal from Hendricks of Slytherin! 30-nil to Slytherin!"


I'm beginning to doubt if Eve has ever caught a ball in her life. Even that shot had been simple to catch. It had flown past her arm, and she hadn't even put it out to try and stop it.


The crowd is making everything worse. The cheering Slytherins and the despondent Gryffindors are all giving Eve a serious case of stage fright.


"Merlin, look at James' face!" Ray chuckles. 


Nervously I glance at James, who has his jaw set angrily.


And, even at a time like this, all I can think about it why he didn't even say anything to me in the changing room. Does he really care so little? He probably kisses lots of girls on the quidditch pitch. Maybe I was just going to be another notch in his bedpost.


Or maybe he's embarrassed. The lump in my throat becomes even more prominent when I contemplate that possibility.


My head begins to hurt with the confusion of it all.


"Gryffindor really need to step up their game!" The commentator continues.


James hears this and, with a fierce determinism, grabs the free-floating quaffle out of the air, and zooms towards the goal posts at the other end of the pitch.


"And Potter is off! He's flying quickly towards Osbourne, the Slytherin keeper! And YES! He scores! 30 -10 to Slytherin!"

 

The Gryffindor supporters begin to pick themselves up, looking more hopefully into the sky, as they cheer for James


"Maybe there is some hope for these Gryffindors after all," The commentator remarks, "That is if Collins get's her act together."


But Eve doesn't look ready to get her act together any time soon. She looks ready to be sick, and when she misses her fourth goal, making the Slytherins go into a cheering frenzy, she looks ready to faint.


"40 - 10 to Slytherin!" The commentator cries, "What was Potter thinking when he let this one on the team?"


This is slowly turning into Eve's worst nightmare.


But before I can think anymore, the commentator is already yelling through the microphone again, "Rose Weasley grabs the quaffle! Look at her go! She passes it to Mitchell! Thankfully he doesn't drop it this time! He passes back to Weasley! WAIT! WHAT ON EARTH ARE THE GRYFFINDOR BEATERS DOING? LOOK OUT WEASLEY!"


Rose ducks, and just in time. A heavy-looking bludger flies past her head, and it seems to have been hit by Archer Daniel's own bat.


But he wasn't aiming at Rose. Behind her is Fred, who, an absolutely furious look on his face, swings his bat and knocks the bludger back at Archer. They fly along the pitch, hitting the bludger back and forth between them, each trying to knock each other off their broom.


"The Gryffindor beaters have gone rogue!" The commentator screams excitedly, "They're actually hitting it at each other!"


From her perch above the rest of the players, Roxanne is screaming bloody murder at both of them.


"Something must have gone down before today's match," Ray says to me, frowning curiously at Fred, who whacks the bludger straight towards Archer's face.


"Mmm," I mutter, remembering Roxanne and Archer's kiss, and Fred's infuriated glare.


Wow, Fred must be angrier than I thought. He looks absolutely furious, livid with anger. Archer looks angry too, but less so when the bludger comes within inches of his ear.


"Captain James Potter tries to get between them!" continues the commentator.


James is now trying to wrestle the bat out of Fred's grip, and the two of them almost collide with the bludger. The crowd gasps and shrieks with every lurch.


Madame Hooch blows her whistle over and over again, until James and Fred finally break apart, and Fred lowers his bat.


It is only then that everyone realizes that Scorpius Malfoy is falling through the sky at a rate that makes everyone scream with horror. The bludger that blasted his broom apart and knocked him off flies away, and the broom fragments sink to the ground. His beaters bat spins in the air alongside him.


Professor McGonagall lifts out her wand, quick as lightening, and when Scorpius collides with the earth, it is like a soft mattress, ballooning out with the force of Scorpius' weight. But when he rolls over, he is clearly unconscious.


The Slytherins fly to the ground to see what has become of their beater. Madame Pomfrey has already hurried onto the field, and conjured a stretcher for the out-cold Scorpius to lie on.


The rest of the crowd has gone wild, standing up and peering over the sides for a better look. Being in the bottom row of the stands, Ray and I have a prime spot.


Albus looks absolutely furious, and runs towards Madame Hooch, who has landed beside Madame Pomfrey to examine Scorpius. 


She shakes her head at him, and he looks outraged.


"I think he wants Fred to be disqualified," I murmur.


"But he can't be," Ray says, "He hit Scorpius, whether he was aiming for Archer or not. Nothing in the rule book about that. Fred was just doing his job."


James lands beside the Slytherin team, and speaks to Madame Hooch in a low voice. Albus shoots him a glare, before returning to Scorpius, still spread eagled on the stretcher.


Suddenly Rose is beside him, easily noticeable in her red robes among a sea of green. She kneels beside the stretcher, looking absolutely terrified. She shakes his arm, then his shoulders. Madame Pomfrey, however, manages to calm her down.


I wonder if Rose is starting to reconsider her plan to never speak to Scorpius again.


"The Gryffindor captain has asked the referee for a brief pause," the commentator says, "Maybe he can use the break to sort out the problems within his own team."


The rest of the players sink to the ground, and I realize I have never seen James looking more livid.


Once she's down on the ground, Eve looks shaken, nervous as all the Gryffindors stare back at her with unforgiving expressions.


 "I just want to make sure she's OK," I mutter to Ray, and I stand up.


Ray raises her eyebrow at me, as the Gryffindor team file past the stands towards the changing rooms.


As Scorpius' stretcher floats alongside Madame Pomfrey, who leads him up to the castle, I climb down from the stands and follow them into the changing room.


Eve is inside, looking slightly ill. She, along with the rest of the team, is completely silent, while James paces back and forth, clasping and un-clasping his hands in fury.


Eve catches my eye, shakes her head at  me, and looks away, clearly embarrassed and ready to meet James' tidal wave of anger.


We stand in silence, and the tension becomes almost palpable.


"WHAT THE FLIPPING FUCK WAS THAT?" James roars suddenly, making everyone jump.


"We just knocked out a Slytherin beater, you should be thanking us." Fred mutters stubbornly.


"NO, I MEAN WHY ARE YOU AND ARCHER WHACKING THE FUCKING BLUDGER AT ONE ANOTHER?"


Fred glares at Archer, and then points at Roxanne "James, you don't know what he did! He kissed her! Right before we kicked off! What was I supposed to do mate?"


"Don't call me mate!" James roars at him, "Not when you nearly got yourself disqualified in the most important game of the season!"


"You're supposed to act like a grownup, Fred!" Roxanne snaps, "Not like the childish git you are!"

 

"Oh I'm childish?" Fred says, "I'm not the one who feels the need to stick my tongue down someone's throat in front of the whole school. What will people think, Rox?"


Roxanne looks furious as she shrieks, "Better than doing it with a thousand girls in a cramped broom cupboard, you hypocrite!"


Fred shakes his head, "You're not allowed to date him, Roxy."


Archer looks furious, "Says who?"


"Says her older brother who still has no problem with kicking your arse," Fred yells at him.


"EVERYBODY SHUT UP OR YOU'RE ALL OFF THE TEAM!" James roars above them all.


Fred, Roxanne and Archer all fall silent.


James takes a deep breath and calms himself, although he continues to tremble like a leaf. "New rule," he says “No dating amongst teammates.”


Roxanne and Archer are both staring open mouthed at James. Fred looks very pleased.


“What?” Roxanne shrieks, “You can’t do that!”


“I can,” James says, “And I just did. This team functioned perfectly well until we found out about you two. So I’m putting a stop to it.”


“The only problem was that Fred chose this moment to be the annoying, pain in the ass older brother,” Roxanne snaps, “This is Fred’s issue, no one else’s.”


“It is for anyone who has to look at you two,” Fred snaps 


"Okay!" James barks, and everyone falls silent, "You two are no longer a couple. Happy, Fred?"


"Ecstatic," Fred says.


"Well wipe the smile off your face because as soon as this game is over, you're on probation."


Fred frowns, and points a finger at Archer, "He started it!"


"He didn't hit the first bludger!" James shouts, his anger boiling to the surface again. 


"He made out with my sister!"


"And you should have known better than to try to ruin this game," James snaps, "Right, no more shit from any of you, are we clear?"


"Yes," they all mutter sullenly.


"Then go back out there a play like you're actually good at this sport," he mutters.


They all file out quietly.


"Oh, and Collins," James calls out to her, "Get your act together."


"Yes, sorry," she says shakily.


I give her a little thumbs up as she leaves the changing room. She replies with a nervous smile.


And then I'm alone in the changing room with him.


He hasn't realized that I'm still there yet. Standing silently for a second, he suddenly rips off his gloves and throws them in anger at the opposite wall. The motion makes me gasp.


He turns at the sound and his gaze darkens, "What are you doing in here, Wood?"


"I…er," It's the first time he's spoken to me since that night, and I almost have no idea what to say. "Um…I just wanted to see if Eve was OK. But she seems alright so-"


"She's not," James snaps, "She's fucking everything up."


"Calm down," I say to him.


"I will not!" He snaps, "I've spent two years building this team up. I won't have it messed up, by Roxanne's hormones, or Fred's anger issues, or Eve's incompetence!"


"It's not-"


"It was fine until you quit," he mutters, so angry he can barely look at me, "You messed with the balance."


Instead of getting angry, like I usually would, I find myself strangely calm, "You really care about this game, don't you?"


"Good observational skills," he snorts, "Next you'll be telling me crazy things like Professor McGonagall looks a lot like that tabby cat that wonders around school!"


I ignore the sarcasm in his voice, "Eve is completely capable of helping you win this."


He frowns at me, looking confused, "Why do you care so much about her?" 


"She's nice," is the only reply I can give, because I can't really explain it.


James ruffles the back of his head, making his hair stand up. Something in my stomach twists even tighter than before. Ugh, stupid hormones.

 

He picks up his broom where he dropped it on the ground, and says, "Okay, I'm going back onto the pitch."


He bends down, grabs his gloves and walks towards the door, which stands directly behind me.


Without even thinking, I blurt out, "I want to talk about what almost happened on the quidditch pitch the other night."


Oh God, did I say that out loud?


I wish there were devices that could filter your thoughts so that when they come out of your mouth they sound intelligent and logical, rather than desperate and embarrassing...like now. I would totally invest in one of those.


"Your timing isn't great, Wood," James mutters, "I have to go back onto the pitch now."


"It just…I feel...we shouldn't…maybe we should forget it happened."


No, the voice in my head screams, I don't want to forget. I want to repeat it, and this time I won't screw it up and run away.


James frowns at me, "Fine, don't bring it up if you just want to forget about it."


"Right, OK, makes sense," I stammer.


He nods curtly at me, before trying to move past me towards the door.


But something inside me makes me push in front of him. He stops in his tracks and stares at me.


I open my mouth, "It's not that- I mean, I don't want you to think…argghh!" 


Merlin's beard he probably thinks I'm a raving lunatic. I can't even string words together anymore.


"Is there something wrong with you?" James stares at me, looking concerned.


"I just…don't know what to say," I mutter. My ability to use proper words has failed me.


James nods again, "Good, then don't say anything."


He walks past me yet again, but I put myself between him and the door to stop him from leaving.


What the hell is wrong with me?


"What the hell is wrong with you, Wood?"


I don't give him an answer.


Instead I grab his face and kiss him. Once. Hard. Unapologetic.


I let go and take a step back.


He stares at me, and for a moment I think that he must be paralyzed.


Time stands still. The roaring and cheering outside is muted, and all I can hear is a rushing noise in my ears, howling with anticipation.


Blood is thumping in my chest at a rate that I'm sure will give me a heart attack.


James' face is frozen, his eyes still staring and mad with confusion.


For a split second I think he's about to push past me again.


Then the split second is over and he mutters, "Merlin's beard, Wood. You have really shit timing."


He drops his broom with a crash. He pushes me up against the back of the door with a heavy thud that knocks any remaining air out of my lungs.


And before I know it he's kissing me. 


He kisses me hungrily, almost as though he's dying of starvation. It's rough and imperfect and wrong, but I only want more.


Every hair on my body seems to tingle as we press together, as close as possible, but it never seems to be close enough. He pulls on the back of my neck. I grab the collar of his robes. He pushes me even further into the door, but nothing could hurt me. He wraps an arm around my waist and I arch into him. He only presses his lips even harder on mine, and the whole thing becomes almost desperate in our yearning for each other. 


Every thought I've ever had becomes hazy, distant. All that matters is that this is becoming more intense, more electric by the second, and I'm not doing anything to slow it down. 


Our hands never stop moving. Mine run over his shoulders, then his arms, then his chest, then his neck, his hair. His have a firm grip on my hips, constantly pulling me in further, anything to stop me from leaving, but when it's clear that I'm not going anywhere his hands move over my spine, up to my hair, and finally back to where he started, cupping my face in his hands so tenderly as though it's the most precious thing he's ever had. 


I kiss him back ravenously. The heavy heat that this is sparking in me is uncontrollable, and no amount of this will ever quench my thirst for him. In this moment I've never been more sure that I've never wanted someone so much. I can't stop. I'll never want to stop. My head is spinning.


Everything is intertwined. We're almost wrestling with each other, trying to get as much out of each other as possible. Nothing about this is gentle. It's fierce, rough and needy, the heat in my stomach building and building until I'm sure I'll spontaneously combust. We're wrapped around each other until it becomes a hot, tangled mess.


Suddenly the door jerks behind me, sending a shock through my whole body, and a banging noise reaches my ears.


"Someone's trying to get in," I mutter against his lips, barely able to think coherently.


"I. Don't. Care," he growls, before kissing me even more deeply.


But then the door handle begins to snap up and down, making it impossible for me to concentrate on anything. The noise penetrates my snog-addled brain, and I'm forced to come up for air once again.


"Hey!" comes Fred's voice, "Why won't the door open?"


"Don't know," now it's Cameron's voice.


"Shit, my broom is still in there. I'll have to blast the door open!"


I react almost immediately, taking my hands from around James' neck and pushing his shoulders away from me. He stumbles backwards slightly, his hair completely askew, his lips bruised and swollen, and his eyes burning.


I take a few seconds to catch my breath, completely frozen, staring at him, before calling through the door, "Hang on!"


I open the door, to reveal Fred holding out his wand.


"Why wouldn't the door open?" he asks me curiously. He spots James over my shoulder, "Why are you two still in here?"


"I…" I pause, my brain still hazy, "We…"


"I couldn't find my gloves," James interjects, "Wood was just helping me find them."


Well at least one of our brains is working.


"Why wouldn't the door open though?" Fred frowns curiously at the pair of us. I lower my head, just in case Fred notices how out of place my hair is, or how we're both completely flushed.


"The gloves were wedged under the door!" I reply, a little too quickly, "We couldn't find them until five seconds ago!"


"OK," Fred says slowly, although he still looks suspicious. I pray that this won't  be one of those moments when Fred actually uses his brain, "Can I go and get my broom please?"


"Yes!" I exclaim, walking outside to leave space for him to enter into the changing room.


Looking back a couple of times, I see James staring out at me, complete shock on his face. As though he can hardly believe what he's done.


I stumble away, almost unable to tell where I'm going, my brain is so hazy.


Did I just snog James Potter?


Oh shit.


Shit. Shit. Shit.


Behind the changing rooms I lean against the wall and take a few deep breaths, and slowly my heartbeat stops pounding.


Shit. That was amazing. 


Suddenly the sound of retching comes to my ears, and I glance around to see where the sound has come from.


Following the sound I come across Eve, bent over, one hand on the changing room wall, one hand on her stomach, and vomiting heavily onto the ground.


I swear loudly, and come rushing to her side. I put my hands on her shoulders, and scrape her beautiful, blonde hair away from her cold, shivering face.


When she's done she coughs once or twice, and leans back onto the changing room wall, her face as white as a sheet, and covered with sweat.


"Sorry," she whispers hoarsely.


I gape at her, "Don't apologize! You know you can't go back out there, right?!"


"I can!" she says, "I'm fine!"


"Merlin's beard, don't be stupid," I snap, "James will understand."


"No he won't," Eve utters, "You heard him, if we didn't tell him at the beginning of the game, and something was wrong, we'd be off the team."


"And would that be so terrible?" I ask her incredulously.


"I need to be on the team, Stella," she says, "I love quidditch."


"Not if it makes you puke your guts out!" I exclaim, "Listen, you need to tell James now, or I will."


"No, please!" she says, "Don't!"


"As his teammate you owe him that," I say, "He needs to know that you're scared of the quaffle. He needs to know that you've tried to work on it, but you still need time."


"What did you say, Wood?"


My blood runs cold when I realize that that question didn't come from Eve's lips. It came from behind us.


Turning around I see James. His eyes flicker from me, to the pale, sickly Eve, then back to me again.


"You're scared of the quaffle?" he says to Eve, repeating my words in a slow, quiet voice, "You didn't think to mention that before you tried out for the part?"


Eve looks at him like a deer caught in the headlights. She pushes her hair out of her face, and looks down at the ground without giving him an answer.


"Potter, she needs help," I tell him desperately, "She needs support. She can work on the fear, it's just the crowds that make it so much worse."


His eyes flicker to mine, and for a split second I remember his skin on mine, his hands in my hair, his tongue on mine.


But the split second ends and he says to Eve coolly, "I said that you should speak to me before the game if you had any problems."


"I know," she says hoarsely, "I just…really wanted to play."


His face softens, and I wonder if he'll go easy on her. I know that he has a heart, somewhere, deep down. It might be buried under five meters of rubble, but I know he has one.


But suddenly he face hardens again and he says, "You're off the team, Collins."


He turns his back on us and walks away, leaving a painful silence in his wake.


I turn to Eve, poor, pale Eve, but instead of her friendly smile, all I can see is a cold disdain.


"Eve-" I begin.


"I thought we were friends," she says, and her voice is angrier than I expect.


"We…we are," I say hopelessly, "I didn't know he would come around the corner right at that moment!"


"Then why were you shouting like that, if you didn't think he'd hear? Friends don't break promises," she says, almost childishly.


And with that she turns on her heel and leaves in the opposite direction, running up towards the castle.


I stand there, staring at the rising quidditch stands, and wondering if Ray was right after all.


Maybe there is a part of me that hates Eve Collins.

 

 

 









A/N: This chapter ended up being longer than I'd first anticipated, hence why it took over two weeks to finish. But I hope you all enjoyed it!

Next chapter will feature: Drama, drama and more drama. Stella and James make a bet, Albus finally grows a pair and Rose questions how long her not-so-brilliant plan will last.

The Review box is lonely, show it some love :)


Chapter 13: Place Your Bets
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Disclaimer: JKR owns everything!







Rose Weasley & Scorpius Malfoy
 

Another gorgeous CI by Elenia@ TDA





 

"I really don't think I should be going to this," I mutter, sitting despondently on the bed.

 

"Me neither," Rose says, "It doesn't seem right, a party while Scorpius is in the hospital wing."

 

Yes, Gryffindor won. After Scorpius got knocked out, ther was only one Slytherin beater left and it was like taking candy from a baby.

 

Roxanne, still furious with James for siding with Fred and forbidding her from seeing Archer, acted quickly and irrationally. The snitch was hovering barely a meter from the ground, and she dove head first, catching it in her fist and just managing to escape a collision with the ground. Despite all odds Gryffindor won, and James had got his victory.

 

"Well if you two aren't going, then I'm not either," Lexie sighs, flopping onto the bed, "I don't want to be anywhere near Cameron after he just won a quidditch match. He'll be drunk and probably start snogging every available girl there."

 

Ray stands over the three of us, her eyebrows raised in disapproval. "You are all pathetic."

 

"Hey," Lexie protests, "We are not."

 

"You are," Ray insists, "You're all lying here when you should all be down there with the team celebrating. And Rose! You're on the team!"

 

"No one's in the mood, it's not just me," Rose retorts, "Roxanne is up in her room crying because she can't see Archer any more. Archer stormed off after the game, James is still ignoring Fred, Fred is sulking because he's on probation, Cameron's already drunk and Eve…" she trails off.

 

I feel a wave of guilt rushing over me. Eve. Eve who was fired because of me.

 

"Well the rest of Gryffindor is down there having a good time, celebrating the fact that Roxanne caught the snitch and saved the game."

 

"It just doesn't seem right," Rose says in a low voice, "Scorpius is in the hospital wing."

 

"I thought you didn't want anything more to do with him," Ray points out skeptically.

 

Rose falls silent, fiddling with the bed covers in sullen defiance.

 

"I feel terrible," I mutter, "It's all my fault."

 

Ray sighs, "What is?"

 

"I got Eve kicked off the team."

 

To my surprise everyone lets out an undisguised groan.

 

"What?" I ask them indignantly.

 

"You think everything is your fault!" Rose moans, "Trust me, Eve got herself kicked off the team by not telling James about her problem. If you didn't tell him, it would only have gotten worse."

 

"But I didn't tell him!" I wail, "At least, I didn't mean to."

 

"Eve is being pathetic," Rose insists, "Blaming you for something that is clearly her own fault."

 

"She wanted to play so badly," I mutter, "And now I've ruined it for her."

 

Another groan follows that comment. 

 

"Stella," Rose says, "You need to stop blaming yourself for everything."

 

"Gee, thanks, Rose."

 

"It's true! You made a mistake, it was by accident. And Eve is nuts if she thinks you would ever betray her on purpose."

 

"I said that I would," I mutter, "Before James heard everything I said that if she didn't tell him, I would. For all Eve knows, I was going to break her trust, even if James wasn't a nosy eavesdropper."

 

"Hey," Rose says, "Don't take this out on James."

 

James. James James James James. James.

 

His name zooms around my head, bouncing off every corner of my brain. It's like someone has magnified his voice, and is screaming it into my ear.

 

I have too much to think about. My guilt about Eve. The fact that I, Stella Wood, had snogged James Potter. 

 

Yeah, when I remember that, the Eve thing seems to pale in comparison.

 

What the hell am I going to do now?

 

"I still feel terrible."

 

"Well, you shouldn't," Rose replies, "This is Eve's problem. She probably would have fainted before the game was even over, had James not kicked her off the team."

 

"But that doesn't matter, I feel bad."

 

"She's making you feel bad."

 

"I told you there was no way you two could be friends," Ray sighs reproachfully, "She's not the sweet, innocent girl you think she is."

 

I pause to think about that. Eve has been kind and compassionate, friendly and warm. And then, once she thought I had somehow turned on her, it took her less than a heartbeat to turn on me.

 

"I still feel awful."

 

This remark earns me another round of groans and sighs. I give up on ever earning my friend's sympathy.

 

Rose looks at me tiredly, "Why don't you just go down there and celebrate?"

 

"Why don't you?" I quip.

 

"Because-" Rose begins.

 

"Because someone who you claim you don't even know is stuck in the hospital wing and is going to be totally fine?" Ray points out.

 

"No!" She cries.

 

"Yes," I smirk. Looking at the others, I raise my eyebrows, "You know what? I think our Rosie might have a little crush."

 

Rose gasps, "Take that back."

 

"No," I say, "You regret making your little deal with Scorpius, because now he's injured you realized you have feelings for him."

 

"I do not!" Rose cries.

 

"Really?" Ray smirks, "Prove it."

 

"Fine," Rose snaps, "I'll go to the party. But only if you all go with me."

 

"Good," Ray says happily, "I'll see you all down there in 5 minutes."

 

She leaves the dormitory, and Rose stands up. "But-" I whine, "I can't go. James will be down there."

 

"And when has that stopped you before?" Rose asks me curiously.

 

"I just don't want to see him," I reply touchily.

 

The truth is that if I don't see him soon, I'm pretty sure I'll go nuts. All I want to do is see him, and look at him, and snog him. 

 

"Why? What did he do this time?" Lexie asks.

 

"Nothing," I insist.

 

"Well we're going to sit here until you tell us," Rose sighs, "I'm not going down there until you do."

 

I sit there, my lips sealed, hoping that these are empty threats. 

 

But no, they choose this moment in time to sit on the bed beside me, suddenly all ears.

 

"Wesnogged," I mutter through gritted teeth.

 

"What?" Lexie frowns.

 

I take a deep, nervous breath and whisper, one word at a time, "We. snogged."

 

The effect is immediate. Rose shrieks loudly, right into my ear. Lexie flaps her hands like a psychopathic chicken and begins to jump up and down, squealing the whole time. 

 

I put my hands over my ears and curl up on the bed as they continue to yell with excitement.

 

"OK," Rose grins, "That's it. You're so going down there."

 

"No, I'm not."

 

"Oh, yes you are," Lexie laughs.

 

"No, I'm not," I insist, "You can say anything you want, but nothing will get me to go down there."

 

* * *

"I hate you both," I mutter, standing at the foot of the common room stairs, looking out at the crowd of cheering, happy people.

 

"You'll thank us later," Rose grins slyly at me.

 

I make a private memo to hate her for all eternity.

 

Note to self: Rose is evil. She is not trustworthy. The next time that she tricks you into going downstairs by telling you there are free muffins, don't fall for it.

 

"James isn't even here," I say, looking around anxiously.

 

"Yes, he is, look over there," Lexie points.

 

I glance over at the bar, and see James and Cameron enjoying some unmoderated amounts of fire whisky.

 

"THREE CHEERS FOR THE CAPTAIN!" Roars someone in the crowd.

 

Everyone joins in the hip hip hoorays and I stand about awkwardly as I watch James enjoy his spot in the limelight.

 

Someone spots Rose, grabs her wrist and drags her into the throng, yelling, "WEASLEY IS OUR QUEEN! WEASLEY IS OUR QUEEN!"

 

I begin to feel worried. What if James ignores me? It wouldn't exactly be out of character…

 

 "Shit," Lexie mutters beside me. Her eyes are fixated on Cameron, who's busy talking loudly to a pack of fifth year girls, who are giggling and taking any opportunity to touch his biceps. Ugh.

 

Lexie sighs and I'm suddenly glad that I'm not the only one feeling anxious, and feel slightly less alone.

 

"Yeah, shit," I mutter, looking over at James, who is laughing with Ben Hopkirk, because Ben just drank three shots in under five seconds, and almost fell off his chair. Teenage boys are truly unimpressive specimens.

 

Unless of course, you've just snogged one of them. 

 

Everything about him is suddenly magnified, the muscles under his shirt, the way his hair stood up, even the way he's gripping his bottle. Fuck, what's happening to me?

 

"Have you seen Ray anywhere?" Lexie asks me awkwardly.

 

"No," I reply despondently.

 

We continue to stand on the edge, like the wallflowers we are, feeling too awkward to join the party, but standing on the steps is becoming almost unbearable.

 

"Lets go and get drinks," I say resolutely.

 

"Oh, I don't know," Lexie says nervously, "Cameron's over by the drinks table."

 

"Then let's just show him what he's been missing," I say. With these words I pull on the elastic that's holding Lexie's beautiful mane of hair out of her eyes, and let it come swishing down. She gives a little gasp of surprise.

 

"What was wrong with my hair?" she asks me, sounding wounded.

 

"Cameron's more likely to notice you this way," I say, with little time left for sensitivity.

 

Grabbing her hand, I drag her through the crowd, and end up at the bar, after highly skilled maneuvering through moving, tightly packed people.

 

Cameron almost immediately sees us, and the broad, flirtatious grin on his face drops off. I smirk.

 

"Laugh at something I said," I mutter under my breath.

 

"What?" she hisses.

 

"Cameron is watching," I growl.

 

"Oh," she lets off a loud ripple of laughter.

 

I glance quickly at Cameron, who still hasn't lost interest. 

 

"Shit, is he still looking?" Lexie asks me urgently.

 

"Yes, just act normal," I hiss.

 

"Hi."

 

Cameron is already at Lexie's side, having completely abandoned the fifth year gaggle of girls, who look slightly offended at being rejected so quickly. I continue to smirk to myself. Cameron has it bad.

 

Lexie glances up at him, and immediately flushes bright pink, "Er, h-hi."

 

"D-d'you want a drink?" he asks her uncomfortably.

 

"Um, sure," she replies.

 

Oh my god, I almost want to choke on the tension. 

 

Cameron passes Lexie a drink. She takes it and sips it slowly.

 

"You played well today," she says.

 

"Oh," Cameron clears his throat, "Thanks. I mean I... thanks."

 

There's another silence. 

 

I almost start to suffocate, so I blurt out, "Hey, is that Rose?"

 

Before they can answer I grab the nearest drink and push my way back through the crowd, not really looking for anyone in particular. I just want to get away from being the third wheel.

 

Taking a sip from my drink, I'm jostled around by the crowd for quite a bit until I finally find myself on the edge, where I decide to stay.

 

Where is James? Is he just biding his time? And what for, anyway?

 

All I know is that I never want to forget that kiss. All I know is that I want to kiss him again. 

 

And yet how am I supposed to do that when I have no idea where he is?

 

Suddenly an arm slipps subtly around my waist. I shiver, and wonder if it's James.

 

It isn't. It's some fifth year creep, who's obviously piss drunk, judging by the smell of him, and he's leering uncomfortably at me.

 

"Hey, get off!" I snap at him.

 

But his grip on my hip tightens, "Hey babe," he slurs, "Let's dance."

 

"No thanks!" I cry out instinctively, desperately trying to wriggle out of his grip.

 

But his grip is stronger than I'd thought, dragging me back into the horrible, sweaty crowd of people.

 

No, this is all wrong. He's supposed to be James, telling me how much he wants me, how much he cares. Instead I've got this slobbering little boy, who can't keep his hands to himself.

 

I grab his hand and remove it from me, but he presses right up against me, and I almost choke on his foul alcohol breath.

 

"I've been watching you all nigh-"

 

"Leave me alone, creep," I snap.

 

"No," says the boy, replacing his hand on my lower back.

 

I put both hands on his abdomen and push back off him, "Get off me."

 

"No," he slurs again.

 

"She said to get off her, mate."

 

Twisting my head around, I am relieved to see James, standing close to us in the crowd, looking at my harrasser with a look of cold fury. He seems to have appeared out of nowhere, arms folded, his muscles prominent under his shirt, looking tense and uncomfortable.

 

I really shouldn't be thinking of that at a time like this, but there you go.

 

The creep takes his hands off me, and I can finally breathe in fresh air. 

 

He turns to James, looking him up and down, before sneering, "Fuck off, I'm not your mate."

 

"Good," James says, his face still a mask of bubbling anger beneath a well controlled surface, "No need to bother with the pleasantries then."

 

And then he punches him, right in the face.

 

I shriek, and the sound is embarrassingly high, but I don't even care. James Potter just punched someone. And not just anyone. He punched the guy who wouldn't leave me alone. 

 

Bloody hell, was he protecting my honour?

 

The kid is on the floor, clutching his nose and moaning. Other people have turned, yelling and trying to back away.

 

James leans over, grabs the guy by the shirt collar and says in a voice just loud enough for me to hear, "I ever see you touching her again, it won't be my fist, it'll be the window."

 

He straightens up and readjusts his shirt. I'm staring at him, and never have I been more shocked. 

 

He looks back at me, just for a second, but in that second I see his eyes are burning. I gaze back at him in a kind of terrified amazement.

 

And then he turns on his heel, and walks out of the common room, leaving me standing there, a groaning fifth year with a broken nose lying at my feet, and a crowd who are all staring at me.

 

"Did that really just happen?" Rose asks me, running towards me and dragging me off into a secluded corner.

 

"Yes! No! I don't know!" I cry frantically, "And then he just ran off!"

 

"That was the most romantic thing I've ever seen," she replies reverently.

 

"Wait-what?" I narrow my eyes at her, "Rose! Have you been reading Witch Weekly again?"

 

"He just defended your honour!" Rose cries, "He punched that dirtbag to make him back off!"

 

"I was doing fine on my own," I reply touchily, "I'm not some damsel in distress!"

 

"Yeah yeah, you're a strong, independent woman, bla bla bla," Rose rolls her eyes, "Now why are you still standing here? Go and snog him!"

 

I must admit that does sound incredibly tempting.

 

"No," I say, "There is no cause for violence. James should be ashamed of him-"

 

Rose rolls her eyes again and pushes me firmly towards the portrait hole, flapping her hands at me impatiently.

 

I climb through the hole obediently. On the one hand I should really tell him off for punching the guy. But on the other hand…..

 

As I step outside the portrait hole I wonder where I can possibly find him. He can't have gone far.

 

"Do you really have to have the music so loud?" The Fat Lady asks me tiredly.

 

"Sorry," I reply, "It shouldn't be too much longer. Quidditch parties, you know?"

 

She sighs, "Well, the captain just stormed off down that corridor, so clearly the quidditch team-"

 

I don't wait for her to finish, and race down the corridor in the direction of her outstretched finger.

 

It only takes me a few moments to spot a lone figure rounding a corner at the end of the corridor.

 

I run after him, around the corner, to find him leaning against the wall.

 

He sees me, and looks away, "What are you doing here?"

 

"I-" I pause, "Looking for you."

 

"Well, here I am," he says, his voice sounding tired.

 

I sigh angrily, "You can't just go and punch people, you know! There are these things called words. Mature people use them to negotiate their problems."

 

"He was a scumbag!" James replies angrily, "And he had his hands all over you!"

 

"Look, even so, punching him was a stupid, irrational thing to do. Jealousy never gets us anywhere."

 

"Wait, what?" James frowns at me indignantly, "Who said I was jealous? I would do that for any of my cousins."

 

"So...I'm like your cousin," I reply slowly.

 

"No!" He begins to sound very frustrated, "You're not my cousin!"

 

"Then what am I?" I raise my eyebrows, "Someone you just felt like snogging to get rid of pre-game jitters?"

 

"Hey!" James snaps, "You kissed me first! And I do not get pre-game jitters!"

 

"You were having a hissy fit," I say cooly, "Then you snogged me, and went out and won the bloody match!"

 

"Well," he seems momentarily lost for words, "It was good!"

 

"What? The hissy fit or the snog?"

 

"The snog, of course!"

 

"Good, glad we've got that straightened out."

 

We stand there in silence, not really looking at each other.

 

Merlin, I want him. I want to close the few inches of space between us and snog him. I want to touch his arms, his chest, his hair.

 

"But, I don't know…" he trails off, the courage to speak his mind has failed him for once.

 

I narrow my eyes at him, "What?"

 

"Nothing, I don't know!" he sounds increasingly flustered.

 

"Are you saying you don't want to do it again?" I ask, my heart sinking faster than a stone.

 

He shrugs, "Maybe, I don't know! Is that what you want?"

 

I couldn't tell him the truth. Not without humiliating myself. "Maybe. Is that what you want?"

 

"I just told you I don't know!"

 

"Well, maybe you should figure it out," I snap.

 

"So should you!" he replies indignantly.

 

"Well, fine! Maybe we shouldn't do it again!"

 

NOOOOOOO, NOOOO! WHAT THE FUCK, BRAIN? YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO ANSWER THAT COMMENT BY JUMPING HIM!

 

James raises his eyebrows, "If you still want to, don't say no on my account!"

 

"Hey, I'm not desperate to snog you Potter."

 

YES I BLOODY WELL AM! 

 

"Really? Because you kissed me fist. You practically started the whole snog in the first place."

 

"You're never going to let that go, are you? And you were the one who snogged me after I kissed you, so if anyone's desperate, it's you."

 

"I'm not desperate!" he smirks, "Kissing people before a game is a regular occurrence for me. I mean, girls can't resist. It's understandable that you couldn't either."

 

...And then he has to go and be a douche.

 

"Yeah? Well don't think I don't snog people all the time!" I snap, although the words that are spilling out of my mouth sound absolutely ludicrous.

 

"Oh," he smirks, "Do you?"

 

"Oh, yeah!" I insist, "I just can't keep them away, like moths to a flame."

 

"Really?" he asks, his tone mocking.

 

"Yes, really!" I snap back haughtily, "This is just a glitch in my very busy snogging timetable. I could be snogging someone right now!"

 

Ah, that brought a flash to his eyes, I notice. 

 

"Good, I was just about to as well," he snaps, "Five birds already asked me."

 

I throw him a look of disgust, "Ugh, you're a pig. I can't believe I ever snogged you!"

 

He pushes himself off the wall and says in a disgruntled way, "Well it's not like I'm begging for more either."

 

"Oh please," I smirk, "You're a guy. You could barely go six hours without punching someone!"

 

"He deserved it. And like I said, this whole thing is a regular occurrence for me. But you can't handle the suspense. Why else did you run after me in a dark, deserted corridor?"

 

I gape at him, "I came here to tell you off for punching someone!"

 

"Yeah, sure," he smirks, as though he knows what I'm all about, "You couldn't resist."

 

"Just like your fist couldn't resist the face of the guy who was groping me?" I raise my eyebrows, "Face it, Potter. You lost. You made the first move."

 

"Lost what?" he chuckles, "That doesn't count! No, the first person to initiate the next snog is the loser. That's the person who really couldn't resist."

 

"If that's the way you want to look at it, fine," I say, "But you'll still lose."

 

I can honestly say that I have no idea what we're talking about any more.

 

"And what makes you so sure?" he asks, smirking at me as he takes a step towards me. We're facing each other directly, staring at one another, testing how far we'll go.

 

"Because you're a guy, need I say more?"

 

"Fine, let's make this official. I bet that you'll cave before I will."

 

"Winner gets?"

 

"Satisfaction."

 

"And the loser?"

 

"Shame."

 

"Fine," I say resolutely, "See you around Potter. Try not to punch anyone else, yeah?"

 

He chuckles, and I turn on my heel and march back up to the common room, wondering how long it'll be before I cave.

 

*             *              *

 

"Well you don't look like you've been snogged," Rose remarks disapprovingly, when I return to the dormitory that night.

 

"No," I growl, "We ended up making a bet on who would initiate the next snog."

 

"Merlin's beard, what is with you two?" Rose cries exasperatedly, "Why can't you just snog one another already?"

 

"I only told you a few hours ago," I frown at her.

 

"Yeah, well, the suspense is killing me. I was planning a June wedding."

 

I fall onto my bed laughing, "You can't be serious!"

 

She shrugs, "I was thinking Rose centerpieces, you know, as a tribute to your favourite person on earth."

 

"You've clearly given it a lot of thought."

 

"Well, you've gone and disappointed me now," Rose rolls her eyes, "Maybe I don't want to plan your wedding anymore."

 

"Oh no," I reply monotonously, a deadpan expression on my face, "Please Rose. Don't. I need you."

 

"You sound very sincere," Rose purses her lips, "But we can talk about wedding plans later. Now, how are you going to win this bet?"

 

"Just…stay out of his way, I guess," I shrug anxiously.

 

Rose sighs with aggravation, as though I'm supposed to have some sort of brilliant, mastermind plan, "Okay, Stella, sweetie, I love you, but do you understand how important it is that you win this?"

 

"For my pride, I know," I sigh.

 

Rose frowns, looking confused, "No! For women everywhere!"

 

Wow…that's a lot of pressure.

 

"You have to make him want you!" she cries, "You can't just avoid him!"

 

"But…I'm not really the seducing type," I reply nervously.

 

"Well, you'll have to start!" Rose insists urgently.

 

I open my mouth to object, but am interrupted by Ray, who bursts suddenly into the dormitory looking extremely flustered.

 

I sit up straight immediately. Never, ever in her life has Ray Mitchell ever looked flustered. Angry, of course. And she's always on edge. But never…flustered.

 

"What's wrong with you?" Rose frowns, looking at her curiously. Clearly it's not just me that's noticed something is off.

 

"Nothing," she says quickly. Too quickly.

 

"Something's wrong," I insist.

 

"I'm fine!" She cries, looking quickly at me, but then she looks away almost guiltily, "Stop asking me!"

 

She pushes past us into the bathroom, and she slams the door behind her.

 

"Well excuse us for caring," Rose mutters, "Merlin she's weird."

 

"Did you see her at the party?" I ask curiously.

 

"Come to think of it, no," Rose frowns at the closed bathroom door, "Weird, considering she was so eager for all of us to go down there."

 

But before we have another moment to ponder Ray's mysterious reappearance, Lexie bursts in through the doorway.

 

And unlike Ray, who looked nervous and shaken, Lexie looks as though she's just won the bloody lottery.

 

"Cameron is perfection," she sighs, collapsing onto her bed gracefully.

 

Rose raises her eyebrows, "That's definitely debatable," 

 

Lexie ignores her, however, and continues to gaze dreamily up at the ceiling, lying spread eagled on the bed covers, a goofy smile on her face.

 

"What happened?" I ask her.

 

"What happened?" Lexie replies incredulously, as though it should be obvious, "He apologized for everything with the whole tutoring thing, he practically got down on one knee and begged my forgiveness! And then we went somewhere quiet, and-"

 

"Bow chica wow wow," I grin.

 

Oh god, did I seriously just say that?  That stopped being cool before I was born. In face, when was that phrase ever cool?

 

Rose and Lexie stare at me.

 

"I worry about you sometimes," Rose says to me slowly.

 

"And we didn't do anything of the sort," Lexie says curtly, "We just talked!"

 

"About what?" I scoff, "Cameron barely knows how to string together a proper sentence, let alone have a conversation!"

 

"You're too hard on him," Lexie sighs, rolling her eyes,"You have a tendency for the hyperbole, Stella."

 

"No, seriously," Rose says, nodding at me, "Yesterday he asked me what sheep count when they can't get to sleep."

 

"Whatever," Lexie sighs happily, "I don't even care."

 

She resumes her avid gaze at the ceiling, looking completely starstruck.

 

Rose raises an eyebrow at me. Once we've left Lexie to her thoughts she asks me in a low, hushed voice, "Does Cameron even like her?"

 

"Yes!" I whisper back urgently, "And the prat doesn't know what to do. I suggested he ask her out, and he looked at me as if I suggested that he try landing on the moon."

 

"Relationships don't even enter these boy's minds," Rose mutters.

 

"No, just snogging," I mutter.

 

"Exactly."

 

***

 

The next morning I get up bright and early. Because that's what normal people do on a Sunday after they've just been to a raging quidditch after-party.

 

Getting up at six am on the weekend is completely normal.

 

Especially if there's a certain seventh year who you're trying not to snog that won't be awake for hours.

 

I skip quickly down to the breakfast hall. I even see some house elves dusting here and there. That's how early it is.

 

Down in the great hall, the long wooden tables are bare, and there are no sign of teachers up at the high table. The echoing of my footsteps vibrates around the hall as I step nervously inside.

 

"Stella!" 

 

It's Albus, sitting alone at the Slytherin table. He's the only person in the whole room besides me. Breakfast has been laid out in front of him, so I take the seat opposite.

 

"What are you doing down here so early?" I ask him.

 

"I could ask you the same question," he says, raising an eyebrow at me.

 

I'm momentarily distracted by the fact that there are blueberry muffins sitting on a plate along the table.

 

"They serve blueberry muffins this early?" I cry excitedly, pulling three onto my plate.

 

"How late do you get up on a sunday?" Albus smirks.

 

"You know, the usual, twelve."

 

He raises his eyebrows again at me, "You still haven't answered my question."

 

"I asked you first," I reply, before taking a large bite of muffin.

 

"Fine," he sighs, "I'm avoiding Ray."

 

I frown, "Why?"

 

Then I remember the weird way Ray was acting last night, and the fact that she wasn't even at the victory party.

 

"Did you two meet up last night?" I ask him, my eyes wide.

 

He looks down at his fried egg, "Well, I was feeling a bit depressed after James won. Middle child complex, and all that. So I just…asked Ray to meet me."

 

"And she came?"

 

"What do you think?" Albus asks moodily, "She came, and we talked for ages. Just about different things, none of them were really important."

 

"And then?" I ask, barely able to stand the suspense.

 

Albus pauses, "And then I kissed her."

 

I squeal, clapping my hands eagerly at him, "Finally! Albus Potter, you're the man."

 

"No, I'm not apparently," Albus sighs.

 

"What? She didn't reject you, did she?" I ask.

 

"Something like that," he mutters despondently, "I swear for a few seconds she kissed me back, but then it was like she froze up. She started banging on about how I was her friend's ex, and it wasn't right. And then I was stupid and told her I never really liked you that much in the first place."

 

My eyes widened, "What the fuck, Albus?"

 

"I know, I know," he groans, "But to be fair I had just kissed the girl of my dreams. My brain was being slightly dysfunctional."

 

I shake my head, "But what did she say?"

 

"She said that I was a jerk, for leading you on, and that she never wanted to speak to me again."

 

He looks sadly down at his plate.

 

"OK," I reply, taking deep, calming breaths, "Not a big deal. You just ruined a month's worth of hard, carefully planned work, but no biggie. We're just going to have to do some damage control."

 

"How?" Albus whines.

 

"I don't know!" I cry.

 

We both sit there, wondering desperately on how to possibly undo this messy situation.

 

"She does like you," I reply, "I'm sure of it."

 

"She does?" Albus looks over the moon, "Are you sure?"

 

"Judging by the way she was acting at the quidditch match yesterday, I'd say yes, she definitely does."

 

"But now she's not speaking to me anymore," he sighs.

 

"OK," I say resolutely, "We're just going to have to tell her the truth!"

 

Albus' eyes widen, "The whole truth."

 

"And nothing but the truth."

 

"You realize she'll hate us forever right?"

 

I shrug, "Well, right now she's not even speaking to you, so I'd say you've got nothing to lose."

 

"Except maybe my teeth," he mutters.

 

I reach up instinctively to touch my jaw bone, wondering how bruised it'll be when Ray punches me for trying to manipulate her.

 

* * *

"Do you have a death wish?" Rose asks me, her mouth agape, eyes staring at me in shock.

 

"No, but-"

 

"Then why in the name of Merlin's silken drawers would you tell Ray Mitchell that you and Albus have been secretly conspiring behind her back for over a month now?"

 

"Well, after Albus told her that he never liked me much in the first place, what else can I do?" I shrug.

 

"This is Ray Mitchell," Rose insists, "Ray Mitchell. She knocked out a guy's front tooth because he looked at her funny."

 

I swallow anxiously, "Yeah, tell James that I love him."

 

"You're not seriously going to do it!" Rose stares.

 

"It's for Albus."

 

"Oh well bully for Albus!" Rose says incredulously, "But if you end up int he hospital wing, allow me to say I told you so!"

 

Madame Pince suddenly vaporizes out from behind a bookshelf and tells us to be quiet in her saintly temple of reading, or she'll kick us both out.

 

"I have to go and get a book for my Herbology essay," I say, getting up from my seat, "Be back in a minute."

 

I wind my way around the bookshelves, frowning at the faded gold script on the spine of the books.

 

I turn a corner into an empty corridor, and to my horror there stands James.

 

He's holding a book in one hand, which snaps shut the moment he sees me, "Wood."

 

I nod, "Potter."

 

Oh God, someone get me out of here. I am not equipped to handle this. I'm going to end up snogging him if something doesn't happen right now.

 

"Something you need?" he asks, leaning back onto the book shelf.

 

"Just a book on hot- I mean Herbology."

 

Bloody hell, this is not going according to plan. I'm supposed to be seducing him.

 

All he's doing is standing on the opposite side, looking at me, and yet somehow he's the one with all the power.

 

"What's that you're reading?" I ask him feebly, although I'm unable to even look at the book because my eyes are too fixated on his hazel ones.

 

He puts the book back onto the shelf, and starts to walk slowly towards me, "Nothing interesting."

 

He gets closer.

OH GOD THIS IS NOT GOOD.

 

ABORT! ABORT!

 

SERIOUSLY; BRAIN, ABORT!

 

RUN!

 

"Oh," Is all I can say in reply.

 

Fuck.

 

It's like my legs are stuck to the floor, and James is moving closer and closer.

 

I lean back onto the bookshelf, and he slowly leans onto it next to me, his arm draped over my shoulder.

 

Fuck, he smells really good. I know that's not what I should be thinking about right now, but seriously.

 

The tips of his fingers start to play with the loose ends of my hair. A shiver runs up my spine. Was this him caving? Did he want to snog me?

 

"What are you doing?" I ask him.

 

He continues to fiddle with my hair, "Nothing. What are you doing?"

 

"Leaving." I reply, with as much force as I can muster, which is none. The heat from him is filling me up, consuming me.

 

He shrugs. "Go ahead, nothing's stopping you."

 

Bloody hell, I have to snog him now. If I don't I don't know what I'll do.

 

Screw the bet.

 

Just as I'm leaning in, I hear Rose's voice peering around the corner, "Stella, are you there?"

 

And just like that, the spell is broken.

 

"Oh thank god," I mutter, pushing myself off the bookcase, and moving away from him.

 

Ah, fresh air. It doesn't smell nearly as good as him, but still.

 

James rolls his eyes at us, "Come on, Rose."

 

Rose narrows her eyes at James, "And just what do you think you're doing?"

 

"The question is what Wood would've done had you not shown up," he says angrily.

 

"Stop trying to seduce her you evil…seducer!" Rose exclaims shrilly, "I've got my eye on you."

 

She points to her eyes, and then back at him, repeating this motion several times, before grabbing my hand and dragging me away.

 

"Come on Stel," she says, Once we're safely back at our table she looks at me, her expression unrelenting and serious. "You realize what that was right?"

 

"Yeah," I breath, "He was trying to get me to make the first move-"

 

"-By making it look like he was already making the move," Rose nods.

 

"Shit," I mutter, "I'm going to lose."

 

"No," Rose says confidently, "You're going to win."

 

"And how can you be so sure?" I whine.

 

Rose hits me, harder than I expect, on the arm. Ignoring my cry of protest she says, "Stella, pull yourself together! Remember, this is for women everywhere."

 

"Hey guys." It's Lexie, looking just as happy this morning as she did last night, "What are you talking about?"

 

"Stella's holding out on James," Rose answers.

 

"Really?" Lexie frowns, "Why?"

 

"Or he's holding out on me," I reply, "I'm not exactly sure."

 

"Well she's going to win," Rose says to Lexie, although she keeps her eyes fixated on me, "Because women everywhere are depending on her."

 

"I'm pretty sure these women you speak of have no clue what you're on about," I answer sullenly.

 

"Listen, Stella," she says, "This is how we women can keep the upper hand. Men will always want it more than us. If you cave, you disprove the whole theory!"

 

"Are you sure I shouldn't just cave?"

 

"No! You can't! You have to win!"

 

"It's just a stupid bet! Why does it matter who wins?"

 

"Oh for goodness sake," Rose sighs, "Fine, give in if you must. At least you'll get a good snog out of it. Just know that the longer you hold out, the more he'll want it."

 

"What do you think, Lex?" I turn to her.

 

She looks a little frightened to be brought so suddenly into the conversation, but she stammers, "I-I think I agree with Rose."

 

Rose pumps the air with her fist, "Yes," she hisses victoriously.

 

I sigh angrily, "I-" I break off, because I spot an all-too-familiar blonde head of hair, sitting not far away from us. "Hang on, give me a minute."

 

I get up and walk over to the table.

 

"Hi Eve," I say slowly.

 

She looks up, and immediately looks back down at her work, "Stella."

 

"Can we talk?" I ask.

 

"I suppose," she replies, still not meeting my eye.

 

I take a seat next to her uneasily. She continues to scribble things with her quill, her jaw set angrily.

 

I take a deep, reluctant breath, "Eve, I didn't mean to tell James. You have to believe me."

 

She doesn't reply. Oh, so she's going with the silent treatment is she? Fine.

 

"Honestly, Eve, I really didn't mean too. I want you to be on the team, that part was James' decision entirely. How could I have possibly known that he'd still be hanging around?"

 

"Because you were snogging him not a minute before," she answers coolly.

 

My jaw drops, then I close my mouth. 

 

"How-how did you-"

 

"I saw you," she snaps, "That changing room has windows you know. I was walking past as I was about to throw up, and I saw you kissing him."

 

I hesitated, "OK, so I knew he was still in the vicinity, but honestly, all I cared about was you getting help."

 

"No, all you care about is getting back on the team, and getting James to fall for you," Eve says, her voice as cold and unforgiving as ice.

 

She was making me sound like a vindictive bitch. "That's not fair!"

 

"Even if the whole thing was an accident," Eve interjects, "You still said that if I didn't tell him, you would. You threatened me."

 

"Only because I was worried about you," I reply angrily.

 

"Is that what you tell yourself?" Eve asks, "Does it make you feel better to think that you were being selfless?"

 

"I was!"

 

"No, you wanted to be keeper again," Eve says, "I could see it in your eyes, every time I spoke about it. And when we practiced, you were jealous."

 

I open my mouth to protest, but she raises her eyebrows, "Don't try to deny it."

 

I pause, "OK, yes, I was jealous. But that doesn't mean I want to be keeper again."

 

"Yes, it does," she says, "God, you really don't know what you want, do you?"

 

"I know that I didn't want you kicked off the team," I insist, "Maybe I sort of want to be keeper again, but not at your expense."

 

"You tell yourself that," she shakes her head, "But you love it so much you'll do anything."

 

"I hated quidditch for the four years I was on the team! How could I suddenly go from hating to loving it?" I scoff.

 

"Because you miss it," Eve replies.

 

"No, I don't," I lie.

 

"I'm not here to play psychologist," Eve snaps, "I knew that befriending you was a mistake."

 

"So why did you?" I ask her, "If you were so bloody doubtful, why did you?"

 

"Because I thought you were nice," she hisses, "I thought you would hate me. But you were nice to me. You agreed to coach me. I should have realized you were just waiting in the wings."

 

I suddenly remembered a conversation I had had with Albus after I had been released from the hospital wing, after that disastrous coaching session with Eve.

 

"So what actually happened?" Albus asks me.

 

"I was coaching Eve, and I got nauseous," I answer.

 

"Wait?" Albus splutters, "Eve? As in Eve Collins? The girl who replaced you?"

 

"Shut up," I mutter, "I know. It was a stupid idea."

 

"Actually I was thinking it was kind of genius," Albus says.

 

I frown at him, "What do you mean?"

 

"I mean, you can find out all kinds of stuff about her!" he answers, "And then you can use it against her!"

 

"For what purpose?"

 

"To get back onto the team!" he exclaims.

 

"I'm fine not being on the team," I scoff, "It honestly doesn't matter to me."

 

Albus raised an eyebrow, "Please. I'm no fool. The fact that you even attempted to coach her shows that you miss quidditch more than you want to admit."

 

After all this, maybe he had been right.

 

Maybe, deep down, I had befriended Eve with the sole purpose of finding everything out about her, so that I could use it.

 

My prolonged silence has caused Eve to sigh angrily and pack up her things.

 

"What are you going to do?" I ask her nervously.

 

She frowns at me, "What are you talking about?"

 

"Well, you're clearly angry. I betrayed your secret. Are you going to tell the world that I'm in love with James?"

 

She looks even more contemptuous, "I think I'll stay out of your twisted love life, thanks. First you date his younger brother, and practically a week after you dump him, you snog his brother.  I mean, at first I felt bad for you. I thought you just had an unrequited crush on your boyfriend's brother. But then you were snogging him! Is that why you dated Albus in the first place? To get closer to James?"

 

I open my mouth to protest, but she puts up a hand to stop me, "Never mind. I don't want to know. Seeing you snogging James made me realize what kind of person you really are. Someone who would betray their friends to get what they want."

 

She lifts her bag onto her shoulder and makes to leave.

 

"Why?" I ask her scathingly, "Why aren't you going to tell everyone? It's only fair."

 

She raises an eyebrow, "Because that would make me as bad as you."

 

And she turns on her heel and leaves me sitting there alone.

* * *

 

Later that day I sit alone in the common room, trying to finish my Herbology essay. James is still in the library, so I'm avoiding the library like the plague. Obviously. And Rose is up in the dormitory, so there's no way I'm going up there. She'll just nag me about winning women's battles.

 

Yeah, because this is the battle that women are most concerned about. Waiting until James decides that I'm irresistible and finally makes the first move. It's a real feminist issue.

 

Unfortunately the peace and quiet of the common room is frequently shattered. Sometimes it's by annoying first years, who still seem to travel in packs. Sometimes it's fourth or fifth year couples who just want to snog on the couch. I like to glare at them until they get creeped out and leave.

 

Yeah, that's me. Stella Wood, the future crazy cat lady.

 

But sometimes I get even more unwelcome visitors, like Fred.

 

"Stella!" he exclaims eagerly when he sees me, "You busy? Can I join?"

 

Without waiting for an answer, he sits down heavily on the couch beside me.

 

"I'm doing my Herbology essay, Fred," I insist.

 

He looks unfazed, "Sounds cool. Do you know if James is still angry with me? He's got to get over himself, honestly."

 

I raise an eyebrow, "You mean because you hit bludgers at Archer during the game yesterday, almost injuring Archer, Rose and probably countless other players, almost getting yourself disqualified and completely ruining the game that James has been going on about for months. Yeah I'd say he's still pretty pissed."

 

"But it's been ages," Fred whines, "And he's still not talking to me."

 

"It was yesterday, Fred," I point out.

 

"Still," he says, sulking with his bottom lip stuck out.

 

I pray that he'll keep quiet, and put my quill back onto my parchment. But sure enough he pipes up as soon as I've written one letter.

 

"So I hear you got Eve kicked off the team," he smirks.

 

"What?" I yelp, "Who told you that?"

 

"Eve," he says, whistling slowly, "She's not happy with you."

 

"She's being completely unreasonable," I growl, "I didn't do it on purpose. She keeps going on about how I was trying to sabotage her because I miss playing quidditch so much."

 

Fred frowns, "Don't you?"

 

"No! I don't know!" I react quickly.

 

"Oh, I thought you wanted back on," Fred shrugs, "But anyway I suppose I should thank you."

 

"What? Why?" I frown at him. Fred takes pleasure in harassing Eve. Why would he want to see her leave?

 

"Well now that James has started this beautiful new rule that players can't date each other, it means that Roxanne can't date the prat-"

 

"-The prat's name is Archer."

 

"Whatever," Fred waves me away, "But it would also mean that I couldn't pursue the lovely Eve. So now she's off the team, I thank you Stella. I always knew you had my back."

 

"OK, first of all, I didn't do anything, and second of all, do you honestly think that that was the only obstacle standing in your way? How about the fact that Eve isn't interested?"

 

"Give it time," Fred winks at me.

 

"OK," I reply skeptically, going back to my work.

 

But then yet another interruption arrives through the portrait hole in the form of James Potter. I look up, but I quickly look back down.

 

All my efforts to avoid him have been ruined.

 

"Jamesie!" Fred exclaims, "I've missed you!"

 

"I'm still pissed with you Fred," James replies gruffly.

 

He tries to walk past us, but Fred jumps up and blocks his way.

 

"I'm sorry, OK?" he says, "Now stop acting like a bloody girl and forgive me!"

 

James squares his shoulders, pauses for a moment before shrugging, "OK."

 

I will never understand boys. It's as simple as that.

 

"Good, now the brethren is reunited,"  I say to them, my tone sounding annoyed, "Can you leave me to write my Herbology essay?"

 

"Find that Herbology book you were looking for?" James asks, cocking his eyebrow suggestively, while smirking infuriatingly at me. 

 

"No," I reply grudgingly.

 

He smirks, and tries to walk past Fred towards the dormitory stairs.

 

"Hold on," Fred suddenly says, his voice full of apprehensive suspicion. He pauses for barely a few seconds, looking from James, to me, then back to James, "You two snogged!"

 

I stare at him, then at James, who looks just as shocked.

 

"No we didn't!" we both cry in unison, but it's so obvious that we're lying.

 

"Don't lie to me!" Fred cries, "I can tell!"

 

"How can you tell?" James asks, half in shock, half in admiration.

 

"It's a sixth sense," Fred replies knowingly, "Some people can predict the future with the stars or whatever. I can tell when two people have recently snogged each other."

 

"That's a weird gift," I reply.

 

"And now back to the more important issue," Fred says, "I can't believe you didn't tell me!"

 

I scoff in disbelief, "Come on Fred, why would we tell you?"

 

"Uh, because I'm your friend?" Fred widens his eyes at me, as though that's supposed to make me feel guilty.

 

James claps a hand on his shoulder, "Freddie, friends don't tell each other everything."

 

"Yes they do!" Fred whines, "I feel like I'm being left out all the time!"

 

"Sorry, Fred," I say sadly.

 

He glares at me, "I'm going up to my room. I don't want to see you two."

 

He storms away, and halfway up the stairs he stops to wail, "And now you're going to snog again, aren't you!"

 

He doesn't wait for a response and soon we hear the slamming of the dormitory door behind him.

 

I can't stop myself from laughing. James chuckles as well, "Can't believe I'm related to him."

 

The laughter dies down quickly, and I find myself alone in a room with James Potter. This was precisely what wasn't supposed to happen.

 

My eyes roam slowly over his shoulders, his arms, his face. He looks tense, and I wonder if Rose is right, if he wants it more than I do.

 

Well, there's only one way to find out.

 

I get up from the sofa, walk around the side and lean against it's back. Extending out my legs, I survey him carefully. His jaw is set, his arms folded, and he looks uncomfortable.

 

"You OK?" I ask him as softly as I can.

 

Reaching up to play with a piece of my hair, I wind a strand of it around my finger. He watches me carefully. Does that mean it's working?

 

"Fine," he replies, his voice strained.

 

I feel like a complete idiot as I cross the room, slowly putting one foot in front of the other, taking my time. When I reach him, he backs up against a table, and I realise with satisfaction, and surprise, that he's trapped, and he's not doing anything to escape.

 

I'm so close that we're almost touching, I can feel his breath. It's becoming more uneasy, slow, almost nonexistent.

 

"I was thinking about this bet thing," I sigh, as I scrape my hair away from my neck and tie it up, lifting up my elbows to gather it up piece by piece.

 

"What about it?" James asks hoarsely. His eyes keep flickering over my collar bone, then my neck, then my face.

 

"I don't know," I murmur softly, "It just seems kind of pointless. Neither side is getting what they want."

 

Holding my breath, I reach up and tentatively take hold of his tie, stroking the end of it gently with my fingertips.

 

"Uh huh," James replies. It's clear that the initial reason for not snogging me, his pride, has been long forgotten.

 

I get in even closer, so that our fronts finally come into contact. My fingers creep slowly up the tie until they reach the knot, and I slowly begin to undo it. Every muscle under his shirt is tense, and his throat is constricted while I fiddle with the heavy silk.

 

"I mean, what does it really prove anyway?" I ask, gently pulling his tie out from underneath the fold of his collar.

 

He's breaking down before my eyes. I can see it.

 

Stella Wood. No longer the future crazy cat lady, but the seductress of James Potter. It feels good, watching him watch me, unable to speak, unable to move.

 

I fold the loose tie over and over again in my hands. 

 

Then I drop the tie on the ground and his hands react immediately, pulling themselves around my waist, drawing me into him. But right before our lips touch I lean away.

 

"Aha!" I cry, releasing myself from his far too comfortable grip.

 

His eyes widen, "What? You were lying!"

 

"Well, of course," I smirk, "I wasn't going to let you win!"

 

"Oh so you just seduced me?" he scoffs.

 

"Like you tried to this morning, you mean?" I nod, "And apparently I'm better at it."

 

"Well, there was no perfectly timed interruption this time was there?" he protests.

 

I grin, "See you at dinner Potter. I imagine you'll be having the humble pie."

 

"What? I didn't lose!"

 

I roll my eyes, "You made the first move! Face it Potter, I beat you."

 

"We never even snogged!"

 

"So? We were going to. And I didn't want you thinking that I'd initiated it."

 

I turn on my heel to leave, but I feel him grab my hand and spin me back around to face him. I gasp in shock, and all my breath leaves me when I realize I am barely centimeters away from him. The heat from his body is radiating off him, his arms holding mine in place.

 

"You're evil," he murmurs, an unmistakable grin on his face, "Truce?"

 

I breath in, and pretend to think, "OK, I suppose. But don't forget that I wo-"

 

I don't have time to finish the sentence, as he cuts me off by pressing his lips hard against mine, spinning me around and lifting me up so I'm on top of the table, wrapping his strong hands around my waist. And hey? Who am I to argue with that?

 

I smirk against his kiss.

 

So this is what winning against James Potter feels like.

 







 


A/N: So what did you think? I hope you all enjoyed :)

Next chapter: James and Stella do a shit job at figuring out their relationship, as usual. Rose visits an invalid who she certainly doesn't fancy. Stella's brother continues to cause mayhem for James' sister, and Ray finds out the truth. Oh and two people get asked out on a date (any guesses?)

By the way go back and check out chapters 9, 10 and 11 where there some beautiful chapter images await you...

Much love, ella x

 


Chapter 14: Liquid Courage and Clichés
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Disclaimer: JKR owns Harry Potter; Lord of the Rings reference belongs to J. R. R. Tolkein. Anything less cool belongs to me.

 






Stella Wood & James Potter

Elenia@ TDA strikes again.






"You're a coward, Albus Potter."

Al folds his arms and scowls at me, "Well excuse me for not wanting to ruin my life."

I roll my eyes, "You're not ruining your life! You're coming clean about all of this to Ray, because that is the only way that she can move forward and forgive you." 

 "You think she'll forgive me?" Al asks doubtfully.

 "…Eventually," I lie, "Look Al, you've already told her too much. You told her that you never really liked me, and that warrants an explanation."

 Al continues to look unconvinced, "She's going to kill me, isn't she?"

 "Oh for Merlin's sake, stop being so dramatic," I snap, "Come on. I don't want to do this either, but we have to if you're ever going to stand a chance with Ray Mitchell."

 I grab his shirt cuff and drag him over to the library table where Ray is currently sitting as she pours over several books at a time, her blue eyes racing over the pages.

 She looks up, "Hi Stella," she mutters. Then she spots Albus, "Oh."

 She goes back to her book, but her eyes stop moving, meaning we have her attention.

 Albus struggles against my grip, but I drag him to my side and clear my throat, "Er, Ray. We have something to say to you."

 Her eyes immediately fixate on me, wide and nervous. 

 "Stella, nothing happened," she says quickly, "OK, we kissed for like a second. But I swear, I broke it off. I never wanted to hurt -"

 "Ray," I cut across her, "Albus told me everything. That's not what this is about."

 Ray frowns, looking surprised, "Really? Then what?"

 Albus looks at his shoelaces and coughs, "I have a confession to make."

 "Yeah, I know," Ray says coldly to him, "You told me you never really had feelings for her. Pretty shitty thing to say, not to mention a shitty thing to string her along-"

 "Ray," I cut across her again, "He never had feelings for me."

 Ray frowns again, looking even more confused, "Then why did you date him?"

 I open my mouth, then I close it, then I open it again. Now that Ray is here, clenching and unclenching her fists, her cornflower blue eyes narrowed and suspicious, my courage has officially failed me.

 "Er, Albus?" I prompt him.

He throws me a glare, before clearing his throat nervously again.

 "Um," he begins slowly, "I'minlovewithyouandStellaagreedtobemygirlfriendsothatyouwouldnoticeme."

 He says it so hushed and so fast that we barely catch any of the words. I roll my eyes at him.

 "What?" Ray leans in to hear him better.

 He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes and says very clearly and slowly, "I'm in love with you and I asked Stella to be my girlfriend, so that you would notice me."

 When it's over, and Albus opens his eyes again, Ray stays silent and still. She doesn't even blink.

 I remain in silence, waiting nervously for her reaction.

 "What?" she whispers, her throat constricted.

 "I," Al coughs again, "I've liked you for a really, really long time. But it was really hard to get you to notice me, I mean, you hate blokes, as a rule. Plus I feel pretty intimidated around you. And I asked Stella to try and talk me up, but you thought that it was she who liked me, but she only thinks of me as a friend, a brother more like. And so I…got desperate. And I asked her to just…pretend to go out with me. I thought that since you were her friend and all, maybe you'd try to get to know me. And you did."

 His speech comes to a quiet close, and Ray continues to stare in astonishment at him as though she hasn't heard, let alone understood.

 "So…" she pauses, "You got Stella to go out with you, so that you could make a move on me."

 That sounds dangerous. She's interpreting it all the wrong way. This is Albus, not Fred. All he wants to do was talk to her, stare at her pretty eyes and her pretty hair and think about how pretty she is.

 "No!" Albus cries, looking alarmed, "No! I just wanted to get to know you! I thought you would just ignore me."

 Ray widens her eyes and for a moment she looks ashamed, "Do you really think I'm that shallow? That I would only acknowledge you if you were dating one of my friends? And do you think I would fancy you if you were my friends boyfriend? Do I seem like someone who would do that to my friend?"

 "No!" exclaims Albus, "I just…I don't know. I didn't think."

 "No, you're right," she mutters, "You didn't."

 "I just wanted to talk to you so badly," he explains, "I didn't think you would fall for me."

 "Yes, you did," she cries, "That's what you hoped. And you were right."

 "No, honestly Ray-" Albus breaks off and stares at her, "Wait, I was right?"

 "I-" she shakes her head, looking embarrassed, "That's not the issue here! You lied to me! You both lied to me! You both tried to manipulate me!"

 "Ray, I'm so sorry," I begin, but Albus very helpfully cuts across me.

 "You fell for me?" He asks reverently.

 "Albus, not now," I mutter.

 Ray looks ready to hit someone. Her fists clench, her blood is up, and there's a distinct twitch in her eye.

 Goodbye, cruel world.

 "Look, Ray," I utter nervously, "I understand that you probably never want to speak to me again. Can I just ask one favour?"

 She looks straight at me, "What?"

 "Could you avoid the face?" I flinch.

 She frowns at me, "Stella, I'm not angry."

 "What?" I stare at her.

 How can she not be angry? I bet this is a trick, something to let down my guard before she throws me out of the window.

 "You were helping out a friend," she says, "I know you weren't trying to hurt me. You tried to talk to me about him, but I was too stupid to listen."

 I continue to stare at her, "So, you forgive me?"

 "Yes," she replies, "I forgive you."

 And then she hugs me. SHE HUGS ME.

 This is the first time Ray and I have had any kind of physical contact.

 Wow, I should fake-date my best friends to get her attention more often.

 "You're a good friend, Stella," she says, during her embrace, "A little misguided sometimes, but you just wanted us to be happy."

 She breaks away, and smiles.

 Bloody hell.

 Al looks relieved, "Thank god," he says, breathing out an easing sigh, "Well, now that that's all sorted out: Ray, will you be my girlfrie-"

 His romantic declaration is cut off by the smacking sound that reverberates around the library, as Ray punches him clean on the nose.

 His head snaps back, and his nose cracks, a stream of blood issuing down his face.

 I barely have time to scream, it happens so fast. Instead I let off a loud gasp, and stare from Ray, to Albus, then back to Ray, who looks livid.

 "I said I forgive her," she corrects him furiously, "Not you. You deliberately tried to fool me into liking you. You manipulated me! You lied to me! And you used Stella to get to me."

 "No, Ray, it wasn't like that," Albus replies weakly, although his injuries are making it hard for him to talk, "I swear."

 "And why should I trust you ever again?" she asks him, her voice icy and hard.

 She picks up her bag and leaves the two of us standing there. Me still in a state of shock, and Albus groaning as he clutches his broken nose.

 "Hospital wing?" I ask him faintly.

*          *            *

After Madame Pomfrey has fixed Al's nose and mopped up all the blood, he decides to return to the Slytherin common room for some light wallowing.

 "I've ruined everything, haven't I?" he mutters sadly, as we walk down the corridor, "She'll never forgive me."

 I can't answer. Even I have to admit that Al's chances with Ray are looking pretty slim right about now.

 "I can't believe she forgave you!" Al says.

 "I know, me neither. I'm more shocked by that than by her right hook."

 "It is a pretty impressive right hook," Al says sullenly.

 At the door to the Slytherin common room he looks back at me hopelessly, "You sure you can't stay?"

 I give him a comforting pat on the back, "Sorry. I'm tutoring someone, and I'm already late."

 "Oh, who are you tutoring?" he asks.

 I pause, "You don't know them."

 He shrugs, "OK, I'll see you around then, I guess."

 "Yeah," I sigh, "See you."

He goes inside the common room and I turn around to leave.

 OK, I'm going to be seriously late.

 Up several flights of stairs, I walk along the corridor and count the classroom doors on my right.

 "One…two…three…four…five," I nod at each one as I pass, until I find myself outside the fifth door.

 Taking a deep breath, I open the door and step inside.

 He's leaning against the wall as I come in, but when he sees me he walks over quickly and immediately wraps his hands around my waist and leans in.

 I lean back for a second, "Sorry I'm late. Al had this-"

 He doesn't wait for me to finish, pressing his lips down onto mine impatiently, backing me up against the door and kissing me hungrily.

 He pulls away, and I find I'm already short of breath. James grins, "Doesn't matter. I was only waiting for five minutes."

 And he quickly reattaches his lips to mine.

Something makes me pull away again, "So, no class right now?"

"Free period," he replies quickly before kissing me again, pressing himself even closer to me.

 My brain can't fathom what's happening. I'm snogging James Potter. James bloody Potter, the bloke who I've been in love with for four sodding years, is snogging me. And it isn't under the influence of alcohol or the imperious curse.

Bloody hell he's good.

Throwing my arms around his neck, I let go of all my inhibitions and launch into the snog with such intensity that I surprise even myself, forgetting all about Albus, all about Ray, and the fact that I still have no idea whether James even likes me.

I mean, of course, the fact that he's here, snogging me of his own free will is definitely some indication. But whether or not it matters if it's me, or someone else, remains unclear.

All musings on this topic go flying out of my head as James moves one hand from around my waist to my cheek, his thumb on my cheekbone as he kisses me slowly, almost as though he's about to break it off.

Suddenly footsteps come to my ears and I freeze, my lips still pressed firmly to his. His ears prick up at the sound and he immediately releases his hands from either side of my face, and leans back. We both breathe shakily.

The footsteps die away however, and I feel myself sigh with relief.

Now it feels too awkward to go right back to snogging him. It's been over a week, and neither of us have actually acknowledged why no one can know about us. This. Whatever this is.

"Probably just a student late for class," James chuckles slightly, sounding just as awkward as I feel.

"Really late," I point out, "Could have been a teacher."

"Right," he replies steadily, "And someone could have heard us and looked inside."

"Yeah."

Another pause.

"Maybe we should be more careful," I suggest.

"You haven't told anyone, have you?" he asks, eyebrow raised.

"No," I reply, "I mean, no one knows about…this. Fred knows we snogged at the quidditch match, and…well, so does Eve. But neither of them know that it's…continuing."

He looks a little relieved, "Oh, OK."

I still feel nervous, "Eve said she won't tell anyone, but who knows? She seemed pretty pissed when we last spoke."

"It's my fault," he sighs, running a hand through his hair, which I must admit is infuriatingly attractive, "I kicked her off the team."

"I'm not going to argue with that," I smirk slightly, "But, it's not just you. She thinks I was trying to sabotage her because I wanted her spot on the team."

"What?" he frowns, "That's ridiculous."

"I know," I reply.

"I mean, just stupid," he murmurs, edging slightly closer to me.

"Yeah, obviously," I whisper back in a hushed voice.

He reaches up and fiddles with the edge of my shirt collar, running his thumb along the corner, his voice suddenly husky, "The idea is laughable."

"That's what I thought," I whisper, feeling suddenly too warm for comfort. The tips of my fingers are burning to touch his shoulders again. I pretty sure if I don't snog him again soon I'm going to do something really embarrassing.

He leans in suddenly, his face very close to mine, "Enough talking."

I answer him by grabbing his shirt and pulling him forcibly to me. He responds eagerly, wrapping strong hands around my waist and lifting me up against the wall.

It feels almost like I'm drowning in heat, wanting to gasp for air, only I can't.

It's just so easy to just meld into his arms, forget that there are very obvious reasons for why I should stop.

I've often wondered if we were just avoiding the inevitable: dating.

Only doing such a thing would probably result in my excommunication from any hint of friends.

First I dated Albus, the Slytherin quidditch captain, and betrayed my entire house, then we had broken up. If I start dating his older brother, the captain of the house team which I had quit, and then subsequently betrayed by dating previously mentioned Slytherin captain, I'll probably find myself on everyone's most wanted list. Hell, I won't even be able to leave my dorm without the fear of mortal peril.

Maybe, at some point, I'll get over my worries about being a social outcast for the rest of my Hogwarts life, and then maybe I'll acknowledge the possibility of ever coming clean about my feelings to James. Soon. Ish.

Yeah, my fear of Gryffindor house far outweighs my fear of what  James might actually say if I asked him how he felt about dating me. That's totally it.

Seriously.

I mean, I must be giving off some clue. I'm standing here snogging him, aren't I?

If he hasn't figured out that I must be somehow attracted to him, then he's more blind than Cameron, which is difficult. 

Here's an example: The other day Lexie came up to Cameron and said shyly,

"Oh, Cameron, I was wondering…do you want to go up to the Astronomy tower? I have this project due tomorrow, for Astronomy and I could really use the help."

Cameron stared at her blankly, "Oh, er, well, er, er, I mean, er, I don't take Astronomy, Lexie. Wish I could help."

Lexie looked slightly wounded, before nodding, "Just thought I'd ask." and walking away slowly.

She doesn't even take Astronomy.

So for James to beat Cameron in a who's more dimwitted contest, he'd have to bring some serious game.

He must have figured it out, right? 

It's the oh-and-by-the-way-I've-been-in-love-with-you-for-four-years part that he might have trouble comprehending.

Just as James' tongue ran across my bottom lip, making me let out a short, but slightly embarrassing, moan, footsteps come loudly to our ears again.

He moves off me slightly and I slide gingerly down the wall until I find my footing.

We both stand there in silence, breathing shakily, waiting for the footsteps to die down.

Suddenly the bell rings sharply, reverberating around the classroom. I sighed and smoothed down my school shirt which had become considerably rumpled.

"We should probably go," he murmurs in a low voice, close to my ear, "Before people see us leave together."

I nod quickly, moving away from him.

"Maybe we shouldn't do this any more," I say softly, "I mean, someone could catch us at any moment."

"You said that last time," he replies, and I see the smallest hint of a smirk at the corner of his mouth.

"Well this time I mean it," I say firmly, "Let's just…I don't know, cool it for a bit."

"OK, sure," he grins, "If that's what you want."

"It is," I reply, though my resolve is weakening.

"OK," he picks up his school bag which has been carelessly dropped on the ground, and with a wink and another grin, he says "See you next time then."

And with that he leaves,with me rolling my eyes.

*    *    *

 Later that day I bump into Albus again, whose nose now resembles an oversized tomato.

"Wow," I say, more impressed than amused, "Ray really does have an impressive right hook." 

"No shit, Sherlock," Al glares.

"Where are you off to?" I ask.

"The hospital wing," he growls.

"Again?"

"Yes, not only is my nose completely swollen, it also hurts like a bitch." He uttered the last word with bitter relish.

"Come on then, grumpy," I smirk, "Let's get you to the hospital wing."

"You'd be grumpy too if the girl of your dreams had just punched you in the face."

"Hey," I say, putting a comforting arm around him as we walk towards the hospital, "Maybe she wasn't the girl of your dreams."

"I'm pretty sure she was," Albus laments, and he sounds more upset than irritated.

"How do you know?" I point out.

"I was in love with her!" Al cries, "Like…properly in love."

I stop for a moment, "Wow, really?"

"You didn't think I'd go through all of this for anything less than love, did you?"

I don't reply, but resume our walk to the hospital wing. 

If Ray really doesn't want to take her chances with Albus then she's nuts. I didn't think that guys did romantic gestures like that anymore.

Well, to be fair, that assumption is based on my limited experience involving last week's escapades with James that involved empty classrooms and abandoned broom cupboards. James sure knows how to woo a girl with charm.

Why can't it be Al that I'm in love with? Al is into big romantic gestures (apparently), and he falls hard and fast. 

Bloody hell, I'm being such a girl about this whole thing. Why can't I just set my emotions aside? Then again, why should I have to?

As I ponder over these long, difficult questions, Al looks at me curiously, "OK, why are you so quiet all of a sudden?"

I look at him suddenly, "You know what? You should try and get over her."

"How?" he replies tragically, "It's not that simple."

"There are plenty of girls who I know that think you're really fit," I tell him happily.

"Really?" his face perks up at that prospect, "You think one of them would go out with me?"

"If you try to get over the girl of your dreams, maybe," I grin, "I mean, who knows? This girl could be your next Ray Mitchell."

He shrugs, "I don't know, Stella. What if it doesn't work, and I just end up hurting this girl because I'm still in love with someone else?"

"Look," I sigh, "You did all you could, and you failed. I think Ray's made her last move. She doesn't want to be with you."

He looks so tragically forlorn at these words that I feel an immediate sense of guilt. "It's not because you're not a catch!" I exclaim, "Ray just doesn't want a boyfriend."

He nods, "OK then, who do you know that might want to go out with me?"

"How about Cecily Prewett?" I suggest, grinning slyly at him.

Cecily Prewett is one of the prettiest girls in our year. She's a ravenclaw, so she's whip smart. And she's told me on multiple occasions, when we were partners in Herbology in our 5th year, that she thought Al was fit.

The only downside is that Cecily Prewett is what they call a serial dater.

Al scoffs, "How about you get real?"

"What?" I cry, "She's nice! And smart! And so pretty!"

"And she's dated every guy in the Northern Hemisphere!" Al retorts, "Whereas I've only had one girlfriend, in 2nd year. And you, of course."

"She thinks you're really fit," I add temptingly, "Like, really fit."

He raises an eyebrow skeptically, "And how do you know this?"

"I sat next to her in Herbology in 5th year, she told me!"

"So why hasn't she asked me out?" Al asks, "If she's so bloody into me."

"Well," I hesitate, wondering how best to put this, "She thought you were too…inexperienced"

Al stares, "What? Why?"

I sigh, "Albus, you just said it yourself, apart from me, your last girlfriend was in 2nd year."

He looks mortified, "So, she thought I didn't know anything about dating?"

"Well, I'm sure her mind is changed now that you and I went out for a bit," I try to reassure him.

"OK," Al says resolutely, "This is ridiculous. Can you get Cecily to date me?"

I scoff, "How about you get your own girlfriend?"

"I…" he looks instantly pathetic, "How?"

"Merlin, Albus! You can't just get your best friend to pretend to date you every time you want to make a move on a girl!"

"You're right," he sighs, "It wouldn't work. You're not friends with Cecily like you are with Ray."

I hit him on the upper arm, "Come on Albus, you're a nice, smart, attractive guy. You're the captain of the quidditch team, for Merlin's sake! This should be a piece of cake for you!"

We walk into the hospital wing, and immediately lower our voices for fear of waking the other patients, "I'm sorry that I'm not as smooth as James," Al hisses, "He's a real charmer that one. I should take a leaf out of his book, start hooking up with random girls every time it tickles my fancy."

"Oh come on, Albus," I laugh, before my happy gaze drops like a stone, "Wait, he hooks up with random girls?"

"Let's get real, Stella," Al smirks, "I know you lurrve him, or whatever twisted thing is going on in your relationship, but James could probably snap his fingers and girls would come running."

I pause to get my wording right, "So…does he hook up with random girls a lot?"

"Ok, he's not nearly as bad as Fred and Cameron," Al admits,  "But yes. James, my brother the charmer, does like the idea of no strings attached. Sorry to break it to you."

I can't say anything. This isn't exactly news. James, like Al, doesn't often have serious girlfriends, but he likes to enjoy the benefits of his attractiveness once in a while.

However, the idea that he likes to hook up with random girls is news to me. 

"He has a classroom on the 5th floor. It's hardly ever used, so he knows he won't be disturbed," Al sighs, "That's where he goes when he wants to hook up."

"What classroom?" I ask, panic rising quickly.

He raises an eyebrow, "I would have thought you'd know about it. Nearly everyone does."

"H-how do people know?" I stammer.

"Well, he's taken a lot of girls to that classroom," Al says, "Word circulates."

I'm beginning to feel slightly numb. I was been there only this morning! As one of James' fucking conquests! 

On the outside I'm calm, but inside alarm bells are ringing like mad. Merlin, how could I have been be so stupid? All he had wanted all week was to hook up, and I, like a fool, had fallen for all of it.

This morning I had been pondering whether or not James cared. At least then  I had been uncertain. Now it's all far too clear.

"Goodness Mr. Potter, who have you offended this time?" Madame Pomfrey says as she comes strolling towards us, "You were in here just this morning."

"No one" Al replies stonily, "She just punched me harder than I had expected."

Madame Pomfrey allows herself a small smirk before sitting him down on a meticulously made up bed and beginning to examine his nose.

"Goodness me, I haven't seen swelling like this in years," she murmurs.

"That's Ray," I can't help but grin. Albus returns my grin with a glare.

After a few flicks of her wand and a dab of magical cream that glowed an eerie orange colour, before causing Al's red nose to diminish, Madame Pomfrey said, "If it gets any worse I'll give you a pot of this. You should be fine, as long as you stay out of the way of that girl that hit you."

I snort. Albus continues to give me surly looks.

I look around the hospital wing and notice that only one bed is currently occupied. 

Scorpius is sleeping at the moment, his blonde hair splayed across the pillow, betraying his desperate need for a haircut. 

"I didn't know Scorpius was still in the hospital wing," I say to Albus once Madame Pomfrey has left.

"He fell from 100 meters in the sky, what do you expect?" is his reply.

I walk over to his bedside and look down at him. 

"He looks peaceful," I say.

"I hope he'll be alright soon," says Al, "I want him ready for our next match."

"You sound exactly like my dad," I tell him bemusedly.

Suddenly the sound of a muted sneeze comes from somewhere below my feet.

"What the…" Albus mutters, frowning in the direction the sneeze had come from.

We both crouch down and peer under the bed, only to see a very embarrassed red head staring back at us.

"Rose!" I exclaim, "what the hell are you..." I trail off.

Rose is here, at Scorpius' bed side, hiding under the bed to pretend she's not actually here. 

Rose grins half heartedly, "Oh, hey guys!"

"What are you doing under Scorpius' bed?" I ask her, grinning widely.

"Oh, nothing!" she exclaims, "Did you know this school has a shocking amount of dust? I was just checking under the beds. Someone should really inform a teacher. I mean really-"

"How about we all get off the floor then?" Al suggests, "If theres so much dust."

We all scramble up off our knees and face each other, Rose on one side of the bed, Albus and I on the other.

"Have you been visiting him?" I ask, unable to disguise my glee.

Rose bites her lip, "…Ok, maybe I have popped in once or twice"

"Just once or twice?" Al grins slyly.

"Ok, fine," she relents pitifully, "Every day this week, happy?"

To answer her I clap my hands excitedly, "I knew it! I knew you liked him!"

Rose flaps her hands at me, "Shhhh! He's only sleeping. You'll wake him up!"

"Aw, do you watch him sleep?" I tease.

"Shut up!" She cries, "Trust me, this is bad enough already without you giving me shit for it."

"Whats so bad about it?" Al looks pleased. His hard work of forcing Rose and Scorpius together until they like one another has actually worked.

 Sighing, Rose says, "I don't know, it just is."

"What is?" comes a drowsy voice from below us.

Rose nearly jumps out of her skin at the sight of Scorpius lying there with his eyes open. My guess is she only popped in to see him while he was asleep. Which is mildly creepy.

"Nothing!" she cries, her voice considerably more high pitched than usual.

"Oh," he looks around, "Are you all here to see me?"

"No," Rose replies quickly, "I came with Al to er, fix his face, and Stella, um, was already here on a visit. Apparently she's been coming a lot," she lets off a nervous giggle.

I glare at her from across the bed. Scorpius looks strangely at me, "Oh, well, thanks Stella. Was it you who left the flowers?"

"Seriously, Stella?" Rose snorts with laughter, "Flowers? Bit overboard, don't you think?"

I raise an eyebrow at her, "I thought it was a pretty nice gesture," I reply stonily, "Considering I don't actually fancy him."

Rose flushes bright pink, as Scorpius frowns curiously at me.

"Well…thanks anyway," he says uncomfortably.

I can see why it doesn't make much sense. Scorpius and I have never really clicked. I mean, I don't hate the guy, but I probably wouldn't bring flowers to his bedside either.

There's a moment of extremely awkward pause, where Scorpius blinks sleepily at us.

"Well," Rose says briskly, "We've been here long enough, shall we go to lunch?" 

Just as I'm about to answer, the door for the hospital wing bangs open with a crash and Lily, James and Albus' younger sister, appears, followed by none other than my brother.

Instead of him having his usual, detestable smirk, Mark looks absolutely terrified. And anyone who takes one glance at Lily knows why.

Her face is covered from hairline to chin with swelling boils, scarlet red and blistering. My face feels sore just by looking at them. Lily doesn't appear to be enjoying it much either.

"You're dead, Wood!" she shrieks, "You're dead!"

Typically when Lily is annoyed with Mark, which is all the time, he enjoys it far more than he should. He grins, and takes it as encouragement to tease her some more. But now he looks completely distraught, running after Lily all the way to Madame Pomfrey's office.

"I'm so sorry, Lily! Oh, Merlin, shit! Lily!"

Lily's jaw is set, although it's a little hard to tell under all the boils, as she strides towards the office.

The rest of us immediately leave Scorpius' side and surround them. 

In a moment of chaos, Madame Pomfrey comes out of her office, looks shocked at Lily's almost unrecognizable face, and flaps her hands, fumbling for the various medical treatments.

"What on earth happened here?" she cries.

As she grabs Lily's wrist and sits her down on a bed, she looks around at the rest of us.

Mark steps forward, and I detect beads of sweat appearing on his forehead, "I didn't think it would do that, I swear!"

"Well you should have thought about the possibility of blowing my fucking face up before you slipped something into my potion!" Lily cries angrily.

Madame Pomfrey soothes her, while Albus turns on Mark, "What were you trying to do, punk?"

Mark looks a little terrified now that he's being confronted with Lily's older brother, "I-it was just a bit of fun! I thought it would give her a fright! I didn't know it would do…this!"

"So you slipped an unknown substance into my sister's cauldron?" Al repeats menacingly.

"I'm sorry!" Mark cries, sounding increasingly desperate.

I cover my face with my hands at my brother's pathetic tone of voice. When would he learn? Lily was never going to pay any attention to him when he played tricks on her. 

Madame Pomfrey reveals a black pot of yellow cream and begins to dab it onto Lily's face. Slowly, but surely, the swelling sores begin to diminish, and the redness fades. Then she brings out her wand and pointing it carefully at places the cream didn't work.

"I imagine Professor Wilde has given you detention, Mr. Wood?" She asks with raised eyebrows.

"A months worth," he mutters, "And 50 points from Hufflepuff."

"You bloody well deserve 100!" Lily snaps viciously at him.

"I'm so sorry, Lily!" he wails.

"Don't talk to me," she says bitterly.

Now that all the boils are gone, she is still left with obvious scars. Lily reaches up to touch her face and when she feels the roughness of her facial scares, she almost goes ballistic again.

"Oh my god! Am I going to have scars forever? You little BITCH!" She reaches out her hands, grabbing at my brother's face with a look of fury and panic in her eyes.

Albus holds her back, and Madame Pomfrey raises her voice, "The scars will fade in a few days, Miss Potter!" she cries, "Calm down, please!"

Albus manages to restrain Lily, just enough to stop her from clawing my brother's eyes out. He glares at Mark, "Don't think this means I'm on your side.

Mark nods, "Lily, I am so sorry."

"You've said that already," she snaps, "And don't think I believe a single word of your crap. You're just going to keep playing pranks of me, making my life a bloody living hell!"

"No," he says firmly, "Lily, I swear, I'll never do anything to you ever again."

Lily takes a second to look suspiciously at him, "No, you're lying."

He starts nodding violently, "On my mother's life, I swear. I'm going to be the best friend you could ever ask for." He looks impressed at his words, as though he just announced that he's returned from Mordor.

"I don't want you to be my friend," Lily says cooly, "I just want you to stop bothering me, stop messing with me, stop teasing me, stop being a complete and utter-"

"Ok, Ok," Mark relents, "I'll stop! I'll stop everything! I swear!"

"I'll believe that when I see it," says Lily.


*         *        *









"Where were you during our free period this morning?" Lexie asks me curiously, as I sit down next to her in the common room.

"Oh," I pause, trying to think of a more eloquent answer than 'snogging James Potter's face off', "Nowhere."

Seriously? Nowhere? Is that all I can come up with?

Pathetic.

Lexie narrows her eyes, "I haven't seen you in ages. You're hardly ever around during our free periods. And last night I saw you sneak back into the dormitory at one in the morning!" She looks suddenly scandalized, "What have you been doing?"

"Nothing!"

OK, seriously, what is up with me today? James must have snogged away what was left of my brain cells.

Lexie looks at me directly, narrowing her eyes as she surveys me carefully, "You haven't joined a cult, have you?"

I sputter with laughter, oh-so-attractively I might add, "No, Lexie, I have not joined a cult."

"You sure?" she asks, still not convinced.

"Absolutely."

"Then what have you been doing?"

I bite down on my lip, "Maybe it's none of your business."

She raises an eyebrow, "Stella Wood, you can't keep a secret to save your life."

Actually, I beg to differ. I've kept the secret about Cameron fancying the pants off Lexie, although that much is pretty obvious to anyone with a sense of vision. 

And I did spill the initial secret that Lexie fancied him, so the whole initiation of Cameron's secret is technically my fault.

"I can too!" I reply indignantly, although at this point I'm not sure that I have any evidence whatsoever.

She rolls her eyes, "Spill."

I think back to this morning, when James looked relieved to know that no one actually knew about us. It's better not telling anyone, isn't it?

And I don't even know if I want to keep doing it. If James clearly has so many other girls he can go and snog, then why should he care if I break it off?

I didn't want to end up at the end of, what I could only presume was, a very long list of conquests. I didn't really want to stop snogging him, but did I care more about that, or my pride?

I needed help.

"Ok," I sigh, "You know that James and I…snogged at the match?"

"Yeah," she nodded eagerly.

"And then we got into that stupid bet about who would cave first and make the next move?"

"Yeah."

"Well…I sort of won."

She squeals and claps her hands like a child, "'Course he couldn't resist - wait, what did you mean sort of?"

I swallow, wondering how best to describe it, "Well, I tried seducing him, and it kind of worked, and then we sort of just ended up snogging."

She grins widely, "So have you two…Is that where you've been this last week?"

"Yes," I mutter.

"You don't seem too happy about finally getting together with the guy you've been in love with for…how long has it been?"

"Four years." 

"Exactly! And here you are, all mopey!"

"Well," I admit, "At first I was happy. I really was. But, see, we're not getting together."

She stares, but suddenly her gaze darkens, "That bastard! Did he use you for a snog and then dump you?"

"No! Well, not exactly," I reply, "I'm not sure."

"Then what?"

"At first I didn't want anyone to find out," I explain, "If anyone found out I was kissing James after dating Albus, I wasn't exactly going to be liked. So I was fine that we didn't want anyone to know. Anyway, today Albus told me that apparently he's had a whole string of girls, that he just hooks up with whenever he pleases! And apparently he hooks up with them in the same classroom that we were in today!"

Lexie frowns slightly, "He has a classroom?"

"Yes!" I cry, "So apparently I'm just one of many."

She shakes her head, "I always thought James was the OK one."

I nod, "So did I, I mean, compared to Fred and…well, Cameron."

This puts a rather sad look on Lexie's face and I bite my lip, "Sorry. Cameron's not that bad."

She nods, "No, he is. You're right." She laughs bitterly, "He's probably snogging someone right now."

I wish I could tell her that Cameron likes her. But, no, that will ruin it. Cameron should be the one to say that.

"I just…" I hesitate, "I don't really know what to do."

She sighs heavily, "You shouldn't care what anyone in Gryffindor house thinks. If they don't like who you go out with, who cares? You don't need their permission."

Every word she says rings of the truth. I'm being a coward. Using Gryffindor house as an excuse for not asking James what he really thinks.

"As for James," she sighs again, "You'll never know unless you ask him. But you probably won't like his answer."

I nod, "No, you're right. I have to ask him."

"These guys," she mutters, "They fool you into thinking they can change, like they actually might like you. They talk to you at parties like you're the only one they notice, give you compliments. And it's all to fool us into thinking that we can change the player, when in reality we're the ones who are getting played."

I open my mouth to reply, but I'm interrupted by the portrait hole opens and Cameron Mitchell climbs through it.

"Stella!" he cries when he sees me, a big, broad smile on his face.

He strides over, and I can tell within a few seconds that he's had something to drink. He blunders across the common room, sidestepping chairs with little success.

"Are you drunk?" I ask him in surprise, "It's a school night!"

He leans over and whispers an extremely loud whisper in my ear, "Liquid courage."

I realize too late what's about to happen. It's going to happen anyway.

Cameron straightens up and climbs clumsily onto the table in the middle of the common room, which is now filled with people.

"Ladies and Gentlemen!" he cries, "May I have your attention! I have an announcement to make!"

"Oh, God," I mutter under my breath.

Too late. Cameron, in all his spectacularly drunk glory, is on a roll, a huge grin on his face as he turns his gaze to Lexie.

She looks at him nervously, then at me, then at everyone else. She goes extremely pink.

"LEXIE CLARKE!" he booms, "I REALLY, REALLY LIKE YOU, OK? I WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW! OK? PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW! SO, WILL YOU GO OUT WITH ME!"

A few chuckles echo around the room, and you can hear Cameron's breath, see his red face as he struggles to regain his pulse.

I cover my face with my hand. 

Lexie looks as though she's just had a stroke. Her eyes are almost bulging, her limbs trembling. 

Slowly she stands up, one hand on the armrest of her chair. She looks up at Cameron, who still looks ridiculous standing ontop of the table.

She clears her throat, "Cameron," she mutters in a low, embarrassed voice, "Maybe we should go outside…and talk about this."

"WHAT?" he says loudly, "SAY THAT AGAIN! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

"I- just," she mutters, "Just, get down off the table."

"Oh, OK!" he says eagerly.

Everyone watches him as he jumps off the table, stumbles a bit, before falling headfirst into the couch. This earns him several laughs from the various people watching.

Cameron laughs loudly, gets up from the couch, and stands properly in front of Lexie.

"Did you have to be drunk?" she asks him, looking mortified as people continue to laugh at them.

"Oh come on, love, it's just a bit of fun!" He chuckles, "Give us a kiss, then."

And before she can say another word, he plants a firm kiss on her lips, taking her by the arms and pulling her to him with his strong arms.

She struggles, squirming for a second, before breaking apart and pushing him roughly away. Everyone is laughing now, as Cameron stumbles backwards and falls over the edge of the table, roaring with laughter.

"YOU KNOW WHAT?" Lexie cries, looking completely appalled, "I was going to do this nicely, but since you clearly don't care about whether I'm embarrassed or not, I'll treat you with the same courtesy! You are a pig-headed man-whore, who doesn't give a shit about other people's feelings, and I would be the biggest idiot on the planet if I actually agrees to go out with you! You think I would even consider you, knowing your track record with girls? No! And you honestly think I would be tempt by your alcohol breath and humiliating choice of time and place? That's insulting."

She stops, taking deep, shaky breaths. This time no one laughs.

Cameron is lying on the floor where he'd previously been laughing, with a shocked expression on his face.

Lexie looks around at everyone, and for a second I think I can see tears pricking in the corners of her eyes. She turns around and runs away, running up to the dormitory, the picture of humiliation.

Cameron is still lying there, his face the picture of disbelief.

Suddenly everyone goes back to talking and whispering, looking from Cameron, to the staircase that Lexie had just escaped by. Cameron gets gingerly to his feet, any trace of a smirk wiped from his face.

"What just happened?" he mutters to me, looking slightly horrified at his own behavior. 

*            *           *






 

 







 I move past each classroom door, and when I reach the right one I take a moment to reread the note he sent to me, before going inside.

Wood,

10 o clock tonight. The classroom on the 5th floor.

J

It's like he's summoning me to do his fucking laundry. I mean, seriously, what a complete prick.

OK, so I've also sent him messages along similar lines all throughout last week. But now that I'm starting to wonder if there are other girls that he sends these messages to, I feel extremely annoyed to say the least.

I push open the door, feeling my jaw set. I'm going to take Lexie's advice, and stop being a coward. 

He's sitting on the desk in front of me. He looks like he's about to get up, but stops when he sees the furious expression on my face.

"What?" he asks, frowning.

I throw the rolled up piece of paper at him, "I'm not some kind of servant that you can summon, you know?"

James unrolls the parchment, reads it and raises an eyebrow at me.

He gets off the desk and begins searching in his pocket, "Hang on a second," he mutters, "I think I have one of your old messages."

Once he's found the right piece of paper, crumpled into a small ball, he unravels it and reads it aloud: "Come to the broom cupboard on the second floor corridor. Now" He smirks, "You're right, Wood. How rude of me."

"Can you not mock me for just one second?" I snap, feeling unnecessary anger boiling over in spite of my earlier promise to myself to keep things cool.

He frowns, looking suddenly concerned, "Is something wrong Wood? Shall we just leave this till tomorrow?"

"No!" I shout, "We'll bloody well just do this now."

And then, without thinking, even though everything is telling me not to, I close the space between us and start kissing him passionately. Maybe because it might be the last time.

He responds eagerly, bringing his arms around the back of my waist as I wrap mine around his neck. His cool fingers touch the burning skin of my lower back, and I arch into him, sighing breathily.

He swivels me around and sits me down on the desk that he was just on, and I wrap my legs around his waist, pulling him even closer.

I don't even know what I'm doing anymore. I shouldn't be snogging him, I should be asking him about important stuff.

Super important stuff.

James knots his fingers in my hair and the kiss becomes even more powerful. I feel butterflies overwhelming my stomach and just feeling what he's doing with his tongue…shit.

Yeah, that stuff doesn't feel so important anymore.

I'm officially giving up on my brain now.

...

No, no, I have to stop this.

With every ounce of force I can muster I put my hands on his shoulders and push him off, "No, stop. I can't do this."

He sighs and takes a step back from the desk, running his hands through his hair, which almost makes me want to snog him again, "OK, what's wrong with you today?"

"Nothing! I'm fine!" I cry, even though it couldn't be more obvious that I'm anything but fine.

"Look, tell me what's going on!" he says, "You're angry at me one minute, then you're snogging me. So stop bullshitting me, and just start talking about something that actually makes sense."

I take a deep breath and look at him, "Yeah, OK, we need to talk."

He rolls his eyes, "Are you breaking up with me?" After I give him a meaningful look he sighs, "Ok…what about?"

"I just…I….I," I pause again. He waits patiently. "I think we should talk about why we're not telling anyone."

"About this?" he gestures.

"Yeah," I answer.

His brow furrows for a moment, "You never actually mentioned it before, but I assumed it was because you don't want everyone else finding out so soon after you and Albus 'broke up'."

"Well, that was my reason," I agree, "But you never told me yours either."

He shrugs, "I'm not exactly going to be Mr. Popular if I start fooling around with my brother's supposed ex-girlfriend, am I?"

"Is that your reason?" I ask sharply.

"I guess, yeah."

It seems logical enough. But something inside of me keeps nagging, telling me that it's not enough.

"OK, so we both have reasons," I pause, "But say those reasons were to…go away?"

James' frown deepens, "How could they just go away?"

"Well," I pause, "Hypothetically, what if we just said, hey, fuck all?"

He doesn't seem to understand what it is I'm trying to tell him. He looks curiously at me, as though he's trying to figure out how I want him to answer.

"But those reasons aren't going away," he says slowly, "So there's no point in thinking hypothetically."

My heart starts pounding in my chest. So it's true. He doesn't really care. He doesn't want to date me.

I open my mouth and prepare myself for what I'm about to say, when suddenly he interrupts me, "Come on, Wood. Do you really want to go to all that trouble? Getting the crap that we would get? Is it really worth it?"

He leans forward and presses his lips to mine once again. I lean back almost immediately.

"Are you saying I'm not worth it?" I ask him cooly, raising an eyebrow.

He rolls his eyes at me, "Of course that's not what I'm saying."

"Then what are you saying?"

He shrugs, "Just…why do we need to be a couple? Why all the rules, the boundaries? The labels?"

I'm gobsmacked. He's actually admitting it. He's admitting that he's only interested in me as a snog buddy and nothing more.

I'm trembling slightly as I say, "This is such a cliché."

"What?"

I take a beat before I explode, "A fucking cliché, Potter! Have you heard of it? You're the ladies man, telling me that you don't want to label things, and I'm the desperate girl who doesn't want something meaningless. My God this is just so cliché." By this point I'm laughing, almost hysterically at the ridiculousness of my situation. 

James looks baffled, "Hey, I mean, it's not just me. You can snog other people if you want to."

This makes me go into another peal of helpless laughter, "Oh yeah, and who would I be snogging? The giant squid? Maybe Peeves is available!"

"Come on," he says, looking slightly worried at my uncontrolled and slightly unhinged giggling, "I'm not saying that I'm just in it for the physical stuff."

I let off another ring of laughter "That's what it fucking sounds like Potter! Merlin, this is turning into one big, clichéd mess."

Suddenly he looks slightly annoyed, no, angry, "Oh, yeah, I'm the big bad bloke, constantly out for a shag, a girl I can use and then lose. You know why I thought it would be better to keep things on the down low? Because you wanted it that way! Yes, YOU! You're the one who after every fucking snog says 'Ooh, It can't happen again, no one can find out.' How do you think I feel? I'm not exactly going to jump on the monogamy train after that positive response!"

By this time I've stopped laughing and I'm glaring at him, "Don't try to make yourself the victim here. You're the one who was terrified of people finding out, every time there were footsteps walking past."

"Because of the reasons we just said, if someone finds out, we'll probably be socially ostracized for months!"

"Oh, yeah, I bet it'll be really difficult for you to score then, won't it? That's what you're really worried about, right?"

He frowns angrily at me, "What the hell are you on about?"

"Don't think I don't know that this is your little classroom," I sneer, "The one where you take all your conquests. The girls who are so desperate to shag you."

Suddenly he laughs back at me, "Yes, Wood, welcome to the Potter bachelor pad. Who told you all this crap, anyway?"

"Everyone knows!" I reply shrilly, "I hear it from people all the fucking time!"

"And you just decided to believe them?" his eyes are wide, "Wow. Now you're just being paranoid."

"Why wouldn't I believe them?" I snap, "I see you with girls every day!"

"So that must mean that I'm snogging them in this classroom, mustn't it?" he chuckles darkly, "You've really hit the mark there, Wood. Bravo."

"Look," I snap, "The fact remains that you're not interested in a relationship-"

He smirks, "What, and you are?"

"Maybe I am, how the fuck would you know?"

He looks ready to laugh again, "With me? You must be joking!"

"Well it's clear now that I'm not interested in a relationship with you, at least," I snap coldly, "So I can't think of a reason why I would waste my time with someone who doesn't give a shit."

"Stop making me out to be the bad guy here!" he snaps, "Just because I don't want a relationship doesn't mean I don't give a shit."

"Sorry, Potter," I reply bitterly, "I'm done. Go and find yourself someone else to snog."

He shakes his head, "Fuck you!"

"No, fuck you!" I reply fiercely.

He picks up his bag and heads for the door, "Have you got any more of your little clichés before I leave?"

I smirk bitterly at him, "Don't let the door hit your arse on the way out."

It doesn't.

 









 A/N:

I realise that it's been a rather long time since I last updated, sorry about that. I've had a small case of writers block these last two months, but I am much more satisfied with this now than I was two months ago, and I hope you were too!

Phew! Bitter ending huh? Unfortunately there must be plot twists galore, just to annoy you as much as possible, so Jella, Stames, Jamella, (you guys decide) are not ready just yet! There are rough waters ahead.

Next time: Albus finally gets a proper girlfriend (hint hint, not Ray), Cameron goes on hunger strike, Luke Corner, the ravenclaw captain makes a reappearance, and Rose might just have to come clean about everything. As for James and Stella, well that remains to be seen.

I just want to thank you all for reading, reviewing, favouriting. You guys are all amazing. Seriously. I love you. I will love you even more if you leave a quick review telling me what you thought. :) (Did anyone miss Fred? I did, oh well, he'll be back soon, no worries) xxx


Chapter 15: Brave
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Disclaimer: JKR is still the queen of everything that is awesome.




 

 "So how's it going with James?"

The mention of his name makes my head snap up, my eyes wide and alert.

"H-how's it going?" I repeat nervously.

Across the dinner table from me, Rose nods, the etchings of a frown beginning to appear on her forehead.

"Oh, fine," I reply, brushing the question off.

Clearly my answer isn't nearly convincing enough. Rose looks concerned, "What happened?"

I shake my head, "Really, Rose, it's fine. We're fine."

"Merlin, you are the worst liar."

"I'm serious!" I cry, even more unconvincingly, "Really! James and I are-"

"Shh," Rose hisses at me, and my blood runs cold as I notice a shadow fall over the table.

It's all that I can do not to turn around.

"Rose," James says, "We have practice after dinner. 8 pm. Don't be late."

"Cool it James," Rose rolls her eyes, "I was only late once."

"Because you were visiting Malfoy," he points out, "Again."

Rose goes pink, "I'll be there, alright?"

"Good," he says.

 

Unable to resist, I look around, "Hi," A weak sort of whisper escapes my mouth.

James offers me a quick, burning glance, so quick I'm not even sure if it happened, before turning on his heel and leaving the great hall.

Rose gives me a meaningful look, "Sure as hell doesn't look like you're fine."

"…We had a fight," I admit.

"Cute!" Rose exclaims, "Your first fight!"

I shake my head at her, "It was over a week ago," I add, "And he's barely looked at me since."

This makes Rose look a little more concerned, "What was it about?"

I shrug, "I can't even remember."

This is also a complete lie. James' words keep echoing over and over again in my head.

They're colliding with one another until I'm sure I'm going nuts.

Just…why do we need to be a couple? Why all the rules, the boundaries? The labels?

You know why I thought it would be better to keep things on the down low? Because you wanted it that way!

Everything that came out of his mouth was a walking contradiction.

Well, one thing had been clear from our argument. James didn't want a relationship. He was ok with snogging me in abandoned classrooms, but he drew the line at being seen in public with me.

"Stop making me out to be the bad guy here! Just because I don't want a relationship doesn't mean I don't give a shit."

That sentence was the most confusing. He's confusing.

Maybe that's something I need to start avoiding.

"It sounds like it was just a silly argument," Rose says, trying to be comforting, "Maybe you should try and make up with him."

"I'm not apologising to that-"

"Calm down," Rose stops me, "I'm not saying that you accept full blame, but I'm sure he'll be grateful for you making the first move."

I contemplate the idea. Letting down my guard. Allowing James to possibly reject me once again.

"I'd rather not," I reply.

"You won't know until you try," Rose points out.

 

* * *

 

When I return to the common room after breakfast I find Cameron sprawled on the couch, looking utterly despondent.

"Something up, Cameron?" I ask him.

He looks up at me, "Oh, hi Artois."

"Expecting someone else?" I raise my eyebrows.

"No," he mutters sulkily, "I thought you might be Lexie."

"Oh," I reply. I move his legs and sit down onto the couch next to him, "You're still down about that?"

"I'll say," he growls, "My life is over."

I roll my eyes, "Don't be so dramatic."

"My heart is broken into a million and one pieces."

"You fancied her for what…two weeks?"

"Before she rejected me," he moans wretchedly, as though it causes him physical pain to remember it.

"Maybe you should talk to her…sober this time."

"She won't speak to me," he mutters, "And the one time I cornered her in the library she told me to climb into a hole and die."

"Ouch," I say.

"I'll never love again."

I feel compelled to roll my eyes again, "Yes you will. There's plenty of fish in the sea."

"None like her!"

"OK," I sigh, since clearly this wasn't working, "How about we go to the library. We could read a book, take your mind off it?"

He wails as though I've just punched him in the stomach, "Lexie reads!"

I sigh, "Well, maybe there's some breakfast left over in the great hall. I'm sure the food would help."

This only makes him wail louder, "Food! Lexie eats food!"

I roll my eyes again at him.

Cameron looks at me pleadingly, "Artois? What should I do?"

I shrug, "I'm not really the person to ask for romantic advice."

"You're the one who got me in to this mess!" he cries, "You told me she liked me! You made me think about her! I would never have thought about her if you hadn't planted the seed!"

"And maybe she wouldn't have rejected you if you hadn't been completely inebriated and kissed her in front of the entire common room," I point out.

He sighs grumpily, "I thought it would be romantic."

"It was mortifying."

"I was nervous," he replies, "I don't usually ask girls out…on dates. I mean usually I don't have a problem getting girls to hook up in a broom cupboard with me. But I figured Lexie probably doesn't like doing that. She'd want a dinner somewhere in a fancy restaurant, or a romantic walk. I don't know how to act in those kind of situations! I can't…talk to her!"

I pause, feeling guilty. Lexie had turned Cameron, the blissfully confident Cameron, into this snivelling wreck. With my help.

"Give it time." Is all I can say.

Suddenly the last person I want to see is standing beside us.

James, looking slightly tired from the quidditch practice, is looking at Cameron with an extremely annoyed expression on his face.

"Cameron, this is the second practice you've missed. If you weren't my best mate I would have kicked you off the team by now."

"I'm sick!" Cameron cried indignantly at him.

James frowns, "What's wrong with you?"

"Lexie rejected me!"

James rolls his eyes. Clearly he's also getting tired of this, "So you've said. It's just a girl, mate."

"Not a girl, the girl!"

"A girl who you won't remember existed in six months time," James corrects him.

This sentence makes me feel a little sick to my stomach.

"I think Cameron's just being a coward," I say cooly, "Not facing up to someone who might be important to him."

James' eyes flash in my direction, burning hot and icy cold all at once, "Funny, I don't remember asking your opinion, Wood."

"Funny, I don't remember needing you to ask me for it," I snap.

He glares at me, as Cameron sits up a little, nodding vigorously, "Stella's right. I'm being a coward. I'm hiding from her, and I haven't apologised. It's pathetic. If I want Lexie, I need to fix it."

"Good call, Cameron," I say to him, smirking a little in James' direction.

"She rejected you, mate," James counters quickly, "She's not worth your time. Think of all the other girls who you could be with! Girls who won't make you into the bad guy every chance they get."

This brings up painful memories of our argument, and I immediately retort, "Don't be one of those guys," I say to Cameron, putting a comforting hand on his forearm, "One of those guys who doesn't know what he really wants. One of those guys who doesn't know when he's being a total jerk."

"Yes, because it's all Cameron's fault, isn't it?" James snaps at me.

"Well, maybe Cameron should just own up to the fact that he isn't the fucking king of everything," I glare at him.

"And I'm sure Lexie has faults of her own," James says, "Maybe she's insecure, or paranoid. Maybe she puts herself onto a fucking pedestal, looking down on everyone who isn't fucking good enough for her!"

"I don't think she does that," Cameron says meekly, looking a little alarmed at how quickly our argument is escalating, "She's always been really nice to me."

"How about the fact that Lexie never told you how she felt about you?" James looks at Cameron urgently, staring intensely at him, "She was probably playing you hot and cold the entire time."

Feeling extremely indignant, I exclaim, "As if Cameron wasn't doing the exact same thing!"

"Only because Lexie was being so bloody indecisive!" James is finding it difficult to look at

Cameron, now that all of his anger is directed at me, "Lexie never acted like she was invested. Sometimes she was into you, the next she hates your guts!"

"You- I mean, Cameron was the one who started this whole thing! He kissed her first! He never wanted to be seen in public with her!"

"I'm pretty sure that's just something Lexie made up in that creative little head of hers,"

James counters, and my jaw drops in outrage.

Cameron starts laughing, waving his hands to stop us, "OK, I don't know who you guys are talking about but it's not Lexie and I." He chuckles, "Whoever you guys are talking about, Merlin they have some issues to work out."

"I think it's Lexie's issue," James mutters just low enough for me to here.

"Cameron is plenty fucked up all on his own," I snap back in hushed tones.

Cameron hears this exchange and continues to chuckle, "Seriously guys, you don't have to talk in code about these people. As entertaining as this was I'm going up to bed, so you can keep on gossiping."

He hops off the sofa, looking considerably more elevated, before sauntering off towards the common room staircase, leaving James and I alone.

Some part of me hopes that James will continue the argument. The part that wants to confront him. The other part of me wants to run away and hide.

There's a long, awkward pause in which neither of us can look directly at the other.

"That was completely immature, Potter," I tell him scathingly.

"You were pretty childish yourself, Wood," he replies angrily.

"I can't believe I thought about trying to make up with you," I mutter.

"What?" his voice sounds slightly strained, but the hint of intrigue is definitely there.

I look away from him then, feeling a deep blush creep up my cheeks.

Luckily, before I have to explain myself, the portrait hole opens, and the perfect distraction walks through the portrait hole.

Albus, with his arm around a very pretty girl, enters the common room.

"Hey guys," he says, grinning widely at us, "I wanted you to meet someone. This is Cecily."

"Stella and I already met," she grins, flashing a smile of what seem like hundreds of pearly white teeth, "Herbology in 5th year, right?"

"Yeah, I remember," I grin, "So are you two…"

"Together," Cecily grins at Albus, who grins back at her. It's almost nauseating.

"I hope this isn't weird for you Stella?" Albus says.

"What? Why would it be?" I laugh lightly.

Cecily pauses, raising an eyebrow, "You two used to date."

"Oh, that!" I laugh, mortified that I keep forgetting that Albus was by boyfriend for a month or so, "Don't worry, it was amicable."

"That's what Al said," Cecily smiles sweetly, again with those flashy teeth.

"Oh, and this is my brother, James," Albus says.

"Hey," they both nod at each other. Cecily smiles some more, and James manages a mildly friendly grimace.

"Well, I have to go," James says gruffly, glancing at me for a split second, "Nice to meet you."

"You too!" she says eagerly, but he's already turned away from her.

When she looks slightly downcast, Albus pats her on the arm, "He's usually pretty standoffish."

"Oh, Ok," she says, "I should go back to my dormitory anyway. It's getting late."

"Sure," Al says, "I'll see you tomorrow then."

He kisses her quickly on the lips, and she leaves through the portrait hole.

After she's gone, he looks back at me, beaming all over his face.

I nod at him, feeling impressed, "I have to admit, I wasn't expecting you to take my advice."

He shrugs, "I figured I can't wait around for Ray. And Cecily is…well, I like her a lot."

"I'm glad you've moved on," I smile gently at him.

"Thanks," he gives me a consolatory pat on the shoulder, "I hope you do too."

"Thanks," I reply.

"Oh, by the way, have you heard about the new quidditch tryouts?" He asks.

I frown, "No. What tryouts?"

"Well, since Eve got kicked off the team, Gryffindor are looking for new keeper."

"Oh," I pause, not sure how to process this information, "Interesting. Do you know anyone who wanted to try out?"

"I heard a few people were considering it, especially now that Gryffindor are on a winning streak."

"OK. Well, I hope they find someone good."

"Actually," he looks at me meaningfully, "I had someone in mind."

"Really?" I frown, "Who?"

Albus smirks a little, "Well, she's really talented, and she's probably the best person for the job. And she just recently learned how to get over her fear of flying. Sounds pretty good to me."

I roll my eyes at him, "Albus, there's no way I'm trying out."

"But you know you'd be great at it!" he whines, "You're just worried that you'll fail."

"No, I would just rather avoid James as much as possible."

It's Al's turn to roll his eyes, "Come on, Stella. James shouldn't dictate how you live your life. If you want to do it, then don't let him stop you."

I counter, "He'll make my life on that team hell."

"But it'll be worth it!" he grins, "And now that you know how to work through your fear…maybe you should give it a try."

"Maybe next time," I sigh.

"What if there isn't a next time!"

I pause, biting my lip as I contemplate the idea, "I'll think about it."

Suddenly I remember that one night, where James and I were racing one another, diving and jumping in the dark. It had been…perfect.

"You know you're the best person for the job," he presses on.

"I said I'll think about it!" I laugh.

"OK, OK, I'll go to bed then. Tryouts are Wednesday afternoon though!"

"Thanks Al."

"Oh, and I hope…well, I hope Ray isn't still angry with me." I give him a look and he sighs,

"Too soon?"

"Just a tad."

"Just tell her I hope we can be friends."

He grins hopefully, before leaving through the portrait hole.

I shake my head, chuckling slightly, as I climb the stairs towards the dormitory.

As I push open the door, I see Lexie, sitting up on her bed with a large book propped up against her knees.

"Hey," I approach her gently, "I was just talking to Cameron earlier. He's really sorry about what happened."

"Funny, I haven't received that apology," she says, not taking her eyes off the book she's reading.

"He really does like you, you know," I try again.

"He has interesting methods of communicating those feelings," she says, her face completely deadpan.

"OK, maybe he could have chosen a better way of-"

"No," she shakes her head, "What you were saying to me before. You were right. Cameron is interested in me now, but in a week? The next girl in line will be there waiting."

"No! You have to understand!" I tell her desperately, "He really, really likes you!"

"Sure he does," she rolls her eyes.

"He does!"

"Then why did he have to show up drunk to get the courage-?"

"He was nervous!"

"My brother doesn't get nervous."

I'm startled by the sound of Ray's voice, as she emerges from the bathroom. The look on

Ray's face is less than friendly.

"What?" I ask her timidly.

"He doesn't get nervous," she reiterates, "He was an arse to Lexie, and he doesn't deserve her time."

Lexie is nodding vigorously, but I turn to Ray, "Come on, Ray! This is your brother! Surely he has some redeemable qualities."

"My brother is exactly like the rest of them," Ray frowns, "He uses girls, then he loses them. Trust me, Lex, you dodged a bullet."

"Ray there are nice guys out there!" I say to her.

"Really?" Ray raises an eyebrow, "Cameron's had about ten different girlfriends since the school year began. Fred's had about double that number. James ignores anyone not worth his time. Your fake ex-boyfriend tried to kiss me barely a week after you broke up, not to mention after he planned a manipulative scheme to get me to fall in love with him. I'm not seeing much evidence to the contrary."

I sigh, "Speaking of Al. He wanted me to ask you if you guys could maybe be friends in the future."

Ray's look towards me is so cold that I almost run into the bathroom to avoid the pierce of her stare. I realise now that that was a stupid thing to say under the circumstances.

"Since when have you become everyone's messenger?" Lexie frowns.

"Since men have been cowards when it comes to confrontation," Ray says.

I try again, "Well, Al said-"

"I'm sure it was very charming, whatever he said," Ray says, looking bored, "But I'm not interested. And you shouldn't be either, Lex."

OK, I give up. I'm done trying to make peace.

Taking a deep breath, I flop onto my bed. "Boys," I sigh.

"They suck," Lexie agrees.

"It's what I've been saying all along," Ray says to us, "They're not even worth our breath."

* * *

 

The next morning, as Lexie, Rose and I were sitting at breakfast, Ray comes storming over, her face livid.

"Oh shit," Rose murmurs, "Incoming."

We all prepare for the incoming tidal wave of fury.

Ray sits down, her lips grinding together with anger, her eyebrows knotted together.

"Albus fucking Potter," she growls, uttering each word with a special brand of hatred.

"What about him?" Rose asks, looking terrified to her very core.

Ray's eyes widen, "That prick has a girlfriend now! A bloody girlfriend!"

We look towards the Ravenclaw table, where Albus and Cecily are sitting together, chatting cosily.

"Maybe they're just friends," Lexie offers, without much hope in her voice.

"No, they're not," I mutter in a low voice.

Ray continues to look completely outraged, "Ugh, that jerk thinks he can just kiss me, and then tell me he's liked me for ages, and then just pretend none of it happened and just get a girlfriend!"

"I thought you didn't want him," Rose utters uneasily, "You said you didn't like him."

"That doesn't change the fact that he has no right going around, getting girlfriends!" Ray cries, "I mean, who does he think he is?"

None of us want to answer that. The answer could subject us to several hours of the Ray Mitchell fury.

"You did punch him in the face," I mention, "Maybe he's just trying to…move on."

"At the speed of a fucking concord," Ray mutters bitterly, "And who is she anyway?"

"Her name is Cecily," I murmur gently, "She's a Ravenclaw."

Ray snaps to look at me, her eyes ablaze, "Yes, thank you Stella, my cognitive skills are not completely fried. I guessed that since they were sitting at the Ravenclaw table that she's a fucking Ravenclaw."

Ah, angry Ray was truly back.

The rest of the table falls relatively silent, and Ray lowers her voice, "Well maybe someone should warn her that her boyfriend is a lying tosser."

"I thought you said boys weren't worth our breath," Lexie says timidly.

"I'm just trying to protect this Cecily," Ray utters the name with a tone that only implies disgust, "from getting involved with someone like him."

"I'm sure she'd value your opinion," Rose mutters.

"He's your bloody cousin!" Ray snaps at her, "Can't you do something to get him under control?"

"He's hardly on a girlfriend rampage!" Rose exclaims.

Feeling a sudden need to change subject, before Rose and Ray declare an all out war, I look at Rose, "So I heard there are quidditch tryouts coming up?"

She looks at me, a bit flustered, "Oh, yeah. Since James kicked Eve off the team we need a new keeper. Quite a few people have signed up already actually."

"Have they?" I ask, slightly absentmindedly.

"Why? Ooh! Were you thinking of trying out?" Rose asks me.

I pause, "I thought about it for a second, and then I thought maybe not."

"But you'd be great!" she grins, "They're tomorrow evening if you want to come."

Out of the corner of my eye, Ray continues to seethe with anger, occasionally glancing towards Albus and Cecily, who are still sitting together at the breakfast table.

"I'd better go," I say, "I'll think about the tryouts."

It was definitely something I had to consider. Did I really want to be back on that team? Would it be better this time?

I decided that I had to find out for myself. I was going to go down to that pitch, and practice on my own.

Walking out of the great hall, out of the entrance hall and outside, I was hit by the sudden cold breeze. Winter had come and I had barely noticed.

Down on the pitch I looked around at the deserted stands. Anxiety began to build up more quickly than I had expected, and I looked up at the extremely high goal posts.

Swallowing my fear, I walked towards the broom shed, opened the door, and promptly bumped straight into someone.

The person I bumped into trips, and falls flat on their back with a thud, emitting a loud yell, and then a groan.

"Shit!" I cry out in fright, "I'm sorry!"

"No…problem," he replies, clearly in pain as he tightens up his eyes and rolls over onto his side.

I drop to my knees, "I should have looked where I was going."

"Really, it's fine," he wheezes, although he's clearly winded.

I take a closer look, and see that it's Luke Corner, the extremely, almost unnaturally attractive Ravenclaw captain. I remember back to my extremely awkward encounter with him at Hogsmede village, right after Fred had challenged him to a duel over Eve's affections.

"Here," I say offering him an arm, "Let me help."

"I'm fine," he repeats, but he takes the arm anyway, "You just caught me off guard."

Once he's on his feet, he takes a closer look at me, "Stella, right?"

"Yeah," I reply nervously, "And you're Luke."

"Good memory," he smiles faintly, because he's clearly still slightly out of breath from his fall.

"Eve's potions partner," I murmur.

"Really good memory," he laughs slightly.

I can't help but look down at the ground. God, he must think I'm some sort of stalker.

There's an awkward pause, and I stammer, "W-well, s-sorry about that. I'll just grab a broom and be out of your hair."

"Oh, no, it's fine," says Luke casually, "I was about to practice too, actually."

"Oh," Is all that comes out of my mouth.

Thanks brain, very helpful. I'm sure Encycolpedia Britannica is applauding your eloquence.

"Maybe we could…practice together," he suggests, a little awkwardly.

"A-are you sure?" I ask, "I don't wan't to bother you or anything. You were here first, after all."

"Rubbish," he says, looking a little more relaxed, "You're a keeper. I'm a keeper. I'm sure we'll find a way to help one another."

"I'm really out of practice," I explain, "I'm probably terrible!"

Luke offers me a broom, "I've seen you play," he says, "Before you quit, I mean. You're good. Really good, in fact."

"We'll see I suppose," I reply uneasily, as we make our way out onto the pitch.

Before I kick off I take a deep breath.

Remember Stella, remember the night on the quidditch pitch with James. Remember how unafraid you were, how exhilarating it felt?

I feel the steadiness of the ground, the vibrations in my hand as I tremble slightly.

"You coming?" comes Luke's voice from high above me. I hadn't realised he was already there.

"Hang on!" I cry.

Don't be a coward, Stella.

I kick off, and pick up speed, as fast as I can towards the opposite end of the goal posts.

And there's that feeling of exhilaration again, sweeping in waves through my body like a powerful adrenaline that can't be quenched.

I'm almost sad to reach the end goalposts when I do.

I slow down, and feel the uneasiness begin to rise up. Ignore it, Stella. Pretend like you're standing on the ground, not hovering 500 meters in the air.

Luke whistles, "You're a fast flyer."

I'm not really sure what to say to that, so instead I say, "Shall we take turns at being the keeper?"

"OK," he grins, "You can go first if you like."

"That's OK, I'll be the chaser," I offer. I know that I'm not ready to be the keeper yet.

I grab the quaffle and begin to fly around the stadium to get a feel for it. Luke waits at the goalposts, and I pay attention to how he holds himself on the broom. Not frozen as he waits, but more relaxed. Ready to go in any direction.

I fly over his head and shoot a quaffle over his shoulder. He catches it with an annoying amount of ease, and throws it back to me.

I try again, and he catches it again.

"I'm not really a chaser," I laugh slightly.

"Or I'm just a really amazing keeper," he grins.

We both laugh, but he's right. He's really good. He moves with agility, ready to grab the ball at any second and yet he's not wobbling, he's firm and still.

On my third shot he catches it again, launching out towards the ball and yet not falling off his broom.

"How do you do that?" I ask him, slightly out of breath.

"What?" he asks.

"How do you launch out that far, and not fall off?"

He frowns, "I don't know. It's kind of a reflex I guess. I sort of grip the broom with my knees."

"Don't you seize up?" I ask.

"No," he frowns.

So it's just me then.

I try again, throwing the ball. He catches it once again, and I glance sideways at him. The way he stays on the broom, completely confident in the air.

"Could I have a go? Being keeper?" I ask timidly.

"Sure," he nods, grabbing the ball from me as he takes on the position of chaser.

I sit, waiting and ready. I grip the broom between my knees. And I gingerly take my hands off the handle.

It feels unnatural, sitting up, without holding onto something.

Luke passes, a gentle one, and I get the feeling that he's going easy on my out of pity.

I lean out, just as he did, but not far enough. The ball brushes my fingertips and Luke has to dive down to catch it.

"You're pretty scared of falling, aren't you?" he says, once he's flown up again to meet me.

"I don't like taking my hands off the broom," I admit.

"That might be a problem, considering your job is to catch a ball."

"Do you…think you could show me, how not to be scared of falling?" I ask him.

He shrugs, "I'm not sure if it can be taught, to be honest. But I'll give it a go."

He flies over to me so that we're level, side by side as we face away from the goal posts.

"Well, maybe you need to loosen up in your shoulders," he suggests, observing me as I hunch over on my broom.

I do as he says, and my stomach drops a little.

"And look ahead, rather than down."

I lift my chin to face the opposite goal posts.

"Just…maybe grip the broom with your knees, and relax your top half."

I try that too, but I still feel nauseous. I immediately grip the broom handle again.

He sighs, "I'm sorry. I'm not really a teacher."

I shake my head, "It's OK. I was stupid to think it was something I could just learn in five seconds."

"You're a really good player, and that's when you're scared," he sighs, "Imagine what you could be if the fear stopped."

"I can't just stop," I reply, "I don't think it's that simple."

"Or maybe it is," he shrugs.

Before I can put much thought into that idea, there's a loud voice from below us.

"Hufflepuff have the pitch booked, Corner!"

We both look down and see Georgia Deely, the Hufflepuff captain, looking up at us indignantly.

"Sorry, Georgie!" Luke shouts down at her, a grin on his face, "We were just finishing up."

From way down below she scowls, "I've told you not to call me that anymore, Corner!"

"Sorry, Georgie!" he teases.

I raise an eyebrow at him. He grins, and explains, "Childhood friend. She doesn't like it when I call her by her kid nickname."

I nod, "Well, thanks anyway."

"Were you thinking of trying out for Keeper again?" he asks.

"People keep asking me that," I reply, "I don't know."

"You should," he nods, "I mean, I like Eve. She's a great potions partner. But after the stuff she pulled at the Gryffindor Slytherin match it's no wonder Potter kicked her off the team."

"I'll probably end up making a fool of myself," I chuckle.

"So?" he asks, "I reckon you like it more than you let on."

"What? Making a fool of myself?"

"No!" he laughs, "Quidditch."

I nod, but before I can reply Georgia Deely yells, "Seriously, Corner, we've booked-"

"Coming now!" he beckons to me, "Let's go before Georgie loses it."

* * *

Later that night I allow Luke's words to mull over in my brain.

Tryouts are tomorrow. Do I really want to go?

It's bizarre. Two months ago I quit the team, with hardly any intention of ever going back.

Hating quidditch, hating the team, it was all I ever thought about. I lived and breathed quidditch, and yet I hated it.

But then again, a lot had changed in two months. And was me liking quidditch so strange?

Weirder things have happened. I mean, Ray Mitchell fell for a boy. James Potter kissed me. Cameron wants to be with Lexie, and only Lexie.

By comparison, rejoining the team seemed normal.

The fear was still there. Apparently that hadn't changed.

But as Luke said, maybe the solution to that was simple. Maybe I just needed to…stop being scared.

Was it really that obvious? Was it something that had been there, right under my nose, this whole time?

That night with James, I had been angry. It had been powerful, fiery, and enough to overshadow my fear.

And I had been with James. We had laughed together, had fun. Done things that I would never have pictured us doing.

It was my one night of being bold.

And I want to repeat it.

When I wake up, I eat breakfast, go to my classes, and sit patiently and calmly, waiting for the evening to come.

It is a long day, but eventually we sit down to dinner.

Ray commits herself to glum silence this time, while Lexie opens a book and read it as she ate.

I eat lightly, waiting for the clock to strike eight o'clock, and when it finally does, I rise from the table and say goodbye to them.

Walking down to the pitch I feel cold. But for now I don't need to be worried.

On the pitch I'm amazed at the number of people who are there.

The team are all there, decked out in their scarlet robes. And the many, many hopefuls, at least twenty of them, standing around and looking ever so slightly impatient.

And there are people watching too, sitting in the stands, laughing and chatting as they wait for the tryouts to start.

I feel suddenly as though I'm under a spotlight. Which is ridiculous because no one is looking at me.

This was a stupid idea. I turn to go, but too late.

"STELLA!" Rose cries from where she and the rest of the team are standing, "YOU CAME!"

Quite a few people turn to look at me, and any possibility of leaving has just evaporated.

I wave awkwardly at Rose, who skips over to me, "I'm so glad you decided to try out."

"I don't know if I am," I mutter nervously.

"Nonsense, you're the best person here."

"I'd rather not stick around to find out if you're right."

"Don't be silly," she says, "Come on. Let's go to the changing rooms. That's where were keeping the extra quidditch robes."

She takes my elbow and steers me over towards the girls changing rooms.

Once we're inside, I gulp when I see at least fifteen more hopefuls, in various states of dressing.

She leads me purposefully over to an empty spot and hands me some robes to pull on.

The other girls in the changing room turn to look at me curiously, and I feel even more self-conscious.

I pull on the quidditch robes with ease, unlike the others who haven't had the practice that I've had.

"Stella?"

The voice behind me is one I recognise too well. And this is exactly what I don't want to happen.

I turn to face Eve, who looks as pretty as ever. Her lips are twisted slightly, and she looks a little nervous.

"Oh, Eve," I reply.

Rose gives her a cold stare, which Eve does her best to ignore. She looks at me face on,

"Listen, Stella. I've been doing some thinking, and I realised that it was completely unreasonable for me to blame you for James kicking me off the team."

Behind me, Rose makes a distinctive snorting noise. However, Eve presses on.

"It was really immature of me to think you had something to do with it. I was caught up in the moment, and I really hated being kicked off the team. But I've realised it was my own fault. You had nothing to do with it. Of course you weren't trying to steal my spot! I was so paranoid. I'm sorry."

I pause, unsure if this is really happening, "That's OK, Eve."

Rose offers her opinion on this reconciliation by scoffing again.

"I hope," Eve pauses uncertainly, "I was hoping one day we could be friends again."

"Er, sure," I'm not sure whether Eve is being entirely sincere. But she does seem to be pretty apologetic.

Then it hits me, "Wait, Eve, what are you doing here?"

She gestures around her, "I thought I'd give it another shot. I've been working on my quaffle problem, and I think I ready to get out there again."

"Oh," is all I manage, before my voice dies in my throat.

She pauses, frowning, "Is that why you're here too?"

"Yeah," I mutter.

"Oh," she says, her glowing smile fading on her face, "So when you said you didn't want to be back on the team…you were lying?"

At this point Rose steps in, "Hey! It took a lot of guts for Stella to come here."

I feel a warm glow inside towards Rose. But Eve doesn't look very convinced.

"I'm sure it did," she says, through slightly pursed lips. Sighing she says, "Well, see you out there. May the best keeper win."

She leaves, leaving Rose and I staring after her.

"I always knew she was about more than that girl next door smile," Rose mutters darkly,

"Don't worry, Stella, you'll beat her."

I swallow, "Let's hope."

* * *

"OK, everyone," James shouts clearly over the crowd, "Let's start with ten laps of the pitch.

We want to know if you can actually fly first."

I scrutinise him. Here he is in his element. Yet he still doesn't even offer a glance in my direction.

I take a deep breath. Just don't be scared, Stella. It's that simple.

Then I kick off, along with everyone else.

Everyone begins to race around the pitch, and it feels incredibly crowded. At least thirty people are up here, all zooming around the pitch like lunatics.

I grip the handle of the broom and fly.

After one lap a few of the first years drop out, barely able to get a few feet off the ground and wobbling all the way.

After seven laps, I feel slightly dizzy, but half of the people have already dropped out, unable to keep up with the rest of us.

After nine laps, I notice that there are only a handful of people ahead of me. And one of them is Eve.

My jaw sets, and I put on a burst of speed.

The final lap goes quickly, and everyone speeds ahead. Even though it isn't supposed to be a race, it has somehow become one. Eve pulls into first place, her blonde hair flickering daintily over her shoulder.

My hair whips in my face, but I keep flying.

Then the ten laps are over. Eve came first, but I came second, ahead of at least fifteen others. I can be proud of that, at least.

Once everyone has landed, James looks at all of us.

His eyes fall on Eve, "Collins? What are you doing here?"

"I wanted to try out," she says.

He frowns sceptically at her, "I kicked you off the team. You're scared of the quaffle."

A couple of the other candidates snigger slightly, and for a moment I feel a hint of compassion for Eve.

"I thought I would try again," she says, "I'm a good flyer."

"Well," he pauses, still looking a little uncertain, "You're the fastest out of this lot."

That puts the sniggers to rest, and puts a small smile on Eve's face.

I notice that James has yet to acknowledge that I'm there.

"Right," he says, "Now that we've gotten rid of half of you, you'll go one on one, with one of my superb chasers. Anyone who catches four out of the five shots moves on to the next round."

Everyone nods, and James looks at the person who came last in the race, a scrawny fourth year boy, "We'll start with slowest to fastest."

The small crowd disperses and the fourth year, who now looks extremely nervous, flies towards the goal posts.

Rose kicks off, quaffle under one arm, and flies to meet him.

Everyone in the stands cheers loudly, until James throws a look at them, which makes them hush almost immediately.

Rose takes her first shot, which the fourth year catches.

After the other four passes, Rose successfully scores three goals, which means that the fourth year is out of the running.

He lands, looking slightly dejected. James eyes him up and down, "Better luck next year."

The boy nods, before retreating to the changing rooms in shame.

And so it continues. Some of the candidates catch the quaffle four times, and move on to the next round, but most of them don't.

After successfully scoring five out of the five shots, Rose kisses the quaffle, as the kid who failed sinks to the ground, looking thoroughly depressed.

And I before I know it, its my turn.

I kick off again, and fly towards the goal posts.

"Don't go easy on me, Rose," I tell her.

"Wouldn't dream of it," she grins.

Her first shot comes hard and fast, and I catch it, more out of shock than actual expertise. I rock slightly on my broom, and the familiar terror reappears.

No, now is not the time to be scared.

Her second shot is a side pass, and to my surprise I catch that one too. Then I catch the third. From down below the team cheers loudly for me.

Nervously I reach out my hands for Rose's next pass. I feel my elbows lock and my hands freeze.

She scores, as the ball flies over my shoulder, and my hands lower. The crowd goes silent.

Three out of five passes, with one last chance to go.

I breathe in. The air fills me up, and I close my eyes. I'm at peace all of a sudden, barely even aware of how high up I am. Opening my eyes, I see that Rose has been waiting patiently for me. I give her a tiny nod to let her know that I'm as ready as I'll ever be.

She shoots, and I lunge out to the side, further than I've reached before. And I catch it.

The crowd cheers for me, because I've just moved on to the next round.

I land shakily, smiling weakly at everyone. Eve kicks off, and her turn begins.

Rose shoots, and she catches it. Rose shoots again, and she catches it.

Three…

Four...

Five shots.

Eve catches every single one, and the crowd whoops and yells for her. She is the only candidate who successfully made all of her shots.

She lands, looking proud of herself.

James purses his lips, and looks at the four people who are still left in the running.

"Right," he says, "You all made it to the final round. The most difficult one. What I want you to do is get into pairs."

Somehow the two others who've made it to the final round pair up. Which just leaves me and Eve as partners. Great.

"OK, now we're having a lightening round," he says, "First you play as teams, against the other pair. In your pairs you will alternating the role of chaser and keeper. One of you shoots, the other tries to catch. The first pair to lose a shot is out of the running. Then the final pair has to battle it out between them. It goes without saying that the winner of that battle will be the new Gryffindor captain." Everyone nods nervously. "Right, let's go."

We all kick off, and without saying anything Eve and I both fly to the same goalpost. Dread is rising up in me exponentially.

The other pair fly off to the other end of the pitch, and James blows his whistle. I grab the quaffle, and throw it at Eve, who catches it. Then we switch places, and she throws it at me. I catch it. We stare at one another. Her face is expressionless.

Then I'm the chaser, then she is. We throw it back and forth, until eventually I'm dizzy from catching and throwing.

And somehow neither of us miss it once.

James blows his whistle, "And Pair number two is out of the running!"

Eve and I stop. Since we haven't missed a shot, it must be the other pair that dropped the quaffle first. The two of them fly to the ground.

"So now it's down to our final pair!" James shouts.

I can't help but notice that James is starting to sound like the announcer of a boxing ring.

In the blue corner! She's blonde! She's perfect! She's secretly a petty cow! It's Eve Collins!


In the red corner! She's definitely not perfect! She's actually quite mad! She no longer knows what the hell she's gotten herself into! It's Stella Wood!

At least that's what it sounds like in my head.

So now it's Stella versus Eve. This should be interesting.

Eve and I lock eyes for what feels like an age. It's just me and her now.

"Whoever drops the quaffle first, loses!" James says.

Almost immediately, Eve passes the quaffle, hard and fast.

I grab it, and it almost hits me in the stomach. I look up at her, and I know that she isn't going easy on me at all.

We swap places. I throw it, and she catches it, seemingly with ease.

Damn, when did she stop getting scared of the ball?

Eve seems to notice my surprise, and I swear I detect the hint of a smirk. She thinks she's beaten me.

Swapping places again, Eve chucks the ball out to the side, and I lunge far out to grab it, spinning around in full motion. Once I've uprighted myself, I catch a quick glimpse of annoyance in her face.

She's learnt to control her fear, but I'm still learning.

Everything seems to speed up. We swap places, throwing it back and forth to one another, our passes growing more and more aggressive. One time I do a full 360 turn in the air, but somehow the quaffle ends up in my clutches.

We continue passing. She throws it to the side, because she knows I like to stay put. I throw it as close to her face as possible, because I know that she was worried about it hitting her face.

"I deserve this more than you," she hisses, looking unkempt and out of breath, "You quit! You lost your chance!"

In response I throw the quaffle as hard as I can. It hits her in the stomach, although to be honest I was more interested in hitting her stomach than trying to make a goal.

"You threw your chance away when you played in that match," I snap.

"I believe that was you who threw my chance away," she replies angrily.

She throws the quaffle at the hoops, and I reach out and catch it.

"So much for a sincere apology," I scoff.

"Well, that was before I knew that you were just trying to take my place!" she says.

We swap places again. I look at the quaffle, then I look at Eve.

Feeling the quaffle safely in my grip, it feels…right. It gives me a sense of home that I've never felt before. And it certainly isn't a feeling that I've ever appreciated before now.

Shit, I really want this.

And Eve is about to take it from me.

I launch the quaffle into the air. Eve reaches out her hands, and I realise with a leap that it's not quite far enough.

The quaffle flies past her and into the hoop.

Distantly I hear cheering and whooping down below me.

So.

I'm the new Gryffindor keeper.

* * *

"Totally brilliant!" Rose laughs, swinging and arm around my shoulders, "Thank god you won. I'm not sure if I could stand it if that cow ended up on the team."

As the rest of the crowd disperses, I spot Eve, walking away with her head hung low.

"She just…wanted to be on the team," I mutter.

Rose rolls her eyes, "Oh shut up, she's a cow, and you're the new keeper. This calls for a celebration!"

"Sure," I grin, "I'll meet you up in the common room, yeah?"

"You're not coming up now?" she frowns, "It's getting dark."

"I-" I pause, and my eyes travel towards James, who is busy packing the rest of the brooms away. "I'll meet you up there."

"Oh," Rose says, grinning slyly towards James, "Making the first move, are we?"

I nod, "Something like that."

She grins, "OK then. See you later."

She runs off to join the rest of the team.

I jog to catch up with James.

"Um, Potter?"

He turns, barely acknowledges that I'm there, before turning back to locking up the broom shed.

"So, I'm back on the team," I hesitate, wondering if he's even remotely interested in talking to me.

"So you are," is his helpful response.

"Well, you seem invigorated at that prospect," I mutter sarcastically.

"Is there something you wanted to say?" he says, and I detect a hint of annoyance in his voice.

"So, is that just it? Are we just going to pretend we don't know one another?"

"Look," he snaps, "Wood. If you're not going to apologise-"

"Apologise!" I scoff, "Nice try! Where's your apology?"

"You're just too much of a coward to admit you were wrong," he says.

"I wasn't wrong!" I snap.

"You accused me of having a classroom where I take random girls and shag them!" he scoffs, "And apparently the only reason that I was hesitant to tell people about you and I was because I didn't want to ruin my reputation as a womanising player! It was all just some rubbish that you created in your paranoid mind."

"I didn't make it up in my head," I mutter under my breath.

"What?" he asks sharply.

"I didn't make it up in my head," I tell him more clearly.

He rolls his eyes, "Look, I don't really want to talk about it, Wood."

I glare at him, "Now who's being a coward?"

"Sorry if I don't want to stick around to play some stupid game with you," he says angrily, "I don't know where you got the idea that I'm some sort of bloody Casanova, but you were being completely irrational about the whole thing."

"Is it really such a crazy thing to assume?" I ask him with raised eyebrows, "Your best friends are Fred and Cameron! You're the captain of the quidditch team! There girls who would die to go out with you! And Albus..." I trail off hesitantly.

"What?" James frowns at me, "What did Albus say?"

"He said that was the classroom where you took girls for…you know."

"And you believed him?" James scoffs.

"Albus is my friend!" I reply indignantly, "He wouldn't lie to me!"

He stares incredulously at me then, and his voice becomes more hushed, "Did you ever stop to consider that what Albus knows is gossip? Or a rumour? Or not even the slightest bit true?"

I hold my tongue then, knowing that the answer is no. I hadn't considered any of that. I had been waiting for evidence that James didn't want me, and I had grabbed it the first chance I got.

He looks at me deeply then, and I feel the temptation to look away. His look is horrible, a mixture of disappointment and fury, all wrapped up in one shattered package.

"So…it's not true?" I ask uneasily.

He looks tired for a moment, "10 points to Gryffindor. Look, I'm not saying that I'm Mr. Perfect. But I'm not Fred, or Cameron. When there's a girl...it usually means something."

I'm almost to scared to ask if I fall into that category or not.

"Look, what's been said has been said," I sigh, "Maybe then, we can move on."

He shakes his head, "Sure. Whatever, let's move on."

"Good," I sigh with relief, "And now that I'm on the team-"

He cuts over me, "But I don't think we should speak anymore outside of practice."

"What?" I frown at him, feeling hurt.

"You may be a good keeper," he says, "And you're a good addition to the team. But we were idiots if we thought that this, whatever the hell this is, could ever work.You pounced on first chance to hate me that you got, and you didn't even bother to get sufficient evidence. This doesn't work."

This hurts more than I want it to, "So, what, you never want to speak to me again?"

"Well now we're on the same team, I suppose we'll have to try," he says. At this point he looks tired and worn out.

"I'm so sorry, that'll be difficult for you," I snap.

He only looks coldly at me, "It's for the best, Wood. You may be on the team, but I sure as hell don't want you here."

And with that he leaves, turning his back on me.

His words leave a sort of hole in me, and almost immediately I feel my eyes sting.

Then the tears start running and I'm not doing anything to stop them.

Trust James Potter to turn what was supposed to be a proud moment into something horrible.

I run up to the castle, tears streaming down my face, gasping with sobs, my hair pulled loose from its elastic, and sticking about like a wild mess.

Through the entrance hall, up the staircase, up another staircase. The corridors are deserted, and my tears flow freely. By this time I'm not even bothering with trying to calm my breaths.

Halfway up my third staircase, I realise that if I keep going in this state I might go into cardiac arrest.

I sit forlornly down on the stairs, and lean against the cold stone wall.

He doesn't want to speak to me again. He said it. Out loud.

How the hell was I supposed to enjoy quidditch now, with him hating me?

"Stella? Are you alright?"

I spin around in fright, and to my horror, Luke Corner is standing just above me, looking concerned.

I immediately brush my tears off my cheeks, "I'm fine!"

He sighs, and sits down on the step next to me, "No, you're not."

My breaths are uneven and shaky, "OK, I'm not."

He leans his hand out gingerly, and pats me a few times on the shoulder.

"Did something happen at the tryouts?" he asks, "Did you go?"

I nod shakily, "Yeah."

He sighs, "I'm sorry. Look, maybe it's for the best."

"I got the spot," I reply.

He looks surprised, "That's great! I knew you would!"

"Thanks," I Mutter.

He pauses again, "Do you…want to talk about it?"

I shake my head, "Not even a little bit."

He nods, "Well, I was on my way back from the library, but I was thinking of dropping past the kitchens before I go to bed. Want to come?"

Quite honestly, sitting in a kitchen with Luke Corner, who is turning out to be one of the nicest people I've ever met, drinking hot chocolate, sounds like exactly the thing I most want to do.

I look at him, and dry the last of my tears.

"OK then."




 

 A/N: Woohoo longest chapter yet!! Hope that makes up for my appauling tardiness when it comes to updating! (I still love you all, but I've been so busy lately)


I would love to know what you thought! It's really great to read all of your reviews. I know I'm also behind on replying to those, but believe me I read every single one of them, and I take on the constructive criticism, while I absolutely love reading when people like the story!


NEXT CHAPTER: New Years Eve! Stella is still blue about James, but Luke Corner is still hanging around. Rose and Scorpius are suddenly in uncharted waters. Albus and his new girlfriend are happy as can be, and Ray is at her most bitter.


Let me know favourite quotes, characters, moments (or least favourites)! Team Cecily or Team Ray? Team James or Team Luke?  Team drunk Cameron or Team sober Cameron? Those are just a few questions to get you started! 


Oh and it's my birthday tomorrow, so you can leave a review as a birthday present!! YAAAY!! Finally 18!! (Sorry got carried away there) :)


Happy 2013 and hope you all have a lovely week!


Chapter 16: New Year's Resolutions
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I pause, glancing at myself up and down in the mirror.

"Green or purple?" I ask Rose, who is lying on my bed with her nose stuck in a magazine.



She glances quickly at me, "Purple. Shows off your legs."

"You sure?" I ask uncertainly, holding each one against my front again and furrowing my brow.

"Yes. You have nice legs. It's not a crime to show them off once in a while."

Purple it is then. We're in my bedroom at home. The snow has now fallen thickly around the house, so that it settles onto the window pane. Thankfully inside it's toasty warm.

I put the green one back in my cupboard, and look quizzically at Rose, "Listen, are you sure about this?"

"Merlin Stella, wear the green dress if that's what you really want!"

"No, I meant do you really think we should go to this?"

Just over a week ago, both Rose and I had received an invitation to Anabelle Zambini's New Year's Eve party. It was unexpected. Anabelle is rich and popular, not to mention very pretty. She has all the makings of a future Socialite. But she's never shown any interest whatsoever in me. She's a Ravenclaw. I'm a Gryffindor. There was never much time to get to know one another.

Yet still the invite came in the post two days after Christmas, written on shiny, gold card in glistening white writing. When you opened it the card was charmed to shout 'HAPPY NEW YEAR!' very loudly until you shut it again.

I now have to put a paperweight on top of the card because anytime a breeze enters the room, the card flutters open and there's a loud noise that's enough to burst your eardrums.



Rose rolls over on her side while simultaneously rolling her eyes at me, "Yes Stella. Pretty, dressed up people will be there. That's not something we can afford to miss."

"Ok," I shrug, "I was just thinking with Scorpius and everything…"

Rose goes pink, "It's fine. We're friends now."

I raise an eyebrow at her, "You're friends now? What happened to pretending like you didn't know one another."

She blushes even more furiously, "Well, since his accident, we've gotten to know one another again."

"I thought you only visited him in hospital when he was asleep?" I frown.

"Well, once he woke up while I was there…and then he sort of figured it out. Anyway, we've been talking a lot lately, and he…we're friends now!"

"Okay then," I mutter, "So is he going tonight?"

"Yes," she mutters in a low voice.

I tease, "And will you be kissing him at-"

"No, Stella, I won't be kissing him at midnight!" she snaps defensively, "We're just friends!"

"Whatever you say," I mutter.

They're totally going to kiss at midnight.

"And who will you be kissing?" Rose changes the subject, waggling her eyebrows at me, "I hear you and Mr. Ridiculously hot quidditch captain have gotten close."

It's almost worrying that I'm not 100% sure who she's talking about. But since she watched me cry over the fact that James no longer wants anything to do with me, I'm assuming she's talking about Luke Corner.

"Not that close," I reply, feeling embarrassed.

"Really?" she replies slyly, "Is that a letter from him on your dresser?"

"No!" I cry out, but too late. She's already jumped off the bed, quick as lightning, and grabbed the letter.

She reads it manically, her head going from left to right as her eyes travel the page, her grin growing wider and wider.

"Oh, he liiiiiiiikes you," she laughs.

"No he doesn't!" I cry.

She clears her throat, and reads the letter out loud, "Are you going to Anabelle's party on New Years Eve? I hope you are, it would be fun to see you, especially after we've been away from school for so long."

"See?" I reply, a little hopelessly, "Completely platonic."

She widens her eyes, "Stella Evangeline Wood! You little liar!"

Yes, my middle name is Evangeline. No, I don't want to talk about it.

"We're friends!"

She scoffs, "Yeah, OK. And Ray is queen of the sugarplum fairies."

"He was nice to me after James…you know. He's a nice guy. He's probably friends with lots of other girls, who he sends letters to."

Rose snorts, "Yeah, and I bet he says 'I hope you're coming' to all of them. No fair! Why do you get the hot quidditch captain?"

"I haven't got him!" I cry, "Seriously Rose, stop!"

"Ok, Ok," she laughs, "But, in all seriousness, you and James…you're over?"

I shrug, trying to seem casual, "We were never dating."

"I know that, but, well…"

"He told me he doesn't want me on the team, and that he doesn't want us to speak anymore. I'm sure that means we're over."

"He's been pretty absentee this whole holiday," Rose muses, "He's not in the house much, just pops in occasionally and then he leaves. Although that might be because Albus and Cecily have been practically camped out on the sofa, doing all those annoying, cute couple-y things."

"Well whatever he's doing, it's not any of my business anymore," I reply reproachfully.

It feels mature to say that, like I'm moving on properly. James is officially no longer a part of my life, thanks to his desire to never utter another word to me again. 

Maybe soon, I'll be over all of it. For the first time in months, it seems like a genuine possibility.

There's a sort of awkward silence. Rose sits back down on the bed and casts her gaze over the magazine that still lies open.

"Hmm. There's an article here on the best places for dinner dates in Diagon Alley and Hogsmede," she grins, "So which ones have you and Captain Gorgeous gone to?"

I grab the magazine and swat her with it. She cackles evilly. 

"Stella!" someone shouts up the stairs, and I recognise my mum's voice, "There's someone here for you!"

I frown curiously at Rose, who shrugs.

I walk down the stairs and follow the sound of my mother's chatty voice into the front hall.

To my surprise, I see my mother chatting away to Ray, who is doing her best to smile, although from here it looks more like a grimace.

"Stella!" Mum looks cheerfully at me, "You didn't tell me you had another friend coming over!"

"Oh, she didn't know," Ray tells her, "I just thought I'd stop by."

"Great!" Mum continues to smile, unfazed by Ray's awkwardness.

My mother is, above all other things, extremely friendly. She likes to talk as much as possible, even though the people she usually can't shut up around are people she's only just met.

"Well, I'll let you two go upstairs!" she says, "I was just telling Ray about my new range of magical fungi that I've just bought for my patients! I've heard it has fantastic medical properties!"

Mum is a healer at St. Mungo's. She's always trying these new herbal remedies. And she's always telling people about it. Still, she means well.

I beckon to Ray and she follows me back towards the staircase.

"Sorry," I say awkwardly, as we climb the stairs towards my room, "She likes talking to new people."

"Oh no, she's…nice," she says.

I'm not sure what sure to say to that, so we remain in silence until we reach my bedroom.

"Look who's here, Rose," I say as I open the door.

Rose looks momentarily startled, "Ray! What are you doing here?"

Ray stands self consciously in the door frame, and for the first time I notice that she has a large plastic dress bag over one arm.

"I…," she hesitates, "I thought I would go to this party thing that that Zambini girl is having."

"Oh," Rose looks to me. I shrug to indicate that I had no idea she was coming over.

Ray continues, "And, well, I didn't really have anyone to get ready with."

There's a weird silence that follows.

"Isn't that what you guys do?" Ray asks, "You go over to each other's houses to get ready? And you curl each other's hair, and do each other's nails, or whatever?"

"Do you want…" Rose looks a little uncomfortable, "Do you want me to curl your hair?"

"No!" Ray replies quickly, "I just thought I would go to the party. And I need a lift. And…I thought we could get ready together."

Rose and I nod vigorously, "Okay then," I grin, "Well, we're leaving in an hour."



"Okay," Ray nods, almost robotically. She waits a moment, before she puts the dress bag onto my bed. "Where's your bathroom?"

"Just down the corridor," I reply, pointing, "Second one on the left."

She leaves, and once she's in the bedroom, Rose and I stare at one another.

Rose grins, "Do you think she wants to be friends?"

"You think that's why she came over?" I whisper.

"She's making an effort!" Rose laughs under her breath, "Why do you think she said all that stuff about doing each other's nails?"

"Wow," I pause, "Ray Mitchell…interacting with other humans."

"It does sound a little odd," Rose admits.

"OK then," I nod, "Let's start acting like it's not awkward."

"Good plan," she scoffs.

But when Ray comes back in Rose does make an effort, "So, how was your Christmas?"

Ray shrugs, "Cameron spends most of his time wallowing about Lexie. And my mum doesn't believe in Christmas, she's into all these weird hippie things where we heal one another's souls."

Rose and I exchange an alarmed glance.

Suddenly my mother doesn't seem so bad.

Rose mouths I tried at me.

"Let's see your dress then," I smile at her in an effort to be friendly.

She looks at me strangely, as if to say you have your own dress, why would you want to see mine?

But she unzips the bag all the same. Inside, the dress is decidedly plain. It's black, long sleeves and a skirt that comes down below the knees.

"Oh," Rose says, although she's clearly underwhelmed, "It's…lovely."

"It's the only thing I have," Ray mutters, "I don't really wear dresses."

She pulls out a pair of black flat shoes and some black tights.

At the sight of the shoes, Rose is shaking her head, "No. I'm sorry, no."

Ray looks startled, "W-what?"

"I'm not letting you go out like that," Rose says, shaking her head violently while she suddenly turns to my clothes cupboard.

I'm staring at her. No one has ever spoken to Ray like that.

Ray frowns, looking offended, "I'll wear what I want!"

"No," she says, "It's practically illegal to wear flat shoes on New Year's Eve."

"They're comfortable!"

"They're ugly!"

"Hey!"

I'm watching the exchange, my head snapping back and forth, desperate to see what will happen next.

And then Rose is raking my clothes hangers across the railing, examining every piece of clothing with detail.

"It's just a stupid party," Ray mutters sulkily.

"It's Anabelle Zambini's house," Rose reminds her, "Her dad is completely loaded! Like, mansion loaded!"

"So?"

"So?" Rose looks at her incredulously, "Seriously what planet are you from?"

Yes, Rose, for all her perfections, does lack one thing. Tact.

Rose continues to rant, "The party is black tie! As in classy black tie! As in waiters in uniforms and live music! As in party favours!"

Ray looks completely alarmed. She looks quickly at me, but I shrink away.

"Rose?" I ask her timidly, "W-what are you doing?"

"I'm finding her a bloody dress!" Rose snaps, "Aha!"

She pulls out the dress that I bought for my cousin's wedding last year. It's a dark red shift dress, but Ray seems to coil away in horror at the sight of it.

"It's so bright!" she protests.

"Sometimes you have to go bold," Rose says, "Go and try it on."

I've never heard anyone boss Ray around like this. But if anyone's going to do it, I'd rather it was Rose than me.

Ray takes the dress, resigning herself to looking sulky. "Fine, but no heels." 

*              *            *

"I said no heels!" Ray cries fourth-five minutes later.

She's standing in the middle of my room, wearing my red dress, and looking unfairly pretty in it. She's looking grumpier by the minute, but Rose still hasn't given up on her.

"You have to wear heels!" Rose insists.

"Guys make you wear those to make your bum look smaller," Ray frowns angrily.

"Well, I'm a girl, and I'm telling you to wear the bloody heels!" Rose cries.

"No!"

"Yes!"

This continues back and forth for the next five minutes.

I turn back to the mirror, and try to fix up my makeup as they argue. Looking over at the invitation, still trapped underneath the paperweight, I suddenly feel nervous. What if Rose is right? What if Luke likes me? What if I like him?

Shit.

I turn back to my eyeliner, something far less confusing.

Would it be so terrible if I were to move on from James? Might it be easier to move on from him than I thought?

No, I can't think about that now.

Instead I turn back to where Ray and Rose are still arguing.

"We have to leave in ten bloody minutes!" I shout at them, "Now get a move on!"

"Yes, Ray, put on the shoes, there's a dear," Rose gives her a look.

Ray glares at us, "I hate you."

"Could you say that while you're putting the shoes?" I ask.

She scowls angrily, but sits down on the edge of the bed, and begins to fasten the tiny buckles on the silver shoes that Rose picked out for her.

"Oh, shit, still have to do makeup," Rose exclaims, rushing over to the mirror where I'm standing.

I make room for her and she starts to speed apply eyeshadow.

"Do you think Anabelle invited everyone?" I ask her.

"Probably," Rose muses, "I hear she's got a pretty huge house." She laughs, "You should have seen Al's face when he got the invitation. He thought it was a joke."

"Well," I point out, "So did we."

I notice Ray in the mirror reflection. She's looking out of the window. Her hair is perfectly curled. She even let Rose fix up her nails. I start to wonder if she only let Rose do that, or if she's only coming to this party, because Al will be there.

"Is he bringing Cecily?" I ask Rose in a low whisper.

"I think so," Rose nods, also in a low voice, "Guess this might not be such a great night for Ray, huh?"

We both go back to our makeup for a minute.

"Hey, maybe you could share Luke with her," Rose grins.

I elbow her hard.

*         *           *

"Holy. Shit." My mouth is dropped open, completely overwhelmed by the sight in front of me.

Anabelle Zambini's house is huge.

And not huge huge. Like, ENORMOUS huge.

Rose, Ray and I land via portkey on her front doorstep, and are immediately taken aback by the sheer size of the building in front of us.

It has at least four floors, with a width of what looks like fifty windows. The front door is large, the double doors thrown open to reveal the glittering, golden interior.

I look about me and see about a kilometre of driveway.

"What do Anabelle's parents do?" I ask in awe.

Rose continues to stare reverently, "I don't know but I bet getting pay check must feel good."

Even Ray is gaping at the cultivated front lawn, obviously impressed.

I notice about twenty other people around us, having also just arrived by port key. They all seem amazed by the size of it too.

"Well, let's not waste any more time," Ray says abruptly.

We follow her through the double doors and into a marble floored entrance hall, complete with a huge winding staircase and chandelier.

The entrance hall and the rooms beyond it are milling with what seems like hundreds of people. Loud music is pulsing through the walls, and somewhere from inside one of the rooms there are flashing lights.

For a moment we're all lost, staring around in awe. Then we see Lexie, waving eagerly at us.

"Hi guys!" she cries, looking enthusiastically at us.

"Lexie," Rose grins, "You got invited too!"

"Well, sure," she says, "I know Anabelle from tutoring. She invited me, and I told her to invite you guys too."

Ahh, so that had been our mysterious link.

"Isn't it brilliant?" Lexie asks, gazing around her in amazement. Obviously the shock doesn't wear off very quickly.

She looks beautiful in a short black cocktail dress made out of a sort of floaty silk. Her hair is down, and her whole face is radiant.

"Come on, guys," she grins, leading us through the crowd, "I'll show you around."



She leads us into a large room on the right. It is filled with round tables covered in white table cloths and expensive looking decorations.

"Wow," I murmur, "Dinner." 

"I know," Lexie's eyes widen, "It sounds wonderful too. Everyone's sitting down for dinner at 9."



"Isn't it all a little formal for a high school party?" Ray asks uneasily.

"Oh, this isn't a high school party," Lexie says, "Anabelle's parents have invited all of their colleagues and friends. They told her to invite whoever she wanted."

"And she invited the entire school?" Rose asks incredulously.

"Well," she admits, "Only 6th and 7th years. And we have our own party going on in the ballroom. There's dancing, and there'll be champagne and fireworks at midnight!"

"Impressive," Rose says.

Suddenly Anabelle Zambini, dressed immaculately in a gold silk dress, comes rushing over to us.

"Lexie!" she says eagerly.

They hug, and compliment one another on how they look. The rest of us stand about awkwardly, waiting for either one of them to acknowledge us.

Anabelle looks at us, "Oh! Are these your friends?"

"Yeah," Lexie grins, "This is R-"

"Wish I could stay and chat but I've got to go. Plenty to do, plenty of people to meet!" 

And with that she's gone, leaving only a trail of faint perfume in her wake.

Ray looks after her, "She's…nice."

"Yeah," Lexie agrees, not picking up on Ray's sarcasm, "She is."

We move around the different rooms. I see plenty of people from school. Some of them I'm more eager to see than others.

Over in the centre of one room I see Eve, looking beautiful as always in a sky blue dress and large jewelled earrings, chatting to several people all at once. Thankfully, she doesn't see me.

I realise that Lexie is right. I notice the surprising number of adults standing around, talking politely to one another while they exchange nervous glances about all the teenagers that are wandering about.

"Stella!" someone shouts from behind me, "Rose!"

We all stop and turn to look.

Fred and Cameron, looking equally sharp in well-fitted black dinner jackets, come towards us, big grins on their faces.

"Don't you all look swell?" Fred grins cheesily, "Stella I didn't know you had those legs!"

"Hey, quit it, perv," Rose says at him, "Where's our cousin?"

"You're going to have to narrow it down for me Rosie," Fred smirks, "We have quite a few of those."

"James?" she raises her eyebrows, "Mr. broody? Mr. I've-barely-been-home-since-christmas?"

"Oh, yeah," Fred looks around, "I think we left him back in the entrance hall. Or he headed straight for the bar."

I feel my stomach plunge. It hadn't even occurred to me that James would have been invited. Who was I kidding? Of course he had been invited.

Cameron stands around behind Fred, looking slightly uncomfortable.

"Hi Lexie," he says uneasily.

"Hi Cameron," she says cooly, not looking at him in the eye properly.

"How has your holiday been?" he presses on awkwardly, his voice strained.

"Fine, thank you," she replies, her tone still frosty.

Clearly they still haven't made up.

Cameron looks down at his dress shoes, embarrassed. 

To break the silence, Fred suddenly grins cheekily at Ray, sidling up to her, looking up and down, "Cameron you didn't tell me your sister was this fit."

"Look at me that way again and you can kiss the New Year goodbye," Ray says immediately.

Fred takes the hint and backs off. It's good to know that that Ray hasn't lost her touch. 

"Well," Fred says readjusting his jacket, "We'll see you ladies around. Cameron and I are on the prowl."



Rose looks at them, "You're pathetic. The pair of you."

"New Years Eve, Rosie," Fred sighs, "Drunk girls, excitement, all that regret, all those resolutions."

"Speaking of which, don't you think your New Year's resolution should be to grow up?" Rose raises an eyebrow.

Fred sighs, looking wearied by her apparent ignorance, "Rose, I don't need any resolutions. I'm already perfect."

Lexie looks slightly downcast as Fred leaves. Cameron pauses awkwardly, as though he wants to say something more. But he decides against it and follows Cameron into the crowd.

"I'm…going to the bathroom," Lexie says, her voice barely a hush.

She turns and weaves her way through the crowd.

"Poor thing," Rose sighs, "I should go with her."

She follows Lexie through the crowd, leaving Ray and I to our own devices.

Which is horrible because it is this exact moment when Albus and Cecily choose to spot me and come over to say hello.

Cecily looks nice in a lace dress that's light pink. But on Albus' arm, somehow she looks even better.

"Stel-" Albus starts eagerly. Then he cuts himself off when he sees Ray beside me.

Ray looks down at her shoes. Albus' eyes trace over her from head to toe, taking in her transformation. I mean, Ray was already prettier than the average girl at Hogwarts, without any of the makeup or the clothes. Now she looks like some sort of bloody supermodel.

Cecily doesn't seem to understand how awkward things are, and she leans in to hug me, "Happy almost New Year, Stella!"

"Yeah," I reply, "You too!"

Albus looks very uncomfortable. So does Ray. It's up to me to break the ice.

"This is Ray," I say to Cecily.

She smiles sweetly at Ray, "Hi!"

Ray can barely acknowledge her. She nods stiffly, not even looking her in the eye.

Cecily looks a little baffled at Ray's response. She looks at me, and I shrug.

"Sorry," Ray mutters suddenly, before running off into the crowd.

All three of us stare after her.

"Goodness," Cecily exclaims, "Is she alright? She looked completly mortified."

For a split second I catch Albus' eye, who also looks equally mortified.

"She's fine," I reply. But when Cecily continues to look concerned I elaborate, "Her...pet died today."

"Oh how awful!" Cecily exclaims, "Was it her dog? A cat?"

"No, her parakeet," I reply, before immediately regretting it.

A parakeet? Really? Does anyone mourn a parakeet? Does anyone get choked up and socially awkward because of the death of a parakeet?

Where does my brain come up with this stuff?

Cecily nods, then changes the subject, "So, are you here with a date?"

Ha. Ha ha.

I shake my head, "No. I'm here solo."

Albus looks a little more relaxed, "I heard you and Luke Corner have been getting close."

"From who?" I snort, "Rose?"

"Have you?" Cecily asks eagerly "Been getting close?"

Ugh, she's too damn sweet. How can I deny her?

"Well we wrote a few times. We're friends."

"He's so good looking," Cecily gushes. Albus coughs. "Oh, but nothing compared to you," she grins affectionately at him.

"Come on," he grins at her, "Let's go get a drink."

She smiles and they leave together, but not before Albus jerks his in the direction that Ray left, with a look that says: should I go and talk to her?

I shake my head at him.

Together they leave, and I immediately dart through the crowd in search of Ray.

There are too many people, all together, chatting and laughing happily. I scan the crowd for a blonde head, but Ray must move fast. There's no sign of her.

"You made it!" 



The call makes me turn my head, and my gaze falls on Luke Corner.

Bloody hell, he looks good in a suit.

I open my mouth several times before anything coherent comes out of it, "Yeah."

He smiles, "You look-"

"Have you seen Ray?" I interrupt, before he can finish his sentence.

He looks a little flustered at my abrupt question, "Blonde girl, right? Wearing a red dress?"

"That's her," I nod.

He looks behind him, "She just walked past me actually, looked a little upset. I think she went through there. 

He points at a more empty looking passage way.

I nod, and walk in the direction he's pointing. To my surprise, he follows me.

We walk through the door at the other end of the room and find ourselves in a deserted passage way. No one is there, but I can distinctly hear shuddery breaths coming from somewhere near.

The pair of us begin our search, following the trail of noise.

I find behind an old coat stand, there's a long curtain. 

And either the curtain suddenly developed the ability to breath, or someone is behind it.

I pull aside the curtain gently to see a small alcove, filled with shoes and umbrellas. And onto of the bench sits Ray, clutching her stomach and hyperventilating as though she might throw up.

She barely sees me. I stare at her.

"R-ray, are you OK?"

She looks up at me but she can't answer, she's too busy gasping for air.

Luke jumps to action, "I'll get her a bag or something."

He shuffles around the coat stand, opens some drawers in the dresser, before pulling out a crumpled brown paper bag.

He hands it to me, and I pass it to Ray. Ray grabs it and starts breathing violently into it. The bag expands and then crumples, expands and then crumples.

I hesitate, before patting her gently on the back.

Slowly, Ray's breathing rate decreases.

"I feel sick," she says weakly, after giving up on the bag.

"Do you need to be sick?" I ask her, "Did you eat something funny?"

She shakes her head, "No. It isn't supposed to feel like this."

"Should I get someone?" Luke whispers to me, looking concerned.

"No," Ray repeats, before choking out, "No one ever tells you about this part."

I frown, "What are you talking about?"

"No one ever tells you about feeling nauseous every time you see him," she says angrily, "They don't write songs about how it's all you can think about. How it bloody consumes your life!"

"Are you talking about Al-"

She continues, ignoring me, "I can't get it out of my head." She closes her eyes and puts her head in her hands, "It just runs around my brain, and it won't stop. It's making me sick."

I stare at her, "I didn't know you-"

"And how when you see her with him, all you think is about her lips on his, and them together, and their hands entwined. I can't bloody breathe."

She pauses for another few seconds to take a few deep breaths, "You put on a stupid dress and stupid shoes that hurt all the fucking time, but it doesn't help. No one ever tells you that it won't help. It won't make it better. He'll still be with her. It's all a lie. When they tell you how great it is. They're all liars."

She folds over and hugs her chest to her knees, closing her eyes and whispering, "This can't be happening," over and over again, like a stuck record.

Luke raises his eyebrows at me. I can't look at him. I don't know what to say to that.

All I could say is that I understand her situation completely.

He crouches down beside Ray. "Listen," he pauses, "I know it's horrible. I had this thing for my friend for…ages. But she never felt the same way."

"Did she kiss you, tell you she liked you, and then suddenly get a new boyfriend?" Ray mutters from under her arms.

"No," Luke admits, "But I was always just her friend. And it hurt. It hurt like a bitch. It hurt so much that sometimes I thought I was destined to spend my life being in love with someone who never wanted me. But things change. You move on. And so do they."

Ray lifts her head then, looking curiously at him, "How long did it take?"

"Years," he replies, "But it's alright now. It gets easier."

And I'm here wondering who the hell would reject someone who looks like him.

It turns out pretty people have sucky lives too.

"I feel like I'm choking when I see him," she says, "My brain is aching with all of it. I can't even sleep sometimes."

Man, I bet when Albus first set out with his master plan to seduce Ray by dating me, he didn't in his wildest dreams imagine he would be so successful.

Almost too successful.

"It'll pass," Luke replies, "I promise."

She looks at him then, bleary eyed, hopeful and almost eager. 

Ugh, why is he such a good guy? Seriously, it's disgusting.

"And now?" she asks, "You're moving on?"

"Yeah," he smiles, "I've moved on."



"Okay," she mutters shakily, "How?"

He chuckles, "I stopped entertaining the possibility that one day we'd get married and have ten kids. And after a few months, it worked."

She nods, "I'll give that a go then."

"Great," he says, smiling at her.

I suddenly feel so out of place. These people who are trying to change their lives, make sense of their feelings. And here I am, still a complete and utter mess.

Ray stands up and smoothes down her dress.

"Let's go and have a good time then," she says determinedly, "And my new year's resolution will be to get over Albus Potter."

Luke grins, "Good idea." He looks at me then, "You coming, Stella?"

I look at the pair of them. Why can't I be more like them? So simple, not messy and unclear. 

Maybe I should try and follow their example.

"Yeah, of course," I smile at him.

We walk back out into the party, walking towards the room where Anabelle's party is.



Inside the room it's much darker, with flashing lights and a dance floor. At the far end there's a band playing loud, joyful music.

The walls are lined with tables laden with drinks and food. There's champagne fountains and towers of shiny crystal glasses.

Apparently Anabelle Zambini's parents are not only OK with a bunch of teenagers at their party. They're also OK with a bunch of drunk teenagers at their party.

"There you are!" It's Rose. She walks over to us. Lexie is by her side, so clearly all is well now. And, to my surprise, she also brings Scorpius in tow.

"We've been wondering where you got to," she grins. She spots Luke, "Luke, right?"

"Yeah," he says, "Rose, right?"

"Stella's number one," she grins cheekily at me, "Don't think you can slip in and steal my spot, pretty boy."

Clearly she's already had a few drinks. I feel a powerful blush spread over my cheeks.

But Luke laughs, "Ok then."

Lexie looks at Ray, "Shall we dance?"

"Sure," Ray says, dragging her off towards the crowd of people dancing.

This morning Ray would have been completely opposed to dancing, or anything remotely recreational. 

I guess that's what seeing a Potter does to you.

"Well, Scorpius here," Rose giggles, swinging an arm around Scorpius' shoulder, "was just about to have some champagne."

Scorpius nods uncomfortably, clearly feeling awkward at Rose's very sudden affectionate attitude towards him.

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do, Stella," Rose laughs, before dragging Scorpius off to the drinks table.

I have no idea what she means by that.

Luke and I stand there in awkward silence.

"She was just joking about the number one thing," I laugh nervously, hoping he'll see the joke, "And the whole…she's stupid. Rose…well, she doesn't know what she's talking about. Really, she's nuts-"

Luke chuckles, shaking his head at me, "Stella, relax. I just came here to have a good time on New Years. I thought, since we're friends, maybe we'd spend a bit of it together. But if you'd rather-"

"No," I cut across him, "I'd like to spend it with you too."

It's all part of this New Year's resolution I have. To stop messing up my chances with fit quidditch captains.

His face breaks out into a grin, "Good."

And just like that. Simple, no games, no hot and cold. It's friends, talking, having a good time. 

No complications in sight.

Luke leans in and says in a low voice, "Did you…do something in quidditch to piss off your teammates?"

I look at him, "What? No! Why?"

"Well, then it's definitely me that Potter is glaring at," Luke says, looking over my shoulder at something in the distance, "It must be the whole rival captain thing."

I whip my head in the direction he's looking in. 

Through the crowd I notice James. He's definitely glaring in our direction.

And I see the complication. 

*            *          *



"Dinner is served!" Anabelle cries through the microphone of the band's lead singer, "Everyone to the dining room please!"

I glance at Luke, "I'm a little nervous about this."

"Well, it's only for an hour or so," Luke says, "We'll be back here for the countdown."

I nod, smiling at him. Something in my stomach is writhing, twisting and turning. And I feel sick. Really, really sick.

James is here. I wonder how long I can go avoiding him?

He was watching us. Or watching me. Or watching Luke. It's difficult to tell with all the lights flashing around everywhere.

What I am sure of is that his eyes were pointed in our general direction.

Which just makes me nervous.

As we all make our way into the dining room, everyone spreads out.

"It looks like we've got assigned places," Luke says, eyeing the place settings.

I realise he's right. Among what seems like a hundred tables, there's a place card at every seat.

Lining the wall are tables covered with little cards, all sorted into alphabetical order.

People begin to pick up their cards and make their way to the right table.

Luke and I push our way through, and look through the rows of cards.

Walters…Weasley (there's several of these)…Wilson… Wood!

I pick up my card and look. Table 23.

Luke looks at me apologetically. "Table 14," he says.

I shrug, "I guess I'll see you after dinner."

Rose comes over to me, brandishing her card, "Table 25!"

"I'm table 23," I tell her sadly.

"Oh, weird," she says, frowning, "She must have arranged us at random."

I make my way over to table 23, and find my name card. Once I take my seat, I'm grateful to see at least one person I know.

"Stella!" Fred grins cheerily, "Fancy seeing you here!"

"You too," I reply, "It's a weird seating arrangement."

"I know," Fred says, "Let's see who else is sitting here."

He peers around at the other cards. 

"Oh," Fred says, "Scorpius is here…and Albus and that new girlfriend of his. Ooh and that Elizabeth O'Connell. She's a real looker." 

"You know," I mutter, "I'm surprised with your track record that you haven't hooked up with every girl in the school."

Fred puts his hand on his chest and pretends to look wounded, "Hurtful!"

I roll my eyes at him and look on either side of me. I read the card to my right aloud, "Georgia Deely."

Fred whistles, "She's fit. I mean, enemy team and all, but still."

With a jolt, I suddenly remember who she is. That Hufflepuff quidditch captain, the one who Luke was teasing when we were practicing together that one afternoon.

His childhood friend.



Suddenly I piece two and two together. Is she the one that he was in love with for so long?

"Who's on your left?" Fred prompts me.

I glance at the card, and my stomach drops for the second time that evening.

I don't need to answer Fred, because the person seated to my left takes his place.

"Jamesie!" Fred looks relieved, "Thank god."

"Hey!" I say indignantly, glaring at him.

"Sorry Stella," Fred says, "But Jamesie is so much more fun once he's had a few drinks in him."

I glance nervously sideways at James. 

He looks almost lethargic, leaning back lazily in his chair without really bothering to look at anything.

That suit looks unnaturally good on him though.

Fred frowns, "Although maybe it's been one too many."

"I'm fine, Fred," James replies sharply, "I'm just bored of this party."

I fold my arms indignantly, but close my lips. Any contribution I make will probably result in some kind of snarky comment on his end. 

Albus and Cecily join us, looking annoyingly happy.



"Oh look," Fred grins at them, "It's the love birds."

"Shut up Fred," Albus says, pulling out Cecily's chair so she can sit down. But neither of them stop smiling.

Al looks at me, "Is she…alright?"

I know he means Ray, "Yeah," I says, "She's fine."

"Oh, tell her I'm sorry about her parakeet!" Cecily says sweetly.

I nod, "…sure."

Albus avoids my gaze guiltily. Cecily continues to smile at all of us obliviously.

Someone takes their place to my right. I look and see Georgia Deely.

Up close, she's actually quite…plain. Well, simple features.

She has nice hair, long, dark and shiny. But other than that, I would have expected to see Luke in love with some sort of supermodel-type.

If she is the girl he was in love with.

"Hi there," she says to us, smiling broadly. Her smile makes her entire face light up.

I can't help but smile back. "Hi."

"I guess this is kind of random seating, huh?" she laughs lightly. I notice how her voice is sort of low, kind of husky.

"Yeah," I say. The rest of the table nods along.

There's a moment of pause.

"You're Stella, right?" she asks me.

"Yeah," I pause, wondering how she knows my name.

"Yeah, Luke's mentioned you a few times," she nods.

Without even looking, I feel James' jaw set.

Or maybe I'm imagining it.

"Hey James," she looks around me and grins cheekily at him, "Looking good."

"You as well Georgia," he says, playing along.

"I'm looking forward to our game next term," she says, "Hufflepuff and Gryffindor. It's going to be fun."

"I think it might be a more realistic to dread it," James replies.

"Nah," she grins, "I think we can take you."

James smirks a little, "I guess we'll see, won't we?"

"Guess we will."

"Who else finds this boring?" Fred asks, raising his glass.

By now Scorpius and Elizabeth O'Connell, the girl who Fred thinks is so fit, have joined us.

We sit in an awkward silence for a moment.

"How about we go around the table and say what our resolutions are?" Cecily suggests, "Mine is to be do more things that make me happy."

Albus goes next, "I want to be more daring."

Elizabeth says, "Hmm, I think I want to exercise better."

Fred shrugs, "I guess mine is to try and focus on work a little more."

I'm momentarily surprised by Fred's maturity.

He grins at me, almost teasing, "There are so many hot library girls I need to impress."

And the moment's over.

Scorpius pauses, "Eat healthier? I don't know."

Georgia sighs, "I think I want to improve my quidditch skills."

Then it's my turn. I hesitate, "I guess I want to just be...braver."

It's James' turn. He opens his mouth. Then closes it.

Then surprisingly he looks straight at me, "Mine is to be a little more relaxed."

Albus and Fred both scoff at this, and James gives them the finger.

Then he says something I'm not expecting, "And to be braver."

I can't help but stare at him. He looks back at me for a moment, a quick, burning glance, before breaking his gaze and looking down at the ground.

The same resolution as mine. To be braver.

I feel my heart rate pick up.

Is that supposed to mean something? In James Potter language does that translate to 'hey, I'm sorry, I was a jerk earlier, want to snog?'

But James doesn't look at me again, and I realise it doesn't mean anything of the sort.

"So," Fred elbows Scorpius, "How long until you and my cousin hook up?"

Scorpius goes bright red, and mutters, "None of your beeswax."

"Touchy!" Fred laughs, "Cool it, Malfoy. I'm just having a laugh."

I look curiously at Scorpius. He looks angry, not embarrassed.

And somehow it feels like it's more about Rose than Fred's teasing.



As we wait for the first meal to be served, Albus and Cecily already strike up a conversation between themselves. Fred turns to Elizabeth and starts flirting shamelessly. 

The other half of the table peer around at one another awkwardly.

"So Stella," Georgia says, "I hear from Luke that you guys are friends now."

I cough uncomfortably, "Yeah, sort of."

"He's a really great guy," she says, "I mean, I've practically known him since birth. Our mums were best friends at Hogwarts so we sort of grew up together."

"Wow, really?" I'm impressed.

So this is more than a high school crush. They go way back.

"Wait," Scorpius says, looking curiously at Georgia, "is your mum Francesca Deely? As in the former seeker for the Appleby Arrows?"

"Yeah," Georgia grins.

"My mum is such a huge fan of hers," Scorpius gushes, "She saw the match where your mum caught the snitch in fourty-five seconds flat against the Wimbourne Wasps. Says your mum is a legend."

They continue talking about Georgia's mum, and then go on to talk about quidditch.

I keep watching them, but I honestly don't know what they're talking about anymore. I would be interested, except I'm far too distracted by the fact that James is sitting beside me.

I can't concentrate. The conversation all makes sense, but none of it's actually going in.

He sits in silence too. I glance sideways at him, watching the slightly more unkempt hair, the way his tie is loosened at the collar because he finds it uncomfortable. His arm is resting on the table, inches away from mine.

I look at his hands. Big hands with long, almost delicate bones, knuckles prominent under his skin.

I feel like I should say something but it's like my voice is trapped inside my throat and my lips are sealed tight.

Suddenly the waiter comes between us to serve the soup, and as James shifts to allow him space, his leg accidentally brushes against mine under the table.

Spasms run through me. Does he know that's my leg? Why is he not moving his leg away?

But the leg stays paralysed against mine, even after the waiter has moved on, and the soup is in front of us.

I want to move but it feels awkward and unnatural to try. 

The whole table continues to chat away, but I've stopped breathing, completely tense at the thought that his leg is touching my leg.

Neither of us reach for our soup spoons, even though everyone else has.

And, as I strain my ears to listen, I hear that he's holding his breath too, trying not to exhale and move his leg for fear of disrupting some weird, unknown force.

I glance at him. His eyes are fixed on the table cloth, staring pointedly at a minute stain, faint but definitely there.

The whole look is forced, much to stoic and posed.

He glances at me quickly, and I look away like lightning.

It probably wasn't fast enough.

Suddenly his leg breaks from mine and I feel like I can breathe again. He leans down over my side, and I tense, completely frozen as his head lowers towards my knee.

When he reemerges he's holding a napkin, "You dropped this," he says to me, putting it next to my bowl.

"Right, thanks," I reply, my voice completely strained.

Focus, Stella. 

I lift up the soup spoon and start to eat.

But I continue to feel his eyes on me for another few seconds.

All I can hear is how loudly my heart is pounding in my chest.

And all I can think is that his resolution is the same as mine.  

*            *           *




"That was a bloody good meal," Fred says, patting his stomach.

Elizabeth giggles, and Fred looks very pleased with himself.



The waiter clears our plates, and someone stands up to give a speech.

Judging by the expensive clothes and the uncanny resemblance, this is Anabelle's mother.

"On behalf of my husband and I, we would like to thank you for coming," she says, "We hope the rest of the evening…"

Her speech continues into another round of pleasantries, and I stop listening.

James and I haven't said a word to one another for the entire meal.

Georgia has tried to engage in small talk, but I keep failing to continue a real conversation. Every time I try it's like there's an invisible cord, holding me back. I feel like he's watching me, I feel like I'm being scrutinized.

It sounds so cheesy to say that there's this energy, this force between us, but that's the only way to describe it.

We exchange brief glances, and it's like fire. 

And it's not out of anger, or misunderstanding. I almost forget everything he said to me before the holidays began.

How he wanted to not speak to me anymore.

No, I remember that with a bitterness.

Everything Ray was talking about, the breathing, the choking, the consumed thoughts, it's all true. It's all so painfully true.

"…and since there's only fifteen minutes until midnight," Mrs. Zambini continues, "We invite you to go outside for the fireworks and join in the countdown with us."

And then, just like Ray did, I feel sick. I feel so sick that I wonder if I might suffocate

Bloody hell, how can he do this to me? Without even saying a word.

Everyone gets out of their seats and starts walking towards the open doors, while talking resumes.

I get up with them, but my breath is picking up, and I need to get out of here, I need to get away from all these people.

I turn the other way, to the other side of the room where there are more closed doors that line the opposite wall.

I don't know if he's following me. It doesn't bother me either way. All I know is that I need to get away from all these people. I need air.

I push through the open doors, and feel cooler air hit me in the face.

I'm in an entrance hall that leads to the back garden. Although from here it looks more like a national park. The hall is dark, deserted, and deliciously cold.

I hear footsteps behind me.

So he did decide to follow me.

"How can you bloody do that?" I snap at him, not wasting a second, "How can you tell me you don't want to talk to me ever again, and then you just look at me with Luke, and then you make the same resolution as me-"

"I know-"

"And then you touch your leg against mine, and pretend like it's not there. And then you just hand me my napkin! How can you do that?"

"I know-"

"Seriously how can you bloody do that you, you-"

"I know," he says, "I'm sorry."


"Don't tell me you're sorry," I snap, "Tell me why you can't talk to me! Tell me that, at least!"



"I-" he pauses, and looks to the ceiling, perhaps for some sort of inspiration, "It hurts too much."



"To talk?" I continue with my raised voice, "It's not that hard Potter. You open your lips and you use your voice box."



"I can't talk to you without it hurting," he says, and I can tell that it's causing him pain right now. Just being in the same room is uncomfortable.



I don't even know how to answer that.



I fall slowly backwards against the wall, and slide down to the floor, my legs stretched out in front of me. It's all too exhausting.



"Here", he takes off his jacket and tries to put it around me, "You look freezing."



I shake him off, "I don't need you to rescue me. Stop trying to confuse me."



"I'm sorry!" he tries again, "I'm just…sorry."



"You know it really hurt when you said those things to me," I reply, "Like I was nothing to you, like you wanted to toss me aside. It might be better for you, but it certainly wasn't better for me. And this! All those looks, and all the knee touching under the table! That's not better for me either. You're being selfish."



"I know," he sighs, putting his coat down on the floor, and taking a seat against the wall, beside me. He loosens his tie completely and throws it on top of the coat.



"I know I made a mistake," I tell him, "I thought you weren't interested in me. I was paranoid. I thought…you didn't care."



"What would ever make you think I don't care, Wood?" he says, his voice low and barely a whisper.



I pause, my voice suddenly becomes gentle, "I told you I was wrong. I know I was wrong." 



"And I was wrong too," he says.



We sit in a sort of comfortable silence for a few minutes. Neither of us say anything or do anything. We just sit and stare at the opposite wall.



Although we're sitting side by side, neither of us touch. Our legs are stuck straight out, our arms placed on the floor, so close to touching, yet not.



"You know where I've been every day this holiday?" he asks me suddenly. Without looking at him, I shake my head. "I've been going down to the quidditch stadium near London."



I frown curiously, "Why?"



"It's where the Holyhead Harpies practice every day," he says, "And they're so good. I mean, so good. At first I went to take notes and watch their moves for tips on how to strategise. I wanted to forget all of last term, forget you, forget everything that happened. And then I just started going every day, out of habit. I'd just watch them all day. There was this keeper. She reminded me of you."



I pause, waiting for him to explain.



He sighs, "She does this thing when she catches a shot. She leans back, and she sizes it all up. And then she just leaps for it. Doesn't matter where it is. She just goes for it. And she catches it."



"And that reminded you of me?" I ask.



"Yeah," he chuckles darkly, "I tried to get you out of my head. But now it's like anything I see reminds me of you."



I sigh, chuckling slightly to myself, "Bloody hell, Potter, you're such a mess."



"I know."



"And I am too," I admit.



He looks curiously at me, "So…Luke Corner, do you like him?"



It's not hostile, or jealous. It's just a question. A simple question.



"I-," I hesitate, "I don't know. Yes. Sort of."



He nods."He's a good bloke. And, like you said, I'm a mess."



I shrug reproachfully, "Being a good bloke doesn't automatically mean that I like him."




"No," he sighs, "It just means you should."



I roll my eyes, "Please don't do that thing where you're the martyr who tells me to be with whoever's best for me. It's so…gushy romance movie"



He lets out a short snort, "No. Please, I'm not that selfless."



We both laugh for a moment, and the sound echoes in the dark passage, bouncing off the tiles.



Then it's my turn to ask the question, "So, you want to be braver, huh?"



I mean to tease him, but he instead looks serious, "Yes. I want to stop avoiding things. Take more risks, you know?"



"Yeah," I reply softly.



Distantly, I hear people shouting, 10, 9, 8.



"It's almost the New Year," James mutters.



"Resolutions," I say, barely a whisper, "We have to stick to them now."



7, 6



"Be braver," he says, "Right."



We look straight at each other then, our heads turned flat against the wall.



5, 4



"So why did you decide to talk to me again?" I whisper.



We're so close, it's almost unreal. It feels like he's a ghost, and I'll lean out to touch him, but he'll be gone. Only an illusion, vanished in an instant.



3



"I can't help it," he whispers.



2



Somehow, without even moving closer, our lips brush for the briefest of seconds. It isn't a kiss, it's more like the end of a conversation. Like saying goodbye.



1



Then there's loud cheering, and I hear the sound of sputtering, crackling fireworks. We both sit back instinctively, our lips separate, burning from the contact.



"Happy New Year, James."



"Happy New Year, Stella."






A/N: Super quick note before I go to SLEEP: Hope you liked the chapter! Please let me know everything you thought. Everything you were dissapointed by. Everything you loved. What you want to see more of. Your feedback means so much!




And happy new year to you guys as well!

Now, I must go, my bed is calling.

Go be awesome and write a review. You know you want to :)

 



Chapter 17: Black and White
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Disclaimer: Nothing here belongs to me. It all belongs to JKR.




 

 You know, now that I look at it, life really isn't like a movie at all.

See, if life were like a movie, James and I would have ridden off into the sunset a long time ago.

We would have resolved our differences on New Year's Eve, and vowed to spend this year, and every year after that, in blissful happiness.

But, because life isn't like a movie, this did not happen.

At the time it seemed like this grand, poignant moment. Maybe we'd tell our friends one day about how we sat on the floor, in a deserted corridor, and been honest with one another for the first time in our lives. It was the start of a new beginning, a fresh start, turning over a new leaf.

But it was missing something. 

Something which I still can't put my finger on.

It was like this weird presence between us. Something growing, pushing us further apart so that we could see one another more clearly, but somehow we were more distant.

And it was confusing the fuck out of me.

I mean, come on, it was the perfect recipe for a perfect reunion. We'd both made our peace, said our apologies, even kissed quickly before the New Year. 

Something was holding me back, holding us back.

We were both edging around it, trying to avoid talking about the huge elephant in the room. Except neither of us knew where the elephant was, or how big, or how loud.

Am I making sense?

Probably not.

Point is, we both went home after the party. He took home a slightly inebriated Cameron, while I took home an extremely inebriated Rose.

As I pulled off her shoes for her limp feet, while she lay flat on top of the bed in our guest room, she mumbled, "Luke is nice."

And that was when I realised. Luke. I was supposed to meet him after dinner for the midnight countdown. Maybe that meant he wanted to kiss me. Maybe it didn't.

Point was I had completely ditched him.

I quickly scribbled a letter of apology and sent it to him that night, explaining that I'd just felt really ill after the meal, and maybe I'd see him at school. 

Albus had taken Cecily home. Ray had gone home with Cameron. Lexie was home. Scorpius was home. And here I was, at home, no more clued in about James' Potter's deal than before.

I decided to push it out of my mind, and worry later, once I got to school.

So, of course, I spent the entire night worrying about it.

And continued to worry about it until the next term.

Everyone arrived back, abuzz with gossip and details from the party. Apparently it had been a huge success. Apparently someone had snogged someone else at midnight. It was all very dramatic.

I can't help it. 

His words echoed around my head every time I caught a glimpse of him in the corridor, in the great hall, in the common room. Suddenly the boy was everywhere I went.

It's now been a week, and we haven't spoken face to face. I'm beginning to wonder if I made the whole night up in my head.

So now I think I'm avoiding him.

It's working out brilliantly. Really. I've realised that not confronting problems works out really well for people.

I know, I understand. It's only natural to be jealous of my genius.

"Stella! Pay attention! This is important!"

I snap my head up. No, I'm not in Transfiguration. 

Rose is staring at me from across the breakfast table, staring at me, eyes open manically.

"What?" I ask hazily.

She sighs, "The plan is to meet in the room of requirement at 9."

It's Rose's birthday tomorrow. Her 17th birthday, where she will come of age. She's taking the whole thing very seriously, organising a huge party in the room of requirement. There's even a dress code, and now everyone has to come wearing black and white.

"Right," I reply slowly.

"Ugh, why do I bother?" she sighs aggravatedly. 

Turning back to her parchment, upon which she seems to be making an extensive guest list, she purses her lips.

"So, I've got nearly every 5th, 6th and 7th year Gryffindor on here. Plus a few extras from the other houses. Is anyone bringing any guests?"

Al leans over, "Did you add-"

"Yes, Albus, Cecily is on the list," Rose snaps, sounding very uptight.

Clearly party planning is not her forte. Al shrugs, "Okay, well, I'll see you all later then."

He gets up from his seat, and walks over to where Cecily is sitting at the Ravenclaw table.

Fred leans over and says, "Make sure you invite Rebecca Vane from Hufflepuff."

"I'm not inviting girls just so you can get off with them Fred!" Rose says.

She sighs again and turns to another list spread out on the table before her, "So Fred and Cameron are going to honeydukes and the three broomsticks to buy all the necessities."

Fred taps his nose with his finger, to indicate that they'll also be picking up a secret delivery of molten fire whisky.

"Oh, and can someone tell James that he's responsible for making sure that you two have the cloak and stay unseen. I can't have any of this stuff getting traced back to me."

Fred nods, "Chill out Rosie, it'll be great."

"WOW, you're a genius, Fred," she snaps, "I need to chill out! Why didn't I think of that before?"

Lexie puts a hand gently on her arm, to calm her, "It's all fine Rose. We're all helping. Stella and I are setting up the decorations."

"Right," Rose nods, looking a little less flustered, "Ray, are you coming?"

Ray looks up at Rose, glances quickly at Albus and Cecily over at the Ravenclaw table, who are now snogging as though their lives depended on it, "No," she mutters, "Unfortunately, it clashes with something I've got going on"

Rose frowns, "What?"

"My happiness."

"Oh please," Rose rolls her eyes at Ray, "It's not a crime to have fun."

I eye Rose quickly and shake my head. She wasn't with Ray at the New Year's Eve Party. She didn't listen to Ray pour her heart and soul out, declaring her undying, painful love for Albus Potter.

Rose sighs again, but moves on, "Ok then. Lexie, are you inviting anyone?"

"No," Lexie says quietly.

"Alright," Rose makes a mark on the list, "Stella, I've invited Luke-"

"Oh, you didn't have to," I tell her, feeling flustered at the idea that Luke Corner and I will soon be in close quarters again.

"Well, I wanted to," she says, "I want a hot quidditch captain there. Not everything's about you, Stella!"

I fall silent. Maybe for the next twenty-four hours, it'll be better to avoid Rose at all costs.

Suddenly Cameron arrives, leaning over me.

"Rose, is it alright that I invited someone?"

We all stare, a little gobsmacked, at him. He's got a date? And he has the nerve to say so in front of Lexie?

Rose raises an eyebrow, "Who?"

"Just a date," he snaps.

"Ooh, mysterious," Rose growls slightly. Ray puts an arm on Lexie's protectively, glaring at her brother.

"So is it OK?" he asks.

Rose purses her lips, "Well, I suppose. Does she have any dietary requirements? What do imaginary women like to eat?"

Cameron rolls his eyes, "I'm getting your bloody fire whisky for you Rose, turn down the bitch meter."

Something is off about him. He's never usually this mean. In fact, he's never this mean.

Rose gapes at him, completely outraged. Even Fred frowns at Cameron suspiciously.

Ray glares at him, "Hey, Cam, how about you cool off?"

He ignores her and walks away, leaving us at the breakfast table, staring after him.

"Well," Rose says, reshuffling her lists, "He can bring his date. We'll find you a really hot date, Lex-"

"Thanks, but I'm fine," she says, although she doesn't really look it.

Fred looks eager, "I'll take you!"

Lexie looks kindly at him, "Thanks Fred. But, really, I'd much rather go alone."

"Fine, if you want to waste a chance to get with this," Fred gestures at himself, "Your loss, Clarke."

He's joking, and Lexie chuckles lightly.

"Is Scorpius coming?" I ask Rose.

She pauses, "Well, I asked him, but he didn't look very keen."

I frown. Scorpius had been acting strangely since the New Year's Eve party, looking like he wanted to be as far away from Rose as possible.

"Maybe he's just…having a bad day," I suggest.

"More like a bad week," she says, "I wonder if he's angry with me." Suddenly she gasps, "Oh, what is he's angry with me because he doesn't want to be friends."

I pause, "You think he doesn't want-"

"What if he wants to be more?" Rose says, almost eagerly.

"Do you…want to be more?"

Rose looks quickly down at her list, then all around her, "Er, I have to get to Charms." Gathering up her pieces of parchment, she stands up, "Make sure you also get some butter beer. I don't want everyone there to be raving drunk."

She walks off, keeping her head down.

"Touchy subject," Lexie says, watching the back of Rose's head bobbing up and down as she leaves the great hall, "Do you think Scorpius does want to go out with her?"

"Have you seen the way he stares at her?" Fred asks incredulously, "Like a bloody puppy. It's downright embarrassing."

I look around, and realise that everyone is already leaving, which must mean that class is going to start soon.

I get up from my seat, and wave goodbye to the others.

As soon as I take one step outside of the great hall, I bump straight into James.

So much for trying to avoid him.

"Oh, er, hi," he says, looking at me awkwardly.

"Hi," I reply, now extremely nervous.

The corners of James' mouth twitch upwards. I find it infectious, and it's a second before I smile brightly back at him.

We sort of stand there for a second, smiling weirdly at each other.

He rubs the back of his head, pushing his hair up on end with an attractiveness only he can pull off, "Can we, um, talk?"

"Now?" I ask.

"W-well, if you're going to be late for class-" he starts.

"No, I can be late. Just this once," I smile again, my mouth irresistibly turned up at the corners at the sight of him standing there, so awkward and grinning like some sort of weird maniac. A ridiculously attractive maniac.

"Okay," he says.

We walk together down the corridor, milling with people. It's all too crowded, and James pulls gently at my elbow, steering me into a more empty corridor.

Once we stop he keeps his fingers on my elbow for a few seconds longer.

Finally he lets go, and I turn to face him head on, "I guess we haven't really spoken since…"

He nods, "Yeah. Well, um, Cameron was pretty drunk. I wanted to make sure he got home."

"Sure," I nod back, "And I've been pretty busy with school."

"Me too," he says. "How are you?"

"Fine," I smile at him.

"Good."

"How are you?" I ask, trying to continue the conversation.

"Good."

More nodding, "Good."

We stand there in silence, uncomfortable and comfortable all at the same time.

It's weird. Suddenly, standing here, barely a foot away from him, all I want to do is throw my arms around his neck and kiss him, but something's holding me back.

"So, you're coming to Rose's thing, right?" he asks.

"She's my best friend," I nod, "She'd kill me if I wasn't there."

He chuckles, "Right, of course."

"You wanted to talk to me about something?" I prompt him, unable to stand another moment of silence.

"Oh, yeah. I just…wanted to check that everything is OK," he says vaguely.

I frown curiously at him, "Everything's all fine."

"I just thought, maybe, we…I don't know. We're OK?"

"Yeah," I reply, not really sure what he means by OK. But I'm pretty sure I want to snog his face off.

He rubs the back of his head awkwardly again, "Because I figured, maybe you want to invite someone to Rose's thing. And that's OK. I'm fine with it."

"You're fine with it?" I ask him. I feel my heart sink slightly.

"Yeah," I sense a slight shake in his voice, but he maintains the carefree smile. Maybe I only imagined the tremor.

"Well, I wasn't really planning on inviting anyone," I say honestly.

"I just…" he pauses again, clearly having difficulty finding his way around his words, "I felt like we left everything up in the air, after the party. It's probably just good that we don't, you know…"

"Sure," I reply, not really knowing at all.

He looks a little relieved, "OK then. Well, I've made you late enough for class already."

I nod, "Yeah. OK."

"OK."

"Bye then." I raise my hand in some kind of awkward salute.

He reciprocates the gesture, but it all results in a lot of really lame hand flapping, "Yeah. Bye. Oh, don't forget quidditch practice tonight at 7."

I continue to nod, "Right."

I walk away slowly, still frowning.

Am I the only one who's seriously confused right now?

 

*          *          *

 

I remain completely non-plussed throughout Charms, and still confused throughout Transfiguration, Herbology and Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Does he regret the New Year's Eve party? Is he rethinking everything? Surely not.

He says it's OK if I want to take someone to Rose's party. Does he mean Luke? And he's fine with it?

Honestly, I could really do with a Stella Wood-James Potter translation dictionary. I would really speed up our communication process.

Well, if he's fine with it…wait. Maybe he invited someone.

Maybe he invited someone, and he doesn't want me to feel bad. Maybe to him New Year's Eve meant nothing. Maybe I completely overanalysed the whole thing.

Merlin, this is pathetic.

Perhaps I should invite someone. Yeah, that might be a good idea. 

Or it could be the worst idea ever. It could just make everything so complicated.

Well, more complicated than it is already.

No, I won't invite anyone. Besides, the party is tomorrow so it's already too late.

Who can James possibly have invited to the party?

By the time Rose and I wonder down out of the Gryffindor common room to the quidditch pitch that evening, I am in desperate need of a change of subject, so I ask her something.

"So, is Scorpius still coming to your birthday?" I ask Rose, uneasily because it's still a touchy subject to say the least.

"Yes," Rose says, "He says he is. But honestly, I don't know what's going on with him. He doesn't seem very eager."

I pause, "Do you...like him?"

Rose swallows carefully, glancing around to make sure no one can hear as we make our way down the corridor, "I think I do. Yeah, I mean, of course. I like him."

"So why not ask him to go out with you?" I ask her.

She rolls her eyes at me, "Stella life has never been that simple."

I pause to contemplate this statement. Unfortunately it rings true for me on more than one level.

"Not all of us have guys who make it obvious they're into us," Rose sighs.

Luckily the sound of an argument comes to our ears, before I have time to answer her.

"For Merlin's sake Fred, leave me alone."

I'm struck by the sound of Eve's voice, calm but slightly agitated, from around the corner. Rose and I stop, but lean in to listen.

Fred's loud chuckle echoes around the empty corridor, "Look, I'm not asking you to marry me here. Come with me to Rose's party."

"Those girls don't want me there," is her sullen reply.

"Sure they do!" Even Fred's voice falters slightly.

She retorts, "Stella and Rose would probably throw me out the second I set foot through the door."

"That's why you'll need me as you protector," Fred's voice is happy and warm, eager to make her laugh, "Your knight in shining armour."

But Eve just sounds more and more exasperated, her voice now with a sharp edge, "Fred, I really don't want to go with you. What part of you doesn't get that?"

"You're so hot when you're angry."

"I'm tired of this, Fred," she says, "Next time you ask me out I might have to perform a bat bogey hex on you."

"Oh, Collins, I love it when you talk dirty to me."

There's another angry sigh, and the sound of footsteps, signalling that Eve has flounced off.

There's a few moments before Fred's footsteps make their way down the opposite end of the corridor.

Rose looks at me uneasily, "Well, that was-"

"-horrible," I finish for her. We both stand there in awkward silence, feeling ashamed of what we've just witnessed.

"Poor Freddie," she continues, her voice pitiful, "He finally finds one girl he likes, and she's not interested. Although I have to say his taste in women in questionable."

I look at my watch, "Sweet Merlin! We'd better go, Rose, or James will be about ready to eat us alive."

We rush down the corridor at as fast a pace as possible without being yelled at by one of the paintings for running in the corridors.

Eventually we make it out of the great hall, and onto the long green lawn, still covered in January frost. The wind is more bitter than usual and we both wrap our cloaks around us tighter.

"So that's two of my cousins with no date to my party," Rose sighs.

"Who else doesn't have a date?" I ask her curiously.

"James," she answers, "I had to try pretty hard to get him to talk, but finally he told me earlier today that he hasn't got anyone."

"He hasn't?" I ask, a little more interested.

"Yeah, weird, right?" she remarks, "Don't know why he doesn't just ask someone. I mean, this thing with you and him is over now, right?"

"Right," I murmur.

So he doesn't have a date. He wasn't just telling me that I could ask someone else so that he wouldn't feel guilty for bringing a date.

So why would he even suggest it? 

"I suppose he and Freddie will just have to be each other's wingmen," Rose shrugs, as we draw closer to the quidditch stadium.

"I suppose," I reply, my voice dropping to an even quieter whisper.

By now we're on the pitch and James, fully dressed in scarlett quidditch robes, is waiting for us. He looks more than a little annoyed.

"It's 7.02," he says.

"Sorr-ee," Rose says, raising her hands in surrender, "Fred's not here either."

"Fred has detention," James snaps, "What's your excuse?"

"James, you need to chill out," Rose says, "Just calm the OCD for a minute, and realise we won't lose the match to Hufflepuff because Stella and I were a few minutes late."

He rolls his eyes at her, "Just go and get changed."

"Aye Aye Captain," she gives him a mock salute, to which he rolls his eyes again.

She skips off to the girls' changing rooms, but I find myself hanging back.

James is already fiddling with the padlock on the chest that contains the balls for quidditch.

I clear my throat awkwardly, "Um, I was just talking to, um, Rose. And, well, she said-"

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Cameron and Archer standing close by. James glances at them before looking at me.

"Wood, you're already late for practice," he reminds me sharply, "Whatever you have to say, it can wait."

I roll my eyes at him. Typical hot and cold. Why did I think it would be any different?

"Fine," I snap, flouncing off to the changing rooms.

Inside Rose is pulling on her robes.

"Ugh," I mutter, "Your cousin is such a-"

"Control-freak?" she finishes the sentence for me, "Dictatorial psycho? Autocratic jerk?"

"Any would fit," I admit.

Suddenly theres a quiet, but very distinct, sound of muffled crying.

Rose and I glance at one another, and follow the sound curiously. 

In the bathroom stalls, only one of them is shut. And the sound of crying is coming very distinctly from inside.

"Um, Rox?" Rose asks, "Are you OK?"

"Peachy," the voice chokes back, before resuming it's long wailing noise.

"Seriously, what's wrong?" Rose asks, leaning in to the door, "Come on Rox, talk to us."

The stall door opens slowly, to reveal a tear-stained and blubbering Roxanne Weasley.

Rose leans in to her and draws an arm around her shoulders, "Honey! What's wrong?"

We lead her into the main changing room, and sit her down on the bench.

"I-It's Archer," Rox cries, "Ev-everything's such a mess!"

"Archer…" I pause, trying to remember.

Then it hits me. Of course, Roxanne and Archer were dating, before Fred went all psycho protective older brother during the quidditch match. And then…James banned relationships between players.

"Oh god," Rose sighs, stroking Roxanne's arm, "Tell me all about it."

"W-well," Roxanne says, and her shaking shoulders seem to calm down a bit, "James said we couldn't be on the team if we were seeing one another, because of stupid Fred and his stupid macho…boy idiocy. A-and we t-t-talked about one of us maybe quitting the team. But it wasn't fair to whoever had to q-quit. So we talked about both quitting together. But then he said he didn't want to. And then we got into this h-huge fight. It was horrible!"

"It's OK," Rose says, "Sometimes couples fight."

"But we're not even a couple any more!" Roxanne cries, "I said that if he valued the stupid team over being with me, then we weren't right for each other. And he said that maybe we weren't."

"Well then, who needs him?" Rose says defiantly, "If he thinks some stupid game is better than you then he doesn't know what he's missing. He's not worth it."

She nods sadly, "We would have been fine if James hadn't put this stupid rule in place."

"You know what?" Rose pauses, "Yes, James is a dick for making that rule. But I think he actually did you a favour. It showed you Archer's true colours, didn't it?"

"It pushed him over the edge!" Roxanne cries, "Why should we have to break up just because my stupid older brother says so? And why does James think he can just mess with our personal lives like this?"

Unfortunately, Rose doesn't have a reply to this.

I sit there, growing more and more uncomfortable by the second. James told me to invite someone else because I'm on the team now. We're not allowed anymore.

And all because of his own stupid rule.

Suddenly there's a loud banging on the changing room doors, and the sound of Cameron's voice carries through the door, "Girls! Our captain, charming as ever, has asked me to pass on a message. If you don't get your lazy, complacent arses out here within the next minute, it'll be ten laps around the pitch."

"Shit," Rose says, grabbing the rest of her robes and pulling on her boots, "Coming!"

I realise that I'm still dressed in my cloak and school uniform, and quickly begin to change.

Rose and Roxanne leave the changing room, Roxanne wiping away her tears as best she can.

"Better hurry up, Stella," Rose calls, "James likes to follow through with his threats."

That much I remember. Two months away from the team couldn't possibly have wiped away the memories.

I pull on my robes, and then the boots. I look around for my keeper gloves. Where the bloody hell are they? Shit, James is going to eat me alive. 

Finally I find them wedged underneath a bench, between an extra pair of boots, and a pile of unwanted knee pads.

Pulling them on, I rush outside.

Oh god, it's been way over a minute. I'm going to have to run.

I rush over to the group, "I'm sorry! I couldn't find my gloves."

James has a slightly cold expression on his face, which appears to be masking something else entirely. I feel slightly sick, as it all sinks in.

I'm on the team. I should be happy about that, no, ecstatic. But now there's a rule which stops us from ever acting on our feelings. If he even has any of those.

James clears his throat awkwardly, and I prepare for my sentence.

"It's fine. Just be don't be late next time."

There's a brief moment of silence, in which everyone stares at him.

I'm finding it hard not to gape. No slow painful death? No lap after lap of hell?

Rose looks from him to me, a look of disbelief on her face.

Worse is Roxanne, who is glaring at James with such a fierce passion, I wonder if she's about to claw his eyes out.

But before anyone can ask where he got his happy pills from, James says gruffly, "Right then, our game with Hufflepuff is coming up sooner than I would like. Georgia Deely has got a great team this year, and she's been trying a lot of new tactics. We need to show the same kind of innovation. Let's not waste any more time."

We all swing our legs over our brooms.

"Oh, and welcome back to the team, Wood," James says, not even looking me in the eye as he says it.

And with that, he kicks off.

 

*           *           *

 

"Um, would you mind explaining to me what the hell was that?"

After a long, hard practice, everyone had gotten changed and walked back up to the castle. It' getting dark fast, but I wait for James to finish packing up the brooms, before ambushing him on his way out of the pitch.

He looks straight at me then, his gaze a mixture of a least five different emotions, not to mention fifty different thoughts.

He looks down again and pockets the keys to the broom shed. "What are you talking about?"

"This!" I cry "You!"

He continues to avoid my gaze, "You'll have to narrow it down for-"

"Cut the crap, please," I snap, "You know exactly what I mean. This morning, you're all nice. Then when I arrive here you act like I'm the devil incarnate for showing up a few minutes late. Then you let me off in front of the entire team. And then you ignore me for the entire practice. And not to mention that you've obviously forgotten all about what happened on New Years Eve."

He looks quickly at me then, slightly shameful, "I haven't forgotten."

"It sure seems like you have," I snap.

"How could I?" he snaps back at me, "And how can I forget about this stupid, bloody rule that stops me from…" he breaks off, but I know exactly what he means.

"Then why do you act like you hate me, and then like you don't the next?"

"I don't know, alright?" he says, slightly frustrated, "You're not the most readable person either, you know."

"Oh, yeah r-"

"You're impossible!" he insists, "I mean, you ignored me. You avoided me. You've been avoiding me all week. Don't think I haven't noticed!"

I fall silent then, because he's right. I've been avoiding him like the plague.

He continues, running a hand through his hair, "I figured that was just you saying you weren't interested, but then you told me you weren't inviting anyone to Rose's party!"

I mutter, "I thought you were only asking me because you'd invited someone and you didn't want me to feel bad."

He narrows his eyelids, "Why would I invite someone?"

I look down at the ground. "I don't know, maybe you weren't-"

"What? Wasn't what?" he presses on.

I look back at him, and suddenly find him much closer than before. Much too close for comfort. So close that if I leaned in I'd be kissing him. I can already feel the warmth radiating off his face.

"I-" I find myself at a loss for words, "I mean, I-"

Suddenly James is looking over my shoulder, before taking a hurried step back from me.

"Did you forget something?" he asks the person over my shoulder.

I swivel around to look at the intruder, and I see Roxanne walking towards us.

The expression on her face is far too suspicious.

"I left my scarf in the changing room," she says slowly.

She looks back and forth, from me to James, and back again.

"Well, um, thanks for the tip about the quaffle…thing," I say to James.

Pathetic. 

Seriously, pathetic. Who's going to believe that?

James takes another step back, his whole manner awkward and tense, "Er…I mean, um, you're welcome."

Before I can make this situation any worse, I turn on my heel and make my way up to the castle.

 

*            *             *

 

At about 8 o'clock the following evening, Rose has gone from sympathetic, caring friend to potentially homicidal maniac.

Yes, in twelve hours, things move quickly.

"I bloody told Cameron to get six litres of butter beer, not eight! Is he a stupid, or just a plain imbecile? Now everyone's going to think I'm the lamest person on earth for having too much non-alcoholic drink! MY LIFE WILL BE OVER!"

"Honestly, this mascara won't bloody go on! ARE YOU A MASCARA OR ARE YOU A TUBE OF BLACK GLUE DESIGNED TO ANNOY ME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE?"

"I CAN'T FIND MY SHOES! MY SHOES! SERIOUSLY, SOMEONE'S TAKEN THEM! WHO TOOK MY SHOES? SO HELP ME MERLIN I WILL STRANGLE YOU!"

Instead of focussing on getting ready ourselves, Lexie and I are there to find her shoes, lend her mascara, and basically fix every other little problem that might arise.

And believe me, there are a lot.

But, somehow, things begin to straighten themselves out. We manage to get Rose into her outfit, a sleek black cocktail dress with a contrasting white hem, and strappy white stilettos. 

"I look like a mess," Rose whines as she looks in the mirror.

"Hush," Lexie rolls her eyes, "You look drop dead gorgeous."

Rose starts to shake slightly, her bottom lip trembling.

"Everything's going to be great," I put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Suddenly she whips around and stares at us, "Why aren't you two dressed yet? The party's in fifteen minutes, what were you thinking?"

Lexie and I both glance at each other. Lexie rolls her eyes again but we both get on with it anyway.

Lexie puts on a long sleeved black dress, and black flat shoes. Clearly tonight she's going for anonymity. Luckily, Rose doesn't seem to mind.

I put on my white lace dress that I bought for my cousin's christening, with suede black heels.

After looking in the mirror, I'm actually pleased with my appearance. Although half way through the night my feet are probably going to be throbbing like mad.

Ray looks up from her book, lying sprawled on the bed, "You look nice."

"Um…thanks," I reply, "You sure you don't want-"

"I'm sure," she says quickly.

Just then, there's a knock at the door.

Lexie answers it, and we're all surprised to see Fred in the doorway, wearing the cheesiest white suit I've ever seen in my life. 

"Hi ladies!" he says cheerfully.

Rose looks over from where she's sitting at her dressing table, and shouts, "Fred, the eighties called. They want their embarrassing prom night back."

Fred rolls his eyes, "Rose, the nineties called. They want their incredibly lame joke back."

"How about you get better comebacks?"

"How about you get a better face?"

"OK," Lexie intervenes, forever the peace-maker, "Let's not argue. Seriously though, Fred, what are you wearing?"

Fred smirks at her, "Please, I know you all want a piece of this," to which we all scoff loudly. Nevertheless he continues unashamed, "I'm here to offer an invitation."

We all look at him blankly, and he continues, "Ray?"

Ray looks up from her book, clearly confused, "What?"

He grins at her, "You're a sight for sore eyes, even when you're in your pyjamas reading a book on the Goblin uprising."

She rolls her eyes, "Seriously, Fred?"

"Seriously," he laughs, "Look. I'm hot. You're hot. I don't have a date. You don't have a date. I'm beginning to sense a pattern here."

"I'm not going," she corrects him.

"And I can't for the life of me figure out why," he says, walking into the dormitory, "Albus is going with that girlfriend of his. You shouldn't be lying here feeling sorry for yourself. You should be on the dance floor. With a really hot date. Like me, for instance."

"You really think I want to make Albus jealous?" Ray raises her eyebrows.

"That's exactly what I think," Fred grins, "And I want a hot partner. And since Lexie here declined my generous offer, I'm a free agent. Now, are you game?"

She stares blankly at him for moment.

Then, "OK."

We all simultaneously gape at her. Fred grins.

But before any of us can register Ray looks around at each of us, her face expressionless, "Anyone got a black dress?"

*       *       *

 

"I knew I was right to ask you," Fred grins.

Ray steps down the stairs, wearing a very un-Ray like dress.

It's tight, and black, and short. And she's got a pair of extremely high black heels on. On anyone else it would scream 'I'm here to get drunk and make some stupid decisions', but on Ray it says 'This is what you get when you start dating Ravenclaw girls instead of me.'

She doesn't smile, but it's obvious that she's pleased with herself, "It's not a date."

He rolls his eyes, "Love, there's no way your brother would let me anywhere near you, if he thought for a second I wanted to shag you."

"Good," she nods, "Let's go then."

They link arms, and Rose, Lexie and I follow behind them.

We leave the common room, and make our way towards the seventh floor corridor.

Outside the room on requirement, there's already a small crowd of people.

When they see Rose, people cheer. She blushes, but looks extremely happy at all of the attention.

Inside, Rose gapes at the room. There's already a lot of people here. Some are on the black and white checkered dance floor, while others are helping themselves to the fire whisky and butter beer at the side tables. They're covered in black table cloths with white centrepieces, and absolutely covered with food and drink.

Above there are long black and white streamers hanging loosely from the ceiling, with balloons floating above in their hundreds.

"Hope you like it," Lexie grins at her, "Stella and I did the decorations."

Rose is speechless. She throws her arms around both of us, "You are the two greatest friends anyone could have," she says reverently.

"Now let's get you a drink," I grin, leading her over towards the table.

At the table I fetch a glass of fire whisky and pass it to her.

As I turn to hand it to her, I see that James is there. He's dressed in a crisp white button down shirt and black dress trousers. He even has a black tie on.

And it's bloody attractive.

"Happy Birthday, Rosie," he grins, handing her a small box wrapped in gold wrapping paper.

She grabs it eagerly and rips off the paper without a second thought. Inside is a small black jewellery box. Rose snaps it open, gazes at it for a second, then squeals and throws her arms around James' neck.

I glance at the box. Inside is a thin, delicate silver necklace. The pendant is in the shape of a crown, and if you look closely enough the metal has been charmed to flash 'Weasley is our queen' in minuscule letters.

It's a really thoughtful gift. I think back to the gift which I got Rose, which was some rose scented perfume. It doesn't seem as personal anymore.

"Glad you like it!" James grins at her.

"Well it certainly makes up for the hell you put us through yesterday," Rose smirks.

"And you'll be a better player because of it," he reminds her. "Remember, Hufflepuff beat Ravenclaw by fifty points!"

"And we beat Slytherin by sixty," Rose reminds him, "I'm bored of quidditch talk. I want to dance."

She grabs Lexie by the wrist and drags her off towards the dance floor.

Leaving me alone with James at the drinks table. Great.

We both stand there a bit awkwardly, not looking at one another.

"Having a good time?" he asks.

"Well, I just got here," I reply.

"Oh, right. Yeah."

Stupid stupid stupid. Why did I have to say that? It's hardly inviting nice conversation is it?

But somehow it doesn't seem to faze him.

"We didn't get to finish our conversation yesterday," he says, and something in his voice is strained. It's not a light question. In fact, his face is deeply serious. I can tell this is not the time for sarcasm.

I open my mouth but find myself unable to say anything.

"I wanted to say something," he mutters in a low voice, "But then we were interrupted."

I look sharply at him for a second, "What did you want to say?"

He opens his mouth to speak.

"Hey! I finally found you!"

We both break each other's gaze to look at whoever spoke.

Oh, god.

It's Luke. He's smiling broadly at me, and doesn't even bother to register that James is even there.

"L-luke!" I exclaim awkwardly, "You're here."

"Of course I am!" he grins, "Rose invited me. It sounded fun."

Only then does he notice James. He glances at him.

"Oh, hey Potter."

"Hey, Corner," James replies. His voice isn't hostile. It isn't even unfriendly. But there's no warmth there.

"Er, good game you had against Slytherin," Luke says, "But I bet you must be glad to have this one back on your team."

James nods quickly, "Excuse me."

He grabs a glass of fire whisky from the table, and walks off with it, without looking back. Part of me wants to call out to him, tell him that I want to hear what he wanted to say. But it's too late. He's already gone, barely visible amongst the crowd of people.

"He was never much of a people person," Luke says, frowning after him. 

"You have no idea," I reply.

"Shall I get you a drink?" he asks, "Do you want butter beer? Or fire whisky?"

"Firewhisky," I reply almost immediately, "I'm in the mood."

"Ok then," he says, moving towards the table with the drinks. "So how is your friend Ray doing? She was pretty upset at the New Years Eve party."

I glance over at Ray and Fred, who are clinking their glasses of fire whisky together, before downing them in one sip.

"She's doing OK," I reply.

"Is she over that guy yet?" he asks, "The one she liked so much?"

I pause, "I'm not sure."

He hands me my drink. I take a tentative sip, which burns my entire throat, until I feel like it might be raw. I cough slightly.

"Maybe you should have some butter beer instead," he suggests.

"No, I'm fine," I say.

Everything is so complicated. James wants to talk. But about what? About how we can't ever really go anywhere, because of the rule he himself put in place? 

And now I'm here with Luke. Who is good-looking, and interesting, and nice.

He's so nice.

And yet, he's not James.

I take a deep breath, before downing the entire shot of fire whisky in one go.

"Steady on there," Luke laughs, "You alright?"

"Fine," I reply, although I'm pretty sure I'm seeing stars,"Look. There's something I have to do. I'm sorry."

"Oh, er," he looks extremely puzzled, "OK."

I grab the bottle of fire whisky in a fit of madness and pour it's contents into my glass.

"Have a fun night," I say to him, taking a long drink from the glass.

He stares after me as I push away through the crowd.

Where is he? He must be around here somewhere. He can't have gone far.

I continue drinking the fire whisky as I go, taking bigger and bigger doses. I feel like I need the courage. I need to talk to James properly. None of the fear, the expectations. None of that painful awkwardness.

I suddenly realise I'm going around in circles. Seriously where is he? He's gone. Disappeared.

Rose is there, all of sudden, looking at me urgently.

"Have you seen Scorpius?" she asks me.

"No!" I cry.

"Jeez, not so loud!"

"Sorry!"

She looks down at the glass in my hand, "Well," she grins, looking impressed, "You didn't waste any time, did you?"

"Why are you looking for Scorpius?" I ask her, still in a much louder voice than my regular one.

"I don't know," she says, "I just…I want…I want to go out with him OK? I want all of it. I want him. Maybe one day I'll want to get married and have his babies! OK? Is that what you wanted to hear?"

I find myself laughing hysterically, chanting, "Scorpius and Rose, sitting in a tree, K-I-"

"What are you, five?" she hisses, "Keep your voice down. You don't usually drink much, do you?"

"No," I giggle.

"Well, go easy, won't you?" she says, "I can't have my best friend completely shit-faced the whole night."

"No problemo," I grin, "Last glass, I promise."

*      *     *

I lied. It definitely wasn't my last glass.

After Rose had run off to find Scorpius, I helped myself to some more fire whisky, and then some special drink that I didn't know the name of, but it tasted like disinfectant and made my throat burn. 

And it was fantastic.

I'd almost forgotten about James entirely. I would look around for him, run after random tall, dark haired blokes who looked vaguely like him, shouting things like "HEY! STOP RUNNING AWAY FROM ME!"

When I'm not occupied by James, I'm doing some pretty stupid shit.

I'm giggling hysterically to anyone who wanted to talk, and trying to sing (off key) to songs that I don't even know the words to, and probably aren't even playing.

I'm pretty sure at one point I tried to do a cartwheel in high heels.

Rose comes up to me again, frowning, "Honestly Stella. How much have you drunk now?"

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROSIE! I LOVE YOU!" I grin at her, throwing my arms around her neck.

Everything seems wild and happy. My feet are aching and yet I can barely feel them. Everything is dizzy and distant, and I feel incredibly giddy. 

"Er, thanks," she says, "So you decided to really go for it, didn't you?"

"Where's James?" I ask her suddenly, very loudly.

"I think I saw him talking to Cameron at one point," Rose says, "Why are you looking for him?"

"To tell him I love him," I giggle hysterically again.

Her face drops, "Oh god, Stella, no."

"I'M KIDDING!" I shriek at her.

"Oh," she looks relieved, "Thank god."

"Did you find Scorpius?" I ask her.

"No," she frowns, "I wonder if he's even here."

She's still frowning when Albus and Cecily rush over to join us, and Albus grins at her, "Turn that frown upside down, Rosie! It's your birthday!"

"Yeah yeah," she mutters, "Have either of you seen Scorpius?"

"No," they both shake their heads, "We just got here."

"He said he was coming though," Albus adds hopefully.

Rose looks on edge and impatient, tapping her foot on the floor while her head moves back and forth as she scrutinises the crowds.

"Do you want me to help you look for him?" I ask her loudly.

She shakes her head, "No, I'm fine, thanks Stella. Besides, gravity is not really your friend right now, is it?"

"Oh man, Stella how drunk are you?" Albus asks, grinning at me.

"Hey, shut up! I'm not drunk!" I cry indignantly.

And I chose this precise moment to trip over air and crash straight into him.

Albus laughs, standing me upright again, "Maybe you've had enough."

"Maybe you should shut up," I snap back oh-so-wittily.

Cecily glances over her shoulder, and says to Rose, "Oh, is that him over there?"

We look to where she's pointing, and there, unmistakably, is Scorpius.

Rose swallows, then grabs a glass of fire whisky, and downs it in five seconds flat.

"Are you going?" I ask eagerly.

"Yes," she says.

"You OK?" I ask her.

"Fine," she replies.

Rose nods, then shakes her head, then nods again, her head moving in so many directions she looks like she's having a fit. She straightens up, flattens her dress with her hands, and then walks purposefully towards the other side of the room.

We all watch her go. Albus looks at me eagerly, "Is she asking him?"

I nod, my jaw set. I don't have a good feeling about this. But maybe that's just the alcohol talking.

Suddenly Albus' attention is drawn away from Rose. His gaze darkens so quickly it's like turning off a light switch.

I glance around. Fred, his arm around Ray's waist, is getting more drinks from the table next to ours.

"Hey guys," he says, spotting us and coming over, much to Al's discomfort. Al's eyes travel up and down Ray, and in that dress, who can blame him?

"Hi," Cecily smiles, "I didn't know you two were here together!"

Ray shrugs, and in typical Ray fashion, she says shortly, "Well, we are."

I sneak a glance at Albus, who isn't even trying to disguise his horror. Ray flips her hair over her shoulder, and leans a little closer into Fred. Fred pinches her waist, and Albus makes an audible noise as he swallows, unable to speak.

"Something caught in your throat, Al?" Fred asks, looking concerned.

"N-nothing," Al chokes out, "Bit of fire whisky went down the wrong way, that's all."

Ray ignores him, and turns to Fred, "I think we should dance."

"You read my mind, love," Fred grins at her. They walk over towards the dance floor, Albus' eyes following their every step.

"Isn't that nice?" Cecily grins at me.

"I can't believe she's here with that asshole," Albus hisses, his anger spilling out.

"Fred?" Cecily frowns, "He seems so nice!"

"He's a bloody womaniser!" Albus is close to shouting now, "He throws away women like kleenex. And he looks bloody ridiculous in that suit. The fact that Ray would even - she doesn't even date!"

"But, maybe she and Fred like each other," Cecily says, more and more baffled at the sight of Albus' visible anger boiling and bubbling over.

He pulls at his tie knot, loosening his collar forcefully, "You know what? I need air."

He doesn't invite Cecily to come with him, instead he storms off towards the door.

Cecily looks at me curiously, "Do he and Fred not get on?"

"Um…" I wonder what to tell her, before opting for a vague, "I'm not really sure."

"He seems really angry," she looks concerned, "Maybe I should follow him."

She doesn't wait for my opinion. Instead she runs after Albus.

I glance around, looking for Rose. She's reached Scorpius now.

I inch closer. They're speaking in low voices, and I can't hear them at all over the music.

Rose has a sort of sweet, eager smile on her face.

Oh, this is so great. Someday I'll be there telling their kids how their parents finally got together. And they'll call me Aunt Stella. And I will be a kickass aunt. I'll let them eat ice-cream and watch cartoons, whenever their parents tell them they can't. We'll go the fucking playground. It'll be awesome.

Getting ahead of myself here.

As Rose speaks, her mouth moves quicker and quicker, clearly trying to get out as much as she can as fast as possible. Scorpius seems to go through a few undistinguishable emotions.

Suddenly a wide grin splits across his face.

This is so perfect. So romantic. So-

"Are you kidding me?" he exclaims.

He says it so loudly that some people turn to look. I stare at him. What is he on about?

He laughs, his voice full of some kind of cruel mirth.

Of all the things Scorpius would have said, I was not expecting that.

The smile on Rose's face fades, as Scorpius continues to laugh.

"Why is this funny?" she asks him, frowning.

"Because it is!" He says, "Let's look at this objectively, shall we? I ask you out a year ago. You tell me to die in a hole. Then you change your mind. But it's too late, because you already rejected me. Then you hate my guts for a few months. I hate myself for ruining it. I try to make it better. I try to tell you how much I care, how sorry I am, I even tell you I loved you, but you don't want to hear it. Then you change your mind. In Hogsmede you decide that you want to snog me. So you do. Then you change your mind again, and then you come up with your little plan, to pretend like we never even knew each other."

Rose's face is growing more and more horrified. More and more hurt. More and more painful to watch.

People are turning to look now, watching this embarrassing spectacle unfold before their eyes.

"Then," Scorpius continues, "You avoid me, pretend like you don't know me, your little plan is working perfectly. But then I get injured, and I end up in the hospital wing. And you change your mind…again. You try to be friends with me. You run around trying to make me feel better. And now you've decided you want to go out with me. You've actually decided to show that you like me in public. How good of you!"

"Scorpius-" Rose begins, "I didn't-"

"I'm done Rose," he snaps, "I thought this might work out. I thought you were trying to be friends. I though you were trying to make up for the hell you've put me through! But no, you've finally decided to just forget it all. How do I know that tomorrow you won't turn around and ask me to pretend that we don't know each other? That you might change your mind? You've been doing an awful lot of that lately."

There are tears in Rose's eyes. But Scorpius' are cold and hard.

"Goodbye, Rose," he says.

He pushes past her, through the crowd and out of the room of requirement.

Rose is standing there, frozen to the floor. Her face is a mixture of horror and shock.

People are still watching her awkwardly, and a sort of painful silence seems to have fallen around us.

I rush to her, but I notice that I'm not the only one.

James growls, "Do you want me to beat him up Rosie?" he asks, "I'll kick that pompous little shit from here until-"

"No," Rose says, her voice quiet, "He's right."

"How dare he laugh at you like that?" I cry, "He's not the victim here, you are! It's your birthday! How can he say that to you?"

She shrugs, laughing tiredly, "I told him to die in a hole when he asked me the first time."

James frowns, "You were completely allowed to reject that son of a-"

"It's fine, James, really," she grins, and it's a weird, manic grin, "Now, which of you is about to get me a drink?"

I stare at her, "Are you sure?"

"What, so you can both be drunk at my party, but I can't?" she laughs.

I look at James, and I realise in one glance that I'm not the only one who's had too much to drink.

He's loosened his tie, and he looks slightly dizzy, his hair askew and his brown eyes burning.

Rose throws an arm around both our necka, "Let's get shitfaced."

 

*         *           *

 

Not long after Rose is standing on one of the drinks tables, surrounded by a huge crowd who are cheering and chanting "WEASLEY IS OUR QUEEN!"

Rose takes a massive swig from her fire whisky bottle, and begins to roar out the lyrics to the song that the DJ is playing. Everyone, already completely drunk, roars along with her.

"I LOVE YOU ALL!" She screams at the top of her lungs, to which the crowd yells back enthusiastically.

Rose then crowd dives right into the middle of the throng, her arms spread wide like an eagle. Or rather a very clumsy penguin.

Luckily the crowd catches her, but somehow I find myself edged out, watching her from the sidelines.

Suddenly I find James is beside me. He watches Rose, "Well, she seems OK now, doesn't she?"

"Yeah," I laugh.

The alcohol has worn off somewhat, but I can still feel it running through my bloodstream. I'm still way too happy to see him.

"So, shouldn't you be off with Corner by now?" he asks.

"No," I reply, "We're not together."

"But he wants to be," he says, "I can tell."

"Well I don't want to be," I reply.

"You sure about that?" he asks, raising an eyebrow at me.

Suddenly I was sick of all this talking. All this meandering around what was eventually going to happen, whether we liked it or not.

But not here. Here it was too hot, too crowded. Too many people.

I begin walking towards the exit, my whole body trembling slightly. I hear his footsteps behind mine, and by the time I've reached the door he's already caught up with me.

We stop for a second, swapping side glances, suddenly smiling giddily at one another.

Outside there are still a few people milling around, obviously in need of cooler air.

We walk down the corridor in unison, our paces growing quicker and quicker, more urgent.

"Where are we going?" he whispers to me, laughing for no reason at all.

"I don't know, I was following you!"

We both laugh at that, but we still keep power walking down the corridor, away from all the people.

At this point we're almost running, and I stumble slightly.

He lunges out to catch me, but instead I collide with the wall.

"Oh my god, are you OK?" he laughs.

I answer by laughing hysterically.

I'm not sure why I'm laughing. It's all so funny, and confusing, and I don't care about any of it. I lean down and pull off my high heels, gathering them in one hand, before running off down the corridor at top speed.

He chases after me, both of us laughing and laughing. It's all a blur of stone and rock and hard ground under my bare feet.

We're nearing a corner now, and I slow down.

He catches up with me, grinning, "Good practice for when you're late and you have to run laps."

I roll my eyes at him as we round the corner, giddy and breathless, "Shut up."

His eyes are burning, his lips pulled into a broad smile, his whole body orientated towards me. 

As if by pure instinct, his mouth covers mine. We stumble backwards together in the darkness, half laughing, half kissing, before my back is finally pressed against the opposite wall.

He presses his lips more firmly to mine, deepening the kiss.

Everything is warm, and burning, and on fire. This is nothing like New Years Eve. It was a mess. A drunk, fiery, urgent mess.

And I only want more. I'm dizzy with it. In that instant there is no doubt in my mind what I want, or who I want.

His hands wrap themselves firmly around my waist, pulling me in closer. His mouth is hungry, almost desperate, but so is mine. Every second seems to build frantically, as we melt into one another, and time almost stops.

Suddenly he pulls away, letting go of everything. He takes a step backwards. I stare at him, feeling like I've been dropped into the deep end of a swimming pool without knowing how to swim.

"Shit," he mutters, "Shit. Shit. Shit."

I don't say anything. I know exactly what's going through his head because it's exactly what's going through mine. 

We shouldn't be doing this. It's stupid, and we'll regret it.

He paces back and forth, running his hand through his hair, looking at the ground. 

He continues to mutter, "Shit." Over and over again.

I push myself off the wall and grab his arm, bringing him around to face me.

"Stop saying that," I say firmly.

"This isn't what was supposed to happen," he sighs angrily, refusing to look me in the eye, "I was supposed to stop. We're supposed to stop."

"We have," I tell him.

He looks at me then, our eyes locking together.

"Okay, I really need to say something now," he says, but he doesn't move away from me.

"Just say it," I murmur, although his tone doesn't imply anything good.

"I-I'm sorry," he says, "I let this go on. It's not fair to you. Everything with this rule is so fucking stupid. And it's all my fault. But I can't go back on it now. And no one can find out. I'm already a hypocrite. The team can't know."

"I know," I reply, "I know. I know."

"This isn't good," he says, gesturing to the air between us, "Whatever this is. It's not fair to the team. It's not fair to me. It isn't fair to you."

I pause, staring up at him, unable to mask my disappointment, "OK. So what do you want to do?"

"I think we should…go back to just being…what we were before," he says slowly.

"If that's what you want," I reply carefully, my voice barely a whisper.

He nods, "Well, let's face it, things were simpler then."

He even manages a light chuckle. I nod in agreement, chuckling slightly too, although all I'm feeling is bitterness, "I guess."

He shrugs slightly, "It wouldn't be so awkward all the time. It would take the pressure off, you know?"

"Yeah," I nod, "You're right."

I feel his fingertips still on my arm. Somehow, without either of us noticing, he has maintained contact. Where our skin touches it burns hot and bright. Everywhere aches just to touch him again. 

Everything is heightened. The smell of him, the feel of him. It's all so alive. So present.

He's stopped breathing, noticing the feel of my arm under his fingertips. And yet he doesn't move. He stays frozen on the spot, staring at me.

"So," I pause, my voice strained and hoarse, "It's all over."

"I just think it's for the best you know? I mean the team is…Fuck it."

Then, I don't even know how it happens, but my back is now pressed against the wall, and his mouth is on mine again. This time it's even more desperate, even hungrier.

I've never wanted someone so much. All of the rules, the problems, have been turned to mush by the fact that his tongue is in my mouth, and his hands are in my hair. Everything is eager and desperate, and full of need.

He pulls away from just a second, "Seriously though, the team-"

I recapture his lips with mine and wrap my arms around his neck, drawing his face closer. He seems thankful for the interruption, and presses his lips harder against mine.

After that it all blurs into a messy confusion of tongue and skin. Grappling at each other, wrapping our hands around one another as tight as we can.

And then I realise. This is what I was missing. After New Years Eve I had a funny feeling, that wouldn't leave me alone. We'd resolved our differences, but it wasn't enough for me. 

This. This was what I wanted.

"I knew it!"

A loud exclamation makes it's way into our ears, and we force ourselves unwillingly apart.

And to our horror, there is Roxanne, her face completely appalled.

James takes a step towards her, looking desperate, "No, Rox, I swear-"

"You split me and Archer up, and the whole time you're getting off with her!" She cries at him. "You're a hypocrite!"

I try to explain, "It's not what it looks-"

"Please explain to me how having your tongues down each others throats could be anything other than what it looks like!" she replies fiercely.

"We aren't dating!" James says desperately, "I swear, we were just-"

She holds up a hand to stop him, "Forget it, James. I see how it is."

She spins around on her heel and flounces off. James and I both try to run after her.

"Please, Rox, just listen-"

"I don't want to hear it!"

"We're sorry!"

"It's too late for that-"

And somehow we're back in a group of people, and Roxanne is gone, melted into the crowd.

We both look around desperately, trying to see where she went through the milling group of people, but she's nowhere to be found.

"Shit!" James cries, looking around for her in every direction, "Where did she go?"

I glance through the crowd, back and forth. "I don't know."

"Oh fuck, none of them are ever going to forgive me," he mutters.

"Of course they will," I tell him gently, although privately I'm terrified. Technically, James isn't the only one who broke the rules.

Suddenly someone appears at my side.

"Stella?"

I look and to my surprise, and slight horror, I see Scorpius, looking manic.

"Scorpius? What are you-"

I barely have time to finish the sentence before James has grabbed Scorpius roughly by the shirt and shoved him into the opposite wall. I let out a cry of shock, and rush forward to stop James from doing any further damage.

Scorpius gasps, all the wind knocked out of him in one blow.

"You've got a lot of nerve showing up here, Malfoy," James growls, "After what you said to Rose."

Scorpius can only wheeze in reply, "I…came back….really….stupid…sorry."

James grabs him by the collar and pulls him up straighter, "Didn't catch that."

I put my hand on James' arm, "Let him talk, won't you?"

James glances quickly at me, before lowering his arm begrudgingly. 

Scorpius takes a moment to catch his breath, "I was stupid to say that stuff. I was angry."

"You're not fit to kiss the ground she walks on," James says bitterly, "Now get out of here before you ruin her night any more than you already have."

 "I want to make it right," he says, "I want to be with her."

"That's weird. You seemed pretty against the idea earlier," I say coldly.

"I made a mistake!" he tells us earnestly, "It's all my fault. I'm the one who snogged the Ravenclaw just hours after she rejected me. I was just…stupid, and frustrated, and -"

James tries to finish for him, "An ignorant, spineless little piece of-"

"I love her, OK?" Scorpius says, "And it hurt, being rejected by her time and time again. I just wanted to not get hurt by her anymore. I thought rejecting her would be the way to do it, but I realised, of course, it's not."

"You're an idiot," I tell him.

"I know."

"Now go in there and tell her what you just told us."

He nods nervously. James glares at him, "If you so much as tell her the incorrect time, I will make you regret it."

Scorpius looks pale and scared as he nods even faster, "I swear on my-"

"Just go."

Scorpius glances once at the door to the room of requirement, and opens it.

Inside the music is pumping loudly, and the temperature seems to have doubled since the last time I was in here. People are cheering and wolf-whistling at something.

Scorpius is staring about him, trying to find Rose desperately. But it's difficult through the crowds of people and the bright flashing lights in the dark. 

I peer through the darkness at the thing that most people seem to be fixated on, in the centre of the room.

Rose is standing on the table, the same one that she had previously been using as a crowd diving spring board, with her arms wrapped around someone.

"Oh god," I mutter.

She's snogging someone. She's standing on a table, aggressively snogging whoever decided to get up on the table with her, and everyone around them is cheering in a drunken haze.

Scorpius looks around more and more, his eyes searching for her.

His gaze turns to hard stone, the second he recognises her.

Suddenly Rose pulls away from her temporary kisser, and pauses to take a long sip from the liquor bottle, which I notice is now close to being empty.

But that's no longer what I'm focussing on.

Because the guy standing on the table with her, laughing and cheering, the guy who Rose has just removed her face from, is none other than Luke Corner.

I stare at the pair of them. Then I look to Scorpius, but I find he's gone.

I spin around at stare after him.

Out of the room of requirement door I see a tall, blonde head, running back down the empty corridor.

 

 




A/N: Oh the drama! Anyways I hope you all liked it. I realise it this one took a while, but I made it extra long to make it up to you guys!

Tune in next time for the fallout!  

Let me know what you all thought about Stella and James, Roxanne, Rose, Scorpius, Luke, Albus, Ray, Fred, the list goes on and on. You can talk about the giant squid, seriously. I want to hear from you! :)


Chapter 18: The Pity Party
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"Morning Sunshine."

I open my eyes blearily, and slowly but surely a pale, blonde haired face comes into focus.

I notice automatically that my head hurts like hell. Seriously, it's like someone's hit me over the head with a beaters club repeatedly. I feel heavy and tired, and a little ill. Everything keeps echoing. 

Ray is sitting on the edge of my bed, fully dressed, fully alert and staring at me keenly as I rubbed my eyes and groaned loudly.

"What time is it?"

"About twelve o clock, actually."

"WHAT?" I sit up straight and look around. I notice the sprawled lump underneath Rose's bed covers,  "ROSE! GET UP! IT'S MIDDAY! OH MY GOD, I'M SO DEAD."

"Relax drama queen, it's Saturday," Ray says calmly, rolling her eyes at me.

I breathe a loud sigh of relief and fall back into bed, "Well why are you waking me up then?"

Ray shrugs, "I wanted to make sure you were still alive. After the amount of alcohol you drank, I didn't know if this was a normal amount of time to keep sleeping."

"Thanks," I mutter, pulling my pillow over my head in an attempt to block out the sunlight streaming in through the window.

"Here," I squawk indignantly as she pulls my pillow off roughly, and shoves a mug of steaming coffee into my face.

The smell is too enticing to go back to sleep. "Um. Thanks."

"Take these too," she says sharply, opening her palm and revealing two painkillers.

"Thanks," I mutter, slightly unsettled by this mother hen vibe Ray is suddenly channeling. But I take the pills and swallow them with my coffee, feeling instantly better.

She gets up and walks over to Rose's bed. Rose is already groaning loudly. To be fair, she definitely drank more than I did last night.

She shouts loudly, her voice dry and hoarse, "MY HEAD. OH, MY HEAD. IT FUCKING HURTS."

Ray shoves coffee under her nose, and practically force feeds her the painkillers. 

"You two had a good night, I take it," Ray smirks at her.

Oh, the irony. Let's review, shall we?

I got drunk.

James got drunk.

Rose asked Scorpius to go out with her.

Scorpius said 'Are you kidding' (and then proceeded to say other, very unkind things which I won't repeat).

Rose got incredibly drunk.

James and I snogged. 

A lot.

Roxanne caught us.

Scorpius realised he was an idiot.

Rose snogged Luke Corner.

Scorpius ran off.

Not even realising Scorpius had changed his mind, Rose then passed out on a couch, and Lexie and I carried her back to the dormitory.

So all in all, not the best of evenings.

Rose groans loudly, as if in pain, "So this is it. This is how I'm going to die."

"Shame, and so young too," Ray says sarcastically.

"So how come you're not hungover?" I ask her curiously, "You were drinking last night too."

"That's because I know how to hold my liquor," Ray points out.

I find myself even more mystified at this statement, considering I've never seen Ray take a sip of alcohol in my entire six years of knowing her.

"Did you have fun with Fred?" I ask bemusedly.

Ray pauses, a small smile in the corners of her mouth, "He's…decent."

Rose sits up and frowns, "Wait…so you went the whole night and he didn't try to make a pass at you?"

"Oh, no, he did. Twice. But I told him to back off or I'd rearrange his face," She explains matter-of-factly, "He was pretty helpful most of the night so I let him off with a warning."

No one has to ask what Freddie was so helpful with. Albus had disappeared in a huff after our less than pleasant encounter, and then spent the rest of the evening in a very bad mood, helping himself to bottles of beer, glaring angrily at Fred and Ray and speaking in very rude, harsh tones to anyone who spoke to him.

I look around the bedroom, and notice that Lexie's bed is vacant, neatly made with the curtains tied back.

"Where's Lexie?" I ask Ray.

"She came back pretty early," Ray shrugs, "She must have left early to go to the library."

"Poor thing," Rose mutters, "She must have felt down after Cameron brought his date."

"I have no idea what my idiot of a brother was thinking when he brought Ursula Smith," Ray remarks, "She's no where near as pretty as Lexie."

She says this with such staunch loyalty that I can't help but smile at her.

"What?" she frowns at me.

"Nothing," I reply quickly, turning away so she won't see me grinning.

"She's a smart girl, Lexie," Rose mutters to herself, "She's not the one lying in bed feeling like her head is about to split open."

"It's OK, Rose. None of us make smart decisions when we're as drunk as you were," I chuckle.

"Hey! You were drunk too," she snaps.

"Yes but she didn't snog Luke Corner in front of the entire school," Ray laughs.

Her laughter soon fades as Rose's face turns into the picture of shock and surprise.

"What? No I didn't!"

"Wait, you don't remember that?" I ask her.

"No!" she shrieks, covering her reddening face with her hands, "Merlin, did I really?"

"Yes," Ray chuckles, "And Scorpius…" she trails off, realising that she's said too much.

Rose looks even more horrified, "What about Scorpius? I couldn't have snogged him too! Oh god, did I snog Scorpius?"

Ray and I pause to exchange nervous glances.

"...Not exactly," I say tentatively.

"Then what?" she looks frantic now, eyes wide and manic.

"Well he um, showed up again and he told James and I that he'd made a mistake and he wanted to be with you. But…" I pause, unsure how to put this.

"But what?" Rose cries desperately.

"But…" I'm still tongue-tied, unable to find the words.

"BUT WHAT?" 

"But he saw you sucking face with pretty boy so he ran off," Ray replies.

Tactful as ever.

Rose covers her face with her hands again and lets out an low, pitiful moan, "Fuck."

Neither Ray nor I have any words of comfort. We stand there awkwardly, unsure what to do for her.

"Does he hate me?" she groans.

I pause, "Well he kind of ran off when he saw you two, and we haven't exactly seen him since so…"

"He must hate me," she mutters, "Merlin, I'm such an idiot. All I did was prove him right. I bloody asked him out, and then when he said no I snogged someone else. It's like history repeating itself!"

"It is pretty ironic, you have to admit," Ray agrees, "He asks you out, and then you catch him with some girl. You ask him out, and he catches you with some guy."

"Not helping," I mutter in a low voice.

"That's it," Rose says pulling the duvet over her head, "I'm not leaving this dormitory."

"Come on Rose, we've got practice today," I remind her.

"Tell James I'm sick," she replies from underneath the bedsheets.

"I'm sure if you just talk to Scorpius-"

"No!" she cries stubbornly, "I'm never leaving this dormitory. No, really, I've got it all figured out. You can bring me leftovers from the kitchens. I'll send my homework to my teachers by owl post. I'll grow old and die here. Moaning Myrtle needs a friend anyway."

*     *     *

I'm tempted to join Rose for the morning, and avoid quidditch practice completely.

Roxanne will be there for one thing, and for all I know this was the end of quidditch practice as I knew it. She could turn us in to the team, reveal everything she saw, and then what? James would probably resign because he'd be too stubborn to admit that he was just an idiot who made mistakes sometimes.

But Rose insists that she needs a messenger to convey the details of her sudden, horrible illness to the team, and practically pushes me out the door.

I wander down to the quidditch pitch, my sense of impending doom growing larger and larger with every step I take. 

As I enter the pitch I notice that no one on the team is actually there. They must still be in the changing rooms.

But before I can take another step towards the changing rooms, a hand reaches out of thin air and grabs my arm, pulling me away into sudden darkness.

I try to scream out, but James puts a finger to his lips urgently. He's dragged me behind the stands, pulling me out of sight of the pitch.

"What the hell are you doing?" I ask him, pulling my arm out of his grip.

"Sorry," he mutters, "But I need to talk to you."

"About Roxy?" I ask.

He nods grimly, "Look, if she turns us in, I'm going to resign."

"That's very honourable of you," I roll my eyes, "But you could just admit you made a mistake. We'll say it's over, and nothing else will ever happen."

"No," he says firmly, "The only thing to be done is for me to resign."

"How about you get rid of this stupid no-dating rule altogether? That would make everyone happy."

"That would be logical," he admits, "But, no. I'm already a hypocrite, I've got no interest in being a hypocrite and a cheat."

"Oh for Merlin's sake, get your head out of your arse-"

Suddenly a shadow falls over us, and we both look up to see Roxanne, dressed head to toe in quidditch robes, arms folded and looking thoroughly disgusted with us.

"Getting ready for round 2, are we?" she asks, without a trace of a smile on her lips.

"Listen, Roxy," I butt in, before James can try and resign, "We're so, so sorry about what happened."

Roxy keeps her arms folded and raises her eyebrows, unimpressed by my apology.

"It was a one time thing," James chimes in. 

More like a 5 or 6 time thing, I felt like adding, but thought it would be best if Roxy didn't know that. 

James continues, "It was an accident. We were both really, really drunk."

"And of course nothing will happen to you because you're the captain," Roxanne mutters bitterly.

"I'll resign. If you want me to," he says.

Roxy pauses, contemplating him carefully. "You'd really resign?"

James nods eagerly. A little too eagerly. I pause and frown at him, wondering why he's so desperate to be off the team all of a sudden. This team is his life, I thought he would at least go down fighting.

"I would," he says.

Roxanne sighs and looks down at the ground, "Just make sure it never happens again."

James stares at her, "Wh-"

"You don't have to resign," she says, "You always had a flair for the dramatics, James. Promise me this ends here, and I'll never speak of it again."

"We promise," I burst out quickly, and there's a sudden ease of tension in the air.

I have to nudge James before he says, "Oh, yeah, I mean, of course. Nothing will ever happen again."

"OK," she mutters, "Well, the rest of the team is waiting."

She marches off, only looking back a few times at us, as if checking that we haven't started snogging the minute her back is turned.

I breathe a sigh of relief, "OK, so we're in the clear."

"Yeah," he mutters, "So, this is probably for the best, yeah?"

I nod, "Definitely. I mean, you don't have to resign, for one thing."

"We've got another chance," he says, "Let's try not to screw it up."

I chuckle lightly, even though the situation isn't really funny at all. 

"So we should be friends," I suggest.

"What?" he looks puzzled, as though the word friend hadn't entered his vocabulary before.

"Well, it's always difficult when we don't know what we are. There aren't any boundaries or labels. Maybe if we say we're just friends, from now on, it'll be easier."

"That's a good idea," he says, "Ok then, friends it is."

And then the most awkward thing imaginable happens.

He reaches out a hand for me to shake.

I can tell almost instantly that he wishes he could take the gesture back. But the hand is still there, waiting to be shaken.

So I grasp his hand with mine, and we shake a few times with sweaty palms. 

Thankfully the moment ends and we release our hands.

"So, let's go practice. I bet the team is waiting," I mutter.

We walk out onto the pitch together and join the rest of the team.

"Had a fun roll in the hay?" Fred asks.

Oh shit. 

The question makes my cheeks flame up. Roxanne stares, wondering how Fred could possibly know about last night. The tense silence is almost palpable.

But then Fred shrugs, "Merlin no one can take a joke these days."

James coughs awkwardly, and he says, "Where is Rose?"

"Oh, she's ill," I reply.

"Which basically means she's hungover," Cameron says with a laugh.

"More like embarrassed because she snogged Luke Corner and Scorpius saw everything," Fred raises his eyebrows at Cameron.

"Enough gossiping," James says quickly, "Let's kick off. We're late enough already."

"Only because you and Artois were busy getting off with each other behind the stands," Cameron points out.

Theres another long silence, in which both James and I both turn an intense shade of tomato red.

"Tough crowd," Cameron says.

"I tried to tell you," Fred shrugs.

We kick off, and James and I avoid one another's glances.

It's going to be a long practice.

 

*      *     *

 

"Have you checked on Rose recently?" I ask Ray again as we sit in the library, trying to finish the transfiguration essay.

"Not in the last hour," Ray says, her eyebrow raised at me. She probably thinks I'm being way too concerned about her. "Lexie says she's still refusing to get out of bed."

"Well, maybe tomorrow we can convince her to come out of the dormitory," I mutter, although I feel unhopeful at best.

"Better you than me," Ray mutters, flipping the cover of her book over in frustration, "Ugh, this book is so unhelpful. I wish I had-"

"A transfiguration tutor?" Freddie asks, appearing out of nowhere and sliding into the seat next to her, "Fred Weasley, transfiguration tutor and expert in hotness at your service."

Ray raises her eyebrows at him, but there's a hint of amusement to her gaze, "Really? You're a transfiguration expert, are you?"

"Babe, for you, I could be," Fred says smoothly, waggling his eyebrows in a way that let's her know he's only kidding, "And you'll be getting eye candy like me thrown in. I call that a good deal."

Ray laughs. She actually laughs.

I'm staring at their strange little interaction, wondering where on earth Ray Mitchell really is. Because the Ray Mitchell sitting here is clearly an impostor.

"Stella? Are you doing the essay?"

I turn to see Albus, holding three heavy books under one arm.

"Yeah, have you done it yet?"

"No. Can we write the essay together? McGonagall's going to eat me alive if she finds out I haven't done it."

"Now now," Fred says, "Our Minnie may be many things. But a cannibal is not one of them."

Albus looks up, and only then does he seem to notice Fred and Ray sitting at the other end of the table. His gaze darkens in a flash.

His jaw sets, and he says carefully, "I just remembered I'm supposed to meet Cecily for lunch in 5 minutes. Maybe another time."

Ray's cheerful expression reverts to her typical, stormy glare, "Wouldn't want to keep Cecily waiting."

"No," Al sneers, "And I wouldn't want to keep you two from canoodling in the library in peace."

"No, you wouldn't," Ray says, "I'm sure lunch with the lovely Cecily trumps watching Fred and I snog."

Albus flinches slightly at her words, but he keeps going, "Yes, that's what I like about Cecily. Not only is she lovely, she's also not a hypocrite."

Ray turns scarlet at his words, but she keeps her voice measured and calm, "I'm the hypocrite in this scenario, I suppose?"

"Well, I don't know, Ray. Let's look at the facts. Who's the one who's always said that men are scum, that they only want one thing? You. And who's the one making a bloody fool of herself in front of the school's biggest womaniser? Oh, that's right! You."

Ray doesn't even reply. She's staring at Al with such a fury, that I'm finding it difficult to look directly at her.

"Unless you two aren't even dating," Albus continues, the smallest of smirks appearing at the corners of his mouth, "You know I thought you were a hypocrite, I never took you for a liar too."

Ray continues not responding. She grabs her book, slings her book bag over her shoulder, glaring at Albus the entire time.

"I'll see you two later," she says to Fred and I, without even looking at us, "I don't want to annoy Albus any more with my blinding hypocrisy."

She storms out, purposefully shoving Albus aside with her shoulder, sending him flying into the nearest bookshelf.

This brings Madame Pince down on us in less than a heartbeat, "OUT!" She shrieks at Ray, "I will not tolerate violence in this sanctuary of knowledge! Out! OUT!"

Ray glances at her, "Don't worry, I'm done here." She throws Albus one last contemptuous glance, "I'm so done."

Albus' gaze is stony as she leaves. People all around us are staring, and he stands up, and pulls down his shirt self consciously.

I glare at him, "Nice one."

"She's the one who started it," he replies angrily.

"You know, Ray might be a hypocrite, but at least she's not a jerk," I mutter.

Albus doesn't reply.

Fred adds, sounding uncharacteristically annoyed, "I'm with her on this one, mate."

"Don't call me mate," Albus snaps at him.

"What is your problem with me?" Fred asks, suddenly angry.

"My problem is that you can't just go around trying to shag whoever you bloody well please," Albus replies savagely.

"You don't have some sort of right to her, you know," I tell him, "Especially now that you have a girlfriend. Or did you expect her to sit around waiting for you?"

"She made it perfectly clear a month ago that she never wanted to speak to me again," Albus mutters.

"Funny that, you're such a nice guy," Fred replies bitterly, "Look I may be a womaniser, or whatever you want to call it, but at least I know what I want. At least I make it clear to the girls I like whether I like them or not. It's obvious here that you have no clue whether you actually like your girlfriend, or if you're still into Ray. And you're messing both of them around. So stop being a tool and figure it out."

I stare at Fred. It's rare that I hear Fred talk without a hint of laughter in his voice. Now he's just looking pointedly at Albus, who's gone very pale and quiet all of a sudden.

"I-I have quidditch practice soon," he mutters, "I'd better go."

"I thought you were having lunch with Cecily," I remind him.

"What?" he looks confused, almost distracted, "Oh, right."

He grabs his bag and leaves the library hurriedly, looking embarrassed.

"Maybe I was a bit harsh," Fred looks after him.

"He needed to hear it," I reply. 

"They both need to have their heads knocked together," Fred sighs, "Kids these days."

I grin, "When I was a youth, I had my priorities straightened out. None of this dramatic heartbreak business."

"Indeed," he nods, "In my younger days I was focussed on my studies. I was very proper."

"Really? Who would have thought?" I raise my eyebrows.

He nods, "I like to think I was a nun in a past life."

"Sorry to interrupt," comes a sudden voice to my left, "Could I talk to Stella for a minute?"

I look up, and see to my great surprise, Luke Corner standing there.

"Not at all, good sir," Fred grins, "I have some praying to get on with anyway."

He gets up, salutes the pair of us and skips away with a spring in his step.

"I'm going to assume thats a joke," Luke says uneasily, looking at Fred with a mixture of confusion and wonder.

"You can never really tell with Fred," I admit.

There's a very awkward pause. I have no idea what to say to him, and Merlin knows what he wants to say to me.

"You wanted to talk to me?" I prompt him instead.

"Right," he nods, and I can tell he's embarrassed, "Um, I haven't seen Rose today."

"She's ill," I reply.

"Oh, shit. Well, I hope she gets better soon."

"I'll tell her," I reply quickly "Is that all you wanted to talk about?"

I can't figure out how I feel towards him right now. I'm not annoyed with him exactly. But I'm not feeling particularly disposed towards him either.

"No," he shakes his head, "I just…are we ok?"

I stare at him, "What?"

"I mean, I feel like…Look, I was really drunk. And Rose was too, we were just having fun. I just…I got the impression that you weren't interested. And that's fine!"

Stifling a laugh, I interrupt him, "Luke, I'm going to stop you right there," I raise a hand to stop his flow of words, "I'm not angry with you. I wouldn't have any right to be."

"You…you wouldn't?" he frowns.

"No!" I reply incredulously, "I just left you at that party, without even explaining why. I thought you would be angry with me!"

"Well, I did think it was a bit strange," Luke admits, "But I wasn't angry with you."

"I just…the reason that I did it-"

"You don't like me like that," he finishes for me.

"It's not that-" I interject quickly, even though he's got it completely right.

"It's OK. I don't like you like that either," he adds.

"...Oh," I reply, not sure whether to feel relieved or offended.

"Well, I thought I might," he explains, "At New Years Eve, I was pretty sure that I liked you. There's something really…endearing about the way you say awkward things, and you seem embarrassed by pretty much everything."

Now I'm definitely erring more on the side of offended.

"I mean, you're really funny," he adds quickly, noticing my eyebrow rising, "I just thought you were interesting. And I came to Rose's party with every intention of asking you to Hogsmede sometime."

"Until I ditched you and you realised that I'm a mess," I finish for him.

"Everyone's a mess," he shakes his head at me, "I thought I liked you, and five minutes after you left me at that stupid party, I saw Georgina with her stupid boyfriend, and it just…well, alcohol made things easier."

It's the first time he's admitted to being in love with his best friend. I feel slightly uneasy, unsure whether to comfort him or say something empathetic.

"He's not stupid, actually," Luke continues, "His name's Alexander. He's on my quidditch team, and he's a really decent guy. But that doesn't stop him from being a tosser."

His rubs his fingers over his eyes, looking tired.

"I was so sure I was over her. I thought the feelings would all fade away eventually. But they haven't. If anything they've just gotten worse. They're worse now than they were yesterday, and in an hour from now they'll probably be even worse than that."

I can't help but reach out and put a hand over his arm, trying to offer him some sort of comfort. You can see the weariness in his eyes, the frustration, over loving someone who will never love you back.

"Does she know you feel like this?" I ask him tentatively.

"I've told her that I want to be more than friends a few times," he nods. "I even told her I loved her last summer. Do you know what she said? She patted me on the shoulder and said, 'Luke. You don't love me.' Like it was some sort of joke. And that was that. She keeps continuing like nothing happened. She keeps dating, never noticing that I never date anyone. Even this morning, she laughed at me for snogging Rose. She didn't even care that it happened. I thought she might be even a tiny bit jealous, but…" He takes a deep breath, and chuckles darkly, "I'm just as much of a mess as you. Probably an even bigger one."

There's something so endearing about him just spilling his feelings like this, sounding so hurt and so frustrated that it makes me ache to listen to it. This boy seemed so perfect to me the first time I met him, so handsome and clever and kind. And yet he hurts just like the rest of us. So I tell him with a small smile, "I like mess. Mess is always better than being perfect."

"It's pathetic," he mutters to himself.

"It's not," I insist, "And trust me, you're not pathetic at all."

He sighs, "I swear at times I think no one out there is as hopeless as I am."

I start laughing, "OK, that's a little pathetic."

He laughs at that, "That did sound pretty morbid, didn't it?"

"Look," I sigh, "If it makes you feel any better, this morning I agreed to be 'just friends' with the guy that I'm certifiably mad for."

"It doesn't make me feel better, funnily enough."

"Oh, weird, I was so sure it would."

We sat in a comfortable silence for a few moments.

"So, we're both pathetic losers with no love lives to speak of," I say slowly, "What do you say we wallow in mutual self-pity once in a while? You know, at dinner, or here in the library. Maybe even over a warm fire whisky to drown our sorrows..."

"You mean…let's be friends?" Luke asks.

Well, there goes my attempt at trying to be coy.

"I think that would suit me pretty well," I nod, "What about you?"

He smiles at me, "I reckon it would suit me too."

"Cool," I grin.

"Cool," He nods, looking distinctly more cheerful, "Well, I have to run. I've got Charms in five minutes. And tell Rose I'm sorry, would you? I hope she isn't too embarrassed by what happened last night."

"You and me both," I mutter.

 

*              *                   *

 

Rose was still, very much, embarrassed, by the time we all returned to the dormitory that evening.

I handed her the wrapped up sandwiches and the mug of tea that I had saved from dinner, both of which she accepted happily. 

"Was Scorpius there?" she asks us as soon as we enter the doorframe, "Did he look pissed?"

"He wasn't there," I reply, "In fact, come to think of it I haven't seen him all day."

"He wasn't in Herbology," Lexie says curiously.

Rose looks even more anxious, "Shit, he's definitely avoiding avoiding me."

"So two students absent in one day, all because they're terrified of running in to one another," Ray sighs, "Oh, the irony."

She looks somewhat depressed since this afternoon's shouting session with Albus in the library, more subdued and quiet than usual.

Rose sighs hopelessly and flops down on her bed again. 

"Rose, at some point you have to face the music," Lexie says, "You can't hide here forever."

"Watch me," Rose mutters with her face buried in the covers.

"You know what? You've been feeling sorry for yourself all day, and I'm sick of it," Lexie snaps.

The sound of her voice, harsh and cold, makes all of us stare at her in shock. 

Lexie seems to recover her wits and goes slightly pink, "Sorry. I don't mean to snap. But, well, this would easily resolve itself if you just got up and talked to Scorpius. You're a Gryffindor, for Merlin's sake. Have some guts, will you?"

"You mean the way you had guts when you told Cameron how you feel about him?" Rose snaps, looking annoyed, "Oh, that's right. You never told him."

Lexie goes from slightly pink to flaming scarlet, "I don't know what you're talking-"

"Don't play dumb, it's obvious," Rose says, "You practically drool whenever you see him, then suddenly he wants to go out with you and you tell him to fuck off. And now you're at every party pining for him. So don't give me that rubbish about having guts."

 "He embarrassed me in front of the entire common room, and then he brought another date to your party," Lexie cries, "None of that was my fault! This was your fault! You practically dragged Scorpius through the mud all year and then you kiss the first quidditch player who was drunk enough!"

Rose looks outraged, now off the bed and standing on both feet, her red hair still sticky from last night's hairspray,"I asked Scorpius out, and he was an arse!"

"Well, so was Cameron!"

"Only because he thought you weren't interested in him! Because you were sending mixed signals!"

"You want to talk about mixed signals?" Lexie raises her eyebrows, "You lead Scorpius on for an entire year, then you act like you don't know him and then you want to date him? No wonder to poor guy is avoiding you! You're a mess!"

"Well no wonder Cameron is dating other girls! You don't even know how to tell a guy you're interested, let alone have the guts to say anything to him! I mean, you ran after him with your little school girl crush, tutoring him every week hoping he'd miraculously fall in love with you, and he only noticed you once Stella pointed it out to him! Which is a testament to how thick he is, because it was so embarrassingly obvious!"

OH SHIT.

I forgot that Rose doesn't know when to shut up when she's angry.

And sure enough, Lexie spins around to glare at me, the full force of her anger no longer directed at Rose.

"You told him!" she cries.

"I-" I stammer, my tongue tied in what feels like a double knot. 

I do not deal well with confrontation, especially when I'm 100% the guilty party.

"You promised you wouldn't!" Lexie continues, "Why would you tell him?"

"I'm sorry!" I plead with her, "It just slipped out! I couldn't help it!"

"Yeah, you can't help yourself can you Stella?" Lexie snaps coldly, "Because you have no idea how to control your own words."

"I'm sorry!" I reiterate, "It honestly just slipped out without me meaning for it to!"

"That's always the problem, isn't it Stella? You never mean to, it's never your fault. Why don't you just admit that you enjoy meddling in everyone's else's lives?"

"What?" I cry, "Of course I don't!"

"Really?" Lexie rolls her eyes, "You tell Cameron that I like him. You 'fake-date' Albus so he can get closer to Ray, which by the way was the stupidest idea I've ever heard. Was that an accident? Did that slip out because of your big mouth?"

"Hey!" Rose looks even angrier now, "Leave her alone!"

"OH WOULD YOU ALL PLEASE SHUT THE HELL UP?" comes a loud yell from the other side of the room.

We all swivel around to see Ray standing beside her own bed, looking furious.

We're all too stunned into silence to reply. We all stare at her.

"You're all being ridiculous!" Ray shouts, "Crying about your love lives like it actually matters in the grand scheme of things! Instead of actually being proactive, you're just throwing yourselves a little pity party. Rose, for the love of god, if you don't settle things with Scorpius soon I'm going to drag you down to the Slytherin common room with my own bare hands. And for Merlin's sake, that's my brother you're talking about. Lexie has the right to call Cameron an arse, but you certainly don't."

Lexie dares to have a look of smug satisfaction on her face before Ray turns her furious gaze on her, "And you're no better! What did you expect Cameron would do? My brother doesn't date. He's got the emotional maturity of a flobberworm, and you expected him to come out with some grand sweeping gesture? If you did then you're kidding yourself. And after you told him to fuck off, he wallowed in sorrow for a month. All of Christmas I had to deal with him moaning about how much he liked you. And this whole time you liked him too, you just weren't gutsy enough to admit it! Either that or you think he's not good enough for you! But stop acting like he has to pine over you forever! You should be grateful to Stella for telling him, because otherwise who knows whether you would have ever plucked up the courage to tell him yourself!"

"And we're the only one's too cowardly to confront a boy, are we?" Rose snaps at her suddenly, "You've liked Albus ever since October, and now it's January. Where's your confession of undying love, huh? You're so full of big, tough words about how boys are scum, pretending like they don't affect you, but every time Albus and his girlfriend are around you can't even bear to be in the same room! You took Fred to my party to make him jealous, and I don't care. Do whatever you want. But don't pretend like Lexie and I are pathetic when we aren't doing anything different from you."

Ray stares at her for minute, and Rose's chest heaves with the effort of shouting. She looks like she can't quite believe she just said that.

For about a second, Ray looks completely blank. Then suddenly she says, "Chocolate fudge."

We all stare at her.

Is this it? Has Ray finally gone bonkers?

"What?" the word slips out of my mouth, sounding incredulous.

"That's what we need," Ray elaborates, "We need chocolate fudge."

"What the fuck are you on about?" Rose stares at her.

"Well, you and Lexie are sad and angry, and I'm full of shit," Ray explains, "We need chocolate fudge. And pumpkin juice."

"Why?" Lexie stares at her.

"Well, I'll be damned if we're throwing a pity party without chocolate fudge and pumpkin juice," Ray says quickly, "I'm going down to the kitchens."

And with that she leaves the dormitory determinately, leaving us all standing stock still.

A very awkward pause ensues.

Rose is the first one to break it, "I didn't mean what I said. About your crush on Cameron being obvious. It wasn't."

"And I didn't mean anything of what I said, either," Lexie mutters, "You're not really a mess."

"Yes I am. And so are you," Rose replies, stepping forward suddenly and putting her arms around her, pulling her into a choking hug.

I stand there awkwardly, unsure sure if Lexie's forgiveness extends to me.

But then Lexie pulls away from Rose and rushes over to hug me, "I'm so sorry about what I said. You don't have a big mouth."

"I'm sorry I told him," I reiterate, "But honestly, Rose is right, you did a good job of hiding it. He was completely dumbfounded when he found out."

"Only because I was barely on his radar," Lexie rolls her eyes, wiping something that looks like tears from her eyes, "He probably didn't even know who you were talking about."

"I think it was more because he never thought someone as clever as you could ever be interested in him," I reply.

"For someone so arrogant, he has crippling self-esteem," Rose remarks casually.

"Why do you think he got so drunk before he asked you out?" I ask, "He needed the courage."

Lexie opens her mouth, looking slightly pleased in spite of herself, but she's interrupted by the dormitory door opening.

Ray comes in, and Rose looks over, "Back already? The kitchens must be closer than I thought."

"Actually, I never got to the kitchens," she says, a careful, composed look on her face, "I bumped into someone outside the portrait hole, asking if someone could let him so he could talk to you. He's waiting in the common room now, and it's empty."

Rose's expression changes into one of complete horror, "Oh god," she hisses.

She runs towards the bathroom, but Lexie and I grab a firm hold of her arm and drag her back.

"You're going down there," I tell her firmly.

"I can't!"

"You can."

"I look like I've been living underground!"

"That's no one's fault but your own," Lexie reminds her, "Come on. He's waiting."

"Just tell him I'm sick!"

Ray leans out of the dormitory door and shouts down to someone at the bottom of the stairs, "She'll be down in a second, Scorpius!"

"Shut up," Rose hisses, still struggling against our grip.

"You need to talk to him," I tell her, "If he's here, that means he's making the first move."

"I'm in my pyjamas!"

Ray pulls out her wand and waves it quickly at her dressing gown hanging over a chair. The dressing gown sails over and slides over Rose's narrow frame.

"All ready," Ray says smugly, "Now go."

"Fine!" she says, "I'll go. But when I die of embarrassment, be sure to write on my tombstone: Rose Weasley, she died as she lived, with crap friends."

"We shall," Lexie smiles at her, giving her a firm push towards the door. 

Rose walks out of the dormitory with one last forlorn look, leaving the three of us standing there.

"Well, are we eavesdropping, or aren't we?" Lexie asks impatiently.

We all follow her to the landing at the top of the stairs, and keep quiet, listening in.

Surprisingly, Rose is the first one to talk, her voice sounding tense and uneasy, "OK, look if you've come here to get mad at me, could you be quick about it?"

Scorpius' voice is decidedly calm, "I'm not here to get mad at you."

"Get mad, give me a lecture, what's the difference?" Rose sighs.

"I'm here to apologize," he says.

There's about a 5 second pause. Then Rose says, "What do you mean?"

"I'm here to apologize for the horrible things I said to you last night. At your own birthday. You didn't deserve them."

"What? Of course I did. You were right about all of it."

"No, I wasn't," he says, "None of what I said was fair."

"I should never have told you that we should just ignore one another," Rose mutters, "When you got injured like that during the match, I realised how much I cared. And I never apologised."

"But you still didn't deserve those horrible things I said, especially not at your own birthday party. Or any location, really."

"You mean, you're not angry about me snogging Luke Corner?"

"No. When I saw you two…you know, I left because I couldn't believe what an idiot I was. I'd blown yet another chance I had with you."

"But you still didn't deserve all the crap I put you through," she mutters.

"You know who started all of this? Me. I was the one who asked you out the first time, and of course you would say no. Who was I kidding? I had pretended like I hated you for five years. And I was the one who was stupid enough to hook up with a ravenclaw the minute my pride was a bit bruised."

"But I should have realised that I liked you sooner. Because I do, Scorpius. I really like you."

"Well, that's convenient," he says, and his voice sounds warm, "Because I'm in love with you."

There's a slight lull in the conversation.

"Damn, I wish I could have looked hot when you told me that," Rose replies, a small chuckle in her voice.

"Yeah, I wish I didn't have to wait outside the portrait hole for two hours waiting for someone to let me in so I could tell you that" he says, laughing along with her.

"I love you too," Rose murmurs quietly, "You know that, right?"

"Please, I'm six and a half feet of pure insecure, awkward anxiety. How could you resist?"

There's a pause, that grows longer.

"Are they kissing?" Lexie mouths at me.

But a reply from Scorpius answers her question.

"Can I kiss you now?" he asks, his voice filled with pure, unadulterated happiness.

Rose answers, "Hmm, nah. Reckon I can do better."

Scorpius laughs softly, and it lulls into silence.

It feels weird to keep eavesdropping, so the three of us make our way back into dormitory.

"I guess the pity party's off then," Ray mutters, sounding annoyed, "And I was really looking forward to that fudge."

 




A/N: I know, I know, I suck. I haven't updated this in what feels like forever.

I've got my excuses, but let's face it you guys probably don't really care that much, so I'll skip to saying that I tried my best with this chapter, and I hope that all of you liked it!

Thank you so much if you've stuck with me until now. If you've been following from Chapter 1, or from chapter 18, I really appreciate all your wonderful reviews, and I would love it if you continue to leave them!

I would say there'll be about 6 more chapters until the end, and then i'll try and wrap it up with a nice neat bow! I've got to say I never expected the story to go in these sorts of directions. Hard to believe I started over two years ago!




PS: holy crap, harry potter is coming back everyone! Fantastic Beasts and Where To find them!! Are you excited? I'm excited.



Chapter 19: The Times Have Changed
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Disclaimer: JKR is the proud owner of Harry Potter. I am the proud owner of this particular story. They're both totally the same thing, OK? 






  "It's disgusting is what it is," James mutters.

"Seriously, I think I'm going to throw up," Ray nods in agreement.

"I shouldn't have tried the chocolate pudding at dinner," Fred says, "Now I'm starting to feel nauseous."

"I can feel my eyes burning," I mutter, "Farewell retinas, you have served me well."

"I think it's sweet," Lexie says, a small smile on her face.

"Sweet?" Fred utters incredulously, staring at her with wide eyes.

"My Great Aunt Petunia's cat Tibbles bites, scratches and claws anyone who comes within a five meter radius," James adds, "And I would still rather spend the day with Tibbles than watch this."

"I've known Bat Bogey Hexes that were sweeter than this," Ray agrees.

From across the room, Rose detached herself from Scorpius' lips, and glares over at us, "We can hear everything you're saying."

"Good, then you know that it's gross and you should stop," James replies.

"Just because you haven't got a girlfriend," Rose taunts.

"If I had a girlfriend, I would snog her in private," James mutters, looking annoyed, "Not in the middle of the bloody common room where everyone could see."

"Seriously, doesn't Scorpius need to come up for air?" Ray ask dubiously, "Are we sure he's not suffocating?"

"I think he's surviving," Lexie replies, as Scorpius gets a firmer grip on Roses thigh and pulls her lips back down to his.

"Ugh, and that's the sound of my dinner resurfacing," Fred mutters, "Goodnight."

He gets up and leaves up the staircase towards the dormitory.

"I've got an essay to finish for tomorrow," Lexie says, "I think I'm going to see if Madame Pince will let me study there for a few more hours. It's like a madhouse in here."

"Funny, you would think that Rose and Scorpius would have scared everyone off," Ray says, "I'll go with you to the library, Lex. There's a book I want on dangerous hexes."

"And what exactly would you want that for?" I ask her nervously.

Ray pauses, "Research on an essay I'm doing."

And then she and Lexie leave through the portrait hole, leaving James and I sitting in our armchairs, very much alone.

"She's probably just getting bored of using Bat Bogey hex on people," I say, "Maybe she's looking for a little variety."

"The spice of life," he nods.

I frown at him, "What?"

"Variety is the spice of life," he elaborates, "Haven't you heard of…never mind."

We've tried our best over the last few days to act like we're friends, but it's not working out as well as we'd hoped. There are constant lulls in our conversations and it's becoming unbearable.

"So, er, what time is practice tomorrow?" I ask him. Talking about quidditch seems to be a fair way out.

"7 am," he replies, "Bright and early."

I groan, "Why can't we do it at a reasonable hour?"

"What to you is a reasonable hour?" he frowns, "8? 9?"

"I was going to say 1pm," I reply.

At the look of horror on his face I add quickly, "Relax, I'm teasing."

"Oh," he nods awkwardly, "Right."

He leans back in his chair by the fire, and I find it hard not to focus on his loosened tie around his neck, or the strong muscles in his arms. 

No Stella, he is your friend now. Just your friend. And friends don't look at other friends that way. Friends don't think about putting their hands-

NO. THINK OF SOMETHING DIFFERENT. 

SERIOUSLY, ANYTHING.

"Crappy weather we're having, isn't it?" I attempt.

Anything except that.

James nods to the window, "I know. I thought the snow would last until the end of January, but apparently not."

"I hope the rain'll stop soon," I add.

We are discussing the weather. I hate everything.

But thankfully Merlin has decided to take pity on me in the form of a friendly seventh year named Malcom, who comes over to James.

"Hey, James."

"Hey, Malcom," James replies, looking relieved for the pause in our horrible conversation.

"Have you heard about the party for Grace's birthday?"

Grace Prewett is Malcom's girlfriend, and she's one of the most stunning girl's I've ever seen. She's also one of Eve's best friends.

"No, I haven't, when is it?" James asks Malcom.

"The 10th of February," he replies, "It's in a few weeks, but I just thought I'd let you know now."

"Oh, OK. Thanks, mate. I'll be there," James nods.

"Cool," Malcom nods. He shoots an apologetic glance in my direction, "Sorry. It's seventh years only."

"Er, that's OK," I reply, feeling slightly resentful. 

Whatever. I don't want to go to the stupid party anyway. 

"Why only seventh years?" James asks curiously.

"Grace wants to keep it classy, or something," Malcom replies, shrugging, "She says you can bring a sixth year as a date, though. But I'm sure you'll have no problem pulling one of the seventh year girls. What about Eve? I'm sure she'd go with you."

James looks extremely uncomfortable, "Er, thanks, Malcom. But I'm not really looking for a date."

"Well," Malcom shrugs, "Just thought you should know. See you later then."

He leaves us alone, and the silence is even more uncomfortable than before he arrived.

I'm not sure I could stand it if James started dating Eve. The idea makes my blood boil, even just thinking about it.

"Well, that sounds like a blast," I say, trying my best to keep the bitterness out of my voice.

"I don't know if I'll go," he shrugs, trying to look casual, "Grace is kind of stuck up."

Even though I've never even spoken to Grace, even though it's none of my business, I feel annoyed, like I want to get angry with him. It's bizarre and completely unfounded, and it's not even his fault, but I still feel irritated.

"Do you always think you're above everyone else?" I snap.

James looks at me in surprise, "What? Do you have a problem with me or something?"

"Nothing," I roll my eyes.

"Yeah, that's obvious," he glares at me.

"Why do you always have to act so high and mighty?" I ask, my feelings bubbling up and over, "I mean is no girl ever going to reach your ridiculous standards, are they?"

"I don't have standards," he says incredulously.

"Well I'm sure Eve Collins would meet your so called non-existent standards," I snap, "Or is she too annoying? Or too overbearing? Or too whatever?"

"Look, I don't know what your problem is," James says angrily, "But again I don't have any standards. Just because I think Grace is stuck up doesn't mean I don't like Eve."

"Oh, so you like her?" I ask, aware of how childish I'm beginning to sound, "Think you'll ask her to Grace's party after all, do you?"

"I never said that!" James puts his head in his hands, "What has gotten into you?"

"I'm going to bed," I reply angrily, "See you at practice tomorrow."

I get up without waiting to hear his reply, but I hear him muttering something like "Fuck," under his breath as I pass.

I realise that I'm being immature and completely unreasonable but I still stomp up to the dormitory with extra vigour, trying to prove a point to someone who isn't actually there.

Why the fuck am I being such a child? James doesn't even like Eve like that. He said he wasn't even looking for a date, and I had acted like he had just snogged her in front of me.

And even then my response would be inappropriate, considering we're just friends.

Fuck, I've never hated a word so much. Friend.

James and I are something. But that isn't friends. Friends knew how to be in the same room without snapping at one another. Friends know how to have a conversation without awkward pauses and inappropriate leering at muscles under shirts. 

The problem isn't the fact that we have to pretend to be friends, when we're not, it's the fact that if we didn't have that label, I'd have no clue what we were. Would we have continued to snog occasionally, and avoid conversations about feelings? Or would we have become more? Would we be boyfriend and girlfriend? Had the idea even entered James' mind. It had barely even entered my own.

It was strange, considering that I'd considered myself in love with him for the last four years, but I'd never really thought about what it would be like to date him. I'd gotten so used to pining over him from afar that when something actually happened I had no idea where we stood or how I felt.

Shouldn't I have been more ecstatic when it happened at the time? I'm sure the idea of kissing James would have thrilled me a few months ago. But now, the idea fills me with a alien sense of panic and confusion. 

I burst into the dormitory, fully prepared to rant for an hour to one of my friends, only to find it's completely empty.

Of course, Ray and Lexie are in the library. And Rose is downstairs with her tongue down Scorpius' throat.

I feel suddenly tired. Snapping unnecessarily at boys who you're supposed to be friends with but secretly still have feelings for takes it out of you.

So instead of ranting, I curl up onto my bed, and even though it's still ridiculously early, I find myself drifting off to sleep.

 

*        *       *

 

"SHIT!"

My eyelids open drowsily as my brain starts to register sounds of panic coming from somewhere to my left.

Suddenly Rose is hanging over me, her red hair tickling my face, "Stel, get up! Quidditch practice started half and hour ago!"

I sit up straight in bed, "What do you mean, quidditch started half an hour ago?" I ask her, sounding just as horrified as I was.

"Oh, I actually meant that hippogriffs have started to fall from the sky," Rose snaps, rushing over to her open wardrobe to pull out quidditch robes, "Did you not catch my drift?"

"But-but-"

"Oh, stop stammering and just get dressed!" Rose cries.

That comment spurs me to action. I throw off the bed covers and start to rummage around in my cupboard for my robes.

"James is going to murder us," Rose whines as she pulls on her boots.

I don't comment on that because talking about James will only make the lump in my throat grow even more. And right now it's about the size of Jupiter.

Once we're both dressed, shoe laces undone and hair haphazardly tugged into suitable plaits, we both race down to the quidditch pitch at top speed. Rose can out run me easily, and soon she's at least fifty paces ahead of me. I gasp for air but we keep going. Death by heart attack is still more favourable than death by angry quidditch captain.

We both reach the field, to see that the team have already started. They're passing the quaffle to and fro, which means they've already finished the warm up.

James notices us and lands, looking just as surly and annoyed as I imagined he would.

"Right on time," he says, sounding very irritated.

Rose gasps, "Sorry! We overslept!"

"Get your brooms and get in the air," he says quickly.

Rose obliges immediately, rushing off to the broom shed.

I feel like I should say something to him, "Look, I don't know what happened. We had an alarm but-"

"I don't want to hear your excuses," he says sharply, turning away from me and straddling his broom again, ready for take off, "You've wasted enough of the team's time already."

"It's only half an hour," I protest. I know we're late but I feel like he's still being unreasonable. "You're overreacting."

"Whoops," he mutters, "I must have forgotten how much you hate overreaction."

It's a deliberate jab for last night. I feel my cheeks flush bright red.

"I'm sorry about last night, OK?" I try to reason with him, "Come on, James, we're supposed to be friends."

"Well right now, I'm not your friend. I'm your captain. So if you don't get your broom this instant you'll be running laps around the pitch for the next half and hour. Maybe then you'll get a sense of how long that amount of time actually is."

And he kicks off, without another word.

I feel like punching something and crying all at the same time. But instead I follow Rose to the broom shed, grab my broom and kick off angrily.

If he wants to be a tool, fine. Going back to hating his guts is fine with me. 

As I swoop into the air, I notice for a brief moment of happiness, that I no longer feel that familiar feeling of nausea as soon as my feet leave the ground.

But that moment is soon gone as soon as James calls us all towards the centre of the pitch, the grim look of annoyance still firmly on his face. 

"Right," he says, "Now that Rose and Stella have been kind enough to grace us with their presence…"

Said by anyone else it would be a joke. But the way James says it no one laughs. Rose and I glance at one another awkwardly.

"…As you all know," he continues, "We've got our match against Ravenclaw coming up next week. Now they've got a fantastic team this year. Not as good as ours, but then again I'm sure none of their players show up late to practice."

He doesn't bother shooting Rose and I a look, but his words sting enough without it.

"We're going to be practicing every day, without fail, no excuses," he says, "We need to be in tip top shape if we want a clean win next Saturday."

"We are in tip top shape," Archer mutters grudgingly from the opposite side of the circle.

James suddenly throws the quaffle hard at Archer's face. It races towards him and Archer only manages to grab it last second, taking a heavy blow to the stomach.

"What was that for?" he grimaces.

"If you were in tip top shape you would have caught that without looking like you're going to fall off your broom," James says sharply, "Anyone else like a quick test to see if they're up to my standards?"

No one replies.

"Good," he says firmly, "Let's practice then."

*            *            *

"I'm pretty sure I've broken my collar bone," Cameron winces as we make our way up to the castle, sore, bloody and bruised.

"You would know if you had," Rose says firmly, although her voice is weakening, "But it is possible that you're suffering short term memory loss from that blow to the head."

"I think I'm just going to crawl into my bed and die," Fred moans, "And ask Merlin why he ever thought it would be a good idea to make that my cousin."

"That was worse than usual, right?" I whimper, "I mean, it's not just because I've forgotten, being off the team for so long?"

They all shake their heads. Fred replies, "That made old James Potter look like our fairy godmother."

So I was right. It had been an unusually horrible practice.

From start to finish James had shouted at us, berated us, thrown quaffles from every direction and called us babies when we didn't catch them. If we made three mistakes in a row, it was three laps around the pitch. 

To top it all off it was absolutely freezing, and there had been a horrible bout of January rain half way through, so we had all gotten soaked to the skin.

It was closer to boot camp than a team sport.

"I don't see how we're going to win against Ravenclaw if we're all hospitalised by next Saturday," Rose mutters.

"If you two are late again," Cameron says, "I swear I'll be up in your dormitory at six am screaming in your ears until you wake up, every day until the end of term."

"It wasn't just our fault!" Rose snaps, "He was in a horrible mood from the beginning, you could tell."

"Yeah, he was," Fred agrees, "Stella what on earth did you do to him?"

I double take, "Wait-what? Why am I to blame for this?"

"Whenever James is in a bad mood, he always takes it out on us at quidditch practice," Fred explains, "And he's always in a bad mood after you've done something."

"What about him?" I shriek, feeling very defensive, "Maybe sometimes he's the prick and I just tell him to shove it!"

"Keep your voice down," Cameron says,"My head hurts, and I'm sure there are some mermaids in the Black lake who didn't quite hear you."

"Well stop accusing me of something I didn't do," I snap. Even though James' bad mood probably had more than a little to do with my angry outburst last night. Still, it wasn't fair to blame every angry mood on me.

"We're not saying it's your fault," Fred elaborates, trying to calm the situation, "Still, maybe try not to pick so many fights with him."

"I didn't-"

"I'd think carefully before you finish that," Rose raises an eyebrow at me.

I keep my lips shut, having forgotten that Rose was still in the common room when I'd pissed James off last night, and had probably witnessed everything. I'd thought she was too enamoured with Scorpius' tonsils to notice much else.

"We should do a little experiment," Fred says, "Stella should be really, really nice to James for a day, and if he eases up we know why."

"I'm not going to be nice to him just to save us a few difficult practices," I reply sharply.

"That wasn't a practice," Fred mutters, "That was like the initiation for hell."

"It wasn't that bad," I try weakly.

"My ears are still ringing from when he yelled at me for not having quick enough reflexes," Cameron mutters.

"Look, all we're asking is that you suck it up and snog him a little bit," Fred shrugs, "He'll be right as rain the next day, you'll see."

"I will not!" I reply angrily, "How dare you-"

"You've done it before," Fred says, "Why not?"

"I have not-"

"Save it, Stella," Rose says, "Everyone here knows."

"…oh," I mutter, going bright red, "Well, just because I've done it before doesn't mean I'd be OK with doing it again."

Correction: I would be very, very OK with doing it again.

"How bad can it be?" Fred asks, "I know he's angry and moody all the time, but I'm sure he'd make a very gentle lov-"

"Fred, stop, right there," Rose says, "Before I throw up."

Fred throws up his hands, "Fine! If you don't want to snog him, at least pretend to be nice to him. For our sakes?"

"There is no correlation between my attitude towards James, and his mood the next day."

"Fine, be nice to him and prove me wrong," Fred shrugs, as we cross over the threshold into the entrance hall.

Lexie, who is waiting outside the great hall for us, waves a hello.

"Er, I'm going upstairs," Cameron mutters quickly, catching sight of her, "See you all later."

"Mate, are you sure?" Fred asks, "I heard they've got bacon this morning."

Cameron doesn't look enticed enough to change his mind.

As he walks away, hands stuck firmly in his pockets with his shoulders hunched, I say to the others, "I'll be right back, OK?"

I jog after Cameron to catch up, since he's already walked speedily away. 

"Hey, Cameron, wait!" I cry after him.

He stops, finally, and turns to look at me, "Something you need, Artois?"

I'm slightly out of breath and don't have time to bother with the pleasantries, "You should ask her out again."

"What?" Cameron frowns, "Who?"

Maybe he really is as thick as everyone thought, "Lexie, you idiot," I snap, "You've done enough moping, and she still really likes you."

"That's funny," he mutters, looking unaffected by this information, "The last time I asked her to be my girlfriend she screamed at me in front of the entire common room."

"No, but, maybe, this time you need to ask her under better circumstances," I reply eagerly, "Maybe a little less drunk this time."

"No," Cameron shakes his head, "There is no this time, because I'm not asking her again. If she likes me so much she can tell me herself."

My eager expression drops off my face, "But she thinks you don't like her anymore."

"Good," Cameron snaps, sounding more and more irritated, "Let her keep thinking that."

"If you just-"

"No, Artois. Stop," he sounds angry now, "You told me about her feelings. And when I got some of my own, you told me to act on them. And look how that turned out. My previous experiences of following your advice have all gone south for me, so stop telling me what to do. And stop trying to fix your friends love lives. It's getting more and more obvious that it's only because you have no idea how to control your own."

 That last bit hurt more than I wanted it to. I don't say anything.

Cameron bites his lip, "Shit. OK, that came out all wrong, I didn't mean-"

I put up a hand to stop his flow of words, glaring at him, "It's fine. I'll stop interfering."

"Come on, Artois, you know I didn't mean it like that."

"Yes, you did," I reply monotonously, "And you're right. I can't handle my own love life. So I'll leave you too it then, shall I? Clearly you've got everything under control."

I spun around on my heel and left him standing there.

 

*               *              * 

 

"I can't believe he said that!" Rose says that evening at dinner.

"Well it's true, isn't it?" I mutter, picking glumly at my dinner with my fork.

"Of course it isn't!" Rose cries, "Don't be ridiculous. Who really knows what they're doing with their love lives anyway?"

"Well you and Scorpius seemed to find it easy enough," I mutter.

Rose scoffs, "Yes, exactly. Five years of hating each others guts, and one year of tortured betrayal, lies and false hope later here we are, blissful as can be."

I'm about to open my mouth to reply, but Scorpius appears out of nowhere, crouches behind Rose and covers her eyes with his palms before she notices him there.

"Guess who?" he grins, leaning into her.

"Peeves?" Rose asks, grinning "Peeves, is that you?"

"Very funny."

"Let me guess again," she says, "Hmm, you know, you sound a lot like my boyfriend."

Scorpius removes his hands from her eyes and takes the spot on the bench next to her, "Good guess."

Rose pretends to look blank when she sees him, "Oh, sorry. I thought you sounded a lot like my boyfriend. He should be coming soon. Stella, have you seen him?"

I shake my head, doing my best to play into their little game without stabbing myself in the eye with my fork.

"You're quite the comedian," Scorpius raises an eyebrow.

"Why aren't you laughing then?" Rose grins at him.

"Ha ha," he utters, before placing his lips on hers and drawing her in.

Despite how happy I am for her, it's still sickening to watch.

"Oi!" Fred shouts from further down the table, "Some of us are trying to eat here."

That only reminds me of how little of an appetite I have, and I get up.

"Oh, Stella don't go," Rose says, "We won't snog, I promise."

I give her a small smile, "It's fine. I'm not hungry, and I just realised that I still have a potions thingy due tomorrow. Snog away."

"No, really, don't," Fred shakes his head at Rose.

I leave the great hall, hoping to return to the dormitory in peace so I can wallow in self pity.

However, as I make my way along the corridor towards the common room, I hear loud voices around the corner.

I edge closer to the corner, wandering if I should keep walking.

"I don't understand you. I really don't," comes a girl's voice.

"Look, it's more complicated than that," comes the reply.

I recognise Al's voice almost immediately. Which means that the girl talking to him is-

"All I know is that you used to be nice, and now you're snapping at me every chance you get! If you really can't stand me, then why don't you just break up with me?" Cecily snaps.

"Of course I don't want to break up with you!" Al says, sounding exasperated.

"Really? Because ever since Rose's party you've been acting like I'm some dead weight who keeps following you around."

"I'm sorry, OK? I'm really busy with quidditch stuff, and school-"

"I've seen the way you look at her, Albus."

There's a silence. When Albus replies he sounds like he's got something blocking his throat, "What?"

"I'm not an idiot," Cecily replies cooly, though her voice is trembling, "Ever since she brought Fred as her date, you haven't stopped being angry. I saw you glaring at her across the bloody dinner table yesterday, it was that obvious. And I heard about your little altercation in the library last week."

"Cecily, I don't like her like tha-"

"The fact that you know who I'm talking about is proof that you're lying to me," she sounds even angrier now, "When you decide whether it's me or her you want, let me know so I know if I'm wasting my time."

I hear the rapid footsteps moving down the corridor.

Tentatively I turn the corner, embarrassed to have almost heard the entire thing.

Albus is banging his head slowly against the stone wall, his eyes closed.

"Al?" I approach him gently.

He turns quickly, before his eyes settle on me, "Oh, it's you. I guess you heard all of that, did you?"

"The last bit, yes," I nod.

"Oh good," he mutters.

"You…you still haven't figured out what to do?" I ask him.

"Did you gather that much from our conversation?" Al says, a slight edge to his voice, "Your powers of perception have surpassed my expectations."

When I say nothing in return he sighs, "Sorry. I've been on edge lately."

"Really?" I reply dryly.

"I'm a real screw up, aren't I?" he mutters.

"A bit."

 "I mean, of course I want to be with Cecily," he mutters, "I do. But Ray…she's a bloody pain that girl."

I smile a little, "Do you still like her that much?"

"What does it matter now?" says Albus moodily, "She's hated me since she found out what I did."

I find it hard to disagree with that. 

"Help me, Stella," he moans.

"Oh no," I laugh, "Last time I helped you was how we got ourselves into this mess."

"You're right," he nods, "I'll go and ask Rose."

I roll my eyes, "Someday you're going to need to figure your shit our on your own."

"Yes but you and Rose figure out my shit so much better than I can," he whines.

"Well, let's hope you learn fast," I say, "Especially now that Rose is so busy with Scorpius."

Albus' face contorts into an expression of disgust, "You know, when I spent all that time pushing them to get together, I never thought about how repulsive I would find watching my best friend snogging my cousin."

I chuckle, "Let's get you to dinner," I sigh, "You look like you could eat something."

"Yes, mum," he snorts, but he still takes the arm I offer him and we walk to the great hall together.

"Albus?" I ask him, "Do you think I can't control my own love life?"

"What?" he frowns.

I shake my head, "Something Cameron said. I mean, do you think it's just me, or do you think none of us can do anything but let things take their natural course?"

Albus pauses for a moment, contemplating the idea, "Actually, I think we can be in control if we want to be. I think if we take matters into our own hands, then we make things happen. I mean, I wanted Ray, so I made a plan to get her."

"Look how well that turned out," I scoff.

He rolls his eyes, "I know the execution was piss poor, but it still got me further than I was at the beginning of this year. Ray knows who I am now. Even if she does hate me."

"So you think I should Carpe Diem that shit?" I ask.

He nods in agreement, "You should Carpe Diem that shit. I mean, at least then you know where you stand. Even if they don't like you, there's something better about knowing that than always being in the dark."

It made sense. But surely by not making a move, at least then you avoided being hurt.

"See," Albus continues, "Now I know that Ray doesn't feel the same way. It's not easy, but it helps in the moving on process."

I raise my eyebrows at him.

"I'm still working on the moving on process," he admits, "But, I'm getting there. I'll get there."

"Then I think you need to talk to Cecily," I reply.

"Hey, I thought I was giving you advice, not the other way around," he replies.

"The day I ask for romance advice from Albus Potter is a sad day," I sigh.

"Hey!" he looks indignant, "It's good advice, whether you choose to act on it or not."

"Fine, fine," I reply, "I'll take your advice under consideration."

We've reached the great hall, when I suddenly remember that I've already had dinner.

"You coming in?" he asks me.

"I, er, I have an essay to finish," I reply, "You alright to eat alone?"

"This may be hard to believe, but I have other friends besides you, Rose and Scorpius," he rolls his eyes at me.

"Fine," I push him towards the big doorway, "Go hang out with your mysterious other friends."

He grins at me, before leaving me in the entrance hall.

I do have an essay to finish, but right now working on that is the last thing I feel like doing.

Outside it's freezing, and I can feel the sharp winds blowing through the entrance hall from here, but it's dark and fresh, and it looks inexplicably inviting.

I fix my cloak over my shoulders more securely, and walk outside.

The harsh, cold air meets my face immediately, making me suck in a gasp.

But I keep going. I keep walking, out into the evening. The light is disappearing more and more quickly, with only a hint of sun behind the clouds.

And suddenly I find I'm at the quidditch pitch. It's completely deserted, and the sound from the castle is completely drowned out by the wind blowing in my ears.

I take a seat on the stands, wrapping my cloak around me tightly, and breathing into my hands to warm them up.

So Rose and Scorpius were happy. Cameron and Lexie were not. And Albus…well, maybe he'd go back to Cecily and apologize.

And here I was, not sure if I was sad, or happy, or even somewhere in between. 

I'd felt somehow more and more distant from my friends recently. 

I used to be silly, bubbly Stella, who never said anything appropriate, and didn't know how to keep her mouth shut.

…Well, that last part still held true.

I used to be the girl with the school girl crush on James Potter, who acted like he'd rather have a hernia than be around me. And yet, how is it possible that I now understand him even less than I did then?

He doesn't act like he hates being around me anymore…most of the time.

I mean, we're supposed to be friends. He agreed to it didn't he? Or did he suggest the arrangement? I can't even remember.

So why do I hate him so much, when he wanted to be my friend? He'd made an effort to talk to me. He was polite. He was even considerate. Why can't I appreciate that? Why did I have to snap at him when someone made a random inference to Eve Collins, who James barely even knows?

Because I didn't want to be his friend. It was that simple.

Even when I used to think that James Potter was so far out of my reach he might as well have been on Jupiter, I didn't want to be his friend. I will always want more, or nothing.

"Wood? What are you doing out here?"

I look around, and see through the darkening gloom, James Potter himself, peering up at me from the bottom of the stands.

"Why are you here?" I ask him carefully. Did he follow me? Did he want to say something?

"I left my notes from today's practice in the changing room," he replies, "Why are you here?"

"I wanted fresh air," I reply, shrugging, even though it's so cold that it feels like my shoulders are frozen to my neck.

"Right," he frowns, "It's like zero degrees right now. Aren't you freezing?"

"N-no," I reply, as my teeth chatter.

"You don't even have a scarf," he shakes his head, "Come on Wood, go inside."

That makes me irritated, "I'll go inside when I feel like it," I reply angrily.

He throws up his hands in frustration, "Fine. I'm going to get my notes."

But I'm still sitting there when he reemerges from the changing room. He sighs, "I'm going to have to carry you in at this rate. It's getting really dark, too."

I shake my head.

He lets out another exasperated sigh, "At least take my scarf, or something."

He doesn't wait for my approval, and unwinds his red and yellow scarf from around his neck and hands it to me. When I don't take it, he takes the scarf, leans forward and winds it around the back of my head and twists it near my neck. He even takes my plait and pulls it out from underneath the wool.

The warmth from the scarf already starts to generate heat, and I feel my shivering body start to relax a bit.

"Better?" he asks.

I refuse to give him the satisfaction and agree. Instead I look at my toes.

"What's wrong, Wood?" he asks, "You aren't even talking to me now?"

"I wouldn't think you'd want to talk to me after the way you spoke to me at practice," I reply angrily, "You'd think you hated me."

He pauses for a moment, then surprises me by taking a seat on the bench beside me.

"You know I don't hate you," he looks down at his fingers, suddenly very interested in his cuticles.

"You're not giving me much evidence to go on here," I reply.

"Fine, I was pissed off with you," he replies, "But what the hell was that last night? It was like you'd gone crazy."

"I was," I pause, "I was having a bad day, OK? It pissed me off when that guy said sixth years weren't allowed to come."

That's only a fraction of the truth. But I'm not ready to admit that the idea of him and Eve together was what really got my blood boiling.

"So you took it out on me?" he frowns.

"Like you took your anger out on the team this morning?" I ask, raising my eyebrows.

He frowns, "That wasn't about you. I was being tough. I have to be. The captain of the team isn't supposed to cuddle you when you make mistakes. They're supposed to make you get up and try again."

"What you were doing was closer to pushing them down even harder," I reply, "So none of that was about me?"

"No," he replies, "I mean, I was still annoyed with you about last night. But I would never take that out on the team."

Some part of me wants to run up to the castle and rub it in Fred's face. The other part is more than a little disappointed. There was a small part of me that sort of hoped I could have that sort of effect on his emotions. 

We sit there for a few moments, listening to the wind continue to howl.

"I want the team to be the best it can be," James continues suddenly, "We need to beat Ravenclaw, and there isn't another option."

"Is winning so important to you?" I ask him, "Would the world fall to pieces if you lost? If the team made mistakes?"

He looks down at the ground, but not before I catch a glimpse of a smile, "Sometimes I think it might."

"Well then you need a reality check," I scoff.

"Why are you on this team, if you don't want to win?" he asks me suddenly.

I pause, thinking about my answer before I give it, "Because…I like the team. I like playing the sport. I like it."

James raise his eyebrows, "There was a time when you wouldn't be caught dead saying that."

I shrug, "Times have changed."

"They certainly have," he replies.

He looks straight across at me then, and I can't help but look back. Our knees are close together, never quite touching. 

"I think we should give this friends thing another try," he says, his voice lower than usual.

I nod, "We just have to stop bickering, stop getting irritated with each other, and start being honest."

He nods, "I think that's a good idea. Almost impossible, with us, but I'll try."

"Hey," I look at him with a smile, "Was this our first grown up conversation?"

He grins back at me, "I think it might have been."

We sit there for a few moments, smiling at each other. I feel tongue tied and my stomach has a million butterflies in it.

"Well, I think we should go inside, otherwise you won't be around to be my friend, because you'll be frozen into a block of ice."

He stands up, offers me his hand.

I don't take it, however. I stand up and take a deep breath.

I need to tell him now. I'll never know otherwise, and it's killing me.

As Albus would say, Carpe Diem that shit.

"I don't want to be friends," I say breathlessly.

He stares at me, "What? Wood we literally just-"

"I know, I know," I cut across him, "I wasn't thinking. I-I don't want to be friends."

And before he can open his mouth again I grab his face between my hands and kiss him with all my might.

He puts his hands gently on my arms and pries them away. I back away, suddenly nervous.

"We can't," he says, his voice low and hoarse.

 I shake my head at him, "I know, that stupid rule, but James, you can just get rid of it. No one would mind! People would get over it!"

But he's still shaking his head, "Stella, I can't."

"Stop it," I reply, feeling desperate to kiss him again, "You can."

I lean forward and press my lips against his again, but this time he's more insistent and he steps away.

"It's not worth it," he exclaims suddenly, putting his hand to his forehead, not looking at me, "My cousins would hate me."

I take a step back from him, suddenly feeling ice cold all over, "You mean I'm not worth it."

"No!" he replies, "That's not what I meant! But what do we really have to go on here? It's not like we're childhood sweethearts! Arguments, then kissing, then more arguments, then drunken kissing."

"You know it's more than that," I reply, "At Rose's party we were-"

"Out of out minds drunk," he finishes the sentence for me, "I would have snogged Peeves I was so drunk!"

I stare at him, too shocked for words. 

He calculates my expression, "No, Stella, that came out all wrong. All I mean is that we didn't know what we were doing!"

"And that night at the New Years Eve party?" I ask him, my voice shaky, "When you told me that everything you saw reminded you of me? I wasn't drunk then."

He looks down at the ground, before uttering, "I was."

All of a sudden I feel about the size of a blade of grass. Shame, embarrassment and desperation are suddenly the only emotions I have.

And while I still feel small, it's like I'm looking at the situation through a magnifying glass.

Oh god. Oh GOD. I'm the sad, pathetic girl who thought that James Potter wanted to be with her.

"Oh God," I muttered, feeling like I was going to be sick.

"No, Stella!" he comes towards me, struggling to find the right words, "Shit. It's not that I didn't mean anything I said. I just mean-"

"You just mean that it's OK to snog me when you're drunk, but when you're sober you wouldn't think twice about touching me," My voice is full of revulsion. For him, and for myself.

"NO!" he replies urgently, putting his hands on either side of my arms, "That's not at all-"

I push him away, "Don't touch me."

I feel humiliated. So utterly humiliated. 

He utters in a low, urgent voice, trying to compel me to listen, "All I meant is that it's not much to bet on. Please, try and understand. I still want to be your friend. I don't want you to hate me."

I feel the bubbling in my stomach, low, choking sobs coming up my oesophagus, begging to be released.

I suddenly can't stand to look at him any more.

I turn and break into a fast walk, which turns into a slow jog, which turns into a fast sprint.

James calls after me, "Stella! Please! I'm sorry! Stop!"

But I don't stop, I race up to the castle, stumbling and falling every other step, sobs racking my whole body.

Albus said the benefits of being honest are that you know where you stand.

Problem was, I hadn't really considered any other option than James rushing into my arms and telling me we were soul mates. 

I hadn't considered that the alternative was this.

And it hurt like a bitch.

 


Chapter 20: Cold Shoulder
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Disclaimer: JKR owns everything.

 



 

 

 

"Stella? Are you awake?"


I lie still, hoping she'll leave me alone. Maybe she'll give up and go to practice without me.

But then there's an insisted prodding on my shoulder and I'm forced to open my eyes.

"Stop. doing. that," I growl.

"We really need to go," Rose says tentatively, "We can't be late for practice again, remember?"

"Try me," I pull my pillow over my eyes.

But Rose pulls it off, "Look, I know how tempting it is to lie in bed where it's warm. But James is going to be so pissed off if we're late again."

Oh if only she knew why I didn't want to go.

I would have given up a thousand warm, comfy beds in the middle of winter if it meant I could avoid practice with James Potter.

"We need you," she sighs, "You're the keeper! There's no practice without you!"

"Take Lexie," I mutter, "She can be keeper in my place."

"How about no?" Lexie replies from her bed.

"Look, you made a commitment," Rose sighs, prodding my shoulder for good measure, "And you have to stick to it."

Damn her for playing the commitment card.

I slowly, reluctantly rise out of bed. Rose looks pleased. 

"We've got about fifteen minutes before we have to leave," she says, "So why don't you hop into the shower and then we'll go down together?"

"Sure," I reply.

I step into the bathroom and close the door.

Looking in the mirror, I feel a little bit depressed by my reflection. A small, slightly puffy face. Granted I was crying last night. But my skin is pale and pasty, my hair dead and limp over my shoulders.

No wonder James-

No. I can't think like that. James doesn't want me for his own stupid reasons. None of that has to do with the fact that I look like I haven't slept in a week.

I step into the shower, turn the water temperature up to an almost unbearable heat, and start washing my hair.

I don't know how long I stay in there, but there's a loud banging and Rose shouts, "If you're not out in five minutes, I'm coming in there and dragging you out! I don't care if you've got clothes on!"

She has followed through with this threat before, so I finish with my hair, and even bother to quickly shave my legs. It's the beginning of March, so no one's going to see them. But somehow it still makes me feel a fraction less pathetic.

I step out of the shower, dry my hair with a quick drying spell, and pinch my cheeks to bring some colour into them. Thankfully I now look much better. I can face James with my dignity intact.

"Seriously, Stella-"

"I'm coming!" I reply, pulling on my clothes in the bathroom, and emerging a minute later.

We walk down to the pitch, Rose chattering about some Arithmancy lesson from last week, me in complete silence, dreading the next two hours with all my might.

How on Earth am I supposed to face him?

Maybe he'll ignore me, or worse, pity me. I'm still the silly sixth year who fell for him, and expected him to feel the same way.

I might as well crawl into a hole and die right now.

Oh, never mind it's OK. I've figured it out. I'll just have to change schools and move house. And get a new fake identity.

That'll help.

"Did you hear there's another Hogsmede trip this weekend?" Rose asks me eagerly, as we get closer and closer to the pitch.

"No," I reply, "I suppose you'll be going with Scorpius."

"He's got a surprise planned," Rose looks giddy with happiness. 

"That's nice," I try to smile, but my heart isn't really in it.

Luckily our conversation ends because we've reached the pitch. Unluckily this means that I now have to face he-who-must-not-be-named.

He-who-must-not-be-named is deep in conversation with Cameron, gesturing widely with his hands to show him some special Chaser move.

I feel my face go hot as we approach, not daring to look at him.

The rest of the team is wandering about, yawning widely, pulling on extra gear like gloves and hats, and getting their brooms from the broom shed.

"We came on time today!" Rose ventures to joke.

I still can't look at his face. It's too embarrassing. Instead I go over to the broom shed to retrieve my broom.

As I open the door to the shed, I hear him behind me, "Stella? Can we talk? Please?"

I still refuse to look at him, taking my broom from the shed and begin making my way towards the centre of the pitch where the rest of the team is waiting, "I think we've talked enough."

He follows close behind me, almost having to jog to keep up with my quick strides.

"At least tell me you're OK," he says desperately.

Great, he does pity me.

"Why would I give you that satisfaction?" I snap.

He pauses, sighing, "Fine, if you don't want to talk, we won't."

"Good."

"In that case could I…could I have my scarf back?"

That question forces me to look at him in surprise, "What?"

His look is extremely apologetic, as he continues, "I really hate to ask, but I really need it. Remember? I gave it to you when you were cold last night. I've only got one, and I've got Care of Magical Creatures this afternoon. I'll freeze without it."

Part of me wants to keep the scarf, and let him freeze. 

The less childish part of me lets out an incredulous chuckle and says "Fine. It's somewhere in my dorm. I'll find it and give it back to you."

"Thanks," he replies awkwardly, "Listen, Stella. I really want us to be friends."

I open my mouth to tell him to fuck off, when suddenly Fred comes jogging up to us, frowning.

"James, it's freezing. Are we playing or not?"

"Can't you just give us a minute, Fred?" James asks him wearily.

I nod at Fred, "No, Fred's right. Let's practice. That's what we're here for, isn't it?"

I mount my broom and kick off, leaving James far behind on the ground. 

 

*         *        *

 

As I walk down to lunch later that day, James' red and gold scarf clutched in my hands, my fingers shake slightly.

I've considered using it to strangle him, but that wouldn't be considered a mature reaction.

No, I need to act like I've moved on. I'm mature and sophisticated, and I can brush this off. 

So James was drunk when he snogged me. Well, so was I. Maybe my feelings have been fabricated out of nowhere.

Yeah! Just because I threw myself at him last night doesn't mean that I'm still pining for him.

He wants to be friends? Well I have better things to do. I'm too busy to be his friend.

I envisage myself marching cooly over to where he sits at the lunch table, placing the scarf in front of him and saying something cool and witty like Enjoy the scarf. Now, must dash, my celebrity boyfriend is waiting outside to whisk me away live in Hollywood and become a film star. Ta ta!

But all vengeful fantasies disappear out of my head as someone intercepts my walk, and says cheerfully, "Stella! I haven't seen you in ages!"

It's Luke, smiling eagerly at me. I try to smile back, "Hi Luke."

"Where have you been these last few days?" he asks curiously.

"Oh, um, we've been practicing quidditch quite a lot lately," I reply, not entirely untruthfully.

"Ah yes, next week's quidditch match," Luke says grimly, "Are you ready for us to beat you?"

I laugh in spite of my bad mood, "Nice try, Corner. We're going to defeat you so quickly, you won't even know what happened."

"Oh, is that right?" he laughs.

"Be afraid," I reply.

"I will," he grins, "Shall we get some lunch?"

"I was actually just coming to return James his scarf," I say.

"OK," he smiles, "But after let's sit and eat something."

I shrug, "OK, sure."

I'm feeling better after talking to Luke, but as soon as I walk into the great hall my stomach drops as I see James sitting in the middle, next to Eve Collins.

What's he doing sitting with her? They're not friends! Or maybe they are! Maybe they're dating... 

Oh God.

Hyperventilating Activated.

Luke nods towards them, "I'll come with you. I meant to ask Eve something about our next potions assignment."

I barely manage a nod as I pace slowly towards them, trying to take deep breaths.

Remember your cool and witty response that you practised?

Be cool and witty, Stella.

Cool and witty. 

Cool and witty.

I approach them on the opposite side of the table, and hand out the scarf to James.

"Here's um…" I let out a loud cough as something catches in my throat, "Er…your s-scarf." I break off to cough some more, my eyes watering.

Fucking hell. Why?

James takes the scarf, "Thanks, Stella. Um, are you OK?"

I try to swallow down the next round of rising coughs, before choking weakly, "Fine."

Luke grabs me a glass of water and holds it out tentatively, and I try to take it without cringing with humiliation.

I take the water, and drink a few sips, feeling the cool water soothe my throat. Luke pats me awkwardly on the back.

I put the glass down, "Um, er, yeah. The scarf. It's yours."

Suddenly I seem to only be able to communicate in two word-phrases.

Thankfully Luke saves me from further embarrassment, as he asks Eve, "Hey Eve, I was thinking we should get some extra work done on our Amortentia project."

She nods eagerly, "You're right, I was just thinking that. Shall we say Sunday at 2?"

Luke smiles, "Sounds good to me."

James and I keep silent. I can feel his eyes watching me, but I refuse to look and see his pitying gaze.

"Hey, by the way," Eve continues, "Are you coming to Grace's party?"

"Sure. It's next weekend, right?" Luke asks.

Eve nods, "Yeah. And at least wear a jacket, won't you? Grace wants it to be a bit less casual than usual."

Luke shrugs, "Sure."

Eve turns to me then, and I feel tongue tied, "Are you coming, Stella?"

Great. As if I haven't endured enough humiliation over the last few days.

Thanks universe. Super.

I feel my face burn as I mutter, "Er, I'm only in 6th year. 6th years can only come if they have a date in 7th year."

Eve looks slightly awkwardly back at me.

It would be awkward without this. We've barely spoken since quidditch tryouts last term. 

"Well, maybe someone will ask you!" Eve says.

I'm about to tell her that I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than go to the stupid party, but before I do that Luke pipes up, "Actually, I already did."

I look at him in surprise. Does he have a selective memory? Or a penchant for fabricating events in his mind?

"Er, you did?" I ask, raising my eyebrows at him.

"Yeah," he shrugs, "Remember? Maybe I wasn't clear enough. When I said I didn't have a date, and it would be cool to spend more time with you, I meant that you should come too!"

"Ohh," I reply awkwardly, "I didn't realise that's what you meant!"

"You've always got your head in the clouds," he says, sighing but smiling at the same time.

"Well, that's great news!" Eve replies, "Now you can come! Isn't that great, James?"

I glance quickly at James. He looks like he's in the middle of a daze, seeming momentarily stunned before replying, "Uh, yeah."

I nod awkwardly, "Yeah."

There's a slow pause.

"Well we'd better be going then," Luke says, "See you guys later."

He puts up a hand to wave at them, and together we leave them at the table.

"Let's, um sit at the Ravenclaw table," Luke suggests, "You don't mind, do you?"

"Er, no," I reply, thankful to get away from James and Eve.

We take a seat and I smile at him, "OK, you're off the hook now."

He glances at me, "What?"

I roll my eyes, "I know you only said that to save me embarrassment. And I appreciate it, I really do. But you don't have to take me to the party, you know."

"Oh, do you not want to go?" he asks.

"I don't want to force you into taking me just because I'm the saddo who wasn't asked my anyone."

He shrugs, grinning, "Who else am I going to ask? I'd much rather go with a friend than force myself to ask someone on a date who I don't even like. It's not like it'll help me get over Georgie, and it's not like it would make her jealous, so what's the point? We'll go, and have a good time, and make fun of everyone there."

I smile at him, "That sounds good."

"Really?" he grins.

"Really," I nod, "Pass the butter, would you? I'm starving."

*        *         * 

 

On Saturday morning, Ray, Lexie, Rose and I sit at the breakfast table. Rose, for once surprisingly Scorpius-free, is musing over our prospects for next week's match against Ravenclaw.

"I think we got a great chance," she says, shrugging, "If James doesn't kill us before we get there."

"Yes but Ravenclaw have a really excellent team this year," I reply.

"You just think that because you and Corner are getting off together," Ray says, stabbing her sausages with her fork, her mouth twisted into a grim look of determination.

I almost spit out my orange juice, "We are not!"

Tearing away a disapproving glance at Ray's table manners, Lexie turns to me, "You two do seem very friendly," she says, raising her eyebrows.

"We're just friends," I insist, "There's nothing more to it than that."

"You sure?" Rose raises her eyebrows.

"Yes," I reply, "He's still not over his best friend."

Lexie sighs, "Really? You mean Georgia Deely? That's so romantic."

As if on cue Ray scoffs, "Hardly."

"Maybe Stella and I should try and match them up," Rose waggles her eyebrows at me.

"The last time the two of you did any matching up Albus ended up with a black eye and I ended up with sore knuckles," Ray reminds her, "I think you would do better to practice your matchmaking skills on the house elves downstairs."

In an attempt to change the subject I ask, "So where are we going to go in Hogsmede today? I hear Zonko's has a whole new range of fanged frisbees, and they're doing demonstrations this afternoon."

Ray sighs, "Wish I could. But Cameron and I have to leave at lunch time to go to my cousin's wedding. Honestly, you'd think she could rearrange the time to a day when I wouldn't miss that."

It takes us a moment to realise that she isn't joking. I raise my eyebrows, before glancing at Lexie, "So just you and I then?"

"Actually," Lexie bites her lip secretively, "I'm going with Timothy Davies."

The three of us stare at her, "Who?"

It's not that we don't know who he is. In fact it's quite the opposite. Timothy Davies is a Ravenclaw 7th year, and possibly the hottest guy on the planet. You could happily compare him to some kind of god. He's notorious for having a lot of girlfriends, often more than one at a time.

"Timothy Davies," Lexie repeats, laughing at our dumbstruck faces, "He asked me yesterday."

"Since when do you speak to the likes of Timothy Davies?" Rose asks.

"Since we chatted in the library the other day," Lexie brushes her hair behind her ear, "I was trying to reach a book on the top shelf, but I wasn't tall enough, and he got it down for me."

"So you're going out with Timothy Davies?" Ray stares at Lexie incredulously.

"Yes, I am. And can we stop calling him by his full name?" Lexie begins to look slightly flustered, "Plus he's invited me to some 7th year party."

"Do you like him?" I ask.

Lexie rolls her eyes, "No. He's repulsive. That's why I've agreed to spend my spare time with him."

"But he's a…a" Rose fades away.

"God? Yeah, I know," Lexie grins smugly.

"I'm sure the words she was looking for were giant prick," Ray says, "But God'll have to do, I suppose."

Lexie waves her away, "You think that about every boy."

"Well this one is an especially giant prick," Ray says, "Be careful with him, won't you?"

"Do you also want me to look both ways before crossing the street and not accept sweets from strangers?" Lexie rolls her eyes.

"Well, hopefully you would do that without me telling you to," Ray frowns, missing the sarcasm.

"So I guess I'm not going then, if all of you are busy at cousin's weddings or on dates," I sigh.

Rose shrugs, "Fred is around. Maybe you could hang out with him."

"Actually Fred has a date with Natalie Thompson," Lexie chimes in helpfully.

OK, so the entire world has a date except me.

I roll my eyes, "I guess my hot date is with the library then."

 "Actually you're coming out for a butter beer with me," interjects a voice from above our heads.

I swivel around to see Luke standing there, looking pleased with himself.

"What?" I ask stupidly.

"You and I are going to the Three Broomsticks to get butter beer," Luke reiterates, "Because sitting in the library on a Hogsmede trip would be sad."

"And a good use of our time," I remind him.

"And sad," he repeats.

I roll my eyes, "Fine. But the library's going to be really disappointed. I promised I'd take it out for the time of it's life. It doesn't have many other prospective suitors."

"I can live with the guilt," he grins, "See you at eleven in the entrance hall."

He saunters off, while my friends give me pointed looks.

"What?" I ask them.

"You're going to start giving people the wrong impression," Rose warns, "Hogsmede…parties,"

I roll my eyes at her, "I'm going to get dressed."

"Have fun on your date," Lexie winks at me.

"Don't have too much fun on yours," I reply, leaving them at the table.

Let them think what they want to think. Every part of me wished that it was a date, that a lovely, good looking guy was asking me to Hogsmede with him, and my friends were excited for me. Unfortunately none of that was true.

 

***

 

I emerge into the entrance hall at eleven o clock to find Luke already there in about three layers of wool, including a gloves and a hat. I haven't thought about rugging up that warmly, only bringing a thick jumper and a scarf.

"You look nice," Luke says, smiling.

I smile back at him. I've put a little bit of extra effort in, even putting on a bit of lipstick and mascara. The change made me feel less depressed about my current state of affairs. "Thanks."

"Although, aren't you going to be a bit cold?" he glances outside to where the open door reveals a grey sky and the sound of a roaring wind.

I shrug, "I'll manage."

I definitely don't manage. It's absolutely freezing, even though it's almost March. I have both arms clasped around my sides, where I shake and shake, my teeth chattering as Luke makes conversation.

Finally he takes pity on me and offers me his thick overcoat, which I'm too cold to politely reject.

As we walk together down the main street, I noticed several of the other students glancing in our direction. 

"I could go for a spot of lunch, I don't know about you," Luke shrugs.

I tear my eyes away from the staring students, "Um. Yeah, sure. Where did you have in mind?"

"Three Broomsticks?"

"Ok," I nod.

Inside The Three Broomsticks it's extremely busy, each table packed with students laughing and talking loudly.

Luke finds us a small table in the corner, pulling off his scarf and hat.

A girl in a waitress uniform comes up to us, looking slightly frazzled, "Sorry, it's a madhouse in here today. Your server will be here in a few minutes."

"Thanks," Luke smiles at her, "Take your time."

She nods thankfully at him and runs off to the bar, weaving her way through the tables.

"Not cold in here," Luke points out, nodding at my thick coat.

I slide his coat off my shoulders, and pass it to him. The heat from the fireplace spreads over me like a warm bath.

"You seem quieter than usual," Luke remarks, "Are you worried about something?"

I glance at him, "Oh, no, it's just, er, my essay. I have a lot to do."

"Probably shouldn't have dragged you down here, huh?" he bites his lip nervously.

I wave him away, "Nah. I'm glad you asked me. My other friends are so busy these days."

"You're lucky I'm such a loser," he grins.

"I didn't mean it like that," I roll my eyes, "I just…Rose has Scorpius, Lexie's on a date with Timothy Davies-"

"Wait, really?" Luke looks surprised.

"Yeah," I nod. I glance around, looking for Lexie. I come across her in an opposite corner of the restaurant. Her lips are firmly attached to Timothy Davies', and his hand is firmly attached to her thigh. My eyebrows dart upwards instinctively. Lexie can barely talk about kissing without squirming, now she's here on full display.

"Tim lives in my dormitory," Luke says, glancing at them, "He's always bragging about his latest conquest."

I look over at Lexie nervously, "I'm sure she knows what she's doing. She's got a lot of common sense."

"I'm not sure that has anything to do with it," Luke replies, the uncertainty in his voice growing clearer.

I open my mouth to utter another falsely reassuring remark, but a voice cuts across mine.

"What can I get you?"

I look up and almost gasp. For there, in a full waiters uniform, stands James Potter. 

James. Potter.

He looks really good in the white button down and black trousers. He would probably look good in a bin bag. Damn him.

He notices that it's me for the first time, and his look of nonchalance turns into one of extreme discomfort.

"Stella," he says, but seems at a loss to say anything else.

"D-do you work here?" I ask him uneasily.

"Er, yeah," he replies, not meeting my eyes, "They had an opening a few weeks ago, for a weekend shift and I applied."

How he has time for his NEWTS, quidditch practice and a weekend shift here is beyond me.

Luke seems to be wondering the same thing, "How do you make time for all that?"

James, noticing Luke beside me for the first time, says simply, his jaw slightly tightened, "I manage."

There's a very awkward pause.

"What are you doing here?" he asks me.

"I'm having lunch," I reply, suddenly remembering that I hate him and I'm supposed to be giving him the cold shoulder, "It's a Hogsmede weekend, in case you hadn't noticed."

"Right," James nods, glancing between me and Luke, "So, what can I get for you guys?"

"I'll have the Shepard's Pie," Luke answers, "And a butter beer."

"I'll have that too," I add.

"Do you guys want soup or salad as a side?" James says, his voice a bare mutter.

"Soup, please," I reply.

"Soup for me too, please," Luke says.

The awkwardness as James jots this down on his notepad is almost tangible.

"Right, well, it'll be about fifteen minutes," James says stiffly, "Nice to see you guys."

He turns his back on us, and I feel my whole body relax with relief.

"He's always so twitchy," Luke says, "It must be a quidditch rivalry thing."

"Yeah," I reply, watching James make a beeline towards the door marked 'Kitchen', "I'll bet. He's really competitive about that stuff."

"It's weird that he's got a job though," Luke adds, "I mean, isn't his family loaded?"

"Yeah."

"Maybe he's worried they'll disown him if he loses his next match," Luke says jokingly.

I offer a small laugh, "Yeah."

"Luke!" comes a sudden exclamation to our left.

We both glance over, and Luke's joking expression drops as he sees his best friend Georgia, her boyfriend Alexander, and two of his Ravenclaw quidditch teammates.

They crowd around our table, surveying us. Luke offers them an easy smile, but I notice how tense he is, and how he makes a point not to look at Georgia. Georgia smiles at him, remaining oblivious.

Alexander claps Luke on the back, looking at me, "And who do we have here then?"

"This is Stella," Luke, gestures to me.

"Ah, finally found yourself a girl, have you?" one of his teammates.

Without asking the four of them take the remaining seats at our table. Luke looks very uncomfortable as Georgia takes the seat next to him.

"How do you do Stella, I'm Jack," says one of the Ravenclaw players, tall with brown hair that sticks up at all angles, "This is Alexander and Trish. You've already met Georgia. Now let me tell you, we are so glad you've come into Luke's life."

"Actually-" Luke starts.

Jack puts an arm around Luke's shoulders and interrupts him, "He's a hard worker, our captain. He's married to the job, one might say. We've been trying to find him a girl for ages."

"He wouldn't even go for that Eve Collins," chimes in Alexander, "And she is a fittie if ever I saw one."

Georgia raises her eyebrows at him, and Alexander's gaze softens, "I mean, nothing compared to you, gorgeous."

"Terrible save," Georgia smiles at him. Alexander gives her a quick peck on the lips. Luke looks almost green.

Trish, a long legged blonde, who I recognise as the Ravenclaw seeker, sighs, "You two make a lovely couple. Don't they make a lovely couple guys?"

"We're not-" Luke starts.

"You're a lucky girl, Stella," Alexander says to me, "This is a top quality bloke. A brilliant captain, great friend, loyal teammate."

"Not to mention those eyes," Georgia laughs jokingly, putting her chin on her hand theatrically to gaze at him.

Luke avoids her eye, trying out a weak chuckle while the rest of them laugh loudly.

"So," Jack, "You're Gryffindor, I see from your scarf. Bit of a conflict of interest with the match in a few days."

"Especially since she's the Gryffindor keeper," Georgia adds quietly, a small smile on her face.

The other three turn to look at Luke, gobsmacked. Jack cries, "Fraternising with the enemy, captain!"

"I'm not-" Luke tries again.

"We weren't that desperate to find you a girl!" Trish laughs.

"Of course things might get tense when Stella's date here wins against her next Saturday," Alexander shrugs, giving me a cocky grin.

"I'm not her-"

"Why are you so sure he'll win?" I ask, raising my eyebrows. Luke glances at me in surprise.

"Because clearly we have the superior team," Alexander grins.

"Guys," Georgia cuts in, "All this arguing is fruitless. Clearly Hufflepuff are going to beat both of you."

The other players let out a roar of laughter and mock outrage. Alexander gets in closer to his girlfriend, "Oh yeah? And what'll you give me when we beat you?"

"I don't know why we're considering this when Ravenclaw beating Hufflepuff is not an option," Georgia smiles.

"Fine," Alexander grins, drawing even closer, before uttering in a husky voice, "What'll my consolation prize be?"

"I'm going to the loo," Luke says abruptly, looking nauseous as he stands up hastily.

He walks off, clearly desperate to get away from Georgia and Alexander.

"Now, haven't I seen you on Albus Potter's arm lately?" Jack asks me intently, drawing my attention away from Luke.

"That was last term," I say, going slightly pink at the memory, "And it was only for a month or so."

"Clearly she's got a thing for quidditch captains," Alexander laughs.

"Better watch out Alexander. She's coming for your woman," Trish says, nodding at Georgia.

Before I can point out that Luke is not a quidditch captain that I'm interested in, a plate of Shepard's Pie is placed in front of me, and a butter beer just beside that. 

I glance up and see James standing there, still avoiding my eye, "Here's your meal," he mutters, clearly trying to get out of there as quickly as possible.

"Potter!" Alexander cries, before he can leave, "Fancy seeing you here in this neck of the woods!"

"I work here," James points out.

Alexander's smile falters slightly at the abruptness of James' tone, but he presses on, a joking grin on his face "So we were just discussing Stella's thing for quidditch captains. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"

James stops, his voice hoarse, "What?"

I feel my face burn. Oh GOD. 

"Well there's your brother, now there's Luke," Alexander holds up four fingers, lowering one as he lists a name, "She hasn't made a pass at you now has she?"

I scream internally, my face beetroot red. HOW? HOW IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?

James face is stony as he says, "Maybe you should worry less about Stella's dating history and more about your match against us on Saturday."

The others jeer at this, and Alexander laughs, "Alright, alright. I was only teasing!"

James offers a what looks like an attempt at a smile, trying to lighten the mood, even though I can feel the tension radiating off him, "There'll be plenty of time for teasing after we win on Saturday."

The others laugh. Trish says, "I'm pretty sure we can take you."

"Pretty sure?" James raises his eyebrows, "That sounds like you're in with a good chance there."

Suddenly Luke reappears to take his seat. He eyes the Shepard's Pie, "That looks delicious! Thanks, Potter."

Potter, suddenly reminded of his job, glances around, "Can I get you lot anything else?"

"Nah," Jack replies, "We just came over to give Stella and Luke a hard time. We'll get out of your hair."

James nods awkwardly, and turns back to another table.

"We'd better be going," Alexander says. He puts a hand on Georgia's shoulder, "You coming?"

"Yeah," she smiles at him. Luke looks like he's physically in pain.

"You guys have fun," Jack says, waggling his eyebrows.

"Actually, guys," Luke starts, "Stella and I are just-"

"-Just so hungry!" I interject. 

Luke, and the others stare at me.

"I mean," I pause, "this Shepard's Pie has been sitting here for all of five minutes and I haven't eaten anything!"

"Alright, we can take a hint!" Trish laughs, "We'll leave you two love birds alone."

They make their way past the other tables and out of the door.

Luke looks at me, frowning curiously, "What was that?"

I shrug, helping myself to some Shepard's Pie, "Well, frankly, I couldn't stand to watch you tell them we weren't together after all their talk, and after Georgia and Alexander…"

"Yeah," Luke looks sickened by the memory, "But you know that if you're trying to make her jealous, it won't work. Georgia only thinks of me as a friend."

I glance over at the retreating figures of Georgia and her friends. They're laughing together. Georgia spares one glance at the pair of us, before leaving through the front door with Alexander's hand around her shoulders. I grimace, "Well, in that case, watching you try and tell them the truth was just too exhausting! Better to just smile and go along with it."

"Just so you know they're going to give us hell at Grace's party," Luke grins at me.

"I can live with that," I nod, "Now eat your Shepard's Pie, it's getting cold."

 

*  *  *

 

If there's one thing I hate, it's crowds.

I mean, apart from my hatred of heights, waking up early in the morning, essay writing, Potions class, spiders, rainy days, motion sickness, sunburn, toothache, and Mrs Norris. Oh, and grapefruit. I really hate grapefruit.

But if you forget all those things, crowds can be a real bitch.

As I push my way through the portrait hole and into the Gryffindor common room, I can barely see to the other side over the heads of the standing ovation that appears to be going on.

Loud cheers erupt every now and again and I have to stand on tiptoe to see what all the fuss is about.

I hear it before I see it. James' voice.

"Before you know it," he continues from what has clearly been a very motivational and loaded speech judging from the excitable faces around me, "We'll have another quidditch cup on our hands!"

The cheers erupt from his audience again.

I frown. Why is everyone getting so excited about quidditch? It's next week, and they're acting like they're at the stadium already.

I spot Albus seated in a nearby armchair and push my way through with difficulty. Perching myself on the arm rest of his chair I lean down and ask, "What's all the fuss about?"

"James was just encouraging everyone to come to the match next week and support the team," Albus shrugs, before letting a smirk appear across his face, "I guess he got a little carried away."

James steps down from the coffee table which he was shouting from on the other side of the room and receives several back claps and cheers from his mates and various other onlookers. I remember seeing him at the restaurant today, and feel even more uncomfortable, like there's a whole side to James I don't know about. I try not to let it get to me when a very pretty fifth year girl starts talking to him.

"What are you doing here?" I ask Albus, "Shouldn't you be down in your own common room?"

"Somehow, there isn't quite the same sense of camaraderie and cheer in the dungeons," Albus shrugs, "It's still got that slightly sinister feel left over from when mass murderers used to hang out there with their other mass murdering pals. Anyway, I'm actually here to visit Rose."

"Where is she?" I ask him, frowning as I look around but can't see a red head in sight.

Albus looks suddenly nauseated, "She was here but I made the mistake of bringing Scorpius along, and now they've gone back to his dormitory."

This is not an image I'm keen to have in my mind. To change the subject I say, "Bumped into your brother at lunch today."

"Oh yeah?" Albus asks, "I'm surprised he went to Hogsmede. He's been spending all available time practising. But then maybe he can use a break."

I frown at him, "Didn't you know about his job at the Three Broomsticks?" 

Albus frowns back at me, "What? He has a job?"

"He's a waiter there," I say, "Did he not tell you?"

"No," Albus shakes his head, "That's so weird. It's not like he's struggling to make ends meet."

I shrug, "Maybe he's saving up for something. Weird that he didn't tell you though."

"Yeah, although I can't imagine James running around telling his friends and family or else they might take the opportunity to visit him during his shift."

"Were you not in Hogsmede today then?" I ask him curiously.

"No," he says, looking down at his palms, "Actually I was out with Cecily. But I sort of…broke up with her."

I stare at him, gobsmacked, "What happened? Is everything OK?"

"Yeah," he shrugs, "I just…I realised I wasn't into her as much as…well, anyway, the point is I didn't want to lead her on any more."

"So you ended things?" I ask, still surprised.

"Yeah," he nods, "Then I came back here. I wasn't really in the mood."

"Did she take it well?"

"Er, sort of. Is calling me a useless toe rag and and declaring she hopes something painful will happen to me in the near future taking it well?"

I raise my eyebrows, contemplating this for a moment, "Under the circumstances?…Yes I suppose it is."

Albus nods to himself, grimacing, "Well, it had to be done."

"Because of Ray?" I can't help but ask.

Albus shoots me a disparaging look, "I know that's not going to happen, so you can stop worrying. I'll get over it. Eventually."

I bite down on my lip. He still thinks that Ray has no interest in him. When in reality that couldn't be further from the truth.

I remember back to the New Years Eve party, watching Ray hyperventilate as she realised how much she liked Albus. How she couldn't stand to think about him and Cecily together. How she couldn't bear to be in the same room. How she thought he had moved on.

And I know her feelings haven't changed.

I've meddled time and time again in my friends love lives. And for the most part, it's turned out badly.

But maybe, just this last time, it might solve something.

"She still likes you," I murmur in a low voice.

Al frowns, "What are you talking about?"

"Ray," I say, my voice growing hushed, "She likes you. A lot. Like, a lot a lot."

It takes a moment for my words to make sense in Al's brain. But when it does his eyes widen, "But…what? How is that possible? I dated Cecily. I was horrible to her!"

I shrug, "Don't ask me. After all, you pretended to date me to get closer to her. You started dating someone else a week after you told her you liked her. You called her a hypocrite and a liar just for hanging out with Fred. I don't know why she likes you. I just know she does. But that window of opportunity is closing."

Al looks away, clearly contemplating this, "Wait…are you sure about this?"

I pause, "She told me about her feelings in January."

"But now its March," Albus points out.

"Oh for God's sake," I roll my eyes, "Albus, do you like the girl?"

Al takes a few moments before nodding.

"Do you want to be with her?"

Another nod.

"And you don't want her to hate you forever?"

This time a shake of the head, "No."

"Then you need to tell her why you broke up with Cecily."

Al looks at me then, "I thought you'd sworn off meddling."

"Well, you and Ray are such hopeless cases you need a push in the right direction or you'll never get there on your own."

He rolls his eyes, "OK, so far, not feeling the love."

I put an arm around his shoulders affectionately, "Sorry. You're wonderful and lovely, and Ray is a very lucky lady. Merlin himself must have placed you on earth as god in human form. That is the only possible explanation for your astonishing good looks and charm, which surpass those of all other men. You are a perfect specimen, a dazzling creature of flawlessness, a supremely exquisite-"

"Oh shut up you nutter," he grins, ruffling my hair, "By the way, I never asked, did you take my advice?"

"What advice?" I frown.

"To Carpe Diem that shit?" 

"Oh," I bite my lip, "Well...yeah."

Al pauses, looking concerned, before patting a consoling hand on my shoulder, "At least you know where you stand."

I spare a glance in James' direction, but he's nowhere to be seen. I snort derisively, "Yeah. That's always a plus."

I don't think I can stand any more pitying looks that Al keeps throwing in my general direction, "Well. I'd better go. I have an essay to write, it's due tomorrow."

Truthfully my essay is due in a week, but the idea of staying here with Al pitying me and James with his fan club nauseates me, as does the idea of going up to an empty dormitory. Ray is still at her cousin's wedding, and Lexie is either in the library or with Timothy Davies, and Rose is apparently spending the night at chez Scorpius. 

So I pick up my bag, say my goodbyes to Albus and begin pushing my way through the throng. 

I open the portrait hole and walk quickly down the corridor, eager not to bump into anyone like-

"Stella," James says as he rounds a corner, practically crashing into me.

Like the guy I was hoping to avoid.

Fucking hell. WHY. WHY.

His arms were full of cakes and bottles of pumpkin juice, clearly having just emptied half of the kitchen pantry.

I nod stiffly at him, before trying to move past without having to make conversation.

"You going to the library?" he asks me, clearly intent on making conversation despite my best efforts to avoid it.

"Yeah," I reply, feeling nauseous. I hate the sight of him, and yet just standing here I'm savouring every moment. It's pathetic. "Gathering supplies I see."

"We're having an exploding snap tournament," he says, "Want to play?"

"No thanks," I reply curtly. Why would he ask me that?

"No, of course," he shakes his head, looking annoyed with himself, "You're going to the library." He offers a weak laugh, "I must have short term memory loss or something."

I don't reply. I don't owe him laughter.

I'm about to turn down the corridor, ignoring him, but he says something that makes me stop.

"Is Luke your boyfriend?"

Surprised I turn to face him properly, and try to answer calmly, "No, he isn't."

He puts his collection of food and drink on the table beside him, and I can tell he actually wants to talk about this. He shrugs, "You both seem very friendly. Going to Grace's party together, going to Hogsmede together... Clearly you're more than friends."

"Well we are just friends," I correct him, before I frown at him indignantly, "And why do you even care?"

His jaw stiffens, "I care because…I want to be your friend Stella."

I glare at him, "I've been to Hogsmede with Cameron, Fred and Al a million times. You never seemed to mind then."

He sighs, sounding slightly aggravated, "Well, I just think you should be careful."

I let out a derisive laugh, "Great. Thanks for the words of wisdom. I'll be going now."

"So are you actually going to Grace's party with him?"

"Yeah, I reckon I will," I say cooly, "Luke is a good friend."

"Well, um, just so that you know, I'm going with someone."

"Oh," I try to keep my voice casual, but it comes out as a squeak, while my stomach is dropping to the floor, "Who?"

"Eve," he mutters, "She asked me a few days ago, I mean, just as friends, of course and, well, I couldn't really say no."

Just as friends. I nod my head, feeling more severely pissed off with myself for feeling relief than with him.

"That's great," I reply, "You two have fun. I'm sure you'll have an absolutely smashing time."

I turn to go.

"Stay," he blurts out.

I narrow my eyes at him, "Why should I?"

"I want to talk to you," he says, a bit hopelessly.

"About what?"

"About things."

"Elaborate, please," I say. I refuse to do him any favours. I'm not going to make this easy for him.

He sighs, "About what I said that night on the quidditch pitch."

"I'd rather eat bubotuber pus."

"Don't be like that, Stella."

"Seriously, I have lots of important, life changing essays to write. Goodbye."

I turn but he puts a hand on my arm, "Stella, just wait, would you? I want us to be friends."

"Yeah you've said that already, asshole," I say, more venemously than I intended.

"So I'm an asshole now?" he raises his eyebrows, "Would you rather I lie to you than tell the truth?"

"You never seemed to have a problem before," I snap, "All those drunken confessions. Clearly you're a master of bullshitting."

"I was never trying to bullshit!" he says indignantly.

"Then what were you doing?" I ask him, "Having a bit of fun? Unsure what you were doing so thought you'd take me along for the ride?"

"Of course it wasn't like that, you're twisting my words."

"If I remember correctly you said that I wasn't worth it," I retort, now in full swing, "that you didn't know what you were doing, and, oh yeah, the cherry on top of the icing, you would have snogged Peeves you were so drunk."

James puts his hand to his forehead, looking exasperated, "I'm an idiot for saying that."

"But you still feel the same way," I snap, "You might not have meant to be cruel, but your intentions were all good and pure, right?"

"I don't know how to figure you out!" he says, "I mean one minute, you're ignoring me, the next you want to be friends, then you want to be more, then you're back to ignoring me."

"Yeah, that must suck" I reply furiously, "I wonder what it's like to-"

"I'm just saying you're not making it easy for me to figure out how I feel," he interrupts.

I open my mouth in outrage, so angry I can barely speak, "Oh. I'm so sorry, James. I'll try and make it easier for you next time. I'll just ignore that I'm also a human being with feelings, feelings which you messed up I might add, who's also trying to figure everything out. Please, accept my humble apologies. GOD, you are such an asshole."

"Okay, you're angry," he says after a few minutes, clearly trying to keep the calm in his voice.

"Wow, your powers of observation are through the roof there, Holmes!" I snap, "Pity you couldn't use them when you were trying to figure me out, as you put it."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean for it to come out like that," he shakes his head, refusing to look me in the eye.

But this only makes me angrier, "You've been saying that a lot lately, James. So, what DO you mean? Please, tell me, I'm all ears."

He looks me in the eye then. I feel out of breath, close to tears, waiting for him to talk.

After what feels like hours he says, "What I'm trying to say," he says, his voice low, "is that I'm an idiot, and I apologize for putting you through this. If you don't want to be my friend, understandably, I won't bother you again. I've really fucked everything up, and I'm sorry."

I take a few breaths before I think about answering him.

I put a hand to my forehead, keeping my eyes downward, "Thank you," I say in a soft, almost unintelligible voice.

"I understand if you don't want to talk to me anymore," he says, "I never meant to sound like I wanted to excuse what I did."

It's like a weight off my chest. I'm still angry, no, furious, ashamed, embarrassed. But his words help, somehow.

But the idea of never speaking to him, or even not being his friend hurts. I mean, maybe I could do it. He graduates in a few months after all...

No. I hate the idea of avoiding him. It'll only make things worse than they already are.

"I…" I'm lost for words. His apology is sincere, his eyes pleading. I want to forgive him.

I wish this all could have been simpler. I wish I could have shrugged it off when James told me our drunken kissing was just that: drunken kissing, and nothing more. Like one of those cooler, more put together girls who would flick their hair, smile and move on to someone else. 

So we used to hook up, I'd shrug when my friends ask me about it, doesn't mean I want a relationship. God, no!

But no, I'm me. I'm not some cool girl who doesn't attach herself, doesn't let anyone hurt her. I'm the girl who fantasises hopelessly about a future, who imagines and pictures, and hopes. 

And that's OK. I can accept this as something that hurt me. James was a mistake, a bad mistake that I should have known wouldn't end well. 

I mean, even love struck Stella at the beginning of sixth year would have scoffed if someone had told her she might be James Potter's girlfriend. 

James Potter, she'd say, yeah right! I mean, sure, he's got nice abs, but he's hardly relationship material. A fit jerk is still a jerk.

OK, so I'm undeniably attracted to him. No, attracted to him doesn't go far enough. Somewhere along this tumultuous path I'm falling in love with him. And not the way I used to think I was in love with him. That was a crush. A harmless, meaningless crush. This was something much more dangerous. Something that threatened to pull me under so fast and so quickly I didn't even realise when it happened.

But do I actually want him to be my boyfriend? If in some alternate universe James had asked me to be his girlfriend, I…I don't even know what I would have said. 

With a jolt, I realise that I can't even imagine dating him. I can't even imagine us as a couple. Like Rose and Scorpius, kissing all over the common room, or Albus and Cecily, feeding each other desserts in the great all. We don't know how to function like that. 

Nowhere in his comments about his drunkeness, has James actually articulated that he felt nothing romantic for me. He doesn't want a relationship? Well…maybe I don't want one either. 

Maybe I can't brush him off like the cool girl who doesn't fall for anyone. But maybe it isn't that black and white. 

Maybe it isn't either I feel nothing for James, or I want to date him. Maybe I can settle in the middle. 

I need to be mature here. James is trying. He's being kind. He owes me that much, but I never would have expected him to care this much about my feelings even six months ago. He wants to be my friend, when he's spent the better part of our time of Hogwarts being mildly annoyed by my whining on the quidditch pitch.

"I don't want to…not talk anymore," I tell him eventually.

He looks relieved, "Good, because that would have made quidditch practice really awkward. Does this…mean you forgive me?" He sounds tentative, nervous.

"No," I reply, "But I'm getting there."

He looks satisfied with that, "That's all I ask."

"Good. Because, all this friend stuff is a lot to take in all at once."

"Yeah, I get that," he nods sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head with his hand.

I manage a small laugh then, out of nowhere, "I just…maybe I jumped ship too quickly. I don't…I mean, I wasn't expecting anything like a…"

James is frowning, like he isn't sure what I mean, "Like a what?"

"Like a relationship," I mutter.

"Oh," he looks down, suddenly the moment becomes tense, "Well, neither was I, you know."

"Good," I nod, "I mean, sure."

"I'm really shit at explaining myself, sometimes," he says.

I laugh a little more genuinely then, "Only sometimes?"

"I felt like that was a half way decent apology!" he replies, sounding indignant but with a smile on his face.

"It was," I can't help but smile back at him.

"So…friends?" he asks me slowly, hesitantly, as though he's afraid I'll lash out again.

I take a deep breath. "OK.Yeah…friends."

He smiles at me, and there's a pause. Our eyes lock for a second, before we both look pointedly away.

After the pause grows too long for my liking I ask him, "So do you want to tell me why you're waiting tables at the Three Broomsticks?"

He sighs, grinning at me, "I'm saving money to go away after I've graduated. I want to travel a bit."

"Oh," I glance at him, surprised, "I didn't know you wanted to do that."

He shrugs, "I guess we haven't talked much to each other, have we?"

"Guess not," I nod awkwardly.

Another long pause

"You sure you don't want to come play exploding snap with us?" he asks me, finally breaking the silence.

"Er, I'd better get to the library," I shake my head at him, although secretly I want to say yes.

He tilts his head to one side, "You sure? I picked up muffins from the kitchens."

Damn, he knows exactly how to get me.

"What kind?" I ask. As if it matters. All muffin flavours are delicious. 

"Blueberry," he says, with a grin, "And I may have a lemon and poppy seed one too."

I pause, even though my mind is already made up, "Ummm, well alright then."

He nods, still grinning, and picks up his pile of food off the nearby table, "It's probably a good thing that you'll eat all the muffins. I don't want Freddie to get too heavy before the big game."

"I'm sure he'll find a way to put on the weight at breakfast tomorrow," I remind him, as we begin walking back towards the portrait hole.

 He passes me the blueberry muffin from the top of the food pile and I bite into it gratefully.

"Good?" he asks me, the corners of his mouth twitching like he can't quite control himself.

I nod, my mouth still full, slightly embarrassed because it must look like I'm stuffing my face.

He looks like he's trying not to laugh.

"What?" I ask him once I've swallowed, my eyes wide.

He shakes his head, grinning at something, "Nothing."

"Password?" The Fat Lady asks, as we reach the portrait hole.

"Fish scales," James answers promptly, and the portrait hole swings open.

I follow him into the common room somewhat uneasily, wondering whether this will be as easy as we're both pretending it is.

 

A/N: OK, so the last time I updated was what? September? Pretty crappy of me I will admit. I feel like each author's note of mine is filled with long winded excuses and apologies for not updating often enough followed by an overly optimistic promise to update more often in the future.

 

The short version of it is: I'm at a really tough uni, working hard, but I don't want to give up on this story. It's has been with me for nearly 3 years now! I would never let it go unfinished, especially since I've always known how and when it will end.

 

 

I really appreciate those of you who are still sticking with Stella and I. I know its a pain when you check in every now and again to see that I still have yet to update, but I fully intend to finish this story, you can count on that.

 

 

I do love hearing everything you thought, your favourite bits, your least favourite bits, your predictions, your hopes, anything you can think of to jot down. Nothing more encouraging than feedback!

 

Here are some questions to get you started: Do you think Stella should have forgiven James? Are you Team Luke or Team Alexander? Team Gryffindor or Team Ravenclaw? Are you a cat person or a dog person? If you had a superpower what would it be? Are ghosts real? Do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter? LET ME KNOW.

 

Ciao for now, love Ella xxx

 


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