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Hormones by Mistress

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 28
Word Count: 140,859
Status: WIP

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

Genres: Humor, Romance, Angst
Characters: George, Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Hugo, Rose, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 03/20/2012
Last Chapter: 09/06/2014
Last Updated: 09/06/2014

Summary:



*Winner - Kecker Awards - Best Quote
Here’s what could have happened. I may have snuck out after one of Dad’s rants about the shop. I may have gone to London. Maybe I had a few too many…butterbeers. Brunettes possibly have more fun. I also may have knocked up Ryan Davies, star Ravenclaw Chaser with the dark eyes. But that’s all speculation. Rumors.

Unless you’re me.
 


Chapter 1: Letís Start at the Beginning
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HI!! Mistress here with my newest story! You'll notice this one has a "drama" tag, which is different from my others, but still PLENTY of humor. Mostly humor. All of the humor. Anyway, I really hope all of you enjoy it! I'd like to dedicate the first chapter to siriuslyhockey for laying on a plastic rtube in the middle of a lake talking this story out with me while we both got fried. Whoops. Sunscreen is a must! 




“FRED WEASLEY! YOU OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW!”

At that point in my life, this is what I knew about Ryan Davies:

She was a seventh year Ravenclaw.

I’d never seen her study a day in her life. I’d also never seen her fail anything.

She was an only child.

She hated Transfiguration.

She hated any form of commitment.

Other than with her best friend, Gemma.

Her dad, Grant Davies, played for the Arrows and had two Cup rings before his fall.

Her eyes were the same color as mine.

She was the star Chaser of the Ravenclaw team and once elbowed me off my broom.

Among a couple other things.

And she could yell.

Loud.

 

I was leaning against the door to the Prefect’s bathroom. It was empty (thankfully) except the usual tub in the center, mermaid painting, and my bag on the tile, exposing its contents of quills and notes I’d been passing with James in Charms. They were important notes regarding our soon-to-be-a-reality renovation of the shop.

There would probably be scantily clad girls carrying around trays of sweets to test.

To be determined, but the mental note was there.

The door shook behind me every time Ryan pounded on it. This was not going well. She’d spotted me in the hallway, hair tossed half over her face, and took off after me, screaming and yielding her wand.

She was a Ravenclaw. Angry Ravenclaws with wands were not to be trifled with.

Not that I had any idea why she was so angry.

“OPEN the DOOR!” she shrieked.

I looked to my left and right. We were several floors up, so there was no escape out the window. No flushing myself down a toilet. No apparating. I was even getting quite good.

“NOW.”

“Why are you trying to kill me?” I cried through the door. We didn’t hang out. We didn’t share any friends. I didn’t even cheat off of her in History of Magic. I cheated off James. I didn’t even pretend to cheat off of her like I did Molly.

“I am going to make you regret being born!”

I gaped at the door. “Seriously?” I said. “I mean, I’m sure the day wasn’t that bad. Mum said it was sunny...and a bit warm. It was April, you know.” I smiled at that.

“GET OUT HERE. I am NOT fucking around.”

She had a bloody mouth on her.

The door was staring to shake violently and I pressed my palms against it. “Okay?” I said. “So if I come out do you promise not to kill me?”

“Open the door, Weasley.”

That sounded calmer. Okay, that was a good sign. “I’m going to open the door,” I said loudly. “And we can talk about whatever it is that’s bothering you. Like rational adults. Two people. Just talking. I’ll even buy a coffee if you want.”

There was a growl from the other side of the door. Godric.

“Opening the door...” I swallowed hard and unlocked the door, pulling it open.

Ryan Davies was in the hallway, brown hair still tossed all over her face. Her dark eyes were on fire, fists balled at her sides. Her bag was on the floor beside her, contents also forgotten as a few people kicked them as they walked by. None of them came to my rescue, by the way.

“Who the fuck do you think you are?” she asked, taking a step closer to me. Her lips were pressed tight together.

“Fred Weasley,” I said with a kind smile. “You know me. I play Quidditch for Gryffindor.”

That was when I got a right hook to the face.

I probably shouldn’t have shagged her and not owled over the summer.

 

*

We should back up. It was the start of seventh year and things were going well. Mum and Dad had packed up Rox and me and shipped us off on yet another adventurous Hogwarts Express ride filled with her ditching me the second we walked up the steps and me bunking with James and Ollie while they snogged. The only good part was sitting with Annie while I attempted to ignore the saliva across the compartment.

James and Ollie had been dating for three years. They were the Gryffindor Golden Couple. Nay, the Hogwarts Golden Couple. She had that thin, blond frame you didn’t see around Hogwarts very often. Got good marks, read more than most of our year, and smiled all the time. He was hooked from day one. But then in fourth year he stood on a table and confessed his love to her. Which got him a lot of laughs.

And a girlfriend.

Annie was Ollie’s best mate. Both of them were Gryffindor seventh years, though two of the few tolerable ones. Annie propped my feet up on her lap and gave me a foot massage while asking about my summer. We’d exchanged a couple of letters and I saw her a few times at Ollie’s, but other than that I kept my distance from a lot of girls for the season. I needed it.

I told her about the family outings and Quidditch in the back garden. She nodded at all the right parts, a smile on her lips. I liked that about her. However boring and mundane my stories about my cousin Hugo’s sad attempt to grow a mustache were, she still smiled at them. So I continued until Prefect rounds.

Unfortunately, I was stuck with China Wyandot, the choppy-haired Hufflepuff with wide, doe eyes. She was nice enough, but I missed Molly. She’d just been named Head Girl along with China’s previous partner, Rune Douglas. Both deserved it, but China jabbered on about her seven dogs and sixteen cats and twelve raccoons or something. I couldn’t remember the exact numbers, but I was fairly sure that was it. Give or take one or four.

She was very pretty though, and a sweet girl. I had the urge to pat her on the head.

“See you, Freddie?” China said with a wide grin, awkwardly shaking my hand before disappearing back up the train.

I would never understand the other houses.
*

 

James leaned over at the feast, mouth half-full of pork. “What’d your dad say?” he asked. “About the renovation?”

“Said we’re bloody crazy,” I mumbled, helping myself to buttered bread. The entire hall was packed and filled with chatter. Headmaster Finks had already spoken, though most of us didn’t pay any mind considering he was three quarters of a million and had a monologue about cheese briskets. “There’s no way he’d let us do it. Besides, he’s got the Hogsmeade branch to worry about anyway.”

“What’s the news on that?” James ignored the second year prodding him in the arm and surveyed me. He had his dad’s hair and it bloody needed cut, sinking into his eyes like a sheep dog. His eyes were like mine, though, dark chocolate brown. Except he was a pale bugger and I had what Ollie liked to call a “caramel complexion” which she also said made her want sweets.

I still wasn’t sure how to take that.

James and I had been best mates forever. Since we were born, probably. I was three months older than him, and taller, but that didn’t matter to either of us. We grew up fighting to reach the shelves of Dad’s shop, testing out products I’ll never tell Mum about, and playing pickup Quidditch games with the relatives. We told each other everything.

I told him about my heartbreaks the last three years. About when I thought I was in love. He told me when him and Ollie were going through rough patches and how they made up. It usually had to do with flowers and poetry. Bloody sap.

We had each other, and that was what mattered. Ollie didn’t steal James away from me and none of my past girlfriends stole me from him. They knew better. We were Frames, which was what Dad had taken to calling us. He even got Grandmum in on it a couple times and let me tell you, that coming from her mouth is enough to make you spit pumpkin pie all over the dinner table.

Twice. The first time it missed Roxy, so I had to go again.

“Still trying to get the building,” I replied quietly. I wasn’t much to talk about it unless it was a sure thing. My family’s shop in Diagon Alley was the hit of the century, but the Hogsmeade branch was still up in the air. Dad wanted it. Wanted it bad. But the building he wanted was owned by a creepy old woman and Zonkos was trying to file three different suits at once. Disaster.

“Let me know if I can help,” James said, nodding. He wanted it just as bad as I did. “I’ve got this brilliant idea for the front windows. I’ve got it in my bag – I’ll tell you about it later.”

Ollie walked by, leaning down and kissing James on the cheek. “Talking about pretty Hufflepuffs again?” she teased, sliding next to her boyfriend and helping herself to some food.

“Where’ve you been?” James asked, cocking a brow. “You missed the whole road-kill-oriented speech Finks gave. Or...whatever it was about.” He looked at me. “It was dead animals, right?”

“That was last year,” I noted.

“Rose was catching me up,” Ollie said. “She’s got try-outs scheduled this weekend so clear your schedules.”

“That soon?” James grumbled. “Fucking hell. Rose just can’t wait a second for me to get my dinner down before I’ve gotta be on that broom.”

“Weights tomorrow?” I asked.

He nodded. “Going to have to. I’ve been practicing with Al lately so I haven’t been Beating.”

Ollie ruffled his hair. “Think you’ll live?” she asked with a grin.

“I doubt it,” James said gruffly. “You’re going to have to take care of me and draw me a hot bath.”

“Oh, hell,” I grumbled, standing and going to sit with Molly, stealing her dessert with a swipe of my fork.
*

 

I had learned over the last couple years I should not speak during try-outs. I’d made the team fourth year under Lucas Chaltry, bulky fellow who knew how to yell, but not so much how to Beat. That was the same year Rose made the team as a Seeker. Lucas graduated the following year and everything else was history.

“Pay attention.” Rose was pacing in front of the chalk board, her fingers grasping the chalk even though she had no intention of writing with it. She rarely did anyway. Her posture was straight and stiff, red hair pulled up into a tight ponytail. James and I had a theory her hairline was going to start receding because of how tight that damn thing was.

I was sitting between James (who was munching on pretzels) and Gee (resident Chaser, full name Georgiana Finch-Fletchley. Also known as Gee Finch), eyes on the blank chalk board. Ollie was on James’s other side filing her nails.

It was the same every year. Rose pacing in front. The rest of us bored on the bench suppressing yawns.

“We’re after two players,” she said, drawing a large two on the chalk board. I laughed, but turned it into a hacking cough when she looked over. “We need a Chaser to work with Ollie and Gee and we need a Keeper. We’re not going to be able to replace Norm that easy.”

Alessandra Norm had been Keeper for one year, her seventh, and was bloody brilliant. And very attractive. Heartbreak number two. Fifth year. Four months.

“Too bad we didn’t have a decent reserve,” Ollie said, frowning. She arched her back in a stretch, tying her blond hair into a knot. She had a point. Last year our reserve was on the team because we felt bad he wasn’t allowed in Charms club. He blew up half the Charms corridor.

“That’s not my fault,” Rose said impatiently. “It’s my job to get us a new Chaser and a new Keeper and some reserves to go with it. Unless everyone who tries out is a twat and then I’m going to forfeit the games and go turn the shower to scalding.”

“Never with the dramatics, cuz,” James mumbled, draping an arm around Ollie’s shoulders.

“Are they out there?” Gee asked, leaning over to pull the door open. She closed it quickly. “Yup.”

Gee was one of my favorites. She was Rose’s roommate, a sixth year who I always teased for perching on one of the Gryffindor sofas flipping through a sappy romance novel. She loved that stuff. Loved to lounge about in her flannel pajamas and lose herself in a book. But on the pitch she was fierce. Like a true Gryffindor lion.

“Yes, they are,” Rose said, narrowing her eyes. “We’re going to work together as a team and select them.”

“You mean we’re going to play and you’re going to undermine every opinion we have and pick them,” James corrected with a smirk.

“Didn’t I say that?” Rose asked, returning his smirk and walking out onto the pitch.

*
Mental note: WWW sunglasses. Quidditch line. So much brightness.
*


“You think we picked the right people?” I rolled over that night, looking at James, who was flipping through a glossy magazine Ollie was having him read. The picture on his lap was a pretty girl in a swimsuit selling anti-aging lotion. “I mean, do you think Rose picked the right people?”

James nodded. “I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “Though come November we’ll find out, won’t we?”

The try-outs had lasted longer than the previous years. Lots of drills and laps and trying to find just the right person to fit in with our style, or so Rose explained. I just grabbed a bat and started aiming. And, unfortunately, sending a couple people to the hospital. Rose believed in the tough love approach and told James and me if they couldn’t dodge they couldn’t play.

Obviously.

We went through the normal Chaser drills, which were more fun for me. Rose paced on the pitch in front of the rest of the hopefuls, not taking any notes. Her eyes were narrowed. Uncle Ron would be proud and perplexed. She had two Chasers go head to head, one with Ollie and the other with Gee, to see how they worked, and waited for the one with Ollie (Kirsty) to score a goal before blowing her whistle and shouting that the one with Gee got the spot: Beckett Saunders.

Don’t ask me. I never understood Rose’s coaching methods.

The Keeper was an easier process, but dull for me. I sprawled out in the grass, James and I comparing what clouds looked like. A lot of them ended up inappropriate. The girls nearby were giggling. Rightfully so; James had a filthy mouth.

After what seemed to be hours of Rose watching Quaffles get thrown at Keeper candidates, through the hoops, and a few horribly-aimed throws by Beckett because he was shaking with nerves, Rose called three people in front of her.

“Here’s how it’s going to go,” she said, tapping her clipboard with her fingers. Rose had short, stubby fingernails because according to her ‘the pitch was no place for a manicure.’ How Dominique hadn’t tackled her in her sleep was beyond me. “Rami, you were good, but I don’t trust your eye.” The girl was sweating, dark hair spilling onto her shoulders. She nodded. Rose continued, “Teo. You missed two. Technically, Rami was better than you. Hell, Sean was better. But I like you, Teo.”

She picked up Teo Harper as our Keeper, who was a small girl with gray eyes and blond hair. At least her gear gave her a bit of padding.

Every other year I hadn’t questioned Rose’s methods, but this year had me wondering if she’d gone a bit soft. If she realized Sean was on a higher skill level than Teo, why didn’t we get him? Did she want a female Keeper?

“Who cares?” James grunted, echoing what my thoughts should have been. “We’ll play. Our parents will come to the games. It’ll be a right good time. Then we can concentrate on getting Uncle George on board with the shop renovation.”

“I still think he might be skeptical of the marketing campaign with the half-naked girls,” I noted, pulling the blankets up to my chest.

“He’ll get on board once he sees Ollie in that tiny skirt and bikini top.”

“Bloody hell, James, we are not using Ollie.”

“Why not?” He put the magazine down and finally looked over. “Do you not think my girlfriend is attractive?”

“Course she is, but d’you want every bloke drooling over your girl?”

James was quiet for a moment. At least I’d managed to penetrate his brain. “Sure, I do.”

Fucking hell, James.
*

 

I sank down next to Annie in Charms, head aching from hitting it on the dresser trying to get bloody dressed. My head had a giant knob-sized bruise on it. Not at all attractive, though Annie did let out one of those “d’awe” noises and bit down on her bottom lip.

Something girls had no idea was an amazing, attractive action.

It was years before I knew Annie’s name. She was quiet, kind, and didn’t raise her hand much in class. I think I thought her name was Anna or Anastasia or something. Didn’t know it was Annie. I felt like a tosser considering she was in my year and House, but I was usually preoccupied with my family dramatics, Roxy being a bint, or the homework I wasn’t getting done. Which then moved back toward family dramatics when Molly scolded me at the Gryffindor table.

It wasn’t until James started seeing Ollie that I really hung out with Annie. I appreciated her right from the start. Brown hair she often hid behind. Hazel eyes. Kind smile. Everything about her reeked of Hufflepuff, to be honest, but Hugo insisted she didn’t belong there. I had yet to see the fire behind her eyes, but it was a refreshing change of pace from people like Ollie and Gee and Rose.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Wardrobe malfunction,” I grumbled and she laughed. I took out my Charms book as Professor Aurora scribbled notes on the board. Swishing or flicking, I didn’t really care. She looked like a bloody Muggle princess anyway with her flashy pink robes, but all the girls adored her because she had her own perfume line in Diagon Alley.

“Going to be okay?” Annie patted my arm and then returned to her notebook, copying the notes.

“One day.” I chuckled and she returned the smile.

“Has James been talking about Ollie lately?” Annie asked, leaning back in her chair and crossing her legs. Her voice was hushed, but I still checked to see if anyone looked over. They didn’t. Ollie and James were all the way across the room.

“Talks about Ollie in his sleep,” I noted. I started drawing shapes on my parchment, carefully shading circles so they looked like bubbles and balloons. My artistic abilities came from Mum, though I still wasn’t very good. At least I was better than James, who insisted his stick figures belonged in the Louvre.

“Oh, okay.”

“Why?” A few people shot me dirty looks. Apparently Gryffindors concentrated? Dad would be hearing about this.

“Just wondering. Ollie hasn’t said much about him lately. It has me worried.”

“Maybe because you’re around them so much now that school’s started,” I said. I drew string on all the bubbles to make them all balloons. It’s a party. “She doesn’t have anything extra to tell you. No sappy love letters or stick-figure drawings of snogging.”

Annie shrugged, twirling her quill between her fingers. Her polish was purple.

“Don’t be paranoid.” I looked over and Ollie’s head was on James’s shoulder. He was smiling, taking notes for the pair of them.

“Do you think he’ll propose?” she asked.

“When?” I said. “Today? This week? He hasn’t asked me to go ring shopping.”

“This year,” Annie replied, shrugging. She pushed some hair away from her face coyly. “I feel like they’re going to get married and have kids and...” She trailed off, teeth running the length of her bottom lip. “I’m a bit jealous.”

I shrugged. “I think you’re doing just fine.”

She met my eyes. “You think so?”

“Sure.” I ruffled her hair and went back to my bubbles, balloons, and now Quaffles.

*
I had been in the air for the better part of a half hour when Rose whistled us down. Everything ached. Arms from the sodding Beater’s bat, legs from gripping the broom, nose from wrinkling it at James’ lovestruck grin. He was always like this when he was able to see Ollie again after a long time away. They spend some weekends together over the summer (Uncle Harry trusted him, which was more than I could say for my own father), but for the most part James and I spent our days together at the local pub or locked away in one of our rooms planning out new merchandise lines for the shop.

My feet landed unceremoniously and I shoved my hair back away from my face. “What is it, Rose?” I grumbled. “I was just getting into a rhythm.”

“You weren’t getting into anything.” Rose rolled her eyes. “Ollie, your turns were shit. Gee, your turns were even more shit. Beckett, do not make me drop you for that fucking reserve.” She hoisted her foot up onto the bench to retie her shoes. “Frames, I am sick of your pissing about up there. You couldn’t hit Scorpius Malfoy with a Bludger, let alone an actual skilled player.”

I smirked at that.

“What about you then?” James asked. “You didn’t catch the Snitch.”

“I didn’t release it,” Rose said and then turned to Teo, barking at her for not saving the throw by Gee. Teo looked petrified. I would too, I assumed. Especially if I was a gerbil.

It was nice, though, to have an entire Quidditch team where I didn’t dislike anyone. Thus far. Beckett was still up in the air, but considering he hadn’t said more than two words to me, he was okay. Teo was the size of a rodent. Rose insisted we all bond, but I was going to put that off as long as possible. I had bigger squid to fry.

“You harassing your players again, Weasley?”

I turned, grinning. Rose huffed loudly.

Albus Potter was walking onto the pitch. He was shorter than James by at least four inches and had the same messy hair, but he had those big, green eyes half the Gryffindor girls lovingly whined about during their late-night gossip sessions James and I spied on. He had glasses too, but Gee suggested they were sexy glasses. I suggested he was a twat.

I liked Albus, though. He was the Captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team and had the big C patch on his chest. The rest of his team was behind him in their blue practice jerseys.

“Bugger off, Potter,” Rose said darkly, but then she smirked and walked over, hugging him. “What’re you tossers doing out here? I’ve got the pitch.”

“Share?” Albus gave her puppy-eyes, which I would like to say he didn’t do very well. You needed pretty chocolate-brown eyes to do that. Which I have. And he doesn’t. So shut up, Albus, and go about your life. Being a Potter. And a twat.

“Fine. But keep your Claws down at the other end of the pitch. I can’t have you ruining my concentration.”

Albus grinned. “I’d never ruin anything for you, Ro.” He ruffled her hair. “Except your chances at the Cup.”

“Bugger off, Al,” James said with a smirk, throwing an elbow pad an hitting his brother on the side of the head. We laughed. Too hard.

Albus flicked James off. And me, because I was doubled over at the red mark on his face. “Nice to see you again too.” He nodded politely to Ollie as well and led his team toward the other end of the pitch.

Scorpius Malfoy was behind him. Blond git that I hate more than anyone else at the school. Like he was something special or something. By the way, he wasn’t. At all. Nothing special. Nothing remotely appealing about him except the size of his pocketbook.

And yet he was best friends with my baby sister, Roxanne.

Eugh. Don’t need to think about that.

“You okay, Freddo?” James asked, nudging me. “I have another elbow pad, you know. Want to have a go?”

I thought about it. “Yeah,” I said.

He handed it over. “Go on then.”

I was about to throw it, but got distracted.

By Ryan Davies. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Dark attitude, really. She was almost as tall as me, hair pulled back away from her face. Her broom was shouldered and she had smudges of black makeup under her eyes. She was Al’s jewel and the reason Ravenclaw almost beat us in the final last year. Thank Godric for Rose pulling out a catch because Ryan Davies could throw a Quaffle right into the Keeper and still get a goal out of it.

She narrowed her eyes at me.

Which brought my attention back to shagging her in the cramped stall of a pub bathroom.

Her middle finger should have been my first clue that she wasn’t going to be my biggest fan.




A/N: Hey everyone! I really hope you liked the first chapter. I appreciate you giving it a try! I wanted to do a "pregnancy story" in a male's point of view which focuses on a lot of different issues, so I hope you like the rest :) 


Please feel free to share some thoughts! 


Sidenote: For Fred's portrayal, picture Joey Ricther (see chapter image) with a darker, caramel complexion. That's how I see Freddie anyway :) Silly, but able to be serious.


Story preview: 


Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, family drama, Scorpius Malfoy, Frames, Zonkos, St. Mungo's, classes, sobbing, laughing, alcohol, a Weasley-infested Christmas, bonfires, and a LOT of stupid decisions.
 


Chapter 2: I Remember When
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Thank you to everyone for jumping on board with this story! I hope you enjoy! 




There was something about Herbology everyone hated. It wasn’t just Gryffindors. It was everyone. Hell, I’m pretty sure Muggles hated Herbology too. The labs in the greenhouses were tolerable, but it was the lectures that made my mind go fuzzy. There were only so many balloons one could draw while still remaining conscious.

The classroom was on the third floor. The curtains were always drawn, blocking the giant view of the forest. Two to a table. Three rows of tables. Three rows of people attempting to sleep with their eyes open while Professor Smith used his pointer to show us the finer details of plant veins. The most thrilling thing that happened was the button on the slide machine breaking, forcing him to attempt to fix it by magic.

None of us have ever witnessed Smith do magic. Hell, his name was even boring.

Today he was going through his usual lecture. This time it was about some sort of leafy green buggers with spikes just under the flower. No idea what those were for. Didn’t much care either, just as long as I didn’t have to demonstrate the improper way to pick one up in lab on Thursday.

“You get that last slide?” James looked over, his eyelids falling.

“Does it look like I did?” I motioned to my paper, which had a list written on it. Obviously nothing to do with Herbology.

Multi-flavor fizzy drinks.

Alcoholic grape juice – is that just wine?

Gift wrap line.

Prank designer bags.

Edible graffiti.


“Heard from Uncle George?” he asked, scanning the list.

“Not yet.” I shrugged and twirled the quill between my fingers for a moment.

“You think he told my dad?”

“Hope not.”

James looked back at the slides, wrinkled his nose, and then started practicing his signature. He did that a lot. Told me when we were second years that once we owned the shop we would have to sign autographs since we’d be so famous. He hadn’t stopped practicing yet, even though the only people who asked for his autograph were the nutter historians obsessed with Uncle Harry.

One of them knocked on his window during the summer.

Uncle Harry recently upped security on the Potter house.

“What d’you think he’d do?” I asked. Smith looked over and I pretended to write something. In actuality I wrote ‘watermelon’ four times. “Freak out?”

“Nah,” James whispered, writing ‘Herbology is for fucks’ a few times. “I just think he wants me to go into something different. I dunno. We all know Al’s going to play Quidditch and Lily will probably be a Healer. Maybe he figured I’d work with him? Or something?”

I wrote ‘watermelon’ a few more times. “I think he’ll be okay,” I said. “As long as he hears it from you and not Dad.”

James had been keeping the shop-running from his dad for years. It was mentioned as a possibility – how could it not be with as close-knit of a family as we had – but never seriously. Not in public. Not around our family. My parents both knew, but James wanted to be certain he knew exactly what was happening before he told his parents exactly what choice he’d made for his life. He was the eldest Potter after all. He was a legacy or something.

There would probably be an article in the paper. At least his hair would look good.

“Your dad knows to keep it quiet, right?”

“He’s kept it for the last like … six years,” I mumbled. “I think he’s okay.”

“Will the two of you shut up?” Molly turned around from in front of eyes, eyes on fire. “It is impossible to concentrate.”

Molly knew about our passion too. It was impossible not to when we were the only three Potter-Weasleys in our year. She was good for keeping secrets too, especially since we knew she lost her virginity to Headboy Rune in fifth year and always use it against her.

It’s a cousin thing.

“Come on, Mols,” James whined. “This is business.”

“I am going to convince Uncle George I ought to take over the shop if you two don’t shut up,” she hissed. “And we all know he’d listen.”

Dad had a soft spot for the girls in the family. Always gave into them. Bloody nightmare, especially with Roxy. Happy birthday, Rox. Here’s a bloody tiger. Not really, but I wouldn’t put it past him. At the very least a lemur.

“Can I still work the register?” I asked sweetly.

Molly huffed, shoving her dark curls away from her face and turning back to the front.

“You think she’s still shagging Rune?” James asked, just loud enough to turn the back of Molly’s neck bright red.

“He probably ran out of moves,” I commented.

Then I got a paper ball to the head.

To the back of the head.

I turned and rolled my eyes. Damn it.

That was another shit thing about Herbology. That, along with Transfiguration, we enjoyed in the company of the Ravenclaws. Sure, not all of them were obnoxious. Some fit the Claw stereotype. Others didn’t. Some I was quite sure were supposed to be in Hufflepuff or Slytherin.

Two who exuded Slytherin-esque qualities were Ryan Davies and Gemma Rousseau, who were behind James and me. Opposite in physical features, the girls were too similar on the inside. I knew very little about them and intended on keeping it that way. Ryan was a tall beauty with that dark chalk around her eyes to make her look intense or something. Gemma had the platinum hair and aqua eyes, her skin fair and her lips always glossy. James always joked about her coming out of the womb with manicured nails and lip plumper. Hollywood style.

Gemma shot me a quirky wave. “Sorry, Weasel,” she said. “My notes just flew right out of my hand.”

“Yeah, after you threw them,” I shot back, picking up the paper. I opened it. “Oh, real classy, French.”

“Do you not like my artistic talent?” Gemma asked sweetly. That was the voice she used to get out of detentions when she came late to class after a smoke break on the grounds.

“Not when it’s a picture of me in a compromising position,” I grumbled. “It doesn’t even look like me.”

“It is,” Gemma insisted. Ryan snickered, taking a few notes. “See there? That’s an arrow with your name. That’s how you know it’s you.”

“You sure you didn’t bribe the Sorting Hat with Daddy’s money?” I asked.

James turned his laugh into a hacking cough when Smith looked over. He didn’t seem to care that my back was turned. Probably because I was talking to Ravenclaws who got good marks.

“You’ll never know if I did,” she replied, chewing on the end of her quill, eyes locked on mine. “You’ll never have enough money to bribe it to confess.” Her smirk was something out of a horror film.

Right before the murderer is about to off you.

I looked to Ryan, but she wasn’t looking at me. Couldn’t exactly blame her, seeing as she’d seen me naked. I had already interacted with her more this year than in six years. Awkward.

James elbowed me. “Oy, he said this was going to be on the test,” he said.

I groaned, turning and scribbling down the notes. Molly shot us another look. I made an obscene gesture. Family love.

*

“I’ll never understand Ravenclaws,” James said as we made our way downstairs. We’d just left History of Boring and were on our way to lunch, stomachs grumbly. “Why can’t they just stick to being quiet and smart?”

“The same way we stick to being chivalrous and brave?” I asked.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty chivalrous,” he countered. “Remember a minute ago when I held the door for Molly?”

“You held it to push it into her face when she got closer,” I said.

“Yes, well, the thought was there.” James shrugged and started down the marble staircase. “I’m brave as well.”

“Yes, very brave the way you ran away screaming when Rose went at you with the Beaters bat yesterday.”

“Most of the time!” James whined, elbowing me. “Oh, hey, Rox.”

My sister was walking up the stairs toward us. She had a bag overflowing with textbooks over her shoulder and jamming into her hip. We didn’t have many of the same features. She took after Mum. Serious eyes. Darker skin than me. Way better sense of style. Dad couldn’t dress for shit and he passed that down to me.

He told me that he and my namesake, Fred, once bought hideous dragon-skin suits when they opened the business. Come on, Dad.

“Hey, James.” Roxy nodded and continued up the stairs before turning the corner and vanishing.

“She did, you know, realize you were here, right?” James said, jumping the vanishing step and pausing to look back. “Or has she gone blind? I heard Aunt Ang talking about that once. Is it a family thing?”

“Pretty sure that’s a figure of speech, James.” I rolled my eyes and frowned. “Yeah, Roxy knew I was here.”

“We should start calling her Roxanne,” he said, biting down on his lower lip. “I bet that’d get her attention. Still can’t believe it’s like bloody ships passing. I think she talks to me more than you.”

“You aren’t her brother.”

James shrugged. “Doesn’t matter,” he said. “I talk to Lily way more than you talk to Roxy.”

“You’re both in Gryffindor.”

“You don’t honestly still think that’s it, do you?”

“Let’s just eat, okay?” I shoved open the doors to the Great Hall and led the way to the Gryffindor table. Food was a welcome distraction.

Growing up, Roxy and I had been inseparable. A lot of parents say that about their kids if they spend time together, but it wasn’t just the two of us reluctantly sharing toys or getting in adorable toddler fights filled with blubbering and awkward shrieking. We were best friends.

Sure, James was around, but before the age of thirteen Roxy was everything to me.

We each had our own rooms, but we rarely spent time there. Most of our childhood was spent either exploring the back garden or pitching sheet tents in the den. We made up games. We finger-painted the fuck out of canvases Mum brought home from work. We stifled giggles until three in the morning and we made pacts about things not to tell our cousins.

I always protected her when Dom wanted to pick on her for not having that pretty blond hair Aunt Fleur passed down. She protected me when Grandmum paid more attention to James and fussed over his hair, claiming my hair was obviously better than James’ hair and she just needed to look closer.

It was hardest when I went off to Hogwarts, but I came back for the holidays a true Gryffindor. Roxy and I stayed up late every night. She demanded I tell her everything about Gryffindor house. About the dormitory and the view and the people and where the table was located in the Great Hall. Mum and Dad joined in.

“Two more years,” Roxy insisted, grinning as she sat cross-legged on the end of my bed. “Two more years and I’ll be able to bug you every night.”

We spent every minute of our holidays together, usually with our parents. I gave her lessons on how to be a proper Gryffindor. I always brought home extra scarves and ties for her to wear. She put them on every time we went to Dad’s shop, pretending she went to Hogwarts, cheeks rosy with excitement. It was sad saying good-bye every time I went back, but she assured me it wasn’t long before we’d be able to hang out again all the time.

I saved a seat for her at the start of third year. I figured she could sit between James and me.

I should have known, as he’d done the same for Albus the previous September.

Roxy’s face showed nothing but shock when the Sorting Hat was pulled off her head. She stayed seated for close to ten seconds, fingers shaking until finally she was given a mild shove toward the Ravenclaw table. She stumbled a little, eyeing the navy and gray, probably checking her memory to make sure that was Ravenclaw as I had told her little of the other Houses.

She sat beside Albus, still trembling, and tried to focus on the rest of the sorting.

I kept watching her, but Roxy was determined not to meet my eyes.

It didn’t get better. She insisted everything was fine and she loved Ravenclaw. She got on well with her house-mates, she got amazing marks her first year, and she smiled at all the right times. But something wasn’t there in her eyes anymore.

During the holidays she’d make plans with her mates and our cousins. She had more plans with Lily and Louis than she did me.

“I’m just busy, Freddie,” she said, shrugging, grabbing a piece of toast, and disappearing. Again. Again. Again.

Around my fifth year we started to argue. I didn’t understand her. She was impossible. Arguments about everything and nothing at the same time. They started over how many crackers I put in my chili and ended with dents in the wall the size of book spines. At Christmas, no one asked us about the other.

Mum and Dad didn’t pressure us to get along, but they dropped hints.

I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t known what to do since the last day of August my third year. She wasn’t my sister anymore. She was as good as Scorpius Malfoy’s sister. When she cried, he was there to console her. When she got top marks, he was there to celebrate. When she wanted to have a snowball fight in Hogsmeade on her first trip, he was there to throw the first one.

Which was the way Roxy wanted it.

So instead of getting a book to the head, I watched.

I watched from the Gryffindor table as she had her heart broken last year by some stupid Hufflepuff with hair that stuck up in the back. Malfoy’s arms circled around her and she melted into him, sobbing. I watched her jump onto the marble staircase, screaming about her top score in Charms. She leapt off the fourth stair and into his arms again. He twirled her around, laughing with her. I leaned against the doorframe.

And my back was against the cold, hard bark of a pine while Roxy ran around with her friends in Hogsmeade, throwing snowballs back and forth. Hugo was invited to play. Louis. Lily. Hell, Dominique got her nails dirty for a minute to try to ball up the snow, only to fail miserably and hide behind a bench.

Scorpius tackled Roxy into a drift pile and shoved snow in her face.

Like a brother.

There were only so many times I could attempt to distract myself from being replaced.

*

“Need some company?”

There were three knocks on the door and Annie walked in holding a few books to her chest.

“Anything to get my mind off these reports.” I was sitting in the Prefect office. It was a small room with two desks, a pair of chairs, and the walls were lined with photographs of previous Prefects. Far too many of my family members were on those walls. My parents were not.

“Easy day?” Annie hopped up onto the desk and I tried not to look at her legs. I wished she would adjust her skirt so it covered more of her thighs.

“Had to deduct some points from a third year for threatening a Ravenclaw using some pretty filthy language.” I laughed and showed her the report.

“I don’t even know what that means.” Her nose wrinkled. “Please don’t tell me.” She tossed it onto the desk and leaned back on the palms of her hands. “I had a late dinner and figured I’d see how you were. Classes going okay?”

“They’re all right,” I replied. “How are yours?”

“I’ll never understand why you don’t get as good of marks as other people,” Annie commented, her eyes on the walls. “You’re really smart.”

“I’m no Ravenclaw.”

“Sometimes Ravenclaws are hardly Ravenclaws, you know?”

I thought about Gemma and Ryan.

Annie moved a piece of hair behind her ear. “Ollie said Quidditch is tough with Beckett and Teo.”

“They’re all right.” I shrugged a little, scribbling in some answers on the forms. Paperwork was the worst. If there were no issues through the entire fourth floor, why did I need to bloody write that down? “Rose wants the Cup this year. Well, she wants it every year. Pretty sure she’s addicted to it. She goes into Longbottom’s office to sniff it I think.”

“Probably smells like victory,” Annie said, laughing. “You think you’ll win it again?”

“I hope so,” I replied. “James and I have been working really hard at our technique.”

“You’re way better than the other Beaters.”

“You think so?” I dotted the ‘i’ in Freddie on the page.

“Ravenclaw’s already down a Beater,” she said. “I overheard them talking about it at dinner. Apparently he was one of the new ones. Took a Bludger to the head, got scared, and quit.”

“Can you imagine if I would have quit after a Bludger to the head?”

She grinned. “What have you taken, like twenty?” she asked.

“At the very least.” I shuffled the papers into a neat file, paper-clipped them, and put them in the outgoing basket for Professor Aurora, who was the faculty advisor for Prefects. “I’m pretty sure that’s how I get my best shop ideas.”

“I think the shop will be great when you own it.” Annie beamed, crossing one leg over the other.

I looked. “Yeah?” I said.

Annie put her hand on mine. “Sure,” she replied quietly. Someone’s footsteps echoed in the hall. “You’re brilliant.”

“Thanks.” My thumb brushed across the back of her hand.

*

“This is great, isn’t it?” James asked, shoving a huge bite of ham and turkey sandwich into his mouth. He was next to me on the Quidditch stands, the sun to our backs, as we waited for the Ravenclaw Beater try-outs to begin.

“Don’t you think Rose should be here?” I asked, pulling my jacket tight around me.

“And have her telling us everything that’s wrong with their Keepers form? Fat chance.” James rolled his eyes and took another huge bite. He looked like a hamster. “Les jus not tell her, kay?”

“Good idea.” I stuffed my fingers in my pockets. “Let’s not tell her we’re spying on the new Beater.”

“They ‘ame to ours!” James huffed bitterly.

“Yeah, okay, tough guy.” I patted him on the head, which he slapped away, almost losing his sandwich in the process. I couldn’t quite make out the swear word, as his mouth was still full of three different kinds of Swiss cheese. “See anyone down there with talent?”

My eyes went to the pitch now that a group of hopefuls were collected. Albus was standing a little ways away with sunglasses and a clipboard. The rest of the team was in their gear.

Stupid Scorpius Malfoy and his stupid gear.

“Gemma’s down there,” James said, pointing toward the left side of the group. “Most of them are young, though. Godric, could you imagine going up against her on the pitch? Bruises would be the light end.”

“We could take her on.” I narrowed my eyes. “I’m sure she’ll flash some gold at your brother.”

“Good thing he’s rich,” James noted. “Al’s too obsessed with Quidditch to let someone buy their way onto the team. He wants to win.”

“Wish he wasn’t,” I grumbled. “Then I could hope Malfoy bought his way onto the team and sleep easier at night.”

“I wish he wasn’t talented too,” James said, patting me on the back. “Don’t worry. Whatever Beater they select won’t be as good as we are. That’s a fact. We’re Frames.” He gave me a little salute. “Everyone in that group didn’t make the first cut, so they’re not good anyway.”

The group lined up with old school bats (way too many dents) while Albus shouted something at them. Probably about how to actually be a Beater since most of them looked lost. One kid was staring at a butterfly. The fuck was a butterfly doing down there?

“Ollie thinks all the Ravenclaws are shit,” James said, swallowing another huge bite. “Mostly the girls though.”

I raised a brow. “They’re not the best team, but she can’t be saying shit about Davies, can she?”

“She tried.” James shrugged, eyes turning back to the pitch. He was hunched over on the bench, elbows on his knees.

“What’d she say?” I licked my bottom lip, heart beating quickly. I hadn’t told James anything about my encounter with Ryan, which was strange for us. He knew everything. Except that. I’d been too ashamed of it. He was never one for one-night encounters and I was pretty sure he wouldn’t approve of one with a Ravenclaw who probably hated puppies and babies and stuff.

Something in me decided to keep it from James.

“That Davies is probably on steroids,” James said, chuckling. “Look at her down there.”

My eyes moved to where he was pointing. Ryan was on the sidelines, weight on one leg as she leaned against her broom lazily. Her gaze was at the hoops, probably not paying attention to what Albus was saying. “She’s got talent,” I said.

James nodded. “Yeah, her dad played pro for a couple years. She’s good Chaser blood and shit.” He squinted looking down at her. “You think she gets around?”

I choked. “What?”

“Like, plays at other pitches and stuff? She’s got too much talent just to play at Hogwarts.”

My face was a new shade of red. Sports drink red. Terrible.

“Yeah, right.” I nodded quickly, looking away. “Yeah, I’m sure she plays over the summer. She’s good.”

Albus pointed to the air and the first two Beater prospects took off, as well as their current Beater and the rest of the team.

“She’s good-looking,” James noted.

“Ryan?”

He nodded. “For a Ravenclaw.”

“Right.”

He elbowed me. “You think Gemma is hotter or Ryan?”

“I’m telling Ollie.”

“Spoil-sport,” James grumbled. “Look at that kid – does he seriously think he could do an underhand there?”

Thank Godric he got off the subject. It made me uncomfortable, James talking about the hotness of Ryan. Not that I didn’t agree with him. Ryan was gorgeous. Gemma was attractive. But they kept to themselves for the most part except the odd paper-throwing Herbology incident.

I didn’t know anything about her other than that.

Well, I knew a few things.

“Look!” James said, elbowing me hard. “Number three. Right there. Completely wrong form.”

My eyes were on Ryan, easily passing the Quaffle, barely holding onto her broom. It wasn’t something you could be taught. Hell, it was a kind of Quidditch I’d never be able to play. I just wasn’t built for it. She was just plain talented, whereas James and I could be qualified as educated and good. An important combo for school Quidditch, but a combo that would never get us signed past Hogwarts. Not that we wanted it.

Ryan turned. She had her hair tied back in a pony tail and it was flying back, nearly whipping her in the face each time around the pitch. She completely ignored the Beaters, even though half of the Bludgers were aimed at her.

They never got anywhere near her.

“See Ry’s moves?” Albus asked. He had huffed his little way up the stands now that Malfoy was blowing the whistle and flopped down between James and me. “She’s been practicing this summer.”

“Looks like she practices instead of doing homework,” James mumbled.

“Top marks too,” bragged Albus, grinning.

“I bet she sucks in bed,” James said.

Albus blushed.

I blushed. And then looked away.

“I’m telling Ollie,” Albus said, turning his eyes back to the tryout. “No one’s really looking good.”

“That’s because they’re Ravenclaws,” James said.

“You sound like Rose.” Albus shoved his brother. “You’re just sour that I have Ry and you have … well, that Teo girl and a crazy captain.” He grinned and tapped his foot on the bench below ours.

“One of these days that girl is going to get injured and you’re going to be shit out of luck,” James mumbled. “And then we’ll beat you again.”

“Quit pretending like you care about Quidditch.” Albus yawned. “We both know you only play so Dad will quit asking about your future and so Mum will stop encouraging you to take up a hobby with me.”

“Not my fault you didn’t want to take up basket-weaving,” James said. “They already scouting Davies?”

“Have been for two years.” Albus groaned when one of the candidates got nailed in the shoulder. “Five teams have requested her stats.”

“Hell,” James said. “You sleeping with her, Al?”

“You need to stop thinking about sex,” Albus scolded, elbowing him again. “Especially with my players.”

Blush. Blush. Blush.

Why was I blushing?

Because I had been the one to tangle my fingers in the fabric of her dress and hoist it up over her hips.

Stop, Freddie. Please stop.

“Good luck on the Beater search, Albus!” I cried, voice a little pitchy, and damn-near ran down the stadium stairs.

“Where you headed, Weasel?” shouted Gemma from the pitch. “Done spying?”

“Sod off, French!” I cried, bee-lining to the double-doors.

“He always runs,” Ryan added from above, laughing. The rest of the team laughed, though I was pretty sure none of them knew what she was talking about.

I didn’t dare stop running until I was in the Entrance Hall.
 




A/N: Thanks again to everyone who is new to my stories and to everyone who came over here from stories like Breaking the Quidditch Code & Hide and Seek.





Thoughts so far? 





UP NEXT: The library. Ryan Davies. Father-son relationship. And the docks.


Chapter 3: Straight-Laced
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For Shindig, who is quite a nice stalker.




The library was never a place I found myself frequenting, for various reasons. One of which was smell. It didn’t smell like new books or fresh parchment. It smelled like the Quidditch locker room mixed with the boys bathroom on the fourth floor. It was also full of books. And not just fun books. The library also had all of the boring books. Rows and rows and impossible rows of thick, hardcover books in navy and beige hues that I couldn’t tell the difference between. Gold embossing on the side. Come on.

I put in a petition fifth year for some comic books, but never heard back. Rude.

I also put in a petition to have a small branch of WWW in the back storage room of the library. Shockingly, that didn’t go over well either.

James went to the library quite often, at the urging of Ollie. She set them up at a little table in the corner, resting her legs on his lap as she studied for Potions or something equally as worthless. James read magazines and aimlessly flipped through books trying to find pictures. He got cranky when he didn’t succeed and then tried to seduce Ollie while she studied.

I had to head to the library on Friday, dangerously close to breaking the unspoken rule of never going into that room on the weekend. The smell hit my nose and I winced, fighting the urge to throw on Quidditch robes and beat a Bludger.

It wasn’t crowded. Was the library ever? There were a couple girls pouring over a large pile of books at a nearby table. Four other tables empty in the front.

The list Annie made me was hard to make out. Something about a Charms book. And Transfiguration. And then something scribbly with a heart dotting the i.

“Can I help you find something?”

Out of all of the places. Really?

My eyes moved to the circulation desk. Ryan Davies was leaning over it, chin resting delicately on her palm. Her hair was splayed out onto her shoulders, falling toward the counter, toward a thick book with a slip of paper saving the page a quarter of the way through.

“I should be okay,” I said, nodding. There were at least five thousand rows. Okay, maybe not that many. But there were a lot of books. A lot of rows. A lot of sections named after things I couldn’t say, let alone spell.

“Are you sure?” she asked, a little louder. The girls from the nearby table looked up. One snickered.

I looked back at the list. Annie’s handwriting wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Jane Austen book.

“I just need a couple things,” I grumbled, slouching over to the desk. I slid the paper across to her, my eyes on everything else around me. The counter. The books. The clicky quills.

“I’ll show you where they are.” Ryan glanced at the list for a moment before emerging from behind the counter. She was in her school uniform with her skirt shorter than most. It was barely grazing her thighs. She had a lopsided name-tag attached to her blouse. With a skeptical look, she led the way down the first of the aisles. Books went from the floor clear up way over my head.

Ryan paused by the window at the end of the aisle, grabbing a ladder. She placed the list on one of the shelves and took two steps up.

Two steps too many.

My eyes were on her. I wanted to look away. After all, we weren’t exactly mates. I didn’t know anything about her other than her family’s Quidditch history, that she was talented, and that she could chew up a bloke and spit him out. I didn’t really want to be that bloke.

Still, I couldn’t help but think about her. The softness of her skin. The way her lips tasted like whiskey.

I shook my head, fingers clutching the book shelf. Ryan was going through the rows of the books, tip of her pointer grazing the spines.

For the last six years, I had two classes a term with her. We never spoke to each other. We’d never peer-graded each other’s papers. We’d never been a part of ‘I bet we can re-enact a Muggle movie’ night in the Great Hall. I was dubbed the nice bloke that made everyone laugh. She was the sour girl who hated everyone, everything, and then some.

Not that she was always like that. When Ryan was on a broom, her eyes looked different. Hell, even her lips looked different. She was softer.

This summer was a cluster. I’d gone home at the end of sixth year with the main goal of helping Dad get the Hogsmeade branch and convincing him to renovate the current shop to make it ‘hip with the times.’ Okay, James and I didn’t use that term, but Dad was keen on the word ‘hip,’ so we let him go on about it.

Unfortunately, that didn’t exactly happen.

Dad’s still in a legal mess with the owner of Zonkos, I am no longer welcome there because of a few snarky comments I made, and Dad thinks my views for the current branch are too far-fetched. He likes things the way they are. He likes things the way him and Uncle Fred put them.

“Drop it, Freddo,” Dad said, late in the summer. He was at the kitchen table, reading the Prophet with a steaming mug of coffee next to him. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“You didn’t want to talk about it yesterday,” I pressed. “Dad, the displays are from the nineties. You have got to update the shop. What’s your revenue this year? It’s down.”

“Don’t talk to me about figures. I know what I’m doing.” He flipped two pages forward. Dad always skipped the finance section.

“You knew what you were doing fifteen years ago,” I shot back. “Times are changing. Zonkos is changing with the times.”

“I’m not renovating it, Fred!” Dad cried, his fingers moving through his thick, red hair. He looked tired, the purple lines under his eyes more noticeable now than ever. “Drop it.”

Two hours later he had another episode. It isn’t how it sounds. He doesn’t have fits or attacks or anything. He just goes into his office, pours over some of his old books, and sort of loses it for a while. Mum said it’s been happening since just before I was born. Says it’s because he misses Uncle Fred.

Some days it’s worse than others. Some days he’ll come out an hour later with puffy eyes and pull a bottle of rum out of the cabinet under the sink. Other days it’ll be hours before he comes out and Mum will have to clean up shattered glass on the wood floor and shredded documents. He can’t control them. The most he can do is shut himself in his office.

I leaned against the kitchen counter, hearing what sounded like a frame get chucked into the wall. Yep. That was definitely glass.

“Let it go, Freddie,” Mum said as she paused to kiss me on the cheek. She was in a pair of jeans and a tank top, gardening gloves sticking out of her back pocket. “Let him be alone.”

“Why is it always like this?” I asked, irritated. “Nothing is ever going to change.”

“Relax.” Mum pressed her lips to one side. “It’s not in your control.”

“Never bloody is,” I mumbled and shoved my way out the back door.

*

The pub was dark when I arrived. It was nearly full since the wizarding world was known for its day-drinking. Most of the inhabitants were middle-aged men with scruffy beards and pints, but there were a couple good-looking ladies at a table by the grimy window and a bloke my age at the bar. I took a seat at the counter, ordered a firewhiskey, and proceeded to drink.

Ryan arrived thirty minutes later and sat down beside me, cigarette between her lips. She didn’t acknowledge me, only ordered a shot of tequila, a basket of chips, and a small water. Her brown eyes stayed on her food.

“You should dip those in the tequila,” I said after ordering a third drink. I was a little wobbly, but overall not too bad.

Ryan looked over and stabbed her cigarette out in the ashtray between us. Then she took a chip between her fingers, dipped it into the shot, and tossed it into her mouth.

“So?” I pressed.

“Not bad,” she said, her alto voice quiet compared to the shrieking girls at the table by the window. “You work at your old man’s shop?”

“Mostly cash register,” I said, shrugging. I tried to keep the bitterness out of my voice.

“Thrilling.” Ryan dipped another and ate it. “I’m sure you could get a line of tequila chips going.”

“Absolute brilliance,” I agreed, taking another long drink.

“Smoke?” she asked, holding out the pack. I shook my head. “Ah, you’re one of those.”

“The hell does that mean?”

Ryan rolled her eyes and brushed a dark layer of hair away from her face. “Straight-laced, Weasley.”

“Okay, because I don’t smoke I’m straight-laced?” I rolled my eyes. “You’re full of it. I’m sure Albus loves you smoking. Your stamina must be fantastic.”

“Like it’s your business.”

“You judge me, I’ll judge you right back, sweetheart.” I wasn’t sure where the bite in my voice was coming from. Probably the drink.

“Call me sweetheart again,” she warned.

“Oh, you’re one of those,” I echoed.

“I will punch you right in the face.”

“And you will get kicked out of this pub before you can finish your tequila chips,” I said in a sing-song voice, my eyes meeting hers. She held my gaze, but it was obvious she couldn’t call my bluff. “That’s what I thought.”

Then Ryan socked me right in the arm.

“OW!”

She smirked and ordered a second shot of tequila, throwing it back. “Sorry, sweetheart,” she cooed. “I slipped.”

I wish I could remember the rest of what happened. At one point we lined up five empty shot-glasses in front of us and put them on our fingers as fake nails. It was strange. I don’t remember much of the conversation. There was laughter. Some large bloke came over asking for a smoke and Ryan pointed him in the direction of a store. Her voice was cold. Her voice was always cold, for some reason.

I do, however, remember all of what happened in that bathroom stall.

In detail.

I even remember the owl addresses scribbled into the wall in pink and purple and yellow. Who writes in yellow?

I helped her with the zipper on the back of her dress. I kissed her once. Twice. Four times. Six times before she wiggled away and out of the bathroom.

I lost my dinner moments later, including all of the tequila chips, which I had to admit was a piss poor idea and would not be implemented into WWW any time soon.

*

“Weasley,” Ryan barked, shoving two books into my chest. “Pay attention.”

I grabbed them, shaking my head. “Sorry,” I muttered, eyes moving around to see if anyone was watching. It was the library. Who would be watching? “Yeah, thanks. Sorry.”

“You still need a couple more. C’mon.” Ryan didn’t wait. She started walking back down the aisle and turned right, heading toward where the plush chairs were. That was the only good part of the library.

I didn’t want to be thinking about her. I didn’t need to be. What happened over the summer was a random encounter fueled with alcohol, attraction, and the fact that I have really good moves. Well, I think I do.

Alessandra may doubt that. Bloody woman.

I fought to keep my eyes on the books. Books were great. Right? I liked books.

I didn’t like books. I can’t even lie in my mind.

How about a new product that stores replenishing sweets inside of important-looking books? Oh, or ones you can change the title to depending on the course?

“Here.” Ryan shoved a third book in my hand. “That’s your Charms one. That one’s due back two days before the others. It’s popular.”

“Why would Charms be popular?” I asked.

“Close your mouth when you speak,” Ryan replied sweetly and disappeared down another aisle.

I shook my head, trying to keep it clear. “You know, I don’t need this fourth book. It’s a waste, really.”

Ryan turned, her brow arching. “Why are you trying to bail?”

“Just don’t need it. I like odd numbers anyway. Can’t be seen carrying around an even number of books. Thats for Ra--” I paused. “That’s what Slytherins do.”

“Didn’t know Slytherins touched books without combusting,” Ryan noted, leaning against a shelf. My eyes traveled from hers all the way down her torso.

“See you in class. Tell French I send my love.” I turned and damn near bloody rushed out of the library, trying not to drop the books as I shoved past a pair of Hufflepuffs.
*

Freddo,

I still don’t buy Neville’s teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts now. Couldn’t bloody defend himself against a flobberworm. You sure you got that right? Or did you get drunk and stumble into the wrong class? I wouldn’t doubt it between you, James, and a pint of firewhiskey. Don’t worry, I won’t tell your mum.

Had court this morning with the Zonkos bastards. Went miserable, as you can assume. In one of those old courtrooms in the ministry. You know they’re trying to update them? Changed the floor to tile. It’s ugly. Let’s never change the shop floors to tile. What a sodding mess.

It didn’t go well. Zonkos tots insist I don’t have the interest of the village at heart. Someone tell me what the village interest is, will they? Interest is money. That’s what it should be. They’re hanging on by a thread right now. They have zero tourism. They have money from the locals and from the kids on Hogsmeade weekends. You think that’s enough to fund an entire village? It’s not. They need tourism dollars. And there is only one WWW in London where people come from all over England.

Why not another in Scotland? TOURISM, Freddo. They just don’t understand.

We’ll figure it out. I have confidence. Haven’t heard back from whats-his-face who owns the shop. Or her? Was it an old lady or an old man? The hair made it a toss-up.

Get back to me on that.

How’s school? How’s James and Ollie? Still appropriately fawning over each other or is the three-year honeymoon phase finally over? Tell James that stunt he pulled sneaking into the basement to snuggle Ollie over the summer was not appreciated. Though it was in the sense that we went down there and found you and Annie a bloody kilometer apart.

You’re allowed to touch girls, Freddo. They don’t bite.

Well, not all of them anyway.

Still on about Alessandra? She was a bitch. Let it go.

Take Annie for a milkshake or something. She could use a good snog.

Keep me posted on life. I heard from Roxanne. She says this year is going ‘swimmingly.’ I also have no idea who taught her that word, but I’m going to have to sit them down and tell them to stop teaching my daughter to speak like a twat. You with me? You hold his hands. I’ll do the smacking. Unless he’s underage, then the other way around and I’ll deny everything.

Keep your head up, Freddo.

Dad

Dad and I had a complicated relationship.

It wasn’t complicated in the sense that we fought or anything. No, we got along swimmingly, as Rox would say. We got along for as long as I could remember. He used to put me on his shoulders and parade through the back garden shouting about dinosaurs and stomping on weeds. He read me stories on the couch. Tucked me in at night. Told me to never trust anyone who liked the Magpies.

When I was five, he started telling me stories about his years at Hogwarts. I remember holding my palm over my mouth, hardly able to believe my own dad got up to that much mischief. He told me about the sneaking off, the map, the hidden passageways. He told me about everything.

He was the protagonist and Uncle Fred was the wing-man.

I listened intently to every word and over the years realized there was a spark in his eyes when he told me those stories. He got so excited over the battles and the Quidditch and even the girls. I knew right away I wanted to be just like him. Hell, that was why I wanted to be a Beater to begin with. But the moment he finished the story, the light in his eyes was gone.

He would frown sadly, tuck in the blankets, and kiss the top of my head.

“Good night, Fred,” he said softly. He flipped off the light and left.

I knew in that moment, he wasn’t talking to me.

*


“Remind me again what I’m doing here?” Annie looked over, bored expression on her face.

“You’re reading your handwriting.” I pointed to the list and glanced around the library, hoping no one was watching.

“How did you get the first few books?”

“Library clerk.” Shrug.

“And you thought I would be better than a library clerk the second time around?” Annie asked, rolling her eyes. “Come on, then.” She grabbed my arm and tugged me toward the shelves. “You’re hopeless.”

“I’m hopeful,” I corrected, voice hushed because I had a pretty good idea who was behind the counter. “That you will find me the correct book and I can study like a Ravenclaw.”

“All you and James do is stereotype.”

“You mean you’re not going to put a coat over a puddle for me?” I gasped. “Treason!”

“Shh!” She nudged my shoulder. “I’m just saying not all Ravenclaws study.”

“No?”

“I’m pretty sure you know this.” Annie rolled her eyes and turned into a different section, focusing on the authors or titles or whatever she had written with her chicken scratch. “How’s Quidditch?”

“Quidditch-y,” I replied, shrugging.

“And classes?” she prompted.

“Classy?”

Another nudge. “Here.” Annie pulled a slender green book off the shelf. “Sure it isn’t too Slytherin for you?”

“Slytherins can’t read,” I replied, shooting her a wink. Her cheeks colored. “Do you like milkshakes?”

She glanced around and then back at me. “Why? Who doesn’t like milkshakes?”

“We should go out for milkshakes.”

Her cheeks darkened. I had no idea why, considering I was just asking about milkshakes. “Erm, okay,” she replied in a stuttery voice. “We can go out for milkshakes.”

The library fell quiet. Not that it was loud, but there were some whispers and page-rustling. Annie leaned against the opposite shelf, weight on one leg, fingers in her pockets.

“Tonight?” I asked, trying to think like James.

“Sure. Tonight sounds lovely.”

*

“I’m pretty sure before you ask a girl on a date, you should know your clean-clothes situation,” James said, kicking at his pillow. He was sprawled out on his bed, head on his hands teenage-book-cover-style. “Which is, right now, non-existent.”

“It’s not a date,” I said, running my fingers through my hair. “It’s a milkshake.”

“It’s a date,” he said firmly. “Now wear something nice.”

“It’s a milkshake.” I threw my pillow at him. “Seriously, James. It’s not a date.”

“She told Ollie it’s a date.”

My eyes flew over. “What?”

James rolled onto his side, dark hair spilling onto the sheets. He looked positively gleeful to be holding onto this. “Yup,” he said. “Also, we should get a pet.”

“Back up!” I cried, falling onto the bed. “What did she tell Ollie?”

My mind was racing. I asked her for a milkshake because Dad suggested it. Because he thought Annie could use a good snog. Not by him of course. I didn’t mean that it was a date.

Sure, Annie was a great girl.

I hadn’t really thought of her like that before.

Heck, I spent most of my years thinking her name was Anastasia or Anlilian or something weird.

And now I was going on a date with her.

Think. Think. Think.

Dates. Required wardrobe. Tie? Sounded mandatory.

But for a milkshake joint? Godric.

“Told Ollie that she’s going on a date with you tonight,” James explained with a shit-eating grin on his face. “And asked if she could borrow some eyeliner, which I’ll never begin to understand. Ollie looks perfectly beautiful without eyeliner.”

“Sap,” I muttered.

“She does!” he protested. “I like her best in the morning.”

“Can we get back to me please?” I said, voice trailing into a whine as I fell back into the pillows. “I didn’t mean for this to be a date.”

“Just wanted a quick snog with my girl’s best friend?” James asked, laughing. “No such luck. Now you’ll have to propose. Do you need help ring shopping? I can help you. I know what a princess cut is and the pear one. After that you’re on your own.”

“I hate everything about you,” I grumbled.

“Do you not want to go on a date with her?” James propped himself up on his elbows, checking the door again to make sure we were alone.

“I just never thought about it. Annie’s always been sweet and my friend … “

“You think she’s attractive?”

“Of course,” I said quickly. “She’s stunningly beautiful. I love it when she blushes. It makes me want to hug her.”

“What about kiss her?” James pressed. “Have you ever thought about it?”

“Not really.” I shrugged, closing my eyes. I imagined pushing a strand of hair behind Annie’s ear and bringing my lips to hers.

“You want to!” James cried.

“What?” I looked over, fingers straightening my sheet.

“You just bit the fuck out of your lip,” James said, now bouncing on his own bed. “Freddie and Annie sitting on a broom, k-i-s-s-i-OW! That’s my head.”

“Not amused.”

He was right, though. My lip was sore and I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. Kissing Annie. Brushing my thumb along her cheek. Her skin was always soft. She was always nice. Why hadn’t I wanted to kiss her before? Alessandra? I wasn’t sure.

But now it was definitely in my head.

“Need some ice for that blush?” James teased and got another pillow to the face.

I put my fingers to my cheek. It was on fire. Oh, hell.

“Need to borrow some clothes?”

“Yes,” I grumbled, hoisting myself off the bed and walking toward his wardrobe. I glanced at the inside of the doors. “Seriously, James?”

“What? They’re well-written?”

I tore one of the love-letters off the wood. “You keep Ollie’s love notes?”

“Don’t read that,” he said. “It’s personal.”

“You are not a Weasley,” I said, eyes skimming it. But then it got too sappy and disgusting so I taped it back to the inside of the wardrobe. “Does Ollie know you keep them?”

“No,” James said. It was his turn to blush. “Shut up. You have a sodding milkshake date, Freddie.”

*

Annie’s eyes found mine. It was easy to look her in the eyes, considering her face was, once again, on fire. A few people were looking. Rose was snickering from beside the fire. Clearly James had blabbed to everyone in the family that I was back in the dating scene.

When I was seeing Alessandra, they made it the topic of conversation at every meal. James offered to start up a tabloid, which everyone tossed money into before we broke up. My relatives were the best. Really. The best. Even Louis joined in, but that was only because he was in the ‘I want to be James when I grow up’ phase.

He’s still in that phase.

He messes up his blond tresses on a daily basis. Twat.

“Strawberry,” I blurted.

“What?” Annie said, looking startled.

“That’s my favorite milkshake.” I swallowed hard, keeping my attention on her eyes. That was a good place to look. Especially after James brought up snogging her again just before I went downstairs. I wished he wouldn’t do that.

“Oh,” Annie said. “I like chocolate.”

“Right.” I ruffled my hair, even after James told me not to. I could see Ollie at the top of the stairs, stifling snickers behind her hand. “Should we go?”

“I’d like that.” Annie fumbled a bit with her bag and started toward the portrait hole.

I took the moment to admire what she was wearing. I decided to nix the tie idea and had pulled on a striped collared shirt and khaki trousers. She, however, ventured for a green cotton dress with a conservative neckline. It went just below her knees, exposing her legs to the sparkly green flats she wore.

Girls always managed to upstage blokes, and I’d never complain.

I never understood why they got all uppity about needing makeup and false eyelashes and those things that suck in everything to make them look skinny.

I thought Annie was just as pretty in that dress as she was earlier in the library.

“You look nice,” I managed to get out once we were in the hall.

“Thanks.” Annie pushed a piece of hair behind her ear. “You look handsome.”

Why was this so awkward? Because of the title? Date?

I hate awkward. It’s the worst. I was the opposite of awkward.

Supposed to be, anyway.

“Look,” Annie said suddenly, stopping in the middle of the corridor. Her steps echoed for a moment before stopping. “I don’t want this to be weird. Why is this weird?”

“James said you told Ollie it was a date,” I said.

“Ollie said it was a date,” Annie said, sighing. She groaned. “She was teasing me about it. I asked to use her eyeliner. She told me I was going on a date. I told her I was going with you for a milkshake.”

“So you don’t think it’s a date?” I looked at our attire.

“I don’t know.” Annie shrugged. “It doesn’t have to be.”

“Do you want it to be?”

She shot me a look. “I don’t know why I have to answer all of the questions,” she said. “Why don’t you answer one? Do you want it to be?”

I shrugged and started walking back down the hall. She followed shortly after. All I could think about was the gloss on her lips. It was a sort of coral. The color of an entire line of WWW candy I helped Dad stock over the summer. It was ingrained in my brain. Something I couldn’t forget. And it was on her lips. Glossy. Shiny.

And I wanted to kiss it off of her.

“You’re known for never giving me a straight answer, Freddie,” she said, grabbing my arm.

“I don’t know,” I said. I could feel the back of my neck warming. “I feel cornered.”

“Why don’t you just answer honestly?”

“Because it always backfires.”

“I’m not Alessandra.” Annie’s eyes narrowed and she pulled me to a stop.

“Can we not talk about her?” I asked. “Fine. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a date. It’s a milkshake. We’re dressed nice. Milkshakes are too complicated.”

“I’m not complicated.” Annie’s fingers moved into my hand, lacing with my own.

I shuffled my feet. “I thought about kissing you today.”

Her teeth tugged at her bottom lip. My eyes moved there immediately. “Did you?”

“Yeah.” I swallowed a couple times in the silence. The lip gloss was still there.

“So why don’t you?”

“Why don’t I what?”

“Why don’t you kiss me?” Annie asked softly. Even the portraits had fallen silent.

“Because this is a date,” I replied nervously. “And when you’re on a date, you don’t kiss a girl before it starts. That’s how Slytherins do things.”

Annie’s lips tilted into a smile as she started walking again. “I think they just shag before the date,” she teased, bumping my hip with hers. “I’ve changed my mind, by the way. I want vanilla.”

“Have whatever you like. It’s on me.”

She nudged my hip again. “Such a Gryffindor, Freddie.”

“I’ve got the bed hangings to prove it.”

*

“DID YOU KISS HER?”

“James, shut up.” I pulled the shirt over my head and tossed it onto his wardrobe, the sleeve getting stuck on a frame. “You’re going to wake everyone.”

“Who cares?” he said, scooting toward the side of the bed. “Did you snog her? How was it? Like in your little imaginary world? Ollie said she bets you snogged.”

“Do you talk to anyone other than Ollie?”

“Sure. I talk to you. Quit changing the subject.”

I rubbed the back of my neck and kicked off my shoes, trying to be quiet since the hangings for the other three beds were closed. It was late. “Yes,” I said after a while of James practically panting. “I kissed her.”

“Was it good?”

I nodded and James whooped.

“So why’re you back so late?”

“Took a nightly stroll.”

“Kiss her again?”

“Yeah.” I chuckled a little, face warm.

We ended up closing down the milkshake place around nine, after a pair of shakes each. Two strawberries for me. A vanilla and then a chocolate for her. We cheersed with cherries. After we left, I put an arm around her shoulders and we took a walk around the lake. We sat on the docks for a couple hours and she asked me all about the shop and my parents and any recent developments with Roxy (minimal). Then I kissed her. Several times there.

Again in the Entrance Hall.

Once more outside of the portrait hole.

It was nice. And just like I thought it would be.

“Going to go on another date?”

I shrugged. “Probably,” I said, pulling off my pants and tugging on some shorts. “I had a good time.”

“Double date!” cried James.

I shot him a look. “Can I at least sleep on it?” I asked.

“Uh, no,” James said like it was obvious. “I stayed up reading waiting.”

“Reading?” My brow raised as I moved under the covers. “What’re you, a Ravenclaw now?”

“You think I’d fit in with my brother?” James asked with a cheeky smile. He pulled out his book and put on a serious expression. “The answer to the equation of true love is the symbol of pie added to a gazillion.”

“I’ll get the blue and gray.”




A/N: Happy Summer! I am going to (attempt) Camp NaNoWriMo in June so if the updates are less frequent, that's why. Though I'm going to try and get ahead of myself before then ...


I hope you liked the chapter! Any favorite quotes? 

 


Chapter 4: Wants, Needs, and Escapes
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For potterfan310. I agree with Fryan.





Things were going strangely well.

Practice was working out. Teo and Beckett were great new additions and Rose hadn’t killed either one off yet. In fact, everyone was alive and the only one with a bruise was Ollie for sneaking a kiss in the air. James dodged the Bludger.

Classes were okay. I was passing. No professor had knocked me over the head with a text book yet.

I had a whole list of things for the WWW shop to show Dad when I went home from break. Mostly candy, even though I knew he hated the idea for candy that wasn’t extremely magical almost as much as he hated the renovation idea.

Managed to successfully avoid the library for a week.

I had kissed Annie another couple times that week. She came to visit me after Prefect rounds and I kissed her in the office. And then she came to my room to borrow my Charms notes and I kissed her against the wall. Nothing was official. Nothing was talked about, but I really liked the calming feeling that came over me when I kissed her.

Everything was just easy.

Life wasn’t complicated.

Well, until the complicated could no longer be ignored.

*

I hadn’t been more confused than hearing Ryan Davies screaming outside of the Prefect’s bathroom door. She sounded livid. Pure hatred. Of course, I’d heard her angry before. In past Quidditch matches she’d gone after a couple Slytherins for firing Bludgers right at her. One of them she hexed across the pitch, breaking part of his spine on the fall. Luckily, easy fix for the nurse.

Slytherins tended to aim away from her after that.

During Herbology third year she viciously attacked a plant for looking at her wrong. It then spit pus all over her. Then she hexed it into mush. Professor Longbottom damn near sobbed.

Never had it been directed at me. Freddie Weasley. Overall nice guy Gryffindor.

Not according to Alessandra, but she was a bint anyway.

It was her punch I wasn’t expecting. Powerful right hook to the jaw, which sent me flying back into the bathroom and skidding across the floor. My back had tile burn. I could taste the blood.

My eyes looked up, finding hers. Shocked.

It was in that moment I thought Ryan Davies might kill me.

She took two steps in, abandoning her bag, and slammed the door shut. Her chest was heaving, though I tried not to stare. No, her eyes were provocative enough to keep my focus. Angry. Filled with absolute loathing. Fists balled at her sides, nails cutting into her palms.

I brought my fingers to my jaw, massaging it. They were dampened with blood.

“I was sick this week,” she announced. I could see she was trying to regain control. Probably so she wouldn’t kick me backward and drown me in the tub.

“Yeah,” I said, nodding. “Yeah, you weren’t in Herbology the other day. Feel...better?”

“I never get sick,” Ryan went on, clearly not listening. “I don’t get sick.”

“Al told me you have a great record of showing up on time,” I choked out, still rubbing my jaw. It hurt like hell, the dull ache of fire on rod iron.

“But it didn’t go away,” she said. “It wasn’t just a stomach bug. Or the flu. Or something curable with a tablet.”

“Get a disease?” I asked, scooting further back.

Ryan took a step forward. “In a way,” she said dangerously.

“Are you going to tell me why I’m bleeding on the Prefect’s bathroom floor?” I asked, wincing again. Fuck. Pain. Everything hurt. How much blood was I losing?

“Because the disease belongs to you, Weasley,” Ryan spat. “You and your bar stall antics got me pregnant.”

Blink.

Gape.

Choke.

“What?”

“You fucking heard me,” she snapped, taking another step forward. “I’ve got a fucking kid growing inside of me, I can’t fucking do anything, and in turn, you are going to die.”

I groaned and leaned back onto the tile. The blood had gotten into my hair now. I stared at the ceiling. “Go ahead,” I mumbled. “If you don’t, my Grandmum will.”

Ryan paused. Then she cleared her throat. “I’m serious, Weasley.”

“Sweetheart, I believe it.”

That earned me a swift kick to the kneecap.

“Fuck--Ryan, what do you want me to say?” I asked, flying up to clutch my knee. This woman was going to send me to the hospital. “Want me to say sorry? Take it back? What the fuck do you want from me?”

She kicked the other kneecap. “I HAVE A CHILD INSIDE OF ME,” she cried. “I WANT YOU TO FUCKING DO SOMETHING.”

“You want me to propose?” I asked, looking up at her seriously.

“You are a pig.” She punched me hard in the nose before I got my arm up to block it and everything went black.

*

When I woke, I was back in the dormitory. I had two cotton balls stuffed up my nose, a bandage on my jaw, a dry mouth, and I could feel the bruises on my knees. Everything hurt.

I blinked a couple times and glanced toward the window. The sky was an orange haze.

“Morning, Sleeping Beauty,” said James, pulling his legs up under him. He had been reading a magazine, but had eagerly tossed it aside when I woke. “How’re you feeling?”

“Bugger off,” I grumbled. “What time is it?”

“Six,” he said. “You slept through the night.”

“Ah.” I reached over for the glass of warm water on my nightstand. It tasted terrible.

“Going to tell me what happened?” James pressed. “Molly said she got told by some twittery Ravenclaw that you were knocked out in the Prefect’s bathroom. She got you up here and fixed you up instead of going to the hospital wing. She knows how much you hate that place.”

Molly was right. That was something I inherited from my father. A serious loathing of hospitals and everyone inside of them.

“Don’t want to talk about it.”

“Who beat the fuck out of you?” James asked. “Slytherin? Big Slytherin? Woolly mammoth?”

“I’m in trouble, James,” I said, eyes searching his stare. “I’m in big, big trouble.”

“Are we talking assassination trouble or cheating on an exam trouble?”

I adjusted myself so I could sit up, but my knees felt like they were being gouged with ice picks. “Leaning toward the first,” I admitted. “I don’t think I can talk about it. I haven’t even started to think about it.”

“Is this going to turn into twenty questions?” James asked impatiently. “You know I’m horrible with that game. I’m only good with the nouns. Is it a noun?”

“Not the time,” I grumbled, reaching up to touch my swollen jaw. “I need to talk to Ryan.”

“Ryan?” James asked. “French’s best mate? My brother’s star Chaser?”

“That one,” I said with a nod, taking another sip of the disgusting water. At least it kept me from having to explain things.

“Just tell me one thing.”

“Hmm?”

“Tell me Ryan Davies didn’t kick the shit out of you.” James motioned to my cotton balls.

I frowned. “I can’t tell you that.”

“We have to agree never to tell the family you got beat up by a girl,” he huffed, standing. “Want me to tell Annie you’re alive?”

“Why?”

“Because she’s been up here four times,” he explained.

“Yeah. Mention it. I don’t want her being worried.”

James nodded. “We’re going to have a talk later. Want me to blow off my date with Ollie?” he asked, looking concerned.

I shook my head. “Have fun,” I said. “We’ll chat later. It’s not serious.”

Only that I was going to be a father.

*

Ryan arrived twenty minutes later. I had pulled a book out of my nightstand, forcing my attention on Charms instead of impending doom or of my urge to blow chunks. She still looked angry, but her fury was gone and her hands weren’t in fists anymore. She closed the door behind her and leaned on it.

“You’re lucky,” she said. “I thought about bringing Gemma with me.”

“Does she know?” I asked, dog-earing the book and placing it on the bed beside me.

“Yeah. She was there.”

“She knows it’s me?” I asked.

Ryan shook her head. “I told her I had a random hook-up over the summer,” she said. “Which I did. Which I shouldn’t have.”

I sighed. “Look, this is serious. Forgive me for being blunt, but you know for sure it’s mine?”

“Are you calling me a slut, Weasley?”

Digging myself a hole. Dig. Dig. Dig.

“I need to ask,” I said, keeping my jaw clenched. I hoped she didn’t hit me again. “Just answer the question.”

“It’s yours,” Ryan replied, just as tartly. “You were the only person I had the pleasure of getting semi-naked with this entire summer.” She spat the word pleasure like it was cabbage.

“Lucky me,” I shot back.

Ryan crossed one leg over the other. “Yeah, well, you were piss drunk the whole time anyway.”

“You trying to say I don’t have moves?”

“Not if you tried,” Ryan said, rolling her eyes.

“You weren’t exactly sober either, cupcake,” I said. “As I recall, you had a similar bad attitude and were also in that same pub stall.”

“Drop it, Weasley,” Ryan snapped angrily. “It’s done. It happened.”

“So what now?”

I didn’t want to keep thinking about it. Or talking about it. I didn’t want to let my mind wander to the place it had threatened to go since she told me.

Ryan Davies was pregnant with my kid.

We could play the blame game all day long, but the truth was it was over. What was done was done. There was no regard for consequences or futures or anything. In approximately nine months, the two of us were going to be parents. Whether we liked it or not.

Well.

“Are you going to keep it?” I asked, teeth tugging on my bottom lip. It hurt, but it made me less nervous. I stopped when I began to taste blood again.

She looked at me. I saw the bumps rise on her arms. “I’m not in a rational state of mind to make those decisions right now,” she said.

Spoken like a true Ravenclaw.

“Have you freaked out yet?”

She shook her head. “Other than gotten angry at you? No.”

I paused. “Want to hit me again?”

“A little.”

“Can I advise against it?”

“You can.”

The sides of my lips tugged into a brief smile. “I guess the plan is to keep it a secret,” he said. “Am I correct?”

“I wasn’t really looking forward to the entire student body calling me a whore for sleeping with a Gryffindor,” Ryan said. “So yes, I’d like to keep it quiet. At least until I make a decision.”

“Okay.” I nodded. Everything felt numb. I didn’t know if that was because the pain finally became too much or if it was because of the words coming out of her mouth. “Give French my love.”

“If she finds out it was you, she will murder you.”

“You already got close enough,” I ventured, shrugging and then wincing.

Ryan turned and put her hand on the doorknob. “Our lives just got a lot more complicated,” she said softly. I had never heard her voice anything but cold in the past.

“And a lot more intertwined,” I replied, frowning as she left.

*

It didn’t take a lot for it to sink in. I removed the cotton from my nose and began a morning and afternoon of tossing, turning, and whining. Oh, and feeling sorry for myself.

A thousand options raced through my mind.

She could get rid of it. I’d never be able to look her in the face again.

I would always be left wondering: What if?

I was seventeen. Definitely not old enough to be having a kid. James and I were still kids. We still got sweets for our birthdays.

Or maybe she would keep it.

I could run away to Romania with Uncle Charlie!

Or to Russia and be … Russian. Play ice hockey and all that.

Or I could stay.

I could own the shop one day with James and take the kid in there like my dad used to do with me.

Who’s to say how much I would see it?

Who’s to say I wouldn’t accidentally let it hit its head on something sharp?

Who’s to say Ryan wouldn’t fall in love and move?

Okay, that one was the least likely to happen, as Ryan Davies was allergic to boyfriends. And love. And commitment.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

This wasn’t me. This wasn’t something I got myself into. I was a good kid. I got passable grades, I worked at the shop, I treated girls well. I took Annie out for a milkshake.

Godric. Annie.

What was she going to say?

We weren’t dating, but it wasn’t exactly great to mention to the girl you kind of like to kiss that you have a baby growing in another woman’s stomach.

Fuck.

Annie was going to hate me.

Mum was going to decapitate me.

Dad was going to have another sodding fit.

And Grandmum was going to disown me for life.

I rolled again. And again. There was no easy way to solve this. No formula. No back escape route.

Still, I kept thinking about Ryan. About the anger in her eyes. I wished I knew more about her. What her life was like. Why there was pain in her expression. Why she hated the idea of relationships so much.

Not that I needed to know. No, we were two people who happened to be in a similar situation.

We just needed a plan.

And I needed to never have sex again.

*

Freddo,

Glad to hear you took Annie for a milkshake. And you gave her a good snog. I’m telling you: She’s a good girl. Your mother and I are both really fond of her. Don’t be scared to use a little tongue. It’s healthy, I promise.

I have court again tomorrow with that old hag that owns the property. Positive thoughts tomorrow! Did you start that product list yet? I want to have a look at it. When’s your first match? November, right? I think your Uncle Ron is already talking about it considering every one of Rose’s sodding letters is about Quidditch. Can you tell her to take a swim or something?

Does she have any friends? She does, right? If not … try and solve that. I’m sick of hearing about Quidditch.

Do your best though. Win because Gryffindors win.

Well, Weasleys win, but we’ll throw James in there too. Not Albus because he plays for the enemy.

Have you talked to Roxanne? She hasn’t written recently.

Love, Dad

Of course I hadn’t talked to Roxy. She was so involved with being a Ravenclaw she didn’t care about what I got up to. Like getting one of her housemates pregnant. I saw her at breakfast that morning, but she was chatting away with her mates. And Scorpius bloody Malfoy: Brother Figure Extraordinaire.

Sodding asshole.

“Tell Uncle George I send my love,” cooed James, draping an arm over my shoulder. I still hadn’t told him about Ryan and I, though he constantly pressed me about it. In the end, I told him Gemma might have to take remedial Herbology and Ryan needed my notes. When I refused, she punched me and then proceeded to decorate my body in my own blood. That did the trick.

“I’ll do that,” I said, nodding. I folded the letter and stuffed it in my pocket, determined to concentrate on breakfast, as opposed to Roxy or my father’s court date.

Instead, my eyes found Ryan at the Ravenclaw table. She was sitting across from Gemma, facing me, eyes downcast. She moved her fork back and forth over her food as they talked. She kept shrugging lazily. She looked distracted and pale.

“You okay?” asked James, nudging me.

“Yeah, sure.” No. Not at all.

One image kept playing through my head. A little girl with red and gold ribbons in her hair racing through the aisles of WWW. She spread out her fingers, knocking a few boxes off the shelves. Then she blushed furiously and scrambled to pick them up, putting them in the wrong places.

Over and over.

The same image.

Ryan stood quickly, the bench moving out. She excused herself and walked with haste toward the door, shoving it open. I barely saw her take off into a run.

“I have to check on … outside.” I stood as well, finishing off my cup of tea.

“Check on outside?” James asked. “You think it went somewhere?”

“Something happened.” I ruffled his hair. Luckily, Ollie plopped down beside him and distracted him while I rushed out into the Entrance Hall.

It was empty.

I heard the far off noise of a door slamming shut and moved swiftly up the marble staircase and onto the first floor landing. Where had she gone? I checked a few empty classrooms and an old broom cupboard. Then my eyes fell on the girls’ loo.

Bugger.

I knocked.

Nothing. Then the unmistakable sound of a girl being sick.

I pushed the door open, hoping there weren’t any naked pillow fights going on behind it.

Mental note: too many Muggle movies.

The girls’ loo was cleaner than the boys. The tiles were a pastel blue instead of navy and there were frosted glass windows on the opposite end. Four stalls sat opposite a row of sinks, the nearest closed with a pair of dress shoes poking out.

“Ryan?”

I heard the quick intake of breath and the choke of a sob. “Get. Out.”

Shit. I didn’t want her to come at me with her fist again. I leaned against the frame of the stalls, staring at myself in the mirror. Disheveled hair. Jaw was healed, but still had a couple marks on it from the ring Ryan wore on her right hand. Gryffindor tie that needed ironed.

I tapped my knuckles on the stall door. “Just let me in.”

“I want you to leave,” Ryan said, her voice strangled. She was fighting not to throw up again while I was on the other side of the door. “Now.”

“I’ll get you a glass of water if you want,” I offered.

“I want you to leave,” she repeated.

“How about some crackers?”

“How about I swell the other side of your jaw?”

I rolled my eyes. “Come on,” I said, lowering my voice. I tapped my knuckles again.

She caved and I heard the sound of her losing her breakfast in the toilet bowl again. She was sniffling and though I didn’t like Ryan, didn’t like her attitude or her Quidditch team, I hated it when a girl cried. Not that she was crying because she was emotionally unstable. I knew it was because throwing up was one of the single-worst feelings in the world, but it still broke my heart.

I shoved the door open with my shoulder. She didn’t move, both hands clutching the edges of the bowl. Her skin was lit up in goosebumps, elbows trembling.

“Damn it, Weasley,” Ryan said. Her knuckles were white. “Just leave.”

I moved forward, pulling her hair off her shoulders and up away from her body. I didn’t dare try more or risk an elbow somewhere unpleasant, but she didn’t stop me.

She threw up three more times and by the time she was finished, her entire body was trembling. I helped her to her feet and she rinsed her mouth out with cool water from the sink, then used her wand to brush her teeth. She faced away, but I saw how red her eyes were in the mirror. Her cheeks were flushed.

I knew all of the reasons behind it, but I still took the moment to appreciate Ryan Davies looking remotely human.

*

I didn’t see her for a few days after the bathroom incident. We parted ways, her talking about needed to catch up with Gemma and finish her Transfiguration homework. We both knew she never did homework outside of class. I went back to Gryffindor Tower and started pacing.

Annie found me a few hours later, holes worn into the bottom of my socks.

“Something’s bothering you,” she said, lips pressing together. Why was she such a good person?

“I’m sorry I haven’t been the most attentive of people lately,” I said, ignoring her observation. “A lot is on my mind.”

“This early in the school year?” Annie asked. “Is it Quidditch? Ollie said things had been stressful since Teo’s save percentage went down.”

I shook my head.

“Family stuff?” she asked. Aside from my own relatives, Annie knew the most about my family. She’d seen some of it first hand.

“You could say that,” I admitted.

Without warning, she closed the distance between us, her arms around my middle. She pressed her forehead into my chest. “It’ll be fine,” she said. “Trust me.”

I wanted to trust her. But my trust for Annie, unfortunately, did not quite span to pregnant women. I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her close so I could smell her hair. She was going to be devastated when she found out. Even if she wasn’t mad. Even if she didn’t hit me. She was still going to have that hurt look in her eyes that made me want to shrink.

“Do you have Prefect walks tonight?” she asked.

I nodded. “I’ll probably cut corners.”

“Do you want company after?”

I glanced down. “Are you offering?”

“In a roundabout way,” Annie said, lifting her gaze to meet mine. She was smiling a little. “Are you saying yes?”

“In a roundabout way.” My hands moved to her hips as I kissed her.

Thankfully, kissing Annie let me escape, for even a little while.

At least until James walked in, started making obnoxious snogging noises, and then began to narrate. At least he made sure I wasn’t late for walks.

*

I stared at the ceiling for hours, Annie beside me on the bed. She fell asleep an hour after we started chatting. Her clothes were on, shoes still on her feet. I didn’t move her, though. I stayed where I was, fingers moving gently over her back, distracted.

I had been very distracted this week.

Ryan taking this long to make a decision was killing me.

I didn’t know what I wanted.

I couldn’t know what I wanted.

The word ‘father’ was pulling at my mind. It was starting to send me into a blind panic. Every time I thought about it, I pulled Annie a little tighter against me for no reason other than to recognize someone else was there.

Father. Dad.

I was going to have a child.

I thought about when Roxy was little. She followed me around like a puppy.

Mum and Dad always told me: Get everything out of the way before you settle down.

I wasn’t settling. I was being forced to settle.

Not that Ryan was forcing me. No, this was as much my doing as it was hers.

Godric Gryffindor, what the hell was I going to do?

Run away.

No, no that was stupid.

Was she going to be a single parent? Was everyone in Hogwarts going to find out?

What would happen to Ryan? Hell, what would happen to me?

WWW Heir: Knocks up Star Chaser.

Fuckfuckfuck.

Ryan was going to hate me. James was going to hate me. Annie was going to hate me.

And I was still going to be a father.

*

My quill hovered over the parchment for what seemed like hours. Ink dripped onto the paper. I created more circles and ovals than words. I had nothing to write.

In every situation, I could turn to my dad for help. Girls, coming-of-age-boy-things, joke products, classes, anything. I could always get his opinion. He would always tell me what he thought. Honestly. Even when he thought the class was dumb and I should go get ice cream instead.

Maybe I relied on him too much.

Another circle appeared. But I still wanted to know what he thought. If he was disappointed in me. If he could spin it into a positive. If he would be happy.

Godric, what would he think of Ryan?

I frowned. It was late, past midnight, and the boys were snoring around me. James’ leg was halfway off his bed. He’d let Ollie paint his toenails again. I repeatedly gave him shit for it and he repeatedly told me he was regularly getting laid. This shut me up fairly quick.

I hadn’t been able to sleep since Ryan told me. I was staring at the ceiling, imagining various shadows were images. Trying hard to escape.

“Fuck,” I grumbled, pushing off from the desk. I wasn’t going to get any writing done since I knew I wouldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t. Not when Ryan didn’t want me to.

If I was James, I would have told her that this was half my decision and I should have an input. That I should be able to tell anyone I wanted because I could make my own decisions.

But I wasn’t James.

I was Freddie Weasley.

I found myself staring at the entrance to the Ravenclaw dormitory. It had already asked its question full of logic and annoyingness. And I was staring blankly at it. Gaping, really.

Fuck.

I should have brought gray and blue robes to trick it.

Who was I kidding? It would read my brain and know I couldn’t get into sodding Ravenclaw. I groaned, shoving the wall briefly before falling back to the stone opposite.

“Look at you, Weasel.”

I glanced up, spotting Gemma. “Hey there, French. What brings you to the corridor this late?”

“People who use the word corridor, clearly.” She rolled her eyes, digging her shoulder into the wall as she faced me. “What are you doing out here so far from home? Get lost?”

I shrugged. “I was strolling the halls to find people out of bed after hours.”

“Caught me,” Gemma said. “You need some assistance? You look kind of drunk.”

I scratched my back against the stone. “Tired is all,” he said. “I should give you a detention.” I glanced back at the door, wondering if Ryan might venture out for a stroll.

Even two weeks ago I would have wished the polar opposite.

“You’re being suspicious. Why are you out here?” She kicked me in the shin.

“See you later, French.” I ruffled my hair and turned, walking back toward Gryffindor Tower. “Give my sister my love.”

“That why you were out here?” Gemma called.

“Ten points from Ravenclaw,” I said in reply, turning the corner and stuffing my hands in my pockets.

Things just got a lot more complicated in my life.




A/N: I hope you enjoyed the fourth chapter! Please share your thoughts! 


Also, happy summer! WHY IS IT SO HOT?! 

 

 


Chapter 5: A Plan of Action
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For dirtydeedsdonedirtcheap for (ugh) inspiring me to write that one-shot bromance story with James and Albus. You know, when I have a thousand other stories to write.  




James was the highlight of being in the dormitory. We exchanged homework answers, talked about girls, and planned out how to get my dad to agree to shop renovations. Work uniforms and liquor candy and the new displays in the front windows.

I did have three other roommates, though.

Andrew Parise was a stocky guy with great grades and a Quidditch build. The problem was – he had the build for a Beater. And he wasn’t getting his hands on that position. He’d been reserve since James and I were selected. Each year he convinced Rose to give him a private tryout to prove he could best us. Each year he was denied, accusing Rose of favoring her cousins. Each year Rose punched him in the face for it. His bed was on the other side of James’.

Chopper Mason didn’t talk much. In seven years, I knew little about him. He kept his marks to himself, grunted as a way of communication, and had a girlfriend in Russia. In fifth year, James asked if she was a mail order bride. Chopper never responded, but James said his toothbrush tasted weird the next day. He promptly replaced it.

Chopper was that deadly sort of bloke. He was quiet, but we caught him explode over a magic version of Exploding Snap. He lost and threw the cards, shattering a lamp in the process. I tried not to be afraid of guys, but his biceps could pop my head right off.

James and I had a theory he was in a wizarding biker gang. We swore he had a tattoo on his back of an eagle or something. Raven. No, not a raven. Like a fucking crow or something.

Lastly, there was Mox Quick. Mox was jittery and terrified of flobberworms. I swore he followed us up to the Tower after a hoax of a sorting and pretended to be a Gryffindor. I wasn’t one to say I could kill of a dragon, but Mox ran yelling if there was a spider in the shower.

And the guy has a wand.

Lucky for him, all the girls take pity and coax him to all the gatherings, smoothing out his hair and telling him how wonderful he is.

He doesn’t even do anything. He just sits there and nods and gets red in the face. He’s a pale bugger too. Dad said his skin used to be like that before he spent so much time in the sun after Hogwarts. He traveled for a few years after the battle, leaving the shop in the care of its employees for a few weeks while he went to ‘find himself.’ That was how he and Mum ended up together. She went after him and forced him to come home.

It was rare all five of us were in the dormitory at the same time. Usually it was just James and me, maybe one of the others. Mox liked to hang out in the greenhouses, something I’d never understand as I got sweaty in there. Chopper wandered the halls, probably finding a group for his biker gang. Andrew was always on the pitch. Always trying to figure out what he was doing wrong.

That was why it was so strange to find the five of us in there together on a Wednesday evening. There was an awkward silence in the air, filled every once in a while by James humming. Chopper would shoot him a look and he’d stop until five minutes later when he forgot he’d been eye-threatened.

“Oy – Mox. You want to kill that for me?” James asked lazily, rolling his Quidditch Weekly and pointed it toward the corner of the room.

“Kill what?” Mox looked up from his Potions assignment. He had shaggy, curly brown hair that covered part of his eyes.

“Something crawling over there.”

Mox’s lips parted. “What is it?”

“He’s lying,” Andrew said stiffly. “I’m studying.”

“Me too,” James said smartly. “I’m studying that bug over there.”

“Don’t you have a date?” Andrew snapped.

Oh, and Andrew dated Ollie. Technically, it wasn’t even dating. It was puppy love, as they had both grown up together and decided to date in second year. It was just a bunch of awkward hand-holding, but Andrew had never warmed to James. He and Ollie were still mates, but the bitterness was there.

“If there’s a bug, I’m leaving,” Mox announced. He sat up, tucking his legs under him, Potions forgotten.

Mental note: WWW bug-killing items?

Mental note: WWW things shaped like bugs.

Mental note: Bugs.

“When was your last date, Parise?” James asked, lounging back on his pillow. “Fifth year? Fourth? When was the last time you got laid, hmm?” It was a rarity to hear James speak like that to anyone but me, considering the way his relationship with Ollie was, but he could tell as much as I could that Andrew didn’t like him.

And James, that snarky bugger, loved to exploit it.

“I had a date last weekend if you must know,” Andrew said, the back of his neck reddening. He wasn’t looking at us.

“Bollocks,” James challenged.

“With who?” asked Mox. Chopper just played more Exploding Snap with himself like he was training for a tournament.

“Annie,” Andrew said. He smiled fondly.

James turned to me immediately. My cheeks were flushed in a very unintentional way.

Last weekend I’d stayed in the dormitory pretending to be damn-near fatally ill. I stayed up late pouring over notes for the shop and attempting to keep my mind off Ryan. Clearly my mind was off Annie as well.

“Ah,” James said, pressing his lips together. He slid back against the headboard. “What did you do? Didja shag?”

“Don’t be crude,” Andrew said.

“It’s a legitimate question!”

“For Freddie maybe. Not for me.”

“The hell does that mean?” I snapped. Was he assuming I just went into bars, told girls to have tequila chips, and shagged them in bathroom stalls?

“You’re his cousin,” Andrew replied. “You two are close. I don’t share things like that.”

Oh. Well. He was still an asshole. And other colorful words James had uttered in the past when seeing Andrew and Ollie hang out after practice.

“Going to go out again?” Mox piped up. He had clearly forgotten about the spider.

“I asked. She said she would.” Andrew smirked and it wasn’t a happy, cheerful smirk.

It was an arrogant smirk. And the bastard was looking right at me.

“I’m going for a walk,” I announced, shooting out of bed and heading for the door.

“It’s late,” James said. Thanks, Mum.

“I’m a Prefect.”

I took the stairs two at a time, which was dangerous to do on a spiral staircase. The common room was nearly empty, save for a few third years putting their heads together on a Charms essay. When I was a third year I had better things to do than Charms.

“Where’re you headed?” Ollie was just walking in the portrait hole with a lollipop in her hand. She caught my arm, steadying me. “What’s wrong, Freddie?”

“Annie didn’t tell me she was going out with Parise,” I announced as if I had a say in any of it. I knew I didn’t.

“What?” Ollie said. Her eyes widened too.

“He just told us upstairs,” I explained. “They went out last weekend and they’re going out again.”

“I thought she went out with you.”

“She did.”

Ollie was quiet, candy abandoned at her hip. She wasn’t looking at me. I wondered if she was playing back her conversations with Annie, trying to figure out if it was ever mentioned between her own gushing about James. When her eyes narrowed, I concluded that was a no.

“She didn’t tell me,” Ollie said.

“Why?”

“Andrew didn’t tell me either.” She didn’t seem to be listening to me as she brushed past and toward the girls’ staircase.

“What’s that matter?” I called. A third year shot me a scathing look.

“He should have.”

I shook my head and left the common room, moving swiftly down the halls. I didn’t meet anyone as I walked and listened to the conversations of the portraits. They were animated for so late at night.

I went to the Prefect’s office, sinking down at the desk and straightening papers. I’d been a Prefect since fifth year and everything was second nature by now. It was easy. I put a few sticky notes between pages that whoever was on duty failed to do.

I just needed some time to think.

Granted, didn’t I need a lot of that lately?

I had no right to be upset that Annie had gone out with Andrew. Other than the fact that it was Andrew and he was generally annoying when it came to people I could tolerate, he wasn’t a bad guy. He didn’t mistreat people, he got good marks, and he didn’t snore. Besides, Annie and I went out once. We’d been mates for ages, we went for milkshakes, we snogged, then we snogged some more, and she fell asleep in my bed. And we snogged again.

Then she went on a date with Andrew.

Was I wrong in thinking there had been something there?

How valid was I in being concerned, considering I had recently gotten a girl pregnant?

Oh, hell. Ryan. I’d seen her in class and she still hadn’t said anything to me. Not that I expected her to knock at my door once she made a decision, but I felt like I was in limbo. In a strange place between knowing where I was and having even footing. She avoided my eye.

All I wanted was an answer. From Ryan, from Annie. Heck, I wanted an answer from my Transfig quiz from Monday.

While I was busy wanting answers, the office door burst in and my cousin Molly stumbled backward into the room.

Oddly enough, her lips were attached to Rune Douglas, Head Boy. Ew.

Molly’s arms were around his neck and she had her fingers tangled in his white-blond hair. One of his hands was on her bum, the other grabbing at the material of her shirt. Their kissing was sloppy at best, but both of their faces were flushed and blotchy.

Her back slammed into the cabinet and he pressed her into it hard.

I moved my chin to my palm, propping my elbow onto the desk in amusement. Personally, I didn’t know Rune had it in him. After Ryan pants’ed him all those years ago, I was sure he was afraid to make a move on any girl.

Molly wrapped a leg around him. And there was my cue.

“I thought Head Boy and Girl snogging is frowned upon,” I noted. “Or did you ditch that rule, as the rule-makers?”

Molly shoved Rune away so hard his back hit the door. She let out a small cry and looked over, chest heaving. Her face was darker than our Gryffindor Quidditch robes. “Freddie…”

“Is this office really ideal?” I said, a smirk on my lips. “I mean, I know I’m not on duty tonight, but a broom cupboard would have worked well. No, you’re right. It’s just less clean in there, you know?”

“What’re you doing here?” Molly said, her voice breaking a little. She had a thing with being embarrassed. When James and I used to play pranks on her she would scream her lungs out until Uncle Percy told us to behave. More often than not Dad would be in the corner laughing.

“Organizing.” I pointed to the sticky notes.

“You’re not on duty,” Rune added.

“You make the schedule, so I’m glad you knew.” I shot him a clever smile. “China sends her love, by the way. She loves being partnered with a Gryffindor who is willing to lead the way in the dungeons. Is it true you won’t?”

“Fred,” Molly said shortly. “Leave.”

“Going to pay me off?”

“What? Of course not. I don’t have to pay you to stop you from telling people my business.”

“James is upstairs.” I stood, popping my back loudly. “Molly and Rune. You would make such cute babies, but the hair would be an odd mix. How about it, Molls? His hair or yours?”

“I’ll do your Transfig essay,” she said dryly.

“How long have you two been at it, anyway?” I asked seriously. “A few days? Weeks? Summer?”

“If you push it I will change the schedule and make you do walks after your Quidditch practices,” Molly said. “And then I will owl Uncle George.”

“Bint,” I muttered, hip-bumping her as I moved toward the door. “Treat her well, Runey. If you don’t, she has a lot of cousins.” I shot him a wink. “A lot of cousins who practice hexes in our spare time. Experimental hexes.”

I shut the door just in time to see Rune’s face explode with color.

*

On Thursday, all I wanted out of life was for Rose Weasley to leave me the hell alone. I had sweat pouring down my neck and back as I hit the Bludgers hard toward Beckett and Ollie and Gee. They were working well together, but it was strangely warm that day and the mandatory stadium lights weren’t helping any. Rose insisted they helped us prepare for game day.

I insisted she shut the hell up and get a margarita.

“We can’t win unless we’re prepared!” Rose shouted when I flipped her off for the fifth time.

“We can win if I off you!” I shot back. “Then I’ll be well rested!”

“You can sleep when you’re dead!” she cried.

“I’ll sleep when you’re dead, damn it.” I swung the bat, making contact with a Bludger. Ollie dodged it at the last second, letting out a yell.

I hit a second, which smashed into the tail of Gee’s broom.

“Watch it!” she cried.

“That is seriously the point of what I do on this team,” I shot back. “You bloody watch it.”

“Don’t make me come over there.” Gee narrowed her eyes.

“Going to go all romance novel on me?”

Turned out, no, she was not going to go romance novel on me. Instead, Gee waited ten minutes, stole my bat, and clubbed me over the head with it.

I went to the hospital wing and got seven stitches.

That was when I saw Annie for the first time outside of class since I’d found out. She pushed open the door sheepishly, her teeth chewing on her bottom lip in that adorable way I loved. As she moved toward my bed, she tucked a few strands of hair behind her ear.

“Hey,” she said.

I tugged the blankets up around my middle. I was on four different kinds of pain drugs, so I just stared for a minute, taking her in. She was beautiful.

“Hey,” I eventually echoed.

“Andrew mentioned he told you.”

“Yep. Told me. And James. And Mox and Chopper.”

“Ah.” Annie’s face darkened. She looked away.

“Would you care to explain before I jump to conclusions?” I asked. I could give her that much, though I knew I had no right. Alessandra was that way. Always jumped.

You’re a cheater, Freddie. You’re snogging other girls. You love Quidditch more than me. You love James more than me.

Me with that bloke? Meant nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was an accident.

I fell.

Onto his lips.

And we were naked.

I shook my head. Whoa. I needed to stop.

“You were hiding something,” Annie began softly. “And you weren’t letting me in. Or anyone, I guess. I just figured you wanted to be left alone when you faked sick.”

“I was sick!” I countered.

“You weren’t sick.” She sat on the end of the bed. “So Andrew asked if I wanted to head down to Hogsmeade for the evening and I said yes.”

“Where did you go?”

“I’m allowed, you know,” Annie said. “We’re not dating. We’re not together.”

“I’m aware.” My tone was strangely dry.

“We got dinner and had a couple drinks,” Annie explained. “He didn’t kiss me. We came back and he asked if I wanted to do it again sometime. I said sure. Stop giving me that look, Freddie. You can’t be mad at me.”

“You didn’t tell me.”

“I didn’t have to!” she countered.

“Yes, you did!”

Annie’s arms folded in a stubborn, womanly way. Godric, she looked adorable when she was mad. Her nose scrunched up and her lips tightened. I nudged her with my foot and she shot me a scathingly mad look. “I did not,” she said. “I don’t owe you anything.”

“All this because I faked sick to be by myself?” I asked, letting my anger subside once she met my eyes. She was enough to make a guy melt.

“Well, he asked.” Annie shrugged.

“You going to stay down there all night?”

“Where?”

I nudged her again. “C’mere. I’m on drugs and can’t throw you over my shoulder and teach you a lesson.”

Her lips were tugging upward, fighting a smile. “And if I don’t want to be around you right now?”

“Then I’ll offer to kiss it and make it better,” I said in a sly way, grinning. “C’mere. Keep me company in the hospital.”

Annie conceded, crawling up the bed and curling up beside me. She pressed her head against my chest. “Is everything better now?”

I was quiet, head pounding dully. I needed more medication. “It will be,” I said. “It’s going to be okay.”

She drew circles on my torso with her index finger.

I had to find Ryan.

*

It was easier than I thought it would be. The following day I was discharged from the hospital wing in time to make it to Herbology lecture. James and I sat in front of Ryan and Gemma again.

“Why’s Molly’s face all red?” James whispered, busting out his parchment to start writing notes to Ollie.

“Maybe she fancies Smith?” I grinned and watched my cousin’s neck get two shades darker in front of me. “Or maybe she fancies Ollie? Twist of fate, James.”

He laughed.

When Smith allowed us to talk amongst ourselves to come up with an answer about some plant with blue leaves, I turned to the Ravenclaw girls.

“How’s it going, French?” I asked with a crooked grin. “You’re looking like a bitch today.”

“You always look like a bitch, Weasel,” Gemma shot back. “It’s the breeding.”

“You sure they didn’t just kick you out of Slytherin first year?”

“Smart people don’t get into Slytherin.”

I smirked. “Like I said. Are you sure?”

“Fuck off, Weasel.” Gemma flipped a few more pages in her notebook.

I focused my attention to Ryan, who usually avoided me in class, especially now that we had slept together. “Flying lately, Davies?” I asked.

“I’ve been sick.”

Decision hadn’t been made yet. At least it wasn’t a last-to-know sort of situation.

“I heard flu’s going around the Hufflepuffs,” I noted. “It’s probably because they hug too damn much.”

Gemma snorted and continued with her notes.

“I heard that as well,” Ryan said shortly. “Can I help you with something?”

I met her dark eyes with my own. If we stood beside each other, we could be relatives. Same darkened skin tone, same brown eyes. The only difference was her hair was a pile of silky waves and mine poofed after a shower.

“Have you ever been good at planning?” I asked casually.

“Kind of fucking question is that, Weasel?” Gemma asked. “Need to plan your graduation party already? What’s the matter? Mummy can’t handle it?”

“I have,” Ryan said, shrugging. “It just takes me a while.”

“Time estimate?” I asked, aware that my heart was beating faster than usual.

“Not long.” Ryan’s lips tightened and I was staring.

Thankfully, James twisted around. “Do you Claws have the fucking answer because I forgot we were in class and I’ve been drawing pictures of Gemma on fire.” He held one up.

“At least my breasts are to scale,” Gemma replied nonchalantly.

Freddo,

So you’re saying you didn’t punch that Andrew kid in the face? I know he’s your roommate, but you have to exert power quickly. He has to know you mean business … you know, seven years in. He sounds like a bit of a tool to be honest. Didn’t he know you were seeing Annie?

My apologies. You were snogging her after getting milkshakes.

Your mum would be proud.

Sold out of pygmy puffs again today. I have to get in another order. We’ve got some babies in the back, but they’re not old enough to be sold yet. They’ve got that cute high-pitched hum your mum loves. She accidentally used one to powder her nose the other day.

Picture a small bite and then a shriek. Made my day.

Meeting with the attorney tomorrow about Hogsmeade, but it’s not looking good. Zonkos has a boycott going of our products. We’ll see what happens. It’s not my fault their shop is dreary and half their products copy ours. Snack bags? Really? What shit.

From your letters it sounds like Rose is going a bit mad. Maybe sit her down and dump some water on her? She’s only a sixth year. Maybe I can convince her to work in the shop this summer. That could be fun, but she raves about her summer job at Quality Quidditch. Blah blah blah.

Molly mentioned something in her letter to Percy that you and her are getting on quite well.

So you’re blackmailing her.

Dad

I found Ryan the next day. Unfortunately, it was in a bathroom. Fortunately, she brought a hair tie. I locked the door and hoisted myself onto the sink, swinging my legs as she threw up. It wasn’t the most pleasant sound in the world, nor anywhere near remotely pleasant, but I was a patient guy. At least Dad told me that. Apparently I used to wait all day for one of the shop girls to finish her shift and change into her regular clothes. Then I’d stand against the register just to watch her walk past. It was nothing extravagant – just jeans and a t-shirt or jacket. But I was fascinated.

He told that story at one too many parties.

Ryan must have perfected this morning sickness thing. When she emerged, she had already used her wand to brush her teeth and the tears had been wiped from her eyes. They were still puffy, but she looked all right. She moved to the sink beside me, switched it on, and splashed cold water onto her face.

“I fucking hate this,” she said, bitterness filling her voice. Her fingers clutched the porcelain sides of the sink hard. “I have been in this bathroom three times today.”

“And only French knows?” I asked, still swinging my legs.

“Yes. Pretty sure the others think I have an eating disorder.” Ryan shut off the water and looked at herself in the mirror. She slipped a piece of stray hair behind her ear. “What’re you doing in here?”

“Making sure you’re okay.”

“Why?”

“Do I need a reason?”

“Of course you do.” Ryan’s gaze moved to me, suspicious. “You don’t need to be in here. Besides, it’s a girl’s loo.”

“You think this is the first time I’ve been in a girl’s loo?” I smirked, thinking of the pub bathroom. Not too fondly, though. She rolled her eyes in response. “We need to talk, Davies.”

“So talk.”

“No, you need to talk.” I adjusted myself on the sink since my arse was falling asleep. “Anything I say you will just use against me, so I want you to talk to me.”

I thought about all of the things I could say to her in that moment. That I needed to know what was happening for me. For my future. For Annie. It was all selfish, wasn’t it? I wanted to know for me. I needed to know if I was going to be tossing and turning at night for months on end. I wanted to know for me, which wasn’t going to be the most ideal topic of conversation.

Never in my life had I felt so selfish as in that moment, watching Ryan’s face regain the color from before she threw up.

“I don’t want to talk to you.”

“Because it’s me or because you don’t like me?” I guessed.

“Both.” Ryan busied herself fixing the collar of her blouse. “I have nothing to say. I’m just tired, okay? I just want to go to sleep.”

“So head upstairs and go to sleep,” I said.

“I have Charms.”

I arched a brow. “Look, Ryan, you don’t study. You do your homework in class. You’ve never failed anything and you get way better marks than me. You don’t have Charms to do.”

“Can you explain to me why you give a shit?” Ryan’s eyes moved around the empty bathroom. Maybe she was looking for an escape route.

“Can you explain why I shouldn’t?” I shot back, irritated. “This isn’t just all about Ryan Davies, okay? It took two to tango, and though I don’t remember pieces of it that doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to know what the fuck is going on.” My voice raised toward the end, which wasn’t very common unless I was on the pitch screaming at Rose for being a tightwad. My fingers tightened on the sides of the sink.

“I don’t need you for this decision!” Ryan cried. The piece of hair fell out from behind her ear. “I don’t need your influence or your expertise or your Gryffindor idiocy!”

“Idiocy?” I asked. “Pretty sure the hat says bravery.”

“Yeah, well, in Ravenclaw we change the song lyrics.” Ryan shrugged. “Fuck, Weasley, I don’t know, okay? I don’t know what to do. I’ve never done this before. How do you decide if you want to have a kid and support it for eighteen years or live with the selfish guilt of not having that kid? It could grow up to cure cancer or something.”

“Could grow up to be a murderer.” I mirrored her shrug.

Ryan slowly looked over, meeting my eyes. I still couldn’t get over seeing her this way. Ryan Davies was cool and confident and didn’t care about anything. Life came easy to her because she didn’t let people (or emotions) get in her way. Now she was in a girl’s bathroom being ruled by hormones she didn’t understand. And it was obvious.

“Can you just tell me what you think?” Ryan conceded, her anger subsiding as she let out a small sigh.

I paused for a moment, wondering what I really did think. The truth was, I’d been thinking since she told me and I hadn’t come to any conclusions. Maybe letting her decide everything was my way of taking the pressure off me. Like if I had no input, I couldn’t blame myself for anything that happened.

Great way to look at it, Freddo. Dad would be proud.

“I think either way things are really complicated,” I said slowly. I felt like a sports player diverting questions about a team scandal. “If we decide to get rid of it … is that the right term … if we decide not to have the kid, what happens? We go about our lives. We obviously get that what-if feeling. Probably won’t be able to look each other in the face again.” I shrugged. “And I guess we’ll live with the fact that we’re cowards.”

Ryan raised a brow. “Cowards?”

“Everyone is different,” I explained. “But when I was twelve my father sat me down in the back room of the shop and explained all about safe sex and proceeded to give the most awkward demonstration with my sister’s dolls I will never recover from. But he told me to only have sex when I’m ready to accept the consequences of it. If something happens, I’m ready to take responsibility. And trust me, I know not everyone is like that and every situation is different, but I’d feel like a coward the rest of my life for taking the easy way out of something I could have prevented.” I frowned, thinking of my dad. And trying not to think of the dolls.

“You really think that?” Ryan said. “Isn’t that just like taking the noble way out? Doing something simply because it’s the right thing to do?”

“It’s less selfish than wanting to go live your life and party it up.”

Her eyes flashed. “Do you think that’s what this is about?” Ryan asked. “That I don’t want to have a kid just because I want to go drink tequila shots and party with Gemma?”

“How would I know? You haven’t told me otherwise.”

“You know very little about me, Fred Weasley. I would tread lightly.” Ryan’s dark eyes narrowed, her cheeks tinted an angry pink. “There are a lot of reasons I do not want to be a mother at seventeen and to your idiotic surprise, partying with Ravenclaws is not anywhere near the top.” She grabbed the band out of her hair and let it fall over her shoulders. Then she added, “So fuck off.”

“Make a decision, Ryan.”

I wanted to look away. Hell, I wanted to storm out of that bathroom because no girl in Gryffindor Tower (okay, maybe Rose) got under my skin like she had in the last month. However, my kid or fetus or whatever was in her belly and I wasn’t leaving without an answer.

Besides, how could I face Annie without an answer of if I was fine or not?

In which situation would I actually be fine?

Ryan looked furious. Her left hand tugged at the bottom of her blouse, probably stopping her from punching me in the face again. “I’m going to keep it,” she said through gritted teeth. “But I have absolutely no reservations throwing a butter knife at you during dinner.”

“Always the charmer,” I muttered, my stomach filled with nervous and discomfort. Felt like I was the one about to lose my lunch. “That’s the plan then, is it?”

“We’ll come up with a plan later. I can’t stand being in a room with a Gryffindor this long.” Ryan rolled her eyes and brushed past me. She unlocked the door and headed out into the vacant hallway, disappearing around the first corner.

I stayed in the bathroom until a third year Hufflepuff walked in and shrieked, then went upstairs to tell Annie I was just fine.

I was kidding myself to believe I’d ever be just fine again.

I needed a pygmy puff.




A/N: Okay, let's pick back up the humor, shall we? You know, now that things are getting crazy for Freddie, why not throw in some typical Mistress character intoxication? That's what's up next. Along with Ryan's announcement.


Thanks to everyone who has already been over to check out my new Rose/Scorpius fic, which I was also totally peer-pressured into doing (kidding!).

Happy late my-birthday gift. Is that a thing? I'm sure it is. If not, I've made it a thing.


Chapter 6: Rings of Smoke
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For imaMalfoy! Thank you so much for getting the 100th review on this story! Thank you to everyone who leaves a review! You are all amazing! 




Albus Potter was a nervous wreck. His hair was sticking out at all angles (not that it was too different than usual) and he kept tugging at it. Making it worse. He was on the bench sidelining the pitch, elbows propped on his thighs, making disgruntled noises over and over again.

Until Rose kicked him in the shin. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” she snapped. “You’re interrupting my practice. Bitch and moan on your own time, Potter.”

“Can I have Gee?” Al whined.

“What?” Rose sat down beside him. I took the opportunity to toss my broom to the side and use this as an excuse not to practice. Besides, the Chasers were pulling a number on Teo anyway. James sat on the other side of his brother.

“I need a Chaser.”

Rose’s red brow arched. “Why?”

“Because Davies isn’t playing this season,” Albus all but shouted, his voice breaking. He looked like he was about to have a nervous breakdown.

“Ryan Davies?” James asked. He glanced over, meeting my eyes. I tried to shrug. “What for? She’s your whole team.”

“Thanks,” Al shot back. “That’s obvious. She’s our star. She scores seventy-five percent of the goals! Just let me have Gee.”

“Pretty sure that’s not allowed,” Rose said. She began to rub his back, every so often glancing up at her own team. “Gee wouldn’t do well as a Ravenclaw. Too many years of trashy beach-reads. She’d never be able to solve that riddle.”

Albus laughed a little. “What am I going to do? The team doesn’t know yet. Rox isn’t going to be able to handle it.”

“Did she say why?” James asked. I wanted to punch him.

“She told me she couldn’t,” Albus explained, pulling at his hair again. “She said she couldn’t play and offered to help me on the sidelines and train one of the reserves to get up to her standards … you do realize none of those reserves will ever be dirt on her shoes, right?”

He may have been proud, but Albus wasn’t wrong. Ryan made me look like a two year old trying to stay on a broom. Rumor around the pitch was she had an opportunity to play pro while she was at Hogwarts, but turned it down to concentrate on school. Like she needed to concentrate. Information just went into her brain and stayed there through all the snarky retorts.

And now she wasn’t going to play. No more star Ravenclaw Chaser.

Albus was going to kill me for knocking her up. Rose was going to hug me.

I abandoned the pity party and showered before escaping back to the castle. Rox didn’t meet my eyes when we passed on the marble staircase. I wouldn’t have known what to do if she did.

*

I barricaded myself into the Prefect’s office, trying hard to get some work done. The problem was, my heart wasn’t into it. All I could think about was that conversation between Albus and Ryan. What it must have looked like. The heartbreak that must have been in her eyes (for the first time).

And I felt guilty for all of it.

It was a different kind of guilt – the kind you can’t control. The helpless kind.

It was the same kind I felt every time Dad looked at me in a certain way. Like I was his brother. It killed me.

This was killing me.

I had to concentrate on the Prefect documents. Some Slytherins in trouble. A Hufflepuff caught cheating. A Ravenclaw dueling in the hallway. Several Gryffindors being stupid.

I pulled out a folder labeled Ryan Davies. It was her Prefect folder.

This could get interesting.

The first document was from her writing up a group of Slytherins for playing football in the hall. Her handwriting was sprawling cursive. It reminded me of formal English documents from the eighteenth century.

The second was from an incident with a bloke last year. He was a seventh year Slytherin. I vaguely remembered him, but not enough to put a face to a name. Maybe black hair? Unsure. According to the parchment, the bloke had called her some fairly colorful names after she caught him being rather inappropriate with a girl in the third floor corridor. Each insult was written out on the line.

I couldn’t read the last few because I was shaking just thinking about someone calling someone else these things.

Especially Ryan. I felt protective over her. Not that I had a right to be protective over anyone (except James), but I still did.

Because of the guilt.

Sodding guilt.

“If you get to the end there are several with internal notes about how I threatened to peel back their toenails,” Ryan said from the door. Her arms were folded and she looked bored.

“Shit.” I shoved the papers back into the folder and closed it. “I got curious.”

“You’re an ass.” She grabbed the folder out of my hand. “Those are private.”

“I’m a Prefect too,” I shot back, staring her down.

“Clearly not a very good one, as you don’t follow rules.” Ryan pulled open the drawer and stuffed the folder in after making sure it was in the correct order. “What were you expecting to find in there anyway?”

“Ammo?” I raised a brow. “I don’t know. I’m just trying to get away for a while.”

Ryan leaned against the cabinet. “From what? You have nothing to get away from.”

“Al told us you quit the team.”

Though she kept her expression strong, her eyes gave it away immediately.

“I did,” she replied flatly.

“Do you hate me?” I had no idea why I was asking that.

“I’m not exactly fond of you. But like you said, Weasley, it takes two to tango.” Ryan shot me a cocky wink, which I wasn’t expecting. She looked good doing it. I wished she wouldn’t.

I chuckled, moving to ruffle my hair. “What d’you want to do then?”

“About what?” She shifted and sat on the edge of the desk, crossing her long legs.

I narrowed my eyes. How was she able to get under my skin like that? “About the sodding baby, Davies. Come on.” I rolled up the extra papers on the desk and slapped her leg. “You’re quitting the team. People are going to get suspicious.”

She was quiet for a moment and straightened the fabric on her pants. “Is there a reason I get to make all the choices?”

“Because you are obsessed with control?” I offered, surprising myself with a lopsided smirk.

Ryan smirked. “C’mon.” She reached out her hand. “If we’re going to make a plan, it’s not going to be in the fucking Prefect office. This place smells like Rune.”

“And Molly,” I added.

“Your cousin? Head Girl?” Ryan’s brows raised as she pulled open the door.

“They’re snogging.” I had no idea why I told her. I had no reason to, but it just sort of came out. Maybe I trusted or. Or maybe I just wanted to seem cool because I knew insider information.

Wish I didn’t. That image still hadn’t gone away. Ugh.

“That’s disgusting.” Once my hand was in hers, she led us into the hallway. “Time to disappear.”

“James has a cloak for those things,” I offered.

“You talk about James too much.”

“He’s my cousin.”

“That’s just it.” Ryan glanced over her shoulder and smirked at me. I wondered why she was so animated, but it could have been just because she was depressed after announcing her resignation. I was the perfect distraction. And someone she didn’t have to pretend around.

“You would love James,” I said, catching up with her so our arms could rest at our sides. She didn’t let go.

“I don’t like James. He’s cocky and too in love with Ollie.” Ryan rolled her eyes. “Any bloke that in love is hiding something.”

“He can’t just be in love?”

“Not that in love.”

“What’s so wrong with being that in love?” I asked, eyes narrowing. James was the most loving person I knew. He got on a table and professed it in front of the whole bloody school. And he always hugged the most in the family. James gave great hugs.

“It’s a fairy tale.” Ryan met my eyes for a moment, something that made my heart stop. “It’s not real.”

“You’re daft.”

“I’m right.” She shrugged and led me through a door.

I had no idea where we were, but once Ryan lit a candle I realized we must be in the storage room of the library. It was dark, stuffy, and smelled like old books. Tons of them lined the walls and tipped in piles on the floor.

“Don’t tell anyone about this,” Ryan said, lighting another two candles.

“Pretty sure I don’t remember how we got here.” My eyes moved around the room. A lot of old books I couldn’t pronounce. A lot of Latin. A lot of uncomfortable Freddie Weasley.

I needed to be tutored by a Ravenclaw in how to read Latin or how to read Annie’s shit handwriting.

Ryan finished with the candles and sat on the floor, curling her legs under her. “Pretty sure I’m the only clerk who comes back here anyway,” she said. “We won’t be disturbed.”

“Did you bring any butter knives?” I slid down beside her, leaning against a stack of books. This was definitely a different setting than after she threw up in a bathroom. She looked comfortable.

I could never imagine books making me comfortable. If anything, it was the opposite.

What made me comfortable? The shop? Quidditch pitch?

Ryan chuckled and stretched out her legs, plopping them onto my lap. “We need a plan.”

“A good one,” I added. I fought to keep my eyes off her stomach, even though she was only a couple weeks pregnant and nothing was there.

Maybe it was a guy thing. Or a paranoia thing. Or a guilt thing.

Mental Note: WWW Guilt Potion?

“We’re going to keep it a secret,” Ryan told me, her dark eyes now on mine.

I thought about James. If James had gotten Ollie pregnant, I’d want him to tell me. But could I trust him to keep it quiet? He told Ollie everything. Then Ollie may tell Annie. Or the rest of the school. Then everything would be ruined. I couldn’t tell James. At least not yet. Not until I had any inkling of if this relationship with Annie would turn into anything.

Well, it wasn’t a relationship.

It was a relation-thing.

I didn’t want to think about Annie right now. Especially in relation to her even speaking to Andrew. What a sod. I hoped James offed him for looking at Ollie.

“A secret,” I finally echoed, nodding. “All right. That’s a good idea. We can concentrate on our…lives.”

“And when it gets obvious?” Ryan was biting her bottom lip in the same way Annie did.

“I guess that’s your decision,” I said. I wished I’d quit. “Whether you want me kept a secret or not. According to you, I’m not exactly the best bloke to be fathering a kid.” I smirked, nudging her leg. “Just tell everyone Gemma is the father. I’d believe it.”

Ryan laughed, her fingers twisting in the material of her shirt. “I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, hmm?”

“So are you really going to help on the pitch?”

“I can’t stay off it,” she said, meeting my eyes. “I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t play Quidditch.”

“Study?”

She snorted. “Don’t make me laugh. I’m a Ravenclaw.”

“Don’t Ravenclaws study?”

“First years maybe.” She was looking at me like I was crazy. “So when that time comes … what if I decide not to keep you a secret?”

I concentrated on her leg, the way it poked out of her pants. She was wearing sandals even though it was chilly outside. Her toenails were painted a deep, plum purple. “I told you I’d take responsibility. And I will.”

“You don’t have to do this.”

“I know,” I replied quietly, my heart starting to race. “But I can’t let you do this alone.”

“If you haven’t noticed, that’s kind of how I operate.” Ryan pulled her legs off me and to her chest. She wrapped her arms around them and was quiet for a while. “I still don’t like you.”

“Yeah, well, you’re a bit of a tot, aren’t you?”

She kicked me. “I’ve knocked you out once, I’ll do it again.”

I didn’t doubt that.

“All right. Secret.” I ran my fingers along a nearby pile of books, but regretted it once they were covered in dust. Gross. “Are you going to tell your parents?”

To my surprise, she laughed. “I don’t think so.”

“Why not? Wouldn’t approve?”

Ryan chuckled, shaking her head. She picked up a book and began flipping through it absently. “I don’t think they’d favor the knowledge of their only daughter getting knocked up by some Gryffindor they’ve never heard of.”

“To be fair, have they heard of any Gryffindors?”

She thought for a moment. “Probably James,” she replied with an arrogant smirk. “Since he has a famous family and all.”

“I have a famous family!”

“You have a joke shop.”

“Look here,” I said, eyes narrowing. “That is the Ministry of Magic of bloody joke shops.”

“Excuse me,” Ryan said sweetly. “I forgot to praise your ability to make schoolchildren vomit. I can do that and all I had to do was shag in a bathroom stall.”

“Pretty sure you’re insulting me right now.” I folded my arms like a child.

“Pretty sure you’re not doing anything about it.”

“You’re quite a bully for a Ravenclaw,” I said, tossing a book onto her legs.

Ryan met my eyes. “Someone has to do it.” She threw the book back, smacking me in the shoulder. “Gemma would be disappointed if she knew I’d spoken to you without at least getting a rise out of you.”

I leaned back, creating a mini sort of pillow out of books. Were they good for anything else? “Is that what you do then? Get bored and try to get under people’s skin?”

“Can you think of an alternative?” When Ryan met my eyes it made me nervous. Not in the sort of wonky adrenaline way, but in the way that I couldn’t bloody understand a thing she was talking about.

James had a theory about how Ravenclaws thought on an entirely different plane than the rest of us. Ryan struck me as one of those kinds of people. Like she was reading my thoughts or something.

Shit! What if she was reading my thoughts?

Chicken tortilla.

Spicy mushroom wrap.

Was I hungry?

I needed to think about something other than her eyes or her face or her body.

I was NOT thinking about Ryan’s body.

She was a Quidditch player, though. So how could I not?

This was not boding well.

She was still staring at me.

Great. Now she knew.

“Are you okay?” Ryan’s dark brow raised and she started leafing through another book. “You look ill.”

“Fine,” I replied, for the millionth time this month. I couldn’t keep doing this.

I was not fine. I was not going to be fine.

And the reason was the slender girl in front of me. She wouldn’t always be slender.

That terrified me.

*

Freddo,

Your letter was three lines.

Do you remember the last time you wrote me a letter that was three lines? I’ll give you a hint? You were four. What’s wrong?

Great. Did Annie not agree to let you touch her boobs?

You can’t just ask, Freddo.

Girls get weird about that kind of thing.

Whatever it is, I’m concerned. Want to come home and have a chat? I’ll buy. The butterbeer I mean. Actually, you should come home for a weekend. I can have the Network hooked up because these baby puffs are giving me problems. To clarify, I’m not talking about baby Hufflepuffs, because they couldn’t give a toad a problem. Why are Hufflepuffs so nice?

You still Prefect partners with that Hufflepuff? What’s her name? Japan? Russia?

Can’t you trade or something? Here’s an idea. Get Molly in trouble and then they’ll make someone else Head Girl so you can have her back. My ideas are the best. If you need evidence to plant I know a guy.

Seriously, what’s wrong? You’re concerning me now. Don’t make me tell your mum. I will. And then she’ll give me that ‘Freddie’s a teenager’ look and ignore it.

Tell James if it’s serious. Mostly because I can crack James so easy.

Dad

I frowned, rereading the letter a few times before I finally folded it and stuck it in my bedside drawer. I wanted nothing more than to tell Dad. I actually would have liked to go into detail about what this would do to me as a person, how fucking terrified I was, and my mental escape plan to Canada.

But I couldn’t. How could I possibly go home and tell him?

Thanks for bringing me up correctly, Dad. Now I got a girl pregnant, she’s keeping the kid, and I’m going to be a father at seventeen.

Well, I’ll be eighteen by then, but does it make a huge difference?

“Studying?” James walked in the door, slamming it behind him. “I thought we talked about this.”

“About what? Studying.”

“I’m going to have to kick you off the team.”

“What team?” I scooted back on my bed and grabbed a random book off my nightstand. Oh, good. Potions. I’d rather read one of Gee’s romance novels.

“The Frames team.” James hopped up onto the bed, grabbed the book, and threw it at the wall. “What’s the plan for today? We have an entire Saturday to waste. Let’s waste it. Wasted.” He chuckled at his own humor.

“Where’s Ollie?” I wondered.

“With Annikins,” he replied, rolling onto his stomach. “You two a thing yet? It’s kind of pissing me off. Just get on a table and tell her you fancy her or some shit.”

I paused for a moment, picturing that. It made me uncomfortable. Public displays of anything made me uncomfortable. “Have you ever kept a secret from Ollie?”

“Loads,” James replied without missing a beat.

“What? What kind?”

“She doesn’t know I shave my toes,” replied James absently. “She doesn’t know I think that orange dress looks like shit on her. Or that I actually failed Charms first year.”

“What about big secrets?” I asked.

“I thought the toe thing was pretty big.” He shrugged, grabbing the covers and throwing them over his body. “I don’t think so. What do you mean? She’s met the ‘rents and they give out most the dirt on me anyway. Albus is the one that ratted me out about the sleepover we had when we were twelve and you stuck my underwear in the freezer. And then to spite you I wore it.”

I laughed, remembering the look on his face. He bit his lip so hard it bled. “Yeah, all right. Let’s get out of here before Mox comes in asking about tips to make a rude hand gesture.”

“Let’s wait,” James insisted with a gleeful grin. “I want to demonstrate.”

*

James and I opted for The Hog’s Head, as it wouldn’t be crawling with third years elbowing each other on a Saturday. Upon walking in, the bartender grinned. It was the same bloke as always and Dad mentioned being there on several occasions, but he didn’t say why.

“Two firewhiskies and double shots of rum,” James announced, plopping down at the counter. “And one of those little baskets of peanuts. I love peanuts.”

I sat beside him and took the shot immediately. “I think I have Prefect rounds tonight,” I commented.

“Another double,” James said, sliding it over to me. “Then maybe you can cop a feel on China.” He chuckled.

“She’s not my type,” I said. Like I didn’t have enough girl problems already.

“When you’re single, everyone is your type,” James replied and the bartender nodded gruffly. “Come on, Freddo, what’s wrong with her?”

“She talks too much.”

“Welcome to life. Every broad talks too much.”

“She’s a Hufflepuff.” That wasn’t exactly a reason. Or a negative, really.

“Well, okay, I’ll give you that.” James shrugged. “What about Gee? You should ask out Gee.”

“Pretty sure I’m going on dates with Annie,” I said. “That might disrupt Gryffindor Tower.”

“We don’t want that.” James tossed back part of his firewhiskey. “Heard from Uncle George? Any news?”

“Court stuff is coming together,” I replied. “Zonkos is pissed.”

“Let’s go egg the place,” he said with a charming smile.

“Cheers.” I put back half of my own firewhiskey. “Otherwise nothing. He’s raising another batch of pygmy puffs.”

“Let’s get hedgehogs!” James cried excitedly. “Seriously. Ollie’s parents have a hedgehog. We’re getting one. We’re getting like twenty. And a horse.”

“What?”

“Sure. What goes together better than hedgehogs and horses?”

“Nothing?” I guessed.

“Exactly. Nothing.”

*

I wasn’t drunk.

I’d never been drunk in my entire life.

What was drunk? Abstract reality of composition?

I didn’t even know what that meant. I just wanted to sound like Ryan.

“Hey, boys.”

I rubbed my left eye and twisted my body around, still holding onto the bar counter in an attempt to not fall on my face. It took a few moments, but I recognized the bloke standing behind us.

“Parise,” James said with a smart nod. “Didn’t know you ventured to these parts.”

“I try not to,” Andrew said. He was wearing a smarmy grin. “Didn’t you have Quidditch practice today?”

“Nope,” I said.

“Clearly you work hard,” Andrew said, leaning against the counter to order a firewhiskey. “What a pair of exceptional Beaters. Rose is lucky to have you.”

“Considering we win, yes, she is,” I said. All I could think about was him going out for drinks with Annie and it made my blood boil. “And surprise! We’re actually good Beaters. Those are quite hard to come by these days, you know.” I shot his smarmy, asshole smirk right back at him.

James just flipped him off.

“Oh, I know,” Andrew said, taking the stool beside me. “So how are things, gentlemen?”

First boys and then gentlemen. Fucking git.

“Things are brilliant, Parise,” James said. “Getting laid regularly.”

“Does Ollie know you brag about your private life so much?” Andrew asked.

James colored. “Yes, she does.”

“I wouldn’t bet on it.” He was sliding his finger around the rim of his glass. A few people glanced over, annoyed.

Great. Now the regulars would think we were hanging out with Andrew sodding Parise.

Was that gel in his hair?

Come on, man.

“And how are things with you, Freddie?” Andrew asked, turning his eyes away from James. “I’ve noticed you’ve had quite a few conversations with Gemma in Herbology lecture. Anything there?”

James burst out laughing.

“I think it’s safe to say nothing is there,” I replied in the kindest way I could. “But thank you for taking an interest. You’re too sweet.”

He forced a smile. “You two do realize once you take a step out of line, I’ll have that Beater position, right?”

“Pretty sure we’ve been okay for several years now,” I commented. “I believe we’ll be fine. Mostly because you bloody suck at Beating and we’re pretty brilliant at it.” Normally I would have been more Hufflepuff about it, but Parise was an ass and I couldn’t remember how many firewhiskeys I had.

“Pretty brilliant,” James agreed. Thanks, mate.

“You’re day drinking in Hogsmeade,” Andrew said. He had that grin again. I didn’t understand why he looked so arrogant. He wasn’t getting anywhere. “I’ll just wait. Don’t worry.”

“Do you want to play pro?” James asked.

“Of course I do. What Quidditch player doesn’t?”

Um. James and me.

“Too fucking bad,” James snapped at him. “Because scouts will never get a sodding look at your sorry arse while I’m around.”

Whoa.

Andrew’s brows raised. He leaned against the counter, trying to look as unfazed as possible. He did quite well, as he chuckled. “We’ll see, won’t we, Potter?” he asked softly. “Pretty sure Ollie won’t like that competitive edge.”

“She’s just as competitive as I am,” James shot back.

“She’s the one who encourages me to try out with Rose every year, you know,” he said.

James faltered. “Because she knows you can’t best me.”

Or me, apparently.

“Maybe she just doesn’t want to hurt your sweet little feelings.” Andrew finished his drink and slid the glass back across the counter. “Lovely chat, boys. I hope to do it again sometime.” He smirked and was gone, the door hitting the stopper hard when he let go.

James and I both swung back toward the bar. Speechless.

“Friend of yours?” Bartender asked.

“Hardly,” James replied. He looked at me. “You think he fancies Ollie?”

“I think he fancies Annie,” I replied.

Either way we were in trouble. In celebration, James ordered another round.

*

Making it back to the castle while intoxicated was a little different than when sober. James and I forgot this every time we went to Hogsmeade for a drink. James also forgot it was not okay to ask fourth years for a piggy-back ride to the castle and then scream at them that he is a Potter and they have to listen to him or he’ll sick his girlfriend on them.

I had little memory of the walk back. Or stumble. At one point there was crawling.

“This the castle?” James put his hand on the stone steps. “Please don’t tell me we’re at Hagrid’s. He already sat me down about alcohol awareness and gave me a ribbon to wear.”

“Pretty sure that was to keep you quiet because you were crying,” I muttered, hoisting myself onto the steps.

“I don’t cry.”

“You just cried at the pub because there were no sprinkles for your vodka,” I noted.

“It’s a scare tactic.”

“It’s cold outside.” I plopped down on the third step from the bottom, staring out at what I assumed was the lake. It was still light outside. Had to be sometime in the afternoon. Late afternoon? Next day? How long we were in that fucking pub?

The real question was: Was Andrew real or not real?

“Cold as shit,” James said, moving beside me. “Hey, that’s a girl.”

I looked. “There’s not a girl over there. It’s a tree.”

“Oh.”

“Are you drunk, Weasley?”

Shit. It was a girl.

I squinted, nose scrunching as I tried to figure out who it was. The blurred vision and relentless giggles didn’t help.

Until Ryan slapped me on the side of the head.

“Yes!” I said. “Sort of. I mean no. I am responsible for James. He’s a bad influence and needs a detention. You’re a Prefect. Do that and shit.”

James elbowed me. “Hey, Davies. Fancy a date?” He snickered.

“Pretty sure your twittery Chaser girlfriend wouldn’t be too pleased,” Ryan replied dryly. “Did you two seriously get plastered in the middle of the day?”

“He started it,” I muttered.

“Why the judgment, Davies?” James asked. “Why don’t you come back with us? We’ll go back right now. I’m buying. I’d like to see you take a little of the edge off.”

“Sorry. I have to study.”

“Ah. Yes. Ravenclaw.” James emphasized the last word. “Pity. I’m a see and be seen kind of bloke, you know.”

This was drunk James. Snarky little bugger with an eye for everyone.

Ryan’s eyes were on me and it made me nervous. “Must be nice,” she said softly.

“I feel a bit sick so I’d have to disagree.” My fingers clutched the step below me. Everything was out of focus and I would have felt much more comfortable if I could make out her expression.

“To be able to just go get drunk when you want,” Ryan continued. I could tell she was smiling, but it wasn’t a friendly smile.

“I mean, I’ve got practice and stuff…”

“Just go right down to Hogsmeade and get piss drunk with your best friend / cousin / secret bromance.” Ryan laughed, leaning against the iron rail. “That must be just lovely.”

“It is,” James said. He was focused on his fingernails. They didn’t look all that interesting to me.

“Would you like to know what I did today, Weasley?” Ryan said.

I figured it would be rude if I declined, so I nodded.

“Bought vitamins,” she said, seething.

“Oh! Were they gummies?” I asked. Dad used to get me these dragon gummy vitamins when I was little. The red ones were the best.

“They were not,” Ryan said, eyes flashing. “I also bought lotion and other oddities I’ve never owned before in my life.”

“You should have owned lotion,” James said. “Makes your skin all soft and silky.” He paused. “Say, Davies, why aren’t you playing this year? Beating you brings me a special sense of pleasure.”

Wrong thing to say, James.

Especially since Ryan kicked him right in the thigh. James rolled off the stairs, whining loudly.

“What do you want me to do?” I said angrily. “Do you want me to just stop my bloody life?”

“I want you to fucking act like you aren’t just going along like normal!” she cried.

“Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”

“Go get drunk, Fred,” Ryan said through gritted teeth. “While you’re at it why don’t you take these.” She tugged a small box out of her pocket (how did it fit in there?) and chucked it at me, hitting me square in the face.

It was her pack of cigarettes.

“Why do you still have these?” I asked, looking up at her.

“Because they fit in my fucking pocket,” Ryan said. I could make out her face clearer now. “And I’m used to them being there.”

James grabbed the pack out of my hand and stuffed a cigarette into his mouth. “Light it! I’m in pain!”

“You do realize tobacco isn’t going to make the pain go away?” I asked, brow arching.

“LIGHT IT. I AM SO COOL NOW.”

Godric.

Ryan tossed James the lighter and he burned himself three times before getting the cigarette lit.

I turned my attention back to the Ravenclaw. “You want me to stop drinking?”

“I want you to stop being an asshole,” Ryan snapped.

“How am I even doing that?” I whined.

James was trying to blow smoke rings and failing miserably.

“Just know that it must be so nice,” Ryan said, walking up the steps toward the castle. “That you have that sodding option.” She pulled open the door and disappeared.

“What was Davies talking about?” James asked, tapping the ashes off the end of the cigarette. Then he coughed and tried for more smoke rings. “And why won’t she go out with me?” he said through the corner of his mouth.

“She’s just sour my score was almost better than hers in Herbology,” I said with a sigh.

“What a giving person.” He rubbed his leg and puffed again, but then choked and spit the cigarette onto the ground. “Peer pressure doesn’t taste good, Freddo.”

“I’ll let Dad know,” I said with a smirk.




A/N: Thanks again to everyone who is reading! I appreciate the support and the support on my newest ScoRose fic! You are all so wonderful.


Anyway, YAY for drunk Fred & James. Of course I can't get through a story without it. Can you blame me? And who has thoughts on Andrew? At least he's attractive.


Which doesn't bode well for the boys ...


Please share any thoughts! Thanks again! 


NEXT UP: China, Roxy, Annie and ... DADDY! 
 


Chapter 7: At the Shop
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For "A Peck of Owls." Keep writing. No matter what.




“How do you think you did on the Charms test?” China twirled her curly hair around her index finger repeatedly. Over and over and over again. We were on Prefect walks and hadn’t found anything of interest, so the conversation had strayed to classes.

Yet another painfully boring subject.

“Fine, I guess,” I replied, shrugging. I checked a couple empty classrooms, careful to close the doors tight. “You?”

“I really think I did well,” China said. Her voice was entirely too animated to be discussing a Charms test. “I’m not sure about a couple of them. I mean, charming inanimate objects is one thing, but when you get into charming actual people … that’s dangerous, you know?”

“Mhmm.” Right. Yeah.

We moved down the staircase and headed a familiar direction – toward Ravenclaw Tower. I’d taken this route when I met Gemma late at night. I hoped I wouldn’t see her tonight. The last thing I needed was snarky French poking fun at me for being a Prefect. You’d think since her best friend was one she’d lay off, but nope.

“How are you doing in Herbology?” China offered.

Ugh. Just stop.

“Fine,” I replied. “My marks are average.”

“I bet you can do even better,” China said. “Really. With a bit more studying you’ll be great!”

“Thanks,” I said. I had my own personal cheerleader.

China stopped, her gaze on the darkened hall before us. I noticed someone was down there. There was a shadow of a person against the wall. My wand was out quickly.

“It’s after hours,” I announced loudly in my Prefect voice.

“Sod off, Freddie.”

Bollocks.

Roxanne moved into the torch light. Her black hair was over part of her face in a sheet and she wasn’t wearing her uniform. Instead, she sported denim and a navy blue t-shirt.

“Excuse me, Roxanne, but you’re going to have to head into Ravenclaw Tower,” China said. “Or else we’ll be forced to give you a detention.”

Great.

I lifted my hand. “Hold it, China.” I shook my head and shuffled toward my sister. She looked bored. Annoyed that I was interrupting whatever it was she was doing. “What’re you doing out late?”

“What’s it to you?” Rox asked.

I pointed to the Prefect badge and she rolled her eyes. “Look, are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Rox folded her arms and leaned against the wall, wearing that cooler-than-thou expression quite well.

As a Prefect, I should have gotten out my quill and written her a detention. I should have docked points from Ravenclaw. Should have probably slapped her around a bit. Just to abuse my power.

I took a step back. “Just don’t be out too late, okay?” I said, caving yet again. I sighed.

“Whatever.” Rox shrugged and moved back toward where the common room entrance was, though she didn’t enter.

I hated this. Godric, I hated everything about it.

I hated running into her. She was my sister and it gave me anxious panic attacks every time I talked to her. Maybe I thought one day she was just going to snap and go off on me. Or that one day she was going to tell me she didn’t want me in her life anymore. I didn’t know what it was that I feared, but it was there.

Scared of my little sister.

Threatened by Scorpius bleeding Malfoy being her new brother.

Not that I’d been a brother for years now. She had him for that. To tell her secrets to. To bicker about laundry with. She wrote him more letters over the summer than conversations she had with me.

James used to tell me she’d come around. That ended two years ago.

“Everything okay?” China asked when I returned.

“It’s fine.” I placed a hand on her shoulder and steered her down another staircase. I didn’t much feel like checking the rest of the hall.
*

“So where are we going?” Annie was walking backward, grinning at me as we made our way from the castle.

Do I need to start saying the word surprise in different languages?” I asked.

Now that we were getting further into October it was beginning to cool down. Perfect chance to sport my new dark purple WWW cloak. It was simple, masculine, and really effing soft. Annie had on a beige jacket that skimmed her knees with a belt around the waist. It reminded me of some fashion magazine.

“Is it milkshakes again?” she asked.

“I am not going to tell you.” I laughed.

Annie and I hadn’t spent much time together recently. Not for lack of want, of course. She had to have her friend time with Ollie, we had classes, I had Quidditch. And Ryan. And that drunk day with James. I still can’t remember most of that.

The worst part, though, was that Annie had agreed to go to the library with Andrew once a week to study.

What a great fucking sweet-talker, that Andrew Parise. He just smiled pretty and got all the ladies of Gryffindor Tower to agree to help him with Herbology. Honestly? What rubbish. First of all, he didn’t need help in his classes. Second of all, he only seemed to want to study with the ones who either had boyfriends or were currently going on surprise dates.

But Annie agreed and they had their first study session the day before our date. It lasted way longer than I anticipated, but luckily James and I sought comfort in wrinkling all Andrew’s clothes by laying them on his bed and jumping on them.

So when she came back, laden with books, I asked her on a date. I liked when her eyes lit up like that.

“Can I have a hint?” Annie asked, laughing now.

“Of course.” I could give her that much. Definitely. “Where we’re going, we’re both going to be breathing.”

“Freddie!”

“Oh, and we’ll be keeping our eyes. And noses.”

“Come on.”

“We’re also going to have a sense of direction.”

“I can’t stand you.”

“We’ll both physically be there too!”

Annie hit me gently on the arm. “You’re no fun.”

“On the contrary, love, I believe it’s quite the opposite.” I shot her a wink as we made our way into the village. It was empty for the most part, save a local or two bickering over a newspaper or the price of a bag of what looked to be grain or really big sand. I wasn’t sure why anyone would pay for a bag of sand.

Mental Note: WWW bags of sand

Mental Note: WWW sand

Annie grabbed my hand and swung it between us as I led her past Zonkos (worthless piece of dragon dung) and toward Honeydukes. She gave me a quizzical look when I opened the door.

The place was empty. There was one clerk behind the register; the same old man that’d run the shop for years. James and I were fond of him considering our addiction to candy and Dad’s reluctance to allow real non-trick sweets into the shop. I waved and he nodded.

“Romantic,” Annie said with a snicker, looking around. “Surprising no one wants chocolate today.”

“They can’t get it anyway,” I said with a shrug.

“There’s plenty.” She motioned to the rows of chocolate and flavored quills and everything I had dreams about as a kid when Mum wouldn’t let me have dessert. It had nothing to do with throwing spinach at Rox’s head at dinner.

I flipped the lock on the front door and switched the sign to closed.

Annie stared. She looked nervous.

No, Annie, I’m not going to off you in a sweets shop.

“It’s ours for an hour,” I explained with a small grin. “I hope you’re hungry.” I paused. “And brought a toothbrush.”

“You’re not serious.” The size of her eyes reminded me of the chocolate galleons in the corner.

“As a sleeping draught,” I said and began moving down the aisles. Chocolate everywhere. Sugar quills. Candy wands. Sweets everywhere.

Commence sugar coma!

“Where am I supposed to start?” Annie trailed my path, fingers skimming the colorful boxes and patterns donning each shelf. “No one has ever given me a chocolate store before.”

“Well, you haven’t met Charlie,” I murmured, picking out some chocolate frog packages.

“This is really great, Freddie.” She looked up, grinning. She was always smiling about something. Well, except when I was mad at her. Or she was mad at me. Or something. Who cares?

“I’m glad you like it.” I leaned down, kissing her for a moment before continuing on and picking out more candy. It was a long shot, considering I couldn’t remember if Annie enjoyed sweets or not, but James insisted all girls liked chocolate so it was safe.

Much better than that twat Parise’s date. Or drinks. Whatever it was. And his library studying. Pfft. He probably played dumb just to feed her compliments about her pretty eyes.

After I had paid for our first armful, we sat in the small loft overlooking the shop. Our legs dangled over the sides as we stuffed coin after chocolate coin into our faces.

Annie placed her hand on my thigh. My face erupted in a color I wasn’t entirely comfortable with.

“This was sweet of you to do,” she said.

“Sweet,” I replied nervously. “I see what you did there.”

She asked what I knew about candy and that got me going for another half hour, telling her all about the trick sweets production at WWW and how it had grown even recently. Annie kept nibbling on her treats, nodding every so often and asking more questions about the shop.

When we were leaving she moved her arm through mine. “I can tell you really love it,” she said. “The shop, I mean. You’re so passionate about it.”

“I grew up there,” I said. It was sprinkling outside, creating a foggy mist on the street. “It’s my whole life.”

“That’s adorable.” She smiled.

I thought about the word adorable. Made me sound like a hugging Hufflepuff.

Though I had to admit, I was fond of hugs.

We kissed for a while outside the portrait hole, her back pressed against the stone wall. Annie’s fingers moved through my hair. Mine rested on her hip, the other on her cheek. It was nice, relaxing, and helped me stop thinking.

But once our lips parted and she said goodnight, I was thinking all over again.

“Annie!” I moved toward her, shoving the portrait shut so she couldn’t walk inside. The Fat Lady gave me a look that suggested a scandal.

Annie was startled. Her lips were still shiny from kissing me. “Hmm?”

“Do you fancy Andrew?”

Foot? Meet mouth.

“Of course not.” Annie took my hand, lacing her fingers together with mine. “I thought it was pretty obvious I fancy you.”

“Yeah?” No, my voice definitely did not crack there. Not at all. James was to never know about that.

“Yeah.” She moved to her toes, pressing her lips to mine again. I was glad the hall was empty.

Silence. Silence. Silence.

“So are you my girlfriend now?” I blurted.

Dad wasn’t going to know about this either. Mental note to write him back.

She snickered, her cheeks now a light pink. “Sure,” she said. “I’m your girlfriend now.”

Was that how it usually worked? I thought back to my previous three heartbreaks. Alessandra made me ask again because I didn’t ask in a public place and she thought those things needed to be asked in front of an audience.

I blinked. “Oh,” I said. “Right. Yeah. Okay.”

She laughed. “Good night, Freddie.” Annie kissed me one last time and disappeared into the Tower.

James opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

I tried not to wonder where he got said bottle.

*

Saturday morning I took Dad’s advice.

The shop was bustling with business, as it always was on the weekends. The weekdays hadn’t been as good lately, but it was probably just because the kids went back to Hogwarts and parents didn’t favor as many trick sweets as their children.

I tossed my jacket on the broom-shaped coat rack when I entered and kicked my umbrella to the side. Damn London rain. Walking from the pub wasn’t my idea of fun.

The building was everything I remembered from my childhood. Bright shelves, crazy boxes, and seventeen different paint colors slapped on the walls. Things were making noise everywhere.

“My dad here?” I asked the cashier. She was a tall leggy girl that had worked in the shop the last two years since she moved to England from the States. I kept forgetting her name but it definitely started with a P. She nodded to the office.

I dodged a kid that couldn’t have been older than seven and keyed into the office. It was littered with papers and receipts and other dreadfully boring things that reminded me of the Prefect office. But there sitting in a spinny chair was my dad. He had his feet kicked up onto the desk and was leafing through wrinkled papers.

“No, you cannot conveniently take your lunch when there are a bunch of toddlers in the store,” he said in a bored voice.

I grinned. “Damn. I’ll go finish my shift then.”

Dad spun the chair around so fast it nearly toppled over. He hadn’t changed much since I was a kid. Same tuft of thick, ginger hair. The only one in the family to have pale skin and a peppering of freckles all over his face, neck, and the rest of his body. Even his earlobes had freckles. He wore a WWW polo, though it was a little wrinkled.

“Freddo!” he cried, leaping up from the chair (it did fall over then) and throwing his arms around me. “What in my mother’s name are you doing here?”

“You told me you needed help with the puffs,” I said, hugging him back.

“Not Hufflepuffs,” he said.

“Of course not.” I grinned, pulling away. The truth was, it was great to see my dad again. We had our differences, but we were closer than anyone father/son combo I knew. I told him everything. He put things into perspective. Other than James, he was my best friend.

“How’s your sister?” Dad asked, shuffling the papers back into a pile and then tossing them onto the desk.

“She’s breathing,” I noted.

“A positive.” Dad wrapped an arm around my shoulders and steered me out of the office and down one of the colorful aisles toward the back room. “So I take it you haven’t opened up that line of communication.”

“Good guess.” I grabbed a snackbox off the shelf as we walked. “How’s Mum?”

“Also breathing,” he noted. “But lucky for me, she talks too.” He paused. “Or unlucky? I can’t decide. When we’re grocery shopping and paying bills it’s definitely unlucky.”

“Pretty sure she wouldn’t be happy with you saying that,” I said, elbowing him.

“She loves me too much to be sore with me.” He grinned gleefully and pushed open the door with a giant DO NOT ENTER sign on it.

Nothing had changed. Not that I expected it to, but I was pretty sure every table was in the same place it had been in my earliest memories of the shop. Shelves for inventory. Tables for oddities. Then an entire area for inventing, a closed-off area for testing, and a large cage of pygmy puffs. Dad led the way over to the cage and bent down, scooping one into his arms.

“Thought about getting Annie one?” he asked, pressing it against his face, perhaps to mirror what Mum did before.

“I only just asked her to be my girlfriend.”

“You did it?” Dad asked, patting my face with the puff. “Well done, mate.”

“I sort of yelled it at her.” I grimaced.

He paused. “Did you?”

“I did.”

“Not sure I taught you that.”

“I would have remembered that lesson.”

He paused again. “We’ll blame James.”

My eyes moved around the back room. I missed the days we used to hang out here and talk about nothing at all. Quidditch teams, inventory ideas, product placement, and why Dad kept the cute cashier on longer than he should have seeing as her till was short on more than one occasion. I used to sit on the tables and swing my legs back and forth and spout out crazy ideas for products. Most of them were pure rubbish – and Dad let me know – but every so often I’d get a good one. Something that ended up selling so well we had to keep restocking.

“I’m glad you stopped by,” Dad said, placing the pygmy puff back into the cage. “Your mum has been on me about why you haven’t been writing as much. Your letters look like a first year who failed all his classes and figured out he wants to be a herbologist.”

I grimaced. “Not quite.”

“Just forget the alphabet?” Dad guessed. “Run out of ink? Is Annie distracting you that much? Rose overworking you? In all your years at Hogwarts I’ve never seen a three-sentence letter.” He folded his arms and leaned against a table.

Well, in seven years I hadn’t exactly had a viable reason not to write a well-constructed letter, did I?

“I just didn’t have much to say,” I replied with a shrug. “Anyway, what can I help with?”

Dad clearly didn’t believe me, as he shot me one of those skeptical looks he was so good at, but shook his head and tossed a few vials at me. They were full of clear liquid. “No one’s going to buy shit unless it’s colorful.”

“Marketing fact?” I asked with a smirk.

“George Weasley fact,” he said and tossed another bottle into my hands. “Make those purple. I’ve got the pink.”

“What are they?” I turned one of the vials over between my fingers, examining the cork stopper. It reminded me of when Dad used to keep ships in bottles. It wasn’t like the Muggle ships – no, he stored actual ships for some of his mates in the shop so their significant others didn’t know they had them.

I wondered what Annie would say if she found out I had a ship.

Probably ask to go for a ride on it. I’d welcome it if she offered to sunbathe during. But then James would want to be invited. Then Ollie would give me a look because I was staring at Annie. But why was it my fault? She was my girlfriend.

Wow. She really was my girlfriend.

“Have you ever heard of a pregnancy glow?” Dad asked, uncorking a vial and placing three drops of a pink liquid inside. Then he replaced the stopper, shook it, and smiled at the new tint. “We’re recreating that for people who aren’t pregnant. It makes your skin glow a little. Makes you look more awake if you’re sleepy, more confident if you’re lacking it.”

I stared. “Where did you come up with that?”

Pregnancy glow. How peculiar.

“No idea,” Dad said, shrugging. “Just came to me one day.”

“Ah.” I swallowed hard. “Pregnancy glow. That’s great. You think it’ll do well?”

“Your mum has already told me to bring some home.” Dad winked slyly and handed me a few more vials to turn purple. “She said you kids gave her bags under her eyes.”

“It was Roxy.” I placed each finished vial back into the box carefully. “What do you think was the worst thing I ever did?”

“That we punished you for?” Dad asked. “I’m sure there’s a lot you’ve done that I don’t know about.”

“True.” I smirked. Spiking the punch at Christmas. De-pantsing the gnomes at the Burrow. Sweet-talking the local bartender into serving me when I was twelve and stumbling home drunk before getting a lift from some guy in a pickup truck. Not exactly shining moments.

“How about the summer of Alessandra?” Dad mentioned, his gaze focused on the pink droplets. He held his tongue between his teeth, concentrating.

My mouth went dry. Ah, the summer of Alessandra.

Bad enough to have its own title.

James hated that summer. James hated Alessandra. Most people did, really. Looking back, I had no idea why she had me twisted around her fingers. She was beautiful, talented, and smart. That probably did it. Maybe I didn’t think I was good enough for her so when I had her no matter what she did I didn’t want to lose her. I just did what she wanted in order to carry her books to class and kiss her before bed.

First it was sneaking into the kitchens to get her food and sweets. Since James and I did it on a regular basis (thanks to his Marauder’s Map) it wasn’t a big deal. Then it was faking an injury in Quidditch to leave practice early and spend time with her. Write the conclusion paragraph on her Transfiguration essay. Take her to dinner at a fancy restaurant. Nab her WWW merchandise.

Once the summer came, things got worse. Whenever I tried to confront her about it, she’d cry and apologize and somehow we’d end up having sex. Looking back, I have no idea how that happened.

Alessandra loved the shop. She wanted me to take her there all the time, but her nose wrinkled at the idea of crowds. Instead, she wanted to go after hours. I keyed in and gave her a private tour. Her eyes lit up and she did an innocent spin around the floor, dress flying up around her. I took her upstairs and showed her where my dad used to live before he married Mum in a small two-bedroom flat. The second bedroom still had the tiny broomsticks on the walls from when they made it my nursery. Alessandra was much more interested in the granite fireplace and the view of the cobbled street below.

She always wanted to go to the shop at night. First it was once a week. Then it was every night we sat on a blanket in the center of the floor and talked and kissed. I let her pick out a few products she couldn’t live without. We danced to music I put over the speakers.

It was August before Dad caught us. We’d fallen asleep in front of the cash register, wrapped in blankets, with a bottle of wine beside us.

I had to work extra shifts all summer to make up for all the products I’d given Alessandra over the weeks.

Sometimes it takes years of distance to realize how fucking naïve you’ve been.

Alessandra wanted the famous kid of a joke shop owner. She wanted to have side-fun with other boys who were taller, more muscular, and funnier than me. She wanted everything her way. I blushed, remembering how long I’d put up with it even after Dad suggested I break it off with her and find someone who didn’t walk like they had a corncob stuffed up their bum.

“Someone who doesn’t use you,” he had said. “Maybe likes you for you instead of your last name, as dashing as it is.”

At the time, I told him to sod off and it was real love or some shit like that.

It was real rubbish; that’s what it was.

I ended up calling it quits when I came home after a double shift at the shop and threw my polo onto the couch. Mum was flipping stations on the television, bored.

“Alessandra’s upstairs, Freddie,” she said. “She’s been waiting for a while. I would have told her to go, but she said she’d just relax and wait.”

I remember being excited to see her after being called a few colorful names by a customer who thought he was buying a discount off-brand wand instead of a trick wand. I had to explain, calmly, that the only place in Diagon Alley that sold legitimate wands was Ollivanders. I moved up the steps swiftly, ignoring Roxy’s blaring music, and into the room.

Normally, my room was a welcoming place with WWW posters and bright colors and stuff James and I were into. I even had a cot in the corner because we spent the night in each other’s rooms so often.

My own bed was my favorite part. A huge purple comforter and silver sheets. Anyone who entered would know my heart was into the shop and nothing else. No Quidditch posters or swimsuit models on the walls. Everything pertained to the joke shop. It was my life and I spent most of my thinking time in bed staring at the ceiling.

After seeing Alessandra topless on the sheets – along with another bloke – I decided it was time for a change. I burned the bedding, broke up with her, and threatened the guy with a Muggle shotgun. James took me to his parents’ wine cellar and let me vent about Alessandra for hours before Uncle Harry cut off the merlot and sent us to bed.

Dad was stacking the vial boxes, looking content. He whistled a little, something I was used to. He whistled to stop himself from stressing out. I was always certain it was to stop himself from remembering, but I never asked. He dealt with enough as is.

“Dad,” I began, finishing off the purple and placing it on the table.

“Hmm?” He looked up. I wished he wouldn’t.

“I’m in trouble.” I met his eyes and for the first time in a long time I wanted to cry. Not like James with the vodka-sprinkles. Like actually cry. I hadn’t done cried since I was in James’ wine cellar, drunk off heartbreak, but I could feel the sting in my eyes from holding it in so long. Keeping it from James. Having repeated dreams about my kid having my hair and Ryan’s eyes and me not knowing what the hell to even do with it. The kid.

“What kind of trouble?” Dad put down the box.

“The kind that’s big.”

He pulled out his wand and I heard the door to the back room bolt-lock. He pulled the blinds to the customer-interaction window where they could watch us make and wrap the taffies.

“With the Ministry?” Dad asked. I could tell he was trying hard to remain calm. Good for him because I was shaking, holding my fingers to the edge of the table to stop my entire body from becoming a trembling mess.

I shook my head. “No,” I said. “Not the Ministry. A different kind of trouble.”

“Did you kill someone?” he asked. “Was it that Andrew Parise kid because Freddo I have to say I’m not sure he was worth it …”

“I didn’t kill anyone, Dad,” I said darkly.

“What happened?”

My entire life I’d been able to tell my father anything. Everything. We were best friends. We shared ideas without so much as an extra thought. We even liked our eggs the same way: over-easy with a dab of ketchup on the side. Yet now I faltered, trying to find the words. My eyes stung. I just wanted to leave. Leave England. Leave Europe. I’d heard good things about Mexico (other than the water).

“Fred,” Dad said seriously, putting a hand on my leg. “Tell me what happened.”

I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Instead, I felt the pressure in my head intensify and I was horrified to release a choked sob. My cheeks were flushed, grip tightening on the table, and I just fucking let out a sob.

Dad was quick to move his arms around me, hugging me tight. “Hey,” he said as I unceremoniously wept into his shirt. “Freddo, what’s wrong? What’s going on, mate?” He smoothed out my hair, pressing me into his chest as my entire body shook.

I wanted everything to disappear.

I wanted to disappear.

I was irresponsible, a fuckup, and I wanted to disappear. Rox didn’t go around knocking people up.

He held me there for a while, waiting for me to release the buildup of emotion I had no idea I’d bottled. I grabbed the material of his shirt and felt like I had when I was younger and Teddy picked on me for something stupid. Nothing in the world mattered. I was safe. It was strange to have that identical feeling when I was seventeen.

I was glad the door was locked.

“Whatever it is, it’s going to be fine,” Dad whispered in a true fatherly way. He was a genius at it – like he was born to be a dad. I listened to stories of him at Hogwarts and it was so weird to imagine him before us. Before he had the paternal instinct to make sure we were safe before he was. How he used to fight, play Quidditch, and how he risked his life for everyone in the wizarding war.

Now here he was in the back room of a shop in Diagon Alley comforting his teenage son who got a girl pregnant. He wasn’t armed for war or helping form secret societies. He wasn’t hiding a stash of WWW products with his twin, biding his time for the opening of their own store. He achieved that dream, but continued it alone.

Now he was a father. How could I possibly live up to him? His instincts? The way he was able to find the humor in every situation? He even told us jokes through brushing our teeth as children. He used to let Rox dance on his feet at functions. He let me wear a superhero cape to bed for a month. He was the ultimate father, but for all I knew he was prepared when Mum got pregnant with me. He wanted it. They were married. In love. They were going into it together.

I was going into it blind, dumb, with a girl who could knock me out, and with another girl who fancied me and knew absolutely nothing.

This didn’t bode well for me.

I pushed away from him, wiping my eyes on the back of my sleeve. That was not my strongest moment as a Weasley. I cleared my throat, humiliated.

To my surprise, Dad chuckled. He used his thumbs to wipe the trailing tears and ruffed my hair. “Hey,” he said. “Talk to me before I start guessing.”

“Guessing?”

“They will all be inappropriate and may relate to that sex talk I gave you with Rox’s dolls,” he noted.

Ew. No. Godric, no.

I could do this. I could. I could tell him.

I opened and closed my mouth.

“You accidentally hooked up with Scorpius Malfoy,” Dad guessed.

“NO!” I shoved him away, gagging. “I don’t want that image, thank you!”

“I’ll keep guessing.”

“I slept with Ryan Davies!”

Pause. “While you were with Annie?”

“No!” I said, shaking my head. “But I got her pregnant.”

“Annie’s pregnant!?”

“NO!” I cried. “Ryan is.”

I hadn’t seen Dad that shocked in a long time. Not even Rox’s rendition of fish fillet made entirely out of dog food had not rendered him that speechless.

“Wait,” he said, blinking a few times. “You slept with Ryan Davies. Remind me, she’s a Ravenclaw? She’s the one Al is always having fanboy attacks about on his team, right?”

“Star Chaser,” I said, face scarlet. My ears were burning. “That’s her.”

I could tell he was fighting the urge to say ‘nice,’ but this wasn’t exactly the scenario given the second half of the provided information.

“Forgive me, but—”

“Yes,” I interrupted, holding up my hand. “It’s mine.”

“Ah.” Dad cleared his throat. “Um. And she’s…”

“Yes, she’s keeping it.” My gaze fell.

“And you’re…”

“With Annie, who knows nothing.”

“Mmhm.” Dad pressed his lips together and took a few steps back before hopping onto the table opposite me. “And I’m the only one who knows?” I nodded. “Well. Wow. Okay. Wow.”

He looked like he was trying to comprehend what I’d just told him. Granted, it took me a while to comprehend it.

“Dad?” I said. I faltered for a moment, feeling the prickling coming back. I couldn’t handle him being disappointed in me. I was seventeen for Godric’s sake. Seventeen. I still tried to spell things in my alphabet cereal.

“Yeah?”

“Tell me it’s going to be okay.”

He raised a brow, watching me for a moment. “Freddo,” he began. “I can honestly tell you that whatever happens, it’s going to be okay.”

*

I spent the entire afternoon at the shop helping Dad with inventory and changing the litter in the puff cage. We stuck to the back room and I explained what happened with Ryan and how she told me. I also told him our plan to keep it a secret until it got too obvious and my offer to be there and help and her resistance. He suggested she was just used to operating alone and I agreed. He also said he wouldn’t tell Mum.

After a while he took me up the back staircase into the flat and dusted off a book from one of the shelves. It was all about pregnancy. He told me to study it and then promptly replaced the cover with some boring Charms shit so James didn’t get curious.

I placed it in the top drawer of my bedside stand, ignored Ollie and James snogging on his bed, and closed my hangings.

I had to admit, for the first time in a couple weeks I felt better.
 




A/N: Thank you to everyone for all of your patience while I got back into updating! This was a fun chapter to write. Well, obviously. It has GEORGE. I hope you enjoyed it.


UP NEXT: Prefect duties and Frames.


Chapter 8: A Little Competition
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Enjoy! Happy November! 





The feeling of relief didn’t last.

Molly and Rune (ugh) called a Prefect meeting the following morning, too early to function. We met in the Entrance Hall and walked outside in a tight-knit group since it was chilly and China was freezing. She stuck to my side as we sat in a circle, attempting to avoid the hazy sunrise.

Ryan was to my left.

I stole a glance. Who could blame me? She looked fine. Normal and wrapped in a thick green sweater. Her legs were crossed under her and her gaze focused intently on Molly, who was pacing outside the circle. She didn’t so much as pass me a spare thought.

“You all know why we’re here,” Molly said, tugging her cloak around her arms. Maybe she wouldn’t be cold if we weren’t OUTSIDE.

“I’m not sure I was informed,” noted Dex Lathrop. He was the second Ravenclaw Prefect and knew about Charms, Transfiguration, and how to drive away women. His willingness to bathe in cologne did most of the work for him.

Molly shot him a scathing look. I was familiar with it. “Lately, we’ve had a problem with students sneaking out of the castle.”

Guilty.

“Oh, is that right?” Dex asked. He was obviously guilty, though I wasn’t sure who he was sneaking off with.

“Yes.” Molly returned to pacing. “We have had reports from multiple shop owners that students are showing up on non-Hogsmeade weekends doing shopping, having drinks, and causing problems. It is up to us to curb this behavior.”

“What’re we going to do? Set up camp at the gates?” I blurted. There was no way my corn-cob cousin was stopping me from leaving the castle. Then I might have to do homework.

“I’ve already put a petition in to Headmistress Finklehut to re-administer the charms on the front gates,” Molly explained. “The security measures have been too lax and because of this, students are able to walk all over us.”

Speak for yourself.

“So we’re doing what, again?” China asked.

“We’re going to give the students something to occupy their time instead of wanting to leave the grounds,” Molly replied, her tone changing immediately from surly to giddy. This was clearly her brainchild. And what a boring brainchild it was.

“Like?” China prompted.

“Like events!” Molly said. “We’re going to put together study groups, fun clubs, story hours, s’more fires, and so on.”

Ryan snorted. “Study groups are going to make them want to stay here instead of going to the pub for a whiskey? Fat chance.”

“With the gates charmed they won’t have a choice,” Molly snapped.

“I’d still choose not to go.”

“Well, that is your prerogative, Davies.” Molly huffed a little. “As you are all Prefects, you will all be responsible for putting on an event. You will be in groups of three. Some of the years will overlap.” She pointed aimlessly toward the twittery fifth years. “Start counting off.”

Yes, it’s safe to say that by the time the numbers found their way to my side of the circle, one, two, and three fell with Ryan, China, and I.

How exciting.

“Now, take fifteen minutes to discuss ideas,” Molly said. I wondered why Rune was just standing there and came to the conclusion he was thinking about snogging her later. Gross. “Tomorrow, please submit a written proposal about your event, the details, time, and estimated cost of supplies. We do have a limited budget for student activities.”

“I didn’t know we had a budget for student activities,” Dex muttered before turning away to his group, a pair of Slytherins. Sorry, Dex.

I scooted back so Ryan and China could face each other.

They didn’t move.

“Right,” I said, clearing my throat. “So, what should we do?”

“Tell Molly to snuff it,” Ryan said. “I’m not throwing an event for a bunch of gits who would rather sneak out or go have a lay.”

China stared. “I was going to suggest a bake sale.”

“Good start,” I said nervously, keeping my eyes on the grass. “How about we try something more involved and less geared toward making money?”

“Like what? Stripping?” Ryan suggested, smirking.

“Are you volunteering?” I shot back.

“You wish.”

“Maybe I do.”

Her eyes flashed. “Don’t start with me, Weasley.”

“Why? Because you’re a lady?” I rolled my eyes.

China made a noise.

Whoops.

“How about something where people can sit and relax and not study,” I suggested, feeling the color rise in my cheeks.

China nodded. “Oh! And we can have cookies!”

“You just want to bake,” Ryan said. She was picking grass out of the ground and tossing it at Dex.

“Can I?” China asked, eyes wide like saucers.

“Sure. Think I care?” Ryan brushed some hair away from her face and sighed. “So what are they supposed to do? Sit around and each cookies and get fat? Let me write the proposal, I beg you.”

“We’ll watch films.”

“Muggle films?” Ryan arched a brow. “Why?”

“They’re classic,” I argued. They were. James and I were huge fans.

“So let me get this straight.” Ryan pulled her legs up to her chest. There was loud chattering around us from the other groups attempting to be productive as Molly and Rune wove through them like hounds. “We’re going to have a room with a bunch of baked goods and a film?”

I paused. “Sure?”

“Good. I’ll write the proposal and hand it in tomorrow.” With that, Ryan moved onto her back, draped an arm over her eyes, and didn’t elaborate.

I exchanged glances with China.

Well, that was that.

*

Freddo,

Tell James.

Love, Dad

How was I supposed to tell James? Yes, we were Frames. James and Fred. Freddo and J-Man. Admittedly, no one ever called him J-Man, but it was something I was keen to start. Perhaps a new product?

Mental note: WWW J-Man Sweets

Mental note: WWW J-Man

Awkward.

After Molly had reluctantly signed off on our movie event, I spent half the day in the Prefect’s bathroom with China and Ryan (Still have no idea why they wanted to meet there) discussing the details. By discussing, I mean Ryan was perched on the sill of the stained-glass window eating ice cream and China was playing with the faucets. I was busy trying to scribble notes down about this silly event because Molly barely let us do something that wasn’t “educationally stimulating.”

Ryan and I bickered some more. China grinned at me a lot. She asked about Annie. I said things were fine.

I hadn’t spent much time with Annie since asking her to be my girlfriend, but she didn’t seem bothered. She held my hand in class and asked about the shop. That was all she needed apparently, and I was thankful for it. Especially since I had a lot of things to deal with.

Mainly, Ryan.

After a day of avoiding Ryan’s eyes and avoiding China’s questions about Quidditch, I pulled James away from creating a riot about the charming of the front gate. I closed the door behind us and made sure Andrew, Chopper, and Mox weren’t there.

Nada.

“What’s going on?” James asked, falling back onto his bed and putting his hands behind his head. “I was about to incite a rebellion.”

“Against your cousin?” I asked. “Pretty sure Molly would just pinch your ear and tell Uncle Harry on you.”

“Crafty woman,” he mumbled. “Is this about Ollie? Is she talking to Parise?”

“Of course she’s talking to Parise. They’re friends.” I raised a brow. “Relax.”

“I hate that guy.” James was looking rather huffy.

“For once,” I began, sliding onto my own bed, “This isn’t about Ollie. Or Annie. Or Molly.”

“The shop?” James shot up in the bed, looking terrified.

“Is fine,” I finished, shaking my head. “Look, I have something I need to say.”

“Uncle George?”

“Shut up, will you?” I said, raking my fingers through my hair. My heart was hammering. I wanted nothing more than to leave right then and there. Just like I had at the shop. Why was I so horrible with dealing with things? Where did that come from?

I knew, but didn’t want to admit it.

*

I was thirteen and home from Hogwarts before my third year began. It was only two weeks or so until the train and I’d been working at the shop since July. I had memorized everything long before, even the new inventory. Even then the newer stuff was shrinking and the older products occupied the shelves.

A pretty girl with raven-colored hair was behind the register. I was smiling at her. That goofy grin thirteen-year-olds think are attractive.

Wrong, Freddo. So wrong.

“So what are you doing this weekend?” the girl asked. For the life of me I can’t remember her name.

“Hanging out with James.”

“Again?”

“We’re Frames.”

She laughed. “My shift is almost up. Who’s in after me?”

“Dad’s closing up.” I checked my watch. Dad always closed up on Tuesdays. It was rarely busy this late so it gave him time to make sure everything was in place and count the drawer in peace before heading home. Sometimes I helped. Other times he wanted to be alone and gave me some gold for ice cream.

“He does a lot himself.” The girl drew some hair behind her ear. “Can you go make sure he’s on his way? I don’t want to leave the register with those sketchy-looking boys looking through the clearance bin.”

I nodded and followed an aisle to the back of the store. He wasn’t in his office, so I moved toward the back room. The sign was the same, but I paused before opening the door, eyes distracted by the merchandise window. I could see the back room. Back then the tables were ladened with interesting things to test and try.

Sitting on top of one of the tables was my father, knees pulled to his chest as he sobbed. His shirt was sweaty and sticking to his back. Fingers grasping his hair.

I frowned, pulling out of my wand. If the Ministry caught me, well, they could just deal with it. I concentrated hard and forced the blinds closed before returning to the cashier. “He’ll be out in a minute. He said you could go. I can handle the register until he comes out.” I grinned. It didn’t quite reach my eyes.

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. Go on.”

She grabbed her purse, kissed me on the forehead, and left.

James caught the door and sauntered in. “Oy, where’s Uncle George? I’ve got a snackbox idea that I think will sell.”

“Indisposed,” I said. It was our keyword.

“Then why’d you let her leave?” James jerked his thumb back toward the door. He shot the blokes in the corner a strange look.

I shrugged. Because I didn’t want her to know about Dad’s episodes. Because I thought I could handle it myself. Because I didn’t want her to see the fear in my face.

“You want help?” James said, interrupting the silence.

I shrugged again.

“Want me to give you gold for ice cream?” He smirked and joined me behind the register. He grabbed an apron and swung it over his clothes even though Dad bought the aprons as a joke and we never actually utilized them. He looked over to the boys. “Oy, buy something or get the fuck out!”

They turned, all at least sixth years, and stared.

“Got a lip on you, don’t you?” said the tallest one. He had a haircut that made him look like he got in a fight with a lawnmower.

“It’s not a library,” James chimed back. Always the charmer.

“And what if I don’t want to buy something?” he asked, lips growing into a smirk. He probably felt relatively confident, approaching the counter where two thirteen-year-olds were standing. Not looking remotely threatening.

“Then get out.” James huffed. He was always so huffy.

The bloke grabbed four magazines off the front of the counter and walked toward the door.

“Don’t even think about shoplifting!” I called, shoving James aside to follow him. I only got a few steps and his group of goons (okay, two guys with worse hair cuts) shoved me back.

“You going to stop me?” He shoved the door open.

Then he was immediately sucked into a tube that descended from the ceiling and vanished.

I looked at his mates. “Did you want a bag for those magazines?” I motioned to the merchandise left on the ground where the boy’s feet used to be.

They were gone before I could laugh.

“New thievery device?” James asked, moving forward to examine the magazines.

“Just had it installed the other day.” I hopped onto the counter, laughing. “Transports you directly to the village courthouse holding cell. Pretty convenient if you ask me.”

James shoved me and hoisted himself up beside me. “You think we should tell Uncle George?”

I draped an arm around his shoulder. “I don’t need to tell him. I’ve got you here. He’ll find out eventually.”

Young Freddo was a cheeseball.

*

I was feeling less confident now. It was so easy to share everything with James before. About my father because he was family. About the shop because he had the same passion I did. About Quidditch because he played too. Girls because he had Ollie and was just as stupid.

But this was different. This was something James had very little knowledge of.

Dad was right, though. If anyone else needed to know it was certainly James.

Ryan was going to murder me.

I cleared my throat. He was staring like he couldn’t quite figure out what to make of me. Not that I blamed him.

“Are you sure this isn’t about Ollie?” James blurted.

Oh, hell, James.

“Here’s the thing,” I began, running my fingers through my hair. “The thing is...” I cleared my throat again. “This is the thing...”

“What the fuck is the thing?” James demanded.

“Do you remember that time you were worried you got Ollie pregnant?” I nervously fumbled with the material of my shirt. “How freaked out you were?”

“Did you get Ollie pregnant?”

“NO. Do you remember or not?”

“How could I forget? At one point I was certain Ollie was going to behead me and her parents were going to off me.” He shrugged. “Why?”

I remembered how he hid under the blankets for two days.

“Because I made a mistake,” I explained, eyes on the wood floor.

“Annie?” James breathed.

I shook my head. The silence was starting to close in on me, weighing down on my chest.

“What happened?”

I kept my voice quiet and explained all about what had happened over the summer. For a while I just used “her” and “she,” but James wasn’t fooled. He prodded. And prodded.

“Ryan,” I eventually admitted.

“Davies?” he stammered.

My silence was enough to stun him.

“You’re kidding,” he said. “You’re joking. You’re pulling my leg. Ha ha, Freddo. Very funny. Good prank. Your father would be proud.” James was up and pacing now, scratching the back of his neck so hard red lines were dotting his skin.

“I told Dad,” I said, rubbing my lips together.

“Ha ha, Freddo,” James repeated in a high voice.

“Ryan’s going to keep it.”

“Ha.”

“But we’re keeping it quiet for now,” I explained. “So no telling anyone. Annie doesn’t know. Ollie shouldn’t know. I mean it.” I raised my gaze to find him staring at me, dumbfounded. “Say something, James.”

“You’re being serious, aren’t you?” His bottom lip trembled.

I nodded.

“You fancy her?”

I shook my head. “At this point we can barely spend time together without arguing.”

He paused and I could tell he was fighting with something internally. “How was it?” he asked. I threw a pillow at his head. “Sorry! I was always curious about her.”

“Shut it.” I flopped back onto my bed. “Just don’t tell anyone.”

“What about when they find out? Davies has a good figure. What about when it up and disappears?” James flopped down beside me, shoving me over on the bed with his hip.

“Then we figure that out when the time comes.” I elbowed him because he was hogging the bed. He always did that. “What do you think?”

“About what?”

I shot him a look.

“I don’t know,” James said slowly. “I can’t believe it. When did we stop being kids?”

“I don’t think we have.” I made a face.

“Suddenly Ryan’s pregnant, Annie doesn’t know, and you’re going to be a father.” James coughed. “Wow. A dad. I’ll get you that Father of the Year mug or some shit, okay?”

“Appreciate it,” I mumbled darkly.

James plucked at the seams of his pants. “So why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“Can you blame me?” I asked, but I knew the answer. “I’m sorry. I needed to find out where Ryan was with everything before I told anyone.”

“Afraid Annie’s going to find out?”

“Of course.” I groaned. “When did life become so complicated?”

“First Year,” James noted. “When we got here.”

*

James and I stayed up chatting for a few hours about Ryan and French and how Annie could react and how she would react. He eventually climbed into his own bed when Chopper came in with an armful of books that looked straight out of the Restricted Section. He growled a little before pulling his hangings.

Chopper. Not James.

The dormitory fell silent until James began to snore, which was a noise I was used to by now. He told me once Ollie had taken to using ear plugs.

I peeked my head out from my curtains to make sure no one else was out and about before grabbing the pregnancy book from the bedside stand. The last thing I needed was Andrew Parise getting curious about my midnight reading.

I opened to a random page.

Then slammed it shut.

I had barely glimpsed a sketch of a baby with its foot stretched somewhere I’d rather not say.

Oh, Godric.

Undo. Undo. Undo.

*

“This is ABSURD.”

I rolled over. “James, go away please.”

“I’m serious!”

I had been attempting a nap after practice. My whole body ached from Rose forcing us to try out all of these complicated bat maneuvers. I say attempting a nap because Mox had been in four times to find the correct book for his Charms essay and Chopper was trying to grill some rodent in the fireplace. I tried to ignore the smell.

“Okay.” I stuffed my face in the pillow.

“They think they know everything.”

“They’re women. They do,” I grumbled, pulling it over my ears.

He just yelled louder. “Like they know everything. They don’t!”

“Who does?”

“I do!”

I snorted. So did Chopper, but he turned it into a grunt.

“Why don’t you just go tell them that?” I pulled the blanket over my head. It didn’t do much of anything except give me the hint that my socks were dirty. I pulled it back down.

“I’ve tried,” James said, shaking his head. “I want to prove it. I want to prove that they don’t know everything about everything. I’m not stupid! I know things!”

“Of course you do. Now please go away.”

“You have to help me.” James leapt onto the bed, damn near crushing me. He dug his elbow into my spine. “C’mon!”

“Why don’t you do a bake-off or something,” I grumbled darkly. “Get China to help you. Or trivia.”

He paused. “Trivia? Now that isn’t a terrible idea.”

“It’s not a good idea either,” I said. “You’re horrible at trivia.”

“But you’re good at it!” he said. “Help me, Freddo! Come on. Annie and Ollie are ruthless. Let’s just shut them down.”

I supposed spending some time with my girlfriend was a good idea. I should at least spend more time with her than Andrew Parise. “Anyone else?”

James looked over at Chopper. “Oy, want to do trivia against the girls?”

Chopper stared. “Why?”

“We can raise the stakes.”

“To what?”

I considered that Chopper didn’t know multi-syllable words.

James rolled off me, straightening and clearing his throat. “I have a great idea,” he said.

“I’m going to regret this,” I grumbled, my face moving back to the pillow.

*

Ollie’s lips were parted in shock. She stood in front of the fireplace, hands on her hips. “You want to bet WHAT?”

Annie was on the sofa and Concetta and Charlotte were on her other side. They were the other two Gryffindor girls (other than Molly) who were seventh years and in all those years I knew all of two things about each of them. Concetta was a runner and was obsessed with James’ younger brother, Albus. Charlotte had a lower back tattoo and was obsessed with James’ younger brother, Albus.

Why? I had no idea.

Both were moderately pretty but too stupid to put a broom the right way up.

Molly was sitting nearby, looking sulky. Probably because Rune wasn’t there to snog. Ugh.

“You heard me,” James said simply, folding his arms. “I want to bet your room.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Ollie snapped. “There is absolutely no way. We’d have to get something amazing if we won.”

“A date with a Quidditch player?” Concetta suggested.

“The only Quidditch players playing are off-limits,” Annie said and I appreciated the tone of her voice. I liked the little bit of jealousy she had there.

“Name it,” James said, grinning. Behind him, Mox, Chopper, and Andrew jerkface Parise were sitting on a sofa. I was on a stool a meter or so away, observing.

“A trip into Hogsmeade for some drinks?” suggested Charlotte.

“That’s against the rules!” Molly said. Everyone rolled their eyes. “Unless it’s a Hogsmeade weekend.”

“Drinks are not worth our room anyway,” Ollie said. She narrowed her eyes at James and the tension was a little disgusting. “I’ve got it.”

“Name it.” He looked really confident.

“If we win, James has to propose.”

Until she said that. Then he went green, his knees buckled, and he almost took out a lamp.

“Excuse me?” James stammered, grabbing the arm of the couch. Andrew was trying not to laugh, but failing. In fact, so was I.

“All right,” I said, putting up my hands in mock surrender. “We can just call this quits now. There’s no way we can play with those stakes. I’m going to go nap again.” I stood, dusting my pants even though there was nothing there. More because I knew Annie was looking at me and it made me nervous – hiding things from her.

James wheeled around. “Oh, no,” he said. “We’re playing.”

I blinked. Ollie looked stunned. And a little green in the face. Clearly she hadn’t expected things to go that way.

“You would not,” she said. “You’re going to cheat. Find a loophole.”

“Why don’t you just find out?” James shot back. I was a little certain he was seducing her.

Ollie didn’t back down. They were standing toe to toe. “Fine,” she said. “You’re on.”

“Is it okay to be scared?” Mox whispered.

“If we win we get their room,” Chopper said in a low voice. “I was up there. It’s clean.”

The boys fell silent. We were picturing a clean room.

It smelled of daisies and buttercups. What did buttercups smell like? Didn’t matter. It smelled of buttercups. And ladies. Perfume. Cleaner. Furniture polish. Fabric softener.

Not like a locker room.

“And the rest of them?” James jerked his thumb back toward the rest of us.

I kept watching Molly, but she was reading now. Potions.

Thrilling.

“If you lose they have to streak the next Herbology class.” Annie smiled. She was looking at me. My cheeks like up like fairy lights.

It wasn’t that I minded. Okay, I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of showing off body to anyone who didn’t see me get dressed before a Quidditch match. Annie did look excited, though.

Did that mean she wanted to do more than snog?

For some reason, an image of Ryan swam into view. Probably because I’d be too terrified I’d have two pregnant girls on my hands. Great. Hormonal Ryan and Annie. Right. No.

“Deal,” said Andrew with a smirk. I couldn’t tell if he was smirking at Ollie or Annie.

We let Gee do the trivia reading. She had a great public-speaking voice and she was fun, unlike Rose, who volunteered. We let Rose down easy, though, by giving her a brownie for her troubles. The last thing I needed was my Captain throwing a sofa at me for answering incorrectly.

The first round was easy. Just some back and forth questions about subjects and grades. We missed a few and they missed a few (effectively killing anyone’s confidence). It was when Gee took a five minute break to scribble on some note cards we got worried.

“This is the lightning round,” she said and waved the back of the cards at us. “Each team will be given one minute to answer as many questions as possible about the opposite sex. Anyone can answer. At the end of the round, whoever has the most correct answers is the winner.”

I settled into my place on the couch. James’ leg was shaking beside mine. If we lost he would have to propose to Ollie.

I took a moment to picture James as a groom. For some reason I assumed he would wear a top hat.

Mental Note: WWW Top Hats? With rabbits? Work in progress.

The girls were sweating just as much. The pressure of losing their clean, tidy room with a beautiful view of the Quidditch pitch was finally dawning on them. Ollie and Annie were sharing a large chair, Ollie’s arm around her friend’s shoulder. Concetta and Charlotte were pacing behind the chair, probably lost in thought about Albus Potter.

I still had no idea what that was about. He was kind of scrawny and wore glasses. Granted, he was the Ravenclaw Captain but I didn’t think that would be enough to redeem him.

James had said once, “Be thankful they’re after my brother. If not they could have been after you.” Good point, J-Man.

Gee cleared her throat and ushered Andrew to move so the seventh year boys were sitting in a clump by the fire. She smiled in the same way she did when eyeing the opposing team before a match. Ruthlessly.

“Gentlemen first,” Gee said. “You have one minute.” Rose set the timer (we had to give her something to do). Someone was humming the bridal march and James was sweating. Annie was itching her collar bone and my eyes were drawn there.

“If Ollie was in another house, which would she prefer?” Gee began and the clock started to tick.

“Hufflepuff,” James replied. “Godric knows why.” He rolled his eyes and I elbowed him.

“What is Annie’s favorite animal?”

James looked at me. I had no idea. We hadn’t talked about it. Hell.

“Monkey,” said Andrew.

That son of a bitch.

“What is Concetta’s career ambition?” Gee said. My heart was hammering.

“Date my brother?” James blurted.

“Really?” I said. “That’s the answer you’re going with?”

“Herbologist!” Mox piped up. “With a specialty in plants of the Amazon!”

Everyone looked at him, shocked. Hell, Concetta looked shocked.

“What?” Mox said. “I listen.”

Gee flipped to the next card. The girls were leaning forward on the couch. A few others had come over to watch. “Where in Great Britain is Charlotte from?”

“Wales!” said Mox. Know-it-all. Charlotte squeaked and clapped before the girls silenced her with looks.

“Molly’s greatest ambition?” Gee prompted.

“To piss me off!” James said.

“Potter you’re going to get married if you don’t shut up,” Andrew snapped. “It’s to be the first female Minister of Magic.”

Gee smiled. James tried to throw a pillow at Andrew, but I stopped him. Not very well, as the pillow hit Chopper, who narrowed his eyes.

I wouldn’t be sleeping well tonight.

“What is Ollie’s best class?” Gee asked.

“Charms!” cried James and Andrew at the same time. James tried to launch himself over the sofa and attack, but I grabbed him around the middle and forced him back onto the couch.

“Ollie’s worst class?”

“Divination!” both boys shouted. James grabbed a table lamp, but Mox plucked it from his grip and placed it back on the table.

“Annie’s favorite Muggle film,” said Gee.

I stared. I didn’t even know Annie liked Muggle films. Bugger. Andrew’s eyes locked with mine. He didn’t know either.

The clocked ticked to its end and the buzzer went off, causing Mox to jump and almost dive behind his chair.

“Seven,” Gee said, writing the total on the back of a blank card. “All right, ladies. Let’s see if you can beat seven.” She shifted in the chair and for the first time I realized how nervous the girls looked.

Made me wonder what was so wonderful about that room.

James patted me on the back. “Good teamwork,” he said sarcastically.

“Nice aim,” I shot back, nodding toward Chopper.

“It was nice knowing you.” He chuckled.

“What was the name of James’ first dog?” Gee began and Rose hit the timer.

“Mr. Snuffles,” Ollie said offhand. She was very smirky, unlike the other girls. Apparently that question was too easy for her.

“What is the name of the teddy bear Freddie keeps stuffed in his top desk drawer?”

I choked. “And there goes any hope of getting laid ever in my entire life.”

“You went out with a decent track record,” James mumbled behind his hand. I elbowed him. Though I kind of knew he was right.

I wondered why Ryan was up to. I also wondered if she knew Rox.

The girls exchanged glances. It was clear the teddy bear was a secret. Thanks, Gee.

“Pass!” announced Ollie. Annie’s face was red. She twisted her fingers in her lap.

“Andrew’s ambition in life?” Gee asked.

“To run against Molly for Minister of Magic,” said Annie, finding her voice.

Sure, she doesn’t know about her boyfriend’s teddy bear, but she knows about Parise’s secret ambitions to beat out my much more qualified cousin for a position of authority. Did she fancy him? I needed to have a Gryffindor girl meeting about Andrew Parise.

I was starting to sound like James. What was his deal getting two questions in a row anyway?

“Andrew’s middle name,” said Gee.

“Anthony,” said Molly, glancing up from her book. Her ears reddened. There was a story there.

Gee shuffled the cards quickly. “What does Mox fear most?”

“Spiders!” shouted Concetta.

“Poison!” said Charlotte.

“Green beans?” said Concetta. We stared. “What? There was an incident in the Great Hall a few days ago.”

“Let’s move on, shall we?” Mox mumbled, burying his head in a pillow.

“Being buried alive!” cried Ollie. “I remember!”

“Correct!” shouted Gee. She glanced at the clock. “Chopper’s best class?”

“Potions,” said Annie. Her eyes were bright and on fire. She did not want to lose that room.

“Freddie’s first love,” Gee said. She was enjoying this too much. Why couldn’t she ask what my best class was?

“Alessandra,” Annie said with a grin.

Gee shook her head. “I’m sorry, incorrect.”

“Tabitha Winters!” Ollie all but shrieked.

I looked at James, who was scarlet. “Thanks,” I grumbled. Tabitha was a cashier for the shop when I was around nine. I was convinced we were going to get married and live together and have lots of children, though at that time I barely knew where babies came from. She was stunning though and when she put in her two weeks to travel to New Zealand I started a piggy bank in the corner of my room to save up to be with her.

I thought James was the only one who knew about that. Clearly I was wrong.

“To tie!” Gee hurriedly glanced at the clock. “What is Chopper’s given name?”

Silence. Silence. Silence.

Hell, what was Chopper’s first name? We looked over, but he was expressionless, staring at the fire.

The girls exchanged glances. Not one of them knew.

“Um, Chopper?” Concetta offered, wrinkling her nose.

“Duane,” said Charlotte.

“Castor,” said Ollie. “Silas! Beauregard! Sebastian! Liam! Michael! Zachary! Peter!” She was shrieking by now. The clock had almost run out. “Bentley! Edward! Lorenzo!”

Molly stood up and looked at the clock, her eyes suddenly going wide. “This is absurd!” she cried. “It’s Eugene.”

We looked from Molly to Chopper and then to Gee. The clock ran out. It buzzed.

Gee dropped the card into her lap. “I’m sorry,” she said. “That’s incorrect.”

Chopper grunted and smirked.

James was on the couch dancing. “We got the room! We won! We are the champions!”

The girls, however, had a different reaction. Ollie was shrieking at Gee for fixing the competition. Annie had to pull her back from trying to punch her teammate. Concetta and Charlotte were sobbing in each others’ arms.

You’d think there was a mansion up there.

Molly was leafing through a large book I assumed to be ‘the rules of Gryffindor tower.’

“We get their room?” Mox was staring at the girls. “Is this serious?”

I shrugged. “I guess so. A bet is a bet.” I wondered what it smelled like. Felt like. What the breeze would be like through the windows.

James was still dancing on the couch.

“You are absolutely not getting our room!” Ollie said, wagging her finger at him.

“Sorry, love.” James hopped down. “We won it and you’re ruining moving day for us. So kindly remove your belongings or they will be packed like a wild dog did it. Without bubble wrap.” He grinned.

“I have a feeling you’re not getting any for a while,” I said.

“But we get the good room.” James patted me on the back. “Priorities, mate.”

“I thought I was thinking of priorities.” I shrugged and removed myself from the common room before Annie started making me feel guilty for not losing on purpose.

Chopper, Andrew, and Mox filed in behind me.

“Moving day!” Mox cried, throwing open his trunk and shoving things inside.

“Ollie told me they have different closets,” Andrew explained, taking his perfectly pressed shirts from his wardrobe. “They were charmed a couple decades ago to accommodate more. And their bathrooms have warming granite floors.”

I thought about my cold feet in the morning. That would be nice.

And getting out of this room, which smelled like gym socks.

James burst in the door singing. “Home awaits, gents!” Not having to propose suited him well. He wasn’t even trying to murder Andrew, which I was proud of him for.

I checked my watch and looked out the window. There was someone sitting at the foot of a tree out by the lake, a book in hand. It was beginning to get dark.

“Oy, James. You mind throwing the rest of my shit in my trunk? I’ll be back.” I smiled. He stared for a moment, but I knew he wouldn’t ask while the others were there.

“Right. Sure. But you get last dibs on a bed.”

“Don’t give me Molly’s,” I said. I didn’t want to know what she and Rune did on that. “Or Ollie’s, Godric.” I grimaced, grabbed a jacket, and headed outside to see what Ryan Davies was reading.





A/N: Thanks for reading! Anyone who has seen Friends probably got the big nod to the show in this chapter :) Yay for some more Ryan in chapter 9! 

 

 

 


Chapter 9: Wrong about Ryan
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I'd like to dedicate this chapter to Puffs Plus Lotion.




As it turned out, Ryan Davies was reading a book of poetry by Theodore Roethke. She had a thin blanket wrapped around her legs and did not so much as look up when I approached her. So I kicked the book out of her hand like any gentleman would.

“What’re you doing?” Ryan said, eyes snapping up to mine as she leaned over and snatched the book from a patch of beige grass. She then hit my shin with the book. It burned.

“Bothering you,” I announced.

“Clearly.” She settled back in against the tree and began to flip through pages looking for where she left off.

“Is it any good?”

“Do you think I would be outside reading for pleasure if it wasn’t full of just that?”

“Sometimes I forget how spicy you are, Davies.” I sat down beside her, facing the lake. The reflection of trees across the surface reminded me of oil paintings. Ones that didn’t move. “So how are you feeling?”

“Fine.”

“Any more morning sickness?” I asked curiously. I wondered if I should open that book again.

“I’m fine.”

“Has Gemma started guessing?”

“She’s fine too.” Ryan turned another page.

“Does the hospital wing know?”

“The wing itself?” Ryan shot back. “You know, I haven’t been conversing with bed posts about my unwanted pregnancy.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Why are you here?” she said, snapping the book shut. “Why aren’t you up there spending your evening with scarlet and gold worshiping prats?”

I paused. “Is that what you think we do? Hang a piece of felt in the corner and bow to it?”

“Wouldn’t shock me,” she said, a small smile creeping up her lips. “Where’s your girlfriend anyway? Won’t she be pining for you by now?”

“I worry about the way you view Gryffindors,” I replied, ignoring the Annie comment. I hadn’t told her where I was going. I may yet win the award for worst boyfriend after Alessandra stole the girlfriend title. “Where are your minions then?”

Ryan jerked her head toward the Quidditch pitch. Several figures on brooms were moving above the stadium. A whistle blew.

My stomach sank. Sure, I didn’t know much about Ryan Davies other than what she’d told me or I heard from other sources. But it was hard just thinking about not being able to play Quidditch. And I wasn’t even that good. It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. From what I gathered from her and Albus, it was exactly what she wanted to do. What she was bred to do.

I thought about not being able to go to the shop and work or invent things with James.

“I’ll quit,” I said suddenly.

“Quit what? Breathing? Please do.”

“Quidditch.”

“You’re insane. Sod off.”

I grabbed her book and tossed it to the side, which got her attention quickly (not in a good way). “I swear. I’ll quit right now.”

“You won’t.”

“Try me.”

Ryan groaned. She stretched out her legs and kicked away the blanket, her eyes moving to the branches above us. “Look,” she said after a while. “One of us should get to do what we want. Enjoy yourself. Drink and party and snog your girlfriend’s face off. I will plan a Muggle movie night for Princess Molly and study.”

“You don’t study,” I added.

“Right. Damn.” Ryan wrinkled her nose and sighed, annoyed. “I’m feeling fine. Yes, I’m still throwing up at inopportune moments. Gemma hasn’t been guessing out loud, though I know she keeps eyeing everyone even though I told her it was someone I met over the summer. No, my appointments have been in confidence at St. Mungos. I have another tomorrow morning.”

“What about class?”

“I’ll conveniently have the flu. Charming, hmm?”

“I see what you did there.” I chuckled a little and watched the waters of the lake wash up onto shore. It was calming. “Can I go?”

“Where? Into the water? Sure.”

She really wanted me gone.

“To your appointment,” I said.

“Why?”

I shrugged. “I want to.”

“Why?”

I shrugged again. “Can I go or not, Davies?”

“No.” Ryan pulled her legs to her chest. “But I need you to do something for me.”

“What?”

She frowned and didn’t reply for a while, almost like she was trying to convince herself of whether or not it was a good idea. “I need you to help me find and get rid of all the cigarettes in my room. Gemma feels like a whore for smoking around me, which is always nice. At least I only smell it on her clothes.”

I never understood the appeal of smoking. The most it did was calm my nerves, but a glass of bourbon did the same thing. And tasted much, much better. Besides, kissing a girl who smoked was like kissing an ashtray. I tried to remember exactly what kissing Ryan was like, but the night was too blurry. Thank you, tequila chips.

“I’m in,” I said.

“You’re going to get a sick pleasure out of this, aren’t you, straight-edge?”

“Not sure I’m fond of that nickname.”

Ryan let me help her up (still unsure why) and we made our way back to the castle. For a moment, I wondered if I should go back and check in with Annie, but I knew she was probably peeved for us getting their room.

At least James wasn’t engaged.

“Do you have plans for Halloween?” Ryan asked as we went. I knew she only said it to break the silence, but I still appreciated her curiosity.

“Not yet. James usually sets up some kind of party that Molly always hates. Rose mentioned wanting to have it on the Quidditch pitch if we can get away with it. What about you?”

“Gemma’s found a way into Hogsmeade, so most of the sixth and seventh year Claws are going drinking,” Ryan replied. “I just found a new volume about the first wizarding war I was looking for, so I’ll probably put on some cat ears and enjoy it. Eat my weight in candy corn.”

We continued up yet another flight of steps and in that moment, I wondered with so much magic, why couldn’t Hogwarts invest in an elevator? I had heavy books.

And Ryan had a baby in her. So she needed an elevator. At the very least escalator. Those Muggles were onto something.

She told me about Halloween last year. Gemma and Ryan dressed in black and toilet papered village houses. They were caught, arrested, and had to get all of it down with no magic.

What would it be like to be arrested?

First off, Mum would skin me alive. The only brushes I’d had with law enforcement were my own family. Though Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron didn’t really count. They broke half the rules anyway.

Part of me figured Dad might be proud of I got an arrest record. Or at least a shiny detention record.

Maybe I was straight-edge.

Ryan answered the riddle with ease and we walked into the Ravenclaw common room. I’d been in there before during Prefect training and rounds, but now I was able to appreciate the high ceilings and plush furniture. A few people glanced over as we passed, but most of them left Ryan be.

Everyone in Gryffindor Tower would be craning to get a look if someone brought a Ravenclaw inside.

“This way,” Ryan said, catching my arm to steer me up a staircase to the left. “Ignore the onlookers. They hate any distraction from their precious Transfiguration books.”

“Funny. Other way around in Gryffindor.” I followed her, careful to look anywhere but at her, and spotted a familiar face curled up in a chair.

Roxanne had her feet draped over the arm and a book propped against her knees.

She looked up, met my eyes for a moment, and looked back down.

“You coming?” Ryan called.

It took a moment to register what she had said. I turned and followed her quickly up the remaining steps and to a dormitory marked with her year.

How could the Hufflepuffs and Slytherins live underground?

The views from her dormitory were about as beautiful as my own. Her windows overlooked the lake, still sparkling, and the treetops in the Forbidden Forest as they inclined into the mountains. I could stare at that all day.

“Are you always this easily entertained?” Ryan moved to her bed, which was the furthest from the door. It was directly in front of a fireplace, which meant to me she had threatened anyone who considered taking it.

Gone was the scarlet and gold of the dormitories I was used to. In Ravenclaw, their beds were donned with soft satin sheets and blankets in navy blue. Everything was the same rich, navy color. They each had small desks to replace one of the bedside stands and wardrobes across the room (though Ryan’s was to the side since the fireplace was there).

I didn’t answer her question since I would have only nodded. “So where do we begin? Where do you hide these things?” I checked under her pillow and was surprised to find a pack there. “Wow. Seriously, are they everywhere?”

“Technically speaking, we’re not allowed to keep them at Hogwarts,” Ryan explained.

“And you’re a Prefect!” I teased. “Treason!”

“A lot more I should be getting lectured for, don’t you think?” Ryan tapped her stomach with her first two fingers and then laid back on her bed. “Go on, then. Just stay out of the drawers below the wardrobe doors.”

“What’s in there?” I asked, pulling open her desk drawers. Already I had a small pile of cheap cigarettes. Where did she get them? Maybe she knew someone in the village or one of her mates had parents who sent them in.

Gemma was her only mate. Maybe Gemma got them from somewhere.

“Lingerie,” Ryan answered, fluffing the pillow behind her head. “I’d rather not share that.”

I felt my skin color. “Right.” Lingerie. She had lingerie in that drawer. I made sure to keep my gaze far from hers as I opened another drawer, pulling out a half-empty pack.

“Why? You want to see it?” Ryan rolled over. I felt her eyes on me. Wished she’d bloody look away. Like I needed her gawking at me when my face was red.

“I’m fine, thank you.”

James would kill me if I ever told him I refused to see Ryan Davies’ knickers, on or off her. Absolutely kill me. He was still trying to gain access to Ollie’s lingerie drawer.

“Are you?” She was fighting back a laugh. Ryan rolled into the blankets and they wrapped around her like a burrito. “Are you entirely fine? Say, when was the last time you were laid, Weasley?”

It was really hot in Ravenclaw Tower. Like, very hot. My torso was sweaty.

“I’m sure these cigarettes are really good quality,” I said, moving the pile over to her trunk, which I opened and began to root through.

Ryan snickered in a wicked way and got off her bed. She moved to her knees beside the wardrobe and opened the drawer she’d told me to keep out of. “When was the last time you saw a girl’s underthings, hmm?”

“I’d like to leave.”

“Do you think Annie is more of a black or red sort of girl?”

I refused to look at what she was doing, though I doubted Annie liked black or red. She seemed more of a pale pink sort of girl. Pastels. Good things. Bunny slippers and rabbit ears.

“I would say black,” Ryan said. “Look at this one. What do you think?”

Absolutely not. I shook my head, pulling out a pack of cigarettes disguised as a business card holder.

“Fuck,” Ryan muttered and I heard her fall from her knees to her bum. “Bloody hurts.”

“What?” I looked up, concerned, to catch her smirking at me. Smarmy thing.

She was holding up a black corset with satin ribbons loosened from the back. There were lace panels on the sides. A pair of lacy underwear had fallen onto her lap.

Hell.

“Here’s the question, Weasley,” Ryan said, still smirking. “Would you rather see Annie in it, or have another go in the bathroom stall?”

I shit you not, I actually faltered.

Right there, staring at the corset she was holding up while I was supposed to be searching for cigarettes. I had no idea what else could be in that drawer. It was an entire drawer! Where these things being showed to?

“What a gentleman,” Ryan said, laughing. “Maybe I was wrong about you, Weasley. Hell, maybe you were too. You may not be as straight-edge as I thought.”

I snorted. “Right. You think I should wear white robes.”

“You did shag me in a bathroom,” Ryan said, tucking the corset back into the drawer. I caught a glimpse of other lacy things and something that may have been leather. “Leading to a bundle of less-than-joy.” She tapped her stomach again, the same way as before with her first two fingers. Like it was a prop in a movie. Then she re-opened the drawer, grabbed two packs of cigarettes, and threw them at me.

I piled them all neatly in front of the fireplace (careful not to let them fall in) and looked back at Ryan. “Can you think of any other hiding places? Under the mattress?”

“They’d smash,” she said, wrinkling her nose. “Thanks anyway, Weasley. Anyone smoke in the Tower of Light?”

“That cannot possibly be what you call it.”

“Gem and I do.”

“You would. You ought to be Slytherins.”

“Should have asked the hat.” She shrugged and pulled herself back onto her bed. “Hell,” she said and pushed off from the plush blankets, rushing past me and into the bathroom. The door slammed and the noise that followed wasn’t the most attractive. But nothing I hadn’t heard before. Or seen, for that matter.

I sat there for a few seconds, neatly pressing the boxes together. Everything was so put-together in Ravenclaw. I wondered what my sister’s room looked like. Or how much room those drawers had. Ours were practically miniature. I kept most of my socks and boxers in my trunk because of drawer space.

I didn’t want to go opening drawers. Not that one, anyway.

Though I didn’t have to look at what was inside.

I just had to look at space. See if they were getting more space than we were. If they were, I’d have to take matters to the Headmistress. I wouldn’t be coy about it either. Drawer space is important.

Hell, Ryan was right. I was too straight-edge for my own good.

I leaned forward and yanked the bottom drawer open.

Screw the size – the black corset was on top. I picked it up, turning it over in my palms. It was so soft. So silky. Bugger. Under was an assortment of lacy things and silk things and corsets and bras and undergarments and tights and fishnets (Godric) and that was definitely a pair of handcuffs.

I didn’t know girls could own this many things. And girls did not own them if they didn’t think they’d be seen.

So who was seeing these?

“Couldn’t keep your hands off, could you?”

Having my back to the bathroom door was not my finest idea.

Ryan kicked me hard on the thigh. “I’m in there bloody throwing up and you’re in here having a blast with my lingerie. You’re fucking sick. Get out.”

“I was checking the drawer size!” I cried stupidly.

“At least lie better, twat.” She kicked me again and I felt it begin to bruise. “Out! Now, you pig! Don’t make me get Gemma.”

Gemma didn’t scare me like Ryan did. I’d been on the other end of her punches.

I grabbed the cigarettes like I’d been told to and scrambled out the door and down the staircase into the common room. It wasn’t until I saw Rox that I realized I hadn’t even gotten a bag. I was carrying an arm-full of cigarettes.

She stared, unleashing a menacing glare across the room. No one else looked up. They were busy reading, writing, and quizzing others with flash cards made from cut parchment.

Come on, Ravenclaws.

Then Rox snapped her book shut and walked to the other side of the room, curling up in another chair before going back to her reading.

And Dad told me to try and talk to her. Perhaps now was not the time.

It was the time, however, for Scorpius Malfoy to come sauntering down the other staircase. He looked at her abandoned chair, raised a brow, and then smiled when he saw her across the room. He sat on the arm of the chair. She laughed at whatever he said.

I left with my arm-full of cigarettes.

*

“Where’ve you been?” James asked once I came through the door. “Do you smoke? Is this peer-pressure because I did not find the urge to smoke after the bar. You can’t pressure me into this and I’m telling Uncle George you’ve taken it up.”

“They’re not mine,” I said through my teeth, giving him a look.

“Oh. OH!” He shook his head. “Nevermind. We’ll find someone else to pawn them off on. Probably Chopper. He looks like that kind of bloke, doesn’t he?”

“What’re you doing down here anyway?” There weren’t many people in the common room anymore. “Where are Ollie and Annie?”

“Making themselves cozy in our room?” He shrugged. “Listen, I have some bad news.”

I let the boxes fall from my arms and onto the coffee table. “What kind of bad news?”

“The kind that isn’t good.”

“Tell me.”

James made a face. He didn’t want to say it.

“Tell me,” I pressed, suddenly worried. “Has my dad owled? Is he okay?” With all the stress of potentially going to court, his episodes may have gotten worse. Mum could have sent something. Hell! Did Dad tell Mum about Ryan? That was just I needed. Mum showing up at Hogwarts unannounced and giving me a good slap across the back of the head.

“The girls weren’t happy about giving up their room,” James started, his face red. “And I have to admit this may have been a bit my fault as Ollie is handy with a wand. And a broom, but that is neither here nor there, only that she threatened me with both.” He took a deep breath. He needed it. “They may have put a charm on the room.”

“What kind of charm?” I imagined floating objects or asking the Baron to hang out.

“The kind that doesn’t promote inviting a lady back.” James made a face and turned, leading the way up the spiral staircase. It didn’t turn into a slide, for which I was puzzled. Usually you needed a girl to accompany you up the stairs to combat that kind of spell. Hogwarts was tricky. James pushed open the door to the girls’ room and immediately I knew exactly what kind of charm.

The walls were covered, and not in their usual ivory glory. Instead, with the large, moving photographs of the grandmums of everyone who was occupying the room. Immediately, Grandmum Weasley was staring at me in a disapproving way from above the windows. Grandmum Johnson had her knitting in her hand as she peered down at me. She shook one of the needles. Bugger!

“Where’s your other grandmum?” I asked, looking around. I obviously knew the story of James’ family, but I thought all was fair in war.

“Ollie told me they thought she was too pretty when she passed away,” James said. I loved that he was proud of it. His chest puffed out a little.

Everywhere I looked there were either copies of my grandmums or grandmums I assumed belonged to Andrew, Mox, and Chopper. The twitchy little thing with an obvious wig had to belong to Mox.

James answered my question before I said it when he pulled open the curtains and motioned to the underside of the four-poster. “Yes. Both of your grandmums will now watch you sleep. And whatever else you’re doing in this bed.”

I groaned. “What did you say to them?”

“All I told them is that I was enjoying moving day.” He shrugged.

“And?”

“And that our room smelled like old gym socks and sweat.” James’ face colored again. “How was I supposed to know they would do this? They’re ruthless! You need to go talk to Annie. She didn’t even know you’d gone.” He lowered his voice since someone was showering in the bathroom. “Where did you go anyway?”

“You saw the cigarettes.” I shrugged and sat on my bed, careful not to let Grandmum Weasley bother me. At least she wasn’t making noise. She’d probably scold me about the way my hair wasn’t lying flat.

“How is she?” James whispered, sitting beside me. “She still hate you?”

“Kicked me out of her room.”

“Why?”

“I had a moment of weakness.” One I didn’t care to talk about. “I don’t know, James. This is wild. I don’t blame her for being pissed. Do you?”

“She doesn’t have to be a bitch all the time, you know.”

“She’s not. Not all the time.” I thought about her smiling as she teased me. The way she got so much enjoyment out of poking fun of Gryffindor. “But imagine if what we wanted was kind of just taken away like that, you know? She can’t play Quidditch. Can’t smoke. Can’t drink. Those are three quarters of her activities anyway. Not saying they’re good, but I’m not exactly a scholar either.”

“You barely pass half your classes,” James noted.

Thanks for that.

“I’m just saying maybe I should cut her some slack,” I replied. “Her need to play Quidditch is like us and the shop.”

“Can’t she just play after she pops out the kid?”

I paused. “Do you understand how much work a kid is?”

“Do you?” James asked.

“Not really.” I scrunched my nose. “But I’ve heard a lot. About how they need constant attention. How is she going to focus and have a career when she has to give constant attention to a baby?”

“Her parents?” James guessed.

“I’ve never met her parents, but she doesn’t seem like the person to rely on others, does she?” I found a piece of wall not occupied by a photo and stared at it. “Have you ever seen them at Quidditch matches?”

“Are you asking me if I’ve ever had the notion to look for the parents of Ryan Davies in the crowd?”

“Good point.” I groaned. “I just wish there was something I could do.”

“Think you’ve done enough,” he said with a laugh. I shot him a look. “Lighten up, Freddo. There’s nothing you can do. She’s told you she doesn’t need you or your money. She’s an independent woman. She’s decided to quit Quidditch, to which my brother is still sniffing around for motives. Just let it go, give Annie a snog, and go about your life.”

I knew why James thought the way he did. He was always on the outside of problems. He didn’t have any real problems other than his grandmum staring down at him. His list of life problems included what was being served for dinner and if an invention wasn’t quite working the way he’d like it to. Or if his grades were slipping, though Ollie was always there to tutor him back to a good mark. His parents cared deeply for him. His entire family did.

So I couldn’t blame him for saying what he did. If it was just a few weeks ago, I would have said the same thing. Laughed it off.

But it wasn’t. It was now and I’d seen the look in Ryan’s eyes. I’d barely glimpsed what she might have been going through, outside reading alone when her mates were playing Quidditch. Planning to read a book the size of my head while her friends went to Hogsmeade for Halloween and got drunk. She was slowly being pushed out of her own circles.

“You going to the Muggle movie night?” I asked.

“That lame thing thrown by the Prefects?” James made a face. “That sounds horrible. Of course not.” He paused at my expression. “You’re one of the Prefects throwing it, aren’t you?”

I smiled in very insincere way.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the word.”

*

More than one person was rightfully skeptical when the time came. China, who was quite the artist, made up some banners for the event and Ryan planned everything. She had me select the movies, though.

As I was going through a tough time transitioning (rather roughly, I had to admit) into adulthood, I selected several animated classics involving talking animals. The Lion King. The Aristocats. 101 Dalmatians. Among a couple other backup options. China insisted on drawing a lion cub and Ryan said it was pro-Gryffindor and threatened to rip it up during a raging mood-swing.

I then stuffed a cookie China baked into her mouth to shut her up.

Molly was pacing. “People aren’t going to come,” she said, examining the Great Hall. There was a large projector screen set up in front of the head table and the long house tables had been moved in favor of a large assortment of mismatched pillows and blankets. “They’re going to think this is a very stupid idea and they aren’t going to come.”

“Aren’t Head Girl’s supposed to be positive?” asked Ryan, still chewing.

“They should get rights to demote anyone they please,” Molly shot back. “But alas, I do not have those duties and thus you are still under my command.”

“You sound like a drill instructor,” Ryan said. “Got something up your bum?” She took another cookie, biting it in a ruthless way.

“Watch it, Davies. I can take points away from Ravenclaw, you know.”

“Drop it, Molly,” I said. “Ryan put this entire thing together. And it’s not like anyone came to the abstinence rally last night you and Rune put together.”

Her face flushed. “Someone came.”

“You and Rune do not count,” I said.

“Mox came,” Molly shot back.

“Doesn’t count either.” I grimaced. “Regardless, it looks great. The cookies taste great.” I checked my watch. One minute until. It was probably time to admit defeat. Even James found something better to do. Probably named Ollie.

“This is absurd, Fred.” Molly tapped her feet. “Enjoy your movies. I’m going to finish the duty schedule for next week. Davies, you’re taking all of the shifts no one wants.”

“With pleasure,” Ryan spat with a snarky smile.

Molly clicked her way out of the Great Hall, slamming the door as she went.

China sighed and looked at the spread of baked goods over one of the tables. “This was a lot of work,” she said, frowning.

“Exactly. Let’s not let it go to waste.” I grabbed an end of the table and dragged it into the center of the Great Hall. Both girls followed, confused. “Go on. Sit down. Shame to let good pillows and blankets go to waste, isn’t it?”

“You have got to be kidding,” Ryan said. “Doesn’t this pretty much make it easy for us to leave without doing any more work?”

“We put the effort into it,” I said, grabbing the controller and settling into a seat directly in front of the table. I reached behind me and grabbed a muffin. “We’re going to enjoy it. Besides, relax a little. There aren’t any exams tomorrow.”

China sat to my left, a few feet from me, and curled up in some blankets.

Ryan sat to my right. She snatched several more cookies. I wanted to give her an entire plate and insist she was eating for two, but that would have gotten me hit. Hard. So I offered her a pillow, which she took, and started The Lion King.

My family was fond of classic animated films. Dad had an entire collection in the basement and on nights we were sad or bored or snowed in, the four of us snuggled around the fire and put one in. The Lion King was always my favorite. And always, always I tried to hide my face when Mufasa died.

“Are you crying, Weasley?” Ryan whispered. The warm colors of the movie were dancing off her skin.

“I have something in my eye,” I muttered, quickly wiping it away. “Dust or an elephant herd or something.”

She snickered and I noticed my eyes were not the only glassy ones. “How many times have you seen this movie?”

“Too many,” I admitted. “You?”

“Just once. When I was very little.” Ryan leaned forward and laughed. “China’s sleeping. I wonder when she fell asleep.”

“It isn’t exactly early.” I leaned back and my eyes moved to the film. I couldn’t help it. Being without a father was something I couldn’t fathom, yet something that crossed my mind entirely too often when Dad locked himself in the study.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Ryan said, scooting back a little. She moved onto her side, plopping a pillow onto my lap. And then she snuggled in against my body, facing the movie.

I didn’t want to be, but suddenly I was very aware of everything. Where she was. What parts of her body were touching what parts of mine. The way she breathed. A sniffle as she tried to fight back emotions from the movie.

My fingers moved into her hair. She shuddered, but didn’t shove me away. Or punch me. Her hair was soft. Everything about her was soft.

My attention turned back just as the singing started again, fingers moving through her hair lazily as I watched. Pretty soon I heard her soft snores.

I smiled a little. Couldn’t help it.

James was wrong about Ryan Davies. She was a bitch a lot of the time. She was rotten to others, ruthless, and selfish. But there were times she was none of those things.

I didn’t think she even knew it and I certainly wouldn’t be the one to take the fall for telling her.

For a while I wondered what would happen when everyone found out. When the school discovered she was pregnant. That I was the father. What my family would say. What the rest of my friends would say.

But the more I rested there, Ryan breathing somberly against my leg, the more I realized that what would come would come. The only thing I could do now is wait and do what I could to help.

If Ryan would let me.




A/N: Would have had this chapter out sooner, but I've been (really) under the weather. I hope you enjoyed it. A lot of Fryan time. 


Chapter 10: The Hazy Future
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Sorry for the delayed upload! I got a job, a puppy, and a car! WHOA. Thanks for the patience - enjoy! 




“You get what you deserve,” Annie huffed a few days later. I’d confronted her about the grandmums in the dormitory since I couldn’t fall asleep for hours the night before. She had been surly since we won the competition. “And that is exactly what you deserved.”

“In the same way you lot deserve a dormitory that smells like the locker room,” I shot back, irritated. “No man should live like that!”

“No gentleman should take away a girl’s room.”

We were in the Great Hall, eating. With very little privacy. James kept missing his mouth with the fork.

“It was a game. Those were the stakes. You lot would have still made James propose,” I said. James missed his mouth again and started coughing. Ollie ignored him.

“It was still ruthless,” Annie said. “And we’re not changing the décor back until we get our room back.”

“But we moved all our things.”

“You didn’t,” Annie said, rolling her eyes. “You let someone else do it while you skirted off somewhere. Where did you go, anyway?”

“Prefect duties,” I said absently. Which was true. In a way.

The last thing I wanted was to discuss Ryan Davies with Annie. The very last.

“Besides,” Annie said, ignoring me, “Why can’t you just change it yourself?”

“You know perfectly well there is a permanent sticking charm on those portraits,” I said through gritted teeth, leaning closer. “This is going to ruin our relationship.”

Annie huffed. “What relationship?”

“Right through the heart,” I said, getting to my feet. “Thanks for coming to the movie night, by the way.”

“Is that what this is about?” Annie said loudly. More people were staring. Even some Hufflepuffs turned to look, probably because Annie never had outbursts like this. Hell, I never had outbursts like this. “Your precious movie night? Come off it, Freddie. No one went. You can’t be mad at me for that.”

“You’re my girlfriend,” I said, very aware of the desperation in my voice. “I would have liked to see you there.” I finished my dinner roll and tossed the last bite back onto the plate. Then I left before she could counter her title.

It had been like that for several days now. Bickering. She was furious they lost the trivia contest. Angry with me for stealing her room and for being at Quidditch practice and studying and yes, spending time with Ryan. Granted, I hadn’t seen much of Ryan since the movie night. Just at a Prefect meeting and in class. Though I did accidentally wander into the library while she was working. She told me to get bent.

I wasn’t sure what else to do about Annie. I couldn’t tell her all my stress was coming from Ryan’s pregnancy. The kiss of death for our relationship.

Maybe she was right. What relationship?

I’d have to mend that. But not now.

Now I was walking swiftly up to the fourth floor. I passed a few people, but no one of consequence. If my timing was correct, I could head her off.

And it was.

Just as I leaned against the wall to catch my breath, Ryan walked around the corner. She looked like she’d just been ill and thus not happy at all. Her raven hair was a little tossed, though she’d put it back in a messy bun which was flopping about as she walked. She was almost past me when she stopped. “Absolutely not. Go back to dinner.”

“Just let me come,” I said, falling into step. “I won’t be a bother.”

“You’re always a bother,” Ryan said, rolling her eyes. “Now get lost. I don’t need a babysitter.”

“Then allow me to do the babysitting,” I said, hooking my arm with hers. She pulled away instantly. “Come on, Davies. They told you to come back in a couple of days because they were full. It’s a couple of days. Just let me come along.”

Ryan stared daggers at me. “And if I don’t want you to?”

“That’s hardly a reason.”

“But still a reason.”

“But not a solid one.”

She punched me hard in the arm. It burned. “Fine. You can come. You are not to speak.”

I mocked zipping my lips and she dragged me inside an empty classroom. Judging by some of the décor, it used to be a Charms classroom or at least a practice space. Most of the furniture was covered in white sheets and the windows were dusty.

Ryan pulled her wand from her robe pocket and started a fire in the hearth with ease. She looked bored while conducting non-verbal spells. I would hate to be on the receiving end of some of them.

She knelt down, feeling the warmth against her fingertips. “No talking,” she said. “I mean it. There are a lot of things you don’t know about me and I would appreciate them being kept that way.” She straightened and took a velvet bag from her pocket. Ryan dug into it and pulled out Floo Powder. Then she tossed it to me. Without looking, she threw the powder into the fire, stepped in, and cried, “St. Mungos!” Then she was gone.

I sighed. No talking. Right. Like that had ever gone well before.

I mirrored her actions and fell out of the fireplace in the lobby of St. Mungos. My pants were covered in soot (I wasn’t very good at Floo’ing) and my balance wasn’t very good. Ryan was already at the desk checking in. Not a mark on her.

One day I’d figure out how she did it.

And why on earth she wanted to play Quidditch with a brain like hers.

I moved to her shoulder, smiling a little at the Healer taking down Ryan’s name.

“Yes. I have you right here, Miss Davies.” She glanced up and handed Ryan a form. “I just need you to sign here.” She looked over at me, a knowing expression on her face. “You’re a Weasley, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Surprised you got that from the dark hair,” I admitted. “Usually they only notice the gingers.”

“No, no,” the Healer said, shaking her head. “You’re the son of the joke shop owner! My husband and I go in there all the time. We really love it.” She was bouncing on the balls of her feet, ringlets of curls tossed against her cheeks. “Are you here with Miss Davies?”

“No,” Ryan said bitterly, signing her name. “He’s just someone who likes to follow me. Rowena bloody knows why.”

“This changes things.” The Healer happily ripped back the forms. “We will get your room upgraded. No extra charge.”

“No,” Ryan spat. “I’ll have the same room, thank you. I don’t need special treatment because of my company.”

“But dear, don’t you think you’ll be more comfortable in a different room?”

I wanted to suggest to the Healer that it was a good idea she not speak as well, but Ryan seemed to have that under control.

“I am superstitious,” she replied. “I would like the same room and Fred is just fine sitting in that chair as opposed to a luxury leather one.”

Hmm. She used my first name.

The Healer tried for a smile. “Down the hall on the left,” she said. “Room four.”

I’d never been to a room on the very first floor. Usually when I’d visited St. Mungos it was for serious cases. Always toward the top. Dad had been here a few times when his episodes got really bad. I remember staying the night in a lounge before I was at Hogwarts. Some elderly chap let me borrow his blanket.

I followed Ryan obediently. She pushed open the door. It was a normal hospital room set up with what I assumed to be baby-checking equipment (I really needed to open that book). She hopped up onto the bed, the paper crinkling under her, and I took a seat on the spinny chair by the wall. There were charts I decided not to look at.

For good reason.

I swung my feet under the chair, but it started to spin so I stopped.

Ryan took a crossword puzzle book from her back pocket and started to fill it out with a pen she’d taken from the jar on the shelf.

“So,” I said.

“No speaking.” Ryan bit her lip and decided on an answer before scribbling it down. She nodded to herself.

“What’s this appointment for anyway?”

“For you to shut your face,” she said.

“I don’t think that’s correct,” I replied. “Or else I would have been invited initially.”

Ryan slammed her book shut. “Why do you have to be so unearthly involved in this? The activities of the thing growing inside me are not always your concern.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Why do they have to be?” she pressed.

I shrugged. I didn’t have a good answer. I probably wouldn’t for a long time.

“I’m not going anywhere,” I said confidently, raking my fingers through my dark hair. “So you can either deal with it or keep fighting me, which takes a lot of energy.” I folded my arms, feet flat on the floor so I didn’t spin and lose all of my credibility.

Just when Ryan was about to throw the nearest machine at me, the door opened. A tall Healer with white robes and a crew cut moved into the room. He looked bored and annoyed.

“I’m Healer Jones,” he said, shaking Ryan’s hand and ignoring me. “We’ll be doing a regular checkup today, right?”

“If that’s what is on your chart,” Ryan said sweetly. No one could mistake that for sweetness.

“It is indeed.” Jones smiled back. Not sweetly. “Having any sickness?”

“All of it,” Ryan replied.

I tried not to listen to the rest. Boring questions about her dietary habits, if she was smoking or drinking, what prenatal things she was taking. So on and so forth. What she could expect before the next appointment, which was a lot more trips to the toilet and hating many different types of food. Also eating a lot of the food she didn’t hate.

My head did pop up when he said ‘breast enlargement’ though. I couldn’t help it. Ryan noticed my interest and shot me a look that promised to injure me when we left.

Which she did. Hard.

“You didn’t care about half of what he said,” Ryan quipped once we were back at Hogwarts. “You just wanted to be a part of it to look like you cared.”

I groaned. “You are a piece of work, you know that? I’m trying to be involved. I’m sorry if I doze off while discussing your vitamins. Did you want me to get your prescription? Otherwise, I’m not much use in that department.”

“Go eat your fucking tequila chips.”

“Got a mouth on you,” I snapped. “Going to teach that language to the kid?”

“You’ll never find out,” Ryan said, shoving the door open. She looked both ways before starting into the hall, which was vacant.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Do you have a problem hearing, Weasley? It means what I said. Now get lost and go snog your girlfriend. If you still have one by the time you get back.” Ryan shoved open the door to the girls’ restroom and disappeared.

*

Freddo,

Haven’t heard from you in a bit, which concerns me. I’m glad you told James. At least you’re not bottling it up. Just a question – when exactly were you planning on telling your mum? She thinks you’re up to something. She’s usually right. In this case, of course she is.

Looking more and more like we’re going to the serious-people court.

Getting my papers together and getting ready for the fight with Zonkos over the joke shop line and the bints that own the building. It’s a mess. It’s been shifting ownership because of Zonkos bribes. And to think of the amount of money I spent there, you know?

Anyway, the shop is doing fine. A lot of regulars, but they love it.

You should stop by again soon. Maybe before Halloween? What’s James got planned this year, anyway? Maybe he will dress up as a WWW employee and finally tell Harry and Gin he’s not planning on being an Auror.

Good luck to him.

Dad

*

“Fat chance,” said James, scrunching up his face. “I’m not telling them until the last minute. Until I sign the contract with Uncle George.”

“You really think they’re going to be pissed?” We were in our dormitory, though trying to forget where we were. The grandmum pictures were still staring down at us. James wouldn’t let us admit defeat. Instead, he wanted to get revenge.

Andrew wanted to kill him for it. Andrew’s own personal form of revenge was, apparently, studying with Ollie on a regular basis. And Annie. That was where he was now.

But Andrew still wasn’t on the Quidditch team so ha-bloody-ha.

Ugh. My priorities were really messed up.

“I don’t know,” James said, lying back on his bed and closing his eyes since Grandmum Weasley was shaking her fist at him. “I just don’t want to take the chance of getting them riled up over nothing.”

“So you really think there’s a chance you won’t do it?”

“Can you let me procrastinate in peace please?” James whined and rolled over, pressing his face into the pillow. “Speaking of procrastinating.”

“I don’t know when I’ll tell them, okay?” I said. “Them meaning Mum.”

“And Rox,” he added, voice muffled. “And the rest of the ginger clan.”

“They’ll probably call a meeting to stomp the demon out of me,” I grumbled. “Just what I need right now. No, I think it’s better if this one stays under wraps for a while longer. Ryan and I can’t even stay in the same room for more than a few minutes without arguing.” I had told him about the appointment.

At least Annie and I were on the mend. I’d taken her on a mini-date to the Astronomy Tower and we drank a bottle of wine while I told her about my childhood at the shop. It was a small step in the right direction, but it was there.

“Do you think you’ll ever be able to stay in a room without arguing? No offense, Freddo, but the girl is a little crazy.” He sighed. “A lot crazy. You sure picked the girl to knock up, didn’t you?”

“Could have seduced Ollie,” I said with a smirk. He threw a pillow at my face. “Stop it. I’ll tell when you tell, how about that?”

He peeled his face away from the other pillow. “They’ll find out before that,” he said. “Either you or Uncle George will slip up. Or you’ll pull some valiant knight-in-shining-armor crap with Ryan and everyone will find out.” He made a face.

“Pretty sure knight territory is yours, mate,” I said. It was true. I’d seen him jump up on a table to tell Ollie how much he loved her. And during a Quidditch match.

“And don’t forget it.” James stuffed his face into the pillow again. “So what’s your plan? Just mysteriously become a father and get some rights and not tell your mum she’s going to be a grandmum? Hey! We can put her picture on our wall.”

I groaned. “You want to come by the shop with me? I have a feeling Dad might need some help.”

“Don’t we have homework?”

I laughed. “Of course we have homework.”

*

It was easy getting out of Hogwarts with my dad. He just owled the Headmistress and she approved us Floo’ing out of there. Of course I wanted to do it by the books (Ryan didn’t have that much candor) so I waited patiently for the notice to be confirmed before James and I headed off to Diagon Alley.

The shop wasn’t busy. I hadn’t expected it to be. James noticed though. He shot me a look before becoming distracted by the pretty cashier. She was Dad’s favorite. Ginger thing with big blue eyes. Dad said he needed someone else with red hair around or he’d go mad. I gave him hell because she looked like a model.

“You complaining?” Dad had said with a smirky smile. Then he slugged me in the shoulder and told me to get back to work.

We found him in his office building a cabin out of unsharpened pencils.

“You look busy.” James filed in before me and grabbed a stack of papers at random, leafing through it.

“Hi to you too.” Dad ruffled his hair and placed the final pencil on the top. “That notice took forever. Why didn’t you just leave illegally? Would have been easier.”

“And more trouble if we were caught,” I said, closing the door and leaning against it.

“Right,” Dad said, rolling his eyes. “Have a Prefect reputation to uphold. Tell me, do those twats even do anything? Oh! The movie night. You told me about the movie night.” He was snickering. “James, how was it?”

“Didn’t go.” James’ attention was still on the papers.

“You didn’t?” Dad said. He spun his chair to face me. “How many people went?”

“Three.” My face was warm. I took the opportunity to glance around at the stacks of papers and binders and other oddities collecting dust. Dad hated the office. Mum told me Uncle Fred always took care of the finances.

“Did the three include you?”

“Yes,” James said before I could answer. “Hey, Uncle George, are these the numbers for this quarter? They can’t be.”

I watched Dad’s face turn just as scarlet as mine was. He spun the chair toward James and ripped the papers from his grip. Literally, one of the papers tore. “That is none of your concern,” he said. “We have been a little behind lately is all. It’s just a slow season.”

“Zonkos is up two percent,” James said flatly. “It’s almost Halloween. I don’t understand.”

“James,” I said. “Not now, okay?”

“If we’re going to help run this after graduation there has to be something to run,” James said quickly. I could tell he regretted it by the look in his eyes. He covered his mouth with his palm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

“Thanks for coming by today, boys,” Dad said. The light in his expression was all but extinguished.

“He’s got a point,” I said, sighing. “Dad, you know he’s right. We have to make some changes. Do some marketing. Invent some new products.”

“Everything is fine just the way it is.” Dad was on his feet. Sometimes he looked older than he was, the lines prominent around his eyes. He told me growing up that seeing things you had no control over aged you. That torment aged you further. And he had endured both for too many years.

He left us in the office and I heard the corner door shut. It led to a staircase where, perched at the top, was the flat he and Uncle Fred stayed in when they first opened the shop. Dad stayed in it until he and Mum got married and moved to our current house and the flat has been empty ever since. Though I know Dad goes up there from time to time. He won’t let anyone else. Even when I was younger he kept the door firmly locked.

“Are you cross?” James asked, sinking into the chair Dad left. “That I said something? I had to say it, you know. I had to. This place is going downhill. I think I saw dust when we walked back here.” He wasn’t wrong.

“No.” I took the abandoned papers, looking over the numbers for myself. “No, I’m not mad. I’ve been saying it for months. He doesn’t want a change.”

“He’s going to lose the court battle,” James said softly. “If this place keeps tanking Zonkos has it bloody easy to keep us out of Hogsmeade. I can’t deal with their smug god-awful mugs around the village.”

Dad had been talking about expanding since I was little. It was his dream. He wanted me to run the satellite shop. That hill was slowly getting steeper.

“Just let it go for now.” I tossed the papers back to the desk. What a bloody mess. “Let it go for now and let’s see what happens. If they go to court it won’t be until after the new year anyway with the way the system works. That will give Dad plenty of time to realize what he needs to do to keep this place floating. Besides, the holidays are a great money-earner. I think we’ll be okay.”

“And if we’re not?” James said, glancing up.

“If we’re not we’d better have a backup plan.”

He sighed. “Being a father does not count. And if it does, I’m calling dibs.”

*

Rose was beside herself, drilling us like mad. It was as if she’d seen the exposed body between plates of armor and was going for it. Even though we were playing Hufflepuff.

Come on. Hufflepuff.

“They’re ruthless this year!” she cried, smacking me with the pointer. “Gee, what are you doing?”

“Word search?” Gee looked up from the bench. She had a book propped up on her knee. It reminded me of Ryan’s. “Lighten up, Rose. It helps me concentrate. Hufflepuff is ruthless this year. See? I’m paying attention.”

“This is not a joking matter,” she snapped at James and me because we were laughing. “We have to win. Everyone is going to be watching.”

“That’s the point of a sporting event,” James noted and Ollie elbowed him.

“We have to win,” Rose repeated. She was pacing the length of the locker room like a drill sergeant. Or professor. “If we don’t, you will make me look bad.”

“So this is about your personal image now,” James noted. “Good to know. I’ll be sure to leave my bat in the locker room.”

“Not funny.” She made a face and leaned against the wall beside the girls’ showers. “If we can’t beat Hufflepuff we’ll never be able to take down a powerhouse like Ravenclaw, with or without Davies. Albus knows that.”

“Albus is a twat,” James said. “He’s been running around like a bloody crazy person since Davies quit. Apparently she’s been going to a practice here and there just to give him notes on the team and train the reserve, but he isn’t convinced. He doesn’t think they have a shot in hell of winning.”

“I do.” Rose rolled her eyes. “Now get in the air and give me all you have or I will make you run laps until your ears bleed.”

I grabbed my broom, hoisting it over my shoulder. Teo was shaking like a lost puppy. “You are such a kind-hearted person.”


*

Classes leading up to Halloween were ruthless. It was as if they knew I was going to avoid homework all weekend in favor of being blackout drunk to forget about my problems. Every class had an essay due, which required reading. Library books. Lines and lines of bullshit spun to take up space on the parchment.

The night before Halloween, James and I found a nice corner in the common room to finish up our essays. It would have been easier had Ollie agreed to just write them for us, but she was feeling bitter about her dormitory smelling like feet, so she went to the library.

Ryan was working in the library, so I declined.

“You done yet?” James’ eyes were glazed over. He looked exhausted. It was six in the evening.

“I have a sentence done. Does that count?”

“Of course. Let’s go find our girls and snog.”

I started leafing through my Charms book. What a load of nonsense. I probably should have been paying attention in class instead of writing notes back and forth to James. And trying to invent new flavors of cream soda. So far I had sixteen, though.

“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” I asked, checking the table of contents. I wondered if there was a spell where I could just write down the word and it would find it. I’d have to invent that for the shop.

“Drinking?” James guessed. “Somewhere Molly isn’t. I’m sick of her stick-in-the-muddery. Maybe we’ll get lucky enough and she’ll be off snogging Rune.” He grimaced. So did I. “We should haul it to the locker rooms.”

“And have Rose slaughter us when she sees the spills?” I said.

“Fair enough.” James moved his quill behind his ear. “Hogsmeade? Ugh. Sneaking that many people out would be a nightmare. Or getting them anywhere, really. Should we do a small thing? Why are we thinking this over now?”

“Because Ollie didn’t bother to plan it this year,” I replied dryly.

“Fair enough.”

“Are you two discussing Halloween?” It was Andrew sodding Parise. He slid into the chair across from us, folding his arms like a twat on the table in front of him. He had sleeve buttons.

“Nope.” James opened his book again. “We’re discussing the Quidditch final. Who do you think will be in the stands? I have some ideas.” He smirked.

“So do I,” Andrew replied in the same calm tone. “Listen, I want those horrible pictures down. I think we should propose another event. Or contest. At the very least I want our dormitory back.”

“I think the Grandmums are fashionable,” James said halfheartedly.

“I swear to Godric if you don’t do this, Potter.” Andrew’s eyes showed how livid he was. It wasn’t exactly scary. He reminded me of a kitten backed down a galley kitchen. “I will make sure the Heads know exactly where your little party is.”

“Ruining the fun for everyone,” James said, sighing. “Isn’t that just your style.” He snapped the book closed and looked over. “What did you have in mind then? I hope you don’t expect me to answer more trivia questions. And we’d have to up the stakes. I’m perfectly content living in a room that doesn’t smell like socks.”

“I’ll figure it out. And I’ll do it.”

“What if you lose?” I said. I put my quill behind my ear to match James’. It either made me look more threatening or like a bunny.

“Then I’ll take the fall,” Andrew said.

I didn’t know how that was going to work, but I liked the idea of Andrew taking the fall. Any fall, really. It could be off the Astronomy Tower for all I cared.

The Astronomy Tower!

“No!” I cried, getting to my feet so fast the chair toppled over behind me. It landed on a cat’s tail, but it ran off toward the portrait hole.

“I won’t?” Andrew said.

I ignored him and raced for the spiral staircase, taking them two at a time. Inside the dormitory, I snatched up the planner on my pillows and opened it to October thirty-first.

Bugger.

I was on Prefect duty for Halloween.




A/N: Thanks again for the support, everyone. I hope you enjoyed the chapter! More Fred and Fryan and Roxy and yes, Parise in the future.

Up Next: Halloween. Tempers. Laughter. An incident in the dungeons that sheds some new light on the real problem.

 


Chapter 11: The Proposal
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For hp481516, potterfan310, and Lyd. It means a lot that you shared your thoughts.




Halloween was something of a big deal at Hogwarts. It always had been, but since we’d been at school things had gotten even more dramatic. We wanted things to be bigger and better. Mostly James and me since we were basically competing with the legacy our fathers left.

Our very first year at Hogwarts we’d charmed suits of armor to wear Jack-O-Lanterns as heads and stalk smarmy fifth years. We liked parties. Costumes. By fourth year Ollie was doing the planning since she was really good at putting together things that matched. I just wanted alcohol, music, and maybe a hay stack or two. Or three.

This year Ollie had to buckle down on her NEWTS with Annie (and Andrew, ugh) so we were left to our own devices.

Well, James was left to his own devices.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” he whined the morning of. It was a Friday and though we still had a full day of classes, he hadn’t so much as put on a shirt. “The end of the world. Molly is going to pay for this. I am going to string Rune up by his thumbs for this!”

“Really? Thumbs?” I rolled my eyes and leaned back onto the bed. At least he would get to go to the party. Have fun. Drink. Fall into a broom cupboard with (hopefully) Ollie.

I was going to peruse the castle with China and listen to stories about her cats.

“I don’t care. I’m not reasonable!” He rolled over on the bed, hair flopping into his eyes. “Sure you can’t get out of it?”

“Pretty sure the castle needs Prefects.”

He huffed. “They don’t really need Prefects. It’s a power struggle.”

“Do you have everything ready?” I asked. I never thought being a Prefect would mess up my holiday plans. It never had before. “Still the Astronomy Tower, right?”

He nodded. James grabbed a book and draped it dramatically over his face. “Parise is going to challenge the girls to a drinking chess match. He won the Hogwarts tournament last year so it should be in the bag.”

“What happens if they win though?” I said. I pulled on some clothes, though they smelled a little funky.

“Parise sleeps in the common room for a month.”

I considered this. “Any way we can help them?”

“Already thought about it,” he said. “I’m going to try like hell, that’s for sure. Get his stinky gob out of the dormitory for a while. I’m sick of his sweaty workout pants draped over the fireplace. He’s making the room smell like our old room.”

I saluted. “Anything I can do, let me know. Right now we have to get to Transfig and I have to pretend I finished my essay.”

“How’s that work?”

“Say I finished it and then finish it while Molly’s busy asking clarifying questions?”

“Want me to put a spider in Molly’s drink?”

“May make the day better.”

*

While a magnificent party raged in the Astronomy Tower, the teachers went about their business and I reported to the Prefect office in a sour mood. Molly was pouring over paperwork, rubbing the corners of her eyes.

“Great day,” I said, flopping down on the uncomfortable leather chair in front of her.

“I know about the party, Freddie,” she said, not looking up.

“I’d be confused if you didn’t, as all of your roommates are there,” I replied. “Even the ones who have a thing for Albus, which I still find perplexing.”

“You’re in charge tonight. You better put a stop to it if it gets out of hand.”

“Out of hand? Pfft.”

I considered last year’s party. A group of fifth years made a sport out of jumping out of a window and levitating back up. A Ravenclaw woke up with no memory of the previous six months. A portrait was vandalized with red finger-paint. That one may have been me.

“I’m serious. You’re in charge.” Molly stood up and hoisted her bag over her shoulder. “And watch Ryan. She tends to bend the rules.”

My head snapped up. “What? Ryan?”

“China’s out of town,” Molly said, pulling open the door. “She had to visit her grandmother in Denmark.” She smiled sweetly and left.

Ryan. Great. I was on Prefect duty. On Halloween. With Ryan Davies.

For some reason, I wasn’t shocked.

“Miss me?” Ryan pushed open the door with a smirky smile on her lips. She stood in the frame, hip pressed against the wood, and just looked at me. “I thought so.” She sauntered inside after I didn’t reply and picked up a manila folder.

“Pretty sure that’s classified,” I said. Real straight-edge, Weasley.

“Is it?” She looked bored and tossed it back onto the desk. “Are you ready for this or what? Busting all the Halloween partiers.”

“Where’s Gemma tonight?” I grabbed a clipboard and some documenting slips.

“At your mate’s party.” She rolled her eyes.

“I’m sure it’s a grand party.”

“I’m sure it is.” She smiled in a cheeky way and patted her stomach. I could tell it was a little fuller, though not by much. Ryan was already beginning to wear less-fitted clothes to mask the change. “C’mon, Weasley. Let’s go bust some Slytherins for shits.”

Now that was my kind of Prefect walk.

*

To my surprise, Ryan and I made it all the way to the dungeons without so much as a disagreement. Probably because we were talking in-depth about if Hogwarts had superheroes. She was convinced there would be a superhero that could turn into a raven at will and I had to admit, it was a pretty slick idea.

Ravenman. Ravenboy. Ravenchild.

“Ravenwoman,” Ryan corrected, her lips pursed.

“My mistake.” I smiled a little. “Tight spandex?”

“What other kind of spandex is there?” Her brow raised. “And no. Probably a really loose toga and a pair of ill-fitting sneakers. You wouldn’t want her to become sexual prey, would you? Look at Cat Woman and all the smut written about her.” She grimaced.

“Says the woman with slinky fabric in her drawers,” I muttered and she shoved me into a wall, laughing.

“Look here,” she said, but paused, eyes alert and straight ahead. “Do you see that?”

I didn’t, as a matter of fact. I saw a lot of darkness and a few shadows on the stone walls from torches. This place could really use some light bulbs. Grandpa Weasley tried to petition for them years ago but Finklehut said no and that Hogwarts would lose its character. Light bulbs would really diminish an entire teaching institution of its character. Good to know.

Well played, light bulbs.

“Just there.” Ryan pointed, her wand stretched before her. It was aimed to the left, but I still didn’t see more than a torch and a wonky shadow. “I can’t quite make it out.”

“Is this a joke?” I whispered, a little nervous. “Because I’m so straight-edge? I’m really trying, you know. Talking to you, and all.” I rolled my eyes, but she didn’t see.

Ryan was knocked backward off her feet from a spell. One minute she was at my elbow, the next she had vanished in a sheet of blue light.

Everything was blurred at the edges. The wonky shadow was now a person, moving from the darkness toward us. Instincts failed me as I staggered back, completely unsure. I had forgotten my training.

I then ignored every bit of training and turned.

Ryan was sprawled out on the ground, not moving. Her wand was about a meter away, nearly at the wall. She looked lifeless, lips parted just barely.

“Who’s there?” I called, returning my gaze to the shadows. My wand was raised. Ready.

Whoever this person was, they were messing with Ryan Davies. Not only would she probably kill them when she figured out who it was, but they had me to deal with. That woman was something special and not just because of what was inside of her. There was a strange mystery that surrounded her I couldn’t quite unlock.

“You’re next.” The voice was male. Unfamiliar.

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

I snorted. “Really? Doesn’t matter who just knocked out a bloody Prefect?” I didn’t dare turn around again. I only hoped she was just knocked out.

“Correct.” There was a rustling down the hall. “I didn’t want to be overheard.”

I was quickly growing impatient, but knowing the motivation was key or he’d just be given a few detentions for attacking a Prefect. No, this bloke was up to something and he wanted Ryan to be no part of it.

“Go on,” I said, tongue pressed hard against the back of my teeth.

“I would like to offer you a proposal, Fred Weasley.”

“Isn’t that offer a proposal?” I asked. Couldn’t help it.

He ignored me. “Tell your father to stick to Diagon Alley,” he said. “If you succeed, I will donate ten thousand galleons to the shop, which I believe is the amount that will cover the shop’s debts and launch a new product line. Something from this century, anyway.”

I stared at the torch above him. My knuckles whitened. “Who are you and who do you work for?”

“That is classified.” He cleared his throat. “Do you accept?”

“So,” I began, letting out a sigh, “You are asking me to accept a sketchy offer with zero proof of follow-through from a bloke I can’t even see. Right.” My mind was halfway through a marathon. Who at Hogwarts would want us to stay out of Hogsmeade? Everyone was on board. Everyone loved the shop. This was fishy, especially this close to the court battle.

Then it hit me. A conversation I’d had with James at the welcome feast last fall.

“Look at that one,” he’d said, mouth full of chewing gum. He was on his eighth piece to beat Al’s record. “Little greasy thing, innee? What’d they say his name was?”

I shrugged. “Wasn’t listening. He’s last though.”

The kid was sorted into Slytherin. He hopped off the stool, messing up his dark hair, and sat with the other first years. A grin was fixed on his face and it wasn’t a pleasant one. He gave me the creeps.

“Fast friends?” Ollie had said, laughing.

“Eh?” James was trying to blow a giant bubble. I popped it with my fork.

“Did you hear his name?” she said. “I figured you’d catch it, being you.”

I regained my composure in the dark hallway. He hadn’t moved. I didn’t expect him to. “And if I refuse?”

The boy chuckled. “You can’t refuse. You’re not going to win. You’re going to go down in smoke and flames and I am going to rejoice in a gleeful manner.”

“You are a complete twat, you know that?” I said. I couldn’t stop myself. Gleeful manner? What a tool.

“If you refuse, Weasley, then I will make sure that shop doesn’t see the second quarter of next year.” There was a grin in his voice. The same one from the Great Hall a year ago.

I stared into the shadows. “Detention, Zonko, for attacking a Prefect. Fifty points from Slytherin. Also, bring it on. I am not afraid of you and we will be in Hogsmeade by this time next year.”

Gregory Zonko huffed. “You’re going to regret all three of those decisions, Weasley.”

“Twenty more points for skulking around after hours,” I added cheerfully. “Now get back to your sodding common room and think about who the hell you’re messing with.”

His footsteps faded into the darkness and at that moment I definitely agreed with my grandfather. We needed better lighting in the dungeons so people like Ryan didn’t get hurt – Ryan!

I wheeled around and launched myself at her side, skidding to a stop on my knees. I felt for her pulse. She was okay. Unconscious, but okay. Thank Godric.

I smoothed the dark hair away from her face. She looked so peaceful, which wasn’t exactly common. But she’d been thrown backward by that spell and was no doubt injured. She could have even hit her head. I grabbed for her wand and tucked it into my pocket. Then I moved one arm under her knees and another around her back and lifted her into my arms.

She was lighter than I expected. Probably because she’d punched me in the face before. It was easy to carry her up the steps to the Entrance Hall and walk up the marble staircase toward the hospital wing. All the while her head bobbed lifelessly and her hair tickled my arm.

I briefly wondered what she was hiding. What really made her tick and why she hated people and relationships so much. I wondered if Gemma knew.

Bloody Gemma seemed to know everything.

I abandoned Prefect walks once she was safe in a hospital bed. The nurse ran a few scans and found a broken wrist, so she gave her some medicine and wrapped it. I took off her shoes and placed them gingerly at the bedside. Then I claimed a poofy chair, kicked my feet up on the side of the bed, and started reading a copy of the newspaper from three days ago.

She didn’t stir for a long time. Felt like hours. At long last, when the lone other hospital resident was fast asleep, Ryan groggily opened her eyes. It took her a moment to register where she was and when she did her brows raised rapidly and her gaze snapped over to me. “What happened?” she demanded.

I had debated instead of reading the finance section of the paper whether or not to tell her the truth. It was my battle to fight. It was my father’s shop that was being threatened by some twittery rich second year with an attitude problem and too much time to practice spells like that.

But something about her vulnerability changed my mind. I had no reason to be dishonest with Ryan.

I hated that I already knew I wasn’t going to tell Annie what had happened in the corridor. I didn’t want to worry her.

“You were attacked,” I said eventually and her eyes squeezed shut like she should have known. “By Gregory Zonko.”

“That little shit second year?” she said, gaping at me. Not believing me. “Is this a joke?”

“He wants my father’s shop to stay out of Hogsmeade,” I said. “He offered me ten thousand galleons if I kept it to Diagon Alley and let Zonkos be. When I refused, he threatened me. So I gave him a detention, deducted points, and told him to come at me.”

Ryan groaned and rubbed her temples. “Did the nurse do a scan?”

“Just a bone scan,” I said quickly. “Nothing else. I made sure.”

“If I kill Zonko, do you think anyone would miss him?”

“His richy-rich parents?” I offered.

“You have room to talk.”

I rolled my eyes. “Not now, Ryan. I’m still shaken up from all of this. I don’t want to fight with you.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“I thought you were dead,” I said. I kept my gaze focused on the other patient. I couldn’t look at her. “I’ve never had that many things going through my head at once and I’m exhausted. I was goddamn terrified. Moreso than I’ve been in a long, long time.”

Ryan was silent for a while. She shifted in bed and pulled the covers up to her neck. “Thank you for bringing me here, Fred.”

I looked over.

“Don’t get used to the kindness,” she said quickly. “But thank you for looking out for me. Not everyone would have done the same.” Strands of dark hair covered her cheeks.

“Would you?” I asked.

Ryan met my eyes. Her expression was hard and unforgiving. “No,” she said after a moment. “I probably wouldn’t have.”

I leaned back into the chair. The room was mostly silent, but some rain was hitting the windows. I didn’t mind it. Just Ryan and me sitting there listening to the droplets outside and the steady breathing of that other patient. Some strange, unnatural truce between us.

“You know,” I said after a while, “I’m sorry about that appointment. It didn’t seem like I wanted to be there, but I did. I wanted to be there. I just didn’t understand everything.”

She shrugged. “You’re a bloke. A Gryffindor bloke. Can’t expect a lot out of you.”

“I just want you to know that I’m here. If you need me, I’m here.” I could feel the color rising on my face. “Cravings. Appointments. Bitching about Gemma.” She smirked. “Shopping for new clothes or baby rubbish when the time comes. I will never say no to you.”

“Get me chocolate,” Ryan said with a grin.

I pulled a WWW chocolate bar from my pocket and tossed it to her. “Emergency reserves.”

“Good on you, Weasley.” She unwrapped it and started to eat, watching me. “I have a lot of feelings right now, okay? I don’t like it. Most of them make me want to hit people, but sometimes they make me want to cry. So shut up if I ever cry because it’s obviously not my fault. It’s probably your fault, really.”

“Always is,” I agreed.

“Good. Glad we moved past that.” She kept munching on the chocolate bar. “And thank you … or whatever.”

I smiled. “Why don’t you get some sleep? You’ve got a broken wrist so we can’t take down anymore Slytherins tonight, I’m afraid.”

“Will you take me to that stupid party?” Ryan asked, tossing the wrapper onto the nightstand.

“Did you not hear you have a broken wrist?”

“Yeah. I heard.”

I stared. “And you’re in the hospital wing. With a broken wrist. You were just attacked. Don’t you think it would be wise not to leave?”

“Don’t you think it would have been wise not to eat chips with tequila?” she prompted.

“Fair point.” I groaned and stood, looking at her. “Are you absolutely sure? I’ll stay here with you.”

“I don’t do hospitals,” she said.

“This isn’t really a hospital,” I replied, looking around. “Just a room with big windows and some beds. Real hospitals are much worse.” I hated them. Even going to St. Mungos for that appointment was hard.

“Can we just leave?” Ryan asked, scooting to the edge of the bed and sliding her feet back in her shoes. “I want to see if Gemma’s hooked up with anyone. And silently judge all of your friends, which is a hobby of mine.”

“You are a perfect lady aren’t you?” I asked and offered my arm to her. To my surprise, she took it and we moved at a slow pace upstairs and toward the Astronomy Tower. On the way she told me milk chocolate was her favorite, that there was a special place in hell for dark chocolate, and that she used to eat a bar of white chocolate before each Quidditch match.

I listened intently and told her I liked the kind of chocolate with a surprise inside. Like the boxed chocolates with caramel and coconut and fudge. She listened all the same.

The tower was exploding with noise by the time we reached it. Everyone looked to be at different levels of completely shitfaced and all in costume. I’d almost forgotten it was Halloween.

“What are we going as then?” Ryan asked as we closed the door behind us.

“People who get along?” I suggested and she laughed.

“Sounds more like a practical joke.” She let go of my arm and searched the room. “Pretty sure Gemma is snogging your roommate.”

Hell. If Andrew was hooking up with Gemma I would never hear the end of it. From either of them. Only it wasn’t Parise.

It was Mox.

Little skittery bloody Mox was pressing Gemma against the stone wall and kissing her like he’d never kissed a girl before. I quickly assumed he hadn’t. He had his hands in the right spots, though maybe Gemma had placed them there. Whatever happened, I’d have to ask about it in the morning. That was too weird. And a little awkward.

“Would you like to accompany me to make fun of my mates?” I asked.

“Wouldn’t have it any other way.” Ryan followed through the crowd of princesses and slutty nurses and Quidditch player costumes until we found James and Ollie near the rail, overlooking the clearing and forest below.

“How’s the party?” I asked and both of them swung around.

“Freddo!” James cried, jumping into my arms so I had to catch him. “What’re you doing here? Are you busting us? I’d rather you not, as I have just agreed to take part in a shot-drinking contest.” His breath was all about vodka.

“I’m not going to bust you,” I said, laughing and winking at Ryan. I had no idea why I winked at Ryan. It just seemed like the thing to do.

“But you brought her,” he said, pointing at Ryan over my shoulder.

“Her mate is here,” I said, shrugging.

“Fancy a drink, Davies?” James asked. “I bet I could drink you under the table.”

“You couldn’t drink a hamster under the table right now,” Ollie said and smiled at both Ryan and me. “I’m not sure where Annie is. She was on the dance floor with Andrew a little while back.”

Godric. Last thing I needed tonight.

“I’m sure I’ll find her around,” I said and placed James back on his feet.

Ollie squealed when the song changed. “James – dance! Now!” They moved on the makeshift dance floor to a slow beat, something ironically from a baby-making playlist. James waved and then took Ollie sloppily into his arms to sway with her, off-beat.

I laughed. “Go on, then. Do your worst.”

Ryan slid against the rail beside me. “We should dance.”

“Did the nurse give you drugs while I wasn’t watching?” I asked, thunderstruck. “Won’t you break out into hives or something?”

“I am a wonderful dancer, Weasley,” she said. “Though the need rarely arises for me to show how much better than everyone else I am.”

“And modest too,” I said. “Are you sure? Is this some plot to humiliate me because I feel I don’t really deserve it tonight.”

“Let’s go, straight-edge.” She took my arm and tugged me a little violently onto the dance floor, several meters from James and Ollie.

Our bodies fit together easily. Our hands together, my other hand on her hip. Her other on my shoulder. She wasn’t wrong, either. Ryan knew exactly how to dance. She knew where to move and where to step and she never once glanced down at her feet (even though I did several times).

It was a nice change from our usual bickering and hatred.

Her eyes stayed fixed on mine through the song and I could feel the color rise on my cheeks just by her stare. There was something about the way she looked at me that made me nervous. Like she could see right through me, yet I couldn’t see past her eyes. Ever. She was surrounded by clouds.

Our bodies moved easily to the song and after a while I forgot about the people around us. It was just Ryan and me, swaying to the beat. I became very aware of my hand on her hip. It was a little sweaty. I could hear clinking glasses and laughter and conversations, but nothing registered. It was all so far away.

“Weasley?” Ryan whispered suddenly.

“Hmm?”

“Pretty sure we’re being watched.” She was speaking out of the corner of her mouth. “Three o’clock.”

I stupidly turned to look and right there, just a meter or two away, were Andrew and Annie. In each other’s arms. Dancing.

Andrew was grinning like an idiot. Annie looked confused and dumbstruck.

Great.

*

The fight lasted forever.

Annie followed me up to the dormitory and threw everything she could at me. Everything glass was shattered on the floor and I stepped on shards once or twice while she yelled.

I was a horrible boyfriend. I didn’t even find her when I got there. I was dancing with Ryan Davies of all people.

Anything I had to say, she didn’t care. I couldn’t blame her. It didn’t look good.

It also didn’t look good that I pointed out she was almost cheek-to-cheek with Parise. That got a hamper thrown at me.

She was right about me being a terrible boyfriend. I was. I really was.

I hadn’t wanted to be. I really liked Annie for who she was and the way her mind worked. She was amazing and sweet and kind and I loved kissing her.

“I’m sorry,” I said, fumbling over everything. “Annie, I’m sorry. There is nothing going on between Davies and me. I promise. You know how much I can’t stand her.”

“Didn’t bloody look like it, pig!” she called and threw a book at my head. It narrowly missed. I was very lucky I wasn’t seeing a Quidditch player or that may have landed me in the hospital wing.

“I wanted to go to the party and see everyone,” I plead. “But Molly insisted we had to stay together, so Davies agreed to come with me because Gemma was there. We danced once. Come on, Annie. It’s not like that.”

Eventually her anger slipped into frustration and that into exhaustion. We’d never fought like that before. Hell, my possessions had never been discarded like that before.

Annie sank onto the end of my bed. “I was just upset you couldn’t be there,” she said. “I missed you.”

“I missed you back,” I said and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “I wanted to be there. You were the next girl I was going to dance with but James told me you were already dancing with someone. I’m sorry I didn’t punch him in the face to dance with you.”

She laughed a little, uneasily. “I’m sorry I slapped you.”

“Yes, well, it’s not the first time I’ve been hit,” I said. “And deserved it.”

It was well past one in the morning now. My roommates were waiting downstairs for it to be over, though I was pretty sure they’d found places to sleep by then. Andrew was bunking in the common room because he got too drunk and lost the match to the girls. So we were still staring at our grandmums and he was snuggling with a throw pillow. Not a terrible loss.

“Stay with me tonight?” I asked, nodding to the bed.

“I can’t,” Annie said. She shook her head. “I told Ollie I’d be back.”

Sounded like a shit excuse to me. “We’re going to be okay, right?”

She smiled a little. “Yeah,” she said. “We’re going to be okay. Let’s talk about it soon and move forward. It was just a silly fight.” She leaned down, kissing me. Then Annie was gone, closing the door tight behind her.

After a day like that, all I could do was crawl under the blankets and try to forget about everything.

I’d ask James in the morning if I could switch lives with him for a bit.




A/N: 

Happy Spring! And with spring comes CHAPTERS. Or something like that. 

My new environment in Colorado is very inspiring so I've been writing a lot. I hope you enjoy the chapters :) 

Leave any thoughts!

UP NEXT: Quidditch. Potions. Freddie goes back on his word. 


Chapter 12: We Should get a Puppy
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I knew I had to be a better boyfriend. I spent the next several days focusing on Annie and Annie alone. Well, Annie, class, and Quidditch. We lounged around and did classwork and talked about the shop. I didn’t mention Zonko, mostly because I didn’t want to worry her but also because I wasn’t sure how much she really needed to know about my family complications. It wasn’t her battle to fight.

I even joined her in the library for far too long pretending to study while she actually was. Good thing I brought spare parchment for sketching out shop ideas my father would turn down before finishing the newspaper comics.

Ryan hadn’t cashed in any requests yet. She kept to herself and Gemma, though occasionally I watched her cross the grass out the Gryffindor window, heading toward the pitch to help Albus dig his Ravenclaw team out of the crapper.

I noticed things others didn’t, though. Her baggy clothes. Fuller figure. Larger breasts.

What? I was male. She was hot.

Couldn’t help it, really.

When I wasn’t studying with Annie, James and I were plotting the demise of Gregory Zonko. When I told him what happened on Halloween he went into attack-mode, dreaming up possible ways to get him held back a year, stomped by wild horses, or at the very least have a carrot stuffed up his nose. In the end, we decided to wait a bit and tell Dad the next time we saw him. We didn’t want to trouble him through a letter without all the information. Especially the part about him attacking Ryan.

Clearly Zonko was willing to go to a lot of lengths to keep us out of Hogsmeade.

What he didn’t know was that was my shop. It was going to me. It was my legacy. My destiny and all that rubbish. It was going to be my own.

Though if Rox wanted, I’d share. Since she got to Hogwarts she hadn’t seemed all that interested in the shop anymore. Not in front of me, at least.

I’d barely seen her since school started. Just in and out of the Great Hall. In the corridors between classes. Here and there.

Always with Scorpius Malfoy.

Freddo,

How are things going with you-know-what?

I’m curious. Also, your mum is still convinced something is up. How long are we hiding this? I’m starting to sweat around her. You know how she is. Makes you sweat. Let me tell you, I don’t smell all that grand when I sweat. Just putting that out there.

I’ll be at your match against Hufflepuff to watch you and James dominate (yes, and the others too, but Rose has been knocked off her rocker for a while now). Besides, you’re playing Hufflepuff. Should be an easy win before a nice celebration. If you need any sweets or tricks donated, let me know. Always willing for a worthy cause.

Court has been scheduled for the middle of December. My attorney and I are prepping documents to prove we deserve that building. I definitely think we have a good shot.

Don’t worry about the money. I’m not worried.

Love,

Dad

We were practicing ruthlessly for Quidditch. A few times, Annie came to admire from the stands since all her mates were on the team. Gee took to teasing me about her being there. I took to trying to knock Gee off her broom. Rose took to giving me laps and everyone was happy.

I had to say the team looked good. Even the newbies were looking sharp under Rose’s watchful eye. It didn’t take much for James and me to look good. We’d been swinging bats at each other since we could stand.

At least I was in damn good shape and Quidditch focused my mind. Kept me from thinking about the baby book in my bedside drawer. The one I had yet to properly read.

I tried to keep my concentration on Annie, school, Quidditch, and the seventh year lock-in coming up at the end of November. The seventh years always bragged about it like it was some sacred event, but none of them ever talked about what went on. It couldn’t be too intense, though, right? It was sponsored by the school. It was in the Great Hall. They slept on the floor.

What could possibly have gone on behind those doors?

I was going to find out.

We only had a few special things as seventh years and not having the other annoying runts around for once would be nice. Maybe Mox and Gemma would snog again (she was appalled the next Charms class when we all reminded her exactly where her lips had been). If anything I could have a nice quiet evening with Annie and maybe pick on James and Ollie. It could be fun. Maybe I could even share a sleeping bag with Annie.


*

Professor Dierdra taught a very well-rounded Potions class. Dad used to tell me about his old Potions Master which ended up being a long story about Uncle Harry saving the world and also giving some gold to Dad and Uncle Fred to start the shop. But the point was Professor Dierdra was a zillion times better than Dad’s old prof.

She was blond and smily and slender and had this voice like a harp. Everyone loved her, even the girls (though Ollie got snippy whenever she patted James on the head for doing such a good job).

The NEWT level class was a mixture of all four houses. James had convinced me to take it since Uncle Harry still thought he was going to be an Auror and with us was Ollie, Molly (of course), Rune (gross), February (another Hufflepuff), Scotty (yet another Hufflepuff), Wyatt (wonky Ravenclaw), Derek (Slytherin), and Ryan Davies.

It took me a couple weeks from her punching me to realize she was actually in that class. She sat in the back corner, kept to herself, and obediently prepared each potion to perfection. She did her homework during class, without the assistance of the library, and tucked it into her bag for the next class. She refused to partner up, even when requested, and blew off Wyatt on more than one occasion, claiming the smell of him upset her nostrils. I’d seen him sniffing himself before he came into the classroom the last few lessons.

I had the unfortunate task of pairing up with Molly the last few weeks because James and Ollie wanted a secret snog. It was disturbing. He was breaking some sort of Code.

When Dierdra gave us the assignment, I moved toward Molly. She grinned like she was going to pour the hot potion over my head.

“No partners today, loves,” Dierdra said enthusiastically. “We’re going to have a bit of fun.”

Fun. Potions class. I wasn’t following.

“We’re going to mix things up a little,” she continued, taking out her chalk. “We’re making the motivation potion today, darlings. It’s complicated, but you’re inspired seventh years and I believe in you. And for the winner… a prize. But I won’t tell you what it is yet.” She grinned like she had a lot of secrets. I reminded myself she was a professor and having secrets was probably mandatory. “How do you win? Well, your classmates will continue to get knocked out by each wrong turn. The ingredients and directions are on the back of this board. Each time you do something incorrectly, the potion will turn a ripe shade of blue. If you prepare it properly, it will always stay a beigish-gold color.”

I made a face. I was rubbish at making potions. Everyone knew it. I’d probably make it to step two before I had blue mush all over my shirt. At least Molly stood a chance. Maybe Ollie as well. James sure didn’t. He was already looking puzzled, trying to remember what the hell a motivation potion even was. We did an essay on it two weeks ago.

“The last one standing wins,” Dierdra said, placing her fingers under the chalk board, at the ready. “Ready? Begin.” She flipped it up with so much vigor it circled again before stopping on the instructions.

It was an enormous list of ingredients and directions. I wondered what would happen if more than one person reached the finish, though with the selection of students in the room it wasn’t likely.

I followed the rest to the store cupboard and grabbed for the ingredients. James was elbowing Wyatt for a root.

A root that wasn’t on the list.

Damn it, James.

Concentrate. Concentrate. I could do this. I could at least last longer than Rune. He was making a kissy face at Molly.

I was in a room of teenage angst.

And the girl I knocked up.

Potions. Okay.

I started to combine the ingredients carefully. Before I stirred clockwise, I checked the board. Before I crushed a root, I checked the board. Before I breathed, I checked. Everything was slow and steady. Ollie was several steps ahead of me, but once her potion slid into a vibrant blue color I smirked.

James’ followed. Then Rune’s. Then February and Scotty because apparently Hufflepuffs couldn’t follow directions. Derek let out a crazed yell when his went blue.

For a while, it was just me, Wyatt, Molly, and Ryan. Two Gryffindors against two Ravenclaws. I still had no idea why my potion was beige. But it was. Staring back at me.

My hands started to shake. They were sweaty. Dad was right – this was unpleasant.

It wasn’t that I wanted to win all that bad. I didn’t even know the prize. It was the thought of losing to Molly or Wyatt or Ryan that kept me going at a steady, slow pace.

Wyatt’s went blue soon after I added my last garlic clove. In frustration, he knocked over his cauldron, sending blue liquid all over the floor. Ollie jumped onto her chair and James threw a root at Wyatt’s head. Dierdra rolled her eyes and cleaned the spell quickly with her wand.

“Don’t even think about it, Fred,” Molly said out of the corner of her mouth. “I am the Head Girl in this family.”

“Two Prefects and the Head Girl,” James said gleefully. “Isn’t this a snobby competition?”

“Shut it,” Molly snapped, carefully counting her stalks as she added them.

“Come on, Mollywobbles,” James teased.

“I will hurt you, Potter.”

“Last names hurt, Mollywobbes,” he shot back.

She threw a stalk at him, but a piece of her other fell in while it sailed over the cauldron. Instantly, her potion was blue.

The shriek must have carried through the Forbidden Forest. Uncle Percy was probably wondering what was wrong all the way from London. I covered my ears. Molly lunged across the table and tackled James onto the floor. She began hitting him with a rolled up piece of parchment. No one stopped her, mostly because we were so amused.

I was still concentrating.

Part of me wondered if I should just throw it and let Ryan win. She couldn’t win at Quidditch anymore. She couldn’t go party with her mates or drink or smoke or fly. I wondered what she could do other than have mood swings and study. Then I reminded myself she didn’t study.

“Getting worried, Weasley?” Ryan said from the table behind me.

“Fat chance,” I said. I thought about our conversation at the bar. The tequila. The chips. The bathroom stall. Godric, needed to stop thinking about that.

“I’m shocked a Gryffindor is still in, really,” she mused calmly.

“I don’t know why.” I reread the instructions and added a ginger root. So, so carefully.

“Because Gryffindors are worthless,” she noted. There was a hint of truth in her tone, too. That she wasn’t just trash-talking. James’ knuckles where white. Ollie looked ready to murder her.

I sure know how to pick them.

“You think so?” I asked, carefully slicing a leaf. I added two slices and stirred three times counter-clockwise.

“Why else are you known for your stupid and selfish decisions?” Ryan asked.

The rest of the classroom was quiet. I really wished they weren’t there because I had a feeling what Ryan really thought was surfacing.

“Gryffindors or me?”

“One in the same, aren’t they?” Ryan said.

My neck was red and warm. It was rich of her to talk about stupid decisions, but how could I say something about it? I wanted to tell her it took two to do what we did, but that would be a little obvious. Last thing I wanted was for people to find out when she didn’t want them to. I just wished she’d shut her mouth and quit provoking me.

As a Gryffindor, I had a hell of a lot of pride, even if I had a tendency to let women walk all over me.

“You know very little about Gryffindor to have a lot of opinions of it,” I said, still focusing on the potion.

“I don’t need to,” Ryan said and James made a move before Ollie stopped him. “You and your family are in it. I have to exclude your sister, though. She’s in good company.”

That was my last straw. I wheeled around and looked at her, my face telling her all I needed to say. “Take it back,” I shouted. “Take it back now, Davies.”

Instead of getting angry, she smirked at me. “And if I don’t?”

“I—” I had absolutely no answer to that.

“Doesn’t matter,” Ryan said with a shrug. “I won anyway. Good game, don’t you think?” She grinned at Wyatt. “Good try, mate. You should study more. How to read.” She nodded to the root that wasn’t on the list.

I turned and she was right. In my rage, I must have added something wrong. Stirred wrong. She’d accomplished exactly what she was going for. Getting under my skin. It worked. She got under my skin and settled there like a disease under the surface, waiting. Exploding at just the right moment.

The problem was my heart hadn’t calmed. I was still angry and hurt and furious and hated myself for letting her talk to me like that. Hated myself for letting everyone talk to me like that.

I rubbed my temples and sank back onto my stool as Dierdra took back control of the classroom. She gave Ryan a vial of truth serum and everyone clapped half-heartedly.

“You okay?” James whispered. “She was just trying to get a rise out of you. She doesn’t even talk to Roxanne.” He kept his tone indifferent and I was glad he did. He was the only one at Hogwarts, besides Ryan, who knew it was me. He knew what to say and when to say it and for that I was grateful.

“I’m fine.” I shook my head. “I’ll be fine.”

When class was over I left before anyone else. I headed straight to practice, changed, and kicked off before the rest of the team was even in the locker room. The air felt relaxing and refreshing.

I couldn’t get my mind away from Roxanne. What she was doing. Why she was spending her days with Scorpius Malfoy instead of her own brother. What I’d done wrong.

That thought kept me busy for laps. Laps and laps. I practiced some dives, wondering how I could have been a better brother. What I could have done differently. Dad insisted she was just an angsty teenage girl, but I knew that wasn’t it. It was me. There was something wrong with me and she had replaced me with a blond, less-fun model.

Maybe he was more fun. Maybe he had a better sense of humor. Maybe he helped her study or tucked her in or helped her with all of those weird Ravenclaw logic questions. Maybe he was just a better person.

I didn’t exactly have a golden track record. This year alone I’d fucked up too many times to keep count.

“That’s what I like to see!” cried Rose from below. “Motivation! Good on you, Freddie!”

I went through practice in a strange haze. The match was looming closer and I felt I was in good shape, but I was losing concentration. My mind kept wandering. Roxanne. Ryan. Annie. Dad. Stupid sodding Zonko.

There was only so much longer I could handle this without crumbling under the pressure. James sensed this, as he told everyone I had the stomach flu and they should probably leave me alone.

He could have picked a less disgusting problem, but I appreciated it all the same.

Annie came down to the pitch for a while and we sat in silence. She asked what was wrong and I told her it was family stuff. She didn’t press further. Instead, she kissed me on the cheek and returned to the castle.

Everything was frayed at the edges.

*

The following day I received my first memo-owl from Ryan. It was a twittery little thing, wings flapping like a hummingbird, and it carried an origami swan tucked around its leg. I peeled it off, gave the bird a treat, and sent it on its way. I knew a reply wouldn’t be necessary. Especially since I couldn’t fold paper like that.

Ryan was asking me to bring her ice cream.

“Who’s it from?” James asked. He had his homework spread out over Andrew’s bed since he was still sleeping in the common room. “Annie? Does she want to snog?”

I shook my head. “It’s from Ryan.”

“Bloody hell. Can’t she lay off?”

“She’s pregnant, James.”

“She insulted your house and your family all in one go!” he shot back. “I’d tell her to fuck off if I were you. She can’t just go on requesting ice cream after manipulating you into losing the contest.”

“The contest doesn’t matter,” I said, leaning back into the pillows. She wanted vanilla ice cream. Sprinkles if possible.

If possible.

Where the fuck was I going to get sprinkles? It was after hours anyway.

Okay I knew where to get sprinkles. Ryan knew that I knew where to get sprinkles. And ice cream. And anything else she might need.

Part of me hated her for it.

“Ignore it,” said James.

“I told her I’d never say no,” I replied.

“So pretend you didn’t get it.”

My eyes moved across her cursive scribbles. On one hand, it was my word. I’d given her my word that I would be there.

On the other hand, she flat-out insulted me, my family, and my house in an attempt to win a stupid Potions competition. In front of the entire class. And the professor. She didn’t seem the least bit phased by what she said.

I tossed the memo onto my bedside stand.

Fuck off, Ryan Davies.

Do not mess with Fred Weasley.

*

“I need a quill.” James was still working on Andrew’s bed later that night. Mox had been in and out, claiming the need to study in the library (ew) and Chopper was testing his new lighter outside on a bunch of twigs and dead leaves. “D’you have one?”

“Nope. Came to Hogwarts without one. Thought I’d write in blood.”

“Where is it then?”

“Where’s yours?”

“Lost them all.”

“All of them? You lost all of your quills?”

“Yes? Is that so hard to believe?”

I considered this. “Top drawer.”

James huffed and jumped from Andrew’s bed over to his, bouncing in the process. He wiggled across and pulled open my top drawer. “Ah!”

“What? Bug?” I looked over.

Shit. It was the book. The book with a big ol’ picture of a pregnant woman on the front. She had a shit-eating grin on her face.

It was horrifying.

“Why! Why! Why is it staring at me?” James leapt back, knocking his head on the bed post. “There’s a thing inside of her!”

I never imagined someone would react worse than I did.

“It’s a pregnancy book, James,” I said. I tried to keep my voice straight, but I wanted to laugh. A lot. “About what happens when women are pregnant.”

“Davies is going to look like THAT?” he said, gaping at the front cover. “There goes her being hot.”

“Shut it.” I threw a pillow at him. I took the book from its place and finally peeled it open. “It’s not so bad.”

“LIVING THINGS. LIVING THINGS INSIDE OF HER.”

Why didn’t I think James would react like a fool?

“Look. Seriously. It’s not bad. Just pictures of the woman getting bigger. What the baby looks like inside her.” I showed him the illustrations.

“Where’s she right now?” James asked, tentatively peeking toward the book from between his fingers.

I scanned the table of contents and started flipping pages. “The baby is about the size of a large, fresh plum.” I snickered. “Fruit. Really. The size of fruit.”

James held out his fist. “This is your baby.” He leaned over the gap between our beds and punched me. “I just hit you with your baby.”

I ignored him. “The fingernails and toenails have already begun to develop.”

“Ouch,” James said, rubbing his stomach.

I turned another page. “She’s almost at the end of her first trimester,” I explained. “Still fatigued. Having food aversions. Increased appetite. Yep.”

“So you believe she’s telling the truth now?” He laughed and sprawled out on his bed.

“I should have brought her the ice cream.” I kept scanning the book. The next few months. What to expect. How the baby was going to grow. Eventually, when I noticed James had passed out listening to me talk about fruit sizes, I shut the book and placed it back in the top drawer. Then I locked it in case anyone else went looking for quills.

I noticed a lot of things just skimming the chapters, but one thing was for sure.

By the time we got back from break there would be no hiding the pregnancy anymore.

*

We practiced and practiced and I did my best to avoid anyone not on the team. Even during Prefect walks I had a hard time actually listening to what China was saying. Something about cats and brownies and I may have agreed to introduce her to one of my mates. Or agreed to a date. I was unsure. I was always tired.

Ryan hadn’t spoken to me since Potions class days ago. Since I ignored her request for ice cream after I promised not to say no.

I didn’t bring it up because I didn’t want to be punched again. Instead I dove into Quidditch, kissed Annie between class, and focused as much effort as I could on the shop.

Everything was boiling over and all I had to keep me calm was knowing Quidditch was quickly approaching.

The morning of the match was bright and sunny, something Rose warned was practically evil. She would have said that about an overcast day or rain, though. She gave us a pre-breakfast pep talk and I was thankful to find my parents enjoying eggs and bacon at the Gryffindor table.

Roxanne wasn’t sitting with them. She was sitting with Malfoy at the Ravenclaw table, pretending her family didn’t exist. Ryan and Gemma were a few seats down looked bored and in secret conversation. Ryan looked exhausted.

“Freddo!” Dad leapt up, almost knocking a third year over, and pulled me into a hug. He looked good and the bags under his eyes were almost gone. I wondered for a fleeting moment if the shop was doing better, but that couldn’t be true. Maybe he just wanted to see some Quidditch for once. “How’re you?” There was a hidden message behind his words. It was in his eyes. Mum didn’t notice as she was straightening the collar on James’ shirt.

“Hanging in there,” I replied with a sideways grin.

“Going to win against those bloody Puffers, right?” Dad said.

“Pretty sure parents aren’t supposed to be quite this vocal,” I muttered.

“Painting my chest was a bad idea?” he asked.

“You didn’t.”

Dad grinned that sly, mischievous grin.

Great. My father had a painted chest for a November Quidditch match. Brilliant.

“How’s the shop?” I asked and the grin disappeared.

“It’s doing well. Have all the paperwork drafted. I picked out a suit, too. New.”

Mum hooked her arm through his. “Just do your best, Freddie.”

“Is that what you told the team when you were captain?” I teased.

Dad made a face. “Pretty sure she may have threatened my life once or twice.”

“Just once,” Mum insisted and ruffled my hair. She kissed my forehead and James snickered. Then she kissed his forehead. “Your parents are meeting us here. Your dad got a little hung up at work but they’re on their way.”

James didn’t seem concerned. One less interaction that they could figure out he was going to take over WWW with me.

“I’m going to head out early,” I said with a grin and hugged my parents. “Get some air and check the pitch. I’ll see you after?”

“You bet. Maybe I’ll buy you a pint.” Dad winked and Mum smacked him.

I nodded and left the Great Hall with my Quidditch robes flowing back away from my shoes. At least today I could focus on Quidditch, though it was hard not telling Dad about Zonko right then and there. Especially since that git was seated so smugly at the Slytherin table.

It made me feel better his detention was cleaning bed pans at the hospital wing and a month-long sentence of cleaning owl dung out of the Owlry. I may have made a few owls take more letters just so he’d have more to clean.

Quidditch. Focus.

I was considering my dive structure with a bat when my focus was blown. I was knocked off my feet by a heated curse from behind. The heels of my hands hit the grass and I tasted dirt on my tongue. My pants were definitely ripped at the knees.

I rolled onto my back, ready with my wand pointed at who I hoped was Gregory Zonko. I wanted a reason to take him out. All I needed was the smallest reason to claim self defense and this was my reason.

Except it wasn’t Zonko at all. It was Ryan Davies.

I lowered my wand.

“What’re you doing?” she snapped. I could tell she hadn’t slept. There were purple lines under her dark eyes and her hands were trembling. “Don’t lower your wand. I’ll hex you again, Weasley.”

“Come on, Ryan.” I groaned and propped myself up on my elbows. “I’m not dueling you on the way to the Quidditch pitch. I have a game to play.”

“Like hell you do,” she snapped. She edged closer. “You told me you wouldn’t say no. What’s that say about you?”

“Let me guess. That I’m worthless? That I make stupid and selfish decisions?”

“Probably off snogging your girlie, hmm?” Ryan said. Her hair was messy and tossed. Completely unlike her.

“I’m through arguing.” I stood and sure enough, my pants were torn at the knee. Bloody hell. “I’m not going to take your mood swings and your insults. It’s one thing to be a manipulative whore. It’s another thing completely to undercut who I am as a person and what I’ve at least tried to do.”

“Fuck off, Weasley,” Ryan said, rolling her eyes. “You knew what this was going to be like when you said you wanted to be involved and the first time I so much as ask you for something you bail on me. What a role model.”

“You’re one to talk,” I cried. “Bringing my sister into things.”

“Like it’s that bad.” She shoved past me and toward the pitch. “Good luck today, Weasley. You’ll need it. I may have sat in on a few Hufflepuff practices just to see to that.”

I stared after her. “Tell me you didn’t.”

Ryan merely shrugged and kept walking toward the stadium. Her hair moved in the wind.

“You can’t keep this secret much longer!” I yelled after her.

She ignored me.

Goddamn it. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with her. She made me absolutely crazy and I was certain she knew I wouldn’t ignore her just to snog Annie. I’d made her a promise, but her words stung and she knew exactly which ones to use to get to me.

She knew me too well, maybe.

Maybe it was time to call it quits. Ryan would never stop disliking me and resenting me for what happened. She would always hate that I was a Gryffindor. That I was a Weasley. That I shagged her in a bathroom stall. We would never get along and maybe I should just bow out while I still had some dignity.

James slapped my back hard. “Oy, mate. I thought you were going to get a look at the pitch. What happened? Trip over your shoe laces?”

I looked down. They were untied. “Yeah,” I said. “Happens way too often.”

“Don’t tell Davies. She’ll just have more ammo.” He smiled and steered me toward the locker rooms.


*

I couldn’t think about Ryan right now. I was in a room full of people who trusted me to go out there with a bat and hit Bludgers at the other team. That was what I was going to do. Then I was going to celebrate our victory in the Gryffindor common room while getting inappropriately intoxicated.

James clapped me on the back. “How’re you holding up?”

“Confident,” I said.

“Not about the game.”

“Less than confident,” I said.

He sighed. “Let’s go out there and win this thing. For Rose. If we win, maybe I’ll have to run less laps for being a cheeky bastard.”

“Nope.” Rose appeared at his shoulder, her hair pulled tight against her head until it flourished into a pony-tail. “But I appreciate you being optimistic. If you’re winning for anything, win for the party tonight. Andrew promised it would be wild.”

“Parise?” James snapped. “Why’s he promising wild parties?”

“I just heard it from Ollie.” Rose drew her hands up in mock surrender. “Calm down. One less thing for you to worry about, okay?” She smiled and kissed both of us on the cheek. “Now you’d better win or I will tell your parents the most incriminating information on the both of you.”

“That sounds more like my cousin,” I muttered darkly and shouldered my broom.

“I can name a couple people she sounds like,” James shot back. “Why d’you think Parise’s so excited? He’s not on the sodding team. He should want to foil our win.”

“He’s mates with Ollie,” I said, shrugging.

“I hate that guy.”

“All right, Gryffindors,” Rose said, drawing herself up in front of the group. “We’re going to go out there and win. By a large margin. Or else I will put you in a box and leave you in Hogsmeade like an unwanted puppy.”

“We should get a puppy,” James whispered.

“Definitely a golden,” I said.

“Are you ready?” Rose said, evil grin across her lips.

“Are you sure?” James asked. “I was thinking a lab or a husky.”

I shook my head. “No, no. We’d definitely have a golden. Oh! Shop mascot!”

That was when we realized the entire locker room may have been staring at us.

“Golden or lab?” I asked. Ollie rolled her eyes.

“Lab,” Gee said.

“Ha!” James cried, elbowing me.

“If you’re finished!” Rose’s cheeks were redder than usual. “We have a game to play.”

“Golden,” whispered Teo.

“You are all worthless,” Rose said, shoving open the door and letting in the deafening roar of fans.

James punched my shoulder. “Here’s to being worthless,” he said. “And getting a lab.” He shoved past me and thrust his bat into the air.

I thought that was the worst it would get. Rose being borderline homicidal before a game.

How very, very wrong I was.




A/N: Thank you again to everyone for following along. I have some great stuff planned -- and because I went on a random writing spree I've been able to update pretty frequently lately -- even though I'm crazy enough to take on four stories at once. WHOOPS! 






Thoughts? 

NEXT TIME: Why Freddie was wrong, A Doctor Who reference, and something catches Freddie off guard. 

 

 


Chapter 13: Unexpected
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For drifting. You are very right about how BTQC and Hormones are different, starting with the OC. 





“Freddo?”

Everything was white and blurry. Objects moved in front of me. I didn’t wear glasses, so I couldn’t figure out why the hell I couldn’t see. My arms felt heavy. So did my eyelids. Everything was a dull ache and my head pounded.

“Freddo? You in there?” Someone was squeezing my arm. Like feeling for a muscle.

Buy some tickets to the gun show.

“Freddo, it’s Dad.”

I kept blinking. His red hair was coming into focus. “Dad?” I said, questioning it.

“Right here.” He squeezed my arm. The room was kind of cold.

I was in a room.

Bugger.

“Where?” I said stupidly.

“You’re in the hospital wing,” Dad said softly. “But you’re fine.”

“Don’t feel fine,” I muttered, blinking a few more times. The fuzzy outlines were beginning to sharpen. There were more people in the room. “Mum?”

“She went to refill your water because James drank it all,” Dad said and he slapped James on the back of the head.

I turned my eyes to my cousin. His face was scratched and covered with dirt. He was still wearing his Quidditch robes. What the hell.

“You had a fall,” James said as if reading my mind. Frames.

“How?” I said, trying to make out the rest of the small crowd. Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny. Rose. Molly. Albus.

And Roxanne.

She was across the corridor on another hospital bed, her legs swinging before her. Her eyes were fixed on a book.

“Rox,” I said. She looked up.

“Hey, Fred.”

I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I knew she didn’t want to be there. She probably wanted to be upstairs studying with Scorpius Malfoy, but she was here. In the hospital. I had no idea what happened, but suddenly I was reminded of when I skinned my knee when I was nine and Rox wouldn’t leave my room until it was properly bandaged and I had ice to stop the swelling. She brought me her teddy bear to make me feel better.

“Kennel knocked you off your broom,” James said, recapturing my attention. “It was way too deliberate.”

“He get a foul?” I said. I still couldn’t really lift my arms. How far had I fallen?

“We did,” Rose said.

I blinked.

“I may have taken matters into my own hands.” James flushed and Uncle Harry nudged him. “Whatever. I kicked his ass.”

I laughed, but my chest hurt. “How long am I going to be in here?”

“Just the night. They want to make sure there wasn’t any lasting damage.” Dad ruffled my hair. “We’ll stay if you want though. I’ve missed the hospital cots.”

“I’m fine.” I waved him off. My arm flopped lazily at my side. “I can survive. James has unconsciously volunteered to bring me sweets.”

“I’m so considerate,” he muttered.

“You’re awake!” Mum shoved James out of the way and kissed me on the cheek. She was the beauty in every room and this was no exception. I appreciated that my Dad smiled every time he looked at her. “How do you feel?”

“Hurt,” I guessed. “And a little drugged.”

“Can’t blame you.” She kissed my forehead. Then my cheek again. “Do you want us to stay with you tonight? I’m staying with you.”

“Mum, it’s fine.” I shook my head. “I don’t know what you think is going to happen to me. The worst part is over.”

“For you,” James said. “I’ve still got ideas for that guy.”

“Any motivation?” I asked.

“He was gunning for you,” he replied. “Didn’t so much as blink at me. And I was playing way better than you, for the record.”

My eyes fell upward, examining the ceiling. Kennel was gunning for me. He was after me for some reason. But why? He was a bulky third year. We didn’t have any classes together. The most I knew about him is he was a sucker for a pretty face. Gee mentioned she asked him for a pumpkin juice a month ago and he got her six.

I looked at James. He was thinking the same thing.

Andrew sodding Parise.

*

James told me it was probably going to suck. The afterparty. Because of course Gryffindor had still won, even a Beater down. Rose got the Snitch and the celebration ensued. The team visited for a few minutes, but I could tell they were itching to get up to the party. I sent them on their way.

“If you feel like sneaking out,” James mentioned softly. “I’ll leave the door propped.”

Right. I couldn’t move my body without sharp pains. Like I was in any condition for a party. I’d have to be wheeled up there.

He frowned and left, moving to the side just as Annie walked in. “I figured I’d wait until everyone had gone,” she said. She leaned over the side of the bed and kissed me for a while. “How are you feeling?”

“Injured,” I replied. I felt groggy. The drugs were moving in and out of my system and I felt my hand in hers. “I fell.”

“I saw,” Annie said, her eyes shaky. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Me too.” The blankets were warm so I shoved them off.

“James messed up Kennel pretty bad,” she said softly.

“He’s got my back.” I chuckled, but it hurt again. I didn’t mention we thought it was Andrew who had put Kennel up to it. “They say I’ll be out tomorrow. I have to heal.”

Annie glanced over her shoulder at the door and then back to me. “Do you want me to stay with you tonight? I’ll sleep in the chair if you’d like. So you’re not alone.”

“You’re sweet.” I smiled up at her. I was lucky to have her in my life, as shit as I’d been lately. I was trying, though. We were spending a lot more time together. Studying. Chatting about the shop. I was even starting to teach her to fly. “But in about ten minutes I’ll probably be completely out. You’ll be bored.” I squeezed her hand. “Go have fun with Ollie. We’ll see each other tomorrow, okay? I’m not keeping you down here when there’s a party upstairs.”

“I’ll stay if you need me to,” Annie said, kissing me again. She was smiling.

“I need you to have a good time,” I said and kissed the tip of her nose. “Go on then. I’m going to sleep off this fall and all these drugs that are making me want to snog your face off in the hospital wing.”

She giggled and left, swinging her hips as she went.

Not fifteen minutes later I was fast asleep in a drug-induced slumber.

*

It was somewhere around eleven when I picked up a book and started reading. No course books. Just a novel. For pleasure. Something that had already been sitting on the bedside stand.

“Enjoying solitude?”

I jumped and everything hurt again. “Could you not?” I said, looking up into the smirking face of Ryan Davies.

“At least you can get some reading done.” She moved to the bed beside mine, sitting cross-legged on the sheets. “Nursey around?”

“She’s asleep.” I jerked my head toward her dark office. “It’s late. What are you doing down here?”

“I’ve come to congratulate you on Gryffindor’s win,” she said.

“No, you didn’t. You hate Gryffindor.”

Ryan shrugged. “Still good on you for surviving. Who else would I send origami swans?”

“Gemma?” I said. I dog-eared the book (causing her to twitch) and tossed it back onto the bedside stand. Too many dull words anyway. “What are you really doing down here?”

Ryan groaned and moved her eyes to the ceiling. “So sue me for making sure you were all right.”

I thought about Ryan from the grass earlier today. The venomous words. Now she was in the hospital wing making sure I was all right. I had half a mind to ask her if there was any Polyjuice in her past.

“I know,” she said as if reading my mind. “But I felt bad, okay? I didn’t really sit in with the Hufflepuffs. I was just fucking with you. And I didn’t mean what I said about your sister or your family.” She paused. “I meant what I said about Gryffindor though. Fuck that house.”

I actually snickered at that and noticed the pain subsiding. “You’re one to talk.”

“So accept my apology so I don’t blame myself for you being in the damn hospital,” Ryan said.

“Blame yourself? Kennel went after me.”

“I know, which is weird since Potter was out-playing you.”

“Wonder why.” I shot her a look.

“You have to stop letting me get in your head, Weasley.”

I looked at her. “Ryan,” I said seriously. “You’re always in my head. You’re pregnant. With my kid. I’m going to be a father. You’re not anywhere except in my head. I’ve been so fucked up since I found out because I can’t make sense of any of it and you keep going between hating me and tolerating me.”

She frowned and for once I saw the color on her cheeks rise.

Alert the presses. Ryan Davies was embarrassed.

“I know I haven’t exactly made this easy,” she muttered and then looked at my obvious expression. “Fine. I haven’t made it easy at all. It’s just hard for me, okay? Watching you have a life and a girlfriend and Quidditch and parties.”

“If you haven’t noticed, this is the second party I’ve missed.” I smiled a little and sank further into the pillows. I could almost feel the party raging upstairs.

“Listen, I could have any bloke I wanted,” Ryan said seriously and she wasn’t being arrogant. She was being honest. I knew it was true. Ryan was beautiful and smart and unearthly sexy. She could wear a garbage bag and still be best dressed. And she knew it.

She could snap her fingers and anyone short of James would fall into her lap. James would take two snaps.

“Why don’t you then?”

Her laugh was hollow. “My charms only get me so far when I have something growing in me.” Ryan adjusted on the bed, leaning back and placing her hands behind her head. “Once word gets out, every guy will run for the hills. Why shouldn’t they? They’re still kids. We’re all still kids.” Her voice faded at the end and it tugged at my heart.

I’d been whining so much about Annie lately. About how things were rough between us. About how she’d been spending so much damn time with Parise. How we weren’t as close as we had been.

But it wasn’t such a terrible problem to have. I was linked, but I could leave. I wouldn’t, but I could. Ryan was trapped in this cycle and she was right again. I couldn’t think of anyone at Hogwarts who would step up and say hey, let’s keep dating even though that makes me either weird Uncle Brutus or a potential step father.

“Not that I need a man,” Ryan added. “Because I don’t. Though a good snog every once in a while doesn’t hurt.”

I looked over and half her body was covered by my own pillow. “You know I’m not going anywhere, right?”

“Unfortunately.” Ryan’s vacant expression faded into amusement. She moved onto her side and looked over at me. “So.”

“So,” I echoed. “We’re doing this hospital thing way too often lately.”

“I want you to come to the next appointment,” Ryan blurted.

“What?”

“Yeah. I have an appointment next weekend. Saturday afternoon. I want you to come.” She wasn’t looking at me anymore and her face was the closest to bright red I’d ever seen it.

And for some reason it made me smile.

“I’d be honored,” I said and she flipped me off for being such a tool.

That was the Ryan Davies I was so familiar with. At least this way it wasn’t after I held her hair beside a toilet.

I sank back into the bed and let out a sigh. “It’ll be nice though, right? Going to an appointment. A real one this time. I’ll pay attention and even take notes if you need me to. I guess I’ll bring along ice cream to make up for that mishap before… but seriously, Davies, I was pretty peeved at you. I’ve taken a lot of shit since you told me and my sister is a soft spot for me.”

She didn’t reply.

“We can take it one step at a time, though,” I continued softly. “Maybe one day we’ll tolerate each other. Hell, maybe one day you won’t loathe Gryffindor, though I doubt it, hmm?” I paused. “Ryan?”

Like a bad movie transition, Ryan was snoozing comfortably in the other hospital bed. I smiled a little and stood. Kind of shaky, but okay. I tugged the blankets up over her and tucked her in. Then I kissed her forehead and returned to my own hospital bed to sleep off the rest of the drugs and pain.

*

True to his word, James told me all about how horrible the party was. Horrible in the sense that he now had blackmail on two of our roommates and someone slipped Molly a shot of Jameson so she let Rune go to second base. Typical Quidditch party, really.

At least Rose was off our backs for the week. She gave everyone Tuesday’s practice off.

“So you can finally sleep?” asked James.

“When was the last time you slept?” I prompted over breakfast. “Summer?”

“Before I turned eleven,” Rose snipped and returned to her seat with Albus at the Ravenclaw table.

Speaking of which, Albus still looked distraught and frazzled. Anyone would be happy with the team he put together, but it wasn’t going to beat ours. Unless Andrew Parise sent someone else gunning for me.

We were working on getting to the bottom of it, but Parise was too happy-go-lucky to give us anything on him. His angle was Ollie and Annie. He studied with them, brought ice cream up from the kitchens for them, and at one point stuck his robes over a puddle for Annie to walk to class.

Class A Douchery.

Sorry, Annie, but I wasn’t going to stick my robes in a mud puddle.

Maybe I should have, in hindsight.

On Thursday morning I checked the clerk schedule at the library. I then returned later that afternoon with a tub of ice cream and left it on the empty front desk. The study tables were empty. The whole library was empty, which I was thankful for, since Ryan arrived early.

“Looks like you’re doing some sucking up,” she said, tossing her bag into a corner.

“Can’t hurt,” I said. My eyes moved from her stomach to her eyes. “How’re you feeling?”

“Like shit. Surprised?”

“Hardly.” I jerked my head toward the tub. “That should help.”

“Sprinkles?”

“Inside the tub.”

Ryan smirked. Today she looked tired again with soft purple lines under her eyes. “Thanks, Weasley.” She took her position behind the desk and opened the tub.

“Don’t you have to clock in or something?”

“Sure.”

Out of the top drawer she drew a metal spoon and tug into the ice cream. Ryan Davies was not the kind of girl to go on a date and order a chestnut salad. She didn’t give a single shit how she looked while eating or what she ate. She shoveled the ice cream in her mouth, all the while eying me suspiciously.

“Is this to get out of going to the appointment?” Ryan asked after a while, mouth still partially full.

“What? No.” I’d almost forgotten about the appointment since I couldn’t exactly write it in my calendar.

“I know what day it is. You don’t have to go. I was just being nice. I don’t need you there.”

“You never need me there,” I said with a small smile. I leaned against the front desk, elbow pressing into the granite. “But I want to be there. You didn’t tell me what day it was.”

“Same day as that lock-in.”

The Seventh Year Lock-In. Tradition Extraordinaire.

Ryan’s eyes were pressed on me. There was something about brown eyes I always appreciated. How they flew below the radar. How captivating they were. How much they made me want to make poor decisions.

“Should I bring ice cream?” I asked.

“Wouldn’t hurt.”

I took the spoon from her and dipped it in the ice cream. I took the bite while watching her. Like a bad romcom.

“I have germs,” Ryan announced.

“So do I,” I said.

“I don’t share food.”

“I didn’t ask.”

She was trying not to smile. “Can I ask you something?”

“Other than that, you mean?”

“Bite me.”

I laughed and tossed the spoon back in the tub. “The ice cream inspection is complete. Go on then.”

“How are things with you and that Annie girl? It’s pretty obvious she doesn’t know. I mean, she hasn’t come at me and I haven’t had to punch her in the innocent little face yet.” She said it all very dead-pan.

“She doesn’t know,” I agreed. “And things are all right.”

She was quiet for a while, picking at the ice cream with the tip of the spoon. It reminded me of Roxanne with her peas at dinner. “Just don’t ignore her because of this. She seems all right. Very straight-edge like you. You should try and make it work.”

“We’re together. Something’s working.” I shrugged. Talking about my relationship with the mother of my future kid was awkward. That entire sentence was awkward.

“Think about it.” Ryan did a fake smile and walked into the back room to clock in.

I knew she was right. There was something about Ryan that was always a little right. Annie and I had been moving further apart for ages now and I wondered if there wasn’t too much distance to pull us back together. I had to try, though.

I cared about Annie. A lot. Sure, we didn’t have an ideal relationship but we had something. We had fun. We laughed. We talked. We had chemistry. The snogging was great. And we were friends.

I really had to give it a shot. I had to fix this more than just saying things were going to be okay.

When Ryan returned, I was gone. Trying to figure out how to fix things.

This was not a new concept.

*

“Too grand?”

“Freddo, you’re in a tux. Stop.” James was lounging on his bed making faces at my ideas. It was easy for him since Ollie was smitten. No idea why.

I pulled the tux jacket off, slapping him in the face with it. “Can I keep the bow tie?”

“Really?” He grimaced.

“Bow ties are cool.” I shrugged and looked in the mirror. Black slacks. White shirt. Black bow tie. Sort of messy hair, but the sexy kind. “Okay, what about the flowers?”

“You brought three bouquets.”

“To pick from!”

“This is too complicated!” James whined, pushing the pillow over his face. Mox was in the corner playing tic-tac-toe with himself. “Just put them all in one vase and give them to her. Bigger is better, Freddo. Also give her a broom. OHMYGODRIC GIVE HER A BROOM.”

I rolled my eyes. “She’s been flying three times. I don’t think it’s quite time to get her a broom as she refuses to kick off on her own.”

“Get her a dog.”

“A golden?”

“A lab.” He smirked.

“Then can we keep it?”

“Did I say get her a dog? I meant get us a dog,” James explained. Mox nodded wholeheartedly. Still trying to figure out the Gemma thing. “Aren’t flowers enough? Why are you going through this anyway? You’ve already got her.”

“Trying to keep her,” I said. “And make some things up to her.”

“You mean like grinding with Davies?”

“We were not – ” And then my face was red. I was not grinding with Ryan Davies. It was a slow song. But still. It was warm in there.

“Then you’d better get chocolate.”

I held up the heart-shaped box straight out of a Valentines aisle.

“You’re pathetic,” James muttered and pulled a potions book over his face to pretend he was asleep. Or to really go to sleep. It was anyone’s guess with him. “Go on. Win her heart. Bring me back a souvenir. OH! And when you come back to shag can you just do it in her room? Make Ollie deal with that for once.”

I blushed harder. “I don’t think it’ll escalate to that.”

“No of course not,” he said halfheartedly. “Mox. This is a sex-free zone tonight. Stay out with your Ravenclaw toys.”

Mox went red and stumbled into the bathroom. He then gurgled some mouthwash so that was promising.

I could do this. I could make everything up to Annie. We’d been on the mend lately anyway. We’d been talking so much more. Smiling. Kissing. We’d been working through our problems.

I needed her in my life. She was that wonderful constant. The person who’d been there for so long to keep my life steady. And I really fancied her.

I just had to push aside my situation with Ryan and concentrate on us for now. We had to keep taking steps forward. Keep falling for each other.

I took James’ stupid advice and put all the flowers together in one vase. It looked a little odd, but it was full. Then I messed up my hair, grabbed the chocolates, and headed down to where Annie was sitting with Ollie and Parise in the common room. They were studying on the couches, Annie’s legs on Parise’s lap and Ollie stealing his quill.

I cleared my throat.

“Oh, Godric, what is this?” Parise said, snorting with laughter. Ollie elbowed him.

“Hi, Fred,” Annie said, looking up with her giant eyes. They really were abnormally large. Like a deer.

“Annie.” I nodded with a nervous grin. “Want to take a walk?”

I should have considered the opening line. I would have considered anything other than that, including “do you want to get married” and “how about we name our first hamster Rome?”

“Sure.” She closed her Charms book and slid it onto the table. Then she pulled her legs slowly from Parise’s lap and slid on her shoes. Slowly. All of this happened way too slow and I was forced to stand a meter or so away twiddling my thumbs while Andrew laughed under his breath and Ollie tried to figure out what was happening.

“Come back soon,” Parise said with a smarmy smirk. It was a weird look I wasn’t comfortable with. Maybe it had something to do with the Quidditch game.

Annie took my arm and we walked into the hall. I gave her the flowers and chocolate. “Look,” I began, gaze falling all around her. “I want to make this right. I want to work on this because I really care about you. A lot. And I know I’ve been rubbish at communicating lately and I’ll take the blame for that.”

Annie placed her hand on mine. “Stop blaming yourself,” she said. “You have a lot on your plate with all of the shop things and your last year of school. I haven’t exactly been up front with you either.” She kissed my cheek.

“So I want to start fresh.” I opened the chocolates and ate one because I was nervous. Ew. Grapefruit. “I want to take you out again and have our date nights and kiss and fall asleep next to each other.” I squeezed her hand. “I miss us.”

She ran her thumb along my hand. “Freddie, you’re so amazing.”

“Do you like the flowers?” I grinned and shook the bouquet with my other hand.

“You know how to put on a show.” Her face was bright. I’d hardly noticed how fair her skin really was. “But is this really right?”

“What?” I stopped shaking the flowers.

“I think I’m going to call it quits,” Annie said.

“Was it the chocolates?” I didn’t quite know what was happening.

Annie was standing in front of me. Sweet, mature, loving Annie. Saying the word quit.

“It wasn’t the chocolates.” She moved her hand up my arm, rubbing me reassuringly. “I’m sorry, Fred. I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

She handed me back the chocolates.

I stared. “Is there someone else?” I blurted. Then I shook my head. “I’m sorry. That’s stupid. I don’t mean to insinuate anything.” If I would have said that to Ryan I would have been punched right then and there. “I’m sorry,” I repeated.

“Actually,” Annie began softly.

My eyes snapped up. What.

“I’m sort of seeing someone else right now.”

What a sentence. Arrow. Dagger. Machete. Right into the heart.

“Present tense?” I ventured, assuring myself that my voice box was intact.

“I’m sorry, Freddie. I wanted to tell you.”

She handed me back the flowers.

Suddenly I felt very silly in my bow tie with my flowers and chocolates. “Oh. Okay.” There was no easy way to escape this situation. This entire school. There was no simple way to go about fixing any of it.

“But you’ll be happy, you know? You’ll find that person that’s right for you. It just wasn’t me. I found someone I’m happy with.”

That’s when I saw it in her eyes. Her whole face. I saw it before I even left the common room.

Annie was seeing Andrew Parise.

For once, I couldn’t decide if he really fancied her or if he was willing to do anything to unhinge me and get me off the team.

“I hope you’re happy,” I stammered. That was the only thing I could think to say. Everything felt a little numb.

Sure, I hadn’t been boyfriend of the year, but I cared about Annie. I cared so much I think I forgot to tell her how much I cared. I kept trying so hard to protect her and not hurt her, I was the one standing in the hallway with the heartache.

Annie smiled a little, patted me on the cheek, and returned to the common room.

I dropped the flowers and the chocolates (I kept a handful) and made my way downstairs. The last place I wanted to go was into the common room with Parise lounging on the sofa knowing what had just happened. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing the hurt all over my face.

Damn Weasley genes. It was impossible to hide things like that.




A/N: Poor Freddie just can't catch a break.

UP NEXT: Hogsmeade and a serious realization. 

 


Chapter 14: One of the Good Guys
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For Elizabeth and Sage. For knowing what Ryan and Freddie are going through. 




I didn’t know where to go. I couldn’t go back into the common room and watch Annie put her legs up on Andrew Parise’s lap. He’d probably go in for a kiss now that he’d seen me standing there in a bowtie with flowers and a heart-shaped box of chocolates.

What was I doing? Did I really think that was going to fix things?

Hell, I didn’t think they were that broken that she was already seeing someone while we were together.

Annie. Annie had already been seeing someone. Sweet, amazing Annie who listened to everything I said. Who kissed me when I was hurt and made me smile when I was sad.

I thought about flying for a while, but Parise had access. I didn’t want him to see me. The house elves were too excited in the kitchens. Everywhere else would probably have a student or Prefect poking their nosy head in.

I shook my head and walked to the statue of the one-eyed witch. Once we had the map, James and I had worked hard on cleaning up the tunnel and getting it ready for all the times we were going to Honeydukes to stake out Zonkos. The people of Honeydukes loved us, especially since we bought a ton of chocolate every time we went in.

I made my way swiftly through the tunnel, abandoning my chocolates and flowers somewhere around the halfway mark. I kept the bowtie though. I liked bowties.

I hated this. I hated feeling like this. Completely miserable and confused and humiliated. She’d done it out in the hallway, but it may as well have been in front of everyone in the common room. They all would know what happened.

I felt like a fool.

And I knew a lot of it was my fault. I knew I should have been more attentive and I should have been open and honest with her, but I was seventeen years old. I was taking these things one step at a time.

Honeydukes was closed and the shop was dark and quiet. I grabbed a few chocolate frogs from a display and tossed some coins on the counter before heading out through the front door with no destination in mind. I just wanted to get out of the castle.

Maybe I could transfer to Hufflepuff.

It was just cold enough to snow and the flakes were large and wet. They landed on my shoulders and nose. I hadn’t grabbed a jacket, so I stuffed my hands deep in my pockets. Music was coming from the pub.

Zonkos was on my left. It was closed and I wished it would stay that way. Gregory was a little shit. He had no idea what was going to happen to him if he started messing with the Weasleys. I would make sure of that. My father worked too hard to have some twittery, greasy-haired git try and take that away from him.

Speaking of grease.

Gregory was pulling his key out of the knob and stuffing it into his pocket. He ran his fingers through his hair, looking stressed. Good.

“Just been through your books?” I called over. My fingers were tight around my wand, just in case. This time he did not have the element of surprise. I should have just hexed him from behind and left him in the snow, but I wasn’t like him. I’d never be like him. Even heart-broken I wouldn’t go that low.

“Ah, Weasley, what a pleasure. Have you re-considered my offer?”

“Heard your stocks aren’t going so well, Zonko.” I didn’t stop walking. “About time to close up shop, huh?”

“I would make the rubber and glue argument, but we all know what your books look like.” He smirked dangerously and moved toward the path where I was. “Let’s discuss this in a civilized manner, shall we?”

“Oh, you mean no attacking other Prefects and threatening in a hallway?”

“You forgot the Quidditch,” he said.

“What Quidditch? We played Hufflepuff.”

Zonko looked over. “Oh, dear.”

I groaned, hand tightening on my wand. “You were responsible for Kennel,” I said.

“Cheers.” He grinned and held up a mock glass. “You recovered quite well, though. I was hoping for a few more days in the hospital wing but it’s clear your entourage thought it would be best to speed your recovery. You had quite an assortment of visitors.”

I didn’t know what he meant by that, but I could only guess he saw Ryan arrive in the middle of the night. I wasn’t too worried about it yet, especially since she and I were both Prefects, but I had a feeling this wasn’t going to end well. Zonko wanted whatever he could get on me and if Ryan was visiting in the middle of the night I could only guess Zonko would love it as ammo.

“I have an assortment of friends,” I said casually. “Have you thought any more about not being a fucking douchebag and just letting things go as they go instead of threatening people and bribing with money?”

“Not at all,” Zonko said with a shrug.

“Marvelous,” I replied. “I think that’s about the end of our civil conversation, don’t you think?”

“Of course not. I’m very interested in your hospital stay after Kennel knocked you out.” He said this almost gleefully. “Did your father come to visit? He looks a bit older, doesn’t he?”

“Funny,” I mentioned. “That’s what happens when you age.”

“Looking a little tired. Your poor mother. Having to deal with a burden like that.”

“I’d rather you not bring up my mother unless you’d like me to discuss the antics of your drunken mother at the Hogsmeade commercial party last year,” I said.

Zonko’s face fell fast. “Listen Weasley,” he snapped.

“You listen, twat,” I snapped, rounding on him. “I’m sick of your shit. Frankly, I don’t have time for this with the rest of the shit going on right now. I’ve had a pretty rubbish day and you are about to get hexed into next bloody week if you don’t step down right now and leave me alone. If you so kindly say one more word about my very patient mother, you are going to learn I did not get my patience from her.”

Zonko, to his own credit, stayed where he was. Even he knew better than to mess with a Weasley when we had a bad day.

I moved past him, wondering if he was going to low-blow hex me from behind, but he didn’t. I kept walking in the snow, moving back toward the castle since no shops were open and the pubs were full of local drunks I didn’t need to be talking to over a few drinks. A few of them may have had connections with Zonko and that was the last thing I needed.

“Weasley?” That voice definitely did not belong to Zonko. I turned and he was gone. He probably took a different way to the castle or went back to the shop to write a letter to Daddy and tell him all about how big-bad Weasley threatened him.

Ryan was jogging up to me. In Hogsmeade. In the dark. What the hell?

Her hair was tied up in a messy way and she had makeup on that accented her eyes. The polo she was wearing looked familiar and she had on a little skirt and her school shoes. “What’re you doing out here? Didn’t you say you had a date?” She wasn’t wearing a cloak.

“What’re you--?” I looked around and swore. “I didn’t wear a jacket. Why are you outside? It’s snowing. You’re going to catch the flu and then throw soup at me when it isn’t hot enough.”

“Chicken noodle,” Ryan said dismissively. She shook her head. “Are you alone?”

I made a face. This was the moment I was supposed to tell her why I was down here alone. Walking through the snow. Seething after my conversation with Zonko. I groaned.

“C’mon. I’m on break.” Ryan hooked her arm through mine and steered me toward The Hog’s Head.

“Break?” I asked.

She moved quickly into the warmth and up a narrow staircase to the right. Upstairs was a small room before a hallway of inn suites. There was a sofa and a coffee table with a pitcher of stale water. She didn’t so much as offer me a glass. It was probably for show.

“Break?” I repeated, flopping down. I couldn’t believe how cold I’d been. My legs were tingly as they thawed.

“I work here a couple nights a week,” Ryan said, shaking her head.

“Why? You’re going to school.”

“I like to keep my options open,” she said sweetly. “Enough about me. Why are you out here alone? Without a jacket?”

I cleared my throat a few times, trying to think of the words. Realistically, it was pretty straight-forward. A few words. A few humiliating words.

“Annie called it quits,” I said.

“Oh.”

“In the hallway. She handed me back the flowers and the chocolates, which are now rat-food in the tunnel on the way over here,” I explained. “So instead of going back into the common room to feel like an idiot, I decided to take a walk. I ended up here.”

Ryan made a face. “Did she say why?”

“She’s already seeing someone else,” I said.

“Annie? That tiny little shy thing?” she said. “There’s absolutely no way.”

“Andrew Parise. My roommate and the bloke who wants me off the Quidditch team so bad he’s probably willing to do just about anything. Including stealing girlfriends.” I shrugged.

“Okay.” Ryan nodded a few times and straightened her skirt. “Let’s be logical.”

“Yes, Ravenclaw, let’s do that.” I shook my head. “It’s no matter. It’s over. And I have no idea what to do.” I hadn’t expected to say that, least of all in front of her. I put my face in my hands, frustrated that yet again I had no idea what to do. I could feel the hot sting behind my eyes starting to grow.

“Let’s talk through it,” Ryan said kindly. “What will you miss the most about her?”

That seemed like the worst idea, but I humored her. She was pregnant. If I said no, she may have had a mood swing that caused her to dump the gross water over my head. “Her smile. Her innocence. Her sweetness. The way she made me feel better about things even if she didn’t know it.”

“Are you going to see her a lot? What is she into?”

I shrugged. “I’ll see her at anything Gryffindor-related,” I said. “Meals. The classes we have together. In the common room snogging Parise.”

“I mean what else? She’s not on the Quidditch team, but does she spend time in the library reading or have any activities she fancies? What about her favorite restaurants in the village and in Diagon Alley over break?” Ryan prompted.

I opened my mouth, but then immediately closed it. I considered the restaurants in Hogsmeade. I couldn’t remember if Annie ever mentioned if she had a favorite here.

Or what her favorite food was.

“Too many options?” Ryan made a face.

“Not many,” I replied, finding it a little harder to breathe now.

If we hadn’t discussed favorite foods and restaurants, what about shops? Where did she like to go in Hogsmeade other than the places I suggested and took her? What did we talk about other than the shop and classes and my family?

Other than me?

At what point in our relationship did she ever talk about herself?

At what point in our relationship did I ever ask her about herself?

Fuck.

I couldn’t think. What did I know about her other than common knowledge Gryffindor things? What were her parents’ names? What kind of music did she listen to? What was her most embarrassing moment? How about her pets? Shit, did she even have pets?

“Fred?” Ryan said, nudging my leg.

“I am the worst boyfriend,” I breathed, barely able to believe it as my eyes focused hard on the ugly painting before us. “I knew nothing about her.”

“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” she said.

“Literally. Nothing. LITERALLY NOTHING.”

Her brow raised. “It’s for the best then, isn’t it?”

“I never thought, oh hey I should probably see what the fuck is going on in her life, shouldn’t I? Oh no, I WAS BUSY GETTING PUNCHED IN THE FACE BY A GIRL I KNOCKED UP. BRILLIANT.”

To her own credit, Ryan did not react. She brushed her thumb over my knee a few times. “Did she ever offer up the information?”

“Don’t make it seem like I’m not a shit,” I said.

“You know I think you’re a shit,” Ryan replied. “But if she only asked you about you … what kind of relationship did you really have? Too one-sided, but it wasn’t just your fault. She didn’t seem to have a problem with it. She fancied you too much to care. She practically followed you around all last year.”

“How did you know that?” I asked. I thought back to her and Ollie hanging around with James and me. Ryan wasn’t wrong.

“I’m a Ravenclaw. I’m not stupid. I notice things.” She shrugged. “She was just in love with the idea of you.”

“She wasn’t in love,” I said quickly.

“It’s easy to be in love with an idea,” Ryan said softly and it was her turn to look away. I didn’t know why and I didn’t think it was right to ask.

“You really think it was for the best?”

“Not that my opinion matters much to you, but I do.” Ryan twisted her fingers around her ponytail and fell silent as a guest walked up the stairs and into one of the doors. Once it closed, she looked back at me. “If it was that one-sided, it was going to end sooner or later. Better it ended sooner so you didn’t get more hurt than you are now.” She paused for a moment, but I was holding my breath. “Do you want me to rough up Parise? He looked like a fucking creep. I can take him out of the running if you’d like.”

I shook my head. “If that’s the kind of bloke Annie wants to be with, that’s fine with me. He and I are very different and I don’t want to be associated with him.” I thought about his threats in the pub. I knew he was going to try for a spot on the team and he was going to do anything in his power to get it.

In the same way Zonko was going to do anything in his power to keep us from setting up shop in Hogsmeade.

“Good on you then. Move on. Take it one step at a time and between each step pause to get me ice cream.” Ryan was smiling in the way that made me sure she felt bad for me, but she also wanted to cheer me up. And it was working.

So I did something that was probably really, really stupid.

I told her about running into Gregory Zonko.

“After Annie broke up with you, you came down here and ran into Zonko?” Ryan asked. “You have got to be shitting me. Are there Death Eaters floating around and oh did you also go Bankrupt? What a shit night you’re having. I’ll try not to have mood swings.”

I laughed a little. “He really doesn’t want us here. So much as to make some colorful comments about my mother.”

“Your mother?” Ryan said. “Please let me kick this kid’s ass. Please let me.”

“Are you asking my permission, Davies?”

She paused. “No. Absolutely not.”

I nudged her. “Thanks for making me feel better,” I said. “How late are you working?”

Ryan groaned and checked her watch. “Three more hours. I should get back to the bar. My regulars are probably wondering why ‘the girl with the hair’ isn’t pouring them half-whiskey-half-water anymore.” She grinned devilishly. “You okay going back without an escort?”

“I’ll be okay. I’m just going to warm up for a few more minutes and I’ll head out. Go on and make some money.”

Ryan waved and disappeared down the steps and I heard some drunken men yelling for her.

For some reason, I hated that. I didn’t know why she was working at the pub or at the library but I didn’t like it. She was a student. She shouldn’t have to work unless it was the summer or during break. Not that she needed the extra time to study.

Maybe she was using her spare time to make extra money since she had so much of it. It wasn’t like she could stand around modeling lingerie.

I really needed to get that visual out of my head.

Whatever she was doing working in Hogsmeade, I was glad it was her who found me.

I considered the cold walk back and frowned. Then I put up my feet, set my watch to go off in three hours, and took a nap.

*

Ryan’s face was a little more than shocked when I sauntered down the stairs three hours later. Most of the men at the bar were shouting unintelligible sentences and slamming empty shot glasses on the counter. It was now someone else’s mess to clean up. She handed a girl her half-apron and grabbed her jacket.

“What’re you still doing here?” she asked, hopping over some shelled peanuts to get to me. “I thought you went back.”

“Didn’t want you walking in the dark,” I said, shrugging.

“I don’t need—“

“I don’t remember asking,” I said, smirking as I held the door for her.

“Don’t you go falling in love with me now that you don’t have a girlfriend,” Ryan said with narrowed eyes. “I don’t do guys that fall in love. It’s inconvenient and annoying.”

“You’re such a charmer,” I muttered. “I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that, especially since you’re impossible.”

It was still snowing, a little harder now. An inch or so was stuck to the grass and a dusting clung to the path. The trees were brushed with white.

“So why do you work at The Hog’s Head?” I asked as we walked.

“I like the tips,” she said matter-of-factly. “And I don’t have to show my cleavage to get them. I just have to get the drinks.”

“So you do it for fun?” I asked.

She snorted.

“That’s not an answer.”

“Just like it’s not your business.”

I nodded. Time to back off. “Want to go to the kitchens and steal ice cream?”

“Shit, Weasley, I just got off work and it’s obvious you don’t want to go back to the Tower because you think Parise is going to be waiting up to mock you.” Ryan placed both hands on her hips as she walked. “You’re going to have to face him sometime, aren’t you? He’s your roommate.”

I frowned. “Doesn’t have to be tonight.”

“Are you seriously going to guilt me until I help you avoid him a little longer? You know how I feel about helping Gryffindors.”

“What about your baby daddy?”

“I hate you more than I ever have,” Ryan muttered. “Fine. Ice cream. But extra fucking sprinkles or I’ll kick you in the mouth.”

*

We ate ice cream for a while, sitting on the counters and making a mess when it started to melt. She even threw a spoonful at my face for asking her if her breasts got bigger (the answer was yes). It was nice, just spending time with her without mood swings and bickering and hating each other. Just two people eating ice cream, one after a shit night at work and the other just off a breakup.

As promised, I provided her with extra sprinkles and I poured way too much chocolate syrup on mine.

“Tell Potter not to worry too much about Kennel,” Ryan said as we were cleaning up.

“Why’s that?” I caught the tub of ice cream she threw at me and raised a brow.

“He’s a Hufflepuff. Just tell him not to worry and the universe will work itself out.”

“Do you believe in all that universe rubbish?”

“Hey. I take Divination.” Ryan smirked and closed the fridge. “Good night, Weasley.” She nudged me with her hip and left through the portrait.

What in blazes was that about?

I finished cleaning up the rest of the ice cream mess before I realized Ryan had never taken Divination. She told me ages ago.

*

Which is why when James told me Kennel was in the hospital wing the next day I pretended to look confused and happy and even so much as questioned his involvement.

“I was shagging Ollie in the third floor bathroom,” he said. “I have an alibi.”

“Didn’t need to know that.” I shook my head. Mox was in the corner playing with chess pieces, but not actually playing chess. I had yet to see Parise and I assumed he’d spent the night with my ex girlfriend. I hated that assumption.

James gave me a few shots of whiskey to numb the pain and I decided to do exactly what Ryan said. One step at a time. I had to move past Annie and move on with my life. I was not Andrew Parise and if she wanted to be with a sod like that, it was her decision. I wasn’t the best bloke and I could come to terms with that, but it wasn’t entirely one-sided.

And her already seeing him before breaking up with me…

I shook it away. No. I had to worry about learning to be a father. I had to figure out how we were going to win this court case and get WWW into Hogsmeade. I had to make sure Gregory Zonko didn’t get in my way and Andrew Parise didn’t force his way into my spot on the Quidditch team.

There were too many things to think about. I had to move forward.

James clapped me on the back and pointed to the mirror. “You’re single again. You know what single blokes do? Snog single girls and get pissed.” He paused for a moment and slicked back his hair like a Fitzgerald character. “You and me. We’re going to go have some firewhiskey and have a good time. How’s that sound?”

“Like Ollie may lock you in a wardrobe for a few years as consequence,” I replied.

“Ollie doesn’t have to know.”

“So Parise is going to find out and then tell Ollie? You know, he probably doesn’t mind having two girlfriends at a time. As long as they’re friends.” I couldn’t help it.

“Parise wouldn’t dare,” James said.

“Wouldn’t he? I know you’d off yourself sooner than snog another girl, but Parise is pretty good at making up lies. He’s pretty good at telling people what they want to hear.” I sank onto the bed, still unsure of how Annie could be comfortable with a guy like that. Someone who belonged in the dungeons of Slytherin. Any means to achieve his ends.

It was her decision. Her choice. And I was now living with the consequences.

“Can we please get out of here?” James moaned. “I’m sick of watching Dancing with the Chess Pieces over there.”

Mox blushed.

“Fine. But I’m not drinking too much. I’d rather not have a hangover for class.”

“Isn’t that how you’re supposed to get through classes? Have you seen the essay we’re supposed to do for Potions? No way.” James pulled on a blazer and opened the door. “You need to get away.”

I did. I needed to get much further than the village, though. I needed to go back home or to London or overseas. I needed to be away from here and the chaos that followed wherever I went.

Maybe if I could leave, the chaos would follow again. It would leave my friends and family.

Though I doubted it. So I followed James out (thankfully not seeing or hearing Parise in the process) and down to the village through the tunnel. I didn’t talk much. James spent the journey telling me about an idea for a new product line. I didn’t listen much either.

The pub was familiar. We ordered and drank and made friends with the bartenders. James would always flash his smile and get what he wanted, but he never took it further than that. He had eyes for Ollie and she knew that. She had no reason to get jealous.

Was I a jealous guy? I was more hurt than jealous with Alessandra, considering it was so unexpected. And again with Annie, though I had to take a lot more blame.

Had I been given an opportunity to be jealous in my life? Really, properly jealous as opposed to what I felt for Scorpius Malfoy swooping in like a hawk to steal away my brotherly abilities. The kind of jealous you felt when the person you cared for so deeply was looking a different direction. Or even just not at you.

I couldn’t recall that I had. That I’d felt that intense and burning hatred for someone just because they had something I didn’t. Not like that, anyway.

For James being better at Quidditch than me – sure. For Molly being better at every academic study – of course. But not in a relationship. I’d only been hurt.

There had to have been something wrong on my end. Something I was doing to drive these people away or make them want to see other people. What was it about me that made Annie seek solace in the arms of Andrew Parise? Or Alessandra?

Was I not kind enough? Did I not kiss the right way or smile right? Was I not good enough with parents or flirting?

“You doing all right, Freddo?” James clapped me on the back. He took one of the shots that were slid in front of us.

“All right, thanks,” I said, snapping back into the reality of the pub. James had made friends with a few locals that had to be three or four years older than us. They were lookers with shining green eyes and light, strawberry hair. Each leaned in like James was about to tell them the secret of existence.

Instead, he ordered another round of drinks and the music was turned up.

We danced late into the day even though I didn’t want to be there. I danced anyway and kissed one of the girls against the bar counter. James danced on the bar and took off his shirt, swinging it around his head. We danced until we fell, laughing, into chairs around a bottle of champagne.

What was wrong with who I was?

With Fred Weasley? What was wrong with Fred Weasley?

James uncorked the bottle and it sprayed over us like a summer rain. The girls were dancing in the rain and I could not figure out where I was or why I had never been properly jealous. Why I had never allowed myself to open up and let someone in.

I can’t remember when she came in, but she pulled me upstairs with kind words and kind eyes. She put me in a room and in a bed and ran her fingers through my hair. She kissed my forehead and drew the blankets to my neck. She turned off the lights and told me there was nothing wrong with me.

Or I could have imagined that part.

*

Ryan had a cup of strong tea waiting when I woke the next morning. She had changed from her work uniform and was sitting on the chair beside my bed.

“Hi,” I said weakly, head pounding. “I have class.”

“I’ve written your instructors and told them you are bedridden under the village doctor’s orders,” she said simply. “I’m amazed you’re alive.”

“Sorry?”

“You couldn’t string a sentence together,” she replied, pushing the tea toward me. Steam was rising from the top in swirls. “I came in for my shift and you were wearing your jacket as a hat and trying to play music with champagne bottles while your girlfriends watched.”

“What?” I groaned when I remembered the two strawberry girls. I couldn’t remember their names or if they had ever told me. “Godric. I’m sorry you had to see that.”

“I figured you’d lose it at some point,” Ryan said tactfully. “As a general rule, boys don’t take hurt very well. Especially straight-edges.”

“Give me a cigarette. I’ll show you.”

“Shut up and have your tea.” She shot me a look so I did what she asked. “Have you spoken to Annie or Andrew cabbage-face Parise yet?”

“Did you just call him cabbage-face?”

“Have you seen him?”

I considered this. “Most of the girls say he’s a looker.”

“Who are these girls? Do they have brain damage?”

“You’re a very sensitive person,” I muttered, drinking more of the tea and momentarily wondering if it was poisoned.

“Girls only fancy him because he has a way with words,” Ryan explained. “He knows how to say just the right thing to just the right people, which is why he is dangerous. He sugar-coats everything and smiles when delivering bad news. He isn’t used to being told no.”

“What did you do to Kennel?” I asked.

The sides of her mouth curved into a small smile. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“James said he was in the hospital wing.”

“Is that right?” Ryan said. “Well, good. He deserves to spend some quality time there getting to know the bed pans.”

“What did you do?”

“Absolutely nothing,” she said softly. “I’m a woman. I’m a Ravenclaw. I’m pregnant. I work in a library. How could you possibly accuse me of such drama?”

I placed the tea back on the bedside stand. My head was throbbing in rhythm to the clock. “You’re a woman. You’re a Ravenclaw. You’re pregnant. You work in a pub. You’re very capable of putting someone in a hospital wing. I know this.”

Ryan nudged me with her foot. “Gemma did it.”

“She’s capable too,” I said. “What’d you tell her?”

“He made a comment about me being fat.”

“Using your pregnancy,” I said. “Impressive.”

“It’s taken care of. Doesn’t matter how.”

“You’re not fat.”

“What?”

I shrugged and drank some more tea because why did I have to open my mouth. “Just so you know. Girls always think they’re fat. They never are.”

She raised a brow in a way that suggested she thought I was daft and still drunk. “Look, Weasley. I know you’re used to being the charmer, but you’ve already knocked me up. No need to lay it on thick.”

“I’m not—” I sighed. “I’m just saying. You’re not. You look…” I shook my head. “Thanks for getting Kennel back. I’m sure Zonko won’t be pleased.”

“He won’t be pleased about a lot of things coming up,” Ryan said, though she was still giving me the same look. Like she couldn’t quite figure me out. “Drink your tea. I’m heading back to the castle.”

“Can I walk you back?”

“I’d rather be alone,” she said and with a smile she was gone and the door was closed and I was alone.

Again.


*

They were both there. In the Great Hall. Laughing, teasing. Sharing food.

I should have seen this before it started. Knowing where I was in life. Watching my father struggle over the summer with my mother making lists and overstaying her welcome at the grocery store for some time and clarity.

I shouldn’t have let Annie into my world. It was broken.

She made it seem less broken, though. Like a sheet pulled over my eyes.

Annie looked up from her place beside Parise and her cheeks went red. She looked back down, but stopped laughing. I took my place beside James and Ollie. Suddenly the Gryffindor table was feeling a lot less friendly than it had.

Gee slid into the seat beside me. “Freddo. I heard. I’m sorry.”

“I’m fine,” I said, mostly because it was the only thing I could think of.

“Have you talked to her?”

“No.”

“What about him?”

“I’d rather not,” I replied.

“Want me to rough him up? I will for you.” Gee leaned her head against my shoulder.

“I appreciate it,” I said with a small grin. “I’d rather just move on and play Quidditch and focus on finishing off this year strong, right? Maybe I’ll actually make it through an entire Quidditch game.”

“Heard Kennel’s in the hospital,” she said. “Nasty bit of work to his face, which I recall him explaining was his ‘money maker’ when he asked me for a date.”

I grimaced. “Sadly, I had nothing to do with it. Though with that explanation, I almost wish I had.”

Gee snickered and nudged me. “Just be single for a while. You don’t need girls if they’re going to hurt you.” She squeezed my arm. “You’re one of the few good guys out there, Fred. Don’t let them change you.”

I looked over and the confusion must have been written all over my face.

“You probably don’t believe me,” Gee said softly. “But everyone else knows.” She kissed my temple and left to go sit with Rose.

I was one of the few good guys out there.

James and Ollie were talking about classes, but I wasn’t listening. Gee’s words were ringing through my head.

Maybe it wasn’t such a horrible thing I hadn’t been properly jealous before. That I hadn’t truly fallen in love, though I thought I had at the time.

Maybe there wasn’t something wrong with me. I just hadn’t found the right person yet.




A/N: Thank you all for reading again! For some crazy reason, after I finished chapter 13 I went on a crazy inspired writing spree and wrote a TON of this story. I can't wait to share it with you! 

The updates will (hopefully) be a touch faster now that I've finished Heroes (which, if you're interested, is how the Ang and George from this story got together - humor, romance, sadness, blah blah blah) so there are only three stories to update. I'll do my best! But I'm really excited about what's coming up. 

I hope you enjoyed this chapter! 

UP NEXT: The appointment. And then something goes really, really wrong.


Chapter 15: The Hospital
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For AveryCanFly, for snagging review 200. Thank you all! 




“What do you mean you won’t be there for half the bloody day?” James was having a fit since I’d told him I was going to Ryan’s appointment instead of to the Seventh Year Lock-In. “What am I supposed to do?”

“Snog your girlfriend?” I guessed. “I don’t know. Whatever sodding activities there are. I’m sure it’ll be a blast. Just do something and cover for me.”

“Don’t you think Gemma’s going to figure it out when the two of you come back together?” James said. He was sitting on the bathroom sink, wand still pointed at the door from his silencing charm. “It’s not that hard to figure out, you know.”

“We won’t be coming back in together. We’ve got it all worked out. Now mind your own business.” I kept trying to flatten my hair, but it wasn’t working. “Is the tie too much?”

“It’s St.BloodyMungos. Yes it’s too much.”

I kept the tie anyway. I liked ties. “Just let it go. She invited me to go to the appointment and I’m going.”

“They’re just going to talk about boring baby stuff,” James whined. “You have that book. Just read the book, okay? Then you’ll know everything and you can come do the fun lock-in stuff with me. Which you should be doing. Because you’re seventeen and you’re not being any fun.”

I shot him a look. “This isn’t about you, James.”

“It should be,” he muttered.

“It’s not. It’s about Ryan.” I shoved him a bit. “You don’t think her friends think she’s not been fun lately? I’m going to be there for her.”

“What for? She just yells at you anyway.”

I shrugged, thinking about when she pulled me into the pub after Annie had just broken up with me. What she did to Kennel (or had done, rather). Her pulling me from the downward spiral of champagne at the pub.

“She’s not so bad,” I replied, glancing in the mirror again. I looked nervous. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Just cover for me, okay?”

James rolled his eyes. “Fine. But I’m smuggling liquor in and you can’t stop me.”

“Do what you must.”

*

I met Ryan in the same empty classroom we’d used before. I arrived just before her and started pacing. I also successfully messed up my hair. She looked annoyed when she closed the door.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Fine. Just have a creature growing inside me and I feel like I could eat an entire farm,” she said conversationally. “Also I’m exhausted so I may just blow off the stupid lock-in later. Even though Gemma will have my head for it.”

It was hard to find a reply to all the pregnancy things. I couldn’t exactly relate.

“Anything I can do?”

“Get me a time-turner?” Ryan said dryly.

“I’ll do my best,” I said and grabbed the bag of floo powder. “After you, love.”

“Call me love one more time and see what happens.” She took the powder and threw it into the fire, not so much as giving me a second glance.

So things were back to normal.

St. Mungos was the same as it always had been. Creepy and clean. I shuffled around awkwardly.

“Weasley.” Ryan turned around from her position at the front of the line, arms folded. “What did you do?”

“Ah. Um. Well.” I smiled sheepishly.

“Absolutely not.”

“Just do it,” I said. “I know you’re stubborn and kind of a jerk about it, but just let me, okay? Please don’t make me play the heartbroken card.”

She scrunched up her face like she was about to pull out her wand and hex me into next week. But then Ryan turned, nodded to the receptionist, and received a slip of paper. “Room three-fourteen. Let’s go, Weasley.” She led the way to the elevators, not waiting to see if I would follow.

I’d owled a few days before and requested a better room and I got exactly what I wanted, and then some. I hated the idea of name-dropping, especially given the family I came from, but at times it had its perks. The room was enormous with a beautiful view and large window. There was a bed and three plush chairs beside it, plus all of the baby equipment that confused me.

I took one of the chairs and grabbed a magazine. Ryan sat as close to the edge of the bed as she could. She looked furious.

“Listen Weasley,” she spat, “I’ve already told you I don’t need your help, your money, or your fame.”

“I understand what you told me,” I replied, not looking up from the article, which was boring.

“Then why do you insist on making me look like a fool?”

That time I did look up. “Oh, yes, because helping someone makes them looking like an idiot.”

“I don’t want your charity.”

“I’m not donating to an animal shelter,” I said, rolling my eyes. Though I did donate to animal shelters, I just didn’t mention that to her because it may have made my point look weak. “I told you I’m in this and if there are ways I can help make you comfortable I’m going to do it.”

“Ugh. You’re impossible.”

“Pot calling the kettle,” I said, going back to the article.

We were silent until the nurse came in. She was different from last time, an older woman with flecks of gray in her hair and a kind smile. This infuriated Ryan all the more. She had something against nice people.

For a while they discussed how Ryan was feeling, what symptoms were stronger than others, and what to expect this month. Mostly fatigue and a growing appetite, but the nurse mentioned she’d start growing more rapidly.

Ryan’s eyes moved to the floor.

“You’ve reached the end of your first trimester,” the nurse said with another kind smile. “So if you’ve been waiting until now to tell your family and friends, you can start to do so. Or else they’ll start to notice on their own.” She laughed because it was a joke, but it wasn’t funny to us.

They would start to notice. There were only so many loose-fitting fashionable outfits Ryan could wear before it became obvious. Before she was the victim of rumors and whispering behind hands. I hated the thought of it. That I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t take responsibility or defend her.

That was a bridge to cross another time.

I lost myself in these thoughts for so long they were broken only by Ryan gasping at the cool gel being pooled on her stomach, which had rounded slightly. Her shirt was pulled up just under where her bra sat and the nurse pushed a contraption against her skin that had a cord leading to a machine behind her.

“Let’s see,” the nurse said, pursing her lips. “Yes, here we are.”

I raised a brow, scooting my chair to better see. There was black and white static and images on the screen, but it reminded me of finger-painting. “What’s that?”

“Your baby,” the nurse said.

I tried unfocusing my eyes but it was just a bunch of blobs. So I went over to the other side of the bed and tried looking from there. Nothing. Just blobs of black and white as the nurse moved it.

That was when a steady beat filled the room, each one like swallowing a gulp of water. Each one loud and soft at the same time. I stared at the screen as the beats became more prominent, lips parted.

“That would be your baby’s heartbeat,” the nurse said and the screen rested on an image. “Right there is the baby, but it isn’t very far along yet.” She pointed to a white bunch of blobs.

That was our baby. Those little blobs with that steady, healthy heartbeat.

Ryan’s hand was in mine and she was squeezing. The girl from before had all but disappeared. Right now her hand was trembling and she was biting down hard on her bottom lip. There were tears in her eyes. The heartbeat still filled the room like an elephant. I squeezed her hand back and leaned down, kissing her forehead like she’d done for me at the inn.

To my surprise, my own tear fell onto her cheek.

This was our baby. Our child. In two more trimesters it was going to be a real boy or girl I could hold in my arms. With a name and a face and features from both of us, but I hoped the kid would get more from Ryan. You couldn’t go wrong with those genes.

I was going to be a father, something I’d never considered for my future, let alone so soon. But it was happening and the baby was safely nestled in Ryan’s stomach. She looked paler than usual, but otherwise still beautiful. Our baby would be lucky to get her features.

The nurse left us alone and the heartbeat faded into silence when she turned off the machine. We cleaned off Ryan’s stomach and she pushed her shirt back down, face red from crying. I had no idea what to say. What words I could use in that moment that wouldn’t make me look like a sap or a fool. Instead, I kept staring at the dark machine.

Ryan moved her hand back into mine. I squeezed and she smiled.

“I hate that you saw me cry,” she whispered. “Don’t tell people I cry.”

“Likewise,” I said, using my free wrist to wipe my eye.

*

Our plan was carried out with ease. Well, most of it.

The nurse gave us copies of the ultrasound, which Ryan left first to put up in Ravenclaw Tower. I waited another ten minutes before going the opposite direction. I wandered the halls for a while and took a minute in the boy’s restroom to make sure my eyes weren’t red. Once I assumed Ryan was downstairs joining the party, I left and moved swiftly toward the Great Hall.

Only I found someone waiting for me on the marble staircase.

“Like I said before, it is interesting company you keep.” Gregory Zonko was leaning against the handrail clutching a gold pocket watch, complete with the chain. The door to the Great Hall was within his sight. He had to have seen Ryan go in.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said. “Jealous you can’t hang out with the seventh years? Want help crashing the party?” I moved past him on the stairs.

“Was Annie not the only one seeing someone else?” Zonko asked.

I turned faster than I wanted to.

“Yes, I know about that. Not that it’s a secret. The school has been buzzing about it. I see I’ve struck a nerve.”

“What happened between Annie and I is just that,” I said. “So stay out of it.”

“What’s between you and Ryan Davies, hmm? She’s not exactly your type – the innocent flower.”

“Ryan and I are Prefects,” I said shortly. “We do little better than tolerate each other, and that’s putting it nicely.” At least I was honest. “So stop trying to dig up shit that isn’t there because you’re scared.”

“You wish I was scared.”

“You really need to work on your trash talk,” I said, shaking my head and walking into the Great Hall. The last thing I wanted was Gregory Zonko getting in my head. I didn’t have time for him.

I’d just heard my kid’s heartbeat, seen a white blob that I guess was said kid, and I had a lock-in to attend all while pretending I had just been upstairs not feeling well for a few hours.

How was I going to do that?

Carefully. Very. Carefully.

The lock-in was just as huge as we’d all imagined it to be over the years. Every seventh year was there. Crowds of students leaked from activities to an area decked out in plush sleeping bags to the giant buffet of food. The stars above were shining bright, lighting the space and laughter was coming from everywhere. Music was playing. Rune was dancing and Molly was being led around, face ablaze.

I found James next to the punch bowl, which I rightly assumed had already been spiked.

“I’m a Prefect, you know,” I said, showing up at his shoulder and making him jump.

“This is an abomination,” he replied. “The punch was terrible and tasted like sugar. Don’t worry. I fixed it. I should get an award, really.”

“You just want to pass your old man in awards,” I said. “Fat chance with your reputation.”

“I just enhance the rules, is all.”

I shook my head and looked around.

“How’d it go?” James asked softly.

“Well. Better than I thought.”

“Learn something?”

“A lot.”

“Sarcasm?”

“Actually, no.” My eyes scanned the crowd, but I still didn’t see Ryan.

“Care for a glass of punch?” James asked. “The new and improved punch?”

“Better not.” If something happened, I shouldn’t be intoxicated for it. Besides, the last thing I needed was to get piss drunk and have Andrew show up wanting to discuss things in a civilized way. Which would then result in me punching him in the face and getting detention … and a strict lecture from a professor about how that is not behavior worthy of a Prefect.

It was better I stuck to the lemonade, which is what I did.

“How’s the party so far?” I asked as Ollie joined us.

“Great,” she said. “So are you ever going to speak to Annie again?”

“Ols,” James hissed. “Bad time.”

I shook my head. “It’s fine, mate. It’s fine.” It wasn’t, but I could pretend. I focused on Ollie for a moment. She was friends with Annie and it must have been difficult for her to bounce back and forth between her boyfriend and her friends. “I’m sure I will. Though she hasn’t exactly made an effort.”

“She’s terrified to speak to you.”

“Why? Because she was talking to someone else at the time?” I said bitterly.

“That’s not fair, Fred.”

“Is it not? Tell me, did she ever let you in on what it’s like to snog a bloke while you’re dating another bloke? Oh, and both of them don’t get along. Let’s write a romance novel about this, shall we? A big love triangle except one person is oblivious and stupid and also made to look like a fool.” I paused. “You knew about it, didn’t you? The whole thing?”

“Fred,” Ollie said, shaking her head. “I didn’t know. I didn’t know they were seeing each other.”

“Let’s just say I’m moving on and if that is the kind of person Annie wants to be with, then fine.”

“What do you mean by kind of person? There is nothing wrong with Andrew.”

I snorted. “I have no idea how you don’t see it, but to each his own.”

“See what?” Ollie pressed. James was looking uncomfortable.

“See how much of a complete and utter tool he is,” I snapped. “Using people. Turning people against each other. Threatening people. He’s a bloody wolf in sheep’s clothes. Or a Slytherin in red and gold. Can’t you see it?”

“You’re mental,” Ollie said. “You’re just jealous.”

“Ollie,” James said, moving into the space between Ollie and myself. “This isn’t the place for this. If you’re going to treat him like this after he just had his heart ripped out by a complete toolbox, then fine. But not here you’re not.”

“You don’t get to speak to me like that, James Potter.” Ollie narrowed her eyes. “You can join him in being jealous. Annie and I are just fine spending the lock-in with Andrew. He’s much better company than you dreary lot anyway.”

“Yeah, you’d think that considering he wants in your bloody pants to get on the Quidditch team,” James shot back.

“You’re both MENTAL.” Ollie flipped us off and moved into the crowd to find Andrew and Annie. What a ring to that.

James turned and looked at me. “He’s going to steal both of them, isn’t he?”

“He’s damn well trying,” I said, frowning. “I’m sorry, mate. I didn’t mean for things to get heated. Ollie’s a good girl. I don’t like things like that going on without her knowing what’s really happening.”

“She’s stubborn,” James replied. He was looking at the place she’d disappeared in the crowd. “You don’t think he’ll turn her against me, do you?”

“Of course not,” I said, but I wasn’t sure. I think he knew. I lowered my voice. “Did you see Davies come in?”

He shook his head. “I thought you came in first. Haven’t seen her yet.”

Both of us began looking around, but we couldn’t find her. Gemma was doing fun incantations for a crowd of admirers in the corner, probably more for her amusement than theirs. She looked to the door a few times.

Ryan hadn’t arrived yet.

But how could Zonko know it was Ryan? When did he see her?

Where the hell was Ryan Davies?

“James, I have to find her,” I whispered.

“But the punch.”

“I have to find her,” I repeated, eyes still scanning the crowd. “If she’s not here then something happened. Gemma was expecting her. Something’s wrong.”

“Like what? She’s a tough girl.”

“You don’t understand. She is a tough girl, so if she’s not here something is way wrong.” My palms were sweating. The crowd was getting closer to the refreshments table. Andrew Parise had his arms draped lazily over both Annie and Ollie as they watched a movie projected on one of the walls above a fireplace.

“You want me to come?” James said. “My girlfriend went to flirt with a wanna-be reserve so I’m free.”

I looked over at him and actually let out a breath. The one I’d been holding without realizing. “Yeah,” I said. “I’d like you to come.” I had been so used to doing things alone over the last couple months I forgot what it was like to have James by my side. We’d done everything together and this should be no exception. Frames.

Hopefully Ryan was just upstairs trying to decide which outfit sucked less. Then I’d blame it on James and we could join the party.

But something told me Gregory Zonko had a hand in this.

*

Zonko wasn’t in the hallway when we made it out. It was empty and far too quiet for my liking. There was no sign of Ryan.

We tore up the stairs, knowing the first place we had to check was Ravenclaw Tower. I wanted to tell Gemma to get her to let us in, but she’d know it was me. She’d know everything was me and then she’d probably want to kill me for it. Then she would and nothing would get accomplished.

We didn’t meet anyone except China, who had to go get her pet goat (don’t ask) before making her way to the lock-in. She smiled sweetly and asked if we’d be returning. I said yes and kept running.

“She wants you,” James said, out of breath.

There was no sign of Ryan anywhere. She wasn’t walking down the stairs or leaning against a wall looking snarky. I stuck my head in the library just in case, but it was the same old librarian wondering why Freddie Weasley was in a library. I didn’t bother answering and instead kept moving up to the Tower.

Before thinking, I started slamming my fist on the door to the Ravenclaw common room. It hurt like hell, but I was in a panic. I didn’t know where she was. What had happened to her. She was fine just a little bit ago at the hospital. They would have seen if something was wrong. Right?

A small, auburn-haired girl pulled open the door and stared at me with a gobsmacked expression. “Who are you?”

“Fred Weasley,” I replied, out of breath. The right side of my hand was covered in blood from the wall.

“What’re you doing here?”

I stopped. I couldn’t say Ryan. I couldn’t say why I needed to see her. I choked, out of words.

“Roxanne,” James said from beside me. “We need to see his sister, Roxanne Weasley. It’s an emergency.”

The girl looked down at his bloody hand and must have decided it was an emergency because she called for Rox. It was only a moment before my sister was at the door, looking stunned.

“What happened?” she said. “Is it Dad?”

I felt horrible for making her think something happened to Dad. And then I felt horrible because in her mind, that was the only reason I could be coming to see her. But that was something to worry about another day. Another day when being a shit brother could occupy my mind instead of Ryan.

“I need you to trust me,” I whispered, leaning down. The blood was falling in spots around us.

“What?” Rox said, her brow raising. “Fred, what’s going on?”

“I need you to trust me,” I repeated, still out of breath. “I need you to take me upstairs, but to the seventh years’ dormitory.”

“What the bloody fuck for?” she asked. “What are you up to? Are you stealing knickers?”

I paused for a moment. “Why in the world would I be—?”

James shook his head. “Look, Rox. There could be something seriously wrong up there and please can you take us because it might be a matter of life and death. Or at least serious enough for us to be here even though you haven’t spoken to me in the better part of three years.” He took a breath. “Even though I’m the coolest cousin.”

Rox stared between the two of us. “Come on. Don’t cause any problems.” She turned and led the way across the common room.

We followed obediently and I wrapped my hand in my shirt to stop the bleeding.

Rox turned to make sure we were there and then moved up the staircase to the right. She passed several doors before we arrived at the one I recognized to be Ryan’s. I didn’t let myself think about her lingerie collection. I couldn’t. “You need me to escort you?” my sister asked.

“Thank you,” I replied, looking at her. “And thank you for being at the hospital.”

“Mum and Dad asked me,” she said.

“Godric you are fucking impossible,” James said loudly. “I’m going to hug Lily later. Remind me to do that, okay?” He nudged me. “Let’s go see if she’s okay.”

“If who’s okay?” Rox asked.

I shook my head. “Thank you for coming to the hospital,” I repeated and shoved the door open. James closed it behind him.

The room was empty. All of the beds were pristinely made and nothing appeared out of place. Shit. She wasn’t here. Something had happened to her between her room and the lock-in. She was somewhere in the castle.

James was looking around her bed, but nothing caught his eye. “Light’s on,” he said, nodding to the bedside stand.

I stared for a moment and then realized the bathroom door was closed. There was a light coming from under it.

I ran for it, pulling the door open so hard it hit the wall and bounced off, slamming into my shoulder. The room was lit and the sink water was running. The soap dispenser was on its side and I could smell lilacs.

That was when I saw her.

Sprawled out on the ground was an unconscious Ryan Davis, her form limp and unresponsive. She looked pale, lips parted. Her body was twisted at odd angles.

“Ryan?” I said, falling to my knees beside her. James ran and grabbed a pillow and placed it gently under her head. I had her hand in mine. She was cool and clammy. “Ry? Can you hear me?”

She didn’t respond. I didn’t know what to do.

I wasn’t a Healer. I was just a boy. A student who had done some crazy things that had led me to being here at this moment. Someone who wasn’t remotely qualified to know what was wrong with her.

“Ryan?” I repeated, touching her cheek with my palm. “Ryan. Wake up. RYAN.” I shook her a little, but her head just lolled to the other side.

I felt for her pulse. It was there. She was breathing.

“We need the nurse,” I said. I knew Ryan would hate me for it, but as she was lying unconscious on a bathroom floor it was me who needed to make the call. “James. The nurse. Now.”

James was gone before I finished the sentence. The door slammed.

I pulled Ryan into my arms, terrified. I didn’t know what had happened. What was wrong with her. She couldn’t tell me. I rocked back and forth, smoothing her hair between my fingers. She breathed on, steadily, and I could just barely feel her heart beat. It reminded me of earlier. The baby’s heartbeat. Everything was so simple and so complicated only a couple hours ago.

I kissed the top of Ryan’s head. She wasn’t waking up. She wasn’t responding. She wasn’t squeezing my hand after I’d squeezed hers.

“Please wake up,” I whispered. “You can’t do this. You can’t just not wake up.” My heart was hammering in comparison to hers.

“It isn’t right. You can’t just not respond to me. Like you’re ignoring me. I’ll have you know that’s not how things work around here. I’m a Gryffindor and you can’t just ignore me because you don’t like it.” I leaned my forehead onto her head, closing my eyes so tight white dots danced before me. “You’re not allowed to leave now. Not after you’ve been there up until now.”

I felt the familiar sting behind me eyes as we sat on the bathroom floor. “The truth is,” I said. “I don’t know what I’d do.”

The door opened and James ran in with the nurse at his heels. I cleared my throat before I choked.

“What happened?” she asked, pulling a few things out of her bag I didn’t recognize.

“I bloody told you,” James hissed, clutching his chest. “I need to work out more.”

“She’s not responding,” I said. “We found her up here. On the floor.”

“What were you doing up here?” she asked, checking Ryan’s pulse and vitals. She took a vial from her bag and unstoppered it.

“Checking on her.”

“For what reason?” She forced the clear liquid down Ryan’s throat.

James and I exchanged looks, but said nothing. It was complicated.

As requested I placed Ryan back down on the pillow as the nurse worked to revive her. I sat to her left, legs under me, rocking back and forth. I was terrified. Ryan looked innocent for once. Not furious with me for whatever I was suspected to have done this time.

“Oh,” the nurse said, leaning back after a moment and letting out a sigh.

“What? What is it?”

“This young lady is pregnant,” the nurse said and considering we didn’t gasp she sighed again. “And you knew. Brilliant. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?”

“She’s sassy,” James said. “Sometimes I don’t like her at all.” He paused. “By sometimes, I mean all the bloody time. She’s impossible.”

“Are one of you responsible for this girl?” she asked, moving some hair from her brow.

“I am,” I said. It was the first time I’d really said it out loud to someone other than James or my father. I was admitting it.

“She’s suffering from pregnancy anemia,” the nurse explained, frowning. “The hospital must not have checked her iron levels properly. It appears she’d fainted. I gave her some iron and folic acid supplements, but it’ll have to be monitored at each checkup from now on.”

“So what’s that mean?” I asked stupidly.

“When pregnant women have anemia they get weak and faint,” said the nurse. “Miss Davies did exactly that. She’ll be all right, though she should stay in the hospital wing overnight just to be sure.”

“Ryan wouldn’t like that,” I blurted.

“And tell me, what would Ryan like?” The nurse did not sound amused.

“Her own bed. And a book. And ice cream. Ice cream is her favorite.” I bit my lip. James was watching me far too intensely.

“The best I can do for you is allow you to stay overnight with her and bring the book and ice cream.” The nurse stood and conjoured a stretcher. She fixed her hair and levitated Ryan onto it. “Though it’s good you boys had the good sense to check on her. It shouldn’t go unchecked. Anemia is dangerous.”

I watched the nurse remove her from the room and I rinsed my hand under the faucet. I couldn’t go out right after. People would be suspicious. It was going to be harder and harder for people not to be suspicious.

“Fred,” James said softly. “That was crazy.”

“I know,” I said.

“You think she’s going to be okay?”

“I hope so,” I said. “I really hope so.”

“How long before people start noticing?”

“Not long enough,” I replied, standing and moving into the hallway.

Unfortunately, my sister was waiting, looking both furious and concerned. It was a trait she shared only with my mother.

“What happened?” she barked.

“Nothing,” I replied. My hand still stung.

“I just saw Ryan Davies carried out of here by the nurse,” she said. “You’re telling me what happened.”

“I can’t,” I said. “I can’t right now, okay? I just can’t.” I was drained. Exhausted and on the verge of tears, something that was not common for me.

Rox took hold of my shoulders and shoved me against the wall. My head slammed into the stone. “You’re telling me what you did in there, Fred, or I’ll owling Dad.”

“Dad knows,” I said simply. “And I’ll tell you all about what I did in there the second you start explaining why you bloody fucking replaced me with Scorpius Malfoy. Or do you not want to open that can of worms?”

“Are you daft? What’re you on about?”

“You. Scorpius Malfoy. You haven’t spoken to me on more than holidays since we started school. Don’t play dumb with me, Roxanne.”

She stared, but said nothing.

I moved out of her grip. “Until you want to talk about that, you can stay in the dark and keep pretending your brother is blond.” I moved down and couple stairs and then turned. She was standing in the same place. “Thank you for letting me up. You may have just saved a life.” I tipped my head and followed James out and down toward the hospital wing.

This time I didn’t give two shits if Gregory Zonko saw where I was or who I was seeing. The important part was Ryan was safe, the baby was healthy, and I had finally told Roxanne at least part of how I felt.


*

Ryan woke late into the evening. The color was back in her cheeks and she looked much better. The thin blankets were pulled around her and I’d taken a book from her collection and placed it on her bedside stand.

“We have to stop meeting like this,” she mumbled, wiping sweat from her brow.

“Better than the Prefect’s bathroom,” I said. I had been sitting in the chair beside her bed for hours scanning the newspaper. James had long ago gone back to the lock-in which had by then locked its doors.

I didn’t mind not being there, especially with the words exchanged with Ollie and the thought of seeing Annie having such a good time with Parise. And the potential for seeing Rune and Molly snogging.

Gross.

“What happened?” Ryan was starting to register where she was. “I remember putting the ultrasound picture in my trunk and going into the bathroom to wash my hands because they had soot on them from the fire. Then here. And you’re here. You’re always here.” She shook her head, but stopped and closed her eyes for a minute.

So I explained what had happened. I even added in what Zonko had said, since I now assumed he somehow saw the two of us leaving the classroom. He could have been bluffing, of course, but as much as he’d seen, I doubted that. I even told her about Roxanne.

“I don’t get why your sister has such a problem with you,” she said. “She’s friendly enough in the Tower. It’s almost annoying, really. As much snark as you say she has I figured I’d get on better with her than I do. Probably because of that twit Scorpius. He is such a tool.”

Finally. That was refreshing, at any rate.

“Anemia, huh?” Ryan said after a brief pause. “Well, if it’s not one thing, it’s certainly another. I bet I gave you a good scare.”

I thought back to the parts I conveniently left out of the story. Pulling her into my arms. Being terrified. What I said to her in the bathroom.

“It wasn’t nice,” I said. “Don’t scare me like that again unless you warn me first.”

“I’ll do my best.” Ryan smiled a little and moved her eyes to the ceiling. “Thanks. For coming looking for me. I guess.”

I laughed. “You’re welcome. I guess.”

“I wish I didn’t owe you so much shit, Weasley. It’s annoying. I don’t like owing people. So stop.”

“Shut up.”

“What did you just say to me?”

“Yes, I told the bed-ridden pregnant girl to shut up,” I said with a grin. “What’re you going to do about it?”

“I have my wand.” She looked at her table. At the book. “Where’s my wand?”

I withdrew it from my pocket. “This?”

“Weasley. I will hunt you down and kick you in the mouth.”

“No, you won’t.” I grinned. “You’re fragile and I have your wand. So sit there and shut up about owing me. You don’t owe me. I owe you.”

“For bloody what?”

“I’m taking responsibility,” I replied, standing and stretching out my back. “The nurse knows you’re pregnant and that I’m the father. It’s confidential, of course, but I thought I’d tell you. You want me to take off while you sleep?”

“People are going to find out,” Ryan said. “Zonko is going to find out. Then everyone is going to find out.”

“Then we’ll meet them in battle,” I said with a smile. “So get some rest and feel better because if you faint on me again you never know what I’ll do. I might try and be a Healer and revive you.”

“If you try that true love’s kiss bullshit I will knee you,” she muttered.

“Don’t get me the opportunity.” I winked and left her to her book (after placing her wand back on the chair) and to get some rest. She needed it. Hell, so did I.

Sleep sounded amazing. That night I was actually glad to have the dormitory all to myself. No Mox playing dolls with chess pieces of Andrew making snarky girlfriend-stealing remarks. Just me and some blankets and the window cracked so it smelled like winter in the Tower.

Moving forward.




A/N: I hope all of you enjoyed that chapter! Lots of feels, on my part at least. One of my favorites to write. Things are going to start picking up with the plot from here as a spiral begins. 

Thank you again for all of the kind words and reviews! It means a lot to me. 

UP NEXT: A shopping trip, a leak, and Fred confronts Zonko.


Chapter 16: He Taught Me Everything I Know
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For potterfan310, who nommed Gregory Zonko for "Best Villain" in the Dobbys. He really is a piece of work: See below.




Ravenclaw won their match against Slytherin and held a party worthy of Ravenclaws. Meaning, it was all right and no one was arrested. James and I went for a little while and teased Gemma about snogging Mox. She didn’t find it funny and hexed James into a wall. He was out for about ten minutes before he started doing impressions of Gemma and Mox.

I avoided Ryan, mostly because she was happy and upset that Ravenclaw had won. She was their advisor now, but I knew she wanted to be on that broom. She mostly kept to herself through the party.

She was wearing baggier clothes now and her face was filling out. Truthfully, she had that pregnancy glow about her. She looked lovely wherever she was, even though she spent a lot of her time snapping at me for being insufferable. I just did what she asked, which made me think a lot about what Gee had said.

I didn’t know if I was just a good guy or a fool to let girls do as they pleased.

As we moved into December the weather grew colder and I was forced to actually study since the term was coming to an end. I dove into it, all the while keeping tabs on what Zonko was doing (or not doing) and exchanging letters with my father about the trial. It was on a Thursday and it snowed a lot.

He sent me a letter directly after saying it went all right, but it was going to be an uphill battle. Zonkos wasn’t going down without a fight. My father was never known to, either.

But when they brought up our books, things would change. When they brought up our product lines and Dad’s stints in the hospital and how much of our livelihood was relying on this shop.

The court trial worried me, but I wished Dad good luck and told him to let me know if there was anything I could do. The thing about Dad was, he’d never ask for help. He wanted to do things alone. It made him think of his twin. Like they were doing things together again. I couldn’t take that away, so I didn’t.

I talked to James about it. We devised a few plans, but nothing concrete. Most of them required beating the shit out of Gregory Zonko. I liked those plans, but something told me we’d come up with a better one that got us exactly what we wanted…mostly, since we did want to kick his ass.

I still brought Ryan ice cream and Rox still avoided me. Annie hadn’t spoken to me and Ollie had taken to only conversing with me during Quidditch practice. James was trying to change that, but it wasn’t doing any good. Andrew was strutting around the castle like he owned the place, always kissing Annie when I was around. I wondered if he was only kissing her when I was around, but I tried not to dwell. I was moving past things with Annie and it felt good.

I received a letter on a particularly rainy evening close to the end of term. It was from Ryan, requesting my help in Hogsmeade. On the bottom was written “not an emergency. Don’t freak out, straight-lace.”

I met her at The Hog’s Head, frustrated already that she didn’t have an umbrella. I charmed mine to extend over the both of us. “What’s this about?”

“I said I need help,” Ryan replied, pulling her cloak tighter around her. “So help me.”

“With what? Holding the umbrella? Done.”

She rolled her eyes. “Gemma’s at a study group tonight.”

“Why?”

“She has eyes for the tutor,” Ryan said, giving me a look. “So I need you to come shopping with me.”

“I didn’t know you went shopping,” I said. “Seems too girly and put-together for you.”

“I’m girlie, you know. If you recall what I was wearing in August.”

I groaned, closing my eyes. “Stop that.”

“Making you want to shag me again?” Ryan asked softly. “Too fucking bad. Come on. My clothes don’t fucking fit anymore and I need maternity clothes to make it until break. Ones I can hide under large shirts that still look cute.”

“So you need me…why?”

“Because I need someone to come with me so those judgmental assholes in the store don’t get all…themselves.” She shrugged and led the way down the street toward a small shop of maternity wear. All of the models in the pictures were at least twenty-five so when Ryan and I walked in, the clerks were just as she had described.

Frowns all around.

“What?” Ryan said loudly to the two girls behind the counter. “Never seen a pregnant seventh-year before? Fuck off.” She moved into the rows of maternity jeans, unfazed.

They started to whisper so I followed Ryan. I didn’t know what she was looking for, so I mostly just poked at the fabric and nodded at what she grabbed.

Clothes were foreign to me. I knew what looked good on me. Dad taught me to wear things with collars. “Makes you look like you know more than you do,” he used to tell me, so I wore polo shirts and button-downs. Not much else unless I was at Quidditch practice or going to sleep.

Girls’ clothes were another world. There were more colors and fabrics and types. Skirts and blouses and shirts and jeans and capris. A different language entirely.

Ryan took a stack into the fitting room. The girls at the counter were still whispering, so I made my way up there. “Do you sell sexy maternity lingerie? I’d like to see it.”

They looked at me like I was absolutely mental. I probably was to be asking that there, so I winked and moved back toward the fitting rooms. “Doing all right in there, love?”

“Call me love again, Weasley. See what happens when I come out there.”

“Good, good, love,” I said, laughing.

“I shouldn’t have asked you to come.”

“I’m not exactly contributing to the outing,” I said. “Other than freaking out the clerks.”

“What did you say?” she called from behind the curtain.

“Asked them if they had any sexy lingerie.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Ryan said, not missing a beat. “Just charmed mine to fit properly now that my breasts are bigger.”

I choked. “What?”

“Sod off,” she said. “Stop getting images you shouldn’t, perv.” Ryan moved out from behind the curtain with a shirt pulled up over her belly and a new pair of jeans on. Truthfully, they looked amazing on her but they had a little stretchy part on the top. She looked hot.

I swallowed hard.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” she said dully and retreated back to try on more.

She tried on quite a few, coming out to show me each of them and creating yes and no piles. The final piece was a dress she looked drop-dead stunning in, but she said made her look “too pregnant.” She threw it into the no pile from inside of the curtain (good shot) and changed into her original clothes.

I stared between the piles. Then I shrugged, threw the dress into the yes pile, and took that stack up to the counter.

“Did you find everything okay?” the first girl asked.

“Fine, thanks,” I said. “They all flatter my figure.”

She didn’t laugh. Instead, she scanned everything. I handed her the money. She put it in a bag and I went and waited for Ryan, who emerged with fire in her eyes, just as I thought she would.

“You didn’t,” she said, motioning to the bag.

“I actually asked for a bag and put all this in it,” I said. “We’re going to steal it. Are you ready to run?”

I wondered if her stare was actually lethal. “How much?”

“Two knuts.”

“Weasley.”

“Three?” I offered. “Come on. Let’s get back to the castle. It stopped raining.”

“I’m dead serious. You are not paying for my clothes.”

“Stealing,” I corrected. “We’re stealing these. You don’t look ready to run.” I motioned to her heeled boots. “I may have to carry you.”

“I am going to hex you into next week.”

“Go ahead but by then I will have already gotten away with the clothes,” I said calmly. “Let’s go, Davies. These ladies don’t need more to gossip about.” I winked at them again and both went red.

“Fuck yourself,” Ryan said, shoving past me and outside.

I grinned and followed, putting up the umbrella over her head. “Just accept it already.”

“That you just throw your name and money around to give charity to other people?”

“That I’m nice and want to make up for things,” I said softly. It was sprinkling now. “And I will, given the chance. So either you never allow me that chance, or you get over it. I’ll give you a hint: It’s going to have to be the second.”

“What makes you think so?” Ryan’s face was lit by the street lamps. She was still paler than the start of the school year, but it was a good look for her.

“Because sometimes I will use any means to achieve my ends,” I teased. “And I have a hero complex like my relatives. You’ll just have to get used to it.”

Ryan met my eyes for a moment and we stood with the rain tapping the fabric of the umbrella. “I absolutely cannot stand you.”

“I like it when you lie,” I whispered, leaning a little closer. “It almost makes me believe you.” Then I nudged her hip and we made our way back to the castle.

*

The first few exams were easy enough. To take, anyway. I had no idea how I did on them. I kept getting distracted and thinking. Terrible idea, James reminded me after each one. I couldn’t help it. I had a lot going on.

It didn’t help Annie was in almost every one of those exams.

She looked happy. I was happy for her.

Except no I wasn’t. She was with Andrew Parise, who was now back to sleeping in the dormitory and skipping around like he’d won a fight.

James had taken me aside the first night he returned and explained that it was for the best and he still wasn’t on the Quidditch team. He said I had more important things to worry about like the shop and that damn Ravenclaw woman ruining his life.

Speaking of Ravenclaw women.

I ended up with a letter from Dad telling me Rox was onto me after our mission in Ravenclaw Tower. I also noticed Gemma keeping a closer eye on me. She was smart and it was obvious she was beginning to connect the dots, though I gave her no reason to other than my convenient disappearances.

Rose had given us exam week off (thank Godric) so I had more time to myself. Most of that ended up in me running places to get Ryan ice cream. I did stop by and visit her at the Hog’s Head one night, but she refused to serve me anything other than water.

I tried not to think about the blokes drooling over her down the bar.

For once, things were looking up. Exams were going all right. I had the holiday to look forward to and seeing my family again – somewhere other than the hospital wing. I enjoyed Christmas and the New Year and even shoveling the snow without a wand before I turned seventeen.

The best part was I could escape for a couple weeks and forget about all of this. Well, at least not be reminded every minute of every day while I was surrounded by Annie and Parise and Gemma and Ryan and Roxanne and Gregory sodding Zonko. I could just go home and be with the people who appreciated me for who I was… and also try and sneak some looks at Dad’s books to see how bad we were really sinking.

That’s the thing about life, though. When you finally pause to take a breath … that’s when something punches you in the gut to take it away again.

*

I ran into Ryan on my way down to dinner. It was the last feast of term and everyone was giddy to leave and pretend they would be studying for NEWTS. I, for one, was not remotely interested in NEWTS. Other than the actual lizard. I had one as a kid. Hated cleaning its cage.

She looked flustered and out of breath, leaning against the stone wall.

“Ryan?” I took the stairs quickly down to her, looking both ways to make sure we wouldn’t be overheard. The corridor was empty, but I still kept my voice down. “Are you okay? Did you get your iron checked yesterday?”

She nodded, but didn’t respond right away. Her hand was over her white blouse, rising and falling rapidly with her breaths. “Fine,” she said.

“You don’t look fine,” I replied, looking behind me again. “What is it? Do you need to go to the hospital?”

“No. No, I’m fine. Seriously. I just…” Ryan paused. She wasn’t looking at me. Her eyes were darting around the corridor to the stone walls to the floor to the doors of assorted classrooms. “I have to get downstairs. I told Gemma I’d be there ten minutes ago. I don’t want her to worry.”

I didn’t want to let it go, but when she was set on something there were few options to convince her otherwise. “I think Gemma suspects me.”

“She does,” Ryan said swiftly. “The only reason she hasn’t kicked your ass is that I make a really convincing argument against shagging Gryffindors.” She took another deep breath, hand unmoved. “Look. I have to go. Have a good break, Weasley.” There was a half-smile and Ryan continued down the hall toward another staircase.

“Do you want me to walk you?” I offered.

“Good idea. Give Gemma proof so she can off you in front of everyone,” she said. I could almost hear her roll her eyes. A moment later, she was gone and in her place a thicket of silence.

I stood for a while, waiting for her to get to the Great Hall first, wondering what could have spooked her like that. It wasn’t as if seeing a ghost was a scary occurrence. It had to have been something else. Baby related? School related? I had no idea, but it worried me. I didn’t like the idea of going through the entire winter break without knowing.

Eventually I wandered downstairs as well. Everyone was shoveling food onto their plates and talking far too loudly. I plopped down beside James (far, far away from Annie and Parise) and started adding chicken to my plate.

“I’m thinking I can sneak away at least three days a week,” James was saying with a full mouth. “That way I can tell Dad I’m like tutoring or something.”

“Still not going to tell him you’re not going to the Ministry?”

“Absolutely not. I figured on graduation day when we’ve already secured the Hogsmeade branch… then I can.” He grinned and I could see the food in his mouth.

“You really think he’s going to be sore about it, don’t you?” Uncle Harry was a lot of things, but unsupportive was not one of them. But James still had an irrational fear he’d turn out to be the disappointment of the family.

Albus had his budding Quidditch career. Lily was being groomed as a Healer, already interning in the hospital wing once a week. Uncle Harry had always thought James wanted to join him at the Ministry. The problem was, James never bothered to correct him.

And my own father had been keeping it a secret from his brother-in-law and sister for years at my own request. “Let him find out through James,” I told him. “James needs to be the one to say it.”

It got awkward at family events when Dad wanted to talk about how many great things James was doing for the shop… but Uncle Harry didn’t know his son had spent so many weekends and afternoons there.

“Look.” James shoveled more food on his plate. “I’ll tell him when the timing is right. When it’s for sure. And if it doesn’t work out then I’ll go be a Ministry bitch. But for now, I’ll just say I’m tutoring a handicapped kid or something awesome.”

“You think he’ll believe you’re tutoring anyone?” I asked, wrinkling my nose. “At least say you’re practicing Quidditch so you can kick the crap out of Al’s team. You know Uncle Harry favors Gryffindor even if his other son is a pansy Ravenclaw.”

James snickered and I could tell he was thinking about the pansy Ravenclaw I shagged.

“I’ll think over my excuse,” James said eventually as his brother fell into the empty seat beside him. “Listen Al, you really need to grow out your hair and do this Potter Hair thing properly. It’s almost offensive.” He ruffled Al’s hair. “What’s going on? You look nervous, which I generally like on the Quidditch pitch but here it’s a bit contagious.”

“I just heard a rumor,” he whispered.

“What kind of rumor?” James said, perking up. James loved rumors. He was the gossip king of Gryffindor Tower, impossible to hide from. He once found out what Annie wrote in her diary four years before by overhearing six different conversations and piecing them together.

“The big kind.”

James and I both leaned closer. “About what?” I whispered.

“I just found out why Davies quit my team,” he said.

I choked and James elbowed me in the ribs. “What did you hear?” he asked.

Please. Please. Please don’t let it be what it really was.

“She’s knocked up,” Albus said.

“Who told you that?” I asked, probably too quickly but Albus didn’t seem to notice. James did and I got another elbow to the ribs.

“Heard it,” Albus replied, glancing around us. I could tell a few people were listening. Ollie could hear us across the table. She was pretending to be staring down the table and cutting her chicken. She kept missing. “Bruce told me that’s what he just heard from the Slytherin table.”

The Slytherin table.

“Did he say who? I mean, that’s a pretty wild accusation, isn’t it?” I said, wrinkling my nose. “Who’d even make shit up like that?” I was getting nervous. My palms were sweaty.

“She is getting a little full around the face, don’t you think?” Albus said casually and I had never wanted to punch him more than I did in that moment. “Wearing bigger clothes. Explains a lot.”

I was having a hard time breathing. “I don’t think she is,” I said. “You should probably tell Bruce to shut up and stop spreading rumors about people in his own House. A little treasonous, don’t you think?”

“You hate Davies,” Albus said, shrugging. “What do you care?”

“She’s a Prefect and deserves respect,” I replied. “Same as Molly and – ugh – Rune. And China. And those Slytherin guys.”

Albus stared at me for a moment. “Well, I hope it’s not true. For her sake. But if it’s not I’m still waiting for a damn good reason she’s not my star player anymore.” He nodded and got up, walking back over to the Ravenclaw table to join his team.

My eyes searched the table and that was when I realized there was a lot of whispering happening. This rumor was spreading like a wildfire through the tables. Someone leaned back to say something to a Hufflepuff. They gasped. More whispers.

I watched as the rumor passed among the students. One to another to another. I watched it hit the Gryffindor table at both ends and fly through the meal. There were awed expressions and snickers and looks of absolute disgust.

I sat there in complete helplessness. There was nothing I could do to stop it. The damage was done. And there was nothing I could do to stop the girl that leaned over at the very end of the Ravenclaw table and whispered something into the ear of Ryan Davies.

That girl got punched in the jaw and toppled off the bench to the floor.

The Great Hall was silent. Everyone’s eyes were now on Ryan.

Her lips parted as she realized the secret was no longer hers. I knew she was waiting for it to happen – for people to find out – but she hadn’t expected it to be like this. In private. Whispers in the hallway. Not the all out public humiliation that was happening now.

Ryan stood and the eyes followed obediently. Then, not out of character, she raised a middle finger to the entire student body as a few teachers rushed to help the injured girl. Ryan turned and marched out of the Great Hall, hips swinging seductively.

Go out with a bang.

Once the door slammed, the hall erupted in gossip and accusations and more elaborate rumors that came from the original. Even the Gryffindors around me were talking about who it could possibly be and wow wasn’t she a slut?

I thought that was rich coming out of some mouths, particularly some of the guys I knew who were keeping tallies of what they called their “conquests.” Made me feel ill.

I went to get up, but James grabbed my shirt and tugged me back down.

“Don’t,” he hissed.

“I need to see,” I said back, keeping my mouth full of food, but it didn’t matter. Everyone was so lost in their own conversations no one bothered to try and overhear ours.

“You know she doesn’t want you to. So sit your ass down and let it play out.” He pretended to join in the gossip-y conversation Ollie was having with Charlotte, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Gemma had obviously had enough when the Ravenclaw table erupted in laughter and she stormed out.

So much for House unity.

As I sat there pushing food around my plate, I wondered how it happened. Who had found out. How they had found out.

Yes, she had a fuller figure and she was hormonal, but it was hardly enough to start a rumor like that and make the school believe it. They had to know for sure. And they had to have picked their timing.

It was on purpose. The leaving feast. Give everyone a chance to think about it over break. Tell their parents a girl in their year was pregnant. Parents making phone calls about what kind of school is Hogwarts where they allow this kind of behavior. Give Ryan a few weeks to think about her life and how miserable it was.

And me. Force me to sit here, completely hopeless rather than out myself.

That was when I realized I was a complete jerk.

I should have done something. Even if she didn’t want me to, I should have stood up and told everyone to shut their mouths. Told them I’d give them something to laugh about. Punched Parise in the face just for good measure.

I should have done something.

Pfft. Some Gryffindor.

Instead, I was staring at potatoes and two different kinds of gravy while Ryan and Gemma were Godric-knows-where. The school was laughing at them. Disgusted by them. Judging them.

They didn’t know anything about her. Her life. Her ambitions. They didn’t know where she came from and how damn smart she was. How bad her hits hurt. How funny she could be when she let herself. They had no idea how fast she could mix a cocktail and keep eye contact while pouring.

She was probably the most worthy of the Ravenclaw title, but they were casting her out.

I did nothing. I sat back and enjoyed the show from the comfort of the Gryffindor table where I was just as much to blame but didn’t have the physical features to pinpoint it.

I didn’t envy girls. Suddenly they shag one bloke and they’re a slut. I couldn’t believe the names flying around. Ryan was none of those things. A bitch, yes. Rude, completely. Impossible? Definitely. But not the other things.

Yet no one was calling me a slut. And even if it ever got out, I didn’t think anyone would be.

I frowned. Was I a slut?

I thought about Alessandra. Then the strawberry girls at the pub and the one I kissed. I couldn’t even remember that. Still counted, though. Was that slutty?

I was terrible at this.

Once people started leaving to get back to their common rooms and pack for tomorrow’s train, I leapt up and into the hallway. Ryan wasn’t around, but I didn’t expect her to be. I had no idea where to look, but James mentioned she might be at the Quidditch pitch. It was a good first place to start.

I pushed the front doors open and some wet snow hit me in the face. I brushed it off with my sleeve. There weren’t any footprints, but it was snowing pretty hard and they could have been wiped away already.

I needed to apologize. To tell her how sorry I was for not being a Gryffindor. For not being there for her since I said I would. I said she wouldn’t be able to get rid of me, but when she was standing in front of the whole school of judging faces, I did nothing. I stared, just like them.

“You’re not going to find her.”

Oh son of a bitch.

I turned to find Gregory Zonko on the front steps behind me. He had closed the front door and was hugging his cloak tight to his stupid small frame.

“Now isn’t the time,” I said impatiently. “We can discuss the court case later in which you tell me all about how next time you’re going to fill the judge’s juice box with your own concoction of Zonko-love-potion-number-nine.” I turned back to the snow, searching it for prints.

“She went home,” Zonko continued.

“I really don’t like it when you talk,” I said, breathing hard. It was damn cold. “Sounds a little like a rodent and a lawnmower.”

“She Floo’d out a few minutes ago. Same classroom you two left in.”

I turned again. “Listen, Zonko,” I said, but then paused. I let it sink in and he watched me do this. I hated that it had to sink in and I hated that he knew. “When did you find out and why the fuck did you tell the entire school?”

“Just before the feast,” he said casually. “And because I’m a Slytherin. I’m ambitious.”

“You just publicly humiliated a fellow Prefect,” I said, trying to keep myself in check. I had an authority role in the school and I couldn’t abuse it. Not here on the grounds. The last thing I wanted was to be kicked out from being a Prefect because even in that moment I was considering ways to abuse that power and use it in my favor. No, I couldn’t hurt Zonko. But I could make him talk.

“She’ll be fine. She’ll just have a mood swing and be over it.”

“So what were you hoping to achieve?” I asked casually. “Public humiliation? Pinning the entire school against her?”

Zonko held up a finger like he was pondering. “One step closer, Weasley. One step closer to bringing you down.”

“And how is that?”

“Trust me, I think you’re the one that got Miss Priss pregnant, but there is no way for me to prove that since both of you can lie considerably well for the less fairer of the houses,” he said. “But I can continue to trash her reputation until you crack. Hell, you almost cracked in the hall, didn’t you? Almost got up and went to her rescue. But oh, think about what that would do to the case. By the way, Your Honor, Mr. Weasley’s son just knocked up a girl out of wedlock and he is supposed to be trusted with a store?” He was snickering through the words.

But he was right. That would look terrible during the court case. Dad would have to defend my actions, which he shouldn’t have to do.

I took a deep breath, considering just punching him in the face and being done with it.

“I appreciate your malice,” I said. “I do. It’s really clever of you to go through someone who is entirely unrelated to get what you want. But I will warn you that if you know anything about my family, you know I’m not afraid to play dirty.”

“Learn that from your dead uncle?” Zonko said cheerfully.

Everything left me at that moment. Everything telling me I was a Prefect. A seventh-year. That he was provoking me to get what he wanted. He was trying to get under my skin.

“Yes,” I said, before storming up the stairs and tackling him into the snow.

Zonko’s back slammed hard against the stone and he yelled out, probably having not expected me to use my fist instead of my wand. My knuckles slammed into his jaw. Again. Again. Blood was flying from his mouth and he was yelling and I was hitting him and my eyes were blurry and stinging and I was yelling something, but I was so far away.

This is for Ryan.

This is for James.

This is for my Quidditch team.

This is for my father.

And this? This is for my Uncle Fred.

He taught me everything I know, you son of a bitch.




A/N: So yeah. That happened. I have to be a weirdo and say that's probably one of my favorite ends to a chapter in a long time. Make me full of feels because I miss Fred-Fred a lot. And my DH books has a big dent in its spine from the first time I read that around 7am of the day it was released. I didn't handle that well.

ANYWAY. Shit hit the fan. Ryan bailed. Zonko is a twat. Fred thinks he's a twat. You know, the usual. 

At least it's almost Christmas holiday, right? One step closer to finding out about Ryan Davies.

UP NEXT: Fred discovers there are consequences for beating the shit out of a 12-year-old, he has a heart-to-heart with dear Dad, James is the key, and Fred takes some responsibility. 

 


Chapter 17: Who I was Born to Be
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For potterfan310 and Lululuna for nominating this as Most Addicting Story in the 2013 Dobby Awards. 




Everything was unhinging, seams pulling and ripping.

It was hard to keep track of everything. James was the one who discovered me, fallen off of Zonko’s body, blood covering my arms and hands. Some splattered onto my face. My heart was hammering and I wondered if I might be having a panic attack. My mind flew to my own father, throwing things in a rage around his study. Mum turning up the Christmas music to drown it out.

I wondered how far the apple truly fell.

James leaned down, checking Zonko’s vitals. He was out cold, but still very much alive. He frowned and looked at me. “We have to get him to the hospital. You messed him up, mate.” I’d never seen him look so sober.

He didn’t ask for an explanation. Instead, we worked together to clean him up and get him to the hospital wing by taking some lesser-known corridors. He was placed onto a clean, white bed and my jaw tightened. I watched him. I didn’t know what to say.

The nurse didn’t ask any questions. She dismissed us and thanked us for bringing him there.

James asked what had happened once we were on our way back upstairs, but I couldn’t find the words to describe how hard I had hit him because what he said stung. It triggered something in me I didn’t know I was capable of. It was in my blood and rose to my brain and hands and eyes.

He didn’t ask any more questions and we spent the rest of the night finishing up our packing and telling jokes. They were hollow, but they made us laugh. Mox even chimed in about Gemma. Chopper, as usual, said nothing and grunted at our comparison of Parise to the Prime Minister.

His ears must have been ringing.

“Weasley.” Parise stuck his head in the door. His hair was messy, the work likely done by a girl. “Head Girl wants to see you in the office.”

“And she sent you, why?” I asked. “Or let me guess, were you planning on trying out to be a Prefect? Good on you. Theft is a good way to the top.” I smirked and pulled on a jacket since the corridors tended to be drafty.

Parise rolled his eyes and disappeared.

James looked at me. “Be careful. He knows what he’s doing.”

“I know,” I said. It was true. Andrew Parise was dangerous and he knew what steps he was taking to get placed on the Quidditch team. But stealing Annie wasn’t enough to unhinge me, especially since my revelation about our relationship. That needed to stay on the backburner until the holiday. I had to concentrate on getting home and keeping Ryan’s reputation sound in the process.

Molly was waiting in the Prefect office, alone. She was perched on the end of the desk, one leg crossed over the other, and tapping a quill. Once the door was closed, she motioned me to sit.

“Hey, cuz,” I said, rubbing the wrinkles out of my pants. The fact that I regularly made her life miserable growing up only to find her as an authority figure still irked me.

“I’ve been informed that Gregory Zonko was injured today,” she said, a few muscles in her face twitching from trying her hardest to remain calm. “I have also been informed that a Gryffindor is at fault for these vulgar actions. A Gryffindor Prefect. Would you care to enlighten me as to why a Prefect who is in the most chivalrous house would dare tackle and beat a twelve-year-old into unconsciousness?”

It took me a while to say anything. When put like that, I might as well be headed to Azkaban for a tour of the cells. I could always deny it, of course, but that got messy. Lying was messy and I didn’t care for it. I was already keeping enough secrets with Ryan on my plate. This was an entirely different beast.

“He hit a nerve,” I said eventually, knowing it was going into numb ears. “I was provoked.”

“He’s a little shit,” Molly said and I jumped. “But that was exactly what he was trying to get out of you, don’t you realize? Freddie, you just beat the shit out of him on the front steps of Hogwarts. You just made our family seem unhinged and absurd. Don’t think I don’t know about the court process. Uncle George goes back next week and you’d better believe Zonko is going to be sitting front row center with all those sodding bruises while his grandparents tell them all about what a raving lunatic you and your father are.”

I wanted to yell and tell Molly what Zonko had said about me – about Uncle Fred. But I couldn’t because it didn’t matter. She was right. No matter what had come out of his mouth, the evidence was left. I’d left it. I’d fallen right into his trap.

If he couldn’t tell the world about Ryan and me yet, he could damn well tell them about this.

“I know he’s impossible, but he is also manipulative and horrific,” Molly said, keeping her voice down. “I’ve been hearing rumors about this kid and they aren’t good. This isn’t just schoolyard bullying. This is real life. This is your future he is messing with and you’re giving him all the tools to take you down.”

“Not all of them,” I mumbled.

Molly leaned down. “Fred, I’m afraid I have to suspend you.”

My eyes jerked up to meet hers. “What? What d’you mean?”

“First two weeks of second term,” she said. “It’s protocol, I’m sorry. I can’t show favorites even though I’m sure whatever came out of his mouth was nothing short of insane. I’ll have one of the sixth years step in for your walks. It’s only two weeks. It’ll give you a chance to get that Transfiguration mark up, hmm?”

I narrowed my eyes. “Molly. Come on. You can’t suspend me. Zonko is the one who attacked Davies on our walks. What if something happens?”

“We’ll handle it,” she replied seriously. “It’s standard protocol. Get your head back together over break and figure yourself out. Something’s been different with you and it certainly isn’t that breakup with Annie. So go home and sort yourself out and I’ll see you for Christmas, yeah?”

I nodded. “Sure. Thanks, Mols.” I ruffled her hair, for which she scowled at me, and left. I headed back upstairs and finished packing in silence. I didn’t say anything about what she’d said because Parise was gleefully packing his trunk. James kept casting me sideways looks.

On my way to the library to check out a book before break, Annie was in the common room. She was eating a bowl of strawberry ice cream. I wondered if it was her favorite. She shouted my name and stood up as if she wanted to talk over what had happened, but after that day, I wasn’t in the mood. I ignored her and left out the portrait hole.

She followed and called me a coward.

Maybe I was a coward. Maybe I shouldn’t be a Gryffindor. Maybe I was easily provoked and scared and overwhelmed. But damn it, I wasn’t going to fall apart. Not yet.

Because somewhere out there Ryan Davies was alone.

*

Mum gave me that look. The one where she knew I was keeping something from her and forcing Dad to keep something from her and she did not like it at all. That was the way Mum was. Saw right through me, even if she didn’t know what she was seeing. Rox used to be like that too. Until Scorpius ugh Malfoy came onto the scene and then getting Rox to so much as look at me, nevermind see through me, was its own challenge.

After they picked us up from the train station, we went out to eat at a buffet and Rox spent an hour telling them about her studies and friends and this one time Homer did this thing in the bathroom and the faucet exploded and oh my god it was so funny.

I kept to myself, eating and chiming in every so often as to not be accused of sulking. Dad kept watching me and I knew he wanted to ask questions.

Mum had red velvet cake ready at home and I ate a piece. And then another because of her genius baking skills. I really needed to see if I inherited that or not. That could be a good lady charming skill.

Rox didn’t directly speak to me the entire night. All I could think of was my temper in Ravenclaw Tower the night Ryan fell unconscious and I was certain that was all she could think of as well.

I told everyone I was tired and had jet lag (Dad laughed) and wanted to go to sleep early so I tugged my things upstairs into my bedroom and closed the door tight.

It was nice to be back. I loved my place at school (okay, still working on the grandma images) but this place didn’t have Andrew Parise looking giddy. It didn’t have Mox thinking he saw a really large bug and would you kill it, James? It didn’t have Chopper sharpening knives in the corner.

Okay, quills, but they were the same sometimes.

In my nightmares.

This place was only mine. It wasn’t a big room, but everything fit comfortably with the walls lined with Quidditch posters and shop posters and signs from our product launches. I even had a door sign from the opening of the shop back long before I was thought of. Dad didn’t like looking at that one, but I refused to take it down. It was a piece of my history.

My room was the same rich purple of the shop. It calmed me. Made it easier to think. There was a big desk in the corner covered in papers. Documents. Ideas. Scribbles. Dad laughed and said Uncle Fred used to do that. That he – Dad – was the organized one and had things in binders while Uncle Fred threw them around and watched them come together with ease.

I put my belongings away and grabbed the library book, falling back onto the bed. I should have probably grabbed the baby book, but I was having a hard enough time not worrying about Ryan.

An hour later, Dad twisted the doorknob, walked in, and closed the door behind him. “Can I come in?” he asked with a wide smile.

“It appears I have no choice.”

“Good on you.” He crossed the room, kicked off his shoes, and sank down onto the bed beside me. “You look like shit.”

“Your kindness never ceases to amaze me,” I mumbled and tossed the book onto the bedside stand. “Is that what you came in here to tell me? I look like shit? I could have owled James for that advice.”

“Speaking of James…”

“No, he hasn’t told. And I don’t think he’s going to.”

“I’m going to squeeze it out of him one of these days,” Dad said. “I don’t like keeping secrets. Especially from my wife.” He narrowed his eyes.

Ugh.

“What d’you want me to do then?” I asked. “Wait until she’s baking another cake and saunter in there like a good son and tell her I’ve knocked up a girl? One I don’t even fancy? One who is just downright mean and crude and the hormones are making her into a bloody nightmare… well, other than when she tries to be nice… which is NOT that often… except when Annie broke up with me, then she was sort of nice. And in the hospital she wasn’t a terror. But other than that!”

Dad took a breath, taking in the information. “Start talking. I don’t live in your head or in that pigsty of a dormitory, so before I start saying things like – oh, how is the lovely Annie – how about you tell me what’s going on?”

I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to relive everything, but I did anyway. This was my dad. My best mate. Other than Frames because that was serious business.

I told him, though. Even the things I didn’t want to.

But there was one thing I kept from him and it tore me apart with guilt even as I sat there beside him. I left out the parts about Gregory Zonko.

Dad was stressed enough. I didn’t want to do anymore damage, even though he’d find out sooner or later.

He listened carefully, making a few colorful comments here and there. He found some great rhyming words to discuss Parise.

“So the entire school just turns and looks at her?” Dad said, when I’d gotten to the feast the previous day. “Like a herd of wild bloody dogs?”

“It’s the kind of things in bad teen movies,” I said. “It was horrible. And I had to just stand there and watch. I felt like shit. I should have just told them off. Or hit a few of them. I don’t know what I should have done, but standing there and watching her suffer isn’t something I should have done.”

“So she’s a terror, huh?” Dad said, smirking.

“Come on. She’s a right bitch, but she doesn’t deserve that.”

He was still snickering. “Right. Right. So when’s she coming round for dinner?”

“Shut it.” I shoved him, nearly sending him over the side of the bed. “I think Rox knows something, since she was up there when Ryan was unconscious. She’s probably already put the pieces together since Ryan was outed. Why I was so worried. But she hasn’t said anything. Not that she will.”

“Still no patchwork quilt between you?”

“Not so much.” I shook my head and moved my gaze up to the stick-in stars plastered to the ceiling. As the sun went down, they were beginning to glow green. “I don’t have high hopes. But I can’t worry about that. I don’t know where Ryan lives. I don’t even know if she made it home safely. What if something happened? What if she went and offed someone because she was so mad and now she’s a criminal on the run?”

“You want to help her, Clyde?”

I shoved him again. “I’m just worried about her, okay?”

“I’m worried about you. You’re taking on too much.”

“What? I’m doing fine in classes.”

“You are barely passing Transfiguration.”

“How did you know that?”

Dad chuckled. “I didn’t. Thank you for confirming, though.”

This was what I lived with.

“Do you need me to go to the hearing next week?” I asked. “I can do whatever you want. Hold papers or something.”

Dad’s demeanor changed quickly. He shook his head, an invisible wall sliding into place between us. “No, of course not. You’re on holiday. Go have fun with your little friends and no more shagging girls in bathrooms because, Freddo, it’s not good for your social skills.” He ruffled my hair with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Go to bed. You’re helping me stock the shelves in the morning so I don’t have to pay someone.”

I tried for a smile. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

After he left, I laid awake for hours. Everything rushed through my mind like a line of storms. I had to find a way to deal with this. A way to get ahead of the chaos so I didn’t explode. The weight was too much and I needed a plan.

Tomorrow was the start of Christmas holiday and damn it, I was going to do exactly what Molly said and turn myself around.

*

The key was James.

He arrived at the shop around the same time I did, but dressed in a tie and blazer.

“Going to meet with clients?” I teased, unlocking the door since it was about time to open.

“Shut it. I’m tutoring today and it’s with a new student.” He grinned like an idiot. “Also Ollie told me you ignored Annie. Are you ignoring her now?”

I groaned. “Sorry. After being put on Prefect suspension and watching Parise trot around the dormitory, I didn’t trust myself to have a civil conversation with her. Can you blame me?”

“Of course not. Just wanted to ask and get the facts.” James shrugged. “Ollie’s on holiday anyway. She went away with Annie to the Caribbean for a week.”

“What’re you going to do without your snogging?”

James undid his tie and tossed it onto the counter. “Put all my energy into the shop?”

“Good answer,” said Dad from one of the aisles.

“Is that what you do when Aunt Ang won’t snog you?” James asked as we found him in aisle four surrounded by boxes.

“Nope,” he said casually. “Angie always wants to snog me, as I’m very good-looking.”

“I hate everything,” I muttered.

“You boys are restocking this aisle today,” Dad said, motioning to all of the flavor-changing and trick items. “We’re redoing it after a marketing survey. Here’s the plans.” He shoved a few pieces of paper into James’ hands. “Get to work. And watch the front counter. I have to finish payroll and have a nap.”

I waved him away and James stuck the paper against a shelf. It was a cluster, but we drew out where things were supposed to be and made a few changes since I knew Dad hadn’t actually looked at the map.

We watched the counter while we rearranged everything, pulling merchandise onto the floor and redoing it according to the paper. Only one or two people showed up looking for specific things. For the first day of break, business was slow and we noticed.

“I need you to do me a favor,” I said softly, glancing over my shoulder but the office door was closed.

“What kind of favor because I am not taking a baby-birthing class with you,” James said, heaving a tall box onto the top shelf. He had to jump to reach it.

“I need you to owl Gemma and get Ryan’s address,” I said.

“What? Why can’t you?”

“Gemma already suspects me,” I said. “I owled Ryan last night and haven’t received a response. I’m worried about her. She left right after the feast. I need to know if she’s okay.”

“She probably just went home. Do I really have to owl French? She’s going to think it’s me that knocked up Davies and then owl Ollie in the Caribbean to tell her and then Ollie is going to come back and throw a drink in my face that secretly has poison to burn my eyeballs out. Do you understand how wrong this could go?”

I stared for a minute. “Just do it.”

“Fine.” James made a face and left for the flat upstairs to send the owl.

I kept working, palms sweatier than usual.

That was until Uncle Harry walked in with Albus.

“Freddo!” Uncle Harry cried, waving. “Thought I’d find you here today. Your dad has you working too much. It’s break!”

I laughed. “Better this than cleaning the bathrooms.”

He nudged Albus, who set off to look for something. “Have you seen James?”

“James?” I looked up, watching Uncle Harry to see signs of if he knew something or not. “Last I heard he’d gone to tutor someone. Third year? Can’t remember. Why? Has he gone missing?”

“Just wondering.” He shrugged. “I saw his marks from this term. I don’t think he should be paid to tutor anyone.” He laughed a bit.

I felt horrible for lying. Again. This was becoming far too much of a habit.

“Find what you need, Al?” Uncle Harry shouted.

“Got ‘em!”

“What were you after?” I asked, tossing some boxes on the shelves and heading up to the register. I glanced down the aisle, but didn’t see James. Maybe his letter to Gemma was also expressing his newfound love of the French, but I doubted it.

“Trick wands,” Albus said, throwing fifteen on the counter. “We’re going to have some fun at Christmas. So watch out.”

“Noted,” I said, ringing them up and discounting them. I tossed them in a bag as Uncle Harry handed me some coins.

“I’ll meet you outside, Al. I’m going to grab one more thing. A surprise.” Uncle Harry waited for his middle son to disappear outside before he turned and looked at me seriously. “Listen, Fred. Molly had to file a report on what happened. Reports end up in a lower-level Ministry department for record-keeping. Whenever a specific last name pops up, I get notified.” He wiggled his brows. “So I know what happened. You need to tell George before he finds out the hard way. You shouldn’t keep things like that from your father.”

I looked at him, stunned. “You don’t understand,” I whispered. “This will crush him. He’s taking on too much as is.”

“And you don’t think this will mysteriously surface?” he asked. “I’ve worked in the Ministry long enough and before that any time I tried to keep a secret it came back to bite me. Just trust me. Tell him or he’ll find out you lied to him.”

It was hard hearing that from Uncle Harry, especially since I was keeping something from him too. Maybe it was another way to get me to have James come clean.

I was too stuck. Stuck in the middle of everything.

The door shut with a soft snap, knocking me back into reality.

“Lied to me about what?” Dad asked from the aisle. I didn’t know how long he’d been standing there. “Freddo, what’s going on?”

“Lied about me knocking up Ollie!” James cried from behind him. “Man, glad that’s out in the open now. We’re naming it after you, Uncle George. Aren’t you thrilled? And if it’s a girl… uh… Georgina.”

“How flattering,” Dad said, his eyes never leaving mine. “James, if you’re not going to come clean to your father could you please wait in the office or outside?”

“He knows,” I said, shaking my head. “James already knows everything. And apparently Uncle Harry knows far more than he should. Maybe if someone named James would just come clean he’d have other things to focus on than my suspension.”

“Your what?” Dad said.

Goddamn it.

I took a long breath and Dad approached the counter. I liked that there was a register between us, as I didn’t know how he would react. James promptly returned to restocking the shelves so he could overhear everything, the git.

“Gregory Zonko is trying to make sure we don’t get the Hogsmeade branch,” I said, remaining calm. “He has threatened me, was the reason I was taken out in Quidditch, and is also the reason Ryan was in the hospital once. He is the one who outed Ryan to the entire school and after he made some very colorful comments about my family, is the one who spent the night in the hospital wing this week. He is also the reason I have a two-week Prefect suspension.”

Dad’s lips parted. “Please tell me you’re joking.”

“It would be a bad joke.”

“You did not seriously put a twelve-year-old in the hospital wing.”

“He has a mouth on him!” I said. “I snapped. I’m sorry, okay? I gave you the quick version. He’s been tormenting me for ages and he is willing to do anything. I snapped. I shouldn’t’ve and I know that now. But… I did it.”

Dad ran his fingers through his ginger hair and it flopped back into place. “Fred. You understand how wrong that was. How in danger this puts the court case.”

“Yes,” I replied, examining the numbers on the register.

“I understand snapping. I’ve done it many times. Many, many times, especially in Hogwarts, but this puts a lot at risk for you and our family.” His fingers brushed across the counter. “Why would you not tell me?”

I looked up, at the disappointment in his expression. I pointed to his face. “That’s why.”

“Because you’re ashamed,” he said.

“No,” I said, shaking my head again. “I’m not ashamed of what I did. He deserved more than what he got for what he’s done to everyone, especially Ryan. But I knew you’d be disappointed.”

“Maybe you should be ashamed,” Dad said softly. “There is nothing gentlemanly about beating up a twelve-year-old because of his lip. You played into his hand and for that, you should be ashamed. And you should feel like a fool.” He looked over his shoulder at James. “I have to go re-prepare for the court case Tuesday so that maybe I can salvage something, but don’t get too comfortable with the idea of a Hogsmeade branch, boys.”

I tried to reply, but my voice was caught in the back of my throat. Instead, I watched him go to the office, gather up papers, and retreat to the upstairs flat without another word.

“See?” James said. “This is why I’m never telling my Dad about the shop.”

“Until he finds out.”

“Yes. Well. Small technicalities.”

*

I worked in the shop over the weekend and through Monday, but didn’t see much of Dad. He kept to the office upstairs (what used to be Uncle Fred’s bedroom), trying to figure out how to best this court case. I heard him muttering about how this was Fred’s forte. How he could think up some crazy loophole to get them through.

It was just him, though. Even after I offered to help a few more times, it was still just him.

James came and went as well, secretly rearranging things on shelves that he knew would sell better. And they did. He never said anything, but I watched it happen. He had an amazing knack for business and no one knew.

Ryan hadn’t returned my owl from the middle of the night and Gemma hadn’t written to James. I was starting to worry, but distracted myself with the shop. Cleaning. Moving stock. Going through the books while my dad was upstairs. We were in worse shape than I thought. Dad even had to move some of the house money around for the shop. I had a feeling Mum had no idea.

Rox came in once or twice to pick up things for her mates. She went upstairs to talk to Dad, got her things, and left before saying so much as one thing to me. But she did look around a little, perhaps for something. Or someone. At least she was always alone.

When the day of the court case arrived, Mum agreed with Dad in that I would not be attending. I did a little less than begging, but she held her ground. Dad left in a suit and tie with a briefcase that did not suit him at all. Mum made red velvet cake.

“This is something he needs to do on his own,” Mum said, offering the wooden spoon to me to lick. “You have to understand that, Fred. He wants to provide for us.”

“How can I let him do it alone?” I asked. “I’m the one that hit Zonko. I caused this.”

“Maybe he’s worried you’ll lose your temper and dive over the bench and tackle the little shit,” Mum said, shrugging. She snickered to herself. I assumed she had heard about everything and maybe more from Dad. “Listen, let it go. Just help me with this cake and we’ll hear about it when he gets home.”

“I can go to the shop,” I offered.

“It’s staffed,” she said. “Now sit down and relax.”

“I can’t relax. I haven’t been relaxed in months.”

Mum looked up. “Because of the shop?”

I quickly nodded. “Yeah. The shop. It’s stressing me out.”

Mum continued to stare as she mixed the batter. “Don’t let it worry you, Freddie. Your father will figure it out, as he always does. Think about something else, hmm? Maybe all those other things you and your father are hiding from me. How about those?”

“No idea what you’re talking about,” I said and hurried from the room.


*

Dad went directly from the fireplace to the study when he arrived home. I heard things smash against the walls and Mum rush downstairs to see what had happened. They yelled for a few minutes, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying from my room. Then things went quiet.

I kept the window open, but no owls arrived.

*

Dad was in his study when I walked downstairs the next morning. It was silent. Mum was cooking eggs and pancakes. Rox was at the table reading.

“Morning,” I said, grabbing some orange juice from the fridge.

Mum glanced over. “I think it’s best if you stay home today, dear.”

“Stay home? Why? I’ve told James I’ll meet him at the shop.”

“The shop is taking a personal day today,” she explained.

“You mean it’s closed?” I said. The glass was against my lips, but I was still staring. “Why? We won’t make any money. It’s Christmas holiday. The students are in Diagon Alley. Why would we not be marketing to that?”

Rox cleared her throat and pressed her finger against the newspaper below her book. She slid it across the table, within my range of sight.

WEASLEYS UNSTABLE

Famous family unhinged and unlikely to expand.

I choked and the glass fell, shattering. Mum shouted and Rox slammed her book on the table.

“Way to go, Fred,” she said, getting to her feet and moving to grab the mop.

“Are you kidding?” I said, grabbing the paper and starting to skim the article.

Gregory Zonko had shown up, all right. The lawyer had gone on and on about the altercation, showing off photos of Zonko’s injury and saying it was proof of my madness. Saying I was unhinged and a danger to myself and how could I possibly be trusted to run a shop.

After that, Dad stood to my defense and had a few of his own tales to tell, but none of it mattered. None of it went the way of physical evidence. Just as I knew it would. Just as Molly and Uncle Harry knew it would.

The article went on to say we were very unlikely to ever see the Hogsmeade branch, and then discussed how well-off Zonkos were and how established their brand was with Hogwarts students. Also, how the Weasleys had often envied Zonkos for their up-to-date jokes.

I reread it a few times as Mum and Rox cleaned up the spill. My eyes prickled with anger. This was outrageous and so false. The shop being closed would just fuel the fire.

“I’m leaving,” I announced.

“What did I just say?” Mum looked up from the closet as she placed the mop back beside the broom and bucket. “Today we’re all staying home.”

“To mope?” I asked. “I’m not going to sit in here. I’m not going to spend my holiday sitting in my room feeling sorry for myself.”

“This is YOUR FAULT,” Rox yelled, pointing at me. “It’s your stupid temper that did this – the reason Dad’s holed up in there!”

I rounded on my sister, said temper flaring. “Is it?” I said. “I gave them a reason. There are a hell of a lot of other reasons this is happening and I’ll be damned if you’re giving me shit after not doing a damn thing to help Dad, the shop, or your family.”

“Don’t you even,” Rox said, taking a step toward me.

“You have no idea who I am,” I said softly. “So don’t point fingers. Go find your brother to whine to.” I turned and walked out of the room, mostly because those words hurt too much and I couldn’t have thought of another retort besides running away.

Like usual.

I left the house and Aparated into Hogsmeade. As expected, reports were swarmed around the front doors, each broadcasting and writing lies about why the shop was closed. I took a deep breath. This was my family’s legacy. My legacy and I’d be damned if some twelve-year-old shit was going to take it away from me.

“Good morning!” I said, wearing my brightest smile. “Sorry I’m a touch late. I’ve been unhinged while eating breakfast. The eggs weren’t scrambled enough.” I smirked and the press laughed. “No matter. This is quite a line for this early. How about some complimentary donut holes while you shop?” Another laugh and I unlocked the doors and let them in.

I took my place behind the register, using the opportunity to tell them about our new stock of pygmy puffs and the varying shades behind them.

“Do you have any comments about the article, Mr. Weasley?” A Prophet reporter asked, holding his quill at the ready.

“I do,” I said, placing the puff on my shoulder. “And I’m sure it will make little difference. Everyone wants to pick a side, you know? And everyone takes the tiniest thing and uses it against another side in a massive way. What I did does not reflect on my father or this business. What I did was lose my temper.” I paused, laughing a little as they looked shocked to see I admitted.

“I’m seventeen. I have more hormones than a pregnant woman hearing another pregnant woman tell her she’s fat.” Another laugh. “What I did was react to someone pushing my buttons, which I know I shouldn’t have. He’d already threatened me and told me he’d do anything to use it against me in court, so I should have known. I know I should have.” I shook my head and silence fell around me. “I can handle people threatening me and talking about me. I get a little worked up when they say things about my friends. But when they start to talk about my family. My kind, patient mother. My amazing father…I start to lose myself a little. My final straw is when they use my Uncle Fred against me to get a rise out of me. The Uncle Fred who helped build this business and because of the war I was never able to meet, but whom I was named after. So am I sorry I snapped? Yes. Yes, I am. I will not take back the anger from his remark, though. My family means the world to me and in that, the article was correct. I’m seventeen and am very obviously not fit to completely run a business. But if we acquire the Hogsmeade branch, I would not be running it. I would be a manager under someone else more fit for leadership and direction until I am mature enough to take on that responsibility. I can only assume Gregory Zonko will take a similar path and I wish him the best of luck and can only hope he does not result to low trickery in order to get ahead. It’s a shame since he comes from such an amazing family.”

The members of the press were quiet and a haunted feeling fell over the shop. A few of them were scribbling. Most were using Quick Quotes Quill (the updated version) and a few had recording devices floating above.

“Any additional questions?” I asked, retaining my smile.

“How much for a puff? My daughter’s wanted one for ages.” The Prophet reporter picked the puff right off my shoulders and patted it on the head.

They could call me as unhinged as they wanted. Maybe I was. But not without knowing the truth.

It was time I took responsibility for my actions, especially when they impacted my family. It was time I stood up to be who I was born to be.




A/N: Quick shout-out to magnolia_magic and shazalupin for nomming "Heroes," the story based on this one, for Dobby Awards. You are the best! 

Things are starting to really pick up in this story. Do you know how I know that? Because once I wrote chapter 16, I wrote several in a row. As I write this SN, I'm writing chapter 27 of this story. A lot is coming up in the next 10 chapters and I'm thrilled to share it with you! 

UP NEXT: Fred runs into Annie, James hears back from Gemma, and Fred does not expect what he finds.


Chapter 18: Textbook Weasley Reaction
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For Ashley Lovegood.




The article came out the next day and for that day, I was able to forget about everything. Business in the store boomed as customers came in to see if I really had beat the crap out of Gregory Zonko and if it was really because he made a comment about Uncle Fred, who they’d heard was an absolute saint and how could a little boy say such a thing?

We sold out of the puffs. We sold out of the trick wands and snackboxes and toffey. We sold out of a lot and Dad made a few appearances and shook hands and smiled.

It didn’t change anything, but it lifted our spirits and when we closed up, Dad took me aside and hugged me.

“I’m sorry I didn’t trust you,” he said into my shoulder.

“I’m sorry I gave you a reason not to,” I said. “And I’m sorry I lied. We’re in this together.”

“Oy!” James shouted from nearby. “I’m in this too, you know.”

“Not until you tell your father you’re not,” Dad said, still hugging me.

“You’d miss me if I left.”

“Sometimes,” I replied.

James joined the man-hug anyway. “Didn’t know you knew how to sway the press, Freddo. Usually that’s me making the charming comments.”

“Still have no idea who either of you got that from,” Dad said, letting go and opening the cash drawer. He grinned. “Probably your mothers.” He paused. “Definitely your mothers.”

“I didn’t want that git to be the reason we weren’t open,” I said, shrugging. “He had already gotten to me. I wasn’t going to let him get to everyone. He’s my responsibility.”

“You’re sounding a little Gryffindor-y. I’ll tell Dad.” James wrinkled his nose. “In the meantime, I’ll make a milkshake and enjoy some tele.”

“Have you heard back?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Still no word. I’ll send it to you right when I get it.”

“What’re you after?” Dad asked, counting money.

“Ryan’s address.”

“Don’t you think you should just let her be alone?”

I shook my head. “She just got publicly humiliated and left school. She’s independent, but I don’t want her to be alone. I’ve been hit by her… I’d hate to see what she’d do to someone else.”

James made a face. “At least Ollie will be back at the end of this week. She might know. Maybe I can get someone else to ask Ollie so she won’t think I knocked up Ryan…”

“This is a horrifying conversation,” Dad muttered, shutting the drawer and stuffing the money into his shirt pocket. “Just be careful. Both of you. We’re being watched.”

“Did you used to say that back in the old days?” James asked. “I try to pry Dad about it, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. I like the adventure parts.”

Dad chuckled. “It was definitely an adventure. I like now better, though. It’s like a happy ending.”

Except for our books. Our debt. Our shop. Our reputation.

Except for me, who was mucking everything up.

*

After Dad forced me out of the shop on Saturday because I’d been working all week without a lunch and he said that was illegal and I was getting irritable so it was annoying, I decided to have a walk around Diagon Alley. I needed some new Quidditch gloves anyway.

Business had been steady since the first few days of the surge. Not good, but steadier. Steadier than before, certainly. I hadn’t heard a retort from the Zonko family, which worried me. They were probably devising another way of discrediting my family.

That was why when I almost ran right into Annie I forced an apology immediately. She turned, gasping, and collected the shopping bags she’d dropped.

I hated how pretty she looked.

“Fred – sorry,” she said. “I’m being clumsy.” She piled the bags into her arms. “How are you?”

I wasn’t sure what that meant. Girls were tricky. “I’m great,” I said. “Working through some things, but I’m doing well. You look great.” I couldn’t help it.

“Thank you.” Annie was tanner than before. The Caribbean had done her well. “Ollie and I did a lot of lying in the sun.”

“It did you well,” I replied, nodding.

“You look great too,” she offered.

“Thanks.” Awkward. “I should get going. It was nice seeing you.”

“Fred,” she said as I turned away. “I’m sorry, you know. Can we talk?”

My jaw tightened. I wanted to yell and tell her no, we can’t talk. That I was still hurting by her rejection even though I should have moved past it by now. That I was too sensitive and foolish and guilt-ridden about being a horrible boyfriend. Instead, I turned. “Your boyfriend isn’t going to be there, is he?”

“Andrew broke up with me,” Annie said, shrugging. “So no. He won’t be there.”

My heart sank. I wanted to say I was right, and that he just wanted to split is up to make me crazy, but the hurt in her eyes told me not to. “Yeah. All right. Let’s go get a cup of tea.”

“How about tequila?” Annie teased.

“I don’t do tequila. I make poor decisions with tequila.”

We found our way to a small café with an outdoor patio and I helped place her bags on the empty chair. We ordered tea and some cakes and my hands were sweaty again.

“I owe you an apology and an explanation,” Annie said seriously.

“You don’t,” I said.

“Just let me.” She moved some hair from her forehead sheepishly. “Things were never great with us. I think we offered each other a well-deserved distraction, which we can’t deny was nice.”

I nodded. It was true.

“But when Andrew started spending more time with Ollie and me… it was different. And you said such horrible things about him, but he wasn’t like that with me. Or her. And of course they were already mates, so I didn’t have a reason to think anything bad of him.” Annie laughed a little to herself. “He was sweet. He asked me questions about myself. He listened for hours. He laughed at my jokes and offered to help with homework and flying and troubles with friends. So when he asked me to be his girlfriend, I said yes. Stupidly. Things were just so rough with us, I thought we’d never climb out of it. I got jealous of the other girls you talked to and you seemed to know more about all of them than me.”

I nodded. “I did,” I admitted. “I realized after you broke up with me I knew all of nothing about you other than what was in front of my face.”

To my surprise, she laughed. “Isn’t that funny? How that worked?”

“Funny isn’t exactly the word I would pick,” I replied.

“He went with us to the Caribbean,” Annie continued.

“He did?” I said.

“Ollie didn’t tell James. She knew he’d have a fit about it.”

“He would have.”

Annie moved her hair again. “Anyway. We had a romantic evening on the beach and he told me how he just saw me as a friend and thanks anyway for inviting him. Then he left me sitting there, crying, as he went back to the hotel to make eyes at Ollie. He didn’t even tell her what he’d done until I came back upstairs hours later with red eyes. She sent him home, but I know he went to see her when we got back.”

I considered how James would react to this news. Poorly. Perhaps violently.

“I thought since I felt so hurt during our relationship, that it would feel good to hurt you,” Annie said softly. “It didn’t, though. You’re so kind, but it just doesn’t work. We’re not meant to be together and we both know it. Apparently Andrew and I aren’t meant to be together either.”

I still felt hurt and angry about what Annie did, but I knew as well as anyone else that she wasn’t a bad person. She was not a Gregory Zonko and her own revenge just resulted in her emotions and hurt. It didn’t make it right, but it made it honest.

Andrew Parise, though. Using people to get on the Quidditch team. To get his leg up in the student body. He would have to be stopped. But how could he be stopped when I had other things to worry about – the shop. My father. Ryan.

“I accept your apology,” I said, placing my hand on hers. “And you’re right. I just wish you didn’t have to get hurt to see Parise is a tool. He was using you to drive me mad.”

“Did it work a little?” Her eyes were watery.

“Yes,” I said honestly. “It did.”

Annie smiled. “Can we be okay again? I mean, I don’t expect to hang out or tell secrets, but I’ve missed you. Your jokes and your smiles. I liked making you feel better, even just a little.”

I nodded. “Yeah. We’ll be okay again.” I squeezed her hand. “And I hope you realize I have to tell James. I’ll give Ollie a chance to do it first, but if she doesn’t…I have to tell him.”

“If he goes after Andrew, owl me because I want to see it.”

I chuckled. “Deal.” I took a sip of my tea and leaned back in the chair. I felt a little better already. “Thanks. For all those times you really did make me feel better.”

“So you were in the hall during the feast. Do you really think Ryan Davies is pregnant?” Annie leaned forward. It was clear she’d been dying to ask someone.

The hair on the back of my neck stood. “No idea,” I said. “She didn’t really talk much during the walks we did together. She’s not exactly kind. Can’t imagine who’d fall for her enough to shag her.”

Annie laughed and it stung. “Yeah, she’s always been a piece of work to me. Probably just rumors anyway. I mean, her putting on weight could just be because she doesn’t have any friends.”

“She has French, though.”

“What kind of a friend is she, really?” Annie asked. “She’s just as sour and ill-tempered. Who knows, though. Maybe they just want attention.”

I shrugged. That was all I could do. I had a feeling everything would come out eventually and this conversation would come back to haunt Annie for a long time.

*

Christmas was a huge thing with the Weasley extended family. It was a time for everyone to descend on the Burrow and drink too much, talk too loud, and discuss which cousin was the best cousin. James usually won because he put someone in a headlock, but Albus swore this year was his year.

We did an enormous White Elephant for both the kids and the adults, which ended with some hilarious gifts (once Aunt Andrey ended up with a book on children’s toy collectables and Uncle Charlie got a poster of a shirtless actor). Each family member contributed to an absurd amount of food, especially Grandmum, who felt it was her duty to fatten all of us up. Albus constantly told her off for this, saying he was the Captain of a Quidditch team and he could not eat seven éclairs. She told him to shut up and stuffed one more in his face.

This year was no different. We readied at home, gathering gifts and straightening our clothes. I wore another bowtie since I favored them and they made me look cool. Dad wore one too. Rox settled on a nice red holiday dress with fringe trim and Mum had on a nice black dress with stockings and black shoes. She had on a giant piece of costume jewelry that Dad kept staring at.

The party was just as crazy as usual. Most of our parents were already drunk when we arrived and Uncle Harry was snogging Aunt Ginny in the kitchen. Louis walked out looking horrified.

It was an unwritten rule to never invite significant others to these celebrations, as they would be humiliated and questioned repeatedly. Uncle Ron was a big contributor to this. Apparently, Molly had not received the memo and invited Rune. Rune and Uncle Ron were deep in conversation on the sofa. Rune looked terrified out of his mind and I saw Molly sneak a shot of liquor.

I found James in the backyard, which was covered by a vast white tent and (thankfully) heated. He was at the buffet eating a lot of shrimp.

“Been here long?” I asked, grabbing a plate and filling it.

“Too long,” he said, adjusting his tie. “Thought you’d never show up. Lily’s just told me she has a boyfriend and she won’t tell me who. Albus told me he’s the best cousin and he’s going to beat me this year, but my heart just isn’t in it.”

“Maybe we’ll get a good White Elephant,” I said.

“Last year I got a strand of tangled Christmas lights,” James replied. “I’d like to start drinking immediately.”

James hated the Christmas party more and more every year because it brought him closer to his father finding out about the shop. He was terrified my dad was going to get drunk and blab about it. Or Roxanne would say something and it would come out. Or even he would say something. I’d told him about what Uncle Harry said to me in regards to the tutoring, which had him even more on edge.

“We need to talk,” I said, motioning to an empty table by the back of the tent. Lily and Dominique were playing chess toward the front.

“About what?” James asked. “Are you going to fire me because don’t forget I’m better at Quidditch than you and I will replace you with Parise.” He laughed.

“Which leads in to what I wanted to talk about.”

“I was joking. Can we lead out and talk about something else?”

“Parise was with Annie and Ollie in the Caribbean,” I said slowly. I’d hoped he would tell me he knew already and that he discussed it with Ollie, but who was I kidding? Everyone had too many secrets.

“Parise. Was with them?”

I explained what Annie told me in Diagon Alley all while rubbing away the wrinkles in my gray pants. I tried to meet his eyes, but James looked about to panic. “Look,” I said after I finished, “I’m sure she just didn’t want to worry you. But I felt I should tell you.”

“What am I supposed to say to her?” James said.

“Ask her why she didn’t tell you.”

“And then what? Ask her what happened? What they did? WHY he was there and I wasn’t bothered to be invited?”

I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed. “I don’t know, James. But I wouldn’t think too much on it.”

That went in one ear and out the other.

“I need to talk to her,” he said, looking wildly around as if Ollie might appear out of nowhere. “I can’t believe he broke up with Annie. I mean, I can, but I can’t. What a jerk. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. It involves knife-throwing lessons. You in?”

“No.”

“What about archery? That’s big right now.”

“How about you talk to Ollie?”

“I was really leaning toward the knife-throwing. What about ninja stars?”

“James. Just enjoy tonight and talk to Ollie tomorrow. Then we’ll try to get Dad to stock those puff hybrids.”

“He’s never going to go for it.” James placed his face to the table. “What if she’s in love with him? With Parise? What if that’s why he broke up with Annie – because Ollie finally told him she fancies him?”

“That’s stupid. Stop being stupid.”

“But what if it’s true?”

“Then I’ll go to knife-throwing lessons with you.”

“Really?” James’ head flew up off the table.

“Really. Now let’s go see how properly humiliated Rune is and join the fun.”

“Uncle Ron at it again?” James threw our garbage in the bin.

“Oh yes. Let’s give him some help.” I tossed my arm around his shoulder and we made our way back inside, each pondering what we could ask him without getting killed.

*

Interrogating Rune and the White Elephant exchange was a success, due to the fact that Uncle Percy had one too many to drink and asked to dance with Aunt Fleur and Dad recorded the entire thing. Including when Uncle Percy spit while asking her what sort of perfume she used so he could buy some for Aunt Audrey. Just awkwardness all around.

“Want to trade?” James looked down at his Muggle VHS copy of some 1980s teen movie. I shook my head. “Come on. You got a picnic basket. I’ve always wanted a picnic basket.”

“I don’t think you’ve ever been on a picnic.”

“Because I don’t have a proper basket,” James argued, opening the dark wicker basket and sliding the movie inside. “You’ve stolen my gift. Dad! Fred’s stolen my gift!”

“Fred, have you stolen James’ gift?”

“He put it in my basket.”

Uncle Harry looked over. “I really wish you kids would stop dragging me into this. Why don’t you knick a bottle of liquor like you usually do?”

“Was waiting for you lot to have a bit more so you didn’t notice,” James said honestly.

Uncle Harry sighed. “Have you seen Ron? He’s a mess.”

Uncle Ron was singing off-key while twirling his wife around the room. Rose was looking like she’d rather be dead. Hugo seemed to be enjoying himself. I watched Albus come over and offer Rose a hand, motioning to the Quidditch tactics book in his hand. She breathed a sigh of relief and disappeared, holding a small bottle of vodka in her right hand.

What a mess this family could be.

“Point taken,” James said, nodding as he dragged me toward the kitchen. We avoided Grandmum, who was distributing cookies, and went back outside where the tent was empty save for Uncle Bill having a cigarette by the buffet. He quickly stubbed it out.

“No worries,” James said, waving his hand. “I’ve smoked once. It was to look cool.”

Bill raised a brow. “It doesn’t look cool,” he said. He was right. It really didn’t.

“I know,” James answered, sinking into one of the chairs and uncapping the cheap bottle of rum. “That’s why I said once. Davies tricked me. I think she makes everything look cool.”

I sighed.

“What?” James said. “She could make Rune look cool. Seriously. I’m giving Ollie her owl information and telling her to set up classes. I look far less cool than I should.”

Uncle Bill ignored us and lit another cigarette. He looked stressed.

I took a swig from the bottle. It tasted like cleaning solution. “Think you’ll get anything good for Christmas?”

“Probably some clothes,” James said, taking the bottle. “Ties for work. At the Ministry.” He grimaced. “Maybe those knew Beating gloves I wanted. The really expensive pair the Tornados endorse. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll give Lily and Albus a trip to India or something so I won’t have to see them for a week. That would be a real Christmas miracle.”

“You shouldn’t be so hard on them.”

“Why not? Have you spoken to them? Bloody nightmares, they are.”

“At least your siblings speak to you,” I noted.

“I’ll hand them over if you’d like. Al thinks he can do no wrong since he is the best Quidditch Captain that’s ever lived and Lily thinks I’m an idiot and I’m up to something and wastes no time telling me every time we’re in the same room together. They’re a disaster. You want them? You think Malfoy would accept any more siblings?”

“Don’t,” I said, lifting my hand. “Just don’t. You may not have a good relationship with Al and Lily, but I used to have a good one with Rox. Used to.” I hated thinking about it, but it was impossible not to. We were at a family gathering, yet the only family not speaking were Rox and me. Even Louis and Dominique were talking after Louis pulled a prank on Dom last week. It included replacing her shampoo with something to force her bald for two days. Aunt Fleur had a fit.

James took another drink. A long one. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just different is all. You never know what you have until it’s gone. I get it.”

I knew that all too well.

“Let’s change the subject.” The bottle was already a third of the way gone and my cheeks were warm. I remembered how much I used to enjoy Christmas (yes, even during the winters Rox wasn’t speaking to me). The parties and the laughter. But this Christmas my mind was elsewhere. As it had been all year.

“Tell your mum yet?” James asked.

I jerked my head toward Uncle Bill. “No,” I said. “But she knows something is going on. Outright accused me.”

“What’d you do?”

“Ran away,” I said. “Texbook Weasley reaction.”

“I don’t know why you say that,” James said, swirling the bottle. A few fairy lights flickered around the tent. The wind picked up and carried his hair a little before settling.

“Because that’s what I always do. Run away.”

“You think so?”

“I know.”

James laughed a little, still focused on the bottle. “You didn’t run when you found out, did you? I mean, you did because she was chasing you like a bat out of hell, but not when you found out. You squeezed your way in there and refused to move. Which I think makes you even more batshit crazy than she is.”

“That doesn’t count. That’s the right thing to do.”

“Now that is the textbook Weasley reaction,” James said, taking another swig. “Doing the right thing. Even when it scares the shit out of you. Even when someone will hate you. Even when it means you’re losing something else, you still do the fucking right thing. Cheers to that, mate.”

Uncle Bill snubbed out his second cigarette and flicked it into the darkness. “I have no idea what the two of you are talking about,” he said, turning and walking toward us. “I, however, am skilled enough in context clues to figure out one thing.”

Great. Kept a secret long enough for Bill to overhear while drinking and out me.

“What’s that?” James said. “That I’m the better-looking of the pair of us. I keep telling him, but he just won’t believe me. Says he has better eyes. Fat chance.”

“I do so!” I said.

“That you’re exactly like your parents,” he said. “And that’s not such a bad thing, as you would expect.” He ruffled our hair.

“Yeah? Well, maybe they should trust us a bit more.” James tried to flatten his hair without success.

“Maybe they should,” Uncle Bill agreed, nodding. “Just give them the chance.”

James mumbled something darkly under his breath. He was sick of being told to do what was right instead of what was easy.

“True Gryffindors,” Uncle Bill said, laughing. He snickered all the way back to the house and closed the door behind him.

“He’s mental,” James said.

“He’s right. But of course you don’t want to hear that. You want to hear more about keeping secrets.”

“Pot. You’re currently calling the kettle.”

I rolled my eyes. “At least my dad knows.”

“I’d love to be there when you break the news to your mum.”

“I’d like you to be there too. Instead of me.”

James pondered this for a moment. “I’ll need a large metal shield on it. Put the Gryffindor lion on it. When she offs me, I’d like to go out fighting. Looking brave. Perhaps I’ll make a grand speech.”

“Start working on it now,” I said, staring off into the darkness. “I can’t keep it for much longer. Mum knows too much already. She’ll start connecting dots like Rox. I’m shocked Rox hasn’t accused me before now. She has to realize it.”

“What if she does and she’s waiting for a moment to hold it over your head?” James said. “That’s what Lily would do. Wait until she could use it as blackmail. Well, listen here Lily Potter, I rode a broom naked once and you can’t even prove I did that.”

I ignored him. Well, the second part.

Would Roxanne really do that? I knew I wasn’t her favorite person, but would she use that as blackmail?

My thoughts were interrupted by a large barn owl fluttering to a stop on the table before us. It almost knocked over the rum, but James dove gallantly and swiped the bottle into his lap. The bird stuck out its leg to him and shook off a letter before flying away, annoyed.

Yes, well, we weren’t expecting guests, bird. Didn’t have a silver platter of bird treats ready for you. Ugh. Only that pompous of a bird could come from French.

I watched nervously as James unfolded the parchment as he took another swig. “There you go then.” He slid it over to me.

Potter,

It’s suspicious you’re interested. I know you said you feel bad for her, but as I have concluded you are free of any emotions, I don’t believe you. All the same, her address is enclosed. Let me know if you hear anything. Good luck.

Gemma.

I stared for a while and picked up the extra slip of paper with Ryan’s address scripted in Gemma’s perfect cursive. Why would she ask to be told if he heard anything? Why was she wishing him luck?

Unless Gemma had not heard from Ryan either. I wondered if anyone had. If she’d disappeared from society after the public humiliation.

But Ryan wasn’t one to go down like that. She wouldn’t just give up because some people were pointing fingers. She was strong and brave and sometimes more of a Gryffinor than I was. There had to be a reason for it and damn it, I was going to figure it out.

“Going on an adventure?” James asked.

“Cover for me?” I tucked both slips of paper in my jacket pocket.

“I don’t think I have a choice.” James downed the rest of the rum. His face was rosy. “I suppose I should go subject the family to a rendition of Hamlet, shouldn’t I?”

“Sounds like the Gryffindor thing to do.”

“Let’s be Hufflepuffs tomorrow, okay?” James said, steadying himself on the table as he rose. “I’ll be too hungover to be a proper Gryffindor.”

“Deal. Good luck.” I patted him on the back and took out my wand.

James’ eyes followed me as I left the tent and entered the darkness of the back garden. “You too, mate. I hope you find her. And Godric, I hope she doesn’t off you because finding a replacement Beater is going to be a nightmare.”

I waved and waited until he was inside before disapparating.

*

The neighborhood reminded me of what Mum called “up and coming.” Except it hadn’t arrived yet.

It was dark and industrial. Brick lined the narrow lane and the wash hung overtop me like a blanket. The road was hardly lit, but I could see reflections of puddles and bins lining the walkway. Curtains were illuminated in wide windows on either side of the lane. The smell reminded me of when Teddy decided it would be “cool” to move down the street from a meat packing plant.

A cat ran across the road some twenty meters ahead of me.

I shuffled down the street, one hand jammed in my pocket around my wand and the other holding out the address in the lamplight. This couldn’t be it. Where Ryan lived. This couldn’t be the correct address.

Her father used to be the star of the Arrows. He had two Cup rings. How was this possible?

I moved swiftly to 1257, which looked the same as the rest of the flats along the row. It had a tall dark wood door and the numbers were black against it. There was a gold mail slot. None of the windows were lit, but I knocked anyway. I checked my watch. Not far past seven. She couldn’t be asleep.

There was no response so I knocked again. But it was Christmas Eve, wasn’t it? She was probably with her family eating roast and doing poppers. Reliving Grant Davies’ glory days in the Arrows. I’d have to read up on his career when I had a moment.

Still, Gemma’s letter irked me. Good luck. Good luck with what? Navigating properly?

I knocked a few more times, but there wasn’t an answer. Something made the hair on my neck stand on end. Something wasn’t right and I hated standing out here trying to find out. I had the eerie feeling there was someone behind me, so I whispered into the wood, wand in my pocket, and heard the door click.

Not terribly good security, at any rate.

I pushed the door open, hurrying to lock it behind me. I fumbled and flipped the light switch, but nothing happened. Bulb must have been out. I lit the end of my wand.

“Blimey,” I mumbled.

The house was empty. Everything was completely empty. There was no furniture or coats or hats or cutlery or rotten fruit. There was nothing but carpet and painted walls and unused outlets.

Ryan Davies no longer lived here. She was gone.




A/N: Yes, the next chapter is where you hear about Ryan's backstory. 

If you can't tell ... I'm super addicted to writing this story. 

Thank you for all your kind words and support! 

UP NEXT: Ryan Davies' backstory. Someone else is predictable, unfortunately.


Chapter 19: Black Mold
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For Flying Mandarin. Welcome to the story! And the wait. 




I kept moving, trying to find a clue as to where she might have gone. Had the incident at the feast really scared her off? Did her family pack up and move so she could go to Beaubatons? Durmstrang? That Academy in America with the pet eagle Charlotte told me about once? Was that even real? Would Ryan really want to go to school with an eagle?

All I found were empty rooms and windows sealed tight against the winter cold. I walked all through the flat, wand stretched before me, but discovered nothing. She truly was gone.

And she hadn’t told Gemma where she was off to.

Was she even coming back to Hogwarts after the holiday?

Would I ever see her again?

I leaned against the stair rail, lost in thought. I had to make sense of this. Dad could help find her. Uncle Harry, if need be, but I didn’t want to involve him. I didn’t want to involve anyone.

Hero complex, I thought.

Just then, the door burst open so hard it slammed against the wall behind it damn near shattering the window. In the frame stood the elusive Ryan Davies bundled in a wool coat and thick scarf. Her hair was up in a loose knot and her eyes were red. Not the fierce kind of red. The kind that I hadn’t seen very often up to this point.

“Weasley?” Ryan said, gaping at me like she couldn’t understand who was standing before her.

I must have looked the same. “What—quite the place you’ve got here, Davies.”

“We can’t be in here. They’ll phone the police.” She was panting.

“But don’t you live here?”

“Not anymore,” she said, motioning for me to come outside. “Hurry up then. How did you get this address? Who gave it to you?”

“Gemma. Well, she gave it to James, who gave it to me. You never answered my owl.” I jogged down the remaining steps and across the foyer, closing the door as I joined her on the front step. Suddenly the night became far more eerie. The wind was howling down the lane.

“Goddamn it,” Ryan whispered, glancing over both shoulders. “Don’t you think there might be a damn good reason I didn’t answer your stupid owl?”

“You were dead or arrested?” I guessed.

She rolled her eyes. “Come on.” Ryan grabbed my arm and pulled me down the street, careful to stay away from the doors. I didn’t like that.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” I said.

“Keep you bloody voice down,” she hissed, the grip on my arm tightening. “And hurry up or work out more; this is ridiculous.” She continued down the lane, splashing through puddles without wincing. The sides of each were almost frozen and we could see our breath in the air.

Finally, Ryan turned down a slender alleyway lined with bins and black bags. I hoped garbage filled them. There were fire escapes above and a couple could be heard yelling several floors away. Toward the end of the alley there was a tall chain link fence. Just before, to the right, was a door tucked away so well you’d never seen it if you weren’t looking. Ryan shouldered it open and pulled me inside.

She hurried up a narrow set of wooden stairs, past doors on landings. One appeared as if there had been an attack on it using an axe as the weapon of choice. The hall was barely lit and I almost tripped since some of the stairs were uneven.

“Keep up,” Ryan snapped.

On the fourth landing she keyed into a green door where the paint peeled on the right side. She waited until it was closed behind us to turn on the light.

Whatever I was expecting, this was not it.

It was a one-room motel. It smelled like rotten cabbage and had one window facing another brick wall. There was a bed in the center with a few sheets and a sink to the left. A curtain was covering the bathroom area and the desk was put together at an angle. There were cobwebs in the corners and paint was peeled back from the wall in large sections.

“What…”

“Don’t,” Ryan said, shaking her head. “Just don’t. I don’t know how you found me, but just don’t.”

“I don’t understand,” I said, looking around. “That’s the address Gemma had. How do you live here? Where are your parents?”

Ryan hung her coat and scarf delicately on sharp nails sticking out of the wall. She took off her shoes, one by one, but left on her socks because it was freezing in there. She slid onto the bed, leaning back and closing her eyes. “Just don’t,” she whispered.

I sat beside her on the bed. I didn’t know what to say or do. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. “Ryan, where are your parents?”

“If you find out, let me know.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Are you thick, Weasley?” she snapped. “It means I know as much as you do about where my good-for-nothing parents are. So sod off and go back to your sweater-vest Christmas party.” She looked at me. “Are you wearing a bow-tie?”

“What? They’re cool.”

“You look like a tool.” Ryan rolled her eyes.

“So you came home and they were gone?”

“Last summer.”

I paused, trying to find the correct wording. My heart was racing. “You came home last summer and your parents were gone?”

“I found exactly what you did,” Ryan said, shrugging. “They didn’t pick me up at the train station, so I caught a cab here. Found what you did. Rented out this place just in case they came back. I have Connor upstairs keeping an eye on the flat for me. He’s the one that told me someone had keyed in and a light was on. I thought it was them.”

Which explains the shock.

“Do you know why?”

Ryan shrugged. “Could have been a laundry list of reasons, really. Dad’s a drunk with a gambling addiction and Mum likes lifting sweets from the petrol station. He partied away all his savings.” She looked over. I’d never seen her face so calm. So void of care. “Don’t look so shocked. I used to have it all. Big house on a hill. Dad bought me a pony when I was eight. Named it Ampersand. Don’t ask. I was going through a punctuation phase. Dad was one of the assistant coaches after his fall. My window overlooked a brilliant pond with a willow. Then it changed.”

“How did it change?” I asked. I slipped off my shoes and sat cross-legged beside her. My fingers moved into her hair absently.

Ryan didn’t seem to notice and if she did, she didn’t show it. “Mum wanted another kid, but she said if they had another kid they’d have to build an addition to the house. Dad said we didn’t have enough money. Mum told him to ask for a raise since he was obviously the reason the Arrows were winning. Dad asked for a raise and didn’t get one. Instead of telling Mum, he started going to the casino with his buddies to get the extra money. That turned into a gambling addiction and instead of getting the addition, we lost the house. We lost everything.” She laughed. “I lost everything, rather. They just brought home more booze and swore we’d get it all back. Dad lost his job. Mum stopped going in to work and was fired. All the while I was eleven years old, first year at Hogwarts. When I stepped off the train, instead of taking me out into the country, they took me to the shady part of London.” She motioned around her.

“This has been going on that long?” I said.

“That long.” Ryan nodded. “Each summer I’ll come home and get a job and help pay all the bills because Dad lost way more money than he made. I found clever ways to get textbooks and clothes for school. I even kept it from Gemma. She has no idea. In the summer we spend the weeks at her place because it is everything I used to have.”

I was still so lost for words that my mouth hung open stupidly. “That’s why you’re working at the library and the pub,” I breathed.

“I was supposed to stay at the castle over holiday,” Ryan said. She closed her eyes. “But when Zonko got under my skin, I decided to just use the money and stay here. I didn’t want to be there. Not with all the staring and the pointing. At least this way I could get away for a couple weeks.”

Everything made sense. Her aversion to having help. Her hatred of me at St. Mungos. At the maternity shop. She was too proud since she’d been on her own for so long.

It had been so ongoing that Ryan now appeared numb to it.

“I’m the only one at Hogwarts that knows, aren’t I?”

“You’re the only one daft enough to try and find me,” she replied.

“I’ve told you you’re not getting rid of me. I don’t know why you’re surprised.” I smiled a little, twirling my fingers around in her long hair. “Thank you for telling me.”

“Might as well or you’d start making up rumors about how I’m part vampire or something.” Ryan yawned. “Look, Weasley, it’s nice of you to visit and all, but I’m really not in the right place to entertain guests.”

I leaned down on my elbows, my face above hers. She opened her eyes, startled. “You do realize I’m not letting you stay here, right?”

“Don’t even. I’ve just told you a bunch of shit you should never have known so don’t even think you’re going to swoop in on your stupid fucking white horse and try anything. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself and I will continue to do so.”

“Pretty sure there is black mold here,” I said, wrinkling my nose, not moving. “You’re coming back with me and you’re staying with me for the rest of the holiday. It’s not optional.”

“Aren’t you suddenly bossy now that you know some of my secrets,” she said.

“Yes. I am. Now pack up your shit or I’ll do it for you. And I promise I do not fold garments correctly.”

Ryan groaned and shoved me away from her. “I wish you would go away,” she said, but pulled the suitcase from under her bed regardless. She started shoving her clothes inside along with the few elements she’d brought with her.

“Have you always been working at the library?” I asked curiously.

“No. Just this year. Before this year I was doing private flying lessons for rich kids.” She tossed her tooth brush into the front pouch.

“Flying?”

“Yeah. I was my parents’ secret weapon. After Dad couldn’t make the money back by the time I was fourteen, he put all his hope and energy into me making it big in Quidditch. I’m quite good, so it wasn’t far off.” She shrugged and splashed some cool water on her face. “He stopped caring about things like rent, so I’d cover it with the flying lessons and trick classes. That dive the Falcon’s Keeper does? I taught him that.”

“No,” I said. “You were really doing that rubbish?”

“Until you put a bun in my oven, yes,” Ryan replied, zipping her suitcase and straightening up. “I had to get clever, so I got the job at the library before I knew just for some extra hours, but when I found out I told her I wanted on full time. She’s a lazy bint, so she agreed. Then I got the job at the pub. I knew I couldn’t fly and I was making good money doing that.”

“Ryan,” I said softly.

“Don’t give me that pity shit, Weasley,” she barked. “I don’t need it and I don’t have time for it. I’m fine and I’m doing fine. I don’t need you and I don’t need anyone else. So please don’t make me feel like a pathetic, poor tosser just because you have a rich father with a joke shop.”

“We might lose it,” I said. I didn’t know why I said it, but I did.

“What?”

“If the court situation goes bad. We have too much tied up in it. Dad doesn’t want new products. He’s stuck in the past. And he has these… well, he has episodes. He loses it sometimes because of the war. Our numbers are way under profit.” I raked my fingers through my hair. “I’m not giving you pity, Davies. I’m giving you help. Please take it because if you don’t I don’t know if I’ll be able to live with myself.”

She sat beside me on the bed. I jumped when she placed her hand on mine. “All right,” she said. “But just until the end of break. Then back to normal, all right?”

“Other than my suspension.”

“What suspension? What on earth did you do?”

“I’m sorry I didn’t say anything in the Great Hall,” I said, eyes focused on the sink straight ahead. It was discolored and mold was growing on the bottom. “I should have.”

“No. You would have made things worse. It was better that way. You would have done what that little shit wanted.”

Funny how that nickname caught on.

“I did what he wanted anyway,” I said, shrugging.

“You said something? Weasley, I’m going to punch you.”

“No.” I leaned down, face in my hands. Guilt overcame me. “I beat the shit out of him. I kicked his ass. He had to be taken to the hospital wing since he was unconscious. And then he used it against me in court. Made me seem unstable.”

Ryan was so quiet I actually raised my eyes to look at her.

She was crying.

“What – what did I do? I’m sorry,” I said out of habit.

Ryan wiped at her tears with the back of her wrist. “You seriously beat him up?” she said softly.

“Yeah. On the front steps. In the snow.”

She took a choked breath and threw her arms around me, tackling me to the mattress. Then Ryan let out what sounded like weeks of emotional torture. She sobbed hard into my shirt and I drew my arms around her, pulling her close against my chest.

“It’s fine,” I whispered, kissing the top of her head as she cried. I could feel her tears leaking through my shirt and onto my skin. “It’s going to be fine.” I wrapped her tight in my embrace and didn’t let go for a long time.

“Damn it, Weasley,” Ryan whispered, choking out another sob as her fingers curled around the fabric of my shirt. “I hate you so much. Why can’t you be selfish or something?”

“Am I not?”

“You’re too fucking nice. Stop it. It’s annoying.” She withdrew, wiping at her puffy eyes again. I couldn’t help but stare. “Your family is going to think I’m mental.”

“You are,” I replied, shrugging. “But if you’re mental, so am I.”

“Oh, great. Lump me in with King Gryffindor.”

“Not such a bad place to be,” I said pulling her back onto my chest.

“I hate you,” she mumbled, but didn’t move.

“Yes, well, you’re a right piece of work and I’m not fond of you either.”

“Good. Don’t get attached.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I said, staring at the ceiling.

Who knew? Ryan Davies. I’d pictured her life to be posh and unwanting. Living in some sort of palace with servants. Crystal chandeliers. Dogs and horses and rabbits and the like.

But she was living in a moldy motel room in a dark alley with no word from her parents, no money, and no job prospects for after graduation. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t put into words how much I admired her. She really didn’t need me. For anything.

She had me, though. More than even I knew.

*

“And you’re sure this is okay?” Ryan asked. We’d Apparated to the front garden of my house and were walking up the pavement to the door. “It’s Christmas. I can’t be intruding on Christmas. This was a bad idea. I’ll come back on Boxing Day and we’ll sort the whole thing out, yeah?”

She tried to turn, but I grabbed her arm. “Stop chickening out. It’s fine. The light is on, so they should be back from the party.” She gave me a look. “Yes, the sweater-vest party.”

“And bow-ties,” Ryan mumbled, wiggling her arm out of my grip.

“Yes. And bow-ties. Though James wore an actual tie.” I momentarily wondered how his rendition of Hamlet went. I assumed a lot of ketchup disguised as blood.

I took a deep breath before turning the door handle. Ryan was holding her breath.

To my surprise, all three of my family members were in the living room. Dad and Mum were curled up on the sofa under a blanket looking like they’d rather be asleep. Rox was wide awake in the chair watching a film and eating from a giant bowl of ice cream with sprinkles. Typical Roxanne sugar rush.

“Freddo, where’ve’ya been?” Dad asked, yawning. “Rox is showing us this fascinating documentary about… people.”

“It’s about the discovery of a super volcano,” Rox said, annoyed. “Shh. It’s a good part.”

“Pause it. Your brother’s home.” Dad sat up, rubbing his eyes.

“So?”

“Roxanne.”

“Fine.” Rox made a huffy noise and pressed pause. It was only then that she looked over and spotted a familiar face behind me. “Oh this should be a good explanation.”

Ryan grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I tugged her inside.

Mum sat up, blinking in confusion.

“Mum – Dad, this is Ryan Davies,” I said. “She’s one of my mates and she needs a place to stay over break. Would you mind if she stays with us?”

“Not at all,” Dad said cheerfully. “The more the merrier. Though now we’re outnumbered, Freddo. Better invite James over for a beer. It would make me feel better.”

“See?” I said to Ryan. “It’s fine.”

“Just your friend?” Rox questioned in that voice I hated. The I-know-more-than-you-think-I-do voice. Except I knew what she knew.

“Yes. Just my friend.” I met her eyes.

“Oh. Doesn’t look like that.” She motioned to our hands. Ryan released mine immediately.

I took a breath. I didn’t have the patience for my little sister tonight. I really didn’t want to say something I regretted, but it was on the tip of my tongue. Ryan was very quiet at my side. For once.

“Leave it, Rox,” I said, shaking my head. “Not tonight. It’s been a rough night.”

“Of what? Snogging?”

My face flushed. “Ryan is my friend. I’m helping her out. Could you not embarrass the shit out of me right now? I’d appreciate it if you at least waited until breakfast.”

My parents were watching intently. Dad didn’t know what he was allowed to say and Mum was eagerly waiting for something to slip.

She didn’t have to wait long.

“Come on, just tell them. We all know what’s going on here.”

I blinked back frustration. “Stop it, Rox. Just eat your ice cream and go to bed. Don’t suddenly become interested in my life after seven years.”

Ryan stirred beside me. “Maybe this was a bad idea,” she said softly.

“Of course it wasn’t. My horrible baby sister just doesn’t understand how to not be socially stupid.” I shrugged. “Let’s go upstairs. She has a problem with sugar. And reality, really.”

“You’re the one,” Rox said, clearly mad by what I’d said. “She’s pregnant and you got her pregnant! Admit it!”

We both stopped dead, me mid-word of a new sentence. My breath was gone. Ryan’s lips were parted, her eyes open like someone had stunned her. Her suitcase dropped, hitting the silence with a loud snap.

“Ha! I knew it.” Rox smirked arrogantly.

“Congratulations,” I said soberly. “You worked it out. I hope you feel good about yourself. And, just for the record, she is my mate. We don’t snog. And you are a complete asshole so I am now glad you decided Malfoy was your brother over me since nothing about that had any sibling affection to it. C’mon Ryan.” I took her hand and led her up the stairs, past my silent parents.

“Your parents aren’t trying to kill me,” Ryan whispered after the first flight.

“Dad already knows,” I said, moving faster just in case I was being pursued. “Mum figured something was up and right now they’re probably arguing in hushed whispers as to why Dad didn’t think it was a good idea to tell her. She’ll talk to me tomorrow about it. Mum knows it’s hard for me and Rox.”

“I don’t get it. Why’s she like that with you?” Ryan followed me into my room, closing the door softly behind us. “You have such a happy little family except you can’t get along.”

“She can’t get along,” I corrected. “We used to be great. We went everywhere together. Did everything. Laughed. Taught each other things. At some points I thought we were closer than me and James. But once she was sorted into Ravenclaw everything changed. She didn’t want anything to do with me anymore. Like years of our lives never happened.”

“But you’re nice,” Ryan said with a deep-rooted grimace. “I don’t get it.”

“I wish I had the answer. Then maybe I could fix it. She just wants nothing to do with me and everything to do with making me seem like a fool.” I kicked off my shoes and sat on the end of my bed. “I’m sorry she said those things. It wasn’t aimed at you. Just aimed at telling our parents in a way that made me look like a complete asshole… just as James said she would.” I frowned. I didn’t want to believe him.

“Thank you for letting me stay,” Ryan said, sitting beside me. “And letting me cry on your shirt and make horrid mascara marks across the front. And defending me.”

“Don’t mention it,” I said. I stood and walked to the wardrobe, grabbing some blankets and spreading them out on the floor. “Make yourself comfortable. And tell me if you need anything. Cravings or blankets or kittens.”

“Kittens?” Ryan said, crawling up onto my bed.

“They’d be harder to get than the blankets, but I could do it.”

“You’re tempting me,” Ryan said and the bed squeaked as she moved around to get comfortable. “You just wait until I’m in the mood to snuggle a kitten. Could have used one earlier, mind you.”

“Really? I never thought you had any kindness, least of all for animals. Ah well. Learn something new every day, don’t I?” I pulled off my collared shirt and pants and moved under the blankets I made into a nest.

Ryan flicked off the light. “You learned a lot of things today,” she said.

There was silence for a while. I could hear her breathing and my parents talking downstairs. The wind was moving past the window.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” I said.

“I’m not. It made me into who I am.”

“I’m still sorry,” I said, pulling the blankets up to my chest. “No one should have to endure that alone.”

Ryan rolled over in bed. “D’you think they’ll ever turn up? Like they’ve run some secret gambling sweets-thieving spy program across the country?”

“If they did, they’ll probably get the rights to make a film. Then you’ll be filthy rich.”

“I’d get them so drunk one night they sign all control over to me,” Ryan said, snickering. “Then one day they’ll come home and everything will be gone, same as last June. Just gone.”

She was laughing, but I could hear the hurt in her voice.

*

I didn’t sleep well, but that was to be expected. How could I? All I could think about was what Ryan told me. Her life story. Her parents. Her family. Her life made mine seem like a stroll down the beach. With a beer in hand.

Somewhere around five I got up, pulled the blankets up over Ryan’s shoulders, and dressed quietly. She seemed peaceful, which was a rarity for her. Her dark hair was all over the pillows and I thought about moving it, but then figured she might wake up and have her wand drawn to my throat before I could arm myself.

Instead, I tip-toed downstairs to find Mum waiting for me in the kitchen. She sat at the table, mug of steaming coffee before her and a magazine open to the table of contents. She appeared calm, which was a good sign.

I sat across the table and folded my hands in my lap. “Go on. Hit me. I deserve it.”

“What?” Mum said, taking a sip of her coffee. “Since when have I ever hit you?”

“You smacked me round the head that one time I got lippy.”

“You were eight and called me a bint,” Mum said flatly.

“Point taken.”

She ran the tips of her fingers over the rim of the mug, contemplating. “Your father told me everything, so there’s no need to explain unless it’s something he doesn’t know. What I’d love to know is why I was the last to know.”

My jaw tightened. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like that.”

“Oh. Tell me, how was it planned out then? What went wrong?”

“Roxanne putting the pieces together,” I grumbled. “And waited until that moment to use it against me.”

“I don’t want your sibling rivalries coming into play here,” Mum said. “We’ll deal with that later. This is serious and I’m very disappointed to have been in the dark this long. Don’t you think I could have done something – anything – to help?”

“Of course I do,” I said, trying to find the words in the back of my mind, but they didn’t come. Not together, at least. “I didn’t want you to be disappointed.”

“Freddie,” Mum said, sighing. “I don’t think I’ve ever given you reason not to trust me. I know sometimes you take after James and he doesn’t exactly open up to his parents, but that isn’t how we are. We don’t keep secrets. That isn’t how we do things here and you know that.”

“I do,” I said, nodding. I took a deep breath and gave her more details. I told her about the appointments and the iron deficiency and the other symptoms. I told her about the heart beat.

Mum smirked at that. “Your father sobbed like a first year falling off a broom.”

“What? Are you serious?”

“I didn’t even cry because I was sore with him for making a stupid comment,” Mum explained. “But once he heard that he was done. Simply wept like a child. You had him around your finger before you even knew it.”

“You think he still thinks so? Even since I mucked up the court hearing?”

“You made up for it, didn’t you?” She smiled. “You took responsibility for what you did and made it right.”

“It probably won’t do anything.”

She leaned forward over the table, her dark eyes pouring into mine. “Fred. Listen. You are as much a part of this family as your father and sister. I know things are overwhelming, but we’ll work it out. As a family.”

“And Ryan?” I said.

“And Ryan is welcome to stay as long as she’d like,” Mum replied. “I had your father make up the guest room before he went into the shop this morning. I’ve always taught you to help people and it is clear Ryan is in need of some help to get her on her feet.”

I lowered my voice to a whisper in case Ryan was awake. “Her parents left. Last June. And she doesn’t know where they are. She’s on her own.”

I saw a dozen things flash through Mum’s mind before she spoke. “That’s a shame. She seems like a very sweet girl.”

“When she’s not threatening my life, yeah.”

“She can stay as long as she’d like,” Mum repeated. “I encourage her to do so. Would you mind making yourself scarce today so I can have a talk with her?”

“Mum, please don’t ask what her intensions are…”

She smirked dangerously. It made me uncomfortable.

“Yeah, fine. I have to owl James sometime today and tell him Happy Christmas and say that I found her. But just don’t be … a mum, okay?”

She smirked. “Considering I was pregnant twice, I suppose I can offer up a little advice and assistance. Or is that too mum-like for you?”

“Watch your wording,” I said, grumbling. “Dad be home in a bit?”

She checked her watch. “Should be. He only went to finish up payroll and check on the new stock of pygmy puffs. The tree is all lit and the gifts are there.”

“Aw, shit. Davies is probably going to feel awkward. I should have gotten her something.” In the chaos of Zonko outing her and trying to find her, I hadn’t considered Christmas. Bugger.

“Took care of it, love.” Mum grabbed some juice from the fridge and poured me a glass. “Go get your sister up. See if Ryan would like some breakfast. I can’t assume she’s been eating all that well.”

I nodded and walked upstairs. I paused outside Rox’s room and started banging on the door. “Get up, lazy! It’s Christmas! I’m going to temporarily forget that I hate you for what you did last night, thanks!” I pounded a few more times and continued back upstairs to my room.

I cracked the door, but found Ryan already awake. She was dressed, laying in bed, and reading. She looked perfectly content.

“Happy Christmas,” I ventured with a lopsided smile. I didn’t know how to act now that she was staying with us. It was probably hard for her not to threaten my life already.

“And you,” Ryan said, snapping her book shut. “Your bed is lumpy.”

“Morning person, I see,” I said with a cheerful smile. “Mum wants to know if you’d like breakfast. Dad’s going to be home soon.”

“This is weird, Weasley. I should go.”

“You’re not,” I said, sitting beside her. “I want you to stay.”

“That’s because you’re in love with me.”

“I really couldn’t be even if you weren’t so impossible,” I said, wrinkling my nose. “But it’s always nice of you to point out. Seriously. Come downstairs for some pancakes. Mum’s a brilliant cook.”

“It’s Christmas. That’s family time. I don’t want to intrude.”

“Stop making excuses. It’s annoying.” I grabbed her hand and tugged her out of bed. “Now come downstairs or I will carry you.”

“You wouldn’t.” Her eyes narrowed.

“Wouldn’t I?” I said, smirking and bending down as if I was about to scoop her up in my arms.

“Point taken, jerk.” Ryan shouldered me out of the way (hard) and moved past me into the hallway and downstairs. I followed, rubbing my shoulder, only to have Rox elbow me out of the way when she came bounding from her room.

Women. Ugh.




A/N: The first half of this chapter is probably one of my favorites in this story. I've been sitting on Ryan's past the last 18 chapters and it's FINALLY out. So now hopefully a lot more things make sense about why she makes the choices she does.

UP NEXT: Weasley family Christmas, something happens at night, and Ryan decides Fred may think it's okay to tolerate Roxanne's bullshit, but she sure as Rowena isn't.


Chapter 20: Kick
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I loved Christmas at home. Instead of the entire Weasley clan, it was just the four of us opening gifts, drinking hot chocolate (sometimes spiked with liquor), and singing horribly to carols. This time, there were five of us even though it was clear Ryan would rather be anywhere else.

I wondered if her family had many Christmas traditions since her father started gambling.

Still, she was a trooper and brought everyone refills on the hot chocolate as we took our places around the Christmas tree.

Dad believed in live Christmas trees. He went into the forest every year and brought back an absurdly large tree he swore would fit in the living room, only to come to the realization he had to trim quite a few branches for us to get past and into the kitchen. This one was just the same, stretching to the ceiling. It had to be cut for the star to fit. The outside was decorated in lights and ornaments, plenty of them handmade when Rox and I were little. Mum got a new one annually with the year written out.

Dad started to pass around gifts. Ryan went to the kitchen for another cocoa refill. When she returned, there was a wrapped gift on her chair. She stared at it for a moment, as if to wonder if it was placed there by mistake.

I really should have gotten her a Christmas gift.

“Angie, you can’t open yours in here,” Dad said, his ears going red.

“Then why did you put it under the tree? Are you daft?”

“What is it?” asked Rox.

“Probably lingerie,” I muttered.

“Not just any lingerie,” Dad announced. “Red ones! Gryffindor spirit!”

There was a collective noise of disgust between Rox, Ryan, and myself.

“What?” Dad said. “Red’s a good color on Angie. She has the right skin tone for it.”

“This conversation should have ended before it began,” Rox said.

“You asked,” I added, pulling my wrapped presents closer.

“You’re the Gryffindor.”

“What’s that mean?” I snapped.

“Apples and trees,” Rox commented.

Ryan’s eyes moved swiftly between the two of us. “A bit outnumbered, aren’t you?” she said to Roxanne. It was the most she’d spoken since we’d gotten downstairs.

“What?” Rox turned. First, she looked ticked off, but then her expression softened. “Yeah. Bunch of Gryffindors here. That’s why I like the family parties more. At least more Houses.”

Ryan seemed to be picking her words very carefully. “I don’t think anyone hates Gryffindor more than I do,” she said and Dad twitched, “but they’re your family. Can’t hate your family because of a House, right?”

“Were your parents Ravenclaws?” Rox asked suspiciously.

“Dad was,” Ryan said, nodding. “Mum was a Slytherin. They both turned out like absolute shit, excuse my language, so you’ve got a leg up on me already.”

“Sorry,” Rox said, frowning. “You haven’t had to deal with this one for your whole life.” She jerked her thumb in my direction.

“Five months is long enough, thank you,” Ryan said tactfully and everyone laughed. Except for me. What the hell?

“Presents!” Dad called. He would be mentioning that Gryffindor-hating comment to me sooner or later. “I want to know what you kids got me that I can return!”

“You can’t if it was handmade!”

“Credits! I demand credits in housework!” Dad cried, ripping open his first gift, which was a book on grilling from Roxanne. He nodded, flipping through the pages. “I’m impressed you trust me with the grill. I’ll have to test it out this spring. What d’you say to some steaks?” He showed us a picture of marinated steaks on a grill.

I didn’t trust him with a grill.

We went around in a circle. Roxanne got me a gift card to Quality Quidditch Supplies. When we were younger, she used to obsess for months about the perfect gift to get me. Something no one else would think of.

I got her the pair of shoes she’d been talking about for ages. Well, that I’d overheard her talking about for ages.

When she opened them, Rox looked up at me. “How’d you know I wanted these?”

“Heard you talking about them,” I said, shrugging.

“Thanks.” She turned away and pushed the shoes to one side, but she kept glancing at them.

Mum got me the broom-cleaning kit I’d been asking for. Dad got me a new custom suit and tie. “You might need it,” he said. I didn’t know what that meant, but it worried me.

Finally, we reached Ryan. She was on the sofa beside me, the box perched perfectly on her lap like she was worried it would jump off.

“Guest of honor!” Dad chimed. He’d definitely put some added fun into his cocoa. “Go on, open it.”

“I don’t understand,” Ryan stammered a little. “You don’t have to do this. Really.”

“I don’t have a gift of patience. My wife does. Angie, tell her.”

Mum snickered. “George, you’re red in the face. How much have you had to drink?”

“I don’t drink,” Dad said all smirky.

Ryan carefully peeled back the red and silver paper. She placed the bow beside her and I took it, sticking it unceremoniously atop her dark hair. She shot me a look, but continued to open it. Inside was a thin, box in gray.

“I really hope it’s a puppy,” I whispered.

Ryan pulled off the top and her jaw dropped. Inside was a silver bracelet lined with blue crystals. The lights of the tree were causing them to sparkle more than usual and my eyes were drawn to them.

“It was Roxanne’s idea,” Mum chimed in. “Very Ravenclaw of her.”

I took the bracelet and hooked it around Ryan’s outstretched wrist. “What d’you think?”

“It’s beautiful,” she said, still in obvious shock as she stared at the bracelet. “And yes, very Ravenclaw. Thank you. Thank you all. It’s lovely.”

My sister was behind it. That was strange.

Ravenclaws had to stick together, I supposed. Including Scorpius scab-face Malfoy.

He didn’t actually have scabs, to be clear.

“You’re welcome,” Mum said with a kind smile. “And I want you to know you’re always welcome here. For as long as you’d like.”

“Thank you,” Ryan said again, her cheeks burning. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You’ll figure it out as soon as Dad asks about your intentions and Mum wants you to help with a pie,” I muttered.

“I resent that,” Dad said. “Her intensions are clear. Make your life sodding miserable. I love it. I’d like to help.”

“You do enough,” I said as Ryan laughed.

As we cleaned up the wrapping paper, Dad excused himself to check on the security cameras and Mum went to put in the ham. Rox said she had to owl Scorpius about her gifts.

I took a breath and tossed the last of the paper into the bag. “You survived.”

Ryan nodded. “I did.” She was still staring at the bracelet. “Why is your family so kind?”

“They’re just nice people,” I said, shrugging. “Though if you cross them they have wicked tempers. I know this. I snuck out once and Mum came and found me at James’. It was a sight.”

“I mean to me. They don’t know me. They know enough about me to know I shagged you at a pub. That doesn’t exactly paint a good picture of me, does it?”

“Why does it matter?” I asked, looking over. “I did the same thing. I’m in the same position you are, just without the heartbeat in my belly. If they judged you, they’d have to judge me too. They just like to do the right thing is all. You’ll like it here if you give it a chance. Please give it a chance.”

Ryan nodded a little and leaned back against the sofa. She closed her eyes and I went back to cleaning up empty glasses and stray ribbon.

“Fred?” she said.

“Hmm?”

“Happy Christmas. I’ll deny this forever, but if it had to be anyone eating tequila chips with me, I’m glad it was you.”

I smiled warmly and patted the bow on her head. Then she slapped my hand and the moment was over and we both dissolved into laughter.

*

As per tradition, the rest of the day was spent being hopelessly lazy. Rox was wearing her new shoes, Ryan was reading, and I was stuffing my face with sweets. Dad left for a few hours to check on the shop. When he returned, he insisted everything was in working order and suggested I “get off his back” before he elbowed me. I wondered if he was taking after Ryan already.

Like I promised, I disappeared in the afternoon so Mum could have some alone time with Ryan. I met up with James for a cup of tea where he asked relentlessly about Ryan and I told him as little as possible. It was Ryan’s business where she lived. I just told him I found her and that I didn’t approve of her neighborhood, so I invited her to stay with me.

“And she accepted?” James asked, nearly spitting tea on the table.

“Barely,” I replied. I mentioned she was staying there alone, but he didn’t press the subject. I also asked him to keep it from Ollie – at least for now.

“Get anything good for Christmas?” James asked after we went too long without talking about us our the shop.

“Lots of good things,” I said. “Do you mind if we stop in a shop?”

“I’d rather not,” he said.

“By do you mind, I meant let’s go.”

“Ah. I need a translator.” He narrowed his eyes.

We moved quickly from shop to shop, but nothing caught my eye. James was tapping his fingers on every surface we passed. Clerks were asking if they could help me, but I settled on nothing.

That is, up until I settled on something.

*

“You did that on purpose.” Ryan was lounging on my bed when I returned, her knees propped up and a book facing her. “You left so your mum could have a pregnancy talk with me. I am never speaking to you again.”

“You’re speaking to me right now,” I said, kicking off my shoes and plopping down at the end of the bed.

She kicked me off. Hard.

“After this conversation, twat,” Ryan barked. “Do you deny it?”

“That you’ll stop talking to me after this conversation? Not at all. You’re stubborn.”

“That you left on purpose!”

“Oh.” I rubbed my lips together. “No, I don’t deny that either.”

Ryan slammed the book shut and crossed her legs. She shoved her hair off her shoulders, sending it back into the headboard. “Is that why you brought me here? Because your mum’s been pregnant before and she can make sure I don’t drink wine and poison my baby?”

I made a face. “My mum didn’t say anything about wine.”

“She could have!”

“She didn’t though.” I hoisted myself back onto the bed. “Was it an okay talk?”

“Not the point,” Ryan muttered.

“Was it okay?”

She shrugged, her eyes on my window. “It’s snowing a bit,” she said.

And so it was. I walked over to the glass and scattered flurries were sailing toward the grass. “You want me to tell her not to talk to you anymore?”

“It was a fine conversation. It was helpful. I would just appreciate being warned.”

“Point taken.” I nodded and turned. She was back to lying on the bed, book now on her stomach. “Listen, I have something for you.”

“Don’t you dare, Weasley. I will leave right now.”

“It’s a Christmas present.” I took the box out of my front pocket.

“I swear. I will leave. You’d better stop doing shit for me because I will leave and go back to the flat or another flat you do not know the location of or will go on some vast adventure to find my good-for-nothing parents. I will leave.” She didn’t move.

“What did my mum say?” I asked, moving from the window back to the bed. I sat beside her. She was giving me an evil stare, which wasn’t unfamiliar.

Her jaw tightened. “She asked about my symptoms and appointments and gave me some tips on things to eat and yoga. I have no intention of doing yoga.”

“You’re so badass.” I rolled my eyes.

“Fuck you, straight-edge.”

“Been there, done that,” I said and she punched me hard in the arm. “Just take the damn gift. It’s non-returnable.” I shoved the box at her so I could rub my arm. Damn it, woman.

Ryan placed the box delicately on top of her overturned book and stared at it for a moment. “I didn’t get you a gift,” she said.

“You weren’t expecting to see me over break,” I argued. She shrugged. “Come on, Davies. Just open it. It’s Christmas and the shop was about to close and I used my wonderful boy charm to keep them open.”

“Why would you scare them like that?” she said. She was smirking a little, which was a change. Ryan tilted the thin box toward her and pulled the purple ribbon that held it together. She tossed it at me, so I tied it around a long-ish strand of hair.

Out of the box she pulled a black oneside, the size of a newborn (or so it said on the tag; I was skeptical). As Ryan read the words, a grin moved up her lips.

In white, facing her, it read:

My Mommy has a Great Rack

“You shit,” Ryan said, laughing.

“First-outfit material, am I right? Wheel that baby out of the hospital wearing that.”

“Wheel? Do we wheel the baby?” Ryan said, her nose wrinkling.

“Maybe it has wheels,” I said.

“We’re not having a circus side-show baby, Weasley. Maybe your family is into that, but I’m not. We’re having a Ravenclaw baby and it won’t have wheels.”

“What d’you think it’ll be?” I asked, moving to sprawl out next to her (but not too close) on the bed. “Girl? Boy? Centaur?”

“You weren’t that impressive,” Ryan muttered and I elbowed her in the ribcage. “I don’t know. Boy?”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because it would be my luck.”

I rolled onto my back. “A boy wouldn’t be so terrible. He could play Quidditch.”

“He could do whatever he wanted,” she stressed. “He could be in theatre or play Quidditch or model or paint or drive a truck.”

“I just hope he doesn’t pick drive a truck because bragging about that is going to get really difficult,” I said. “I’d have to use trucker words and wear one of those hats.”

“You’ll support whatever that kid decides, trucker or not.” Ryan smirked. “Can we, like, chew toothpicks and rub grease on our faces?”

“Whatever it takes,” I teased.

Our faces were a little close, so I backed away. “What if it’s a girl?”

“Then you’re a goner,” Ryan said softly. Her hair was falling onto the bed and she shifted it away from her eyes. The sun was setting now, an orange glow cast across our bodies. “I already walk all over you. Can you imagine a little girl with my good-looks and your smile?”

Her eyes were a shade of brown I’d never seen before, but I couldn’t look away from.

“You like my smile?”

“Yes, well, paired with tequila it wasn’t terrible.”

I grinned. “You aren’t so bad yourself, Davies.”

“Obviously. I’m the best looking person at that damn school.”

I didn’t bother to dispute her.

*

“Fred?”

It was dark. No, my eyes were closed.

Nope, it was actually dark.

“Fred. Oy. Fred.”

I was being shaken awake. There was light coming from under the door, in a stream that allowed me to barely make out the room.

“Fucker. Wake. Up.”

I blinked and sat up on my elbows, groggy. What time was it? Somewhere around three or four. No birds outside, but it was winter. I missed the birds.

And sleep. Oh, glorious sleep.

“OY.”

I found Ryan hovering over me. She was on her knees, one hand on her stomach and one on my shoulder. Her hair was a mess, but it looked nice. She, however, looked mad.

“What?” I whispered. “What time is it?”

“Shut up.” She grabbed my hand and put it on her stomach.

“Are you coming on to me?” I yawned.

“I cannot believe you are the person who got me pregnant,” Ryan snapped and forced my fingers to splay out against her shirt. “Just wait.”

“For what? This is awkward.” I yawned again. Seriously, what time was it? Everything was dark and hardly coming into focus. Was this what Albus felt like when he didn’t wear glasses?

“Just wait.” She was having a hard time not physically harming me, I could tell.

I waited, my hand pressed against her stomach. It was being very stomach-like. Just sort of hanging out. Being a stomach.

Godric I was tired. Ugh, I needed to roll over and go back to –

“WHAT WAS THAT.”

Ryan actually laughed. “The baby,” she said. “Moving. Right now.”

“Are you serious?” I leaned closer, pressing both hands to her stomach and it happened again. It was like in the movies where there’s an alien inside of someone and it’s trying to get out… then it does and there is blood and guts everywhere and the alien can somehow already talk and speak in English (sometimes in an accent) and discuss its wants and needs while the host is dead.

It happened again. Then again. Something pressing against her skin. Against my hand. In the dark.

Ryan was watching me. I pressed my cheek against her belly (she didn’t stop me so ha) and waited for it to happen again. It did – against my jaw.

“What’s it feel like?” I whispered, waiting again.

“Like there’s an alien trying to claw its way out of my stomach,” she said.

I smirked and felt it move again. “It’s active.”

“Probably the salsa I had earlier.” Ryan shrugged, ruffled my hair, and crawled back into bed. “G’night, Weasley.”

I was lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling. I’d just felt my baby move. The child I helped create – I felt it move. It still seemed strange to call it an “it.” But until we knew… that was it.

We could always call it Baby Davies or something. Let’s face it. Like Ryan would ever give up her last name. It was famous, anyway. So was mine.

Her stomach was starting to round now. Each week I could tell the difference. Not by much, but I’d invested a lot of time into noticing. So I did.

“Goddamn, Weasley. Just get up here already if you’re going to whine about it.”

I wondered if I had been whining while I was thinking. I didn’t reply, but instead crawled up onto the bed beside her and pressed my hand to her stomach again. “Does it hurt?”

“Just feels odd,” she said. “I can’t really explain it. Just odd.”

I could see the edges of her profile against the light from under the door. The way her nose sloped down and her lips and her jawline. Her stomach moved a little, but not much anymore. Ryan closed her eyes.

“What’s going to happen when we get back?” I asked. It had been on my mind since I found out she left from Zonko. Before beating the shit out of him.

Did not want to think about that right now.

“What do you mean?” Ryan asked.

“With you. Everyone knows, now. What’s going to happen?”

“They’ll know.” She shrugged. It amazed me how indifferent she could seem. “And I’ll be pregnant. And Gemma will eventually work out that it was you and threaten your life. I’ll keep consulting for Ravenclaw. You’ll keep playing Quidditch and keeping your head down. I’ll have the kid. We’ll both graduate. Ravenclaw will win the House Cup and the Quidditch Cup because, well, obvious reasons.”

I considered her theory. I knew her logic was flawed, but she was a pregnant woman with a pseudo-alien pressing at the lining of her stomach. I let it go.

*

My family really enjoyed Ryan. I had a theory that they enjoyed her more than me.

She came with me to the shop and helped stock shelves. Nothing heavy. I wouldn’t let her lift heavy things and because of it she punched me in the arm several times. Dad agreed, so she gave him one of the less-than-charming looks I was familiar with.

“Sassy, isn’t she?” he whispered while passing me at the register.

“Tip of the ‘berg,” I replied.

It wasn’t bad having her around. She had dry, sarcastic commentary and knew how to face products. She even talked to the customers and hid in the office when Hogwarts students wandered in. It was rarer than I wanted it to be.

Ryan helped Mum with articles and cooked and cleaned and smiled more than usual. Of course she still threatened my life on a regular basis, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. She let me feel her stomach a few more times when the baby moved and my mum even got to feel when it happened over lunch. Rox was off with Scorpius Malfoy.

She came home in a huff on New Years Eve, slamming the door behind her.

“Rubbish!” she cried.

“Is this the simile game?” I asked from the couch. I was doing a crossword, living the wild life.

“Shove off.” Rox slammed her way into the kitchen and then the fridge and she swore a few times until Dad came out of the study and asked her what in Godric’s name was going on. “It’s ALWAYS Godric! ALWAYS.”

“Rowena just doesn’t sound the same, does it?” Dad said.

I scooted a little closer to the hall, leaning against the end of the sofa. Ryan hadn’t looked up from her book, but her eyes weren’t moving.

“Do you think I care? It’s all about you guys. All about Gryffindor. And now I have to go to this STUPID party where I don’t care about anyone there instead of going and doing something FUN with my FRIENDS.”

Dad was always patient with Rox. Way more patient than I was. “You’re pretty angsty today. Are you PMSing?”

“I DON’T EVEN LIKE YOU.”

“That’s not very fair,” Dad said. “I’m quite likable. Ask anyone. Except your friend’s parents. I’m afraid they’re probably not as fond of me. I recall some interesting hexes being used in our early days.” He was snickering.

I almost felt bad for Rox. Almost.

“I don’t want to go. I’m not going.”

“Go get dressed and wash your hair.”

“I’m not going,” Rox said.

“Fine. You can go like that and sit in the corner while the flies land on you. What’ve you been doing anyway? Sledding through dirt?”

“I went on a walk.”

“Through the Amazon?”

Rox huffed. “I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be around everyone.”

“I’m tired of your whining. Go get dressed. I have paperwork to do.” The door to the study shut.

Rox huffed her way back into the living room. She narrowed her eyes like I had been the one to plan the party and force everyone to attend.

“Take it up with Mum,” I said.

“Sod off,” she snapped and stormed up the stairs.

“My god she’s worse than I am,” Ryan whispered.

“I HEARD THAT.”

I groaned and leaned back.

Ryan, however, stood.

“What’re you doing?” I said.

“Absolutely not.” Ryan tossed her book onto the chair and marched her pregnant behind up the stairs to Roxanne’s room. I heard the door shut, but then nothing. She was either speaking very quietly or put a charm on the door.

Either way, neither appeared to be dead.

Yet.

I was good. I sat on that couch staring at the crossword for a good thirty seconds before abandoning it and racing up the stairs. Like a decent, privacy-respecting older brother I pressed my ear to the door. No silencing charm.

“Yes, I understand that,” Ryan was saying. “But there is absolutely no reason for you to be talking to me like that. Firstly, I’m a guest and I’m pretty sure your parents didn’t teach you to be a twat to guests. Secondly, I’m a Ravenclaw and Rowena help me I will out you to the rest of the House so fast. Thirdly, you’re an angsty teenager and you just need someone to talk to that you don’t secretly have a crush on.”

Silence. You have got to be kidding me.

“No one likes you right now anyway,” Rox muttered. It wasn’t her ruthless mutter. It was defeat.

“Oh, because I shagged your brother and have a baby in my fucking stomach? So what? You don’t think I could still take any of them?”

I knew she could. She could beat the shit out of me with or without a wand.

“Why’d you shag him anyway? You don’t even like him.”

“Tequila and self esteem issues.”

“That bad of self esteem issues?”

My sister. She was great, really.

“You really don’t like him, do you?” Ryan asked softly.

There was a long pause before Rox said, “I don’t hate him.”

“So then why do you say nasty things about him and ignore him? It can’t just be because he’s in Gryffindor. Not that I blame you. Gryffindor sucks.”

My baby’s mother. She was great, really.

Rox sighed. “We’re just different.”

“I’m different than the rest of the school but I don’t walk through the halls pretending they don’t exist.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Bad example. I wouldn’t do that to my siblings. So what is it then? Jealousy? Does he embarrass you? It’s not normal, whatever it is.”

“How do you mean?” Rox asked.

Ryan drummed her fingers on the wall. “Because he’s been cut up about it for years. Just looking at him when he looks at you hurts. And I don’t do the hurt thing, so that’s a big deal. He’s constantly on the verge of saying something to you and then he shuts up. What’s that about?”

“He thinks I replaced him with Scorpius,” she said.

“And did you?” prompted Ryan.

“Yeah.”

That stung more than I thought it would. I sank to my knees next to the door but kept my ear pressed against it. My heart was hammering, but not with adrenaline and anxiety. Because I felt cut across the chest. I wanted to think it was fiction – I was imagining things. I wasn’t.

“Why?”

“Because he wasn’t there anymore.”

“When you got sorted?” Ryan asked. “Since he was in a different house?”

“Listen. I like Ravenclaw. I do. I like it a lot. But I grew up in this family. In this big extended family. Everyone assumed I’d be in Gryffindor. I wore red and gold under my robes the first day. I wanted to be in Gryffindor and Freddie told me everything about it. The secrets and the people and the tower and I’d never wanted anything so bad in my life.” Rox paused for a few seconds and took a breath. “Then suddenly I didn’t have it. I was shoved off to another table with people I didn’t know and colors I didn’t like and I could see his face. He was disappointed.”

My palm stretched out over the wood.

“So you replaced him because he was disappointed?”

“Not in the hat. In me. My brother was disappointed in me and I couldn’t live with it. And he went off and had his Gryffindor fun and I met people who accepted me and that was that.”

“That’s it? One look across the Great Hall and you haven’t said more than ten sentences to your own brother in years?” Ryan said.

Rox didn’t reply.

“I don’t even have parents,” Ryan said. I could hear the annoyance lacing her voice. “I don’t have parents or siblings or a house or a joke shop or anyone in the entire school of Hogwarts who gives a shit about me. And yet you have this huge family that loves you, parents who care so much about you, and this brother who would jump in front of any hex for you, whether you speak to him or not, and you just parade it around like you’re too good for that. You don’t want to go to some stupid party because you want to hang out with your puppy love crush. Let me give you a little advice, Roxanne, you’re not too cool for your family if they are an actual fucking family. You have no idea how good you have it and I’m ashamed of you being a Ravenclaw at the moment. That’s right. I’m disappointed in your behavior. Are you going to shut me out too?”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” Rox said. It was quiet.

“I don’t care what you want to talk about,” Ryan continued. “You cut off your brother because you were ashamed of yourself. Admit it. You were ashamed you didn’t get into stupid Gryffindor so you cut everyone off and stuck your nose in the air and walked off the other way. You didn’t care who you hurt because you had already hurt yourself and how hard could it be? Except over the years you realized just how hard it was. But you trained yourself to hate that house and everything it represented because that house represented a time when you were actually happy. When you had a good relationship with your family – with that boy who is probably on the other side of the door listening who would do absolutely anything for you. Even though you treat him like absolute shit.”

To my surprise, the door didn’t open.

“What am I supposed to do, then?” Rox’s voice rose a little. Something was in the back of her throat. “I hate him for getting everything I wanted.”

“He got a fucking HOUSE.” Ryan was all but yelling at her. “He got to hang out with Potter a bunch and play Quidditch. Big fucking deal. I want to punch him in the face every day but damnit, he has a big heart and even though I hate him for it, he’s there and he’s not going anywhere. So either cut him off completely because you’re too selfish to admit you were wrong, or figure this shit out. Because you sure as hell aren’t infecting Ravenclaw with your bullshit, Roxanne.”

Neither of them spoke for a while. I hurriedly crept back down the stairs and onto the couch. Dad was sitting on the other side now with my crossword puzzle.

“Both of them are sassy today,” he said.

“We should probably not go to the party and just hide in a storm shelter,” I said.

“Do you have one?”

“I don’t. Do we know anyone with one?”

Dad considered this. “Why don’t we just go the pub?”

I laughed as Ryan came down the stairs. Her face was red and blotchy. She sat back on the chair and propped her book on her knees.

“So,” I said.

“You’re welcome,” Ryan said.




 

UP NEXT: New Years Eve, back to Hogwarts, gossip, and Ryan gets ahold of a Zonko's product.

 


Chapter 21: As it Should
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For Reggie, for making me blush. 
Also for Haley again, for putting up with my constant need to gush about Freddie and Ryan.





Considering it was a terrible idea for Ryan Davies to mysteriously attend the Weasley-Potter New Years gig, we opted to stay behind at the house. Roxanne didn’t look at me when she walked by, but her eyes were red and puffy. It was a start, if that. Dad told me he’d be back by curfew and then smiled because I was pretty sure he’d already disappeared into the liquor cabinet more than once tonight.

I turned the television to the special programming and kicked up my feet, waiting for Ryan to come back downstairs and eat an entire bowl of popcorn.

“It’s New Years, right? Shouldn’t we look presentable?”

I glanced up and Ryan was in the hall archway wearing the dress from the Yes pile. All I could think of were the cliché, unreasonable things about how the fabric fit her body and I wasn’t ashamed. She looked great. The dress looked great. I didn’t bother looking away. Her hair was up with a few strands falling along her jawbone and she was doing that mysterious smirk again. Her fingers tapped against the wall.

“I’m underdressed,” was all I managed to say. I was in jeans and a polo. And mismatched socks.

She nodded upstairs. “I can’t associate myself with peasants,” Ryan said in a posh accent.

“Bugger.” I tossed the remote onto the table, abandoned the popcorn, and rushed past her upstairs. The last thing I wanted to do was disagree with a pregnant woman. The second to last thing was to be in jeans when she was in a brilliant dress.

I found black trousers and a black button-down shirt in my wardrobe and hurried to put them on. The popcorn was getting cold. Then I ruffled my hair (it needed cut) and grabbed a blue bowtie on my way out. I put it on while jogging back down the stairs.

I straightened the bowtie in the archway. Ryan was on the couch halfway through the popcorn. “Better?” I asked.

“Acceptable,” she said, leaning into the cushions and turning her attention back to the television.

“You’d think so,” I said and fell beside her. She smelled like lilacs even though there weren’t any nearby. “Low key night then, eh? Watching the countdown. Enjoying some popcorn. Tolerating each other.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Ryan replied. She tossed a few kernels into her mouth and didn’t do much as turn to give me a smile.

“I’m shocked. You’re not going to give me a snog at midnight?”

She looked over and arched a dark brow. “Why? You want me to? You want to kiss me, Weasley?”

I hated how she did that. I was trying to be clever, and she came right back with that smirk and made my cheeks heat up. “Done it once.”

“One day, lots of times,” she corrected in a Ravenclaw way.

“You tasted like tequila.”

“I don’t anymore,” Ryan said, turning her attention back to the television. “I taste like popcorn and pregnancy. It’s not a good combination, I promise.” She leaned into the cushions again and crossed one leg over the other. “You can go to your family party, you know. I’m not keeping you.”

I looked at her in her dress and pretty hair and long eyelashes. “I’ll be fine missing one year of the family getting too drunk to remember of Molly is Head Girl, Prefect, or just really snobby about the rules.”

“I don’t understand why she’s not a Ravenclaw.”

“She likes being right, she doesn’t like logically doing so.” I grinned. That was Molly. And most of my family, really. Especially Rose, thanks to Aunt Hermione. She was an entirely different beast, though, thanks to the Quidditch genes. I wasn’t looking forward to practices leading up to our game against Slytherin.

“What’s it like, then? Having a family like that? That are always there, even when you don’t want them to be?”

That made me think of what she said to Rox about actually having a family in comparison to what she had – nothing. For a while I didn’t reply. We watched the crowds and performers and interviews. Then I said, “I know I’m lucky. You don’t have to tell me.”

I had a Mum and a Dad and a (barely-there) sister. They didn’t leave me at King’s Cross. They didn’t force me to stay in a moldy flat waiting for them to come home. I had a proper bed and garden and breakfast when I came downstairs. No one needed to tell me how lucky I was, even with the shop failing.

“I’m craving ice cream,” she said.

I got her some with sprinkles.

“Are you going to kiss me at midnight then?” Ryan asked, mouth half-full of ice cream. A sprinkle fell onto her lap.

“I might,” I said, not confident.

We were both there, in front of the television watching the roars of crowds on the screen. My family was at the Burrow drinking entirely too much while Uncle Ron interrogated Ollie for a reason why she could tolerate James and Uncle Harry tried to overhear what it was James was doing behind his back.

“Go on, then,” Ryan said with a laugh, but once the countdown began neither of us moved. We watched as time froze around us. We were about to enter a new year and a lot of things were draped across the path before us.

Going back to school. The shop. NEWTs. Quidditch. Graduating. And most of all, we were going to be parents, something we knew nothing about. Something she had no mother around to teach her about and something that terrified me to the core. A father. I was going to be a proper father that changed diapers and made faces and baby noises.

When midnight came and the crowd cheered, it was Ryan who leaned in and kissed me. Slow and barely there, but it still stung and I still lost my breath.

She smirked. “Happy New Year, Weasley.”

“And you,” I said, eyes opening. We were so close I could see her individual eyelashes.

“Baby kicked,” Ryan whispered.

“As it should.”

*

We spent our final week of break at my house and the shop, shelving products and laughing and not hiding her stomach anymore. Ryan had a lot of conversations with Mum about vitamins and stretches and Roxy passed me the butter at dinner. We had a snowball fight on a Tuesday morning and Dad cheated. We took down the tree and got needles all over the carpet. Ryan packed each ornament into layers of white tissue paper.

“We should leave them up all year,” she said to no one at all. “They’re beautiful.”

She grew distant as the time to go to school approached. So distant she didn’t tell me about appointments or pregnancy things unless I witnessed her appetite or dizziness or the fabric stretched over her belly. I knew what she was doing. I knew she was trying to keep me out of things going back into school since she would go back to going it alone with Gemma instead of having my entire family checking up on her diet and exercise and lifting. Even Rox was slapping her hand away from heavy boxes.

Everything was so crazy and busy the morning we returned to Hogwarts that I forgot to notice what was happening around me, something I’d regret later. How was I supposed to know it was different? That I needed to pay attention to things outside of my trunk and cloak wand?

Turns out I should have glanced into the study where my father was pouring over court docs. I could have seen it coming.


*

Only little things had changed. Everyone was still whispering and giggling about Ryan. James had apparently made up with Ollie after the Andrew Parise debacle. Annie and I were back to laughing over dinner – we weren’t back where we’d been before, but it was better that way. Parise was still Prince Douche. Gemma was still tripping me in the hallway. Rox was sitting beside Scorpius. I couldn’t stop thinking about Ryan’s crush comment.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Ryan.

I thought it would be easy to fall back into the way things were at school. Pretend we knew each other through being Prefects. Pretend I had more important things to worry about like grades (pfft) and the shop. It was hard to pretend that much – to not look over and make sure she hadn’t keeled over from lack of iron.

James noticed too. He was very obvious when he stopped himself from asking about her. He covered it by snogging Ollie.

The one thing I hadn’t expected, though, was that our rooms were changed back. We were returned to the boys’ dormitories up the right staircase. James stomped the entire way up the stairs.

At least it smelled like roses and lilacs and girl.

I placed the pregnancy book back in my top drawer and locked it while Parise was in the shower and Mox was playing with miniature horses. Chopper was… being Chopper. Probably sharpening knives.

“Back to normal?” James asked, his eyes meeting mine. That was about the only thing James and I had in common – brown eyes.

“Seems like it,” I replied. I shrugged and flopped back on the bed.

“Saw you and Annie talking.”

“We’re getting on okay.”

“Snogging?”

I shook my head. Thought of the New Years kiss. Happy New Year indeed.

Over the final week of the holiday, I’d mentally decided not to bring up Annie to Parise. Something about his smirky demeanor led me to believe he would take it as it getting to me (which it admittedly did), but I didn’t want to give him that satisfaction. Especially after it hurt Annie more than it hurt me. She wasn’t a bad person, no.

She was just a pawn in his stupid attempt to land a place on the Quidditch team.

So when Parise went and flopped onto his bed with that shit-eating grin of his, I ignored him and finished off an essay I was supposed to have done over break. I outright ignored him. I was doing so well.

“How was your holiday, Weasley?” he said.

“Played a lot of Quidditch. Got practice in for the Slytherin match,” I replied, pulling on my pajamas. Looking brilliant, of course.

“You’ll need it, I’m sure. To commentate from the bench.”

“Rich of you to say.”

“Looking a little pale,” he said.

“It’s winter.”

“I heard your shop isn’t doing so hot. Something about you hitting a second year?”

James got up, but I shoved him back down.

“Since your first plan didn’t work, I’d like to know what you have up your sleeve.”

Parise didn’t say anything for a while. He moved his fingers through his hair, just staring at me like a bad B-movie protagonist. “You’ll see,” he said. “So will Potter. And it’ll be an adventure, I’m sure.”

“I’m sure.” I rolled my eyes and crawled into bed. James was muttering colorful phrases on the other side of his hangings.

I didn’t doubt Parise had something up his sleeve to get on that team. It was all he ever wanted. I almost wished I had more energy to keep him away, but the truth was I had more important things to focus on and one was probably craving ice cream in Ravenclaw Tower.

Once my dorm-mates were asleep, I went to the kitchens and used a spell to send Ryan Davies a bowl of vanilla ice cream with sprinkles.

*

Freddo –

Court day. Well, bigger than normal. Real court now.

Wizard court, though, so I still get to wear these dashing robes I bought ages ago.

I’m sure things will go fine. Just a bunch of statements from us and from Zonkos. Why we should get the space. Why we shouldn’t. What they had for breakfast. The usual.

It’ll be fine.

I’m sure of it.

Hope things are going well with you-know-what. Angie has a lot of emotions and you’re the cause of this so I’m going to make you mop her up when you come home next. She’s considering knitting. I’ve told her not to do that. She poked me hard with the knitting needle (I have several knitting needle related bruises and one I can’t account for).

I took one of your bowties for the court appearance. Hope you don’t mind but I don’t care if you do.

I’ll owl you and let you know how it goes.

Dad

*


Only he didn’t owl. I went about my day and classes and people and rumors flying around. I didn’t even look back at French and Ryan during Charms. I kept searching the windows and ceilings and crevices for an owl, but nothing came.

I tried not to worry. James looked worried.

I changed quickly for Quidditch and ignored Rose stomping about telling us about tactics and dives and morals (we had too many). Gee nudged me with her hip.

“You okay?” she said.

“Been better,” I replied.

“Don’t let Captain hear you say that. She’ll make you do crunches for not feeling well.” Gee elbowed me a little. “Not that I’d mind. You have a hell of a stomach, Weasley.” She winked.

I laughed. “Very funny. Do I look that bad?”

“You look distracted.”

True enough. “I’m still damn good at Quidditch.”

“Why weren’t you at the New Year’s party?” Gee whispered as Rose drew lines all over the chalk board and Ollie and James snogged.

“Why were you?”

She laughed. “Rose invited most of the team, I guess. Didn’t see you around.”

“Stayed home. Wasn’t exactly feeling it this year.”

“If things aren’t okay, you can talk to me, okay?” Gee said.

I looked over. “Thanks. I mean it.” I nudged her back and Rose shot me a scathing look.

“NO FLIRTING.”

Gee winked at Rose. “What’s your sign?”

“LAPS.”

*

“You going to date Gee?” James asked, smacking a Bludger out of the air with his bat.

“Fat chance. We’re mates.” My eyes were darting up and down the pitch while the Chasers and Keeper and Seeker did their things. Safe for now.

“You were mates with Annie.”

“That’s different,” I said.

“How?”

“Annie fancied me and I didn’t know it.”

“Maybe Gee does.”

I made a face. “I don’t think so.” I dove a few meters and hit another Bludger toward the stands. “How’s things with the girlfriend?”

“Patched for now. I think she’s past the Parise rubbish. I think we can all be best friends now.”

I grimaced. “Right.” We headed for the left side of the pitch, where I was sure the other Bludger was going to swerve. I was right. Ten seconds later, it was headed right for Rose, but I got it first.

“Heard the whispers?” James shouted over to me.

“LAPS. STOP TALKING.”

“SOD OFF. I’M THE REASON YOU HAVEN’T BEEN KILLED.” I paused. “ON THE QUIDDITCH PITCH.”

Some other saving grace was stopping her from being hexed in the castle. Probably the Headmistress.

Rose flipped me off and returned to being the best player on the pitch (as well as the scariest) until we broke for water. And a lecture on morals (we still had too many, apparently).

I sank onto the bench and poured one cup of water in my mouth and another on my face.

Rose was talking about Cup changes. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t have this in the bag. Slytherin isn’t any good and Ravenclaw is decent at best, worse without their star Chaser.”

Bugger.

“Speaking of which,” Gee said, raising her eyebrows. “She’s getting rounder.”

“She’s pregnant, isn’t she?” James said, shrugging. “That’s what happens. Or so I’ve seen on television.”

“Can’t believe she got pregnant at seventeen,” Ollie scoffed. “Who is dumb enough to do that? She doesn’t have a job.”

“She works at the library, I think,” James said and I wished he would just stop.

Ollie snickered. “Come on. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? A pregnant Ravenclaw. You’d think she was logical.”

I stood and dumped another cup of water off my face. I didn’t know how much longer I could handle it. Not being able to say anything.

“What do you think she’s going to do when the baby comes?” Ollie whispered maliciously. “It’ll be before she graduates, won’t it? Does she get her own suite or do the other seventh years have to listen to a baby crying?”

James was ruffling his hair, his face red.

“You sound a little Slytherin right now, Ollie,” I said.

“What’s it to you, Freddo? If she was a Slytherin you’d have plenty to say.”

“She’s a Prefect and should earn a little more respect.”

“I know a Prefect who apparently is on leave for a couple weeks since he beat the shit out of a twelve-year-old,” Ollie said matter-of-factly.

“You would know that, wouldn’t you?” I said with a faux smile. I nodded to all of them and left the pitch even though Quidditch practice wasn’t over. It didn’t matter.

I would have Prefect walks, but since I was suspended Rune was taking my shifts.

Instead, I went to the library and read for a few hours. Ryan wasn’t working. I wondered if she was at the pub and I swear to Godric if anyone was smoking in that establishment I would have something to say. Several things.

It wasn’t normal not having someone to talk to about everything. James was great and we were Frames, but he was still patching things with Ollie (who was apparently a rumor-mill) and knew more about the shop than pregnant women. Rox was still Rox. Dad hadn’t owled me back.

I wandered the corridors for a while, thinking. Baby names and onesies and telling the world that they needed to leave Ryan Davies alone because she wasn’t alone. I was there and they would have to go through me.

Even if she didn’t want them to.

It was only right that I ran into Gregory Zonko.

“Another great day in the courts!” he said, practically skipping down the fifth floor corridor. Let me note that he looked like an idiot. He usually did, but this time moreso because of the skipping.

I hadn’t heard and update and until the Prophet was out in the morning, I wouldn’t.

“It’s like I don’t even have to try with your family, Weasley. You lot just get emotional and crumble. Is it always that easy?”

I didn’t like the way that sounded. “Go away,” I said, continuing toward the common room. Maybe I would drag James away to talk with him. Anything was better than increasing my Prefect suspension and playing into his hand.

“How’s Ry-Ry?” Zonko said in a loud whisper (yes, it’s possible). “Does she still have morning sickness, or has that passed?”

“How should I know?” I muttered.

“She all ready to become a mummy? The whole school is watching now. I heard there’s a betting pool on the father.”

I pretended not to be interested. All this pretending was getting tiring.

“I should toss your name into the pot,” he said, still following me. “What do you think? Some stars align there, right? Prefects. Classes. According to some reliable sources, you were seen in the Ravenclaw common room the night Ryan was carried out. Apparently you were also in a sketchy part of London where Miss Davies has also been rumored to live. You think anyone will put the pieces together for me?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said and hurried up some stairs.

“How very Gryffindor of you,” Zonko said from the landing. “Running away from your problems and lying to get away from the truth. Not taking responsibility for your actions.” He laughed.

The back of my neck was heating up, but I kept walking.

“Just like what Dear Old Dad did today, hmm? Not taking responsibility for his poor sales, bad attitude, and inability to control his eldest son. I hear he was crying at the podium.”

I turned and he was grinning. Widely. Confidently.

“Your cockiness is going to be your downfall, Zonko,” I said. “I have more important fish to fry.” I tipped my head and closed the distance between myself and Gryffindor Tower.

I could lie all I wanted, but his last sentence was making my heart pound. Hard. He could have been making it up to spin his web of bullshit, but it could also be very true. Dad could have cried on the podium. He wasn’t much of a crier, but when he got overwhelmed things just started happening. Like his “episodes.”

I scribbled a note to Mum asking if things were okay and sent it off. Then I closed myself into my bed and finally opened the pregnancy book again. I took a deep, deep breath and started reading.


*

Freddo,

Everything’s fine.

Dad

*

I didn’t see Ryan until the weekend when I pretended to run into her (I was actually looking for her) in the library. She was perched behind the counter leafing through a book, fingers trailing along the page edges.

“Hey,” I said.

Her eyes darted behind me, but no one was there. “Public, Weasley.”

“How are you?” I asked, ignoring her.

“Unfortunately talking to you in public,” she muttered.

I glanced over my shoulders again, but the tables were empty. “How are you?” I repeated.

“Alive,” Ryan replied.

“Give me a serious answer. I’m not going away until you do.”

“I’m fine.” She finally looked up, meeting my eyes with an annoyed expression. “I’m breathing and eating and pregnant. I’m absolutely fine.”

“Okay.” I ran my fingers through my hair.

Her eyes softened. “You look like shit.”

“Popular opinion,” I said. I closed her book and she didn’t stop me. “Court stuff. Zonko stuff. People stuff.”

“I’m guessing you’re now hearing the colorful rumors surrounding my situation, hmm?” Ryan said. “Last I hear the father was the Giant Squid. The kid better have my legs, let me tell you.”

“You’re taking this well.”

“Do I have a choice?” She bounced a couple fingers off her growing stomach. “It’s either humor or I hex everyone who looks at me between classes. One of us should keep our Prefect status for the whole year.”

I chuckled. “Can I do anything? I mean, about the rumors? About anyone?”

“You’ve done enough, Weasley. Let it go.” Ryan opened her book again. “Now leave before you start getting preference over the Giant Squid. Wouldn’t be surprised if Zonko started planting the rumor. You’re feeding it.” She found her page again and looked up. “He’s messing with me an awful lot to get something from you.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” I truly was. I didn’t want her to have to get hurt for something that was barely between myself and Zonko to begin with.

“Oh, don’t be.” There was that devilish grin again. Her eyes lit up when she smiled like that. “It’s not your problem, after all. He’ll learn the hard way that when you push my buttons too much, things tend to go wrong…accidentally.”

I couldn’t help but grin in reply. “Show him who’s boss, Davies.” I tipped an invisible hat and headed back to the dormitory where James was setting up for a game of Exploding Snap.

“Everything okay?” he said, sitting cross-legged on the floor so Parise had to shuffle around him.

“It is,” I said, nodding. “I was worried, but it is.”

“Good. Now let’s play and make Mox eat the cards that don’t explode.”

*

Zonko wasn’t in the hallways Monday morning. Turns out, he was at St. Mungos after stepping too close to a Bomb Pop by the kitchens. Bomb Pops are Zonko products.




A/N: Just an FYI, while the queue was closed I went on a massive writing spree with this story. I'm going to try to update in order still, but this one may be updated out of order since I have so many chapters written. We'll see how things go. I am almost 20 chapters ahead now and I cannot wait to share with you more of the journey for Fred and Ryan, & co. 

Thank you all for being so amazing! 

UP NEXT: Fred gives Parise a warning. He takes a break to visit Ryan's alternate place of employment, only to realize he doesn't have the proper training to be a stubborn Gryffindor. There are cigarettes and broken bones.


Chapter 22: Thanks. Or Whatever.
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For Spyci and greenbirds (who has a really cool dragon-circus-y story out I just found an am fascinated with).




 

 

To say I was stretched thin was being kind.

Quidditch. Class. The shop. Zonko. Parise. Ryan and the baby.

Hell, throw everyone else in the mix.

I spent the days after our return from holiday trying to be in a thousand places at once and still keep every secret I had. Dad wrote back a few days after the Zonko – St. Mungos ordeal telling me the details of the case, but he was still lacking with actual details. It didn’t go well and they called him out on a lot of things. At the end of the hearing, the Zonko’s lawyer made a jab about it being an unfortunate circumstance that it was a one-man operation. Dad did cry, but not like Gregory Zonko made it sound.

I would have cried too. Then beat the shit out of the lawyer.

I had no idea what to do. I wanted to help, but every time I offered Dad told me there was nothing I could do. He still didn’t trust me after pulling the family name through mounds of mud.

“You think we’re going to lose?” James and I were doing after-hours Astronomy, which we didn’t need but it gave us time to talk without being disturbed. None of the other seventh years used the extra study time. We just liked finding silly shapes in the stars. Yes, like boobs.

“I do,” I admitted, which was the first time I’d done so out loud. “We can’t dig ourselves out of this one with the books the way they are and the merch the way it is. There is no reason we should have an extra space to expand.” I paused. “I snuck into the office a day before we got back.”

“And?” James said, glancing up from his telescope. He had a red ring around his eye from pressing too hard.

“We’re behind on the rent for the location,” I said softly. “We’re behind on everything except employee wages. I’m sure Dad doesn’t want people to find out.”

“How can he even afford another branch then?” James asked. “There’s no money to open it.”

I shook my head. “I dunno. I’d think he would have borrowed money from Granddad by now or something. Too proud though. Too proud to ask for money because the rest of the family is so successful.”

James got red behind the ears.

“Doesn’t matter,” I said, turning back to the stars. “We’ll lose and try to pick up the pieces to save the store in Diagon Alley. That’s the way it’s going to happen.”

He didn’t look convinced, but nodded. We didn’t talk for a while because we were thinking too hard about what it meant to completely lose the only branch we had.

Both of us would be out of a job and a dream.

*

One thing I was certain of, though, is that I missed having Ryan around. Even though she was mean and annoying and too proud, she was a breath of fresh air compared to Ollie and Annie and even Rose. It was the day before my suspension was up, so while China was doing walks with Rune I ventured to the library.

Ryan was behind the desk with a Sylvia Plath collection and a bored expression. She wasn’t trying too hard to hide her baby bump now that everyone knew. I saw a couple Hufflepuffs walk in and cast sideways glances at her before whispering behind their hands. I wanted to clunk their heads together.

I waited for all of them to go try to look for books without Ryan’s help and walked over to the desk. “I need to check something out.”

She looked up, indifferent. “What?”

“Already doing it.” I shot her a pathetically playful wink and pretended to look her up and down.

She threw the book at my head, which was deserved.

“Want to bail early?” I said. “Go get a box of juice or something?”

“Why? Weasley, I have no desire to hang out with you, as I don’t have a craving for ice cream.”

“You look bored.”

“I’m at work. Work is boring. You get used to it.” She grabbed her book back and reopened it to the page I wasn’t certain she was actually on.

“I miss you being around.”

“Are you drunk?” Ryan whispered. “You do realize all I do is talk shit about you and hate on Gryffindor, right? Is this a prank?”

“Yeah well it’s better than some other people.”

“Let me guess.” Ryan leaned forward, her dark hair spilling onto the counter. “Those other people have some colorful things to say about me and you’re starting to find it harder to keep your involvement a pristine little secret.”

“Sort of,” I muttered.

“Well try harder, shit brick, because there is no way you’re being dragged into this mess.”

“It’s not my fault.”

“Do you join in on the fun so they aren’t suspicious? What do you say?” She looked genuinely interested. “You probably make comments on how my breasts look better than they did before. I did wrap them for Quidditch matches, so you’d be right to say it.”

“I don’t,” I replied. “I just ignore them.”

“How convincing,” she said.

“I can’t do that. I’m sorry. I can’t say things like that about you.”

“Why not? We’re not even friends, Weasley.”

“To you,” I muttered, shrugging.

“Goddamn it. This is why I didn’t want you getting involved or even talking to me about it. You got clingy and you need to take a few steps back and go hang out with your mates and do stupid Gryffindor things like lighting throw pillows on fire.” Ryan snapped the Plath book shut again, this time louder. “You don’t need to be associated with the pregnant girl. Get on with your life. Go smoke a cigarette for me.”

I grimaced. “I’ll pass.”

“Then at least stop bothering me.” She paused. “Until I ask for ice cream.”

“You really don’t want to hang out with me?”

“Not really,” Ryan said. “You’re not my type.”

“Who’s your type?”

“Gemma.”

I raked my fingers through my hair. “Fine. Mum sends her love, by the way.”

“Yes well, tell her I’m fine and I got her package.”

“Mum sent you a package?”

“You’re just like her and it drives me fucking crazy, Weasley. Go play in traffic, I’m busy.” She reopened the book and went back to reading. “Go on.”

“Fine.” I shoved the book onto the floor because I was a child and left the library swiftly before she had a chance to hex me for potentially damaging art. I turned the corner and almost ran head-first into Gemma, strangely enough.

“Watch it, slime.” She shoved some blond hair out of her face. “Were you in the library?”

“Yeah.”

“Why? I didn’t know Gryffindors were allowed in.”

“Finding a book.” My cheeks went pink and I looked away.

“Did you find it?”

“Yep.” I grinned.

“Then where the fuck is it?” Gemma asked.

“I – I just needed to look something up. So I put it back on the shelf.” I tipped my head (ugh) and side-stepped her, walking briskly down the hallway.

“I’m onto you, Weasley,” she called after me. “Don’t think I’m not.”

“You’re always onto me, French. Just ask me out already!” I shouted over my shoulder and raced up a staircase toward Gryffindor Tower.

It was only a matter of time until Gemma connected the dots. Especially if Zonko got the bright idea to help her out with it.

Ryan was much less friendly now that we weren’t at my place and she didn’t feel like she had to be nice because I had offered her (required her) a place to stay. She was back in her domain and working and being a … pregnant woman.

I knew she had an appointment in another week or two, but she hadn’t told me the date and time. I wondered if she even wanted me to come along or if she was phasing me out.

“Freddie!” Annie was at the top of the stairs and skipped down them. “Hey! Last day of suspension, right?”

“Luckily,” I said, though I wasn’t sure if it was or not. I’d have to put up with China in a few more days talking about her cats and maybe I could come over and cuddle them for a few hours and probably shag her or something.

“Want to get a drink?” Annie said.

“I think I’m going to go finish my Potions.”

“Need help?”

I paused and looked over at her, halfway up the stairs. “What’s Parise done?”

“What?”

“We were on awkward terms over break and now you want to be mates and I’m trying to link it together. So what’s Parise done?”

“He’s hanging out with Ollie again, doing some studying.”

“And James?”

“Has no idea.” Annie shrugged. “I haven’t spoken to him since the Caribbean, so it would be awkward if I joined the study date.”

That guy was really starting to get on my nerves. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have enough going on, but he was constantly there to make things just a touch worse. It appeared as if he couldn’t unhinge me for a spot on the team, he was going for James, who was much easier to provoke when it came to his girlfriend.

“Hmm. In the library?” I asked.

“Yeah. We used to use the tables in the way back because it had more room to spread out.”

I considered this. “Let’s go study.” I grabbed her hand and moved swiftly back down the stairs toward the library. Annie was fighting to catch up because I was going just a touch too fast.

Ryan and Gemma were at the circulation desk and looked up curiously when we moved by.

“Hey, French,” I said with a cheeky grin and Annie shot me a weird look. “She hates it when I say hi,” I whispered.

“Ah.”

“Get bent, Weasley!” Gemma shouted back.

“See?” I said to Annie as we disappeared down an aisle layered with dusty books.

Just as Annie had said, Ollie and Parise were in the very back corner of the library pouring over books. Her feet were up on his lap.

“Hey, study partners!” I shouted and they jumped, looking up stupidly. “Great day for some…” I paused and looked at the books. “Transfiguration!”

“What’re you doing here?” Parise asked.

“Just having a group study. Annie said you would be here and I thought – wouldn’t it be a great idea to have some time with two of my favorite people? Well, one of my favorite people. The other is kind of an asshole but I’m a nice guy so I’m willing to look past it.” I kind of liked that Annie was smiling about it.

I still felt worse for her than I did for myself about the situation, something I couldn’t quite understand.

I pulled up a wood chair and grabbed a book, pulling it toward me. “This is great, isn’t it – Annie, pull up a chair. Get comfortable.”

Ollie had to tug her legs off Parise’s lap for all of us to fit.

“Really, Weasley. What’s your deal?”

“Studying!” I said. “My Transfig grade hasn’t been the best lately. I’ve been distracted. I hear you’re the best with study dates and Caribbean snogging so I thought I’d take advantage of one of them.”

Annie bit down on a finger to stop from giggling.

“Fred,” whispered Ollie. “We’re studying.”

“Me too. Isn’t it great?”

She rolled her eyes and went back to her book.

“How’s your Quidditch game, Parise? Still great? Still not on the team?”

“Clearly,” he muttered, going back to his text book, which I noticed had a comic book placed in the center. Crime-Fighting Wizards. Great stuff.

“You do know she’s not going to go for it, right?”

“What? Who?”

“Ollie. She’s not going to go for it like Annie did.”

“Go for what, Weasley? I’m trying to study.”

“How to be a ninja?” I said, plucking the comic book out of the spine and waving it around. Ollie groaned. “I just want to warn you. It’s not going to be that easy this time. Annie and I weren’t right for each other, but when you mess with James and Ollie you’re really fucking around.”

“Fred, keep your damn voice down,” hissed Ollie. “And we’re just friends.”

“Just thought I’d give you a warning.” I shrugged and pinched Annie so she snickered. “James is a lot less patient than I am and has a lot less happening in his life to distract him. He has my Aunt Ginny’s temper and that’s something you don’t want to mess with.”

“I’ve seen it,” Annie said, still snickering. I missed her.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Weasley. Ollie and I understand each other on a deeper, more intellectual level.”

“You’re reading a comic book while studying Transfiguration. That’s clear.” I rolled my eyes and stood, offering Annie my arm, which she took. “That being said, this was a blast. Really. Let’s do it again sometime.” I grinned and led Annie back through the labyrinth of books toward the circulation desk. “Need any books?”

“Honestly? I do need that new Carver book on the Sphinx for class.”

“Let’s get it.” We had to look for a while in order to avoid asking the clerk (argh), but eventually we found it in an entirely different section than we assumed it would be: Romance. I didn’t ask, but instead approached the desk with Annie in tow.

“I need to check out this book,” she said, placing it on the counter.

Ryan looked up, her eyes moving from Annie, to me, back to Annie. “Will this be all?”

Annie, I noticed, couldn’t not look at Ryan’s belly. Awkward. “Yes,” she said.

“You two back together then?” Gemma asked loudly. “You looked flushed. Did you go have a snog in the aisle?”

“Jealous?” I said with a grin.

“Disgusted,” she corrected.

Ryan wasn’t looking at me anymore. She scanned the book, put a card in it, and slid it back across the desk to Annie. “Have a great day,” she said like she hoped Annie’s day was the worst of her life.

“You too!” Annie replied cheerfully. She took my hand and tugged me out of the library.

Fine, Ryan Davies. If you have zero interest in spending time with me, I’d find people who did.

And also annoy Andrew Parise in the process.

*

Freddo,

How are things? I know your mum sent Ryan a package. Is everything in order because I need to hear about it ahead of time in order to prepare myself for your mother if it didn’t.

Have you and Rox talked since you’ve been back? Also need to prepare myself.

Why do you kids have so much drama? It tires me out just hearing about it.

Miss you,

Dad

*

“Okay, girls,” Rose said, jumping up on one of the benches. “The second game of the season is only a few weeks away and you’re looking like flobberworms on brooms instead of a real Quidditch team. The only reason we survived the Hufflepuff match is because I caught the Snitch. Fast. James, you’re a moron and didn’t save Fred from that Bludger.”

“Yes, Rosey. I’ve heard this countless times. It does wonders for my self esteem.” James draped an arm around Ollie.

“I just think you need to pay closer attention. Do you think Fred would have let that happen?”

“Probably. He’s slower than I am.”

I threw my glove at him.

“Regardless,” Rose said, re-gathering everyone’s attention. “I may not be able to see the Snitch that fast next time. This is an important game and I won’t have you women lazing about the whole time.”

“Do you realize how weirdly sexist you sound right now?” Gee asked.

“Did you say something?”

“Didn’t ask for laps, that’s for sure.”

“You got them. Get out.”

Gee grumbled something and shoved the door open. I watched her hop onto her broom and soar into the air. Like she would be caught dead doing laps with no supervision.

“Rose, I have something important to bring up.” James sighed and leaned against his locker.

“What is it?”

“Have you given that team dog thing a thought? I really think it should be a dog.”

“LAPS, POTTER.”

He grinned. “You’re my favorite Captain. Did you know that?” James saluted her, kissed Ollie, and disappeared outside to join Gee in not actually doing laps.

“We’ll be ready,” I said. “Seriously.”

“Do you even practice outside of practice?”

“Isn’t that what practice is for?”

“You watch yourself Fred Weasley or I’m going to bring up a reserve and you’re going to sit out.”

Ollie looked up.

I looked over at Ollie because stop.

“Got it?” Rose snapped.

“Yes, ma’am.” I saluted and walked outside to join James before I got in anymore trouble for trying to reassure the Captain things were going to be okay.

“What are you in for?” Gee called down.

“Being positive!” I said, mounting my broom and kicking off.

“Why would you ever do that?” Gee said, smirking. She flew toward me. “Heard you’ve been seeing Annie again.”

“Just as mates, I promise.”

“Good.” Gee winked.

“Please say you’re not flirting with me because I can’t tell and I don’t want it to be awkward when I don’t notice. I’m really bad at that.”

Gee, to my surprise, roared with laughter. “I’ll let you know, okay? For now just know that you’re not my type.”

“Why not? I’m good-looking.”

“Too scrawny.”

“I ate a basket of chips for lunch!” I called as she flew away.

“Not something to brag about,” said James, clapping me on the shoulder with his bat as he flew by.

*

On Friday, after a week of people repeatedly pissing me off and Zonko giving me a thumbs-up in the corridor, I decided to have a break. I told James I was going for a walk so he could have the dormitory to snog Ollie and stole the Marauder’s Map out of his drawer. As per usual, Ryan wasn’t in Ravenclaw Tower.

I grabbed my cloak and headed down to the one-eyed witch. I hated that walk in the dark with my wand light in front of me. Anything could sneak up behind, but I tried to ignore that. Eventually I popped out in the cellar of Honeydukes and crept upstairs. I bought a few chocolates and headed to The Hog’s Head to find Ryan with her hair in a knot on her head serving the regulars.

I took a seat on a stool and grabbed the drink menu.

“You have got to be kidding, Weasley. I’m not serving you.”

I grinned, not looking up. “I think I’m going to try this Firewhiskey business. Sounds thrilling.”

“Really doubt you can handle it without getting a girl in the bathroom stall again,” she muttered darkly.

“Then yes, I’d like a Firewhiskey.”

“Should I owl Annie?”

That time I did look up. “Have a problem, Davies?”

“Didn’t I mop you up after she dumped you the first time?” I watched her pour half-Firewhiskey, half water into a glass.

“We’re not snogging. We’re mates.”

“Clearly.” She rolled her eyes and gave me the drink. “Five Knuts.”

I slid the coins to her and tipped her a Galleon. She flipped me off.

“Oy – gorgeous. Refill, baby?” The guy was three down from me with a gray beard. There were crumbs in it. He was scraggly and his shirt was torn at the elbows.

“On my way, Rich.” Ryan put on her charming smile and filled his drink. “Anything else?”

“Your owl info?” he said, grinning. He was missing several teeth.

“Down, tiger.” Ryan winked and went to help someone at the other end of the bar.

I was trying not to pay attention, but the music wasn’t loud enough. I reached over the bar and grabbed a bottle of Firewhiskey, taking a long drink directly from the bottle. Not the best life decision, but it calmed my nerves while men were trying to hook up with my pregnant … Ryan.

How she could put up with this was beyond me. Being treated like that by people who barely knew her. Not to mention standing for so long. It made me want to pay her entire night’s salary, but suddenly I wondered if I could afford it now that the shop was behind on everything. I may not have money to throw around anymore.

“You do realize that’s a bottle, right?” Ryan was back and looking surly.

“Wouldn’t have needed it if you hadn’t watered down my drink.”

“I saw you hungover. I don’t want anyone else to witness that.”

“Why do you put up with this?” I asked softly. “These guys. Their…comments.”

“I get killer tips.” Ryan smirked. “You worry about your life. I’ll worry about mine.”

“I am worrying about mine,” I said.

“Then re-define it, Weasley.” Ryan dumped my watered-down drink and poured me a new one with the bottle I’d stolen. “Don’t cause a problem. I have a good thing going here.”

“Just let me…”

“No.” She held up a finger. “If I let you stay in this bar, you’d better behave. I will not hesitate to hex your ass right out those doors if I have to.”

“I don’t doubt that.” I took a sip as she walked back to help scraggly guy and be the peacemaker between two guys who were arguing about which actor played a bad guy in some terrible Muggle movie.

I was doing good for a while, staring at the assortment of glass bottles lined up in front of a mirror and listening to the dumb conversations happening around me. I was doing so well that Ryan topped off my glass and didn’t say anything nasty.

That was until a bloke in a leather jacket with a cigarette sticking out of his chapped lips came walking in. The door slammed behind him.

I waited impatiently for him to put out the cigarette, but he didn’t. He took a seat two stools down from me, puffing away. I looked over. Ryan was pretending not to notice, but I could see her nose wrinkle.

“Hi there,” I said with a grin.

The man looked over. He had dark, shaggy hair and was wearing sunglasses. Of course he was wearing sunglasses because it was so bright in the bar it was almost blinding.

“Do you mind putting out your cigarette? I’m allergic to the smoke.” I smiled again so that he wouldn’t be mad.

He chuckled a bit and blew smoke out of the corner of his mouth, right toward me. James was going to wonder where the hell I’d been.

“I gather that you may not speak English,” I said, even though I was certain he did. “I’m very allergic to it and my throat will close up. Would you mind just putting it out while you’re in here? It would mean a lot to me.” I coughed a little to support my case. Not that I needed the support.

The man did not reply again. He blew more smoke toward me.

Ryan arrived with a charismatic smile. “Can I get you something?”

“A shot of tequila. Two shots. You can join me, beautiful.” He had that hoarse, raspy voice.

“Absolutely, darling.” She smiled and poured two shots of tequila below the counter. From my angle, I could tell one was tequila and one was apple juice. Well done, Ryan Davies. She handed him the shot, he paid, and they took them together. He held the cigarette in his left hand while throwing back the shot and the smoke was wafting toward Ryan.

It was making me crazy. I knew she could and would take care of herself, but I hated this was what she had to resort to for money. All I wanted to do was offer her a place to work instead, but I knew the shop couldn’t handle anyone else while the court case was happening and we were so behind on bills. I also wanted to tell her she could just live with me after school until she found a job that paid her enough to stay on her feet, but I knew she’d punch me in the face and tell me to go be a Gryffindor somewhere else.

“Big shot’s allergic to smoke,” the man said softly. Or hoarsely. He jerked his head toward me.

“He tips well,” Ryan said with another wink.

“If I tip more will you toss him out? Disrespectful asking me to put it out.”

“It really is. He should learn some manners.” Ryan shot me a scathing look telling me to shut up about the cigarette.

I couldn’t. It was terrible for the baby and I knew it. I paid attention in some of the baby appointments! I read some of the book! I knew that was a bad idea. So much that Ryan had to stop smoking altogether even though I had to admit there was something about her and smoking that made it a little more desirable.

“Listen,” I said, trying to be cheerful. “I’m allergic and I’m a paying customer.”

“Who needs to Shut. His. Mouth.” Ryan pulled the firewhiskey bottle back toward her and under the counter.

“You look a little young to be venturing here at night, don’t you? Would be a shame for you not to make it back to the castle.” The guy was chuckling. I could have sworn he cracked his knuckles.

“Not in here,” Ryan said, but someone was shouting for her so she went to refill a glass or a shot or a bottle.

“Are you threatening me?” I asked.

The guy took a long puff and blew smoke directly into my face. “Maybe. You’re the size of a pin cushion. What’re you going to do? Choke to death?”

Literally, I was going to do nothing. This guy looked like he fought for a living and knew moves I couldn’t dream of. I was seventeen and had failed dueling. Miserably.

Mum said it was good I tried my best.

“That’s what I thought.” Leather Man turned his attention back to Ryan. “Oy, beautiful. Refill?”

She grinned from down the bar and finished taking someone’s money before walking back our way. Her hips swayed the entire way I knew Leather Man was watching but so was I. I couldn’t help it.

“Another tequila?” Ryan asked.

“Make it a full glass. Rocks.”

“You got it.” Ryan turned and spotted what I understood to be the cheap stuff under the counter. She bent over.

It took only a moment for Leather Man to reach over the bar and grab her ass. Only a moment. Ryan straightened up immediately and turned, a rage I’d rarely seen filling her eyes. It appeared she could deflect words easily, as long as a counter was between her and the objectifier, but once there was touching involved she had zero patience.

The thing was, she was too late. She was probably going to order him to get lost or hex him or slap him across the face. Something ruthless and very badass. Very Ryan Davies.

She didn’t get there, though, because I snapped and sent him flying with a right hook to the jaw. I couldn’t help it. I already hated she was putting up with all this rubbish just because her parents were shit, but I was not going to put up with another guy laying a hand on her (that she didn’t want). Absolutely not.

So I hit him and he crashed into another stool before falling to the floor. The cigarette bounced on the floor and I put it out with the tip of my boot.

“Sorry, Davies,” I said and my hand was stinging and in serious need of a bag of frozen vegetables. I was trying to look cool, though, and pretended it didn’t hurt. I shook it once to stall the pain. “Couldn’t handle that.”

“Weasley!” Ryan leaned over the side of the bar and Leather Man was stirring. “Are you fucking serious right now? Why don’t you just put up a sign?”

I groaned. “I said sorry. I’ll get out of your hair.”

Her eyes moved to the cigarette and she sighed. “Don’t even think about it.”

“Think about what?”

“Not you,” Ryan said, nodding toward the man, who was propping himself up on his elbows. “Get out of here, Weasley, or it’s going to get bad.”

I’d never been in a proper bar fight before. James had once when he got silly drunk and picked a fight over Gryffindor versus Slytherin. He lost with very little dignity, but told everyone a fabricated story about how the bloke ended up in St. Mungos. In actuality we stayed up late learning to apply stitches with our wands.

Now did not seem like the time to back down, though. Logically, it probably did. Guy was twice my size and his nostrils flared like a bull. But if I left he’d either follow me or make it worse for Ryan.

So I took out my wand and hoped for the best.

The best ended up being me flying backward after a vicious round-house kick I absolutely did not see coming. All of the air left my lungs and my head hit the stone wall as I slid to a stop. I couldn’t make out all the images and had no idea where my wand went.

Everything was spinny and I definitely cracked a rib somewhere. Some rib. Somewhere.

A few guys at the bar were chuckling.

Leather Man was approaching with his own wand drawn. He’d had time to light yet another cigarette.

Why was I always on the losing end of fights? Oh yeah. Because I was scrawny, as Gee put it, and could not fight to save my life. Literally.

I needed to scold my parents for not giving me the proper training to be a stubborn Gryffindor.

“Oy.” Ryan stepped out from behind the bar. “Get out.”

Leather Man looked over at her, or at least I thought he did. His head moved, anyway. “Excuse me?”

“Get out of the pub right now or I will call the police.” Her voice was steady. It was almost annoyed.

“Are you kidding me? Did you see what he did to me?”

Ryan sighed impatiently. “Out. Now.”

“And if I refuse?”

“I just fucking told you I’d call the cops. Do you not listen?”

That was clearly not the option he wanted to hear. “You watch your mouth, little girl.”

And that was not the option Ryan Davies wanted to hear from a bloke who just grabbed her bum. There was a flash of violet light and Leather Man was unconscious on the tile floor. A few people got off their stools to investigate and another two or three left.

Ryan knelt down beside me. “Would you fucking quit saving the day? This is getting old.”

“I said sorry,” I muttered. My head was pounding.

“Anything broken?”

“I’m broken,” I said. “It’s all broken.”

Ryan placed her hands up my ribs until I yelped. “Yeah. That one’s fractured at the least.” She sighed. “Can you stand?”

“I’m broken,” I repeated because I was kind of drunk and also still dizzy.

Ryan rolled her eyes and disappeared for a moment before returning with some beige wrap. She tugged up my shirt and wrapped it tight to my ribs.

“Like what you see?” I teased.

“I hate you.” She tied it in place. “We have to get you back to the castle. I’m good with a wand, but not that good. You need some medicine and a long night of thinking about what you just did.”

“I’m not seeing Annie, you know.”

“Okay.”

“I’m not. I don’t fancy her.” I wiped some dirt off my brow and probably just got more dirt on it. “So I’m not seeing her.”

“All right, Weasley. Up you get.” Ryan put her arm below my shoulders and helped me to my feet. It stung, but not terribly. She turned to the rest of the bar. “Everyone sodding OUT. NOW.”

“But I’m not—”

“OUT, RICH. I AM NOT FUCKING AROUND.” She took a breath and looked over to see that I was still breathing. “And take that fucker with you.” She pointed to Leather Man.

Ryan waited, tapping her shoes, as two guys carried his unconscious body out of the pub. She locked up and walked with me out into the snow. “I’ll be expecting a generous tip after this.”

“Can’t you just stay with me after school?”

“Get a grip. You’re a mess.”

“I’m serious. I have a house. And a family.” I was trying not to lean on her, but it was hard. Everything hurt and was swimming. “I don’t want people to blow smoke at you if you can just stay with me for free.”

“I’m not taking your charity.”

“You aren’t—Ryan, stop it.” I made her stop walking. “I am not letting you work here anymore.”

“And you can make that decision?”

“I will show up every night and ruin it.”

“You will not. I will hurt you.”

“No shit,” I muttered. “This is making me crazy and it’s bad for you and the baby and please just let me pay you what you’d make here. I’ll do it. You need to rest and be healthy and not be in a smoky bar serving drinks and pretending to drink tequila when it’s really juice.”

“Caught that, did you?”

“I didn’t slap it out of your hand, so yes.”

Ryan snickered a little. “Look,” she said, kicking my legs so I’d start walking again. “You’ve already done too much. Why can’t you go living your cute little Gryffindor life with your Gryffindor girlfriend and Gryffindor-ish family?”

“Because you’re in my life now.”

“Hate to ruin your paradise.”

“Are you joking?” I snapped, suddenly angry because of the alcohol and my ribs hurt so damn much. “Ruining my paradise? In case you’re wondering, my life isn’t paradise. It’s dull. Other than the shop, it’s just too well-rounded. Too easy. Nothing made me want to wake up in the morning other than wondering if we could get the Hogsmeade branch. Until you came along with your damn tequila and legs and things have never stopped moving.”

“Oh good. I’m a distraction.”

“Goddamn it, Ryan.” I grabbed her hair and pulled her to me and kissed her. It only lasted a second before she hit me and I staggered backward, but she grabbed me and she kissed me and it wasn’t like New Years at all. It was rough and her back was against a tree I didn’t even know was there until she shoved me away and told me to keep walking because I had a broken rib.

We didn’t talk for the rest of the walk even though I had more than one thing to say to her. Eventually she dropped me off in the hospital wing and the nurse smelled my breath and had a few colorful things to say about where I’d been and how I had a broken rib. I said it was because of a cigarette.

Ryan waved and left. She didn’t come to visit in the middle of the night or the next day, which gave me plenty of time to contemplate why the hell I’d kissed her or even offered to have her come stay with me. I knew she wouldn’t be for it. She wanted to make her own money, but with guys like Leather Man sauntering in for a drink it worried me.

James came down to visit Saturday afternoon and prodded my ribs with his wand until I threatened to snap it.

“Is that really what happened?” he whispered after I’d explained. “You really got kicked after punching a guy? You have got to get your head on straight.”

“I can’t help it. He was blowing smoke all over the place.”

“Don’t think Davies could have handled it?”

“I didn’t want her to get hurt.” I shrugged.

“I’m not going to be the one to tell Rose you won’t make practice tomorrow.”

I shrugged. “Probably just what Parise needs to get on the team. Talking about my reckless weekend plans.”

“How long are you in here then?”

“Nurse says I can go back to regular activities tomorrow. She wants to keep me in here tonight to make sure.”

“She probably has a thing for you,” whispered James. “Anyway, I’m heading back upstairs. Ollie and I have a date. Try not to get into too much trouble. You’re getting into a lot of trouble lately. They’re going to get you a cot in here soon.”

“I now have bed-requesting preferences,” I said.

I slept here and there throughout the day from the potion and when I came to somewhere around ten in the evening there was a folded note beside my bed. It was wax sealed.


Weasley,

Thanks. Or whatever.

Thursday night. 7pm. You know where.

D

I read and reread it, safely assuming from her perfect cursive that it was Ryan, but wondering what this was for and where I already knew it was taking place. I tucked it into my pocket, still sort of bitter she hadn’t come to visit me, and drifted back to sleep while my ribs healed.




A/N: 

Thank you everyone for reading! As a brief note (I mentioned this in 30 Days as well), I have a new story that is going to be starting soon. If you read my story Keep Away (Oliver/OC) I  am doing an Albus/OC where the protagonist is Jane and Oliver's daughter, Georgiana. You don't have to have read Keep Away or Hide and Seek at all, but it's a girl's POV and should be out very soon - so if you're interested, keep an eye out! 

UP NEXT: 

China is a fan (of more than one thing), Freddie gets his hands on an inappropriate novel, and there's that important appointment. You know, the one where you find out.

 


Chapter 23: Thursday
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Enjoy.




“You know where?” James was pacing. He was a pacer whenever he couldn’t figure something out. Back and forth enough times to make me nauseous.

“Except I don’t. I have no idea where I’m supposed to be on Thursday.” I leaned back on my bed, pausing to listen and make sure the shower was still running. Mox had a thing about showers feeling like massages so he took forever. He even had floaty pastel-colored bath toys. “She seems to think I know.

“Hogsmeade, maybe? Where you hit that guy in the face and he broke your rib?”

“I’d rather not,” I muttered. My ribs were still sore from that and the humiliation wasn’t getting any better. I’d told everyone else I tripped and fell into a fence post, which wasn’t doing me much better in terms of dignity.

“Have you two been anywhere else together?” James asked.

“The library? The secret room by the library? The girl’s toilets when I held her hair?” I grimaced. “We’ve been in her room before.”

“I can’t imagine she expects you to get past the riddle,” James said, also doing nothing for my dignity. “Can you just ask her in class tomorrow?”

“Might have to, though I have a feeling if I’m bad at catching on she’ll just take it back.” I stuffed the pillow over my face for a moment. “Ryan’s like a cat. She doesn’t trust anyone and when she reaches out you’d better be willing to do anything she wants because if you don’t… you end up in the hospital wing.”

“Tough crowd,” James said. He was back to pacing, faster this time. “You know, Ollie’s not like that.”

I thought of Ollie’s legs on Parise’s lap and it made me nervous. “I’ll figure it out. I have a couple days anyway. Maybe a walk will stir up a memory.”

“Prefect duty?”

“First time since I got back. Going to bust some Slytherins.”

“Can you do me a favor and not let Zonko provoke you? Because I’d like to at least keep the shop we may get to have.”

I had told James just as much as I’d told the press, nothing more. Not the exact words or the look in Zonko’s eyes or the malice in his tone. I kept that much to myself and it fueled my hatred for him each time I saw him in the halls. He wasn’t just messing with me or with Ryan, he was messing with my entire family and I had to find a way to stop him. Not that the court case going his way was helping.

“I’ll do my best,” I said, hopping to my feet and taking the letter back, stuffing it in my pocket. “I’ll figure it out. For now, I get to catch up with China. I’m sure she did something thrilling over break.”

“Like buy a new cat?”

“Don’t even,” I muttered and left.

China, as it turned out, actually had done something interesting. She’d visited Africa and helped build schools in poor villages. Made my quest for Ryan seem a little less glorious.

She let me talk a while, mostly telling her stories of made up events over the holiday or ones with Ryan conveniently cut out of them. Talked about the shop a little. About the family. About Uncle Ron talked to Rune, which China got a kick out of.

“How are things going with the court case?” China asked interestedly. “I’ve seen it in the paper.” The way she stopped her sentence, the way her tone reeked of pity, I knew she felt the same way James and I did. That we were going to lose.

“It’s going all right,” I lied.

“I hope it turns out well. I’d love a branch in Hogsmeade. I love all your products.” She smiled.

“You don’t have to be nice,” I said.

“I’m not! I mean, I am, but I always go there. I have a pygmy puff from your shop!”

“Do you?” I said, looking over as we turned to go past the Charms classroom.

“Yeah. His name is Brutus.”

“A pygmy puff called Brutus?”

“Adorable, huh?” China batted her eyelashes and I wasn’t sure if it was at me or the idea of having a male puff called Brutus. I ignored it. “It’ll be okay, I’m sure.”

“I hope so.”

“Say,” China said, moving so she had a bit of a jump to her step. “What happened between you and Annie? I overheard it was a bit of a bad breakup, but I saw you two in the Great Hall eating together yesterday.”

“We’re mates now,” I said. “Just didn’t work out. Caught me off guard, but she was right. We weren’t it for each other.”

“Have you found an … it for you?” China asked.

Godric, no. Was she being serious right now?

“I haven’t,” I said honestly. “I’ve got a bit too much on my plate to be worrying about women, to be honest.” Hopefully she’d take the hint. China was a wonderful girl but I was being honest when I said I did not have time to consider any options. James already had his option and mine would have to wait until this life rubbish smoothed over.

“Completely understand,” she said, nodding. “I was thinking of asking out Scorpius Malfoy, but then I think maybe that’s not such a good idea. I’m older than him, you know? What would happen when I graduate?”

“You should ask him out I’ve heard he’s dashing,” I said in one breath.

“What?” China cocked a brow at me.

I glanced over my shoulder to make sure we were alone. “Seriously. I’ve heard he’s a great snog. Why don’t you go for it?”

Had absolutely nothing to do with my sister possibly fancying him and not dating him yet… nothing. At all.

“You think so?” China said. “You think he’d fancy me?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t he?” I grinned and it reminded me of when Ryan put on her fake smile for the blokes at the pub. “You’re beautiful and funny and talented. He’d be lucky to have you.”

“Maybe I will.” China smiled. She really did have a stunning smile. I kind of felt bad for telling her to go after Scorpius even though my sister had a secret crush on him.

Whatever. My sister didn’t even like me.

Wow, I sounded angsty.

China and I managed to get through our entire walk without an incident. I celebrated by filling out mindless paperwork and filing it in the correct way in case Molly had another fit. Last time I’d been slapped across the face. I wrote Dad to tell him about it and he told me to man up and I deserved it.

On my way back to Gryffindor Tower I was walking extra slow, trying to think of where Ryan wanted to meet and why she wanted to meet. Maybe she wanted to talk about my duel (or lack thereof) with Leather Man. Or that kiss afterward, which I was trying not to think about.

That was when I looked over and knew right away where she wanted to meet and why.

Ryan Davies was letting me back into her life. It was probably because I was forcing my way in, but I’d take that as a win.


*

On Thursday at seven in the evening I entered the empty classroom we’d Floo’d from several times now. Ryan wasn’t there, so I took a leaf from James’ book and started pacing. Suddenly I was nervous I’d gotten it wrong and she expected me in the kitchens or the Quidditch pitch or Hogsmeade.

She arrived three minutes after seven and closed the door tight behind her. “Did you tell anyone?”

“James knows about the note,” I said. “I didn’t tell him where when I found out.”

“Did it seriously take you long?” Ryan narrowed her eyes, still leaning on the heavy door. She locked it.

“Longer than it should have,” I admitted.

“I want you to know that I only invited you because you got hurt defending… the baby.” She wasn’t looking at me. Instead, she moved swiftly to the book shelf and grabbed the Floo pot she’d hidden behind a few dusty books. “With the cigarette. So thanks. You can come to the appointment, but you better keep your mouth shut.”

“As always, darling,” I said with a smirk. Which vanished when she shot me a look.

“Let’s just go and I can deliver you back to your own kind.” Ryan tossed a fistful of Floo into the fire and disappeared.

I went right behind her, still trying to decide if this was a good idea.

Ryan didn’t yell when they saved her same room this time. She went straight to the good suite and got on the table and opened a magazine that was stored in her purse. It was on contemporary literary theory and looked boring as drying paint.

I took my seat on the spinny chair (and tried really hard not to spin) and started on a paperback I found in the waiting room. It had a half-naked couple on the front and said a few colorful things about their adventures.

“You’re reading erotica,” muttered Ryan.

“Jealous?”

“Shut your mouth.”

“I bet this is what gets you hot isn’t it? You Ravenclaws? Words.” I snickered. I couldn’t help it. She was up on the bed looking murderous, but I was laughing too hard to care.

She threw the magazine at me and I hit it away with my forearm.

“Let’s see here.” I opened to a random page. “He brushed his callused fingers over her soft skin and kissed her. It was tender, like waves lapping at the beach – how is a snog like waves?”

“Stop reading. This is revolting.” Ryan groaned and peered around for something else to throw.

“Peter – oh his name’s Peter – pressed his palm into her chin, raising her lips to meet his yet again. He kissed her hungrily – like he wants a sandwich? – and pressed her back against the stone wall of the castle – why would they not be in a castle? – She struggled at first, hating that it felt as good as it did – is this how you feel when you snog me? You hate that you love it?”

The jar of ear swabs went flying and hit me in the shin. Lucky it was plastic or it would have shattered.

“You love to snog me,” I said, still laughing.

Ryan was biting down hard on her lip.

“What? Who d’you think is a better lay? Me or Peter here?” I pointed to the bloke on the front cover, but I wished I hadn’t. Peter was a burly bloke with huge muscles and arms and great, long hair that was blowing in the wind.

“Peter,” Ryan said dryly.

“That’s not fair. I bet he has a shit personality.”

“So?” she said, but she was smirking now. Trying not to, but it came through.

“You’re shallow.”

“Look who you’ve been dating recently. Any of them less than stunners?” Ryan asked.

I considered it. Annie. Alessandra. Ryan… We didn’t date, but we shagged.

“It’s not my fault,” I muttered bitterly. “That doesn’t mean I’m shallow. Usually if someone shows an interest in me it automatically makes me interested. I’m a bloke. That’s sort of how things work.”

“You trying to tell me the fact that I’m very desirable didn’t play a part in our bathroom romp?” Ryan asked.

“Knock it off. Go owl Peter or something.”

“Gladly.” Ryan stuck out her tongue.

I narrowed my eyes. “Stop being in love with me. It’s so obvious.”

“Shut it, Weasley. Remember what I said.” Of course I remembered. She told me straight away not to fall in love with her and I wouldn’t. We would be rotten together anyway. She was the mother of my unborn kid and she was a pain in the ass. We could probably be mates one day, after these mood swings were done, but nothing more than that.

A Healer arrived to do a few preliminary tests and checkup things. Asked about Ryan’s appetite and stress levels and such. How she’s been feeling. I had the urge to ask if throwing ear swabs was part of the hormones, but left it be.

I slid the Peter book into Ryan’s bag.

The Healer seemed to think everything was going really well. She left and Healer Jones arrived with a grin and a bag of candy she ceremoniously handed to me. Score! Sweets!

“Very special day today,” Jones said and wheeled the blob machine over.

“It’s Thursday,” Ryan said.

“Let’s see here.” Jones outright ignored Ryan and pulled up her shirt. She spread the gross goo all over her skin and pressed the machine against it.

The black and white blobs appeared again and the same heartbeat as before echoed through the room. Dull thumps against the walls.

“Healthy?” I asked before I could stop myself or Ryan could tell me not to talk.

“Very,” Jones said with a nod. She was squinting and staring at the screen. “Very healthy from the sounds of it.”

“Brilliant,” Ryan said. “That shit is cold can we get a move on?”

I leaned forward and blew a bunch of cold air on her stomach and she slapped me on the back of the head.

“Don’t you want to know about the sex?” Jones said.

“We already had the sex and Ryan doesn’t like talking about it,” I said.

Ryan, however, was quiet. “We find that out today?”

I noticed her use of ‘we’ even though I tried not to.

Jones was still grinning. “Would you like to know or keep it a surprise?”

I was looking back and forth between them, feeling stupid for not getting it.

“Whether it’s a boy or a girl, twit,” Ryan snapped, but chest was rising and falling rapidly. “We can find out.”

“What? Seriously? Now?” I was on my feet suddenly wondering if I should be waiting outside with a cigar. I looked at Ryan. “Do you want to know?”

“I don’t know,” she breathed. “I wasn’t prepared for this.”

“Why don’t I give you two a minute,” Jones said and left the room.

We stared at each other.

“Doesn’t everyone like it better as a surprise?” Ryan asked. She wasn’t speaking very clearly. “Like, if we didn’t know…”

“But if we did people could buy you presents. Like little dresses or suits.” I shrugged. “It’s up to you.”

“What do you think though?” Ryan said and she grabbed my hand.

“What do I think?” I echoed, looking at her. Ryan’s hair was sticking to her forehead and her shirt was still up with the goo on her stomach.

“Tell me what you think,” she ordered. “Do you want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?”

Truthfully, it didn’t matter to me as long as I knew the baby was healthy, which I already did. It was clawing at me, though. Whether it was a little girl or a little boy.

“That makes it more real, doesn’t it?” I asked. “Whether it’s a boy or a girl. Name considerations.”

“Maybe we should wait then. Live in a fantasy a little longer.” Ryan laughed nervously. “That’s a good idea.”

I squeezed her hand. “We are living in a fantasy, aren’t we?”

She shrugged. “Sort of. Playing pretend for a couple more months.”

I stared at her for a while, not blinking. Her eyes were glassy, just as they’d been the last time we were here. Her hands were sweaty and for the first time she looked properly scared.

“I’ll get Healer Jones,” I said, breaking the grip and walking to the door. Jones was talking to a couple other healers, one of which I recognized to be Scorpius’ mum so I called for her and then ducked back into the room quickly.

“Did you make a decision?” Jones asked, moving back to her stool.

“We did,” Ryan said, letting out a breath.

“We want to know,” I said firmly.

“What?” Ryan said, neck almost snapping as she swung around.

“I’m tired of living in a fantasy,” I said, shrugging. “I want to know.”

Ryan didn’t reply. She stared, open-mouthed at me and she was crying again. I didn’t point it out. Instead, I looked back at Healer Jones.

“Very well.” Jones looked positively giddy, so much that I was sure this was one of the highlights of her job. She turned the machine back on and put it against Ryan’s stomach. “You’re sure?”

This time, I turned to Ryan. She nodded.

Jones moved the machine around for another thirty seconds and examined the display. I was starting to sweat and I wondered if maybe knowing wasn’t a good idea. If I should have waited instead of letting something so concrete into my life when everything else was wobbly.

Ryan snatched my hand again, squeezing it so tight it almost hurt.

“It’s a girl,” Jones said. “You’re having a girl.”

My knees buckled and I landed back in my spinny chair. Everything in the office was blurred and I was just sitting there, staring at the monitor of black and white shapes that I couldn’t decipher.

I was having a girl. A little baby girl.

A girl that would probably have Ryan’s attitude and natural good-looks and hopefully my hair and good skin. A girl that was half-me.

I was crying by then and I didn’t care. I didn’t look at Ryan and she didn’t call me out on it as Jones told her exactly where she looked and what the outline of the baby appeared to be on the screen. I wasn’t watching because I couldn’t. My body trembled.

A little girl.

Ryan and I were having a girl.

I wasn’t terrified or horrified (though I was positive that would come later). For now, I was crying in that happy and shocked sort of way because in a few more months there would be a little girl dressed in a blue cloth (Ravenclaw, obviously) in the world and Mum would be sobbing and Dad would probably be crying (and trying to hide it) and I would be a mess. Nevermind cigars.

We were having a girl.




A/N: First of all - EEEK! They KNOW. I have been excited to share this chapter for a while now, so I really hope everyone liked it. I know more than one of you has a theory about how Freddie will handle a little girl. 

Secondly, I want to say thank you to those of you who have read The Keeper's Daughter, which is now available. It is a lot of fun getting into the head of the daughter of someone stubborn like Oliver and sassy like Jane - so thank you. It means a lot as 30 Days of You & Me comes to a close. 

Thirdly, you're all the best. Just saying. 

UP NEXT: James takes Freddie shopping. Gemma gets one hint too many. Freddie wonders about fairy tales.


Chapter 24: Fairy Tales
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Quick thanks to everyone's kind words about not only this story, but on 30 Days since I recently posted the final chapter. Pretty surreal for me. THANK YOU.




“What are we even doing here?” I groaned.

“Your mum told me to take you out and I’m doing it.”

“Here? Really?”
James grinned and spun with his arms out around him. He whacked a mannequin. “Come on. You’re going to need supplies, right?”

“I don’t know that Ryan will let me get supplies,” I said honestly.

We were in a baby supply store. It was a big box store with tall aisles and colorful clothes and plush bears and way too many stroller options. It was in a burb just outside of Edinburgh where we hoped no one would recognize us. Hoped.

“So let’s pick out some girl shit,” James said, tugging me toward the first aisle. Lots and lots and lots of play pens.

“Are there differences?” I looked from one price tag to the next. “Clearly. Holy Merlin, why are these things so expensive?”

“That one has giraffes, that’s why.” James was squeezing the plush material. “You think these are comfy?”

“Why, want one?” We continued toward the car seats and strollers and I scolded James for trying to fit in them. All of them.

This was a foreign world to me. I could tell what most of the merchandise was, but then in the bottle section there were one too many contraptions that looked painful. Torture devices, more than likely.

“What’s this?” I whispered, holding up a package of bright bags.

James tilted his head and squinted. “Label says barf bags.”

“Designer barf bags?” I wrinkled my nose.

A tall, leggy attendant appeared at the end of the aisle. “Is there something I can help you boys with?” she asked. Her hair was long and blond and very straight.

“We need baby shit,” James said impatiently because he had his fingers stuck in a bottle.

“Anything in particular?” she said. “Is this for a gift?”

“For his unborn kid,” James said, still tugging at the bottle. He was getting red in the face.

“Ah.” The woman smiled kindly. It was clear she’d been trained not to judge people. Especially seventeen-year-old people having a kid. “Do you know the sex yet?”

“They did it in a bathroom stall,” James said.

“Of the baby,” I snapped and then looked back at the woman. “We’re having a girl.”

“Brilliant!” She clasped her hands together. “Let’s start you off small. I’m pretty sure Mum is going to want to have pick of the big things, unless she’s told you what she’s looking for.”

I snorted. That was the best answer I had. Like Ryan told me anything other than what a Gryffindor I was. Colorful phrase, that was.

“No worries. Let’s get you some lovely girlie things to take back and show Mum.” The woman led us down another aisle to the displays of colorful clothes in pinks and greens and yellows and a onesie that had a picture of baby droppings on it. Parents had weird humor.

“Look at this!” James was snickering at the ‘I’m a star!’ on a onesie with a football on it.

I was getting a little overwhelmed. Tiny dresses were dangling off tiny hangers and I couldn’t imagine anyone being small enough to fit in that. Holiday dresses and little leggings and onesies with snarky sayings. They had everything.

I was still adjusting to Ryan being called ‘Mum.’

“Does anything catch your eye?” the clerk asked, holding up a pink shirt with a cat face scribbled on it.

I opened my mouth and closed it quickly. Maybe this wasn’t the greatest idea for an outing the week after I’d found out we were having a girl.

“I like this one,” James said. It read: My Uncle Rocks.

“The dresses are nice,” I sputtered. I was starting to sweat, which was awkward.

“We can get her a few matching bibs as well.”

“Bibs?” I said.

“For when she pukes all over you when you feed her carrots instead of cake,” James explained.

“Brilliant.” I took a breath and nodded as the clerk left and returned with several pink and purple bibs that matched the dresses. Tiny cotton dresses with ribbon. It was almost hard for me to look at knowing in a few more months something was going to fit in there. A little girl.

Talk about overwhelming.

“Yeah, good.” I nodded. “Bag them all up.” I’d ship them to Mum so she could store them. It would be a bad idea to let Ryan know I’d been baby shopping. Then again, we weren’t living in the fantasy world anymore. This was as real as it got before she was in our arms.

I wondered if Ryan would let me in the hospital room to hold her hand. Or if she’d even let me be at the hospital.

James handed the clerk the Uncle shirt. “Look at these little shoes!” He held up some tiny red sneakers. “Get these too. Oh! And these! Look at this… how hilarious is this?”

I wasn’t paying attention, just nodding at his suggestions. He had good taste anyway.

I started to look around the place again – all of the bedspreads and stuffed animals and teething toys. It was all so much for a tiny little person. How on earth was Ryan going to afford all of it? She couldn’t even pay rent, let alone all the rubbish associated with a kid.

And now her Quidditch career was down the toilet. She’d never get signed if she didn’t play her seventh year. She’d have to join a rec league and try to work her way back up to the top, which could take years and pay worse than the pub.

It was my fault, I knew that. Not all my fault, but still some.

I wished she would let me help. Even more than I was.

“You going to throw a party?” James asked. He took some gum out of his pocket and popped a piece in his mouth. He offered some to the clerk, but she declined.

“A party?”

“Yeah, like a shower. You know, with the pink balloons and lame games and presents.”

“Presents?” I said, eyebrows raising. I’d forgotten about baby showers.

“You know Grandmum would knit a whole blanket,” James said. “She keeps trying to pressure Victoire to get knocked up. Yours will be her first great-grandkid.” He shrugged.

I hadn’t considered that. Having a baby shower with all of the Weasley family. Ryan would get everything on her registry, plus some. She could have everything she wanted, just from one party.

My relatives couldn’t save money if they tried. If there was something to celebrate, they did it properly. And a baby required extra proper.

“Can’t exactly tell them, can I?” I said, frowning.

“Come on. Like it’s not going to come out eventually.”

“Like you working at the shop?” I countered.

“You don’t know my life,” James muttered. “Listen, it’s going to come out eventually when you’re helping her deliver a baby. Just convince her closer to the date – if Zonko hasn’t outed you yet – to have a party at the Weasley Estate.”

“I’d hardly call it an estate,” I said.

“If I put a sign out front saying Weasley Estate, it’s an estate.”

“Deal.” I shrugged. “I’ll talk to Ryan about it. She won’t be too keen, I’m sure, since she’ll see what I’m trying to do.”

“What’re you trying to do?” James asked as he handed more rubbish to the clerk for me to buy. “Throw her a party for putting up with your shit? She deserves the whole damn town to come.”

“I don’t appreciate your tone.” I shoved him into a display. He surfaced with a stuffed bear in his mouth.

*

Freddo,

Thanks for sending your mum all this rubbish and letting her know it’s a girl. She is now back into knitting and stabbing me with the needles. Do not appreciate it.

She’s also contemplating using the spare bedroom as a nursery for when the baby is here and putting an extra bed in there for Ryan. She’s painting it pink. It’s getting really hard for her not to tell anyone, by the way. She can’t even properly brag.

Be safe at school. No fighting.

Dad

*

Ryan told me a week later the Heads tried to give her different accommodations even though she was still a few months out. She refused, citing that she wanted to stay with Gemma and also loved pissing off the rest of her house by doing pregnant things.

She had even started making up things that weren’t side effects to get people to do what she wanted. Blokes gave her their Quidditch magazines so she could practice reading so her eyes didn’t go bad. China gave her a back rub in the Prefect office because her spine was too stiff to do walks properly. Rune gave her a galleon for ice cream because her blood sugar was low.

Though it had its perks, these extra bits of information also provided plenty of rumors to stalk Ryan around the castle. I tried to ignore them, but they got under my skin and into my blood and sent me into the bathroom more than once to splash cool water on my face.

It was even ruthless in class when people I’d considered good people made underhanded comments about her being pregnant.

“Can you even touch your toes, Davies?” sniggered Finley, a Hufflepuff. Seriously. A Hufflepuff said that. I had no idea they were capable.

“Want to find out?” Ryan shot back and got in trouble for talking out of turn.

James tried to continue being his jackass self while Gemma and Ryan sat behind us in class, but even he was having a hard time. He had grown fond of how much shit Ryan was giving me because it meant he didn’t have to do it so often. And it gave him more time to snog Ollie, which he was obviously happy about.

“What’re you looking at?” Gemma snapped when I turned around in class. I knew I shouldn’t have or I should have thought up a remark, but I didn’t.

“Nothing,” I said and turned back to the board. I copied some notes.

A paper ball hit me hard on the back of the head.

I turned. “What?”

“What’re you up to, Weasley?” Gemma hissed. Ryan elbowed her.

“Taking notes, French. Why, fancy a snog?”

I got hit with another ball to the face.

“Pay attention,” James snapped and I went back to my notes.

I was distracted. Why was I always distracted nowadays?

*

China and I finished up walks early on a Tuesday in late January, thankful no one was caught swinging beers in the halls or dueling in the Charms corridor. That really cut into my study time. I waved to her and felt bad. She’d been sort of mopey since Scorpius Dunderhead Malfoy had turned her down. Apparently he was “super sweet” about it, but I wasn’t buying it.

I turned up a few more staircases, hellbent on cracking open that pregnancy book again if Parise wasn’t sulking around the dormitory. As far as I knew, he hadn’t made a move on Ollie. I knew because he wasn’t dead.

If he was there, at least I had a Potions essay to pretend to work on.

I rounded the staircase and hopped onto the seventh floor landing when my shoulders were thrown square into the stone wall, damn near knocking the wind out of me. My head slammed against it and I blinked away blurry tears. What the hell?

“Listen, Weasley.”

I had expected Parise. Scorpius Malfoy. Hell, maybe Zonko on stilts.

I hadn’t expected Gemma.

“French?” I said, gasping for breath since my lungs felt punctured.

“Ryan’s finishing up a shift in the library.”

“Okay?” I said. Her palms were pinning me to the wall. Girl was strong.

“I asked her a casual question about you,” Gemma said. As she came into focus, I noticed she was positively fuming. Her face was blotchy and red. She looked almost like she had her teeth barred. “She couldn’t even look at me. Not even to make up some lie about Prefect bullshit. Don’t treat me like I’m stupid, Weasley.”

“I really have no idea what’s happening,” I said. “I did Prefect walks tonight, though.”

“It’s you,” Gemma hissed. “It’s you, Weasley, and don’t you fucking dare lie to me.”

Suddenly her wand was out and at my throat and I had never imagined this as a way I would die. Flood, yes. Gemma, no.

“What do you want me to say?” I said, trying to stall. Hoping Ryan would walk down the stairs when I knew very well she’d take a different route to Ravenclaw Tower from the library.

“Tell me the truth,” she whispered, face inching closer to mine. Her wand was prodding into my neck.

“Why does it matter so much to you?”

“She’s my best friend and you are a coward and a sorry excuse for a man.”

“You’re charming, you know that?” I said.

The wand went further into my neck and I choked a little.

“French, let up, okay? What’s Davies told you?” I thought it was safer to pretend I didn’t use her first name. I didn’t used to.

“She’s told me it’s no one I know and she’s a lying shit,” Gemma said. She drew her wand a little further away, but was now digging her elbow into my ribcage. “Admit it, Weasley. Admit it or I’ll out you.”

“How does that work, exactly?” I asked, wiggling a little to try and escape. It didn’t work because Gemma was a ninja. I didn’t know Ravenclaws were allowed to be ninjas, but it appeared I was mistaken.

“You’re testing my patience.”

“Gemma?”

OH THANK EVERYTHING.

Gemma leapt back and pocketed her wand. I unceremoniously let my knees buckle and flopped to the floor. Mildly unattractive. I choked a bit and caught my breath, rubbing at my ribs because that woman had one hell of a bony elbow.

“What’re you doing?” Ryan asked, casually strolling down the hall with a messenger bag draped across her chest and bouncing off her hip.

“Just hanging out with Weasley. Having a chat.”

“About?” Ryan asked. She kept her tone steady.

“The weather,” Gemma said.

“And how is… the weather?”

“He won’t admit that it’s raining,” she said bitterly.

“You could have talked to me about this, you know,” Ryan said, lowering her voice. “And seriously? In the middle of the corridor? Are you fucking mad?”

“Yes,” I inserted. Gemma kicked me in the shin.

Ryan grabbed Gemma and me by the collars of our shirts and practically threw us into the nearest classroom. She bolted the door shut. “Both of you realize Zonko could have been out there ready to give the world more information he didn’t need, right?”

“Yeah,” I said, shooting a look at the blond. “I REALIZE THAT.”

“Shut up, Weasel.”

“That’s original,” I muttered.

“Gemma.” Ryan shoved the pair of us apart and looked at her friend. “Listen.”

“Are you two going to be together because I will throw up if you snog.”

Good thing she wasn’t there at New Years. Or after the pub.

Ryan groaned. “If you would shut your mouth for a moment,” she said, raising a finger. Gemma didn’t reply. “Thank you. Yes, it’s Weasley. And before you make a remark, know that I’ve already made all of them so save your breath because you know how I hate repetitive things.” She narrowed her eyes.

“How?” Gemma said, trying to turn her expression of horror into interest. It didn’t work.

“Tequila,” said Ryan. Gemma nodded.

“Pretty sure the Giant Squid would get a better reaction from you,” I said.

Gemma shrugged. “Probably.” She turned back to Ryan, frowning. “I almost didn’t want to believe it.”

“I’m really not THAT bad!” I shouted, annoyed.

“That’s why Potter wanted her address!” Gemma cried, throwing a hand over her mouth. “You sneaky thing!”

I actually did smirk there. “Found her, didn’t I?”

“You did?” Gemma turned and looked at Ryan. “Don’t tell me.”

“I won’t.” Ryan shrugged.

“DO tell me, you shit!” Gemma punched Ryan in the shoulder and I wondered how these girls were this violent. “Did you see him over the holiday?”

“He wasn’t easy to avoid,” she replied tartly.

“And?”

“And I stayed at his place.”

“He’s a GRYFFINDOR.”

“Again, not that bad.” I made a face.

“Drop it, Gem. It happened and I’m dealing with it and no one is ever going to know it’s Weasley.” Ryan raised her finger again when Gemma tried to respond. “So yes, it’s him. Yes, it was tequila. Yes, I stayed with him over break.”

“You told me someone was there with you when the baby kicked,” Gemma said.

“It was him.” I was pleased to see Ryan’s cheeks pinker than before.

“And your appointments? Don’t you dare.”

“He went,” Ryan said, sighing.

“YOU TOLD ME YOU WANTED TO GO ALONE. ALONE TO HAVE A SNOG.”

“With Peter,” I muttered halfheartedly.

“Listen,” Ryan said, slapping Gemma hard on the arm to get her to shut up. “You either deal with this or you out us. If you deal with this, you’ll just have to deal with seeing Weasley a little more often. If you out us, I will properly kick your ass, pregnant or not.”

I didn’t doubt that. I wanted to watch.

Gemma looked between the two of us, her breathing slowing. “Fine,” she spat. “But I do not approve.”

“Fuck, neither do I,” Ryan said.

“This really has been a pleasure,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Can I leave now and let you two ravage my reputation in peace? Or do you want me to contribute?”

“Does Potter know?” Gemma asked.

“Yeah.”

“Great. Something else for him to hold over my head.” Gemma leaned against a desk and shook some hair from her face. “Rowena, Ry. If you were going to shag a Gryffindor at least it could have been Andrew Parise. He has good bone structure.”

It was like being backhanded with a purse. A purse filled with bricks. Giant, concrete blocks.

“He can’t even make it onto a Quidditch team,” Ryan said.

“Still. Cute kids is all I’m saying.”

I met Ryan’s eyes for a moment and tried to read what she was thinking. Ryan Davies was a mystery I wasn’t any closer to figuring out than the day she cornered me in the Prefect’s Bathroom. She held my stare until long after I’d broken it to escape back to my common room and tell James French knew and to prepare himself for long-range paper ball throwing.


*

I didn’t see Ryan too much over the next two weeks. I was playing a lot of Quidditch and she was working in the library. I asked if she was working in the pub and she told me to mind my own damn business, but I hoped she wasn’t. I knew Mum was writing her, so maybe she was talking some sense into her.

Gemma knowing didn’t make matters any better. She threw sharper objects.

I started hanging out with Annie again after Quidditch since James and Ollie were already on the pitch. Ollie didn’t mention Parise and the rest of us didn’t bring him up.

They brought up Ryan more times than I wanted them to, but the school was small and there were only so many times I could comment on Rox’s sideways glance when I passed in the hall.

The truth was, I wasn’t any closer to being Roxanne’s brother as I had been before break. The only difference was that she wasn’t throwing out insults. Now she was flat-out ignoring me. Some good that talk did.

I tried not to worry about it and focused on my studies(ish) and Quidditch. Rose’s practices were now messing with Prefect duties and Molly was threatening to give me extra walks if I wasn’t on time. At one point I was ten minutes late since I ran from the shower with a towel still on my hair to a meeting. Ryan masked her laugh as a hacking rough and Rune gave her a lemon drop.

A day later in the library I played the pity card and she let me feel the baby kick. Her stomach was getting rounder and Mum sent her some maternity clothes. It was still hard for me to keep my eyes off her.

The start of February was cold and snowy, so we took the first Saturday and instead of venturing into town for a pint, we huddled under a heated dome outside. James made a half-assed fire and then Ollie made it better. We made s’mores as the afternoon light died. Annie uncorked a bottle of wine she’d stolen from the kitchens.

“Truth or dare?” Ollie said, laughing.

“I would actually rather cut off both hands than play that,” I said. Quickly. “Both of them.”

“I dare you to kiss Annie,” she said.

“I wish you wouldn’t,” I replied. “I dare you to snog Annie. I’ll watch. With a camera.”

Annie was laughing, but her face was red.

Ollie had that habit lately. Trying to push Annie and me back together. It was getting annoying, but I tried not to let it bother me. I just hoped it wasn’t bothering Annie.

They left after a while since James burned his thumb in the fire and Annie cleaned up the wrappers from where they’d been sitting. “Sorry about her,” she said.

“Ollie? It’s not her fault. She thinks everyone should get the fairy tale she has.”

“Why shouldn’t they?” Annie said, stuffing the extra chocolate squares into the graham cracker box.

“That’s just not the way things work.”

“Who says?”

“Life?”

“I don’t think life says anything,” Annie argued. “You can have whatever ending you want. You just have to have the courage to go after it.”

“Is that right?” I leaned back on my elbows and stared into the fire. What kind of ending did I want? A safe, easy ending where I could focus on my career?

Or that hard path I’d been climbing?

“What do you want?” I asked her.

Annie looked over, frowning. “A fairy tale,” she said.

“Knight and all? I heard that armor isn’t doing them any favors.”

Annie leaned down and pressed her lips against mine. She didn’t say anything, just kissed me. She was soft and fragile and I had no idea why she was kissing me.

I drew away, staring up at her. “Annie…”

“I’m sorry,” she said, her cheeks reddening again. “I had to do that. Just once.”

I sat up and fiddled with the marshmallow bag, unsure of what to say. I hadn’t expected that.

The fire’s reflection was bouncing off her skin.

“Annie, we weren’t right together,” I said slowly, hoping the words would find me. “You knew that before I did.”

“I know,” she admitted. “I just miss kissing you.”

“Made things easier, didn’t it?”

“Made things familiar,” Annie corrected. She was right about that.

We sat in the grass for a while, eventually tidying up and putting out the fire. Annie undid the heating charm around us and we tracked through the snow back to the castle. It was starting to come down harder now, covering the branches of the forest.

“Sorry it didn’t work out,” I said when we made it to the door.

“Don’t be.” Annie shrugged. “We’ll find our fairy tales, right?”

“Or something else,” I said with a brief smile. She retreated to the hospital to find Ollie and James and I made up something about needing to finish the Prefect paperwork to go upstairs.

I didn’t go to the Prefect office, though. Instead, I went to the library. Ryan was behind the desk looking just as bored as usual. She ignored me when I pulled up a stool.

“Do you believe in fairy tales?” I asked.

“You’ve reached your quota of dumb questions for the month. Come back in March.”

I nudged her book and then turned it to a different page. Ryan swatted my hand away. “I’m serious. Do you?”

“Can you give me some context behind this stupid sugar-coated question?” She sighed and closed the book entirely. “Why are you asking me about this?”

“James and Ollie get their fairy tale,” I said, shrugging. “Do you think everyone does?”

“I doubt my parents are living in a fairy tale,” she muttered.

“Do you think everyone is capable, though? If they go after it?”

“Why, are you secretly a prince? If so, I may have misjudged you. I’d like to request a necklace made entirely from sapphires.” She paused. “To make myself clear, that was sarcasm and I will physically harm you if you do that.”

I smiled. “Just something Annie said to me.”

“Ah… Annie. The Gryffindor. The Gryffindor ex-girlfriend.”

“Yes. That Annie.” I narrowed my eyes.

“The one who dumped you,” Ryan added.

“You really know how to talk to a guy,” I muttered. “We’re just mates.”

She stared for a moment. “Is that right?”

“Yes. Of course.”

“Is that why you have lipstick on the corner of your lips? Or were you snogging Potter?”

I quickly wiped at my lips – more than I probably should have. The red came off on my shirt sleeve. “She kissed me for a minute. We were talking about fairy tales and she kissed me.”

“You don’t owe me an explanation, Weasley,” Ryan said. She opened her book.

“I don’t care. I want to tell you.”

“Here’s the thing.” Ryan inserted a finger into the air again. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“I don’t give a damn,” I said, grabbing her book and tossing it onto the floor behind me. Her eyes flashed and I was made very aware I had triggered a mood swing I didn’t want to mess with. “I don’t fancy her. I thought I did, but I don’t.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Ryan snapped, trying to keep her voice down by speaking through her teeth but failing. “I don’t give a damn.”

“Because I have to,” I blurted. “Because I fucking have to.”

“Weasley, go shag Annie for all I –” Ryan stopped and grabbed for the counter. Her eyes were wide, lips still forming a word.

“What?” I fell into the counter before her. “What’s wrong?”

“She kicked,” Ryan said, smiling a little. “She kicked. She wants you to shut the fuck up.”

I grinned too. “She’s probably on my side.”

“Doubtful.” Ryan pressed her lips together. She sniffed a little.

Then, just as easily as she’d flown into a rage, she was crying. She leaned down onto her stool and put her face in her hands and cried.

I glanced over my shoulders and when I saw no one jumping to check out books that late, I moved around the checkout counter and pulled Ryan into my arms. We sank onto the floor behind the desk and she wept into my shirt creating great long mascara marks like scribbles and drawings. I rocked back and forth with her and she jumped when the baby kicked again.

I rested my cheek against her hair and let her cry. She looked like she’d been bottling up a lot and needed to get it out. Tomorrow it would go back to the seething Gryffindor remarks and pretending I didn’t exist, but for now I could hold her and consider what it would be like to be in that delivery room when she needed a hand to squeeze.




A/N: I'm guilty. I can't get enough Frames. All the time. 

I hope everyone is doing well and welcoming the warmer (or colder) weather wherever you might be! My life has been crazy as I am taking on 3 jobs, starting a business, and writing a novel. It's crazy, but I love every moment.

I really hope you enjoyed this chapter! And, in a total jerk move, I'm going to tell you that the next chapter was actually one of my favorites to write. 

UP NEXT: Valentine's Day is approaching. Fast. Not everyone is feeling the romance. Parise has something to brag about. James does not. Fred gets stuck on Prefect duty. 

Then he gets an owl in the middle of the night. 


Chapter 25: Valentine's Day
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 For everyone. I'm feeling mushy about you guys since I just finished FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell and I just have a lot of feels. Love you all. Hope you like this chapter. It's one of my FAVORITES.




It was the week leading up to Valentine’s Day and the castle was buzzing. All the inconsiderate jerks who had the audacity to have dates were talking about what they were going to do and how romantic they were and what they were going to wear. Valentines was on a Saturday this year, making it the perfect Hogsmeade Weekend for the students to stay out of the professors’ hair.

“Proposing to Ollie this weekend?” I asked. James and I were stuffed up in the dormitory ‘finishing our Charms essays.’ I had the pregnancy book propped inside of my Charms book in case one of the boys walked in.

“I’d rather not,” James replied. He was making scribble circles on a sheet of parchment. “Something’s weird about her lately. You think she thinks I’m going to propose?”

“Have you been ring shopping together?”

“No. Of course not.”

“Then I can’t see how she thinks that.” I shrugged. “I don’t know much about women, though.”

“You get them to talk to you. You must know something. Why do you think she’s being weird?”

“I really don’t know, mate. Weird how?” I placed my finger in the book and looked up. This was clearly bugging him.

“Weird like we’re not snogging as much as usual.”

“Is the three-year honeymoon phase finally over?”

“She’s not telling me things like she used to.”

“What kind of things?” I said. “If it’s boring, you should count yourself lucky.”

“I think she’s telling them to Andrew Parise…”

I groaned. “Do you actually think that or do you want an excuse to blame him? Either way I’m fine with it, I’d just like to know where we are with the decision.”

“Both,” James said firmly. “We should put on fake mustaches and find out what they’re talking about.”

I paused, finally realizing he was serious. “Or you could just ask her if there’s something between her and Parise. Then you can go about planning your romantic weekend with roses.”

“What’ll you get up to on Saturday? No chance of you and Annie patching things up?”

“You’re as bloody bad as your girlfriend.” I shook my head. “Not a chance. Just wasn’t right. I’ll probably do some homework. I told Rune I’d cover for him for a couple of hours in the castle so I’ll get some reading done or try and see if Chopper knows any complete languages.”

“Sounds … thrilling.” He made a face. A pity face. “Sure you don’t want me to have a talk with some pretty Hufflepuffs or something?”

“I’ll be fine. Really.”

James watched me for a while, even after I’d gone back to reading the pregnancy book and finding out about water retention. More information I did not want, but was now gathering.

“I don’t think you’ll be fine, mate.”

I threw a pillow at him, distracting him into having a pillow-sword-fight with himself in the mirror.

*

At least I had Quidditch to distract me, as long as I didn’t spend much time with my team. As it were, they loved rumors and with nothing overshadowing the Ryan debacle, that was still fresh in everyone’s minds. Tuesday’s subject was her new maternity dress, which actually looked quite good according to Ollie.

When I walked into the room, though, there was a hush.

Firstly, I did not like hushes. They made me nervous and awkward and my palms went sweaty.

Secondly, hushes made me paranoid.

Rightfully so, it turned out.

Everyone turned toward me as the door shut. Ollie looked nervous. Gee busied herself straightening wrinkles out of her uniform. James was peeking out from behind his locker.

Rose cleared her throat. “Sit down, Fred.”

“Fuck, did Parise land my spot on the team because my turns aren’t that good?” I blurted.

She paused. “What? No, don’t be stupid. He’s a twat.”

True.

I sat, leaning against the lockers. Then that was too casual and I was too nervous, so I leaned forward with my elbows pressed to my knees. “Would someone like to tell me what’s going on?”

Rose placed both hands (awkwardly) on my shoulders. “Your sister is dating Scorpius Malfoy.”

“WHAT?”

“Rose why would you just blurt it out you have NO TACT.” James threw a piece of chalk at her.

My eyes were the size of tea saucers and I looked from each teammate to the next – even Teo, who knew nothing about what was happening other than it being a disaster. “Are you serious? Is this real?”

I went through several stages of rage all at once – denial, anger, livid anger, murderous rage, sadness, nostalgia, and remembering I had a shovel under my bed upstairs for such emergencies.

“It’s real,” Ollie piped up. “I’m really sorry, Freddie. I guess that Hufflepuff Prefect asked Malfoy out and then it made him realize he actually fancied Rox, but since she was his mate he hadn’t wanted to confess it… then he did and they started snogging in the middle of the Great Hall.”

Great. Not only did I cause it, I also had a colorful picture of my baby sister snogging her brother-figure where I ate.

Now all I needed was to be outed as the father of Ryan’s baby and this day would be fantastic.

James slid onto the bench beside me. “Want to go for a walk?”

“What? We have practice,” hissed Rose.

“Sod off. We had practice until you bloody ruined it.” James nudged me a bit. “Want to talk about it?”

I didn’t know what question to answer. It was Roxanne’s life. She could date the people she wanted to date – not that she was really old enough to start dating – and considering she didn’t ask my advice for classes or clothes or toothpaste, I really had no say.

This was how I found out. Being sat down in the Gryffindor locker room, blurted at by my Captain. And cousin, who knew the relationship I had with Rox. The entire school knew the relationship.

“I’m fine,” I insisted. “Let’s just get in the air because if I’m late to walks again Molly is going to suspend me again.”

I silently dared someone to make a comment about me beating the shit out of Zonko, but no one did.

The shovel stayed where it was. For now.

*

I tried just not looking when Scorpius and Roxanne passed in the halls, hand-in-hand. Neither looked at me, but both knew I was there. I kept thinking about that conversation Ryan had with Rox over the holiday and how it had done no good. I really thought it would, but it turned out a lot of things changed when we were back in the castle walls.

Including Rox having a Valentine. I, yet again, did not.

*

Freddo,

Your mum is still knitting everything. Did you know she’s knitting a burp cloth? DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT I’M PICTURING? Flashbacks, that’s what. Of you vomiting all over the sodding carpet. Projectile. It was just wrong.

I’ve got another hearing in the morning, but it’ll be short and it’s just comparing books to make sure they’re accurate since Zonkos accused us of forging books. They may not be impressive, but they’re correct. That’s for damn sure. I’ve taken six accounting classes and hired two people to look at them just to make sure. They take me for a fool.

Before you ask, yes I’ve heard about your sister. Apparently she wrote your mum about it. I’m sure you’ve heard / seen / gagged about it already. Not that he’s a bad bloke, but it’s just weird. I’m boycotting if you’d like to join. But Rox thinks I’m horribly uncool so I don’t think she’ll mind. It’s not like I wear mom jeans.

Have any fun adventures for Valentine’s Day? A night in with the Ravenclaw, perhaps? Are you two getting along for longer than five minutes yet?

Dad

*

As it turned out, my evening wasn’t going to be as alone and boring as I thought.

On Thursday, James came back from the library in stunned silence. I was there, along with Mox and Chopper, but Andrew was missing. As per usual (and thankfully).

James’ mouth was lopsided and there was a deep red mark across his cheek. His fingers lingered on the door before pushing it closed behind him with his foot.

“What happened?” I said, getting to my feet and walking toward him. I did a circle and stared at the mark on his face. As the mark settled, the shape became obvious.

“Ollie,” he sputtered. “Ollie hit me in the face.”

“I see that.” I wrinkled my nose, grabbing for a cloth on top of my trunk. It took a moment, but I froze it and pressed it to his face. He winced. “What happened…before that?”

“I went ahead and asked her if anything was happening between her and Parise because she was acting weird again… I mean, he went to the Caribbean and broke up with Annie when he realized it wasn’t getting to you … so I thought maybe he was trying for my spot on the team instead.” James held the cloth to his face and his eyes were starting to go glassy. “Which is absurd considering I’m a much better player than you.”

“Then what happened?” I said softly. Mox was looking anywhere but at the pair of us and Chopper hadn’t even acknowledged James walked in the door. He was trying to staple his fingers together.

“She asked me how I could dare accuse her of cheating, which I told her I wasn’t doing … I was just asking about Parise … then she said I was a twat for thinking he would ever try and steal Quidditch spots … then I told her he actually admitted to that, so that was a fact … then she told me I was a jealous fool.” He rubbed his face again. “I told her I wasn’t jealous because he was a complete tool. Then she hit me and …” James stopped then and his eyes moved to mine.

He didn’t want to say it in front of Mox and Chopper.

“James,” I said, frowning. “It’ll be okay, mate.”

“She ended it,” he whispered, voice breaking. “Ollie said it’s done and she walked away. She didn’t even look sad.”

To preserve his dignity, I steered James to his bed and closed the hangings. I was quick to put a silencing charm on the fabric and sat inside, at the end by where his legs curled up against him. He started crying into the pillow, the cloth still pressed against his face.

I hated those situations. Everything in society told you to tell the person that it would be fine. Everything would be okay. But I didn’t know everything would be okay for James. Ollie hit him and broke up with him in defense of Andrew Parise. She broke up with James, who she’d been attached at the hip with since fourth year. Over Andrew bloody Parise.

I had no idea if it would be all right, so I didn’t lie.

Instead, I reached out of the hangings and grabbed the baby book. I got back into the bed so we were laying next to each other, both our heads on the pillow, and I started reading out loud about the craziest shit that can go wrong from a pregnancy and the funny terms and the weird things happening to Ryan. His hiccups stopped after a while and then there was only the occasional sniffle. He liked the parts where the baby was the size of fruit.

We read long past when Andrew Parise finally entered the room and retreated to his own four-poster. Mox blew out his candle and who knew what the hell Chopper was up to.

“I hope she’s not going to date him,” James whispered sometime after midnight.

“It’s her loss, mate,” I said because that I did know for sure. “One step forward, okay?”

“But I had reservations for Saturday.”

“What were you going to do, if you don’t mind me asking?”

James shrugged. “Nothing important. Casual. Just a hike up past Hogsmeade and a romantic picnic in the hills and then I was going to get her this diamond bracelet I bought her and we were going to have ice cream with extra sprinkles at her favorite place in the village and then I was going to throw eggs at Zonkos and I had these reservations for a private violin concert on the grounds and then we were going to snog for a while.” He whined.

It broke my heart a bit. The guy really loved her. I wouldn’t have thought of half of that for a Valentines date. Then again, mine consisted of Prefect duty and the possibility of stealing food from the kitchens.

“We can always draft up some new shop ideas,” I offered.

“Yeah,” James said sadly. “I’ll find something to do.”

He fell asleep a few minutes later, snoring into his pillow. I tucked him in and crossed the rug onto my own bed.

So far between Andrew Parise and Gregory Zonko a lot of things had been pushed out of balance at this school. I was starting to hit my limit.

Hell, the only reason Parise wasn’t dead was because Ollie had pulled the plug on James. He was still in shock.

I wasn’t in shock and I never wanted to see James Potter like that again.

*

It happened at breakfast, as I thought it would. It was a cheap prank, and yet so satisfying.

I was eating and thoroughly ignoring Scorpius and Rox two tables over. Instead, James and I were deep in conversation about the shop and not about real things happening in our lives. We ignored that.

“Would you look at THIS.” Parise stood up and was waving around parchment. “Ms. Rose Weasley, would you do the honors?” He quite literally shoved the paper into Rose’s face.

She scrambled, eventually getting ahold of it. Most of the center section of the table was staring now. Ollie was a few seats down with Annie, both staring at the paper.

“Dear Mr. Parise … We would like to request your presence the afternoon of February 13 at a private tryout for the Chudley Canons. We have been scouting your…”

Parise ripped the parchment back and had that smarmy, disgusting grin about him. “PRIVATE try-out. Do you hear that, Quidditch scum? They’ve been scouting and they want ME to have a private tryout and I’m not even on the team. What does that say about your TEAM, Weasley?”

No one moved. I assumed they couldn’t. I was trying not to laugh, but I had a convincing poker face.

“You have got to be shitting me,” James mumbled.

“No worries,” I whispered.

“He’s even better than me at Quidditch.”

“No worries,” I repeated, firmer, and caught his eye.

He stared. “You didn’t.”

I smirked. “No idea what you’re talking about.” I went back to my toast and listened to Parise go on and on about how no one gave him a proper look because someone (Rose) was playing favorites to her relatives who weren’t even that good and couldn’t properly keep a girlfriend.

James twitched, but I grabbed him.

“Remember what’s in his hand,” I whispered. He settled back into his chair.

“Congratulations, Andrew,” Rose said in a dignified way. “I am looking forward to the results of your tryout as a reserve for Gryffindor on a professional Quidditch team like the Canons.” Her tone was dry. So, so dry.

“They’re in a re-building year,” Parise said dismissively.

“Since my folks were at Hogwarts,” James muttered.

“Better go get my gear together.”

“Unused gear,” Rose said.

“CANONS GEAR,” Parise shouted stubbornly, marching from the Great Hall.

“What an idiot,” Rose said.

“Don’t say that,” said Ollie and James twitched again.

“Fuck off, Ollie,” Rose snapped. “You’re replaceable.”

*

The rest of the afternoon went quick, mostly because I was finishing up essays and checking on James to make sure he hadn’t reached the “anger” point yet. He was still in sobbing mode under his covers. They had owled to confirm the violin reservation time.

I checked the library around five, but Ryan wasn’t working. The batty librarian asked me what I was looking for and then yelled at me for being a nuisance. I was standing in the doorway.

By dinner, the school was buzzing about Parise’s tryout with the Canons and how wild was that since he wasn’t even on the team. He must have been so outrageously talented. I fueled the fire telling people I’d seen him eat it a few times on a broom, so he must have been hiding his talent from spying eyes so we didn’t learn of his secrets.

This cheered James for a while, especially when we got to the Gryffindor table and Parise was already at the end, eating alone.

Lucky for us, it was Annie who walked in the door next.

“How did your tryout go?” she asked excitedly, but her eyes were giving her away. To me, anyway.

He looked up suspiciously. Then, having decided Annie would probably not pull something like that, he shook his head. “It went well, actually. I’ll hear back in a few days.”

I tried not to snort when I laughed.

I secretly enjoyed watching Andrew Parise feel publicly humiliated without anyone even knowing he was being humiliated. His own form of personal torture, knowing he was a complete tool about how he treated Rose this morning and also knowing he had no shot of getting a private try-out request from the Canons, re-building year or not.

It may not have been as extreme as girlfriend-stealing or threats in pubs, but it made me feel much better when James tried not to laugh into his potatoes.

*

Then it was Valentine’s Day and everything was cheerful and pink and people had lipstick smeared all over their faces. I got out of bed as late as possible because I had no desire to watch people feed each other eggs. James told me there was heart-shaped toast. He ripped it in half and threw it back on the table before stomping out.

As he heard from Gee, Ollie was planning to venture to Hogsmeade with Annie on a single girl’s night out.

“Better than adventuring with Parise, but all the same … I had plans,” James grumbled before crawling back under the covers.

“Why don’t you have a butterbeer with Gee? She said she doesn’t have plans.”

“Gee’s one of the blokes.”

“No shit,” I said. “It’s not like you want to snog her. You need to get out of that bed so the House Elves can actually change the sheets.”

“Sheets are fine. They’re worn in. They’re familiar.”

“If you tell me they smell like Ollie I will give you a matching red mark on your other cheek.”

James mumbled into his pillow and flipped me off.

“Go hang out with Gee. All her mates have boyfriends,” I said.

“No, you,” whined James.

“I’m covering for Rune while he’s off courting Molly.”

“Fine,” he mumbled. “I hate you and everything you stand for.”

“Yes, yes,” I said, shaking my head. I placed clothes on the bed for him and helped him comb back his hair so he didn’t look (as) homeless. “Just don’t drink, okay?”

“I’m a great drunk,” James countered.

“But you’re also an emotional drunk and I don’t think Gee deserves that.”

“Point.” He shrugged. “Owl if you catch Rune feeling up Molly because you have that shovel under your bed.”

I saluted him. “Will do. Go have fun.”

“You going to go out and find a snog tonight?” Mox asked, who was still under his covers. “I’ll let you borrow Gemma if you want.”

“Shovel, Mox. I am in possession of a shovel.”

“Point,” he whispered and rolled over.

*

Thankfully, I only caught four couples having nearly-naked snogs in the corridors as I walked them with China. And even better, none of them involved my sister.

“Why do you always get stuck with holidays?” said China.

“Does this count as a holiday?” I wrinkled my nose. “Just an excuse to prove your love to someone. Do you need a day?”

“Be careful who you say that around,” she teased. “Most of the Gryffindor boys might think you belong in my house.”

“I’m probably just bitter about not having a Valentine,” I said, shrugging as we made our way back into the Prefect office. It was late by then and the corridors only lit by torches and the occasional wand.

“Don’t understand why you don’t,” China said, grabbing the stack of paperwork so we could deduct some points from the snoggers. “You could probably have almost any girl.”

“That is a blatant lie,” I said.

“I’m serious! You’re nice and you’re not a jerk and you have a nice smile.”

“Are those the qualifications for a girlfriend?” I asked, rolling my eyes. “I don’t need a girlfriend right now anyway. I have plenty on my plate.”

“Right. I’m sorry. The shop and all that.”

“All that, yes,” I said. I scribbled comments on the parchment and had her sign under my name. “Have a good Valentine’s Day, China.”

“You too.” She frowned.

I should have stayed and apologized for being so cold, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Pfft. I could have any girl? That was easy coming from the other side of things. Not for me. Not after Alessandra. And Annie. Not after all this nonsense with Ryan.

The last thing I needed right now was to drag another girl into my web of chaos. I had too much to deal with, including planting Canons-related merchandise around the dormitory so Parise could be reminded of his jerkery. I wondered what he was up to on Valentine’s Day now that his plan to woo Ollie seemed to be falling through.

I also hoped James wouldn’t put on a fake mustache and convince Gee to follow Ollie and Annie around all night. Gee would go for it, which worried me.

I hadn’t had time in class to ask Gemma what she was doing for Valentine’s Day, so I assumed smoking and pranking First Years was high on her list. Then again, Mox wasn’t in the dormitory when I returned so I wasn’t one to judge.

Sort of.

I fell into bed and grabbed my Charms homework. The essay was due on Monday and I hadn’t so much as considered starting it. Every time I considered considering it, the pregnancy book appeared in my hands and I was reading about labor and breathing techniques. I still hadn’t brought up the baby shower to Ryan, but I hadn’t seen her much in the better part of two weeks, so there was no time. She had tactfully vanished outside of class and I couldn’t very well inquire about a shower theme in the middle of a lesson.

At least I had the dormitory to myself. I snuggled into the pillows, Charms book open on my lap. Okay. I could do this. All I had to do was read a chapter and write a blissfully boring essay on it and turn it in. I’d have to make my letters a little bigger because this chapter was boring as shit.

My eyelids were drooping.

I could just close them for a minute. Just rest them so they had the energy to stay open during the rest of the chapter.

Like five minutes.

So five sounded more like ten anyway, which was a great, even number.

I was jerked awake forty-five minutes later by a giant bird shrieking outside my window. It was clawing at the glass. I nearly fell off the side of the bed and both knees hit the bedpost as I tried to race for the latch.

The bird was a large snowy owl and it straight threw the piece of parchment at my face, scratching my nose before it took off out the window again.

“What the real hell,” I whispered, untying the scroll. I scanned it, blinking the sleep from my eyes so I could read it properly. Twice. “You have got to be kidding.”

I ran for my shoes, putting them on so fast I missed the proper feet, and grabbed my cloak.

*

It took me a good half hour to get out of the castle and run the path from the grounds into Hogsmeade. I tried not to look at all the couples getting frisky in the bushes under the cover of darkness and one guy appeared to be proposing to a tree just as I entered the village. I didn’t stop to ask questions or consider sanity levels.

The pubs looked crowded and the restaurants were so full the lines stretched into the snow. Even Honeydukes was open late to accommodate the needed chocolate supply.

I ran past all of them, thankful for those extra laps Rose gave me for being cheeky.

I didn’t stop until I was at the end of the cobbled street, close to where James and Ollie would have veered off the road to head up into the wooded hills. To my right was the Hogsmeade police station. I’d been there one time before, in fifth year, to claim James after he got drunk and punched four trees, accusing them of looking at Ollie. They said he was a danger to himself. I found him in the cell telling the guy next to him about the time he defeated Voldemort, but had a scar.

This time I was out of breath when I got in. One guy was sitting behind a desk with his feet on it. “You get the owl?”

I wanted to tell him that no, I guessed that I should be here at exactly this moment and that I should have went into Divination. Instead, I nodded, catching my breath.

“This way then,” he said. He grabbed a ring of keys and pushed through a door in the back of the room. There was a thin hallway with the same cells I’d seen when I was fifteen. “Did some real damage, you know. It got nasty before someone broke it up.”

“What happened?” I breathed, following him swiftly. My stomach was in knots.

“Ask her yourself,” he said, shrugging as we turned the corner.

I almost didn’t want to ask her myself.

Ryan Davies was in cell three. She was sitting on the floor, leaning against the bench in the back. She looked like a nightmare – blood scabbed over her face, arm in a makeshift sling, cuts all over her body. Her maternity pants were sliced open at the knees. She was only wearing one shoe.

I shoved past the officer and rushed into the cell, falling to my knees in front of her. “Ryan? Holy shit, what happened to you?” I cupped her face in my hand, bringing her tired eyes to mine.

“Some bitch opened her mouth,” was all she said.

I couldn’t help it. I kissed her even though her lips tasted like blood. “Come on. Let’s get you out of here.”

“Don’t tell anyone I called you,” she mumbled as I helped her up, easy and slow because she was limping and whimpering a little. “It’s just you are already keeping enough secrets, so here’s another.”

“Full of secrets,” I said with a small smile. I held her against my body as I shoved too many coins at the officer for her bail. I didn’t care how much it cost. I cared that she wasn’t in St. Mungos … or worse.

The night air was back to being bitter now that I wasn’t running in it. There was no way to get Ryan back to the castle in her condition, least of all without getting noticed. I snuck her around the backs of the crowded buildings and up a staircase she pointed to. It was the back way into the inn.

We snuck into the last room and locked the door. I placed her delicately on the bed and lit some candles. Then I made sure the curtains were drawn.

That was when I could fully realize the damage that was done to her. “Ryan,” I said softly, sitting at the edge of the bed.

“You should see the other bitch,” she muttered, closing her eyes.

My heart was still beating wildly as I assessed the damage. Cuts and bruises and blood everywhere. For a while my eyes took in everything, but eventually I went to the tiny kitchenette on the other side of the room and soaked a few rags in cool water. I washed the dried blood off of her skin and used what little training I’d picked up to heal the minor cuts on her face and arms.

“Why’d you beat up another person?” I whispered, brushing the cloth over her arms. “It’s not worth it, you know.”

“That’s what you think. It was completely worth it.” She cleared her throat because her voice was hoarse.

“Do you really want to be the pregnant girl that beats people up?”

“Do I want to be the pregnant girl that lets people say shit unchecked?”

“You’re so tough,” I said sarcastically and lifted her arm to finish off the dried blood and another cut. There was clearly a shattered bottle involved. “What did she say then?”

“Told me I was fat and a slut,” Ryan said indifferently. Little goose pimples popped up on her forearms. “If I’m going to be called fat and a slut, I’m going to be gorging waffles and having a hell of a lot more sex than I do. Hint: Not doing either. That being said, I’d like some waffles.”

I paused, fingers around her slender wrist. “She said that?”

“Why do you think I threw a bottle at her head?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. None of this surprised me, as scary as it was.

I leaned a little closer, wiping the corners of her mouth. I was careful to leave the thin lines of lipstick that remained, trying not to look at her eyes. “She got you pretty good.”

“Mostly because I lost my balance standing on a stool.”

“You stood on a stool?”

“Jealous?”

“A little, actually,” I admitted. We were quiet for a while and I rinsed the rag and went back to cleaning off her skin. I healed a few more of the cuts by her ear. “She got blood in your hair.”

“Bitch,” Ryan muttered. She groaned, stretching as she arched her back. Again, fought not to stare. I focused on the cuts.

“Treason,” I snickered. “Are you okay though? I mean really? Did she hurt you because we can go to the hospital.”

Typical Ryan eye-roll. “Weasley. I could get up and walk away. I’m just being nice to you right now.”

I knew she was lying, but I also knew if she was actually hurt she’d be at least concerned for the baby. The thing that had terrified me since getting the owl from the police station.

“Absolutely,” I said. “Davies, I do not want to sound like a complete creep but there is no way I can stop the bleeding on your leg unless you take off your pants.” I was blushing. I wished I wasn’t blushing, but I absolutely was.

To no one’s surprise, she burst out laughing. “Perv,” she said, wearing that cocky smirk she sported so well.

“You know me,” I muttered. “Show me a girl in a sundress and I can’t resist.”

“You can cut out the second half of that phrase,” Ryan said as she quickly unbuttoned her pants. She shifted her hips to slide her fingers under the fabric. “Pretty sure any girl and you’re good to go.”

“That’s not true,” I argued. I felt like I was talking to China again.

“Yeah, I know it’s not. You’re one of the dysfunctional ones.” Ryan wiggled out of her pants and kicked them to the floor. I realized I hadn’t been watching. “Weasley. Are you going to stop the bleeding or not because I could get dizzy and die.”

“Right! Okay!” I swallowed hard. I had already seen this girl naked. Why was this bothering me so much? Probably because we were both sober and I was still nervous she was hurt. I took a breath and twisted my body back around to her legs. Just looking at her legs.

That was it.

Okay, so I might have done a quick once-over glance.

For science.

Godric, she was right. I was a goner.

I couldn’t help it. She had these bloody curves that she had no business having. These tiny little lacy – NO. Wounds. Okay. Yes. She was WOUNDED. This was IMPORTANT.

Ryan was snickering. My torment was obvious, as was my reddening cheeks and neck.

I brushed the clean rag across her thighs where the blood had stuck to her pants once they were torn. A few of them were deeper than I could heal, so I pressed extra rags to them as bandages and charmed them in place. She watched intently.

“She kick today?” I asked, trying to get my mind away from … everything.

“For a bit while I was at work.”

“You’re on your feet too much there,” I said.

“Do you remember when it was none of your business? I do.”

I shook my head. “Fine.” I saved the wound highest up on her thigh for last. Probably because my breath caught in my throat just thinking about her legs. And her body. And a bathroom stall made a setting by tequila.

“Why’d you bail me out?” Ryan asked after a while. I hated that she was watching me.

“Do you not know the answer to that question?”

“Dysfunctional. Right.”

“I was really worried about you. Can you not act like it was no big deal?” I said, glancing back to her face. Her hair was scattered over the pillows. I had no idea how her dark eyes could be so intense, but I was always stuck with some puppy-dog stare. “I’m serious. I ran down here. I literally ran. Someone was bloody proposing to a TREE and I didn’t even stop to get the story behind that.”

She didn’t look away. “I don’t know what to say to you.”

“Tell me if what you and Gemma were talking about was actually fucking true,” I said, voice rising to match the room. I was still peeved about the classroom incident and her look afterward. “Tell me if I really am the biggest sodding mistake you’ve ever had and if Andrew Parise would have been a better option.”

“Come on, Weasley. Don’t get pity-party about this.”

“I am dead fucking serious.” My palm was on her thigh, the cloth stretching out against her skin. “I want the truth, Ryan.” I leaned in a little.

“The truth?” she said quietly. It was that kind of scary quiet where you don’t quite know what it is going to happen next. Her hands gripped the sheets.

“Yes,” I said. “Am I just some stupid goddamn Gryffindor?”

“The truth is I think Andrew Parise is ugly,” Ryan said, her eyes narrowing. She looked mad. “The truth is not all Gryffindors are scum. The truth is I don’t hate you all the time, and I hate myself a little for that. The truth is, finding out I was pregnant showed me who actually gives a shit about me at this school.” She paused and I noticed her chest was rising and falling rapidly. “The fucking truth, Fred, is that you are damn sexy when you’re angry.”

Ryan leaned up and grabbed me by the collar of my shirt, yanking me down on top of her. We were kissing hard and my fingers snaked up her back and hers were in my hair. I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to, not when my shirt was gone or hers went next and not when her legs wrapped around me.

This time there was no tequila or snarky comments or bathroom stalls.




As some of you may have heard, this was one of my favorite chapters to write. I'd been planning it for ages and had a blast writing it. A solid turning point for Fred and Ryan on a solid day. 

Anyway, I really hope you enjoyed this chapter and thank you to everyone who has popped over to read The Keeper's Daughter! You're the best. 

UP NEXT: Dealing with the day after. Fred finds out who called Ryan fat and a slut. Freddie tries not to make this ordeal a habit. And then just when he thinks things are going to be normal for a week or two, Parise steps over the line. 

Again. 


Chapter 26: Not Alone
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For spyci. Thank you for your yearning heart! 




I woke when Ryan stirred, twisting her back around to grab her purse on the floor. Some sun was coming in under the curtains, enough for me to make out the contours of her body and that we were both still naked under some thin blankets.

Her leg was still tangled with mine.

Last night when we fell away from each other, chests heaving, we said nothing. I couldn’t find the words. Hell, I couldn’t catch my breath fast enough to find the words. I took a chance and pulled her against me and she didn’t protest. A few minutes later she was sleeping and I was staring at the shadows on the ceiling.

Now it was morning and I had no idea how to confront the fact that we had sex again last night. I propped myself up on my elbows and watched as she turned, twisted hair falling over her shoulders. I brushed it away on instinct.

“Promise me you’re not falling in love with me, Weasley,” Ryan teased. “Because that’s inconvenient.”

“I know how hard it is for you to resist a Gryffindor.” I laughed and winked.

“I could go for some breakfast,” she said and shrugged. “Waffles, though. They sound fantastic. With sprinkles.”

“Is that a hint?”

“A request.” Ryan held the blanket to her chest as she pulled on her clothes. She winced when her pants moved over the remaining bandages, but overall she seemed all right. The baby bump was stretching another shirt.

“Was it someone from Hogwarts?” I said, trying to find my pants and boxers and shirt. My sock ended up draped over the lamp. “That girl? Someone I should watch out for?”

To my surprise, Ryan chuckled a little. “Yeah, it was someone from Hogwarts.”

“Do I get a name?” I pulled on both socks after my pants.

“It’s not like you won’t find out when we get back anyway.” She shook her head. “I don’t like when you’re sore with me. You stop bringing me ice cream.”

“Why would I be sore with you?” I said, pausing to look up at her. Ryan’s cheeks were rosy. “Who did you send to the hospital?” A lot of girls flashed through my head. I secretly hoped it was Alessandra, but I knew she wasn’t at Hogwarts and I also knew life wasn’t that good.

Not that I wanted her to be injured.

Ugh. Why couldn’t I just be normal?

“Ryan,” I warned.

“It was that tart Ollie,” she said flatly. “Ollie called me fat and slutty and I threw a bottle right at her damn head and she deserved it and I don’t even care.”

My jaw fell. So many things went through my head at once. For one, Ollie was a right bitch to say that to someone she didn’t know. Ollie was with Annie, who must have also witnessed it. James must have heard about it by now since I had a feeling he’d convinced Gee to follow them around. If Ollie was seriously injured, that didn’t bode well for Quidditch practice this week.

I shook my head. “Was it unprovoked?” I said.

“They came into the pub – yes, they meaning tart Ollie and your ex-princess-snogger – because the others were packed. Then mine was getting packed and they started making comments about the lack of service.” She brushed out her hair with the tips of her fingers. “It’s not a big deal. I try to serve everyone as efficiently as possible and I am damn good at my job. I got to them in the order of which they got to the bar.”

“Which wasn’t good enough,” I guessed.

“Apparently not. She said a few things I tactfully ignored, because I liked my job.” Ryan looked in the foggy mirror over the kitchenette sink. She fluffed the bottom of her hair, but it sank back into place. “Ollie made one comment about the ‘baby daddy’ that I almost didn’t ignore. But I won’t have anyone calling me slutty if I’m not being slutty.”

“Priorities?”

“You have to draw the line somewhere,” Ryan said absently. “So I grabbed a bottle and threw it at her head and then jumped over the bar to show her exactly what I thought of her lip.”

I knew Ollie had a lot of things to say in the locker room about Ryan, but I didn’t think she was stupid enough to say them to her face. Everyone knew about Ryan’s reputation and anyone that wasn’t an enormous bodybuilder had the intelligence not to poke the dragon. Especially the pregnant, hormonal dragon.

It was still confusing since before this year, Ollie had never said such things. She was sweet and nice and until Andrew Parise started whispering in her ear, she didn’t judge other people for their choices. Hell, she was dating James. Almost impossible to judge someone like Ryan when her own boyfriend was racing people down the hall on giant rabbits.

“Are you mad?” Ryan asked, wrinkling her nose. She looked cute and almost innocent if I hadn’t just heard about her breaking a bottle over Ollie’s skull.

“I can’t be, can I?” I said. “I beat Zonko bloody after he said that shit to me. I snapped. You snapped.”

“Great. I’m like you.” She smirked, shoving me back onto the bed. “I should get back. Gemma’s probably worried and if I don’t make myself look presentable she might even guess I got laid.”

“The worst thing in the world,” I muttered.

“She’ll warm up to you, Weasley.”

“Will you?” I asked.

Ryan shrugged. “We’ll see. You’d better go find Potter and make sure Ollie is all right. Though she probably had trained Healers for her wounds.” Another sassy smirk.

“I didn’t do too bad.” I looked up as she opened the door and tossed her purse over her shoulder.

“Thanks for bailing me out last night,” she said, head tilting onto the door. Ryan smiled. “And the shag.” With a wink, she closed the door and was gone.

I sat there for a while, mostly looking around for my other shoe (it found its way into the sink), and considering what had happened last night. It was supposed to be a mundane Valentine’s Day while I finished my Charms essay and did nothing of real importance except make sure James got out of the dormitory. Instead, I bailed a girl out of jail and we had sex.

Bugger. I could not tell Dad about that. He’d ask when I was going to take her out for a date.

It wasn’t like that with Ryan and me.

What was it like?

I had no idea. I never had an idea, so this wasn’t much different.

I collected my belongings, left some gold on the table, and made my way back to the castle twenty minutes after Ryan left.


*

As predicted, James was pacing the dormitory when I returned. He was the only one there.

“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?”

“I stayed in the village,” I said.

“DID YOU?” James cried. “Do you even KNOW what happened? OLLIE WAS ATTACKED.”

“Oh, Godric.” I rubbed my head. I didn’t have time for this, especially with James still stupidly in love with Ollie. “Did you go to the hospital and get it sorted?”

“How did you know she was in the hospital? OH.” He narrowed his eyes like I had committed high treason. “You were with HER.”

“Yeah, I was.” I checked over my shoulders, part of me always wondering if Parise had bugged the dormitory. “Don’t go crazy on me. Am I right to assume you made Gee follow Ollie and Annie around all sodding night?”

“I am not confirming or denying that fact.”

I fell back onto my bed. “Did she agree to see you in the hospital?”

“Yeah, we’re back together,” James muttered.

“WHAT?”

James shrugged. “She had a near death experience and she didn’t even want to break up with me so she told me she was calling it un-quits and we’re back together and we hooked up in the hospital bed.”

I shook my head. James Potter. He would. He absolutely would. “So please tell me again why you’re sour with me if all that rubbish got you back together with Ollie?”

“She was ATTACKED.”

“After calling Ryan fat and a slut!” I snapped. “Are you telling me Ollie was okay in saying that?”

“Are you telling me VIOLENCE is the answer?”

“Well, what’s the question?” I mused.

He threw a few pillows at me. “She jumped over a bar and punched her right in the face. If it wasn’t my girlfriend, I’d be mildly impressed and a little turned on, but it is my girlfriend and I don’t know if she can sit on a broom straight for a couple weeks.”

“She’ll heal fine,” I said. “Did you tell her you were crying in the dormitory?”

“No, that’s not information she needs.”

“Did you tell your dad you don’t want to work for the ministry?”

“I hate you. Go away.”

I checked over my shoulders again, even though all I found was a bed and a pair of windows. “Ryan and I had sex last night,” I whispered.

“YOU DID WHAT?”

“Shh—be fucking quiet!”

“You did what?” James breathed, eyes bulging out of his damn head.

“Apparently I’m sexy when I’m angry or something because I was yelling at her for something her and French were talking about before and she sort of grabbed me and kissed me and we hooked up.” I said this very fast, still piecing together the details of what happened after that.

James was still standing with his mouth lopsided. “Are you serious?”

“No, I’m making it up.”

“Really?”

“NO. We did it. Come on, get with it.”

He shook his head. “What does that mean? Are you two going to date? Are you going to be a little family or something? Does this mean we’re supposed to double-date because I don’t know that Ollie is going to be okay with that… maybe as long as there isn’t glassware around…”

“No, we’re not going to date,” I said quickly. “Ryan and I don’t fancy each other like that.”

“Then why did you bail her out of jail?”

“Because she asked me to,” I replied. “And because she has the short end of the stick in life and I don’t.”

“Your dad’s shop is failing. I don’t think you have the long end of the stick.”

“It’s just not like that, okay?” I said, tone forcing a little more than it had before. “She’s a good person and people can’t really see that because she doesn’t let them.”

“And she lets you?”

“Sometimes.” I shrugged, considering at night in my bedroom when the baby kicked. At New Years. The doctor’s appointments. The library. Watching her and Mum bake a lemon cake.

“Yeah,” I said, louder this time. “Yeah, she does.”

*

Freddo,

Glad to hear your Valentine’s Day wasn’t very eventful. You could have at least taken a bottle of rum to your room and danced naked around the fireplace in those heart boxers I know you still have.

Things are going well here. Sales are up this month for the holiday and there aren’t any more court hearings until the beginning of March.

Your mum has finished painting the spare room and is now buying furniture. I’m having serious flashbacks and am not fond of this.

How is your sister? She hasn’t written since her last letter gushing about blondie.

Dad

*

I was thankful Zonko didn’t have anything to shove in my face until early March. That way I could play out the last couple weeks in February at peace. The week after Valentine’s Day was as normal as it could get with classes being boring and having too much homework and China telling me about how her mum just got her a new cat. It was called Merlot. China’s mum was an interesting person.

There was also a point where Gemma offered to Ryan who offered to me by way of paper ball to flirt with Scorpius and break up him and Roxanne, but I declined. If that was what Rox wanted, that was what she should have.

Even I didn’t understand it and if it made me throw up in my mouth a little when I walked by them.

Since Ollie didn’t know anything about me associating with Ryan outside of Prefect activities, she was perfectly friendly and even recounted the disaster during Quidditch practice one day. Each time I heard the story a detail changed, but I didn’t comment. I put on my “oh wow this is new information” face and she was happy.

Now, though, Ollie was even more ruthless about Ryan’s situation, making crude comments about her belly and attitude and how she worked at the library and therefore must be poor.

I may have pressed down on one of her arm bruises during practice.

Twice.

I didn’t know what Ollie had against Ryan until Thursday at breakfast when Annie whispered that each class they had together Ryan had always out-marked her, even when Ollie crammed the night before or flirted with the professor or cheated off James, who was really good in Transfiguration. No matter what class or what essay or what standardized test, Ryan bested her. Even in Quidditch she made her look like a fool last year when Ollie went after the Quaffle and Ryan dove under her without so much as changing her facial expression.

“Is that why she’s such a bint about Ryan?” I whispered, spreading jam on my toast.

“Yeah. She’s never liked her. Ollie likes the best and having the best.”

“She’s got James.” My nose wrinkled.

“He’s not such a bad catch, being a Potter and all. And he’s pretty.”

“I’m telling James you called him pretty,” I muttered.

“I don’t think Ryan’s as bad as Ollie says,” Annie admitted. “But she is pretty mean.”

“You think so?” I said.

Annie shrugged. She wasn’t looking at me. “I think she is. She’s mean when she doesn’t even know who people are or what they’ve been through.”

“Hmm,” was all I managed. I didn’t mention Ollie was perfectly mean without knowing Ryan or what she had been through.

That was exactly why Ryan was mean to other people. Because she was still wielding the short end of the stick.

She didn’t need my help or anyone’s help, but here I was.

“You’re a Prefect, though. You see her more than the rest of us. Albus said she’s fine and doesn’t talk a lot, which he likes because he likes bossing about his team.”

I laughed about that. Every player at Hogwarts knew Ryan ran that team when she was on it. Albus was just trying to sound like he had some control. Ryan just didn’t want the obnoxious C on her chest and the responsibility of shaking hands with some twat on the other team.

“She doesn’t bother me,” I said.

It also didn’t help I hadn’t stopped thinking about Saturday night. Every time I tried to concentrate on studies or Quidditch or even walking properly, that night swam into view. I had to figure out a way to get past that or things were going to get awkward when we were finally alone again.


*

In the library, Ryan told me she was let go from the pub.

“Just for creating a scene,” she added. “I was the best bartender they had. It’s their loss.”

“Absolutely,” I agreed, thankful she wouldn’t be working there anymore with the creeps and smokers and people who called her names. I wasn’t exactly making bank, but I told her anything she wanted, I would get her.

“Get a new pickup line,” she muttered.

I checked out a few books when some Hufflepuffs walked in and Ryan pretended to stare straight through me. Back to normal then.

I hid behind an aisle and when the students were gone, I told her all about what James had said about Ollie and then what Annie had said.

“Ah.” Ryan wrinkled her nose. “I don’t even remember her in most of my classes. Is that bad?”

I shrugged. “Not really.” I remembered everyone in my classes. Then again, I wasn’t Ryan Davies.

“So she is calling me names because I’m better than her at studies and Quidditch? Really?”

“From the rumor mill.”

Ryan repositioned herself on the stool. “What a load of shit. And a waste of my time. I got fired for that twat.” She violently opened a book and then slammed it shut. “I might kick her ass all over again just for wasting my time.”

“Should I volunteer Gemma?”

“Yeah, better idea.” She nodded and reopened the book. “Now go away before people get jealous you’re talking to me.”

I saluted and took a few steps, keeping her eye contact.

Ryan sighed and looked around the empty library. “Fine,” she snapped, jerking her head to the left. I looked. There was a door.

I glanced back at her, tilting my head to the side.

“I don’t have all damn day, Weasley.”

Before I let myself consider the consequences, I bolted for the door, shoving it open. It was seconds before Ryan’s lips were on mine and her back was against the wall. She was wearing a skirt and once again, I couldn’t resist.

Something about her, I couldn’t resist.

*

I laughed when James told me there would be waffles at dinner later in the week. I knew Ryan would be happy about that one. Over the last few days we’d hooked up another four times in different places around the castle. Each time we replaced our clothes and left at different times. I was always trying to flatten my hair.

Each time it was harder for me to say no. To even consider saying no.

I knew it was good for me not to have a romantic attachment but still have some closeness, but I didn’t know how long it was going to go on. I may have been a Gryffindor, but I was a sod just like my father. I let my emotions dictate what I did.

Look at what happened to Zonko. Parise had to admit this morning that he didn’t get the position with the Canons and also apologized to Rose, which made him livid.

I was an emotional person and I knew I needed to stop sleeping with Ryan. Something about it calmed me, though, so it was hard to stop. Her body wasn’t doing me any favors, either.

I kept telling myself we would stop after the next time. The next time would be the last. We started saying it to each other after we hooked up in the Astronomy Tower cupboard.

“This is a terrible idea,” Ryan had said, ripping the buttons clean off my shirt.

“Really bad. We should stop.”

“I mean, after this one obviously.”

“Right, well, we’ve already committed.”

Ryan made me into someone different and I still hadn’t decided if it was a good thing or bad thing. She certainly took me out of my comfort zone, but at the same time I was lying to almost everyone I knew. I had to keep telling the team my stomach ached when I left the locker room to splash cold water on my face as Ollie was going on about Ryan’s bubble of a stomach and who in their right mind would want to shag her?

I didn’t point out that before the pregnancy got leaked, most of the male population of Hogwarts would have raised their hand.

When I sat down to have my waffles, James and Annie flanked me. Ollie was on James’ other side and I told myself not to listen to anyone’s conversation today. I didn’t need to. I had a Potions essay to finish and I had to write Dad back since he sent another letter telling me Grandmum had tried to get into the nursery and then scolded Dad for having locked rooms in the house.

“What if there was a pigeon stuck in there?” she had said.

What indeed, Grandmum.

And then Roxanne and Scorpius walked in holding hands. Ugh. Seriously. Could they just not touch all the time because it would be easier for me to stomach it. First he takes my place as brother figure and then he’s snogging her? It was just weird. Just. Weird.

“Why’s your sister waving at you?” James said under his voice.

“My sister?”

“No Annie’s sister – yes, yours, twat.”

I looked up. Sure enough, Rox was sitting at the Ravenclaw table beside Scorpius, near the end, waving me over. She didn’t look happy or smiley, but she was waving. I couldn’t decide if it was a death trap or a conversation invitation.

“Go on,” James said, nudging me. “See what she wants.”

“Better not be ice cream. I’m not a delivery service,” I said. I took one last bite of waffle and walked past the Hufflepuff table and down a few rows to where my sister was. “What’s going on?” I tried to keep my voice casual, but the conversation between her and Ryan kept entering my mind.

Then I started thinking about what it would be like to hook up with Ryan on the House table and I shook that one out of my head.

“I know you probably already know,” Roxanne began coyly, “but Scorpius and I have started dating. It’s not serious or anything, but I thought you should know.”

“Yeah, the team told me.” So uncomfortable.

Scorpius then extended his hand to me. “I’m sorry we don’t speak very much.”

My hands were clammy, but I shook his. “Me too, I guess.”

“We’ll have to play a round of golf.”

Oh, Godric Gryffindor this was painful.

“Yes. Golf.” I hoped my expression wasn’t giving me away. Or the sour taste in my mouth causing it.

“I appreciate your sister very much,” Scorpius continued. “We’ve been friends for years.”

“That I do know,” I said too fast. Roxanne narrowed her eyes. “What? You’ve been friends as long as we haven’t been speaking, so it’s easy to keep count.”

“Are you okay, chap?” Scorpius asked. Chap. Am I okay, chap?

Before I responded, I took a breath. I needed a breath. Or five. I looked around and opened my mouth to tell Scorpius Malfoy exactly what I thought of him. It didn’t come out, though, because I was very interested in what was happening two people down from me.

Ryan and Gemma were eating waffles when, as I looked over, Andrew Parise approached.

“I hear you’re giving the Ravenclaw team the secrets they need to win,” he said, leaning over so that his hand was on the table and his face was dangerously close to hers.

“Secrets?” Ryan said, dabbing her face with her napkin. “I’m telling them how they’re fucking up drills. I hardly think that’s a secret. They’re just lousy at turns.”

Parise’s expression faltered, but then went straight back to complete charm. “That sounds fascinating,” he said. “Can I take you out for a drink?”

Wow. He didn’t even know I was involved with Ryan and he was still trying to scrape up any ends to get onto the Gryffindor squad. Or at least force us to lose. Impressive determination.

“I’m pregnant,” Ryan snapped. “I can’t drink, fucker.”

“Of course you are.” Parise looked down at her round belly and then back at her face. “I mean I could drink and you could have a water. We could talk about how pretty you are and also Quidditch.”

Tact. Get some.

Ryan was quiet for a moment and I realized Roxanne and Scorpius were watching intently. Rox grabbed my arm.

“I’ll pass. I don’t go out with Gryffindors,” Ryan replied sweetly. Sweeter than she should have, given who she was talking to.

Again, Parise’s expression faltered before going right back to determination. “Listen, sweetheart, I’m sure you’re trying to hold out for mister right, but I’m all you’ve got right now so are you going to have a drink with me or try and find your baby daddy and squeeze a few more dollars out of him?”

Ryan was half off the bench, but she didn’t have to be. Gemma threw her plate, but she didn’t have to either.

I broke away from Roxanne’s grip and Andrew Parise was on the ground faster than I realized what I was doing. My fist was on his face for everything he’d tried to pull and in that moment I knew I was going to get another suspension and I knew I might even be banned from a Quidditch game or given detention and I might even be in the paper for causing trouble while Dad was going through court dramatics, but there was no part of me that would stand back and let Ryan deal with that one.

Not when I had been sitting on the sidelines for months watching her take public hit after hit, being humiliated and outcasted and ignored and laughed at.

There was no way I was letting her be alone in this anymore.

Parise’s arms went up to try and deflect my hits, but I slapped them aside. I wasn’t letting him get away with hurting Annie and whispering stupid things into Ollie’s ears and trying his best to humiliate Rose. I wasn’t letting him walk around the castle like he owned the damn place anymore just because he wanted a spot on a Hogwarts Quidditch team.

I hit him harder than I should have and blood was spreading on the stone floor before Scorpius pulled me off. Rox touched the side of my face and stepped between us. Surprisingly, Rune grabbed Parise before he could come after me. His knees buckled, though. He wasn’t going anywhere.

Ryan looked horrified, but she still made time to kick Parise hard in the leg. Gemma broke a plate over his head and there was china all over the floor.

The teachers were there only seconds later, creating walls between us where the only things we were armed with were seething stares. Everything was quiet.

Just for a moment. Just for a fleeting second where everyone took a collective breath.

Then –

“Looks like baby daddy didn’t like the way you talked to his woman,” Gregory Zonko piped up from one table over.

Then everyone’s eyes were on me. The shift was noticeable, like clockwork. A few gasps.

I shrugged Scorpius off now that the shields were up and brushed some hair off my forehead. “You know what they say, Parise, if you don’t have anything nice to say, you still don’t get a spot on the Quidditch team.”

There were a few snorts from the Gryffindor table. James was standing on a bench, probably trying to figure out if I needed backup.

“You have got to be kidding me.” Parise spit blood onto the floor. “You’re the one who knocked up Davies?”

I winked at Ryan and she rolled her eyes. “Fix your mouth or I’ll fix it for you.”

“Out!” called Finklehut. “Out now! Detentions! That behavior from our seventh years is UNACCEPTABLE.”

As I was being (forcefully) escorted out of the Great Hall, I caught Ryan wink back.




A/N: Well, Freddie does have a flair for dramatics. 

How do you think the school is going to react to this? 

UP NEXT: A Howler, The Burrow, and Roxanne has something to say. 

 


Chapter 27: The Dragon's Nest
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For Coco - Thanks for review 400! Also for everyone who caps-locked their reviews last time. Still smiling over that! 




You know that feeling where you just throw caution to the wind and stop caring what happens? As I sat in Finklehut’s office with Parise, that was how I felt. I didn’t care anymore. It was out in the open and it was done. There was nothing I could do to hide it, since I made the choice to give Andrew Parise exactly what I felt he deserved.

We got the typical treatment. Handful of detentions. I got a week’s suspension from Prefect duty as well as a lecture on setting an example for the younger kids. Finklehut did say that it was up to Rose whether or not there would be any Quidditch-related punishments. I knew there wouldn’t be. Rose hated being behind schedule.

We were both forced to tell our sides of the story. For once, I was as honest as I could be. I told Finklehut, word for word, what Parise had said. I admitted that I was indeed responsible for Ryan Davies (while being very aware that phrase went out of style a long time ago) and it sent me over the edge. Finklehut confessed I might need to see someone about anger management since I had lost my temper twice within a year.

I knew she was thinking about my father when she said that.

Apples and trees.

Parise was instructed not to speak to Ryan Davies after first apologizing to her. He was also instructed to lay off trying to get on the Quidditch team, since I casually mentioned how that conversation came about.

He didn’t seem thrilled with me when we left.

“More rogue than I thought,” he spat at me in the hallway. “What’s Annie think of all that?”

“Annie’s not my girlfriend,” I countered. “You made damn sure of that. Thank you, though, considering it would have taken us way longer to realize we were rubbish for each other.”

“You with Davies then?”

“Does it bloody look like I’m ‘with’ Davies?”

“How’d you bag her?” Parise said quietly. He looked angry, but the guy was curious.

“I didn’t bag anyone,” I snapped. “That’s your first mistake.” I flipped him off and took the long way downstairs to try and find someone.

Truthfully, I didn’t know what reaction I was going to get. The only people that knew were Ryan, Gemma, and James. And Roxanne, who I should probably find to talk about the fight and ask why Scorpius asked to play a round of golf. I didn’t even know how much a damn round of golf was. How much golf was that?

The first person I found, though, was Annie. She was outside the girl’s loo on the third floor as if she knew I’d take that way from Finklehut’s office. Her arms were folded and she leaned against the stone floor.

Ah. I had some explaining to do. Something I hadn’t looked forward to.

“Hey,” I said.

“I cannot believe you let me say all those things in Diagon Alley.”

“What?”

“About Ryan. I cannot believe I said what I did.” She looked up and there were tears in her eyes. “I feel like a monster. I didn’t know and I’m a terrible person.”

“Wait – what?” I was expecting her to hit me. “Aren’t you mad or something? I’m used to girls being mad when I don’t tell them things.”

“Like you could tell me you got a Ravenclaw pregnant,” Anne said dismissively. “I’m really sorry, Freddie. I didn’t mean what I said. I’m sure she’s a lovely girl.”

“She broke open Ollie’s head with a bottle,” I said.

“Well, Ollie called her fat and slutty,” Annie replied. “I don’t think she would have said that if she knew it was you.”

“That’s how you find out what people really think,” I said. “Is when they don’t know.”

“I’m a horrible person.”

“You’re not. It’s just easier to look at other people’s lives than your own.”

“And how is your life?” Annie bit her bottom lip.

“It’s been better.” I laughed a little. “Parise didn’t get any hits in, though, so that’s good. I still have a proper face.”

“You think Ryan’s mad at me?”

“What?”

“For saying bad things about her.”

“I don’t think she cares. Rest of the school is doing it.”

“I should apologize,” Annie blurted.

“Don’t.” I shook my head. “Because you’re only apologizing because I’m involved. Because that’s how you realized. Just let it go and don’t be a jerk about it.”

She threw her arms around me in the hallway, which was weird. I had no idea why she wasn’t hitting me for dating her and not telling her that I had gotten another girl pregnant.

“Is that why you got weird in the fall?”

I laughed. “That’s why I got weird in the fall.”

“Oh. I thought you just didn’t fancy me anymore.”

I kissed the top of her head. “I have to go do some damage control, love. I’m pretty sure the entire Weasley family has found out by now that Grandmum has her first great-grandkid on the way and I’m horrified to figure out what the reaction is going to be. Pretty sure Aunt Ginny is going to slap me across the face.”

Annie nodded. “Of course, yeah.” She instinctively flattened my hair and adjusted the collar on my shirt. “Did you fancy her – in the fall?”

“Nah. Just trying to deal with the whole… you’re a father … bit.”

“Do you now?”

I stopped and looked down at her doe-like expression. She had a way about her that always made her look innocent. Even when we snogged she looked innocent and made me feel guilty.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. Because I didn’t. I never knew.

*

I wasn’t even all the way in the dormitory door before James had me by the collar. “Howler – Freddo there’s a Howler and it went off when you weren’t here and Grandmum wants you home right now because it’s a family emergency.”

I went red. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah. It said bring Ryan.”

“I’m not bringing Ryan to the bloody Burrow. That’s a terrible idea.”

James tossed a bag at me. “Provisions.”

“You packed a block of cheese and four socks.”

“You never know,” he said. He was pacing. “Ollie’s freaking out. She won’t even talk to me because I knew. She’s so peeved I didn’t tell her because she’s been saying all these terrible things in front of you since we got back from break. And now she knows you know exactly what happened between her and Davies in the bar. She’s going nuts. Won’t come down from her dormitory.”

“Serves her right saying those things,” I muttered, taking out the block of cheese and adding a few shirts to the mix. “You think Grandmum is pissed?”

“She’s something,” James said, shrugging.

“Has Parise been back?”

“He’s out at the pitch flying around. Probably trying to get his head to straighten out.”

“I got him pretty good.” I wrinkled my nose. “I lost it, mate. I completely lost it.”

“The whole school saw you lose it,” James said. “No hiding things now. I’ll do damage control. Just head home for the weekend. I’ll handle Ollie and the team. It’s not like you have walks. I’m right to assume they suspended you again?”

“Only a week this time.” I shrugged. “Ask Rose if she wants me to sit out from practice.”

He rolled his eyes. “Yeah right. You need all the practice you can get.”

*

I sent the owl from the owlry, stating what had happened and to meet me on the front steps of the castle. A few people came out first, all of them giving me strange looks before heading out toward the pitch or the lake. I ignored them. If Ryan could do it, so could I.

She arrived at last with a small bag slung over her shoulder. “I cannot believe I am doing this.”

“You mean you didn’t put in a request to meet my entire extended family at once and also let them know you’re carrying my child? Shocking.”

Ryan rolled her eyes. “If it gets weird I’m leaving.”

“It’s always weird, love.”

“Call me love again.”

I stepped out of punching range. “Let’s go, love.” I grinned, but she threw her bag at me anyway. “What’s in there?”

“Books, Weasley.”

“I should have guessed.” We walked down the path toward Hogsmeade, both of us quiet for a while. I still had a little of Parise’s blood on my arm.

“You shouldn’t have done that, you know. I had that handled.”

“I know you did,” I said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t think you had it handled. Hell, you could have killed him had you pulled your wand. I just snapped is all.”

“You make it sound so casual.”

“You made breaking a bottle over Ollie’s head sound casual.”

Ryan smirked, drawing her cloak tighter around her body. “I think I’m rubbing off on you. You’re getting in trouble a lot lately. You should at least be tactful enough not to get caught.”

I nudged her with my elbow. “Still in training, okay?”

It wasn’t as long of a walk as I remembered, but we spent most of it talking about Parise’s shocked expression when I came at him and Scorpius’ offer for a round of golf. Then I told her what Annie had said in the hallway.

“Big surprise. She feels bad for saying things that aren’t true. Does she even think for herself?”

“Come on. Don’t be like that.”

“I’m serious. She’s just this twittery little doe-eyed girl that follows you around like a shadow.” Ryan shrugged and adjusted her bag. We weren’t too far from the edge of the village now and she was speeding up.

“Are you jealous?”

“Weasley, you have to fancy people to be properly jealous.”

“You could be jealous she was taking up some of my time.”

“I have enough ice-cream runs, thank you.”

I caught up with her and draped an arm around her shoulder. “We’re not shagging, you know.”

“I don’t give a fuck who you shag.”

“You do so.”

“I don’t. Stop it.”

I kissed her cheek. “You give a shit. It’s adorable, really.”

Ryan pulled her wand. “I will do physical harm to you. I don’t care if you did just get into a fight and get a dozen detentions and you’re on your way to weirdly talk to your entire extended family about how you knocked up a girl you said a few sentences to before you shagged in a bathroom stall … I will not hesitate to turn you into a newt.”

That I believed.

“Just put your game face on.” I grinned and pulled away in case she was trying to decide between newt and toad. “It’ll be fine. Mum’s going to be happy she doesn’t have to hide it anymore.”

Ryan stopped suddenly and looked at me. “What does this mean for the shop?” she said.

It still impressed me she knew so many details about the court case just by talking to Dad and leafing through a few books at home.

“It means it’s out in the open and Zonko can use it if he wants,” I replied. “Which he will.”

“You’re not going to propose are you? Because I will actually hit you.”

“I believe you’ve already done that,” I grumbled. “I’ll figure it out, okay? Let me worry about it.”

“Why do you always get to worry about it?”

“Because that’s the way it is,” I replied before grabbing her around the middle and Apparating straight into the dragon’s nest of The Burrow.

*

Everyone was there, aside from my cousins that were still in the castle. All the aunts and uncles had apparently nothing to do on a Friday night other than lecture their nephew on getting a girl pregnant in his seventh year of Hogwarts. I wasn’t prepared for what they could throw at me, but at least I spotted my parents as soon as we walked through the door.

Dad was quick to rush us back outside and close the door behind him, holding it shut. He was panting.

“What’s bloody happening?” I whispered.

“Couldn’t have given me a heads up, could you?” Dad said, wrestling with the door knob. “Louis had a Floo message right after it happened detailing the fight and what was said – of course it was Zonko – Godric. Is everything okay? Are you hurt?”

I looked myself up and down. “I’m okay. I was the one doing the hitting.”

“What did he even say?” Dad said, still catching his breath as he fought to keep the door closed.

I kept my voice calm recounting the incident, but I could see the fire in Dad’s eyes. Ryan seemed unfazed and I reminded myself she was used to things like that by now. Parise was just another jerk who picked the wrong moment to speak to her.

“So you kicked his ass and admitted to being the – Godric, Freddo. Everyone’s in there. It’s a bloody mad house.”

“What do they want?”

“Pretty sure your Grandmum is going to ask if you plan to propose and have more babies,” Dad said. Ryan wrinkled her nose. “I think the rest of them are just damn nosy. Your sister’s in there too.”

“Rox? Why?”

“She said something about talking to you before you saw the thing happen.”

“Malfoy asked me for a round of golf,” I said.

“What? Why?”

“Like I know,” I muttered. “Is Mum in there? Can she stand in front of me while I talk? Everyone likes her.”

“Better than me, actually,” Dad said. “Have Ryan stand in front. She’s pretty and pregnant.”

“I’m rethinking this,” Ryan muttered.

Finally, Dad let go of the knob and it flung back. Aunt Ginny was standing there looking like she might slap me, so I stepped behind Ryan. I then put my hands on her hips and made her go in ahead of me.

Turned out to be no use since Aunt Ginny slapped me on the back of the head anyway.

We were instructed to sit in two kitchen chairs that had been pulled to the front of the living room, winning the award for the most awkward family situations since Uncle Percy tried to tell Molly about the birds and the bees.

Dad and Mum were on the chair to the left, trying to look promising. Rox was on the floor in front of their legs. The rest of the family was spread out on the couches and chairs and floor. Even Uncle Charlie was there with an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips. Aunt Fleur looked ready to burst. Victoire and Teddy were there too. Victoire was obviously not pregnant. Bollocks.

“Hello, everyone,” I said and my voice cracked.

Grandmum held up a hand because Aunt Fleur had tried to say something. Shut down.

“Freddie, did you get this young lady pregnant?” Grandmum asked.

I wanted to curl up under the chair and die. Forever. “Her name is Ryan Davies,” I started.

“The one from the Quidditch team?” Uncle Harry asked.

Ryan looked over, recognizing and probably remembering that my uncle was Harry Potter. “The one who was on the Quidditch team. Before this.” She patted her stomach casually. “I’m still better than everyone else on that team, though. Yes, even the captain.”

Uncle Harry snorted. “I keep telling him he thinks too much on the pitch.”

“He does. His turns are all off,” Ryan said.

“How did this happen?” Aunt Fleur interjected.

I paused, considering the story. “Over the summer, before school started up.”

“Are you together?” she said. Uncle Bill put a hand on her thigh.

My cheeks were on fire. I hated this conversation and everything about it. “Can we talk about something else?”

“Do you know the gender?” asked Aunt Audrey.

“Girl!” That was Mum. I was proud of her for holding it in that long, actually.

Rox wheeled around. “I didn’t know that,” she said.

I kept my comments to myself.

“Girl!” Mum cried again as most of my aunts started with the high-pitched squealing. Ryan and I exchanged looks. “I’ve got the nursery painted.”

“Nursery?” Ryan whispered. Mum was telling Grandmum about the locked door.

“Couldn’t stop her,” I said.

“Is it pink?”

“Probably,” I said. “Dad said it’s got a bed in there for you and stuff … just, you know, if you want to stay for a bit and have some help because kids tire you out … and stuff.” My ears were red.

“When was I going to get this information?”

“Once we stopped using our free time in cupboards?” I whispered, smirking. She pinched my arm. “Oh, and I went baby shopping with James and bought a bunch of shit you probably hate.”

“Probably,” Ryan said indifferently.

“How did you not cave?” Uncle Ron asked Dad. “You’re horrible at secrets.”

“Better than you think,” Dad said and I figured he was thinking about James. I was.

“Well, Ryan, tell us about yourself.” Aunt Hermione leaned forward politely, instantly stopping the gabbing happening on the other side of the room. Everyone looked at Ryan because only my parents and sister had any idea who she was other than “from the Quidditch team.”

Ryan cleared her throat, opening both her palms on her thighs. I could tell she didn’t do this often. Not just the being interrogated part. “Well,” she began, her voice uncharacteristically shaky, “I’m a seventh year Ravenclaw. Up until this year, I played Chaser for the House team. I work in the library at Hogwarts. I have a best friend called Gemma, who Wea—Fred calls French.” She pressed her lips together. “I have bad baby mood swings and often force him into getting me ice cream in the middle of the night.”

They laughed at that. They ought to because my toes still had cuts from middle-of-the-night toe stubbing.

“I have a lot of House pride and, until recently, refused to speak to most of the Gryffindor House.” She raised a hand when a few of my relatives stared back, open-mouthed. “It took someone being so persistent that I threatened to off him on a daily basis for me to change my mind.” She shot me a disgusted look, but was smirking. “Even though he makes me crazy and messes things up all the time, I owe him a lot. So you raised a good guy, even if he can’t lie to save his life.”

Rox was looking right at me and I was finding it hard not to look back at her. I still couldn’t figure out what was happening between us. Why Scorpius spoke to me. Why she wanted to tell me they were together herself, even though it was ages after Rose had blurted it out.

I had to hand it to Ryan. Even as she was talking, she was very careful about each word. She said nothing about the shop or the fight or Zonko. By now most of my relatives knew about the Hogsmeade debacle, but they didn’t know how deep it went. They couldn’t or Uncle Harry would have offered half his Gringotts account to bail us out. Dad would never take it. He used to tell me how Uncle Harry was how they got their start and they owed him too much to be lying about James.

After everyone was satisfied with Ryan’s answer and then started in on her symptoms and if we had a name and how bad her morning sickness was because Mum’s was a disaster when she was pregnant with a girl … I finally escaped. I squeezed my way into the kitchen and after finding no alcohol, I settled for apple juice and sank into a chair at the table.

“I’m surprised you showed up.” Rox closed the door behind her and sat across from me.

“They would have just showed up at the castle,” I admitted. “I knew I needed to do damage control.”

“Are you okay?”

“Better than I’ve been, worse than I’ve been.” I shrugged and stared at the juice.

“I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but Ryan is doing a lot of good things for you.”

“You think?” I didn’t know how exactly to respond. If that was a dig at who I used to be or if that was a compliment at how I’d been handling this mess.

“Yeah. She’s good for you.”

I took another swig and finally met her eyes across the table. “Are we doing this?”

“What?”

“This. Are we going to have a conversation?”

Rox didn’t reply for a moment. Instead, she looked over my shoulder at the window and then back at me. “I don’t know how to talk to you.”

“It starts without an insult,” I said.

“I know, Fred.”

“Yeah?”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m trying, okay? It was just hard when we got back to the castle. Everything was back to the way it used to be and Scorpius was there and it was overwhelming. I just don’t want you to be going through all this baby stuff and then she’s born and I’m not even in her life because we’re so messed up.”

“Is that what you think?” My brows raised. “That you wouldn’t be in her life?”

“I guess.” Roxanne shrugged. “We don’t talk so why would you even let me see her?”

I leaned back in the chair, trying to be like Ryan. Trying to pick my words carefully. “You’re not only speaking to me because of that, though, right?”

“No, of course not. Don’t be stupid.”

“You can see why I’d assume that,” I said. I shook my head. “Listen, Rox, I know I haven’t been the best brother. I didn’t exactly have a classy reaction when you weren’t sorted into Gryffindor and I understand I spent too many years before you got your letter harping on about how great it was. I was young, stupid and really excited to be a part of something. But you have to understand what you cutting me out of your life did to me. I spent so many years giving you piggy-back rides around the yard and then suddenly I wasn’t your brother anymore. You liked Louis better than me.”

“I know,” Rox said, sighing. She spread her fingers out on the table. “I know and I shouldn’t have done that. I knew you were disappointed and I couldn’t handle it at eleven, I guess. I just went and made a new family because it didn’t seem like this one had much time for me since I’d been sorted into Ravenclaw.”

“Albus was in Ravenclaw,” I said.

“Albus was a Quidditch star,” she countered. “I had books and mediocre grades.”

“You’re my sister, Roxanne,” I said seriously. “You’re my sister and Houses and boyfriends and pregnancies and those crazy people bickering out there don’t change that. Ryan doesn’t change that. You need to know that I’m not going anywhere and even if you don’t want me to be your brother because I’m a Gryffindor, I’m not going to stop trying.”

“I don’t want you to stop trying,” she mumbled.

“So where’s this leave us?” I asked.

Rox stood and the chair scraped against the tile floor. She moved around the table and motioned for me to stand. I did. Then she put her arms around my middle and buried her head in my chest. I hugged her tight, kissing the top of her head.

“I’m not playing golf with Scorpius,” I muttered.

*

Grandmum cooked some snacks at which point everyone kept asking Ryan more questions about her pregnancy and how she was doing. It was Mum’s opportunity to brag about the nursery and said she even approved of most of my clothes choices from the outing with James. I didn’t remember what most of them looked like by now, except that Uncle shirt.

After snacks everyone had to get back home until it was only my immediate family and my grandparents left washing dishes and putting them away. Grandmum wouldn’t let Ryan lift a finger, even when she asked twice and then snuck and towel-dried while Mum was inquiring about the baby blankets in the sitting room.

Grandmum made a batch of hot chocolate and summoned Ryan to the back bedroom while I sat on the sofa with my parents. Twiddling my thumbs.

“You’ve had an adventure of a day,” Dad said.

“I’m suspended from Prefect duty again,” I said. “Sorry.”

“Worth it?” Dad said. Mum rolled her eyes.

“Absolutely.”

I didn’t know when I became a ‘some people deserve violence’ sort of guy, but apparently I was in some situations. Like when Andrew Parise opened his gob about Ryan. That would not be tolerated. Not by me, at least.

“Detentions too?” Dad prompted. I nodded. “Well, at least you didn’t fly out of the Great Hall on a broom and make a corridor into a swamp.”

“Don’t get any ideas,” Mum said.

“What d’you think they’re talking about in there?” I said, realizing Grandmum and Ryan had been in the back room quite a while. “You don’t think she’s questioning Ryan about fancying me, do you? Because we’re not going down that road.”

“Are you not?” Dad said, staring at the ceiling.

“No. We’re not. It’s not like that.”

“Looks like it’s like that,” muttered Roxanne.

“Well it’s not,” I snapped.

“Frederick!” Grandmum called.

“One day she’ll realize your full name is just Fred,” Dad said.

I stood and made my way down the hallway flanked with photos of our entire monstrosity of a family. The bedroom door was cracked and I couldn’t help it – when I walked through the door I burst out laughing. Ryan was being fitted for a Weasley sweater.

It was bunched up around the middle where her stomach was bigger and there was no letter sewn into it yet, but it was the makings of a traditional Weasley sweater.

“It’ll be maternity,” Grandmum said, dismissing my laughter.

“I can’t – Ryan, you look stunning.”

She gave me a look that suggested she wanted to find where we kept the kitchen knives.

“Do you think burgundy is her color? I’m going between that and a nice green.”

“Why not navy blue?” I suggested.

“I hadn’t considered that.” Grandmum stood back and surveyed the tight-lipped Ryan. “Yes, blue would be nice. A little House pride and all that.”

Ryan was staring daggers at me, looking uncomfortable, confused, and terrified all at once. Her fists were balled at her sides and her face was pink. “Lovely,” she managed to squeak out.

“Looks great,” I said with a cheeky grin.

“Well, it’ll fit once it’s finished.” Grandmum tugged the sweater back over Ryan’s head and bunched it up, tossing it onto the top of the dresser. “Run along now. I’ll have it finished in a couple weeks. You’ll have to come by and have dinner and pick it up.”

Ryan’s eyes were huge. “Yes, that sounds nice,” she said.

I draped an arm around her shoulder and steered her back to the kitchen. I slid a glass of water with lemon to her. “Surviving?”

“You’re enjoying this,” she said.

“Of course I am,” I said. I shrugged and poured myself a glass of tea. The TV was blaring in the other room and Grandmum was asking if anyone needed touch-ups on their sweaters. Dad was the first to yell a resounding “No, Mum, but thanks!”

“Is it always like this?” Ryan said, laughing a little. “It seems intense.”

“Not always,” I admitted. “Mostly, though. It gets a little hectic when all my cousins are around. Like on Christmas Eve. They always get into trouble.”

“You join?”

“Of course. I’m not as straight-edge as you’d like to think.”

“Yes, you are.” She sipped at her water and looked around the kitchen. “Everyone knows now.”

“They do.”

“I’m still pissed at you,” said Ryan. “I didn’t want you involved in this and I really didn’t want my House knowing I shagged you.” She was smiling, though. That kind of smile that crinkled the sides of her eyes.

“I’m better-looking than you think,” I said. “Plenty of girls fancy me.”

“Like who?”

“Girls,” I muttered.

“Which ones?”

“The kind with breasts.”

Ryan tossed an apple at me from the basket in the center of the table. “This isn’t going to be easy.”

“I’m a Gryffindor. Easy isn’t even an option for me.”

She raked her fingers through her hair and shook his onto her shoulders. “Your family is nice. And they don’t hate me, which perplexes me considering I spend a lot of time getting people to hate me so I don’t have to deal with them.”

“Trust me,” I said. “I know.”

Ryan threw another apple and it hit me in the shoulder. “This doesn’t change anything.”

I looked at her for a while. Eyes downcast into the bowl of fruit. Shoulders slumped. Fingers twisted in her lap. “If there’s anything I’ve learned since you chased me into the Prefect’s bathroom it’s that everything changes. A lot.”

She didn’t say anything for a while. It had begun to rain, pellets sliding down the kitchen windows.

“You and me against the world, Weasley,” Ryan said with a small laugh. “The opposite of what I had planned for my seventh year, but somehow it works.”

It did work. Somehow, in a weird parallel universe this was completely normal and we worked together like this. I knew in order to get myself through this, I had to get her through it too. Besides, I felt partway responsible about helping to flush her Quidditch career down the drain. She wasn’t going to get onto the Falcons as an advisor for her seventh year.

That was something I could think about later, though. Just like everything else I’d pushed onto the backburner.

Unfortunately, those things had the worst habit of popping up sooner than anticipated.




A/N: Finally. Freddie and Rox talking is like a breath of fresh air at this point. 

Also, I know I posted this on social media, but I wanted to let all of you know I will get to ALL of the reviews left on my stories. The reason it is taking me longer than normal is because I no longer have a desk job where I can allot boredom time to answering reviews. I'm away from a computer all day. BUT that being said, I'll get to all of them. Don't you worry! And thank you everyone who has read and reviewed - it not only gives me ideas, but it also means a lot! 

NEXT UP: Fred and Ryan head back to Fred's place for the rest of the weekend. Back to Hogwarts. Time for Quidditch.


Chapter 28: The Nursery
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For ABookishBeing. 




That night, in an attempt to avoid the castle for the rest of the weekend, we went home with my parents. Roxanne Floo’d back to Hogwarts after a pair of hugs and Ryan and I retreated to my room to be alone. Dad winked a couple times.

I closed the door and leaned against it. “You survived today.”

“I was fitted for a sweater,” Ryan said. She kicked off her shoes and hopped onto my bed.

“At least it’ll be a well-made sweater.” I pulled my shirt over my head and tossed it in the corner. “I’m actually pretty impressed you said all that stuff today. About me, I mean. It’s not like you offer up compliments often, especially to Gryffindors.”

“Roxanne is a Ravenclaw.” She did that girl thing where they pull their bra out of their shirt and tossed the lacy red thing onto the carpet beside the bed. She wiggled off her pants and tossed them as well. “And they deserved to know.”

“That they raised a good guy?”

“You defend people’s honor.” She tugged the blankets up to her chest and wiggled into the pillows. “Are you coming or not, Weasley? The bed’s fucking cold.”

“You are a woman of many mysteries.” I smiled and lost the shoes and pants before crawling in beside her. I pulled her body against mine, letting my fingers trace up her back.

Everything was quiet for a while. Ryan draped her leg over mine. Her palm spread out onto my stomach.

“We should just pretend it never happened,” she said, laughing. “Think of the hilarious reactions.”

“Fred – How’d you get a saucy Ravenclaw? – What? Are you talking about my sister?”

Ryan roared with laughter. “What fight? What drugs are you on? Performance-enhancing? Is that why Slytherin can stay in the air on brooms?”

I kissed the top of her head. “I know we can’t shag anymore,” I said in a lofty way, “Because it’s wrong and a terrible idea…”

“Yeah.” Her fingers were tracing circles on my stomach, moving lower.

“But you know, if you didn’t think it was like, at this moment…”

“Pssh. Weasley. This is your childhood bed. It expects sex.”

“It actually told me that,” I said and before I could get out another cheeky comment, Ryan was straddling me and my childhood bed got the sex it expected. Four times.

*

My parents didn’t wake us Saturday morning. I stirred when Ryan rolled over. Her hair was everywhere against the pillow and her bare shoulders.

“You think we can just quit school?” she mumbled, eyes half-open.

“Good idea. My Dad did it.”

“Fantastic.” Ryan kissed me. “That’s just a well-done for last night. That’s not a good morning kiss or anything so don’t get used to it.”

I placed two fingers under her chin and pulled her in for another kiss. “Yeah. Well done, Davies.” I grinned. “Hey. We haven’t seen the nursery yet.”

“Bugger.” Ryan groaned and buried her head in my neck. “There’s a fucking nursery. Why is your family impossible?”

“You mean… kind?”

“That’s what I said. Impossible.”

I ran my fingers through her hair. “Gryffindors.”

*

I could hear my parents in the kitchen, so once we were dressed, Ryan and I snuck up the stairs where the guest room door was now painted a light shade of blue. Like the sky just after it rained. We exchanged puzzled glances and pushed the door open, careful not to make any noise.

Though her gasp was louder than mine.

The room was unrecognizable. The last time I’d been in there it looked like a bad hotel room with sail boat art and a patterned comforter at least a decade old.

The walls were a soft pewter gray and lining them was a dark wood crib and dresser. There was a posh rocking chair in the corner with a stool, both of which were navy. Above the crib were two canvas paintings. One of a raven. The other of a lion.

Across the room was a twin bed dressed in navy and gray bedding and a few throw pillows with frills. Then, just to our right as we entered, was a doorless closet already sporting the clothes James and I picked out at the baby store and plenty more that Mum had added. All of it was coordinated in type of clothing and then color.

“There’s ten pairs of shoes,” Ryan whispered, bending down in the closet and pulling out little red ballet flats. She pressed two fingers into the shoes. “They are so tiny.”

“Everything is tiny,” I agreed, pulling an unfamiliar dress off a hanger. It had an argyle print knitted to it. “It’s hard to believe someone will be this small.”

Ryan fell onto her bum, still staring at the shoes. “She’s going to be this tiny. It’s unreal. She’s going to wear these clothes and these shoes and…”

“And hopefully take after you,” I said.

“Want her first word to be fuck?”

“It would be a fun story to tell future boyfriends.”

Ryan rolled her eyes. “Like you’ll ever let her date.”

“She can date when she’s married.” I shrugged. It seemed logical.

I still couldn’t quite manage a thought. A real one. Other than clever responses and small talk. The arm-holes in the dress were so small. I was starting to picture it. A little girl with dark brown eyes and bouncy brown hair with this goofy, pretty smile. Giggles all the time. The situation was starting to materialize for the first time ever and I sat down on the rocker because things were getting intense.

There was a set of baby monitors on the dresser. Those were going to wake me over the summer if Ryan made the decision to stay here. I would lug myself out of bed in boxers, pad up the stairs, and tend to whatever the problem was.

Part of me wondered if Ryan would be sleeping in this bed, or the one I got up from.

But I tossed that out of my head because it was irrational. We couldn’t be hooking up every night. She’d be tired from the baby. And we didn’t fancy each other.

Obviously.

“You okay, Weasley?”

I realized my head was in my hands as I rocked back and forth. “I have no idea. Honestly. None. I don’t even know enough about babies other than what kind of fruit they look like as they grow.”

“You’ll learn.”

“You’re confident.”

She put the shoes back in the closet. “You don’t have a choice.”

I opened and closed my mouth. Ryan spread her legs out before her on the soft carpet and leaned against the doorframe. “I don’t?”

“You said you weren’t going anywhere.” She shrugged. “So you’ll have to learn, won’t you?”

“I suppose I will,” I said with a mild grin. “You ready for breakfast?”

Ryan shifted on the floor and tucked some hair behind her ear. “Can we eat here?”

“In the nursery?”

“Nevermind. It’s stupid.”

“We can eat wherever you want to eat,” I insisted. “Stay here. I’ll get some food. And ice cream.”

“Good man, Weasley.”

She sprawled out the rest of the way on the carpet and I headed downstairs to find breakfast. Breakfast-in-nursery instead of breakfast-in-bed? It would have to do.

Dad was washing a couple cast-iron pans when I got downstairs. He always washed dishes when he was stressed.

“Family day went well,” I said with a brief laugh.

“Sound-proofing your room didn’t,” Dad muttered.

My face went every shade of red imaginable. “What?”

“Ha! Just kidding. Did that bloody years ago, but I’m glad I know you two are hooking up. Nice shade of red.” He slapped one of the pans onto a towel to dry and scooped another out of the soapy water.

“We’re not hooking up.”

He glanced at me.

“We’re hooking up.”

“Thought so,” he said. “You dating yet?”

“Stop. Seriously. It’s not like that.” I pulled open the fridge and grabbed some fruit, tossing it into one of Mum’s cloth shopping bags. “I know everyone wants a happily ever after and for everything to be tied up with a pretty pink bow, but that’s not the way things work.”

“Is it not?”

“No.” I shook my head and snatched up the ice cream and sprinkles. “It’s not. Ryan and I aren’t like that.”

“So why are you having repeats of the baby-making process?”

“Can’t make another one, can I?” I closed the fridge with a little laugh. “I don’t know. We’re going to stop. We are. But … I don’t know. Relieves stress.”

“I’m using that one on your Mum next time.”

“Argh!” That was the last thing I wanted to hear. About my parents’ sex life. As far as I was concerned, they shouldn’t have a sex life. They should barely hug in public. How gross. “Let’s drop it, okay? We’re eating upstairs.”

“No sex in the nursery,” Dad said, laughing as he started on another pan. Some water flew up onto his shirt. “That’s what caused the nursery.”

I rolled my eyes and headed back to find Ryan sprawled out in the center of the carpet with a pair of tiny black ballet flats on her tummy. She stared at the ceiling.

I placed the gallon of ice cream with a metal spoon beside her and she jumped when the chill hit her side. “Do you approve?”

She paused. “Sprinkles, Weasley.”

I placed the sprinkles container on top of the tower.

“You pass.” Ryan smirked and rolled onto her side. We both ignored the fruit.

*

Neither of us wanted to get back to Hogwarts, but we knew we had to. We had damage control to do. Not that I didn’t trust James … well, I didn’t trust James. He was good at damage control for business-oriented things, but I wouldn’t put it past him to tell everyone we were getting married or some rubbish just to shut them up.

I also wasn’t looking forward to the many douche-canoes I was going to run into. Zonko. Parise, who may still have bruises. At least he got what was coming to him. All to try and get on a Quidditch team. A school Quidditch team. Let it go, mate.

For the first time, we entered the castle together, not staggered. The stares were immediate, but I didn’t pay much attention. That’s the way things would be and I knew that the moment my fist met Parise’s face. I knew.

We parted ways at the foot of a staircase, me shooting her a stupid salute and her flipping me off as she walked away. Hips swaying. What was it about her that her hips were always swaying?

James was waiting in the dormitory. Unfortunately, so were our three other roommates.

“How’d it go?” he whispered, grabbing my bag away from me and looking through it like I’d brought him presents.

“Better than I thought.”

“Grandmum?”

“Making a sweater.”

“Blue?”

“Blue.” I nodded and sank into my bed, trying to ignore the quietness. Chopper read from a Potions book. Mox had a chess set out on his bed. Two pieces had been moved. Parise was making no effort to conceal his listening. His eyes were on me.

“Everything in place?” James said. His way of asking if anyone slipped up and told his dad.

“Did you get a Howler?”

“Point.” He nodded. James followed me to my bed and sat beside me. “I tried on the damage control.”

“As long as you didn’t tell people anything that isn’t true.”

“Nah. The most popular question was how drunk did Davies have to get before she shagged you.”

“Charming,” I muttered.

“It’ll be fine,” James whispered.

“Are you kidding?” That was Parise. I actually thought it would take him a lot less time to be a smarmy shit, but he politely held off. “You’re a fucking father, Weasley. Or you’re going to be. It’s not going to be fine. You’re so fucked.”

“I’m really glad your face healed up,” I said.

“I can’t believe you even got Davies to shag you,” he said. “But I’m sure she was desperate.”

“Remember what happened the last time you said something about her?”

Parise shook his head. “I don’t mean any harm. I’m just saying things aren’t looking up for you. She’s only going to drag you down. Any dreams? Not anymore. You’ve got to pay for a baby.”

“You should talk about what you know,” I shot back. “Being a jerk and coming in second. That’s your specialty.” It wasn’t my best show of comebacks, but I was exhausted and he wasn’t worth my time. “Speaking of which.” I turned to James. “Practice on tonight?”

“Shockingly, no punishments for you,” he answered with a grin. I knew there wouldn’t be. Rose wouldn’t risk losing me for a practice when the Slytherin game was only a week away. At least Prefect duties wouldn’t get in the way of Quidditch.

“You can’t hold yourself together forever, Weasley,” Parise said.

“Have you been paying attention at all?” I snapped. “I haven’t held myself together at all this year. You’re just unlucky.”

*

The week leading up to Quidditch was just as brutal as I thought it would be. A lot of questions from a lot of people. A lot of stares. A lot of really snarky comments from people who I’d never spoken to. Suddenly I was the center of everything and for that, I was glad. People weren’t talking about Ryan, other than her being involved. They were talking about me.

And just as predicted, it made the papers. It took a few days, but the unstable Weasley that beat up a twelve-year-old also got a promising young woman pregnant, permanently ruining her.

Ruining. Jane Austen was writing the Prophet now.

Ryan burnt the newspaper. She would have set fire to the entire library, but I plucked the wand from her hand and made her do breathing exercises. She kicked me in the shin so I got her ice cream.

I didn’t hear from Dad during the week and I expected he was doing damage control on his end. But it was out and there wasn’t a speech I could do this time to save my reputation. I was in that bathroom stall and so I was responsible for what happened. At least partially.

According to Ryan, things were just as miserable in Ravenclaw tower. A lot of questions. A lot of disgusted looks. Clearly she wasn’t the only one to think Gryffindors were scum in the baby-daddy department. Gemma threatened a lot of people’s lives, which helped. Apparently Rox and Scorpius even got in on an argument when one of the fifth year Ravenclaw girls started making Gryffin-baby comments.

I turned to Quidditch to get my mind off things. I practiced late and gave Rose no reason to flip out on me. She got close a few times, but then screamed at James instead. I was thankful. People whispering when I walked by was not something I was used to.

Ollie didn’t speak to me until Thursday. After practice she put her hand on my shoulder and apologized. For everything. For letting status get the best of her. For saying rude things about Ryan behind her back. For the bar comments that led to the hospital. For not being a good person.

I knew had the father been anyone else, she wouldn’t apologize. She might not have cared. I still appreciated it, though. At least I helped her realize what she was doing was wrong. She didn’t know Ryan and didn’t know where she came from. What right did she have to pass judgment on Ryan? If I had no right, she definitely didn’t have any.

I told Ollie thank you, we hugged, and she smiled through tears. She wasn’t a bad person; I knew that. James wouldn’t have fallen in love with someone with a rotten heart. Sometimes pressing your frustrations onto others is just easier. Can’t say I hadn’t done it before. I could tell there was a lot weighing down on Ollie, but I didn’t ask about it.

She still had a ways to go before I would forgive her and before she would grow as a person, but that was a step.

Sometimes, a step is all it takes.

Things were a little easier Saturday morning. I was getting along with Ollie again so she and James sat with Annie and me at the Gryffindor table. We shoveled toast in our faces and Rox came over to wish us luck.

Even Ryan crossed the barrier while the entire school watched the wish us luck.

“Zonko’s a Slytherin so fuck Slytherins,” she said seriously. Ollie wouldn’t look at her. “And for Rowena’s sake, Weasley, watch your right turns. How did you even make the team?”

Rose snorted.

*

The weather was in our favor. Overcast, but not dark. It was warm for March too. Last year it rained for our second game – that disgusting sleeting horrifying rain that made my skin crawl. It was different now.

The stands were filling and Slytherins had already made a few colorful signs about my predicament. It was Quidditch. Stop.

I took my place beside James in the locker room and got changed. This was my second to last match in these robes. Not that I wanted to play Quidditch professionally, but it had an appeal. It gave me something else to focus on for a while. Got the adrenaline going. Let me use my bat to practically knock students’ heads off. And given that Zonko was a Slytherin, today was going to be a lot of fun.

“Do you remember everything I’ve told you?” Rose said. She was pacing, like usual. Her hair was tied up into a tight knot on top of her head and the robes were flying back from her legs. “The Slytherins are a good team this year. Not that pushover rubbish from last year. They will have prepared. They will have spied on us during practice. Do not think we are safe.”

“This sounds like a bad movie,” James whispered.

“We should revisit that puppy conversation,” I replied.

Rose ignored us. “It is important we have our shit together. Because if we don’t, we will lose. And then I will kill all of you.”

“How?” Gee said. “Might I recommend bees?”

“You’re replaceable,” Rose snapped. She opened her mouth to probably tell us exactly how she would off us, when the locker room door opened.

That happened from time to time when Professor Longbottom wanted to wish us luck or Finklehut couldn’t remember who was playing, but today it wasn’t a professor. Today it was Roxanne.

She was winded, leaning against the door with her entire face flushed. Her eyes darted through the room before finding me. “Fred!” she gasped, choking a little. “It’s Dad.”




A/N: Ick, sorry about that cliffie. Don't throw rotten veggies, please! 

I'll get the next chapter up as soon as possible - once I update the other two stories. I always work on too many at once, don't I? 

UP NEXT: What happened to Mr. Weasley? A trip off the grounds. A friendly face. Guilt and the next step. 


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