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Fluorescent Adolescent by greenbirds

Format: Novel
Chapters: 25
Word Count: 164,992
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Humor, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Albus, Fred II, James (II), Louis, Rose, Scorpius, OC
Pairings: James/OC

First Published: 11/12/2013
Last Chapter: 08/28/2017
Last Updated: 08/28/2017

Summary:
(c) awkward. @ tda | new chapter!



For two as different (and yet united in their faults) as James Potter, Gryffindor Quidditch captain, arrogance extraordinaire; and Effy Wilderson, Ravenclaw seeker of sharp-tongued, often unnecessary wit; they did seem to spend a lot of time together.

A story of high flying, low whispers, lack of common sense and an intoxicatingly raw, fluorescent teenage magnetism

Dobby Winner 2017: Best Romance & Most Addicting Fic


Chapter 1: crushed moon extract
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Effy Wilderson.

chapter image; mintleaf @ tda.



It was that time of year again, that time when golden amber leaves litter the ground, crunching under every step, and trees became exotic shades of crimson red, burnt orange, alien yellow. The nights come creeping in and you don’t notice it until you notice it, and by that time there’s nothing you can do about it, summer is over for another year and the impending winter is heavy in the air.

House elves replace berries and bananas during dessert with apples and pumpkins, they swap ice cream for pie and salads for stew. There’s no point in McGonagall reminding us to wear our cloaks around the school because only girls like Jasmine Azalea and Ophelia Nott go without. Faces turn red and fingers grow numb but, you know, for me, the biggest symbol of winter’s arrival is the Quidditch season.

The first game of the new academic year isn’t until mid-November, but all the teams are training utterly absurd hours. It's not just Ravenclaw, I'm sure of it, Teddy Oliver of Hufflepuff has never fallen asleep in class before last week following a particularly gruelling team practise. This year’s Quidditch Captains are all ridiculously competitive- more so than last year’s, an impressive feat in itself- and every team have been worked to the bone. 

Is it reasonable to have to wake up at 6am on a Saturday morning? Is it reasonable to have to wake up before it’s daytime in general?

“Yes,” said our captain, Danny Alton. He was the only person on our team not exhausted. He strode up and down the office, tapping a long white stick on the ground in line with his feet. Danny Alton used to be really attractive. If I’m being honest, I used to have a thing for Danny Alton. Who didn’t in Ravenclaw house? Really. He was good-looking, funny, charming, empathetic. 

But then Flitwick went and made him bloody Captain and he’s had a complete alteration in personality. I think it would be fair, and not at all an exaggeration, to compare him to Stalin, really. Better looking, perhaps. Less obsessed with five year plans, more into defence tactics.

“Oh lay off it, Danny,” yawned Mikey Lancaster, whose shoulder I was slumped against. Beneath the thickness of his Quidditch jacket I could feel the warmth of my friend's body vibrate slightly as he spoke, as I opened my eyes slightly to look up at him.

“Do you want to bring your house victory, Michael?” Danny snapped, and we all flinched. “Don’t you want to bring back that trophy that we haven’t seen since Teddy Lupin was Seeker? Don’t you want to do Rowena Ravenclaw proud?”he roared this at us, and I frowned as a bit of spit landed on my cheek.

“If I'm going to be honest,” Josh Wood begun, and I eagerly awaited the end of his sentence. "Not especially, no."

Indigo Coates nodded earnestly in agreement beside me. "Who joins the Quidditch team to do some old woman proud? I'm here for the chicks-"

"Oh yeah, that's gone really well for you Coates, hasn't it," I interjected, but immediately stopped when I made eye contact with Danny, his lips pressed together so tight they had lost all colour, his eyes flared so wide in anger he looked almost petrified.

“Start lapping. I’ll be outside in five minutes,” he hissed, and we got up, stretched a bit, and walked into the dark October morning.

 

“Swift, maybe put your surname to good reason and be a bit quicker with the Quaffle, Goddamnit!” Danny howled, racing around her on his broom. “And then for Christ’s sake, Lancaster, catch it! If I have to take you at lunch times to practise how to catch, I bloody swear I will-”

“It’s too earlyfor this, Danny,” I said, flying down next to him.

“Don’t you have a Snitch to be catching?” he snapped, the wind around us making his Northern accent sound harsher than usual. “Come on Effy, imagine we’re playing against Gryffindor, they’re a right bunch of arrogant gits.”

It was a little difficult to imagine a tense game of Quidditch against our biggest rivals, considering it was still dark, a bit damp and I was uncharacteristically more concerned about when I would be able to next put my feet to the ground. 

But being Seeker gave me independence that no other Quidditch position experiences; I work with myself only, and I have no boundaries. I only have to find the Snitch and out of all the games I’ve played, I’ve only ever lost four, so I’m not too worried about that.

Sometimes during practise I just fly around and see how high I can get. But then Hogwarts looks more like a doll house and I freak out a little. The higher I get the closer I am to falling off my broomstick and this both fascinates and terrorises me.

I wasn’t as high as I had been previously but still, my knuckles were numb with fear and my heart was racing with adrenaline. My knees were buckling and yet I could feel my long hair flutter behind me and my feet fly past the air, making my bare ankles sting with cold. 

Then the Quidditch pitch lights were switched on, and this surprise almost caused me to fall off my broom. I flew down; there was a small gathering in the damp grass below.

“What’s happening?” I asked Mikey, who was tying his shoe lace.

“Potter and his gang turned up,” he said, pointing ahead. Remaining on my broomstick, I gently flew towards the scene.

Danny Alton and James Potter had more in common with each other than I think James did with his own brother in my year. Both were arrogant yet charming, egotistic yet charismatic; both had reputations throughout the upper school for good looks, good bodies and good grades, yet both were a bit ashamed of the latter. And most importantly, both were utterly impossible about Quidditch.

But James Potter- and perhaps this is the closest I’ve ever been to him, and I knew this thought occurred to Lara Swift too, the only other girl on the Ravenclaw team- was good looking in a different way to Danny Alton. Potter had jet black hair, and the amber lights of the stadium made the messiness of it seem almost majestic, his pale skin almost glow, his brown eyes slightly glimmer. I was, in spite of myself, fascinated.

“Potter,” snapped Danny, striding towards him. “I’ve booked the pitch until nine.”

“Jesus Christ,” Mikey muttered into my ear. I rolled my eyes in agreement.

“You’ve booked it for every morning until next week,” Potter retorted, and his voice rang hoarse yet crisp throughout the dark stadium, every syllable perfectly pronounced. “Longbottom himself wrote me a letter giving me permission to practise. We’re playing the first game, not you.”

“Come off it, you had the pitch booked for the whole weekend.”

“Now now, Alton, no need to get so angry,” cooed Potter.

“Now now, Alton, no need to get so angry,” mimicked Danny.

Potter smirked. “No need to be so petty, Alton. We all know that Longbottom has more authority than Madame Hooch; right now, quite frankly, you’re just wasting my time.”

Danny gave him a long, hard stare. “I hope that running off to your father’s best friend for time on the pitch satisfies you,” he said, coolly. “Being Harry Potter’s son may cut it with the teachers, but it really doesn’t prove anything.”

Potter stepped up to Danny, so they were almost touching, their bodies in perfect symmetry.

“Take that back,” he said, simply.

“Should we stop this?” Lara Swift, a Chaser in the year below whispered.

“Course not,” I hissed, not taking my eyes off the two Captains, tilting my head and lifting the soles of my feet to get a better view. Mikey chuckled.

I can’t remember how long we- the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor players- stood there, watching the two Captains, decked out in respective gold and red, bronze and blue, shivering in unison with the winter winds. It was probably not even a full minute but it felt like hours until Potter stepped back.

“Get off my pitch, Alton,” he said icily.

“Can Danny stop being so bloody annoying,” hissed Mikey. “They’re serving fried toast today.”

“Well,” said Liam Finnigan, sounding uncharacteristically excited. "That’s my favourite.”

“Go do something, Effy,” said Lara, suddenly.

“What?" I said, turning from the two boys ahead towards her, my feeling of surprise making my ponytail whip around and almost hit me in the face. "Why me?"

“Because you’re a girl,” said Mikey. “And pretty. And your crush on Danny isn’t as evident as it is with Lara.” Lara turned bright red, but I saw it as my time to shine. To be the woman I was born to be, and primarily, to get back into bed.

“Let’s go, Danny,” I said, jumping off my broomstick and grabbing it.

But before Danny could reply, Potter did. "This is so classic of you, Alton. Always doing what the girls tell you to do, you've been like this since you were twelve. You going to shag her in the changing rooms too, then? Isn't that what you did with the last girl that had you whipped?" From behind me I heard Mikey cry in outrage, and the Gryffindor team looked a bit uncomfortable too.

“Except he has the intellect not to knock me up,” I said, mimicking his patronising tone, referring to the Captain's pregnancy scandal that rippled through the school the way only back-to-school gossip could. It was unavoidable, the first week back, and whilst totally not true, still adorned the walls of the Charms' girls' toilets.

But more importantly. When did I become the kind of person to answer back to James Potter? I was very impressed with myself. Maybe our best versions of ourselves come out at six in the morning, and we've never noticed because we're all busy sleeping. Mikey cackled.

“I see we have a little stalker on these hands.” Potter retorted sharply. His icy tone sent chills down my already frozen limbs, shaking in the early morning cold.

I snorted, and turned around. As I began walking, against every bone in my body and every pulse in my brain, my inner Ravenclaw came out. “It’s my hands,” I said, facing him. “Not these hands. That doesn’t make any sense.”

In front of me, the dark and murky blue sky, tinged orange by the Quidditch lights, had transformed to a beautiful blend of purple and blue hues, vivid pink clouds hanging in the sky with orange undertones. It was only half past seven, and I already had had enough of the day.

 

“You’re so sassy, Effy,” said Oscar, gesturing his left hand with a swift. “I just love it. If I wasn’t gay I reckon I would have the biggest crush on you. No. Jasmine Azalea, probably. But I’d still fancy you a little-

“I can’t believe you said that!” Aspen interrupted, her face looking slightly amused, slightly outraged, slightly wonderstruck. “I wonder what Scorpius would say about it? You must be the only girl in the year apart from Rose Weasley to talk to him like that.”

“It’s not a big deal,” I said, munching on my toast. My fingers grazed the purple jam and I rubbed the spread onto my jeans, and when they were still sticky, I licked them. Aspen looked at me with disdain. 

“Those are my jeans, Effy.”

“Stop interrupting her,” ordered Oscar. “Come on now, Aspen, just because you and Scorpius are back together doesn’t mean you can go around interrupting people. What would your mother say?”

“She wouldn’t be very happy,” Aspen admitted, flicking her wavy, golden blonde hair behind her shoulder as Oscar smiled across the table in a half-hearted fashion.

“So he and Danny Alton were at it again, and then Danny dropped the Harry Potter bomb-”

Oscar gasped. “I love it. Why am I not on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team? You have more drama than the Christmas special of Downton Abbey. So I’m envisioning it with lots of sexual tension between Danny Alton and James Potter-”

“James isn’t gay, Oscar-”

"Sexuality is fluid and the average man won't come out until the age of sixteen," he retorted quickly.

"Well, that makes him two years late to his statistic," I retorted back.

"Age is a social construct," he shot back, his nostrils flaring the way only Oscar Green's nostrils could, making his delicate, handsome face suddenly almost cartoonish. "Maybe he's fifteen in soul."

Aspen laughed at our exchange and Aspen has this really light, twinkly laugh which always makes me laugh, and then Oscar- who detested being left out- started laughing too. 

Oscar and Aspen were my two best friends. We had been friends since the First Year, the kind of friendship that has no defining start point, no definite trigger, but the kind of friendship that’s just always been there, as constant in my Hogwarts experience as the ghosts and the Herbology greenhouses.

Aspen was an absolute beauty. She was one of the prettiest girls in the school; boys in our year and the year above doted on her. Aspen had this incredible long hair that she used to be able to sit on; she straightens in whenever she can to fit in with the Hogwarts trends, but I prefer it naturally wavy. Sometimes during the summer she lets Oscar fashion her a flower crown and she looks like an elfin princess, with her blue doe-like eyes, her turned up nose and a fair scattering of freckles around her nose, cheeks and high collarbones. Her on and off boyfriend, Scorpius Malfoy- the captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team- is really good-looking too, the idyllic teenage couple. But then he’d start chatting to another blonde in the year below and she would freak out, or she would be seen twisting her long locks when talking to another boy, and he’d wind up equally exasperated.

And then Oscar is well known throughout Hogwarts as well for being the youngest male to come out as gay in the past hundred years when he was in second year. It was so classic Oscar, even at the age of twelve, to set this record: he loved attention, lived for it, consumed it in such eagerness and quantity it was almost religious.

I sat there, watching Aspen and Oscar chat lazily, thinking back to Oscar's announcement, his voice not yet broken, to our Second Year huddle on the very Ravenclaw table we were sat on this breakfast. Mikey Lancaster and Liam Finnigan were so proud of their dormitory companion they charmed a banner declaring this in bright blue to follow Oscar around the school; they got put in weekly detention and Liam Finnigan received a Howler the next day from his dad, his Irish accent filling the Hall for a solid five minutes.

“What are we doing today?” asked Aspen, re-arranging her fruit salad, and I drifted out of my sudden burst of nostalgia.

“Work,” I said, beaming pleasantly at her.

“No," she drawled, giving me a weird look, and I wondered if my self-assessed pleasant beam was as pleasant as I had imagined, and if so what was it, because it was how I had been smiling at Albus Potter the whole term and it would be great, really great, if he thought I had a pleasant beam and didn't think I had, instead, facial seizures.

“Darling, we have a Transfiguration practical on Monday,” Oscar stated. “And an Ancient Runes essay, and a Potions test but I suppose you both don’t do Potions.”

“Damn right,” I cried, and Aspen and I high-fived. In a moment of giddiness and, perhaps, idiocy, we decided to take identical NEWTs, which resulted in us continuing in Transfiguration, Charms, Ancient Runes, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Mermish, History of Magic and Astronomy. 

“This is going to be so great, Effy,” cried Aspen when filling in our forms last month. “Best friends forever!”

“Oh yeah!” I cried back, and we hugged each other. She ended up dropping Mermish and taking up Divination, but the sentiment is still there, shining under Mermish pronoun tables and dream spreadsheets.

“You two are such idiots,” said Oscar. “Why are neither of you doing Potions?” 

Aspen stared down at her fruit.

“Aspen didn’t get an E. She didn’t realise that there was a difference between crushed moonstone and crushed moon extract,” I said, and Aspen kicked me under the table.

“That was not my fault,” she said stubbornly. “That was brand new information. They did not include that in Potions for Dummies.”

“It’s common knowledge.”

She gave me a dirty look. “I don’t take insults from people with ketchup on their chin.”

I was about to retort when Oscar held up his forefinger to gesture us to be quiet. Then he pointed to the Gryffindor table, and Aspen and I turned, intrigued.

It was James Potter arguing with his girlfriend, Dahlia Moss. Like Aspen and Scorpius, they were a couple that gathered a lot of public interest: Potter being, obviously, the son of Harry Potter and one of the most sought-after Quidditch players in Hogwarts, and Dahlia Moss because she was Dahlia Moss. One of the most popular girls in the student social hierarchy, and probably really mean and quite a bitch. She wasn’t as pretty as Aspen but she had that quality that boys were automatically attracted to and girls automatically feared. She died her hair blonde, drank potions to make her skin glow and was rumoured to be the niece of the creator of the beautifying potion. This, naturally, made her quite an exciting character, and I noticed, as my eyes scanned the room, the three of us were not the only one watching the scene ahead.

“Just get out of my face, Dahlia,” snapped James, using the exact same tone he had used on myself and Danny just two hours ago.

“Not until you tell me what’s wrong!” she cried. “For God’s sake, I’m your girlfriend-”

“-not my fucking therapist. If I wanted to speak to you I know where your dormitory is. Jesus Christ, get off me!” Her arms were slung over his shoulders, and he pushed her away from him.

“Whatever,” she said, icily. “Give me a call when you decide to grow up, James.” She got up and left, her shoes clicking against the polished floors.

“She’s so great,” said Oscar, as the buzz of chatter in the Hall returned. “I love her. I hate her, but I love her. She’s like reality TV. Ugg boots. Brexit. I love her. Did you see how sassy she was? She is the sixth Spice Girl.”

“What’s a Brexit?” asked Aspen, curiously.

 

 



Hi! So this is Fluorescent Adolescent, named after the Arctic Monkeys' song of the same name. It's my first attempt at fanfiction for aaaaaages so I hope it's alright. I don't own anything you recognise (Downton Abbey belongs to Julian Fellowes, Ugg Boots to UGG) and as usual, reviews make my day! Thanks so much for reading!


Chapter 2: communism in mermish
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James Potter.

chapter image; mintleaf @ tda.





It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single student in possession of a good History of Magic OWL grade must be in want of a History of Magic NEWT grade.

And, as History of Magic is the easiest subject Hogwarts offers- most people would argue Herbology, but I’ve always secretly struggled with it- this statement applies to almost every student in the Sixth Year at Hogwarts. Therefore there were several classes running, and each class was full to capacity. 

“I regret not continuing History,” said Mikey absent-mindedly, as Aspen and I left him, Oscar and Liam Finnigan at the breakfast table that morning. Mikey was doing eleven NEWTs, he was a genius, a real brainiac with this lifelong obsession with knowledge. He was a total, dictionary definition pledged nerd, which always surprised the girls he dated who knew him from his Quidditch Chaser status.

“That’s such a lie,” I said, smirking. “You love being able to be in the elite few of the year not doing the subject.”

“Am I that obvious?” he called to our retreating backs. The late autumn sun was shining weakly through a pearly overcloud, casting the corridor we walked into in an almost ethereal light I appreciated as Aspen chattered away.

“If you and Mikey dated again we could go on double dates with Scorpius,” she said brightly, and I turned from the stained glass windows towards Aspen, who, I imagined, already had an idea of my response.

“We do go on double dates,” I said, shooting her a half-hearted dirty look. The previous Hogsmeade trip was the second time her and Scorpius tried to set the two of us up. Mikey found it hilarious, of course.

“But now he has competition from James Potter…” she teased, referring to the Quidditch incident a week ago. Aspen and Oscar had gotten over it, but she still liked to bring it up. It was the most exciting thing to happen to me, she claimed. 

“Yeah, so much competition from James Potter… I hate all this drama…”

“What’s it like having two boys fighting over you?”

“Awful, honestly,” I said, and she threw her head back in laughter as we reached the classroom. I don’t think there will ever be a time in my life where I’m not harbouring a secret envy of Aspen’s hair. It was a glorious golden blonde, a real lion’s mane, if lions had access to L’Oreal Elvive. 

“Late,” Binns trilled, as we walked in. We weren’t late, not in the slightest, we were right, perfectly on time but Aspen elbowed me in the ribs before I could object. It wasn’t like Binns would care, anyway, he was wondrously nonchalant about everything. He just did not care. Albus Potter, the boy I sat next too, had a theory that he was eternally high.

“Do you think ghosts can get high?” I asked him, still thinking about it as I slid into my seat. Albus Potter was nothing like his older brother. He was just as good looking, if not slightly smaller and skinnier, with vividly green eyes; but he was nice, friendly, outgoing. The kind of guy to start a conversation in the library over a book you were reading, but then suddenly leave in the middle because he got distracted.

“Effy,” he said, smiling pleasantly at me. “What a silly question. Of course they can get high. Just, I mean- look at him, for fuck’s sake- he looks like he got lost on the way to Glastonbury and ended up teaching at a boarding school in Scotland.”

I tried to contain my laughter as Binns drawled on, copying down the notes Albus had jotted down, but a small giggle escaped that sounded almost fart-like. Albus smirked down at his parchment as the two girls in front of us- Poppy Atticus and Eve Feltham, Hufflepuffs joint at the hip- turned around and gave me a look.

“I was thinking about it last night, actually," Albus continued, once Atticus and Feltham had turned back around. "Maybe he died high? Then you stay high, right? Forever in the afterlife. Like, if you die with brown hair, you don’t get to change it, do you-”

“High forever? Sounds like a Hufflepuff fantasy.”

“He is such a Hufflepuff.” And he said this slightly louder than his other words, almost as if to bait the two girls in front of us to turn around again.

There was something about Albus Potter; perhaps it was the way his eyes twinkled in this November sunlight emitting from the window beside me, perhaps it was a Tuesday and I was only two months into the school year and bored stiff; but as we continued speaking under our breath during the lesson, him cracking joke after joke in his enticing, fruity voice, I couldn’t help but look at his lips, wonder what it would be like to kiss them.

 

For Albus was great, and we were friends- not only through History, but our two best friends were dating, he and Scorpius were inseparable- when does a fancy turn into a crush? What is the anatomy of a crush? Truthfully, I had had a thing for him since October, when he flirted with me at a Halloween party thrown by Louis Weasley. 

I haven’t had a crush since Mikey Lancaster in Fourth Year. I was obsessed; it was my first ever real experience with love, and with that my first ever real experience of growing up and maturing. We dated for three months but when it came to the summer holidays and we decided to leave it for the summer. Adolescent, love-fuelled angst, all of that.

I sought him out after lunch, where was sat in the common room with Liam. Obviously. Mikey Lancaster and Liam Finnigan were always together, almost Siamese, only rivalled in terms of closeness by Rudy Walcott and Louis Weasley, the Gryffindor Beaters in our year.

“Hey Effy,” said Liam, as I walked up to the duo. “You alright?”

“Yeah, thanks,” I said. “Mikey, can I talk to you for a second?”

Liam and Mikey looked at each other and Liam wolf whistled. Mikey laughed and hit him, who pretend to be in agonising pain from it. “Yeah, sure.”

We walked over to a more private corner of the Common Room, right by the window. “What’s up, Eff?” he asked.

“Well, remember earlier this term when you came to me for advice on Jasmine Azalea and we agreed that since we dated like, last year, we’ll help each other out as much as possible because like-”

“Oh, Effy,” he said, impatiently, and I noticed how blue his eyes truly were in that pearly late autumnal sunshine. “Spit it out. Liam was in the middle of telling me about the Quidditch Cup drawings.”

“I think I fancy Albus,” I said in a rush.

“Albus Potter?”

“How many Albus’ are there?!”

“You could have been referring to the old Head teacher,” he said, puffing a bit. “He’s a good looking lad, silver fox, all that Kingsley Shacklebolt jazz.”

I snorted slightly at his reference to the previous Minister of Magic, and continued in my earnestness.“And because Aspen and Scorpius are so on and off it’s quite difficult establishing a firm relationship with him, you know?”

“Poor little white girl. My heart bleeds for you,” he said, the left corner of his mouth lifting as he smirked, but then stopped. “Well Hogsmeade is having a Halloween fair next Saturday, right? Just let Aspen make you look pretty."

“What else am I meant to wear?” I asked.

“Mm. Dunno. A skirt, because your legs are nice. You’re a bit flat, though, so don’t worry about cleavage.”

“Wow, honestly, stop it! I'm blushing. I've always wanted to hear your review on my anatomy.”

"I live to serve, really."

"Like God, take me whenever. I'm so ready. I've won at life."

He winked at me, and crossed his arms. “I work with him in Herbology, so you know what I’ll do? We often talk about girls anyway, so I’ll mention how I used to date you and I’ll see how he reacts and report right back to you, yeah?”

“Oh my god, that would be great- can you put that in a Pensieve? I know the year above boys have one, they're super nice-” but then Mikey cut me off. 

“No, oh my god, Effy, you freak. But my next lesson with him is tomorrow before lunch, so find me then, yeah?”

“Cheers Mikey,” I said, and hugged him. He hugged me back, and being a Quidditch player, has quite a big and defined body which, in the cold that came in through the window, warmed me up and just made me feel so secure because there’s just nothing like a guy hugging you, is there?

“How’s Cecelia Keegan going?” I asked after we broke up.

He snorted. “You’ll laugh.”

“Hm... True.”

“She’s such a bad kisser, Effy,” groaned Mikey. “She’s shit, you know, absolutely awful.”

“Oh Michael Lancaster,” I said, pretending to tut. “That’s horrible.”

“Whatever, Effy. So I’ve just started talking to Niamph Finnigan-”

“That’s your best friend’s cousin!” I cried, attracting looks towards me from startled nearby students for the second time today. 

“Which is why it’s a secret. Anyway…” And as I listened as Mikey filled me in with his girl drama, it occured to me that he was really rather awful. I don't think he had been in a real relationship either since the two of us decided to call it quits, and as I watched him speak I really wondered why. He wasn't awful to girls to fulfill a fragile ego, or a hidden insecurity, like other guys within the year group; I really think he just did not know how to behave, how to act, around girls he was interested in. He reminded me almost of a young Louis Weasley, a Gryffindor Beater in my Herbology class, who would sit with in between girlfriend and his girlfriend's best friend in lesson, holding one girl's hand and with his arm around the other girl's shoulder. But, of course, he was eleven. Not sixteen, like Mikey.

The next day dragged on. I had a free period until ten when Transfiguration started, and Oscar had a free period too, so we two and Aspen sat in an almost empty Common Room, classical music floating out from a record player as we wrote various essays in silence. 

Total carnage, the whole thing. Ibiza Summer 2022? More like a Tuesday morning in the Ravenclaw Common Room, turn up!

“This sucks,” moaned Aspen, widening her arms and stretching, her mouth wide with a yawn.

“Okay darling,” said Oscar, scribbling furiously at his paper.

“I hate this school.”

“Sounds lovely.”

“Down with the establishment! Down with the monarchy!” Aspen’s face lit up as she pounded the table with earnestness, and we grinned at each other as I caught her eye. Oscar, beside us, didn’t even look up from his parchment.

“That’s the spirit.”

“I think I might drown myself in my tears.”

“You’re wearing my shoes so be careful not to get them wet, they’re suede.”

She glared and Oscar and then looked at me, her big Bambi eyes wide with faux innocence; she wanted a trip down to the school kitchens but I smirked at her and pointed to my essay.

“Hot date,” I informed her, tapping my quill upon my parchment.

“You two are impossible,” she snapped, and walked away, right out of the Common Room.

"It's been six years," Oscar said, after she left. "Why is she acting like she's still surprised she's got Ravenclaw friends?"

"She's forever in denial she wasn't placed in Gryffindor."

"To be fair, red is a fantastic colour on her." I laughed, and he smirked that post-joke smirk I think everyone is guilty of.

Oscar and I went back to our studying. I had to write an essay in Mermish about my hobbies and too be frank, I don’t have any hobbies. I play Quidditch, I sleep, I eat and sometimes if I’m feeling festive, I sing Christmas carols around the school with Oscar, until we run into Peeve and get belted with turkey fillets. 

But when I tried explaining this to Professor Reagan, he just told me to make something up, so now I was a character who juggled Quidditch, the `Warts Weekly, Gobstones, Exploding Snap Society, the Centaur Liberation Society, the Debating Society, Quidditch 1 on 1, Homework Club and the Socialist Society. 

“How do you spell communism in Mermish?” I asked.

“Komuniżmu,” he said, not even looking up. I glanced at his paper and couldn’t identify a single word from his large illegible handwriting.

 "Thanks," I muttered, scrawling the letter down onto my piece of parchment.

 “Pardon?”

 “Thanks,” I repeated, perhaps a bit too harshly, because he suddenly looked offended.

 "That attitude, Elizabeth Wilderson!" he said, looking up from his paper and shaking his head. Oscar had perfect vision, but insisted on wearing glasses whilst studying. When Shakespeare said that all the world's your stage, Oscar Green took it a little too far.

I didn’t notice the two girls come in until they sat in a booth next to us. The booths were ideal for conversations because they were right next to the fireplace and also very comfortable; during Common Room peak times it was considered a miracle to find an empty one, and the upper year formers often took it upon ourselves to kick out lower schoolers from them.

My ears perked up as soon as I heard the very easily identifiable American accent of Phoebe Sanders, one of the rare new students of my time at Hogwarts. She moved last year and due to her long purple hair, perky bum and, most of all, accent, became one of the most popular girls in the year above, and best friends with Dahlia Moss. She was also a Ravenclaw, which she was thrilled at, because “it matches my hair, and green just wouldn’t, you know?”

 “So do you think you two will ever get back together?” said Phoebe Sanders. Oh wow. I loved her accent. I was desperate for a distraction, and I leaned back against the cushion of the booth to hear better. 

 “Obviously,” replied Dahlia Moss. She had a very upper class London accent; she was the daughter of a Muggle politician, after all. Rumour has it that that’s how her parents met; her mother was the sister of the Minister of Magic and when she met the Muggle Chancellor of the Exchequer of the time, the two fell in love. It would have been a lot more romantic if it was anyone but Dahlia Moss who was their only child together. “I mean, we’re Dahlia and James. This always happens.”

“But he treats you like shit! Total shit! Babe, you can do so much better-”

“Phoebe, I can’t. There is no better. I’m in love with him. I’m utterly besotted. And he is too with me, he’s just too immature to realise it. I mean, why else does he keep on running back, after every single girl he’s with?”

“Well he told Zachary Elliot who told me that you’re a fantastic shag-”

“Shut up, Phoebe. He says that on the morning of our argument he had encountered a girl who had really caught his eye- some silly year below who had her tits out, probably.”

"James loves a girl who can talk back. You know, because most girls are so star struck by him.”

“That’s what he probably likes about me, Phoeb. I’ve never been a fan. I’ve always, since Third Year, been his girl.”

This was such ripe gossip; I couldn’t wait to tell Aspen. Or Oscar, for that matter, he will crucify himself when he finds out he was too submerged in his work to eavesdrop on this conversation. I wonder who it could be? The only girl I know who answers back to him is Rose Weasley, a red-haired, absolutely bat shit crazy girl in our year.

I forgot that Rose was his cousin. Never mind, then.

Dahlia and Phoebe’s conversation changed to bitching about some girl in their year I didn’t recognise the name of, and I kicked Oscar under the table.

“What?” he snapped.

“Class is about to start. Let’s go.”

Transfiguration, my next subject, was taught by a new teacher called Professor Campbell. He’s good looking and charismatic and rumours line the walls of girls’ dormitory walls of his alleged winking, his proposed long stares at cleavage, alternative interpretations as to why he thinks so-and-so needs to see him for after class lessons… Aspen is a prime example of a girl who reckons, even with a stable boyfriend, she and Professor Campbell will run off to Paris one day.

But today one of my favourite classes seemed dull and I was totally disengaged. Like History of Magic, due to the large amount of students wishing to continue Transfiguration into NEWT, there are several classes, and I share a class with Scorpius Malfoy; however we sit according to an alphabetic seating plan, so I’m at the back on a table with Rose Weasley, her best friend Parker Wills, a Slytherin mate of Scorpius and Al’s called Jack Robins and a Hufflepuff boy called Jed Veranda.

The double class, which was two hours long, stretched on for what felt like a good fraction of eternity. Rose and Parker did not stop whispering, Jed Veranda spent the lesson with Jack Robins trying to see how many swearwords they could etch onto the table with their wands and Franny McArthur did a big fart which would normally be hysterical but I was just too preoccupied with what news Mikey would bring about Albus over lunch.

Finally the bell went, I found myself engaged in conversation with Teddy Oliver, the Hufflepuff Seeker, in front of me about how much we disliked playing under the Quidditch captains’ new competitive leadership. Bitching about Danny Alton is a favourite past time of mine, but I got distracted when we walked into the hall and I noticed the dark hair of Mikey Lancaster.

“Speak later,” I said, and almost ran down the table to greet him. “Mikey!”

“Hey, Effy!” he said, helping himself to mashed potato. He was sitting with Aspen, Oscar and Liam Finnigan, and another Ravenclaw boy, Declan Ainsley. I do love Ravenclaw sixth formers; I feel that Ravenclaw just tends to mature faster than the other houses, and friendships were set way before fourth year. The four other Ravenclaw girls and the five other Ravenclaw boys are all classified as various degrees of nerdy in the school social hierarchy but they’re still nice; not like in Gryffindor, for example, where the girls dorms are a lions’ den for catty behaviour and bitchy comments, and the boys are forever fighting to prove their masculinity. I don’t think I could ever date a Gryffindor.

“What did he say,” I pressed, sitting down and wrapping my arms around Mikey to express my gratitude.

“Who?”

I hit him, and he laughed.

“I’m just joking.” We noticed the other four had stopped eating as to listen to our conversation so Mikey suggested we go outside the Hall to talk. Aspen and Oscar knew that I would tell them anyway, and Liam and Theo are, to try in vain to avoid stereotyping, just boys; gossip is never as much of a filler conversation when the Quidditch leagues are down.

 We walked outside the Great Hall. How many important conversations do you think has taken place outside the Great Hall throughout the long history of Hogwarts? Hundreds, thousands, maybe millions?

 I gave Mikey an impatient grunt and he laughed. “So Effy, you’re going to shit yourself but-”

 “But what!”

 “I’m telling the story! Christ’s sake, Wilderson. So he says to me, without any prompting whatsoever, oh Mikey I learnt yesterday that you and Effy Wilderson dated? And I say yeah, and then add as a joke, oh Effy Effy Effy, my first, my first muse, my first joy, my first love… And then I go, no but seriously Potsy, what do you think of her? And he laughs and goes no I think she’s fit-”

“REALLY?!” I scream, and my voice echoes across the hall.

 “And then Al continues- hang on Effy, hold my arm and squeeze it yeah, don’t go screaming again- so Al says, I dunno, Mikey, I heard she liked Sam Ashcroft in the year above-”

“I kissed him the one time! Once! And people are still talking about it?”

“Shut up! I obviously deny it and then-” his dark eyes glimmer with what he’s about to say and my heart is beating rapidly and I’m squeezing his toned arm very very hard- “-then Albus says, oh Effy’s just become so fit this year.”

“I have?!”

“Wilderson,” Mikey drawled lazily, “you’ll always be a solid 8 in my eyes.”

I laughed. I felt absolutely light headed with the information and my pulse raced at a beat that must be some degree of humanly impossible. I am giddy and Albus thinks I’m hot and I just want to dance with Mikey through the halls, beating on my tambourine and cartwheeling and flying for Albus Potter thinks I’m fit.

 





What can I say? I'm utterly elated with all the lovely reviews and favourites. Shout out to my best friend Jess for reading this when she doesn't even understand Harry Potter, and I don't own anything you recognise; including "Tennis Courts" by Lorde, one of my favourite songs. Moreover, the opening line is an adopted quote from Pride and Prejudice, page 1. Hope you enjoyed it!


Chapter 3: more than nice
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Albus Potter and Oscar Green

chapter image; livilulu @ tda





The days, as they often do in Autumn, sped by. Warm days slipped into cooler nights, until it became too cold to forgo tights, and then the next week- before you knew it- scarves were being brought out, even though you promised yourself you wouldn't succumb to it until at least November.

“I mean, like, at least let us wear our own scarves," cried Lara Swift, who clearly felt strongly on the matter, as we got changed in the girls' Quidditch changing rooms. "It's not that I'm embarrassed to be a Ravenclaw, I'm just embarrassed to have to have this stupid eagle on my chest every time I venture outside!" 

I smiled down at little Lara Swift- LLS, as Mikey and Liam had taken to nicknaming her. She was small and wiry and quick, and the my two friends has initially laughed at her appearance at Quidditch try-outs a few months ago. We already have a Seeker, jeered Liam. Yeah, jeered Mikey wittily in response. I still remember the look on their faces when Lara outshone the dozen or so other students who tried out for Chaser that sunny September morning, her performance so good even Oscar- who knew nothing about Quidditch- commented on it.

"So true," I said in agreement. "If I knew house colours would've been such a big part of my life I would have asked the Sorting Hat to put me in Slytherin for the sake of complementary colours." 

"Yeah! I mean- blue and bronze?”

“What was Rowena thinking?"

"Well, the blue represents air and I think the bronze is meant to symbolise-"

"Come on, Lara, I don't really care..."

We chatted until we were both in our blue and bronze Quidditch attire, and then walked out into the Meeting Room, where we met the rest of the team. Mikey patted the seat next to him and I sat there; Lara went across the bench to sit with Indigo Coates, a boy in her year.

“Nice of you to finally join us, girls,” said Danny Alton as he banged on his desk with his fist. We instantly silenced, and Mikey sighed in annoyance. Oh Mikey, oh Mikey, how I missed Cool Danny too.

Danny sat there talking about Gryffindor and Slytherin’s upcoming match and now, in a fortnight from that, we would play the winner. Danny spoke about how he expected Gryffindor to win and how after years of playing against James Potter he felt he knew their every strength and weakness; whilst Gryffindor was the tougher team, we knew them better than Slytherin and so a match against the latter would be played on sheer talent, not the old Ravenclaw way of tactics and plans and statistics.

“And we are a good team,” concluded Danny. “In fact, I’d say we’re the best, most solid, most consistent team I’ve seen throughout my six years of Quidditch at this bloody school. We have the strongest Chaser trio, a Keeper who almost never missed the Quaffle, two Beaters who are so bloody violent you’re one broken skull away from Azkaban-” Liam Finnigan and Indigo Coates exchanged hi fives across Lara Swift, who sat there, taking in every single word- “and an absolutely smashing Seeker who, in her four years of playing, has only lost three games-"

"Well, four-" Mikey begin, and Danny and I shot him equally dirty looks.

"There is no excuse for losing," he continued, shaking his head at Mikey. "Now start warming up, you scurvy little twats, whilst I get out the brooms and equipment.”

“Be careful with mine, Danny,” I said, slightly anxious because Danny was a notorious klutz and my broomstick- a sixteenth birthday present from my grandparents this summer- was the broomstick to have right now. Even Teddy Lupin, Keeper for the Arrows, recommended the Firebolt 360. But Danny just rolled his eyes and I walked out, praying that my grandparents had remembered insurance.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning; unlike the last time we had played a morning practise, the sun was out and only a few lazy clouds dotted the sky. It was still cold but that was only due to the cool Highlands wind, not the air, and after a few laps I felt warm and excited. I loved Quidditch. Maybe it’s because of my older brother Jack’s influence on me throughout my childhood but Quidditch; watching, playing, talking; is easily my favourite thing to do. I wonder if Albus liked Quidditch? I knew that James Potter did, obviously; if he didn’t, I could easily change that, I mused.

“Fucking hate laps,” said Mikey, running up to my left.

“Do you need to sit down, Mikey? Can’t handle a man’s game?” asked Liam, running up to my right.

“Mikey just wants his mummy,” I cooed. “Mikey wants his mummy to hold his hand and run with him.”

“You two bully me,” Mikey hissed, and Liam and I smirked at each other from across his self pitying face. “And I do not like it.”

Liam was about to open his mouth to retort when I noticed half a dozen students sitting on the stands, watching us. “Looks like we have an audience.”

“It’s ‘cos of me,” said Mikey, stretching his arms and tensing. 

“Who is it?” asked Liam, stopping and craning his neck.

“Oscar, Aspen,” said Mikey, for he had perfect vision, “Scorpius Malfoy- oh, they’re kissing, what a surprise- Albus Potter, and two year below girls. Told you it was me.”

“Albus is here?” I cried.

“Oh shit, yeah. No, don’t worry Effy, you look fine. I like your hair in two braids, you look... European.”

I looked at Liam, and he looked back at me. We held our mutual baffled gaze for an elongated moment, before turning to Mikey.

"European?" we echoed, and Mikey nodded, looking unsure himself over his choice of adjective.

But then Danny came out with seven broomsticks and the chest of Quidditch balls. He gave me my broomstick, which I was relieved to see was just as glossy and groomed as I had left it two nights before, and I started flying, half searching for the Snitch and half dreaming about Albus.

 

“Effy!” cried Aspen, as I was about to make my way back into the changing rooms with the rest of the team, after a solid hour of rigorous practise. I looked up and then swung back onto my broomstick, and flew over to the five of them. 

“You look so nice,” said Aspen, as I approached them. “What happened?”

“Good seven hours of beauty sleep,” I said. You know when you're desperatedly trying to impress someone and they're not even looking at you so you half joke to yourself, maybe I should do something drastic, like perform a cartwheel or cry my support for the British National Party? But then the serious side of your brain is like, what is wrong with you, obviously don't do that? For Albus wasn't even looking at me; I doubted he even noticed I had arrived.

“The Ravenclaw team are serious competition this year,” said Scorpius, who was leaning back with his arms crossed. He was a Chaser for Slytherin. “I underestimated him at first, but Alton is such a good Captain.”

“Total pain in the neck though,” I said, and Albus laughed.

“You were really good,” said Albus, his green eyes twinkling. 

I smiled. “Thank you.”

“I remember last year, you narrowly beat Alfie Ronson to the Snitch in a Ravenclaw and Gryffindor match. The next week we all went home for Christmas and James did not shut up about it. It’s probably why he’s so determined to beat Ravenclaw this year,” said Albus. “And I've heard he's being such a prick about it too.”

“Oh, you heard about that?”

"Who didn't?" sulked Oscar, who hated talking about Quidditch, or anything not relating to himself or Jackie Kennedy, his recent obsession.

Albus looked over and grinned, the left corner of his mouth lifted lazily. "Sorry."

"Oh, that's quite alright," said Oscar, beaming.

But Oscar had no interest at all in the game had left to go convince Danny Alton of his hidden homosexuality; Aspen and Scorpius, however, were cuddling and discussing matching outfits for next weekend. It was just Albus and me.

“Yeah, and I’m really sorry. It was bang out of order what he said to you.” Albus sounded different to his brother; the husky, raspy, pronounciated English accent that his brother had was replaced with a clearer, loftier, fruitier pitch, a voice that warmed me on this cool October morning. 

And his bright green eyes were wrinkled and his lopsided smile was just ever so charming and I felt my heart, for the first time since my conversation during lunch with Mikey, speed up to what could have been a thousand beats per second.

“I’m over it,” I said, slightly breathlessly. “Honestly, my older brother Jack is the same. It’s nice that he’s so big on Quidditch.”

“It’s nice that you stood up for him. Not a lot of girls do.”

I smiled. “I suppose I’m just a nice girl.”

His smile grew bigger and his eyebrows furrowed slightly. “I think you’re more than nice, Effy.”

To our left, Aspen and Scorpius were kissing like a pair of thirteen year olds who had never kissed before. Albus started walking, and I, still seated on my broom, followed him at the same pace, my feet perched on my broomstick to prevent them from hitting the seats below. 

We walked onto the pitch; the sun was beating down onto my Quidditch kit, making my skin warm and the Scottish breeze making my hair flutter against my chest.

“Fuck me, it’s cold,” said Albus. I only then noticed he was just wearing an old grey shirt and black jeans, and goosebumps ran up his arms. His incredibly defined, toned arms.

“Do you want to wear my jacket?” I asked, beginning to take my Quidditch jacket off.

He laughed. “Isn’t it meant to be the other way round? Aren’t I meant to give you the jacket?”

"Well... I suppose it depends how you look at it,” I replied, my fingers absent mindedly playing with my hair. Before the practise they were in two French braids, but now they were messy and tangled, a mess of various shades of browns. 

Hair was hanging in front of my face, dangling beside my eyelashes, and I pushed it behind my ear.

“Well,” he said, slowly, and I looked up at him. His eyes really were the most vivid shade of green. “I’m the guy who woke up early on a Sunday morning to accompany my best mate and his girlfriend to watch her best mate play Quidditch for an hour, after spending a good ten minutes in front of the mirror getting my hair in just that style of effortlessly messy, only to be offered a girls’ jacket.”

I laughed. “I think your hair looks great.”

“I think yours looks greater.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“You Ravenclaw,” he snorted. His lips were chapped and dry from the cold and yet I found that all I wanted to do was kiss them. But instead I just laughed, and he continued. 

“Do you want to come with me to this Halloween thing next week, Effy?” He said this with a grin but then looked down at the ground, and his cheeks turned a bit red. 

“Okay,” I said breathlessly, and his head shot up.

“Oh- really?”

“Yeah, is that okay?”

“Is that okay? Is it okay with you?”

“Yes but I don’t want to do anything unless it’s okay with you-”

He burst into laughter. “God! We’re so awkwardly British.” I laughed, and then we stood there, smiling at each other, like utter fools. 

“Well,” he said, “okay. That settles it. We’ll go to the Halloween fair together. Cool.”

“Groovy,” I said, nodding my head, and then we both burst out into laughter.

“Funky.”

“Rocking.”

“Sweet.”

“Spicy.”

“Fabulous.”

“If you think that word is in any way as retro as groovy," I began, "You are wrong, wrong with a capital W. Oscar uses that word on an hourly basis." And he smirked at the mention of Oscar.

“Do you want to go?” he murmured. “Because Scorpius and Aspen are staring at us.” I looked up, and he was right; the beautiful blonde couple were staring intensely at us, but as soon as Aspen noticed that I had noticed her she automatically ducked, Scorpius following suit a second later.

“Sure,” I said, and then I added, “Are you sure about my jacket? I’m fine, honestly.”

“I’m fine, thanks,” he said, laughing, and I decided that his laugh was one of the nicest sounds ever. “Let’s get breakfast. I’m absolutely famished, Scorpius insisted we be here for the whole practise.”

“Why?”

“Well he wanted to suss out the competition this year,” he said, lowering his voice. “But I reckon it’s just to ensure I wouldn’t back out of this.” His hand moved to the back of his head, and he ruffled the top of his hair, giving me a sheepish grin. “I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while, Effy, but there just wasn’t the right moment.”

“Oh Al! Every moment is a good moment.”

“I don’t know, what about if you rejected me? Especially if we were in front of people. I wouldn’t be able to risk running into the Gryffindor boys for at least a month afterwards.” I snorted. 

“Isn't Louis Weasley meant to be your cousin?”

"Uh huh."

"Oh... He's not so bad..."

Albus looked up from the pitch and his eyes glimmered in the golden morning light. "He's awful, it's fine."

I laughed at his frankness. Louis Weasley- and his best friend, Ruddy Walcott- were the self elected coolest boys in the year, perched on their self-made throne of Gryffindor pride and Beater thuggery. They weren't mean- Ruddy was even relatively nice, if you caught him at the right moment- but they were loud and domineering, the biggest personalities at a party, the biggest hungovers on a Sunday morning. Mikey called them the human versions of Peeves.

"I quite like them, too be honest," I mused, as we continued strolling. "I know it's very fashionable in the Ravenclaw and Slytherin circles to think they're annoying, but I think they're hilarious."

“Right? It's like they're the year group's biggest guilty pleasure.”

And we continued talking. Discussing other people in the year, teachers, classes, that exciting small talk made with someone when the two of you are perched upon something greater, something bigger. Does that even make sense? I don't know.

And then he did something which even when I think of now, makes my back tingle and my teeth chatter with excitement. He took his hand in mine, and I felt the warm rough cotton texture of his black cotton gloves entwine with my cold fingers, numb and calloused from the game of Quidditch which, right now, seemed like days ago.

 

Hellooooo,” sung a familiar voice. I looked up, and it was Mikey, a smug smile sat comfortably on his face. He slipped in between Aspen and me, ignoring her half-hearted protest, and turned to me, his smile widening.

“Hey,” I replied, as Liam sat beside Oscar opposite us. “Roast courgette?” For we were in the Great Hall, underneath a hideously thundery ceiling, despite it being a perfectly clear, star-studded night outside. 

But floating candles illuminated the Hall with their warm, golden light, and the merry chatter, quiet laughter of students and Professors alike too filled the room, countering any tempestuous weather the enchanted ceiling above was offering for the night. I loved Hogwarts on nights like this. 

“I don’t eat vegetables,” he said, pushing the fork away so passionately it slipped off and hit the back of a Hufflepuff’s robes beside us. I snorted, and faced Mikey.

“Sooooooo,” he drawled. “You… and Albus….”

“Yes-”

“Sitting in a tree… K I S S I N G-”

“Oi, Lancaster,” said Teddy Oliver, the Hufflepuff Seeker, striding towards us from the Hufflepuff table. Teddy was in several of my classes this year, my Potions partner for a term last year, one of those boys that are so friendly, so easy to get along with, and just so good looking I couldn’t help but grin up towards him. 

“Oliver,” said Mikey, easily. I will never understand why boys like to refer to each other by their surname. I knew Mikey and Teddy weren’t overwhelmingly close, but they were definitely friends, surely on a first name basis by now.

“Hey, Effy,” said Teddy, grinning at the two of us, as we looked up at him. “How’s it going? Written that Defence essay yet?”

“Haven’t even learnt the title.”

“Come off it,” he said, laughing. “You’re a Ravenclaw- on your third draft, I’d imagine.”

“Oo!” I cooed, teasing him. “Quite judgemental for a Hufflepuff, aren’t you?”

He laughed, and turned to Mikey, who had watched the exchange with an amused smile. “I cleared it all up with Molly Weasley,” he said, crossing his arms. “She said it’s fine… As long as its still okay with you?”

“Yeah mate, its cool,” Mikey said, nodding.

“Thanks again,” Teddy gushed, giving him a grateful smile. “Eve’s insistent on this Quidditch practise tonight, and I felt bad leaving my patrolling partner alone… Especially as it’s not like you’re even a Hufflepuff, but they’re all celebrating Poppy Atticus’s birthday tonight, nobody wanted to miss out…”

Mikey dismissed Teddy’s gratitude with a wave of his hand. “Who’s your partner?”

Teddy cracked a sheepish smile, and I leant in, eager to hear who could warrant such an uncomfortable moment of silence before communicating the truth. “Veronica Clearwater. Thanks again Mikey got to go you’re a legend and a half bye!” 

And I watched him practically sprint over to his table as Mikey started to comprehend what he truly let himself in for.

“Oh fuck…

“She’s not that bad…”

“Who’s not that bad?” asked Aspen, leaving her conversation and listening into ours.

“Mikey’s filling in for Teddy Oliver’s prefect patrols tonight with Veronica Clearwater,” I announced, and Aspen giggled into the cuff of her robe.

“Oh fuck,” she echoed, smirking at Mikey’s terrified face.

 

Veronica Clearwater. How does one describe Veronica Clearwater? Can the English language do such a character as herself justice?

Veronica was a Ravenclaw Sixth Year, shared a dormitory with Aspen and me, a prefect too. My parents, especially my dad, would tell us how in their Hogwarts days all the nasty characters ended up in Slytherin house; which I could never imagine- imagine Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy sleeping in a dormitory of junior Death Eaters; yet I understood it enough to know that Veronica was exactly the sort of god-awful individual they referred to.

For she was humourless, strict, unforgiving and- especially ever since she was made Ravenclaw Prefect last year- totally merciless. Universally detested by the year- brought the year group together, in fact, really united us- bar a few individuals in Slytherin she considered good enough to associate with, she was easily the scariest person I knew. Obsessed with the rules- she put the whole dormitory in detention for letting Oscar come in to visit Aspen when she was feeling ill a month ago- and kind of, perhaps less explicitly, obsessed with blood status- she made Rose Weasley look like Hagrid.

(And Rose Weasley was a nightmare too, but in a different way. Veronica and Rose had enough hate between each other to start another war. Although I don’t know who’d fight in it; Veronica had her Pureblood associates, I suppose, and Rose had Parker Wills, another goth-punk type in the year obsessed with burning stuff. What was that called? Pyromania? Parker the Pyromaniac. And her best friend, Rose Weasley, the regular maniac.)

“This is fucking awful,” said Mikey, as he stood up to leave the Common Room that night. “I was literally boasting last night to a group at dinner how I’ve managed to avoid Clearwater for a consecutive two years now. Well. That taught me.

“Quite funny on Teddy’s behalf,” said Liam, who was still red from laughing when Mikey told him. “I’m sorry mate, but it’s hysterical.

“And he has rounds with her every night,” said Aspen, frowning slightly, staring over at the Hufflepuff table to her left. “Poor guy.”

I stood up, and stretched. “I did replacement rounds for Veronica when she had that stomach bug last year. Maybe she’ll let me do it with you two for a bit, since you’ve never really done it before.”

Mikey’s face lit up. “You’d do that, Effy?” 

“Yeah, course. You helped me out with Albus-”

“Actually, I did most of it,” cut in Aspen, and Liam chuckled.

“Yeah, and I’ve finished my work for tonight. Besides, I’m in the mood for a walk. How bad can it be?”

Mikey put his arm around me in affection, squeezing me to his body in a semi hug. “Thank you so much. You life saver. I love you.”

“Yeah, duh,” I said, elbowing him. “Come on, let’s go.”

We walked out- he was to meet Veronica at the trophy cabinet by the Gryffindor tower- lazily chatting, neither of us really paying much attention to the conversation, the flickering candles making the shadows in front of us dance in an amber light.

“Do you hear that?” he said, as we approached the trophy cabinet. I could make out the silhouette of Veronica’s sharp bob, her slight body ahead of us. We paused. I thought it was a tactic to delay contact with Veronica for a few seconds, but as we stood beside a tapestry, I could make out the undeniable signs of a Hogwarts hook up; ripples in the fabric, quiet, yet not silent murmuring, heavy panting.

“Go on then,” I mouthed. “You’re the one doing rounds.”

He smirked, and ripped aside the curtain.

“Rounds,” he announced loudly and obnoxiously, as I peered over his shoulder to see the couple. It was a pretty, year above brunette, anxiously buttoning up her blouse- and James Potter, who stood there, his shirt wide open, his tie hanging around his throat, his usually messy hair even wilder than usual.

“You’re not a Prefect,” he said to Mikey, a slight smirk on his face.

“Yeah, I know,” Mikey replied, trying not to look at the brunette besides him pull her skirt up. “Filling in for-”

“-Teddy Oliver, I’m familiar with the timetable. And you’re not Clearwater,” he said, turning to me, the humorous look on his face vanishing, slowly replaced by a scowl of sorts. 

“What a revelation,” I remarked drily. 

Mikey looked between James and me, as the brunette ran off, her robe clutched in her hand, fluttering behind her.

“I don’t even know how to dock points,” Mikey said. “So I’m not going to bother.”

“Ten points from Gryffindor,” I said, in spite of myself. “Usual protocol is a detention, isn’t it, but I’m nice.”

James Potter stared at me. “Yes,” he said, after a moment. “I hear you’re more than nice.” And- with his shirt still unbuttoned, his trouser zipper still undone- he walked out of the tapestry, giving me a look as he retreated into the darkness.

And it was only halfway through my rounds with Mikey and Veronica- rounds in which she insisted on absolute silence- that I realised those words were exactly what Albus had said to me at Quidditch practise.




09/09/2016- those two last scenes are totally recent, as of last week. all my love xoxo


 




Mikey Lancaster and Aspen Spinelli

chapter image; mintleaf @ tda






I can't quite describe what it is about autumn; perhaps the fast, inevitable lessening of daylight hours, the elongating of nightfall, the sense of impending winter, the manner in which memories of summer lose their freshness in one's mind, and start to accommodate a sort of haze, a sort of nostalgic lace to to them- that makes the days speed up, hours merging into hours and days quickly turning into weeks, one second it's a Sunday night, the night a Wednesday afternoon. Before I knew it, it was the Saturday of the Hogsmeade trip, my first date with Albus Potter.

The atmosphere of Hogwarts had changed considerably. Saturday mornings were usually excitable but today was different; everything was so rushed, so much louder. Girls giggled and shrieked and boys laughed and yelled and couples and groups were scattered around throughout the school in coats, scarves and boots. Usually, by this time in the season, students would float around in jeans from Common Room to Dining Hall, determined to stay in the warmth of Hogwarts but as soon as the Fair opened- 11am sharp- people were rushing about, giddy and intoxicated. It was the biggest social event after Halloween, Oscar would say.

“You are not wearing that,” said Aspen, pursing her lips as I turned around.

“Why?”

“Darling, I think you look wonderful-”

“You look half homeless!” Aspen interjected, cutting off Oscar with a wave off her left hand. 

Aspen,” said Oscar, turning around and shooting Aspen an Oscar Green trademarked glare, a nasty concoction of disdain, disgust and disgrace, all etched upon his face. "It is boho chic. Boho chic is cool." For I was wearing nothing special- grey knitted jumper, black jeans, brown boots and burgundy socks riding up just above the boots, my Ravenclaw scarf flung lazily around my neck, but I smiled along with Oscar, as if that had been the masterplan all along.

“You look flat-chested.”

“Aspen!” I cried. “I am flat-chested! The last time I wore a bra was this summer! And that was a bikini!”

“My mum says you’ll fill out soon, don’t worry,” she replied earnestly, and Oscar nodded in agreement.

“Well. Thank God for that.”

“Even if not,” retorted Oscar. "Body empowerment is so cool right now. They're all over it in Witch Weekly."

He could clearly see the indignance of my face, and smiled innocently up at me, as if to indicate he was joking. Witch Weekly had decided to embark on a campaign of body positivity, which sounded great, incredible, fantastic, until Eve Feltham pointed out the irony in printing their season's goodwill project right next to an advertisement for Octavia & Octavia's Weight Loss Potions- Lose A Stone in a Sip, Two Stone in a Swig!

Oscar, himself, was sneaking into London with Jasmine Azalea and Ophelia Nott, two of his other friends in the year. Aspen and I weren’t especially thrilled he had friends besides the two of us- but honestly, is anyone? Don’t we all harbour a secret wish that our friends didn’t have friends beyond ourselves? But that wasn’t possible with Oscar Green; he was adored throughout the year, especially by Jasmine and Ophelia, the former a Gryffindor girl and the latter a Hufflepuff.

I turned to Aspen, who was busy straightening her hair with her wand. She wasn’t meeting Scorpius for another hour, for Scorpius had Slytherin Quidditch training. 

“Buh-bye," she said, sweetly, to our retreating backs. "Have fun."

 

We walked through the Common Room, through the corridors, the staircases, the halls and then finally to the student entrance, studded with students queuing up impatiently to get past Filch’s security measures.

“He gets stricter every year with this,” I commented, hearing my voice laced with annoyance, as we joined the back of the line. “It’s almost as bad as an American airport in here.”

Oscar snorted. “I just can’t wait to get intenselywasted. Like... To drinking Olympian standards.”

“What even consists of a girls night?" I wanted to know, turning from the queue to my skinny, olive-skinned friend in interest. "Especially as you’re not a girl… It’s a day and they won’t be providing alcohol-”

“Oh no, oh no we’re going down to London," he informed me, and I wasn't surprised, after six years of friendship, at his casual disregard for the school's rules and regulations. "And not Wizard London, God no, Muggle London, there's a new cocktail bar down in Soho Jas, 'Lia and I are obsessed to try out... Of course, Ophelia's old man isn't too happy- son of a Death Eater, do you blame him, but oh my gosh Eff, do you have to meet him, such a character, something out of... I don't know... Desperate Death Eaters, or something!” I listened to Oscar cackle at his own joke, and I smiled weakly in encouragement, by this time we were almost at the front and I was craning my neck to find Albus.

“Effy!” I turned around and saw Albus Potter, the boy himself, stroll up to me, his movements laced with enough confidence to be cool, but not enough to be arrogant. I felt almost breathless watching him leave his group of Slytherin friends congregated by the door; how did he do it, I wanted to know, how did he manage to appear so cool, so effortless, all the time? Without even being aware of it I smiled widely at him, and embraced his hug. I smelt aftershave and non-scented soap as my head collided with his neck.

“Bye Oscar,” I called, but Oscar was already emerged in a group of girls in the year below.

We walked out of the hall and into fresh sunlight. It was another beautiful Indian summer day; the sun was shining and whilst it was cold it made my cheeks tingle with warmth, and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. I felt a cool breeze under my hair, making it twirl, and the air smelt of pumpkins and spices and other exotic scents that I had spent summer, holidaying in the English countryside, deprived of.

“How are you?” Albus asked as we walked. I looked at him; he wasn’t that much taller than me, only an inch or so, and he was also quite pale. But that’s where our compatibilities ended; whilst I had long thick and dark brown hair, his hair was jet black and messy. His eyes were a vivid green, and his chin was triangular rather than square like his brother’s; his face was more round, I mused, and his eyebrows and lips were fuller. Albus was better looking, I concluded, but in a more of a boy next door way. His features weren’t dynamic and striking, they were nice and handsome.

“I’m good, thanks,” I said, crossing my arms and smiling. “You?”

“Pretty good,” he said, and laughed a bit. “So I heard that this upcoming Quidditch match- oh, hey JJ.” I looked from Albus to a figure approaching us. It was JJ Fletcher, and he was wearing baggy jeans, a grey jumper with SWAG printed on the front in bright orange and a backwards cap, also in fluorescent orange. And then, when he smiled, I noticed his teeth were gold.

“Yo yo yo, ma homies! Madman Al! Bitch like Effy, yeah, we murk it!”

“I’m not your bitch, JJ,” I said, shrugging his hand off my shoulder.

“Ahhhh, shit dawg, been spittin’ bare rhymed ‘bout you, you know, about you ‘n dis Potter bwoi!”

“Oh really,” said Albus, amused. 

“Yeah, cause dawg, respect to your dad and dat, he my saviour, he’s a white version of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, innit, but you can’t be stealin’ manz girls like. Not cool.”

“Nelson what?” I said, frowning slightly. “Are they French?”

“Jheeze. Just because you’re white, Effy, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know ‘bout Mandela n Luther King!” He roared this, and I felt something wet touch my cheek. I exchanged eye contact with Al and I raised my eyebrow.

“Well, it was great chatting,” said Albus, “but we should go. Bye, JJ.”

“You gassed up, breh? Alright, bye den,” said JJ, walking back to the castle. We stood there, watching his figure retreat to a point where we were sure he wouldn’t hear us- and then we burst out laughing.

“I don’t know whether I like him or not,” I said, and Albus grinned in agreement. 

“But we can agree he’s very annoying.”

“Shut up! In Seventh Year, it was alright for you, you were with the Gryffindors, but we were with the Hufflepuffs and he was unbearable, Al.”

“What did he do so bad?” he asked, interested. “We were all pains when we were eleven.”

And so I began telling him the various stories of JJ Fletcher that shaped my first year at Hogwarts. How JJ Fletcher started off our first Potions class calling Slughorn racist, how then a week later he tried organising the house elves to back up dance for his first rap video, how he would chase after Peeves- instead of it being the other way round- and how he tried seducing Jasmine Azalea with his braces, calling them the diamonds of his crown.

As I told the stories, Albus would laugh a really dry, throaty laugh. He was a good listener, and rarely interrupted. But I started feeling quite annoyed; was he going to let me talk the whole date? We slipped into a comfortable silence for a few minutes, and I was desperately trying to find a topic to talk about. Quidditch? He doesn’t play. School? God, what am I? Not politics- his dad’s Harry Potter- not the weather, how dreadful would it be to resort to discussing the weather?

“So are you going to be cheering for your brother or your house for the game next weekend?” I asked, as we approached the village. It was alive in the late summer’s sun; laughter, chat and music drifted through my ears and I had to raise my voice. 

Albus grinned. “Are you supporting your sporting enemy or the team who, if they won, would seriously complicate your next match?”

“I never thought about it that way. Oh, God, I don’t know. I’ll probably just stand in the stalls talking to Oscar whilst Aspen cheers for Scorpius.”

“It’s odd,” said Albus, “hang on, can you keep a secret?”

I lust after secrets. “Of course.”

He turned around, and tossed his head side to side, and when satisfied nobody was within earshot- even though, by this time, we were in the hustle of the crowd of students on the streets of the Hogsmeade high street- lowered his voice and said, “Before Aspen and Scorpius had started seeing each other last year, I had always thought that Scorpius and my cousin, Rose- the one in Gryffindor- would end up together.”

My eyes widened. “Why?”

He shrugged. “At the end of the day, opposites are meant to attract, right? And whilst Aspen and Scorpius are so similar, Scorpius couldn’t be more different than Rose, yet- before he asked out Aspen- they got on so well. And he muttered about her in his sleep.”

“Oh wow… Why do they not speak now?”

We had walked away from the main body of people on the streets, and were waiting in line for a glass of hot butterbeer, being served at a stall next to a quill shop. We paused, for we were at the front of the line, and Albus gracefully offered to pay for me, but being the stubborn girl I am, politely declined, and he resumed his story once we had found a nearby bench to sit on.

“Rose doesn’t approve of Aspen,” he said. “Rose is stubborn in the way that when she makes first impressions, they are lasting impressions, and she sees Aspen as being an airheaded blonde with a love for public signs of affection.”

“Oh my God!” I cried, outraged. “That is so not true! Why is your cousin stereotyping my best friend like that? Aspen doesn’t think negatively of her-“

“Aspen is dating my best friend! I really like her, Effy, there’s no need to get so angry,” he replied, putting his hand on my arm and smiling gently. He was so handsome, Albus Potter. The way the sunlight hit his eyes made the vivid green irises dance, with specs of gold glimmering every so often. And when he laughed, like he was doing now, for I had told him a joke to change the subject, his laugh was this perfect throaty sound, which made his eyes crinkle and his mouth widen to show perfectly aligned white teeth. 

We sat there, our butterbeers in our hands, and conversation flowed like water cascades down a river. We spoke about school and our futures- he wanted to be a Healer and I wanted to be a journalist- and we talked about music and interests and culture and exchanged stories and then also about life and the afterlife and I swear, I almost pissed myself when he told me a story about his Uncle Percy falling asleep at Christmas dinner last year and Professor Longbottom- the only adult there trained in first aid- having to give him mouth to mouth. 

“Hey!” said a voice, and we both turned around and saw Aspen and Scorpius, Aspen running up to us beaming and Scorpius walking behind, flicking his hair back and strutting in such a fashion that only those who truly fancy themselves can pull off. But Scorpius was my friend and I was fond of him, and I also knew, from Aspen, he was sensitive, so I held myself back from pointing it out.

“I still can’t believe you went out like that,” said Aspen, giving me a disappointed look.

“I think she looks great,” said Albus, and I grinned at him. Aspen, on the other hand, was wearing a dark mossy green velvet dress which perfectly accented her narrow waist and her perky breasts, and her hair was perfectly curled, a green ribbon holding it up in a high ponytail. It was difficult, at first, to be friends with Aspen, for she was so the English rose, dark blonde and blue-eyed with pale pink lips, one of the most beautiful girls in the castle.

“Scorpius is going to win me a giant bear,” said Aspen, and Scorpius rolled his eyes.

“Aspen, babe, I said I’d try…”

“Are you a wizard or what?”

“Above all I’m human, and I’ve told you, they’re totally fixed-” 

“Oh, come on-

“I’ll bloody make you a bear if you want one so much-”

“That’s not the point- wait, could you really?”

I turned to Albus, who looked at me, and we both rose from the bench totally in sync. I followed him through the crowds and then I thought I somebody say my name so I turned around, and when I looked back I saw Albus ahead, talking to James and another girl I vaguely recognised. 

“Hey,” I said, walking up to Albus and he turned around and grinned at me.

“Effy, this is James and his date, Jennifer. James and Jennifer, this is Effy.”

I looked at the girl, and then I realised who she was. She was Gryffindor in the year above, a Californian transfer student from Ilvermorny, and we don't get a lot of transfer students- is it even a surprise? Hogwarts was built up in the Scottish highlands, our idea of good weather is when it doesn't snow- and her name, her face, was known across the school years, across the houses. She was American, she was pretty, she was wildly popular, she was on a date with James Potter. Oh, obviously.

And for some reason, staring at the aesthetically compatible couple annoyed me. A flash of resentment ran through my veins, disappearing as soon as it came.

“Hey Effy,” said Jennifer, grinning. Her teeth were shockingly bright. “Neat name. Is it legit?”

“No, it’s short for Elizabeth,” I said. And then realised how rude I must have sounded, so tried to conclude my sentence with a lopsided grin I had seen Albus give me several times that afternoon, except in retrospect I believe I looked almost banshee-eqsue.

“That’s so British. I love it,” she chirped. “Don’t you, James?”

“James is a British name too,” he replied, bored.

“That’s such a coincidence!” she said, brightly.

“Yeah, you don’t find many Brits with British names. We’re a rare breed,” I said, and Albus laughed. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw James smile, but when I looked at him he was as bored as before. “So why did you move to Hogwarts, Jennifer?”

She dramatically flicked her hair over her left shoulder, as I’ve seen Aspen do many times. “Oh my God. Don't even get me started. Like, Ilvermorny's great and all- I miss it so much, oh my god- but my parents hated the curriculum, hated the teachers. But they had both studied at Hogwarts, so, you know, total bias, right? Like, I could have gone to the Alaskan school as an alternative- but I'm from LA! I can't handle damp climates!"

“Good thing you moved to Scotland then,” I said warmly, and this time I definitely saw James chuckle, even if he was trying to hold it in. 

“We’re going to the Three Broomsticks for dinner,” said Albus, and I recalled Aspen briefly mentioning to me that Albus had asked her the night before if it was alright. “Are you going to join us?”

“I dunno, mate, I’m meant to be meeting Fred and Alfie tonight, but that’s not until seven.” Fred Weasley was his cousin and Alfie Ronson was their best friend, all Gryffindor seventh years that threw the coolest parties, slept with the prettiest girls and passionate about Quidditch; Fred was the commentator, James was the captain and Alfie was their seeker, my toughest competition. 

“What time are you going?” continued James.

“Six,” I said, answering for him. 

“Sounds fine,” said James, not looking at me. “Have you booked a table?”

“No, but Madame Hannah is around.” James laughed, and ruffled his brother’s hair. 

Albus was about to say something when I heard a loud guitar start to play. I turned around excitedly to Albus. “Al, they’re starting up the Ahern dance.”

“The what?” asked Lillian, brightly.

I was about to answer her, but James got in before me. “Ahern, which is Celtic for lord of the horses, is a British Wizarding folk festival to celebrate the friendship between centaurs and wizards. It’s been danced around autumn since King Arthur, really. I’m surprised you haven’t come across it before.”

“They don’t have that in America,” she said. 

“That’s because it’s a British folk tradition. Look,” said Albus, “See the people dancing?” She craned her neck and we watched various students, mainly older, dance in the clearing of the streets, to the beat of the guitars and drums and flute. The Ahern Dance has a sweet and fast melody, which is easy enough to play, and is usually accompanied by the stomping of feet and the clapping of hands of those who aren’t dancing. The dancing, as well, is easy enough to dance, for it is a simple rhythm and a simple structure and the best part about it is the woman being passed around from man to man every sixteen beats.

“When I was a little girl, my dad would take me twenty miles north to our closest Wizarding town every Autumn just to dance the Ahern Dance,” I said, reminiscing. “Come on, Al, let’s dance.”

I took his hand and we ran down to the clearing, and then with the sun on my face and the music loudly beating in my ears, we danced the Ahern Dance. We held hands and he didn’t seem to know the dance as well as I did, so I lead, which disappointed me for I was used to Mikey Lancaster, my older brothers and my dad dancing in perfect harmony to me, but I didn’t mind. We spun in and out and he laughed and I grinned and then we swapped partners, and I found myself with a tall boy in Hufflepuff in the year below. 

“I’m Steven,” he roared over the music and dancing. 

“I’m Effy,” I yelled back. He was a good dancer, but not very graceful, and we grinned at each other as we danced the Ahern Dance. He spun me under his left arm and then after the sixteenth beat passed me to another man- and to my pleasant surprise, it was Mikey. 

“Mikey!” I yelled, totally ecstatic. He seemed just as happy to see me. Oh, it was such an improvement to have a good dancer to dance with. I could never marry a bad dancer. He was graceful and his hands were firm, the left on my waist and the right entwined with my fingers, and we stepped lightly and gracefully around the circle in time to the music. 

“I’m not letting you go,” he screamed. “You’re too good a dancer.”

“Cheers,” I screamed back, and he threw his head back laughing, and we danced, danced, danced, ignoring the sixteenth beat. I grew up in Kent, south east England, but Mikey was born and raised in a beach village in Cornwall, an area renowned throughout Wizarding Britain for being the best at the Ahern Dance. It was a massive part of his town’s culture, and has been since King Arthur’s age.

We danced, danced, danced, Mikey and me, until I noticed a small crowd of people clapping just for us, and Mikey laughed even more and blew them all kisses. But then India Knightley, Mikey’s date to the Fair today, came up and asked to dance with Mikey and I couldn’t say no, could I?

But then suddenly I felt a hand on my waist, and I turned around. For a split second I thought it was Al but it was the complete opposite, it was James, and I was utterly shocked. 

“Mikey Lancaster is a good dancer,” murmured James into my ear. “But I’m better.” And he put his right hand out for me to hold, and my left hand steadied on his shoulder, and we began dancing. 

One of the biggest regrets I have of this fair, when I look back, is not wearing a skirt. For James was right. He was a better dancer than Mikey. His feet were graceful to the point they almost never touched the ground, and his moves were swift and totally in time to the beat, to the point where I was struggling to keep up. And if I had worn a skirt, like one is meant to during a Ahern Dance, to pace out the woman’s movements and to add extra felinity to her moves, I would have perhaps have matched his dancing. 

We danced until I could no longer hear the music. He didn’t laugh, like Mikey did, but his eyes were forever on mine, and mine were on his, and when I spun out and had to break eye contact his eyes were always there.

A massive flash went off to my left. I broke eye contact and turned around, and saw a photographer.

“Every year the Daily Prophet does an article about the Hogsmeade Student Halloween Fair,” he explained. “This is a perfect picture for it.”

But I didn’t care. James hadn’t even looked at the photographer. And we just danced and I felt everything slip away until the only thing I was sure of was his heartbeat racing through our hands and the melody of the flute in the background.

I spun and my feet swept the ground, and my hair twirled in poor replacement for a skirt, and I gracefully jumped above James, his two hands firmly gripping my waist. And he drew me up close to him, until I could smell the tobacco and a summer’s evening scent of his breathe, and then guided me away, only for him to spin me, or to twirl me under him, and as we danced the moves got more and more complicated but I was determined to match him. His dark brown eyes, which, when I looked into them, were a kaleidoscope of various shades of the browns, and occasionally when the sun hit him, flickers of gold and amber, were cold and I recognised determination in him that I recognised in Danny Alton. It wasn’t a dance, but a competition. He was taking our Quidditch rivalry onto the cobbles of Hogsmeade. 

“We’ve been dancing for ages now.”

“Does that mean the dance is over?”

“I’m not giving up," I retorted, and I could feel the snap in my tone of voice.

“Oh, Elizabeth,” said James, smirking, “this isn’t a game. This is just dancing.” And with that, he elegantly released my hands from his grip, and he bowed down to me, as is the custom of the man when he has finished the Ahern Dance.

“Where’s Albus?” I asked hollowly, the two of us pushed together in the throng of the dancers around us.

“I don’t know,” said James, ruffling the back of his scruffy hair with his hand. “I’m not his babysitter, am I-”

“I don’t care!” I snapped, finding it impossible to keep my distance from his figure as people around us danced on. I felt increasingly pushed into him, and for the first time in my life, resented the Ahern dance. “You’re just his rude older brother who I thought may have an idea where he is.”

“And is that what you think of me, Wilderson?” he smiled, drawing me into him by the crook of my right elbow. I was closer to him than I had been during the dance; he had curled me right inside his arm, and I was forced to look up to him, for whilst Albus was pretty much my height, James was half a head taller.

“You don’t charm me,” I breathed. “You’re obnoxious and your sarcastic jabs at people who you consider to be below you are unnecessary.”

“Oh, Wilderson, I don’t consider you to be below me.”

“You treat everyone like they're below you."

"How?!" And he sounded half curious, half offended.

"Don’t be rude to me on the Quidditch pitch, don’t look at me like I’m a peasant and you’re some outdated king and don’t,” I concluded, snatching my elbow out of his hand, “call me Wilderson.”

“Effy?”

I spun around, and saw Aspen. Aspen. In the intensity of the dance and our conversation, I had forgotten other people apart from James had existed. And then I looked around, and saw we were, in fact, now right in the centre of the throng of students, yet I had only seen James.

“Aspen,” I said. “Where’s Al?”

“He’s in the pub with Scorpius,” she said darkly. 

“Are we going to join them?” I asked, but then I noticed her face.

“No,” she said. “I told Albus that you’ll see him tomorrow, because we are going to London. We are meeting up with Oscar, Jasmine and Ophelia. And we’re getting fucking shit-faced.”

I blinked at her, and then noticed James had left. Had that conversation even happened, or was it just my imagination? Did I really smell that exotic, almost intoxicating scent of his breathe, a combination of tobacco, a summer’s evening and something else that I couldn’t quite figure out? Did I really snap at him and- I was sure it was my imagination- was he starring into my eyes and biting his lip when I was in his arms as if he wanted to kiss me? For boys have wanted to kiss me before and I knew the signs. But James was arrogant, and calculating, and yet also charismatic and totally charming; he was like the moon, for half of him was always hidden. And I was pretty, but not the prettiest; clever, but not the most intelligent; witty, but no comedian. I was a warm bath on a winter’s night and he was a meteor, shooting through the galaxy, and if one drew too close, they’d burn.

“Fuck yes,” I said to Aspen. “Fuck yes!”

“We’re the girls,” sang Aspen, linking arms with me as we walked up to Hogwarts.

“We’re not just bloody girls, Aspen,” I concluded. “We’re women. We’re strong, intelligent and…” I struggled to think of a third adjective, but Aspen nodded on my behalf, and smirked slightly.

"Exactly."
 





I'm sooooo sorry for the delay in posting this! It was a chapter that I wanted to get absolutely perfect, and I still have my doubts. I'd love to hear your views and predictions- what do you think of Aspen and Scorpius's relationship? What do you think of James and Effy, and then Albus and Effy? What do you think of Mikey (my babe pls don't criticise I will probably cry) and of course, Oscar?

I don't own anything you recognise, as always, including Katniss Everdeen, which belongs to Suzanne Collins. Cooooooool xxxx



Chapter 5: dark rooms, bright lights
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Scorpius Malfoy and Jasmine Azalea

chapter image; livilulu @ tda





“Morning,” said a familiar voice to my left.

I felt my body shudder with surprise, but it was only Mikey.

Mikey?

“Mikey,” I said, softly. “What-”

“You were too drunk to walk up the girls’ stairs by yourself, and none of your friends could carry you. So we let you stay the night here.” He grinned down at me, and then added, “You're welcome.”

“My head…”

“Feel more than welcome to call me Jesus, Effy, for I am your saviour. You know Fred Weasley and Alfie Ronson came in seven minutes later than you and now they’re in detention for a fortnight? McGonagall is half witch, half dictator, honestly.”

“Oh my God…” I felt myself murmur, and Mikey's voice drifted in and out of my grasp of understanding, his looming face twirling and circling in front of my eyes, as if the dark-haired, blue eyed boy was behind some enchanted kaleidoscope.

“I deserve a bloody medal, I do, only the hero of the night. And I let you stay in my bed, instead of throwing you to Oscar because Oscar snores like a pig-”

“I’m going to explode…”

“I wonder what they’d do in detention. Declan Ainsley said-”

“For Christ’s sake, Mikey!” snapped a voice, and I felt almost embarrassed at how long it took me to connect the Irish accent to its owner, Liam. “Get the girl some water! She’s suffering from a hangover, yer twat, she doesn’t want to hear about fucking Declan.

I nodded weakly, and winced, every movement of my body aching more than the previous movement, sending ripples of dull pain throughout my bones. I felt Mikey rise from the bed. A few seconds later, a cool glass of water was pressed into my hand.

“Did you mix it with a hangover remedy?” asked Liam.

“Yeah.”

“Two drops? Exactly?”

“Yes, Liam! I am a Ravenclaw, you know.”

I sipped tentatively from the glass, and after a few moments of silence, I sat up, wrapping the duvet around my shoulders, and smiled sleepily at Mikey. “So what happened?”

Mikey and Liam looked at each other; Mikey burst out laughing, and Liam grinned reluctantly.

“Last night was potentially one of the funniest nights of my life,” said Liam. “Pity you were too drunk to remember anything.”

“I can remember some things,” I began. Memories didn’t flood to me, but came in a gentle stream of abstract sounds and images that didn’t quite connect. Heavy, pounding music with a throbbing bass line that made the core of my narrow shake; Aspen and I sneaking out of the castle hidden underneath black robes, which we discarded by a shrub. Thick eyeliner, high heels and sequined hot pants; meeting Oscar, Jasmine and Ophelia just outside Hogwarts. Apparating with Jasmine to Diagon Alley. Dark rooms, bright lights, firewhiskey burning my throat.

“I can only remember the first part of the... club?" I offered. “I know we decided to go to the opening of the new club at the south end of Diagon Alley and then- oh! I remember you, Liam, Albus and Scorpius turned up! Oh, of course... I can't believe I actually went."

For the opening of this new club, named with a sense of wry humour Bolt, after the postwar Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt, had been the talk of the year group and the year above for weeks now. I had sat through what felt like endless lessons with Louis Weasley and Ruddy Walcott going on and on about how excited they were, their plans to sneak in using borrowed IDs, and excitement over the night had created a sense of enticing, exotic, dangerous fun amongst the upper years.

I hadn't bothered to join in; I had my date with Albus during the day, and a lengthy Mermish essay worth a quarter of my overall NEWT due in on Monday. I had listened to Oscar, Aspen, Jasmine Azalea and a host of others, both in my year and above, chatter excitedly about the upcoming night, barely concealed envy saturating my tone when I'd tell my friends to shut up on it.

But as it turned out, I did get to go. And I couldn't remember any of it.

Mikey nodded smugly. “Liam and I have this remarkable ability to become best friends with people after just a few hours.” I blinked in confusion, lost in my thoughts about my Mermish essay and the reality of the night, and slowly realised he was referring to Albus and Scorpius Malfoy.

"You're friends with... Albus and Scorpius?"

"Oh yes," Mikey smirked. "Don't get too jealous now, Effy-kins. There's enough Albus Potter for the rest of Ravenclaw."

"Oh... fuck off," I retorted, wittily.

“I do really like Scorpius and Al though,” said Liam. “Remember, we agreed to have dinner with them tomorrow.”

“And then Oscar will want to come, so I suppose I’ll go find him and let him know.”

“Can I come?” I asked.

“No,” they said simultaneously.

I scowled at them and crossed my arms. “I didn’t want to go in the first place. Anyway, so what happened?”

Mikey continued. “Liam and I were going to go to the opening of Bol anyway, but then Scorpius was pissy about Aspen, and Albus had lost you, so we decided to invite them. We walked to the edge of Hogsmeade, and was about to hail a Knight Bus, when we overheard some seventh year girls discussing it- they let us side-apparate with them. I snogged one of them, actually,” he said smugly. “Melanie Deschanel, Slytherin. Anyway yeah, so we’re there, and there’s about twenty-odd sixth and seventh formers there, and half way through James Potter, Alfie Ronson and Freddie Weasley turn up.”

“They forgot that Freddie had a detention with Professor Sinatra, though,” said Liam. “So the teachers were looking for him, and they realised that several other students of the upper years were gone, and it was obvious we weren’t at some Herbology convention.”

“By this time, Effy, you were so drunk,” said Mikey, “and that seventh-former kept on coming after me, and I decided to go round the back with you, give you a cigarette to sober you up a bit. Then James Potter and Dahlia Moss burst out into the courtyard, and they tell us that the teachers were there- they let us apparate with them back to Hogwarts, and we snuck in through the kitchens.”

My mouth dropped open. “I wish I was sober for that,” I said mournfully.

Liam nodded excitedly. “You four missed the better part of it,” he said. “Inside the club it was utter chaos- Professor Longbottom had set an anti-magic spell on the premises, so nobody else could apparate out, and then he got into a fight with the club manager.”

“Meanwhile,” said Mikey, “us four were sitting inside the kitchens-”

“What?!” I cried. “I was in the kitchens? And I can’t remember?!”

Mikey smirked. “Then Jasmine Azalea and Freddie Weasley burst in, and Jasmine threw up on you, but you laughed it off and vanished it. We sat there until around four in the morning, until we were sure the teachers weren’t on the lookout anymore. We danced for a bit, and you and Freddie Weasley had a rapping competition. You were hysterical, Effy.”

Faint memories started coming to me. “I think I’m remembering know. So what’s happening to you, Liam? And Aspen, and Albus, and everyone else?”

Liam shot us a dirty look. “Twenty hours of detention. I’m on Hagrid duty,” he snapped. “You two, Freddie, James, Dahlia and Jasmine were the only ones who snuck out successfully.”

I smiled up at Mikey. “Thank you,” I said, putting my head into his lap and falling asleep again.

 

Rain trickled down the window, and when I rested my head on the glass pane, it was cold and sent shivers down my spine. It was a few weeks on from the Halloween Fair, and everything was normal again. Albus has, bizarrely, disappeared, but after six years of being in Hogwarts, the student population were used to his family leaving for whole weeks occasionally. 

I was in Mermish, and Professor Mendeleev was reading to us an extract from a Mermish language book, and like every dull class, my thoughts were elsewhere.

Why couldn’t I stop thinking about James Potter? I was mortified at myself; dozens of girls in the year obsessed over him, Aspen included, and I had never joined it, thinking myself above it. But there was something about the way his brown eyes flickered gold in the late autumn sunshine, something about his throaty laughter, something about the way he smelt. Even a fortnight on I could still smell his scent of tobacco and strawberries.

My ponderings came to an end, for the Mermish lesson was about to finish and I had to run from the classroom to the Quidditch pitch for training. 

“Oscar, can you take my bag upstairs with you?” I asked, stuffing my parchment and my quill into my bag. 

“Sure darling,” he said, looking a bit bemused. “Do you have Quidditch practise now?”

“Yeah… Don’t be too jealous.” We walked out of class, and down the corridor, away from the general crowd of students rushing to the Dining Hall.

“Oh you,” he chuckled, for Oscar was a notorious hater of the sport. “Danny Alton is working your bones to powder This is ridiculous! You practised in the morning, in lunch, after class…”

“We have our first match against Gryffindor next weekend,” I reminded him. “After they beat Hufflepuff last Saturday, we need to work as hard as possible. They’re our biggest rivals, Oscar, and Danny Alton would rather be eaten alive by maggots than lose to James Potter. They hate each other.”

“Who hates who?” 

We spun round, and I saw Albus, running up to catch up with us, his school robes flying behind him, his hair looking messier than usual.

“Albus,” I said, and he smiled.

“Oscar, do you mind if I-”

“Darling, she’s all yours.” And with that, Oscar left me, and it was just Albus and me walking through the Fourth Floor Eastern Wing, on my way to the Quidditch changing rooms.

“We haven’t spoken since the Fair two weeks ago,” he stated. He wasn’t angry, I observed, but interested, and this nuance in tone was something I greatly appreciated, a quality indicative of Ravenclaw house, a quality I liked to pride myself on. I was always curious and always asking questions- it was intriguing, and mildly satisfying, to see that Albus shared the same quality.

“I wanted to speak to you on the Sunday, but then Scorpius told me you were in France?”

“I know, sorry,” he said, holding a door open for me. “Teddy and Victoire’s wedding, James and I were the ringmen…” Of course. I had obviously seen the ten page spread of it in last week’s copy of Witch Weekly; everybody, it seemed, was there. The school for the past fortnight had felt empty, for the Potters, the Weasleys and anybody with parents in the Dumbledore’s Army circle were gone. Danny Alton rejoiced in this, for it meant James wasn’t present for Quidditch training. It had left me, on the other hand, lost and confused as to where I stood with Albus.

“Oh, right. How was it?”

He rolled his eyes, as we walked down a narrow staircase. “My French side of the family…”

I nodded. “I assume Victoire’s mother was in charge?”

“Oh my God, it was like a modern day version of the English and French Hundred Year War of the fifteenth century! My grandmother Molly and Victoire’s grandmother were utterly crazy, it was the first marriage of both of their grandchildren and I had never been so frustrated in my life! Effy, it was ridiculous,” he insisted. “My gran wanted English rose petals scattered over the aisle, but Victoire’s grandmother went ahead and ordered French lilies.”

“Poor little white boy,” I said, and he laughed.

“And then James snogged half of Paris’s female population and Dom was furious…” Dominique Weasley, Victoire’s older sister, was so cool. She was a Gryffindor in the year above, and was so pretty, so cool, so stylish. I think every girl of Hogwarts harboured a girl crush on Dominique Weasley.

“Anyway,” said Albus, pausing. I was on the step below him and he was directly above me, and he was smiling gently. “We need to talk.”

“Are you breaking up with me?” I cried, in mock horror. “Oh Albus. My love, my life, my muse.”

“Oh shut up,” he said, hitting me lightly. “I just don’t know what we’re doing.”

“Same,” I said. And he smirked down at me, clearly seeing the relief that flooded my face; I was never good at concealing my emotions, right now especially, for I hadn't realised how much of a burden my uncertainty with Albus had been until just now. “I feel we’re both thinking the same thing?”

“On the count of three.”

We both counted down from three, and our mouths erupted at the same time.

“I like you but I don’t want to snog you,” Al said, as I spewed out, “I liked you more when we were friends but I really like you as a friend.”

We stood there, in silence, comprehending what each other had said. 

"Why don't you want to snog me?!" I cried out in mock annoyance.

Albus hitched his bag further up his shoulder, and the corners of his vivid green eyes creased ever so slightly. The smirk on his face had transformed into a genuine smile, and it occurred to me not for the first time how strikingly good looking Albus Potter really was.

"I would tell you," he said, in a slightly sing-song voice. "But no can do, I'm afraid."

"Ah, no way," I said, sighing. "Does Scorpius fancy me?"

He laughed, tilting his head back as he did, his laughter heavy and of substance, the kind you can hear be conjured in one's belly, the kind that makes the corners around one's eyes crease into little, little folds of skin. I laughed along at Al's laugh and as we strolled through the quiet, bright corridor, the overcast sky of the windows beside us casting an almost pearly, ethereal quality over the castle's stone- I found myself really, truly appreciating his company.

"Not quite Scorpius."

"So a guy does fancy me then, huh? God! So many boys, so little time!"

"How do you know it's a boy? A bit heteronormative, don't you think?" He teased, and I shoved him in response.

“But, really, thank God,” I said, as we continued walking down. “I was so worried, because Al, I love you as a person but I don’t think we could ever be more than mates, you know? Especially with Aspen and Scorpius.”

“I agree entirely,” he said, grinning. “You’re so witty and opinionated, and I think I confused admiring those traits with fancying those traits, you know?” His voice perked up on the last two words, mimicking me, and I shoved him to my left.

“Man, I’m the whole package,” I joked, and he laughed again.

“But promise me we can still be friends after this.”

"Only if you promise to keep complimenting me with words like witty and opinionated daily."

We had come to the end of the staircase, and I walked out into the Quidditch pitch with him. November had brought grey days and ugly skies but I couldn’t let the impending winter ruin my mood.

“Al, I think we could really close,” I said, as we walked across the pitch to the changing rooms. “I think you’re so great and I think we’re going to find this hysterical after a few months.”

“Effy, you’re so great,” he said warmly. God, Albus was good looking. But when I saw him I no longer felt giddy and excited, but affectionate and protective, like when I look at Oscar or Mikey. “I’ve never had close girl mates. They always want to snog me before getting to know me.”

“Must be so hard being you. I’ll start a charity,” I said, matching his warm tone, and he put his arm around me.

“Oh Elizabeth,” he sang.

“Oh Albus,” I sang back, and we laughed, until I had to depart when I reached the Quidditch changing room doors.

 

The two weeks from my encounter and our Quidditch match against Gryffindor sped by. Mornings turned into lessons, then a quick lunch- often interrupted by Alton demanding a quick practise- lessons or a study sessions in the library, and three hours of rigorous practise. And when we weren’t practising, for James Potter was training his team, if possible, harder than Alton was training us, we were holed up in Alton’s office, going over tactics.

The day was November twenty-first and the big game was November twenty-fourth. The whole school was alive with anticipation for this game; Ravenclaw and Gryffindor were the two best teams and the captains of Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, Danny Alton and James Potter, were two of the most popular boys in the school student body. James was the bad boy who smoked gillyweed on the Hogwarts Express and was in detention so often he practically got his mail delivered there; Danny was, on the other hand, a nice and friendly Prefect who just wanted the best for humanity. I often complain about Danny, now he’s taken on this tyrannical Quidditch captain persona, but before that he was one of the kindest, funniest guys around. 

I reminded myself of this whilst Danny stood there, yelling at Mikey and me. His face was contorted with anger and annoyance and his voice echoed through the room.

“Will you two fucking shut up!” he roared. “This is not the Michael and Elizabeth show! Nobody gives a shit about what you two are talking about! WE ARE PLAYING GRYFFINDOR IN LESS THAN FOUR DAYS!”

“Sorry,” I repeated, but it was no use.

“YOU DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND, ELIZABETH, THIS IS WAR-”

“Battle of Hogwarts round two,” said Josh, and next to him, Lara Swift snorted. 

Danny suddenly froze. His face grew cold and he crossed his arms, and walked over to his desk. He sat on his desk, and clapped his hands together, as if he was praying. I think he was praying. 

“You’re all fucking insane,” he muttered, and pressed his hands to his face. His eyes gravitated upwards and it was a very spiritual moment, watching Danny Alton pray to the Gods above for success on the upcoming match. It was just a match. But Danny and James Potter saw it as a war and the pitch their territory; we players were nothing but warriors, fighting for the victory of the blues or the reds.

But then Danny’s hands collapsed, and he was no longer praying, but he was walking into the Captain’s changing room. I’ve only been in the Ravenclaw Captain changing room before and that was when Winona Franklin was Captain, two years ago. I imagine it looked a lot difference under Danny’s control. He probably had mannequins with our faces on them and took to punching our mannequins when he was frustrated. Like now.

“Can somebody remind me why I wanted to be on the Quidditch team in the first place?” voiced Indigo Coates, a Beater in the year below.

“Being a Quidditch player gets you the girls,” I said, and Lara giggled.

“Didn’t really work out there, then, did it Coates?” said Mikey, and we all laughed, as Indigo hit Mikey. We were a tight knit group, united by our mutual dislike for Danny and our mutual hatred for playing in bad weather conditions. Lara Swift- a pretty girl two years below me with bright violet eyes- was a Chaser, along with Mikey and Danny Alton. Josh Wood was the Keeper, a loud-mouthed, handsome lad in the year below us, and he was the nephew of the famous Oliver Wood. Liam Finnigan and Indigo were the Beaters, and whilst the Gryffindor Beaters were tougher and stronger, Liam and Indigo were faster and swifter; we were a team of light and nimble players who were delicate and springy, whereas the Gryffindor players were bold and burly, especially the Chasers.

“I feel bad for Danny,” said Lara. Mikey was right, her fourteen year old girl crush on our Captain was pretty evident. Lara was two years younger than me and she was new to the team this year, a replacement of Winona Franklin, who left Hogwarts last year to pursue a career in art. 

“Lara, you’re new,” I said, turning to my left and leaning out, in order to address the small girl sitting further down the bench from me. “Speaking as a member of the Ravenclaw team of the past three years, when one winds up the neurotic Captain, one does not regret it afterwards.”

“We put in hard work on what is now turning into an hourly basis,” added Mikey, putting his arm around me. “Yet when it comes to the Quidditch after party, who gets all the credit? Who gets all the girls? Who gets the drunkest and who makes the speech? Danny Alton!”

“Captains live a high life. Last after party,” said Josh, “I snogged three girls in one night. This is impressive, but you see, Winona Franklin- the Captain last year- she snogged seven boys. And she’s a girl. And she did more than snogging but I’m keeping it Parental Guidance for you, Lara.”

“Oh, Winona,” sang Indigo. “Come on, Liam.”

“No,” said Liam, turning his back on Indigo.

“Come on, mate,” said Mikey, slapping his best friend on the back. 

Last year, Liam and Indigo wrote a song for Winona. Winona was a very eccentric Captain; she was passionate, wild and spontaneous and also one of the biggest sluts of the year. But she was cool because she was the only female Quidditch captain of the past few years and if anything, had the standards of a boy. Winona was what Mikey called bat shit crazy and spent our whole Quidditch salary that Flitwick had granted us on team trust workshops.

Oh Winona, oh Winona, oh Winoooooona R. Franklin,” began Indigo, and much to our chagrin, Liam joined in. 

“Whaaaaat shall we do without you, oh Winoooona, R. Franklin?

You spent twenty, twenty galLouisns

On team uuuuuuunity workshops

You got Lancaster to land on Wilderson

And she fell, her top came off.”

“It did not,” I protested, and my interruption of this song to clarify exaggerations was just a part of the melody by now, I always said it and Liam and Indigo never altered the lyrics. I knew there was no point, but I liked my little piece. It was my contribution to the team.

You did the dirty, with Thomas Foster,

To find ooooooout, his team tactics,

And that is how we won the Semi Final,

Oh Mr Foooooooster, what a silly prick.” Thomas Foster, Captain of Hufflepuff house. His teammates never forgave him and I think he’s still heavily drinking in attempt to get over it. 

Oh Winona, oh Winona, oh Winooooona R. Franklin!

What shall we do without you, oh Winooooona R. Franklin!

Then something happened, and this shocked everybody. Danny Alton came out of his office and sat on the bench with us, right in between Liam and Mikey. And then when Indigo and Liam were too shocked to continue with the song, Danny’s booming voice filled the room with the last verse.

You decided, to teach Josh Woooooood, 

how to daaaaance the Muggle Tango,

And then in the middle of the game

You screamed at hiiiiiiiiim, to dance it good.

This surprised, the mighty Slytherins,

And Josh Wooooood became a legde,

But in reality, it was because of you,

We have haaaaaad the best year yet.”

Then on the last syllable of the song, the room fell silent, and Danny stood up, walked over to his desk, and addressed us.

“Look, you lot,” he said, and the old warmth and compassion from previous years filled Danny’s voice. “You’re the most annoying group of twats I have ever spent time with. Sometimes it feels like this isn’t a school Quidditch team but a convention for the mentally insane. But at the end of the day, I’ve been with you guys since I joined the Ravenclaw Quidditch team in my Fourth Year, with Effy and Liam. And Effy, Liam and I bonded over our dislike for the Captain of that year, Rileyn Fayre, and then a year later- when Mikey and Josh joined- the five of us came together due to our shared detest for Henry York. 

“What I’m trying to say, I suppose,” said Danny, “is that I’ve always been Danny Alton, Ravenclaw Chaser, and I never thought I’d be Captain- let alone another crazy dictator like Fayre and York.” He shook his head ruefully. “I’m not going to even count Winona Franklin because she was such a nut case. And I want to apologise for being so hard on you all over the past months. It’s just that I didn’t realise what responsibility being Captain was, especially of Ravenclaw house, you know? And I so desperately want to win this year, because it’s my last year at Hogwarts and I’m a Muggleborn, it’s not like I have any family relatives or anything that I can pass on the Alton family reputation too…”

“Oh, Danny,” I said, a lump in my throat. I decided to speak up because it was Liam and I who became friends with Danny when we were younger, and out of everyone, I had maintained the best relationship with him. “Danny. You don’t need to have a big Wizarding family to pass on your Quidditch reputation too. You have us.”

“Yeah,” said Liam, rising. “Mate, we have your back. I know we’re a fucking nuisance and all but we are a family, aren’t we?”

“A really weird, crazy, dysfunctional family,” said Mikey, nodding.

“Sounds like the Weasleys,” sniggered Indigo, and we all laughed.

“And honestly Danny,” said Josh, walking up to Danny and patting him on the back. “We’re going to thrash those lions. You said it before, but I’ll say it again. We’re the best team there.”

“And we might not always win,” I added, “but that doesn’t mean we aren’t the best.”

“Well,” said Liam. “It kind of does…”

“Shup.”

“Yeah,” chirped Lara. “My friend Nathan is on the Gryffindor team and he said that they all hate each other.”

“No hating going on here,” said Josh, hugging Danny. 

“Oh my God, you guys,” said Danny. “You’re all so bloody cliché. This isn’t Swiss Family Robinson.”

“This is Swiss Family Wilderson,” I said, nodding, and Danny laughed.

“Let’s go down to dinner,” said Danny, smiling. “As a team. I don’t care if we had scheduled the pitch until ten tonight, Potter can have it, yeah?”

“Bloody hell,” said Mikey, impressed. “You’re easy to swing.”

“Oh shut it, Lancaster. I’m still your Captain, you cheeky sod.” But Danny laughed, and we all laughed, and we walked out of the changing rooms- not as a divided Captain vs Teammates fraction but as a unity team. And that was a really big moment in my life, and a moment I will always look back on, I think. Because playing Quidditch was always such a big part of my upbringing, but from that moment on, whenever anybody asked me what my favourite part about the sport was- why I had continued playing from a young girl well into my adolescence- the answer was simple. The family I gained from the team I trained with. I had always been part of it, but only now, I realised, I realised it. 




I don't own anything you recognise. Reviews are the fire beneath my bosom and I'd love to hear your reaction! Not a lot happened I suppose- a bit of a filler- loads more James & Effy next chapter, though. Also, shout out to Mendeleev! My brother is in the middle of his Chermistry GCSE revision and I has JUST sent him my old notes, so yeah.

Chapter 6: little sisters
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Saturday the 24th of November was a miserable morning. Angry grey clouds filled the sky and with even darker undertones, threatening to explode with rain at any second. Strong winds blew across the castle and the air was cool and damp.

But the dismal weather conditions did not seem to have any impact on the atmosphere within the castle, mainly the Dining Hall. The match was to begin at eleven and the whole school, it seemed, were to attend the game. Loud chatter and an excitable buzz filled the Hall and everybody had an opinion on the outcome of the match.
“Bet it’ll last for ages,” I overheard one Hufflepuff boy say.

“My dad said that when he was at school, one game went on for forty two hours,” chattered back his friend. On the contrary, three Slytherins were arguing over how it would be a match that would only take a few minutes.

The whole school was divided not by four houses, as per usual, but by the colours blue and red, scattered over students’ faces, clothing and banners. Additionally Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, two houses with a history of normally good relations- legend has it that Godric Gryffindor and Rowena Ravenclaw were lovers, even- were torn apart, the air between the two tables openly hostile and unfriendly. Mikey and Liam had told me of stories they overheard in detention of various house members taking it upon themselves to attempt to injure members of the other house’s team.

“And then Anton de Rosselini, a boy in our dorm, was telling us about how he saw Edgar MacLaggen in the hospital ward last night,” Liam chattered.

“Nonsense,” marvelled Lara. “Why, I just saw him a few minutes ago!”

We had decided to eat breakfast as a team. We were already in our kit and had blue stripes across our faces, and Lara and I had blue hairbands in our hair, her blonde, wispy hair was tied up in a bouncing ponytail, mine hanging in two braids down my shoulders.

“Eat up,” ordered Danny. He himself was just sipping on a cup of coffee.

Across from me, Indigo Coates was emptying out the ketchup bottle onto his sausages. A splatter of the red liquid hit me on the cheek.

“Ew,” I said, and he laughed. But behind his laughter was anxiety; behind the small talk and the snorts we were all giving each other nervous, anticipating looks. This was a match that the school had been looking forward to ever since the Quidditch timetable had gone up inside common rooms in September; when Gryffindor played Hufflepuff a few weeks ago, there wasn’t nearly as much buzz pre-game.

“Effy!” I whipped my head around and saw Aspen, Albus and Scorpius run up to me down the aisle that separated us from Gryffindor. “Baby girl,” Aspen said, hugging me tightly, engulfing me in her scent of her various Muggle perfume bottles and lotions. “Good luck!”

I noticed that she was wearing a Ravenclaw sweatshirt and half her face was painted blue. Scorpius and Albus were also dressed to support Ravenclaw, much to my delight.

“Thanks Aspen,” I said, grinning.

“Don’t be nervous,” said Al, ruffling the top of my hair. 

“Thanks,” I said, shooting him a dirty look as my hands immediately flew to my scalp to smooth over any stray hairs he may have encouraged. “I feel so much better.”

Albus laughed, when suddenly an eruption from the table next to us, saturated in the colours of red and gold made us turn around.

“ALBUS SEVERUS POTTER,” roared James Potter. Beside me, I noticed Danny’s fists clenched. I raised my eyebrow at my long-time Quidditch companion, and he rolled his eyes back at me, and despite his status as Captain and mine as just player, our eyes exchanged a half hour's worth of conversation.

I turned to the Gryffindor table beside us, and noticed that they, too, were sitting all together, and they, too, had expressions of both anxiety and excitement, nerves and adrenaline, flitting through their faces.

“Oh, shit,” said Albus, and I just realised he was openly advocating the victory of Gryffindor's long time rivals. Opposite Albus, standing so close to me I could feel heat radiate from his thigh upon my exposed neck, was James Potter himself, and I could feel my face immediately heat up. For the first time that day, I felt overwhelmingly thankful for Lara and her pot of blue paint.

“Supporting Ravenclaw is more beneficial towards our house,” started Albus, but James interrupted, his voice loud and demanding, commanding the attention of the entire room.

“What are you, some spineless Hufflepuff? I’m your bloody brother!”

“You supported Ravenclaw when we played them last summer-”

“YOU’RE A SPECTATOR, AL! I’M THE FUCKING TEAM CAPTAIN!”

Albus raised his left eyebrow at James. “Calm down. Stop being so... Sirius.”

There was a pregnant pause, broken by a bark of laughter. “You are such a Wormtail,” James retorted, whatever that meant.

The differences between the two brothers was incredible; Al was calm, level-headed and mellow, whereas James was hot-headed and quick to anger. I noticed qualities in James that I detested in myself that morning. But then James’ demise of anger and his warm acceptance of his brother’s apology made my opinion of the Gryffindor Captain alter slightly. I watched James’ temper rise and fall like one inhales and exhales and I watched James playfully punch Albus on his left bicep, propose a toast to a Gryffindor victory to his table by raising his goblet, grinning boyishly at Professor Sinatra when she barked at him to settle down, it was eight in the morning.

I walked out of the Hall with my team- surrounded by words of encouragement and praise, and it seemed every supporter wanted to touch us, stroke us, hug us in one way or another- not quietly going over last minute tactics, but reflecting on James Potter.




“Okay you lot,” said Danny, sitting on the Ravenclaw Captain desk as we sat on the bench facing him, “this is it.”

We all nodded in agreement.

“I haven’t prepared a speech.”

“Do you want to recycle Winona Franklin’s?” said Indigo, and we all laughed. Winona led us into our final match again Gryffindor last year screaming behind us, “FIRE IS CATCHING! AND IF WE BURN, YOU BURN WITH US!”

“I’m alright with the Muggle book quotes, cheers Coates,” said Danny drily. His voice, dripping with his Northern accent, was proud and excited. “There’s nothing to say, really, apart from to do your best and do Ravenclaw house proud.” Danny stood up, and started walking up and down, never breaking eye contact with us. “I honestly believe that this is the best team in my time at Hogwarts; Mikey and Lara are the two fastest, most agile Chasers I’ve played with in my lifetime, Indigo and Liam are undoubtedly the best Beaters in the school, Josh rarely ever lets the Quaffle in-”

“-and when I do, I never hear the end of it,” Josh muttered,

“-and Effy’s only lost two games out of fifteen. I have the utmost faith in all of you annoying gits.” Danny smiled at us. “Let’s fucking thrash those red cocky wankers.”

We stood by the exit of the Ravenclaw changing rooms, clutching out broomsticks. I was the Seeker so I stood at the front with Josh Wood, and we exchanged glances.

“Is this an appropriate time to announce that Indigo farted?” called out Mikey from the back.

“Oh fuck you, Indigo.”

“Bloody git.”

“Why did you have to go and do that for?”

“Shut up,” said Danny, trying to keep an ear out for Freddie Weasley’s introduction of us onto the pitch. 

Now I suppose I have to introduce the other team, although there isn’t really any point, they’re all as nerdy as the other- bloody Ravenclaws…”

“This is it,” said Danny from the back. “Come on guys.”

The doors in front of me opened, and I was blinded by the light. Murmurings of good luck bounced off the walls as I walked out, gripping my broomstick and standing with my back straight, like my mother had taught me all those years ago. I held my head high and tried to block out the clapping and screaming from the stalls as I walked to the centre of the pitch.

First up, the Ravenclaw Seeker- WILDERSON!

I was standing opposite Alfie Ronson. He was best friends with James and Freddie, and was devastatingly good looking, with bronze hair and vivid green eyes. However he didn’t have the traditional build for a Seeker; whilst I was skinny and light, he was strong and muscles flowed through his toned limbs and body, a body often on display during the summer.

He nodded at me, and I nodded back. I stood there, in between him and Madame Hooch, as the rest of my team came on; Josh, Mikey, Lara, Indigo, Liam and then Danny.

And then Madame Hooch made us shake hands.

And then she went over the rules.

And then Freddie Weasley went over the rules.

And she blew the whistle.

And then I jumped on my broomstick and rose up into the air as high as I could. I heard a rumbling from the crowds above me and this made my heart beat even faster.

I flew around the pitch, going as fast as my broomstick permitted me. My hair in the two long braids flew behind me, and it felt as if the skin from my face was being ripped away. There was a burning in my throat and yet my eyes were wide, wide open for that needed glint of gold.

Gryffindor scored. I didn’t care. Freddie Weasley commented on how lost Ronson and I looked; the dismal weather conditions made this match one of the hardest I’ve ever played to catch the snitch.

Ravenclaw scored. Freddie Weasley announced it was Danny Alton. Suddenly, the clouds above opened and it started pouring with rain, sinking into my skin and chilling my bones. I angrily blinked rain drops from my eyelashes and my kit stuck to my flesh like leeches.

If lightning struck, the match would have to be postponed. As nervous, scared and intimidated I was- not only by the weather, but by our opponents- I knew that postponing would only make it worse.

So I flew around the stadium, rising higher and lower, one eye looking for the snitch and the other eye trained on Alfie Ronson.

Ten, twenty, thirty minutes passed, and the game just got rougher and rougher. The score rose to 40-30, to Gryffindor. I grimaced, knowing that by this time, one of us should have an idea as to where the snitch was.

Then Lara Swift scored, and the game became equal. Another ten minutes went by and by this time I couldn’t feel my fingers nor my toes, and strands of long, dark hair clung to my face.

Then suddenly- what was Ronson doing? He wasn’t flying around aimlessly like me, he was flying with direction- and then my heart skipped a beat.

He was following the snitch.

I stirred my broom towards him. Luckily he was flying towards me and then I noticed the snitch, hovering an equal distance between us- I flew as fast as I could, and then my body met his, as he tried to bump me out of his way, he was so much stronger than I was- but I was faster, and I propelled myself in front of him, mere metres away from the snitch…

Suddenly I felt as if everyone within me was knocked out. My head was spinning and a dull ache began to spread from my side. I looked up, and the snitch was no longer there; Freddie Weasley announced that just as it looked like a victory for Ravenclaw, one of the Gryffindor Beaters had swung a Bludger at me.

I breathed in and out as I tried to steady myself. I was hundreds of feet in the air; if I had dropped, I don’t know what would have happened to me. My eyes became dizzy and I pulled my body back up on my broom to correctly saddle it as before.

“Are you alright?” roared Danny Alton, flying towards me.

“Yeah,” I screamed back. And then he flew away, and a few minutes later I heard another ten points awarded to Ravenclaw.

Another half hour. The wind picked up and I couldn’t think straight. The rumbling of the clouds above blocked out the commentary and I had no idea how the match was swinging.

I glanced at the scoreboard. 60-60. It had been over an hour, approaching two hours really, yet the two teams put up such impressive defences and attacks.

The Beaters had gotten wilder and wilder; a penalty had been awarded to Gryffindor for Indigo Coates hitting a Gryffindor Chaser with his bat, but then a minute later, a penalty had been awarded to Ravenclaw for one of the Gryffindor Beaters hitting the Bludger at Josh Wood when he wasn’t in action.

Mikey tried to wrestle the bat away from Liam. James Potter tried to strangle his Keeper after he let in a Ravenclaw Quaffle. The wind got stronger and I was starting to find it difficult to remain on my broom…

But then I saw it, flying towards the Forbidden Forest. It wasn’t resting as usual, waiting for one of the Seekers to find it, but buzzing around impatiently, moving towards the Astronomy Tower.

I flew as fast as I could towards it, not knowing if Alfie Ronson was behind me or not. I flew around the Tower and then I followed the Snitch back onto the pitch. My heart beat so loud it blocked out any external sounds; it was just me and the Snitch.

I could feel my fingers flex out to catch it. It was only a few metres away, and I was in the same position as an hour and a half ago.

But then my broom didn’t move.

And I lurched forwards, my fingers grasping the fluttering golden ball and then my legs, straddling the broomstick for over a two hour period, fell free.

And I was falling.



I opened my eyes to a canvas of whites and greys, blending in with each other like the shades of a sunset, creating a settling hue. I blinked again, and then shapes started to transpire; I blinked a second time, and the scene was fixed. I was in the Hospital Wing.

“Oh, Effy,” said a familiar voice. I turned my heard towards the sound and saw Aspen sitting there, clutching my hand. “Thank God.”

“Did we win?” I demanded, and then another familiar sound pierced my ears. I craned my neck slightly, and saw Oscar throwing his head back in laughter.

“It was 220-90, to Ravenclaw,” said Aspen, but then her eyes travelled upwards. “Stop laughing, Oscar, how rude of you.”

“And why am I here?”

“Alfie Ronson grabbed the end of your broom, just as you were about to grab the Snitch,” said a  fruity voice, and I knew without having to turn that it was Albus. But the shock of his statement made me turn my head anyway, and I looked into his vivid green eyes.

“What?!” my voice was low and hoarse.

“James had a massive go at him afterwards,” said Albus, frowning slightly. “And Danny Alton got put into detention for punching him in the jaw.”

“You fell forwards, Effy,” continued Aspen, stroking my hair. “And you were so high up, nobody could really see you. And it was so dark and stormy and we honestly had no idea what was going on. I’ve never seen anybody fly so high as you and Alfie Ronson.”

I gaped, remembering how high I had flown. Higher than I do during practise. High enough that I couldn’t really see anything below me. I remember it being just me and the Snitch, and then I recalled falling, and a voice at the back of my head.

“Thank God you were caught,” said Aspen, shuddering. “Madame Pomfrey said that if James hadn’t caught you, you could have died you were so high up-”

“James? James Potter?” I turned from Aspen to Albus, my neck aching with the tossing.

“He dropped the Quaffle and flew to catch you. You were so limp in his arms, Effy, we were all so scared. He rushed you down to the ground and then when Madame Hooch didn’t find a Snitch in your hands Alfie Ronson flew down and told her that you had caught it, fair and square, only you released it when you fell.”

I wasn’t angry at Alfie Ronson. He acted instinctly, to hold my broom and prevent me from catching the Snitch; I didn’t know him well but I had played with him long enough to know that he didn’t intend on me falling off my broom. And it was good of him to tell the truth, I decided.

“James Potter didn’t let you go,” said Oscar, moving from standing behind Aspen to perching on the foot of my bed. “Aspen and I ran to the pitch to see if you were alright-”

“Scorpius and I were held back by Hagrid,” explained Albus. “Only those two were allowed onto the field.”

“And then Danny Alton was screaming at Alfie Ronson, oh you could have killed her, blah blah blah, dead Effy dead Effy- what?” Oscar said to Aspen, who had shot him a dirty look. “She isn’t dead, is she? Anyway, Professor Flitwick found your heartbeat and Indigo Coates was like well James caught her, didn’t he, she didn’t fall that hard- anyway Mikey hit Indigo for being rude and then-“

“She doesn’t need a story about her team’s reaction to her injury,” said Aspen, scrunching up a paper ball and throwing it at Oscar. “Anyway, Flitwick wanted to fly you to the Hospital Wing but James refused to let go of you. He insisted on carrying you here.”

Albus rolled his eyes. “He’s such a Gryffindor,” he scoffed, but smiled. “He’s a bloody pain in the neck, but he’s very chivalrous. He didn’t want to leave you at the Hospital Wing- nobody did, your whole team was down here, plus Alfie Ronson- but Professor McGonagall and Madame Hooch held some Quidditch meeting revival of the rules, something like that, and they were all forced to go.”

I closed my eyes, and laid my head back on my pillow. “So now what happens?”

“Well, you broke most of your ribs,” chirped Oscar. “And you’re concussed. Madame Pomfrey also said that you damaged your internal organs slightly, but it’s alright. Also, you can only eat liquids for the upcoming fortnight.”

“And no more Quidditch practise,” said Aspen.

“Well, I just assumed that was a given.”

Aspen and Oscar continued their light-hearted bickering and I fell asleep once again.


 
When I woke up, the room no longer bathed in the grey light from outside, but from golden hues cast from lights from within the room. My throat felt dry and I opened my eyes, a request for a drink on the tip of my tongue when suddenly-

“She’s awake!” yelled Mikey, almost deafening my ear.

I turned on my side, and gave him a dirty look. Behind him was Liam, Danny Alton and Lara Swift.

“You don’t look that great,” observed somebody to my left. There, in various positions of sitting and standing was Josh Wood, Indigo Coates and Alfie Ronson.

“Always the charmer,” I croaked to Josh, and he grinned.

“Oh fucking hell, Effy,” said Danny Alton, and then suddenly I heard a buzzing and my bed was raised so I was sitting up to face everyone. He perched himself on my bed and brushed a lock of hair away from my eye, his face concerned. “How are you feeling?”

“Never better, Danny, what about you?”

He folded his arms and then turned on his authoritative Captain voice. “No need to be sarcastic.”

“I’m so sorry,” cried a voice which wasn’t really all that familiar, and I turned to my left and saw Alfie Ronson, his perfect face creasing up with worry. “Honestly, Effy, I didn’t mean for this to happen! I just didn’t want you to catch the bloody Snitch! If I had known-”

“Oh my God,” I said, and my voice was hoarse and croaky. “It’s fine, Alfie. No hard feelings.”

He smiled at me. Alfie Ronson really was the best looking boy in the school, I thought, yet most attention was diverted to his best friend, James Potter. Alfie Ronson was too calm, cool and collected to be a part of the girl world that James and Freddie Weasley dominated.

“I’m just so glad you’re alright,” said Alfie, ruffling my hair. “If you had- had-“

“But today Madame Hooch said that she wouldn’t have died anyway, didn’t she?” piped up Lara. “When they were redoing the school after the Battle, they cast spells on the pitch that automatically broke one’s fall when they came down to the pitch without a broom. She would have broken a lot of bones, but she wouldn’t have died.”

I looked at Lara, who was smiling at me. “Really? Why didn’t they tell us that before?”

“To keep the game more interesting,” said Liam, drily. “That’s what I reckon, anyway.”

“Always the cynic,” said Mikey, ruffling his friend’s hair.

“Oscar told me you were all at a meeting. What happened?”

“We have to do trials for substitutes now,” said Danny. “All our brooms will be charmed so that Madame Hooch knows exactly where they are. This is so she can track us throughout the game.”

“Incorrect use of Bludgers won’t be punished with a penalty towards the other team,” continued Alfie, “but with a two week suspension of the Beater. I’m also suspended for a month,” he added.

“Also, the Snitch will be charmed so it won’t fly as high as it did today,” said Josh. “It was really weird, Effy, we couldn’t really even see you.”

“Well now you can,” I said, smiling. But there was an edge to my voice; I just wanted to be left alone. I was ravenous, my chest ached with pain whenever I inhaled and my head felt sore and my mind felt slow.

Mikey, who knew me best out of the eight people conjugated around me, spoke. “I think dinner’s started,” he said. “I’m starving. Let’s go.”

“But-”

“It would be good to go down,” I pressed. “We are the winning team. And everyone will be expecting an after party of some sorts, will they not?”

“Exactly,” said Liam, always there to support Mikey. “I hear they’re serving toad in the hole.” And Indigo was about to protest but Danny steered him towards the door, with the rest of my team.

“Get better,” said Alfie Ronson, and he rose to leave. “I really am sorry, is there anything I can do?”

“Nothing,” I said. “Thank you anyway.” And then he left, and I felt my bed below me start to sink so I was lying flat on my back, and my eyes were about to close for the second time that day…

“Hey,” said a voice. I opened my eyes and saw James Potter. He hadn't been there before- he must have walked in whilst the others walked out or something.

He sat on a chair next to me, and leaned over, brushing a strand of hair from out of my eye. His cool fingers then grazed my temples, and I winced. Later on, when I looked into a mirror, I would notice multiple bruises across that side of my face from the Bludger. I looked up at him and into his brown eyes. I had only been this intimate with him once before, when we were dancing at the fair, and then his eyes were mocking. But now they were gazing down at me like I was a little girl; the bad boy of Hogwarts’ eyes were full of concern and worry. This unnerved me; having grown up with two older brothers, I was tired of being the little sister. Every boy bar Oscar treated me as younger sister; Mikey, Danny, Liam, even Josh and Indigo- and they’re younger than me.

“Hi,” I croaked, after a minute. “Albus told me about what you did.” I was earnest to avoid telling him that he had saved my life or that he was my hero because I was never one to be a victim. Being in this situation made me feel awfully uncomfortable.

“You’re welcome,” he said, his low, slightly hoarse voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Well,” I said, defensively. “If you hadn’t caught me, Danny or Mikey probably would have-”

“Well then, maybe I shouldn't have bothered,” he retorted.

I looked up to his face; I had no choice, with the position I was in. The only other times I had seen James Potter he was wearing an expression of either assured confidence in the form of a lopsided smirk, or a dissatisfied annoyance in the form of a hardened jaw and stony eyes, but gazing at him in the Hospital Wing that rainy, awful afternoon, he was neither. Not arrogant, not bored. Then what? My inability to read this ridiculous, attention seeking paradox of a year above frustrated me almost as much as my obsession to understand him in the first place.

And I could smell his breathe again, a summer’s evening and cigarettes.

“I’m sorry,” I said after an elongated pause, smiling weakly.

We sat there in silence for another moment until James rose, but instead of leaving like I assumed, he stood there, his arms crossed, looking livid.

“You- you really, you really fucking terrified me,” he half yelled, a hand rifling through his hair. “I was just about to bloody score when suddenly your body comes shooting down from the sky. It was like you were, I don’t know, a doll or something! How could you let Alfie pull such a basic slip up like that?! Do you know nothing about the game?”

I mirrored his actions and crossed my arms, raising my voice to match his. “Well thank you,” I snapped. “My saviour, my King, my hero. Is that what you’re trying to achieve here? Like, I get it, you like being the Gryffindor good guy-"

“No,” he said, his cold eyes gleaming in the amber light from the lamp next to me. “Fuck’s sake, Wilderson.”

“I don’t really see why you’re here, then,” I said coolly. “I already thanked you, what else do you want?”

“I fucking- I thought you were going to die, die or something!” He said, his dark brown eyes wide, wide open. He opened his mouth to continue, but then he paused, and ruffled the back of his hair again with his left hand, his right hand gripping the iron post on my bed. “Whatever.”

He walked to leave.

“No, wait, James,” I called, my hoarse voice strained. “I’m sorry. Thank you. Wait, James!”

But he didn’t turn back, and instead I was greeted by Madame Pomfrey telling me to stop screaming, I was waking up the other patients. She then asked me if I wanted dinner and I said yes, and two minutes later, steaming hot pumpkin soup appeared on a pop-up table over my lap.

As I drank the soup, I thought about James. I suppose I didn’t see what the big deal was, really. Maybe it was because all I can remember is feeling the Snitch’s wings flutter against my palm. I tried to envision what it looked like; my body falling from the dark clouds, the same shade of purple as the bruises across my face. James dropping the Quaffle and the whole match coming to a halt.

I looked down at my body. James had said I wasn’t much like a doll and he was right. Dolls were like Aspen; beautiful and flawless, with a small waist, a perky bum and a bouncing chest. I was skinny, with no significant fat around my chest and a flat bum; Aspen and Oscar would tell me that catwalk models yearned for my figure but all I saw it as was childish and handy for my position on the Quidditch team.

I mulled over the day as I sat there in a comforting silence. I imagined Aspen and Oscar rushing over to me; I did love them, I loved them like I loved my brothers and I yet hadn’t seen the duo a lot recently. Oscar was always flitting around from girls to girls in our year- he was a desirable friend for he was the only openly gay boy in our year. Aspen was juggling schoolwork and Scorpius, and to be fair, I had been spending a lot of time with my Quidditch team and Albus.

I smiled to myself thinking about how much I fancied Albus a month ago. I was caught up in teenage hormones, I mused, and Albus was conveniently there. But thank God he was, for I had gained such a good friend in Albus. He was funny and intelligent, and yet even-tempered and cool; two traits I was not. James wasn’t, either.

Everything I thought about went back to James Potter.

It was a subject I had decided I got bored of very easily, and with nothing else to think about, I waved my wand to shut the curtains around my bed, and fell asleep.

 




I don't own anything you realise- especially Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us! which is a direct quote from Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (page 92). I am AWED by all the amazing reviews you're writing, thank you so much! They genuinely mean the WORLD to me- thanks again :') 


Chapter 7: unbroken and wild
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I was discharged from the Hospital Wing at around lunch the next day, the morning after my fall spent conversing with the various visitors I received. It was exhausting work, sitting in bed and talking.

"Come on," said Mikey, who had visited that morning, putting his feet up on my bed, helping himself to my untouched, and by this point rather cold breakfast. "This is the life."

"Yeah, I'm really living it up right now," I retorted, and he snorted at my expression.

Aspen, Oscar, Mikey, Liam, Albus and the Quidditch team... By the time Aspen and Oscar departed for the second time that morning, I was very ready to pretend to be asleep the next time a person strolled in to discuss how scary my fall was, how scared they were, how brave I was.

So when I heard footsteps approach my bed for the sixth time that morning- why Madame Pomfrey didn't apply the same no visitors rule to me as other patients, I didn't know (and did take slightly personally)- my automatic reaction was to lie there, still as possible, eyes squeezed shut.

"Wilderson."

Was I that bad at playing sleep? I remained dormat, as the figure sat down in the chair beside me. And I could smell tobacco and strawberries.

"I've been in the Hospital Wing countless times," the voice said, and I could hear laughter laced between its words. It was undeniably James Potter, and I had to consciously stop my mouth from dropping open in surprise. "Half of the injuries as a result of Quidditch, actually. Anyway. I am an expert at pretending to be asleep to ward off visitors, and quite frankly, Wilderson, you're terrible at it."

My eyes flashed open, and I shot him a dirty look as he laughed a throaty laugh. I sat up, propped on my elbows, and smiled weakly. "I've never been a good actor."

"It's fine. I'm sure you have other talents."

"Yeah, I've been told I'm very good at scaring people in the past four hours."

He snorted again, ruffling the back of his hair. "I'm glad to see you're alright, Wilderson."

"Effy."

"I know your name," he said, leaning in towards me, a smirk on his lips. I could see the coarseness of the skin around his nose- it was dry, and flaking slightly, and stubble was starting to show along his jawline. But the weak November sunlight made his skin almost glow that morning, as even the shadows under his definitive cheekbones looked almost ethereal. I was trying desperately hard to remember to breathe, breathe correctly.

"I just wanted to apologise for yesterday," he said, smiling slightly, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "I was out of line. I think I've been relatively rude to you all month, actually."

"I just assumed it was your personality," I countered, and I watched his smile transform into a grin.

"Middle child complex on the oldest child?"

"Middle child complex on the youngest child," I said, lazily pointing in my direction as I referred to myself, and he snorted. "But no... It's so fine."

"I'm not usually that rude. I'm actually quite a good guy."

"Yeah, I can imagine."

"Oi," he countered, shoving the mattress in jest as he couldn't quite reach me. He looked at me for a moment, a smile still on his lips, looking almost pensive. "I don't apologise often, you know.”

"I can't stand apologising. I try to do the right thing just to avoid it."

He laughed again, and stood up. "I'll see you around, Wilderson.”

"Effy!"

"Whatever," he called back, as he walked away.

 

Bandages were wrapped tightly around my ribs, and when I showed Aspen and Oscar as we took a turn into the girls’ bathroom by the Hall, they were most amused.

“Maybe I should break my ribs if it gives me that dramatic boost in the chest area,” sniggered Aspen.

“You’ve gone from heroin chic to Victoria’s Secret Angel,” observed Oscar. “Oh no darling, don’t button up your shirt, this is so exciting.”

“It’s not funny,” I scowled, as Aspen bent over the sink in laughter.

“Your chest looks fucking huge, babe! At luh-EAST a double D-”

“Not quite that big, Az, I’d say a D at most.”

“No, because she’s skinny they look even bigger-”

“Oh haha,” I snapped at my teasing friends. “You're a bunch of real comedians, Green and Spinelli. Let’s all laugh at the injured who scored a hundred and fifty points for Ravenclaw.”

“Points are so over-rated,” said Oscar, waving his hand to further his point. “If only you were allowed to the party last night, with that rack you’d be putting the F into Fabulous-”

“Never take them off,” pleaded Aspen. “You were so flat beforehand. Oh my God, Eff, this could be the catalyst for you to become the new It girl of the year!" Oscar roared with laughter at the idea of it, and Aspen continued in her jest, her eyes welling up with tears as she tried to plow on with her ever so witty banter. "Everyone’s talking about you anyway, because of the game and James Potter’s reaction-”

“Yeah, I had noticed,” I said, but I was interrupted by two Hufflepuff girls, whom with their plain faces, long skirts and massive bags, couldn’t be anything but First Years.

“Ew!” shrieked one, pointing at Oscar. “There’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom!”

“OH MY GOD DANNY DE-”

“Oh shut up,” I snorted.

"I LOVE YOUR WORK!" Aspen and I laughed as the two girls ran out of the toilets, and Oscar turned to us with a smug look upon his face.

“Oscar," said Aspen. "You... poo head."

“Funky vocab, babe, where did you get that from?”

"Louis Weasley's latest Care of Magical Creatures essay, you?”

“Anyway,” I said, as we began to sit down. “What’s the gossip mill tuning out the Sunday after this game?” After every Quidditch game came a Quidditch party, and after every party, regardless of the outcome of the game, there was unlimitless gossip to be discussed the next day.

Oscar began to open his mouth but Aspen elbowed him, and he closed it and gave her a glare. “Do you want my version or Oscar’s version?” she asked, and then dipped her hand into the massive packet of crisps Oscar had smuggled under his jumper from the kitchens. Mikey and Liam had taught him how to get in after Liam got curious on a round of Prefect Patrols and Oscar refused to tell us, claiming it was a “bro issue”.

“Yours,” I said, grinning at Oscar who looked offended.

“Homophobic, the pair of you.”

“You’ve been pulling that line ever since we worked out you were gay in first year,” I sneered.

“Yeaaaaaah,” agreed Aspen, clicking her fingers in a sassy manner.

“Oh my God. It’s like Russia in this girl’s bathroom. Or is it Kenya? I can never quite keep up.”

“Actually, it’s Somalia-”

“No you idiots, its Uganda,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Don’t either of you pay attention in Muggle Studies?”

“Alright, calm down Head Girl Molly Weasley-”

“Bloody bint just gave me a detention for finding me and Scorpius behind a tapestry on one of her rounds last night-”

“Well you and Scorpius do go about it in quite the animalistic manner-”

“Oh shit!” cried Oscar, cutting me off. “What’s the time?”

Aspen checked her watch. “Quarter past one- oh no, Oscar, we’re late!”

“Late for what?” I asked, feeling left out.

“Apparition test,” Oscar muttered, standing up and brushing himself off. 

I had totally forgotten. Oscar, Aspen, Albus, Mikey, Liam… They all had their apparition test today. I was born in early August which didn’t meet the deadline, and I had been dreading this afternoon since they put up the dates for it a month ago.

“What am I meant to do?” I wailed, following them reluctantly in getting up. “I can’t believe you’re leaving me- only just recovered from a near-death experience-”

“Jasmine already passed hers in Morocco, so I assume she’ll be around,” soothed Aspen, as we walked out of the bathroom.

But Oscar shook his head. “She’s with her grandparents,” he said. “They’re either getting married or dead, I wasn’t paying attention.”

So I walked them to where the majority of the year was assembling, by the Student Entrance of the school. Albus ran from where he was huddled with his usual group of Slytherin sixth form boys to hug me and tell me how glad he was that I had made a recovery, and Mikey bounced up to say the exact same.

“Hey!” cried Scorpius, who had also come up to kiss Aspen. “It’s like a convention of all the boys Effy’s been on a date with!”

In the gloomy light of the grey skies shining through the windows of the hall, I could feel my cheeks turn bright, vivid red. I felt almost breathless at the intensity of the heat that had flooded my face, I felt mortified, I felt overwhelmingly very sorry for myself.

“Oh my God,” breathed Oscar. “Let me go run and get my camera. This is priceless.”

“Shut up, Oscar,” I hissed, and turned to Scorpius, who looked back at me, an expression of mild confusion upon his pretty face as he registered my scowl.

Mikey and Albus were laughing hysterically, and Aspen looked puzzled until Oscar reminded her that Scorpius and I went on a Hogsmeade date in third year, only for me to forget I was on the date in the first place and accidentally leave Scorpius in Honeydukes with some girls from my dormitory.

“You have this incredible ability, Eff, to turn every potential boyfriend into a mate,” said Mikey, and Albus lightly hit him.

“Not all of us have your flirtatious sense of humour, Lancaster!” joked Albus as he impersonated what Professor Longbottom had screamed at Mikey in a double Herbology lesson a few year ago. Despite myself, I smiled at the memory of it; Mikey had turned a red similar to the shade I was right now, and it took Longbottom a full twenty minutes to regain control of the class after it erupted in laughter.

Suddenly, the Professor himself appeared, and told everyone to form an orderly line as they signed in with himself and the National Board of Magical Transport committee, which comprised of three old men wearing matching circular glasses.

“Good luck,” I said, deliberately shoving Scorpius as I moved to hug Albus, feeling his slim, wiry figure engulf mine. I then walked out, crossing my arms in the coldness of the building, the wind from outside the Entrance making my hair fly ahead of me. 

I didn’t quite know what to do, so I wandered around the corridors of the old castle for a bit, my fingers tracing the cool stone walls, feeling the cracks of the age. I knew from History of Magic that this castle had been built by magical Celts before being reconstructed by Norman invaders, who gave the castle as a gift to the four founders after the founders gave King William their word that the magical world would coexist peacefully alongside the Muggles.

Coexistence was lovely, wasn’t it? Just like the way that I was ever so happy to coexist with boys I had once fancied- developed relationships with them resulting in calling them my best mates after a month or two. I was not the mayor of the friend-zone, I was the Queen, the King, and all of the government’s parties.

“Hey- Effy!”

I spun around, my thoughts interrupted, and grinned happily at Jasmine Azalea, who was running up to me. Jasmine and I were never especially close, didn't even speak before this year, only met through Oscar; but she was funny, wild and exciting, the kind of person whos company makes you feel like you're glowing, you're flying, you're almost invincible. I immediately made a resolution to be more like Jasmine Azalea, as I grinned at the dark-haired beauty strolling up to me.

“Oh- Jasmine!” I said, elated with relief. “Oscar said you were at some funeral-”

She snorted, and hugged me with one arm. “I knew he wasn’t listening. Nah, I had to fly out to Morocco to celebrate my uncle’s divorce. Don’t ask,” she began, as I opened my mouth to question her.

“Thank God you’re here,” I said, taking one of the bags she had around her shoulder. “Everyone’s just gone off to do their apparition tests-”

“Yeah, I saw them on the way in. I forgot your birthday was in August! No yeah, I’m really happy to bump into you.”

“How was Morocco?” I asked, as we walked down the Charms corridor. I turned from the corridor ahead to the girl herself, and started to appreciate, if not slightly envy, her beauty up close.

She rolled her eyes. “My Muggle side of the family are insane. But the weather was nice,” she added brightly. “So, what are we going to do for the next five hours?”

“I have no idea.”

She grinned at me, heisting up the black sports bag further up her shoulder. “Do you fancy spending a Sunday afternoon in the Gryffindor common room?”

 

I like to think I dress well, you know? I like to think I make an effort; I spent a half hour after being released from the Hospital Wing today doing my eyeliner, fixing up my long, dark brown hair, applying blush to highlight my cheekbones. I smirked at myself in the full length mirror in the bathroom, knowing I looked nice in the outfit I had put on; black skinny jeans and a red sweater that was kind of fitted, but not really, you know?

I liked to think I was a well-educated girl, who knew the secrets of Hogwarts better than the average student. I prided myself on my natural curiousity and my knack for working out problems faster than others; I was rarely surprised, or taken aback.

But when Jasmine uttered the password to the portrait guarding the Gryffindor common room, I took it all back.

It was covered in gold and scarlet, the emblem of a lion woven into tapestries across the room; it smelt faintly of butterbeer, and reminded me of an old English pub. A hearty fire was surrounded by comfortable sofas, armchairs and tables, but there was a massive space in the middle which I was mildly confused by, until I noticed more armchairs and tables stocked on top of each other by the sides of the walls.

Loud jazz music pumped out of a radio, and people were dancing. They were dancing, or talking, milling around with red, cheery faces on, drinking butterbeer or pumpkin juice. 

“Oh my God!” cried a figure, standing by a very pretty dark haired girl. “Effy Wilderson! You’re alright!”

It was Alfie Ronson, who left the girl- Eve Chang, I think she was called, cousins with Lara Swift- and came running up to me and Jasmine, swinging me in the air and kissing me on the forehead. He smelled of butterbeer and I found myself laughing from the sheer surprise of it all.

“What are you doing here?” asked Eve, crossing her arms.

Jasmine, next to me, rolled her eyes. “The rest of our year are doing their apparition tests, Eve. It's cool, I brought her here.”

Alfie nodded eagerly, hiccuping in his earnestness to get words out. “I’m so happy you’re alright, I really was quite worried.” He took my arm and dragged me across the dance floor, where people were jiving to a beat I faintly recognised, and brought me up to Freddie Weasley and another attractive girl I felt like I knew, with long blonde hair and bright red lips.

“Look!” Alfie cried, grinning in the manner only the mildly drunk can, wildly waving his arm in my direction to highlight my presence. “Effy’s alive! Longbottom won’t threaten to kill me anymore!”

Freddie grinned at me. “Good one, Wilderson,” he said, taking a long sip of his butterbeer. "Always thought you had it in you."

The girl also smiled at me. “I’m Annie Delta,” she said, hiccupping. “Nice to meet you.”

But what surprised me the most was somebody wrapping their arm around me, bringing a lingering scent of tobacco and strawberries.

I looked up at a grinning James Potter. “Wilderson! Fantastic, you’re here. Fancy a butterbeer?”

He was in the same state as all the twenty-odd others in the room; drunk and totally elated, and I felt really rather excluded by my sobriety. “Oh- yeah, go on then.” 

Eve waved her wand and muttered something I didn’t quite catch, and suddenly a bottle of butterbeer appeared in her hand. I was about to tell her that it totally went against Gawp’s Law of Transfiguration, but then she handed it to me and I couldn’t not drink it, could I?

I felt the warm, sweet taste of it flood down my mouth, bringing me to a level of serenity and happiness I hadn’t felt in a while. My worries shrunk with every sip, and I wondered if there was something more in the substance than just butterbeer.

But I finished the bottle regardless, and grinned up at James.

“This is my favourite song,” he said, taking me by my hand and leading me onto the dance floor. It was old-school swing, and I let James take the lead by twirling me under his arm. The beats made the floor vibrate beneath me, and the air was filled with laughter, the scent of the beer and the uplifting jazz.

We danced the whole song. Oh, he was such a good dancer; I’ll remember James Potter as a graceful mover for the rest of my life! And he had such rhythm; we were no longer two white teenagers of the first century, but cool, exotic dancers in a speakeasy in Louisiana.

He held my hands as we danced, and I watched his eyes glimmer in the vivid amber and scarlet light from the fireplace. He was laughing merrily the whole time, sometimes singing along, sometimes breaking to take a massive gulp of his bottle. It grew darker outside and warmer inside; more and more upper Gryffindors piled in, from varying years.

And then we weren’t even dancing but simply spinning round, and I held onto his sweaty fingers for safety, feeling my hair fly behind me and laughter bubble out of my mouth. He spun me under his arm and I fell against him, dizzy from laughter and total elation.

His eyes twinkled into mine as we leaned our foreheads together, and his scent of a summer’s evening and tobacco mixed with sweat and butterbeer intoxicated me.

And then as somebody in the corner of my eye changed the song playing from the radio to some wild and upbeat and suddenly I was flying and we were on the floor, laughing at each other. Somebody came to offer us a hand up but we ignored it. Isn’t it funny, the word we? We. We. We. I loved it, I loved it, I loved the way made my lips curl and the slight smile that was produced; I loved the way it meant a union of people. People. I loved people. I loved life, I loved music, I loved the way James’ fingers fit so smoothly between mine and the slight creases by his eyes. I loved the way he laughed; I loved his laugh.

But then we were up again and dancing, and the swinging saxophone thrilled me to the core, his every touch making my smile widen even more until I couldn’t stop laughing, laughing, laughing not at but with, like we were in a massive inside joke with the universe.

Drunk on the raw emotion of teenage spirit, unbroken and wild, I danced in his arms. My thoughts were elated, high as clouds. My hair cascaded around my waist as he spun me around, and his eyes sparkled in the amber lights from the crackling fire.

And then, god, I have no idea what happened- I think there was something more in the butterbeer, but who knows, I didn't, I didn't even care- but we were falling, tripping up over onto the floor, our legs messily entwined and our mouths laughing into the other, separated only by a few inches of air.

As I noticed my hair curl around his neck, and the racing pulse of my heart, his eyes, crinkled and merry, met mine.

“I think about you way more than I should,” he muttered into my ear.

I looked into his eyes, and noticed the way little gold and amber specs glimmered in the brown iris from the fire's light beside us.

 "So do I," I murmured back.




I woke up with a pleasant, if not somewhat annoying, buzzing in my head.

“Guys,” I said, excited. "It's snowing."

“Welcome to a Scottish December,” muttered Veronica Clearwater from under her duvets. She hasn’t liked me the first night of First Year, but she’s absolutely detested me since I accidentally farted on her pygmy puff aged thirteen.

“I just thought you should know,” I muttered, rising from my bed and walking over to the sink in the bathroom. My pale face was looking even more sunken than usual- I looked like I belonged in a rehab clinic for heroin addicts. Purple bags hung under my eyes, and the shadowing of my cheekbones looked haunting.

“Morning babe,” said Aspen happily, closing the bathroom door behind her as she joined me by the sink. Obviously she looked radiantly beautiful at half past seven in the morning, her golden hair waving in just the right places around her face and not a trace of morning redness about her skin. 

“You’re happy for a Monday morning,” I said, leaning against the sink and crossing my arms against my grey Appleby Arrows tee-shirt.

She beamed at me. “I’m just so happy about you and James, Eff! Finally! I knew that you two would end up together, I knew it- ask Oscar!”

“All we did was dance,” I muttered.

“And he said he thinks about you more than you should-”

“I honestly don’t fancy him, Aspen.”

She smirked at me. “Oh, yeah? The sexual tension between you two is on another level. I knew you didn’t actually hate him, you so want his d-”

“Aspen!” I hissed, wacking her with my towel. “Shut up!”

She laughed, and pulled me into a one armed hug. “I’m just so happy.”

I smiled at her. “I don’t think anything will come out of it though, Az. We were both drunk, and dancing doesn’t get people anywhere-”

My sentence faltered with her glare, and I raised my eyebrow back, as if to demand an explanation for her sudden hostility.

"Dancing doesn't get people anywhere," she scoffed, shooting me another scowl. "It's almost as if you've never seen Dirty Dancing."

 

Aspen, for one of the first times in a long history of being wrong (Oscar likes to keep a bible-like journal of Aspen Spinelli predictions gone awire), was not quite right; but she wasn’t wrong, either.

I didn’t see  him all that morning, but when Aspen and I were walking from Charms to lunch, I saw James and Freddie Weasley, their tall physiques making them stand out against the hustle of the crowded corridor with an almost-majestic air. Girls turned around and grinned at the duo as I’ve observed them do since hormones kicked in during third year, and Freddie goaded them, turning around and winking.

James didn’t, which was odd, because he usually would. What was stranger, though, was the way in which he acknowledged me after months of hot and cold behaviour that I often, despite myself, reflected on during late nights and early mornings.

“You alright, Wilderson?” he said as we passed each other, his mouth curved into a grin, his hazel eyes glinting in the golden light emitted from the fire brackets on the walls.

“Yeah, you?”

“Not bad, cheers.”

As soon as Aspen thought he wasn’t within earshot- which, as usual, was totally miscalculated- her face broke into a wide beam. “Told you!” she cried.

“Aspen,” I hissed. “Shut up.”

“He’s already behind you, so he can’t hear you-”

“Are you sure you’re a Ravenclaw-”

"I should hope so," she retorted, as we turned a corner and approached the Great Hall. The warm scent of the day's lunch welcomed us into the room, and I appreciated not for the first time the luxury of the house elves' constantly, unfailingly, good food.

"You're just here for your looks," I teased, looping my arm through hers. "The Sorting Hat decided Ravenclaw needed a few regulation hotties to counter the Veronica Clearwaters amongst us."

“Holding number two on the Hottest Girls league in the Third Floor boy’s toilets just doesn’t cut it on my CV like an Acceptance in my O.W.L Potions, does it?”

“Number two? I know Dominique Weasley is still Number 1, but I thought you were number three-”

“No, no, no,” she interrupted, waving her hand as we sat down at the Ravenclaw table. “Dahlia Moss has been reduced to number 3 after the pregnancy scare.” In September, at the peak of her and James’ relationship, there was a huge rumour that spread- in the speed and intensity only a boarding school could accomplish- through the years that Dahlia Moss was pregnant. Was she actually, we never knew, but it was all anyone could talk about.

And as I saw her, perched on the Slytherin table, surrounded by other long-legged beauties, I felt almost sorry for her as I reflected upon the new term's big gossip.

“Look,” I said, drawing my eyes away from Dahlia Moss, spotting something out of the corner of my eye. I pointed and Aspen spun around, following the direction of my finger, and we watched Hagrid lunge a Christmas tree from behind the Slytherin table, exciting a group of third formers sitting by him.

“I forgot!” said Aspen, excitedly. “It’s the first of December! Only two weeks until we break up for the holidays!”

“Speaking of holidays,” said a familiar voice, and I looked up to see Albus slide in next to Aspen, his handsome face grinning. “I’m inviting both of you to my seventeenth birthday party.”

“Brilliant,” I said happily.

"AndJamesIsDatingDahliaAgain,” he said.

“Wait, what?” asked Aspen, and I froze.

“Oh.”

 

I was in a rush. I was late for Charms, and I was already in Flitwick’s bad books for not doing yesterday’s essay. I had spent the last hour napping in the gloriously empty common room, only to be awoken by sniggering seventh formers, making embarrassing remarks about the dried drool on the left of my mouth.

“Effy!”

I spun around in the mildly crowded corridor, and make eye contact with James Potter, over the heads of several chatty third formers. His sharp cheekbones and defined jaw looked even more prominent in the pearly grey light emitting from the window opposite him, and his hair messier than ever.

“What?” I called, crossing my arms and standing still for him to catch up to me.

“Let’s talk,” he said, grabbing my arm, but I sharply withdrew it from his grip, and he frowned at me.

“I know you’re a sixth former, but no need to be immature about it all-”

“Immature?” I hissed. “Do you want to discuss immaturity?”

He leaned back against the cool marble wall behind him, raising his left eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“Don’t tell me you can’t stop thinking about me and then ask out Dahlia Moss the next day,” I snapped, crossing my arms even tighter across my chest. The bruises were more or less faded, but they still hurt, and I winced.

“Are you alright?” he said, his tone gentler. 

“No. Anyway, I’m late for Charms.” I turned around and began to walk away, until I heard him call out behind me.

“Meet me here at nine tonight,” he said, his words bouncing off the walls in the empty, cold corridor.

“Why should I?” I said, turning around.

“Because,” he said, his voice laced with smugness, "you'll spend- perhaps not your entire life, but definitely the rest of the academic year- wondering what would have happened if you did." And before I could reply he sharply turned around and left me in the middle of an empty corridor. And I was late for Charms.





Hey! I don't own anything you recognise; Victoria's Secret Angels, Mean Girls (SNL studios) or Dirty Dancing (Great American Films). So Effy and James are finally getting their act together- what do you think? I cannot express how much I love reviews; they make my day! Even if it's just a quick one-liner, please leave them and tell me what you think- thank you all so much!


Chapter 8: it's cold outside
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The place pulsed with energy. A heavy scent of patchouli and something slightly muskier hung in the air, filling my nostrils and making me slightly dizzy, and a slightly foggy air made it kind of difficult to see what was in front of me. The room was dark, with fireflies hanging in glass jars that jutted out of the canvas walls around us; shades of yellows, ambers, golds and coppers disorientated my eyes, like I was inside a kaleidoscope. Loud swing music played on the stage below us, and the buzz of excited chatter saturated my ears.

“So what do you think?” asked James, grinning slightly- I loved his grin, I decided that night- as we sat down on a slightly damp bench. Three young children next to me turned around and started chatting excitedly.

“Sorry,” said a woman, who looked to be their mother. “They probably recognised your Hogwarts robes, Harry starts next year…” the eldest of the trio, a boy with sandy blonde hair and scattered freckles, beamed.

I laughed. “It’s fine.”

“So your name’s Harry?” said James, leaning over me and grinning at the child.

“After Harry Potter,” boasted the boy. “I’m going to Gryffindor, like him.”

“You can aim better than that,” I cooed. “Work towards Ravenclaw.”

The mum rolled her eyes, and grinned sheepishly at us. “I’m a Muggle, but my husband Justin went to school with Harry Potter. Fought with him in the war, doesn’t shut up about it.”

“My parents are Muggles too,” said James, smoothly. “But I learnt about Harry Potter in History of Magic. He’s a very honourable figure to be named after, I’d say.”

“Why thank you- Richard Finch-Fletchley! Take that out of your mouth right now- Richard, what have I told you about swallowing shiny objects! Oh God- where is your father… Come on, let’s go to the toilets…” I watched the dark-haired woman, with rounded glasses and a merry, if not slightly weathered face, goad the three children down the seat aisle. Harry, the blonde boy, looked back at us wistfully for a second, before running off behind his siblings.

I turned to James, and he grinned at me, spreading his arm down the back of the bench, his fingertips curling around my shoulder. 

“Honourable figure? I didn’t realise you were such a fan.”

“It’s my guilty pleasure. I have all the action figures, all the Witch Weekly profiles…”

“So do I,” I said, smirking. “My favourite is the one of his son.”

“The unbelievably handsome, talented, funny one?”

“No, the older one.”

“How witty,” he said drily, and I turned to smile lazily at him. His defined cheekbones, his jutting jaw, the way his face slightly sinks in between his thick eyebrows and his big brown eyes and the way his messy hair, dark and a nutty brown shade, glinted gold in the lights emitting from behind him; all these I memorised. I took his face and I stored it within me as I sat there, looking at him, the size of the smirk on his mouth decreasing with every second.

“Look,” he said quietly, his eyebrows creasing ever so slightly. “About Dahlia.”

“Oh yeah,” I said, tearing my eyes away from him, and concentrating on the seats below us, as they filled up with more and more people. It was the first night of the Cirque de la Vie’s Christmas tour of Britain, and being the only Wizarding circus in Europe, people had been battling for tickets since the show was announced in October. But I wasn’t surprised that James had tickets, not at all.

The band was playing Jingle Bells, and a few people below us were dancing along in their aisles. Mistletoe was beginning to weave its way through the thick branches of ivy, hanging from the canvas above us, but I tried to ignore that.

“We’re not dating,” he said. 

I turned my head sharply from the ceiling to him. “What do you mean?”

“You know she’s been seeing Glenn Yearlings?” I nodded, thinking of the Slytherin Quidditch Captain. “She heard he snogged a girl in your year when he was at some family party the past weekend- that Nott girl-”

Classic Ophelia,” I said, snorting. “But they didn’t. I mean, I don’t think so- Ophelia would have told us.”

“When did you become friend with Ophelia Nott?”

“When did you become so interested in my social life?”

He rolled his eyes, but didn’t retort back. “Anyway, she spread that we were back together to maintain her reputation. And the first person she told was Oscar Green, obviously.”

“Well, at least she’s resourceful.” Everyone knew that if they wanted something to spread, Oscar was the one to go to. He ran the underground gossip rings, and could source out a false rumour within a New York minute. But he’d still spread it anyway. He was worse than the ghosts.

“And Oscar told Albus that morning,” said James. “I didn’t even hear about my own relationship until lunch.” He grinned at me, and edged his head in closer to me, his mouth by my ear, and his breath tickled, sending immoral shudders down my spine. “This is my favourite song, Effy.”

They were playing an old Christmas song, an old one, the one that my grandparents dance too during Christmas night, holding each other to their bodies like they were young and madly in love. An old man took the microphone and spoke into it, his words tumbling out in a velvety, husky tone.

“A nice, slow one before we start the show, ladies and gentlemen,” he purred. “Christmas time unites friends with fiends, lovers and fighters, Wizards and Muggles…”

“Well,” I said, smiling, as the dark-skinned man began singing softly. “It would be a shame not to dance then, wouldn’t it?”

He stood up, and held out his hand. I rose and took it, as he wove his hands behind my back, and I fastened my arms around his neck. The corners of his mouth turned up and his eyes glinted when they caught the light behind me, as we swayed softly to the beat of the melodic piano, the soft saxophone. Couples swayed around us, and I imagined generations of couples before us dancing along to the same song.

He sings a love song, whilst we stroll along,

Walking in a winter wonderland…

And suddenly my hands were against his chest, and his left hand cupped my face, his other holding my back. And we were kissing, under the mistletoe that blossomed from the low canvas ceiling, hanging just above the two of us.

We had to break apart, though. And when we did, we were laughing.

“Does that make this a first date, then?” I asked, as the lights dimmed and we sat down.

“Oh, Wilderson,” said James. “I don’t fancy you in that way.”

I froze.

“Are you thick? I thought you were meant to be a Ravenclaw. Yeah, of course, you idiot.”

“You idiot,” I mimicked in a very low voice that didn’t sound like him at all.

“Your banter, Wilderson,” he said, putting his arm around me as the show began, "is too much for me."

 

“So it’s dead silent, like totally silent, you could have heard a Nargle drop, and suddenly Regina Dwyer, the idiot she is, starts shrieking. We all look up, and she is literally covered in that orange goo-ey shit, and then Professor Vermont comes over- like it’s a Mock NEWT, he doesn’t know what to say- and Grace Goyle knocks over the cauldron, and it’s all over him, and he literally bursts into tears.”

“He didn’t,” said Alfie, grinning, his face awed. “Amazing.

Fred snorted. “He just bursts into tears and makes some comment about how, oh, I wish I had never left Salem- I wish he hadn’t either, I started laughing and he put me in detention for about a week…”

“Vermont’s a lad,” said James, lazily. “Alfie and I nek nominated him to drink our cauldron. We told him it was plain H2O-”

“-it was a love potion,” concluded Alfie, grinning. “For Longbottom.”

“Yeah, and now the whole Herbology department is on strike,” I said, grinning at the most recent protest.

“I heard your year bribed them too,” said Fred, leaning in. “So you could miss out on their Sixth Year Mock NEWTS.”

“We don’t look at it as bribing,” I said lazily, leaning further into James, his scent intoxicating me. “We look at is as inspiring a generation.” This was half true; Louis Weasley and Ruddy Walcott got everyone in the class to contribute a galleon towards a deluxe box of Honeydukes’ finest chocolates to sway Longbottom’s substitute Professor. It didn’t work, the pair were put in detention for a week, and Louis received a Howler the next morning, berating him in a very heavy French accent.

James laughed, his fingers lazily playing with the hair by my temples, as a girl in the year above approached Freddie, lying luxuriously across the armchair by the warm fireplace in the Gryffindor common room. James was stretched against a beaten old red sofa, and I was lying between his legs, absent-mindedly drawing circles around his thigh. It was a fortnight since he took me to the circus, and we had been seeing each other since then. Were we dating? Was he my boyfriend? Was it exclusive? Was I- and I had heard the rumours circulate, Fifth Year girls have a talent for loudness- not more than a rebound? I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to ask. Christmas was in the air, and the upcoming holidays brought feelings of euphoria amongst the student body.

Maybe that was why James and I had gone from awkward and angry towards each other to where we were now. Patrolling the corridors of the school after hours, often running or hiding from bitchy prefects or Filch and his cat, discussing everything and sometimes (often) kissing. Oscar and Aspen demanded that I further it, but I was totally content with where we were now. Did I love him? No, but I liked him. More than I think I’d admit.

“Hey,” said the girl, smiling in that alluring way that girls like Aspen and Jasmine always manage to pull off, but whenever I try it, I look like I need to pee.

“Hey Annie,” said Freddie, his left eyebrow raised. “You alright?”

“Well, no,” she said, playing with the ends of her sleek black hair. “Regina Dwyer got that disgusting orange shit all over my notes.”

“Bloody Regina,” said Freddie, in a mock-sympathetic tone. “Steal hers.”

“Are you suggesting I’m a sinner, Frederick Weasley?”

Fred grinned, his tongue locked behind his teeth. Fred’s skin, a golden brown, looking almost alive in the golden glow from the fireplace, and his eyes were a dark, majestic green. Jasmine’s fancied him since fifth year, and he’s been awful to her- leading her on, dancing her about and then dumping her. I tried to dislike him on behalf of her, but it was difficult. Fred, like James, had this charismatic aura about him, that made weak and strong people alike flock to him, like moths to a light. 

Freddie and James, to their credit, weren’t popular due to their families, although that didn’t hurt. They had spent their lower years charming professors and upper year students alike, with their boyish wits and extravagant pranks; Aspen and Oscar adored them, thinking they were the coolest things to happen to us. (I personally disagreed, having grown up with two brothers and finding all boys of a certain age as annoying as the next.) And as they grew older, pranks turned into wild parties and victims into girls; Alfie Ronson was always their friend, but he only came onto the scene when boys grew into teenagers- he was easily the best looking out of all three of them, but girls always went for Freddie and James.

I looked up at James, and watched him talk animatedly to Alfie, the two of them pointing at Freddie and the dark-haired girl walking out of the common room.

Classic Annie Delta,” said Alfie, whilst James grinned.

“Potions isn’t the only thing she’s getting a D in,” James quipped, and Alfie threw his head back in laughter.

“Have you seen Annie?” said Eve Chang, a pretty Asian girl in their year. I remembered her being nice to me last Sunday, and smiled at her.

“Hey, you!” she said, grinning at me. “You’re looking comfortable.”

“Snuggled in with ickle wickle Jimmy,” crowed Alfie, and James snorted. “Annie literally just left with Freddie. Said she wanted help with a Potions essay.”

“Freddie is barely scraping an A in Potions,” said Eve. “Classic Annie Delta.”

“Oh Annie,” I sighed, and James sniggered. 

“Alright, calm down Miss Sixth Year.”

“Excited for your NEWTS? What is it, five months?”

“Oh, don’t,” said Eve, sitting down on the oak table in front of us. “My dad’s expecting all O’s. She was a Ravenclaw, you know,” and she delivered this line towards me, like she was accusing me on behalf of Ravenclaw house.

“Oh shut up, Chang,” said Alfie leisurely. “You’ll get all O’s.”

She snorted. “As if.”

“Our year are all idiots. Didn’t Vivienne Dartmouth just make the connection between honey coming from bees last Monday?” yawned James. “She started crying, she thought honey was bee shit.”

Everyone laughed, and I began to drawing figments along his inner leg. James, Alfie and Eve returned to discussing how difficult life was for seventh years, and I had to bite my tongue to not make some sarcastic comment about dying children in Africa.

“Hey- Effy!”

I turned around, and sat up to grin at Jasmine Azalea, who sat down at the end of the sofa and flung her arms around me. “Effy!” she cried. “Why are you here?”

“It’s me,” said Freddie, returning to his armchair by the fire. James had told me how the seats we were occupying were sought after in the common room, and yet the armchair remained empty in his absence. “Elizabeth here just can’t get enough.”

“Where’s Annie?” asked Eve, as Jasmine blushed at Freddie. “She’s got my DA essay, bloody git.”

Freddie shrugged, smoothing out his shirt. “It’s a Thursday evening. She’s probably with the rest of our year in the library.”

“Annie. In the library.” 

Freddie shrugged again, and returned to conversation with James and Alfie. Eve rose- probably in pursuit of Annie Delta- and Jasmine turned to me, her eyes glinting.

“I love you and James together,” she said, excitedly, and I half-heartedly glared at her for playing it so uncool. For whilst- at least, I tried my hardest- I was acting cool, nonchalant, normal, inside my heart beat was going at a hundred pulses a second.

“Feeling’s mutual-”

“No it isn’t,” called James, and I blushed slightly at him overhearing Jasmine’s statement. “She got our reserve Chaser in detention when we needed him most this term.”

“Are you still not over it? We won!”

“Narrowly,” said James, crossing his arms.

“Mate, Effy’s the Seeker for Ravenclaw,” sniggered Freddie. 

James shrugged. “I’m sure Effy will realise that my position as captain is more important than her position as Seeker.” 

“What?” I said, suddenly. But James had already returned back to the conversation with Freddie and Alfie; Jasmine instead turned to me, rolling her eyes.

“So basically,” said Jasmine, snapping her jaws together in that slightly enduring, slightly annoying manner that loads of the girls in my year do, and I couldn't work out if it was kind of cool or kind of ridiculous, “you, Ophelia and Aspen are coming to me to get ready for Al’s.”

“Oh yeah!” I marvelled. “I forgot about Al’s.” Al’s party was the talk of the year. It was the Monday we finished school, and everyone was going. James told me that their parents made a big deal out of seventeenth birthdays, and I had already spent countless hours in the evening with Aspen, sprawled across her bed and flicking through catalogues to find a dress.

“I live in London, which is near Al,” she said happily. “And we’ll take loads of pictures I can put on my wall, and you can meet my parents and it’ll be really, really fun. Yeah?”

I smiled. “I’m looking forward to it.”

She smiled back, and I spent the rest of that Thursday evening like that. Wrapped up in James beside a warm fireside, chatting about idle, girly matters with Jasmine and occasionally singing along to the Christmas music emitting from the radio. I had to leave after a while, of course. And then by the time I got back to my own tower, I was too tired to do any work. Some sacrifices are worth making, I concluded sleepily.

 

Some teachers got more into the festive spirit than others. Professor Augustine, our bitchy middle-aged Arithmancy teacher sat by his desk and napped, whilst the rest of us chatted excitedly about the upcoming holidays; others, such as Professor Flitwick, worked us to the bone.

“Your most important exams are coming up!” he squealed. “This year will fly by, and soon it’ll be too late! You mark my words! Just ask the year aboves!”

And so I did, on one of my nightly walks with James. We walked through the top floors, as they were less patrolled for they were furthest away from the kitchens and the library. Sometimes he’d put his arm around my shoulders, and I liked that. Or sometimes during the height of our teasing he’d pull me into a kiss against a marble pillar, and I loved that. His fingers would entwine in my hair, and it was the heat of the snog and the excitement of being caught that thrilled me to the very core.

But the talks were the best. His perspective on life was something entirely different from my own, and it intrigued me endlessly.

“Everybody wants me to be this Quidditch star,” he stated, his hands in his pockets. “And if not that, then an Auror like my dad. But I can’t help but wonder if there’s something else, you know?”

“Muggles have this endless capacity of future careers,” I replied. “Whereas we just work for the ministry. It’s like bees in a hive, isn’t it? I mean, we have celebrities and newspapers, but the majority work for the Minister. It’s not a variety.”

“Exactly,” he said, looking at me. “Al’s going to be a Healer, Lily’s not particularly clever- but she’s brave, zesty- so she’ll probably train to be an Auror.”

“I thought you wanted to be a Quidditch player? You’re always going on about scouts,” I said.

He shrugged. “I don’t dream of it, like little boys and girls do. It doesn’t thrill me, like it does with Alton. It’s just a hobby I’m good at.”

“Hang on,” I said, stopping suddenly.

“What?” he said, impatiently.

“Two nights ago,” I said, slowly. “You basically told me I was to give up Quidditch to sustain this relationship. Or whatever this is, but that’s beside the point. And I was considering it, because I thought I knew how much Quidditch meant to you.”

“Ravenclaw can easily find another Seeker,” said James coolly. “But I’m their only Captain.”

“You don’t even like Quidditch!” I cried.

“Keep your voice down,” snapped James. “Do you want to get a detention, Wilderson?”

“Don’t tell me what to do!” I snapped back. “Don’t tell me to keep my voice down, don’t tell me to quit Quidditch! Especially when you’re not as dependent on scouts as I thought you were!”

“You’ve got a whole other year of Quidditch to go!” he shouted. “This isn’t about you!”

“No, James, it’s about you not even wanting to be a Quidditch player when you’re older and yet still expecting me to quit- you’re using me to sabotage Ravenclaw!” I said, suddenly. “Oh my God! Not only are you potentially denying Danny Alton of his dream, but you’re denying the whole of my team that, too!”

“Stop being so drastic,” he hissed. “This isn’t about you.”

“I think it is-

“-maybe,” he said, drawing up to me, his eyes cold and unforgiving, sending shivers down my spine- “-maybe, Elizabeth, Quidditch is more than a job. Maybe it’s the only thing I have that gives me lineage with my dad and my granddad. My fucking namesake.” 

James stepped back, crossing his arms. “My dad took Gryffindor to victory. My grandfather took Gryffindor to victory. And I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t sustain that.”

“James-”

“Do you know what it’s like?” he shouted. “Being named after a man who will always, always be better than you? A man who died for his wife and child, when I could never do that? A man who’s name still echoes the halls of this school? A man whose teachers still teach me, and compare me to him?”

“James,” I said, softly, reaching for his arm.

“My brother doesn’t play Quidditch. Neither does Lily. Neither did Albus, and neither did Lily. I’m the only one in the family, don’t you fucking get it?” He looked at me, and scoffed. “You’re just a fucking sixth year.”

I raised my eyebrow. “Well,” I said. “Then I suppose I have nothing to do here.”

"Wait- no, hang on- Wilderson! Effy!"

He bellowed my name down the empty hall, his voice bouncing off the walls, but I refused to look back. James Sirius Potter was nothing but a silly, proud prick who, to be honest, I was better off without anyway.

 

Oscar didn’t take the news well.

“Oh my god,” he bemoaned in the common room, with Aspen and me either side of him. “How am I meant to go on? My muse, my first, my inspiration…

“He’s just flying off to Bali,” I said, rubbing his back.

“And he’ll come back a total hippy!” Oscar wailed. “He’ll be pushing vegan leather- Oh my god, what if he doesn’t stock leather at all?!

“I’m sure he will-”

“Oh my god. Oh my god. What if he goes boho chic? That wasn’t acceptable in 2014, and it is not acceptable now! Next thing you know, he’ll be riding goats during Glastonbury festival and sipping organic cocktails with the lead singer of Coldplay!”

“I’m sure that won’t happen,” Aspen soothed, as he embarked on another wave of tears.

“Who is this again?” I mouthed over Oscar’s back.

Aspen shrugged. “Some designer,” she motioned.

“There, there,” I said, patting his back, as Aspen conjured a new box of tissues.

The common room door opened, and I looked up, as it was during a free period and the common room was more or less empty. The record player still played the same classical music it’s been playing since my first night of Hogwarts, but instead of the usual soothing Bach, it was the Nutcracker. Christmas fever was everywhere.

“Al!” I said, surprised, rising to greet him.

He hugged me, and then pulled me aside. “Um- Oscar? What’s wrong?”

“Some designer he likes is going to Bali,” I said, rolling my eyes, and Al grinned.

“Typical.”

Mikey had been acting really rude to me recently, and it was such a relief to see Al. Al was calm, Al was level-headed, Al wasn’t annoying nor judgemental, and Al was also really good about the whole James thing. 

“Why are you here?” I asked, smiling at him in a manner I hope looked radiant.

“Why are you smiling like that?” asked Al, curiously. “Do you need to fart, or something?”

I scowled, and he laughed.

“Anyway,” he said, striding over to Aspen and Oscar. A small huddle of year aboves were sitting by the bookshelves, Ravenclaw’s own personal little library, and looked horrified at Al’s casual interruption of the common room. “Oscar, mate, calm down.”

“What if he collaborates with Target?” wailed Oscar. “Or Marks and Sparks?”

“What-”

“Muggleborn,” chorused Aspen and I, boredly. It wasn't the first time someone had approached us and asked what was wrong with Oscar. He, of course, loved it- loved the concern, loved the attention, loved the dramatics of this Wednesday afternoon meltdown. 

“Oh. Anyway, Effy, I actually came here to see you,” said Al, sitting down on the sofa and wrapping his arm around Oscar, which would normally send him over the edge with excitement but Oscar didn’t even notice; was he that upset?

“At least I still have Alexander,” he mumbled, clutching a decadent scarf to his heart. “Oh McQueen, McQueen…”

“What’s up, Al?” I asked, sitting on the arm of the armchair Aspen was slouched over, trying not to glare at Oscar who's attention-seeking facade was suddenly, surprisingly, starting to grate on me.

Al began to open his mouth, but then closed it again, looking perplexed. “Do they always play classical music in here?” he asked.

“How often do you come into the Ravenclaw common room?”

“Well it’s not like it’s difficult, is it? All you need is basic logic-”

“That’s not fair,” huffed Aspen. “I’ve been sorted into Ravenclaw and I still can’t get past half these riddles.”

Albus smiled at Aspen, but then turned to me. “I owe you an apology,” he said. “For telling you that Dahlia and James were dating when they weren’t.”

I blinked. “What?”

“Remember? I told you James and Dahlia were dating last week, when they weren’t.”

I smiled, and rolled my eyes. “Al, I’m over that. He cleared it up when he took me to the circus.”

“And you two aren’t talking now.”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because James was being impossible!” cried Aspen, and I turned to smile at her for jumping to my defence. “Quidditch means so much to Effy, and he expected her to give it up.”

“Yeah, he told me,” Al nodded thoughtfully. “Well, anyway, that’s so annoying. I think he liked you- for James’ standards, anyway.”

“Yeah, and she really liked him,” nodded Aspen earnestly.

“Az!” I hissed. Oh my God, she was turning into my mum.

Al grinned. “So what are you doing over Christmas, Aspen?”

“Going to California,” she said happily. “My dad just bought a house in San Francisco with his girlfriend-”

“Oh yeah!” I cried. “Owl me immediately about it, that’s so cool.”

“Right? Who knew?” said Aspen, snorting. “What about you, Al?”

“Spending a week in France with family,” he groaned. 

“Oh shut up,” I said. “It won’t be that bad.”

“Are you joking? My family are insane,” he said. “You know what they’ve like.” 

“Yeah, they want me to give up Quidditch,” I muttered, crossing my arms, and Al patted my back sympathetically.

“There are children dying.”

“Speaking of dying,” said Oscar suddenly, “I just remembered major seventh year gossip! So you know Glenn Yearling, the Slytherin Captain? The one Dahlia Moss thought cheated on her?”

We nodded. “Well, Gloria Hastings, one of the Hufflepuff Chasers, totally caught him in the Hufflepuff Captain’s room, trying to find something! And then- oh my God, this is huge- Yearling called her a- a- a-”

“Spit it out, Oscar.”

“Shut up, Effy. He called her a-” he squeezed his eyes with excitement- “a mudblood!

Aspen gasped, and I could feel my eyes widen. On my right, Albus looked slightly ill. “He didn’t,” murmured Albus, and Oscar nodded.

“And Annie Delta had sex with Freddie Weasley,” he commented off-handedly.

 

That night in the Great Hall, the ceiling above us was a cloudless inky black, and if you squinted your eyes a certain way, you could make out certain constellations in the stars. Christmas trees lined the walls, and a thick seasonal scent of pinewood, cinnamon and musky warmth hung in the air. Excitable chatter filled the halls; the winter exams were over for the term, and there was only a week to go until the holidays.

“I’ve decided I’m over it,” announced Oscar. Aspen was cuddled up with Scorpius, spoon-feeding him pie, and Albus and I were trying not to laugh at the couple in front of us.

“I’m proud of you,” I said, patting him on the arm.

“If Christian Tallentallegra wants to ruin his life, then whatever. Fine by me."

We began discussing the potential goblin strike on Gringotts, when the plates cleared and gradually, people started filling out of the hall.

“I’m so full,” moaned Scorpius. 

“I’m not, I hate shepherd’s pie,” I muttered, as we walked out of the Hall. There was a big crowd forming in front of us, and I could see two girls pointing excitedly.

“Peeves probably playing up again,” said Scorpius. 

“Peeves wouldn’t do it straight after a meal, he’s scared shitless of Professor Augustine,” muttered Albus. I followed him further into the crowd, pushing our way to the front, ignoring pissed off remarks aimed at us.

There stood James and Freddie, their wands raised in perfect symmetry, grinning at the body of Glenn Yearling, the Slytherin Quidditch captain, who was dangling upside down, by his left ankle. His usually pale skin was lined with dark brown veins, standing out and looking like some weird bodily disorder.

“Glenn Yearling, everyone,” called James, the corner of his mouth twitching, the back of his hair the messiest I’ve ever seen it, “has two Pureblood parents, and yet his blood is quite literally mud. What does that make him, Freddie?”

“Oh, I don’t know, James,” Fred Weasley retorted, pretending to look quizzical. “A mudblood?”

“Quite right, Freddie.” And then his skin went from his usual pale to yellower and yellower-

“He looks like a leopard!” called a girl in the year below.

“Almost there,” grinned James. “Not quite a leopard, but a cheetah. Again, in the literal meaning.”

“Having fun there, Yearling?” asked Freddie, innocently. “You see, my good friend James and I know that your patronus is a hawk.”

“But hawks don’t go around the place, practising unfair Quidditch tactics.”

“Oh no they do not, James. Hawks don’t cheat, but cheetahs do. Am I right, mate?”

“Absolutely.”

Suddenly, Yearling’s body dropped on the floor, and the chatter ceased. James crouched over his body, and said something in a tone only those closest could hear.

“Don’t you ever differentiate between wizarding heritage like that again. Gloria Hastings may be a Muggleborn, Yearling, but she’s a hundred times the person you are, let alone the wizard.

I was angrily pushed aside by Professor Longbottom, who barked at us all to go to bed. And in that moment, my eyes met with James’- his familiar brown eyes, who had previously filled me with feelings of such euphoria and anger, like my physical bipolar disorder- and I looked away, crossing my arms. 

“That was so brave,” cooed a girl in the year above, with long, slender legs and beautiful cascading blonde hair. She held onto James’ arm, and he didn’t push her away. Dahlia Moss doesn’t even look at me when she kisses James on the cheek, and the two laughed together. Longbottom and Slughorn accompany Yearling to the Hospital Wing, and James and Dahlia walked off together, whilst Freddie basks in the compliments that the crowd of students are all too happy to saturate him in. 

“Let’s go to bed,” said Aspen, pushing me away from the scene.

 

The following morning, December the fifteenth, saw snow, really thick, fluffy snow that set five inches deep overnight. The antics of the night before were ignored over the excitement of snow, because whilst it had been on and off snowing all month, nothing had really settled.

“Oi, Wilderson!” yelled Indigo Coates, running up to me in the corridor. “Lunch time. Massive snowball fight between the Ravenclaw team and the Hufflepuff team.”

“Just because your voice has finally broken, doesn’t mean you can call me Wilderson-”

“Going to be a mad one, I can tell-”

“What are you, twelve?”

“Yeah, on a scale of one to ten.” Al, who had been walking beside me on our way to Defence, burst into laughter, and I glared at the two of them.

“Thanks, but no thanks, I hate snowball fights. The snow always ends up down my top and I always end up with mascara streaks down my face.”

Indigo gave me a dirty look, and flounced off, muttering something about betrayal and sacrifices. Al raised an eyebrow at me, and I shook my head.

“I took part in the Hufflepuff versus Ravenclaw Quidditch fight last year, and Joshua Wood ended up in the Hospital Wing for the night.”

“Fair enough,” shrugged Al. “Did you do the Defence essay? I did, but it’s not quite fifteen inches-”

“Oh fuck!” I cried. “I left it in the library!”

“Are you going to go get it?”

“Yeah, can you cover for me?”

“Sure.” I hugged him and ran off, pushing my way through the throng of students in the busy Transfiguration corridor, muttering apologies here and there.

The library was at the other end of the school, and classes started in five minutes. I would have to go outside, and I physically winced at the thought. Hagrid hadn’t gotten around to clearing the grounds of snow- or at least forming some kind of pathway- and I didn’t like the idea of getting my shoes and the end of my cloak wet.

I walked outside, and the quietness of the courtyard was serene. The stark whiteness of the snow, untouched and pure lay ahead of me, under an unseasonal cornflower blue sky.

The ends of my hair flew in the sudden wind, and I shivered as I removed my cloak, tucking it under my arm. I began walking, listening to every single crunch under my foot and the faint sound of the wind around me.

“Wilderson?”

I turned around.

“James,” I said, softly.

“Why am I always finding you like this?” he said, grinning slightly. “As a prefect, I should really be putting you in detention. It’s class time.”

I smiled at him. “Go on, then. And maybe I’ll charm your face to turn golden, and your ears into wings, for being a literal snitch?”

“Funny.”

I shrugged, and turned around, to walk on, but he grabbed me with his hand.

“Wilderson.”

“What?” I snap, turning around. The icy wind makes my teeth chatter, and I cross my arms together- not out of defiance, but in need of warmth.

“We need to talk,” he said. 

“About what?” I snapped. “You? Your need to fulfil every action your grandfather performed, to the extent of asking me to leave the team? Because I don’t remember hearing that the original James Potter strung girls along.”

He stood there, his eyebrows raised and his eyes cold once more. “Are you quite done with yourself, Wilderson?”

“Yeah, I am, actually. Next time you find me walking around by myself, don’t stop to say hi.”

“Oh trust me,” he said coolly. “I won’t. You have a huge hole in the back of your tights, Wilderson. That’s all I was going to say.”

I lifted my leg in the air to inspect it, and he was right. But before I could politely thank him, he was gone, and I was alone in the cold, December air. Once inside, cherubs sitting in the hanging holly wreathes sing happy Christmas carols, but I could barely hear them.

 

Darling,

You never write anymore! Well, not to the extent you used to!  What’s new? How are your NEWTS? How’s Aspen and Oscar? I bumped into Carlotta Spinelli the other day, actually- we were both in Selfridges, that Muggle store Holly RAVES about, it’s actually very nice! Anyway, we sat down for lunch- lovely woman, helped me with my Muggle money and everything! 

Your father’s been very busy. Apparently Quidditch season starts in January, and he’s been at the office every night, securing interviews and organising events of the sort. Lee Jordan’s been so good with your dad, he’s been helping him out an awful lot. It’s also fab for ME, because now I can stop pretending I like that daft sport hehe LOL!

Oliver’s bringing his new girlfriend down over Christmas, and I think Jack’s flying in from the States but I’m not too sure, and is it bad that I can’t bring myself to care… less cooking for me!! LOL. 

Do you have a boyfriend yet???? Do hurry up, dear, Angela Harley’s daughter Tilly has a boyfriend and I want pictures I can compare with Angela. He’s very good looking, Tilly’s boy is- I knew we should have sent you to Beauxbatons with Tilly. Maybe then you’d have a boyfriend. I had LOADS of boyfriends when I was your age. Pauline tells me Aspen’s still with Scorpius- what a catch!!! I do love Aspen, she knows how to do it. Wait- are you a lesbian?????????? I read an article on them in Witch Weekly the other day- or was it feminists? LOL. I can’t remember. If you are, just make sure she doesn’t have coloured hair- the woman in the article had coloured hair, it’s so tacky! 

Hug and kisses Mummy XXXXXXXXXXX

Ps- dad congratulates you on some Ravenclaw win against some house, wasn’t paying attention LOL!

 

“I love Felicity Vane!” exclaimed Aspen. She had giggled all through the letter, occasionally stopping to make comments such as classic Fels or what a babe! 

My mother was not a babe. If anything, she was a woman still possessed by very Bridget Jones-esque morals of the 1990s, forever trying to find me a boyfriend. I’m glad I didn’t write to her about James, because the explanation of why it went wrong would have catalysed a potential divorce; my mother would have insisted I walk up to him immediately to inform him of my retirement from Quidditch, and my father would have been outraged, citing that he’d rather me have no boyfriends whatsoever than give up Quidditch and besides, what’s wrong with Lee Jordan’s son, Orion?

“Throwback Thursday,” interrupts Oscar, skim-reading the fashion pages of the Prophet- not that they could ever live up to the brilliance of Victoire Delacour writing for Witch Weekly, he often adds. “Who remembers that one time we all thought James Potter knocked up Dahlia Moss?”

“Good thing he didn’t!” cried Aspen earnestly. “We have enough of that Satan blood running around the school!”

“Satan blood? What is that, some pastel grunge Tumblr URL?” said Oscar, raising his left eyebrow. I snorted, and Aspen threw a torn off piece of bread towards his general direction, blushing when it hit a good looking year above instead. “And who remembers that time James Potter almost got kidnapped when he was a baby from neo-Death Eaters?”

“We weren’t alive, you idiot,” I snorted.

“It was still a funny occasion,” shot Oscar. “Well, not for Harry and Ginny Potter.”

“Or anybody else, really.”

“He’s not even that good-looking,” said Aspen, beaming through the lie. “Scorpius is way hotter.”

“What about me, babe?”

“Well, and you too, Oscar.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at Oscar and Aspen’s attempts at bad-mouthing James. I had told them, in hushed voices during History of Magic, about my encounter with him and they were outraged.

“I hate him! How dare he?” fumed Aspen, whilst Oscar clapped with glee.

“You two so want each other!”

“We don’t,” I snapped, and Aspen stifled a laugh at Oscar’s bemused face.

“But I was going to make tee-shirts,” he said, crest-fallen. But Aspen and I laughed, and I hastily changed the subject.

“How are you and Scorpius, anyway?” I asked her at the breakfast table that morning.

She smiled. “We’re good. Thanks.”

“I never see you two around anymore-”

“Well, we’re all very busy, aren’t we?” she almost snapped. But Aspen never snapped, and as her head was turned Oscar and I exchanged confused shrugs. Period, Oscar mouthed at me.

Don't be so sexist, I mouthed back.

It's not sexist, it's an educated biological guess, he retorted, and I was about to open my mouth and reply very silently and very angrily when Aspen piped up again.

“Anyway, who needs boyfriends when I have the two best friends in the world?” she said, brightly.

“Oh, darling!” cried Oscar earnestly. “I couldn’t agree more.”

I was about to say something when Albus came running up to us, totally frantic.

“What’s wrong?” I said, rising from the table. A few other people were looking interested around us, and Albus spoke in a hushed whisper.

“Let’s go outside, Effy.” Aspen and Oscar, below me, shot me what the fuck’s going on glances but I ignored them, following Al out of the Hall doors and into a small doorway.

“It’s James. He’s in the Hospital Wing- Glenn Yearling tried to hex Alfie Ronson this morning, but James got in the way-”

“What? Oh my God, is he alright?”

“He should be,” said Albus, shakily. “Anyway- Lily’s on a Muggle Studies trip, and I can’t find Rose-”

“Oh my god,” I said, engulfing him in the warmest hug I could muster. He smelt like James, but without the tobacco, and slightly fruitier. But they both shared that underlining scent of fresh laundry, a summer’s day, old books, and something else quite undistinguishable. 

“He’ll be okay,” I said, rubbing circles on Al’s back. “Don’t you worry about it.”

We stood there for a moment, until I spoke again. “So what exactly happened, Al?”

“I wasn’t there- Alfie told me,” Al began, slowly, and his voice sounded calmer, no longer on the verge of tears. “James- he and Alfie were walking, and Alfie was congratulating James on some Transfiguration essay, something like that, I think, what Alfie said- anyway- Yearling comes round the corner with some Slytherin cronies, and call Alfie a mudblood- James threatens to hex Yearling again if he doesn’t apologise, and Yearling says mudbloods don’t deserve to be in the school- he moves to hex Alfie, but James jumped in front, and Yearling and his friends run off before a professor arrives.”

My hand is clamped over my mouth and I can feel my eyes widen.

“James.”

“And it turns out, Glenn Yearling is actually Glenn Yaxley- they changed the family name after the war, and he’s secretly hated James for years.” Al shook his head, and there was another tremor to his voice. “I hope he’s alright, I-”

“Of course he’ll be alright. Yearling- Yaxley- got what, a D in his Charms OWL? Anyway, he aimed it at Alfie, not at James. He wouldn’t have wanted to kill Alfie- just embarrass him for the day, something juvenile.”

“Do you think?”

I nodded, and hugged him again, smelling that same clean scent even James had lingering underneath the cigarettes and strawberries. And, despite the rising anxiety in my chest, I wondered if Lily Potter smelt the same way.

We stood there in silence, and I thought about what I last said to James. I said he was nothing like his father, his grandfather; if anything, he was, he was twice the men they were. I could picture James jumping in front of a hex for Alfie, like James hexed Yearling in the first place for calling that girl a mudblood. James Sirius Potter was arrogant, hot-headed and impatient, but he was also brave, noble, chivalrous and daring. He had morals and such a defined sense of right and wrong, good and bad that I knew he would never set out to hurt me- to hurt anyone-

Perhaps he was loud, and he was a flirt, and maybe he used his charms and charisma to get himself out of all kinds of trouble that nobody else could. But he was a good person, right to the core, and I bitterly, bitterly regretted ever thinking otherwise.

“We need to go to classes,” said Albus.

“Yeah- I left my books in my room, I’m going to go get them.” Albus nodded, and I smiled weakly at him. “He’ll be fine, Al.”

He grinned at me, like he always did. “Thanks, Effy.”

“Always.”

I ran to the Hospital Wing, ignoring the judgemental looks of passing professors and annoyed glances of students, and I ran inside, almost bumping into Madame Pomfrey.

“Elizabeth Wilderson, isn’t it?” she said, sharply. “You were in here in October, weren’t you? Five broken ribs, swollen joints, twisted wrist, broken arm?”

“That’s me,” I said, smiling slightly. “Can I see James Potter?”

“No visitors during class hours, I’m afraid.”

“I have a free period, anyway.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Wilderson,” pressed Madame Pomfrey, her eyebrows raised. “But rules are rules. Weasley and Ronson already tried.”

I walked outside, and waited for a moment, before slightly opening the door, so I could see a slither of the room ahead. I watched Madame Pomfrey for three minutes, counting every single second, until I was sure she had retired to her study. And then, making sure I didn’t make any noise, I walked in.

There was one lower year student sleeping, but apart from that, the room was empty. At the back there was a bed with drawn, white curtains, and I approached it, my heart thumping and my head pounding. 

Is this what it’s like to be daring, I wondered, and if so, I do not like it.

Like I did with the door, I peered through a slip of the curtain, and it was James. I could only see his messy, wild black hair, but I knew it was him.

“We have got to stop bumping into each other like this,” I said, walking into his cubicle. 

Wilderson?

I looked at him properly, as I sat myself down on the end of his bed. There were no bodily disorders- he looked just as he always did, except he was wearing a pair of glasses, and clutching the morning’s Prophet. I had once seen him wear glasses in the library a few years ago, but it wasn’t a common habit of his. Yet it oddly suited him; as if his face wasn’t quite complete without them.

The winter’s sun shone through the window panes behind him, making his skin almost glow. Shadows hung under his sharp cheekbones and his defined jaw, and his messy dark brown hair stood all over the place. But underneath the uncharacteristic glasses- except somehow, I felt as if James had been wearing them the whole time- were his big, brown eyes, the two pathways into his soul from an otherwise total poker face.

“James,” I said. And we looked at each other. I stroked his cheekbone, feeling the roughness of the underlying stubble, and he stroked my hair, his fingers grazing my left temple.

“Effy,” he muttered. 

“I’m sorry.”

“I figured.”

And suddenly, we were kissing. First it was gentle; I was still very much aware of Madame Pomfrey’s presence hovering beyond the curtains, and even more aware of how fragile he looked, lying there in the ward’s white sheets; and then his fingers got even more entwined in my hair, and I can still feel the coarseness of his jawline, his neck under my fingers. I think I’ll be able to remember how he felt for ages to come.

“Wilderson,” he repeated, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, his voice laced with laughter. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a girl as ridiculous as you.”

“I’ve been told that’s part of my charm.”

“And I stink of these potions I’ve been force fed.”

“You think? But I thought the taste of lemon and garlic infusion was a universal aesthetic?”

He laughed, and brought his lips back on mine again.

 






Honestly, what can I say? Reading all these AMAZING reviews is just so unbelievably motivational and honestly makes my day. Isn't it funny how just a few lines can cheer me up sooo much, especially as I'm bang in the middle of exams? I'm so sorry about bad updating, but exams finish at the end of the month and I hope to made maaassive progress with FA. Again, thank you all so much for reading and for putting up with me and my shoddy updates! You guys are da baes. In fact, I've actually kinda combined 2 chapters into one- hopefully it doesn't read TOO weird hahah 

I don't own anything you realise, as per usual- the lyrics to Winter Wonderland (Felix Bernard), Tumblr (David Karp), all the various designer brands Oscar refers to, Target, Bridget Jones (Helen Fielding), or Kissing by the Mistletoe (Aretha Franklin). Lots and lots of love xx

 


Chapter 9: tattered velvet carpeting
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The last day of the autumn term was another bright winter’s day; a pale sun hung in the cloudless, blue sky, and icy winds blew around the school, causing windows to rattle and the ends of my fingers to go numb.

“Who remembers that one time we all agreed to get work done this term for out NEWTs next year,” sniggered Oscar over breakfast.

“I’ve actually done quite a bit of work,” said Mikey.

“Oh yeah?” snorted Liam. “As if.”

“Well, I attended 82% of my classes, and if that isn’t the literal meaning of exceeding expectations then quite frankly, I don’t know what is.”

Excitable Christmas carols echoed through the hall, as we sat drinking hot chocolate in our Muggle apparel, our luggage waiting outside to be hauled onto the train. There was never a rush on the last day, but gradually the Hall started emptying out, and I walked down the icy slopes of the school grounds towards the thestrals in deep discussion with Al.

“Do you think Britain will join America and invade Russia?” I asked.

“Susan Bones doesn’t want to, but that’s because she grew up with my dad, you know, in the middle of a war. But others who didn’t experience the second wizarding war are all for it,” replied Al, crossing his arms in the cold. 

The Russian Ministry, as we learned a week ago, had just passed some severe anti-Muggleborn laws, including the imprisonment of all Muggleborns and massacres of Muggle towns. The American Ministry proposed to invade on humanitarian grounds, we learnt this morning and the British Ministry, as per usual, was torn.

“Bones is the Foreign Affairs Minister though, and Newhart doesn’t agree with it,” I said, regarding our current Minister.

“But Newhart is weak, and the majority of the ministry want to invade,” said Al.

“What does your dad think about it?”

“I don’t know, he’s torn. He doesn’t want to risk any lives of British civilians, but he doesn’t want to not fight for freedom of Russian Muggleborns. It’s difficult,” said Al, grimacing. “It’s difficult for everyone.”

“I suppose it’s easy for the States to just go in, they aren’t still recovering from a war,” I said, as we climbed into the carriage. “But anyway- there are loads of American Aurors, but only a couple British ones.”

“They’d probably introduce drafting of wizards over the Hogwarts age.”

“Do you think?”

Al nodded. We spent the rest of the carriage journey in silence, until we approached the old scarlet train by the foot of the forest, stream curling and dancing and twirling around it, into the winter’s sunny sky.

“Al! Effy!” cried Scorpius, leaning out of a window. “In here!”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, stroking Al’s hand as we walked down the train corridor, amidst the usual shrieking and chatter as students clamoured into carriages. “I doubt they’ll join America. We’re too busy recovering from the past war, you know?”

Al turned to me, and smiled tiredly. “No, it’s not that, it’s just that-“

“Hold that thought,” I said, as we opened the carriage door. Inside was Scorpius, Aspen, Oscar and Mikey; Liam was being picked up by his older sister, a barmaid at the Three Broomsticks, and it was odd to see Mikey without Liam. Kind of like how it’s odd to see James without Freddie, but I pushed that thought aside.

“Did you see the Prophet today?” asked Scorpius, earnestly. “I can’t imagine-”

“Well then don’t,” said Oscar, crabbily. “If either of you boys says "war" just once again, I'll go in another carriage and slam the door.”

Scorpius sniggered, and Mikey rolled his eyes at Oscar's dramatics.

“I think it’s all so exciting,” said Aspen, as Scorpius wrapped his arm around her. “I know I shouldn’t, but still- are girls being enlisted?”

“Why wouldn’t we?” I asked, putting my feet up over Mikey’s lap. He gave me a dirty look and I raised my eyebrows, as if to dare him to take the matter further.

“Fighting a war in another country is different to a civil war,” pressed Albus. “Women generally tend to get treated worse when captured than men, and some would argue it’s not worth the risk.”

“Besides, we’re needed in the kitchens, Az!” I chirped brightly. “Raising the children and cooking the pies, doing the laundry and tending to the flowers.”

“Are you being sarcastic?”

“Duh!” cried Oscar. “Remember that one time when Effy didn’t stop mooing on about female goblin rights in Gringotts during fourth year?”

“I didn’t moo,” I snapped amidst the laughter of the others. “I peacefully protested.”

“You attached a banner to the end of your broomstick during the Ravenclaw final against Gryffindor,” said Mikey, dryly.

My mouth was full from a handful of crisps I had helped myself to from Scorpius’ open packet, so instead I jutted my face forwards, squinted my eyes and held out my palm.

“No regrets,” I said, spraying Aspen with crisps.

Effy!” she cried, glaring up at me. "Please, no please, spray more crisps on my face."

Outside, the final whistle for the train went off, and I could feel the train vibrate from beneath our carriage. Professor Augustine opened our carriage door and took our names down, leaving us with a muttered happy holidays.

“That man is just not a happy man,” said Aspen.

“I wouldn’t be, if I was a professor,” snorted Scorpius. “Especially a Muggle Studies teacher.”

Why would anyone take Muggle Studies?” demanded Mikey. “I didn’t like it when it was compulsory when we were in lower school, and I definitely wouldn’t like it now, the essays they set are ridiculous-”

“As opposed to Astronomy?”

“Shut up, you wish you could take Astronomy-”

“You’re such a loser, Mikey!”

“Effy! Stop flirting with me, I’m just not interested-”

“I thought Effy was seeing James Potter-”

“Wasn’t that really awkward for you, Al?” Aspen wanted to know. “Because Effy’s your friend and James is your brother?”

“There are people dying in the world,” Al replied comfortably.

“Oh my God. You sound like Effy.”

“No, Effy doesn’t care about dead people, she cares about dead goblins-”

Female goblins, actually-”

“Goblin girls are potentially the ugliest creatures I’ve ever seen.”

“That’s so mean!”

“Well, it’s the truth-

“Oh!” said Oscar, excitedly. “I forgot! Guess what I heard today?”

We all shut up.

“So the Fat Friar told me,” said Oscar, a proud smirk on his face from his success at turning attention, as per usual, towards him- “oh my God, this is so scandalous.”

“Well spit it out then,” said Scorpius, impatiently. With his leather jacket and aviator sunglasses (his school robes long disposed in a haste Albus confided just reflected his excitement to antagonise his father with his muggle clothing) he looked like a teddy boy from the 1950’s. I know he smoked too; does that make Aspen his Sandy Dee? I glanced at Aspen, and was examining the nutrition information of the crisp packet. Maybe not.

“They’re introducing compulsory Physical Education classes!” Oscar said, brightly.

I clamped my hand over my mouth, Al gasped and Mikey’s face was disgusted.

“What’s that?” asked Scorpius, confused. Aspen and Scorpius both had private wizarding schooling pre-Hogwarts, and they both looked equally as puzzled.

“We all went to Muggle primary schools,” said Al. “Every day we would have to put on gym shorts and a tee-shirt and do sports. It was introduced to tackle child obesity, I suppose.”

“Good one, Tommy Sullivan,” muttered Scorpius, referring to the fattest boy in our year, and winced as Aspen shoved him on his left shoulder.

“We only had to do it twice a week,” I said. “In the summer, we would play cricket and football, and in the winter we’d do inside sports. Like dancing and indoor hockey, and stuff.”

“What’s cricket?” asked Aspen, intrigued.

I told her it was a Muggle sport, whilst Mikey looked curious. “Would they make us do Muggle sports or Quidditch, do you think?”

“Quidditch is just flying,” said Al, his arm dangling over the carriage window. “We’d probably split into boys and girls- that’s what they do in Muggle secondary schools. The girls would do rounders and dance, the boys football and cricket.”

“Isn’t cricket an animal?” persisted Aspen.

“Yes,” I said tiredly.

I always liked PE,” said Mikey. “I was the best at football, so everyone liked me. There was this one kid- he was a Muggle,” he added, at Oscar’s interested expression, “-called Sanjit Ladhani, and he was a wicked goalkeeper. All the girls wanted to dance with us during our Year 6 Disco.”

I had a sudden flashback of little Mikey Lancaster- the way I first met him, aged eleven, sat opposite me on the Ravenclaw table just after being Sorted- with gelled up hair, styled into three spikes, a toothy beam and a rather high pitched, excitable voice. And I smiled fondly at the memory, looking at the seventeen year old in front of me, who eyed me curiously.

“You alright?” he said, the corners of his mouth lifting.

“Just thinking about eleven year old Mikey,” I said, and his smile widened.

“A true bona fide heartbreaker from such an early age.”

“What if I’m not good at football?” asked Scorpius, looking mildly panicked. “Would people not like me?”

“Relax, mate,” said Albus. “I’ll teach you over the holidays.”

“Is this actually true, though?” I asked, and Oscar nodded earnestly.

“The Fat Friar swore on his life.”

“He’s dead.

Oscar waved his hand, as if to dismiss the subject.

The discussion turned from Physical Education to Quidditch, and from Quidditch to the leagues; from the leagues to celebrity gossip, and it flowed smoothly and lazily, occasionally breaking, but always starting up again. Mikey started doing Ministry impressions, and Aspen got upset when she incorrectly guessed his impression of Susan Bones to be Ron Weasley.

“I’m going to the toilet,” I said, standing up and stretching.

“Ew,” said Aspen.

“You’re so mature,” Scorpius said to her, and she smiled innocently.

I walked out; even though we had the window open, our carriage was a lot warmer than the empty corridor. As I walked down, I glanced through the windows of other carriages, in the curious way that I do with everything. But then I walked past James Potter, Alfie Ronson and Freddie Weasley, the trio spread out luxuriously over the faded scarlet leather seats, discussing something with great enthusiasm- I turned my head away from the scene sharply, and walked quickly away.

“Effy- hold up!”

I froze, and after a short moment I turned around, knowing exactly who it was.

“Hey,” I said.

He smirked confidently at me, and ruffled the back of his hair. “You alright?”

“Yeah, you?”

“Been better,” he replied, lazily. “Got any plans for the winter?”

Behind me, a couple of girls burst out of their carriage, giggling, and James and I turned around to look at them. They noticed us, and mumbled apologies as they ran back inside.

“He’s so hot,” gushed one of the girls, before the carriage door shut.

I turned back to James, who was grinning in the most obnoxious manner ever and yet somehow, I was still totally and utterly attracted to him.

“We’re staying in Britain,” I said. “Al tells me you are too?”

“We were going to spend a week in Southern France,” James says lazily, “but decided against it, you know- Al and I have our NEWTs, Lily has her OWLS…”

“Oh yeah, how are they going?”

“I don’t know- ask her?”

“No,” I said. “Yours.”

He shrugged. “I got all O’s in my Mock NEWTS this term, so I’m not really fussed-”

“That’s so good!” I said, surprised.

“Elizabeth Wilderson,” he said, raising his left eyebrow. “Are you surprised at my academic achievements and my natural intellect?”

“Well, I always knew you were clever- those pranks you and Freddie pulled in the lower school obviously required some basis of intellect-”

“Now, Wilderson, you claimed that you never noticed Freddie and me during lower school?” he prompted, and I scowled.

“I didn’t idolise you, like everyone else,” I said. “But obviously I noticed the two of you. I’d have to be deaf, blind, dumb and at a convent in Italy, otherwise.”

He was still playing with the back of his hair, and I had just noticed how my fingers were twirling the ends of my hair. “What a riveting story.”

“You asked!”

“You must have fancied me when we were younger,” he said confidently. “Everyone did.”

“I didn’t! And even if I did, I wasn’t allowed to-“

“Why?”

“Because Veronica Clearwater already put dibs on you in first year,” I said, grinning at the memory. “And she is scary as fuck. She threatened to send me a howler, and she does really good vocal impressions.”

“Come off it, Wilderson. You’re telling me you didn’t harbour a little crush on me? Not even when Freddie and I charmed the suits of armour to dance along to Hollaback Girl during the Halloween Feast?”

“No.”

“What about when we set Nargles lose in the Hufflepuff common room for beating us-”

“No,” I pressed, and I tried to hide the smile forming on my lips.

James drew in even closer, until our bodies were touching.

“Well then,” he said quietly, brushing a lock of hair away from my face and delicately placing it behind my ear. “Do you fancy me now?”

“Not in the slightest.”

“Prove it.”

“Prove it how-”

He kissed me, right in the middle of the moving train, and every single vein in my body was buzzing. I was a euphoric mess- nothing more than concentrated stardust on tattered velvet carpeting.

His hands wove around my waist, clutching me to him, and my hands held his face. He smelt of fresh laundry, a summer’s evening, tobacco and something just totally, utterly indescribable.

“So do you still not fancy me, Wilderson?” he said, breaking apart.

“Not at all,” I said, smiling up at him.

“Well, you know what?”

“Yeah, probably- I am a Ravenclaw.”

Funny.

I looked up at him. “Go on, then.”

“I don’t fancy you either,” he said, and his eyes glinted in the golden rays of sun that emitted from a window next to us.

I clicked my tongue against the roof of my mouth. “Then that’s us sorted, then.”

He grinned. “I suppose it is, yeah.”

I smiled at him for one last time before turning around to walk away, my heart beating furiously in my chest, when he muttered my name again.

“Yeah?” I said, turning around.

“See you around,” he said. He ruffled the back of his hair again and walked away.

“Hang on- James!”

We were a duo of broken conversations and constant turning around, each one trying to out-do the other with our stubborn personas.  “Yeah?”

“What if, hypothetically speaking, I did fancy you?”

“Well, then, I suppose I’d probably ask you out on a date.”

“And where would we go?”

He paused for a second. “Madame Puddifoots-”

No!

“I’m joking! We’d go out for dinner in London, Wilderson. Probably around, half past seven?”

 “And what would I wear?”

“Oh, Wilderson,” said James, his eyes twinkling. “You could wear a potato sack and still look beautiful.”

“Your charm warms my heart,” I said. 

“Doesn’t it? Pity this date is all hypothetical.”

“Fine,” I said, and he smirked. “Perhaps I fancy you a little.

“You can do better than that.”

“I fancy you a sustainable amount.”

James shook his head.

“James Sirius Potter,” I snapped. “I fancy you!”

“Wasn’t so hard, was it?” he said, winking at me, and I scowled. 

“See you on Sunday night, Effy,” he said, and this time we really did walk away from each other, my face split by my unrelenting grin.

 

My mother, Felicity Wilderson, looked a lot like me. We both had dark brown hair that was neither curly nor straight, but a wavy in-between; sometimes in the sunlight it would glimmer a rich golden colour, but almost all of the time it was a consistent chestnut shade. We also both had green eyes, slightly upturned noses and prominent cheekbones; but her mouth was pretty and full, whereas I inherited my dad’s thin lips. And her hair was shorter, ending above her collarbones, and always styled and straightened, whereas mine was thicker and longer. 

She also wore glasses; black wayfarers that were the height of fashion at the moment, and a minimal amount of make-up, instead opting into expensive facial scrubs and masks to maintain a tanned, youthful complexion. She was also always smiling; even when she was angry, or upset, her curved lip and peaceful, pleasant expression meant that nobody could take her negative emotions seriously.

“Elizabeth,” she said, hugging me tightly. “We’ve missed you so much! How was the term?”

“Good, thanks,” I said, hugging her back. She smelt of her Marc Jacobs perfume and mint chewing gum. “How’re you? How’s dad?”

“Dad’s at the office,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Romilda and her new boyfriend are coming round for dinner tonight, by the way.”

I didn’t want to throw a hissy fit during the middle of the busy station; we were surrounded by students and parents alike, and a noisy, excitable buzz of chatter filled the narrow passage. I ducked as an owl came flying in my direction, and popped up again with a scowl on my face.

Muuuuumm…

“Oh cut it out, Elizabeth! And we’re seeing the Jordans on Saturday- they’re coming round before the Daily Prophet Christmas Party- speaking of which, I’ve already purchased a dress for you, it’s very nice.”

I completely forgot about the Daily Prophet Christmas Party. My dad, being the Editor of the sports pages, was of course attending with the whole Wilderson family- I had been going since I was a little girl, and I was so over the exciting wow-this-is-so-glamorous phrase of it all.

“What’s the dress like?”

“Oh, you know-”

“Felicity!”

“Aspen!” cried my mother, beaming and embracing my blonde best friend. Aspen’s mum, a classy Norwegian woman who Aspen inherited her Veela heritage from, stood behind her, shaking hands with Professor Longbottom. “How are you, sweetheart?”

“I’m very good, thank you! How are you, Ms Wilderson?”

“Just delightful. How’s school going?”

I turned my head away from their conversation, and looked around me. It was always surreal, seeing those I saw every day; not necessary speaking to, but just passing in the corridor as unidentifiable faces with their families. Everybody was different around their parents- boys were less rowdy and girls were sweeter. I spotted Mikey with his arm around a woman I recognised as his mum, a witty woman called Janet- and discussing something earnestly with a bald, kind looking man I assumed to be his dad; Oscar was with a pretty, olive-skinned woman I knew to be his older sister, a Healer at St. Mungo’s; Jasmine Azalea was with her younger twin brothers, hugging a woman in a hijab I assumed, from pictures she had shown me, to be her mother, her dad standing behind her and shaking hands with Ophelia Nott’s mother.

I had a sudden urge of affection for everybody on the platform. Wasn’t it incredible, I thought, how Ophelia Nott’s mother, married to the son of a proud Death Eater, was beaming as she shook hands with a Muggleborn? Wasn’t it breath-taking, being surrounded by so many smiling people, ecstatic to be reunited with their loved ones?

My eyes travelled over to the Potter family, standing further away. Ginny Potter, a beautiful woman whose iconic dark red hair has graced both sporting, political and fashion magazines alike was cupping her equally as beautiful daughter’s face, and I watched Harry Potter- like, the Harry Potter- yelling at James, whilst James stood there with his arms crossed, looking amused. 

“You can’t just charm all of the tiles in the girls toilets to bear your face, James!”

And Freddie’s! Not Alfie’s, though…”

“Yeah, because he’s a sensible young man- you know, going places-”

“I am going plenty of places.”

“The only place you’re going is Azkaban, at this rate.” But Harry Potter grinned at his eldest son as he delivered this line, and ruffled James’ hair. “Neville told me about the Quidditch. I’m so proud of you.”

“We didn’t even win, dad!”

“Doesn’t mean you’re not one of the best Quidditch captains to grace the grounds of Hogwarts, James…”

“Effy, darling,” purred Oscar, engulfing me in a hug. “Me, you and Aspen. Breakfast tomorrow morning, yah?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “Where’s your sister gone?”

“To say hi to Victoire,” he said, dismissing the conversation with a wave of his hand. Vivienne Green, Oscar’s older sister, and Victoire Weasley were best friends at Hogwarts, and I saw the two girls chat eagerly a few feet away from us.

“Where we going for breakfast?”

“This brunch bar in Kensington. Very nice. How exciting…”

To my left, I noticed Aspen hug my mum goodbye and run after her own mum, and my mum raised her eyebrow at me impatiently.

“Hurry up, Effy,” she called. “Tight schedule. Pip pip.”

I rolled my eyes. “See you tomorrow, Oscar.”

“Alright, bye darling!”

I followed my mum out of the Platform and into the regular, Muggle world. The air was cold and refreshing compared to the warm, claustrophobic atmosphere of Platform 9¾, and we walked in a comfortable silence until we reached the car park.

I slid into the passenger seat, and fastened my seat belt as my mum turned on the engine.

“So now I’ve got you cornered,” she said, her hands gripping the wheel, “tell me everything.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” I protested, but she cut me off.

“Elizabeth! Aspen told me about the Potter boy.”

My eyes widened. Aspen Spinelli was going to be throttled tomorrow morning at breakfast. “It’s just a small date-”

“She told me you and Albus broke up!” exclaimed my mum. “But still, Albus Potter! Lovely boy, I had to deliver papers to the Potter house on behalf of your dad this summer and he came to the door, we spoke for a bit. But I didn’t know you were dating again!”

“We’re not,” I said, and then added brightly, “I’m seeing him on Friday night to help him out with his birthday party details.”

“Well, isn’t that nice, darling. But still- you dated a Potter! You dated in general! Romilda will be impressed.”

The drive from Central London to our house in a small town in Kent went on like that. My mum’s lovely, and she has good intentions, but she’s very much in her own little world. A world of fashion, gossip, boys, drama and scandals- I was past the age of idolising her and I was eager to see my dad again. My dad was loud, witty, passionate and driven- he didn’t care for my mum’s excitements, but indulged her at the breakfast table when I grew up, pretending to be interested in her natterings. 

My dad was very much into Quidditch, but was also an intellect, and it would be interesting to hear his stance on the upcoming war- if there was going to be a war, anyway. 

“Oh, that Russia scandal?” said my mum. “Absolutely dreadful, but it’s not Britain’s place to fight. We can’t afford to fight, anyway, darling. America will sort out their Ministry, don’t worry.”

“But still, America needs Britain’s support-”

“You know what? All anyone will talk about at the Christmas Party on Saturday night will be war. They’re like characters out of a pre-World War Two soap opera, Eff. Lee Jordan, Jeremy Egerton, Daniel O’Hara… They just go up to your dad’s study and discuss war! So boring.”

I turned to my mum, who was nodding her head along to some song on the radio. “Love you, mum.”

She turned to me, and smiled sweetly. “Love you too, sweetheart.”

 




Okay, yeah, so my updating is absolutely appalling. Totally inexcusable. I am so, so sorry! Exams and summer in general has just been so hectic, I rushed through this chapter to get it into the queue after the staff holiday so I'm not too sure if it reads well or not? I'd love some constructive criticism if you pick up on anything!

I don't own anything you recognise, including- “If either of you boys says "war" just once again, I'll go in another carriage and slam the door."- which is actually adapted from Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. And the lyrics from the chapter description is, of course, Winter Winds from Mumford & Sons.

All the reviews and the favourites make my day. It's totally encouraged my to go into writing as opposed to public relations and the media safter school, so thank you all so much! You guys honestly mean the world to me, even if I do show it through slow updating and hideous rates of replying to reviews. I love you all. xx


 


Chapter 10: some aloe vera?
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“All you talk about is war, Andy,” smiled my mother and the dinner table, that night, rolling her eyes at my father.

I actually fought in the Battle of Hogwarts,” smirked Romilda, twisting her spaghetti around her fork. Romilda had long, black hair and big, dark brown eyes, coated feverously in mascara. Her eyebrows were thin and her skin was waxing, but she still maintained that pretty look she had in all the pictures of her and my mum at school.

As far as aunts went, Romilda wasn't the worst. She was an absolute nut, and never remembered birthdays, but that only meant I got an assortment of random presents throughout the year.

“And you tried to give Harry Potter a love potion,” added my brother, Jack.

“Jack!” hissed my mum, as my dad and I laughed. Romilda’s boyfriend, a handsome, olive-skinned man who didn’t look a day over 25, grinned, but looked slightly confused.

“No, no,” said Romilda, waving. “We were all a bit crazy when we were younger.”

“You more so than anyone,” said my dad, flicking his wand lazily to refill his glass of wine.

I think it’s admirable how you fought in the war,” I said, earning a pleasant beam from Romilda. The dress my mum picked out for me for the upcoming Daily Prophet Christmas Ball was unsurprisingly disgusting, and Romilda had told me she’d talk to my mum about finding a new one.

“Why thank you, darling,” she said.

“Where were you during the war, dad?” my brother asked. Jack Wilderson was twenty years old, and a reserve Chaser for the Appleby Arrows. When he was at Hogwarts, he played on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and was still idolised by schoolgirls, two years on. 

My dad shrugged. “I’m a Muggleborn, you know that Jack. I was lucky enough to be able to move in with an uncle in Massachusetts for a short period.”

“Italy doesn’t have wars,” added in Romilda’s new boyfriend. He was called Angelo, and spoke with a heavy Italian accent. “We just have dictators.”

My dad snorted whilst Romilda and my mum burst into laughter. “Oh Ange,” said Romilda, nuzzling his nose. “You’re so funny.”

Across the table, Jack and I exchanged glances.

“If war breaks out, will you enlist?” I asked Jack.

“Of course,” he said immediately.

“You’ll probably be drafted, anyway,” said my dad, sprinkling salt over his plate.

“Politics isn’t a suitable discussion for the table,” said my mum, brusquely. “It’s Effy’s first night back home, after all!”

“Yeah, let’s discuss Jack’s new girlfriend,” I said, grinning, as he threw a bit of meat at me.

“Jack!” cried my mum.

“Sorry,” he said, smirking at me.

“What girlfriend?” said Romilda, leaning into the table. “I thought you were dating a Muggle?”

“We broke up last month,” said Jack, lazily. “I’m seeing somebody else- and we’re not dating, it’s not exclusive, mum.”

“You broke up?” said my mum, surprised. “I had no idea- who’s this girl, Jack?”

“Darcy O’Connell,” I said, and across the table, Jack rolled his eyes.

Darcy O’Connell?” asked my mum, and Romilda looked midly impressed. “Have I heard of her before?”

“Yep," said Jack, grinning proudly. "She's a model."

“Well he is a Quidditch player,” said my dad. “That is the cliché.”

“Yeah, he’s a sub,” I muttered, and Jack threw another piece of meat at me.

“JACK WILDERSON, STOP THAT THIS INSTANT-”

“Wasn’t she in Ravenclaw?” I asked, thinking back to the pretty blonde girl with long, willow legs and big lips.

Jack nodded. “I asked her if she knew you, and she didn't.”

“Bring her round!” cried my mum.

No!” said Jack, and this time it was my turn to smirk at him, his outraged face. “We’re not really dating, mum! We’re just seeing each other. It’s different.”

“It wasn’t when I was a teenager,” my mum huffed.

“Mum, when you were a teenager it wasn’t dating, it was courting,” I said, and Jack and my dad burst out laughing. My mum pulled an annoyed face but then giggled, and as Romilda changed the subject to the Daily Prophet ball my dad winked at me from the head of the table, his bright blue eyes twinkling.

 

“You’re going away?” cried Oscar, outraged. “Wherever too?”

“Sweden,” said Aspen, sipping on her hot chocolate with a smug air.

“How long?” I asked, twirling my spoon in my lukewarm coffee. We were sitting in a café in West London, near Oscar’s house for breakfast, the first morning back, and already Oscar was complaining about something. He was looking very disgruntled at hearing of Aspen’s family’s spontaneous decision to go to Sweden, his perfectly trimmed eyebrows furrowed and his lips pursed.

“A week,” she said, beaming. Her golden blonde hair was straight, with perfect curls at the bottom, and her face was devoid of any make up, apart from mascara and a dab of concealer near her chin. She was wearing a baggy, crean cashmere sweater over a pair of light denim jeans, nothing fancy, and yet the two waiters behind the till were definitely ogling her, in all her quarter Veela beauty.

“And I assume you’re skiing?”

“Why, of course, Effy,” said Oscar. “It’s Sweden, what else is there to do?”

Aspen snorted, and I started counting names off my fingers. “So that’s you off to Sweden, Jasmine off to Morocco, Ophelia in Edinburgh, and Mikey, Al and Liam in Devon-”

“What are they doing in Devon?” asked Aspen, surprised.

 “Camping,” said Oscar, exchanging disgusted looks with Aspen.

“Al said they invited you, Oscar,” I said, puzzled by their expressions.

“Yes, well, I wasn’t really paying attention, babe, until Liam mentioned the term sleeping bag and to be honest, it all went downhill from there on,” said Oscar, shaking his head.

“Why?” asked Aspen, interested.

“Oscar doesn’t keep plastic bags, let alone a sleeping bag,” I said, referring to Oscar’s loathing for anything he considers slightly middle class.

“I once knew a girl who had a sleeping bag,” said Oscar. “We’re not friends anymore. I wasn’t going to buy a sleeping bag for that Muggle Studies trip to Paris last year, and I’m certainly not purchasing one for this tacky camping trip with those losers.”

"They're you're friends," I said.

"So?"

“Scorpius has a theory that Mikey and Liam are gay together,” Aspen contributed to the conversation.

“Isn’t Scorpius in France?” I asked Aspen.

“Oh yes,” she said. “And he said that Rose bloody Weasley is there, too!”

“She’s such a weirdo,” said Oscar happily. “Her and Parker Wills. They’re like this awkward throwback to well written and badly acted teen movies from the 1990s. It’s a no from me.”

“Ophelia said that she saw Rose in the Portkey office and she dyed her hair black,” I said, and Oscar looked delighted at the gossip.

“Rose is such a tacky name,” said Aspen. “Let’s not mention it.”

“Do we hate her?” asked Oscar excitedly.

“Aspen and I overheard her bitching about Aspen in the toilets the other day,” I said, and Aspen flicked her hair over her shoulder.

“We definitely hate Rose Weasley,” said Aspen.

Fabulous. And please don’t decide halfway through that you actually want to try and tolerate her, darlings, once I’m set, I’m set. Like tennis. Bitching is my tennis. You know?”

“Princess Bitch,” I goaded, and Oscar nodded.

“That’s King Bitch to you, you slut. Speaking of slut, isn’t your date with James Potter tonight?”

Before I could open my mouth to respond, Aspen cut in bubbly. “Oh yes! What are you going to wear, Effy?”

“What I’m wearing now,” I said, and Oscar shooked his head vehemently.

“Are you a peasant? You’re going on a date, not some juvenile Hogsmeade weekend. No, seriously what are you going to wear?”

“Where’s he taking you?” asked Aspen.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, where are you meeting?”

“I don’t know.”

“Emily Davidson did not get run over by a horse for you to not know the details of tonight’s date!” cried Oscar passionately, slapping the table. “Girl power, baby, GIRL power! You’ll wear your hair down and tumbling, but not curly- Aspen, don’t you think there’s such a difference between tumbling and curly?”

Definitely,” said Aspen, nodding.

“Tumble, Effy, tumble. Like Tumblr, but not Tumblr. Tumble.”

“Red lipstick, minimal eyeliner,” said Aspen, scribbling it all down on a napkin.

“Yes, darling.”

“Camel or khaki?” asked Aspen.

“I’m actually feeling navy!”

 “I was just thinking of going in an onesie,” I said in a bored tone, and Oscar choked on his sparkling water.

“If you’re not joking, Elizabeth Wilderson, you can walk right out that door.”

“Of course, you idiot.”

“Good. Don’t ever scare me like that again. An onesie! My god. That trend died in 2012 and it’s not going to do a Jesus and come back alive after a bit, oh no.

Aspen nodded in agreement. “Wear your new red lipstick.”

“Make that roasted plum,” said Oscar, leaning over Aspen and scribbling over her neat handwriting.

“You mean purple?”

“No darling, roasted plum. Lovely shade, would bring out your cheekbones,” said Oscar, happily. “Anyway, I must rush, Vivienne’s bringing her newest boyfriend round for lunch. He’s probably Asian, they all are. Or Jewish. She only dates the Oriental and the Jewish.”

“Oscar, you can’t say Oriental,” I said, as Aspen laughed. “It’s politically incorrect.”

“So are these disastrous physical education lessons next term, darling. Alright, kisses, love you both,” he said, standing up and delicately putting on his designer woollen coat, kissing the two of us on the cheek. “Tah rah for now.”

He whipped out a Muggle note from his wallet and placed it on the table, and left pretty sharpish as we watched him run outside and hail a taxi.

“At least he didn’t try to call down his yacht this time,” I remarked.

"One day he'll wake up a socialist," she replied. "And I cannot wait for that day."

Aspen laughed, and we spent the next hour lazily chatting, in the way that you can only do with close girlfriends, you know? We talked about Scorpius, James, what boys where overrated in our year and which boys were underrated; we discussed predictions for Al’s party next weekend, and argued over what we were to get Oscar for a Christmas present. She told me that she had a dream about having sex with somebody who wasn’t Scorpius and I assured her it wasn’t cheating, and she told me that she doubted James would try and go further on the date tonight.

“And if so, who cares?” she said.

“I’ve only been further with Mikey, and that turned out fucking fantastic.” It was in the Ravenclaw changing rooms during fourth year, and Danny Alton walked in on us.

Aspen laughed. “Owl me as soon as you get home,” she told me, before joining into the chorus of the cheesy Christmas song blasting from the radio.

“OH I WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS, EVERY DAAAAAY-”

“Oh my God, shut up.”

“You know what, Effy? Why don’t you shut up? Like in a box. Shut yourself into a box. Yeah.”

I nodded at Aspen, who was looking very pleased with herself. “Good one.”

“Thanks, it’s been brewing in my head for over a month now. Might officially debut it at Al’s. Should we go?”

We had been sitting inside the café for over two hours, and it had steadily gotten busier. Aspen and I, after Oscar’s departure, had drank ourselves through six cups of cappuccinos and hot chocolates, and I scooped up the last crumbs of a muffin as Aspen hailed a waiter over for the bill.

“Thank you,” Aspen said gracefully, as the gangly, blonde waiter put down our cheque. “Should we half it?”

“Yeah,” I said, digging around in my wallet for the right change. We had a workshop on how to cope in the Muggle world in our second year, and Aspen never quite got to grips with Muggle money. “Aspen, just put down a tenner.”

“A what?

The waiter looked slightly bemused. “Oh, Aspen,” I chuckled. “Classic foreigner, ha ha ha.”

“I’m not a foreigner, I’m from Norfolk- aha! Found a tenner.”

“That’s a five pound note.”

“Isn’t it the same thing?”

I rolled my eyes at her, and snatched her purse from her willow fingers. I fumbled around for the correct change, and then gave it to the waiter.

“Thank you!” I said, rising and grabbing Aspen by the elbow, thrusting us outside of the shop and into the bustling cold outside. It was already getting dark, even though it was only a few minutes past three, and thick white snowflakes lazily floated down. The cold air make my cheeks tingle, but the busy crowd of people walking past us, left and right, kept my limbs fairly warm.

To our left, a band was playing a Christmas song, slow and melodic, the type that my parents dance to in the late evenings of the holiday season, whenever it comes on the radio. Muggle stores flashed bright with sales and slogans, and my ears were saturated in laughter and chatter floating in from all around me.

“I love Christmas,” said Aspen dreamily, pulling her cream coloured coat over her arms. I was dressed in dark blue skinny jeans, a grey knitted sweater and burgundy trainers, and I followed Aspen’s lead by slinging my olive green parka over my arms.

“You look like a throwback to the 90’s.”

“Like your dear friend Rose?”

“Shut up. On the train yesterday- when you were off with James,” and she broke her speech to wolf-whistle- “she came to tell Al something, and she was wearing a choker. Can you imagine?”

“Just because you dress like a preppy princess, doesn’t mean everyone else has too.”

And now apparently, she has black hair. I can’t work her out- she’s not a goth, like Julianna and Ella in Slytherin, but all she wears is black and tartan. And she’s sarcastic!”

“Oh no, sarcasm…”

“Maybe you, Rose and Parker all belong to some sarcasm convention,” shot Aspen.

“Oooo, hurtful.”

She laughed and elbowed me, as we walked through the busy streets of Chelsea.

But then it turned four, the hour Aspen’s mum told her to be home, and the time I told my dad I’d be back. Aspen had said she’d apparate me home, and as we stood there in the toilets of some Muggle clothes shop, I had never been more scared in my life.

“Are you sure you can apparate?” I said.

“Yes! I’m really good at it, actually!”

“I’m terrified of splinching myself-”

“Shut up, have faith, you bitch. I’m amazing at this.”

I held onto her arm and squeezed my eyes shut, and suddenly it felt like I was being squeezed through a tube, a really narrow tube, that compressed my bones into bones and if that moment had gone on any longer, I could have sworn I would have thrown up-

“See!” said Aspen, triumphantly. I blinked, and we were just outside my house.

“Amazing,” I breathed, checking my body. “I haven’t splinched.”

Thank you,” she said, smugly.

“Are you going to come in?”

“No, I need to be home now. Love you loads,” she said, as we hugged each other. “Remember to owl me as soon as you get back from the date! Or no- floo me! I’ll be in my bedroom alllllllll night-”

“Alright,” I said, grinning, my cheeks red hot from the cold. “See you later.”

“See you,” she smiled, as I twisted my keys through the door’s keyhole and Aspen apparated right next to me.

 

Three hours later I sat in my room, bored and verging on pissed off. I had washed my hair, and let it tumble, as Oscar had put it, into loose waves that cascaded down my shoulders and curling just above my ribcage. In the yellow light of the lamp by my desk, my hair looked even more boring than usual, the same dark shade of brown it’s been for my sixteen years of existence.

I was wearing dark blue skinny jeans and a dark purple knitted sweater that sat nicely on my hips and I kind of liked how if I raised my arms, the sweater would rise slightly and you could kind of see a layer of skin.

I drummed my fingers on my desk and looked out of the window, and then back at the clock. It was three minutes to seven, and James had said seven. He didn’t say where, but he said seven and oh my God, was I being stood up? Embarrassment and mild anger ran through my body, and I picked up a pen to doodle an axe being buried into a doodled James’ left ear.

“Honey, dad and I are going out now.” I whipped my head around and faced my mum, who was standing by the door. “You’re dressed nice- where are you headed, then?”

“I’m meeting Aspen in a minute,” I lied. “For Al’s birthday dinner.”

“Have fun, darling. Jack’s out too- we should be back by ten, and if you’re not back by eleven I’ll expect an owl.”

“Alright mum.”

“See you later!” she beamed at me and closed the door, and a minute later I heard the front door slam shut. I glanced at my clock again, and it was a minute past seven. I continued with my drawing of James and the axe, and I began to feel quite impressed with myself. I hummed along to whatever song was on the radio, as I added a caption underneath the doodle. Big fat prick face. Then I finished it off with drawing three piles of poo up his arms, and I smirked at the drawing with immense satisfaction.

Suddenly, there was a sharp tapping by my window. I glanced at it, and all I saw was a moonlit sky, which is always nice to see in winter, no sarcasm. I returned back to my drawing.

Then the tapping happened again, and after the fifth tap I reluctantly rose from my desk and looked outside my window. It wasn’t until I looked onto the grounds of my front garden that I did a double take.

“What are you doing?” I called down to James.

“Getting your attention,” he called back up. He was leaning against the fence of my front porch, his hands in his pockets and his classic, cocky grin plastered on his face.

“Do you want me to come down?”

“No, I think I’ll come up.”

“What do you mean-”

Accio Sapling 360!”

“Oh no-” I began, but it was too late; James had summoned his broomstick, which came flying out of nowhere, and he had flown up to my window, his face right by mine. I could see every single detail of him; his twinkling brown eyes, every hair of his thick eyebrows, the way the moonlight hit his long, slightly crocked nose, and the way the moonlight curved under his sharp cheekbones, his set jawline, that always slightly, kind of took my breath away.

“You going to invite me in then, Wilderson?” he said, and only then I noticed his red his cheeks were from the cold.

“I’d rather not,” I said.

“Charming. Why?”

“Well, you know. My bedroom. Haven’t really decorated it since I was ten years old. Bit embarrassing, really. Still got up all my Barbie and Ken posters.”

“I can see your room right now, Elizabeth, and I don’t see anything apart from a collage of you and your friends. Am I on the collage?”

“No.”

“Good, you wouldn't be on mine. Come on, then, let me in.”

I scowled at him, and withdrew from the window. I watched him slide off his broomstick, and smoothly walk into my bedroom, tucking his mahogany broomstick under his arm. He ruffled the back of his hair with his other hand, and smirked at me.

“Want me to put the kettle on, then? Rustle up some biscuits? Bring out the guest slippers?”

“You have guest slippers? Yeah, go on then.”

I watched him as he thrust his hands into the pockets of his jeans, his broomstick still under the crook of his arm, as he walked around my bedroom. And I watched him as he watched the collage of moving photos I had up over my desk, his cheeks still pink.

I joined him by the collage, and watched him gently thumb under the photos I had been stacking on top of each other since first year. Most pictures were of Aspen, Oscar and me; we only really got into capturing memories in fourth year. One of my favourite photos of fourth year is of Mikey and me on a boat by Mikey’s house in Cornwall, on the creek he lived by. It was a glorious summer’s day, and Oscar, Liam, Aspen and I had spent the day there. Mikey and I were still dating, and he had his arm lazily wrapped around my shoulder, as we laughed at each other.

“That’s a nice one, Effy. Of you and Lancaster.”

“He’s called Mikey.”

James turned to me, and then turned back to the photos. I saw him smile slightly at a photo of Albus and I over breakfast, angrily shouting at Scorpius to put my camera away, and I saw him grin at a photo of my brother Jack and me.

“Oh yeah, I forgot your brother’s Jack Wilderson. He was my Captain until my fourth year.”

I smiled, and then I sighed as he raised his eyebrow at a picture of Mikey kissing my cheek with Liam next to him, rolling his eyes. It was taken this September, on the Hogsmeade trip before the Halloween one.

“Let’s go,” I said.

He turned to me and grinned, before he glanced at my desk.

Noooo,” I drawled, as he picked up the drawing of him. He turned back to me and his grin grew bigger, as he stuck the doodle right in the centre of my pictures.

“Now I’m on your board,” he said, standing back and crossing his arms with satisfaction. “Yeah, let’s go.”

“Where are we going?”

“I haven’t decided yet. Is there anywhere you want to go?”

“Not especially.”

“Get on then,” he said, motioning to his broomstick. I rolled my eyes, and mounted his broomstick behind him, pushing my body behind his and leaning my head over his shoulder. I squeezed my eyes shut as he flew out of my window, and then I made him go back again to close the window.

“Can we go now?” he said impatiently.

“Where are we going?”

“I said, I don’t know. You’re looking absolutely beautiful, Wilderson, by the way.”

“Oh, thank you!”

He turned around and grinned at me. It was absolutely freezing, and I held onto him tighter than before as we rose higher and higher into the sky. It was totally cloudless, and the full moon hung to my left, turning James’ skin into ivory magnificence. His jaw, his cheekbones, his nose, his forehead… I kissed the skin where his jaw and his neck meets without even thinking, and he groaned quietly.

“Effy,” he murmured.

“Keep your eyes open,” I said, imitating Danny Alton at Quidditch practise. “Pay attention, Potter.”

“God, you’re annoying.”

“Thanks.”

With the moon being the only thing I could see apart from James right ahead of me, I could have sworn that in that minute, I had never felt so elated. Excitement and love pulsed through my body like wicked firecrackers, and I laughed into the strong winds we were flying against. My hair, so perfectly done, was flying wildly behind me, and I clutched onto James tighter than before.

We flew in perfect silence until he murmured something.

“What?”

“Let’s go to Donny’s,” he said louder.

“Alright,” I said, not really knowing who Donny was but knowing that I was with James and I had never been happier in my life.

We eventually touched back down, and my little utopia was smouldered. I hopped off his broomstick, my legs feeling slightly numb, and looked around. We were in some kind of courtyard, some form of garden- I turned around and saw we were somewhere urban, and right by what looked like a bustling restaurant, loud with the sounds of chatter and laughter and jazz music.

“Welcome to Donny’s,” said James, who had returned from tucking his broomstick somewhere. He hoisted up his leather jacket, and I followed him inside a set of doors and into the restaurant ahead of us.

“Where are we?”

“Just off Notting Hill, London. Freddie, Alfie and I come here all the time, but Freddie’s ill and Alfie’s busy. Just you and me,” he said, grinning. “Hi- table for two, tah.”

I looked around me, at the Muggle joint. It was dimmed lighting, and a loud jazz band was playing, and I watched a few people dance to it. Waiters bustled around, pouring wine and holding plates of hot food, whilst customers, sat in pretty chairs, talked loudly and freely, like all good restaurants enable. It was a pretty place- nothing too fancy, nothing too posh, nothing too special. It was perfect.

“This way,” said a dark-haired waiter, and I followed him and James up an elegant flight of stairs and by a window table, overlooking a canal of some sort. Upstairs was much quieter than downstairs, I had noticed, and yet the jazz music still floated up the stairs. The moonlight hit the lazy ripples beautifully, and I turned to James, who was sitting down opposite me.

“Is this alright?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, almost breathlessly.

He smiled. He didn’t grin, or smirk- he just smiled, and he had never looked so handsome. “Good.”

“Here are menus,” said the waiter, placing one in front of James and one in front of me. “Any drinks, mate?”

“I’ll have a Coke.”

“Not your usual, James?”

“Nah, mate.” I raised my eyes to him, and he shrugged. “I’m a regular.”

“And for you?”

“A lemonade, please,” I said, after quickly scanning the menu. I waited for the waiter to walk away, before turning to James. “A regular?

He smirked. “Freddie, Alfie and I can’t go anywhere in Diagon Alley. We used to, but some Witch Weekly reporter would take a picture to insert on some back page, or some gang of girls would come over, you know.”

“Yeah, urgh, happens to me all the time. Quite the nuisance.”

“Well, I live near here, and the staff are all really nice. We’ve been coming here for the past year or two. It’s a bit of a trek for Freddie, they live in South London, but after he learned to apparate it was all okay.”

“What about Alfie?”

“Alfie’s dad lives a half hour’s walk from me. His mum, on the other hand, lives all the way in Liverpool.”

“So does Danny Alton,” I said, without thinking. “Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot you don’t like him. Why?”

James shrugged. “It’s not that I don’t like him, it’s just that he’s my toughest competition. Not only regarding Quidditch, but in school. He’s never liked being challenged for top spot in school subjects by a Gryffindor.”

“And do you get the top spots?”

“Well,” he said, leaning in. “I don’t like to brag.

“Shut up. All you do is brag.”

“Now come on, Wilderson, we all know that’s not true,” said James, his eyes glinting.

“The first thing you said to me was that you’re the best at Quidditch in the whole school.”

“Really? When was that?”

“Third year- when I got the place of Ravenclaw seeker.”

“I thought the first thing I said to you was call you a pretty princess, and make some remark about Alton having sex with you in a broom cupboard,” he said.

“I remember that! I was fuming about it to Oscar and Aspen,” I said, laughing.

He leaned back, and smiled slightly. “Yeah, I actually broke up with Dahlia over it. I was fuming, too, I had never been cheeked by a girl who I wasn’t related to before.”

“So why did you break up with Dahlia?”

He smiled at me, and leaned back in, crossing his arms. “I told her about it, and I wanted her to say, yeah James, that sixth year was right, you can be a massive prick. Or whatever you wrote about me in that doodle. But instead she was all, awh baby, do you want me to speak to that awful slutty bitch Ravenclaw? And I didn’t like that.”

“Awh, baby,” I cooed.

“Fuck off,” he grinned, as the waiter arrived again, with our drinks.

“Cheers, Dylan.”

“Want me to come back later for food?”

“Yeah, give us a minute, tah.”

I propped my chin on my hand, my elbow stood firmly on my napkin, and smiled up at the waiter. “Thank you.”

“Polite bird you got here,” said Dylan to James.

James smirked. “Cheeky gob.”

“Nah, you know what I’m like,” said Dylan, crossing his arms and turning to me. “You know the first time James and his lot came here, they drank almost our whole off-license and didn’t even throw up in the toilets?”

“Yeah, they do that on a weekly basis at school,” I said.

“Oh, do you go to that boarding school in Scotland too?” asked Dylan, looking interested. “Interesting. Anyway, I need to go now, Donny’s giving me a dirty look.” I half waved at Dylan’s back, and then turned to James.

“What?” said James, taking a sip of his drink and shrugging.

I laughed, and leaned in. “You have something on your chin.”

He leaned in too, propping his chin on his hand and looking into my eyes, smiling slightly. “You look good too.”

I smiled, and the band below us played a softer song, with a huskier voice and melodic, folky acoustics. “I’m flattered,” I said, and I could see every single fleck of gold in his brown eyes, glinting copper and amber in the dimmed candle light.

“I was being sarcastic, Wilderson,” he said, and he leaned in even closer, so our noses were almost touching.

“Ooooo, burn.”

“You want to borrow some aloe vera?”

“You wish,” I breathed, as he tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear.  James’ face was a little above mine, as he was taller, and I craned my neck into his hand, as he loosely wove his fingers around strands of my hair. I could smell him, that indescribable scent of tobacco and summer and something else that just made me grin like a giddy five year old.

“Yo! James, boy!”

I whipped my head around, and saw Freddie Weasley, Alfie Ronson, Eve Chang and Annie Delta walk up the stairs, Freddie dragging a table over to ours’.

Wagwan, mate! Didn’t know you’d be in Donny’s!” said Freddie, brightly, taking a big gulp of James’ drink. “I tried ringing by your door but Harry said you were out.”

“I tried to stop him,” Alfie informed James quietly, and James raised his eyebrow at him. Alfie shrugged, and Freddie beamed to me from opposite James.

“Wotcher, Wilderson?”

“Is that diet?” asked Annie Delta, sitting next to Freddie and leaning across Alfie to dip her finger into my drink. “No, it isn’t. Can I still please have some?”

“Just call a waiter, Annie,” said Eve Chang, waving at Dylan, the waiter who served him earlier. “He’s hot, isn’t he?”

“I’m hotter,” said Freddie, whipping his arm out and tensing.

“Stop showing off!” cried Annie, hitting him.

“Have you ordered?” asked Freddie, snatching James’ menu. “I think I’ll get a burger. What about you, Alf?”

“Same,” said Alfie, and Annie leaned over the table to take the menu from Freddie’s fingers.

“I think I’ll order a salad,” said Annie, running her slim fingers over the side of the menu, pursing her lips as she thought.

“Nah, I think I’ll spaghetti,” said Eve, leaning over Annie’s shoulder to read the menu.

“Going back to your roots then, Chang?” teased Freddie.

“I’m Chinese, not Italian, you dipshit,” said Eve.

“Still foreign,” Freddie shrugged.

Next to me, Eve nudged me and winked. “So what’s life without the pressure of NEWT revision, then?”

I smiled at her. “Fabulous.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot you’re sixth year,” said Alfie, looking at me and smiling. “What NEWTs are you taking?”

“Defence Against, Transfiguration-”

“Here’s the drinks!”

“Who ordered the two beers?”

“Me.”

Classic Freddie.”

“I’m not even surprised by now.”

“Are you sure this Coke is diet?”

“Shut up, Annie.”

“Yeah Freddie, maybe it’s Chinese.

“They’re both Communist countries!”

No, mate…”

“Fuck off, Alfie.”

Something kicked against my foot, and I turned to James, who rolled his eyes at me. Let’s go, he mouthed, and I nodded in agreement. He stood up and hoisted his leather jacket up, and I followed him, standing up and taking one final sip of my drink.

Freddie was engaged in a discussion with Alfie and Eve, and Annie was fiercely scanning the menu. I bumped into her as I walked past her chair, and she looked up.

“Where you heading, Effy?”

“Going to the toilets,” I said.

“Okay,” she chirped, and looked to Freddie as he called her name. James, hidden in the shadows, cocked his head towards the stairs, and I hurriedly followed him down the stairs and right out of the restaurant, into the cold winter’s night.

The street was pretty busy, and thick snowflakes fell down on us in a tirade, making my hair stick to my scalp and dripping off as little water droplets from James’ eyelashes. He grabbed me by the crook of my elbow and we ran through the streets, muttering half-hearted apologies to people we had bumped into and I burst into laughter when he apologised to a lamppost. We ran until the end of the road, until we came to a small, park-like area, and then I followed him as he jumped over the locked fence, swinging his legs over with ease and helping me down, even though I didn’t need it.

I looked up to him and he laughed, and I laughed too, until he slung his left arm around my shoulders and kissed me.

He wove his fingers in my hair and pulled my head gently up to meet his, and then dropped a hand to hold my back, push me further into his body. I lay my cold hand on the warm side of his neck, my other hand upon his chest, but then when it was obvious that my hand was only preventing our bodies being as close as possible I laid it over his shoulder, and he clutched me even tighter.

I would later learn that that night, temperatures had plummeted to below five degrees, making it one of the coldest evenings of the year. But I didn’t feel any of the icy weather as I stood there wrapped up in James, my hair soaked in the torrent of snow, water sliding off our faces and hands and fingers.

“Elizabeth,” he murmured into the crook of my neck, and started kissing me there.

“James,” I murmured back, clutching his hair. He then slowed down, and leaned his forehead against mine, our heavy breaths in sync with each other.

“Sorry about dinner,” he said hoarsely.

“I’m over it,” I replied.

We swung over the park gates again, and down the high street, stopping by a kebab shop. James bought an open wrap of chips, and he saturated it in salt and vinegar and ketchup, sheepishly grinning at me as we walked out of the place.

“Too much ketchup?”

I took a piping hot chip, and smeared the ketchup down the side of my face. “Ah, no, I’m bleeding.”

He snorted, and threw me a wooden fork, as we walked through the street. The sky was a dark orangey colour, tinted by the streetlights, and shops were closing whilst restaurants, pubs and cafes were thriving. Christmas music echoed through the street, as did the merry chatter from the people around us.

“Are you going to the Prophet Ball tomorrow night?” asked James, as he chewed on a chip.

“Yeah, are you?”

“Yeah,” he groaned, ruffling the back of his hair. “We go every year.”

“So do we!”

“I’ve never seen you around before,” he said, shrugging.

 “We’d sit on different tables. I’d be in the Sports department, you wouldn’t.”

He snorted. “Yeah, I have the absolute delight of sitting with my dad and the rest of the war veterans- I bet the topic of discussion will be the upcoming war.”

“So do you think there will be a war?”

He looked at me, and nodded. “Susan Bones is against it, but the rest of the politicians are bored. That’s what my dad says, anyway. Wizarding Britain’s been peaceful for too long.”

“Yeah, God, how annoying is peace? It’s the worst,” I said, bitterly. “Fuck democracy.”

“You’re saying fuck democracy, but that’s the actual reason why we’d be going in in the first place,” James said smartly, and I knew he was right.

“I don’t see why we can’t just let America fight on humanitarian grounds. Their Auror army is ten times bigger than ours! And their military budget.”

“Because it’s not the honourable thing to do,” said James. “Imagine all the lives that would have been saved if another country had intervened when Britain was going through the past two wars.”

He didn’t say it, but the words like my grandparents lingered in the air. “And imagine all the lives that we’d sacrifice in order to fight.”

“Lives that would have died in bravery and chivalry-”

“Not if they’re drafting! Which they will be!”

“It is better to die fighting for others than fighting for yourself,” snapped James.

“Who said that?

“Godric Gryffindor-”

“I knew it! And I highly disagree!”

James turned on me, and he looked livid. “Alright, then,” he said coldly.

“Why should we draft thousands of young men into a war that doesn’t concern this country? America is more than capable of fighting by itself! It’s just bloodthirsty boys like you who want a chance to prove yourself-”

“You know what?” said James, holding up the palm of his left hand. “It’s fine. We don’t have to talk about politics. Let’s talk about something else instead.”
I looked up at him, and smiled. His nose was all red from the cold, and yet his cheeks were paler than ever, making his already prominent cheekbones look even hollower than usual. His hair was sticking up from the dampness in the air, and only then did I notice gentle snow was falling.

“It’s snowing,” I said, startled.

James raised his eyebrow and looked around him. “You’re right,” he said, after a moment. “London’s shit with snow, though. It just turns out to be some grey mushy shit on the pavement, none of the thick white stuff up in Hogwarts, a massive disappointment all round.”

“You sound like Professor Flitwick describing my Charms coursework,” I said, and he barked with laughter.

We kept on walking, through the streets of Soho and then through the long, majestic Regents Street, the whole road filled lit by Christmas decorations and restaurant lights. Jazz music emitted from a swing band playing nearby, and we passed it just as the saxophone embarked on a solo.

“I wish I could play an instrument,” I commented, looking at the player.

“There are so many things I wish I could do,” replied James, pulling me in tighter. His arm was around my shoulders, and my head fit in perfectly into the crook of his neck.

“Like what?”

“Play chess,” he commented off-handedly.

“Yeah, you’re missing out on so much,” I drawled, and he snorted. 

“I can’t draw, either.”

“Mm. At least you can conjure a patronus,” I said, in regards to what we would be studying next term in Defence Against.

“What do you think your patronus will be?” asked James. “Freddie’s is a donkey, how embarrassing.”

“Oh my God,” I moaned. “I bet you mine’s going to be something awful. I’ll probably end up as a hedgehog or something.”

“Hedgehogs aren’t that bad, a girl in my year’s a chicken.”

“What’s yours?”

“I’m so not saying,” he said, looking down and me, a grin slowly appearing. “You won’t let me hear the end of it.”

“Is it a worm, or something?”

“An eagle.”

I burst out laughing, and I couldn’t stop, not when he demanded it, not when he pleaded, but only when his lips came crashing down onto mine, and we stood there, in the middle of the street, under the falling snow, kissing like it was the first time.

 

James was the sort of person who had an opinion on everything, and when there was something he didn’t know about, he would bluff his way through discussing it, just for the sake of discussion. It was practically impossible to run out of things to talk about- conversation flowed, sometimes at top speed when we were arguing, then sometimes slower, because we weren’t in a rush, we could talk all night.

“I think I might start a feminist society at school,” I said, in regards to the new societies cropping up, headed by sixth and seventh years desperate for something to put on their resumes. Except that I didn’t really care about my CV, I really wanted to have a weekly meeting discussing feminism. It was something that I had been thinking about for a while, and I really did think it would be a good idea.

“That is the worst idea I have ever heard,” said James.

“No, it’s innovative and exciting.”

“No, it’s kind of embarrassing.”

I frowned. “Why?”

“Because firstly, feminism just isn’t a thing anymore-”

“Oh wow, you are so wrong-”

“And secondly, do you want to embarrass yourself like that? I mean, honestly? A feminist society… Oh my god.” He started laughing, and laughed even harder when he saw my face. “Oh come on. Admit you can see why it’s funny.”

“No, it’s not funny. And feminism is still an issue! Just because women can vote and are equal to men in the eyes of the law, does not mean that the two genders are equal in social attitudes- we’re well into the twenty-first century and the Western world is still such a patriarchal society-”

“A war is about to break out in Russia and you’re concerned about social attitudes-”

“Just because you’re a heterosexual, white, middle class male does not mean the rest of us are!” I exclaimed, hotly. A few passerbys stared at me, because, in retrospect, I suppose I was screaming a little.

“Calm the fuck down,” ordered James, using his Quidditch voice. But you know, that just spurred me on even more.

“And don’t tell me it’s an embarrassing thing to do!”

“Well don’t do it!” said James, crabbily. “It’s so embarrassing-”

“Your aunt started up SPEW!” I cried, in regards to the animal welfare society at Hogwarts.

“Animals are different to women,” said James, shrugging it off. “Come on, Effy. A feminist society. It’s ridiculous, surely you must see that-? No? Look, look- Effy! It’s just not a good idea! I’m saying this because look, I really like you and I-”

“Why is advocating equality embarrassing and yet boasting about how many girls you’ve snogged in a night not? Don’t you see what’s wrong with this culture? And you know, if I went around bragging about the sexual conquests of the night the way a guy would, I would be called a slut, not a lad-”

“Did you hear what I just said?” said James, hotly.

“Did you hear what I just said?” I demanded, matching his tone. “You’d so happily fight for the rights of Muggleborns in Russia, and yet when it comes down to the women in your life you wouldn’t even join a society-”

“And anyway,” said James, coolly. “You can’t go around bragging about sexual conquests, because you haven’t exactly done anything yet, have you?”

I didn’t really know what to say to that. All I knew was that it was a bit of a slap to the face, and I think I must have gasped in shock, which, when thinking about it in retrospect, is a bit embarrassing. So I simply turned around and walked off, ignoring him calling my name behind my back and apologising at the top of his voice, walked all the way to Charing Cross, where when approaching The Leaky Cauldron, I floo’ed to Aspen’s.

 

 




The reviews are so so great and I so so love them, I realise this sounds kind of insincere as I type but I mean every word! With teachers putting more and more emphasis on future careers and roles with every week, your review on not only the story but my writing mean so much to me as an aspiring writer. That sounds really cliche, but I suppose I am quite cliche. I'm reading this out loud as I'm typing and my friend's just told me to stop with the cringe, so I'll stop with the cringe.

I don't own Tumblr (David Karp) and I don't own Made in Chelsea (Channel4 Productions) which is kind of what I used to base the Aspen/Oscar/Effy scene on I suppose? I don't own anything you recognise, yeah. Also!! The chapter description is an extract from California English, a song by Vampire Weekend.

I hope this is okay, please keep on reviewing! If you don't to teach me a lesson over my disgraceful updating I'll understand. xoxo



Chapter 11: wild horses
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I stood there, in a dress that Romilda helped me persuade my mum to let me get. It was bright navy, a shade that Romilda said made my eyes pop, which didn't make sense as my eyes were green, but I smiled and thanked her anyway. It was a v-neck that hung from two thin spaghetti straps over my shoulders and went down to mid-thigh, and I felt slightly weird about how my collarbones looked and if it was too short. But with my hair styled in two smal strands tied loosely behind my scalp, the rest of my hair loosely curling to my ribcage, pretty black high-heels and make-up that made my brother ask when I had decided to become pretty, I was happy enough.

My dad was shaking hands with somebody I vaguely recognised- probably a member of his Sports pages team- and my mum was kissing the cheeks of a woman I assumed to be the man’s wife.

“Who’s he?” hissed Jack, awkwardly pulling at his tie.

“I don’t know,” I said back, and he rolled his eyes.

“Jack! Elizabeth!” said my mum, waving us over excitedly. “Come meet Nathaniel and Delilah Lewis- your dad’s colleagues at work…”

“Hello,” I said, kissing Delilah on a very powdered cheek and doing the same to Nathaniel. My brother kissed Delilah, but shook hands with Nathaniel, and Delilah remarked on what a good-looking family we were.

“You’re just seeing mum with make-up,” deadpanned Jack, and my dad laughed whilst my mum tittered.

“Haha Jack, such a comedian… Ooh, yes please,” she said, as a waiter came up to the adults with a tray of champagne flutes.

It was the Prophet’s Christmas Ball, held in a beautiful London hotel reception, the same room in the same hotel that it’s been hosted every year. About a hundred or so people milled around, all beautifully dressed up, making small talk and laughing with each other. I recognised some faces as my dad’s friends, or parents of Hogwarts students- Eve Chang, from across the hall, grinned at me, from where she was standing with her mum and dad.

“Oh, is that Xing Chang?” said my mum, following my gaze. “I was friends with him at Hogwarts. His older sister was the Ravenclaw seeker too, Effy.”

“I know, mum.” She smiled down at me, and patted my arm affectionately.

The room was circular, and wall-length French windows ran throughout, each window separated by a white marble pillar. A grand staircase, where we’d all eventually lead to go eat and dance was on my left, and opposite it were the doors, guarded by six men. It was a beautiful room, and yet I had never felt so uncomfortable.

“Effy,” said my dad.

“Pardon?”

“I was just asking if you knew what you wanted to do after school,” said Delilah, kindly. She was a pretty woman, not a day older than thirty, and her floor-length dress was graceful and yet beautifully understated. 

“I, erm- I want to be a writer.”

“Oh, really! Have you written anything?”

To be honest, I had never expressed any ambition to become a writer in my life, but I rarely did express ambition, so I decided to go along with the writer idea.

“A few poems, short stories… Nothing exciting,” I said, smiling. “So do you work with my dad?”

“Yes, actually, I’m a Quidditch reporter,” she said. “Nathaniel, on the other hand, works at the Ministry.” She smiled at me again, before turning back to my dad and Nathaniel’s conversation. I whipped my head around, and my mum was in a small group of women, and I heard Romilda’s loud laugh emit from their group. Jack had just disappeared, and I was about to walk away before I noticed Josh Wood.

“Effy!” he cried, running over to me and hugging me.

“Josh! Put me down-

“Josh, you’re so embarrassing,” replied his twin sister, Jasmine Wood, a snotty little princess in the year below. 

“At least I’ve found a friend.”

“A girl on your Quidditch team doesn’t count-”

“And look! There’s Lara! This really is a changing room convention!”

I looked in Josh’s direction, and saw Lara Swift chat with Eve Chang, and I just remembered the two of them were cousins. Eve caught my eye again, and beckoned me over.

“Does she mean me or you?” Josh asked.

“Who cares,” yapped Jasmine, boredly.

“Effy!” cried Lara, waving at me.

“Well,” I said, ruffling Josh's hair. “That answers that.

I walked across the room to Eve and Lara, and it only just hit me then how similar the two of them looked. Both were pretty girls with raven-black hair and willow frames, and I also noticed Cho Chang-Swift, a leading Wizarding academic and Lara’s mum, standing in a huddle of people nearby.

“Thank God you’re here,” said Lara. “How many other people from Hogwarts usually come?”

“Were you not here last year?” I asked.

“We rarely go,” said Eve. “We spend Christmas with relatives in China.” Eve looked radiant, in a plain black dress that exposed her back and silver shoes that elongated her long legs.

“Darling, is this Elizabeth?” I looked up, and saw Cho Chang-Swift approach her daughter, smiling. She was very well respected, really cool, having written two Wizarding books on the history of the Hogwarts founders and three Muggle books on Medieval folklore, whilst also graduating Oxford University with a PhD in Medieval History. 

“Yes, mum,” said Lara bubbly.

“I hear you’re the Ravenclaw house Seeker,” said her mum, smiling at me and shaking my hand. “I played Seeker for Ravenclaw, too. Congratulations on your last match- Lara raved about it in her letters home.”

“I did not,” moaned Lara, and Cho grinned.

“She’s also told me about how fantastic the Ravenclaw team are, especially as she’s new this year. When I played, we had this absolutely horrible Captain called Roger Davies- absolute pillock.”

Mum!” cried Lara, and Eve laughed.

“Cool language, Aunt Cho.”

“Thanks darling, I picked it up from your brother. Lovely to meet you, Elizabeth.” She waved at us one last time before walking back to a group of adults, and then Eve turned on me.

“So what’s happening with you and James?” she wanted to know. 

“We had an argument last night,” I said, tossing my hair over my shoulder.

Eve tilted her head. “Was it because of us?”

“No-”

“Because it was all Freddie’s idea,” she gushed. “He doesn’t like the idea of James having a girlfriend. He absolutely detested Dahlia Moss.”

Across the room, I noticed my mum beckon me over as she spoke to some other middle-aged woman I vaguely recognised, and I told Eve and Lara I’d be back, before strolling back over to my mum again.

“Effy, darling, this is Wilhelmina Franklin.” Wilhelmina Franklin was the author of several published books about romance in the two recent wars, and she shook my hand firmly.

“I hear you want to be a writer, Effy?”

“Oh- yeah, I do,” I lied, and my dad swanned over with Lee Jordan, who kissed my mum loudly on both cheeks.

“Lee’s a bit off his head,” my dad explained loudly.

“As are you, mate!”

“The key to writing history, Effy, is getting the zeitgeist right. For this, I underwent several interviews with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger-”

“Speak of the devil,” my dad remarked, and I spun around. In walked the Potter family, barely a step inside the hall and yet smothered in greetings and kisses. Harry Potter himself was discussing something lightly with Ginny Potter, and Lily, the younger sister, pranced around in front of the greeters, accepting gushing compliments and cheek kisses. Al had owled me earlier, boasting of how lucky he was he got to miss it, and so I wasn’t surprised to not see him there.

I was surprised to see James, even though I knew he would be there. He stood further back from his parents and Lily, his hands in his pocket and his suit jacket hanging open, smirking his signature grin and nodding to others.

“James Potter is remarkably good looking,” said Romilda, who seemed to have appeared from nowhere. “Oh, Willy, darling! So lovely to see you again!”

James’ head turned in my direction, and as his gaze caught mine I hurriedly turned away. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a pretty blonde girl stride up to him, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed him lean in to whisper to her.

“Lovely to see you too, darling!”

He placed a hand behind her back and she giggled at him, curling a lock of hair around her finger. I decided I had seen enough, and turned away from them.

 

The ball was fully in swing. A soft jazz band of six members played on a stage, and couples, young and old alike, danced gracefully. I grinned when I noticed Josh Wood and Lara Swift dance together, and I smiled at my parents, gliding amongst the others. 

Lavender and blue fairy lights decorated the old, Renaissance architecture of the hall, and it set an almost magical atmosphere to the room. Gentle laughter, the murmur of conversation and the lilting of the Christmas carol played by the pianos and violins and flutes echoed across the hall.

I was standing by the back of the hall, observing everyone, slipping into the shadows and occasionally moving out of the way of passing waiters.

“Effy.”

I turned around, and knew it was James before I even saw him. I could smell him, I could identify his touch on my waist.

“James,” I replied.

He looked at me, and inclined his head, as if to follow him. I thought for a second, but curiosity won, and I followed him further away from the cluster of the people, and further into the shadows of the room. We right at the back corner of the room, entrapped behind a large board declaring the ball’s seating plan and a marble pillar.

He stroked my arm, rubbing his hands up and down, circling my skin with his thumb and forefinger. He was looking at my feet, but then raised his head to look into my eyes, and I looked into his. His eyes, sparkling in the moonlight beside us, were so intense, and I could feel my body and soul crumble within his grip.

Then he placed his other hand around my waist and kissed me. And as I kissed him back, wrapping my arms around his shoulders as he clutched me to his body, I knew all was forgiven.

If humans were not but bones and flesh, a delicate fusion of cosmical matter, then surely we could trace our livelihoods not to the apes, but to the moon and the stars that shone in the cloudless night beside us. And if we were stars, then James was the brightest, a galaxy, a shooting star, a supernova.

 

 

“I’m not impressed,” I stated, and Mikey looked up at me, rolling his eyes.

“’Course you’re not.”

“What do I tell Aspen?”

“You don’t tell her anything,” said Al, looking up. “Because if Aspen finds out, then Scorpius’s parents definitely will, and then Scorpius will be in so much trouble.”

“You mean you’ll be in so much trouble,” I hissed, and Mikey rolled his eyes.

“I knew we should have asked your sister, Al. Effy is definitely going to tell Aspen. They tell each other everything.”

“No we do not!” I snapped, and Liam signalled from Mikey’s side to keep my voice down. “I am perfectly able to keep secrets,” I muttered.

“Right then,” said Mikey. “So you’ll pretend to be Scorpius’s mum?”

I hesitated, but then Al spoke up. “Please, Effy,” he said. “We didn’t mean for our camping trip to end up like this. We had no idea that international apparition isn’t really a thing- all we wanted to do was to bring Scorpius to our tent.”

“I think it was a rather selfless feat for a pack of non-Gryffindors,” said Mikey. “He hated France, the only people he knew there were his parents and Rose Weasley.”

“And you can imagine how awkward that was,” said Al.

“Awkward is better than lying unconscious at St. Mungo’s for third degree burns and splinching,” I snapped. “You could have just flooed-

“We didn’t know how to make a fire!”

“Are you wizards or not?”

“Yeah, but we’re underage,” moaned Mikey. “Go on, Effy.”

“All we need is Scorpius’s mum to get in touch with St. Mungo’s to give parental permission for Scorpius to undergo minor surgery, and he should be back in France for tomorrow’s breakfast,” said Al.

It was three in the morning, and Mikey had flooed me an hour earlier, asking me to come over, it was an emergency. I had noticed the blue flames of the St. Mungo’s floo network, and instantly panicked, throwing a grey baggy sweatshirt over a pair of cotton gym shorts and a neon blue Glee! top that was definitely too small to wear in public. They had already explained how they had extracted a dark hair from Scorpius’s sweater that after careful sniffing, Al proclaimed to be the smell of Scorpius’s mum- and they had summoned me to drink polyjuice potion and pretend to be her. It would have been hysterical, if it wasn’t three in the morning. 

“And how am I meant to impersonate Scorpius’s mum?” I said. “I’m sitting here in a Muggle kid’s shirt and gym shorts- isn’t she meant to be some old-age socialite?”

“Yes, well, that is an issue,” said Al, thoughtfully, stroking Scorpius’s left temple. I looked over at Scorpius’s handsome face, ugly burn marks circling his jaw and nose. His body was covered up, and Liam had assured me that it was way worse down there. 

“Go back home and change into something Felicity would wear,” said Mikey. Mikey had met my mum on several occasions, and our two mothers had gotten on well enough for Mikey to feel comfortable referring to her as Felicity, rather than Mrs Wilderson like my other friends. 

“Here’s the polyjuice potion,” said Al eagerly, thrusting an old Coke bottle into my hands, a silvery liquid just about covering the bottom of it.

“I can’t believe you’re making me do this,” I muttered.

“Yes, well, we all owe you one,” said Mikey brusquely. “My mum would kill me if she found out about this.” Al and Liam nodded in agreement, as I eyed the fireplace in Scorpius’s private room. The Malfoys were known to be generous donators towards St. Mungo’s, so it was no surprise that he was granted this secluded room, overlooking the gardens.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” I muttered. “I hate all three of you.”

“Cheers, babe,” called Mikey, as I took a handful of floo powder, muttered Elizabeth’s Bedroom, 22 Winton Road, Kent, and stepped into the blue flames.

 

I put on black school tights, a dark grey pencil skirt, a white cashmere sweater that Aspen once lent me and a fur coat my mum inherited from a distant relative I found under the stairs. I put on a pearl necklace I snuck out from my mum’s room, and crept out quietly when my dad started to stir. 

After mixing the polyjuice potion with orange juice and downing it, I looked at myself as Scorpius’s mum. She was a beautiful woman, with handsome arched lips and a delicate bone structure. She looked a lot like Aspen, and I wondered if that had anything to do with her and Scorpius’s relationship.

“Fuck, Effy,” said Mikey, startled. “You look just like her.”

“Well, I did drink polyjuice potion,” I said. “Are you sure this will work?”

“Yeah- all the Healer wanted was a signature and an appearance. We told him that you were not pleased about being disrupted from your holiday,” said Al. But then he frowned. “Astoria wouldn’t wear white.”

“Whatever,” I said. “Urgh, this feels so weird. What if we get caught?”

“We won’t,” said Mikey easily.

I sighed. It was twenty one minutes past three and it all felt so horrifically surreal. “Alright then, Al, walk me to this Healer.”

He stood up, as Mikey and Liam eagerly thanked me, and I walked with Al out of the small room, basked in moonlight from the window, to a bright and yellow-lighted corridor, with similar doors to Scorpius’s one lining the walls. 

“Hey!” said Al, noticing somebody, and I walked with Al towards a dark haired man with his back to us, wearing a Healer uniform.

“Hello,” he said. He had bright teeth and an American accent. “I’m Healer Zachary, can I help you with anything?”

“This is Scorpius Malfoy’s mum,” said Al. “You needed to speak to her about Scorpius-”

“Ah, yes. That was quick timing,” he said, turning to me. “I’m sorry to awaken you, Mrs Malfoy, but as Scorpius Malfoy is underage, I need a quick signature before we undergo any complex spell work or operations to catalyse a quick recovery.”

“Of course,” I said. “When do you think my son will make a full recovery, Healer?”

“It’s just a few burns and some juvenile splinching,” he said easily, as Al and I followed him into an office. He waved his wand, and a quill and a piece of parchment appeared from thin air. I watched the quill scurry across the page, thick lines of writing following it. “Honestly, he should be back to normal within three hours.”

“Brilliant. Thank you ever so much.”

“It’s fine. Here- sign here, here and write your names in block capitals here.” Whilst the Healer’s back was turned, I looked at Al with a panicked expression. What’s her signature? I mouthed frantically, and he was about to open his mouth before the Healer turned around again.

“Right- so here and here?” I asked him.

“Yes, Mrs Malfoy.”

I scribbled Astoria Malfoy in my neatest handwriting, and repeated it, the quill trembling in my fingers. Oh my God, could I go to Azkaban for impersonating somebody’s signature? I definitely could- this was such a bad idea, was it too late to turn back and denounce myself-

“Perfect. Thank you, Mrs Malfoy,” he said.

“I’m so sorry for all of this,” I said. “I’ve told Scorpius countless times about appariting without a license- hopefully this will teach him a lesson!”

“Hmm, yes,” he said. “I’ll summon Scorpius to the theatre in five minutes. He should be finished by six this morning-”

“Is it alright if he floos himself back?” I asked. 

“Ah, yes, of course. We have unlimited floo powder in this ward, Mrs Malfoy. Thanks again.”

“No, thank you.” He held the door open for Al and me, and the three of us walked our separate ways- the Healer towards the ward’s lobby, and Al and myself towards Scorpius’s room.

“Oh my God,” I hissed, as soon as the door closed. “That was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

“Relax, Eff,” said Mikey, lazily.

“I impersonated Astoria Malfoy! I could go to Azkaban for this!”

“No you won’t,” said Liam, easily. “Cool it.”

“Thanks again, Effy,” said Al, hugging me. “I keep on forgetting you’re Effy, you look like Scorpius’s mum.”

“She’s fit,” stated Mikey.

I was about to thank him on behalf of Astoria Malfoy, when Scorpius started murmuring in the bed.

“Scorp?” said Al, rushing towards him. He crouched down so his face was level to Scorpius’s, and he clutched his hand. “Scorp, are you alright?”

Scorpius murmured something, but I didn’t quite catch it. It seemed like Al did, though, and his face paled.

Shit,” said Al.

“What?” cried Mikey.

Scorpius murmured again, only this time I heard.

“Rose,” he mumbled, turning over in his bed.

“Oh my God,” I breathed, rushing over to the other side of Scorpius’s bed, where he was now turned towards. “Not Rose, honey, Aspen. Your girlfriend.”

“Rose,” insisted Scorpius, only this time it was a little bit louder.

“Rose and Scorpius are both staying in ski resorts in France,” said Al, his head on his hands as he massaged his temples. “Fuck, I completely forgot.”

“What happened?” I shrieked.

“Keep your voice down, Astoria,” said Mikey, who was facing Al. “No, but what happened?”

“There’s always been a thing between Rose and Scorpius,” muttered Al. “They were on the verge of doing something before Scorpius bumped into Aspen at Roddy Walcott’s back to school party last year.”

Ruddy Walcott was a Gryffindor in our year, who played as a Beater on their Quidditch team. He was popular due to his good looks, easy humour and fantastic parties, in which Aspen and Scorpius met for the first time.

“I remember you telling me that,” I said, slowly. “At the Fair in October.”

“So do you think they did something?” asked Liam, cracking his knuckles in the annoying way he does when he’s nervous.

“No, Scorpius wouldn’t do that,” said Al. “But being so close with Rose again probably sparked something.”

“But he likes Aspen-”

“You can like two people at once, Effy,” said Mikey.

“Alright, cheers for that, Mr Love Guru.”

“Anyway, she’s totally changed,” said Liam, and I was surprised by this observation as I didn’t think he observed much, really. “When I sat next to her in Muggle Studies in fifth year, she was really funny and cool, you know? Like she’d make jokes and overdo it on homework and if I forgot my essay, she’d have a first draft she would give me. She was cool,” Liam concluded.

“Oh yeah!” cried Mikey. “That makes sense! I remember noticing Rose Weasley leave the Gryffindor girl clique for Parker Wills around the time that Aspen and Scorpius started dating, and she’s been a right moody bitch since then.”

“Mikey,” I warned, remembering that Rose was Al’s closest cousin.

“Nah, she is a moody bitch,” said Al, nodding. We sat there in silence, reflecting on Rose Weasley. The Gryffindor girls had always been a close-knit group, and Rose Weasley was at the forefront of it, alongside with Jasmine Azalea. There were four of them, and they sauntered around with big grins and positive energy, and in fourth year they all became quite pretty. They were nice girls who were always friendly with Aspen and I, despite the house difference, and Rose had been on my table for Transfiguration in fourth year. Being the only girls on a table of four other boys, we bonded over copies of Witch Weekly under the desks, and easy gossip of the two houses.

“But then a few weeks after Aspen started dating Scorpius, she started going around with Parker Wills, and Parker’s always been a bit off,” I said. “Not off, but you know.” Parker was a Muggleborn with a willow frame, black nails she would pick at and a bored voice that dripped in sarcasm and Satan jokes.

Al shrugged. “Yeah, and she stopped hanging out with me at family events. Instead she’d sit in a corner sulking, or trying to piss off Aunt Audrey. But it isn’t all to do with Scorpius, I don’t think,” he continued. “Her parents were on the verge of a divorce that year.”

“Oh wow,” said Mikey, looking genuinely upset. Mikey’s parents were also on the brink of separating in fifth year, and that had really impacted him.

We sat there in silence, before I rose towards the fireplace. “If I get into any trouble for this, I will most definitely blame you three,” I said, sprinkling floo powder into the fireplace. “Owl me how Scorpius is in the morning.”

I left hearing Liam state that technically, it already was morning, and as soon as I arrived back in my bedroom I flung off my skirt, tights, coat and sweater, and fell straight asleep.

 

“Hey Effy!” said Jasmine, on the phone. “Babe, I missed you! How’s things?”

“Good, you?”

“Fantastic- there are the hottest boys in Morocco, you should see them! I can’t believe you’re actually phoning me!” I mentioned to Jasmine that we used a phone to keep in touch with my dad’s Muggle family, and she had eagerly scribbled down her phone number, insisting I call.

“Of course!” I cried. “I’m so excited I can actually use this!”

“Listen- are you going to Al’s party on Christmas Eve? Ophelia wanted to invite you and Aspen round- I’m going too, won’t that be so much fun? I’d usually go with the Gryffindor girls, but I’m seeing them for lunch instead, so they don’t care.”

“I would love to,” I said, warmly. “What Gryffindor girls?”

“You know, the girls! Lucy O’Donnell, Cecelia Keegan, Angela Boot!” 

“Not Rose and Parker?”

“Oh please. Those two haven’t spoken to me in forever. Actually, I used to be, like, best friends with Rose, how funny? But then she left us for Parker, and the two have, like, hated us since then. It’s so awkward in the dormitory, you have no idea.”

“Oh my God, no- my dormitory is awkward. Veronica Clearwater is the biggest snob towards Aspen and me, and the other three just never talk to us. I could never understand how you girls were so close.”

“I don’t know, really! I suppose there’s a lot more competition in Ravenclaw house. What about the boys?”

“Oh, they all get along with each other fine. Oscar criticises everyone, Mikey and Liam crack lad jokes all night and Declan Ainsley tries not to have girls round when the others are studying. The other three are pretty big on the nerd scene, I suppose.”

“Declan- isn’t he the one who hangs out with Ruddy? He’s really fit, don’t you think?”

“Who, Declan or Ruddy?”

Both,” giggled Jasmine. “I got bored on the Muggle plane to Morocco, and crafted a fit list for our year. Scorpius Malfoy is first, then Ruddy Walcott, then Albus Potter- I think he’s gay, by the way, can you do a raincheck on that? Anyway, Teddy Oliver from Hufflepuff is fourth,”

“Oh yes,” I gushed. “Is he still dating that Hufflepuff girl? Janet something?”

“Yes, what a pity. The things I would do to Teddy Oliver… Anyway,” she continued. “Then there’s Leo Hilfiger in Gryffindor-” he was a Gryffindor Beater, alongside Ruddy Walcott. “And then Mikey, who I actually think is really hot.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah, do you mind if I try and snog him?”

My permission to let Jasmine snog one of my best friends felt weird as they tumbled out of my mouth. I thought about giving Jasmine permission to snog Albus, and it just didn’t feel as strange.

I had rung Jasmine in order to get out more information about Rose Weasley. I had spent the morning puzzling over whether to tell Aspen or not, but decided against it, as it wasn’t worth the dramatics Aspen would put on. 

Jasmine and I spoke for a half hour before she had a screaming match with her dad in Arabic, and angrily hung up on me. I sat on my bed, turning the Muggle phone around in my fingers, thinking of Rose Weasley.

It was the first day of school, and the first day of our OWL preparation. It was fifth year and I stood there along the back of the classroom, as our Transfiguration teacher, Professor Augustine, sat us down in his seating order of, as usual, surnames.

“Weasley, Rose,” he boomed from his desk. “Back row. West, Alexander- next to Weasley. Wilderson, Elizabeth- next to West.” I slid in a seat next to Alexander West, a Hufflepuff with a handsome jawline and big green eyes.

“Listen, Effy, isn’t it? Do you mind if we swap seats? Sorry, but I really want to sit next to Ben.” I turned around, and saw Ben Zachary, a Ravenclaw boy who I was slightly friendly with.

“No, of course,” I said, and scooted next to Rose, as Alexander subtly stood up and subtly switched over. Professor Augustine, a tall, striking-looking man with styled grey hair and a sharp nose, was writing TRANSFIGURATION OWL- AUTUMN TERM on the board, and Rose turned to me.

“Hey,” she said bubbly. “I’m Rose, Rose Weasley.”

“Hey,” I replied, smiling. “I’m Effy.”

“Isn’t your brother Jack Wilderson?” This was when Jack was still at school, and even though he stopped being Quidditch Captain to focus on his NEWTs, he was still as desirable to the girls of the school as he was last year.

“Isn’t your mum Hermione Granger?”

Rose grinned. “Good one. I love Transfiguration. Sorry, I’m such a swot about it- you’ll probably hate me after the first week.”

“Nooooo,” I cried softly. “It’s my favourite subject!”

“Same!” she said, excitedly. “I’ve already decided I want to become an Animagus.”

“What animal do you think you’d be?” We wouldn’t learn about patronuses until next year, but students were already excited over it, especially after Declan Ainsley, a Ravenclaw boy, had taught himself how to do it over the summer.

“Hopefully not something embarrassing,” she giggled. “I can just imagine getting a pigeon.”

“At least you’d be able to shit on people,” I said, and she grinned at me, telling me that at least that was true. 

We weren’t close friends, Rose and me; we would never sit together at dinner, or make arrangements to go to Hogsmeade. But we would smile at each other in the corridor and stop for a chat, and in Transfiguration we’d swap petty gossip and secrets behind Augustine’s back. She would tell me of the drama running around the Gryffindor tower- how Jasmine Azalea and Leo Hilfiger were caught snogging (and more, she hinted excitedly) in the Prefects’ toilets, or how everyone was scared that Lucy O’Donnell was becoming an alcoholic. And I, in turn, would tell her Ravenclaw stories; they were never as exciting or as brash as hers, as Gryffindor was always going to be the more vivid house, but they interested her nonetheless. 

Until one day, the lesson after we came back from Easter break- the two week holiday in which Aspen and Scorpius had started dating- she stormed in late and sat next to me, avoiding all eye contact.

“Rose?” I asked. “You alright?”

“Literally get off my back,” she hissed, and I turned away, stunned.

“I thought you two were friends?” asked Ben Zachary, later on in the Ravenclaw common room.

I shrugged. “So did I.”

 

 

Al’s party was on the 23rd of December, two days before Christmas, and yet when he sent out the invitation owls, he said that if you weren’t dressed up like it's Halloween, you won’t get in. 

“Does this look okay?” Aspen asked, peering at herself in the mirror. We were at Jasmine Azalea’s house, a lavish six bedroom-er in South London, with a whole floor for Jasmine. Ophelia Nott was also round too, as were not house-elves, but genuine people working around the house as cooks and cleaners. It all explained Jasmine’s confident, arrogant manner she flaunted at school.

“Amazing,” remarked Ophelia, turning around from her position by the mirror. Ophelia was dressed as a fairy, her pale skin and light blonde hair scattered with glitter. Her tutu was so short she didn’t even have to bend down to expose her bum, and Jasmine caught my eye, smirked at me, as if to say she knew what I was thinking.

“What shoes are you wearing, Effy?” Jasmine asked me. 

“These,” I said, dragging two, black five-inch heels from my bag. Jasmine gasped and said how much she loved them, could she borrow them for New Year’s?

Al’s house wasn’t as big as I had expected. It was tall and narrow, on a pretty street in West London, with brick walls and ivy curling around the door and the windows. Al had mentioned that he had cast security spells around the house for the evening, and as we opened the gate, a cold breeze rifled through us.

“Do you think that was the security?” Aspen asked.

I giggled, and threw my arm around her.

The closer we drew to it, the louder the dubstep sounded, and a boy and a girl staggered out of the door, just as the six of us were about to walk in.

Hey,” said the boy, looking Aspen up and down. He licked his lips seductively, and the girl he was with hit him.

“Alex!” she hissed, in a French accent.

“Beauxbatons,” said Jasmine lazily, as we walked up to the door. She rang the doorbell, and it opened in a split second by a Hufflepuff boy I vaguely recognised. He looked stoned out of his mind, as he stared at us, baffled, his torso naked and a Hawaiian-style string of flowers hanging from his neck.

“Hi,” he said.

“Get out of the way,” Jasmine demanded, pushing past him. I smiled apologetically at him, and he ruffled his hair, confused.

Music pulsed throughout the bottom floor. It was dark, and a loud bass shook the floors. I could feel it in my bones. People stood in big clusters in the hallway, some faces I recognised, some I didn’t.

“Hey, Al!” I said, touching his shoulder. He was standing with Scorpius, and turned around to grin at me.

“Hey, Effy!” he said, hugging me. “Speak later.”

“Come on, Effy,” said Jasmine, clutching my wrist and leading me towards a door. “You up to get wasted out of your fucking brains, girl?”

I turned around, and I couldn’t see any of the other girls. I noticed Ophelia with her back to me, talking to a boy, but apart from that, it was just Jasmine and me.

The darkness of the rooms suddenly flashed with vivid lights of reds and greens, purples and blues, and I grinned at Jasmine.

“Come on,” she said, grinning back. “You Ravenclaws don’t know how to have fun. Not the Gryffindor way.”

“Oh yeah?” I said. “Watch me.”

 

 






So I don't own Glee (20th Century Productions) or anything else you may recognise... your reviews are so lovely and so kind, and I am so undeserving. They make my day! I can't thank you enough for them- and I'm truly so sorry about the delay in this chapter. I just set up a Tumblr account (on my author homepage) for extra stuff regarding FA and my other next-gen fic, Bona Fides- pictures and short stories and stuff. You can ask questions there, or even just check it out! It's a weak apology for waiting so long to update this, and I hope this chapter didn't disappoint :) 


Chapter 12: wild horses, part.2
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Hey! Sorry for the delay in uploading the second half of the previous chapter. Exams have been disgusting but thankfully are over so hopefully future chapters won't be so sporadic in their appearances. 

As always, it's your reviews, feedback, comments and thoughts that keep me going. Thanks again for everything!




I was sooooo pissed.

I was sooooooooo pissed.

“I am so pissed!” I roared to Jasmine.

“You’ve only had five shots!” she roared back. “Here- have another-”

I took a shot glass from her hands and wolfed it down, as she grinned at two approaching boys. One was dressed as a soldier, and the other was naked from his waist up, bright face paint on his face in two thick stripes along his cheeks.

“Ruddy! Louis!” cried Jasmine, hugging the two. “You’re both looking hot!”

“Who’s your mate, Jas?” asked one of them. They were two boys from Gryffindor, really close with Jasmine, and both Beaters on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. One of them- Louis- the shirtless one- was tanned, with messy blonde hair and a chest so toned it looked almost fake, glistening with sweat in the vivid lights. He looked me up and down, in my slutty cat costume, and grinned at me.

“You’re the Ravenclaw Seeker, aren’t you?” he asked, and then his eyes widened. “Fuck! You’re doing a thing with my cousin, aren’t you?”

“I saw him go into a bathroom with Eve Chang an hour ago,” stated Ruddy, crossing his arms and furrowing his eyebrows. 

“Really?” I asked, as Jasmine pressed another shot glass in my hand. The small cup was overflowing with the sticky thickness of firewhiskey, and I could feel it dribble down my hand as I looked up at the barely dressed duo before me with as much curiousity as excitement.

“Yeah,” said Ruddy, exchanging looks with Louis. “I’m sorry, babe. He came out with his shirt undone.”

“Do you think he shagged Eve?” asked Jasmine.

I felt violently sad. And then, I felt a sudden burst of fire. 

If James Sirius Potter can go around snogging people, then so can I. 

This time, I helped myself to a shot, and smirked at Jasmine.

“I’m teaching her how to party like a Gryffindor,” she explained loudly.

“I can help with that,” said Ruddy, smiling wolfishly at me, and I giggled.

So, so pissed.

My head was foggy and yet it was cloudless. I felt heavy and yet as light as a stone, and my heart throbbed along to the beat of the bass, the fast voice of the rapper thrilling me to my core.

“Shots for everyone!” cried Jasmine, and I felt another shot glass pushed into my hand.

“You should stick to snogging in your own year,” said Ruddy. 

“What about your own house?” Louis asked, and Jasmine laughed out loud, as Louis thrust his arm around me. I smelt his sweat, his boyish deodorant and alcohol, and I felt his every bare muscle along the back of my head.

“Oh, Effy!” cried Jasmine. “I love this song- come on, let’s dance.”

“There’s a massive dance scene in the living room,” said Louis. I only then just realised we were in the kitchen, and I could barely move with all the people congregated around the drinks table.

“No,” said Jasmine. “We can dance here.” And I watched her pushed people aside, and I watched her, and I watched her climb onto the table, and I watched her. I watched her motion for me to come and join her on the table. And I watched myself shake my head, and I watched Louis tell me that I looked hot. And I watched Jasmine call me out. And I watched Louis and Ruddy thrust me up. And I watched Jasmine drop to the table and back up again. And I watched her dare me to do better.

And I watched myself to do better. And I watched myself slut drop better than she did. And I watched the lights of the room flash in my face, flash in my head, flash in my mind, flash everywhere, all over me.

 

“I love you,” said Jasmine, as we walked away  twenty minutes later, our arms linked and our legs strutting in perfect sync. “Why are we not, like, joined at the hip in school?”

“I don’t know,” I smirked. 

“Urgh. We should be.”

“Right? Such a power couple right here,” I countered, and Jasmine threw her head back in laughter, hair cascading down her body. 

“I’m sorry about James,” she said.

“You know what?” I said back, just before we were about to walk into the living room. “Guys can fuck around with girls all they want, but as soon as girls do it, it’s not okay.”

“Well, I call bullshit on that!” Jasmine cried. “Fuck that! I have had to share a house with that arsehole and his arsehole cousin for six years now and nobody ever mentions how shitty they actually are- they are the dictionary definition of a fuck boy!”

“So true!” I cried, my tone excited in my drunken haze. “Fuck them!”

Fuck them mentally, but fuck them physically!” she cried cheerily, here dark eyes glinting as we passed a neon light in the darkness of the hall, and I laughed, as she led us towards some Beauxbatons students she faintly knew in Al’s living room, the quartet of boys dressed up in orange jumpsuits.

They were very very good looking, but very very dull. After twenty minutes of sexual innuendos and dancing to shit dubstep, I excuse myself, saying I needed a drink.

Jasmine nodded. “I’ll join you.” We pushed our way to the kitchen, and I grabbed two bottles of water. She asked me if we could go outside, and I nodded, and I followed her to the doors of the kitchen opening outside.

The cold air was refreshing, and it made my cheeks sting. Only then did I notice how cold I really was, and Jasmine was shivering, too.

“Here,” I said, throwing her a bottle. She grinned at me, and opened it.

“Cheers. So what’s it been like being a Gryffindor for the night?”

“Great.”

“When Oscar first told us about you and Aspen, I’ll admit,” she said, in the brazen manner that most Gryffindors have, “I assumed you two to be massive nerds. I mean, I knew Aspen was beautiful and dating Scorpius Malfoy, so not her as much. But when Oscar told me he was inviting you two to that club on the night of Halloween, I was like, urgh, not another geek. I already have one for a brother.”

I nodded, sipping my water.

“But I was so wrong,” she said, smiling. “You’re brilliant. I hate how everyone’s so concerned with exams and school, you know? We’re young! Who actually cares? I want to create memories, not good grades.”

I nodded again. “Thanks.”

“It’s fine,” she said, smiling again. “Sit with us at school. Louis and Ruddy already like you.”

That reminded me of Mikey and Liam, and that in turn, reminded me of the other girls. And then I thought of James Potter, and I really wish I hadn’t.

“What do you think the others are doing now?” I asked.

Jasmine paused for a second. “Ophelia is probably having sex,” she said. “She did it for the first time in October, and since then, she’s been on a rampage. And I imagine Aspen’s with Scorpius.”

I nodded. 

“And Al’s with Niamh Collins,” she said, referring to a girl in Slytherin. “I saw them a half hour ago. What do you think of that?”

I shrugged, taking another sip from the water bottle. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do about James,” I confessed slowly, feeling my numb fingers run through my sticky, damp hair. “I had really liked him.”

Jasmine tilted her head at me, and smiled slightly. “I’m genuinely sorry, Eff. But it just wasn’t going to work out. I did a thing with Freddie Weasley last year, and he and James aren’t the types for relationships, you know? Look at how badly James and Dahlia Moss turned out.”

“She’s awful,” I said, and Jasmine nodded in agreement.

“James and Freddie are in a different league from the rest of us, Eff. I’ve been saying this ever since I caught Freddie having sex with some year above Ravenclaw the night after our second date. And James? He’s beautiful and funny, clever and charming- but he’s not worth the heartache.”

I nodded, thinking over it. “He tried getting me to leave the Ravenclaw team,” I admitted.

Jasmine rolled her eyes. “You don’t need that, babe. Come on. Let’s get you super-duper drunk, and then you don’t have to bother with James for the rest of your life. I mean, having sex in his own bathroom? How sleazy is that? I only do it in bedrooms.”

“Your classy scale is rising higher and higher, Jasmine.”

“It surprises us all.” She patted me on the back, as if she went in to hug me but then thought against it, and we went back inside. And my sad mood left me, as I downed my fifteenth shot of the night.

 

Jasmine and I bumped into Ruddy and Louis again, and the four of us congregated in the living room, where the music was quieter but the lights flashing like they had been before. Louis’s arm was around my shoulders, and he smelt of weed.

“Want?” he said, offering me the blunt.

“No thank you,” I replied, and Jasmine giggled.

“Got anything harder?”

“Do I look like a drug dealer, Azalea?” Louis replied, and I smiled up at him.

“Urgh. Go make out with your reflection,” said Jasmine, putting the blunt to her lips. She waited for a moment and exhaled, the thick, smelly smoke coiling out of her lips. “Actually, do it later. Angela left early and Ophelia’s been with Mikey the whole night. I don’t want to be left alone.”

“You’ll never be left alone, Jas,” said Ruddy, grinning at her. He had discarded his army shirt and was naked from the torso up, like Louis. But unlike Louis, who was tanned with dirty blonde hair, Ruddy was darker-skinned, with wild brown hair. He had told me his mum was Jamaican, and it made sense.

“How chivalrous,” quirked Jasmine, turning to me. “You can tell he’s a Gryffindor, can’t you?”

I smiled, and turned my head as I tossed my head over my shoulder. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something.

James, wearing a pair of dark denim jeans and a grey shirt- of course he wouldn’t dress up, and I suddenly felt very foolish standing there in my costume, really immature. I watched him whisper something in a girl’s ear, and she giggled.  And she was absolutely beautiful. Pale skin, vivid red hair cascading around her shoulders, and really great boobs. Wasn’t it a Potter man trait to be into redheads?

I caught his eye, and turned away. 

“So how did you get your stomach like that?” I asked Ruddy, rubbing my hand up and down it. I could feel his skin, smooth and glistening with sweat, and I could feel every single pac of his- there must have been more than six- glide under my fingers.

And I wasn’t even doing it to get back at James for going into a bathroom with Eve Chang. I was genuinely very impressed. I think.

Ruddy smirked, rolling his neck. “I work out.”

“Yeah, you can tell by your arms,” I said, coiling myself into him and sliding my fingers around his toned biceps. “I can’t even fit my hand around this.”

“And I’m not even tensing.”

“How much do you lift?”

He smirked again. “Oh, like 30.”

“That’s so cool,” I purred. “I can’t lift a single thing.”

“Maybe I could teach you, Wilderson.”

“Yeah,” I said, not thinking about how James also refers to me by my surname. “I’d like that.”

“Oh my God!” Jasmine cried, suddenly. “Is James Potter seriously snogging Robin Waters?”

Get in,” cheered Louis, and then when Jasmine and I turned to him, turned red. “Sorry. Cousins.”

I then realised why the redhead James was with looked vaguely familiar. “Isn’t she meant to be a model?”

“Yeah, she walked for Elle Delacour,” gushed Jasmine. “That’s his aunt, isn’t it? Probably how the two know each other…”

I gazed over at them, and they weren’t in the spot I had seen them in previously. But then I followed Jasmine’s line of vision and saw the two kissing passionately on an armchair, Robin’s legs spread wide open on his lap.

I looked up at Ruddy, and twirled a lock of my hair. “So what were you saying about working out?”

And I heard Jasmine’s laughter ring in my ears as a minute later, we too were snogging. Except I wasn’t on his lap, I was literally being held in his arms, my whole body up in the air, my arms around my neck.

And he was a good kisser. He was a very good kisser, and we broke apart as Jasmine said she wanted to take a picture of the two of us. I grinned into the camera, and noticed out of the corner of my eye, James still wasn’t paying attention.

 

The party was dwindling down. The next day was Christmas Eve, so I suppose loads of people were going home for that, but there was still a large group of us who stayed behind, the majority too drunk- or too stoned- or too lazy to leave. 

It was mainly sixth years at Hogwarts who were staying behind, and Al said that was okay, as the music grew quieter and quieter as the party reached the early hours of the morning. The girls I had arrive with were all staying, as were Mikey, Liam and Scorpius, of course; Louis and Ruddy were too, and dozens of others who I recognised by face, but not necessarily by name.

A group of us were congregated in the living room, passing around a joint and talking lazily. This was my favourite time of the night, for if you want to know a person’s true colours, you speak to them at 3 in the morning. If you want to know their hopes, dreams, their fears and their fantasies, you speak with them at 3 in the morning.

“Fuck yeah I’d enrol!,” Ruddy said. He had his arm around me as we sat on the sofa, discussing the war. Louis, sat opposite him, cheered, and the two fist-pumped.

“I don’t know if I would,” said a Hufflepuff boy, Teddy Oliver, the one who Jasmine thought was hot. Teddy was really, really nice, and I reflected on our time as Potions partners last year as I listened to him speak, feeling myself gradually sober up. “I don’t mind fighting against normal magic, but dark magic? That’s a whole new level.”

“I would enrol,” said Jasmine, exhaling from the blunt. “My mum’s a Muggleborn, and it’s personal.”

“So’s my dad,” I said. “He’s never forgiven himself for being in America during the past war.”

“I want to go to university,” said a Ravenclaw boy, Declan Ainsley, a friend of Mikey, Liam and Oscar’s. “If they force us to fight-”

“But they can’t,” yawned Albus. “It goes against our human rights.”

“They’re drafting in America,” said Louis.

“Since when has America ever bothered with human rights?”

“Since when has the Ministry ever bothered with human rights?” Teddy said, and everyone laughed.

After an hour, the conversation dwindled, and everyone was asleep. Most people were asleep, anyway, lying in various positions in the living room. Teddy Oliver had left the sofa Ruddy and I were on to join his girlfriend in an upstairs bedroom, and I was just about to fall asleep before re-adjusting my position on the sofa for maximum warmth. I was freezing. 

“You cold?” asked Ruddy. We were sleeping head-to-toe, as if we were ten year olds on a sleepover.

“So cold,” I said.

“Come on,” said Ruddy, patting the space next to him. I got up, my movements stiff, and lay with him on the sofa. He put his arm around me and I nestled into his body. It radiated warmth, and I was grateful.

He put his other arm around me, and I put my arm around his neck, like we were hugging, our bodies pushed against each other on the velvet sofa. And in my sleepy haze, still effected by the alcohol, we were kissing. My fingers in his hair and his fingers going from my jaw, to my chest, to my shorts.

I moaned into his mouth, lightly dragging my teeth over his bottom lip, and he clutched me harder to his body. And then too hard to contain my moans in his mouth, so my lips moved onto his neck, and he groaned into the morning’s silence.

“No,” I mumbled, after ten minutes. “I’m sorry.”

The pressure beneath my thighs stopped. “Don’t worry,” he muttered into my hair, and I pulled my underwear back up. My shorts were by this time, discarded at the end of the sofa, and I pulled his underwear back up too, and then his shorts.

“Sorry,” I muttered again in the darkness, and I could see his brilliant white teeth glint in the moonlight.

“I know I can be a dick,” he said, laughing quietly, his words trapped between the minimal inches seperating his lips to my ears. “but don’t feel like you have to apologise for not wanting to have sex. Have you never done it before?”

“No,” I admitted, and he laughed again, ruffling the top of my hair.

“Oh my God. Now I feel like a prick. Night, Effy.”

“Night, Ruddy.”

I drifted off to sleep after that, my body entwined with his, but then I woke up again, and this time there was a blanket over us.

And it smelt of cigarettes, summer, and fresh laundry.

 

Christmas came and went. I got a black cashmere sweater- “suits your soul,” quirked Jack, and my dad snorted- a pretty bottle of perfume and a new bra.

“You have big boobs,” commented Jack, as I unwrapped.

“Shut up,” I replied.

Aspen had gotten me a pretty new make-up bag, and Oscar’s owl delivered a hardback book, the front cover a candy pink and in bright blue writing, declaring 50 Influential Role Models for Young Women of the Past Century. It was a Muggle book, and Oliver spent the whole day reading it. I had owled Aspen and Oscar what happened on Saturday night, telling them what had happened with James- or not with James, as I hadn’t even spoken to him the whole night.

“Are you sure he was in the toilet with Eve Chang? I thought they were good friends,” said Aspen, doubtfully, as we met a few days after Christmas, once again at a coffee shop near Oscar's. I don't know why we congregated by Oscar's so often- you can't floo to his house, he's a Muggleborn, and my dad can only occasionally side-apparate with my when he's going to the Prophet offices too, in London- but it was sunny and there was snow on the ground, and I was excited to shake off the drag of the season's festivities and get back into a Hogwarts routine.

“I saw him come out with his shirt undone and her lipstick all over the place,” said Oscar, dismissing Aspen with a wave of his hand. “Good one with Ruddy Walcott, though.”

“Yeah, he’s handsome,” said Aspen, nodding happily.

“And he plays with James, doesn’t he? On the Quidditch team? So that’ll be exciting.”

“Shut up, Oscar,” I moaned. 

What? Look!” he said, thrusting an open copy of the week’s Witch Weekly at me. Page 7 showed James and the model from Al’s party kissing outside what appeared to be some glitzy London club.

“But he really liked you,” said Aspen, looking mildly concerned, slightly confused. “Alfie Ronson told me that he once heard James talk about you in his sleep.”

“When did you speak to Alfie?” I asked.

“At Al’s.”

I looked down at the magazine. James Potter, Hogwarts bad boy and Quidditch protégée, spotted with Robin Walker, American model one year his senior. I wonder if he felt like laughing at his status of being a “Quidditch protégée” like I did. 

“They’re not even dating,” said Aspen, as Oscar turned to give directions to a passing woman. “They’ve been snogging each other. That’s it. She’s probably as boring as watching paint dry, babe.”

I smiled at her, and threw my arm around her shoulders. “Thank you.”

 

A week later we were back at school, and it didn’t take long for the physical education lessons Oscar had gossiped about ages back to begin.

“How do I look?” Aspen asked, turning to me. She was in the black shorts, blue tee-shirt and white trainers that was the Ravenclaw girls’ uniform, but she had added white knee-high socks, and her the neckline of her top was cut, and it draped off her left shoulder. Some quip about an 80's music video was just about to emit from my lips when I was, rather rudely, interrupted.

“En route to getting a uniform detention,” snapped Veronica Clearwater. She was a girl in our dormitory, who like the other three girls, didn’t really get on with Aspen and me. She had jet black hair cut into a sharp bob resting above her shoulders, and not a single strand was out of place.

“Always the charmer,” I said, turning around and grinning at her. “Ronny! Missed you over the holidays.”

“Oh yes,” she said, her head high and snorting. “I forgot how annoying you were in your month’s absence.”

A couple of Hufflepuff girls turned our way- all the girls of the year were in the brand new girls’ changing rooms, positioned in rooms above the new gym that the school had built over Christmas. The gym itself was built on to the Transfiguration wing of the school, which meant Ravenclaws had to walk practically halfway around the school to get to it.

I beamed, and twirled a lock of hair around my finger. “Bet you’re super-duper excited for PE lessons, Ronny. My dad says that if one’s good at Quidditch, they’ll be good at sports, too- oh, hey! That’ll make it the second class you’ll be suffienctly below me in!”

She crossed her arms, and looked at me, coolly. Aspen looked up from tying her shoelaces on a bench, as did another girl in our dormitory. Because we had all miscalculated how long it would take us to get from the common room to the changing rooms, we had arrived late, and the six of us had to squeeze into a tight corner of the room.

“What I hear,” breathed Veronica, her eyes lighting up, “is that you snogged James Potter.”

“Well, I’m not ashamed of it,” I began, grinning at Aspen as she laughed.

“Yes, and isn’t he dating that Scottish model now? Robin something? Oh dear, Elizabeth. Were you another little play thing before he dumped you for the better prize?”

Aspen gasped, and the other girl- Riley Connelly, she was called- looked amazed.

“Well, I don’t like referring to fellow women as prizes,” I began, but I was fuming. I wish I knew a jinx embarrassing and humiliating and permanent enough for Veronica right then.

But then Veronica interrupted me. “And then I also heard you had sex with Ruddy Walcott. And then I heard that he wasn’t the only one you were getting physical with over the three weeks off. Is there, perhaps, some psychological issue behind your slutty behaviour?”

“Veronica!” cried Aspen, and this time, it was more than a few Hufflepuffs who had turned around to watch.

“See, I’m just interested in psychology,” she said sweetly. “Perhaps there’s some family issues? Perhaps something with your dad, even-”

“Oh my God!” I cried, and I could hear Jasmine’s voice in the background, asking what was going on. “Oh my- how dare you-”

“Alright, ladies,” said a voice, and I whipped my face around, my cheeks red hot. A tall, strapping woman stood by the door, ginger hair tied up in a lazy high ponytail. She was wearing black jogging bottoms and a grey hoodie, and her words tumbled out in a sharp, Scottish accent. “I’m Keegan, and I’ll be your physical education teacher this term.”

“Why are you allowed to wearing a jumper and we’re not?” cried Julianna George, a girl from Slytherin. "It's barely positive degrees outside!"

Keegan grinned, and I could see a wad of chewing gum in her bright, white teeth. “Let’s get going, ladies.”

 

I stood in a huddle of Aspen, Jasmine and Ophelia, in the middle of the Quidditch pitch. We had to walk through the gym, and suddenly we were right in the pitch, the air bitingly cold.

Why can’t we be inside?” demanded Ophelia, her teeth chattering.

Aspen rubbed her hands up and down her upper arms. “I’m s-s-s-s-o c-c-c-old,” she said, her breath twirling opaquely in the January air.

Jasmine turned to me, breathing on her hands. “What happened in the changing rooms?” she asked, sharply. She was in the mandatory Physical Ed uniform for her house- this time, a red tee-shirt with the house crest printed on the back of her shirt, black shorts and trainers, and her hair was weaved into thick French braids, strands of scarlet and gold glittering through them in the winter sun. “Between you and that Clearwater girl?”

“She tried to suggest that just because I snogged a few boys,” I said, heatedly, “that I had daddy issues.”

Jasmine looked outraged, and looked over at the main cluster of girls a few metres away from us, fighting over some ball. “She the one with the black hair?”

I nodded.

Right,” she began, but I held onto her arm.

“Don’t even bother,” I said, squinting, for whilst it was freezing, there wasn’t a single cloud in the cornflower blue sky. “She’s right.”

“Your dad molests you?”

“No! Of course not,” I said, quickly. “No! But I mean, maybe it was quite slutty of me- four boys in one night-

“Who cares?” demanded Jasmine. “Urgh. I hate girls. Apart from myself. I love myself-”

“Oi! You two!” roared Keegan, blowing her whistle. I turned around, and noticed Aspen and Ophelia had edged further into the game of football, which was a clever move, as Keegan took our names down for a detention.

“Detention?” roared Jasmine. “Why? We didn’t do anything!”

“Exactly!” roared Keegan, back. “You’re both on Team A, now move it!”

Half an hour later, it became increasingly obvious to us that Team A, or whatever team we were, lost by eight points. In Quidditch talk, eight pounds to lose by is absolutely nothing, a borderline draw- but in football, apparently it’s quite a big deal.

“Perhaps we need to go over the rules of the game,” said Keegan.

Inside,” I said, and she shot me a look, the kind that symbolises the bad things that would happen to me if I didn’t shut up immediately, Wilderson. We were sitting on the grass after a disgusting hour of running after some ball, and I had decided that I really did not like physical education. But at least it was slightly more bearable, after Keegan finally cast a warming spell on our area of the pitch. This was only after, of course, Jasmine and Rose Weasley had temporarily put aside their differences and orchestrated a strike of Teams A and E.

It was something rather beautiful, in retrospect.

“Keegan!”

I whipped my face around to the source of the voice I knew so well, and my hair, held up in a high ponytail at the top of my head with a royal blue scrunchie, hit Jasmine in the face.

“Ow,” she muttered. 

“Potter,” replied Keegan, her voice crisp and sharp against the January wind. I tried to avoid looking at James, and instead, focused my vision on the back of Julianna George’s hair.

“Unfortunately, I’ve booked this pitch for Quidditch practise,” he said, striding up towards Keegan. I finally looked up, and wished I hadn’t. He was in full school uniform; the dark charcoal trousers, the crisp white shirt, the grey sweater and his robe, draped across his left arm, and after not seeing him for a week, it was odd seeing him in uniform, completely ignoring me.

It would be really great if he didn’t look like the type of person who I would have on a poster in my bedroom.

His dark hair, which he arrogantly ran his right hand through, even though he just simply was not fooling anybody, I knew that the messy look of it had taken him ten minutes in the mirror to complete this morning. It glinted in the winter’s sunlight, and the sun had his strong jawline, his cheekbones and his temples almost glow.

“Have you?” she said, her eyebrows furrowing. “You’re the Gryffindor captain?”

“Well, I don’t mean to brag,” he said, and he grinned at us as a few girls giggled. Jasmine turned to me and rolled her eyes, and started pretending to vomit when his back was turned.

“Alright, we’ll be out of here in a minute,” she said crisply. “Azalea, Wilderson- you can pack up.”

“Why?!” we demanded, our faces looking equally as put out as the other.

“Because you’ve been the rudest and laziest duo I’ve had to put up with all week,” she snapped. "And that is quite the achievement, girls, I just had to teach the Fourth Years lacrosse."

“I am not RUDE!” I said indignantly, as Jasmine shouted she was not lazy, and I could feel the outrage on my face. Because honestly- a detention for being late? Fine. Points docked for delayed homework? Annoying, but understandable.

Detention for Physical Education?

“You,” she said, pointing to Jasmine, “recommended hair extensions and you,” she said, pointing to me, “let in eleven goals.”

“Honestly,” I said, overriding Jasmine’s reply, “if a ball is coming at seventy miles an hour towards me, then it is only logical that I move out of the way.”

“You were in goal for twenty minutes, Wilderson!" she trilled. "And only after I forced you- just to remove you from human company!"

“I don’t really think it’s fair to compare my physical abilities towards other pupils, it’ll only lead to yet another insecurity-”

“What do you think, Potter?” asked Keegan, turning to him.

"And honestly, Professor, you know how difficult it is to be a teenager nowadays- so far away from home, so much peer pressure around me..."

He grinned lazily, and looked at us, and I deliberately ignored his gaze as I nodded frantically at Keegan to further illustrate my point. Although I don't, in hindsight, know exactly why I thought looking like a broken doll in anyway presented the case for the many woes of being seventeen. “I’d give them both a detention, Keegan. Can’t have these two idiots talk to you like that.”

“Aye, they’re already in detention.”

“Azalea, in detention? Watch out. They’ll start directing your evening owls there,” he said, and even more giggles emitted from our huddle of girls. “They can pack up, Keegan. Without magic, and within five minutes, before my team come out.”

“Detention at eight tonight, girls,” said Keegan, and we got up, as the rest of the girls followed Keegan inside the changing rooms. Aspen looked back and grimaced, and I shrugged it off.

James turned to the two of us, cupping his hand on his forehead, as if the sunlight was getting in his eyes.

“I want the pitch spotless before the rest of the team comes out,” he snapped. “And Wilderson, don’t try to pull any silly stunt to set back our practise.”

“Why would she do that?” Jasmine snapped back. “She’s too busy snogging your Beater.”

Under the shade of James’ hand, I could see his eyes roll. “Double detention, Azalea, for rudeness.”

“You can’t do that!” I cried. “You’re a Captain, not a Prefect.”

“I think you’ll find, actually, I can.

“That is a disgusting abuse of your power-”

“No, you know what, Eff? Its fine,” said Jasmine, lazily. “We can spend detention discussing Ruddy.”

“Sounds enthralling, Azalea,” said James, boredly. “Wish I could join in, but I need this pitch cleared. Get a move on, girls.” And before either of us could retaliate, he walked towards the Gryffindor changing rooms, in long, quick strides.

Jasmine turned to me. “I hate him,” she fumed.

“I can’t believe he gave you detention!”

She watched his figure retreat into the faded red door under the Gryffindor stands. “Come with me, Ruddy and Louis to the Three Broomsticks on Friday night,” she said, her dark eyes illuminated by a mischievous glint.

“Sure,” I replied. Jasmine grinned, and she whipped out a wand from inside her bra.

“As if Keegan expected us to clean it without magic,” she said, boredly.

 

I was walking back from the detention that night, sat inside an Arithmancy classroom and led by the boys’ Physical Ed teacher, a man called Bruce with an Australian accent. My wrist was sore from writing lines, and I really didn’t appreciate Keegan popping in and saying, oh no, Azalea and Wilderson didn’t forget their kit, they were being cheeky, and so having to re-write the ten-inch long parchment from the beginning.

It was a silent walk from the Eastern Wing to the Western Wing, where the Ravenclaw tower lay, and I was almost at the tower until I climbed a trick pair of stairs that led me to the Transfiguration corridor, right round the corner from the Gryffindor common room.

I swore at myself. It was already well after curfew, and I had forgotten to ask Bruce for a note explaining why I was out in the castle at half past ten. And then I heard footsteps coming from down the corridor.

“Is that a student out of bed, Miss Norris?” said the figure, and my eyes widened. Filch was a man I, unlike Mikey and Liam, had never really encountered in my life, being a generally rule-abiding student. Mikey had told me stories of magical chains in his office, and long, thick whips he would stroke lovingly.

I ran down the corridor, and noticed a tapestry, draping from the ceiling to the floor, depicting some Medieval-style scene of Merlin and a hag-like woman.

I glanced over my shoulder, and saw that Filch was still approaching, gaining momentum. I pressed my hand against the tapestry, and to my relief, it was hollow- keeping an eye on Filch, I leapt behind the tapestry, praying that the shadows around it had concealed me.

What are you doing?”

I turned around, and noticed James Potter was sitting there, his face to a window and a cigarette in one hand.

“Brilliant! I was looking for you!” I said, and sat opposite him by the window. The way he turned to me and then back to the window told me that he knew I was being sarcastic.

He exhaled smoke, and I watched it coil in the air. We looked at each other; I looked at the way the moonlight held his beautiful face, and I tried not to think about the last time we were together and alone at night.

Finally, he spoke. “Is Filch outside?”

I nodded. “The staircase did a complete U-turn, and I’m on the other side of the castle.” It wasn’t unusual for the stairs to redirect students from the Ravenclaw side of the classroom to the Gryffindor ward, and he knew that.

He put the cigarette to his lips, and then after a moment exhaled again, and the grey smoke- opaque in the light of the moon- danced and twirled and paraded between us.

“Unlucky,” he commented. “ The Transfiguration staircases can be a bitch. Right. Hold this.” He offered me the cigarette and I held it between his fingers, as I watched him bring out some form of parchment from his back pocket.

“Lend us your wand,” he said. “I left mine in the Common Room.”

I gave it over, and he tapped the parchment. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” he muttered, and then added, “Well, Wilderson isn’t, anyway.”

“It’s like stand-up comedy night at the Leaky Cauldron in here.”

“Oo, you’re so funny,” he quipped drily, not looking up.

“Really? Oh fab! I’ve been taking classes. Hard work truly does pay off!”

He looked up, smirking, and turned the map over for me to see. It wasn’t plain anymore, but a beautifully detailed composition of ink blotches and lines that were slowly joining together, gaining shade and tone-

“Is that Hogwarts?” he nodded, and I peered over it, and noticed the words forming above it. “Who’s Moony?”

He ignored me, and instead traced his finger lightly on it. “Filch is well by the dungeons now. You can go.”

I stood up, and smoothed over my skirt. And I truly did make my way to the tapestry, that separated this starry alcove from the corridor, until I turned around.

“No,” I said suddenly, looking at him. “Why did you give Jasmine a detention?”

He looked me up and down, and I raised my head, crossing my arms. “Wouldn’t you?”

I opened my mouth, and then closed it.

I wanted to tell him how all my thoughts at night concluded with him, and how he was the one who went into a bathroom with Eve Chang, not me. If anything, I was simply the innocent party in all of this, as usual. But then he spoke.

“I was offered Head Boy,” he said, turning from me to look outside the window. “I got the badge, the letter from McGonagall- everything. My parents were elated.”

“So why didn’t you?” I asked, moving to sit down beside him again. I watched his face, as he watched the moon.

“Molly got Head Girl,” he stated. “Makes sense, doesn’t it? Two academically able, popular children of war heroes, both in Gryffindor house. Her dad was Deputy Minister, my dad saved Britain. It was only fair.”

“They could have given it to Freddie-”

He burst out laughing, but it wasn’t a merry laugh. It was cold, and sent chills up my spine. “I’ve gotten more detentions in a term than most people get in a lifetime of education, and I haven’t shown any initiative for leadership apart from Quidditch. I’m sick of people seeing my surname before my first name.”

“So stop acting like you don’t yourself,” I snapped.

His head jerked up, and he was about to open his mouth to retort, when I interrupted.

“Why would you snog Eve Chang literally a day after the Prophet’s Ball? Even though we argued before that- you can’t just do that-”

Classic,” he snapped, interrupting me and stubbing out his cigarette by his foot. “Everything is always about you, isn’t it Wilderson?”

My eyes widened, and I leaned my head back and laughed. “All you ever do is make things about you!”

His eyes narrowed, and he leaned coolly against the marble pillar, crossing his arms and staring at me. “Do you have an example?”

“How about you trying to get me to leave the Quidditch team?”

“Get over it,” he said, lazily. “I remember already apologising.”

“Well- actually, it’s late and I’m tired. I’m going to bed now,” I said, standing up and just as I was about to tear the open the tapestry to leave, he grabbed my arm.

“And Wilderson,” he said, standing up and brushing down his robes, “Eve threw up, and I was making her a remedial potion.”

By now he was standing right by me, and I could smell the cigarette smoke from where my nose almost met the his chin.

“So why were you shirtless?” I asked, trying not to sound breathless.

“Why did you have sex with my Beater in my home?” He replied, pointing his finger occupationally at me, moving all the more closer.

“Why were you with that redhead the whole night?”

“Well,” smirked James, “perhaps it runs in the blood-”

“You are the biggest hypocrite I have ever spoken to in my life,” I hissed, yanking my arm away from his grip. “You can’t just claim that-”

“Shhh,” he said, suddenly, and I was annoyed at being interrupted.

No, you will listen to me-”

“Fuck’s sake,” he muttered, and he pressed his body against mine and into the wood behind the tapestry, muffling my voice. His smell was suffocating me. 

This would be the time where Oscar’s theory of lady-boners comes flooding back to me, obviously.

I was about to push him off me when through the tapestry, I heard voices.

“I definitely heard people,” said a girly voice. Was that Amy McCarrick in Hufflepuff? I distantly recalled that she was a Prefect, and looked up at James. But he was too busy looking through a minuscule gap between the cloth and the outside corridor.

“Our shift ends in ten minutes, Amy,” said another recognisable voice. It was Teddy Oliver, and I smiled at just hearing his low, smooth voice.

Definitely somebody behind the tapestry- hey!” called her high-pitched voice from just outside us. “Hey- I know someone’s in there! Come out, or we’ll come in!”

Suddenly James pushed himself off me, and walked straight out.

“What were you doing?” Amy asked, but her tone was softer. Most peoples were, when they talked to him, and I pressed my ear against the tapestry to hear his reaction.

“Just got a bit stuffy in the common room,” he said.

“Are you the only one?”

“There’s not really enough room for two-”

“Don’t be a prat,” I said, pushing myself out of the tapestry. Amy began to open her mouth, but I interrupted her. “And no, we were not doing anything, Amy McCarrick, and if you even think about spreading something made-up I’ll tell the whole year about that time I caught you with JJ Fletcher-”

Her lips hardened, and I met Teddy’s eyes. He winked at me, and I smiled back.

“I’m afraid I’ll still have to give you a detention,” she said snottily, crossing her arms. I watched her look at James, and smile. “However, with you-”

“Are you an idiot, Wilderson?” he said, interrupting her and starting on me. “Are you thick?

“I’m not going to have you get detention on my behalf-”

“I get detentions on a weekly basis anyway-”

Stop it with your hero complex!”

“It’s not a hero complex to do a decent thing-”

“Look, Amy, our shift is almost over,” said Teddy, suddenly. “Let’s go.” Amy looked hesitant, but Teddy guided her by the elbow away from us, and as soon as I saw them turn the corner, I turned on James again.

“Leaving me behind that tapestry like some pathetic damsel in distress-”

“I have never once thought of you as a damsel in distress,” he said, hotly. “I was trying to save you-”

“Well don’t bother!” I cried. “I am perfectly capable of doing that for myself! Instead of trying to save me-,” and I imitated James’ voice for the last phrase. And I was going to continue, until he interrupted me.

“You’re fucking mental, Wilderson,” he snapped. “That is the last time I am ever doing anything nice for you.”

“So you can go back to snogging Eve Chang in your toilet,” I said, crossing my arms.

James laughed, and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I told you, she was sick! Don’t act like it was easy for me seeing you with half the boys on the Quidditch team in my own home, Wilderson- because it wasn’t, it fucking wasn’t.” he breathed heavily and looked at me, as we stood there in the middle of the empty corridor, both our breathing heavy and irregular.

“I thought I didn’t mean anything to you,” I said, and I was surprised at how quiet and almost humbled my voice sounded.

“That’s wrong.”

After a long pause, I said, “I’m sorry for snogging boys in your kitchen.”

He nodded. “It’s okay.”

And then after an even longer pause, I added, with a little bit of indigance, “and I didn’t have sex with Ruddy Walcott!”

James tilted his hand slightly and laughed. “I know you didn’t.”

“Because everyone thinks I did, and it's just so annoying- really! How?”

He just smiled at me, and it was the first genuine smile of the night. It made the ends of his eyes crinkle and slight dimples appeared, contrasting against his sharp cheekbones. And then he reached over and tucked a loose strand of hair from behind my ear.

“We should be going now,” he said. “It’s almost midnight.”

“Okay.”

 


Chapter 13: labradors, hedgehogs
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Two weeks later, I was in the library with Mikey and Scorpius. Mikey was trying to teach Scorpius how to conjure a patronus, and Scorpius just wasn’t getting it.

“Think of a happy thought,” said Mikey irritably, as he always got. Mikey never really understood that others weren’t on the same intellectual level as he was, and he often accidentally found himself upsetting people in our year through this. “Come on, you’re loaded- think about doing a shit on a mountain of galleons, or whatever rich people do.”

“What were you thinking about before?” I asked, looking up from my essay.

“First time I learnt how to fly,” Scorpius said, rolling back his sleeves and sinking back into his chair. “This is fucking useless. Even if I do learn how to conjure a patronus, it’ll end up being a worm, or a pigeon, or something.”

“We don’t learn the animal form of our patronus until next lesson,” I said.

“Well, I already know mine.”

“We know,” I snapped, and Mikey grinned smugly. He and Teddy Oliver were the only ones in our year to not only learn how to conjure a patronus, but their patronuses didn’t float in small silver wisps like Oscar, Al and Nancy Cameron-Scott’s, but took on full corporeal patronus form.

Teddy Oliver’s was a little bear cub, and his girlfriend of two years- a blonde Hufflepuff called Rachel Tate, did not stop squealing about it.

“Oh, how cute!” she mused, clapping her hands excitedly. Aspen turned to me with an annoyed look on my face, and I knew what we’d be complaining about tonight.

“Maybe think about you and Aspen?” I asked, turning to Scorpius.

“Mm, I tried that,” he said, and then looked in the distance to think again. I shrugged, and turned back to Mikey.

“What was your thought?”

He smirked at me. “Snogging you behind the Quidditch stands.”

“Oh fuck off. No, seriously,” I said, laughing.

Mikey’s smirk turned into a smile, and he shrugged sheepishly. “Mine actually was learning how to fly for the first time,” he said. “I was so worried I was a Squib when I was ten, I hadn’t displayed any signs of magic.”

I grinned, and then turned to my parchment. I had written a few lines on the theory of the corporeal patronus, but I didn’t know what else to say. Mikey had offered his essay, but his handwriting was so illegible I had learned not to even both in second year. I was going to ask Scorpius, and just as I looked up to him he suddenly jumped.

“Oh my God,” he said, his eyes wide.

“What?” I asked.

Look,” he breathed. He bit his lip and muttered expecto patronum under his breath, and I watched thick wisps of white smoke emit from his wand, coiling and dancing in the air.

“Good one, mate,” said Mikey, grinning. “Was it Aspen, then?”

Scorpius looked pale. “Shit. I need to go.”

“Wait- I can teach you how to make it corporeal! Scorpius!” hissed Mikey, but Scorpius was already bundling his parchment and books back into his bag, slinging his robes over his shoulders and closing his ink bottle.

“You alright?” I asked him, but he was already walking away from us.

I turned to Mikey, frowning. “What was that?

Mikey shrugged. “I dunno.”

After a minute of studying in silence, I stood up, slinging my robes off my arms.

“Where are you going?” asked Mikey, not looking up from his parchment.

“Find a book on patronuses,” I said, and that was kind of the truth, because I did need extra information, and our Defence professor recommended trying the library. But there was, of course, another reason why I got up.

I walked over to the Defence Against area of the library, the DADA sign that indicated the two rows of tall, slightly uneven and very full shelves looking tatted and worn out, as it had been since my first day of Hogwarts.

I had seen him come in with his friends a few minutes after we did, and I couldn’t concentrate since then. He plagued my thoughts and clouded my subconscious, ever since I ran into him a week ago by the Gryffindor tower.

I didn’t even glance at his table when I walked by it- I had done enough secret glancing when I was with Scorpius and Mikey, looking at him out of the corner of my eye. James, Alfie and Freddie had their table absolutely covered in papers and books, parchment and quills, and their laughter and loud bickering had gotten the attention of the librarian more than once.

I turned to the bookcase, my fingers gliding over the broken leather book covers, shades of purple and red, navy and brilliant green, all slightly mulled by their age.

“Hey.”

I turned around, and smiled. “Hey.”

He smirked at me. “I need to get a book.”

“Sure.”

“Do you want to move?”

“I was here first.”

“Alright then, Wilderson,” he said. And then he pressed his body up against mine, trapping me between himself and the bookcase behind me, and I was intoxicated by his smell, his undying smell of cigarettes, of summer, of fresh laundry. Something musky and something fruity, something cleaner and purer. 

He held onto to a shelf and thrust his hand to grab a book on the top shelf, and my eyes met his mouth. It smelt of cigarettes and the strawberries that were offered as dessert for lunch today, and I noticed his lips were redder than usual.

He looked down at me, and I swear that we had never been physically closer before, his body pressed so tightly against my body. 

“You alright?”

“I’m fine,” I said breathlessly, looking up at him. 

He smirked, and then suddenly he stepped back, his hand still holding the bookshelf that I was leaned up against.

“Got it,” he said.

I tilted my head, and looked at the cover of it. “Animagi isn’t a part of the NEWT syllabus.”

He cocked a grin. “And I suppose you can explain your sudden interest in the second year syllabus?”

“What do you mean-” and then I noticed I had been hovering by the lower school Defence aisle, and that all the OWL and NEWT books were on the shelves opposite me.

He smirked, tucking the book under his arm and crossing them. He leaned against the bookcase, facing me, and tilted his head slightly. “What’re you studying?”

I took a strand of hair and looped it around my thumb and forefinger. “Patronuses.”

“They’re always fun,” he commented. “I was the second in the year to produce a corporeal form- Alexander Boot in Ravenclaw was the first, annoyingly enough. What’s your form?”

“I haven’t produced one yet,” I said, looking away, and then I looked back at him. “Stop laughing! It’s not about the magical ability, is it, it’s about the strength of the memory of the individual, and I haven’t got any!”

“Don’t be silly,” he said, his mouth curved in a smirk as he leaned towards me. “What memory are you using now?”

“My first time on a broom-”

“How generic,” he said, rolling his eyes. “You can do better than that, Wilderson.”

I crossed my arms and sank further into the bookcase. “Oh really.”

He stroked the skin by my ear, and his thumb grazed my temple. “You’re not thinking deeply enough,” he said. “You’re too scared to actually think of your actual happiest memory, so you convince yourself it’s something easier to explain, like flying.”

“But I like flying-”

“Yeah, and I like pissing off my cousin Molly, but that doesn’t mean it feels me feel good inside enough to conjure a patronus.” He drew closer to me, and looked over my shoulder before looking back at me. “I need to get back to Freddie and Alf.”

“Alright,” I said.

“Remember what I said, Wilderson,” James called, and he walked away towards Freddie Weasley and Alfie Ronson, the latter smiling at me as James sat down next to Freddie, and handed the book on animagi over.

 

That night, I was reading a book on patronuses that Al had leant me in the Ravenclaw dormitory. I was in my pyjamas- a dark grey Appleby Arrows tee-shirt that was three sizes too big for me and navy gym shorts- and my washed hair was in a French braid down my back, the dampness of it chilling the back of my neck.

Veronica Clearwater wasn’t in, which was a relief, but she had been avoiding me ever since the day after the scene in the PE changing rooms. Jasmine had confronted her in the changing room afterwards, and Jasmine was really intimidating if you weren’t friends with her. She had a bold, brazen streak to her nature and a cockney London accent which came out when she was angry, and she was also more likely to use Muggle ways of fighting, rather than wand work, in which Veronica would trump her easily.

Aspen wasn’t in, either- the only person who was in the dormitory was Riley Connelly. She had her dirty blonde hair in two long braids, and her massive, circular glasses were perched on the end of her thin nose. She had also produced a Patronus, apparently, in the other Defence Against class of our year, and Al told me it took on the form of a dove.

Riley wasn’t really friends with Veronica- Veronica hung around with a group of Slytherin girls. Riley was close with the two other Ravenclaw girls, Lisa Pacino and Nancy Cameron-Scott. The three of them were nice enough, I suppose, although I didn’t talk to them much, for Lisa didn’t like Aspen. I think this was because Lisa dated Liam Finnigan in Fourth Year, and Aspen decided she liked Liam, and spent the term trying to break the two up.

“How did you produce a corporeal patronus?” I asked, suddenly, snapping my book shut.

Riley looked up. “Pardon?”

“How did you produce a corporeal patronus?” I repeated, tilting my head slightly and bringing my braid around to my chest, playing with it.

“Oh,” said Riley, looking surprised. “Oh, I- I don’t know. I just thought about my dad, and it came out.”

“Your dad?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said, nodding. “He died when I was ten.”

“Oh my God!” I cried. “I’m so sorry- I had no idea, Riley!”

She shrugged, and smiled. “It’s fine. You just have to think of something really happy, you know?”

I nodded, and smiled back at her. “Oscar told me you produced a dove. That’s so cool.”

“Thanks,” she said, looking pleased. “My boyfriend’s is a puffin, so that’s cool, how they’re compatible.”

“Who’s your boyfriend?”

“Lucas Cohen, in the year above,” she said, blushing slightly. Lucas Cohen? He was a tall, lanky boy in Ravenclaw, with olive skin and messy black hair. He, like Riley, was artistic, and had a quiet yet quirky charm to them. I think he was friends with Danny Alton, and I made a mental note to ask him about Lucas at Quidditch practise.

I grinned, and prompted my elbow on my thigh, and then leaned my head on my hand. “I don’t know anything, Riley. That’s so cool- he’s quite fit, isn’t he?”

She rolled her eyes. “He thinks he’s a lot fitter than he actually is,” she said. “And don’t worry, it’s only been a month.”

“How did you two meet?”

“Actually, we met at the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor match,” she said, closing her book. “Nancy went to the toilet, just as Lucas and his friends came to ask if somebody was sitting by us- the match was just starting, you see, and the Ravenclaw stands were all full.”

“That’s so exciting,” I gushed. “Riley! That’s so cool! You’re dating a year above!”

“Yeah, I mean, I know it’s materialistic and stuff, but it’s so much cooler when they’re older, isn’t it?”

So much,” I said.

“What about you and James Potter? If you don’t mind me asking,” she added, looking interested. 

I shrugged. “Honestly, I have no idea. I can’t work out if he likes me, or if he finds me the most annoying girl in this school.”

“I’m sure he doesn’t,” she comforted. “NEWTs are really stressful, it’s probably that.”

“Yeah, I know, but it’s like-”

“Me and Scorpius just broke up.”

I spun around, and saw Aspen standing by the door. I jumped up and ran to her, and after looking at her tear-streaked face, I threw my body around her in a hug.

“Oh my god,” I said, stroking her hair. “Are you okay? Why?”

She took a deep breath, and sat down on her bed, looking up and tugging on her hair as she does when she’s upset. “I suppose I saw it coming,” she said, after a moment. “It was mutual. It just wasn’t working out like it did before, you know?”

I stroked her hair, as she continued. “It hasn’t been the same since around November, when we went through that stage of non-stop arguing. Like, I feel like I can’t trust him, and he felt like I was clingy.”

“Do you think you’ll ever get back together-”

“No,” she said, quietly. “I think that’s the end. I’m going to go shower now.”

“Are you sure-”

“I’m fine,” she said, and rose from her bed. I turned to Riley, but once again she was engrossed in her book. And I still couldn’t conjure a patronus.

 

It was around twelve, and I had given up. Dementors were banned from Britain in 1998, and I quite like Britain, I don’t really have any intentions of leaving this Dementor-less land- was a patronus really necessary? Not at all, I comforted myself smugly.

It was dark, and everyone else was sleeping. Aspen had said she wanted an early night, and closed the curtains around her bed straight after she came out of the shower. I had gone down to the Common Room to try and find Mikey or Liam, who might have been able to give me more information on what happened, but they didn’t know anything either.

“Hey,” whispered a voice.

I turned around sleepily. Of course it was Aspen.

“Come here,” I murmured, scooting over in my bed.

“I’m not okay.”

“Of course you’re not, honey.”

“I’m so upset.”

“I know you are.”

She climbed into bed with me, and I wrapped my arms around her.

“I think it’s for the best though,” she said, continuing to whisper. “Now I can concentrate on my NEWTs, and we’re still friends.”

“Was it mutual?”

“Yes. I suppose I had been feeling it all along. It was going to have to end at some point, Effy.”

“I know babe,” I said, stroking her hair. “You did the right thing.”

“It happened after dinner,” she said. “He wanted to speak to me, and I had a feeling I knew what it was going to be about. We walked in silence for a bit, and then he said, maybe we should try another break. And then I said, no, maybe it would be better if we called it quits. And then we hugged for a bit, and we spoke about other stuff, and decided to remain friends.”

“But that’s the best way to do it though, isn’t it?” I whispered. “Not like Ophelia and Ruddy last year, when they both tried to hex each other’s noses off.”

She giggled. “Yeah,” she agreed. “It’s just weird, not having Scorpius as a boyfriend.”

“But at least you still have him in some form,” I said.

I could hear her nod in the darkness. “Love you, Effy.”

“Love you too, As.”

And we fell asleep like that, our bodies entwined, like seven-year olds at a sleepover party.

 

Aspen and I walked down to breakfast together the next day, talking quietly about what to expect from the upcoming days. Her relationship with Scorpius was well-known throughout the year (to be fair, any relationship that lasted over a month was) and Scorpius and Aspen, like all beautiful people, drew instant opinions towards themselves and their relationship.

She wasn’t wearing any make-up, but her hair was blow-dried and done in a loose braid down her left shoulder. She smiled politely at people who had looked up to her with interest, obviously hearing the news, and didn’t break her poker face until we slid onto a bench opposite Jasmine and Ophelia.

“I hate our year,” she muttered darkly, grabbing a banana.

Jasmine looked up from the week’s edition of Witch Weekly, and grinned. “Welcome to my world.”

“Are you alright, babe?” asked Ophelia, rubbing Aspen’s hand. 

Aspen smiled, and nodded. “It could be a lot worse, you know? I just suppose it feels weird.

“This is why I don’t do relationships!” cried Jasmine.

“No, Jas, you don’t do relationships because you don’t understand the laws of monogamy,” Ophelia said drily, and I grinned at her.

“Aspen!” I turned around, and saw Mikey, Liam and Oscar run towards us, and it was Mikey who called her name.

“Oh darling,” said Oscar, pushing me aside to hug her. “I am so sorry. You’re fabulous, so much better than he is-”

“Hey!” cried Ophelia. “We laid dibs on Aspen for breakfast!”

“No fair,” Mikey argued back, pointing his finger around. “We’ve known her longer.”

“We’re girls,” Jasmine said, irritably. “We know how to handle this sort of stuff. You’ll just spin some Quidditch metaphor and compare Aspen to some Elle Delacour model.”

“Actually, no, you’re wrong,” said Mikey, and it was clear that that was exactly the speech he had in mind. “I was going to offer her the eternal love and support of the Michael Lancaster committee.”

I was going to tell Aspen a story about an old Irish folk story,” said Liam, his Irish accent even bolder than ever. “Here, Aspen, I gotta good story for you-”

“No, no, no no,” emphasized Mikey, his voice, sharp and upper class contrasting against his best friend’s. “I wanted to tell her a story-”

“You’re like, best friends with Scorpius,” I said. “Shouldn’t you be throwing him a pity party?”

“He’s got Al,” said Mikey, shrugging it off. 

“And he’s a guy,” added Liam.

“With all the firewhiskey running in the Slytherin black market-”

“Guys!” cried Aspen, suddenly, and all our bickering ceased. “I’m fine. I appreciate your concerns, but I’m doing just fine.

I beamed. “That’s my girl.”

“See?” said Jasmine, turning to Oscar. “I definitely influenced Aspen’s independence and sass.”

“Of course, darling,” said Oscar smoothly, and as soon as Jasmine turned to Mikey, he started shaking his head violently.

I rolled my eyes, and picked up an apple. It was a sunny morning, and even though the walk from the Ravenclaw common room to the Great Hall had been freezing, there wasn’t a single cloud in the cornflower blue sky. Perfect weather conditions for the Hufflepuff and Slytherin match next Saturday, I mused.

“We should get going,” I said, standing up. “We’ve got Defence next.”

“First period doesn’t start for another twenty minutes!” cried Ophelia, looking slightly upset.

“She just wants to conjure a corporeal patronus,” said Mikey, lazily.

“Oh, so do I,” said Oscar, excitedly, breaking off from his murmured conversation with Aspen, his hands clenching hers. “I want a really good one, like a lion, or a tiger. Something fancy, to put on my shield as I ride into war…”

 

“A hedgehog?” cried Oscar, as I rolled on the floor with laughter and Aspen cried big, salty tears.

“I can’t even,” she choked. “I’m dead.”

“Your patronus is a hedgehog!” I cackled, clutching onto my sides. “HA!”

“At least I can form one!” he shot. “Maybe it’s a superior breed to a squirrel…”

“No, babe, it’s a hedgehog,” I said, as I watched it scurry around Mikey’s patronus of a golden retriever. The big, handsome dog barked, and the hedgehog scurried away.

“Good, Mr Green,” said our Defence teacher, Professor Lewis. “Very impressive. Miss Spinelli and Miss Wilderson, if you don’t compose yourselves I’ll simply have to send you out.”

“Sorry, Professor,” we murmured, and I tried not to catch Aspen’s eye as we stood up and brushed ourselves down.

Aspen had cheered up a considerable amount since breakfast, but I think this was largely due to her not seeing Scorpius all day, and hearing from Al that he was just as sad as she was. Additionally, Aspen had managed to produce a patronus within the Defence Against double lesson, and it was a beautiful gazelle that Aspen conjured again now, beaming at the gliding, silver animal.

“It’s so pretty,” she purred. “Urgh, Mikey, tell your patronus to stop being so annoying!”

“It’s not my fault that Archie likes deer,” Mikey shot back from the other side of the classroom.

“You named your patronus?” Declan Ainsley, a Ravenclaw, asked him doubtfully.

“Course, bro,” said Mikey happily. “Archie, ‘cos it rhymes with Effy, and she can’t conjure a patronus.”

“Fuck you-”

Language, Miss Wilderson! Fifteen points from Ravenclaw- and you’re lucky that’s not a detention, young lady!” Mikey howled with laughter and I glared at him.

“I hate you,” I hissed, as Mikey swanned over to us.

“No you don’t,” he said, lazily, and sliding into a seat next to mine. “Do you want to discuss how Danny Alton came running into my dormitory at four in the morning today, just to double check that our next match wasn’t for another month?”

I burst out laughing. “Classic Danny. That’s not as bad as Winona Franklin, though, she used to hang voodoo dolls of the other team’s captains in her room.”

“Oh yeah, I heard that. So are you rooting for Hufflepuff or Slytherin?”

“Slytherin, of course.” Ravenclaw played the winner of the upcoming game, and it was considerably easier to play Slytherin than Hufflepuff, due to Slytherin adopting the age of tactic of more brawn, less brain.

“Cheers, Effy,” said Teddy Oliver, turning around from in front of me.

I gasped. “I forgot you were the Hufflepuff seeker!” I cried. “No hard feelings-”

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” he said, grinning lazily. 

I’m not cheering for anyone,” Oscar contributed. “In fact, I don’t even know if I’m going to go. I hate the new Quidditch uniforms, like, what’s the point?”

“What do you mean?” Teddy asked, frowning slightly. 

“Your bums don’t look half as good-”

“Shut up Oscar,” said Mikey, throwing a scrunched up paper ball at him, and we laughed as Oscar successfully dodged it, and it hit Rose Weasley instead.

“Fuck off,” she said sharply, turning around and giving Mikey a dirty look. Parker Wills, Rose’s only considerable friend, also turned around, and shot an identical glare at Mikey.

“Rose!” cried Mikey, dramatically clutching his heart. “Rose! Rosalina! Rosanna! Rosabella!”

“You’re so annoying,” shot Parker, and Rose nodded in agreement. I tilted my head slightly, and looked at Rose. Her hair was back to its usual shade of dark red, after dying it black over the winter, and I wondered if that had anything to do with parental input. She wore noticeable eyeliner, but so did I; however, mine was just above the eyelids in a quick flick, but Rose’s was around the eyes, making them look bigger and more dynamic than they really should. She could be pretty, if she didn’t look so striking and yet bored all the time.

The bell went suddenly, signifying the end of the double Defence lesson.

“If you haven’t yet conjured a patronus,” Lewis called from the front, “I expect one to be produced by Monday, or you’ll be seeing me for lunch sessions until you can produce one.” I thought this was a bit unfair, as some people might not have any happy memories, just considerably mediocre ones. “Weekend homework is to answer questions three to seventeen in your NEWT Defence books on patronus forms. Due in next lesson. Have a good weekend,” he called as we filed out, “and good luck to all players for tomorrow’s match!”

“As if,” muttered Teddy under his voice. “He hasn’t turned up to a single Quidditch game since the final in third year.” I laughed, and said bye as we went our separate ways.

“I’m so excited!” cried Aspen, happily. “I produced a patronus!”

“Alright,” I said tiredly, but then I felt mean, because Defence was one of Aspen’s worst classes, and she sufferer a nervous breakdown whilst revising for the OWL.

“We are telling the others that my patronus is a horse,” said Oscar determinedly. “Or a panther, or a lion- you are not to tell anyone that my patronus is a-”

“Hey, Oscar!” said Ophelia chirpily, siding up to the three of us with another Hufflepuff girl, Eve Feltham. “I hear your patronus is a hedgehog!”

“No it is not!” he snapped. “It is a dragon!”

I haven’t been able to produce one,” said Eve, frowning.

I beamed. “Same!”

“I mean, I know I don’t do Defence for a NEWT, but I’ve been trying it in my dormitory and it is so hard!” Eve continued, and my smile dropped.

“Ha!” cried Oscar, excitedly. “Exactly! At least I can produce a patronus!”

“Yes,” I said tiredly, “but it’s a hedgehog.”

 

After dinner that night, there was a meeting in one of the bigger Transfiguration classrooms, compulsory for all students taking Mermish NEWT. It wasn’t a very popular subject- not like Defence, or Charms- and out of the two years combined, there were only thirty students in the classroom, ten from our year and twenty in the year above.

“Sorry, Az,” I said, rising from the table. “It’s compulsory.”

“Oh, that’s quite all right,” said Ophelia, cheerfully, coming up and linking arms with Aspen. “She can come with us to the library.” Aspen’s face cheered up considerably after hearing she won’t be walking alone to the common room, and I left them to walk with Oscar and Mikey.

Most of the Mermish NEWT students were Ravenclaws- in fact, the only students that weren’t in my house was Teddy Oliver, Ruddy Walcott and Janet Raisenbeck, a girl from Slytherin. Mermish was only offered as a NEWT to twenty students every year, and most Heads of Houses discouraged their students from taking it, according to Albus, who was also offered to take it- except for Flitwick, for Mermish was a skill pioneered by Ravenclaw house, he told us excitedly.

“I bloody wish it wasn’t,” muttered Mikey, as the three of us walked into the classroom. We spotted Declan Ainsley and Nancy Cameron-Scott, two other Ravenclaws in our year, and I followed him towards them.

“I wonder what it’s about,” Declan pondered. “Do you think there’s going to be a class trip?”

“What, to the Black Lake?” asked Nancy. “I hope not- oh, hey, Janet…”

“Hey nerds,” said Ruddy, throwing his body down on the bench, beside Oscar. “It’s an honour to be spending this fine evening with simply the crème de la crème of Hogwarts’ society-”

“Shut up, Ruddy,” said Teddy Oliver, in a good-natured manner as he sat down next to Ruddy.

“How come you take it, Ruddy?” Mikey asked, leaning over me to address the smirking Gryffindor.

“I had to learn Latin in prep school, and Latin and Mermish are sister languages,” explained Ruddy. “And, of course, I’m a brilliant all-rounder with a flair for academia.”

“That genuinely sounds like the caption of a biography about me,” said Mikey pensively.

“Come on now,” I said, squeezing Mikey’s cheeks. “They only write biographies about important people-”

“I’m not saying I’m Harry Potter or anything, but yeah, I consider myself an individual with the potential to be-”

“Important, sure,” I interrupted. “For the wider Wizarding community.”

“Exactly!”

“To know about when you’re locked up in Azkaban-”

“For what? Being able to conjure a patronus?”

“You are so annoying-“

“Lancaster! Wilderson!” snapped Deputy Headmaster, Professor Sinatra, and I noticed James, Freddie Weasley and Alfie Ronson walk into the room and take the leftover seats by the back of the room. “The two of you didn’t shut up when I had you for Astronomy in fourth year, and it’s clear that some things don’t change around here!” Sinatra always liked us- she was the sort of teacher who called upon her favourites, and I could catch the twinkle in her eye. 

From in front of us, Danny Alton whipped his head around and gave us a disappointed look. I glared at him, and Mikey stuck out his tongue.

“Ha!” cried Ruddy, “I’m telling you Professor, they’re definitely going to shag sometime soon-”

“That is quite enough, Walcott!” yelled Sinatra. “Twenty points from Gryffindor for inappropriate language- God, your year is a pain. Okay, so Mermish students- I’m sure you’re all wondering why you’re here tonight…”

I turned to Ruddy, who was sitting back, his arms crossed, and a massive smirk on his face. “You should be locked up, Ruddy. A true danger to society.”

“Come on,” he said lazily. “The Gryffindor lads have a bet going on all the couples who are going to have sex at the Valentine’s Day party me and Louis are throwing, and you two are number two on our list.”

“Course we are,” said Mikey, throwing his arm around me and cupping my chin. “My ickle wickle Effy-kins-”

“Urgh,” I said, pushing him off me and shooting Ruddy a dirty look. “You’re both so annoying.”

“You’re both so annoying,” said Ruddy, intimidating my voice.

I elbowed him. “Okay, so, firstly, I do not speak like that.”

He grinned at me, and Mikey stretched, doing that annoying thing they do when boys get their arms to line against the back of the bench, his fingers drumming on Ruddy’s shoulder. Aspen said it had something to do with male dominance, but Mikey was about as male-dominating as Oscar’s hedgehog.

“Slight changes to your course… Instead of learning about the tenses in such vivid intensity, we’ll be exploring and testing out vocal abilities of each students in a series of controlled assessments this spring…”

Our Mermish teacher, Professor Mendeleev, had a very droning voice- totally monotone, with a slight Russian accent. I yawned, and looked over at Mikey- he, too, was looking exhausted, his eyelids droopy and stifling a yawn with his left fist. He was taking eleven NEWTs this year, and I knew he often worked until three in the morning completing essays.

Oscar had his glasses on, and was scribbling down notes at such a rapid pace I’m sure it didn’t match Mendeleev’s vocal speed. Knowing I could easily borrow his notes, I leaned my head against Mikey’s, crossing my arms and clutching my robes tighter against me.

Mendeleev went on and on and on, and Oscar shot me an exasperated look when Ruddy fell asleep on his shoulder. Peasant, Oscar mouthed, and I smirked. Mikey’s eyes, too, were closed, and I gazed around the room, looking at different people.

Danny Alton and his group of Ravenclaw friends were discussing something quietly in front of us, and to their left, a trio of girls were looking at the week’s edition of Witch Weekly. I remembered that the year above has twice as many Mermish students as our year did, which explained why I didn’t really recognise many people.

But then as my eyes rotated around the room, I noticed somebody I did recognise. James was sitting perfectly straight, his left arm around the back of the bench like Mikey’s was- although, I only just noticed how Mikey’s arm had snaked to being around my shoulders, rather than at the back of the bench like earlier on. He had a pair of glasses on, and was writing down notes with in a lazy, reluctant manner. Alfie Ronson, to his left, had his arms crossed, and was merely watching Mendeleev; Freddie Weasley, however, was quietly murmuring to a girl from Slytherin, with pretty blue eyes and big, pink lips.

I caught James’ eye, and he looked at me, as I looked at him. He was so perfect looking, you know? His every feature looked to be sculpted lovingly by some higher being; the way his hair was so messy, a dark shade of brown that glinted warmer shades in the amber lighting of the fire brackets in the room. His cheekbones, his jawline, the slight curve of his temples- his thick, straight eyebrows and his full, slightly chapped lips. I could see his dark brown eyes beneath his glasses, and they were looking straight at me.

I don’t know how long we looked at each other, but just as I was about to draw away, he smirked lazily at me, and I smiled back.

 

The next day was Saturday, the match between Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Like the day before, it was a beautiful sunny day, and not a single cloud hung in the late January sky. Yet it was still really cold, and Aspen and I sat in the Ravenclaw stands, sharing an old Ravenclaw blanket over our shoulders.

“Oi, share it out,” said a voice. I looked up, and it was Mikey and Liam. 

“Alright then,” I said, scooting closer into Aspen to make room for the two of them. Liam passed down cups of hot chocolate, and Aspen and I graciously took them. She immediately started drinking, but I rolled my cup around my hands, letting the warmth spread to the rest of my arms.

“Scorp is doing a good job,” said Mikey, squinting slightly. “He’s a fantastic Chaser.”

“I know,” Aspen agreed, smiling. “Scouts are here, and he really wants to impress them.”

“So you are you and Scorpius alright now?” Liam asked, leaning over Mikey and me to address Aspen.

She nodded, grinning. “I ended up having a massive talk with him in the Owlery last night,” she said, repeating everything she had said to me last night. “We agreed to try our hardest to continue the friendship we had whilst we were dating, and I love that.”

“Good,” said Mikey, nodding. “See, Eve Feltham’s a good captain, but her Beaters are too weak.” I nodded in agreement. Eve was the only female captain this year, and I wanted her to be good on behalf of female Quidditch players worldwide. Additionally, I kind of knew that Mikey would end up becoming the Ravenclaw Captain next year, and I suppose I projected my annoyance at that onto my support for Eve.

“Crane’s a brilliant Keeper,” I commented, after he defected a particularly good attempt at a goal from a Slytherin Chaser.

“He’s weak on the attack, though- could have easily passed it to a more able Chaser-”

YES, Eve!” I cried, cheering with everyone as Eve scored. 

“Urgh,” moaned Aspen. “Where is Oscar? I hate Quidditch!”

“Don’t worry, Aspen,” said Liam comfortingly. “This match’ll be over soon, I can feel it.”

“Alright, calm down Trelawney- oh my, that is definitely a foul!” shouted Mikey.

“Send him off!” I cried, shocked by the brutality of Blyton, one of the Slytherin Chasers. Madame Hooch, however, didn’t- but she awarded a penalty towards Hufflepuff, and Eve scored again.

The match went on for another half hour, before Teddy Oliver caught the snitch. The quarter of the stands saturated in black and yellow burst into cheers, and the majority of Ravenclaw did too, for a Hufflepuff win was beneficial for Ravenclaw to remain on the top of the Quidditch league.

“Party in the Hufflepuff common room!” we heard several Hufflepuffs shout, as we all ambled out of the stands.

“I love Quidditch,” Aspen said, brightly, and I laughed.

 

“I hate parties,” I said to Al, as we stood at the back of the Hufflepuff common room. I had only been in the common room once before, and that was to witness the scene in fourth year, when James, Freddie and Alfie had decided to saturate the room in bright, plastic balls, turning the room into some giant ball pit.

The common room was dark, bathed in a dull amber lighting, and loud singing and cheering raged in front of us. Eve Feltham was chanting along to some rap version of the Hogwarts song, perched on the shoulders of some Hufflepuff year aboves, and a huddle of excited girls stood around Teddy Oliver, chatting at the top of their voices. 

Al turned to me, and nodded in agreement. “At least I won’t have to wake up with Jasmine Azalea’s sex cries at four in the morning.”

“Yeah, I heard they’re quite cat-sounding.”

“Really? They weren’t particularly. Hey,” he said, suddenly, and flicked his head in the general direction of a huddle of Hufflepuff girls in our year. “What do you think of Poppy Atticus?”

I tilted my head, and gazed at the girl he was talking about. She was giggling at something Ophelia had said, and I noticed the way her hair- a shade caught in the middle of red and blonde, what was the name for it? Strawberry blonde? –glimmered in the weak firelight.

“Mikey was her Potions partner in Fifth Year, and she managed to blow up a consecutive three cauldrons in one lesson,” I said. “I was very impressed.”

“Apparently she fancies me,” he said off-handedly, but I suppose when you’re Al Potter, being fancied by numerous girls isn’t really a big deal. Props up on the breakfast menu, underneath Eggs (scrambled, fried, boiled) for predictability.

“I thought you were doing a thing with Rachel Cartwright in your house?” I asked.

He shrugged. “We went on a date just after New Year’s, and she did not stop talking about herself. I hate it when girls do that.”

I turned to him, my face a mask of mock empathy.  “You know what’s worse? AIDs.”

“Oh go away, Effy.”

“Actually, I don’t think I will,” I said. “I lost Aspen a half hour ago, and Oscar’s spending the night re-writing his Astronomy essay, even though he already got an O on it. He’s so annoying.”

“You know what’s worse? HIV.”

I tried not to laugh, but it kind of bubbled from my lips, like an estranged fart, and he burst out laughing at that. And then suddenly, the grins were wiped straight off our faces when a girl to our right suddenly puked everywhere.

“Want to go?”

“Yes.”

 

And that’s how we wound up in the Hogwarts kitchens at half past ten, and after the general excitement of being in the kitchens- the kitchens! What an exciting, unexplored place to be! And wow, how cute are the house elves, like seriously? Do you want anything, miss? Ziley really likes your hair, miss. Are you Mr Potter’s girlfriend, miss? We like Al Potter, miss!

“This is so cool,” I said excitedly, sitting down on a table- slightly smaller than the tables in the Great Hall above us, and a totally darker shade of wood, and Al smirked.

“You are so easily impressed!”

“Let’s discuss Poppy,” I said, digging into a generous portion of strawberry ice cream. “What do you think of her?”

“Well, she fancies me,” he said bluntly, and I snorted. “And… I suppose she has good legs? What else am I meant to say? I barely know her. Scorpius thinks I should give it a shot, but I don’t know…”

“Al, how many dates have you been on this academic year?”

“Eight.”

“How many girls?”

“Eight. Oh- that includes you, Effy!”

“I know!” I said. “That’s a pattern, isn’t it? None of these dates are working out!”

“Maybe I don’t want them to work out,” he said, and before I could interrupt him, he spoke again. “You have ice cream on your nose.”

“I was saving it for later. So why aren’t these dates working out?”

“Well,” he began, counting off his fingers. “First it was Hilary Boston, and she was nice, but quite boring.”

“Fair enough,” I said, thinking of the Gryffindor girl he was referring to.

“Then it was you, and I couldn’t take you seriously after you said that you thought the Chudley Cannons are the worst team in Britain-”

“I hold true to that statement four months on!” I snapped, and Al rolled his eyes.

“Sit down, Effy. Jools O’Sullivan in the year below was cool, I suppose, but her friends are annoying-”

“Her friends-?”

“And then there was Janet Raisenbeck- I snogged her again at New Year’s Eve, but she’s not particularly good at it-”

“You have standards higher than unemployment rates in Bulgaria, mate.”

“Oh yeah?” he asked, grinning, and digging his spoon into his bowl of ice cream- peanut butter, and I am not afraid to admit I’m judging. “If you’re such an expert on relationships, what’s happening with you and my brother?”

“You aren’t meant to phrase it like that. You’re meant to be like, huh, stay away from my bro if you want your front teeth, dude-”

“Firstly, he’s my older brother, not my younger sister. Secondly, he’s more than capable to keep on top of himself. Thirdly, we’re not back state Americans in a bad 90’s movie.”

“I was going more for 80’s, actually.”

“He likes you,” said Al, conversationally, like we were discussing the weather. “You’re very outspoken, very opinionated, very arrogant, and he’s like that as well.”

“This isn’t a Match.com advert-”

“Fuck off. But because he’s like that- yeah, exactly!  You both share your worst traits, and that’s a struggle for him, because he doesn’t like acknowledging he’s anything but perfect.” I raised my eyebrows in surprise, and Al smirked. “There. Now who’s the relationship guru?”

“You think I’m arrogant?

“The first thing you said to me was that I should be really lucky I sit next to you in Transfiguration, you’re the best in the year.”

I grinned at the memory. “Well, I did get one mark off 100% in the Fourth Year end of years.” Then I frowned at him. “Don’t distract me! Ask out Poppy Atticus!”

He sighed. “Fine.

I beamed.

“But I’ll have to run it past Scorpius first.” I rolled my eyes- I hate it I remember my friends have other friends. But then I remembered something.

“What’s Scorpius doing right now?” I asked. 

“He was at the party with some boys from Slytherin- why?”

I laughed, and dug my spoon into the ice cream. “No, you’ll think I’m a total neurotic.”

“No I won’t, Effy,” said Albus. “Hey! Tell me!”

I swallowed my ice cream and looked up, spinning the spoon between my fingers. “Remember when you got me to pretend to be Scorpius’s mum that one time, and he started bleeping on about Rose?”

Al nodded slowly.

“They’re not doing anything, are they?”

I was kind of nervous when delivering that line, because I knew Rose was Al’s cousin and Scorpius was obviously his best friend. I also knew through James that Rose and Al used to be joined at the hip before she became some radical 90’s sarcastic bitch, and it was a sensitive topic for Al.

Al’s eyebrows furrowed, and his voice dropped. “I won’t pretend I haven’t thought about it.”

I brushed a lock of hair away from my face, and tilted my head slightly as he spoke. “Rose really liked him, and he really liked her. It was a different kind of love than what he felt for Aspen. Aspen was this cool, exotic, absolutely beautiful girl from Ravenclaw who has a reputation amongst the boys for being hard to get, right? And Scorpius had just started getting proper girl attention in fifth year. Not just from girls in our house, but girls all over the year. It was exciting for him. Aspen was new, and Rose was old. He didn’t know that Rose liked him back, but he knew Aspen did.”

I nodded, and remembered back to that summer, when Aspen and Scorpius started talking at Ruddy Walcott’s party before sixth year. And the dating, the long talks on the beach by Aspen’s house, the kisses and the summer romance that blossomed into a real thing in school.

“But then Scorpius and Rose met again in France? Rose was with your cousins, and Scorpius was with his family.”

“Yeah, and you know how that sort of stuff works out. There’s some Beauxbaton kid who throws a party, and my cousin Dom takes Rose, and Scorpius knew the boy from vague family friendship.”

“At least it was a mutual break up,” I said, licking my spoon thoughtfully. “It could have been so much worse, you know, especially with Aspen.”

He nodded. “Anyway, Scorpius hates Rose’s new persona. He wouldn’t do anything with her when she’s like that anyway.”

“Do you think?”

“Yeah,” he said, scooping out a very generous spoonful of his ice cream. “I wouldn’t-”

“No way! What a pleasant surprise!”

I spun around, and walking towards us was Mikey and Jasmine, and from the way Jasmine was swaying and Mikey was strutting, they were definitely drunk.

“Urgh, is that strawberry ice cream?”

“Mikey Lancaster! Only God can judge me-”

“Yeah,” said Mikey, pointing to himself. “Good analysis… sis.”

Sis?” I suppose it was better than being called dude, man or bro, as he’s called me numerous times in the past. It’s always nice knowing your friends are aware of your gender.

“Oh, how helpful, Aries!” said Mikey, turning to a particularly keen house elf, as Jasmine slung herself down next to me. “Since it’s January, it seems only fitting to get ice cream- like our good friends over here! Mint chocolate chip flavour, if you please!”

“Can I have vanilla?” asked Jasmine, poking her head over me. 

“So is this a date?” asked Al, unsuccessfully trying to hide a snigger as Mikey almost tripped over. Mikey glared at us three witnesses, claimed he was only testing gravity, and threw himself down next to Al.

“Nuh-uh!” sang Jasmine. “We were just getting a bit bored of the general Hufflepuff happiness.”

“Hufflepuffs are always happy,” Al said. 

“Welcome to Hogwarts!” I added brightly, and we high-fived.

“Yes,” said Mikey, “but it is so very annoying in that high a dosage. I don’t understand it.”

“Well, they did just win a Quidditch game-”

“We weren’t like that at our victory party!” cried Mikey, and Al laughed.

Yes, you were.”

The night went on, and Mikey and Jasmine slowly sobered up, therefore the conversation got generally deeper, as we asked for more and more refills of ice-cream.

We spoke about the future. Mikey wanted to become a lawyer, maybe a judge on Wizengamot, and Al wanted to be a Healer. Jasmine was doing all the NEWTs required to be an Auror but didn’t think she’d pass Potions.

“And anyway,” she said, “I don’t really want to do it, I was just crushing on Freddie Weasley and that’s what he was wanting to do.”

“What about you, Eff?” asked Al, turning to me.

“She doesn’t know,” said Mikey. “And I should know, we had to write an essay in Mermish about future plans and she totally freaked out and got a detention for not being able to write it-”

“Shut up!” I cried. “I just have a lot going for me-”

“There!” cried Al, standing up and brandishing his spoon at me. “Arrogance! Again!”

 




 Hey! I tried really hard to finish this off as quickly as possible because I hate leaving you waiting for so long, especially now I've finished exams there really isn't an excuse- so it's quite rough, I'm not too sure and I'll definitely be revisiting this chapter again. I know you may be disappointed by the lack of James & Effy action in this chapter, but 1. there will be LOADS next chapter (I've decided it'll be the biggest 'Jeffy' chapter yet) and 2. Effy is her own gal! James is only a certain aspect of her life, and I want to really establish her as an individual, not as Harry Potter's son's girl! You know? So yeah, apologies but wanted to explain myself about that hahahah. Hopefully I made up for it with the Rose/Scorpius and a good Oscar scene- but if not, please tell me! 

Your reviews honestly make my day. They are endlessly and undescribably encouraging and I can't thank you enough! Thank you thank you thank you! xx

PS- I know it's waaay too early but I've officially decided not only where FA is headed- like I've mentally mapped up the upcoming events, chapters and how it will end- but I've decided on a sequel, and what's going to happen in it. SO EXCITED !!
 


Chapter 14: albus! albus! albus!
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Do I look alright?” asked Aspen, twirling around in our deserted dormitory.

“You’re in your school uniform.”

“Yeah, but my skirt’s one inch and a half shorter. And my tie is a bit longer- does that make my waist look slimmer? It said that in Witch Weekly…”

It was a month since Aspen and Scorpius had broken up, and Aspen had already been asked out on a date by several boys in our year and the year above. She had politely declined them, out of respect to some One Month rule in the Things Every Modern Day Women Should Know hardback Oscar had given me for Christmas. It stated that mutual break-ups resulting in friendship had to wait a month before either could start dating, and yesterday marked exactl
y thirty days on the dot. Aspen was absolutely elated when Julius Ascot started talking to her in the library this morning, which I didn’t really understand, because it was just Julius Ascot.

“It’s just Julius Ascot,” I said.

“Exactly!” she cried.

“Kieran O’Hara is so much fitter-”

“Yes, well, unfortunately for him, he asked me out during my mourning stage-”

“Stop referring to the month period as a mourning stage!” I cried. “Scorpius isn’t dead!”

She rolled her eyes. “Julius has had early acceptance to Healer school in New York,” she said smugly. Julius Ascot was a Ravenclaw in the year above, with curly black hair and tanned skin. His nose was long and straight, and he had what Oscar called Hollywood teeth, an epic shade of white that looked almost unnatural.

I gasped and clutched a hand to my heart, and Aspen rolled her eyes, hitting me with her pillow.

“I have to go to Quidditch practise,” I said, swinging my kit bag over my shoulder. “See you in Transfiguration.”

“Okay!” she said happily, reclining on her bed and returning to her Charms textbook. It was lunchtime, but they were serving sausages and mashed potato, and we both agreed to go hungry rather than eat it. To be honest, everyone in our Defence against the Dark Arts class did, after we started learning about an absolutely disgusting looking enchantment that had the effect of turning human limbs into figments that resembled the sausages almost exactly.

“I am never eating another sausage in my life,” deadpanned Louis Weasley, and we all nodded.

 

“Effy!” said Danny, as I walked into the Ravenclaw changing rooms. “Fantastic, right on time, as usual.” I looked around and saw the six other people in the team fully dressed, and frowned.

“Oh!” I cried suddenly. “You’re being sarcastic.”

Danny rolled his eyes. “Get changed,” he said. “Meet us outside in five minutes.”

Everybody filed out, and I walked into the deserted girls’ changing room. It was chilly, and an icy wind blew gently as the door closed. I got unchanged quickly, my limbs shivering as I pulled my Quidditch jersey over my bra, smirking at myself in the mirror as I always did when I saw 21 cased on the royal blue material, in shiny bronze letters, and WILDERSON in the same style at the back.

I grabbed my broomstick from the closet and walked outside, slinging my hair up into a loose ponytail with one of Aspen’s scrunchies, the exact same shade as my uniform.

“Sorry!” I cried, rushing over to where the group were huddled. “I was-”

"Fine," said Danny, dismissing my apology. "Fine. I was just saying how I'll be concentrating on the Chasers and Keeprs for the first half, and the Beaters for the second."

"So what do I do?"

"Classic," said Mikey in a patronising tone. "Making everything all about yourself." He smirked at me as Liam snorted and I fake-laughed.

"Oh Mikey, you are so funny-"

"That's enough," said Danny. "You can help the Beaters practise, Effy. Be their target as you catch the snitch. Okay?" We all nodded. "Alright. Come on- Lancaster, Swift..."

 

The practise went on well enough until Indigo Coates sent a particularly good- or in my case, bad- hit at me, which caused me to fall off my broom, onto the muddy pitch beneath me.

"Oh my God!" cried Indigo, flying down. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," I said, sitting up and rubbing my elbow. I wasn't looking forward to the bruise tomorrow. "Oh, fuck, I'm covered in mud..."

"You're caked in mud," said Mikey, flying down with Danny, Lara and Josh. 

"Thanks, Sherlock."

"Are you hurt?" asked Danny. "No? Even so, take the rest of practise off. Go shower."

"I thought the showers were broken," piped up Lara.

I scowled at Indigo, as Mikey helped me up.



Thankfully, it was class time, so the corridors were empty, but my shoes were oozing muddy water all over the floors, and I winced at every squelch. Imagine if it hadn’t been during class time, and Danny hadn’t gotten Flitwick’s permission to let us all miss fifth period. I don’t think I could live with the humiliation of it all.

“Oh my god- Wilderson?

Perfect.

“Yes,” I hissed, as James Potter, Freddie Weasley and Alfie Ronson turned round the corridor, and walked towards me.

“What happened?” asked Alfie, as Freddie and James burst out laughing.

I crossed my arms, and scowled. “I fell in the mud,” I snapped.

“You are caked in dirt,” howled Freddie. 

“Why didn’t you use the changing room showers?” persisted Alfie, looking concerned. 

“Apparently they’re broken,” I said, rolling my eyes. Of course this would happen to me.

“Unlucky,” said James, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth, and Freddie was overcome by another round of laughs. It was the first time I had heard his voice in what seemed like ages. Urgh, his voice was perfect, the perfect combination of a husky, cockney twang with a mainly sharp British accent, his voice low and with undertones of velvet.

“We have to go,” said Alfie, smiling slightly. “See you later.”

We went our separate ways, until I heard footsteps running behind me. I turned around, and saw James jog up, as Alfie and Freddie turned round the corridor, deep in discussion.

“The Prefect bathroom is closer,” he said, ruffling the back of his hair, looking slightly embarrassed. “The password’s Lucinda, and there’s a really bitchy mermaid by the bath.”

“Oh- thank you,” I said, smiling. “Where-”

“It’s kind of obstructed,” he said. “It’s down the corridor, and then to your left, towards Charms- but then there’s a trick staircase which is sometimes there but if not, you have to do a U-turn and walk through a small passage opposite some statue of Helga Hufflepuff-”

“You know, it’s fine,” I said, interrupting him. “I’ll use my dorm shower.”

“Don’t be so noble,” he said slightly crabbily. “That’s a ten minute walk from here. Look, you’re dripping. I’ll walk you.”

“What about Freddie and Alfie-”

“They’re just going back to our common room,” said James. “We have a free period. Come on, it’s this way.”

“Are you sure-”

“Come on, Wilderson!”

I rolled my eyes, and strode quickly up to him, until we were walking in sync.

“Why was Alton getting you to roll around in mud?” James asked, as we walked through the empty corridor.

"He didn't, not really. I was knocked off my broom."

He looked down at me as I spoke. James was tall, and whilst I wasn’t small, I still came up to his chin, and I couldn’t help but lift my head slightly to look him in the eye.

He then turned his head swiftly from me to ahead of him. 

“So what’s new?” he asked, after an elongated moment.

“What’s new?

He paused. “Yeah.”

Oh, James. I had a dream about having sex with you the other night, and was very disappointed when I woke up. Not with James, but with the concept that it wasn’t, at all, realistic.

“Nothing,” I said shortly, and then added, “not really. You?”

He ran his hand through his hair. “Listen, Effy, I-”

“Elizabeth Wilderson!”

“Poppy?”

Poppy Atticus, in all her wavy, strawberry blonde hair glory, came walking sharply around the end of the corridor, and she looked livid. This was weird, because we has usually maintained friendly contact, especially through Ophelia.

“Did you tell Albus I liked him?” she cried.

“Nooooo,” I drawed out, and James sniggered. “Someone told Ophelia who told Scorpius who told Mikey who told-”

“This is so embarrassing!” she shot, flicking her hair over her shoulder. “He kept on laughing at me in Potions today! And- wait! You’re not even a prefect!”

“I’m letting her use it on my authority,” said James, smoothly. “Is there a problem with that?”

She looked startled, like she just noticed him. “Of course not,” she said quickly. “I don’t even have a free period, I’m just bunking Ancient Runes to avoid Albus again- oh wait, sorry, I forgot you’re brothers-”

James snorted. “It’s fine,” he said. “I should be going before the boys send out a search party.”

“You were saying something before?” I called, as he started walking off.

“It doesn’t matter,” he called back, and I turned away from him, rolling my eyes in annoyance.

“Oh sorry,” said Poppy. “Was I interrupting something?”

“Not really,” I said, wearily. “So where is this bathroom?”

“Come with me,” she said, and she spent the rest of the journey telling me about how much she detested Albus Severus Potter, and his good-for-nothing sidekick, Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy.

“I’ll speak to him,” I offered, and she shook her head, horrified.

“That’ll only goad him on! It was so embarrassing, Effy! He had spent the whole lesson laughing at me, and then sent me a note going, I heard you had the hots for me- and then Professor Greenwich noticed, and made me read it out loud to the class as a punishment! And I wasn’t even the one who sent it!”

I patted her on the arm sympathetically. “It’ll all blow over by tomorrow.”

 

What did you do?” I cried, stabbing my roast potato with a fork in annoyance.

Al flinched, whereas Scorpius rolled his eyes. 

“It was just flanter,” Al explained.

Flanter?

“Flirty banter,” said Scorpius, like I was an idiot. “I mean, we put kisses at the end of it.”

“Good one mate,” said Mikey, nodding excitedly with his mouth full of food.

“I am surrounded by idiots,” I said, raising a hand to my forehead. 

“Flanter is a thing, Eff,” said Jasmine brightly. “They talked about it in Witch Weekly a few weeks ago. The Beauxbatons swear by flanter."

“She was really annoyed by that, Al! You embarrassed her in front of the whole class!”

“Oh, come off it, it was just Runes,” scoffed Scorpius. “The only people apart from us were a table of deadbeat Ravenclaw nerds. No offence.”

“Was she actually upset?” asked Albus, looking mildly horrified.

“Yes!” I emphasised.

“You said she’d laugh and come onto me!” cried Albus to his blonde best friend. 

“Well- well, maybe she’s just playing you around! Maybe she isn’t the girl for you anyway! You know, she’s not even blonde, is she? She’s more ginger-”

“You owe her an apology,” I said, pointing my fork at him, and Jasmine nodded eagerly in agreement. Ophelia and Aspen had gotten an early dinner with Oscar, planning an outfit for Aspen’s date with Julius Ascot.

Fine,” said Al, crabbily.

“Now,” emphasised Jasmine, and we nodded in perfect sync.

“Is she even in the hall-”

“Yep!” cried Mikey, spraying me with beef. “She’s over there, with Eve Feltham and the other Hufflepuff girls- see, look!”

“No time like the present,” I chirped brightly, as Al looked slightly sick.

“Do I have to-”

Yes mate,” said Scorpius, and I knew he was egging Al on for the comedic potential of the scene, and not because he thought that Poppy deserved an apology.

“Albus, Albus, Albus,” Jasmine and I chanted, as Al stood up, and walked confidently towards the cluster of the five Hufflepuff girls, sitting a bit further down on the table next to ours. We all instantly craned our necks to watch the scene, and Scorpius’s mouth was curved in feverous excitement.

“Hey,” said Al, his hands thrust in his pockets and his head tilted upwards, a sign of confidence, borderline arrogance. He had never looked more like James.

The girls smiled politely at him, apart from Poppy, who turned in the opposite direction. There were about twenty Hufflepuff girls in our year, and out of all of them, this group was the group that Ophelia usually hung out with- generally well-liked, easy going girls, who weren’t necessarily popular like Jasmine and her group of Gryffindor girls, but were nice and friendly enough to be on good terms with everyone. So that’s why I found it a bit strange, Poppy’s hostile attitude towards Al.

“Are you alright, Al?” asked Eve, looking up.

“I’d just like to apologise to Poppy,” said Al, loud and clearly. It didn’t make heads turn, but as a group, we could hear every syllable.

There was a silence, and Al shot us a dirty look as Scorpius dissolved into giggles.

“Well?” prompted Albus, after an elongated moment.

She turned to him, and shook her head. “No.”

“Wait- what?

“I don’t accept your apology that you’ve been goaded into by your friends, and that you’ll laugh over tonight in your Slytherin dormitory,” she said, and Eve rolled her eyes.

“What? Noooooo!” shot Albus, his frustrated no sounding like an aeroplane’s take-off. “I am not going to laugh over you-”

“Good,” said Poppy, smiling, picking up her fork. “Okay, we’re done.”

“So you forgive me?”

“No.”

Al shot her an incredulous look, and walked back to us, his arms crossed and his face livid. And after he sat there in stony silence, as Mikey and Scorpius tried to stop laughing- and Jasmine and I patted his arms, shooting the boys dirty looks- he opened his mouth.

“I don’t think I’ve ever fancied somebody so much in my life,” he stated, “as I fancy Poppy Atticus right now.”

“You’re crazy,” said Mikey, shaking his head.

Al stared into the space between Jasmine and me. “I genuinely think I really like her.”

Now look what you’ve done!” wailed Scorpius at Jasmine and me. “You’ve turned my best mate into a complete and absolute idiot!”

 

The first of March was an exceptionally beautiful day. The temperature was unseasonably warm, keeping up with the recent heat of the early spring, and not a single cloud hung in the cornflower blue sky. A gentle breeze hung in the air, making the ends of my hair flutter against my chest, and my shirt ripple ever so slightly. I had discarded my tie with my robe, stuffing the two at the bottom of my bag, and my skirt was significantly shorter than usual.

“Effy,” said James, striding up in his usual way; his hands thrust lazily in his pockets, his robes hanging off one arm and his head cocked up, like he was the King and Hogwarts was his castle.

“Hey,” I said, trying not to sound like the excitable year below I was always scared he saw me as.

He smirked. “You’re early.”

You’re late.”

“No, I’m perfectly punctual. Anyway, I’m the one who asked you out, so it’s only fair that you arrive at an eager timing to counter my efforts.”

“Fine,” I said, and he smirked. “You’re six minutes late but we can completely disregard the basic rules and laws of time to fit around your ego.”

“That would be really convenient, yeah. Come on, let’s go.” He tapped his wand against the mouth of a portrait of Merlin on a moving tapestry, and I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was passing in the empty corridor. But everyone was outside, making the most of the weather.

“Come on,” he said impatiently, separating the tapestry into two, revealing a small door. He opened it, and I saw an ascending staircase. He held the curtains open and I lightly started walking up, gripping the banister with one hand, my lit wand in the other.

“Keep on going right to the top,” instructed James, behind me. “Nice bum, Wilderson.”

“Thanks, it’s very useful,” I said, turning around-

Effy!” he hissed, grabbing me. I had almost fallen down the staircase. “Are you alright?”

I nodded, feeling his hand on my back and his head only inches away from mine in the musky darkness of the steps.

“Yeah, thank you,” I murmured, and he brushed a lock of hair away from my face.

“Just keep on going forward,” he instructed, and I picked myself up again. I could hear him quietly breathing behind me, a constant reminder of his presence in this claustrophobic staircase, in which the stairs themselves had developed into nothing more than rungs from one side of the circular tube to the other, and it was slowly getting lighter and lighter.

And then I saw it. Just ahead of me was a clearing, a perfect circle of clear, blue sky. I looked down at James and he nodded impatiently for me to continue, and I hoisted myself out of the staircase, and onto a small tower, overlooking the Black Lake and the Forbidden Forest.

It was absolutely breath-taking. It was a tower much smaller than the Astronomy roof, and much more exclusive, jutting out slightly from the rest of the building. Railings guarded the perimeter of the roof, and I leaned my arms against the cool, wooden fence, looking down at the various students scattered across the grounds.

“What do you think?”

I turned around, and smiled, my elbows propping me up against the fence. The wind made my hair fly in front of my face, and I could feel my cheeks turn pink. “It’s beautiful.”

“I’m glad you like it,” he said, grinning, taking me by the waist and pulling me into his body, kissing me, his left hand holding that area where my head meets my neck, his other hand wrapped firmly around my waist, his warm body tingling in the cool, spring air.

 

The day before has started off pretty normal, I suppose. I had woken up early, and exchanged Arithmancy notes with Riley Connelly in the bathroom, until Nancy Cameron-Scott came in and asked who was it, leaving their hair in the shower every night? And we both assured her it wasn’t us, and we concluded that it was probably Veronica Clearwater, the bitch.

Then Aspen woke up, and we went to breakfast, sitting with Jasmine, Ophelia and Oscar. Jasmine was bitching about some girl in her house, Ophelia was trying to work out the quantity of calories in her yogurt pot and Oscar was nodding along to Jasmine’s venting, and I couldn’t work out if he was actually paying attention, or if he was just being polite. It was a Friday. 

Then I left to go to Mermish with Oscar, and after Mermish, I walked with Teddy Oliver to Herbology, and we discussed the upcoming Quidditch World Cup.

“As soon as tickets go on sale, my brother’s snapping as many England games as possible,” said Teddy, as we walked through the crowded corridor.

“I hope they’re in a good drawing,” I said. “Last time they were grouped in with Australia and Greece, and they barely got into the game.” Quidditch operated on a fairly simple structure; fifty teams get in, and then they’re separated into five lots of ten, where they play each other to get into the top four- and then the top four come together as a victorious number of twenty, and then the Quidditch World Cup begins.

We were always at school for the group matches, and the Professors would have live games playing in holographics in the Great Hall during the weekend. But for games played during week days, we had to rely on word of mouth and the Prophet sports pages for details.

“I doubt they’d draw England into such a high set group again,” Teddy remarked, hoisting his bag further up his shoulder. “They’re meant to be completely mixed ability, but it seemed that all the best teams were in their group. So unfair.”

“So you’re going to America over the summer, then?” This year, America would be hosting the 2023 Quidditch World Cup, and my dad was already “ear-deep” in work, running the Sport pages for the Daily Prophet. Lee Jordan was presenting, as usual, and Josh Wood’s uncle Oliver Wood was the manager.

“Yeah, with my brother,” he said, grinning. “And Declan’s coming with us, too- he’s a Muggleborn, and he’s never been to a match outside Hogwarts before. Are you?”

“I’m going with my mum, and my brother’s in America, anyway. But my dad’s alternating between the two countries all summer.”

“That sounds like a pain,” said Teddy, sympathetically. “Are you camping?”

“Yeah, what about you?”

“Staying in a hotel,” said Teddy, rolling his eyes. “Not the same experience, is it?”

I shrugged, and grinned. “At least you won’t have to put up with the Irish supporters.”

Too true.”

We discussed it all the way down the stairs and across the lawn, towards the greenhouses. Others were walking towards the greenhouses too, and Teddy waved at some boys in his house.

“Very warm for this time of year,” he commented, and I agreed, as we walked into Greenhouse 3.

“Good morning sixth years,” said Longbottom, briskly wiping his hands down on his thighs. “Bare with me just one second, I’m just wrapping up with some seventh years…” I turned my head, and saw James Potter and Freddie Weasley standing at the back with Longbottom, and James caught my eye, winking, as he stood there, leaning lazily against some fourth year display.

“You alright, Wilderson?” he asked, as I walked over to my position, in between Mikey and Jasmine.

I turned around, and grinned, ignoring Jasmine blow a raspberry, I knew she thought he wasn’t good for me. “I’m alright, yeah.”

He smirked, and I could just about hear his voice over the sound of students coming in and out, my year settling down and the year above leaving. “You busy tonight?”

“No-”

“Sick.” He nodded to Longbottom and walked out with Freddie, smacking Al round the head as he passed him. Longbottom clapped his hands, to signal the beginning of class, and Jasmine turned to me, fuming.

“You forgot to ask what it was you’re doing!” she cried, impatiently.

“Oh yes….

“What if he forgets?”

I slammed my head on the table, and she patted it sympathetically.

 

He found me just after lunch, walking to my next lesson with Mikey. He was in his Quidditch kit- the scarlet Quidditch jersey with POTTER 07 in capitalised golden letters, black shorts that made Oscar squeal, his dark hair messier than usual, his face red and slightly sweaty- the universal look of all Quidditch players after a particularly good practise.

He had a Quaffle tucked under his arm, and Alfie Ronson, who was strolling by him, was idly playing with a Muggle tennis ball, the two in light discussion, whilst the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team lagged slightly behind them.

“Oh, fantastic,” said Mikey, smirking, as he acknowledged Louis Weasley and Ruddy Walcott. “Your faces match your uniform.”

Louis, whose face was redder than the rest and looked kind of odd against his light blonde hair, rolled his eyes and Ruddy laughed.

“You’re so funny, Mikey,” shot Louis. “It’s like stand-up comedy night at the Leaky Cauldron round here.”

“I didn’t know they had an amateur night special,” added Ruddy.

Mikey was about to retort, when James looked up from his conversation with Alfie. “That’s enough, lads,” said James, giving his Beaters a dirty look.  “There’s only ten minutes of lunch left. Go eat, you’d all be starving by now.”

“Too right,” said a Chaser in fifth year- and then I noticed how all the members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team were boys, and they all looked like a cross between the lost boys from Peter Pan and the savages from Lord of the Flies, kind of rough and kind of misguided. 

As the rest of the Quidditch team walked past us towards the dining hall, Mikey and I began to walk away, when James put out his hand to stop me.

“Not so fast, Elizabeth,” he smirked. “I hope you hadn’t forgotten about our hot date tonight.”

“How could I forget?” I asked, crossing my arms across my chest.

He laughed, and then looked back at me. 

“It’s a Friday, so classes end early-”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed. Thanks.”

“-so meet me here, just before dinner. And by the way, Eff, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”

He grinned as he said it, and his eyes glinted in the early spring sunlight emitting from the window beside us. 

“See you later,” I said, turning around, and biting my mouth down so I wouldn’t squeal from excitement. Mikey and I walked around the corner, and only after a minute did he speak.

“I didn’t know Al’s brother had asked you out!” he exclaimed.

“Yeah, it was kind of weird,” I said, ruffling the back of my head and slinging my back further up my arm. “I can’t work him out. One day he’s asking me out in front of my whole Herbology class, the next he’s ignoring me.”

“Or snogging some model.”

I gave him a look. “That was the one time-”

Mikey shrugged, and gave me a look. 

“You alright?” I asked, crossing my arms as a cool breeze hit us, nudging him in the left arm.

Mikey looked up at me, and only then did I realise how his eyes weren’t brown, but a kind of hazel colour, the spring sunlight bringing out the green flecks of his irises. 

“Fine,” he said. “Hang on, I need to speak to Declan.” And he basically ran away from me, towards Declan and Vaughn Ainsley, a boy in Slytherin in our year, leaving me all alone in the corridor.

 

I told some of this to James as we sat on the tower- I left out the part of Mikey not trusting James, but just how off Mikey had been acting around me recently.

“It’s probably some boy thing,” said James, stroking my hair absent-mindedly. He was leaning against the rugged stone wall, and my head was on his lap, as I lay on the cold cement ground, my legs arched. “Boys get like that sometimes. Freddie always gets into weird mood swings with his girl mates.”

“Like Eve Chang?”

“I know, right? I think he likes her,” he said, looking up at the sky above us. A few wisps of pink clouds had wavered over, and I knew sunset was due soon. Golden rays reflected on our faces, our shadows growing longer by the minute.

“Do you think you get like that?”

He snorted, and looked down at me. “Obviously not.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, sitting up and crossing my arms against the sudden cool breeze.

“Well, I’m mature,” he said smartly.

This time, it was my turn to snort. “No you are not.

What?

“You just charmed the toilet paper in all the girls’ bathrooms to make drowning noises when it got flushed-”

“Elizabeth Wilderson,” he said hotly, “considering you have never staged a prank in your life, I really do not see why you’re even attempting to criticise-”

“I’m not criticising your pranks, I’m criticising your belief of maturity-”

“I saved your life,” he smirked arrogantly. “You would still be in the Hospital Wing if it wasn’t for me.”

“No, all you saved was your ego. Danny Alton was ten feet below me and would have definitely caught me-”

My ego? We lost that game due to my lack of ego-”

“No!” I said, hotly. “You lost because I had already caught the snitch!”

He ruffled my hair. “Smashing story, Wilderson. Do you change the details of everything you retell?”

I scowled at him, and crossed my arms tighter. “Hi, I’m James Potter. Don’t let my recycled pranks and generic hair style put you off my huge egotistical and proud nature. It’s compensating for something.”

He snorted. “It’s actually quite big.”

“What, your quantity of cousins or your web of lies?”

“I’m actually referring to Nicolas,” he said, kind of pompously, doing that little tut he sometimes did.

I clasped a hand over my mouth. “Oh my God. No. Please tell me you didn’t name your-”

“You’re very judgemental-”

“You kind of remind me of ebola-”

“What? Because I’m a lady killer?

"Oh my God. I think I hate you almost as much as I hate being me right now."

"You sound like Rose."

"Good."

He laughed, as I raised my head from his lap and leaned against the stone cold brick wall behind us, as he lazily roped his arm around my shoulders. We spent the rest of the evening chatting, arguing, talking about anything that came to mind, really. 

The sun gradually went down, the last flickers of reddish gold emitting over the horizon. James said George Harrison was the best Beatle, I said John Lennon. He said Lennon was a bit pretentious, and Imagine is the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard, and I said no, what are you saying, he’s a modern prophet. James called me a naïve idiot, and I said I’d rather be a naïve idiot than a cynical one.

And he laughed, his throaty voice filling the darkening night sky, and suddenly we were kissing, his arms holding me, his fingers tangled in my hair.

Leaning against the castle wall, looking out to the dying sunset, his arm was around my shoulders and my legs were tangled in with his. He told me about his parents; the music he liked, the music he didn’t. He told me about how he taught his cousin Hugo and Roxanne to play Quidditch, but he presented the duo’s talent at the sport as all natural, denying to this day his role in their skill.

“Why?”

“In a family like mine,” he said, his low and slightly husky, always perfectly clear voice dropping like it always did when he was discussing something more serious, “you kind of need to take all the extraordinary you can get.”

He wanted to hear about my ambitions, my thoughts on my year group, my attitude towards the Ministry and the wider Muggle world and I told him about the female goblins and unlike my friends he didn’t laugh, but agreed. I felt his lips in the roots of my hair as I told him about the time Sinatra referred me to Madame Pomfrey to make sure I wasn’t suffering from an eating disorder, and he told me how the increasing rate of anorexia within Hogwarts terrified him.

“Lots of things terrify me,” he admitted, stroking my hair as I lay on his lap, looking at the star studded inky black sky above us, the perfect crescent moon.

“Like what?”

“The future. This war in Russia. The fact that it’s 2023 and people are still harbouring prejudice against werewolves.” He practically spat out the last sentence, his voice saturated in anger.

“Hey,” I said, raising my hand to stroke his jaw. “Hey.”

“And the most pathetic thing of all is that what scares me is me, myself,” he said. “I spent my whole Hogwarts career doing the ridiculous shit to try and distance myself from my parents’ reputations- pranks, sex, partying, all that debauchery- but it’s not me. I mean, maybe it was at the time, in the moment, but I don’t think it’s me me. I think I got drunk at the age of thirteen and liked the sound of the Potter Wild Child more than the Potter First Born Child, and I’ve been running around in circles to maintain a reputation I hate- my parents didn’t do this when they were my age-”

“James,” I said, sitting up and looking at him. “You’re so much more than the party gossip and teenage antics. Stop comparing your experience of youth to your parents- they grew up in a war.”

I suppose,” he said, not sounding convinced.

“You’re so brave,” I said, thinking about the way he jumped in front of the hex Yearling sent at Alfie for being a Muggleborn last term, and the way he and Freddie stood up to him in the first place. “People talk about that, too. Actions are just as contemporary as the rumours that exaggerate them, but character is character. That’s what you can’t escape.”

He looked down at me, and smiled. Smiled genuinely, not that half-arsed smirk he always wore. “Thanks Wilderson.”

“And I know all about character, considering my personality is flawless and enviable.”

He laughed in the silence of the cloudless night that surrounded us, and kissed me like we had never kissed before. And his lips tasted of the strawberries they offered at dinner, and I laughed into his mouth as he grabbed my wrists, demanding to know what was so funny, and I said you, and he thought about it, and agreed.

 

 






OKAY THIS WAS THE MOST JEFFY THING SO FAR. James showed Effy his sensitive side, Albus started chasing a girl with a flower-name who wanted to him go away, Mikey was Mikey... Pleaaase tell me what you think? Was Effy and James too cringy? Because I'm kind of scared they were? Thanks so much for reading, and reviews make my day. Like I actually start beaming when I read them. I'm sorry replies to them can sometimes be long but they genuinely mean so much to me! And above all, they encourage me to keep on writing. So yeah, thank you lots + lots!

Also I don't own Sherlock- Arthur Conan Doyle does. Coooool xx


Chapter 15: the usual atticus
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

When I’m dying, and mentally trying to form some list of the best moments of my life, sixth period Transfiguration Tuesday on this grey, March day would not rank.

“Wilderson,” barked Augustine, our Professor. “What did I just say?”

My head flew up as soon as I heard my surname, and I stared at him in bewilderment.

“Er-”

“You don’t know, do you? Too busy chatting,” he snapped, striding towards me. “Tell me, Wilderson, what is the third listed symptom of Human Transfiguration Syndrome?”

“Weakening of the spine,” muttered Jasmine under her breath.

“Weakening of the-”

“Nice try, Wilderson, but I heard Azalea whispering it to you. Detention, tomorrow evening.”

My mouth gawped open with the utter injustice of it all but he turned around before I could protest, and when he was out of earshot, Jasmine turned back to me again.

“What a prick,” she said, rolling her eyes. “He gave Ruddy and Louis a month’s worth of detention just for drawing on his desks. I suppose they were drawing his head shaped like a penis, but still... Talk about oppression of the media! It's like Communist China up in here!”

I smirked. "Scotland's very own Chairman Mao,” I said, flicking my hair over my shoulder. “Okay, so let’s see… Ivy Pewter-Lyons. Will definitely end up as some elite Ministry wife.”

“Throwing dinner parties for the Potters and the Minister,” added Jasmine, ticking her name off our list. She had stolen Parker Wills- the Gryffindor girl prefect for our year, but God knows how she was chosen- complete list of the sixth year class of 2024, and we had been spending the past week of Transfiguration using our A (Jasmine) and E (me)’s grades at Divination to predict their future in ten years’ time.

“Oh look,” said Jasmine, running her finger down the list. “Your future brother in law is up next.”

“Oh, Al?”

“Who else?” she giggled, nudging me in my elbow. “High-ranking Healer, maybe something else too.”

“What, like a night job?”

“Like a Professor at Healer school, you retard. Also, the best man at yours and James’ wedding. Actually, maybe that would go to Alfie Ronson.”

“Not Freddie?”

“No, he’ll be passed out by the end of cocktail hour.”

“Who said we’d have a cocktail hour?”

“Who said you were going to get married? You’re not even official yet,” she said, smirking at me.

I rolled my eyes, and we both buried our heads into our parchment as Augustine passed us again. As soon as he left, I turned to Jasmine. 

“I just have no energy for this subject anymore,” I said, hastily packing my parchment and quills into my bag as the bell rang above us. “They say to live without regrets, so obviously they, whoever they are, haven’t spent two hours with Augustine-”

“Queen of banter, over here,” said Jasmine drily, as we walked out of the classroom. “I’m just so happy that’s my last lesson for today, the rest of the girls are busy and I’m going to have the dormitory all to myself.”

I’m so jealous,” I sighed, as we turned down a corridor. “I- oh, hey.”

James and Freddie were walking down the crowded corridor, and James grinned as he saw me.

“Hey,” he said, putting his arm around me. Hearing his voice made my heartbeat speed up and my spine tingle, and having his body so close to mine made my breathing irregular.

“Hi,” I said, as he leaned his head on top of mine. 

“Jasmine Azalea,” drawled Freddie, winking at her. “What a pleasure.”

Jasmine snorted. “Mm, it is. Anyway, I’ve got to go.”

“Nice speaking to you,” he quipped, and Jasmine tossed her hair over her shoulder.

“The pleasure is all yours,” she said, and she flounced away after squeezing my arm in good-bye.

I watched her walk away, and then turned to James.

“How was Mermish?” I asked, regarding the oral he had sat this morning.

He shrugged, and ruffled a hand through his hair. “Not great. It’s partner work, and I was paired with Alexander Boot, so obviously I looked like a halfway idiot next to him.”

“Come off it,” said Freddie, punching James playfully. “You know you did well.”

“Mm, true. Anyway. How’s your day been?”

Shit,” I said, all ready to go on a rampage about Professor Augustine. “Transfiguration may just be the biggest regret of my life-

“Hang on,” said James, sounding distracted. “Did I set Quidditch practise for today?”

Freddie snorted. “Did you forget?”

“Oh shit. I probably should set up. Speak later, Wilderson,” said James, kissing me on my forehead. Freddie winked at me in his classic Freddie Weasley way, and the two were off as soon as they came.

 

“Snog, marry, avoid,” said Aspen, throwing an ancient snitch at me, “Longbottom, Slughorn, Augustine.”

“Obviously snog Longbottom,” I said, wrinkling my nose as I thought about it. “Um… Marry Slughorn, avoid Augustine.”

“Are you joking? Augustine is way fitter than Slughorn. I would avoid that Potions wanker like the bubonic plague,” said Oscar, sounding disgusted. 

“Yeah, well, I’m a personality over looks kinda girl,” I said, and Aspen laughed.

“Yeah,” said Oscar, nodding passionately. “That’s why you’re dating James Sirius Potter.”

“We’re not dating,” I said, throwing Aspen’s snitch at Oscar’s head, and he shot me an aggravated look as it bounced off his head. I had been saying that for so often now, it was beginning to sound like a soundbite- Effy “We’re Not Dating” Wilderson. Has an unfortunate ring to it.

“So then what are you doing?” asked Liam, crossing his arms and looking interested.

“Liam, you’re such a gossip,” said Oscar, smirking. “I love it.”

“Oh sod off. Mikey’s writing some essay and Declan’s off with Cecelia Keegan.”

“They’re dating?”

“Since last month. How did you not know? They’re practically joint at the hip.”

“I don’t know make a habit of caring about anybody else apart from me,” said Oscar, and we all laughed out loud at that, because Oscar was one of the biggest gossips in our year.

“They’re just seeing each other,” said Aspen, answering for me. We were sharing an armchair in the Ravenclaw common room, as the day was coming to an end. Liam had joined Oscar and me in a game of Exploding Snap a half hour ago, and we stopped once we realised the dirty looks we were attracting from our snobby housemates. And then Aspen joined us five minutes ago, eager for a distraction from her Ancient Runes homework.

“Why don’t you make it official?” asked Liam, interested.

I shrugged. “I’m really not that bothered.”

“Liar,” said Oscar, pointing at me theatrically. “You are so bothered. Elizabeth Jane Wilderson, don’t you even try to pull that over me-”

“Alright! Fine!” I said, putting my hands up in surrender. “Is this the KGB or something?”

“Darling, I’m too capitalist for that.”

Liam laughed, and Aspen turned to me.

“I just can’t get over that you’d rather marry Slughorn over Augustine. You know marry includes having sex, right? Augustine would be so good in bed, don’t you think?”

So true!” cried Liam earnestly, and we all turned to him.

He cleared his throat awkwardly, and pulled on his tie. “I’m going to go find Mikey,” he muttered. “Go do guy stuff. Fuck some girls, kick about some football. You know.”

“Oh darling, don’t go,” said Oscar, as Aspen and I laughed. “I have so much to teach you!”

We laughed at Liam’s retreating back, and I yawned, just as Danny Alton approached us.

“Hey Effy,” he said, leaning against Oscar’s armchair. Aspen beamed at him happily, and Oscar snorted at her reddening cheeks. “I just booked the pitch for tomorrow night, six to eleven.”

“That’s so much longer than usual!” 

“I know,” he said, apologetically. “Semi-finals, you know the drill. In fact, actually, I can’t remember if I booked it for the rest of the week, or just tomorrow. Shit- the match is next week this Saturday…”

“Do you want me to check for you?” I said, getting up and stretching.

“That would be so helpful, Effy. Thanks,” he said, looking surprised. “You’ve actually been quite helpful recently, haven’t you?”

“Well,” I said, tossing my hair over my shoulder. “I’m just trying to do my best for the team.”

He grinned at me, and patted me on the shoulder. “Appreciate it.” I watched him run off to his group of Seventh Year friends, as Oscar and Aspen looked up at me.

I’m just trying to do my best for the team,” Oscar mimicked, as Aspen laughed.

“Fuck off,” I said, ruffling his hair. “Danny’s in charge of selecting who’s going to replace him next year, and I need Quidditch Captain, especially since McGonagall won’t let me start up a Feminist Society.”

That was annoying. I had approached her last month with Eve Feltham, the Hufflepuff Quidditch Captain in my year and another earnest feminist, proposing to run the society every Tuesday lunchtime, but McGonagall wearily turned it down, saying if she let Feminist Society go on, she would have to permit SPEW, and she didn’t want even more grey hairs than her age permitted, thank you very much.

“See you in a bit,” said Aspen cheerfully.

I laughed, and walked away, as Oscar and Aspen started discussing Slughorn against Augustine again, and I left the common room with Aspen’s passionate voice advocating personality over physique, and Oscar’s juicy laugh as he called her a hypocrite.

The castle was pretty empty, but it wasn’t quite past curfew yet. I passed a small huddle of smaller girls by the library and a few prefects starting their patrols early, giving me disapproving looks, for whilst it wasn’t nine pm yet, I was treading on thin ice.

I was never a stickler for the rules. I suppose I was in lower school, when you think every detention further increases your likelihood of spending your twenties in Azkaban, but I got over all of that in Fourth Year when Aspen, Oscar and I befriended Mikey and Liam, the duo passionate in their stance against rules they found unnecessary.

It was weird thinking about Mikey, as I walked through the darkening school, dimly lit by fire brackets on the stone walls. I was fully aware that he was taking eleven NEWTs, but it seemed that only now his workload had caught up on him. I hadn’t seen him recently: Oscar and Liam kept me casually updated that he was in the library, or in their dormitory working. Whenever I did see Mikey, dark circles surrounded his eyes, and his skin looked dry and pale.

A tremor of guilt fluttered within me, and I made a mental note to check up on him. I suppose I would see him tomorrow at Quidditch practise- Mikey and I only shared Defence together as a class, and even then we sat far away from each other.

Mikey Lancaster possessed my thoughts as I made my way to the Quidditch changing rooms. The appointment book was magically charmed a few years ago, rendering it and its appointments immune to tampering with or removing, and it sat permanently in the Captain’s changing room, right on the desk table.

I walked into the empty changing rooms, the fluorescent lighting making my eyes water as it contrasted against the dark surroundings of the rest of the castle. The room stunk of boys’ deodorant and sweat.

The appointment book lay open, and Danny was right, the next week wasn’t booked. I picked up a pen, and was about to doodle in Ravenclaw, Daniel Alton into the evening margins, when the door closed behind me.

“Effy,” said a surprised voice.

I spun around guiltily, and saw James standing there. My heart skipped a bit. It sounds horrendous- cliche, trashy, borderline vulgar, all those romance stereotypes I used to scoff at- but as I stared at him, dripping wet, in nothing but a towel around his waist, adrenaline rushed through my core, and my breathing stopped momentarily.

I could see his sculpted arms, chest, stomach.

“Hi,” I said, entranced by him.

We had never been this intimate before, as we stood there, a metre away from each other. His hair was sticking to his scalp, and droplets of water dripped off his body. He was so toned, so sculpted. I felt like a limp insect, as he smirked at me.

“What are you doing?” he asked, tightening his towel.

“Nothing,” I said quickly. He raised his right eyebrow at me, and I clarified. “Booking the pitch for Danny.”

“Have you already pencilled it in?” he asked, walking towards me.

“No-”

“Good,” he said, snatching the pen from my fingers. “I was just about to do that.”

He reached for the appointments book, and I jumped on top of it, my bottom covering the pages perfectly. He looked surprised, and then seriously annoyed, as I crossed my arms and smirked at him.

“Are we going to have an argument over this?” he asked.

“I hope not,” I said, crossing my legs and folding my arms tighter. “Pencil, please.”

He tilted his head and looked at me for a moment, as I pretended to look concerned with my nail beds. Then he smirked, and put his hands on his hips, totally conscious of the fact he was naked under his tatty white towel.

“Wilderson,” he said, softly. “Get off the book.”

“Potter,” I replied, uncrossing my legs and leaning forwards towards him. “I just don’t think I’m going to do that.”

“Five points from Ravenclaw,” he said, in his same tone of voice.

“Bringing out the big guns, huh?” I said, twirling a strand of hair around my finger.

Ten points from Ravenclaw.”

“I hope you’re having fun,” I said, as he approached even closer. “I could sit here all night.”

“So could I,” he said, smirking.

“You’re wet and naked,” I said, intimidating his smirk right back. “I, on the other hand, used the toilet twenty minutes ago.”

“Looks like I’m going to have to remove you by force,” he said, drawing even closer. His body was so close to mine, I could feel the damp heat radiate on him, and my heart was beating at a hundred miles per hour. My breathing was jagged, and my cheeks were red.

“Looks like it,” I said, and he put his hands on the table as I leaned away from him. His legs touched my knees, and his face was above mine, as he looked down at me. My hair cascaded down, and I could feel it touch the table beneath me.

“Elizabeth Wilderson,” he breathed, and I looked up into his vivid brown eyes. “Get off the table. Let me book the pitch for the week. Come on now.”

He pushed harder against me, and I felt my legs buckle, as they slid around him, encompassing his thighs as he leaned into the table. His thick arms pressed against my willow limbs, but I smirked up at him.

“I swear to God, James Potter, you can try to intimidate all you like, but I am not moving.”

“What do I have to do to get you to move?” he said, and I wondered if he was as aware of my fragmented breath as I was.

“Get creative.”

“I could break up with you.”

“We’re not even official,” I said, biting the bottom of my lip as I smirked up at him.

“True,” he mused. “Let’s go out then.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Be my girlfriend, Wilderson.”

I pushed my face further towards him, tired of leaning back, tired of him pushing into my personal space. But he didn’t move back- if anything, we were as close as we could be without touching, stuck in this weird tango on a Tuesday night in the Quidditch Captain’s room.

“I’m serious,” he breathed, smirking into my mouth. “You’re right. Let’s make this official.”

“Let’s make it official after you give me the pen,” I said, raising my eyebrow.

“Well,” he said, shrugging. “Since you’re not my girlfriend- my nothing, really-”

What a title. How about you laminate it? I could hang it up in my dormitory.”

“-I have no obligation to consider your feelings regarding this,” he mused. “I mean, if we were dating, I would feel guilty about this all.”

“You must be feeling quite cold, Potter,” I said, ignoring him. “I can feel the dampness. Aren’t you simply desperate for the toilet? I always am, after a shower. Go on, James. It’s fine. Sometimes we lose battles-”

He pushed further into me, and pulled the appointment book closer towards the curb of the table, with my body riding on top of it. My legs were fully circling his naked torso.

None of my skin was actually touching his, and yet my body felt on fire.

“Wilderson,” he said, pushing further into me. I looked right into his dark brown eyes, and noticed the flickers of gold and green dotted around his iris. My head collided with his neck, and I could smell the clean scent of his shower gel and soap.

Suddenly he picked me up by my thighs, hoisted me right up onto him, my legs clutching onto his lower torso for total support. I was completely off the ground. The appointment book was left ignored beside us as he gently pushed me into the wall beside us.

My arms held onto his neck, clutching his hair. My legs gripped his body as his hands grabbed my thighs. We were kissing like we had never kissed before, like I had never kissed anyone before. His hot, damp body was pressed up against my school uniform, and my hands moved from his neck to cup his face. Everything became messy and hot. He started to unbutton my blouse as he pressed even more into me.

Suddenly we were on the floor, a tangle of limbs and heat. He held my bum as I sat on top of him, and we were kissing like it was a competition.

 

I lay between his legs, my head on his chest as he leant against the captain’s desk, his arms circling mine, the tips of his fingers drawing circles on my wrists. His towel was still hanging loosely on his hips, and my hair was damp and warm as it lay plastered against his equally moist chest, curling down around my unbuttoned school blouse, cascading down both our bodies.

“So both our dads were Gryffindor Quidditch captains?”

“Well I wouldn’t make something like that up,” I said, watching the blackness of the night outside the windows opposite us.

“I’m not saying you’d make it up,” he said quite sharply, and I looked up at him and touched his jaw.

“I know, James, I was joking. Go on with what you were saying.”

“I’ve forgotten it.”

“Are you sulking?” I said, turning around and grinning. “Oh James, you are eighteen years old-

“Shut up,” he said, a sheepish grin emerging on his face. His hair was seriously all over the place, and I found it weirdly attractive. “No but seriously, I forgot. It probably wasn’t that interesting anyway- but I suppose you find everything interesting- Wilderson! That’s not very nice!

He had caught my wrist as I was about to hit him, laughing at my pretend scowl. I had told him that History of Magic was my favourite subject that evening, and he didn’t believe me.

“History of Magic’s just taught really badly here,” I moaned. “How can you not find history interesting?”

“Yeah, I mean history’s interesting,” said James, as I lay back into his warm chest, feeling his bare skin against my cheek as he started stroking my hair. “But wizarding history is so repetitive. Haven’t you noticed? And it’s literally just of magic as a science, not as a people who use the magic.”

“You sound like one of those Hogwarts bashers down in London.”

“Oh, they’re fucking crazy. My aunt Hermione’s constantly getting Howler hate from them. I’m surprised you haven’t joined them.”

“Just because I’m a feminist, doesn’t mean I’m an anarchist-

“But if the establishment is patriarchal- and you’re against the patriarchy- then really, Wilderson, you are advocating anarchy-”

“Anarchy’s against all establishments in general, not just the Western male dominated ones-”

“Actually, right now there are more women on Wizengoamot than men-”

“Yeah I know, but female goblins still aren’t allowed to work in Gringotts-”

“Are you talking about goblins? You’ve just killed my boner.”

I laughed, and heard my voice ring through the small room coated in trophies and cupboards and the ratty green carpet underneath us. I wondered if the colour green was some weird bias towards Slytherin. 

“Oh shit,” I said, noticing the clock tucked into the corner of the room. “It’s so past curfew. Aspen and Oscar’ll be wondering where I am.”

“They’ll probably assume you’re with me.”

James drew me in closer to him. “So annoying that you have friends that care about you.”

“Oh ha ha ha. Do yours just drag you along for the surname?”

He laughed. “No, you idiot, I was talking about Dahlia. Her and her friends never stop bitching about each other. It drove me crazy.”

“Jasmine and her dorm friends are like that-”

All Gryffindor girls are like that. Lily- my sister- and her mates too. But they’ll find out and fight about it for a week before, oh God, having the biggest confrontation in the common room. They always make up, it’s so annoying.”

“You’re just pissed because the attention’s off you and Freddie,” I said, yawning. And to my surprise, he agreed.

“Yeah, I suppose. I think I’m better about it now than I was last year. Freddie’s still kicking off about pranks and stuff, but I don’t know. I think I’m pretty much over it all.”

I gently pulled myself off him, and rose from the floor, offering my hand to the sheepish looking messy-haired boy- man- leaning against a desk in nothing but a towel.

“Take my hand,” I said, almost shaking it in his face.

“Go out with me,” he said, getting up himself, cupping my chin in his big, coarse hand.

I looked into his brown eyes, and then at his thick eyebrows, his set jaw. His sharp cheekbones, his straight nose, his ruffled hair. His broad shoulders and his slanting collarbones, the small freckles on his nose.

His temporary state of vulnerability, the undying confidence that was so weaved into his subconcious being. The way he tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear as we stood there.

“Okay,” I said, nodding. And then he raised his eyebrow, and I let go of the massive beam I was trying to play off in an attempt of nonchalance.

He smirked, and placed his hands on his hips. He tightened his towel, and looked over at the appointments book.

“Alton can take Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll take Friday and Saturday morning,” he said, as he strode over to the table and wrote it in. “Saturday morning is longer hours than weekday evenings, but that makes up for the first hour lost on sleepy behaviour.”

“Sick one,” I said, yawning, as he walked out of the room, my heart rate throbbing at a gazillion miles per hour, whispers of the conversation buzzing through my head, my skeleton, my core.

 

“Hey,” I said, sliding down next to Mikey, as he sat alone reading the morning’s Prophet in the quiet common room. Morning sunlight filled the circular room in fragments of weak sun and golden shades, and the smell of the impending summer loitered through the opened windows.

He looked up and smiled at me. “Hey Eff.”

“I haven’t seen you around in ages,” I said, stifling a yawn.

He shrugged. “Actually studying for eleven NEWTs isn’t as glamorous as it sounds at family gatherings.”

“Mm. We have Quidditch practise tonight.”

“I might drop Quidditch,” he said, and my eyes widened in shock.

What?!

“I have so much work-“

“Mikey!” I cried loudly, and several Third Years looked over at us. “You can’t drop out of Quidditch! Look- you’re doing Magical Creatures at NEWT level. Tell me that is more important than Quidditch.”

He shrugged, and yawned. “I don’t know.”

“And anyway, you’re a shoo-in for the Captain spot next year-”

“Really? I always thought you would get it. Alton definitely trusts you over me.”

His voice sounded weary and his face was devoid of its usual expressions that Liam and I would impersonate in the changing rooms, and he would laugh, telling us it was a sign of character.

“You’re over-working yourself,” I said, rubbing my thumb on his hand. “You don’t need to be doing all this- maybe drop a few, you only need eight NEWTs for that Parisian university you were talking about, right-”

He ruffled the back of his hair, and nodded. “I don’t know. Flitwick wants to see me this afternoon so I suppose I can discuss it with him then.”

“Good,” I said, smiling, absent-mindedly drawing circles on his ink-stained palms. He was about to open his mouth when across the room from us, Oscar came running down the stairs with the impact of an elephant, running straight to us.

“Effy!” he said excitedly. “You and James!”

“What?” said Mikey, tilting his head as he looked at me.

I grinned at Oscar, and tucked my feet up under my thighs. “Yeah.”

“Tell me all about it,” said Oscar, waving his wand to summon an armchair. He sat down on it and beamed, his chin propped up by his hands.

“I thought Aspen said she owl’ed you.”

“Yeah, but her handwriting is a joke,” he said, dismissing her signature scrawl with a wave of his hand. 

What?” repeated Mikey, turning towards me.

“James asked me to be his girlfriend last night,” I said, turning to Mikey, although I wish I didn’t, because his eyebrows furrowed slightly and his nose crinkled and I knew, after six years of putting up with Michael Lancaster, that he was not impressed.

“I’m going to breakfast,” said Mikey, rising from his chair, tucking his newspaper under his arm.

“Why?” I asked, as he walked away. “Tell me how your meeting with Flitwick goes!”

He turned around and nodded, and then slipped through the common room door.

I turned to Oscar. “Don’t you think that was so weird?”

“Urgh. Teenage boys,” said Oscar, flicking his hair. “God knows why I’m gay, girls are so much more easier.”

Tell me about it.”

“Eff, I could write a book about it. A saga, even. Anyway! Tell me everything!

“Well-”

“And do not forgo any sexy scenes! I am not your mother, Elizabeth- if you omit a single thing I’ll just have to owl James for the details myself!”

And I delved into retelling last night’s events for the second time since then, and completely forgot about Mikey and his ridiculous reaction.

 

We had Transfiguration again, straight after breakfast, as was the schedule for every Wednesday ever. Professor Augustine was running late, and I stood in a huddle with Jasmine and Oscar, lazily comparing our homework essays from last night

Suddenly, Ruddy Walcott came running up to us, his eyes wild with excitement.

“What?” asked Jasmine, as he began biting his lip, but a grin escaped through anyway.

“You will never guess who I just caught snogging in the Prefect’s toilets,” he said, almost jumping up and down with excitement.

“Oo,” said Oscar, his face lighting up. “Dahlia Moss and James Potter?”

“Hey!” I said, and Jasmine rolled her eyes.

“No,” said Ruddy. “I thought he was with Effy?”

“He is, he’s actually officially her girlfriend-”

“Oh, really? Congrats, Effy-”

“Thanks Ruddy-”

“Spit it out!” demanded Jasmine loudly, and the rest of our class turned around to face her.

Ruddy shrugged, hoisting his school bag further up his shoulder. “Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley!”

The corridor fell silent, and the only noise emitted was the sound of clicking shoes on the cold, hard ground.

“Ah! Nice and quiet,” said Professor Augustine, unlocking the door with his wand. “File in please. Let’s keep this level of noise for the whole lesson!”

I assumed that word would catch on and there would be the usual gossip whisperings in classrooms and toilets, but I was not expecting the rest of the day to practically revolve around the duo. 

 

1.

“So I hear,” whispered Ophelia over lunch, “that Ruddy Walcott caught Rose Weasley and Scorpius having sex in the staff room.”

“No way,” said Liam, adamantly. “Declan told me that he caught them in the Shrieking Shack.”

“What an idiot,” said Aspen, breaking apart her piece of lettuce into little pieces as she always did. “What would Ruddy be doing in the Shrieking Shack on a Wednesday morning?”

“I personally have called it since we wound up in St. Mungo’s over the winter holidays,” said Mikey, his usual voice back, the excitement in his eyes returned. “No offence, Az.”

“The only offence I’m taking from this is that he moved on from me to Rose Weasley. Rose Weasley! That emo! Could he not have picked an, I don’t know- model? Or something? Rose Weasley! Oh my God-

“What happened in St. Mungo’s?” asked Ophelia, curiously.

“Nothing exciting,” said Albus, and I snorted into my stew. “With James and Effy and Scorpius and Rose… When is Poppy Atticus going to let me take her on a date?!”

“Is she going to Louis Weasley’s birthday party next weekend?” I asked. 

“I don’t know. Ophelia?”

Ophelia, the resident Hufflepuff in this grouping of sixth years, looked up. “Well, Eve and I are going, so I don’t see why she wouldn’t.

“I cannot believe you’re talking about Poppy again,” said Aspen, rolling her eyes. “Okay, back to Rose and Scorpius.”

 

2.

I was walking with Jasmine from lunch to our next lesson, when a loud scattering of low-heeled shoes clanged on the floor behind us. I turned around to see the three other Gryffindor girls in our year Jasmine was close with; Cecelia Keegan, Cornelia Boot and Lucy O’Donnell, running to catch up with us.

“Have you heard about Rose and Malfoy?” asked Cecelia, in her high-pitched voice.

“I know!” cried Jasmine, and Lucy grinned at me. We were Potions partners.

“It’s so scandalous,” said Cornelia, linking arms with Jasmine and me. “We’ve tried to find her all morning, and she is nowhere to be seen!”

“Is that why you weren’t in Potions today?”

“Awh, Eff. Did you miss me?”

“You and Scorpius are my only friends in that class, and neither of you were there!”

“Speaking of which,” said Cecelia, chewing loudly on gum. “I haven’t seen Scorpius all day either.”

“Oh my God,” breathed Lucy, excitedly. “They’ve eloped.”

“No they have not,” said Jasmine, and I laughed. “You can’t get married when you’re sixteen!”

“You can in Ireland,” said Lucy, and Cornelia nodded, as if we needed reassurance. “Oh my God. They’re totally in Ireland getting married.”

“Dude!” said Declan Ainsley, as the five of us turned around the corner, looking up from his conversation with Teddy Oliver.  “Rose and Scorpius are so getting it on!”

Getting it on?” repeated Jasmine, crinkling her nose. “Is this the nineties?

“Piss off, Azalea. You five fairies having a meeting about Weasley and Malfoy?”

“As if we’d congregate around Rose Weasley,” sneered Cornelia.

“Yeah,” said Cecelia, nodding earnestly. “I still probably have worms in my underwear drawer from when she and Parker Wills thought it would be so funny to take their Magical Creatures assignment into my cupboard.”

 

3.

“Oi,” hissed a voice behind me in Herbology. It was one of the lessons held after supper, for the plantation we were learning about this week could only be taught properly at eight o’clock in the evening. Apparently.

I turned around, and saw Ruddy and Louis looking in mine and Poppy Atticus’s- my partner- direction. For Herbology this term, we’ve been set partners as opposed to being able to choose them for ourselves, and that may or may not have something to do with Ruddy and Louis managing to blow up half a greenhouse last term.

And yet somehow, the dynamic duo of Hogwarts’ Sixth Year are back, better than ever baby!

“What?” I hissed back, turning around. Outside was dark, but the greenhouse were illuminated by the glowworms within the soil we were digging around in. 

“Guess what we heard in the Gryffindor Sixth Year girl’s dorms this afternoon,” said Ruddy, mischievously. 

“What were you doing in the girls’ dormitory ward?” asked Poppy, frowning.

“Sexually exploiting women, enforcing the patriarchy, capitalising on your free domestic labour. The usual, Atticus,” said Ruddy, clearly not happy with our lack of interest.

“Go on then,” I said, tiredly. “What did you hear?”

Suddenly, the duo erupted in the loudest sex noises I have ever heard in my entire sixteen years of life. As an individual who hasn’t had sex, I don’t have that much experience regarding the accuracy of it all, but as an individual who grew up watching back to back episodes of Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy and similar shows of absolute genius, I can guarantee they sounded sensual enough.

“No way!” said Poppy, her jaw dropping open as they stopped, and the rest of our class turned back to their project, the usual chatter resuming. “Weasley and Malfoy?”

“You betcha!” chirped Ruddy.

“Urgh. As if,” I said. “I’ve been up to the Gryffindor girls’ dorms, and they are so not fit for sex.”

“What do you mean?”

“Underwear, bras, make-up, magazines- everywhere. It’s like backstage at Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Poppy. Absolutely unbelievable.”

“Look,” said Louis, taking his hands out of his pot of soil to point an accusing finger at me. “As somebody who actually has had sex in the Gryffindor girls’ dorms, I can say that you are wrong, Wilderson, with a capital W.”

“Ooo,” I crowed. “A capital? Oh my!”

Longbottom appeared at the door of Greenhouse 4, his hands full with a peculiar turnip-looking species, and dismissed us to a collective sigh of exhaustion and happiness to leave. Eve Feltham, Hufflepuff’s Captain, waited for me by the door, so we could walk from the lesson to the Quidditch meeting together.

“I wish we had time to go clean up at least,” she grumbled, attempting to shake off the dirt caked on her hands and arms, soil deep in her fingernails.

“At least you just have to run your hands under a tap. I have to wash my hair for the second time today.”

“Yeah, I was wondering if you had washed it.”

“Right? You can always tell.”

“So true! I wonder what this meeting is all about.”

“Longbottom said something about the Quidditch World Cup at dinner today,” I said, and we chatted about said upcoming World Cup for the remainder of the ten minute walk, the two of us concluding our discussion with anxious looks as we walked into the meeting room, five minutes late.

“Sorry we’re late,” said Eve. “We came from the greenhouses-”

“Greenhouses?” asked Liam, looking skeptical. “It’s half past eight-”

“Don’t worry,” said Madame Hooch crisply. “We’re just waiting for a few more individuals, and then we can begin.”

Eve walked over to another girl on her team and I slid down next to James, who was sitting with Alfie on a back bench.

“Hey,” I said, and he raised his eyebrow.

“Green highlights?”

“Guh-rass,” I hissed, and he laughed. I watched Ruddy and Louis come in and mutter the same excuse Eve and I offered, and Madame Hooch began talking.

I waited a moment, and then turned to James, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. “So did you hear about Rose and Scorpius?”

He snorted. “I’d have to be blind, deaf and studying at Beauxbatons to have missed that.”

“What do you think?” I murmured, looking down at my shoes.

“About fucking time.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I’ve always had an inkling. Rose is not my favourite cousin, but probably my closest. And Scorpius, of course, is pretty much blonde Al.”

“What about Freddie?”

“Fine. My closest cousin other than Freddie. Do you want to skip this?”

“Do you even have to ask?”

“Ask to use the toilet. I’ll meet you down the corridor in five minutes.”

So I ask if I can be excused, and Madame Hooch, who clearly has no idea who I am as I am not a Weasley, nor have I ever committed a foul (can Seekers even commit fouls?) shoos me out with a flick of her hand, and returns back to her speech. I walk down the corridor until the classroom door is practically unseeable, and I wait there for two minutes or three, perhaps four.

Suddenly, I feel something nip at my waist, even though the corridor is completely empty. I spin around in panic and a pair of hands held me at my hips, and I scream as James appears out of nowhere, half his body floating, half his body concealed.

“Fuck you, James Potter,” I half snap, half laugh, breathing heavily and hitting him on the chest.

But then he’s disappeared again, and I’m not an idiot, I know it’s an invisibility spell of some sort- but as I squint my eyes in the dim candle lighting, I can’t make out any tell-tale signs of the enchantment’s faint shadows.

His invisible arm pulls me into a body I can only feel, and a burst of laughter escapes my attempted look of contempt.

“Hey,” he said, suddenly only his face and neck appearing, like some sort of ghost. I look down at his neck, and notice a ripple of fabric gleaming silver in the light.

“Is this an invisibility cloak?” I ask, stroking the crease of the silky fabric. He smirks and I pull it down slightly, and his shoulders are revealed. “Amazing. It’s so fluid. Where did you get this?”

“It’s my dad’s,” he said, taking it off all together, his body reappearing. “I stole it from his office when I was twelve, and Freddie and I’ve been using it ever since.”

“You absolute prick,” I said, awed, as I admired the light, shimmering quality of the fabric it took form in once off his body. “Is that how your crime and punishment scale remains so unbalanced?”

“Now come on,” he said, as we walked away from the meeting room. “It’s not just down to this old rag. Years of bribery, skill, cunning and- well, just simple, effective charisma.

“Yeah, like if I have to hear the Fourth Years I tutor discuss whatever recent shenanigan you’ve pulled off one more time-”

“You tutor Fourth Years?”

“Lucas Cohen in the year above- well, your year- set up an inner-house mentoring system. Except there weren’t enough Ravenclaws seeking tutoring as much as there were students offering it, so he had to expand it to the other houses.”

“Oh shit. Is that what Lily does, then?”

“Maybe. I mean, it’s no big deal. It’s just an hour a week of listening to Fourth Year Gryffindors go to church on their compliments for you and Freddie.”

“So what’s it like dating such a local hero, Wilderson?”

“So what’s it like dating Hogwarts’ most talented Seeker and just overall top notch individual?” I asked, twirling in front of him, walking backwards, curling a lock of hair around my finger because I know it makes him go ever so slightly, kind of, wild.

“I’ll get back to you if I ever find out,” he said, and suddenly grabs my hand with his and pulls me into him, right by some tapestry of Arthurian legend.

“Really? Would you? I would love that,” I said, and he grinned, before kissing me right underneath the depiction of Lancelot and Guinevere. And when I broke apart because I heart footsteps impending on the cold hard floor beneath us, he whisked his invisibility cloak above the two of us, our bodies entwining under the sparkling silver translucence of the material.

“I definitely heard people,” said a voice, slightly muffled by the cloak draped across my head.

“Same,” said another voice. 

Prefects, James mouthed, and I rolled my eyes to say well obviously.

“Come out!” said the first voice. “Disillusionment charms only last for a certain amount of time! You won’t fool us!”

James’ arms were still wrapped around my waist, my body still pressed against his, my hands rested lightly on his chest. I could feel the pace of his heartbeat under his thin school shirt, and I looked up at him as he smirked maliciously at me.

“We’ll give you thirty seconds before we perform a revealing counter charm and double your detention,” boasted the first prefect, and through the glimmer of the cloak I could see the two nod excitedly.

“Thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight…”

James started kissing my neck and I had to bite my mouth closed to stop any sound escaping.

“Twenty six, twenty five, twenty four…”

His fingers, rough and yet nimble, bring me in closer to him, and I couldn’t stop myself from laughing into his neck as they slipped up my school shirt, the feel of his touch cool on my warm chest, the whole act excitingly- intoxicatingly- naughty, rebellious.

“Nineteen, eighteen, seventeen…”

“Counter charms don’t work on cloaks,” James murmured into my ear. I pressed my body into his roaming hands, too exhilarated to be embarrassed at how little self control I had.

“I know,” I breathed into his collarbone, and his lips came crashing onto mine, as the two prefects’ countdown continued, under the tapestry of Lancelot and Guinevere. 

 

 





A/N Oh my god! I've had the absolute worst writer's block since I uploaded the last chapter- I knew where I wanted to go and what James and Effy were doing, I just didn't know how to write it- so hopefully this is okay! If not, please let me know! I not only love reviews but I need them as guidance and inspiration for where to go next. And I want to hear what you guys think! Of James and Effy? Of Rose and Scorpius? Of Mikey, Ruddy, Louis... I want to hear everything. Thanks again!!

Also, I don't own Book of Revelation by The Drums, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show (Victoria's Secret) nor Desperate Housewives (ABC Studios) or Grey's Anatomy (Shonda Rhimes). After spending a week with my grandma, I've become obsessed. In addition, I by no means own the KGB, which is the Russian secret police. We've been studying European fascism- especially the rise of Stalin and communism in Russia- and look out for some major wannabe Lenin-ists that may or may not be inspired by my <3 <3 <3 for Russian history. Latersss!! xoxoxo


Chapter 16: unicorn blood
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Well,” said Scorpius, sitting down beside me in the library. “What’s it like being one of the most talked about sixth formers in Hogwarts right now?”

I looked up at his sharp boned, pale face and smirked. “Market research?”

“Mm. Conducting a survey.”

He dropped his serious tone and laughed, and I smiled at his merriment. It had been exactly a week since James had asked me out, and six days since Ruddy Walcott found Rose Weasley and Scorpius having sex in the prefect’s bathroom. To say Scorpius and Rose were talked about was an under exaggeration, borderline lie; the school was saturated in discussion regarding the two. And to a lesser extent, people were discussing my relationship with Witch Weekly’s most eligible bachelor, but that was more girls’ bathroom gossip and bitchy looks than anything else.

“I mean, she’s really not that pretty,” said a girl, as I tried desperately to remain as quiet as possible to overhear what they were saying. “There are so many hotter girls in her year, let alone the year above.”

“Clarissa thinks she has him under a love potion.”

“No, Dressy told me James Potter got eleven Outstandings in his OWLs, he’s not an idiot or anything.”

“You know? I bet he’s just using her for sex.”

“She’s too skinny to be any good at it- and she’s so flat chested! I have this theory that her thighs are probably really weak from sitting on a broomstick for so long…”

I flushed the toilet, and walked out of the cubicle, straight to the sink. The three girls fell silent, and as I left the room, one of them wondered if I had heard them? 

“Are you going to Louis Weasley’s party this weekend?” I asked, reading over my essay, frowning as I realised I had written to conclude two times, distracted by Scorpius’s arrival.

“Of course,” he said, taking out his books and parchment from his bag. “Rose and Parker want to dungbomb it, but I don’t think they will.”

“Dungbomb it? Why?”

“Protest against capitalism or something,” said Scorpius, flicking through his Potions book. “Perhaps the patriarchal society. Rose is also a massive feminist, Effy, maybe you two could talk about it.”

“Mm,” I said smiling, deciding not to add that the last time I spoke to Rose Weasley she called me  a fucking fascist. 

“What you working on?” he asked, peering over at my side of the desk. “Patronuses?”

I sighed, and ran a hand through my hair. “I still can’t conjure one, and Lewis won’t let me go onto next year until I can.”

Scorpius looked at me sadly. “Bummer.”

“Tell me about it.”

“You’re probably just not thinking about the right thing,” he said, his face lighting up. “I was thinking about Aspen, when I should have been thinking about Rose.”

“Except for those who aren’t engulfed in a love triangle- you know, the rest of society- that just isn’t really a solution, is it?”

Scorpius glared at my sudden rudeness, and I apologised, blaming it on the stress.

“Are you thinking about James?”

“What’s there to think? I like him, but I’m not in love or anything. I barely see him anyway, he’s always working.” It was almost as if he had decided to suddenly care about his school work. Aspen told me I was being unfair, that he’d been taking nine NEWTs long before he even knew me, but I couldn’t shake it off.

“Mm,” said Scorpius, thoughtfully. “Well, sucks to be you.”

“Thanks.”

He grinned and then looked down at his work, humming the theme song to Scrubs.

 

It was unusually hot for April, and the skies were wonderfully clear. Vivid azure blue skies turned into pink sunsets and orange wisps of clouds, when then faded into an inky canvas studded with stars. The summery weather distracted me from my work, made me restless, and I wasn’t the only one; people were being drafted up detentions all over the place, the impulsiveness of the upcoming summer making the castle throb with impatience. 

“Let’s go do something,” I said to James. “I haven’t seen you since that Quidditch meeting last week.

“I have exams, Wilderson,” he replied. “I’ll see you at Louis’s seventeenth.”

“It’s a Friday night!”

“Yeah, and I’m going to a party tomorrow night.”

“Everyone’s going down to the lake-”

Your everyone is going down to the lake. My everyone is working.”

“You’re always getting me to spend time with your friends, can’t you-”

“No,” he said, slinging his bag further up his shoulder. “I’m going to be late for Transfiguration Catch Up, and you know what Augustine’s like. See you later, Eff.”

I crossed my arms in annoyance, as I watched him walk away into the crowded corridor. 

“Hey,” said Mikey, walking up to me with Albus. “You coming to the lake?”

My gaze slowly left James’ retreating back, and I turned to the two boys, their usual school bags stuffed with towels.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m going to go find Aspen, I’ll see you down there.”

I found Aspen in our dormitory, where she was preparing not only her duffle bag for the lake, but mine too. She looked up and grinned when she saw me, and said she had cast a charm over the bags to make them look stuffed with parchment and quills, in case Veronica Clearwater was to pop in.

“Clever,” I said, grinning.

She smiled, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “You wearing your bikini under your uniform, then?”

I looked up from inspecting my bag, startled. “What?”

“Your bikini,” she repeated. “Oh come on. It’s like, thirty degrees, we’re going down to the lake.”

“I thought it was only a few of us?”

When Mikey mentioned the lake gathering yesterday, it was only us five- him, Liam, Oscar, Aspen and me- and Albus, Scorpius and Rose, maybe a few Slytherin boys. It was initiated by Scorpius to get his friends to know Rose better, especially Aspen, who he was desperate to make friends with his new girlfriend.

“But then Scorpius invited Ophelia- you know they’re practically brother and sister, what with being the grandchildren of murderers and what not-”

“Funny. Good one, As!”

“Thanks babe- and Ophelia invited Jasmine, who of course invited all her Gryffindor girls-”

“Classic Jasmine-”

“Right? And so wherever the Gryffindor girls go, the Gryffindor boys follow- what is that, animal magnetism or something? And by this time, Declan and Teddy Oliver and that crowd of boys caught on, and of course, Ophelia had mentioned it to her Hufflepuff girls- Poppy, Eve, the usuals. And now it’s a proper little party.”

“Oh really,” I mused, picking up Aspen’s bikini. “I haven’t even brought a swimming costume with me this term. I assumed when the weather got hot I could just owl my mum to send it over.”

“You say it like you only have the one-”

“Well, I do-

“Luckily for you, I have plenty!” Aspen pointed her wand to her suitcase, and out came a dozen bikinis in varying styles and colours, dancing their way in between us. Aspen Spinelli was forgetful and at times a ditz, but her talent for unspoken spells was above anyone else in the year.

“I like this one,” said Aspen, pointing to a skimpy black piece.

“I shave, but I don’t shave enough,” I replied, and Aspen snorted, dismissing the bikini back into her trunk with a flick of her wand.

“This?”

I tilted my head as I studied her second suggestion, a scarlet red bikini with thin straps and a triangular bra formation.

“Am I not too pale for red?”

“You’re too pale for anything else. Go change, but slip your uniform back on afterwards. Scorpius told everyone to come down like that to avoid suspicion.”

I decided not to mention there was nothing more suspicious than fifty of so sixth formers with a reputation already of sneaking out of school grounds to go party, congregating around the Black Lake during a heatwave on a Friday night. But as I looked outside, the first glimmers of sunset was setting onto the horizon, and I decided I didn’t want to miss a second of it.

 

“Hey!” cheered Scorpius, his uniform shed, staggering in a pair of swimming trunks towards us with Albus as we walked down the hill. We had discarded our uniform and stuffed it into our bags when we noticed other people doing the same, a weird collection of various school bags, backpacks, duffle bags and totes clustered around a wide tree stump.

I beamed at Albus, as he kissed me on the forehead, something I noticed he and his brother do with close girl friends of theirs. “You alright, Eff?”

“Hey!” said Aspen cheerfully, knowing she looked like a Victoria’s Secret Angel. Bouncy blonde hair, perky boobs, perky bum, flat stomach and long, willow legs? I wasn’t surprised to see Rose Weasley slither up to Scorpius and place her arm through his. Although she was grinning, so that was nice.

“Hi,” she said, her cheeks turning slightly pink.

“Well,” I said, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, feeling a bit self conscious in my lack of clothing, even though all around me people were milling about wearing the exact same, basking in the evening’s glorious heat, the evening’s glorious setting sky. “If it isn’t the bitch that’s stealing the limelight away from me. I mean, what is the point of dating a year above if nobody’s talking about it because of you and Scorp?”

Rose laughed, as Aspen, Albus and Scorpius chatted away. “Fuck’s sake, Effy. What’s the point of being caught having sex with the son of your dad’s worst enemy when some bint in your Transfiguration class is dating your cousin?”

“Honestly. We could take over this school on our throne of gossip.”

“We could? How about we should?

We laughed, and the corners of her eyes creased. Even though her hair was dyed ketchup red, as opposed to the glorious locks of ginger they used to be, Rose Weasley was very pretty, in a girl-next-door kind of way.

“Party time!” yelled a familiar voice, accented with that West London prep boy poshness of somebody who would have gone to Eton, Oxford, Houses of Commons and Prime Minister’s cabinet if he hadn’t received his Hogwarts letter. It was Ruddy Walcott with Louis Weasley, the two charging down the hill with a massive crate of firewhiskey bottles shifted onto their two shoulders.

“Now,” said Rose, her eyes twinkling. “Shit gets interesting.”

 

A half hour later, almost everyone was either in the lake itself, paddling close to the shore of the specific corner we were situated by; sitting by the lake, legs dangling, talking lazily with bottles of firewhiskey between their fingers; standing in small clusters by the lake, talking loudly, drinking excitedly, dancing wildly to thumping music booming out of a Muggle radio, for we were far away enough from the castle for it to work.

People milled around in bikinis and swimming trunks, every hand holding a bottle of firewhiskey, some a cigarette, a few a joint. Somebody had distributed flower garlands and Scorpius was wearing a plastic crown that Ruddy, from the lake, eyed enviously.

“Hey,” said a voice I recognised, and I looked up from my conversation with Teddy Oliver and Albus, the three of us perched by the lake, our legs dangling in the cool water.

“Hey!” I said, beaming at Mikey. He made to sit down, and I moved closer to Al, as he slipped in between the gap between Cecily Dazenhorst and me.

“Some party,” he commented, tilting his bottle in the direction of the half dozen people in the lake in front of us, engaged in some water fight. The sunset was in full bloom above us, the vivid pink sky streaked with orange clouds with lilac underbellies, reflected perfectly in the clear lake beneath us.

“I’m having fun,” I said, grinning.

“You drunk?”

“Tipsy. If there’s another party again tomorrow, I don’t see the point in two hangovers.”

Mikey laughed. “That is such you logic.”

“And what does that mean?” I cried, and he laughed again, throwing his head back and grinning to the sky above.

“How you been? I haven’t spoken to you in ages,” I said, placing my hand on his arm. “When did you develop those?

He looked down at where my hand was touching his bicep, and smirked. “I cannot believe we’ve been playing Quidditch together for three years now and you’ve only just noticed.”

“Oh come off it,” I laughed, brushing my hair over my shoulder. “As if you had those bad lads in Fourth Year.”

Bad lads?”

“Fuck off,” I said, smiling, and he looked down at me, grinning. The music played on, and the happy buzz of chatter around us- the occasional scream, cry and screech of laughter, the ripple of the water around my legs- engulfed me. I looked up at the pink sky, and down at the lake beneath me, and thought of the infinity the two extremes promised. I thought of everything life had to offer, and how I hadn’t even started yet. School? That wasn’t life. That was practise, baby steps.

“What are you thinking?” asked Mikey. “Drinking always gets you whimsical.”

“I think,” I said, suddenly elated, “I have just found my happy thought.”

“Your- oh, for your patronus?”

I nodded, my lazy smile concealing the ecstasy inside me. “You have your wand?”

“No, but there’s one here,” he said, stretching over and picking one left forgotten on the grass next to him. He handed it to me, and I weighed the unfamiliar wood between my fingertips, stroking the wand with my thumb.

Expecto patronum!” I cried, pointing the wand into the lake. Those in it shrieked when a big wisp of silver matter erupted, and I was suddenly pelted with water as a punishment. Ruddy and Louis pulled me into the water, as Mikey, to my left, clutched his sides laughing.

I plunged into the cold waters, and resurfaced, my hair sticking to my face and chest.

“Oh my God!” I yelled, and Ruddy winked as Louis told me I couldn’t retaliate, it was his birthday tomorrow. I turned to Mikey, my hands on my hips, as my toes grazed the bottom of the lake under me.

“You’re really not intimidating when your head’s the only thing above water,” Mikey informed me. “You look like a mermaid, good thing you take their NEWT- oh no, Effy, don’t-”

I dragged him in the water and he, being a few inches taller than me, didn’t fall underneath like I did, but gasped as the coldness hit him.

“We are not friends,” he stated, and I laughed, moving back from him, treading water.

“Well then,” I said, grinning. “What are we, Lancaster?”

He opened his mouth and then closed it, and I followed his gaze away from me to the grass beside me, where somebody stood, looming over the two of us.

“James!” I said, beaming. “What happened to Transfiguration?”

“As if we were going to do three hours of late night studying when this was going on,” said Freddie Weasley, grinning devilishly. “Yo, Azalea.”

Jasmine, who was on Louis’s shoulders and dancing along to the music with Cornelia Boot, on top of Ruddy’s shoulders, looked up and grinned. “Weasley.”

“I worked out my patronus!” I told him excitedly. Perhaps I was a bit tipsier than I thought.

James smiled, and squatted, giving me a hand to help him out of the water. He and Freddie were too, in their swimming trunks, and I ignored the looks girls were giving him, him and his sculpted, fatless, toned up chest. “You did, did you?”

I was on ground, and squeezing the water out of my hair. “Yeah, but it wasn’t corporeal.”

“Hey, no,” said James, putting his arm around me, because I was shivering coming out of that cold body of H2O. “That’s fucking great, Wilderson. Let’s celebrate.”

“Oh yeah? How?”

He took two bottles of peach flavoured firewhiskey, my favourite flavour, and banged the bottle tops open by clicking it against the rim of his shorts. He handed me a bottle, and I golfed it down, tipsy becoming drunk 0-100.

The music became louder, and the sky became darker. I noticed bright fairy lights were strung up between trees, and floating fireflies were buzzing around lazily. 

“Scorpius is so good at throwing parties,” I said out loud.

James laughed, and shook his head. “Come on, you loser.”

And with his fingers entwined with mine, we left the lake for the growing dance scene by the Muggle radio hanging the low branches of a tree, his half naked body holding mine, my teethy smile and his lopsided smirk soon becoming as tangled in each other as our hands, his glistening chest pressed up against mine.

 

“Let’s go,” said Aspen, tugging at my hair, as she staggered out of the lake with Liam Finnigan. I was standing in a group with James, Oscar, Declan and Teddy Oliver and his girlfriend Sarah, James’ arm around mine, his fingers lazily playing with strands in my now dry hair.

The sky was a perfect inky black, studded with stars. The air around us was cooler than before, but the alcohol raging through my marrow kept me warm.

I turned away, my smile still on my face. “What’s the time?”

“Way past midnight,” said Liam, and my smile dropped. Every Ravenclaw knew the later it was, the harder the riddle, and there was nothing more embarrassing than the morning walk of shame through the common room to the dormitories after being let in by early bird Second Years.

“Fuck,” I said, and turned to James. “I’ve got to go.”

“Oh, why?” he asked.

“It’s late,” I said, not bothering to explain about the morning common room ritual. Other houses never got it. “Declan, we’re going up. You coming?”

“Oh sure,” he said. “Fuck me, it’s like, half past one. I was only meant to be here for an hour!” Declan always said that he was only meant to stay at parties for an hour or so, I don’t know why. Oscar pointed it out to me last year.r

“I should go find Freddie,” said James, and I smirked as he stifled a yawn. “Night, Wilderson.”

“Night,” I said, as he kissed me on the cheek.

The four of us walked to the tree stump to pick up our stuff, chatting animately about the night.

“I love nights like this,” said Apsen. “I can’t wait for summer, you know?”

“Couldn’t agree more,” I said warmly, linking my arm with hers. Declan started chatting about some Slytherin girl he snogged, when I noticed two figures kissing intensely. If I didn’t recognise the swimming trunks, I would have thought they were having sex.

Mikey and Lucy O’Donnell, my Potions partner? When was that a thing?

 

“Hey Al,” I said, sitting down opposite him on the Slytherin table in the Great Hall. Students milled about as the week’s glorious sunshine continued into the weekend, the overheard glass ceiling basking the room in fragments of golden shades of sun.

“Hey,” he said, looking up and grinning. It was nine in the morning, but I assumed everyone who was down by the lake last night was still sleeping; Aspen was, spread eagle over her duvet, still wearing her bikini, and Oscar had ended up in our room too, taking up all of my duvet. I woke up freezing. “You alright?”

“Knackered,” I said, reaching for coffee and milk. “I have a one on one with Lewis in a half hour to help me conjure a patronus.”

“I thought you conjured one last night?”

“It was just a wisp,” I said, yawning. “And I was drunk. Anyway. Why are you up this early?”

“I never sleep in late,” he said chirpily. “And Rose stayed over the night, which wasn’t fun, her being, you know, my cousin.

“Are you not used to it now?” I asked. “Being cousins with every ginger in this school and then some?”

“Not cousins with Poppy Atticus,” he muttered, ruffling the back of his hair. “She still didn’t talk to me last night, even though I was extra charming.”

“I mean,” I said, gulping my mug of steaming coffee down, “maybe she just isn’t straight.”

“No, I asked her that-”

“You what?

“She’s definitely straight,” he said, looking sheepish as he ruffled the back of his hair. “And definitely not into me.”

“Well,” I said. “If you got married, her name would be Poppy Potter.”

“And what does that have to do with anything?”

“Bit of a shit name-”

“My name is Albus-

Poppy Potter?!

“I’m going to win her over tonight,” said Al, looking inspired. “Yeah. This is going to happen.” He nodded and me and stood up, and I watched him walk out of the Hall, beaming like a raving lunatic. And then I realised that I was sitting alone in the Hall, fully conscious- perhaps paranoid- of the looks, whispers and sniggers from younger girls I glimpsed in the corner of my eye.

 

I had spent the past two hours with Professor Lewis, the Defence teacher, a dark-skinned man with brilliant white teeth and a slightly crooked nose. He was passionate about the subject, which I appreciated, because I don’t think any other teacher would take two hours out of their Saturday to help a student. Perhaps Slughorn if said student had ginger hair, or I suppose Longbottom, but who would ever need additional help with Herbology?

“People think it’s a memory,” said Lewis, a trace of Nigerian accent coming out with the harshness of his e’s. “But it’s more of a feeling, Miss Wilderson, that the said memory evokes. It is completely understandable if you don’t have a glorified singular memory at this age, Miss Wilderson.”

“So how do you feel happy?”

“Magic isn’t just handwork and potions,” he said, crossing his arms. “It’s about taming your emotions and cultivating the strength from discipline into power. A lot of the more advanced magic is more mind work than actual technique, Miss Wilderson.”

I nodded, and got my wand in position. He smiled at me encouragingly, and I breathed in. I looked out at the cloudless azure blue sky in the window beside me, and thought about the sunset from last night, the humid warm weather, the cool breeze. A sense of peace and happiness overrode me- I could catch a glimpse of the glittering blue lake from where I was stood, and I think it wasn’t what had already happened, but what will happen (perhaps not today, nor tomorrow; perhaps in a year, or maybe ten) that pushed me over.

Expecto Patronum,” I cried, and a silver form with large wings erupted, floating elegantly around the classroom.

I turned to Lewis, beaming. “Oh my God!” I cried, resisting the urge to hug him.

He nodded, and smiled back at me. “A mute swan,” he said, scribbling it down in his book of notes. “Traditionally respected in various cultures for their elegance and intelligence. Also noted that their means of communication does not involve noise- I wish I could say the same about you, Wilderson.”

I just couldn’t stop beaming. “Thank you so much!”

He snorted. “See you on Monday, Miss Wilderson.”

“Thanks again!”

I couldn’t believe I had conjured a patronus. I could feel the smile on my face, the wrinkles around my eyes, the bounce in my step. I think conjuring a patronus made me happier than the actual happiness behind it.

Why do you look so happy?” grumbled Oscar, as I bounced into my dormitory. He was sitting on Aspen’s bed, flicking through a magazine. Aspen herself was sat up, rubbing coconut oil down her legs.

“I cast a-”

“Green,” snapped Veronica Clearwater, walking into the dormitory. “Boys are not allowed in the girls’ quarters. I’m going to have to ask you to leave, before I dock points.”

Oscar, as usual, ignored her. “Go on.”

“-patronus!” I said excitedly, jumping onto Aspen’s bed. Sunshine poured through the open window over our trunks in between our beds, and a gentle breeze circulated through the air.

Oscar’s eyes widened and Aspen clapped her hands. “Congrats!” said Aspen, wiping her hands of the oils and hugging me. “That’s so great-”

MAZEL TOV!” said Oscar even louder, hating to be outdone. “Oh my God, Effy! What animal is it?”

“Oscar, if you do not leave now I will dock five house points-”

“A swan!”

“Oh my God,” gushed Aspen, beaming. “What a great animal. So much better than Oscar’s hedgeho-”

“I say we celebrate,” said Oscar, interrupting Aspen. “Except we’re already going to Louis’s tonight, and I really need to catch up on Potions-”

“That’s it, Oscar Green! Five points from Ravenclaw!” snapped Veronica. “It’ll be a detention if you don’t move fast-”

“Veronica!” cried Aspen, swinging her head towards her, her voice dripping with annoyance. “Stop it! Go drink unicorn blood or something!”

I laughed, and Oscar clapped his hands in glee. “Very good, As!”

“Thanks, I-”

“I’ll just go and summon Professor Flitwick,” she swiped. “Detention, Aspen, for being rude to a prefect and questioning authority.”

“Piss off,” I said, struck by a sudden wave of energy and anti-establishment leanings, specifically said establishment’s poor choice in Ravenclaw sixth year prefect of the female sex. “You dungbomb ogre. Hahahaha.”

“Detention for all three of you,” she hissed, and raised her eyebrows, crossing her arms. “Oscar. I insist you leave immediately. It is totally against school rules and I-”

“Urgh!” he cried, throwing his hands in the air. “Like, whatever! I am leaving! Good bye Veronica!”

I watched him leave the room, but not before giving her a nasty look usually reserved for casual homophobic rhetoric and ugly schoolbags. 

“Okay,” said Aspen, after he left. “Ohhhhkay. I want to hear more about your patronus!”

Veronica rolled her eyes and stomped outside, and Aspen clasped my hands as we sat cross-legged on her bed, under the Saturday morning sun, beaming at each other as I told her all about the past hour or so. Aspen was such a good friend: after the excitement waned, and I realised being the last person in the Defence NEWT class to conjure a patronus is more embarrassing than exciting, Aspen still continued to beam and talk animatedly about swans and how talented I was. 

“Aspen,” I said, cutting her off mid-sentence. “You’re my best best best friend. Ever.”

She raised her eyebrow and snorted. “Yeah, I should think so!”

 

It was so classic of Ruddy Walcott and Louis Weasley to throw a massive, Quidditch victory style party just to celebrate one of their birthdays. For Ruddy’s seventeenth at the beginning of the year, he decked out the Astronomy Tower until it got closed down by the Professors- and even then rumours of the after party in their bedroom rang on until Christmas.

“We’ve been in their year for six years now and I still don’t know if I like them,” dead-panned Aspen, and I laughed, taking a half full bottle of firewhiskey from a nearby table.

“Hey,” said a voice behind me, a pair of hands around my waist, and I turned around, knowing full well who it was. Alcohol surged through my inner core, and I felt a grin slip onto my face as I turned around, my lips meeting James’. He smirked into my kiss, my hands cupping his face, and I laughed at him, detangling myself, keeping one hand prompted on his shoulder. “Hi Aspen.”

“Hello,” said Aspen cheerily. “Oh, look, there’s the birthday boy himself. See you later, Eff.”

We watched her walk away, and he turned to me. “Was it because of me?”

“Aspen has a thing where she has to snog the host of every party,” I said, smiling as I spoke about her. “Well, ever since she and Scorpius broke up, anyway. Oh, hey! I always forget that Louis is your cousin. How crazy.”

“I forget that too,” he said, as we watched Aspen approach Louis, where he was stood with four other girls. “And what is my brother up to?” he asked, and I laughed.

Albus had spent the night pursuing Poppy Atticus, to the point where she told him to fuck off and leave her alone, and he said never, and she poured a class of blueberry flavoured firewhiskey over him. To be fair to Poppy, he had sent a dozen birds up to her room as a gesture of romance this morning, birds which had pooed all over her bed and trunks.

The party itself was great. Louis was very popular throughout the school, so people turned up for him: parties were also very popular throughout the school, and so people turned up for that. Some band of boys in the Seventh Year were playing heavy rock music, and people were dancing along, a few sneaking up to the rooms upstairs, a few others sneaking through the portrait hall, giggling into the hot and stuffy air.

“I heard you conjured a corporeal patronus,” said James, as we watched the party scene from where we were stood, by a staircase. Lucy O’Donnell and another Gryffindor in our year ran upstairs, and I caught Mikey’s eye across the room. He shrugged as I raised my eyebrow, and gave me a thumbs up as he returned back to his conversation with Rose, Scorpius and Al.

“Yeah,” I said, beaming, as I turned back to him. “A swan.”

“Nice one, Wilderson,” he said, smirking. “Absolutely nothing to do with my eagle.”

“Which has absolutely nothing to do with my house emblem,” I retorted. 

“I would love to see your swan first-hand,” said James, his eyes twinkling. “Green told me all about it, and I hate to feel left out.”

“Well,” I said, the corners of my lips turning up. “What do you suggest?”

“I don’t know. It wouldn’t be practical to show me right here.”

“And I would hate to get house points docked for having to show you outside.”

“I know a place upstairs that would be alright,” he said. “I mean, you know, not ideal. But would do.”

“Well if that’s our only plausible alternative,” I said, looking up at him, as he was looking down at me. He inclined his head towards the staircase we were by, and I followed him up, our fingers entwining in the encompassing darkness.

I was happy to get away from the party. Last night, the dying sunset and the growing night of inky shades and vivid stars was sublime, but tonight was too loud, too fast. I knew talk in next morning would be flooded with rumours and gossip and regret, but as I followed James’ into the top room of the Gryffindor castle in my little silk sleeveless crop top and black satin skater skirt, I knew this wouldn’t factor in. Regret-wise, I mean. 

His dormitory was similar to mine, except there were seven beds not five, and the a part of the ceiling showed the sky above, the beautiful summer’s sky, with stars and the moon and flying Muggle aeroplanes you could only see at the top of towers.

“Oh my God,” I said suddenly. “I don’t want to sound annoying… But what is that smell?

James nodded, frowning. “Sometimes Ridley gets a bit too carried away with Potions homework,” he muttered, and I laughed into the quiet room.

He turned to me, crossing his arms, the outline of his muscles under his loose grey tee-shirt tensing in the pale moonlight. I raised my eyebrow defiantly, and he smirked, leaning against a particular bed. It was surrounded by clothes and books on books, stacked up with cups of cold coffee and sheets of parchment on top.

“I’m sure you can show me your patronus another time,” he said.

“I think I left my wand downstairs anyway,” I replied as I walked over to him, and his arms opened to engulf me as I pressed myself into him, feeling his lips on mine for the second time that night, but in the privacy of his deserted dormitory, it felt different. The intimacy of our shared solitude on this summer’s night made blood pound in my head, my heartbeat accelerate. My hands pressed against his chest as his one hand crept under my head, the other holding my back.

We tumbled onto his bed, laughing into each others mouths, as my fingers pulled off his top, the room growing hotter as clothes were shedded. My long, wavy hair curled around his exposed torso and his hands held my face, my neck, my waist, our bodies pressing closer- until-

“Wait,” he said, suddenly, his lips parting from my collarbone.

“Oh what,” I said, exasperated, sitting up with him.

“I have to make sure you’re not drunk,” he said firmly.

My mouth dropped open in outrage. “You have been a self-obsessed, arrogant, conceited dick your whole entire life and now you want to be Mr Good Guy Gary?”

“It’s important,” he said smartly. “Go walk in a straight line.”

I crossed my arms in resistance, but his eyebrows furrowed. We sat there like that more a moment or so, until I sighed. “I’m not parading through your room wearing only my underwear.”

“Fine,” he said, reaching over a throwing me a red baggy top. “Go.”

I glared at him as he smiled smugly, leaning against his bed frame, his toned chest almost gleaming in the moonlight. I walked up and down, hands on my hips, hearing him laugh as I imitated a supermodel strut, and then decided to polish it off with a cartwheel. 

“Are you three?” he said, as I curtsied after my performance.

“Wow! Rude!” I said, crossing my arms. “As if a three year old could cartwheel like that-

“I probably could-”

“One day,” I said, as he stood up and walked over to me, “I’m going to get really sick and tired of your arrogance.”

“No you won’t,” he said easily, holding my willow body in his muscular arms and looking down at me, a massive smirk on his face.

“Oh yeah?”

He didn’t reply, kissing me instead, finding my hands and leading me to his bed once again.

 

I woke up the next morning curled up, his arm around my shoulder, his fingers of that hand entwined with the ends of my hair. I was out of his Quidditch jersey- I could feel the cotton of his sheets against my naked body- and I squinted my eyes against the glaring sun ahead.

Beyond the closed curtains, I could catch a glimpse of the room ahead, empty. I was relieved, as I slowly woke up, but not surprised: it was more unusual for people of the party’s house to return upstairs rather than crashing out in the common room below.

“Hey,” said James sleepily, as my movements woke him up. I yawned, and turned to him.

“I know this is horribly misogynistic and all,” he said through a yawn, “and so very not Feminist Society of me. But I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t like seeing you wearing my Quidditch jersey with Potter on the back.”

“Oh piss off,” I said, yawning, hitting him on his face with the back of my hand, feeling his nose in between my knuckles, his laughing breaths on my wrist. He caught my wrist with his hand and pulled me on top of him, and with his breath stale and smelling of butterbeer he kissed me, his fingers tangled in my matted hair.

 








(This is like the third time I've referenced Victoria's Secret in this story honestly whaaat I should stop). I hope you liked this! I'm really not too sure, I just wrote and wrote and hopefully the end result was okay, please let me know what you think! I ALWAYS say this but I'm sure other writers will agree- reviews are the primary form of motivation to continue writing and uploading chapters. I need to know people still like FA hahahaha. And didn't I say this would be the most Jeffy chapter yet! It can only go downhill from here... Spoil-lahh. Anyway let me know what you think!! I also own nothing you recognise xx until next time cool catssssssss :)


Chapter 17: the owlery
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“I know he’s your cousin,” I said crabbily, “but he’s still a dick.”

“Oh come on, Eff,” said James, stretching his arms and yawning. “So what if he slept with the Montgomery twins. So what if he shagged Azalea sober, and may I add, she’s not a little girl anymore Wilderson, she is totally capable of making her own decisions. Chill out.”

“The Montgomery twins haven’t spoken for weeks and Jasmine was devastated when he didn’t turn out wanting a relationship and just used her, again, for sex.”

“I don’t judge girls when they’re sexually active,” he said, shrugging. I watched him pluck a grape from the fruit bowl between us. “And I don’t judge boys either. Cut it with the reverse sexism bullshit.” He let the grape dance between his fingers.

“He treats girls as either potential sexual conquests or past sexual conquests,” I said irritably. “How can you not see what’s wrong with that?”

“No one’s perfect, Wilderson, so stop acting like you’re taking residence on some moral throne!” said James, lifting an arm and pointing a finger at me, a smirk creeping on his lips. “We were both much worse last year. I actually think he’s actually matured.”

“Mm,” I said, twirling my finger in my cup of now lukewarm coffee. I didn’t mention how James was still flirting with other girls in his year, or how Jasmine would tell me about the conversations she’d overhear he had in the Gryffindor common room.

“So are we still on for Saturday night?” he asked.

“Oh shit,” I said, my eyes flying open. “Oh no, I forgot. It’s Mikey’s birthday dinner then.”

“So?” he said, leaning back again on the frame of the bench. The weak morning sunlight shone from the ceiling and made his brown eyes look lighter and brighter, his cheekbones and jawline darker, the slight veins on his arms bigger. “You said the other day how you haven’t been that close to Lancaster recently. Can’t you cancel?”

“No,” I said, pulling a sad pouting face which he rolled his eyes at. “Sorry, I have to go.”

“But Alfie’s been planning this for a month now,” he said, and I nodded. Alfie was having a small thing to celebrate his birthday, twelve people, and James wanted me to come with him.

“Yeah I know, but it’s not like I’m particularly close with any of your friends-”

“Eve likes you-”

“Eve likes everyone,” I said, and James smirked.

“True. Oh come on, Wilderson. That’s so not okay, you already made a commitment- how long has Lancaster’s thing been on for?”

“James! Oh my God. Let’s just have dinner tonight.”

No, Elizabeth. Anyway, I can’t do dinner tonight, I have to see Dahlia for Potions coursework. How long?”

“Like a week, but it’s different, he’s actually my friend-

“Yeah, but I’m your boyfriend-”

“It’s not your birthday-”

“You know, Wilderson? I don’t understand you,” he said, crossing his arms. “You say we don’t spend enough time together because I’m always working- which I am, I mean, exams are in June- and yet you cancel on me for Lancaster three days before the actual event?”

“Well,” I said, split between wanting to avoid another argument and yet overwhelming frustrated at his stupidity, “it isn’t really like that. Let’s be real, we’d go a half hour into Alfie’s thing before you and Freddie dominate the conversation about how great you are, how the school is going to plunge into boredom once you graduate, how brilliant you two are-”

He laughed, and pinched the bridge of his nose. “This is so typical of you. I don’t know what you want me to do- give up my friends for you? You’re always attacking Freddie- you know, you’re not so perfect yourself-”

“Thanks, James,” I said, rising from the table. “This conversation is well past its sell by date. It’s stale, like your morals. See you around.”

“I’d rather you didn’t,” he snapped coldly, and I left.

 

“The Potters suck,” said Poppy Atticus cheerfully. I had left James that morning for double Herbology, and partner work became group work as we were put on a table with Louis Weasley and Ruddy Walcott. “It’s been three months now and Potter number 2 still won’t leave me alone.”

“Yeah, why is he so obsessed with you?” asked Ruddy, his elbows deep in the box of mud we were huddled around, fishing out glowworms. 

“He could get pretty much any girl in the year,” contributed Louis. “Like with me,”

“And me. Don’t leave me out in the dark now, Louis.”

“Sorry, Rudds. Yeah, Atticus, you should be flattered that a family member of mine is pursuing you so passionately,” he said, wagging his dirty finger at her, mud flying off and hitting me on the cheek. “If things work out, we could be cousins.”

“Thrilling,” said Poppy drily, as she wiped dirt off her chin.

Al’s pursuit of Poppy had only escalated over the weeks. He sent her howlers of love, ghosts singing poems and most recently, an enchanted envelope that was meant to erupt in confetti but ended up singing her eyebrows and eyelashes off. 

She was furious at the time, still convinced his obsession with her was a joke. I assumed her pleasant attitude to it today was just a side effect of the calming draught Madame Pomfrey gave her last night. Regrowing bones is a pain, but regrowing hair is agony.

“Really dig for those glowworms, Sixth Year!” called Longbottom cheerfully from the front of the room. “They are vital for flobberworm mating season!”

The sunlight shone from outside, stronger that earlier in the day. It was early May, and summer was truly approaching; the air was warmer, the days were longer, the sky was bluer. This was usually my favourite time of year, but James Sirius Potter was ruining it.

I had seen him flirting with a girl in his year in the library, but I didn’t want to be the type to call him up on it, you know? But it was becoming a regular thing. What made it worse was that Dahlia Moss, his on and off ex girlfriend of the whole of his Sixth Year was suddenly Potions partners with him, and they were spending a lot of time together. Like a lot.

“I hate Herbology,” whined Louis loudly. 

“Careful, Louis,” said Longbottom, approaching our table. “I might take that personally.”

“Well you should,” said Louis, and Longbottom smiled indulgently, walking away. 

Louis was cousins with James and Freddie, and whilst shared their handsome traits of slanted cheekbones and set jawlines, didn’t have quite the same intellect, the same wit, the same sharpness. He was funny in a slapstick way, not sharp enough to have the same manipulating arrogance of his two relatives.

“Do you ever feel,” said Poppy, looking pensive, “like a bit like… You’re a roll of toilet paper, and you don’t want to be used because gross, but nevertheless, you’re like, well, why not me? Am I not good enough for that?”

“I so get that,” I said, looking at her and nodding. “Yeah, oh my God! I so know what you mean!”

Opposite us, Louis and Ruddy exchanged glances.

“Bat shit crazy,” they chorused.

 

“Oh my God,” I muttered to Aspen as we sat down on the Ravenclaw table for dinner that night. “James totally turned down dinner tonight but look!

She followed my gaze to the Gryffindor table, where he was sat with Dahlia Moss and two other Slytherin girls, and I watched him hi-five Freddie as he joined them.

“What?” asked Liam, as he and Mikey slid down opposite us.

“Is Oscar not with you?”

“We’re not his babysitter,” cried Liam. “If anything, he’s ours-”

“Hey,” said Mikey, looking at me. “You alright?”

I sighed, and then smiled at him. “Yeah, it’s all fine. You excited for your birthday, then?”

“Oh come on,” he said. “Fuck yeah?”

“You only turn seventeen once,” said Aspen, sounding wise as usual.

Liam nodded. “I agree with that statement with real passion and zest, Aspen.”

“Thanks, Lee.”

“So do you know what your parents are getting you for your birthday?” I asked.

Mikey shrugged, and stretched his arms. “My parents are more into coming of age being when you’re eighteen, not seventeen. Muggleborn mother and Muggle father, what can you do.”

“Effy and I got you a great present,” said Aspen bubbly. “Be excited.”

“Oh I am,” assured Mikey, patting her on the arm.

“How’s Lucy O’Donnell doing?” I asked him, as he helped himself to a large portion of sausages from the centre of our table.

He shrugged. “I don’t know, I’m kind of phasing that out.”

“Why?” I demanded, and he looked up startled. I quite liked Lucy. I quite liked all of the Gryffindor girls in our year, now Rose was being semi normal and Parker Wills stopped stopping around sending dirty looks and dirtier threats. She also stopped smelling like she bathed in blood on the daily, which was also nice, because I could smell that all the way from my seat in Defence.

“I don’t know, Effy. It was just a snog. I didn’t really want anything from it. It just kind of happened.”

“Like pregnancy.”

“No, Aspen, not really anything like pregnancy.”

“Hello,” said Oscar, sliding down gracefully next to Liam opposite Aspen and me. “Pie again? Do they want to give me early set high blood pressure from cholesterol overload? Flitwick knows I’m sensitive to white grain and eggs. Oh my.”

“Only one more year until graduation,” said Liam encouragingly. 

“Oh don’t say that,” I said, wincing. “I had double Herbology with Ruddy Walcott and Louis Weasley this morning and the idea of those two idiots being leashed into the world… I mean like, responsibility…”

There was a collective silence on our part as we embraced our shameless Ravenclaw snobbery, thinking we were far better suited for the Big Bad World than any other Sixth Year of any other house. 

As the boys started discussing Quidditch, my gaze fell upon James opposite me on the Gryffindor table, murmuring something to Dahlia Moss with a smirk on his face, the tips of her fingers grazing the prominent veins of his left arm. 

“I’m not that hungry,” I said, pushing the boiled potatoes around on my plate. “I think I’m going to head upstairs.”

“You want me to come?” asked Aspen, turning her head from the conversation as I stood up.

“No, it’s fine,” I said brightly. “Thanks.”

As I walked out of the hall and into the cool, almost silent corridor, I thought about James. I wasn’t an idiot. He was like that before we dated, I knew that. I had grown up watching him charm beautiful girls of all years, listening to rumours of his shameless sex life, his life of boarding school debauchery.

I didn’t expect him to change for me, I just didn’t expect myself to change for him. I was such an idiot! He had toned down the arrogance and superiority blindness since I had first spoken to him, but he hadn’t really changed at all. 

I mean, perhaps it wasn’t great of me to cancel on Alfie’s party. But obviously I was going to pick Mikey over Alfie- I wasn’t even friends with Alfie, even though he has been very nice to me since the Quidditch incident last term. 

I found myself leading up to the Ravenclaw tower. A few people were still in the common room working, including Danny Alton, who smiled at me absent-mindedly when he heard me walk in. I know it was absent-mindedly because Danny hasn’t smiled at me since Fifth Year.

And I walked up to my room, and then my bed, where I collapsed into a dreamless sleep, absolutely exhausted by it all.

 

“I wish I was famous enough to be in these history books,” I said I sat in the Ravenclaw common room the next morning with Oscar as we wrote up our History of Magic essays. To what extent has the baby boom shortly following the Second Wizarding War of Britain had an impact on contemporary Wizarding British society? 

“I wish I was famous enough to be in magazines,” said Oscar, and we looked up at each other in perfect sync.

Fleur Delacour-Weasley.

“Idol. Absolute angel,” sighed Oscar. “If only her son wasn’t such a museum exhibition of the pre-civilised man.”

“He’s not that bad…” I thought about how Ruddy challenged him to see how many glowworms he could fit up his nose, and threw a tantrum when Ruddy ended up beating him. “No, yeah, you’re right.”

To the window beside us, I heard a tapping. I turned around and saw James’ owl, a slightly scruffy tawny type tap against the glass, and I opened the window and let Narcissus in. James told me how Lily called him Narcissus as James was so obsessed with himself and he didn’t talk to me for a whole hour after I almost wet myself laughing at it.

“Whose that from?” asked Oscar, looking up.

“James,” I said, untying the parchment from Narcissus’s ankle. “It better be an apology letter or a gift card of some sort, the way he was bossing me about today…”

Wilderson, I feel like some explanations are in order. I truly was seeing Dahlia for Potions revision; we had just decided to break for dinner after working in the dungeons for hours on end this afternoon. 

Anyway, give Alfie’s party some more thought? Maybe leave Lancaster’s early or something like that. You already made a commitment to going, and I just haven’t seen you at all recently. James

“No kisses at the end?” asked Oscar, reading over my shoulder. “He signs off as just James? What is he, my father? When I come home, make sure the kitchen is cleaned. Dad. Please feed the cats. Dad. Like, what is that?”

“He’s being such a fucking pain,” I said, scribbling a reply on the other side of the parchment. 

James, I’m sorry, but Mikey’s one of my best friends. I wouldn’t expect you to come to Mikey’s party over Alfie’s event if the positions were reversed. 

I paused, trying to think of a compromise.

“Mikey’s and Alfie’s are both this Saturday night,” said Oscar, “and there’s a Hogsmeade visit this weekend. Just go to that in the day with him?”

Oscar just reminded me there was a Hogsmeade weekend this weekend, so we can just go to that in the day? I was planning on staying in but let’s go then. As a feminist, I’ll ask you on the date, whatever, cool, just call me a Pankhurst sister. See you after lunch?

I sent that, and Narcissus was back within five minutes.

I can’t- the Potions test is on Monday, so I already committed myself to seeing Dahlia to practise. I know it sounds bad but the practical counts for almost half of my overall NEWT. We’ll find an alternative. I’m sorry Eff xx

“Well, at least he’s finally sending you some kisses,” said Oscar.

I raised my eyebrow, as Narcissus flew away into the cloudless early summer’s night. “He almost never sends xx’s, he thinks they’re embarrassing.”

Oscar shrugged. “Anyway, back to this essay. What if I write the first half and you do the last bit? We just need separate introductions, he never marks past the first three feet of parchment…”

 

That Saturday was a glorious day, absolutely beautiful. The recent summer heat of cornflower blue skies and warm breezes was to come to an end tomorrow, however, as thunderstorms were predicted for the early hours of Sunday morning and throughout the rest of the week.

Quidditch practise that morning was surprisingly tolerable. After Gryffindor won their match against Slytherin, we were to play Hufflepuff next week for our place in the finals, in June. Danny was stressed out, but everybody else was in high spirits. Isn’t it funny how a bit of sunshine and some warm weather can just suddenly turn people’s mood switches on? You know?

“I’ll see you in the Three Broomsticks,” I said, throwing my arm around Mikey as I squeezed him, beaming, as we walked into the changing rooms after practise. “You seventeen year old!”

Mikey laughed, and hugged me back. “You coming with Aspen, then?”

“Yeah. Oscar’s already out with Jasmine and Ophelia, but he said he’ll stop by.”

“No pressure, he’s coming tonight.”

“Happy birthday, mate,” said Danny, clamping a hand over Mikey’s shoulder. “Sorry for my bad mood this morning. Have a good one, Lancaster.”

“Thanks Danny,” said Mikey, grinning, as Danny smiled before slipping into the Captain’s quarters.

“Happy birthday again, Mikey!” chirped Lara, blushing slightly as she walked into the girls’ changing room before Mikey could even say thank you. I turned to Mikey, once she was out of earshot.

“I think somebody has a cruuuuush,” I sang quietly.

“Oh fuck off,” he said, good-naturedly, as Liam and Josh came in, discussing something that must be Quidditch related, Liam looked so excited.

After I showered and slipped into regular clothing, I walked through the castle and up to the Ravenclaw tower, the common room and then my dormitory, where I found Aspen making out with Louis Weasley.

“Effy!” gasped Aspen, looking up from Louis, who looked at me sheepishly.

“Oh my God!” I cried. “I’m so sorry!”

“No I’m sorry! I should have knocked!”

“No! Why would you have knocked? Oh my God, I thought you wouldn’t be back for another hour!”

“Oh my God, I’ll go- I’m so sorry-”

“No, honestly, I-”

“Oh stop apologising,” said Louis, sitting up and slipping his shirt over his head and onto his body. “The amount of times Ruddy and I’ve been in this situation? More than I have hands. No, fingers. Fingers and toes, I would say, but no more than that.”

“When did this happen?” I ask, sitting down on my bed, as Aspen began buttoning her blouse.

“Literally just this morning!” she cried. “You would have known, Eff-”

“No, honestly Aspen, I really don’t mind-”

“We were in the library,” began Louis, sitting upright on Aspen’s bed opposite me, “and doing the same Transfiguration essay. And then we got kicked out of the library for snogging, so we came here.”

“Our tower is much closer than his,” Aspen contributed helpfully.

“Oh, right,” I said, sounding slightly dazed.

In all reality, Aspen and Louis made perfect sense. Both blonde beauties, with scattered brains and good intentions. And of course, they had snogged at Louis’s party a month ago, but they’re both quite frequent kissers, so that wasn’t much more than next day gossip over breakfast.

“So is this just a this morning thing?” I asked, as Aspen copied Louis in sitting cross-legged opposite me. What was a passionate make out session had turned into something that wasn’t quite, but similar to a meeting of sorts.

“I don’t know,” shrugged Aspen, looking at Louis. “What do you think?”

This had to have to be the oddest thing I have ever witnessed.

Louis turned to Aspen, and crossed his arms. “You fancy going to Hogsmeade today then, Az?”

Az? Az?

“Okay,” she said breathlessly. “Sure.”

There was a pregnant pause, where they both looked up at me, and I looked at them.

“So do you want me to go or something…?”

“Don’t worry,” chirped Aspen happily. “We’re all going out for Mikey’s birthday lunch today, Louis, do you want to come to that?”

“Sure,” he said, nodding, ruffling the back of his hair. “I’ll see you there, As.” And he nodded at her, and then smirked at me- “Wilderson”, he sang- before leaving, closing the door delicately behind him.

I turned to Aspen, my arms crossed.

"Something you want to tell me?" I asked. "Az?"

“What?” she asked innocently, before we both burst out laughing.

 

An hour later, there were eight of us seated around Mikey for his birthday, and a passionate, heated discussion about- obviously- Quidditch was taking place, because whilst most of the people there were Ravenclaws, we were on the idiot side of the house, Ravenclaw eternally divided between the clever and the stupid.

“The Thai have a really solid team, but the Americans are at a clear advantage playing on home ground,” said Liam, pointing his finger down, like he was some prestigious politician and not a teenager discussing a sport, spraying food everywhere.

“America’s seeker is too useless to win anything,” said Scorpius, who regarded Quidditch second to family and looked fit to tears from the excitement of it all. “They have amazing defence, but their attack isn’t strong enough.”

“Completely disagree,” said Albus, shaking his head. “Look at France, for instance. They’ve won three games recently without a Seeker’s victory.”

“Yeah, but look at France’s Chasers,” said Declan stubbornly. “Chandon and Luca? Come on-”

“What about Denmark-”

“What about Denmark, their Captain spends half the time calling for penalties-”

“We’re going to go,” said Louis, his arm around Aspen, placing down a galleon for their butterbeers. “Happy birthday, mate.”

“Cheers,” said Mikey happily, and as the two left, Jasmine and Oscar descended, throwing shopping bags all over the table.

“You’ve spilt fucking butterbeer all down me,” whined Liam. “I hate cleaning…”

“Just get the house-elves to do it,” said Jasmine, looking uninterested. “Hey, Effy, look at the sparkling parchment Oscar and I just got- it smells of peppermint-”

“Anyway, your argument about America is invalid when Chile has the same defence tactics-”

“Okay!” barked Oscar, and the table went quiet. “I am done with Quidditch talk! Done! All you talk about in the dormitories is Quidditch, all you talk about at meals is Quidditch… It’s just a sport!”

There was a silence, until Liam spoke up, his Irish accent bolder than ever.

“It’s never just Quidditch, Oscar. It’s a way of life.”

“Nicely put, mate…”

“Look at the parchment,” said Jasmine, happily. It was light green, sparkling in the dimmed lights of the pub, and the artificial scent of peppermint saturated my senses.

“Great,” I said, coughing. “Longbottom would love that.”

“Thing is, he actually would,” Jasmine said. “So Aspen and Louis, huh? I would never have pegged them together, but you know what? It actually makes sense!”

“Couldn’t agree more,” said Oscar, clapping his hands together. “They’re both so blonde and… Well, dumb.”

“Aspen’s not dumb,” I said automatically. “She just doesn’t think.”

“Hmph. Thoughtless, then.”

As the boys banged on about the Quidditch World Cup, the three of us chattered about Aspen and Louis and perhaps Jasmine and Ruddy? No? Never? Bit drastic… No, absolutely not, well, maybe. 

“Hey, look,” said Jasmine, craning her neck towards the door. “Is that James and Dahlia Moss?”

I turned around and followed her gaze. James and Dahlia had walked in and were following a waitress to a smaller booth quite far from us, but I could make out James’ silhouette any day. As they walked, she laughed as he murmured into her ear, her delicate fingers on his arm.

“Oh my God!” I cried. “He told me he couldn’t come to Hogsmeade with me because he had to work!”

Jasmine looked outraged. “What the fuck?

“Ew,” said Oscar, craning his neck as the three of us watched them across the room, our breaths held back, sat in total silence (by contrast, the boys couldn’t have been louder in their Quidditch talk). They were laughing and murmuring to each other, their heads really close, Dahlia twirling the ends of her blonde locks and biting her lip as James ruffled the back of his hair, smirking.

“You should go over to them,” said Jasmine, nodding encouragingly. “Oh my God. What a dick.”

I felt numb, and then furiously angry. My head throbbed with sadness and fury pulsed through my body. I didn’t notice it, but I was shaking.

“I’m done,” I said to no one. “I’m so done.”

He said something and she laughed, and he smirked triumphantly at her giggles.

Jasmine nodded furiously as Oscar patted me on the back. “Want to get out of here?”

“Absolutely.”

And we left, only looking back to say bye to Mikey, the birthday boy.

 

The owlery was empty, and whilst the day was pleasantly warm with only the mildest breeze, the small room at the top of Hogwarts’ highest tower was freezing. Wind blew in from the many glassless windows, making my hair flutter and my skin prickle.

I crossed my arms against the coldness, and called for an owl. When you're a First Year, having an owl is the height of glamour, and I was never that glamourous. My brother Jack had a history of short-lived owls, and as a result my mum firmly denied the luxury of a personal owl to me when I started at Hogwarts.

So I had to use a school owl, which suited me just fine- I was never an animal person.

“Hey,” I said softly to a nearby owl, my voice clouded by the breathing I was doing through my mouth. The owlery stunk of stale bird poo, and cleaning day was Sunday.

“Wilderson,” said a throaty voice. It sounded relieved and almost apologetic.

“James,” I said, refusing to turn around before I had finished attaching my letter to the owl.

“I would say I’ve been looking for you, but I knew you were here.”

“Should I bother asking how?”

“Nah,” he said, and there was a pregnant pause as I refused to turn around and he refused to walk into my line of vision. We stood like that for a minute before he walked over in front of me.

“Hey,” he said, crossing his arms. Behind him, the sky was just as beautifully, vividly blue as it was when I woke up this morning, and the Quidditch pitch below glittered a twinkling, emerald green.

“Hi,” I said, as my owl flew away.

“Al told me you saw Dahlia and me today at lunch.”

“I did.”

He paused, and ran a hand through his hair. “Look, Wilderson, you must know that if I had any intentions of doing anything we wouldn’t have gone to the Three Broomsticks.”

“I know,” I said loftily. “I’m not accusing you of cheating on me.”

“So what is it?” he said suddenly, breaking from his cool demeanour. “Effy! I can’t help it if Dahlia’s my Potions partner- we’re meant to spend time together outside of class for this coursework-”

“James,” I said, interrupting him as I crossed my arms against a sudden icy breeze. “I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m not. It’s just- why would you tell me you couldn’t come out for lunch when you could, just with Dahlia? And it happened the other day as well-

“We had to eat-”

“So you took the ten minute walk to Hogsmeade and not the Great Hall?”

He ruffled the back of his hair again, and breathed heavily. “I know what it looks like-”

“And I saw the way you two were with each other! James, she’s clearly not over you and I don’t think you’re over her-”

What?!” he said harshly. “There is nothing going on there, Wilderson. I know for a fact she’s over me, and I can’t believe I have to convince you that I’m over her-”

He broke off suddenly, and I watched his face. The sun shone on his handsome features, but his eyes were wide with frustration and panic.

I felt the words tumble out of my mouth, every syllable against my tongue and teeth, like painting soft strokes on a harsh canvas. “I just don’t know if I believe that.”

“Effy,” he said, walking over to me with one massive step and holding my arm with his big hand, looking into my face. “Let’s not do this.”

“James-”

“We’re not doing this,” he said firmly, and I looked up into his dark, brown eyes. I could see every faint freckle on his cheeks, just where the sunlight hits under the eyes, scattered over the bridge of his nose. “Effy.”

I looked up at him, as he stroked my hair. “You’ve always been the type to have loads of girls, James- no, don’t deny it! You know it’s true! You know it wouldn't be out of character for you to get bored and go after somebody else-”

“So it’s me you don’t trust,” he said, laughing harshly.

“I spent the whole of my years at Hogwarts listening to stories about you cheating on girls, sleeping with everybody-

“I was young! Oh my God,” he said, laughing again, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Come on, Effy-”

“Didn’t you cheat on Dahlia herself with like, three people last year?”

“I was sixteen-”

James,” I said, softly. “I’m sixteen.”

We looked at each other, until he spoke, piercing through the silence.

“Effy,” he said, quietly. “I flirted with Dahlia because I flirt with most girls that I’m not close with. And I know the way I speak to Dahlia is the way Lancaster speaks to you, but it’s all innocence. I’ve cheated on people previously because whilst I was your age, I wasn’t mature at all. I can’t change my previous actions. I don’t think any of my actions since you’ve gotten to know me- not even date me, just know me- can prove as evidence of what you’re claiming.”

He paused, and stroked my jaw with his thumb.

“If you can’t trust me, Effy, that’s just as much your problem as its mine.”

I nodded, and there was another long pause, the silence of the owlery engulfing us. We were in this impossible limbo; I was too scared to make the next move, knowing how fragile we were, but we couldn’t stay in this moment of silence forever.

“I’m sorry, James,” I said, slowly. “You’re right. I just don’t trust you.”

He nodded, and withdrew the warmth of his hand from my face. The coldness that replaced it made my cheek tingle.

“I don’t think we should break up,” said James, steadily. “But let’s take a break. Wilderson, I’m crazy about you, but if you can’t trust me… Yeah. Let’s just take a breather.”

I crossed my arms as a particularly harsh wind blew through the fragile tower. “I think that’s a good idea.”

“My exams start in two weeks anyway,” he said, nodding slowly. “It’s a good time for it.”

I suddenly found a lump in my throat the size of the letter I had just sent to be delivered. “Okay, yeah.”

“Hey,” he said, wrapping his arms around me, and the warmth of his body was a relief against the iciness of the tower’s air. I was overcome with his scent, his smell of summer and tobacco and that clean, fresh soap that was particularly strong around the neck area. “Hey.”

“I have to go,” I said into his shirt. “Aspen’ll be wondering where I am.”

“Okay,” he said, but I didn’t leave his arms, and he didn’t break away.

Until suddenly, I did.

“Effy,” he said, looking down at me.

“No,” I said, anger rising from my marrow, flooding into my bones, rising up through my throat and pounding in my head. “No, fuck that. James, you can’t just call a break if I confront you over lying to me about having lunch with your ex girlfriend and then, like- like- manipulate me into thinking I’m being paranoid.”

“I didn’t-”

“You want to go on a break?” I said loudly, and my voice echoed off the walls. I felt like half my body was yearning me to stop, whilst the other half pushed on. My head felt heavy under sudden saturation of emotion. “I’m so done. Yeah, let’s go on a break. Or let’s even break up-”

“Wilderson,” he said, his tone starting to match mine. “Listen to me-”

He tried to bring me into him again but I shoved him off, my hands on his chest.

You listen to me! You can’t call a break the second I start to call you up on your shit-”

“This isn’t the second!” he yelled, his tone now meeting mine. “You’re so constantly vigilant on your bullshit, Wilderson! Lancaster’s been in love with you since before I met you and you happily ignore that because it boosts your fucking ego, and then when I talk to my Potions partner suddenly you freak the fuck out!”

“You can’t compare the two at all-

“Really, Wilderson? Because I think you fucking can,” he said, speaking fast, and that’s when I knew he was just as livid as I was. “And you know what, I get that you and Freddie don’t like each other. I fucking get it. But he’s willing to make an effort you will never meet because you’re so morally opposed to him because he’s a fucking teenage boy-“

“Fuck you, James, I do make an effort only for him to laugh at me-”

“He laughs at everyone! He hasn’t had an easy fucking life, Wilderson!” snapped James. 

“And I bet he doesn’t call a break the second shit gets bad- you know, you preach bravery and lions all the fucking time and yet the minute shit hits the fan you’re proposing a break? Are you a fucking coward? Or maybe you’ve just lost energy now you’re seeing Moss-”

“You know that’s not true-”

“I mean, lying to me? Twice in two days? Do you think I’m a fucking joke?”

Yes, Wilderson,” he snapped sarcastically, and I would have flinched at his tone if I wasn’t so angry. “I’ve been dating you for the past few months for the banter. Jesus fucking Christ. If I wanted to cheat on you, don’t you think I’d be a little more clever about it?”

“Well I wouldn’t know, would I? I’m not the one who’s done it before-”

“I’ve fucking SAID THIS BEFORE,” he screamed. “You’re different to Dahlia- I’m different-”

“Are you really?”

He paused and looked at me, and in the golden afternoon sunlight that poured into the owlery like honey he had never looked so beautiful. His face glowed and the angles of his face shone, his dark brown eyes glinting amber and bronze. 

“I’m sometimes unreliable,” said James finally. “I haven’t been great about the Dahlia thing. I’m trying, but I can’t change for you.”

I nodded numbly. “There’s no need,” I said. “I’m done. I’ve had enough.”

“Fine,” he said, looking me right in the eye. “Yeah, fine, Wilderson. I’m exhausted.”

“Bye,” I said, and he raised his eyebrow at me. He suddenly looked like the James Potter from September, the boy who had a row with Danny on the Quidditch pitch one morning. Strikingly handsome, intimidatingly arrogant, a total stranger.

“Bye, Wilderson.”

 

Oscar was one of my favourite people in the world, and he didn’t have many bad traits, but he did have a few, and one of them was his inability to be quiet.

“So Effy and James broke up, guys,” he chattered loudly. “But you can’t mention it tonight-”

“I can hear you, Oscar,” I called from the bottom of the ladder up to the Astronomy Tower. There were several laughs, but a very awkward silence afterwards.

The sun was just setting on the tower, casting the flat landscape in a kaleidoscope of vivid pinks, golden oranges and sparkling yellow glimmers of light. The day’s evening was far cooler than the day itself, but the same cool breeze of the impending summer blew through the air, and I followed Aspen to our seats by the table.

It was so classic of Mikey to orchestrate a sit down dinner for his seventeenth on the Astronomy Tower. I don’t know anybody who had done it before, but it was such a clever idea. NEWT Astronomy students were given the keys to the tower, and Mikey had arranged for house-elves to bring up food throughout the night.

There were eight seats around the table; Mikey, Liam, Declan, Scorpius, Albus, Oscar, Aspen and me. We all sat down, with Mikey in the middle of the rectangular table, and Albus and Scorpius sat opposite Aspen and I.

I was wearing a leather jacket over a black sleeveless, summer dress, my hair tucked behind my ears and parted off to the side. I had just washed it, so it had more volume than usual, but I wasn’t in the mood to make any special effort tonight.

“I’m sorry about you and James,” said Scorpius, grimacing at me. 

“What part of you can’t mention it tonight did you not understand, Malfoy?” I said playfully, imitating Oscar’s voice.

Oscar, from the other side of the table, turned around from his conversation with Mikey. “I do not speak like that, Elizabeth Jane Wilderson!”

Jane?” said Liam, looking horrified. “Since when?”

“Since birth?”

I knew her middle name is Jane,” said Albus, smugly. “I know everyone’s middle name.”

“Go on,” said Aspen, crossing her arms confidently.

“Beatrice.”

What?! How- Effy!” she hissed, turning to me. “You’re the only one I told.”

I looked up from my glass of water, and smiled sheepishly. “It may have slipped out.”

She hit me playfully and Albus laughed, as the conversation quickly turned to comparing teachers, to discussing Fifth Year gossip- then onto Quidditch, which was a conversation almost violently changed by Aspen and Oscar onto something treading neutral ground that everybody had an opinion on.

“Poppy Atticus is just playing hard to get,” said Scorpius confidently, clamping a hand on Albus’s shoulder.

“I heard Ruddy say how fit she was in Potions the other day,” chatted Oscar. “And she also overheard, and oh my God, the temper on that girl! So admirable. I loved it.”

“What did she do?” I asked, twirling my fork in my pasta.

“Throw pickled frog brains at him,” he chirped. 

Above us, the sunset had died, and the sky was a brilliant navy black, studded with stars.

“I know you guys think it’s a joke,” said Albus, sighing. “And her constant rebuttals of my signs of affection is kind of funny, if you’re into that sort of humour-”

“Who isn’t?”

“Not helping, Mikey. Anyway, I can’t help it! The more she turns me down, the crazier I get over her!”

“Do you ever think,” I said gently, “that maybe it’s the chase that’s attracting you, not Poppy herself?”

“That’s what she thinks,” said Albus. “But it’s really not. I know what the difference is between the chase and the girl.”

Albus’s attempts of gaining Poppy’s love had evolved from a small joke to a topic of discussion in the school. Albus was highly popular and very handsome, so whenever a guy like that devotes so much time to a single girl- such as Poppy- people start talking. Especially when the girl is so vigilant in saying no.

“Go on,” I said, shoving spaghetti in my mouth. The boys beside me started discussing some girl in the year above, but I was interested in Al and Poppy.

“She’s got this great laugh,” he said, leaning back on his chair and crossing his arms. “And she’s very defiant. I love how she stands up for herself, always arguing or laughing.”

“Feisty,” said Scorpius, nodding.

“Good one, Scor.”

“Come on, mate,” said Mikey, turning from that conversation to ours. “It’s just Poppy Atticus. You could easily have any other girl in the year.”

“You don’t get it, Mikey,” said Albus, ruffling the top of his hair in annoyance. “I wonder what I could do to get her to go on at least one Hogsmeade date before the end of the year…”

“Good luck,” said Aspen encouragingly, as I thought about how his last attempt of asking her out ended up in Poppy spending the night in the Hospital Wing. Albus claimed that desperate times called for desperate measures, but the only thing desperate about the situation was himself.

The night went on like that; easy discussion, laughter, Declan adamantly defending himself against Scorpius’s theory of him being in a secret relationship with Teddy Oliver, Aspen beaming as she was asked about Louis Weasley- concluding in Mikey blowing out the candles on a massive, multi-tiered cake brought up by several house-elves, the chanting of Happy Birthday you Pikey booming so loud they could probably hear us in the dungeons.

“Thanks for such a great night, Mikey,” I said, hugging him as we all began to leave.

“You sure you’re okay about James?” he said, holding me at arm’s length and looking at me skeptically. “You know you can talk to me, Eff.”

“I know,” I said, laughing lightly. “He’s a prick, I’m over it. But thanks.”

I kept my facade up for the whole night. I could be an actress. But when we got back to the dormitories, and I saw James’ old, battered grey Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher tee-shirt- I always wanted to ask what that meant, but never got around to it- I couldn’t help myself. I drew the curtains around me, and tried not to cry.

 












James' Margaret Thatcher tee-shirt is a very unnecessary detail I added in because I feel like James is the kind of person to not only know about British muggle political history but have very invested feelings about it. Sorry if I offended anyone! 

I don't own, as usual, anything you recognise. THIS CHAPTER WAS SO DIFFICULT TO WRITE, I love Effy and James but I think it had to be done. Didn't I warn you!? Anyway- thank you SO SO much for all the amazing, genuinely overwhelming reviews I've been getting. They genuinely mean the world to me, and are undeniably motivational- not only to keep going with this fic, but in general. I've decided to enroll in writing workshops for university as a result of all your incredibly nice, generous words! Cannot express how much they mean to me... Thank you over and over again!

We also just passed FA's 2 year anniversary (!!!!!) and as a celebration, I've decided the next chapter WILL be up by the new year- if not, I'll upload as big a snippet as possible onto the tumblr site for it. Happy holidays!


Chapter 18: staring into space
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


“Forty seven?” said Aspen behind me, as I carved the twentieth line of the day on the wall in between our beds that afternoon. “It’s only been two days! How have that many people asked you about James?!”

“To be fair, I did just come back from double History of Magic with the Hufflepuff girls,” I said, blowing away the excess sawdust from my wand and admiring my handiwork. “You’d think Eve Feltham would have more important things on her mind, what with the semi finals this Saturday. Speaking of which, I have Quidditch practise.”

“Liam said Danny’s working your fingers to the bone.”

I nodded in agreement, as I stood up and turned to Aspen. We had been practising for hours every day after class, during lunches and before breakfast, and when Hufflepuff had booked the field, Danny would take us into an empty classroom to go over tactics.

“This match is the best thing that’s happened to me,” I said, tying my hair up in a ponytail. “I’m so continuously tired I don’t have time to think about James.”

“Oh really,” said Aspen, and I followed her gaze to James’ old shirt lying on my bed. She turned to me, and raised her eyebrow. “Effy.”

“What?” I said, sitting on the flannel and beaming at her.

“Come on. You have to talk about it some time,” she said, sitting on my bed with me.

“No I don’t,” I said brightly. “I”m totally fine. Fine, fine, fine.”

“Oscar says you’re going to explode from pent up feelings.”

“Well, Oscar’s wrong. Pass me my Quidditch kit, would you-”

“Effy!” said Aspen, looking up at me with her big, blue eyes. “Talk to me! You were crazy about James-"

"You're playing with your hair- are you trying to flirt with me?-"

"-And now you two’ve broken up-”

“Actually, we’re on a break,” I said brusquely, getting the kit from Aspen’s side of my bed for myself, and stuffing it into my bag. “Would love to talk, but I’ve got to go chase a golden ball for three hours. See you later, Spinelli.”

I could feel Aspen’s dirty look at the back of my head as I walked out of the door, closing it behind me. As I made the commute from the Ravenclaw tower to the Quidditch changing rooms, I made a mental note to add two more lines to my tally of Times Effy Has Been Asked About James, filing them under the curious category which was much larger than the concerned: that only had seven strokes.

“Hey Effy,” Lara chirped, as I walked into the girls’ changing rooms. “Guess who got asked out by Lysander Scamander to the next Hogsmeade weekend?”

“Oh my God!” I said, dropping my bag down and looking up excitedly. “No way! When?”

“Sunday,” Lara chattered, pulling up her navy knee-high socks. “We were in Potions and-”

“Wilderson!” boomed Danny, walking into our changing room. “Good, you’re here-”

“Danny!” I cried, as Lara looked scandalised. “You can’t come in here! I could have been naked!”

“But you’re not,” he said, crossing his arms. “Hurry up, girls. The rest of us are waiting outside.”

I watched him walk about, before turning to Lara. “Tell me about it later,” I said, and she nodded happily.

 

Quidditch practise was exhausting. I had been flying so much recently my thighs were starting to feel numb and the palms of my hands were blistering from the tight grip. Luckily it doesn’t really take a lot of muscle to fly fast and catch a ball the size of my palm, so I was exempt from the drills Danny put the other five players through.

“LAST ONE TO COMPLETE THIRTY PUSH UPS DOES FIVE EXTRA LAPS!” roared Danny as he marched up and down the line assembled by Lara, Mikey, Liam, Indigo and Josh.

“AND WILDERSON!” screeched Danny, turning around where I was stood, pulling faces at Mikey. “THE SNITCH HAS BEEN RELEASED! GO FUCKING FIND IT, YOU FUCKING-”

“Danny!” Liam cried, a look of mock outrage on his face as he pointed at little Lara Swift, who blushed bright pink.

It went on like that for the next three hours, and by the time Danny announced we had finished for the evening I almost fell off my broom with relief.

“I can’t walk,” I moaned, lying on the grass, looking up at the beginnings of a sunset. The sky was a soft lilac with vivid pink clouds, fading into orange to the left of me. A soft breeze flew through my hair, and I felt the grass ripple under my bare legs.

You didn’t have to do fifty press ups,” said Mikey, standing over me, smirking at my pathetic face.

“Carry me.”

“Absolutely not.”

“I just broke up with James,” I offered.

“No,” he said, beginning to walk off.

“Mikeeeey,” I wailed. Above me, the pink clouds early summer sunset moved at a fast rate, and the breeze from before picked up. “Come on.”

I heard him return, and saw his head loom in front of my vision of the sky ahead. “On one condition.”

“Urgh. What?”

“We talk about you and James,” he said, and ignored my protest. “You can’t keep on pretending it didn’t happen, Eff. You haven’t spoken to Aspen or Oscar or Jasmine or Al. Speak to me.”

He crouched down beside me, and raised his eyebrows.

“Fine,” I said tiredly, and let my limp body be picked up my Mikey’s big arms, feeling like a doll as he flung me over his shoulders, my head colliding with the back of his torso. I felt his toned, muscular arms hold my legs as my head pattered against his Quidditch jersey, watching the ground, too tired to notice the mild uncomfort I was experiencing.

I watched his footsteps walk up the wooden stairs from the pitch to the seats, and he walked higher and higher until he gently put me down on a bench at the very top of the seats. I sat up, and watched the sunset from a different persepective.

“Thanks,” I mumbled, crossing my arms tightly across my chest as the breeze picked up again, this time colder as we were higher up.

“So why did you break up?” Mikey asked, looking at me. He didn’t sound curious at all, but concerned, and his tone was unusually soft for him.

“He told me he couldn’t come out to Hogsmeade last weekend because he had to spend the whole day working with Dahlia Moss,” I said. “But then he walks in with her-”

“I know, we all saw.”

“Anyway, so he finds me in the owlery, and I’m pretty pissed off, but you know, not upset or anything- well, maybe I was, a little bit- James has this really weird knack for finding me, I mean, I never go to the owlery everyone knows I send my mail in the morning with my family owl when he comes down-”

“Effy.”

“Sorry… And then we talked and he explained himself and I don’t know, I spent the whole of the past three years hearing stories of James cheating on girls and I know they’re all exaggerated for the most part but they don’t stem from nothing and I just realised how he’s not going to change for me, he snogged like ten girls throughout his relationship with Dahlia last year and that’s Dahlia Moss- I’m just some flat chested year below girl, for all I know he’s holding sex parties in his dormitory and laughing at the memory of me-”

“Effy,” repeated Mikey, putting his hand on my arm. “You’re not some flat chested year below girl.”

“-and,” I continued, not realising how not okay I was with the way things ended with James, “he said he was crazy about me and you know, I know he wouldn’t have lied to me on purpose about Hogsmeade and especially about Dahlia Moss, but I just don’t trust him. And he was right, he hadn’t done anything this year to prove otherwise- I suppose his Sixth Year scandals were just that- but I don’t know, I just don’t know.

And by this time I couldn’t speak because I was crying, and I laughed through the tears, which only made me cry harder.

“And I just really liked him,” I said, wiping the wetness under my eyes. “I just didn’t trust him. I didn’t trust that he wasn’t seeing the countless other girls who were obsessed with him- this whole fucking school is so far up his arse no wonder everyone’s brown haired- and I just didn’t trust that he liked me, I mean, who am I-“

“Effy,” said Mikey, putting his arm around me, and I felt the warmth radiate off his skin. “Stop. You’re so good enough for him.”

“I’m barely scraping a pass in Defence, I’m annoying and useless at everything, I’m ugly as fuck-

“Effy,” said Mikey sternly, looking at me. “Stop it.”

“No, Mikey-”

“Eff,” he said, gently. “You’re not ugly. And you’re- you’re- you’re clever, and funny, and independent. Strong. You’re right about annoying-” I laughed weakly- “but you’re so wrong about everything else. It’s not about whether you’re good enough for James, it’s about whether he’s good enough for you. And Effy, he’s not.”

I looked up at Mikey, surprised by my outburst and his tenderness.

“He’s unreliable and if you can’t trust him- well- it’s not your fault you can’t trust him!” said Mikey. “He had sex with somebody the hour after he broke up with a girl last year, and that was when he was our age.”

“He’s matured-”

“People don’t change like that, Effy,” said Mikey, and his tone shifted from comforting to red hot angry. “I mean yeah, he’s good looking and funny and all of that. But you deserve so much better than somebody who doesn’t make you cry like this. I don’t think I’ve actually ever seen you cry before.”

I laughed, and rubbed my eyes. “You haven’t.”

“James Potter just isn’t worth it, Effy,” Mikey consoled.

“You’re right,” I said, as Mikey nodded earnestly. But I didn’t agree with him, I didn’t agree with him at all.

“Effy!” cried Aspen, and Mikey and I turned from each other to the bottom of the seats, where Aspen and Oscar were running up towards me. Aspen had her cardigan wrapped tightly around her, and Oscar was trying not to spill a full mug of what looked like hot chocolate.

Hurry, Oscar-”

“Darling, you’re not the one holding boiling milk-

“Hey,” I said, smiling weakly at Aspen as she launched herself at me, hugging me tightly, her body warm against the cool evening’s air. 

“Oh Effy,” said Aspen, stroking my hair and sitting on my lap. “Liam told us you were up here, I knew the lack of sleep and Quidditch hysteria would have come down to some massive tear fest.”

“But it looks like we’ve missed it,” said Oscar glumly, sitting on the back of the bench in front of us and passing me the hot mug of hot chocolate. I smiled gratefully, feeling the heat warm up my numb fingers and palms. I wanted to bathe in it, I was so numb from the practise and the cold Scottish breeze.

“We saw James at dinner,” said Aspen, as she wrapped an arm around me. “You know, he looked pretty hung up. Dahlia Moss went up to go to speak to him, and he left the hall looking really pissed.”

“Jasmine said she overheard Eve Chang and Annie Delta discuss how he had to leave Alfie’s birthday thing on Saturday night early,” Oscar offered. 

“Yeah, she said- Jasmine I mean, not Annie Delta, she terrifies the fuck out of me- she said that Eve said James hadn’t been so withdrawn since Gryffindor lost the Cup last year.”

“But then again, it’s third hand gossip, so you know the rules. Take it with a pinch of salt,” said Oscar cheerfully, and then nodded at the mug I was cradling in my hands. “Drink.”

I obediently took a sip, and Oscar continued. “Danny Alton thinks James broke up with you to ruin your performance on Saturday.”

“We know,” Mikey and I chorused, and our unity made me laugh.

“What?” asked Oscar, looking curious.

Mikey turned to me, and I shrugged. “God, I’m exhausted,” I said, stifling a yawn. “I can’t believe I cried like that-”

“You cried?!

“You never cry-”

“Well, she did just now,” said Mikey, and Oscar retorted, but I didn’t pay attention. Above me, the vivid pink sunset was slowly turning darker, and the breeze got colder, but I didn’t notice. It felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders- it felt like I didn’t even know I had that weight to begin with.

 

Whilst Aspen had highly enjoyed her day with Louis Weasley last Saturday, the two were never to go further in their relationship, which suited the two just fine, as Louis hadn’t been in a relationship since Third Year and Aspen didn’t want any boyfriend of hers to have better hair than she did.

“You know what,” chatted Louis in Herbology as the four of us- him, Ruddy Walcott, Poppy Atticus and me- embarked on even more group work. “I’m a commitmentphobe and proud. We should stop this discrimination against commitmentphobes as we are just innocent people.”

“Couldn’t agree more!” said Ruddy, looking enlightened.

“And besides, now I get to be friends with Aspen and still snog a variety of people,” said Louis brightly, before hastily adding, “by people, I mean girls.”

“Like you, Poppy,” said Ruddy, winking.

“Oh shove off,” she said tiredly, but not coldly. 

“Why were you in the Hospital Wing, Atticus?” Louis asked curiously. 

I turned to Poppy. “You were in the Hospital Wing?”

She opened her mouth to speak, before Longbottom interrupted with his wafting voice. “Persistence, Sixth Years, persistence… That’s the only skill necessary for charming these old buggers…”

I looked down at my pot of soil, and decided I had officially given up on massaging the mother glow-worm into an appearance.

Poppy nodded. “Potter sent me enchanted flowers-”

“Oh!” I said, suddenly. That was my idea. Albus and I had been brainstorming ideas on how to gently persuade Poppy that Albus was serious about her, and we created singing roses to be sent to her dormitory.

“I’m allergic to roses,” she said. “Ironic, I know, because my name’s Poppy… Anyway, I had to go to the Hospital Wing for a remedy.”

“Oh no,” I said, looking down at my pot of soil.

“Yeah, there was this massive syringe-”

“I’m sure he’s really sorry!” I half cried, half screamed. Poppy looked at me, taken aback, and across from us, Ruddy and Louis were sniggering.

We worked in a comfortable quiet for a while, the silence only punctured by small chatter from other tables and quiet murmurings between Dweedledum and Dweedledee. But said clowns couldn’t go five minutes without bothering Poppy or me.

“Wilderson,” said Ruddy, seriously. “You’re like the table enemy.”

“Oh yeah?” I said, as Poppy and I rolled our eyes at each other.

“Yeah, you’re actually kind of like the Herbology Voldemort. Except not as bad.”

“Thanks Louis.”

“Why is Effy the the table enemy?” enquired Poppy. “I quite like Effy.”

“Thanks Poppy, I like you too-”

Because,” said Louis in a charitably patient voice, “your house is playing Ravenclaw this weekend for a place in the Quidditch finals. We’re already there,” he added brightly, and fist-pumped Ruddy with a very dirty hand.

“So then surely we’re the enemies,” said Poppy, frowning. “Because after we beat Ravenclaw we go onto playing you…”

I was about to open my mouth when Ruddy beat me to it. “No offence, but Ravenclaw will probably win on Saturday.”

I looked at Poppy, who shrugged. “Whatever. I don’t even know if I can be bothered to go to the match. McGonagall finally let some Fifth Years set up SPEW and I’m more excited over that-”

“Hang on,” I said, taking my left hand out of the soil and holding up my palm as if to silence her. “McGonagall let Falmer and Macmillan set up SPEW?”

“Yeah, only the other day-”

“This means Eve and I can set up Feminist Society!” I crowed excitedly. Opposite me, the two idiots were making disgusted looks.

Urgh,” said Ruddy, shaking his head. “Not my thing.”

“Good. You wouldn’t be invited,” I said half-heartedly, as my mind was frantic. McGonagall was quite strict on student clubs and such, but if she let SPEW go ahead- another activist society- there would be no argument against Feminist Society, especially if we got others involved. Eve and I could totally draft up an initial meeting of at least fifteen Hogwarts students in our year- perhaps not the year above, they were busy with their NEWTs…

“Will you provide food?” said Louis, asking the real questions. “Delilah Macmillan said SPEW would hand out tea and biscuits.”

“Tea and biscuits is what attracts you, Louis? Are you senile?

“I don’t know why James liked you,” he huffed, his ego slightly dented. I suppose my tone was quite harsh as my mind ran crazy thinking of the first Hogwarts’ Feminist Society- I mean, fucking Beauxbatons had a Feminist Society, and they’re French- but hearing James’ name in such a tame context as Herbology class really took me by surprised. I blinked, my hands going limp.

“Louis!” said Poppy, annoyed, looking up from her pot indignantly. Poppy always looked indignant- most Hufflepuffs did, actually. They were quite an indignant house. “You know James Potter is on the list of things we don’t talk about-”

“Yeah dude,” said Ruddy, nodding earnestly, like a trained dog. “Period jokes, OWL results, joking about being gay and James Potter. What?” he said, as Poppy raised her eyebrow. “I’m clever! I got seven O’s in OWL! Oh wait. Sorry.”

The bell rang, and Longbottom walked through the tables as we packed up, overlooking each table’s work for the day.

“Disappointing, you four,” he said, shaking his head at our quartet. “You haven’t produced nearly enough turnover as the other tables. Three tables have even finished, and I don’t think you’re half way. If you don’t pick up the slack by next lesson, you might have to be kept back for an evening catch up session again.”

“Sorry sir,” Poppy and I chorused. Ruddy and Louis just nodded.

“And good luck for Saturday, Miss Wilderson!” said Longbottom, his tone brightening. 

I thanked him and we walked out. Poppy, Ruddy and Louis all had lessons, but I had a free period, and as I walked through the corridors of the school, my mind was buzzing over with ideas for Feminist Society. Eve was Captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team so I assumed she would be very busy- and moreover, she was competition and Danny would crucify me for talking to her in the run up to the game. I knew several girls throughout the year were interested; some of Eve’s friends, a few Slytherins, Nancy Cameron-Scott and Liza Pacino in my dormitory. Jasmine adopted feminism like a religion after being the topic of the school one morning after being caught coming out of the Seventh Year Gryffindor boys’ dormitories, and knowing her, she would probably drag another Gryffindor girl down with her. Teddy Oliver and Declan Ainsley had expressed interest in the past, as had Albus and so by default, Scorpius.

I was so wrapped up in my thoughts I didn’t realise the corridors has emptied majorly. The Charms fifth floor corridor was cool, with a warm breeze drifting in through open windows.

I crossed my arms and looked up, and saw Alfie Ronson and James walk around the corridor. My breath caught in my throat as I looked away at the two of them chatting earnestly, and I looked around frantically for somewhere to hide before he noticed me.

It was a joke how little I was over him. How just seeing him in his white school shirt, the top button undone and his scarlet tie hanging lose made my throat thicken; how seeing his messy black hair, his smooth cheekbones, the sharpness of his jawline and the thickness of his eyebrows above his dark brown eyes, seeing James Sirius Potter in his full, Tuesday morning glory made my jaw clench and my heart beat irregular. 

“Hey,” said James, breaking off mid-sentence as I hurriedly walked by them. “Effy.”

I turned around. “Hi James,” I said, attempting a smile. “Alfie.”

He smiled at me. Unlike Freddie, Alfie and I had always gotten along quite well.

“Hey,” said James, looking at me. I noticed his hand was clutching the morning’s copy of Witch Weekly, which was obviously odd. He hated the magazine, could go on for hours about how trashy it was. “Good luck for the weekend.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, frowning.

“The Quidditch match…?”

“Oh! Oh, yeah. Thanks,” I said hurriedly, and walked around the corner before I could do anything drastic like cry or something.

 

The morning of the match was hot and humid, without a single breeze’s relief. The sky was a cloudless, vivid blue and the grass of the pitch glistened with the night’s dew. Josh Wood, to the left of me, ran his fingers through the grass and rubbed it on his forehead, sighing happily from the cool dampness.

Wood,” barked Danny. “Get back inside.”

Josh retreated back inside the Quidditch stands, closing the thick drapes that separated us from the pitch outside. We were plunged in dimmed darkness yet again, and Danny spoke.

“We’ve worked hard,” he said, returning to his speech before Josh got bored and opened the curtain. “And hopefully it’ll show on the pitch today. If not…”

“Have fun?” I offered, forever the hopeful captain to be.

“What? No!” he cried, sounding horrified. “Have fun off my match, Wilderson!”

Mikey and Liam sniggered, just as Freddie Weasley’s voice boomed out from outside the stands. I suddenly felt violently light-headed, overcome with nerves, and my heartbeat fluttered with excitement.

“Good luck,” concluded Danny, as Freddie called us out by our surnames, and we walked onto the pitch.

My heart was thumping wildly in my chest. The sun glared almost obnoxiously in the clear, brilliant blue sky. The air was hot and sticky; Scotland wasn’t usually like this. Global warming, all that. Should probably give more money to environmental charities. No need thinking of it now.

I shook Teddy Oliver’s hand, as was the tradition. He looked just about as nervous as I felt, which was mildly assuring; Alfie Ronson and Scorpius always looked excited before a match.

Good luck, Teddy mouthed, and I beamed gratefully at him, feeling guilty. Teddy was such a nice guy, he probably did wish me luck. I hated that he was my competition. Eve Feltham and Danny Alton nodded at each other.

“I want a nice, clean game,” said Madame Hooch, eyeing Eve, and I knew she was referring to the mess of a match that was Hufflepuff against Slytherin last month. “From all of you.”

We mounted our brooms. The balls were released. She blew the whistle. And I was off.

 

“Time,” called Madame Hooch. Sweat had made my hair stick to my forehead and my skin glow almost red. I flew down to join the rest of my team.

“Wilderson,” snapped Danny. “We’ve been in the air for almost four hours now. It’s past lunch time. I’m hot. Where is the snitch?”

I glared at him, and tightened my ponytail. I was too worn out to be deliver a sarcastic response. “I can’t find it, Danny. I haven’t seen it all game.”

“Has anyone seen it?” Danny demanded. In the silence that followed, I could hear Eve ask her team a similar question. “Fuck. Fuck. Hogwarts matches are only meant to last an hour or two. This must be the longest match played all year.”

Madame Hooch came around with water bottles- I only realised how thirsty I was when I felt the water hit my lips. I finished the bottle within seconds, as Freddie Weasley entertained the restless crowd.

You know what? Ravenclaw’s up two hundred and thirty points, and Hufflepuff’s got twenty points more. I reckon Alton and Feltham have conspired to keep this going on as long as possible to gain as many house points they can. It’s like the two irrelevant Houses- oh don’t boo, you know it’s true- came together to prove a point. Or something. Hey! They’re flying again! It’s all a conspiracy, basically. My girl Trelawney said so in Divination the other day. Did I just admit I take Divination? How embarrassing. Tell me, Professor, am I blushing? I feel rather hot- alright! So Hufflepuff have possession of the Quaffle- nice interception by Lancaster there!”

Mikey threw the Quaffle to Lara and Lara tried to score, but the Hufflepuff Keeper blocked it. He threw it back to Eve, who was about to throw it to another Chaser when Liam aimed the Bludger at her, and Danny caught the dropped Quaffle.

I flew around on my broom, desperately trying to spot that flicker of gold. Teddy was doing the same. It was around lunch time, and yet I wasn’t hungry at all. The longer the match went on for, the more anxious I became.

And then I saw it.

Flickering over by the Gryffindor stand. I flew faster than I had ever flown in my life. My heart wasn’t even pounding at this stage; I’m sure it had dropped onto the pitch below by now. Blood raced through my head. I gripped my broom so tight I couldn’t feel my hands either.

Teddy was behind me, he wasn’t an idiot, I didn’t even need to turn around to see him to know that. 

The snitch was within my reach. It flickered, and flew away, closer to the pitch. I followed it desperately, flying like a crazy person. 

Everything was silent. I only saw fluorescent green grass and a blindingly bright gold snitch. 

I buckled my knees tighter against my broom to speed it up- I knew I was exceeding the recommended speed for unprofessional Quidditch, and the sound of whooshing air behind me confirmed that Teddy was, too.

I gripped my broom with my left hand, and felt the beating of the golden wings between my fingers.

“And Wilderson has caught the snitch! Ravenclaw wins the Quidditch semi-finals!”

I touched down on the ground, and immediately felt Liam engulf me in a massive hug, Josh Wood and Mikey joining seconds after, as my ears rang with chants of Ravenclaw! Ravenclaw! Ravenclaw! 

 

The party in the Ravenclaw common room was particularly merry. I know victory parties are going to  be of a happy atmosphere in general, but it was like everybody was buzzing on this shared delight. Everybody seemed to be pleasant and carefree, the common room full of big grins, dancing, excited chatter and laughter.

Later, I would learn that Ruddy and Louis had cast cheering charms in an attempt to see Ravenclaw house high, but at the time I stood in the corner of the party, showered in compliments and yet feeling unexplainably uneasy.

Such magnificent flying,” gushed a year above girl, and her friend nodded.

I smiled. “Thank you-”

“And that dive- amazing-”

“Thanks,” I said, to a Gryffindor boy in my year. “I’m sure Teddy played just as well.”

“Yes, but he didn’t win.

“True. Excuse me,” I said, leaving my fan club for the small scene gathering by the grand windows, relieved to be reunited with my friends again.

“Don’t leave me,” I whined to Mikey, who put a drunken arm around my shoulder. “Everyone’s being so annoying.”

“Well,” said Scorpius, smirking at me. “You are the man of the match.”

“You usually love compliments,” said Albus, raising his eyebrows at me in suspicion, and the dark haired boy between him and Scorpius snorted, looking away from his conversation with Aspen. I held eye contact with him for an elongated moment, and the corners of his lips twitched.

“Only when given in a good variety,” I said, returning back to Albus, determined to impress this blue-eyed stranger, who had returned back to chatting to Aspen. “I’ve only been down for a half hour and I’ve been promised a great career in the sport by at least ten Fifth Years.”

“Well Danny’s not down here,” Mikey reasoned, tapping on his bottle of firewhiskey thoughtfully. “So I suppose you’re the representative of the team.”

“What? Where’s Danny?” I asked, scanning the room.

“Probably working,” said Albus. “James, Freddie and Alfie’ve spent the whole day in the library practising for their NEWTs.”

I stopped thinking about Aspen’s dark haired, blue-eyed friend the second Albus said James. “Were they not at the game?”

“No, they were, they just left the second it finished-”

“Lena!” cried Aspen excitedly, squeezing my hand and promising to find me soon before running off into the crowd, leaving me alone with the four boys. I slowly realised in my drunken haze that the striking stranger was Heath Tomlinson, a Slytherin friend of Al and Scor’s. As Aspen left, he turned back to the conversation, a cigarette in his hand.

I was so done with boys and their smoking. I was so done with boys and messy dark hair. My initial attraction to Heath decreased when I realised he reminded me of James, and it collapsed when Albus so basically said to his brother’s name.

“Anyway,” said Albus, turning to Heath. “What were you saying? Earlier.”

“Oh, socialism?”

“Ridiculous,” said Mikey, opinionated as usual. “You deserve what you work for.”

“Exactly,” said Heath, and his voice was low and gravelly, his sharp accent Scottish. “The effort you put in is what one should be able to take out.”

“That’s capitalism.”

“Of course it’s not. Capitalism has the workers grinding their bones from sunrise to sunset for a minimum wage whilst their employers take long holidays, luxury weekends, private schooling for their children to continue the family privilege. It’s not fair, it’s not equality.”

“The work of the classes differ,” Mikey argued. “Anyone can build or clean. Our society is dependent upon those who create and orchestrate. We have to value the jobs we’re more dependent on.”

“Exactly,” said Heath earnestly. “We need nurses, teachers, builders. We don’t need big brand corporations or multi millionaire actors. We’re distributing wealth all wrong-”

“So if you were to pay a cleaner the same as a banker,” said Mikey, crossing his arms, “who would want to be a banker when they’ll get the same wage as a cleaner?”

“You’re underestimating job satisfaction and personal ambition,” said Heath. Scorpius was beginning to look bored, but Albus was watching the debate with a thoughtful expression.

“What do you think, Effy?” Mikey said, turning to me. Mikey and I usually stood on the same page for pretty much everything, but for the first time ever, I disagreed with him.

“Heath’s right,” I said, brushing my hair over my shoulder. “But what both of you have forgotten to mention is the impact of capitalism on women. It’s the twenty-first century, and women are still seen as a threat to business because of their womb. The Ministry can’t claim full equality until women are given maternity leave with pay, and the guarantee that they won’t lose their job in the process. Until then, witches are being forced to choose between a career and a family, whilst men are, yet again, forced into the workplace and out of the home with the Ministry’s shocking paternity leave rates.”

Albus nodded pensively, and Heath tilted his head as he gazed at me.

“Feminist?”

“Aren’t we all?”

He snorted, and Mikey rolled his eyes. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Aspen beckon me over on the dance floor, and I brushed down my skirt.

“See you later,” I said, walking over to Aspen. I was almost there, when I heard footsteps pacing after me. I turned around and saw Heath run a hand through his hair.

“Hey,” he said, and in the fluorescent lighting of the party raging around us the slight sweat of his cheekbones and temple shone. “I know you’re probably not in the mood for more compliments.”

“Oh, no, I just meant-”

“I get it,” he said, smirking slightly. “But it’s not a Quidditch compliment, don’t worry. I just really admired what you said about women’s rights.”

“Oh,” I said, pleasantly taken by surprise. “Thank you.”

I waited for him on the outskirts of the dance floor to ask if I wanted to get a drink, or maybe see me tomorrow, but he just smiled and walked away, leaving me absolutely stunned.

Boys.

 

“Hey,” roared Aspen, as I found her right in the midst of the dancing. Her great blonde hair was stuck to her forehead with sweat, and boys around her looked her up and down with grins on their faces, her beautiful body clothed in tight shorts and a crop top. 

“Hey,” I yelled back. “How’s the party?”

You’re the Quidditch superstar! You tell me!”

I laughed, as bodies brushed up against me. “You seen Jasmine?”

“I was just about to ask you that,” she screamed, dancing along to the heavy electro. “Ophelia hasn’t seen her all night either, but her dorm mates said she definitely came down with them.”

“She’s definitely not here?” I asked.

“Heath Tomlinson was just telling me he saw her leave with Seth Corner,” she said, and the smile dropped off my face. “That’s why I’m worried, Eff. He said she could barely walk, but you know, she is really drunk…”

We pushed ourselves outside the dancing, and Aspen looked anxious as she continued. “She’s really drunk, and you know, she probably thought it would be a good idea to get back at Freddie or something…”

“Oh fuck,” I hissed, and Aspen nodded in agreement.

Seth Corner was a Gryffindor in the year above, but there was nothing brave or chivalrous about him. He was terrifying, and I knew James hated him more than anyone else. He was misogynistic, homophobic, racist- terribly entitled, and incredibly arrogant. 

He had fancied Jasmine for ages, long before Aspen and I became friends with her, but Jasmine was adamant in having nothing to do with him. And Seth Corner wasn’t the type to be turned down often; somehow, despite his characteristics, he was never really seen without a girl, and rumours of his sex life lined the school corridors. 

“He’s graduating this year,” I said to Aspen, who hugged herself. “He would always vow to James that he would have sex with Jasmine one way or another before he leaves school.”

“I mean, maybe she went of her own accord-”

“This is Jasmine,” I said, a million thoughts racing through my head. I was suddenly incredibly sober, and felt ridiculous in my party clothes. “If she wanted to get back at Freddie, she’d try it with Alfie, not Seth Corner.

“Oh my God,” said Aspen. “Fuck. You’re so right. We have to do something.”

Panic rose in my throat like nausea, and I scanned the room wildly for somebody, anybody.

“Al and Scor are here,” she said. “We could ask them-”

“How would we get into the common room?” I said. “Unless we woke up the professors-”

“No,” she said. “Where’s Louis? Or Ruddy?”

I scanned the room for one of the two Gryffindor boys. They loved Jasmine like a sister, but they would act irrationally when sober, let alone when drunk. I saw Ruddy sleeping on an armchair that Oscar liked to do his homework on surrounded by girls, and I couldn’t see Louis.

Freddie, Alfie and James are in the library, they’ve been working all day…

“Go find Louis if you can,” I said. “If you can’t, then wake up Ruddy, and go to the Gryffindor common room.”

“What will you do?”

“Albus said James was in the library working,” I said. 

“Eff,” said Aspen, rubbing her hand on my arm. “Are you sure-”

“Even if you go down with Louis and Ruddy, we both know James is the only one to properly deal with Seth Corner,” I said, feeling too much to think about James. My nerves were on fire, my heart was beating in my chest. That bad feeling I had at the beginning of the party was rising within me, a concoction of anger and anxiety, fury and devastation. “We both know what Seth Corner’s like- what Jasmine’s like-”

“See you soon,” said Aspen, and I slipped out of my common room.

The corridors were dark, save little pools of moonlight from open windows on the walls and floor. I ran through the castle, ran faster than I think I’ve ever run in my whole life. The Ravenclaw common room was only a minute away from the library, and it was still open by the time I arrived. Of course. The library was always open during exam period.

“James,” I said, running into the library.

“Excuse me, young lady! No shouting in the library, no running in the library-”

“Effy?” asked James incredulously, looking up from his table of parchment and textbooks. He stood up, and looked at me with a concerned look. I must have looked like a maniac. Eve Chang and Alfie Ronson, who were with James, looked up too.

“It’s Jasmine,” I said, panting slightly. “She’s with Seth Corner-”

“And young lady! That is not appropriate attire for the library-”

“What do you mean?” James asked, his eyebrows furrowing. 

“I can’t explain right now- Aspen and I think he forced her up there- Heath Tomlinson said she could barely walk when she left the party-”

“Oh my God,” cried Eve, looking upset. “James-”

But he was one step ahead of her. His navy sweater was rolled up at the elbows and his hair was messier than ever, but he had a look in his eyes that made me even feel slightly scared, slightly awed. He reached for his wand, and nodded at Alfie.

“Eve, go wake Longbottom. Alfie, go to the Room of Requirement, he may be in there.”

I ran after him as he stormed out of the library, and Alfie and Eve rose to their feet, grabbing their wands too.

“Seth Corner,” said James, gritting his teeth together, “has been telling the whole dormitory about how he’s going to fuck Azalea before his first NEWT exam whether she wants to or not. Our first exam is next Tuesday.”

“James-”

“Despite any motives she may have to get Freddie’s attention, I know Azalea well enough to know she would never go near Corner.” He was walking so quickly I had to run to catch up with him. “I’m scared he’s one step ahead of us and has taken her somewhere else.”

We finally reached the Gryffindor common room. The portrait that guarded their Tower was about to open her mouth, but saw James’ anger and my anxiety, and then closed it.

Serendipity,” he muttered, and the door swung open.

He ran up the stairs to the boys’ dormitories, five steps at a time, and I ran after him.

“Corner!” He roared, slamming on the shut door of the Seventh Year boys’ dormitory. “Corner!”

I could hear something crash inside the room.

“Alohamora,” he muttered furiously, stabbing his wand at the door, but it didn’t open.

“He would have locked it magically,” I said, and suddenly remembered something I learned from Mikey and Liam in Third Year. “You have to open it physically-”

“I can’t go down to Filch for a key now-

I pushed him aside and ran up to the door, throwing my full weight against it. The weak wooden door that guarded every dormitory in the school collapsed under me, and I thought fleetingly about Hogwarts’ habit of undermining physical strength against magic.

James marched over me as I picked myself off the floor. Behind me there were footsteps, and I looked up to see Aspen arrive at the top of the staircase with both Louis and Ruddy.

“Effy,” said Aspen, helping me up, and my left shoulder felt incredibly painful.

“You awful, disgusting little rapist,” James spat, holding Seth Corner by the throat, the latter pinned up against the wall beside a bed. “You-”

“Oh my God- Jasmine-”

“-don’t even deserve Azkaban, scum like you deserve-”

“-fucking little cock tease got what she was asking for-”

“-are you hurt?”

“-get your hands off me, Potter-”

“Jasmine! Answer me-”

“You’re eighteen, Corner, you’ll be tried as an adult for rape and drugging of a minor-”

“-she’s breathing-”

“-African slut-”

I heard the sound of bone crunching, as I cradled Jasmine’s head in my lap. I would later learn that Ruddy was the one that had punched Seth Corner in the face whilst Louis dove into his two cousins’ trunks for emergency remedials for Jasmine. 

“I can’t find anything,” Louis said frantically, looking up from James’ trunk.

“Ruddy, get off Corner,” I said sharply. “Aspen, go help Louis. Ruddy, you have to massage Jasmine’s lungs to get air circulating again. She’s breathing, but it’s not regular.”

Ruddy came to join me on the bed. I forgot all about Seth Corner and James in the corner of the room.

“Every dormitory should have an emergency first aid kit-”

“Their’s is all used up-”

“Go get the one from your dormitory then, Louis. Ruddy, don’t massage as hard. If she’s not breathing regularly in a minute…”

I was, for the first time that night, at a loss for words.

“What?” asked Ruddy, tensely. 

“I don’t know,” I admitted.

I looked from Jasmine to Ruddy to James, and saw that he was looking right at me, before turning his head towards Jasmine’s limp figure over my legs. 

“Wilderson, you should-”

“What on earth is going on in here?”

My head shot up towards the door. Eve Chang had returned with Professor Longbottom and Madame Pomfrey, the latter immediately rushing to Jasmine. I could smell the clean, lilac, lavender smell of the Hospital Ward on her uniform as she bent over me, touching Jasmine’s wrist, dangling something small in her open mouth.

“Mr Corner,” said Longbottom. “Are you hurt?”

James looked ready to explode, and Ruddy and Louis didn’t look much different.

“Professor!” screamed James. “He was about to-”

“He is a student, Mr Potter, and above all, he is hurt,” Longbottom said calmly. Corner staggered up from where he was on the floor, his face pretty bloodied up. James was breathing heavily, looking at Corner with so much hate it almost destroyed his face.

“Miss Azalea is breathing, but most definitely under the influence of something,” said Madame Pomfrey. In my party shorts and summer crop top, I suddenly felt cold for the first time that night. Shivers ran up and down my body. I looked at Jasmine’s closed eyelids, her pouty lips, the crackling of the make-up on her skin.

Madame Pomfrey and Longbottom spoke, and James repeatedly tried to interject. Madame Pomfrey summoned two house-elves to side-apparate Corner and Jasmine to the Hospital Wing with her. I didn’t know why she didn’t just summon two floating mattresses like I had seen before.

I was still staring into my lap, long after Jasmine had departed.

“Miss Wilderson.”

I looked up, and saw Longbottom and James look at me. Ruddy, Louis, Aspen and Eve were all gone. It was just us three alone in the lit Gryffindor dormitory.

“Sorry,” I said, standing up. “Where’s everyone gone?”

“Towards Professor Sinatra’s study, I would hope,” said Longbottom. “That’s where I sent them. You’ve been sitting like that for the past five minutes.”

“Oh-”

“If she’s not up for talking about it, she doesn’t have to,” James said to Longbottom.

“No, I am,” I said. “Sorry, I must have blanked out a bit there. Let’s go.”

We were about to make our way down the staircase and out of the room- I don’t think I’d ever be able to see the room in the same way again- until James called my name, still in the room.

“Yeah?” I asked, turning around. He shut the door behind him.

“You’re freezing,” he said, throwing me a sweatshirt. And he walked on down the staircase to go join Longbottom, before I could even thank him. He had this coldness in his attitude towards me- this indifference, a nonchalance that hurt more than anything else he could have done. Because even when we were arguing- and we always were- I knew I mattered to him, even if in a negative way. But this neutrality was disgusting. I felt violently, excruciatingly sad, and kind of numb, as I followed the two down the stairs of the deserted Gryffindor common room.

 

By the time Professor Sinatra called me into her office, the night was ending. I was sat opposite a large, almost majestic window overlooking the Hogwarts grounds by her office, and the navy, star-studded sky was slowly turning lighter, the first glimmers of sunrise making their hesitant appearance just over the horizon.

Corner was in the Hospital Wing, as was Jasmine. Longbottom had told us that she had woken up, but Madame Pomfrey wanted to keep her in overnight, just in case. 

By the time James and I had gotten to her office on the top floor of the school, Aspen, Louis, Ruddy and Eve were already sat there, sitting in silence. Sinatra had called us in in alphabetical order- Eve went first, then James, then Aspen, and then Ruddy and Louis. For some reason- perhaps she wasn’t satisfied with James’ answer, or wanted to hear more- James had stayed sat outside her office even after he left the room, as opposed to Eve who had left straight for her dormitory, shortly followed by Aspen.

There was something terrifyingly grave, sombre about the atmosphere, the air heavy with the actions of the night. Aspen had fallen asleep on Ruddy’s shoulder and Louis on his cousin, but the three of them had left, leaving me alone with James, waiting for Louis to leave her office.

James was sat totally still, just two seats down from me. I could smell him from where I was curled up, tired but not sleepy, not sleepy at all. His eyes were wide open, but looked kind of glazed over, and he had been staring into space since Louis was summoned into her office. I couldn’t work out if I passionately hated him or if I pathetically loved him. I was too tired to decide. All I knew was that he held his head like some sort of hero on a history book page, and that the in the dusky corridor lighting, his messy hair framed his face almost like he was wearing a crown. Something like that.

Louis walked out, and James’ head turned to him.

“Fuck, man,” said Louis, rubbing his jaw. “They’re not expelling Corner.”

“They wouldn’t,” said James, as he yawned. “Exams start in a fortnight.” Louis nodded sleepily, confetti and glitter from the night’s party still plastered on his face. I wondered if it was on mine. 

“See you tomorrow,” said Louis, and James nodded.

“Miss Wilderson?”

I rose from my seat. The sunrise was slowly, but steadily, creeping up. I had never been to Sinatra’s office before, and she had a window even grander than the one outside, the rest of the wall space decked in bookshelves.

“Take a seat,” she said, and I sat down on a chair opposite her, beside her polished mahogany desk.

“Sorry for my attire,” I began.

“You know what, Miss Wilderson,” she began, flexing her fingers together, “Some professors would feel uncomfortable with their students dressed so… Well. With so much skin out. But it is my personal belief that we should be encouraging the growth of Muggle culture in wizarding youth today, whether it be technology, music or clothing. Wouldn’t you agree?”

And I did, and she smiled.

Sinatra began by telling me that Hogwarts will not be expelling Corner, even though his actions deserved it, and I interrupted the Deputy Headmaster by telling her I had already heard it from Louis, and she said good.

She asked me to tell her the sequence of events from my persepective, and I did, fatigue and excitement clouding over some parts of the night. She asked if alcohol had been served in my common room, and I paused, reluctant to say the wrong thing.

“Miss Wilderson, I was once a student too. Nobody will get in any trouble, we just need to know.”

“There was drinking, yeah, Professor.”

“Thank you.”

She was patient and understanding, and for the first time, I really appreciated her as a Deputy Headmaster. She wanted to know how I put two and two together, what made me reach out to James, wanted to know what Jasmine and Corner’s relationship was like.

“I’m obviously a Ravenclaw, so I don’t see their common room interactions,” I said, and she nodded. “When she spoke about him, she would either use him as a joke, I suppose- like, he’s such a creep, maybe he’s friends with Seth Corner- or she would complain about his harassment.”

“Would you know why she hadn’t formally complained about his behaviour prior to tonight?”

“She’s not the type, Professor. It’s not that she doesn’t have faith in the teachers here- or she was intimidated into silence by him- it just probably didn’t occur to her.”

We spoke for ten minutes after that, until she told the quill beside her to stop note-taking our conversation, and rose from her seat.

“Several of your peers told me of your actions tonight, Miss Wilderson,” she said. “I think Rudolph Walcott in particular was impressed by your leadership and quick impulse.”

“It was really nothing-”

“Perhaps, Miss Wilderson, perhaps not.” She walked to the door, and I followed her. “I would advise you to go straight to bed. I summoned an elf to fetch Miss Chang a calming draught, although I don’t think it would be necessary for you. Word will get out and rumours will, as is always the case in this school, escalate. I would very much appreciate it if you could not speak of this night’s events unless you have too.”

I nodded.

“Thank you, Miss Wilderson.”

She smiled at me, and I smiled back, as I walked out of her office and she beckoned James in with a crook of her finger and a raised eyebrow. I know she had advised to go straight to bed but I didn’t want to, not in the slightest. Sleep was the last thing on my mind, really.

I walked to the Hospital Wing. It was almost four in the morning, and the windows outside proved that the day was going to be as sunny as the day before, the small wisps of purple and pink from earlier now fully formed in the sky, the beginnings of a beautiful sunrise taking shape.

Madame Pomfrey was at her desk at the back of the Hospital Wing, but when she looked up and saw me, she didn’t tell me to leave like I thought she would. There were four bodies in the Wings, and Jasmine was lying on a bed in between two windows and two desks scattered with bottles various potions and brew ups. There were three chairs around her bed, and Louis was sat down at one of them.

He was fast asleep when I approached, but one of the chairs smelt like Aspen, so I assumed she had been down here too. I sat down, and watched Jasmine’s face as she slept, the emerging rays of golden pink light from the sunrise outside casting her face in a spectrum of colours. She breathed heavily and evenly through her slightly parted mouth, and the repetitive rhythm of it was almost soothing.

“Hey.”

I looked up, and James was walking over to the spare seat beside me. We were inches apart, and I noticed the ink stains on his left hand, the shadow of stubble emerging on his jaw, the dark circles under his eyes.

“Hi.” 

We sat in silence watching Jasmine, the air suddenly heaving under the weight of words left unsaid. The room was cool, but the rising sun warmed the side of my face by the window in a way that made me feel almost drowsy.

“Good catch yesterday.”

“Thank you,” I said, my words blurred with a yawn that stretched out my mouth completely.

He turned to me, and I looked at him. There was so much I wanted to say. We argued a lot, but we never ran out of things to talk about. 

“And- you know. Thanks for being there,” I blurted. “Like, you know. Coming up when I came to you about Jasmine. I know you were working-”

“Don’t be an idiot,” he said sharply, his eyebrows furrowing. “Obviously.”

Well,” I said indignantly, pushing myself off the chair and standing up. “I think I’m going to go to bed-”

“No, Wilderson,” he said, his tone gentler, his cool fingers grazing my arm, and then grasping slightly tighter when I didn’t sit back down. “Stay. You should stay.”

I looked at him, and he looked exhausted. I think he just wanted company beside the sleeping victim, Ruddy Walcott and the rising sun between us. He looked, suddenly, quite vulnerable and yet world-weary, despite his eighteen years. 

“Please,” he said.

“Okay,” I said, and I sat back down.

 





I don't own Tweedledum nor Tweedledee (Alice and Wonderland, Lewis Carroll) and 'I want a nice, clean game... from all of you' is a direct quote from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, page 98. I also don't own "he held his head like a hero on a history book page," another direct quote, from Taylor Swift's Long Live (Big Machine records), a song that really, I think, captures an element of the relationship between Effy and James,

This was such an intense chapter! To not only write, but to read over and edit, and I'm quite nervous over what you'll think of it. Easily the most dramatic, angsty- and just longest chapter so far. Please let me know what you think! I think it was a bit of a risk to delve into the depths of substance abuse and attempted rape, but I went into writing Fluorescent Adolescent on the pretext of covering a plethora of aspects of teenage life- not only the shiny pretty parts- and hopefully in the second half of the story, I'm starting to get more into it. Thanks again for all the insane reviews you've been leaving, you know how much they mean to me. All my love !!


Chapter 19: literally, jewish god bless
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The fully recovered Jasmine Azalea was at her utmost peak of popularity. Both a victim and a hero of the biggest scandal since Dahlia Moss’s rumoured pregnancy last year, she had never been happier.

“I love life,” she cried, sinking down beside me at dinner. “Honestly. I haven’t had to do a line of homework since I came out of the Hospital Wing, and Julius Ascot himself asked if I was doing okay. Julius Ascot!”

“Been there,” Aspen smiled sweetly. "Done that."

“Well you’re half Veela, you don’t count.”

“True,” agreed Oscar, nodding.

“Everybody feels so sorry for me, but in a really good way,” Jasmine continued, buttering a piece of toast with major vigour. “Like not how you feel sorry for people with a rare illness, but how you feel sorry for a girl who got raped and almost drugged by a year-above obsessed with her yet saved by James Potter- you know?”

“I’m just surprised the Prophet hasn’t been after you,” remarked Mikey.

“Oh, trust me, Rita Skeeter has been saturating me in interview invitations, but Sinatra won’t let me reply. She says if I don’t come out bad, Hogwarts will. So unfair, especially as James Potter got to speak to her.”

Jasmine smiled round the table as Liam joined our conversation, slipping in right next to Mikey, and Aspen and I looked at each other, both sharing the same wary look. Jasmine was not fully recovered, she was not yet even near okay- whatever okay is- but neither of us wanted to question her Gryffindor pride just yet.

If Jasmine was the romantic damsel of the story, then James was the real life superhero. I was fucking pissed off at that. I was the one who put two and two together, I was the one who knocked down the door and I was the one who got James in the first place. All James did was beat up Corner and get Eve to fetch Longbottom! Yet did I get the third page of a national newspaper dedicated to me?

Absolutely not. 

Oh James Potter was so brave, beating up a boy in his year. When he wasn’t saving innocent damsels he was being the handsome Quidditch captain or the dashing academic, always in the library studying for his NEWTs. 

And the worst part was that I couldn’t complain about it, because then people would accuse me of being petty. “Effy!” Scorpius had cried, his eyebrows furrowing. “You should just be happy that Jasmine’s alright.” Later on Rose Weasley would confide that she completely agreed with me, but she was a very small minority of the Effy Pity Party.

But if I was pissed off, then Mikey was that times a hundred. He hadn’t spoken to me since the Quidditch party. Neither had James actually, but he was in the heat of NEWT revision- and besides, we had just broken up. And he was a celebrity now.

It had been twelve days since Jasmine had come out of the Hospital Wing and ten days since Mikey had last spoken to me, after having a massive go at me in Charms that led to Flitwick sending him out for hysteria.

“I can’t believe you!” he hissed, as Flitwick’s attention was diverted to a needy student on the other side of the room.

“What did I do?” I asked, alarmed.

“You and James had just broken up,” he snapped. “And yet your instinct is to go running to him the second trouble starts up? Are you still that hung up on him, Effy?”

“Oh come on now, Mikey. James was the obvious choice-”

“Not Albus? Scorpius? Me? I’m just surprised you thought of Ruddy and Louis in your cloud of obsession over your ex-boyfriend-”

“They’re best friends with Jasmine-”

“As opposed to the boys you were just standing with, seconds before you left for James,” he said, giving me a dirty look. 

“I cannot believe you’re giving me a hard time over not thinking of asking for your help with Jasmine,” I snapped back, lowering my voice as Flitwick passed us. “Could you be any more selfish-”

“I don’t know Effy, could I? You are, perhaps, the most self-obsessed person I know,” he said, and my jaw dropped open. “The second you work out your friend is in trouble and you’re thinking of schemes to get James Potter involved.”

“He knows best how to deal with Corner, Mikey-”

“He punched him on the nose after relying on you to get into his room in the first place. Fucking Oscar could have done that-”

“I cannot believe you are seriously having a go at me for this,” I said, glaring at him. “You’re meant to be my friend-”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Effy, just get over James,” he said. “Louis told me he’s been speaking to Dahlia again. Perhaps you should take the hint-”

“You are being so fucking mean!” I cried. I mean, it was Charms, the first period on a Monday. Charms, out of all classes to get randomly blasted in.

“No Effy, I’m being fucking honest!” he snarled loudly, and that’s when Flitwick sent him out. When he came back, he sat down beside Teddy Oliver after I moved my bag onto his empty seat. He may be angry at me, but I was fuming at him.

So Jasmine was a celebrity, James was a hero and Mikey wasn’t speaking to me. Which was actually really annoying, because I wasn’t speaking to him, and how was he meant to feel the effects of me being angry at him when he was busy doing the same?

The only good thing in my life at the moment was the fact that it was exactly thirty-nine days until the end of the academic year and thirty-one days until Seventh Year graduated, which would leave me James-free for the rest of my life. I hadn’t decided whether I was happy or really, really sad about it yet.

I was discussing it with Aspen and Oscar, huddled up on Aspen’s bed one Thursday night. Veronica was out doing her prefect patrols and the other three girls of the dormitory didn’t mind having Oscar in the room.

“I think Mikey fancies you,” chirped Aspen.

“James thought that too,” I said, beating Oscar to a reply. “But he’s seeing Lucy O’Donnell now, and he was so mean to me- like I don’t think anyone’s ever been that mean to me before.”

“Poor little heterosexual girl,” he said.

“Oh shut up, Oscar, everyone at Hogwarts loves you.”

“No I know, darling, my heart just goes out to all my brothers and sisters out there in the world. Literally. Jewish God bless.”

“Oscar, you can’t suddenly decide to become a Jew, it doesn’t work that way-”

“I’ll have you know, my grandmother survived the Holocaust-”

“You didn’t have a Bar Mitzvah-”

“My... kosher downstairs makes up for that-”

“You’ve only been to synagogue twice in your life!” I cried, and Oscar brought out his finger to do some wiggling.

“It’s really not your place, darling, to dictate who can follow what religion. I happen to find the Jewish religion and community incredibly inspiring.”

“Oscar,” I said gently, because we were approaching a sensitive subject for him. “I know you read somewhere that the Franco brothers want to marry Jewish, but saying Jewish God Bless really won’t help your chances with them-”

“Guys,” whined Aspen, massaging Oscar’s hair as he pretended to throw himself into her lap, sobbing up middle fingers at me. “I can’t be the only one who thinks Mikey’s become so hot recently, right? Like in Defence the other day he pulled off his jumper and his shirt came off with it for a second- and oh my God, his back muscles- and he totally has those arm vein things you’re really weird about…”

“That’s not fair, Aspen, you can’t glamourise Mikey after he called me self-obsessed,” I whined, and Oscar put his arm around me sympathetically, squeezing my shoulder in his Oscar Green way.

“Look Effy, Mikey’s fucking fit and he clearly likes you,” she said, nodding slowly. “I think he hasn’t stopped liking you since Fourth Year-”

“Aspen, that’s a lovely theory,” said Oscar, “but I share a dormitory with him, and he must have slept with half of the girls in our year by now. What started off as a competition with Declan’s ended up as the Mikey Lancaster show after every party!”

Half the girls?” I cried, astounded.

“Well, perhaps four…”

Suddenly, the curtains around Aspen’s bed was pulled gently open, and Nancy Cameron-Scott popped her head in.

“You guys talking about Mikey Lancaster?”

“Yep,” said Aspen, looking slightly taken aback as our roommates usually never spoke to us, unless totally necessary.

“Oh, he totally has a thing for Effy.”

“No he does not,” called out Riley Connelly from her bed opposite. “My boyfriend said Danny Alton said he thinks Mikey has a thing for Liam’s sister.”

“Who’s your boyfriend?” Aspen asked curiously.

“Lucas Cohen,” said Oscar immediately, forever the Hogwarts gossip bible.

“Mikey does not like like me,” I said, tying my hair up. “He doesn’t even like me now, full stop. And to be honest, I don’t even like him. I mean, he has a go at me for not going to him over Jasmine! How vain can you get?”

“Hear hear,” sang Oscar, and Aspen sighed in defeat as Nancy re-closed the bed’s curtains.

 

Josh Wood and Danny Alton both had to study for their OWL and NEWT exams, even though the Quidditch finals were a fortnight away. By the time the final match was scheduled both years would have had finished exams, but that didn’t leave a lot of time to practise and train for either team. At least for us it was just a Keeper and one Chaser- for Gryffindor, who we were playing in the finals, their Seeker, Keeper and two Chasers had exams.

Danny had made Mikey and I temporary captains in his place, and James had done the same to Ruddy and Louis. Neither of us had the heart to maintain the vigorous training that Danny and James had upheld throughout the academic year, but at least Ruddy and Louis were on speaking terms throughout practises.

“Alright,” said Mikey, as he, Lara, Liam, Indigo and I stood in the Quidditch pitch. “Let’s start off with twenty push-ups-”

“Effy said we were to start with laps,” said Lara.

Mikey turned to me, and shot me a dirty look.

“Exactly,” I said, ignoring Mikey. “Let’s do two laps around the stadium to warm up-”

“No, let’s do push-ups to get the blood circulating-”

“Liam!” I shot. “What do you think?”

“You’re going to Liam again?” said Indigo, not looking impressed. “You’re meant to be the Captains, not him.”

“Yes,” said Liam, who was very reluctant to follow orders from both Mikey and me, still annoyed that he wasn’t made temporary captain. “Go on Michael, Elizabeth. You tell us what to do.”

“We have wasted five minutes already!” Mikey yelled. “Push-ups!”

Lara dropped to the floor.

“No!” I yelled back. “Laps!”

“Push ups-“

“Laps-”

Push ups-“

“LAPS!”

Indigo and Liam remained unmoved, whilst Lara was doing enough working out for the whole team, jumping up and down with every go between Mikey and me.

Practise went on before Mikey and I got into our fifth argument since being forced to communicate with each other. I had had enough. He yelled at me for not catching the snitch fast enough seconds after jeering at me for being knocked off my broom by Indigo.

I flew down to the pitch, and he flew down too.

“Don’t tell me how to catch a snitch!” I screamed, walking over to him. “I’ve been playing since I was in Third Year-”

It was hovering right by my ear,” he yelled back, and the three others flew down too. “Unless you’re deliberately playing shit for a Gryffindor victory-”

“Oh fuck you,” I said, pushing his chest. He caught my wrists in his big hands and pushed me away. “I have had enough of this.”

“Effy!” cried Lara, as I picked up my broom and walked away. “You can’t leave Quidditch practise!”

Fuck Quidditch,” I yelled at Mikey, who’s back was already turned to me. And Aspen was unfortunately right, he did have nice back muscles.

 

“Effy.”

I turned around. It was Albus. I smiled at the one member of the male gender who wasn’t acting pissy with me bar Oscar, who hadn’t been angry at me since Second Year when I wouldn’t lend him my camel leather brogues.

“Hey,” I said, a massive smile erupting on my face. He grinned back as I waited for him to catch up with me, and we continued walking at a slower pace.

I had just finished a double lesson of Defence and was on my way to Mermish. He told me he was on his way to Runes, but he didn’t mind being ten minutes late to walk me to my lesson.

“You sure?” I said, surprised.

“Or we could both just bunk off.”

“I like that idea much more.”

“Good. I haven’t done my essay due in for yesterday, but could the Professors be any more anal recently? I mean like, our exams aren’t until next year.

“Exactly,” I said, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. “Sixth Year is the biggest waste of time. The majority of what we learn this year isn’t going to even come up next year.”

“Yeah, it’s all so shit,” he said, nodding. “I’m just so done with school, to be frank. This year’s gone on forever.

“You’re just angry because of Poppy Atticus,” I smirked, and he scowled at me.

“I think she’s so rude. Pity it’s only making me like her even more.”

“She’s just scared that you’re going to drop her after the first week or so. You have built up quite the hype, Al.”

“It’s not my fault,” he grumbled. “And I suppose snogging Cecily Dazenhorst in front of her didn’t help.”

“I think she was more upset when she woke up and found you in Ophelia’s bed after the party two weeks ago,” I commented, and he sighed. 

“Thank God the whole Corner scandal came up, I don’t think I could have handled having three people pissed at me. Scorpius was pissy because he thinks Ophelia’s his sister, Ophelia was pissy because she realised I wasn’t going to stick around for a relationship-”

“You say that like it’s unreasonable of her-”

“I told her that I fancied Poppy too much for anything more than sex with her! Three times! And she still slept with me!” Albus cried, and I snorted. 

“I don’t think she minded too much, to be honest. Ophelia just likes making a big deal out of little things. So who was the third person annoyed at you?”

“Poppy.”

“Ah.”

I was very fond of Al. As we walked down to the kitchens- his favourite place in the castle, he proclaimed- I wondered if he was now my new Best Guy Friend. I must have said this out loud, because he asked if I still hadn’t made up with Mikey yet.

“I’m totally in the right,” I said, and he snorted.

“Whatever. I’m not in it. Scor and I tried to bring it up, and he started huffing and puffing.”

“Was he going to blow your house down?”

“What? Oh, I don’t care. Anyway, you should make up with him.”

I stopped walking in the middle of the empty corridor, my mouth wide open. “What?”

Oh come on,” said Albus, crossing his arms. “The kitchen is literally a minute away, why are we stopping…”

“I cannot believe you’re taking his side!” I hissed, and he rolled his eyes, his hand on his hip. Albus Potter could be quite feminine when he was impatient.

“You’ve probably found a way to wound Mikey’s ego,” he said, and now it was me huffing and puffing. “Sometimes you have to apologise for the sake of keeping the peace.”

“Absolutely not,” I said. “He is being so rude. He should be apologising to me and begging me for forgiveness. I have done nothing-”

“He would argue that you insulted his ability to fight off Corner and help Jasmine,” said Albus, grabbing me by the arm and dragging me to the kitchen at the end of the corridor.

“Ow- well he’s being big-headed, then! He’s so obsessed with my relationship with James! Honestly, people are starting to question if he fancies me or something-”

“Really? I thought he was with Lucy O’Donnell-”

“Same!”

“He seemed really into her last time we spoke.”

“And when was that?” I asked, suddenly a bit offended that Mikey didn’t fancy me.

“This morning. Urgh, Effy, this fall-out with Mikey is so annoying. How long is it going to go on for?”

“Well I don’t know, Albus-

I stopped speaking once we entered the kitchens. Several elves crowded around Albus and me, and Albus liked speaking to the elves. He was like the elf version of Oscar, in the way that he liked to keep up with their current affairs and recent gossip. I, unlike Albus, didn’t have much interest in who was engaged to whom, so waited patiently on the side.

“Al,” I said, and he grudgingly turned around to come sit down with me.

“You’re very impatient,” he observed. “Shark week?”

He laughed at my scowl, as we were brought two bowls of ice-cream.

“Thank you so much,” I began, but Albus cut in.

“Why thank you, Felix. Did you do something different to your- a tan? How nice. A holiday! Where? Dorset? How wild…”

I had almost finished the bowl before the elf left and Albus returned to me, a smug beam on his face.

“Aren’t house elves great?”

The best,” I said, slightly warily. “Oo, I forgot, Aspen and I came up with an idea about Poppy.”

“Go on then.”

“Well, I would have, if you didn’t interrupt me-”

“-well, you paused, so I thought you needed goading-”

“-why would I need goading-”

“-you quite like the dramatics, Eff-”

“-that’s not true and kind of offensive-”

“-you’re not speaking to James nor Mikey, you love drama- hey! Tell me!”

I crossed my arms as he nodded earnestly, grumbling defeat. “Okay! The year above are graduating in three weeks, aren’t they? You should definitely use their graduation party as a way of getting close to Poppy. Girls love suits, and their graduation party’s a suit and tie event.”

“I tried the suit idea for a Slughorn party last month, but she wasn’t into it-”

“That’s because,” I said, smirking, having full confidence in my plans, “you asked her in school uniform. Or maybe jeans and a jumper. You weren’t actually wearing the suit then. Al, trust me, girls have a major weakness for suits.”

“Yeah, I remember my cousin Dom mentioned that to me,” he said pensively. “I mean, I’ll give it a go, but Heath said that I really hammered the nail when I had sex with Ophelia.”

I tried to act nonchalant when he mentioned Heath, the blue-eyed stranger from the party two weeks ago, but Al caught on. “Oh, Heath? He was asking about you. He wondered if you’d be interested-”

“Yes!” I cried, momentarily forgetting about the two other dark-haired boys currently not speaking to me in my life.

He smirked, and I smirked back. “Nothing serious, nothing fancy.”

“I hate serious and fancy.”

“James will hear about it and jump to conclusions.”

“He always jumps to conclusions. He probably gets his owls directed there.”

Al laughed. “That’s quite funny, actually. Well, okay then. Just think it through a bit before you speak to Heath. He’s a good guy, he just likes Lenin a bit too much.”

“People say the same thing about me and Christina Pankhurst!” I cried, and we both laughed, laughed even harder when I elbowed my bowl of ice-cream off the table. 

 

Before I even saw Heath, that very same day in the Ravenclaw common room, around the time where the younger years started heading up to the dormitories and the Fifth and Seventh years started to come in from the library, Oscar came up to me with news.

“You’re not going to like this,” he warned, as I sat there with Aspen and the latest edition of Witch Weekly.

“I just read an article about James being the modern-day hero Britain has always needed,” I said. “Mikey still won’t apologise, and now Liam’s acting shit because he wasn’t made temporary captain. On top of it all, Ophelia is pissy because she thinks I’m taking Al’s side in her argument with him. I really don’t think my week can get worse.”

“Thirty more days,” said Aspen, petting my arm, and we grinned- well, Aspen beamed, I think my smile more resembled a drowning cat- at each other.

“James Potter,” said Oscar, sitting himself down on the third seat placed around the small table between Aspen and me, “is going to his graduation party with Dahlia Moss.”

Aspen gasped. I raised my eyebrow, and ignored the sinking feeling in my stomach. I had harboured a feeling- a wish, more likely- that James and I would make up before our Quidditch match against each other, or at least before his graduation. 

I guess not.

“Hmph,” I said. 

That night, I couldn’t get to sleep. I was too occupied thinking- not just about James, but about Mikey this time, too. Albus had mentioned earlier on how the Corner scandal had boosted his brother’s ego through the roofs, and I wasn’t surprised, I expected that much from him. I just had no idea what he was playing at. He hadn’t spoken to me since asking me to stay with him that night in the Hospital Wing, and now here he was, the hero of Hogwarts, finally reunited with the girl who had, in my mind, always personified James’ ego- Dahlia Moss, who he even said was more of a trophy than a person.

And Mikey was being a prick. I knew him, and I knew he didn’t like me at all. Perhaps he did when James and I were dating, but that was just Mikey Lancaster being Mikey Lancaster- territorial, always straddling that alpha male pride.

I didn’t sleep at all that night, and spent the rest of the day with dark circles around my eyes, my skin looking even paler than usual, despite the slight tan I had acquired over the sunny past few weeks. I had a free period after lunch, so I went to the library with Jasmine, who was bombarded with well-wishers and innocent gossipers, wondering how she was doing.

“I’m fine,” she purred, linking arms with me. “All thanks to Effy!”

“I thought it was James Potter who saved you-”

“That’s just the patriarchy talking,” she chirped, and I snorted.

The library was full of Seventh and Fifth year students, all studying for their exams.They were in the midst of their exam season now, and according to the timetables hung up in the common room, all exams would be over by the beginning of next week. I personally loved exams, but I had learned not to speak about it, especially in the months of May and June.

“Is it begun or began?” Jasmine asked, chewing on her stub of a quill. 

“What’s the sentence?”

“Attempts to restrict the rapidly increasing goblin population in north Berlin began in 1775-”

“Begun, with an u,” I said, frowning a bit.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m like, perhaps sixty percent sure-”

“Azalea,” drawled an awfully familiar voice.

“Potter,” she said, and I could smell the scent of his shower gel from behind me. “My saviour, apparently.”

“There’s no apparently about it.”

“Let me remind you that I was unconscious throughout the whole episode, so yes, it is apparently.”

“Oh, Azalea. I am so glad you’re feeling better.”

“I should hope so,” she smirked, and I knew he was probably smirking back. “Fab chatting to you, but I really do have work to be doing-”

“Oh, I’m sure. It’s actually Wilderson I want to speak to. Wilderson! Don’t act like you can’t hear me.”

I turned around, and saw him standing beside me, his arms crossed, a major smirk on his face. I hadn’t seen him this cocky since perhaps last year. It’s amazing, isn’t it? He was still the same person, but only on the outside. His physique hadn’t changed, but it felt like everything else had.

“What?” I asked, raising my eyebrows and putting my quill down.

“My God, your tone of voice is incredibly hostile,” he said, raising his eyebrow, his smirk steadily turning sinister. “I would love to hear why.”

I glared at him as I pressed my hand to my mouth, a massive yawn rippling through my face. “I am literally too tired right now. Let me get eight hours of sleep and then feel free to harass me tomorrow. I’ll make sure my tongue is extra sharp.”

“Wilderson, we broke up. I don’t care what you do with your tongue.”

“Mm? I’m sure you do a little. Your obsession with yourself’s too colossal to not keep tabs on anybody associated with your name-”

“Your charm is suffocating me, Wilderson-”

“I should hope so-

“You should stop disliking me so much. Grow up a little-”

“I don’t dislike you, Potter, I am indifferent towards you. I probably have more developed feelings for the Berlin Uprising of 1776-”

“It was 1775-”

“Oh my God,” cried Jasmine, looking up from her parchment. “I am trying to work. I am also the victim of a serious racial and sexist assault crime, so if you don’t do what I say, I can get you very easily thrown in detention.”

I snorted, and turned from Jasmine to James. “Good bye, James. Have fun graduating. Try not to trip over your gown. Or your ego, actually-”

“Very funny, Wilderson. You should do stand up comedy,” he remarked coolly, and I tilted my head, crossing my arms to mirror his. “I actually have to talk to you.”

“I’d much rather you didn’t.”

“Unfortunately, you don’t get a say in this. Come outside.”

I turned to Jasmine, who was frantically flicking through her History of Magic textbook. James raised his eyebrow impatiently, and I rose from the table, determined to walk out of the door before he did.

I stood outside the library, my arms crossed, and he walked out seconds after me, a massive smirk on his face.

“I’m not even going to ask,” I deadpanned.

“Your boobs have grown, haven’t they?” he asked, looking me up and down. Oh my God. I cannot believe I practically wasted the whole of my Sixth Year with this prick.

“Get your mind out of the gutter.”

“I can’t. It’s where I go when I think of you. I’m trying to work out your size. 32C?”

He smirked, licking his upper lip, and I made to walk back inside the library before he grabbed me by my forearm. 

“Come on, Wilderson,” he said, sounding slightly more serious than earlier, laughter still echoing in his voice. “Just a second.”

“What?” I demanded, crossing my arms tightly across my chest. He was right, my boobs had grown, and I had just received a package of new bras the other day.

“I want you to hear before rumours get out,” he said, ruffling the top of his hair, suddenly looking more like Old James than New James. Well, technically, he was acting like James pre-Seventh Year, so this was Old James.

Just not the James I was on the verge of falling in love with. Thank God I didn’t. How embarrassing would that have been?

“Dahlia’s my date for our graduation party,” he said. “I’m telling you before- I don’t know, you hear it in the toilets or through your friends, I-”

“James,” I said, picking up his hand and taking it off my arm. I think he was surprised that he was still touching me, but I didn’t care. “I’m being honest. I’m not saying this to sound nonchalant, or cool, or above you- I genuinely don’t care. I heard it from Oscar last night-”

“Of course-

This time, it was my time to laugh. “You used to mean so much to me,” I said, crossing my arms. “And now you don’t. We weren’t friends before we dated, and I don’t particularly want to be friends with you now. You’re different. This temporary hero status has changed you-”

“Wilderson-”

“Call me Effy. You’re not special, you don’t get a reserved nickname for me,” I said, this lava pouring out of my lungs. I was on two hours of sleep because of him, and yet the tentacles of closure was slowly starting to hug me. “You’re pathetic. I think I see you for what you are now- some sad, insecure boy who’s whole personality changes with a change in public opinion of you. Oh my God. It’s embarrassing.”

“Effy-”

“Don’t talk to me. It’s my go to talk. You can smirk and lick your lips and be sarcastic all you like, but it’s not impressing me. Go graduate, James. Go do whatever you want to do. Just leave me out of it, because I swear to God, I am so over you-”

“No you are not,” he said, drawing in closer to me. “Fuck you, Wilder- Effy. God. I’m shit, and you’re shit too, and what’s more, you are not over me-”

“Oh, I think I am-”

“I highly doubt that,” he said, coming in even closer, and lifting up my chin with his thumb and forefinger. 

“Oh yeah?”

“You’re not over me, Wilderson,” he said, smirking down into my face. “You’re not over me, because I’m not over you. And I don’t think I ever will be.”

My breath haltered in my throat for a long moment. I looked up into his dark brown eyes, and saw the speckles of gold glitter so warmly, so familiarly. 

“Send my regards to Dahlia,” I said, pushing him away from me. “I thought about getting you a graduation present, but I think dating your little ego toy is quite enough.”

He called my name- demanded it, really- but I didn’t turn back to face him as I walked into the library, goosebumps running up my arm and my hands shaking. But I couldn’t shake off this ridiculous grin that made Jasmine ask, what happened? And I don’t think she believed my excuse of it being about Albus sounding ill, but I wasn’t quite ready to share my little victory quite yet.

 

 






I'm so, so, so sorry for this hiatus. My final year at school's been absolutely crazy, intense, beyond anything I can really write in an author's note (although it's totally cured my writer's block and given me inspiration for future chapters)- this isn't long, but I've tried to bring back as many characters as possible!

I only ever feel comfortable writing about things I know about, and I'm still slightly overwhelmed by all the positive feedback given regarding Jasmine in the last chapter. I tried very hard to continue her story and not twist it into some "yay she's happy again!"- because I really think that attempted sexual abuse and drugging is more than just a one chapter plot line- but I didn't know how to continue it, I didn't know how to get inside the head of someone who it has happened to, and so I decided to leave it for fear of being insensitive to those who it has happened to. If that makes sense? Let me know what you think. 

Thanks again for all your amazingly kind reviews. Now I'm back I'm hoping to reply to them as soon as possible- all my love xoxoxo



 

 


Chapter 20: whiny male protagonist
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

There was a party being thrown in some exclusive room on the seventh floor for all the Seventh Years who had finished their exams that day, that Tuesday NEWTs were over, finished, completed, and Professors started smiling again.

Usually parties were inter-year; with only a hundred students in every year, all the big parties had no choice but to be inclusive to the upper years; but the end of NEWTs party was an exception. No Sixth Years allowed, and nobody in my year really wanted to gatecrash one of the last memories shared by the year above as they celebrated the end of exams. 

(It would be our turn next year, anyway.)

So Danny was at this party, the location I still had no idea what was called, although Albus and Scorpius did not stop boasting that, of course, they did- and Mikey and I decided to host a late-night Quidditch practise, this time with Josh Wood finally playing Keeper for us.

“I should be partying for the end of OWLs,” Josh muttered bitterly, as we all got changed.

“Win this game, and you can party all you like,” Mikey retorted, and I nodded in agreement.

It was the only semi-successful practise run by the two of us. I think we both finally realised that the finals were this Saturday, and if we lost, it would only be our faults. A few Ravenclaws came to watch our practise (Mikey spent at least ten minutes making sure there were no Gryffindor spies), and they sat in the stands, talking throughout the whole thing.

Aspen had come down with Declan Ainsley, and Lara’s friend was down too. Indigo’s group of annoying fourteen year-olds spent the whole two hours trying to flirt with Aspen, and Josh spent the whole practise explaining that all his friends were celebrating the end of OWLs without him, could he please leave early?

“We’ve been playing for two hours straight,” he whined. Josh was such a whiner, I struggled to muster more than half-hearted annoyance at him for, you know, at least he was being consistent in character. “I have a twenty-one no-goal streak. Please, Mikey-”

“Fine,” he said. I turned to him in surprise. “You’re all tired, we’re not going to improve any more tonight. Let’s call time.” In all honesty, I was annoyed that he didn’t discuss the matter with me beforehand, but a wave of relief washed over me at his words as I realised how tired my limbs were, how cold my face was, how numb my fingers were under my gloves.

“I’ll be out in a second,” I called out to Aspen, and she nodded, turning back to the barely pubescent boys, rap battling in the seats in front of her, rhyming Aspen with Long pins.

I got changed sharpish, eager to get up to bed as soon as possible. Aspen was waiting outside the changing rooms for me, and spent five minutes talking about how charming fourteen year olds have become recently- oh, it was such a pity that they weren’t four years older-

“You mean three? You’re seventeen-”

“Yeah, but I only go for Seventh Years now.”

We turned a corner, Aspen still talking my ear off about Indigo’s friends. 

“Honestly, Aspen, Indigo’s a pain in the neck, I bet his mates aren’t any better-”

“But seriously, Eff. How young would you go? I know you’re a feminist- so am I, I’ve decided- but I don’t think I could ever go for young men. I would so much rather be the young woman in the relationship than the old woman.”

“I see what you mean, actually. Did you read that article in Witch Weekly about silver foxes-”

“Oh yes! Kingsley Shacklebolt is the perfect example of a silver fox. I couldn’t be happier that he’s gone and divorced his wife- oh fuck off, Effy!”

She hit me as I laughed, and I laughed even harder when she realised she had just clasped my boob- she tried to hit me again, but I dodged her, and she somehow managed to hit my armpit- by this time she was laughing too, linking her arm in mine.

Our laughter echoed off the empty corridor walls, but two figures came round the corridor, as we were alone no more.

I knew full well that the party was probably fully raging on right now- it was ten at night- I just didn’t know where the party was, only that it was on the seventh floor, and unfortunately, we needed to cross the seventh floor to get to the Ravenclaw common room.

I think I knew the two figures were James and Freddie before their faces fully transpired. They were clearly drunk, yelling at the top of their voices, firewhiskey bottles clutched in their hands.

“Oh look,” jeered Freddie, stumbling slightly as they approached us. “Elizabeth Wilderson.”

“Frederick Weasley,” I said, raising my eyebrow at him as Aspen crossed her arms. “What a delight.”

“I should fucking hope so… You know, I really don’t like you, Wilderson,” he said, pointing a drunken finger at me. “Yeah! I don’t like you! Fuck you!”

“I’m hurt,” I said, and Freddie threw his head back in laughter.

“I don’t like you… Oi, James, do you like Effy?”

James was probably even drunker than Freddie was. He turned around from watching a portrait, and smirked at me like he had only just noticed me. 

“Of course I don’t like Wilderson,” he sneered, his usual voice sounding chipped and fragmented- somehow much rawer- under the influence of all that alcohol. 

“Oh no,” I drawled, and Aspen snickered. “You should go before I drown this corridor in my tears-”

“That sarcasm, man,” said James, shaking a drunken finger in my face. “Why’s that necessary?”

“Are you se- joking?”

“Just very, very, drunk… You were going to say serious but you changed it to joking… Because my middle name’s Sirius… Ha ha ha…

“Urgh,” I said, shifting my sports bag further up my shoulder. Aspen tugged on my sleeve, inclined her head towards the end of the corridor.

“Come on, Effy…”

“I don’t like you at all,” said James, shaking his head at me, running his finger along my jawline. “You’re a fucking bitch. I always go for the bitches. I just didn’t expect to ever fall in love with one.”

Aspen stopped tugging on my sleeve, and my jaw dropped open, as Freddie cackled with laughter.

“Fuck yeah,” he continued, shaking his head, barking with laughter. “I’m going to my graduation ball with a girl that makes me feel good, and yet I can’t stop thinking over the girl that makes me feel shit.

“James-”

“I took your virginity, didn’t I?” he whispered into my ear. His breath was warm and smelt of firewhiskey, his words tickling my skin. “I bet you don’t even care that we had sex only a month into our relationship. I don’t care, but I have sex all the time. You should too, Wilderson, you’re not half bad at it. You know what, Wilderson? You lost your virginity to an absolute wanker, and I’m in love with a complete bitch. HA.”

“James-”

“Don’t tell me to call you Effy,” he called, as Freddie dragged him away, probably towards the party. “You’d hate that, Wilderson. I know you.”

He looked at me, and I looked at him, and he smirked his classic smile, before he laughed, and turned his back to me to walk towards the party with Freddie, and Aspen turned to me, her eyes as round as saucers. She said she had never been more confused in her life, but that was nothing on what I was feeling.

 

“I hate Quidditch,” I muttered, pushing the oatmeal around in my bowl.

“You always say that,” Josh retorted brightly. “I don’t think you actually do though.”

“Shut up Josh,” barked Liam.

“Liam,” I shot. “So unnecessary-”

“I agree with Effy, that was quite unnecessary-”

“Thank you, Indigo.”

Indigo sat there, smirking, and Liam glared at him. Josh was in a very good mood, having finished his OWLs only this Tuesday, and Liam was, by contrast, in a very bad mood, still sour that he was passed over for temporary captain, despite mine and Mikey’s poor leadership.

Today was the morning of the Quidditch finals. Danny was gulping down coffee at a tremendous speed- Indigo had wondered if he was trying to drown himself, or at the very least, give himself explosive diarrhoea. I knew he was under a lot of pressure. Danny wasn’t interested in Quidditch post-Hogwarts, but it was to be his last game, and Ravenclaw hadn’t won the cup since I was in Third Year. Which isn’t too far away, not bad at all, by contrast Slytherin hadn't won in seven years, but far away enough to remind Danny that he had failed to come first place last year, failed in another game against Gryffindor.

It was a very sunny day, once again. Unlike the last match, it wasn’t cripplingly hot, but a regular temperature for a Scottish June, warm with a cool breeze. 

Mikey and I still weren’t friends, but at least he had cooled off a bit towards me, and as a result, I had lessened my hostility towards him. To be honest, we were forced into civility by Danny who demanded his team be on perfect relations with one another, lest it affect our performances.

“This is my last match at this school,” he warned. “I’m a Muggleborn, I don’t have a family legacy. If you don’t get your act together in time for Saturday, I will get it together for you. I don’t care if you  have to have make-up sex on my fucking bed- you will make up in time for Saturday!”

Lara was buzzing, and Indigo looked quite nervous as well. I forgot they were Fourth Years, and that this was Lara’s first finals. Finals were a whole other story from other Quidditch matches. They were a massive deal. Finals were reported on wizarding radios up and down the country; parents came down to watch and, more importantly, so did scouts. There was always a page in the Prophet dedicated to the winning team’s players, especially their captain.

I suddenly felt very guilty for not training as hard as we should have done. But then I remembered that James had no choice but to leave, by comparison, Ruddy and Louis in charge of Gryffindor’s team, and felt a lot better. 

But then I remembered how it was ultimately my fault that we lost to Gryffindor last time we played the finals, as I failed to catch the snitch, and I felt bad all over again.

“Effy!” cried Jasmine, running up and hugging me. She was coated in red and gold. “Good luck!”

“You’re a Gryffindor,” said Liam suspiciously. 

“And she’s my friend,” Jasmine retorted. “You guys are always so competitive. Ruddy threatened to hex off my boobs if I spoke to Effy.”

“Well, your boobs have definitely not been hexed off…”

“Shut up, Josh,” the table barked.

As Jasmine left, I suddenly felt overwhelmingly hot in my uniform. My hair was in two French braids, blue ribbon interweaved from my roots to my hairs’ ends, skilfully done by Aspen this morning. Half my face was painted in the same shade of royal blue- pretty much all of Ravenclaw was. Lara had somehow convinced Mikey to paint his lips and hair blue, and I gazed at the blue lip-shaped rim on his coffee mug.

“Alright lads- guys,” began Danny, standing up. “Let’s go.”

I tuned out the hooting and cries from our blue and bronze table, the boos and jeers from the gold and red table beside us. That was another thing about Quidditch finals- everybody sat on their house tables. It was a day of house celebration, even if your house had done shit in the league this year. Such as Slytherin, unfortunately for Scorpius.

In the changing room, Danny began speaking. We were already changed, and we were downstairs a good half hour earlier than we should have been.

“I don’t know what to say, lads. Before I start discussing last minute tactics, I just want to say- it’s been a privilege flying with all of you over the year.” 

The six of us erupted in coos and laughs, and amidst the noise, I saw Mikey grin, leaning back against the bench and crossing his arms. He had gotten quite muscular over the past year- not in the hench way Liam always was, but in an incredibly, embarrassingly attractive way. 

His Quidditch jersey flattened against his chest and forearms, and his hair was streaked in blue, half his face painted in the face paint Lara had coated the whole team in. His eyebrows looked ruffled and he already looked slightly red- from nerves, I’d imagine.

He turned to me, a grin still on his face, and I turned away from him towards Danny.

“It’s not about winners- oi! Fuck off Wood, it’s not. It’s about a good game. They’re a good team, we’re a good team. All those Prophet journalists, team scouts? They’re looking at each one of us, carefully selecting the future faces of the sport. And let me tell you something- you can’t stand out as an individual if you can’t stand with the team first. Stay in the link. Too many teams have been ruined by individuals chasing glory. Glory comes from teamwork, lads. And lasses- sorry, Effy. You think the scouts out there want a Chaser that can’t pass, only score? A Beater that can’t pass, only hit? A Keeper that can’t throw, only save? Absolutely fucking not.”

“What about Seekers, Dan?” I asked, and Indigo and Josh chuckled. Even Liam snorted a little.

“Nah, fuck you Effy, you need to be as selfish as possible out there,” replied Danny, and everyone laughed.

Twenty minutes later, a Fourth Year commentator from Slytherin called us out. Freddie wasn’t allowed to commentate, threat of bias was too strong.

I was almost deafened by cheers and screams from the stands. The sun shone in the cloudless, azure blue sky, and the stands were almost fit to burst with people. There must have been over a thousand people watching.

Danny led us out, and shook hands with James. I didn’t look at him, I doubt he looked at me. Quidditch was Quidditch. I shook hands with Alfie Ronson.

Adrenaline clouded my head, my brain, my heart, my veins, my fingertips. I gripped my broom and felt a sudden breeze flutter against the fibres of my Quidditch jersey, loose strands of my brown hair, the dried paint on my face tingle.

Let’s fucking gooooo, I mouthed to Liam, and he grinned, as the whistle was blown.

I was off. I was buzzing from three cups of coffee, buzzing from adrenaline, buzzing from the sounds of the spectators below me, buzzing as I flew across that wide, majestic sky of vivid, unwavering blue, as the game unfolded below me.

And we’re off, ladies and gentlemen! Potter has the Quaffle, he passes to Drake, and Drake passes to Nigel- ooo, cleverly intercepted by Ravenclaw’s Lancaster, who passes it to Alton- SCORE! Not even a minute into the game, and Ravenclaw is up ten points!”

I was shaking from nerves. I had one eye on Ronson, the other eye on the rest of the stadium, sensitive for a flicker of gold, a small beat of a bronze wing.

Danny thought that Ronson would give me an easy game, as compensation for fouling me the last time we played. He’s that type of Gryffindor, Danny said, but I didn’t want to bank on it. I needed to win. Being a Seeker was too much pressure. Maybe next year I’ll try out as a Beater.

Ronson was following the snitch.

I flew after him. No way. It was far too early for the snitch to be caught. I flew as fast as I could on my broom, panic rising at the top of my throat-

The dirty prick was leading me on!

I leaned out sharply before I crashed to the ground, and flew back up to my position above the game before. There was no snitch. Alfie Ronson had attempted to call my bluff only five minutes into the game, and the commentator was practically orgasming over it.

Trying to out-think a Ravenclaw, Ronson? That may have worked beautifully in your last match against Slytherin, but find new moves for this bandit of brain surgeons- Ten all, as Potter scores for Gryffindor!”

Ten-twenty, ten-thirty, forty-thirty as James scored a hat-trick within the same minute. I remembered what Danny said about working as a team, and I observed that Gryffindor, as talented as they were, were working in fragments.

But of what importance was that, if Alfie ended up catching the snitch?

The game went on, and only got dirtier and dirtier. Ruddy and Louis were putting up a brutal attack on Josh and me, and I had spent the past twenty minutes avoiding their Bludgers over looking for the snitch.

And Alton scored! Seventy-fifty, with Gryffindor still in the lead!”

The Gryffindor Chaser trio was two boys scouting the Quaffle for James to score. That wasn’t necessarily James’ selfishness, but just his major outperformance on their behalf. At least Danny and Mikey were as good as each other, with Lara being the fastest, smallest flyer of us all, easily seeking the Quaffle to pass onto the boys.

Josh was a great Keeper, it’s just that Hugo Weasley was better. He must have been the best Keeper in the school. Danny and Mikey had more possession of the Quaffle, they just struggled getting it past Weasley on the defence.

Eighty-seventy, and Swift has got the Quaffle…”

I flew higher and higher, desperately trying to seek the snitch. It was difficult seeing it in the sunlight, but at least the air was much cooler, much drier than last time we played.

Drake has the Quaffle, he passes to Potter- skilfully intercepted by Swift, who passes to Lancaster- MERLIN! Oh my GOD! Was that a foul?! The game has paused as Madame Hooch walks onto the pitch…”

I flew down with the rest of the team. Josh Wood was lying on the pitch, his left arm and both legs crooked at an awful angle. Ruddy or Louis must have sent him a particularly hard Bludger.

“The Quaffle was within fifteen metres of him,” said Madame Hooch, as James ran up to her from the Gryffindor huddle. “It’s not a foul. It was fair play.”

“Josh,” said Lara sadly, stroking his hair. He moaned.

“Can you play?” asked Danny, bending down and inspecting his left leg.

“Absolutely not!” said Madame Pomfrey, pushing through the hoard of Quidditch players situated around Josh and Hooch, a wild assortment of blue and red, gold and bronze. “He would be lucky if he’s just facing three broken bones-”

“You can fix bones in seconds!” cried Danny, frantically. “My mum can fix his bones if she has too, and she’s a bloody muggle!

“I’m sorry, Mr Alton-”

“We can’t not have a Keeper!” he roared, and Ruddy and Louis winced, standing shoulder to shoulder. “Fucking hell-”

“Language, Mr Alton,” said Hooch, sharply. “Where is your substitute Keeper?”

Alton looked confused, and then clapped his hands in delight, as he turned to Mikey and me. “Oh yes! Where’s Adam Goldstein?”

Mikey and I looked guiltily at each other. I cleared my throat, as the twelve other Quidditch players and the two Madames stared at me. There was a long moment of silence, before I spoke up. “He’s gone to a wedding in the Bahamas.”

There was a moment of silence, punctured by James bursting out in laughter. Danny looked fit to strangle me.

WHAT?!”

“He made a very convincing case,” Mikey protested weakly, and I flinched at Danny’s cursing directed at us. I don’t think I had ever felt more guilty in my entire life. “You can’t not go to a wedding if you’re the ring bearer-”

“Can we even play without a Keeper?” asked Lara, who looked on the verge of tears.

Hooch grimaced. “You must. You can’t forfeit. This hasn’t happened since 2003, mind you… Alright, players, in the air in ten… nine…”

“We’ll go easy on you,” James smirked to Danny, clamping him on the shoulder and Madame Hooch had to intervene before Danny resorted to Muggle violence, as Madame Pomfrey rushed Josh off the pitch on a summoned stretcher. I noticed a crowd of Fifth Year girls wait for him in the stands. To be honest, knowing Josh, I bet he was loving this, even if he was in excruciating pain. 

“Three… two… one…”

And the game has resumed! I hear that the Ravenclaw substitute Keeper isn’t even in Scotland right now, leaving the ‘Claws totally defenceless! The show isn’t over yet though, folks, don’t forget that the game doesn’t end until a Seeker runs victorious, and Wilderson hasn’t lost a match all year…”

Mm. More pressure. Thanks, Fourth Year Slytherin Commentator.

Mikey stood by the three hoops on our side of the pitch, but despite his sporting talents he couldn’t double up as an effective Keeper and Chaser. Liam and Indigo tripled their efforts, and yet after ten minutes Gryffindor was fifty points ahead.

Danny scored three times as Liam and Indigo pelted Hugo Weasley with Bludgers, but then Ruddy intercepted and swung the ball towards Lara, who had the Quaffle. She didn’t drop it, but failed to score again, the Quaffle caught up by James.

I scanned the pitch for the snitch. I flew around as opposed to sitting still like I usually did, circling the air, desperately avoiding Bludgers and other players.

The game only got dirtier, and the booing and cheering increased. Danny and James were in their last year of school, and the two seemed determined to go out with a bang. Liam hit the Bludger towards the Gryffindor Chaser Nigel, and he fell to the ground. Madame Hooch declared it fair play, but still awarded the other team a penalty.

Players were going down like dominos. Quidditch had become a game of chess. Their Chaser substitute came on, but was no match for Mikey, Danny and Lara. 

Ravenclaw can win this game on tactic alone. They’re down a Keeper, and desperately trying to limit Weasley’s efforts- and you know what? They’re not succeeding, but they’re not failing either. What a match! And ten points to Ravenclaw, as Lancaster scores!”

Two hundred and ten to ninety. We were losing drastically, almost comically, but Danny was not going to go down without a fight.

And then I saw it. The snitch. Fluttering on the other side of the pitch, closer to Alfie than me. 

Alfie was looking the other way, distracted by the game. He was about to turn around to the snitch beside him, but a Bludger gone a-wire distracted him. 

I couldn’t fly after the snitch, because he would catch on, and most definitely catch it. I couldn’t ignore it, though, because who knows when it would next appear? I could gamble and wait to watch it’s next move, but it could always move closer to Alfie. And besides, we were down over a hundred points, two hours into the game.

It had to end soon.

I had only practised this move with Danny a few times. He said to only use it in the most extremist of circumstances. It was a move he had crafted, created for the smaller, swifter player. A kinder Wronski Feint.

“Only use it when the game is gone,” he had said. “Once you use it, you can’t go back to it, the other Seekers won’t fall for it again.”

I flew closer to Alfie, and succeeded in gaining his attention. I flew towards the ground close to where James was hovering, banking on the gold stitching of his uniform to work effectively as a faux-snitch. All Alfie had to do was see a glimmer of gold, and he would be right on my tail.

And he was. I flew fast down to the ground, right underneath the snitch, and Alfie flew under me. I could hear the commentator speaking of Wilderson and Ronson, but I blanked him out.

Alfie was right on my back. I could hear him. He was stronger, but I was faster.

And right when he was about to meet my speed, I flew up, a total right-angle. I think I was almost flying upside-down. The snitch was still there, and I felt the blood rush to my face- I was upside down, my legs grasping my broom for my life, Danny was right, this was wild, but desperate times called for desperate measures- the wind rushed past me, and I felt sick with the altitude, sick from flying upside down, sick from adrenaline-

I couldn’t catch it with one hand from my position. I could hear gasps from the audience below as I straddled my broomstick upside down, reaching for the snitch with both my hands-

AND WILDERSON HAS CAUGHT THE SNITCH!”

I could feel my legs buckle from the pressure, and somebody grabbed me roughly by the stomach, placing me backwards on the broom. It was Danny.

I HAVEN’T EVER SEEN A HOGWARTS MATCH END LIKE THIS! MERLIN! GRYFFINDOR WINS THE GAME ON RAVENCLAW CATCHING THE SNITCH! WHAT A FORECAST FOR THE SUMMER’S UPCOMING QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP! JESUS CHRIST- MERLIN!”

The stadium was screaming the colours of red and gold, and fireworks displaying a colossal, majestic lion filled the vivid blue sky above us. I heard somebody mention Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and faintly made the connection between Freddie Weasley and the comic store in Diagon Alley.

We touched ground, and out poured Gryffindor house in the hundreds, oh my God, saturating the grounds in their cries of victory and pride. The Fourth Year commentator kept on talking, and I stood with Danny, watching the scene before me, not noticing the woman that was approaching us until she waved a hand in my face.

“Oh, hello,” I said, only realising how light-headed I was as I spoke.

“Rachel Prewett-Cohen,” she said, grasping my hand in a ridiculously firm handshake. “Manager of the Tutshill Tornados.”

“Elizabeth Wilderson,” I said, blinking furiously and noticing I was still shaking her hand. “Um, Ravenclaw Seek-”

“Of course,” she said, sharply. “How old are you, Elizabeth?”

“Seventeen this July-”

“You ever considered a career in Quidditch?” she said, finally dropping my hand and pushing her wayfarer glasses further up her face. She had that clean, polished look of a professional woman who had no patience for time wasting or idleness, an individual who had had to work twice as hard to prove herself in such a male-dominated industry. She spoke incredibly fast, and in her expensive suit and high-heeled shoes, looked almost alien in such an outdoor environment. 

“Well, not really-”

“That move,” she said, raising her left eyebrow, “was certainly something special. I haven’t seen such strategy in amateur flying since I recruited John O’Sullivan, who, as I’m sure you are aware, is flying for the Irish National team this summer-”

“Oh!” I said, dumbly. “That wasn’t my strategy at all. My captain designed it-”

“Name?” she asked, already scanning the pitch behind me.

“Daniel Alton- hey- here he is- Danny!”

“Well, it was still a pleasure,” she said, earnestly shaking my hand once again, as I watched Danny leave two adults dressed in Muggle clothing I assumed to be his parents. “Unfortunate outcome, but great game, Eleanor-”

“Elizabeth-”

“Rachel Prewett-Cohen,” she said, already grasping Danny’s hand. He seemed to have grasped her motive much faster than I had, and I turned away from the two, and watched the celebrations ahead of me before walking off the pitch, feeling incredibly underwhelmed. 

 

“Well, I’m happy for Danny,” concluded Oscar, as we sat cross-legged on his bed, the curtains closed around us, the day’s sunlight still filtering in through the drape’s blue fibres.

“Same,” I said, nodding. “He didn’t want to venture into playing Quidditch professionally, but seemed really excited by the idea of starting out as a junior strategist for the Tornados. And now he can travel to the World Cup for free, which to be honest, is totally better than winning the Cup.”

“And now, I suppose, he doesn’t have to feel worried about his NEWT results. But he’ll still worry about them anyway, he’s a Ravenclaw. Anyway, good for him,” said Oscar, nodding his head. “He’s too handsome to be locked up in Healer school for four years.”

I chortled. The hysteria over the match had simmered down, and it seemed like almost everyone had ventured outside to bask in the summer weather, especially OWL and NEWT students, who were still celebrating the end of their exams. Loads of parents had turned up to the match, notably Muggle parents, who couldn’t access the school but could access the grounds. 

I was a bit annoyed that my mum didn’t turn up today- my dad couldn’t, he was overwhelmed with work for the first match of the World Cup next week- and even more annoyed at the game’s outcome.

“It was an unfair game,” said Oscar, after I voiced my complaints aloud for the tenth time that afternoon. “Even I could see that, and you know darling, I know nothing about Quidditch. There’s probably Hufflepuffs who know more about Potions than I do Quidditch- oh, I know it’s so naughty of me to be mean about Hufflepuffs, but I can’t resist…”

“At least we still have next year to win,” I said, and he drew away from me in shock.

“You’re still going to play? Oh, come on, Effy, think of all the time you waste flying when you could be with me… We never see each other…”

“We’re seeing each other now!”

“Because you’re hiding from anyone wearing red or gold and I’ve lost my SPF 50 suntan lotion-”

“And God forbid you pick up a tan-”

“Darling, I don’t tan, I burn, and I’m seeing Robert tomorrow-”

“Oh my God!” I cried, slamming the covers in excitement as Oscar laughed. “I completely forgot!”

“Yes, well, you’ve been pre-occupied,” he said, pulling a disgusted face, “with Quidditch.

I laughed again, as the dormitory door opened. I was about to open the curtain when Oscar slapped my hand, putting a forefinger to his lips.

What? I mouthed.

I think it’s Declan Ainsley and Teddy Oliver, he mouthed back, looking ecstatic. I’m finally going to catch them being gay together!

I smiled, as a voice perked up. It wasn’t the Scottish accent of Declan nor the slightly cockney accent of Teddy, but the sharp and incredibly lofty voice of Albus, his clear pronunciations puncturing the silence of the room.

“Thank you so much for giving me a distraction from my parents,” he said. “Lily told my mum about Poppy Atticus, and she won’t stop bothering me about her.”

“Even though James just won the Cup?” asked a second voice. It was Mikey.

“My dad won it in his Sixth Year and she played professionally,” he answered drily. 

“Jesus Christ.”

“Yeah, she likes to think she is, but she isn’t,” he said, and Mikey laughed. “Oh my God, she was awful, and then my dad wanted to meet her- Poppy, that is- and started sprouting all this jazz about his parents- honestly, telling them I’m gay would be easier than this. Or pregnant, come to think of it.”

“I know exactly what it’s like,” said Mikey, and I heard the sound of rummaging clothes outside our closed curtains. “I told my older brother, Saul, I liked Effy in Fourth Year and my parents still bring her up. I’ve tried telling my parents I don’t fancy her anymore, but they don’t believe me.”

“Because you do still fancy her,” said Albus, and my eyes widened.

“Oh yeah, of course,” he said naturally. “But they don’t have to know that.”

“How’s ignoring her going?”

“Terribly. Aspen had a go at me for being a prick to Effy when she apparently needed her best guy friend the most.”

“She said she was replacing you with me as champion of that title,” said Albus, and Mikey snorted.

“I’m so sick of being the Mayor of the Friend Zone. It’s becoming embarrassing.”

“Is ignoring her not making it easier?”

“No!” he whined, and the sound of rummaging stopped. “Fuck, I can’t find your book. Maybe it’s in Liam’s trunk… You know what, I’ve liked her for three years straight now and she’s just so hung up on your fucking brother I don’t think she’s even noticed my hostility.”

“I told you not to listen to Scorpius for relationship advice,” said Albus smartly. “I have no idea how he’s still seeing Rose.”

“Yeah, that’s a relationship more fucked up than you and Poppy.”

“Right? At least you’re friends- or used to be friends with Effy. I can’t get Poppy to give me a fucking chance. She’s driving me up the wall. You know, I actually had a kind of decent conversation with her yesterday, before she managed to find something to take offence at-”

“What was it?”

“She said she liked Muggle poetry, I said any kind in particular, she said she liked modernism, and I said well, have you read any T.S Eliot? And she said she didn’t-”

“Oh God-”

“What! How can you like modernist poetry but not read T.S Eliot? Oh, she said she liked Virginia Woolf and George Eliot, but honestly, that’s like saying you like 60’s pop music but didn’t know who the Beatles were!”

“Did you say that to her?”

“Well, yeah-”

“And she blew up?”

“Said I was obnoxious and always putting down her intelligence, and I said I wasn’t, I was just saying she clearly didn’t like modernist poetry! And she went off on one, and then said I didn’t respect her because she was a Hufflepuff, and then I said stop victimising your house-”

“You idiot-”

“She then said that was the last time she ever gave me a chance, and I said look Poppy, I’m crazy about you, but you wouldn’t respect me if I wasn’t honest with you- and then she said, I don’t respect you anyway, I go why…”

The door slammed shut, and their voices faded away. We sat there, in a stunned silence, before Oscar pulled out his wand from his pocket and performed the body revealing charm. It was negative, we were in the room alone again, and he gasped.

“Oh,” he began. “My. GOD!

“Oscar-”

OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!”

I know!” I cried, clutching my face. “I know…

“Mikey’s liked you since you two dated in Fourth Year!” he exclaimed, shaking my shoulders excitedly. “It all makes so much sense now!”

“Oscar…”

“So that’s why he was acting so beefy at you… Albus was right, Scorpius is terrible at giving advice. I wish I had more knowledge on his relationship with Rose, but alas I’m not friends with neither him nor Rose. Gosh, that was so much better than Declan and Teddy being in a secret gay relationship. I can’t believe this! Although, I’m not really surprised… It all makes sense!”

“Aspen was right,” I said, staring at the duvet beneath us. “What do I do now?”

He paused, and looked pensive. “Well, do you like him?”

I thought about it, before Oscar interrupted my internal monologue.

“Golly, what bad timing. Just after James told you he was in love with you. Sucks to be popular.”

“Oh, shut up,” I said. “James was drunk last night when he said that.”

“The truth always-”

“I saw him kiss Dahlia Moss on the pitch today, after the game,” I said flatly. “He hasn’t spoken to me all day. Aspen suspects it was just a tactic to distract me before the game, and honestly, I wouldn’t put it past him-”

“He wouldn’t do that to you-”

“But he’d do it for his team,” I said, looking up at Oscar. “And you know, he was with Freddie, and Freddie really does not like me.”

“Hmph,” said Oscar, biting on his lip. “And Mikey?”

“I had a sex dream about his last week,” I said, the corners of my mouth curling despite my attempts to flatline the sentence. Oscar looked scandalised, and told me that was was serious, Effy, this is not time for joking about.

“If only Aspen was here,” he said, wistfully. “We really need her input to make a complete group decision about what we’re going to do next.”

“We?”

“Oh come on, Effy, you don’t think you’re going to decide this all on you’re on, do you? I’m afraid I’ve inherited the meddling match-making qualities of my Jewish mother…”

“Oscar!” I cried, laughing. “You’re not Jewish!”

“Oh yes I am, Elizabeth, even if I haven’t been bar mitzvah! I spoke to my Rabbi- well, I spoke to Adam Goldstein before he flew to the Bahamas- and I am culturally Jewish, if not religiously, and you know what Effy, I am gay, half Korean, left-handed, a wizard, and Jewish, which officially makes me the biggest minority in the school, so I would not cross me if I were you!”

“Being a wizard in Hogwarts doesn’t make you a minority, you absolute cretin.

“Stop insulting me… Is this Scotland or Berlin, 1933?”

“OSCAR-!”

“Oh stop being insulted on my behalf, I’m the Jew here, not you…”

 

I left the boy’s dormitory that afternoon in hysterics, and found Aspen in our dormitory, who had been trying to find the two of us, and we stayed in our room for the rest of the evening, as we discussed Mikey and James and Quidditch and the future and the present and all those things that I believe one can only really explore with their closest of friends, their soul’s mate, if not their soul mate, and Aspen was such a friend.

“You’re the best,” I said, yawning, as I lay in her lap and she stroked my hair.

“I know,” she said lightly, as the door opened, and other girls of our dormitory walked in. I laughed, and she smiled down at me. “But no, seriously- you have to admit, this is all quite exciting, isn’t it?”

“When I look at it in retrospect, I expect it will be,” I admitted. “But right now, I feel incredibly guilty about Mikey and- I don’t know, both neglected and disappointed in James.”

“Your speech has improved so much since you’ve started reading that Jane Austen novel.”

“I know, it always does when I read old literature. But then I pick up Witch Weekly and I start indenting my sentences with like all over again.”

She snorted, and said we should start getting ready for bed. Which we did, and even though I had neither lunch nor dinner, I fell asleep quite quickly, only to wake up in the early hours of the morning, my stomach churning. I glanced at my bedside clock. It was quarter past two in the morning.

I pulled on a pair of cotton shorts and smoothed down my bed hair, before slipping on socks I found by my bed and closing my dormitory door shut behind me, careful not to wake anyone up, not even Veronica Clearwater, whose forehead I contemplated drawing a penis on.

“Oh,” I said, walking down the stairs to the common room. “Mikey.”

He looked up from his book, initially startled, and then relaxed when he saw me. “Oh. Hey, Eff.”

“Eff?” I asked, crossing my arms and walking over to him. “Not her? Not Elizabeth?”

He yawned, and massaged his temples. “I’m too tired for this.”

“I’m too hungry.”

“Yeah, I didn’t go down for dinner either. Which was stupid, because Declan told me the Gryffindor table was pretty much empty, they were all celebrating.”

Moonlight shone from the majestic Georgian windows around the room, casting the floor and it’s furniture in a pearly, translucent light, looking almost eerie compared to the humble, yellow lighting of the lamp beside Mikey.

I noticed a copy of J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye held in his right hand. Mikey loved, luved, lurvveed whiney white male protagonist novels.

“I want to go to the kitchens,” I said. “Except I don’t know the route.”

He sighed heavily. “Oh fine.” He said. “I’ll take you.”

“Well, it’s not like you had dinner-”

“Oh, come on, Effy.”

We walked out of the empty, moonlit common room, and walked in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, before I spoke up. “We still have next year to win,” I said, and he snorted. “Everybody knows we would have won- or could have won- if it wasn’t for Josh being knocked out. Literally, and figuratively, Ruddy and Louis literally knocked him out of the game-”

“Have you been to see him?” asked Mikey, sharply.

I paused. “No.”

“He’s broken five bones and won’t be able to fly for two months.”

“At least he’ll still be able to try out for practise next year-”

He stared at me. “You’re so selfish, Effy,” he stated. “You really don’t think about anyone else apart from you, do you?”

I opened my mouth to protest, and then closed it again. He was absolutely right.

“You’re absolutely right.”

He raised an eyebrow at me, and snorted, before returning back to his book.

“Mikey,” I said. He looked up, his face softening slightly.

“What?”

“Do you like me?”

“What?” he repeated, his eyebrows furrowed, and before I could think about any consequence or potential outcome I leaned over and kissed him, cupping his chin with my hands, feeling his lips on mine, the ends of his hair tickling the tops of my fingers.

“Effy,” he said, pulling away from me. “What-”

“I heard you in your dormitory this afternoon,” I said. I don’t know why I had kissed him, but I knew when I looked back at the night I would be glad I did. I think seeing him all alone in the grand common room after hearing his confessions ring in my ears all day was what decided it for me. “You should definitely not have listened to Scorpius’s advice.”

“Well, I don’t know,” he said. “He’s clearly been successful with Albus and Poppy.”

I laughed, and he smiled, our faces almost touching, my hands still holding his face. I could see all the freckles on his sun-kissed face, glowing almost translucent in the pearly moonlight of the window beside us. And this time, he was the one who kissed me, and it all felt so natural, so- you know, when you absolutely believe you are in the right place at the right time? A real sense of belonging overcame me, and I smiled into his lips.

I heard footsteps, as Mikey’s hands gripped my hair. I could feel his cool fingertips on my warm temple, his hand on my pyjama-clad waist, and yet I pushed away from him slightly, my mouth not even an inch away from his, but my eyes darted behind his back.

I saw, in the June moonlight, the outline of someone tall, with messy raven hair and a hand clutching a piece of parchment I had seen once or twice before.

“You okay?”

“Just felt a bug on me,” I lied. 

 



The Beatles (Apple Studios), Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, T.S. Eliot, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye... All brilliant artists in their own right, and goes without saying I don't own a nano-smidge.

Thanks so much for continuing to read and continuing to issue your lovely, lovely, overwhelmingly lovely reviews. I am over the moon with it all! We're fast approaching the three year anniversary of FA being published; and already at the three year anniversary of it being an idea discussed between my too-cool-for-school Potterhead (pothead, too) friend Seb in Year 11... It's crazy how FA's been so entwined with my life over the past three years. I can't thank you guys enough for staying with me during it! I get nostalgic over this silly story's beginnings. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Chapter 21: eng-ger-land!
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Quick heads up: this is two chapters combined in one. It's going to read weird, it's definitely an FA experiment! But I had such a sudden rush of writing inspiration, and I'm still so, so overwhelmed by the Dobby nomiations... But more on that later.




In all honesty, I think there’s a part of me that perhaps won’t always like James, but will remain perhaps a bit enchanted, entranced by him, even when he was actively ignoring me, acting like I was nothing more than a drunken shag from a Quidditch after-party.

Which was upsetting, because whilst I was feverishly working towards getting over him, he was already there. I was, by nature, quite an attention seeking person, and so revoking attention- all attention- from me, when I was used to so much, was not very fair.

James was, I realised, like the sun. If you got too close- for many people tried to do, as he was charismatic and charming and incredibly attractive- well, you burn; but if you stay too far away, you’ll freeze, left on the outskirts of relevant society. I had experienced both the burning; the arguments, the angst, the 2am yelling in the Owlery- and also the freezing, the cold ignoring of our history, my presence.

It was the day of the Seventh Year Graduation Ball. The graduation itself wasn’t until tomorrow afternoon, but tonight was the real deal, the day, the fireworks and the champagne. Aspen and I would spend the whole night watching the party take place on the Hogwarts grounds from our window in our dormitory. We still have the scrapbook of ball dresses and what we expected the boys of our year to look like in our twelve year old minds.

“Oh gosh,” said Aspen, as we sat on our dormitory floor, flicking through the page heavy book. I could still remember the two of us making it- scrawny, bespectacled me with big glasses perched on my nose and pretty little Aspen Spinelli, already garnering a little attention from boys in our year- sat by my bed, bored on a winter’s night, dreaming of adventures we’d get up to when we were Older and Cooler and Prettier. “Why did I think it was okay to stick a picture of Liam’s face on Drew McLaggen’s body?”

“Why did I have such a crush on Teddy Oliver?” I said, tracing the lipstick heart and initials EW + TO inside it with the tip of my forefinger. “Cornelia Boot said he’s going to be Head Boy.”

“We haven’t had a non-Slytherin Head Boy since Teddy Lupin,” said Aspen, looking pensive. “And he was a Hufflepuff too. God. Somebody should protest against this.”

“You revolutionary,” I said, grinning a teethy smirk as I shut the book and stood up, stretching my arms. It was another beautiful summer’s late afternoon, and music from the Seventh Years’ girls dormitories pounded through our ceiling as they got ready for the ball. 

Eve Chang, who still made an effort to be nice to me despite James’ coldness, showed Jasmine and me her gown after breakfast this morning. I was prepared to be nice and had an array of compliments at hand, but they proved useless- her dress was breath-taking, a stunning, simply black halterneck that only she, with her tanned skin and thin limbs, could wear. 

“You should definitely wear body glitter along your collarbones and cheekbones,” Jasmine advised, and I stroked the silk, and told her how perfect it would look with her hair up.

“I was thinking red lipstick, which wouldn’t match the glitter,” said Eve, frowning. “But yeah, Annie recommended glitter too-”

“Yo, Chang, have you seen Freddie-”

I whipped around at the sound of his voice. It was James, of course, who was still in his pyjamas of an old Quidditch tee-shirt and boxers, his hair a genuine, unstyled mess, his eyes still half blood-shot with sleep.

He looked at me, and I looked at him, my body still facing the mannequin by Eve’s bed, and our gaze could have lasted forever. So many unanswered questions, I could start a religion.

“This isn’t even your house,” he started, but then stopped, and yawned as he ruffled the back of his hair. “I don’t even care, we’re graduating tomorrow.”

“You sound thrilled,” said Eve, snorting. “I saw him with Roxanne in the common room ten minutes ago.”

“Cheers,” he said, throwing his arm around her slight shoulders. “This your dress?”

“Mm hm.”

His voice, still musky and in the clutches of the night’s sleep, said looking good, Chang, and before she could thank him, he walked out, leaving the door wide open.

“I bet he’s someone you’re not going to miss next term,” said Eve, with the knowing tone of voice only the closest of friends can use when discussing said friend behind his back. Eve was like that- we were barely friends and she spoke with this insightful warmth, no wonder she was so well liked. I made an instant resolution to be more like Eve.

“I actually think Effy will miss him,” said Jasmine, putting her hands on her hips and gazing at me. “You’re with Mikey, but you’re not with Mikey.” And Eve and Jasmine exchanged a look, and I knew the two of them had discussed previously.

Miss him?” I cried, throwing my sweater down on Eve’s bed in protest. “What’s to miss? He’s an emotionless psychopath. Honestly, Eve, I know you’re close with him, and I admire that, I do, in the way one admires charity workers and nursing home employees-”

“Oh, Effy,” said Eve, laughing. “You have such a way with words. He’s a prick, and you’re no fallen angel either.” I could feel my face frown as she said that, which made her laugh harder. “Anyway, I should go, I told the girls I’ll meet them five minutes ago.”

“Laters,” said Jasmine, as I followed her out of the dormitory, and then out of the common room, where I tried to ignore the dirty looks from some of the many, many fan girls of said emotionless psychopath.

 

As I left the Gryffindor common room and entered my own, Mikey strode up to me, and grabbed me by the arm.

“We need to talk,” he said, and I looked into his dark green- almost hazel- eyes. I knew he was right, and I knew he had all the reason in the world to be angry. I had avoided him since I kissed him last weekend.

We walked out of the common room, and past the long corridor to the entrance, until we were in the crux between the Charms wing and the Arithmancy wing, and I didn’t speak until we were perched on a quiet window ledge, overlooking the Quidditch pitch.

“I’m sorry, Mikey,” I began. “I’ve been a bitch, I should have-”

“I know,” he said, sharply. “You’ve been thinking of yourself, as usual.”

“Yeah, I-”

“But now you so associate yourself with James Potter, the two topics have fused into one big box of Effy angst and Effy problems,” he snapped, and I flinched, feeling quite victimised. “Jesus Christ, Effy. You know how much I like you, so you kiss me, and then you don’t talk to me for the whole week? What is that?”

I sighed, and pushed my hair away from my face. The morning’s sunlight made his face glimmer gold and his irises dance clover green and amber. “I know it was bad of me, Mikey,” I replied, sounding a lot harsher than I intended. “But you’re seeing yourself as a saint. I don’t see your halo, though, Mikey-”

“What is that?”

Sorry, I’ve been reading a lot of Sylvia Plath- anyway!” I snapped, annoyed that I got distracted. “You didn’t talk to me for a whole month? When I really did need you? And not because I was in the wrong at all, but to combat your feelings towards me- a whole month- so excuse me if I take six days to work out-”

“That’s not fair,” insisted Mikey, his big bad walls of irritation towards me starting to crumble. “I know what I did wasn’t alright, but- god, Effy! This isn’t a love triangle between James and me!”

“I cried over you!” I said, pointing my finger at his chin. “You’re my best friend! And you stopped talking to me all together, made me feel like an absolute bitch- when I was completely innocent? You can’t call me out for doing the same, Mikey!”

I had screamed that at him, and he had nodded throughout it, before massaging his temples with his forefingers as I cried his name. 

“But it isn’t the same,” he said. “God, Effy, you know- you know, I’m crazy about you. And you’ve got me hanging like an absolute idiot around your little finger- I don’t even want a decision, just some acknowledgement, you know?”

His tone is so soft, and he is so like the Mikey Lancaster that’s always been such a constant in my life, I feel tears spring to my eyes. And I draw closer to him as he cups his hand under my chin, and I can see his every eyelash.

“I’m sorry,” I choke out, and I laugh. “I can’t believe I’m crying.

He laughs too, and I can see the corners of his eyes wrinkle. “I know there’s a Fifth Year Slytherin party tonight,” he said. “Scorpius mentioned it last night.”

“Oh, okay, you want to go-”

“You want to be my date, Elizabeth Wilderson?” he asks in such a dry, nonchalant voice I laugh and he grabs my wrist before I slap his chest, and on that window ledge on the south side of the school we hug, my teary eyelashes getting his shirt wet.

 

So when Aspen and I had carefully stored our incredibly dense, incredibly embarrassing scrapbook of magazine cuttings and twelve year old dreams away at the bottom of her trunk- my mum loves looking through my stuff, she’d find it within seconds- I asked her if she was going to go to the Slytherin party, and her jaw drops open.

“How can you party when it’s the Graduation Ball?” she cried, looking very disappointed in me. “Oh Effy! We always sneak out to watch what the girls wear and who goes with who-”

“Okay, I’ll tell Mikey I won’t go-”

No!” she balled, her mood changing astonishingly fast. “Mikey asked you to go? Well obviously you have to go- oh my God, this is so exciting, what do you think! Effy! Mikey! Honestly, where is Oscar-”

“Aspen,” I moaned, falling against my bed. From this persepective, the vivid azure blue sky was bordered by grey, heavy-set clouds. I hope it wasn’t going to rain for the Graduation Ball. More importantly, I hope it wasn’t going to rain for our Graduation Ball. Our year have had to put up with Louis Weasley and Ruddy Walcott for six years, the least we deserved was good weather.

You and Mikey… the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Both so dark-haired, green-eyed, and Quidditch fanatics. Funny and popular. God, he really is the boy version of you, isn’t he?”

“Aspen-”

“You have two incredibly attractive boys into you right now. You’re so lucky,” she said, wistfully.

I sat up, and grinned. “I should get them drunk and make them fight over me.”

“I tried that with Scorpius and Julius Ascot, but it didn’t quite work out,” she said, and I laughed, rolling over so I was almost on top of her, sat cross-legged by the foot of my bed. “Now Scorpius and Julius are mates.

“Somehow, I don’t see Mikey and James ever being friends.”

“Which is weird, because didn’t Mikey’s mum go to school with James’ dad? Like, they were in the same year and everything.” This was true- Mikey’s mother, Alicia, was not only friendly with Harry Potter but a former member of Dumbledore’s Army. Which made him very cool when we learnt about it in History of Magic, Second Year.

(Although not as cool as Albus, obviously.)

“Look,” I said, craning my head and looking up at the window again. “Doesn’t it look like it’s going to rain? For the ball tonight?”

“Oh, I hope not,” said Aspen. “Although their year didn’t have to endure Ruddy and Louis as much as we’ve had too, so if anything, a rainy ball will only even things out-”

“I was just thinking that!” I cried, and we beamed at each other.

 

I’ve never really had a date to a party thrown at school. When James and I dated we would just find each other in whatever common room the party was thrown in, and when Mikey and I first went out in Fourth Year, we were kind of too young to be properly invited to the upper year parties- only people like Jasmine, Ruddy, Louis, the cool Gryffindors of our year could wiggle themselves into upper school parties.

“My first date to a Hogwarts party,” I said, after meeting Mikey in our common room. I was wearing a  thin, knitted, baggy grey jumper over Aspen’s micro mini black skirt. She said it made my legs look long and my bum nice and perky, but I could feel judgement from younger Ravenclaws radiate through my skull. “I hope you don’t disappoint me. I’ve been very much looking forward to this.”

“Took you long enough,” he replied, as I wove my arm into his.

“Took you long enough. Two years to ask me out again, Jesus got resurrected from the dead in a quicker time than that-”

“Now come on Effy, your internalised misogyny is shining,” he said, as we left the common room. “You could always have asked me out. But you didn’t, and now look where we are-”

“The Charms corridor?”

“You’ve put me off my train of thought,” he grumbled, and I laughed, watching his dimples emerge as he grinned. The sun beginning to set, and golden rose rays of sun filled the corridor with glittering, kaleidoscopic shades of pink and yellow. Storm clouds the colour of a bruise was slowly approaching over the Quidditch pitch.

“Good,” I said, drawing myself closer into him. “It probably wasn’t worth thinking about anyway.”

“Yes, now we can discuss something to do with you. Most likely something positive, which will conclude in your flicking your hair over your shoulder in a half-hearted attempt at modesty.”

“If I don’t fancy myself, who will?”

We were talking like we used to, and I grinned at the corridor floor at the thought of it. Mikey just felt so familiar, so warm- the sound of his harsh, throaty laughter bounced off the walls and his lofty, accented voice rang through the halls.

It was a party hosted by and for the Fifth Years below us, still celebrating their end of OWL exams, just under the pretence of it being somebody’s birthday. I didn’t know who’s birthday it was- I don’t really know the year below apart from Josh Wood, to be honest- but the Slytherin common room was alive with bright lights, loud electro music and chattering voices, moving bodies.

“Fun first date,” I commented to Mikey, as we walked in, through the open common room door. He opened his mouth to reply, but got distracted by a cluster of year below girls, giggling softly at him. I forgot that Mikey was quite the pin-up for the girls of Fifth Year. Not only was he a Chaser, but he really was quite good-looking, and being friends with Albus and Scorpius would make anybody attractive to the year below. 

(Did I mention the only year below I knew was Josh Wood? If he reflected the year group in any way I’m sure I could conclude my Hogwarts studies perfectly content knowing no more of them.)

“Hey Mikey,” said one girl, batting her eyelashes at him. I snorted, and looked over his shoulder.

“Hi,” I said, oddly relieved, as I hugged Albus and Scorpius, the duo approaching us from their huddle with other Slytherin Sixth Years.

“What are you doing here?” Scorpius wanted to know.

“What are you doing here?”

“This is our common room-”

“Well it’s a Saturday night and everybody else was so preoccupied with spying on the Graduation ball outside-”

“Effy,” said Al, interrupting me. “Tell Scorpius he gives shit advice.”

“Oh yeah,” I said, nodding, furiously, trying to distract myself from Mikey and the year below girls. “You give the worst advice. It beats me how people always ends up listening to you-”

“I do not,” argued Scorpius sharply. “Look at me and Rose, you and Mikey-”

“Al and Poppy?” I enquired, and Albus snorted.

“A sixty six percent success rate really isn’t that bad,” Scorpius continued, shooting Albus a dirty look. “It’s not my fault Poppy Atticus is fucking impossible-”

“She’s not!” cried Al, who clearly did not like hearing a single word against Poppy.

I became uncomfortably aware that in our small huddle, we were fast becoming the dull, inactive older students at the fringes of a younger year party, only down because nothing else was going on on this starry, starry night. As Albus and Scorpius continued bickering, like the old married couple they were, I realised I had lost Mikey in the throng of people. Just as I was about to leave the duo to find him, Rose Weasley appeared, the green lighting of the room making her hair look even brighter and alien than usual.

“Hey Effy,” she said, the corner of her mouth lifting in a half-attempt at a smile.

“Rose,” I said, warmly, for I did like her, despite her blunt personality. She had something exciting about her, a certain sort of charisma that drew people in, a charm I’ve only ever noticed before in her cousin James.

“Rose,” ordered Scorpius, putting an arm around her. “Tell Effy and Al that I give good advice-”

“Darling, you give the worst advice. Neville Chamberlain probably gave better advice than you, and he let Germany invade Poland.”

And Czechoslovakia,” I confirmed, smiling smugly at Scorpius’s scowl.

“It’s fine. You can just blame it on daddy issues-”

“If I had a sickle for every time a Gryffindor blamed an eccentric aspect of one’s personality on daddy issues,” I said, and Albus laughed.

“Oh ha ha ha,” said Rose, shooting me a look. “Isn’t this meant to be yours and Mikey Lancaster’s first date?”

“Well, not exactly a first date in the sense that we’re dating, you know, it’s actually quite complicated, we just came here together, you know I don’t even know wh-”

“So why has he not left that group of Fifth Year girls since he entered the room?” she enquired, and I followed her gaze behind me, where Mikey stood with his arms crossed, a smug smirk on his face, as a group of four- five?- girls stood around him, all twirling hair strands and glittery shorts, crop tops.

I turned back to Rose. “I’m a very trusting person,” I said.

“Good,” she replied, as Scorpius opened his mouth.

“I do give good advice, Al!”

 

The party went on, and I was bored within twenty minutes. Perhaps I was growing old, but suddenly loud music and the sweaty scent of adolescence just didn’t appeal to me any more. Moreover, I really could not stop thinking about the Graduation Ball upstairs. If I’m to be honest, I couldn’t stop thinking of James this morning, standing in Eve Chang’d dormitory in his pyjamas.

“Mikey,” I said, finding my date again, surrounded by girls. He looked up, and said Effy, speak later. Did he bring me down here knowing he would be surrounded by a hive of Fifth Year girls? This was the sort of cynicism I had adopted ever since I met James.

“Impress you with year below girls? Sounds like the sort of shit advice Scorpius would spoon out,” muttered Albus, as we stood at the back of the party. 

“Why are we always standing at the backs of parties?” I asked, crossing my arms and turning towards him.

He snorted. “The club can’t even handle me righhttttt noowww-

Fuck’s sake-”

“Look, have you seen Poppy Atticus? I asked her to come, but I don’t think she is-”

“Double Potions sounds like a better way to spend Saturday night than this,” I said, tapping my foot impatiently. “Oh, you know what, I can’t be bothered. I’m going.”

“Going where?” Albus wanted to know. “As if you have any other Slytherin friends apart from me. And well, Scorpius, I suppose-”

“Going, as in leaving this party,” I said, scanning the room for Mikey. “If he asks, tell him I’ll see him tomorrow morning.”

“Great first date,” Albus said drily, and I turned around to give him a dirty look.

I left the room, letting the open common room door close, ignoring the scowls of the huddle of year belows behind me. The corridor was welcomingly, refreshingly cool compared to the humid stickiness of the Slytherin common room, and the picturesque early summer sunset of an hour ago was gone, replaced with ugly, violet thunderclouds dominating the sky.

I was annoyed at Mikey for dragging me down to this party and then ditching me the second we arrived, but even more annoyed with myself for getting excited over the night. Mikey was familiar and good-looking, funny and a friend, but he didn’t excite me like James did. I don’t think anyone will ever thrill me the way James did, and it was as exhilarating as it was permanently exhausting. I was surprised by how underwhelmed I was by his behaviour at the party, how quite frankly, I just didn’t find myself caring all that much.

It was a twenty minute walk to the Ravenclaw tower from here if I went through the west wings of the school, but a few minutes shorter if I cut across the Quidditch pitch and entered the school through the changing rooms. I decided to venture outside, get some fresh air, clear my mind a bit.

The air was crisp, if not slightly heavy with a wet humidity. It was warm, almost too warm for a night in the Scottish midlands, despite the recent heat of the incoming summer. I could feel the dewy, springy grass of the Quidditch pitch bounce under my trainers. The Quidditch stadium lights were still on, if not slightly dimmed, and their artificial golden light flooded the stadium, the otherwise perfectly dark night.

I could hear the Graduation Ball from where it was hosted, the fields beyond the Quidditch pitch, left to Hagrid’s hut. Loud jazz music echoed into the empty pitch, and I could make out the sound of laughter and chatter, Freddie Weasley’s roaring voice.

“Wilderson?”

 

“I had spilt wine all down me,” said James, and my eyes travelled down to the unmissable dark red stain on his starch white shirt. “I was going to go change shirt.”

“What about your wand-”

“You’re not meant to bring wands to the Graduation Ball,” he said, and he was right, that was just one of those strange Hogwartsian traditions nobody bothered to question. “You know, I think I can feel the wine on my stomach.” He snorted at himself, and I looked up from his shirt to his face.

We were sitting down on the front seats of the Quidditch stadium, and my bum was completely numb from the coldness of the icy, wooden seat beneath us. I could smell the wine from his shirt on his breath, his lips were stained red.

“How’s graduation?” I asked, after a long moment, a heavy pause.

The silence I punctured had resurfaced. I counted eighteen, nineteen, twenty seconds before James replied. “Good, thanks.”

“Mmm. I’m glad.”

I waited another moment before I made to get up, leave him- not for the first time, perhaps for the last time- before he took my parting hand, and pressed it until I turned around.

“James,” I began, but he stood up, still holding my palm with his fingers.

“Wilderson,” he said, interrupting me. “I hate how I have to be drunk to do this- no, Wilderson, listen to me!”

“What is there to say?” I wanted to know, and I was bitterly upset that he dropped my hand. “You’re with Dahlia Moss now-”

“I broke it off with her,” he said, his voice harsh and raw. The pleasant coolness of his drunken state from earlier was replaced by this bitter rage I had seen many times before. “After our Quidditch match. I left my after party, my party of captaincy to find you-”

“James, I-”

“Why?” he demanded. “Why Lancaster? Did you- I can’t even- just,” he said, breathing heavily, his dark eyes alight with anger. “After everything you’ve said about Dahlia and me- you and Lancaster- I knew it, I knew it-”

“James-”

“At least I told you about going to the ball with Dahlia!” he roared into the empty stadium. “You, you- Jesus Christ! You just fuck me over, you fuck me up over and over again- you’re a fucking bitch, Wilderson-”

“I didn’t ask for you to tell me about Dahlia!” I screamed back, feeling a hoarseness at the back of my throat. My eyes stung with tears. “I didn’t ask for you to leave your finals’ party for me! I’m not a- urgh! You’re graduating tomorrow! What am I meant to do-

The sound of thunder rippled throughout the stadium, an unforgiving clap that broke off my speech, and suddenly rain was falling, falling down in a relentless torrent. 

“I told you,” said James, and his wine-stained shirt was already soaked to his skin, his wild hair stuck to his scalp, beads of water falling off his eyelashes with every move, “I was in love with you, Wilderson. I said it three times that night, and you still ignored me- you still, shit, Albus told me tonight was your first date with Lancaster-”

“You were drunk,” I cried, and I could feel warm tears on my wet, cold face. “How was I meant to know if you were- if it was true or not? You were with Dahlia-

“I was with Dahlia, you’re still with Lancaster-”

“You can’t blame me,” I screamed into the loud, relentless rain, “for trying to get over you, James!”

The sound of thunder clapped again in the sky, and I could feel my skirt, my thin jumper cling to my body. I could feel the night’s mascara and eyeliner pool under my eyes, and my carefully blow-dried hair stick to my scalp, my neck, my shoulders.

He breathed heavily, and looked up to the sky before facing me again.

“I’m graduating tomorrow,” he said. “And I’m spending my graduation ball talking to you.

“James-”

“I’m going to go to the kitchens,” he continued, speaking slowly. “And see if one of the elves can get my stain out. Then I’m going to go back to my graduation ball, and forget all about this conversation-”

“You’re being-”

“I can’t do this anymore,” he said, looking up at me through his eyebrows. “I give up. I’m done. This is the end- don’t speak, Elizabeth, I’m done. I am going to get over you.”

And before I could open my mouth to protest, he turned around, and walked in the direction closer to the kitchens’ entrance. Only when his soaked figure became a small silhouette in the horizon of pouring rain and violet skies did I realise he called me Elizabeth, and it was that revelation that got me biting my lip so hard I could feel the metallic taste of blood, desperately trying not to cry.

 

- Two weeks later -

 

The morning sky was the same shade of glorious azure blue as it had been for the past few days, the sun emitting that same intense brightness, the air always a sticky warm, but not without its almost too cool breeze. It was clear that Americans truly did subscribe to that belief of go hard or go home- even the weather was celebrating in that exciting, slightly obnoxious manner I had admired about the States and its American wizards, since I arrived a week ago.

I could feel the grass and the daisies crunch under the sole of my sandals, and a sudden breeze made me realise my back was already starting to sweat. It was only ten in the morning. 

It was the day before the semi finals Quidditch World Cup begun, a series of eight matches before the ultimate final. My dad, the Sports Editor of the Daily Prophet, had been in this heath in downstate New York for months now, overseeing the entire Quidditch season, forever floo’ing in and out of the London Prophet offices. Aspen and I only joined him a few days ago, a week after we had broken up from school for the summer holidays, and students from Hogwarts- those that had been lucky enough to score tickets- had been trickling in all week.

“We’ve been queuing for ages,” whined Aspen, as we stood in the line for the water taps. My mum refused to buy the bottled water sold- “two sickles for a 500ml bottle? Daylight robbery! Only in America…”- and it seemed like everybody else was thinking the same thing. The queue stretched out past the English camps- decked, completely, in the red and white colours of the flag, in preparation for our match tomorrow- all the way through to the Italian and Australian camps.

“I’m starting to sweat,” I said, squinting through my sunglasses, trying to get an idea of how far until the taps.

“I’m not!” she trilled back. 

“Is there any disadvantage to being born with Veela blood?”

“People don’t see you for your personality,” she said, and I burst out laughing. 

“Jesus-”

“I’m not Jesus, I’m Aspen-”

“Hey- Effy! Aspen!”

The two of us swivelled around, in perfect sync, and I beamed as Declan Ainsley, Liam Finnegan and Teddy Oliver made their way over to us, Liam almost knocking over a hot dog stand. The trio of boys were dressed in the same Muggle attire that everyone our age was in, shorts and tee-shirts, Declan donning a backwards snapback cap with NY engraved on the front.

“Hey!” Aspen said excitedly, as we hugged the boys. “I’ve missed you guys!”

“How lucky,” I said, as Liam put a sticky arm around my shoulders, slipping his sunglasses back on. “You’ve found us just as we’re reaching the front of the queue for the water-”

“Oh, come on,” said Declan, his Scottish accent sounding all the more pronounced in the midst of all these Americans, their voices booming all across the campsite. “Two sickles for a small bottle of water? Talk about a free market!”

“Effy’s mum said the same thing,” nodded Aspen. “We’ve been waiting for, like, forty minutes now?”

“Something ridiculous like that,” I said, nodding with Aspen. “When did you guys get here?”

“Only last night,” said Teddy, and I smiled at the blonde haired, good-looking seeker, Hufflepuff prefect. Aspen and I were discussing only this morning how Teddy was such an obvious choice for the year’s Head Boy. “But we’ve been up since five, you know, jet lag and stuff.”

“Where are you staying?” Aspen asked, as we waddled up further in the queue.

“The English camps,” said Declan, pulling a disgusted face, and Teddy snorted. 

“You’re just bitter that Scotland didn’t get through for the semi finals…”

“The ref was blatantly confounded!” Declan roared, and we all laughed at his indignance.

“Liam, you staying with the Irish?” asked Aspen, and he nodded immediately.

“Oh come on, you know what my dad’s like,” he commented. Liam’s dad, Seamus, was Irish, really Irish, my dad would say, as Irish as Easter 1916, and my mum would hit him over the head with whatever she was holding for such political incorrectness. Liam, like Mikey- and I felt my heart heave at the thought of him, a wave of guilt wash over my body- was a child of a member of the famous Dumbledore’s Army, and I had always been slightly jealous of the two for their family history. How Slytherin-esque, I know. “As if we would stay anywhere else.”

“Yes, well, you’ve certainly done very well this year…”

“Don’t we always?”

It was weird, seeing Liam without Mikey. I hadn’t spoken to Mikey since we left school, and even then that was an awkward good-bye. He was still in London, undergoing a Healer internship, and I was relieved that Liam hadn’t brought him up yet.

“You spoken to Mikey?” asked Liam, and I mentally hit myself for assuming such luck. Of course Liam would bring him up. Liam Finnegan epitomised that boyish bluntness, lack of common sense.

“No, not really,” I said delicately. I had no idea what Mikey had said to Liam since our failure of a first date, and I didn’t even know if Mikey knew about my confrontation with James. I had spent the week in between school and coming to the States in an awkward limbo, not speaking to both Mikey and James- Jesus Christ, even just thinking about him brought a lump to my throat.

Was I in the wrong? I didn’t think so. Why would I have told James about seeing Mikey, when we had broken up- and he was dating Dahlia Moss? How was I to know that the one time I kissed Mikey, he was standing in the shadows, on his way to find me and ask to try again?

Aspen didn’t think so, either. Neither did Oscar, but Jasmine scrunched up her nose and said I could have handled it a bit better.

“You and James have the communicative skills of Romeo and Juliet,” she had said.

She was still in London, as was Oscar, and Ophelia. Apart from those three, most of my friends were either already in the States, or flying in today, to be present for England’s first match against Argentina tomorrow. Aspen and I had run into Louis and Ruddy yesterday, who were staying with Louis’s parents in a tent not far from ours; Poppy Atticus and Eve Feltham, both Muggleborn, were staying together, without parents, which everyone agreed was very cool indeed. And the Potters were arriving for lunch time, according to Al’s letter, with a friend of Lily’s. By coincidence, they were staying in a tent right opposite the Malfoys’, which amused Al and Scorpius just as much as it, he had written, vexed their parents. Oh, the troubles of the middle class, he concluded his letter with.

The five of us moved further up in the queue for water collection, and a German woman behind us started berating the boys for jumping the queue.

“Just one person noticed,” said Declan, confidently. “Whatever.”

But the German woman was loud, and her complaints set off an international collection of condemnation of these young, British boys behaviour- dressed in Muggle clothing as well! The cheek- and the yelling and finger pointing got so loud Teddy forced Declan and Liam to move to the back of the line, Liam protesting loudly.

As the bickering ceased, Aspen turned to me, cupping her hand over her eyes, as she had left her sunglasses in her tent.

“Weird of Liam to ask you about Mikey,” she commented.

“I know,” I said. “I’m just surprised Liam was so friendly towards me, you know? Like, after that Slytherin party- Mikey and I just haven’t been friends.”

“Yeah,” said Aspen, nodding in agreement. We had reached the water pipes, and I pushed the lever as Aspen held our bottles for filling. “I wonder why Liam hasn’t taken Mikey’s side in your argument. He’s done that before when Mikey’s gotten into beef with people-”

“And Mikey’s definitely made me out to be the bad guy in his narrative,” I said, but I shrugged. “At least it’ll be easy to avoid James. I doubt I’ll see him this entire time.”

“Yeah, exactly,” said Aspen, smiling reassuringly. 

 

The whole, entire campsite- spilling over miles of flat, grassy land, caught between the Quidditch stadium itself and nearby woods- was overflowing with excitement for the match tomorrow. England against Argentina, one of the most talked about games since the semi-finals match tables went up weeks ago. For Argentina had a long history of producing quality Quidditch players, winning the Cup eight and twelve years ago; but England’s players, whilst not the best internationally, were wizarding celebrities, especially in America.

“Of course we’re routing for England,” said a man from North Carolina, proudly thumping his chest, adorned with the English flag. Aspen and I had gone on a tour around the various national clusters of tents, each mini-camp saturated in its country’s colours and flag. “Eng-ger-laaaaannd! England and America, we’re brothers. Right, Candice? Brothers. We supported you in the war, and we’ll support you in Quidditch, no doubt!”

“And it doesn’t hurt that your team is led by Fallon Shacklebolt,” said Candice, a pretty blonde woman donning a straw cowboy hat, smiling lazily at us in the early afternoon sun. “Talk about a regulation hottie!”

Aspen giggled. I knew where she was going with this. I had heard these words a dozen times over since we landed a week ago. “Well, you know my sister, Cambrie, dated Shacklebolt when they were teenagers-”

“No way,” said the blonde woman, her jaw dropping open. “She dated Fallon Shacklebolt?”

“Oh yeah-”

“Right,” I said, the smell of beer and frying meat of the American camps starting to get to me. “Well, we best be off, As-”

“Any friend of Fallon Shacklebolt is a friend of ours,” declared the man, his voice booming. “Come find us after our victory against China on Friday- you ain’t ever been to a party like an American party! We’ll show ‘em Communists how it’s done!”

Hell yeah, honey!” cried Candice the blonde. “They may now have more nuclear weaponry than us…”

“But we have our freedom!”

Just as I could sense Aspen’s comment about her older sister, Aspen could sense my upcoming response challenging his belief in his country’s sporting performance- America, like England, just about managed to slip into the semi-final leagues- and she dragged us away, the two blonde haired Americans waving good-bye.

“What lovely girls,” I could hear the woman say. “And their accent! So precious.”

“I don’t know a lot of Americans,” said Aspen, as we walked away from the cluster of tents and small, one-man stalls, the whole patch of land a homage to the country’s red stripes and blue stars, “but- you know, the ones I have met- him and Candice, your dad’s family from Boston, the Californian boys yesterday- they’re all very Gryffindor, aren’t they?”

I laughed, and we linked arms, making our way back to our own tent, which Jack- my brother- and his friends had spent the whole afternoon charming to portray the English flag. They failed; the red and white were as bright and bold as the rest of the tents around us, but instead of St George’s cross they could only manage two horizontal lines. We looked Polish.

 

ENGER-LAAAAAND!”

“ENNG-GEERRR-LUUURRRNND!”

SHACKLE-BOLT! SHACKLE-BOLT!”

“COME ON YOU REEDDDS-”

The sun was just about going down, the sky streaked with a glorious peachy pink, the clouds- there were only a few, on this hot July day- a vivid shade of indigo. The impending night was approaching steadily over the horizon, and the sky was streaked with fireworks emitting every few moments, the most recent one an impressive caricature of Fallon Shacklebolt on his broom, crafted by Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.

The campsite was alive with excitement for the first match, only twenty-four hours away. And it was clear, well within the realm of English wizards, that there would be no sleep granted tonight, unless one was blind, deaf and- well, quite frankly, not an English wizard.

My brother, Jack, a substitute Chaser for a middle-league American team, was partying heavily, he and his friends- the idiots who managed to make our tent look like we came from an Eastern European country, misplaced amongst the midst of English flags- belting out slander against Argentina, standing on each other’s shoulders, clutching beer cans and firewhiskey bottles. At least, my dad admitted, they were staying here, rather than making trouble with the Argentinians. There had been three arrests today, and one near casualty.

“Never thought it was a good idea, this camping business,” said my mum, as he came home to the tent straight from Portkeying out of London, relaying the news. 

“Well, you wouldn’t,” he replied. “You’ve never liked Quidditch.”

But I loved Quidditch, and the night’s excitements only heightened my anticipation for the match tomorrow. I didn’t just love playing Quidditch, I loved watching it, and whilst of course I rooted for England, I was eagerly awaiting the match to watch the Argentinians play live. They truly were a top rate team.

“Rodriguez is no match for our Orion Jordan,” boasted Louis Weasley confidently. Aspen and I had run into him and Ruddy after our tour around the various camps, and were standing, under the dying sky of that summer’s day, just on the outskirts of the celebrations.

“You’re only saying that because Jordan’s a family friend,” I countered, and Ruddy got to it before Louis could. 

“Yeah, doesn’t count, everybody’s a family friend,” he said, and I snorted, taking a swing of my diluted firewhiskey. “Look, Effy, you remember Jordan at Hogwarts. Only time Gryffindor’s won the Cup since- well, last month, I suppose,” he added, with a smug smirk. “Oh, cheer up Effy. Too soon?”

“Too soon,” I muttered, and Louis cackled into the night. 

“Effy!”

I turned around, just as I was about to berate Ruddy (and Louis, since he was there and just as guilty, although Louis is an idiot of major extremes so the idea to knock out Josh Wood in our final was probably Ruddy’s idea), and was almost knocked off my feet by Albus.

“Al!” I cried, hugging him. Unlike his brother- who I do not think about- Albus was more lanky, slightly taller, and I wrapped myself around him tightly. “I missed you!”

“It’s only been two weeks,” said Scorpius, who grinned around at the three other Sixth Years I was standing with. 

“When did you arrive?” Aspen wanted to know. “We were keeping an eye out for you.”

“Only just now,” said Albus, as I let go of him. I really did miss Albus- his dry remarks, his lanky frame, his upper cut accent, his constant whining over Poppy Atticus. I wonder how long it would take to find her, in a tent not too far from where Aspen and I were pitched. “Lily lost her passport, and by the time we arrived at the International Travels wing of the Ministry, our Portkey had left. We had to wait five hours for the next one.”

“To be a Potter with nothing to do at the Ministry,” I remarked. “Must have been awful.

“Fuck off,” he said easily. “Oi, Louis, set us some firewhiskey.”

“Nah, mate, they’re flogging alcohol for Mundungus Fletcher prices ‘round here. Get your own.”

“You’re my cousin,” protested Albus. “My brother in law-”

“Mate! Teddy is not your sibling! We are not brothers in law!” Louis cried, and Ruddy sniggered. It was evident that this was a well-worn argument between Al’s family and Louis’s- I had overheard several similar disagreements over Teddy Lupin between James and Louis’s sister, Dominique.

“Have some of mine,” said Aspen, interrupting Louis. “I’m a lightweight, I can already feel myself getting drunk… Not too much, that bottle’s to last for tomorrow night too…”

“And what if England don’t win?” Scorpius wanted to know.

Ruddy gasped. “Blasphemy!”

“Effy and I’ll go party with the South Americans.”

“Not Effy,” said Scorpius, sniggering at me. “You’re almost as pale as I am-”

“I think you’re both match set, actually-”

“Thanks Louis- no way will you be able to pass as Argentinian. Swedish, maybe, but not from that side of the Equator.”

“Thanks,” I muttered, and Albus threw an arm around my shoulder in pity.

“It’s okay,” he beamed, “I wouldn't be able to pass as Argentinian either. You can come feel sorry for yourself with the rest of my family tomorrow night.”

“You’re talking like we’re not going to win,” said Ruddy, furrowing his eyebrows together.

“Oh,” said Albus, brightly. “We won’t.”

I was desperately trying not to answer the burning question that I was so scared of slipping out, in my mildly drunken state. It fizzed up through my chest, throat, mouth and pressured on my lips; I was dying to ask, but also straining to prevent myself from doing so. It had been two weeks since I had seen James; two weeks since he called me Elizabeth, since he said he was done, he was going to get over me. I had secretly scored magazines and gossip columns alike for news on him, and just the fact that we were within mere miles of each other excited me almost as much as it terrified me.

I crossed my arms as the evening breeze picked up, and I strained my neck to peer behind Albus, as if I would see James, perhaps with Freddie or Alfie. I hated myself for missing him so much, all though I wonder how much of that missing was actually a desire to prove him wrong, that he couldn’t get over me as much as I couldn’t get over him. But, you know, he was a one of a kind, and I was one of a many.

Before our adolescent cluster, the laddish cries of excitement and anticipated victory cultivated in a roaring, wrongly worded in some parts national anthem. 

“We’ve only been here two days, but Louis and I’ve met three Brazilians, two girls from Beauxbatons, a group of girls from Texas- Texas!- and we’ve been invited to several after parties,” Ruddy boasted, counting off the duo’s accomplishments with stubby fingers, whilst Louis nodded passionately.

And I snogged a twenty year old from California,” Louis added. 

“Didn’t you do a bit more than snog, Louis?” Dweedledum asked.

“Yeah, but I like to keep things humble,” Dweedledee replied.

“How’s that Weasley advantage working for you out here, Louis?” Aspen wanted to know.

Louis smirked smugly. “Nobody here knows who us Weasleys are. Potters, however,” he said, pointing to Albus with a shaky, drunken finger, “are a different story.”

“We only got the Brazilians to talk to us because we said we were best mates with Harry Potter’s son,” said Ruddy earnestly. “Mate- you’re fucking flooding in the pussy here.”

“This is where Al cuts in with a sad line about Poppy,” I sniggered, and Albus shoved me.

“Fuck off, Effy! You’re worse than Lily half the time!” he cried. “Is she here, by the way? Eve mentioned- Eve Feltham, that is, not Chang- that they would be here by now-”

“-Hang on,” said Aspen, slowly, facing Ruddy. “You and Louis aren’t best friends with Albus.”

I turned to Albus. “Perhaps being on foreign soil will change things,” I said, rubbing his arm. “There’s something about a familiar face amongst thousands of international strangers, isn’t there?”

“I suppose,” he said glumly.

“Anyway, we’re out of Hogwarts, aren’t we, she can finally see you in a different environment-”

“Are you saying this on my behalf?” Albus interjected, but I could sense an underlying tenderness behind his jokey tone of voice.

“Who else would I be talking about?” I asked, my tone too bright to fool the two Gryffindor idiots to my left, let alone Albus.

“James was pretty cut up after he graduated,” said Albus, raising his eyebrows at me. “He’s been acting rather distracted since we left Hogwarts. Freddie’s been dragging him to party after party-”

“Has he been with other girls?” I asked, quietly.

“Yeah,” Albus said bluntly. “But he’s been acting really rather- well, sober. He’s getting better about it, he’s staying with half with us, half with Freddie, so obviously he’s going to spend the World Cup drinking and partying and… stuff.”

“Mmmm,” I said, knowing full well what stuff was. Not exactly wizard chess tournaments. “Well. I-”

“How are you doing, Effy?”

“I-” he had caught me off guard. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

He raised his eyebrow at me.

“Fine,” I muttered, and he snorted. “Mikey hasn’t spoken to me in weeks, and James manages to weasel himself in my thoughts almost hourly. But you know, he said he’d get over me, and…” I was going to say I was happy for him, but I wasn’t. He could choke on his own penis. “…Well. He’s graduated, what’s there to do?”

“So you’re doing okay?”

“I’d like to think so,” I said, smiling at Al. “I’ll bounce back. I have a knack for doing that.”

“I’ve noticed,” he said drily. “Look, Effy- I- you’re one of my closest mates-”

“Why thank you, Al-”

Effy! Anyway- yeah, you’re my friend and James is my brother. You’ve both clearly got this- well, I don’t know what it is, but this- magnetism, perhaps, that keeps on drawing the two of you together, right? But with him graduating, and you still at Hogwarts- he was really fucking upset when you two spoke on his graduation night, and I know you were too- why don’t you two just-”

“Leave it? Al,” I said, taking a swig from my bottle of half firewhiskey, half orange soda, or whatever they call it in America. “I am- we are- I mean, he clearly despises me, and I’m not his biggest fan either. I wouldn’t want to be within a mile of him-”

“But you will eventually,” said Albus, snorting. “You and James have this weird bond that keeps on pushing the two of you together, despite the odds. Animal magnetism. Something like that.”

“No, Al, I-”

“Just try to avoid one another when in America,” said Albus, nodding. He had clearly given it a lot of thought. “By the time the two of you are back in England, it’ll be much easier to forget each other’s existences.”

I nodded for a moment, and then smiled. “As easy said as done,” I replied, brightly. “Come on, let’s go join in with their singing. I didn’t know the national anthem, but I know this Beatles’ song.”

“God, Effy, hands off the Potter boys! I fancy another girl-”

I elbowed him, and he laughed, leading me into the throng of intoxicated, celebrating Englanders.

 

The next morning, I woke up in the small room of the tent I shared with Aspen, blinking uncomfortably as sunlight filtered through the thin fibres of the tent’s fabrics. The room- compromised of two small beds, and two trunks for our clothes, with various articles of clothing and shoes scattered around the floor- wasn’t very big; our tent, in general, was quite small on the inside compared to some of the other tents I had been inside.

I squinted, and felt Aspen’s foot tickle my neck. She had, I remembered, slept in the same bed as me last night, the two of us too tired to… get into our own beds? Slowly, the events of the night started to re-emerge, as I sat up, my head pounding.

We had stayed out all night, only returning to the tent when we could see flickers of the morning over the horizon, the navy, star-studded night above us slowly turning bluer and bluer. My watch had read 3:52, and now it read 7:35, which was, in my opinion, still too early. At least the match tonight wouldn’t start for another twelve hours.

I was suddenly struck with thirst- I always felt thirsty after drinking, and I drunk a lot last night. Memories came flooding back, as I slipped on a pair of cotton shorts and tied my hair up. Aspen and I had spent the night with Albus and Scorpius, Poppy and Eve Feltham, and a couple of year below students at Hogwarts, like Josh Wood, and Al’s cousin Roxy. Louis and Ruddy came in and out of our group, half wanting to party with the adults, half stuck with us adolescents. A year below boy- Nathaniel Boot, I think he was called- started playing his acoustic guitar, and Albus and Poppy bickered the whole night. It was one of those nights, with nothing above your head but the starry, starry sky, spent in a foreign country, with some friends, some acquaintances, some people you had never met before in your life- that stay with you forever.

And, most of all, I didn’t see James once, not once the entire night.

I stretched, feeling the top of the tent graze my outstretched fingers- had I grown?- and slipped on some plimsolls. I took my water bottle, and started my walk to the water taps. I had spent any money given to me for food or water on alcohol and Quidditch souvenirs.

It was still cool, but it was refreshing, the grass beneath my feet soaking with dew, tickling my ankles. The sky was another perfect blue, but the sunset I had missed still loitered, the occasional cloud a pinkish hue. It was quite relaxing, being the only person awake. There were only a few people by the water taps, the same taps that had dozens of wizards queued up yesterday.

Oh shit. No, really- I should start expecting this. I wasn’t even surprised, just annoyed. Obviously James, the raven-haired, recent graduate himself would be one of those in the queue. Before it was even 8am?

Albus was right. We did have an awful magnetism.

I walked up behind him, taking my place at the back of the queue. Around me, birds were chirping, and various flags fluttered in the morning breeze. I could feel the sun on my shoulders.

It was embarrassing, I reflected, how well I knew his back. I knew every outline of every muscle, that darkened scar that curled just under his ribcage, his broad shoulders. 

“Hello,” said James, without even turning around.

“Hi,” I squeaked.

After a second, he turned around, cupping his hand over his eyebrows against the sun behind me. “For a Ravenclaw, it was pretty stupid of you to walk up behind me and expect me not to notice you.”

“It would have been polite of you to pretend, all the same.”

“No, it’s polite to acknowledge another human being,” he said, flatly. “No matter how much of a simply shit person they are.”

I looked to the left of me, and then back at him. He was still looking at me; not quite scowling, but definitely frowning.

“You’re up early,” I said, off-handedly.

“I’m still jet lagged,” he replied. “What’s your excuse?”

“I-”

He had reached the taps, and turned to the rusting metal, gushing water.

“I don’t care,” he said, as he filled up several water bottles. “How many people would you say are staying with the English cluster?”

“Like- three hundred and fifty, maybe? Perhaps less-”

“No, you seem right,” he said, tightening the lids of his bottles. “Around three hundred and fifty. Amongst all these people, please try your hardest to avoid me.”

“James-”

“I don’t want anything to do with you,” he replied, cutting me off. He wasn’t even cold, or icy in his tone; just factual, like he was reporting the day’s upcoming weather forecast. “I wish you weren’t here, but of course, you are. I wish you weren’t so close with Al- but of course, you are. So grant me my last wish, and don’t speak to me for the rest of the World Cup.”

I watched him walk away, his big, coarse hands clutching his two water bottles. It wasn’t the second time this month he had left me- what a prick- with a big, fat lump in my throat, the impulse to cry- God, he was so horrible, so frustrating- too strong to avoid.

 

 





Wow. Wow. Wow.

A Dobby nomination?!

Words do not do justice to how overwhelmed, how excited, how grateful, how undeserving I feel. So, so surreal. So, so exciting. Thank you to anyone that put forward FA for nominations. You've made the confused, angsty, dramatic fifteen year old inside of me (the same one that started FA as a writing outlet for almost diary-like purposes) so so thrilled, and the slightly older, not so much wiser current me speechless. Thank you! Ahhh! 

And as I said- this is totally two chapters in one. I'm desperate to get FA finished by the time I finish this semester, which is going to mean quicker updates, quicker correspondence and quicker re-writes of earlier chapters. I'm also thinking of a sequel of sorts. FA retold by Poppy's perspective with focus on her and Al's relationship? Retold by James? Five years in the future? Give me ideas, puh-lease!

And, as always (but especially right now)... All my love. xx


Chapter 22: of stars & constellations
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“He said that?” asked Aspen, sounding dumbfounded. I nodded, and her mouth widened even further, her perfect lips parted in a perfect circle. I watched her process my recent interaction with James and observed with only minimal envy her rub sun block over her golden limbs, smooth and slim in the afternoon sunshine. “Oh my god… Oh, I wish Oscar was here!”

“Why do you and Oscar always wish the other one was here whenever I tell one of you about James?” I said, beginning to get annoyed at this recurring theme between my two best friends. 

“Because,” said Aspen, as we sun-bathed beside our tent, “we both agreed to consult with the other before giving you executive advice about James.”

What?!” I cried, shooting up, yanking my sunglasses off my face to stare at Aspen. She rolled her eyes, returned back to lavishing sun lotion upon her already mildly bronzed limbs, and it was the contrast between her gorgeous aureate legs and my milky white twigs that further fuelled my annoyance. “Executive advice? You and Oscar- you’ve been consulting? Behind my back-”

Oh, don’t act like you and Oscar didn’t do the same about Scorpius and me,” she replied, sounding as waspish as Aspen could sound. Which, of course, was not very. “Or me and you over him and Robert Macmillan.”

“Yeah, but Macmillan’s annoying,” I retorted, slipping my sunglasses back on in a sulky defeat, snatching our copy of Witch Weekly USA from Aspen’s side of the towel beneath her and thumbing through it. Robert Macmillan was the Fifth Year Oscar had been seeing for the last few weeks of school, and whilst first impressions can only reveal so much about a person, his “please do not call me Rob, I am not a Muggle plumber” reflected his personality to such perfection I was baffled I was the only one of the group who could see just how ridiculous a being he was.

“He’s delightful."

“He has a shit sense of humour-”

“He just doesn’t find you funny-”

“Point proven?”

Aspen snorted, and readjusted her bikini straps. “Whatever. I love Robert. He adores Oscar, and besides, he is a fantastic croquet player-”

Croquet player-

“Yes, Effy. I told you you’d like croquet club, but you spent all of Sixth Year playing Quidditch and banging on about feminism.” She thought about it, and added with a small snort, “feminism wasn’t the only thing you were banging-”

“Inappropriate,” I hissed, brandishing the magazine at her smirking face. “I just told you about what a prick he was to me this morning.”

“Oh, Effy,” Aspen said, snatching the magazine from my fingers and lying back down on our towel. “He’s still not over you. You wounded his ego, you went on a date with the boy James worried about your entire relationship, and unlike any of his previous girlfriends, he doesn’t see you sobbing in libraries over him.”

I snorted, thinking of Mary O’Sullivan, his only girlfriend of his Fifth Year, the leggy beauty spending weeks in the library, crying up the Restricted section.

“But to say all of that just because of a date?” I demanded. “After we had broken up, may I add-”

“Babe!” cried Aspen, looking up. “I’m with you. It’s him you need to beef it out with.”

“He wants nothing to do with me- I’m over him-”

“You liar-”

“Fine. Whatever. He’s made it perfectly clear he wants nothing to do with me,” I said, firmly. “I’m not going to chase after him, begging him for what, a second chance? I’m not Dahlia Moss-”

“Don’t beg him for a second chance,” said Aspen, earnestly. “Make him beg you for a second chance. Make him jealous-

I thought about it, as Aspen’s excited smile grew and grew. “No.”

“What- why?”

“He’s a dick,” I concluded. “I can’t stand him. He’s graduated, and I’m over him- well, nearly over him. Why would I want to get back together with that-”

Oh Effy,” sighed Aspen, returning back to her magazine. “You make everything so difficult-”

“Girls!” my mum called, interrupting Aspen. She stood by the entrance to our tent, her short brown hair fluttering in the late afternoon breeze. “We’re to leave for the match in an hour. Come inside, have something to eat- God knows I’m not spending half our Gringotts bank on hot dogs and coffee!”

Aspen stood up, and I followed.

“I truly want nothing to do with him,” I told her, as we picked up our magazines and towels. “He’s despicable, isn’t he? You know, I think I hate him. I really do.”

“You really do not.”

I looked at Aspen, and she looked at me, and I shoved her into the tent for being so… Aspen.

 

By the time the match had actually started; not the presentations and celebrations of each country, not the parades to celebrate the game, and not the excited commentary by Lee Jordan on the English and Argentinian players’ profiles, but the actual game; it was dark, and the sky was once again a total inky black, studded with stars.

Great lights illuminated the pitch, as the players kicked off. We had really good seats, at the top so we could see everything that was happening, right with other senior Daily Prophet staff and Ministry workers. We weren’t in a box- this American stadium was all open, nothing exclusive, very American- and from where I stood, I could see the outline of James’ face, where he stood with Freddie, only a few seats to the left of me.

And Shacklebolt passes to Ashley, who passed- Christ! Intercepted by Rodriquez, who passes to Suez, who passes back to Rodriquez- nice pass to Garcia, there and- goal! Ten nil to Argentina, and Ashley has the Quaffle…

“Keep an eye on Corner,” my dad murmured, and whether that was advice to me or an instruction to his deputy editor beside him, I didn’t know.

“Corner!” cried Aspen. “Cecelia’s brother!”

“He a relative of a school friend of yours?” my dad asked, turning around to address Aspen and me.

I removed the omnioculars from my face, and nodded, before pressing them once again to my eyes and returning to the match.

“Oh yes,” chattered Aspen. “Cecelia Corner, she’s a Gryffindor, she’s his brother-”

“And he is our secret weapon,” retorted my dad’s colleague.

“Will,” said my dad, sternly. “Keep it for the Prophet tomorrow-”

“What do you mean?” I asked, taking the omnioculars from my eyes for the second time to face my incredibly secretive dad. “Secret weapon? He’s only twenty one-”

“Just you wait and see,” he replied, smirking a little.

“Oh come on, this isn’t the Department of Mysteries, this is just Quidditch-

“It’s never just Quidditch!” howled my brother Jack and his friends sat behind us.

“Shut up,” I wittily retorted, turning back to the game, as Aspen giggled. 

We were ten-all, for Shacklebolt had just scored, and the cheers of the English around me were deafening, especially coming from my brother and his friends. They were the type of boys- not the brightest, not the kindest, but relatively good-looking and obnoxiously laddish- that the Quidditch World Cup was designed for.

Twenty-ten to Argentina, then Thirty-ten, then Forty-ten until England bounced back again, and the people next to me got so excited they tipped half a can of beer down my leg. My red and white face paint was beginning to rub off from the sweat and the pressure of my omnioculars. It had been a half hour until I noticed the snitch for the first time that match.

“Look,” I said, tapping my dad’s shoulder in the seat below me. “Right over there- by that display of the Argentinian flag opposite us- shit! It moved.”

“Language, Elizabeth,” my mum replied.

Please tell me about this secret weapon business,” I pleaded, and my dad chortled.

“For you to sell to that Witch Weekly reporter over there? No chance.”

“I would never!”

“You wouldn’t want me to ruin the outcome of the game, would you Elizabeth? I- YESSS, Shacklebolt!” For Fallon Shacklebolt had scored again. As I stood up and cheered, I caught a glimpse of James, stood in between Albus and Freddie, clapping his hands aggressively.

He turned towards me, and I turned towards the pitch, pressing my omnioculars to my face with such pressure I involuntarily winced.

Argentina committed a foul ten minutes later, and England scored a penalty. An English beater got into a physic al fight with an Argentinian Chaser, and they were both sent off. The score was one hundred and ten-seventy, to Argentina, until-

And is that Barnaby Corner, England’s youngest Seeker for fifty years- he’s following the snitch, ladies and gentlemen! Holy cricket, I can see it too- right by the English middle post- and Argentina’s Diaz is flying fast behind him, but- but- it’s moved- but- and Corner is flying, flying the fastest we’ve seen this Cup- AND CORNER CATCHES THE SNITCH!”

I screamed, but I didn’t even know if any noise was coming out, the seats around me were electrifying, deafening, a massive sea of elated red and white, screams and cheers and singing and jubilation and everything like that, a surge of white heat, overwhelming noise.

 

Celebrations raged on in the English area of the World Cup campsite. Some people had charmed their tents to replicate the exact moment Corner had caught the snitch, and others just of Shacklebolt and the team as they celebrated on the pitch below their admittedly surprising success. Fireworks were being launched into the sky every half minute, the sound of the shooting sparks just as exciting with every launch, scattering the English tents in red and silver drops of glimmering dust.

“I luuuuurrvveee Eng-er-lurnd,” said Scorpius happily.

We were stood outside a tent of a year above Slytherin- now a graduate, how weird is that, I was still not used to referring to the year above us as graduates, let alone our own year as Seventh Year- who had thrown a celebration party, fill with their year and ours, a few Fifth Years too.

“That’s the spirit,” said Louis enthusiastically, clamping a hand on Scorpius’s shoulder. Albus and I had left the party to get some fresh air, and Scorpius and Louis had joined us only moments later, Louis badgering on and on about American girls. He hadn’t shut up about them for days.

“I misssssss Rose,” Scorpius went on, sounding sad.

“That’s the spirit,” I said, mocking Louis’s voice, and Albus chortled as the boy of imitation himself sent me his middle finger.

“I’m Howler-ing you in my head, Wilderson,” he informed me.

“Ooooo,” I taunted, as Albus continued to laugh, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “Good one, Weasley.”

“Have you seen Poppy?” Albus wanted to know, screaming above the noise, craning his neck at the open tent beside us, squinting his eyes to catch a glimpse of the ginger Hufflepuff among the crowd of partying teenagers. “She’s meant to be here!”

“WHAT?” Louis roared across the circle, cupping his ear with his hand. “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

I turned to Albus. “You’ve spoken to her since last night?”

“No,” he replied, and I was standing close enough beside him to hear what he was saying. Louis, opposite us, had clearly given up, and I watched him watch a group of girls, knowing him well enough after a year of being Herbology partners to know he was hosting an internal debate within his head on whether the blonde hit the 8 criteria on the Louis and Rudy female measuring scale. “Eve Feltham told Teddy Oliver who told Liam who told Scorpius who told me-”

“You,” said Scorpius, thrusting a finger at Albus, “need to get drunk.”

“Good idea, Scor!”

“With what alcohol?” I demanded, sounding harsher than I meant to. But to be fair, I had seen James inside with a girl from Beauxbatons, and I was dying for a shot or two or eleven.

“Rude,” said Scorpius, looking sad again. “Just like-”

“Fuck’s sake, don’t say Rose again,” demanded Louis, turning towards us once more, scrunching up his nose in annoyance. “I have ten cousins, and you choose her?

“Who should he have gone for instead,” I asked. “Dominique?”

“Howler-ing you again, Wilderson,” he shot, his eyes already slowly moving towards the girl group again.

“What a pleasure, Weasley.”

“I think I have some firewhiskey in my tent,” said Albus, snapping out of his Poppy Atticus-trance and coming to his senses. “Do I have my wand- accio Firewhiskey!”

Moments later, a bottle of the stuff- a rather big bottle, for the Potter boys seemed to really subscribe to the mantra of go hard or go home (were they American?)- came flying into his outstretched hand, and he smirked triumphantly at us.

And we smirked triumphantly at him. I thought the age restrictions on buying alcohol in the USA was a joke, conjured up for plot lines of teenage comedy films. My brother was fuming to learn his twenty years of age meant nothing to a supermarket’s alcohol aisle.

“Alcohol?”

Cecelia Corner and Cornelia Boot suddenly appeared, two Gryffindor girls whom Louis thrust arms around at their arrival, and it was like the word firewhiskey had summoned them like some sort of First Year spell. They were dressed up in England Quidditch shirts, high heels and nothing else, beaming eagerly at the glass bottle in Albus’s hand. 

“Go on, Al,” said Cecelia. “I am the sister of Barnaby Corner, after all-”

“Oh fine,” said Albus, removing the lid of the bottle and taking a swig. And then he took another, another, and one more, as the rest of us grew impatient.

“Oh Al,” I said, grabbing the bottle from him, ignoring his protests. I gulped the substance down, forcing myself to ignore the metallic, heated taste of it, counting three gulps before handing the bottle to Louis- deliberately ignoring Scorpius, he was already drunk- and wiping excess firewhiskey away from my face.

We passed the bottle around, like excitable Third Years upon discovering an unlocked drinking cabinet in their parents’ house, each of us getting progressively more and more drunk until the almost full bottle had run out.

“Oops,” I said, shaking the now empty bottle upside down. I had finished it.

“Wilderson!” cried Louis, looking fit to cry.

What, Weasley?”

“You finished it!”

“Yes, well, that’s how limited resources work-”

“It was my go after!” he cried, rugby tackling me to the ground. I tried to push his stomach off my chest, smelling his Lynx aftershave and the general scent of sweat, but to no success. He was a Beater, I was a Seeker. 

Fuck’s sake, Weasley! Get your smelly body off me before I hex you all the way back to the Gryffindor tower-”

“You’re not legal yet, Effy,” said Scorpius, smartly. “Sucks to be born in July.”

Louis looked up at this triumphantly, and repositioned himself, putting his hands either side of my face and sitting on my stomach, his face only inches away from mine.

“If you,” I began slowly. “Are going to do what I think you are going to do… No.”

“Yes,” he said. I could see him trying to store as much saliva in his mouth as possible, and I tried to move my head to limited success.

“No.”

“Well, see ya!” trilled Cecelia and Cornelia, satisfied with their fill of alcohol, slipping back inside the tent. And I didn’t even blame them. Why hang out with cool year above graduates when you could instead chill with a drunken Scorpius, a lovestruck Albus and two clowns escaped from the nearby circus, one holding me pinned to the earthy ground below?

“You look like you’re going to snog me,” I said, trying to distract Louis.

“Take that back.”

“Take what back-”

“The firewhiskey you swallowed that was meant to be mine-”

You want me to vomit it up-”

“Oh my,” drawled a voice above me. “What do we have here.”

I looked up, straining my eyeballs to look behind me. It was Freddie, with James right behind him.

“Can’t keep your hands off the Weasley family, Wilderson?” Freddie taunted, and James sniggered.

“Technically,” I said, even though every vein, every pulse, every organ in my body was screaming for me to not go there- I was already in direct threat of Louis’s spit on my face, how many boys was I going to piss off tonight- “Louis is the only Weasley I’ve had contact with. James is a Potter, not a Weasley. You can’t talk about the Weasley family, I didn’t go for you, I personally find you kind of unattractive-”

“You think you’re really clever, don’t you Wilderson-”

My mouth. Why couldn’t I keep a lid on it? I was drunk, I was exhilarated by the loud music, the loud fireworks and the recent match. I was also, it seemed, suffering from verbal diarrhoea. 

“Well, I am predicted seven Outstandings for next year,” came my witty response.

“Oi!” cried Louis, still on me. “Freddie, fuck off! I’m being a dick to Effy, not you!”

“Louis, get off me-

“I see Poppy,” said Albus, unexpectedly. I craned my neck, and saw him stood next to James. The second I looked up, James looked away. “Come on Effy, get off the ground! Let’s go-”

“Al, don’t tell me to get off the ground, clearly I’m not here for leisure-”

“Yeah, Effy owes me alcohol-”

“You can get more alcohol inside,” said Albus, heaving me up, his hands under my armpits. I stood up, shook the dirt off my back, and shot Louis a dirty look.

“Let’s go,” said Albus, taking me by the arm and thrusting me inside. I took one last glance at James, who was welcoming a group of even more Beauxbaton girls, all tanned and blonde and skinny, descending on James and Freddie like moths to a flame, hugs and cheek kisses and skin on skin.

 

“Fuck’s sake, Atticus!” roared Albus. Oh my God, he was so drunk. I should probably stop it.

“Fuck off, Potter!” she screamed back. No, I don’t think I will stop it. Not quite yet, anyway.

“Just listen to me-”

“Just listen to me! You’re insufferable-”

“You’re conceited-”

“I thought you were meant to fancy me-”

“Well not right now, I don’t!”

“What happened?” asked Scorpius, standing beside me.

“I think Poppy and Albus snogged, but I’m not too sure.”

“They did,” said Eve Chang beside me, who was also following the argument at the side of the tent. “But then he also got with Cecelia Corner, and she doesn’t seem too happy about that.”

“He’s so drunk,” I said, watching him reach for a shot on a floating plate between them, as she stormed off. “He’s going to pass out any second.”

“I doubt it,” said Scorpius.

“Want to bet?”

“Two sickles?”

“You’re on.”

We shook on it, just as Heath Tomlinson, Albus and Scorpius’s Slytherin socialist friend came walking up to us. He was just as good looking as he had been when I met him only months ago at a Ravenclaw after party, the night Jasmine almost got date-raped.

“What just happened?” he wanted to know.

“Heath!” cried Scorpius excitedly, man-hugging the broad-shouldered, dark-haired almost stranger.

“Hey,” he replied, grinning at Scorpius. “And look, it’s Effy the Feminist.”

“Funny. I was just thinking of you as Heath the Socialist.”

“Fighting for social equality does come with it’s fair share of decent nicknames,” he observed, and I laughed. I don’t even know if it was that funny of a joke, but like Albus I was drunk, drunk, wildly excited from the summer heat of the night and intensely exhilarated from the throbbing music, the loud noise around, the darkness of the party and the sensational freedom of being young and free and fluorescent in my adolescence.

“Should go find Al,” said Scorpius, as I opened my mouth to reply to Heath. “He’s probably crying somewhere over Poppy, oh boo hoo gaga gaga.”

“Yeah, Al really does sound exactly like that-”

“Laters,” trilled Scorpius, leaving Heath and I alone.

He was so good-looking. And he was funny, and intelligent, and had all these anecdotes about his Muggleborn youth, his hatred for Quidditch. And when he leaned in to kiss me, his hand cupping my jaw and neck, I leaned in too, feeling his lips on mine-

“Fuck!” I cried, looking down at whatever had crashed into my leg, and my annoyance slipping into shock when I realised it was Al. “Oh my god- Al!”

Albus was flat out on the ground beneath us, and everyone was gasping, the room full of Oh my gods! and Did someone stun him? I crouched by him, feeling for a pulse, and sure enough, found one.

“He probably had too much to drink,” I said, looking up at the half curious, half anxious faces around him. “He should-”

“Thanks,” said a cool, crisp voice. “But I can take over from here.”

I looked up, as the speaking figure crouched down opposite me. It was, obviously, James.

“It’s fine,” I said, through gritted teeth. The crowd around us clearly lost interest, and the music seemed to turn back on again after I concluded it was just Albus being a casual paralytic, nothing to worry about.

“No,” he insisted, matching my tone, as we crouched between people’s bare legs and jeans. I could barely hear him over the noise, and situated in this forest of limbs and shoes it felt like we had fallen into some weird, alternative world, with only the unconscious body of Albus between us. “Wilderson-”

“I thought you weren’t going to call me that anymore?”

“I don’t want to call you full stop-”

“Okay, cool, so you can go now-”

“He’s my brother-”

“I’ve been with him the whole night!”

“Well, now I can take over-”

“Potter,” I said coldly, and he looked momentarily almost startled at the use of his surname. “I know you’d rather be with your French girls and Freddie than tending to Al, so stop being so fucking noble- and go!”

“Well,” he retorted, his voice dripping with annoyance, looking at me icily, “I know you’d rather be snogging Heath Tomlinson, so to quote you- go!”

He said go in a high-pitched voice, which really sounded nothing like me.

“I’ll take Albus to my tent,” I said, taking him by his armpits and attempting to stand up. He was almost too heavy for me, but I pulled through, and James rose with me as I steadied the unconscious Potter son to his feet. “I was going to go anyway, I have a headache-”

“Our tent’s only a small walk away,” James retorted, slinging one of Albus’s arms around his shoulders, and walking away from me with his brother hanging off him, not even looking like he was remotely struggling under the weight.

I ran to catch up, and followed them out of the stuffy, loud tent into the cold, crisp night air. The silence of being outside engulfed the two of us, so contradictory to the noise within the party. The occasional sound of crickets chirping and the dimmed, far off noise of other tent bashes acted as reminders that humanity existed, and will always continue to do so, outside James Sirius Potter. It was a reminder I needed every now and again. “You don’t even want to do this, you’re just here because you think you’re so fucking brave- you’re not brave, you’d so much rather be inside partying-”

“Are you quite done?”

“The best thing is for Al to come back with me,” I snapped, trying unsuccessfully to take one of his arms and putting it around my shoulders, mirroring James, except I was angling Albus towards the direction of my tent. “You know it, I know it, you’re just here to prove a point.”

“No I am not-”

“Yes you are! You’re not even doing this for the best of your brother, you’re doing it to make yourself feel good! How awful is that?” I demanded, pulling Albus north, whilst James pulled him east.

“I am perfectly happy to look after Albus-”

“You’re such an awful liar, it’s embarrassing to watch you,” I said coldly, and shifted Albus closer towards me. “How vile are you, using your own brother’s health to prove a point-”

“Fine!” screamed James, suddenly. “Fine, Elizabeth, we’ll go back to my tent and you can look after him-”

“I don’t want to be alone in your tent any more than I want to be alone with you-”

“Then I’ll take Albus to your tent- where is it?”

I told him it was an eight minute walk away north, and he snorted. “No way can I carry him that far. Fine. We’ll both look after him in my tent. You’re right, you’re clearly better at dealing with stuff like this, but as if I’m going to let you stay alone in my tent-”

Dirty prick. “I didn’t want to be alone at yours in the first place!”

“Do you ever shut up?”

I opened my mouth, and then closed it, choosing instead to glare at him, as we trudged along in silence. The air was cool, damp, and the clouds started to scatter the inky black sky above us. I could make out the black silhouette of trees, the scent of pine tree, around the tents, and the Potters’ tent was positioned beside such a tree. I followed him to his tent, back into this crazy, west atlantic land of pine trees and starry skies, morning dew and the most vivid of pink skies I had ever seen- this place of such difference, such variety, so many different wizards and witches around the world and yet here I was, yet again, with James, I thought- perhaps I was drunk, perhaps I was on this cray adrenaline rush of summer fever- I thought, oh my god, James. James.

“In here,” said James, directing us inside. I followed him to what I assumed to be Al’s room, the tent deadly quiet, almost pitch black.

“Where are your parents?”

“Probably at some celebration party,” he answered. “Take his legs.”

I took Al’s legs as he took his arms, and we lifted him onto the small bed, moonlight filtering in through the small window above him. Poor Al, I thought. He was going to have the worst hangover tomorrow morning.

“He looks okay,” said James. “To be honest, we can both probably just go. I imagine now he’s in bed he can wake up in his own time.”

I took another long look at the second Potter boy, and then turned to James and nodded. “Fine.”

But he didn’t move, and neither did I. We stood there, in the moonlit silence, staring at each other.

“James-”

Why did you kiss Lancaster?” he demanded, suddenly. His voice rang loud in the empty tent, coarse and bitter. “Jesus Christ, Wilderson-”

“I wouldn’t have done it if I knew you were right there!” I cried. He made to open his mouth, but beside us, Albus stirred at our voices, and he took me by the arm and dragged me outside, into his tent living room.

“So you would have what, kept it within the common room?”

“No!” I shouted, as he crossed his arms. “That’s not true! I was upset, he was there, and-”

“The whole relationship, I worried about you and Lancaster, and the second we break up-”

“It was not the second- you dated Dahlia long before Mikey and me! Oh my god, James! Stop it!” I screamed, feeling hot tears spring to my eyes. “You’re being a fucking prick over this-”

“The day after I told you I was- was-”

“Was in love with me? But you’re not, you were drunk-”

“It was still the truth-”

The brutality of the past tense hit me like a slap, and my mouth dropped open. I didn’t say anything. I just nodded, looked up at him, and made to walk out of the tent, back outside, into the night.

“Okay,” I said, walking, faced away from him.

“Wilderson-” I could hear him pace to catch up with me, and I felt his hand on my wrist. “Wilderson!”

What?” I asked, turning around. In retrospect, I think I sounded a lot more hysterical than I thought I did at the time. At the time, I imagined myself to look composed and sound cool, but I think I was really over-estimating my maturity.

“You can’t just leave!”

“I thought you said to never speak to you again-”

“Yeah- but now we are speaking, and you can’t just leave me hanging like that-”

“We discussed this on the Quidditch pitch-”

“That wasn’t really much of a discussion-”

I took back my wrist from his grip, and crossed my arms in defiance. “You think?”

He looked frustrated, and used his now free hand to run a hand through his hair. “Perhaps I didn’t quite give you the opportunity to explain-”

“Absolutely not!” I cried, and he put a finger to his lips and pointed aggressively at Al’s door. I took a deep breath to compose myself, and he used this as an opportunity to talk, but I interrupted him. “You never do! You have the biggest victim complex ever-”

“I do not-

“It was a fucking kiss the week after I have to hear you had asked Dahlia to your graduation prom- call me Mr. Brightside, but-”

“What the fuck do the Killers have to do with this-”

“It was only a kiss!” I protested loudly, and this time, instead of telling me to lower my voice he raised his, drawing in closer to me.

“Clearly not, you went on a date-”

“What was I meant to say? Sorry Mikey, I can’t talk to other boys, I live in a society that encourages the male to ask out his ex-girlfriend days after we break up, but as I’m not a male I have to live in recluse until my virginity grows back-”

“That is so not what I meant-”

“And why am I not yelling at you about Dahlia? Oh my God, you are so full of double standards-”

“I-” he had started yelling his interruption, only inches away from me, but then stopped, closed his lips, and stared at the ground. If I didn’t know him, I would have said he felt uncomfortable.

“Exactly,” I said, crossing my arms across my chest. I suddenly felt cold.

We stood there for a moment, and then I nodded, this time set on walking out of the tent. And I did, slipping out of the flapping fabric door alone, walking under this majestic sky of stars and constellations and you know, it was just starting to get light, you could see how the previously almost jet black sky was slowly turning blue-

“Wilderson!”

I heard the sound of feet jog up to me, but I kept on walking.

Wilderson- Effy!”

The weird sound of my nickname coming from his voice was effective in making me stop, and after a moment I turned around, watching him run to me. In the light of nothing but the moon, the impending sunrise and the embers of the fire beside us, the celebrations of the match over for the night, I could see how messy his hair was, and I found myself yearning to smooth it over.

“I’m-” he paused, and I waited. I waited a bit more, and then I nodded.

“Got it.”

He grabbed my arm, not letting me walk away again.

“Perhaps I was too harsh,” he said, talking slowly. “Perhaps I said things that I shouldn’t have. I don’t think I even ever truly meant them. But- fuck, Wilderson, this is so difficult- I- I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I was wrong and-” he turned away, laughing, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You’re right, I was unfair, and I know this is shit, but you know what, I was jealous, and you were just there, all uncaring and nonchalant-”

“James-”

“No, let me finish- it’s just- fuck, why is this so difficult to say?”

“You’re incredibly out of touch with your feelings.”

“Fuck off- you’re just- you were there, and I was shit, you know?” He paused, thought about, and nodded. “Anyway, you were right, I was wrong. I-”

And just to hear that phrase from the world’s biggest ego, in this strange environment of pink skies and luminescent stars- I don’t know really, I wasn’t usually like this, and perhaps it was the euphoria of hearing those words, or perhaps I was still very drunk- we were again, only inches apart, and I found myself running into his arms, holding his head as I kissed him, and he- a bit surprised at first, but I felt his smile on my lips, kissed me back, cupping my chin and bringing my as close to him as possible.

“I can’t believe you said you were wrong,” I said, grinning into his mouth.

I could feel his hot breath on my face as he laughed. “It wasn’t fun. I don’t think I’m going to do that again.”

“And you are soooooo still into me. You fancy me, James Potter-”

“I have no idea why,” he said, smirking down upon my face, tucking my hair behind my ear.

“It’s because I’m irresistible-

“Try irritable-”

“You’re just moody because now Barnaby Corner is Britain’s most eligible batcher, not you-”

“Well, you really did do wonders for my public image- Witch Weekly’s missed speculating who my secret dark haired lover is-”

“And-” but he, slowly weaving his fingers in my hair, pressed his lips against mine. It was cold, but his arms radiated warmth, and I was kind of overwhelmed by the smell of his laundry, his faint smell of cigarettes, the even fainter smell of strawberries on his lips. Above us, the first signs of the day’s sunrise started to emerge, as the stars and the moon faded to dull.

 


“And that is why,” said Jasmine, swishing her long black hair, held up in a straight ponytail over her shoulder, “Hogwarts is racist.”

There was a pause at the lunch table, until Aspen spoke up. “Because of the ghosts?”

“Exactly,” she said, sipping on her iced tea. “They’re all white.”

“Well, yes,” I said, stabbing my fork at my salad. “That’s kind of the point of ghosts.”

“And don’t even get me started on the cultural appropriation problems!” cried Jasmine, as Oscar nodded in agreement with me. “Visiting my grandma in Trinidad really opened my eyes to all the problems us black sisters face. I swear to god, if I see one more white girl at a party with cornrow’ed hair, I will hit a bitch, you white people literally steal everything-”

“Don’t they just!” Oscar cried in agreement, almost spilling over Aspen’s diet coke in his earnestness. “White people steal everything!”

“Oscar, you are white,” I began, before he cut me off.

“Yes, but as a gay person, I can so relate to Jasmine. I mean, hello? Anal sex? So stolen off the gay community, and god forbid we get any credit for it-”

“I don’t think you can really claim heterosexuals stole anal sex off the homosexuals-”

“Oh trust me, they did, I got an Outstanding in History of Magic-”

“History of Magic, not history of intercourse-”

“Speaking of sex,” said Jasmine, who was of the habit of jumping from conversation to conversation as long as she remained either in charge of the discussion or conversation focal point, “have you and Robert Macmillan had sex yet? Effy and I think you have, but Aspen is adamant in saying you haven’t-”

“A gentleman never kisses and tells,” stated Oscar, and Aspen snorted.

“Oscar, you threatened veritaserum on Effy when she didn’t initially tell us about her and James having sex,” she said, and I laughed at the memory of it. 

“You’ve so had sex,” said Jasmine, looking excited. “Oh my god, I knew it! I even said to Ophelia-”

But we never quite got to know what Jasmine said to Ophelia about Oscar and Robert the Croquet Playing Hufflepuff, as she interrupted herself with a loud shriek, leaving our small table outside a cafe in Diagon Alley and running over to what looked like Albus and Scorpius on the other side of the busy, cobbled road. Jasmine had only flown back to London yesterday, after spending a month in the Caribbean with her grandmother, and I understood her excitement to see people. 

We- Aspen and I- only came back to England a week ago, after said country got knocked out of the Cup in the semi-finals round. My parents had tickets to the finals, and therefore stayed in the States, but I suddenly felt a lack of interest towards the championship after our humiliating 480-120 loss to India. 

But I loved being back in the UK, especially in London. It was considerably cooler than in downstate Virginia, and not as beautifully sunny, but there was a certain, almost unexplainable magnetism to the city, both the wizarding and muggle quarters. It was mildly sunny now, with light clouds scattered over a periwinkle blue sky, but it had rained in the morning, and the cobbled, winding streets of Diagon Alley glistened in the sunlight, as I watched Jasmine excitedly embrace Scorpius and Al.

“Al looks happy for a boy who keeps on getting rejected,” commented Oscar smugly.

I turned to him, knowing that tone of voice all too well. “What do you know?”

“Ask him,” he said, sticking his nose up in the air with a sigh of martyrism. “He is your closest guy friend, after all…”

“Oh shut up. You know you’re my closest guy friend, Oscar, but you’re different to Al-”

“I know,” he said bubbly, and Aspen laughed, as Jasmine dragged the boys over to us. “I just wanted to hear you say it. So I hear she thinks he was the one to leak that article to Witch Weekly- scandalous, I know-”

“Well, it wasn’t,” said Albus, slinging an arm around my wooden chair and sliding down beside me. “I reckon it was Davina Fletcher in her house that submitted that awful piece, I hear she’s fancied me for ages.”

“That’s a horrible thing to say,” said Aspen. 

“Well, it’s true,” said Scorpius.

“But it isn’t very nice.”

“No, it’s not,” Albus agreed, helping himself to one of the sweet potato fries by Jasmine’s plate. “I don’t really care, it’s just petty tabloid gossip- August is a shit month for Witch Weekly, everyone’s on holiday and their Quidditch player girlfriends are all in the ‘states, they’d make a story out of anything.”

“And Eve told me that Poppy was going tomorrow anyway,” said Aspen. “So she can’t be that angry.”

“True,” Albus mused, before standing up again with Scorpius, and saying they really should be off, they had to meet his mum in a few minutes, he’d see us tonight anyway. And he would; Albus was hosting a not-quite-party, not-quite-gathering at his, an assortment of Hogwarts students congregating at his house in West London, as his parents were out for the night. 

You’d think, he had written in his letter to me, that the saviour of our wizarding world and his highly acclaimed wife would be out of the house more often than once or twice a summer holiday, but no, not at all, it’s a wonder James, Lily and I have any sort of social skills whatsoever. 

Who’s going? I replied back. Within seconds, because I clearly did not know the proper teenage etiquette of owl’ing my peers.

You’re so keen, Effy, a reply within five minutes of sending my owl? Hmmm. I’ve invited the usual suspects- you, Scorpius and the Slytherin boys- Heath, Dev etc- some of the girls, I suppose I had to. And likewise with Louis, I couldn’t not invite my cousin, and obviously I had to extend it to Ruddy, they’re practically Siamese. Jasmine, the Gryffindor girls, Ophelia, POPPY ATTICUS, Eve Feltham. And then you Ravenclaws- Aspen Oscar Mikey Declan etc etc. Now I sum it up, practically half the year. Everyone who’s relevant, anyway. Is that mean? I don’t care, I’m still bitter over the World Cup.

As the two boys left, another boy approached the table, asking Aspen if she had any plans for tomorrow night. I watched the scene in front of me with a detached sense of reality, too distracted to fully relate to the real time action occurring right in front of my eyes, my mind a hazy, abstract field  of sudden nostalgia. I was having a real out of body experience, as we basked under the late English summer sun.

“Oi,” said Jasmine, snapping her fingers in my face.

“What,” I said, not quite ready to depart from my daydream. Sometimes, at times when the air is just right, and the weather is particularly pleasant, I find myself slipping into an almost semi-coma, so content with my place in the world that particular moment I felt paradoxically borderline removed.

“He was fit, right? Aspen, you should so go for him,” said Jasmine.

Oscar shook his head. “He’s so skinny. And has that clever boy arrogance about him, I can’t stand that.”

“I quite like clever boy arrogance,” I said after a moment of reflection upon the subject, and watched my three friends burst out in laughter. “What?”

“We were just saying how he’s so much more your type than mine,” Aspen said, munching on her sandwich. I looked at her in confusion, and she inclined her head towards one of the two boys that had approached the table a few minutes ago, walking away from us, towards Weasley Wizard Wheezes opposite. “Dark haired, confident… Speaking of which, is James going tomorrow night?”

“I don’t care-”

“Spare the bullshit, Wilderson,” Oscar ordered. “Admit you’re so excited to see him. You haven’t seen him since the Cup, have you?”

“You saw him in the ‘states?” asked Jasmine, interrupting Aspen’s attempt to speak. “Oh my god. C-uh-lassic. Nobody ever tells me anything-”

“They kissed-”

WHAT?!

“Maybe he’ll be out- doubt he’d want to stay inside for his younger brother’s party-”

“And here I was, banging on about Trinidad-”

“But then again, it is his house-”

“You kissed him! What!”  

I grinned, and then shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him, I haven’t spoken to Mikey, and Al’s successfully dodged all questions I’ve asked at him over James. I don’t want to push the subject-”

“You wouldn’t be able to handle it if he wasn’t interested,” Aspen confirmed, leaning over the table with a smug, all-knowing grin upon her face.

But I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of being right. “Whatever happens, happens,” I said bubbly. “Anyway, he’s graduated, I’m still at Hogwarts, I-”

“It’s all very romantic, darling-”

“Thank you, Oscar.”

“No problem, Effy-kins.”

 

The day had been gloriously sunny, but the evening that followed had welcomed thundery, purple storm clouds, the colour of bruised skin. Aspen had side-apparated me to the end of my road- never to my house, that would disturb the Muggle neighbours- and the second she apparated back it started raining, raining disgustingly, raining so heavily that within seconds I was soaking.

It wasn’t cold- it was actually rather warm- but I was only wearing shorts and a thin knitted sweater, the material sticking to my skin. My hair was flattened to my skull, and pools of water started gathering in my shoes, under my feet.

“Fuck,” I said, out loud in the silent, empty street, with only the heavy patter of the rain for company.

The sound of thunder clapped in the sky above as I hugged my body, running to my house at the other end of the street. I could dimly hear the sound footsteps bounce behind me, as the sound of thunder erupted once again in the violent, violet skies above.

I thought I heard someone call my name, but I didn’t turn around. The only people in the area who would call me would call me Elizabeth, or Lizzie, my primary school nickname; and besides, after a month in the USA, I reminded myself that this was Britain. Nobody was considered worth staying outside in the rain for.

But then, just as I reached my front door, I heard somebody call my name again, and this time- as the sky rumbled for the third time- and I was so overcome with rain I felt like the water had become part of my personality- I recognised the voice.

James?” I cried loudly, turning around, my keys in between my fingers, and my vision was blurred by the water drops cascading down my eyelashes.

James Potter was running towards me, his dark hair plastered to his skull like mine, and his dark grey tee-shirt highlighted every single curve, groove, outline of his chest and torso. He looked slightly different from when I saw him last, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

He stopped when he was only metres away from me, and we stood there, staring at each other.

“Oh my god,” I said, breaking our elongated silence. The rain continued, and lightning flashed after another rumble of thunder.

Finally, he spoke. “I had to talk to you,” he roared over the thunder and rain.

I stared at him.

“Why?”

There was another pause. More rain, more thunder, and the second round of lightning. 

“I miss you.”
 






I know I say this a lot- both in my author notes and also in my replies to reviews- how big a part of my life Fluorescent Adolescent has been over the past three and a half years. I started it aged fifteen, when my writing capability extended to English GCSE and whatever plotline of Skins / Gossip Girl I found most exciting- and here I am, first year into university, hopefully a little bit more sophisticated in my writing, but still kind of confused, very excited, totally still using FA- and in particular, Effy- as a parallel to my life, an quasi-alter ego, semi-diary of sorts to centre the various melodramas and events of the years into a different context.

So yeah, FA means a lot to me. Learning that I had won Best Romance and Most Addicting in the 2017 Dobby's was hugely exciting, hugely overwhelming- I am just totally, totally overwhelmed! I had that same rush of hysteria I hadn't felt since A Level results day (lol) but this was different I suppose- just because FA means SO much to me!

So yeah, sorry for the ultra-long AN. My friends don't know I write HPFF so I'm totally doing all the gushing on here. I just want to thank you guys so, SO SO much for everything: reading FA, for reviewing FA, and for voting for FA. Love you guys ENDLESSLY ♥

Also- totally don't own Mr Brightside by the Killers (Island Label) nor Lynx deodorant. 


Chapter 23: dancing eyes
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“Where are your parents?” James asked, as we walked inside my dark, unlit house. Shadows flitted across the landscape, filling the hallway, the living room, the small library and finally the kitchen in their two dimensional darkness, and the skies outside, an art palette of both dark lavender and darker grey paint swirled messily together, looked even more forbidding from inside.

“They’re still in America,” I said, flicking on a passing lamp switch as I walked down the hallway. He followed me into the kitchen. I filled the kettle as he looked around the place, and I gradually, but surely, growing conscious of our soaking bodies.

“Why don’t you just use your wand for that?” he wanted to know. “Or to ignite your fireplace? Unless your house is wholly powered with Muggle electricity-”

“I don’t turn seventeen until next week.”

“Of course.”

I don’t know why he said of course. I don’t think I ever discussed my birthday with him, only complaints that I couldn’t learn how to apparate until I was in Seventh Year, in a class with the year belows. It then occurred to me how little we knew about each other, really. I became acutely aware of how I had only known James Sirius Potter for the past year of my life, and how he was- had- graduated and this was, likely, the last time I would speak to him.

On a hideously rainy summer evening drinking tea. Classic.

“What kind?” I asked.

“Pardon?”

“What… tea?”

“Er-”

“We have builders’, earl grey, green, green jasmine, green and peach, green and lemon- my mum’s obsessed, ha- camomile, chai-”

“Wilderson,” said James, rising from his position on a stool by the breakfast table and moving to stand by me. It was only when he held my wrists I became aware I was shaking. “You’re soaking.”

“Well- so are you.”

“That wasn’t meant to be an insult,” he said, the corners of his lips lifting, and I smiled weakly. “Why don’t you go dry off-”

“I’m fine,” I said, taking my wrists out of his big, firm hands. I kept my gaze low, and suddenly felt fascinated by the small little veins in my palms, the same colour as the sky outside. My eyes flickered over to James’ hands, avoiding his gaze like a primary school video game.

“Then I’ll take earl grey.”

“Fine.”

“Only a dash of milk, semi-skimmed, half a sugar sugar, tea bag still in-”

James!” I cried, slamming the spoon on the counter. “What are you doing here?”

He was still standing close to me, leaning against the kitchen countertop strewn with tea boxes, but dropped his smirk and looked down at the ground, before looking back up at me.

“Effy,” he said, gently. “I fucked up.”

“Yeah, and we made up,” I said.

“Not really,” he said, and I knew we were both thinking of that night we kissed after the England match. “Look. You have to know- I’ve been thinking about it, thinking about it a lot- and, fuck, I really fucked up.”

“I-”

“Let me,” he said gently, and the thunder boomed outside. “You were completely right about everything. And I- I was right about some things too, Effy.” He frowned slightly, and glanced to my left. “When did I start calling you Effy?”

“I know,” I said. “It sounds weird in your voice.”

He looked down at me, my eyes just reaching his lips, and I became conscious of how wet the two of us were. And I stared at his lips, tinted red with berries, like spring time at Hogwarts, when I thought the world of him.

“We’re not doing this,” I said, pushing myself away from him. 

“Effy-”

“You’re too-” I struggled, thinking of the right words. I sat down on a seat, and watched him pour boiling water from the kettle into two mugs he had taken from the shelf, watched him place the mugs on the table, watched him draw up a chair and sit opposite me.

I watched him, incapable of finishing my sentence.

“I’m sorry, Effy.” he said. “For everything this year.” I looked at his face, completely devoid of his usual arrogance and humour, his usual smirk and dancing eyes. 

“It’s okay, James-”

“It’s just, like-” he paused, and I cut in.

“You’ve graduated, and I still have a year left. We weren’t going to work out-”

“That’s not necessarily true,” he argued. “We weren’t going to work out because of me.

“No, it wasn’t you, it was the circumstances-”

“Plenty of couples work out when someone’s outside Hogwarts- look, Wilderson, I’m the reason-”

“Stop making everything about yourself!” I cried loudly. “You weren’t that bad-”

“Yes I was- I told you I was in love with you and then acted like a prick about you being a virgin-”

“Well I snogged Mikey Lancaster even though I knew it was you standing in the shadows outside my common room that night-”

“Yeah, because you’re you,” he said fairly. “I don’t think I would like you if you didn’t do stuff like that.”

I paused, and his present tense floated the air between us.

“James,” I said. “I appreciate you coming, I just- I don’t think I can do this right now.”

“Wilderson-”

“I told myself that we were over-”

“Before or after we kissed?”

“You said such horrible things to me-”

“I didn’t mean them-”

“You did-”

“Fine. I meant every single word,” he said, standing up. “I still mean every single word. Every argument, every kiss, every time I’ve ever used your name and a swearword in the same breath- Jesus fucking Christ, Effy, I meant it all.”

I stood up too, our mugs of steaming tea left forgotten. “All of it?”

“All of it,” he said, frankly. “And- shit- I’m sorry, I’m sorry for everything I put you through. You were a bitch too, but you didn’t deserve it. But honestly, Wilderson, I don’t think I regret a single second of it.”

He paused, and I tilted my head at the ground, forcing the words out.

“I’m not doing this again,” I said weakly. “You’re too much, James. And you’re just not going to change, I don’t think.”

He nodded in agreement, standing tall, standing soaking, with his head held high.

“Alright then,” he said, slowly. He nodded at me, and I nodded back. “I better be going, then.”

I walked him to the door, just as lightning struck again, and the house was momentarily lit.

“Good bye, Effy,” he said, as he stood by the door. The hallway was dark, darker than the kitchen, and I could see the outline of his body through his soaked tee-shirt. I looked at his arms, remembered how they felt around mine when he used to hold me in them as our bodies lay entwined together on lazy Sunday mornings at Hogwarts. Did they always feature such prominent goosebumps? Did his adam’s apple always bop so low? 

There was a lump at the back of my throat, as I looked up at him. “Bye, James-”

And then suddenly his hand left the door handle and cupped the back of my head, whilst his other hand held my back, and I was kissing his berry-stained lips, entwining my fingers in his hair, still wet from the rain outside.

“You’re so not over me,” he said, and his old tone of arrogance back.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be over you,” I muttered into his mouth.

“Do you still not want this?”

We were both panting, and I tried to scowl at him, but he laughed as a massive, massive smile erupted on my face. “I want this.”

“Say it.”

“Urgh, Say what-”

James Potter- actually, James Sirius Potter- I am not over you-”

I laughed, wrapping my arms around his neck, and I could feel his laughter on my neck as he pulled me closer to him, so close that I couldn’t hear the thunder outside anymore.

 

“Favourite colour?”

“Blue.”

“Oh, come on-

“No, not like Ravenclaw blue- like a summer sky blue, you know? A 5pm summer sky blue.”

“Classic,” James said, drily, absent-mindedly stroking my hair. “Favourite… film?”

“I don’t know, how well do you know Muggle films?”

“Well enough,” he said, sounding slightly offended.

1900 by Bertolucci.”

“I hate that film.”

“You’ve just never heard of it.”

“Honestly, why couldn’t you have said Mean Girls- or fine, maybe She’s the Man- like every single other girl I’ve dated?”

I laughed, and he smiled down at me. The storm had departed, and the early morning sunset of 6am pink skies and violet clouds was arriving through my bedroom window, casting my room in dancing rays of golden pink lighting. 

I had told James that despite everything, I really didn’t know much about him- and likewise him with me- and after initial protests of that’s so not true he admitted defeat after not knowing my middle name.

I lay with my head on his lap, and watched his face as he stared out around my room, the walls slowly soaked in the lavender tinted sun, the smell of dew and fresh flowers drifting in through the windows, left slightly open overnight. The sun turned his naked torso into gold, his faint chest hairs into strands of bronze, and he looked almost ethereal, almost majestic, almost magical.

“I’m done asking you questions,” he said, yawning. “I don’t care, I think I know you very well.”

“Oh really.”

“It’s your turn to ask me,” he said, massaging my temples with his coarse thumbs, looking down at me and smiling gently. “I love talking about myself.”

“Okay then,” I said, sitting up, and he put his arm on me as we watched the rising sun from window together, leaning against my painted wall, cool against my bare body. “How did you lose your virginity?”

“Come on,” he said. “Boys don’t have virginities.”

“You really do not want to get into this conversation with me.”

“Honestly, Wilderson, one day I’m going to sit down with you with a long list of things I apparently don’t want to discuss with you- abortions, sexual liberation of women, contraceptive rights in Ireland- and we are going to discuss every single one of them.

And I smirked, because I knew he would.

“I’m curious now,” I said into his shoulder. “Go on.”

He sighed, squinting slightly as he turned towards me, and I saw his irises dance gold and brown in the sunlight. “Really?”

“Yes!” I cried, laughing slightly. “What was it? A veela seventh year when you were in your fourth? A model when you were on holiday aged fifteen-”

“A thirty two year old woman,” he said, looking at me, and I was struck not for the first time how deeply brown his eyes were. “I was thirteen, and drunk- well, thirteen year old drunk- for the first time at my dad’s Ministry party.” I watched his face, and he frowned, as he turned away from me and stared right into the window. “She took me into her office because I was interested in magical law at the time.”

He stopped talking for a second, and I stroked his shoulder, watching his eyes scrunch up.

“Who was she?”

“No idea. She transferred, apparently, the next month to Spanish offices.” He paused again, and spoke before I could. “Look, it’s just not something I talk about.”

“James,” I said, stroking his hair. “That’s rape.”

“No,” he said- not harshly, but a touch too quick to be described as firm. “It was consensual. I didn’t say no.”

“You were totally underage-”

“Yeah, well-”

“Do your parents know?”

“I think you’re the only one I’ve said this out loud to,” he said, turning from the window to me. “I mentioned it in a game of truth or dare, although by that point Eve was the only one listening.”

I began to open my mouth, but then he spoke before I could. “It’s not a big deal, Wilderson. It’s just something that happened. I’m over it.”

He was right. Not about the story, but about knowing each other more than I initially presumed. I could tell he was lying by the way he spoke showing his teeth, and moreover, I knew why he was lying- I don't think, in retrospect, James himself knew he wasn’t being truthful. I just think, aged only eighteen, James was too scared to contemplate not being over it.

James started talking about magical law internships for next year, and the possibility of application to American internships. I watched his face, glow from pink to orange to gold, as the late summer sun rose opposite us.

 

It had turned into a beautiful morning, and we decided to put James’ driving skills to the test by driving the three hour drive from my house in Kent to the Potter house in Kensington, West London. 

“Easy,” said James, as we sat at the front of my house, our bums perched on the doorstep, my legs stretched out on the pavement. I wondered how long I would have to sit in this position to get a tan. We worked out, over several attempts of making pancakes- first with magic, then the muggle way- that we could use my parents’ car, they left the keys in the top drawer over the stove: there was no potential roadside accident, James proclaimed, that couldn’t be fixed by magic. And I, choking on orange juice in the late summer sun, decided it wasn’t worth the argument.

“Oh yeah?”

“It’s one straight road from Bexley Heath onto the M25, and then from there we hop onto the North Circular-”

“Honestly, James, I’ve been in Mermish orals that’ve made more sense than you do now-”

“Uncultured swine,” he swiped, looking over at me and grinning. He was wearing black wayfarer sunglasses and his clothes from yesterday. “Look- it’s two o’clock now- if we leave as soon as possible, and allow an hour for getting lost-”

“So you admit we will get lost-”

“Pipe down-”

We’re going to end up on the train line that takes the Express up to Hogwarts- maybe we can make a pit stop and visit Danny Alton in Liverpool-”

“Do you have any concept of the geography of Britain?”

“Look, I barely have any concept of the geography of Hogwarts,” I said, twirling my legs over in the harsh summer sun as he laughed. I inhaled, and the air smelt of the lavender bushes planted around our front garden, the smell of summer, the smell of James.

“Perhaps we forgo the North Circular, that’ll take us ages to get up to that part of London- we can make a dash through Brentford, and then cut around Shepherd’s Bush…” James studied the A-Z we found inside the car thoughtfully, and I turned to him, my eyes squinting against the sun.

“I vote we use the muggle gadget my mum uses.”

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I am dogmatic on that.”

“You’re dogmatic on everything.

“I think it just adds to my charm.”

I tried to bite back a grin, and replied we should rock paper scissor it, to which he replied, absolutely not, Wilderson, I heard Lady Grey was secretly tutoring Ravenclaw house in the art of mind reading, and as a Gryffindor, he plays fair- to which I replied, fair? You knocked out our Keeper in our last match- and this, of course, went on for a whole half hour, until he kissed me silent, and I batted him away, and he grumbled defeat: okay, fine Wilderson, you won that one.

And the whole time, I was slowly, but surely- I was sure of this, and even more sure when I remember this day in retrospect- falling for him.

It was everything, whilst being absolutely nothing in particular about him. Perhaps it was the way he gleamed golden in the August sun; perhaps it was his throaty laugh, and the way his bright white teeth shone when he smiled, not smirked. Maybe it was his way of grabbing my wrist when he was excited about something, and his way of apologising for talking over me, but then continuing anyway. I liked that, because he was so keen on hiding his passions from people, and when he really was passionate about something- like magical law, or politics, or medieval wizarding history- his eyes lit up like a child on Christmas morning.

And then just little things- like listening to me go on for hours about silly things, trivial things in the early hours of this morning, entwining his big fingers through mine and rubbing his thumb over my collarbone- or freaking out because he thought he broke the muggle oven and “fuck, fuck, I really wanted your parents to get a good impression of me”- dancing in the 7am morning sunlight, when the sky was still kind of peachy pink, and dew glistened on the grass like fallen stars because the radio was playing his favourite Beatles song- I don’t know, but it wasn’t something, I think it was everything.

It was gone 4pm by the time we managed to get into the car- at this rate, I calculated, we wouldn’t get to London until 7 at earliest.

“Fine,” he said.

“I vote apparation.”

“I vote the car, and we listen to the Beatles. I’m in the mood.”

“I vote absolutely not, you’ve been playing the Beatles all day-”

“They’re the Beatles-”

“The Beatles? Sorry, who? I’ve never heard of them.”

He turned to me- by this point, we had walked to the car, and I slid into the passenger seat as he sat himself down by the wheel- and said, oh Wilderson, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“How about drive?”

“Baby,” he said in an awful John Lennon accent, lowering his sunglasses, “you can drive my car.”

He burst out laughing at my face, and started the engine.

 

By the time we arrived at the Potters’ house in London- after stopping for an early-dinner-late-lunch at a pub, getting lost three times and screaming at each other over appropriate timing for toilet breaks, an argument that concluded with James pissing in an empty water bottle until we had to stop so he could throw it all away, and then I decided it would be funny to change parking space in his absence, leading him to believe I had driven away- but, of course, I couldn’t drive, and I almost crashed my parents’ car I was so useless, which set him into total hysterics- it was just turning seven, and the cornflower blue sky above us was slowly turning a shade darker, a shade purpler, and Shiny Happy People rang in my head as we found a place to park on this Georgian architected street.

“Oh my God,” said James, raising his black sunglasses on top of his head and closing the car door, as we walked towards his house. “Is that Lily?”

I followed his gaze, and noticed Lily Potter, a vivacious fifth year with cascading red hair, holding another Gryffindor girl of her year’s hair back as the latter threw up something that looked green and slimy.

As we approached, I could hear music thumping from inside the house, and a few people milled with cigarettes and joints between their fingers, stood on the stairs leading up to the front door kept ajar. I looked over at James, who had already flocked to be with Lily and her friend.

“You go on in,” he called, putting his arm around the girl. “I’ll meet you inside.”

I smiled, but he had looked down to talk to Lily, who was waving her arms frantically. I didn’t really know any of the four smokers outside; one was a Ravenclaw year above, who, with a pursed lip of reluctance, offered me a smoke, but I had never taken to hash, and besides, I wanted to find Aspen.

“Effy!”

I turned around, and beamed at Albus, running down the staircase, with Scorpius right behind him. I closed the door behind me and hugged him, as Scorpius did his little Scorpius smirk beside me.

“Hey Effy,” said Scorpius, sounding dreamy.

“You’re baked,” I stated, and then burst out laughing. “Does Rose know?”

“No…”

“Rose would kill him,” said Albus, earnestly.

“Ah, yes,” I said, taking the beer bottle out of his hands. “Weed. The famous killer drug.”

Albus snorted. “I’m glad I saw you before you got drunk-”

“I’m glad I saw you before you got drunk-!”

“You’ve only had one swig of beer, Eff-”

“I’m not tipsy, I’m just excited to see you-”

“You saw him yesterday-”

“Thanks, Scor,” said Albus, shooting his blonde best friend a look of annoyance, a look I had seen mirrored to precision on his older brother. “Effy, let’s go.”

I followed him into the garden, where the stars were making dimmed appearances in the lilac sky and fairy lights hung from tree to tree. His garden wasn’t big- he lived right in Kensington, it was really quite small, especially compared to some of the gardens near me out in the country- but it was pretty, and notably quieter than inside. I saw a huddle of Hufflepuff girls talking at the back, and some Slytherin and Gryffindor boys chugging down beers beside us.

“Is it about Poppy?”

“It’s about James.”

I opened my mouth to tell him about- well, everything- but he beat me to it.

“He’s my brother,” said Albus, taking the bottle out of my hands and gulping it down. “And you’re one of my best friends.”

“Yeah, I-”

“He was ridiculously cut up when you two broke up the first time, let alone after his graduation- no! No, I am not blaming you, Eff, I know what he’s like and I also know what you’re like and I know he’s going to fight for another chance with you-”

“-but-”

“But if you two were upset the first time, imagine how upset you’d be the second time, with him out of school and you sitting your NEWTS-”

Is this a thing? That carrying the Potter surname and having a penis entitles one to turn a conversation into a Hamlet monologue?

“To be or not to be,” I said drily, interrupting him.

“Fuck off. Look- you’re at school with Mikey every day, he’s in this big, wizarding community that is obsessed with him- it really can only end badly,” he stated.

“Albus, I-”

“And I’m not sitting through one hour with him bitching about you and the next hour with you bitching about him again- honestly, you two were like the worst divorced parents-”

“Look-”

“It’s just not worth it,” he said. Besides him, the lad crowd of our year burst into cheers, as Ruddy Walcott started thumping the air. “I really, really, don’t want you two to get back together. Stay civil, obviously, but- like- just don’t, Effy.”

He looked at me so earnestly, standing under the light of the golden rose sun in his white tee-shirt, clutching his bottle of artisan beer, a few friendship bracelets clapped upon his wrist.

“Since when did you wear friendship bracelets?” I asked, inspecting the rainbow threads knotted unevenly along his thick, veined wrist. Albus was slightly taller, narrow, leaner than his broad-shouldered brother, but Poppy Atticus would be lying if she said she didn’t noticed his muscular arms, his pronounced veins. I think all girls have a thing for veins on boys.

His sincere face became bashful, and he looked up at the sky to laugh. 

“Scorpius… made it for me… When he was in France last week.”

I burst out laughing, and he chortled at my reaction. 

“But seriously, Eff,” he continued. “Don’t go for James again. Please,” he said, and a note of pleading entered his voice. “For me? I mean- if after this academic year you’re still not over him, then obviously, go for it. But just not this year. It just won’t work, and you’ll both end up as messes.”

I nodded. “I get you,” I said. “Yeah, fine. You make total sense.”

He smiled at me, and pulled me into a hug.

“I was scared you’d think I was being a dick-”

“No, you’re right,” I said, numbly. “It isn’t fair on you-”

“Oi Atticus!” he trilled, looking over my shoulder. I followed his gaze, and saw Poppy Atticus walk into the garden, clearly headed for the huddle of Hufflepuff girls at the back. I took that as an excuse to leave, and ducked under his arm, right into the house.

 

As it happened, I ran right into James himself, who was stood in the kitchen with Louis Weasley, discussing something that made James look amused and Louis look even more indignant than Poppy Atticus when somebody accuses her of harbouring secret feelings for Al.

“Wilderson!” said James, his smirk splitting into an easy beam. Oh my God- I was only a half way through this beer bottle, was I already tipsy? How embarrassing… He was so fit, James Potter. Standing there, in the loud, loud kitchen, wearing a faded grey tee-shirt and black jeans, his brown eyes dancing in the amber setting sun. House music blared from the living room next door, and I could barely hear myself tell him I needed to speak to him privately.

“Okay,” said Louis, nodding earnestly.

We both stared at him. He stared back.

“So we going to find somewhere quieter?” Louis asked.

“Louis, mate,” said James, giving him another amused smirk. “When Effy asked to speak to me privately, she meant without you.”

“Why would she want to speak to you privately?” Louis wanted to know. He really was oblivious to the world beyond himself and Ruddy. “Didn’t you break up-”

James opened his mouth, but I got there before him.

“It’s about… Al’s birthday present…”

“His birthday’s in December-” but thankfully, Louis must have noticed Ruddy and their gang of Gryffindor knuckleheads outside in the garden stood around, oh wow, that must have been the biggest joint I had ever seen in my life, it was almost the size of a First Year.

“Save some for me!” he cried, running outside.

“As if they were going to run out,” I muttered, and James snorted.

“Al’s birthday present?”

“We need to talk,” I said, taking his arm. My fingers slot around his warm, muscular forearm, and I could feel his hairs stand on end under my palm; we walked through the throngs of people, the two of us smiling and saying hi to those who initiated the greetings first, until he suggested the toilet under the stairs. We walked inside, and he sat down on the toilet seat as I locked the door.

“Albus,” I said, leaning against the door and crossing my arms, trying not to notice how enticing his lazy smirk was. “Came up to me and told me how much he didn’t want us to get together. He said that we were inevitably going to crash and burn, and he didn’t think either of us would quite recovery from it. I think he also said something about my NEWT results. Or maybe his.”

“So sensitive, my brother.”

“James,” I said, giving him a withering look- I’ve been told I’m quite good at them, I’ve been practising in the mirror- which only widened his smirk. “He’s one of my best friends. I- I kind of see where he’s coming from.”

He raised his head, crossed his arms, and looked at me, one eyebrow raised. “What?!

“James-”

“Did you just use me for sex, Wilderson?”

“This isn’t funny- okay, that was quite funny- oh my gosh!” I said, distracted. “We have the exact same Jo Malone hand soap!

“The individualism of the British middle class,” he said drily. “Look, Effs, what is this all about-”

“Albus was right,” I said again, this time feeling a slight more sober. “He was right- James, what are we doing? I’m going back to Hogwarts, and you’re not. Our relationship would be restricted to the weekends at most, and- and- oh my god, James, what are we doing?”

“Effy-”

“I like you too much,” I said, my voice speeding up and my heart throbbing, “to do this again. I don’t want to have to feel like I’ve just been shot every time I see your face, hear your voice. I-”

“Effy-”

“I was so cut up this summer, James- I was really, really upset- and Albus is right, when we crash this time round, it’s just going to be so much worse-”

“So what are you saying?” he said, standing up, crossing his arms. “We just call it all off?”

“I don’t know, but-”

He laughed, and pinched his nose, in that way he always did when he was annoyed. “Oh my God.”

“James-”

“I cannot believe this-”

“You know I’m right-”

“Is it Mikey?”

I rolled my eyes and put my hands on my hips. “You know what, with the way you’re acting, you’re lucky it’s not-”

“Oh, I’m lucky-”

“Don’t you see?” I said, impatient with his lack of foresight. James was rash, James was impulsive and spontaneous and never thought to consider the future. “Mikey’s doing a Healer internship with Rose- your cousin, right now- and you still assume he’s the root of our problems. What are you going to be like when I’m at Hogwarts with him and you’re in London?”

He opened his mouth, and then closed it, glaring at me like a five year old.

“Wilderson,” he said, pointing a finger at me. “We are not breaking up just after last night.”

“James-”

“I like you too much,” he said, his voice rising, “too just give up. Surely, Wilderson, it is better to try our hardest than not try at all-”

“And then what? When some magazine publishes a photo of you getting into a cab with a model after some party? When you hear some rumour about me at school? We’d fight-”

“Exactly,” he said, frustration saturating his voice. “We fight, Effy- that’s us. That’s us, that’s us, we’re James and Effy. We fight, we argue, we say things we sometimes mean, sometimes don’t. But we never just- give up, fuck’s sake, Effy- is that what you want?”

“I’m being realistic!” I screamed. “You’re being impossible! I don’t want to end this- I’m crazy about you, and that is exactly why we can’t do this!”

“That is exactly why we do do this!

“Oh my God, James,” I cried. “Can’t you see? At the World Cup, you could barely look at me- imagine how bad it’ll be the next time round. I don’t want to have to feel like I’ve been knifed every time I hear your name mentioned- which is a lot, by the fucking way-”

“It wasn’t easy for me either-”

“I’m not saying that-”

“Oh come on, Wilderson-”

“Look,” I said, screaming over his voice. “Think about it. Think about it! Something will happen, and then another, and then another. You’ve got your Law Enforcement internship, I’ve got my NEWTs.”

“We can-”

“I graduate in a year,” I said, taking advantage of his pensive facial expression. “But come on, James. This is totally unrealistic.”

There was a silence, until he nodded. “Fine.”

“Fine?”

“Fine.”

I frowned at his cool demeanour. “Oh, go on, spit in out.”

He didn’t even take a second. “This is so not fine! Oh my God- Wilderson! We’re James and Effy! We are better than this passivity! We-”

“And it’s not just us,” I injected. “It’s Albus, it’s everyone who gets caught in between. He’s your brother, he’s my best friend.”

I knew that hit a chord. Albus and James must have one of the most complex relationships of all siblings I know, but James was fanatically loyal to his family. Such a Gryffindor. On the contrary, if push came to shove, I think I would push my older brother Jack in front of the Knight Bus for Weird Sister reunion tickets. 

A moment later, he spoke up. “True,” he said, in such a way that I knew in his head he believed he was the one that came up with that point, not me. “True.”

There was another silence, until he nodded again. “Fuck’s sake, Effy. I think you’re right.”

“When am I ever not-”

“You never stop, do you?” he said, looking up at me and smiling, in such a way that the skin around his eyes creased and his features softened. 

“We should go,” I said, suddenly feeling intensely melancholic. I made to turn the door handle, before I felt his hand grasp mine, stopping me from opening the door.

“Come on, Wilderson,” he said, and I could feel his body behind mine. “I think we can do better than that.”

I turned around, and felt his warm arms engulf my body. He smirked down at me, and I looked from the top of his black hair, his twinkling brown eyes, his strawberry stained lips- it felt like years ago when I watched him eat strawberry after strawberry in my kitchen- and I kissed him, like it really was the last time.

“Let’s not break up,” I muttered into his mouth.

I could feel his mouth widen and I knew he was smirking. I drew away from him slightly, still wrapped up in his arms. “Wilderson.”

“Urgh. Potter.

“You know we have to do this.”

“Oh my god, you always do this, you always take an idea of mine and decide it’s your own-”

“From what I recall,” he said sharply, “it was actually my brother who initiated it, and as I share a gene pool with him, I would argue I have a greater claim to the idea of breaking up than you do. Wilderson.

Potter.

We looked at each other like that for a while, and his hand moved to stroke my temple, tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. I looked up at him, watching the movement of his hazel coloured irises, the thickness of his nose, the chapped pinkness of his lips, as if I was trying to commit it all to memory.

“Bye, James,” I said, taking his hand off my face, opening the door and walking into the party unfolding before us.

 

 




What a weird, surreal chapter to write & proofread. Effy's life has always paralled mine but as it's taken four years to get her through Sixth Year (super sorry about that btw- and endless thanks for those who've been patient enough to stick around with me and my AWFUL updating) this chapter, with themes of James' graduation & growing up & moving on into the world channelled more of my current issues and experiences than Effy. Even as the first year of university comes to an end it's as bittersweet as it is lovely looking back at the year and how much I've grown, how much growing I've got yet to do. So that's what I've been playing with in James' character, and it's what you'll be seeing in James for the upcoming chapters!

But what do you guys think? I want to hear everything. End of Jeffy? End of Chapter 1 of Jeffy? Effy going back to school; Mikey's absence? I want to hear it ALL. 

And as always. I don't own the Beatles, nor any song associated with them mentioned; Baby You Can Drive My Car, Imagine, etc. Apple studio records. 


Chapter 24: crisp white shirt
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I hear you’ve been made Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain. Of course, I’ve known it all along. Congratulations, Wilderson. I won’t be rooting for you. James
 
I don’t want your rooting, but thank you! I completely forgot that the graduating Captains get knowledge of who’s replacing them and their rival Captains. And, hey, oh my god- Albus told me about your NEWT results- totally unsurprised. Amazing. Effy
 
Thanks, you’re right, they were unsurprising. (Only half joking). Have a good school year, Wilderson. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. James x

 

It was the first of September, and I was headed to Hogwarts for the last time this morning. I felt both totally under, but also indescribably overwhelmed- a real sense of melancholic sobriety overcame me as I stashed James’ parchment in my jeans pocket and looked up at Aspen.

“Hey,” she said bubbly, sliding into into seat beside me as my dad shut the door behind her, moving her luggage into our open car boot with a flick of his wand. “Thanks again for driving me, Andy and Felicity-”

“Our pleasure,” my mum said warmly, turning around and giving Aspen a bright smile. Jack and I glanced uncertainly at each other; she hasn’t smiled like that to us since she got drunk at our uncle’s second wedding and decided we weren’t such awful children after all.

“I’m still so ecstatic over your captaincy, Effy,” said Aspen, after my dad had started up the engine. “Like, not surprised at all-”

“I am,” said Jack, and Aspen blushed. She got tipsy in Fourth Year at told me how she’s always slightly fancied my dungbomb-brained older brother, who was then a Seventh Year, a total idiot but Captain of the Gryffindor team. “Finnegan should have got it.”

“Oh, fuck off Jack-”

Language, Elizabeth-”

“A family of Quidditch Captains,” said my mum fondly, turning around to smile at the two of us. “You two, your father… Gosh, I feel like such an underachiever…”

As my brother half-heartedly attempted to comfort my mum, who was beginning to get emotional over sending me back to Hogwarts- this time for the last time! Ever! Well… Unless she has to retake the year… Wouldn’t be the worst thing, especially now rent in London is so expensive- Aspen turned to me, her eyes glinting.

“What?” I asked.

“Has James replied?”

Aspen was the only person I had told about my correspondence with James. I was kind of, to be honest, scared to tell other people, as if that would make it more real. And the second it became real, I had to confront the issue.

I missed him desperately. It was a different kind of feeling to when I’ve missed him over the past year, due to break ups or arguments; then it was a missing on a backdrop of piping hot anger and crushing sadness, but this time it felt more like an ache, a kind of numbness. At least when he was still at school I could keep up with him through seeing him in the great hall, the library, the Quidditch pitch, through gossip and giggles in the toilets and corridors.

But this year he just wouldn’t be there, which sounds obvious, but I had only really truly realised it as of his first letter to me. I was going back to the same circus, just without its ring master; no more loud booms of laughter I could hear echo across the great hall, no more smug smirks of acknowledgement when he passed me in between classes, no more frustrated hands running through messy chestnut hair when he was working on an essay in the library, no more Wilderson! Wait up! from behind me in the corridor, and consequent pattering of footsteps as he jogged to catch up with me, tell me about something funny that happened in one of his classes, ask me how my day’s been going.

“He sent me an owl this morning,” I said quietly. “Just saying have a good school year, that kind of stuff.”

“You’re doing the right thing,” Aspen offered.

“You know who I haven’t seen all summer?” my mum said from the front. “Michael. Michael Lancaster. How’s he doing?”

Aspen shot me a look, clearly disappointed that I hadn’t told my mum about our argument. If argument was the right term for whatever Mikey and I were going through, which wasn’t really much but silence and half-hearted smiles at parties over the summer.

“He’s been on that Healer internship,” I said truthfully.

All summer?”

“They’ve been worked to the bone,” I said, quoting Rose Weasley, who was on the internship programme too. I spoke to her at Al’s party the week before, and she did not stop bitching about it for the whole ten minutes, whilst successfully managing to smoke, drink straight up vodka out of the bottle and dance along to the music playing.

The only daughter of Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger was, clearly, an all-rounded and accomplished young woman.

“Mm,” said my mum, frowning. “Well, I suppose you’ll see him today. Tell him I say hi, I really do like that boy-”

“Okay, thanks mum,” I said hurriedly, as Aspen giggled into the cuff of her sleeve.

 

Aspen and I arrived at the platform with only minutes to go, and jumped onto the train as the last of the students were saying bye to their parents and the stewards were putting the last of the luggage in storage.

“Did you hear who got Head Boy?” I asked Aspen, as the two of us walked down the busy corridor between the carriages of the train, overstepping cats and side-stepping clusters of students. As usual, it was the boys on the cusp of adolescence- thirteen and fourteen year olds, still dressed in their muggle attire of jeans and Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren tee-shirts- that started whispering when the second they saw Aspen, nudging each other as their eyes roamed up and down her blonde-haired, tanned physique in all her Veela glory.

“I’m such a good friend,” I said. “It’s been seven years since we first met each other and not once have I resented you for being so gorgeous. Well, not really.”

“Those boys?” she asked, turning to me, a grin on her face. “They’re looking at me just as much as they’re looking at you.”

“Oh, come on-”

“Effy,” said Aspen, her eyebrows raising. “You’re hot.” And before I could open my mouth to argue back, she changed the subject. “Yeah, Teddy Oliver, thank God. So happy he got it. What about Head Girl?”

“It’s weird. I used to care so much, but honestly? This summer it’s just all seemed so irrelevant. Like, Veronica Clearwater could be Head Girl for all I care-”

“Oh, don’t say that! But I totally know what you mean. Oh, look, here’re the boys.”

I followed her into a carriage basked in the morning sun. Mikey, Liam and Albus were sat inside, Mikey and Albus dominating whole benches and Liam lying facedown on the floor, the former two in heated debate.

“Liam?” I asked, prodding him with my two. “Are you sleeping?”

“My body clock is three in the morning,” he mumbled into the carpet, as Aspen giggled in front of me. Albus beamed up at us, moving up to make space for the two of us, as Mikey looked down at Liam below.

I followed Aspen in sitting down by Albus, and immediately felt totally self-conscious opposite Mikey. We really hadn’t spoken since our failed date in the early summer; I had barely congratulated him on his Healer internship. I didn’t know if he knew that I had gotten Quidditch captain; I didn’t even know if he wanted to be on the team this year.

“Hey,” I said, awkwardly.

“Where’s Oscar?” Aspen asked brightly. “He’s never late for these things-”

“He’s somewhere with Ophelia,” Mikey muttered. “I should probably go find him…”

I watched him walk out of the carriage. The door closed, and Liam looked up from the carpet, shot me a look, and returned back to the floor.

“What?!” I demanded.

“You got Captain, didn’t you?”

“Well, yeah…”

“Figures. Should have been Sorted into Gryffindor,” he said, turning over to stare at the ceiling. “That way my competition would have been Ruddy and Louis, two biggest idiots in the year, not you and Mikey.”

“Does Mikey know?”

“Oh yes,” said Albus, smoothly. “You know what I was saying to Scorpius this morning? Oscar must be pissing himself with excitement for this term, the year hasn’t even begun but there’s already major drama between you and Mikey-”

“There is not-

“Tell me about you and Poppy Atticus!” Aspen trilled, excitedly. I shot her a grateful smile at her attempt to change the subject from Mikey and me; a successful attempt, for it set Albus on a major monologue about the girl and her actions at his party last week.

“I’m going to go find Jasmine,” I said, standing up and leaving the carriage. Liam didn’t move, and Albus was already in such heated conversation about his favourite subject he barely looked up at my departure.

I usually loved the journey to school; seeing everyone, moving between carriages to say hi, trying to get a glimpse of the prefects’ meeting at the end of the train and what the stock was like on the trolley. But seeing Mikey’s face flooded me with such a sense of guilt, I could barely acknowledge greetings from Eve Feltham, the Gryffindor girls and Declan Ainsley.

“Mikey,” I called, finally catching a glimpse of his brown hair and broad shoulders amongst the crowds of people. Oh my God, this was ridiculous; owls were flying, rats were running, students were screaming at the tops of their voices and below me, I could feel the train starting to move. The exchange of lacrosse sticks- lacrosse sticks? Is this Hogwarts or Malory Towers?- was conducted above my head, and cheers went up as a Quaffle crashed into a compartment window. “MIKEY!”

He turned around, and I elbowed a boy in a ridiculously obnoxious I HEART KUSH tee-shirt out of my way. Like, we get it, you smoke weed. Were we all as annoying when we were fourteen? “I need to speak to you!”

He waited for me to catch up, and I looked up at him. He’d changed over the holidays, now I was this close to him; his hair was cut short- probably from the internship- and he looked even more  broader-shouldered and muscular than before. “Yeah?”

“Well,” I said, crabbily. “Not here.

“Where?”

There would be no empty carriages, and being out of the corridor was only mandatory after we pulled out of London; we would have to wait for another half hour to get some solitude.

“In here,” I said, pushing open the toilet door. He raised an eyebrow, but followed me in anyway.

“I know this seems… juvenile,” I said, as he flicked the light switch on. He was wearing a navy sweater over a white Oxford shirt- God, he was such a Ravenclaw. “But… Mikey. We really do need to talk.”

He crossed his arms and looked at me. “Oh yeah? About what?”

“Don't be annoying.”

“I’m not.”

“You know what.”

He did that classic Mikey Lancaster sigh- a regular sigh, but through his nose, not mouth- and crossed his arms. “I heard you got Captain.”

“I did, yeah.” There was a pause. “It should have gone to you.”

He nodded in agreement. So many unsaid words, saturating the air between us in this dingy toilet. “I think that’s it, Effy.”

“Mikey-”

He walked passed me, opening the toilet door. “I’ll see you later.”

The door slammed, and I sat there for a bit. I never really understood the term twiddling thumbs until I looked down, realising I was playing some sort of subconscious thumb of war with myself, as I slowly realised the last time I was in a toilet with a boy was at Al’s party; and that boy was, of course, James himself.

 

“Mason, Isabelle.”

The aged, perhaps even atavistic Sorting Hat perched upon my cousin’s pretty blonde head, and I felt mildly anxious for the second time this Sorting; the first time being at the calling of Azalea, Ethan, who was- of course- declared Gryffindor within micro-seconds. 

“Ravenclaw!”

I caught Issy’s eye and gave her a thumbs up as she beamed, clearly relieved, and watched her  run over to the end of the table. My family was never interested in house loyalty- we’re not Weasleys- but Jack and I had a bet going on little cousin Issy. I mouthed that I knew she always had it in her down the table as I thought about what my new five galleons could get on the next Hogsmeade trip.

“I’m so hungry,” Aspen moaned beside me, and she pouted to the boys opposite us as she rubbed her belly, pouting.

“At least you didn’t miss the trolley,” I muttered resentfully, thinking of the Prefects’ Meeting that went over time, a whole half hour of being sat next to Albus and reflecting of my Prefect-less life well lived.

Liam smirked at me from across the table, sat in between Oscar and Mikey. “Sucks to be Quidditch Captain.”

“Do you want laps already, Finnigan?” I said, in my best Danny Alton impression.

“Now, who said I was trying out this year?” he said, a twinkle in his vivid blue eyes. 

“Come on now, Liam.”

“What?” he said, innocently. “Most seventh years- well, retire, I suppose, at this point. Emphasis on NEWTs, all that jazz.” 

“Well,” I said, counting off all the Quidditch players in our year on my hand. “I’m not-”

“-Really.

I rolled my eyes at him, as O’Sullivan, Jack was sorted into Slytherin. “Eve’s still Captain, so her. Ruddy and Louis are still game- ha- as is Scorpius, I believe… Wait! Do you think- because of Head Boy and all- Teddy Oliver is stepping down?”

“See, usually,”  said Aspen, turning her attention from the Sorting and towards us, “I would assume yes. But this is Teddy we’re talking about… He’s probably Captain, Head Boy and already studying for his Healer degree.”

“Did someone say Healer?” Mikey asked, and our cluster of Ravenclaw Seventh Years laughed. I smiled weakly, catching his eye. And- he didn’t quite smile back- but his gaze lingered, lingered for longer that an elongated moment, and he nodded before turning to Liam, murmuring something in his best friend’s neck.

As the Sorting went on, and the grumbles of hunger echoed throughout the older students of the Hall- only ever silenced by the cheers and calls of celebration by Houses that had been Sorted another student (were Ruddy and Louis having a competition with Albus and Scorpius over who could cheer the loudest?)- I looked at the faces around me, illuminated by the golden light of the floating candles. Aspen, Oscar, Liam, Mikey… Even if I didn’t know where, exactly, I stood with Mikey, if we could ever be friends again… I felt myself getting almost choked up at the sudden realisation of how much these four meant to me, how much we had grown since we were the ones being Sorted seven years ago. Aspen spent three minutes on the stool, Oscar barely a second. My Sorting followed the two Weasleys of the year- Rose and Louis- both declared Gryffindor before the Hat could barely touch their thin, wispy, eleven year old hair, both arriving at the table decked in gold and red to thunderous applause. Wilderson, Elizabeth, it is perhaps needless to say, did not garner such inter-year interest. But I joined the end of the table after ten seconds under the hat, where dark little Green, Oscar immediately asked me if my hair was naturally that glossy.

“Are you okay?” Liam asked, leaning over the table and frowning.

“That was us,” I said, and I grinned sheepishly, almost apologetically, at how thick my voice was. “Seven years ago.”

Aspen cooed in acknowledgement of my sudden sap- this was her territory, not mine, and the others knew it- but Oscar threw his arm around me, and as Liam shook his head in disappointment- Quidditch players aren’t meant to have emotions, Effy, he said, the corners of his mouth twitching- Mikey gazed at me again, for the second time that night.
 

It’s been fine so far, I suppose. Louis and Ruddy got banned from the feast back on grounds of the two setting off a series of Wizard Wheezes dungbombs on the Hogwarts Express, and then there was quite the show when it was revealed the two were innocent, it was actually a cluster of Fourth Years. Ruddy accused the professors of racism, Louis of sexism… then, of course, the duo started beefing up Longbottom for neither of them getting Quidditch Captain, apparently its gone to some Fifth Year instead, which was pretty stupid as Longbottom was the only Professor who didn’t accuse them of the dungbombs in the first place. This was all happening outside the Grand Hall, by the way. Oscar is, two hours later, still besides himself with the dramatics of it all.

But yeah, you’re totally right. Seventh Year is overwhelming, and we’re only a few hours in. Anyway- what about you?! You start your internship tomorrow, don’t you?! How are you feeling about it? Tell me all. Effy x
 

“Did you mention Mikey?” Aspen asked, as we walked from the Owlery to the common room. I wanted to reply to James- who owl’ed me right after dinner, his beautiful white owl waiting outside the common room windows for me, much to the delight of some Second Year girls- the second I read his message, and Aspen was more than happy to accompany me to the Owlery. Seventh Year came with many new privileges, such as the lifting of curfew, and we had bumped into several clusters of people in our year on our journey up.

“I didn’t, no.”

“Probably for the best.”

As we walked into the common room- I say as we walked in, but we didn’t, Aspen and I spent five minutes trying to solve the entry riddle- Oscar beckoned us over, sitting with Declan Ainsley, a boy who, despite his status as being the tallest person in Hogwarts after Hagrid, still insists on growing. Declan was close, very close, with Mikey and Liam, and I felt queasy yet again thinking of the former. I scanned the room as Aspen and I walked over to Oscar and Declan, yet Mikey was nowhere to be found.

“Oi,” I said, turning around at the pain of a sudden pinch to my back.

“Hello Effy,” chirped Indigo Coates, beaming behind me. I smiled, feeling the wariness etched onto my mouth. When did I turn into Danny? I tried to smile a bit nicer, but I think I went into overkill; Indigo took a step back and looked concerned.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, thanks… Hey Indigo. How was your summer?”

“Great, thank you,” he enthused. “Lara told me about you being Captain. Well done! I would have voted for Mikey, if there was anything democratic about this school.”

“Thanks, Indigo- how did you hear?” I deliberately didn’t wear my badge today, in fear of provoking Mikey. I was desperate to source him out, and my eyes scanned the room behind Josh once more. I decided it was absolutely necessary to see his face, his grand nose, his large mouth; for Mikey always had such big, boyish features; hear him laugh, call me Elizabeth in his attempt to impersonate Flitwick. 

“Lara said Lily Potter told her,” he replied. And then he nodded earnestly, excitedly, comically, to highlight exactly how he thought Lily found out.

Not-Captain Effy would have shoved Indigo and apologised profusely, but not sincerely, after pushing so hard he fell on the cold wooden floor beneath us; but Captain Effy wasn’t allowed to do that, especially in a common room of Ravenclaws I was supposed to represent. I was briefed about Captain Do’s and Don’ts by Teddy Oliver and Veronica Clearwater in the prefect meeting today, spending the whole hour playing charades with Scorpius, much to Veronica’s chagrin. 

“Hm. Cool,” I replied.

“When are try outs?”

“Good question, Coates. I’ll let you know. Listen- have you seen Mikey anywhere?”

I didn’t expect an answer- a fart, perhaps, not an answer- but Indigo Coates demonstrated, right there in the Ravenclaw Common Room, wearing a shirt that was already stained with ketchup, that help really will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it. 

“He said he was going to the kitchens,” he chirped.

“Was Liam with him?”

He gave me a well, duh look, and I snorted in spite of myself.

“Less of the ‘tude, Coates.”

“Wait,” he said, shaking his head vehemently as I made to leave him, cross the room. “I actually needed to speak to you.”

“Awh,” I said, smiling. “Girl problems, Indigo?”

“As if! No, actually, I was told to give this to you.” And from his robe pockets- also marked by the signs of a very messy, if not very much enjoyed dinner- Indigo drew a pristine white envelope, with emerald ink that glittered in the soft amber lighting of the candles dotted around the room.

“Thanks,” I murmured, turning the envelope over in my fingers. It was sealed with the striking seal of Slughorn’s club emblem; a slug, similarly metallic in colour, with a crown perched on its head. It was meant to be ironic, slightly funny, but it was too perfectly reflective of Slughorn as a man to laugh at.

I had never been invited to the Slug Club before. Aspen had gone once or twice as someone’s date throughout the years, and I knew that Albus, of course, was a regular attendee. Mikey, too, was a member. I took Mikey’s zest for academia and Quidditch talent for granted, but of course, he was the pin up boy for the Slug Club, wasn’t he? Handsome, gifted both academically and on the pitch, a major suck up to the Professors, if I’m to be honest… Of course he would be going to whatever was inside this envelope.

I didn’t notice Indigo leave me; I even forgot about pursuing Mikey. I slumped down on the arm of an armchair Aspen was sat in, merrily talking to Oscar and Declan Ainsley, half-heartedly replying to her cheery welcome. 


Dearest Miss Wilderson,

It is with great pleasure I request your presence at my welcome back party this upcoming Friday. 

Dress code is evening elegant. Canapés and champagne will be served from seven until eleven.

Sincerely yours, 

H. E. F. Slughorn


“Shut the fuck up,” said Oscar, as I passed the letter around. “No way did you get invited to a Slug Club party!”

“It looks like I did,” I said, crossing my arms and snorting at his indignance. Oscar had been desperate to go to one since Second Year, when he overheard two year above girls estimate they must be the most exclusive parties in wizarding society.

How?!”

“She’s Quidditch Captain,” said Declan, counting with his fingers. “Her father’s a Prophet editor, even if it is just the Sports pages. And, of course, everyone knows how besotted Potter was with her last year.”

“He did try and get James to introduce me last year,” I recalled, letting my legs swing against the navy velvet of the armchair. 

But James detested the Slug Club. Slughorn, himself, James liked enough; he was always good at Potions, got an Exceeded Expectations in its NEWT, and spoke favourably about the walrus-like Professor when brought up in conversation. But the Slug Club was a different story.

“It’s wrong,” James had said, shaking his head as he received the second invitation of the month, this time by owl. I remember this conversation like it was yesterday. We had skipped lunch, sat outside the tower on a sunny May afternoon, his left hand lazily playing with the hair by my temples as I lounged in his arms, feeling the early summer sun warm my bare legs, the green grass underneath tickle them slightly. “It’s exclusive, it’s archaic. I’m not naive-“ and he spat the word out like it was a particularly bad insult, which made me wonder if it had been used in such a way towards him “-I know this kind of stuff is inevitable in the outside, but for God’s sake… Why bring it into Hogwarts? It’s not even like its based on merit, or hard work, or a justifiable trait… He’s invited only those lucky enough to be born with a surname or born with a particularly attractive talent.”

I agreed with James at the time, and as I repeated his sentiment to the small circle, I realised how much I still did. But I also silently acknowledged that my curiousity would inevitably lead me to his office this coming Friday, I knew that for a fact.

“And yet you’re still going to go,” drawled Oscar, dramatically. “Well. At least we can have fun dressing you up. Oh, Effy- I know you! You’re so going, you champagne socialist. I know you, dummy.”

That night, as Aspen and I brushed our teeth, she faced me, her mouth still slightly white at the edges from toothpaste and a hasty rinse.

“What?” I asked, my mouth full.

“I know you too,” said Aspen, smirking innocently as she mimicked Oscar. “And I know you know Mikey’ll be going too.”

“Hadn’t even occurred to me- oi!”

She laughed as I looked at her in mock horror, my bed tee-shirt slightly wet from the water she had decided to throw at me in my weak attempt at a defence, and laughed even harder when my attempt to get her back ended up on the mirror besides us.

 

“No.”

“Oh yes,” said Ruddy Walcott, smirking triumphantly at Poppy Atticus, who had just walked into the greenhouse. “The famous four are back, baby, and better than ever!”

Poppy sent a terrified look in my direction, stood around a table in Greenhouse 4 beside Louis Weasley, and I gazed back at her, having been there for five minutes already, my defeat evident. 

“But… how?”

“Don’t question it,” Louis chirped. “Just accept it, Atticus. You’ve got yourself another whoooole academic year of Louddy.”

This time, it was my turn to stare at the duo in astonishment. “You’ve given yourselves a couple name?”

“It’ll catch on,” said Ruddy, confidently. “You know, Atticus, I am really not appreciating your lack of excitement.”

“I was so set on getting an Exceeds in this subject,” she muttered mournfully, reluctantly taking up a stance by Ruddy, opposite me. Her trademark strawberry blonde hair glimmered in the morning sun seeping through the greenhouse’s glass, and I noticed she was darker than usual, an exotic tan making her hair appear even more vibrant.

“Who needs an Exceeds when you’ve got top quality banter?” Louis wanted to know. 

“But seriously,” said Ruddy, his voice lowering. “Atticus, Wilderson… don’t question it… No way has Longbottom let the four of us share a table deliberately.”

“You mean let the two of you share a table deliberately.”

“Not necessarily,” Louis said brightly. “As I recall, it was Atticus who blew up the bowl of unicorn infusion last term.” And Poppy blushed at the memory of it. All you had to do was gently fucking warm it! I had howled, only slightly aware of the whole class turning towards us in amusement. 

Jesus Christ, Atticus, Ruddy had said. I don’t know whether to be annoyed or impressed.

“Why do you want to be with us so much anyway?” Atticus insisted, as Longbottom entered the room. “I assumed you’d prefer to be with the Gryffindor girls.”

Ruddy looked visibly upset, and my heart melted ever so slightly. Ruddy Walcott was notorious for Quidditch fouls, hardcore partying and the claimed sole owner of an eight-pack in the year, but I was forever an advocate for the softy hidden within. Well within.

“You’re our friends,” he said, glumly.

“I think the real question here is,” began Louis, whispering as Longbottom addressed the class from the front. “What on earth is going on between you and my cousin?”

My eyes widened in panic, before I realised he was addressing Poppy about Albus, not me about James. I stared at my potions partner with fresh persepective; had we both snogged the same brothers that night? Flashing visions of Poppy walking down the aisle with me by her side, a sister in law, standing beside her suddenly appeared, and they vanished as quickly as they came. I wasn’t dating James. I wasn’t going to marry James. And as if Poppy and Albus could continue this charade for another year, let alone into marriage.

“Nothing,” she hissed, and Ruddy’s melancholic face shifted to one of intense interest.

“I saw you two snog at his party last week…”

“That was nothing…”

“Hey, Poppy,” I said, keeping my voice down, trying my hardest to reign in any excitement that could seep in and give me away, for I had had the best idea. God, I was good at thinking of other people. This was a great feeling; no wonder others loved it so much. “Want to come to this Slug Club party with me?”

She turned from facing Longbottom, and looked at me, clearly surprised. “Are you sure?”

“Deadly.”

“Oh…” she said, an expression of incredulity still upon her face, but she started to smile. Al was right; when Poppy Atticus smiled, she truly was beautiful. “Oh! Effy, that’ll be so cool. You sure?”

“Since when have you been going to the Slug Club?” Louis wanted to know.

“Since yesterday.”

“Louis and I got kicked out Fifth Year,” Ruddy contributed. “Haven’t been invited back since.”

“Now there’s a surprise.”

 

 Wotcher Wilderson,

Will Louis and Ruddy ever grow up? The best thing about graduating Hogwarts has got to be not being responsible for the duo over Quidditch. AND Louis had the nerve to send me a Howler over not making him nor Ruddy Quidditch Captain! At least one could never accuse them of being inconsistent; they’re probably the most stable thing in my life right now. That could be interpreted as morbid sounding, but I mean it in a funny way. Truly. I am genuinely thrilled by all this change. Freddie’s still holidaying in Bali- doing what exactly, I have no clue, he only realised it wasn’t a city in Brazil a few months ago- and Alfie’s elbow deep in Healer school, so despite sharing an apartment with the latter and being family with the former, I’ve barely seen either of them. And I suppose it shouldn’t be as great as it is, but truly Wilderson, it’s rather liberating, and I think I’m only feeling this positive because of this Law Enforcement training. I love this law internship. It feels like- God, this sounds so cliche as I write it- it feels like I’ve found exactly what I want to commit my life to. How cliche! When did I become so old? I fucking hate myself.

But it’s fascinating. It’s insane. There’s ten of us on the course, five of the others aren’t even British but American, so they have no idea what a Potter is, how to even pronounce Weasley, and my partner- Katie, one of the Americans, really cool- and I have been assigned a murder case of a suspected neo-Death Eater. This stuff is so, so insane. And these people are great, the coolest.

But- what about you? Yeah, Seventh Year’s intense, but it’s crazy fun. I’m jealous you get to go through it for a whole year. Let me know how Quidditch try outs go. And more importantly, what you think of the prefects’ bathroom. I regret never taking you inside

James x

 

“Effy,” said Aspen, startled. I heard her drop something- probably her bag- and looked up at her alarmed face as she rushed over to my bed. “What’s wrong?”

For I was crying, and I truly never cry. I just couldn’t help it; fat, hot tears suddenly overwhelmed my eyes, and spilled over, spilled all down my face, trickled down my cheeks in tiny little rivers, they were so dense. I could feel the heat of them, feel my cheeks flush, and feel a heaviness in my head that only grew in weight as the tears kept on coming.

“Oh babe,” she said, bringing my head to her shoulder, stroking my hair with both hands. I could feel my wet tears dampen her school shirt, and I let out an almost animalistic whine into the fabric, felt the sound ripple into the skin below the cotton. “Oh babe.”

“Aspen…” As one of her hands left my hair, I heard the sound of parchment being picked up beside me. I listened to her read James’ letter, knowing the near impossibility of making out his handwriting without being used to it, knowing the words she would especially struggle to interpret I had read the letter so intensely, so often.

A long minute passed, and she moved my face from her shoulder, cupping my cheeks as she looked at me comfortingly. “It’s a nice letter, Eff.”

“He’s… Oh, Aspen,” I said, sighing, my throat still thick and my head still heavy but at least the tears had started to subside- “He’s over me.”

“Eff-”

“No, he is,” I said, and tears came rushing to my eyes again. “Oh god- I cannot believe I’m crying…”

“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t at some point.”

“He’s… he’s moved on. And- and- and I’m happy for him, I truly am.”

“I know, babe.”

“But…” And I realised this was exactly what was wrong. “But he’s an adult. He’s got an internship he’s crazy about, he’s got this Katie girl, he’s got a whole future ahead of him. He’s got Alfie, he’s got Freddie coming back in a month, but he doesn’t even miss them… And- and- you know- he probably- I know he doesn’t miss me either-”

“Why do you think that?”

“He’s moved on,” I said, looking up at her, my vision blurred with the wetness. “He has, As! And I’m still stuck in this castle, still wearing uniform, still getting detentions.. And he’s got a career, new friends, a new apartment…”

“Did you read this line he crossed out at the end?”

“I regret never taking you inside,” I repeated, the words etched permanently into my memory. “That’s.. it’s just so James. I miss him ridiculous amounts.”

“Oh, Eff.”

“I do. I can’t help it. I miss him, I miss everything about him,” I said, speaking too fast to be even slightly coherent, but Aspen nodded along in support regardless. “I miss his easy, lopsided grin- not his smirk, but his smile- I miss his ramblings, the way he could talk for a whole half hour, get so lost in a subject he was passionate about his eyes would glaze over… I miss his hand actions, his messy hair, the way he would ruffle it at the back whenever he was nervous… I miss his smell. Cigarettes and strawberries and clean laundry…”

Aspen rubbed my back, and I exhaled, my lightheadedness starting to overwhelm me. “I’m exhausted.”

“We have History of Magic next,” she said softly. I had excused myself from the breakfast table to read the letter in private, I was glad I did, but her words shocked me; I completely forgot lessons in general existed, I was so caught up in this letter. “But I can write your notes for you.”

I looked at her kind face, and mulled the proposal over.

“No,” I said, slowly. “No… Thanks, Aspen, but no. I’m coming down.”

“Are you sure? I-”

“Totally,” I said, getting up and grabbing my wand on my way to the mirror. I performed a few beauty spells on my red, blotchy face, and only turned back to Aspen when satisfied with my appearance. 

Outside, the sky was a perfect, vivid, late summer blue, scattered with only the fewest of clouds. I had been asked four times about Quidditch try outs, and we were only two full days in. I had an appointment with Flitwick over career prospects this afternoon, and then a whole year assembly with Sinatra in the evening. I had a Quidditch Captain meeting the next day. And then I also had a Slug Club party, a final attempt to set up Albus and Poppy, and a not-so final attempt to befriend Mikey. I was busy, I was engaged, I was fine.

“Do you want me to help you write a reply?” Aspen asked, as we left the common room, and made our way down to the History of Magic ward.

“No, thanks,” I said, beaming at my best friend.

“You are going to reply, right… Effy?”

“Oh, for sure,” I said, brightly. 

I was so not going to reply. 

 

I told myself after reading James’ letter that I would submerge myself in activity, put myself in the position of being constantly busy, and I did, I really did. I threw myself into work, doing essays the day they were set, rather than the day they were due; I let dinners go on for as long as they could, often spending the night lazily discussing politics with Al and Scorpius over finished dessert plates, long after everyone else staggered up to bed; I made an effort to be friendly to the First Years, I wrote to my parents, and I scheduled Quidditch try outs for the Saturday morning, right after a meeting chaired by Madame Hooch for the Captains of this year.

I walked into her office- I didn’t even know she had an office, but she did, along the same corridor as Filch’s room- and there sat Eve Feltham, a lanky, green-eyed Fifth Year boy I recognised to one of Gryffindor’s Chasers and Chad Riley, the very chiselled, very handsome Slytherin Keeper in the year below me.

“Sorry I’m late,” I said, and Hooch dismissed my apology with a brisk wave of her hand.

“Right,” she said. “Let’s get started, then, shall we?”

It transpired that Scorpius spoke with his parents and decided, since he wasn’t to pursue a Quidditch career- and I had never met Draco Malfoy, only heard of him through Scorpius, Aspen and Al’s accounts, but I couldn’t imagine the esteemed Minister of Finance condone his only son being a sportsman- it would make more sense to not continue being Captain for Seventh Year, use the time to focus on his studies.

“Is he still playing?” I wanted to know. Scorpius was his House’s Seeker, and a very good one.

“Yes,” said Chad, answering before Hooch could. “Thank god. Seekers are the hardest to replace, I’ve heard.”

Madame Hooch, humourless as always, barked at us for getting off topic, her gaze lingering on my face longer than the other three. I suspected she still didn’t forgive me for not having a substitute Keeper and technically ruining the much anticipated Quidditch Finals after Josh Wood was injured.

“Nine am?” cried the boy of said injury himself, watching me flick my wand as I raised the poster announcing tryouts to a place right in the centre of the Common Room noticeboard. “That’s… that’s…”

“So early!” said Indigo Coates, running up and joining Josh Wood behind me. 

I turned around to face the two once I was satisfied with the notice’s positioning.

“Sorry,” I said, sheepishly. “But the Hufflepuffs got the after lunch booking, and I didn’t want to wait until Sunday. I want to get straight into practise. We only have Danny to replace.”

“Are Liam and Mikey still playing, then?” Josh asked. 

Indigo answered before I could. “Liam said he probably will.” I smirked. Liam threatened to not bother, he was so annoyed at not being made Captain, but I knew he wouldn’t keep to his word. He loved the game too much; and besides, he knew I would need him for advice on strategy.

“What about Mikey?” 

My smirk dropped. I had no idea if Mikey would turn up to practises or not. I hadn’t spoken to Mikey since the Hogwarts Express, and it had been a solid five days since then. I didn’t even know if I would be able to speak to him at the Slug Club tonight.

For it was Friday, the day of the Slug Club party, and Albus loved my idea, he was so elated by it he picked up and hugged me, right in the middle of the forever busy Charms corridor. Sometimes, when the guilt of not replying to James started to seep in- in the moments I couldn’t be busy, and I had to think about how gutted I still was- I reminded myself of this favour I was doing Albus.

“It’s great,” he enthused. “If Poppy goes as your partner, she’ll have to spend time with me- there are only, like, ten members in our year anyway- and she’ll see me in a tux! My cousin Dom said girls are weak for a guy in a tux.”

I smiled. “Very, very true.”

You know who looks great in a tux? James looks great in a tux. Your dirtiest, most intimate thoughts feature him in a tux.

“Thanks, Eff,” he said, rubbing my forearm in gratitude, a big smile on his face. “You’re the best.”

“Totally, totally fine, Al.”

“And hey- how’re you doing? With James?”

His face went from gleeful to concerned within a second, and I felt guilt rise up in my throat.

“Um… Good, I suppose…”

He tilted his head at me, and smiled sympathetically. Students rushed past us, and I remembered I couldn’t be late for Defence, that would make it the second lesson in a row.

“I’m sorry, Eff,” he said, gently. “I… I wonder if I was, perhaps, wrong, in what I said to you at my party. About the two of you.”

“Al, I-”

“He’s just never cared for a girl the way he does with you,” he said. “He’s… He was on the verge of falling totally, utterly in love, and I-”

“Al,” I said, and my throat felt thick once again this week, as my vision blurred with the threatening onslaught of tears. “It’s fine… You were totally right… Look, I’ve got to go.”

He opened his mouth, as if he was about to say something, but then closed it again.

“You were right,” I said. “To insist on James and I not continuing. Clean slate. It’s less… painful, this way.”

He watched my face, and I swallowed.

“I’m glad you think so,” he said, his tone sweet and gentle, and I told him I really did have to go, bye Al, see you at the Slug Club party tonight.

 

I had told Poppy Atticus I would meet her by the Quidditch trophy cabinets, located approximately in the middle of the Ravenclaw tower and the Hufflepuff quarters, but- obviously- Oscar and Aspen had other plans.

“Poppy,” I said, startled, walking into my dormitory that night. Class finish early on a Friday, and I had felt restless, the late summer weather of gorgeous cool breezes and alluring blue skies tempting me outside onto the Quidditch pitch for a fly about. Despite showering in the changing rooms, I still felt flushed from the activity, but in a decidedly better mood from earlier on in the day. My hair was wild and tousled from the wind, my cheeks were still red, and my fingers were already starting to callous. I was, in other words, in my element.

“Hey Effy,” Poppy said, cheerfully, looking up from where she was perched on Aspen’s bed, my blonde best friend herself walking out of the bathroom as if on cue, her arms carrying enough cosmetics and toiletries to stock a small pharmacist. 

“Effy!” said Aspen, pleasantly. “Where’ve you been?”

“I decided to go for a fly-”

Classic,” said Oscar’s voice, and his head popped up from behind Aspen’s bed, by her chest of clothes. “Thanks for the wax strips, babe.”

“Anytime-”

“You know you can just use magic,” I said, looking from Oscar to Aspen to Poppy, feeling the confusion expressed upon my face. Oscar and Aspen were perfectly friendly to Poppy, but that didn’t explain the latter’s presence in the dormitory.

Aspen caught onto my bewilderment. “We invited Poppy to come up and get ready with us for this Slug Club party tonight,” she informed me, brightly. “The whole fun of the party is getting ready, after all.”

“Cool,” I said, smiling at Poppy. 

“Hope its okay with you-”

“Poppy! Obviously,” I said, sliding down onto Aspen’s bed and perching beside her. “I’m just grateful you agreed to come as my date, to be honest. I’m scared shitless of this party.”

Which was very true. I had no idea to expect; Slug Club parties were the stuff of legend, and outside of any schemes to finally unite Poppy with Albus, I was genuinely glad to have her company. Poppy and I were never especially close, but she was funny and sharp, witty and- best of all- very good at complaining. I admire that in a young woman.

Oscar and Aspen were, of course, slightly (very) offended not to be invited, but the duo totally understood when I explained my plan. Aspen asked if there was an ulterior motive behind it, to which I replied I had no idea what she was talking about. And she said, you know exactly what I’m talking about, Effy Wilderson.

“You think if you’re the one to get Poppy with Albus, it’ll bring you in even closer with Albus, and therefore give you more relevance in his- and therefore James’ life,” she said.

“Absolutely not.

“Effy-”

“Hadn’t even occurred to me.”

“You replied to his letter yet?”

“Yes,” I lied, and she nodded, satisfied.

I remembered her theory as I sat with her, Poppy and Oscar in the middle of our dormitory floor, Poppy shaving her legs and Oscar flicking through the latest Witch Weekly, only semi-interested in the magazine, occasionally waving his wand to change the music playing beside us on the dormitory’s gramophone. Aspen and Poppy were discussing nail polish shades, and as I moisturised my limbs, I took the opportunity to mull over her words.

Was I doing all of this to get back to James? I didn’t think so; Al was one of my closest friends, and I truly did want him and Poppy to get together. Not only out of loyalty to Albus, but because I knew, I knew Poppy liked him back; I recognised those elongated glances across the Great Hall, that flushing of cheek whenever he spoke to her, her predisposition to argue with him over anything, everything, just because it was the quickest way to gain his notoriously short attention for as long as possible.

“Effy?” asked Aspen, clicking her fingers in my face. “Earth to Wilderson-”

“Sorry,” I said, stifling a yawn. “Crazy tired.”

“Yeah, well, you’re the idiot who decided to go for a two hour fly only hours before this party,” she said, sniggering slightly, and Poppy smiled at me empathetically.

“Eve’s the exact same,” she said, referring to her best friend, the Hufflepuff Captain. “Crazy about it, been talking non-stop about scouts since we got back.”

“Oh babe,” said Oscar, mournfully. “I am so sorry you have to go through that. It’s bad enough with Effy, Mikey and Liam talking about it occasionally…”

And the evening went on like that. Poppy was great; she had the three of us in hysterics over her tales of Hufflepuff gossip, and when Jasmine Azalea popped in an hour later, her and Poppy did some interpretive dancing routine that had Oscar rolling on the floor, tears streaming down my face, and Aspen remarking what a good day it was to be wearing a sanitary towel.

“Right,” said Oscar, after Jasmine and I had concluded up a freestyle rapping competition, in which we decided that there was no winner, everyone’s a winner when they have access to Teddy Oliver’s face daily, “Poppy! Effy! It’s half past eight- you’re pushing fashionably late, even by my standards, darlings-”

“I am so not in the mood for this,” I wheezed, still laughing from the evening’s antics. Jasmine, beside me, was still clutching her stomach, lying on the dormitory floor.

But Oscar was right; Poppy and I had to go, no matter how much I was enjoying the impromptu girls’ night in. I gazed mournfully, enviously, at my three friends lounging between mine and Aspen’s beds, their robes and ties long discarded for tracksuit bottoms and hair scrunchies. I was especially jealous of Aspen, propped up by three pillows, the day’s make up off and her Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes Self-Swarming Socks on, flashing an obnoxious pink and orange as if to tell the whole wide world that her toes were nice and toasty. As opposed to mine, pressed uncomfortably in a pair of black stilettos I hadn’t worn for years.

Poppy and I didn’t know how to interrupt evening elegant, the stated dress code. Evening elegant… Let’s take a break, Wilderson… Let’s stay friends, Wilderson… The year had been dominated by relative statements, and tonight clearly proved no different. I decided on my mossy green slip dress from the Prophet’s Christmas ball, knowing that if I was too overdressed I could just hide in Al’s blazer. 

Poppy wore a similar dress, except it was black, jet black, and had long sleeves, as opposed to the bare shouldered features of my own attire. It was also shorter, and her heels were longer- an achievement in itself, as my heels weren’t even slightly modest- making her tanned, shapely legs look even longer, as the two of us crossed the Common Room and made our way to Slughorn’s office.

“You look amazing,” I found myself saying to her for what must have been the tenth time that night. I was mildly aware of the element of envy that peppered my words.

“Thanks, Eff,” she said, squeezing my arm. I could tell she was nervous.

“Dressed up for anyone in particular?” I asked, hoping I sounded a lot more subtle than I felt.

She blushed. She full on, almost comically, went bright, vivid, wholesome red. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

“Come on, Poppy. Pop? Pops?”

“Effs?”

“Sure,” I said, weaving my arm through hers, as our heels clicked against the stone floors of the emptied Hogwarts corridors. “Does his name begin with A and end in S?”

“Why the automatic jump to the male pronoun, Eff?” she said, teasingly. “Never took you for the heteronormative type… Thought that was more Ruddy and Louis territory.”

I laughed. “Don’t act like you’re not secretly, secretly, delighted by having them for Herbology partners again this year.”

“Oh no, totally,” she said, grinning at me. “But half the fun’s making the fuss.”

“Like with a certain someone who’s name begins with an A and ends in an S?”

She turned to me, and her smile faltered slightly. “I don’t know, you know.”

“We don’t have to discuss it if you don’t want to.”

“No, I-” she paused, and I looked at her pensive expression, chewing on her tongue as she mulled it over. “I’m not going to lie, I… I don’t know. Something just clicked this summer.”

“Go on.”

“At the Quidditch World Cup. We were talking, talking like people, actual friends- not like I was just another obstacle to unlock on some quest, you know?- and I just kind of realised- I really do like him. But it’s that. I like him when he treats me normally- that’s when I find myself truly fancying him- but when he does- it feels like he doesn’t like me back?”

I nodded, knowing what she meant.

“Like when we had a discussion the morning after he got with Ophelia Nott. A nice, long discussion about Muggle politics. And only a half hour it finished did I learn that he had snogged Ophelia the night before- I don’t know, its like some twisted paradox. I like him when he doesn’t seem to like me.”

“He’s never not liked you though,” I countered, as we turned the corridor towards Slughorn’s office. “He’s been crazy about you since the beginning of the year.”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s all a bit of a mess. Anyway. Looks like we’re here.”

I turned from her to the door in front of us, and sure enough, we were.

 

Dear James,

I now understand what you’ve always said about Slughorn’s parties. I would say the Slug Club in general, but I think tonight- his welcome back party- was more an initiation of sorts, an interactive catalogue of the Hogwarts student body for him to browse through with a pineapple martini in one hand and a Cuban cigar in the other, a night for him to decide who he was going to welcome into his collection this academic year and who wouldn’t quite make the cut.

I don’t suppose you remember that feeling, that long moment right after the Quidditch captain tells you and the twenty other tryout hopefuls to fly down, right before the Quidditch captain makes the announcement? How weird to think of you as a nervous little second year in that position. How weird to think I was still within my first week at Hogwarts, probably having my first flying lesson with Hooch that same week. How weird to think my brother stood on the same pitch as you as a Fourth Year. I wonder if he had any idea he was going to replace Bones as Captain the following year. I wonder if you had any idea you were to replace him as Captain three years later. I wonder if you’re aware the two of us are two of only a handful of Quidditch players that were successful in their first tryout? That, what, something ridiculous like eighty percent of players get rejected in their second year? These are all statistics flying through my head as I pen this letter to you, on this rainy early morning, totally aware Ravenclaw tryouts are in a few hours. I’ve only been at Hogwarts for a few days now and I have so much to tell you…

But I’ve gotten off track. This is why all villains should be taught to avoid monologuing. They probably have classes on it in Durmstrang. Monologuing should be part of the Defence Against the Dark Arts syllabus, for it is so easy to get off topic once you have sole control of the conversation, so easy to get lost in a verbal world, so easy to forget who you’re talking to. Hi James. Let me get back to the Slughorn Party. RIGHT. Yeah- so. I only mentioned Quidditch tryouts to highlight what anxiety feels like, what it feels like to try your hardest and to be totally, wholly insecure if its good enough. That was the case for second year Quidditch tryouts; it was the anti-case for the Slughorn party. I don’t want to be in it. I want to be as far removed from it as possible, like Nearly Headless Nick to a Cecelia Warback reunion tour.

Albus warned me the second Poppy Atticus (oh yes… I’ll tell you about that later) and I walked in that Slughorn was on the prowess. Back straight, remember to order drinks with pineapple flavouring, kiss him on both cheeks, distance yourself from student politics. Laugh heartily (but not too heartily; I am a woman, after all) when someone mentions the nuisance of the recent goblin strikes. Don’t eat too much food, and above all, flatter him once every ten minutes. And you’re in, he said with a smirk. 

What are you drinking? I replied, eyeing his blue cocktail. Definitely not pineapple flavoured, I concluded.

Of course, Al didn’t struggle to follow my thought process. I’m a Potter, he replied easily. I could be a raging Communist for all Slughorn cared. After James graduated with a grand total of two appearances at a Slug do, Slughorn was eager to round up anything related to the eldest Potter.

So. I suppose that explains my invite.

I immediately left Poppy and Albus to it, telling them I saw a year below Hufflepuff I had been tutoring in Astronomy, wanted to check up on his summer. They seemed almost relieved. I then realised that something as simple, as small as a Slughorn party invite so perfectly brought to surface the house differences between the four of us- me, you, Albus and Poppy Atticus and I was so excited to tell you about my epiphany. 

You, the Gryffindor, would be too stubborn in your dogma, your principles, to ever return back to the Slug Club, itself a sign of bravery; conversely Albus, the Slytherin, saw the benefit of a Slug Club membership, especially if he was to become a journalist. The Prophet, obviously, is such an old boys’ club. And that leaves Poppy and myself; whilst I wholeheartedly agreed with your sentiment, I was too curious to simply not go, and Poppy, after I invited her- and after Louis and Ruddy (who are STILL OUR HERBOLOGY PARTNERS) warned her of the sleaziness of the event- decided she wanted to make her own mind up about it, wanted to give it a fair go, declared it wasn’t fair play to decline once Slughorn had accepted her as my plus one. 

And I suppose now I should tell you about Poppy and Albus. I-

 

For the first time since I started writing, I stopped to pause, and it took me a full moment to acknowledge the throbbing pain in my left hand from writing so quickly, so feverishly. 

It was four in the morning, and the crescent moon hung in a star-studded, jet black sky, spread across the grounds below me, stars extending all the way down to the Forbidden Forest horizon, the moon’s rippling reflection upon the Black Lake twinkling up to our dormitory window. Moonlight flooded our new dormitory; we were Seventh Years, and for the first time since being Sorted, the six of us Dormitory B Ravenclaw girls found ourselves united, united in our delight at our new living arrangements. Our new room was big, bigger than any other dormitory we had experienced. Aspen revelled in the bigger beds, the increase in floor space; no more confusing my clothes with Nancy Cameron-Scott, she cackled triumphantly, and the two girls hugged in excitement, whilst the rest of us rolled our eyes. Aspen and Nancy were so messy it was almost unbearable, and their mess had persisted since First Year.

But what I loved most about our new, Seventh Year dormitory were the windows. Last year the windows only offered views of the Quidditch Pitch, the year below that, the main courtyard and the Transfiguration ward, where you could almost make out the Gryffindor tower. This year, however, offered half of Hogwarts to our room; the Lake, the Forest, Hogsmeade village if you sat by Liza Pacino and Nancy Cameron Scott’s side. I was thrilled, I was ecstatic. Here we were, perched at the top of the second highest tower of the school, and I felt something not quite the same, but definitely akin to how I felt when flying, flying high above Hogwarts, feeling such a part and yet so assuredly apart from something huge.

It was this feeling of euphoria that drew me to the window beside my glorious, gloriously big bed after the ball. I was so full of thoughts, still soaring on the adrenaline of the night, I placed myself down by the window- high heels, ball dress, make up, the whole works still on- performed a quick, silent warming spell, for the window panes were cool, and started writing. 

I knew it was going to be to James before I even reached for my quill. I still hadn’t replied to his last letter and slowly remembered why, as I stared over the words so hurriedly etched onto the parchment. 

My eagerness to relay the entire evening to him was so juvenile I could feel my cheeks heat up. I was like a magical five year old telling their mother all about their first day at muggle primary school. How cool mum, muggles write with something called a pen, not a quill! You were right mum, muggles really are just like us!

And- and this is perhaps, the most embarrassing of it all- what was I going to do after that paragraph on Poppy and Albus? Tell him of my kiss with Mikey? 

Oh. Absolutely not. The first thought that raced through my head once Mikey cupped my head and placed his chips upon mine- after, of course, wow! Mikey is kissing me! And neither of us are even that drunk!- was, admittedly now that’ll teach James for moving on from me. 

His kiss was both a complete surprise and a totally underwhelming expectation. Slughorn wanted to introduce the two of us, his shiny Ravenclaw seventh years- Elizabeth Wilderson, house Quidditch Captain and last girlfriend of James Potter, Michael Lancaster, top in his class at his Healer school internship programme this summer (and how I winced at the two back to back accomplishments)- to Terry Boot, a Ravenclaw alumni, and after a relatively boring conversation, in which Mr Boot excused himself to find, quite frankly, better company, it was just Mikey and me.

“Hey,” I said, turning from Mr Boot’s retreating body towards the Healer prodigy. “I didn’t know about your Healer school internship success… Congratulations.” 

He shrugged in response, his eyes scanning the room for somebody else, anybody else, to talk to. 

“I mean, if I was Oscar, I would say mazel tov, but of course, I haven’t spent the summer claiming to be Jewish.”

That garnered a snort from Mikey. He looked so, so good. Unlike Albus, he didn’t wear a tie, but instead a jet black suit, a crisp white shirt, the close shaved style of his hair still a mild shock to me whenever I glanced at it, his eyes as dark blue as ever.

“Oh come on,” I said, as he turned to me. “You can leave the Quidditch team, you can reschedule your classes as to avoid sharing one with me- and we have a lot together this year, Mikey, I glanced at your timetable before giving it to Declan to pass down the table to you-”

“Of course you did-”

“In fact, you can even attempt to move house, although where you’ll go I don’t quite know, you apparent Healer prodigy.” And that earned an emergence of a smirk upon his lips, a softening of his furrowed eyebrows, a loosening of his bored expression. “But come on. You can’t avoid me forever. This is ridiculous. I don’t even know what you’re avoiding me for-”

And that’s when I blew it. His face transformed to mildly entertained to an expression of half disgust, half awe.

“Are you joking?” he snarled. I opened my mouth to continue talking, but he shook his head at me and walked away.

I walked after him. It was a party, it was a very formal, classy party, almost identical in tone to the Daily Prophet Christmas Ball I had been made to attend for years now. It was not some wild, trashy common room bash and confrontations were to be avoided at all costs, I knew that, of course I did.

But I refused to let Mikey slip from my fingers of friendship like that. Amid the humoured, pleasant murmurings, the occasional cackle of laughter, and the gentle, delightful sound of the goblin string quartet performing by the bar, I stormed after him, smiling at various students I recognised.

“Mikey,” I hissed, grabbing his blazer.

“Stop,” he hissed back, the two of us whispering, like conniving children bored at a wedding dinner. “And let go. This is fucking Delacour-”

“Fucking Delacour?” I repeated, not even attempting to hide the look of disgust upon my face. I must have voiced my disdain at his apparent and uncharacteristic materialism louder than I had hoped, for two adults beside us turned to face me.

“Delacour,” I repeated, sliding a pleasant smile upon my face. “One of my favourite wizarding designer houses, I could not be happier they decided to expand from robes to muggle clothing… A clever approach, if not very ambitious, to appeal to a younger generation of adults working within the muggle world.”

The woman beside me nodded in agreement. “Nicely put.” And with that, she resumed her conversation with the older man beside her. I would later learn she was the CEO of Delacour & Co couture, but that was the last thing I was concerned with.

“Fucking Delacour?” I hissed, this time quieter. “Are you joking?”

He looked visibly uncomfortable. “Its been a long three months, Effy.”

“You- you hate materialism,” I spluttered. “You mock Oscar and Aspen for it constantly. Like, you’re no Heath Tomlinson, but still- like, you’ll always be the guy with the best broomstick in the whole of Ravenclaw tower, but Delacour- I don’t think even Al is wearing Delacour-”

My rambling mess of words had ceased to make any sense and I stood there, gazing at Mikey, the reality of three months of silence suddenly hitting me, hitting me like a ton of bricks.

He sighed. “Want to get a drink?”

“Yeah,” I said, slightly dazed. Delacour! Delacour & Co, a label so expensive, so elusive not even Ophelia Nott could convince her father to buy her a Delacour watch for her seventeenth birthday.

 

So we went to the bar, a process lengthened by the various smiles and nods and greetings given to various students, professors and outside guests that caught our eye. It struck me, as Mikey ordered two straight up martinis, that I hadn’t seen Poppy since we had arrived, and Albus only once the entire night, when he tried to give me tips on impressing Slughorn, hiccuping in his drunken state.

“I hate martinis,” I muttered, pulling a face as I sipped. “It’s just gin with an olive. Is being an adult pretending to like martinis? God, and I accuse Louis and Ruddy of having maturity problems-”

“What’s wrong with martinis?” Mikey wanted to know, sipping his with such understated sophistication I was wondering if my attraction to Mikey was an long harboured attraction to old Mikey or a newfound attraction to new Mikey, and when did Mikey become Mikey, and should I start calling him Michael.

“God. I can’t drink this,” I said, as we perched on the bar stools, and he raised an eyebrow in amusement as I attempted another sip. “What cocktails do I know of- oh, God, I didn’t realise how bad my relationship with alcohol was until now.”

“To be honest, the only cocktail I know the name of is martini,” Mikey admitted, and this allusion to old Mikey made me giggle.

“Do you think I can ask for cheap firewhiskey sold for practically illegal sums of money by Ruddy and Louis with some pumpkin juice alongside? Or is that too…” I laughed as Mikey laughed, attempting to continue on with my joke. “…Juvenile?”

“Come on, Eff,” he said, the alcohol easing him up a bit. “We stopped relying on Ruddy and Louis for firewhiskey last year.”

“Oh yes, when Liam finally turned seventeen and when he finally got served in Hogsmeade.”

“I’ll never forget the look on that- that cashier’s face,” said Mikey, his eyes creased with laughter, “when Liam straight up asked for eight one litre bottles of firewhiskey, and the cashier asked if he was buying on behalf of others, and- and-“

“And Liam said, no, he’s just Irish!” I said, almost wheezing with laughter at the memory of it, at the memory of Mikey, Aspen, Oscar and I tilting our heads from our respective aisles of observance as we all prayed for Liam to be served as much as he desired.

The goblin quartet band changed tone of music, and suddenly the sound of saxophone erupted within the high ceilinged, wooden and gold, glass walled room. People around us started dancing in the only way appropriate for people wearing suits and pearls, listening to goblins play swing music, and I turned from the scene before us to the house elf behind the bar.

“Two long island iced teas,” I said, remembering the name of the Muggle cocktail my mother always ordered. 

“I’m fine with my martini,” said Mikey, grinning at me.

“You hate it just as much as I do,” I said, leaning in towards him, scooping up the olive in his glass with my pinky finger, and watching his eyes follow my finger from his empty glass, into the air, towards me, towards my parting lips.

“Right up, missus,” the house elf squeaked. I beamed at him, as much for Mikey as for the house elf, and knocked my glass slightly against his.

“What are we toasting?” he murmured.

“Your new haircut. Your Healer prodigy status. You wearing fucking Delacour,” I said, dropping my voice in an attempt to impersonate Mikey.

He laughed, and took a sip of his drink. “Where do I begin-”

“Chronological order, obviously-”

“It was a figure of speech, you loser, obviously I know to start from the beginning-”

Fucking Delacour-”

“You’re really beginning to annoy me-”

You’re really beginning to annoy me-”

“Effy,” he wheezed, laughing. “Stop it. Fine. So from the beginning.”

And I listened. I sipped, he sipped, and gradually our sips turned into swigs, and our swigs into gulps, and people flitted to and from the bar in such anonymity, in their fancy dress and glittering jewels and graceful taps of heels upon the wooden floor below in my intoxicated head they resembled butterflies of some exotic, wildly attractive kind, fluttering around Mikey and myself like we were the only two humans in the place. 

So when we reluctantly left our fourth drinks of the night by the bar, and he slipped my arm within his- for mutual support, he assured me- and giggled our way through our intensely sincere thank you to Slughorn for the night, who seemed just as pleasantly intoxicated as his two Potions students, I was not at all surprised he kissed me.

We traipsed through the empty castle together, speaking as loud as we could, for it was beyond the hour of prefect rounds, and in our fancy Muggle attire (although we did don identical black robes as we checked into the cloakroom- notably not school robes, but the kind of robes every wizarding teenager owns to throw over Muggle clothing when approaching wizarding communities), my high heels clicking on the marble floor beneath us, our robes fluttering behind us, the effects of the night’s alcohol surging through my head- I felt, I felt almost invincible, with this new Mikey on my arm, a Mikey with almost no hair but a black buzz upon his scalp, a Mikey with even more defined muscles than he had had before… 

I don’t know, I think I said something, and he said something back, and I asked him to repeat himself, and he did, and I curled into him and screamed into his face, PARDON?! And instead of repeating himself, I watched his gaze linger on my eyes, and then travel south to my lips, and I brought my arm from the crook of his to stroke his left bicep, and he brought his arm from his side to my lower back, and I could feel his broad hand press slightly into me. I looked up at him, at his dark blue eyes, and felt his lips upon mine.

We kissed the whole way back to the Ravenclaw tower, his hands roaming messily over my body, my fingers tugging at the buttons on his shirt, our kisses sloppy and our attempts to answer the Ravenclaw common room riddle even sloppier.

“Urgh!” I cried, stamping my foot. “Come on! I am the Quidditch captain, for fuck’s sake!”

“Yeah!” roared Mikey. “And I’m a freakin’ Healer prodigy!”

“What flies without wings?”

“Those… those dumb Muggle games,” I said, wincing at my drunken logic.

“Flies. Like… a zipper? Americans call it a fly, right?”

“God, I don’t have the time for this-”

“Got there eventually,” the eagle doorknob breathed calmly, and opened its doors.

“Time,” I said loudly, impressed with myself, striding into the common room. “Boy, am I clever-” But I was interrupted by a shushing noise emitting from students, Ravenclaw students still in their uniform, perched around tables by the huge, glorious, awesome in its truest sense bookcase, all six of them glaring at Mikey and myself with such fierceness I hiccuped in fear.

“I’m going to bed,” I whispered loudly to Mikey, who had strolled in behind me. Suddenly feeling exposed, and quickly sobering up, I bound my robes tightly around my dress.

Mikey nodded unevenly at me. “I’ll see you,” he said, as we walked to our genders’ respective staircases, “at Quidditch trials tomorrow.”

I stumbled up the staircase, mildly resenting that my dormitory was so far away, intensely looking forward to resting my head against my cool, fluffy pillow, feeling overwhelmingly sleepy, feeling suddenly, strikingly, overwhelmingly sad…

And I found myself perched by the window, overlooking the Black Lake and the Forbidden Forest beyond it, scribbling a letter to James whilst feeling the touch of Mikey’s lips upon mine the entire time.

But I knew, as I read over the letter for the eighth time since writing it that it would never be read by James. It was addressed to him, but it would never be attached to an owl, never be delivered, never be opened, never be read.

I kissed Mikey for the past hour. He has always been good looking, you’d be the first to agree with that (it was never in your character to be jealous of others’ looks James: their intellect, their bravery, their wit, perhaps, but never their looks) but suddenly he’s back, and he’s beautiful, he’s a Healer prodigy, he drinks Martinis and he picked me up by the thighs and pushed me against an ogre and crusader tapestry and I swear to god, I swear to all the gods, I had never thought of you less in my entire life. 

But here I am, after kissing Mikey, writing to you. You once told me in a Hogwarts corridor you loved me. You were drunk, and now I am. I love you, I really think I do. I am in LOVE with you and you’re off with American girls, really clever American girls, being a lawyer and being happy and existing in a world without me.

I love you I love you I love you I love you 

And, to conclude it- so he truly knew (but of course, he would never know, never ever) it was me:

Wilderson. 

 

 






The LONGEST chapter by far. 11,000+ words! Oh my god!

My instinct tells me this should be, probably, two chapters, but I was suddenly so inspired I managed to write this without what felt like a pause for breath. Annoyingyly, and almost obviously, all done during exam season.

What do you think? This story's taken such a turn from what I initially projected, years ago- and I would love, love to hear what you guys have to say about it. Like whether it be a sentence or a paragraph or even multiple- please! Let me hear your thoughts and feelings on this! It's the chapter I'm proudest of- the piece of working I've put most of myself and my energy into- and would love, love, love to know what you think. Even if not about the main love triangle... Louis and Ruddy? Albus and Poppy? Terry Boot cameo?

And loads of things I don't own in this chapter. Malory Towers (Enid Blyton); Tommy Hilfiger; Ralph Lauren. And I feel it only right to mention the ballads of the Red album by Taylor Swift, which i listened to CONSTANTLY for inspiration for this chapter.

As usual, all my love. xoxo


Chapter 25: something new
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I woke up the next morning and didn’t know what my sluggish, hazed, post-slumber mind acknowledged first: Aspen’s face looming in front of mine, or the excruciating headache I was experiencing.

“RISE AND SHINE!” she sung, and I could feel the mattress beneath me sink as I felt her body bounce upon my bed. I let a soft moan emit from my lips, and rolled over.

“WAKE UP!” she trilled, clapping her hands and out of the corner of my eye I saw her long, thick, wavy blonde hair bounce across the horizons of my squinted eyes. She was dancing.

“Shut up, Aspen,” muttered another voice from the room. I felt too sick to even attempt to identify the voice to the Ravenclaw seventh year.

“Little Miss ELIZABETH here has QUIDDITCH TRY-OUTS in an HOUR,” she sung, and my eyes flashed open in horror at the reminder. “Little Miss WILDERSON is now QUIDDITCH CAPTAIN of our proud HOUSE and must remember her RESPONSIBILITIES-”

“No, seriously, Spinelli,” muttered another voice. “Shut the fuck up.”

“Wake UUUUUUP!” she called, and she ripped the duvet from my body.

I screamed, but all that came out was a hoarse gargle. Why was I… Why was I stupid to drink so much the night before I arranged nine in the morning Quidditch trials?

Oh my god. A sudden, overwhelming wave of nausea engulfed my body, and I sat up, feeling last night’s various cocktails flow through my mouth, into the bucket Aspen had conjured, floating under my chin. I turned to my best friend, who was standing by my bed, a huge smirk almost breaking her pretty face in two.

“I can’t do this,” I muttered weakly. I could feel last night’s make up on my face, crusty and gross in the way only last night make up can be: clumpy mascara suffocating my eyelashes, bronzer making my cheeks itch, foundation congregate just where my face was most vulnerable to dryness. 

But most of all, I really, really needed to throw up. Maybe die, if the former wasn’t an option.

“Hangover potion in the toilets.” She saw my pleading eyes, and shook her head. “Yes, you better get up to get it.”

“Fuck off,” I muttered, about to fall back into bed before another crashing wave of nausea overcame my body. The bucket was there before I even acknowledged its need, and I gave Aspen what felt like a thunderous look, but was probably as threatening as Flitwick’s baby photos.

“Fine,” I mumbled, heaving myself out of bed, throwing myself into the bathroom, my fingers shaking as my bleary, eyeshadow smudged eyes navigated the small, vivid purple liquid perched innocently by Aspen’s large, overflowing make-up bag.

After gulping it down with such greed and haste I was almost humiliated, my symptoms- the nausea, the headache, the stomach ache, the fatigue- disappeared, and I stormed into the other room, gazing around at the three Ravenclaw girls still lying in bed. It was a perfectly sunny day, with only a few wisps of cloud floating lazily in a late summer sky, and I bet the weather was cool, but not cold, a temperate I would miss about lowlands Scotland in the early Autumn next year.

“Right!” I sang, noticing Veronica Clearwater’s bed was empty. At eight in the morning on a Saturday? Fucking loser. “Rise and shine, ladies! It’s a beautiful morning, and your Quidditch Captain is assembling her brand new team today!”

I was answered with silence, punctured by Aspen’s sniggers.

“Honestly, Effy,” said Liza Pacino, her thick, black mane of hair in the most awful mess as she sat up and addressed me, “you carry on like this, and I’ll petition Clearwater hourly to get you replaced by Liam Finnegan.”

“I’ll petition Clearwater to get you banned from the sport all together,” Nancy Cameron-Scott offered, and I tutted loudly, striding across the room, and back into the bathroom. Quick shower, quick blow-dry with a few masterful flicks of my wand, quick mascara and eyeliner run over- done by hand, I hadn’t quite mastered doing it by wand yet- a few dabs of concealer, a hasty change into Quidditch shorts and an Appleby Arrows sweatshirt, and I was good to go.

“Breakfast?” I asked Aspen, brightly.

She had, of course, been ready since she woke me up, and I wondered if she knew I would get hammered at the Slughorn party, despite me definitely, desperately telling her I wouldn’t. We didn’t usually keep hangover potions in our bathroom- they were expensive and our hangovers weren’t usually bad enough to warrant one.

But then again, I hadn’t drunk as much as I did last night in a long time.

“Breakfast,” said Aspen, a glint in her eye.

 

For the first time in my life, I held back from telling my Aspen- Aspen, my best friend since we were eleven, my almost twin, my confessed platonic soul mate- the truth.

Of course I told her about kissing Mikey. Of course I told her I didn’t just kiss Mikey, I kissed him for ages, and told her kiss was too delicate a word to do justice to what we got up to. You went further? Aspen asked, her eyebrows raised. No, I replied honestly. But the longing entwined with the savage nature of the kiss made it feel like, the morning after, we did.

And I told her, over a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon, in a Great Hall that was deserted for the most part, about Poppy practically confessing her love? like? fancy? for Albus, and the disappearance of the two during the night.

But- and I continued recalling the Slug Party to my listening friend as we left the Great Hall and walked down to the Quidditch pitch, a late summer breeze making the ends of our hair flutter, the tails of our robes fly behind us- I deliberately, knowingly, purposefully, left out my letter to James.

What was it? Not a big deal. I was still drunk, I told myself, and wrote a bit of a letter. It was practically a diary entry. I didn’t send it. No reason why Aspen would care.

But as Aspen left me for the stands, a mischievous gleam in her eyes as she would play audience to however- and it truly was however, for Mikey’s interactions with me today (and mine to him) was anyone’s guess, we had no idea how the two of us would act around each other- Mikey would be during the Quidditch tryouts.

I didn’t bother getting changed, and instead collected my broom and the chest of balls, standing in the middle of an empty pitch, feeling the September sun warm my legs and my face, as I watched people gradually enter the grounds. My badge was attached to the left of my faded grey sweatshirt, and my hair was tied up in a ponytail, the cool breeze already enticing a few strands out of place, and I felt them flutter against my face.

“Alright,” I called, suddenly aware of the butterflies that erupted in my chest. For the third time today, I thought I was going to hurl. But I caught the gaze of Josh Wood- fucking Josh Wood, the most annoying boy in the whole of Ravenclaw (god, shouldn’t he be thankful for the existence of Ruddy Walcott and Louis Weasley, saving him from being the most annoying boy in the school)- and his trusting grin surprisingly put me at ease. “Alright, it’s a few minutes past night, let’s start.”

“Appleby Arrows?” demanded a kid in reference to my sweatshirt, tall and lanky in the way only adolescent boys could be. I remember Mikey looked like that when we dated in fourth year, and tried not to smirk. “Are you kidding me?

A few titters amongst the twenty-strong crowd, and I rolled my eyes. Don’t be Danny Alton. Don’t be Danny Alton. Don’t be Danny Alton.

“Yeah, I paid two galleons for this sweatshirt out of irony,” I snarled, and that garnered even more laughs from the huddle. “You’re lucky I haven’t booted you out of try-outs all together, you little shi-”

“Sorry we’re late!” trilled a mild Irish accent, interrupting me. It was Liam and Mikey, running up in similar kit to me- Ravenclaw shorts and baggy sweatshirts- and I didn’t even try to hide the look of relief on my face at their arrival. “We got stopped by Hagrid on the way down here, he wanted help-”

“Whatever,” I said, dismissing their lateness with a wave of my hand, trying desperately not to look at Mikey. “I see that everyone from the team last year is here again- great, nice to see you all. But let me be clear- I, under no circumstances, am prepared to save your spot on the team just because we played together last year.”

“Brutal,” commented the Appleby Arrows kid.

“Shut up,” I snapped, giving him a dirty look. “We only lost last year by only the wildest of circumstances, and I am determined to piece together a team that’ll see us win the Cup this year. Being on a Quidditch team isn’t like the First Year Quidditch League, you don’t practise one a week and hope the broom your parents got you for being Sorted into a decent house’ll help you score a few points, this is intense, this is frustrating… You’re going to hate me most of the time and plot to murder me at least once a week, but when we win- and we will- the Cup next summer- and you’re on the winning team, you’re the one with the feature in the Daily Prophet Sports pages, you’re the one who has that summer of glory… It’ll be worth it.”

Silence. Not even the Appleby Arrows kid had a comment to make, and I suddenly felt flustered from the impromptu speech I delivered. I allowed myself one quick glance at Mikey, who's eyes were focused right on mine. He nodded with a smile, and a warm feeling of confidence surged through my veins.

“Alright then. No quitters? Good. Since we won’t be trying for a Seeker today, I want you to divide yourselves into those trying for Keeper on the left, Chaser in the middle, and Beater on the right. Now, kid,” I barked at the Appleby Arrows guy, who stared up at me, confused.

“What if you want to try out for them all?” he wanted to know.

I gritted my teeth. “Has anyone ever told you you remind them of a taller Peeves?”

“Many,” he replied, to another round of sniggering. I raised my eyebrow at him, and he scuttled off to the middle, standing beside Mikey and Lara.

“Alright,” I said, a soft smile growing slowly on my face, as I drew my gaze from Mikey to the rest of the applicants. “Lets… go.”

 

I stood in the Captain’s office of the Ravenclaw quarter, feeling almost naughty perched on the desk, almost waiting for Danny Alton to come in and tell me off for being in his office, to fuck off Wilderson, go find the snitch! 

I felt an overwhelming rush of appreciation for Danny. He had been my friend since Second Year, when I was the youngest player on the squad, the baby of the team. Even though he had Asher Garfield in his year to hang out with- although I don’t think the two were particularly close, Garfield was replaced