Chapter 8 : Mano a Womano
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I lay on the good couch in the Gryffindor common room (the squishy scarlet one, not the grimy green one in the first years’ corner). But I lay on the squidgy couch, staring on the ceiling (which is really quite exquisite, with exposed wooden beams that I imagine were installed in the Hogwarts Renovation of 1905), confused and puzzled and in great need of guidance.
“So,” I heard Dobby Longbottom say from the armchair across from me, his quill in hand, “let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?”
Yes. I commissioned my thirteen-year-old sister’s thirteen-year-old boyfriend who is named after a martyred house elf to be my Psychological Healer. Don’t judge me. The mental health services at this school are lacking.
I sighed dramatically. “Something terrible happened at the beginning of this year. I thought it would go away, but alas, it did not.”
Dobby glanced at his sheet of parchment and made a few notes. “Hmm. And what catastrophe was this, specifically?”
“I noticed that my mate Tegan was a girl,” I whined. “Why did she have to get pretty all of a sudden? Why couldn’t she stay the sexually ambiguous Gryffie?”
“So you’re attracted to Tegan Llewellyn?” inquired Dobby calmly. He had just the right voice for a Psychological Healer, all calm and slow and methodical.
“Physically, emotionally, or both?”
I thought for a moment. “Well, I think she’s quite fit, of course. I shan’t go into detail, for fear of tainting your young, innocent soul. And we’ve been friends forever, since the very beginning of first year when I made fun of her name and she punched me. We’ve always gotten along really well; sometimes I think she understands me better than my J.D. And J.D. is my J.D.! But me and Tegan have always been friends and we’ve always gotten along and I’ve always liked her personality. Does that count as fancying her emotionally?”
Dobby moved his quill in what appeared to be long, swooping strokes along the parchment. “It can be difficult identifying true attraction, by which I mean emotional attraction, between two close friends. Naturally you’ve liked each other on that level for years, but does that mean you could fancy Tegan as something more now?”
“I do not know, Dobster,” I mused. “I’m so confuzzled.”
The thin, stringy kid nodded. “Good. We’ve identified one of your problems, and we can come back to it later in the session, or in a future session, if you want to work it out with my assistance and advice. But now I believe we should move on to the reason that you requested my services in the first place.”
I threw my hands into the air, then brought them down to cover my face. “Why can’t I ask her to Hogsmeade, Dobster? Why?”
Dobby pushed his specs up his nose (the kid has perfect eyesight, yet insisted on wearing false glasses while psychiatrically analyzing me) and pursed his lips. “You’ve got a mighty psychological barrier to cross, James.”
“I do?” I inquired inquisitively.
“You’ve been mates with Tegan for well over five years,” explained Dobby. “You’d considered her a brother, a member of your fraternal Gryffie society, until you noticed that you were physically attracted to her. This is a major shock to your psychological system. A person who was once a chum and pseudo-brother has become an object of sexual attraction for you.”
“Dobster!” I exclaimed.
“My dad gave me The Talk, James,” said Dobby dryly “It was horribly awkward, but effective nonetheless. I’m thirteen, and I figure I have a broad idea of what’s going on in your sixteen-year-old mind, as well as in other places.”
I turned my head and stared at him. “You’re dating my baby sister?”
“Look back to the ceiling, James,” said Dobby calmly. “We were making excellent progress. Let’s return to that.”
“Maybe I am sexually attracted to Tegan,” I thought aloud. She had gone to study in the library and usually didn’t emerge for hours (she studies obsessively, my Teg), so I figured I could talk freely without fear of her overhearing.
“Yes, you are,” affirmed Dobby. “And this huge revelation has been a shock on your cognitive functions. You’ve developed a barrier that is causing your reluctance to ask Tegan to Hogsmeade.”
“It isn’t an impenetrable barrier,” said Dobby oh so wisely. “But you need to hone in on your reluctance and defeat it before you have the psychological nerve to do what you must.”
I stared at the gorgeous, intricate, painstakingly crafted wooden beams of the ceiling and thought. Young Dobby raised a great number of issues that even I was not aware of.
“Dobby,” I said with utmost seriousness, “you have to become a Psychological Healer when you get out of school. Or else.”
The round-faced kid grinned. “That’s my plan. I mapped out the necessary curriculum I need to take here and my official Healer training at the end of first year. I’ve got it all covered.”
I sat up. “Um, am I supposed to pay you? Because I only have two Knuts and a Nosebleed Nougat in my pocket.”
“It’s on me,” said Dobby cordially. “No charge for family of Lily.”
I stood and walked over to him, my hand outstretched to shake. “You’re a good man, Dobby Longbottom. If I don’t get over this barrier thing within the week, can I take you up on the offer of a follow-up session?”
“Absolutely,” he said, most professionally, shaking my hand.
My little sister Lily looked up from her group of giggling friends sitting by the fire and walked over to me and Dobby.
“Hey,” she said sweetly, taking his hand.
“Hey,” grinned Dobby back.
“Well, now that the formalities are over,” I said wryly.
“Was the session helpful, James?” asked Lily.
“It really was,” I said enthusiastically, glancing at Dobby. I couldn’t be mad at the bloke, even if he was holding my baby sister’s hand. I should want to hex him, but I don’t.
“Great,” said Lily, smiling widely. “It’s wonderful that you two get along well.”
“I think we’ve reached a level of understanding,” said Dobby. “Yeah?”
“Definitely,” I affirmed. “You two run along now. And Dobster, don’t do anything you feel I would be compelled to do.”
“Sure James,” said the kid, most certainly to humour me. He and Lily walked towards the portrait hole.
I glanced ‘round the common room, looking for my mates. J.D. was off snogging Rose in a broom cupboard (At least I had the courtesy to tell you ahead of time, he told me), Micah was stalking my cousin Madeleine, Freddie was in the library with Tegan, Mattie was doing whatever it is that fifth years do, and Arlie was probably giving one of her friends a makeover, or summat. You know, girl stuff.
But then I saw my brother Albus reading in the corner. The book was ancient looking and Al’s nose was firmly pressed against it. He pushed up his half-moon spectacles as they fell down his face.
I galloped on over to him, deeming that this was an excellent day for family reunions. First Lily (albeit briefly), then Al.
“Alberino!” I proclaimed, sitting in the chair beside him.
“Please don’t call me that, James,” said Albus, monotone and without looking up from his book.
“Whatcha readin’?” I asked.
“It’s about the uses of dragon’s blood,” explained Al quickly.
“Ooh,” I said with all the enthusiasm I could muster. Dragon’s blood? Not my cup of tea. Ew, I just imagined Al drinking dragon’s blood out of a teacup.
“What do you want, James?” He finally looked up at me.
I reached over and ruffled his auburn hair. “I just wanted to chat with my favourite brother.”
“I’m your only brother,” replied Albus flatly. “Plus you haven’t spoken to me since the summer holiday.”
I scratched my head. “Really? It’s been that long?”
“We never talk when we’re at school,” said Al patronizingly.
I shrugged. “Well, let’s change that right here and now.”
We Potter men stared at each other for 713 seconds. I know. I counted.
“James!” I heard from behind me. It was Micah. “Guess what?”
“Chicken butt?” I grinned, knowing just how witty I am.
“No!” said Micah. “Madeleine’s going with me to Hogsmeade.”
“Madeleine Weasley?” piped up Albus.
“She’s the only Madeleine at Hogwarts, yeah?” asked Micah unsurely.
“Just checking,” said Al sceptically.
“Whoa, are you sure?” I asked.
“Yeah! I think!” replied Micah. “She and all her popular friends were sitting by the lake and I was watching them like I usually do and she came over and asked what my problem was and then I said I was in love with her, cos I am, then her jaw kind of dropped and then I asked if she’d go with me to Hogsmeade and she said no and then I asked why not and then she said because she didn’t fancy me and then I asked why not and then she told me to stop following her around and then I kissed her and then she slapped me!”
Albus looked at me in horror, as if I should be responsible for my mate’s actions.
“Horo,” I began slowly, “are you sure this means that Madeleine agreed to go to Hogsmeade with you? Perhaps you read the signals wrong.”
Micah chuckled. “Oh James, don’t be so naïve. She obviously fancies me. A passionate woman, your cousin is.”
“Please don’t describe any female relation of mine as passionate ever again,” I said through gritted teeth.
“Fine,” conceded Micah. “But the fact that I’d got a date with Madeleine Weasley is so Albus!”
“I thought you hated the phrase ‘that’s so Albus’,” said I.
“Oh, I got over that days ago,” said Micah. “I mean, ‘that’s so Albus’ is so Albus!”
“Shut your huge gob!” shouted Al, out of nowhere. “Shut it shut it SHUT IT!”
Me and Micah stared at the slightly shorter version of my uncle Ron in wide-eyed terror (Albus got the tall, redheaded Weasley gene through our mum). Albus Severus Potter was the quiet geek of the fifth year Gryffindors. He didn’t usually have fits like this.
“Al?” I asked hesitantly. “Is something wrong?”
“Yes!” he seethed. “‘That’s so Albus’ is wrong!”
“No it’s not,” said Micah decisively. “It’s so Albus. And that’s a good thing.” It was then that I realized just how opportunistic Micah was when it came to jumping on the bandwagon. ‘That’s so Albus’ is cool? He’d damn his principles and start chanting the phrase with the rest of us to feel the acceptance we all crave as social animals.
“Not for me!” exclaimed Albus. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Micah, but I’m named Albus! It’s bad enough that my blasted parents had to name me Albus Severus and knowingly condemned me to a life of teasing and ridicule, but then your damned friend John had to go and create a fad about my deceased namesake! Do you know how irritating it is to hear the half of Gryffindor House who’ve begun using the phrase in the five days since you pathetic Gryffies created it refer to the famous, brilliant, beloved Albus who you’ll never be able to live up to? Do you know what that’s like?”
Micah quickly opened his mouth. “No, of course not. I’m not called Albus.”
Al began to grind his teeth audibly. “Stop using that stupid, insipid phrase.”
“You’re going to have to bring this matter up with J.D., Al,” I said diplomatically. “I do believe he’s submitted an application for copyright with the Ministry for Magic.”
Albus’s green eyes (he’s the only Potter kid who inherited our Dad’s eyes, and his poor eyesight) became livid, and I was rather frightened. He grabbed his dragon’s blood book and stomped off.
“Merlin’s beard, were we that sensitive when we were fifth years?” asked Micah.
“Maybe Al’s right,” I thought aloud. “I mean, cos everyone already compares him to Albus Dumbledore since he kinda looks like he did and they both were wicked smart and bookish and all that. He’s bound to be a little sensitive, right?”
“Mate, I think he just overreacted,” said Micah. “And I’m the emotionally deep Gryffie, after all.”
I laughed aloud and shoved him. “Horo, you’re the Gryffie who accosted my cousin and now delusionally thinks that you two have a date!”
Micah sighed dreamily. “We do have a date. Or we will by the time Halloween rolls ‘round. Merlin, your cousin is fit.”
I shoved him much harder this time, so much so that he fell to the ground. “Please don’t talk like that! You see how badly I’m dealing with Rose and J.D.!”
Micah looked up at me, hurt. “You’re fine with the Longbottom boy and Lily!”
“That’s cos I like Dobby better than you and J.D.!” I shouted back.
He stood up and brushed himself off. “You like Dobby Longbottom better than your best mates?”
“No, Micah, I—”
“You think I’m so delusional about Madeleine?” barked Micah. “Well, maybe you’re delusional about me and J.D. being your mates. Cos I’m gonna tell him about what you said.”
“Micah!” I called as he stormed off. Oi, what had Micah Horowitz’s wand in such a knot as of late? First the ‘that’s so Voldie’ fiasco, and now this?
I spun ‘round and saw my cousin Hugo out of the corner of my eye. He’s mates with Dobby Longbottom, and was sitting with the other third year Gryffindor boys by the fireplace.
“Hugo!” I shouted as I ambled over towards him. “How’s my favourite Granger-Weasley cousin?”
All his third year mates stared up at me in awe (believe it or not, I’m rather popular; it kind of automatically happens to you when you become Gryffindor Quidditch cap’n), and Hugo replied, “I thought you liked Rose better. You always poke fun at my name and call me fat even though I weigh 85 pounds.”
I chuckled. “Oh Huge-o, we athletes find that sort of taunting endearing. If you ever join the Gryffies you’ll harden up, on account of the hazing being so emotionally damaging.”
He looked at me as if I was mad. “Well then, why are you talking to me? We didn’t even talk when we stayed with Grandmum and Grandad Weasley at the Burrow this summer.”
I ruffled his curly brown hair, which stuck out in a ‘fro. “Oh Hugo, you’re so silly. We talked that one time when I asked you to pass the salt.”
He frowned at me in distaste, while his blond, long-faced friend stared.
“Hullo?” I said to the weird fair-haired kid.
Blondie gulped. “You’re—you’re James Potter!”
“That’s what it says on my certificate of birth,” I said unsurely.
“You’re cap’n of the Gryffies!” said Blondie nervously.
“It’s just my cousin, Finn,” grumbled Hugo.
“Finn, is it?” said I. “You a Quidditch fan?”
“Yes sir!” Finn nodded eagerly. “I’ve gone to all the matches since my first year and I always cheer for the Gryffies!”
I smiled smugly. “How would you like an autograph, Finn?”
He looked nervous. “Actually, I don’t really—”
“You don’t have to say it if it’s embarrassing,” I chuckled, grabbing a quill and dipping it in the inkwell on the table before me.
There wasn’t any parchment, though. “Hold out your arm, Finn,” I ordered, and the little kid obeyed. I began to write my name on his skin.
“Ow!” cried out Finn as I wrote the big, loopy letters of James Sirius Potter.
“There,” I said, proud of my handiwork.
Finn recoil his arm in terror and Hugo and his other mates examined it. “You drew blood, James!” shouted Hugo.
“I’m bleeding the name of James Potter,” moaned Finn.
I gulped. “Hugo, have Finn put some of our grandmum’s special salve on that. That should slow the bleeding.”
“I’m a lot more concerned about ink poisoning!” exclaimed Finn.
“Way to go, James!” seethed Hugo bitingly as the third year boys collected their Finn and headed towards the dormitory stairs.
I shrugged. No way I could have seen that coming.
“James,” I heard from behind me. I jumped; it sounded like Tegan!
I turned round and grinned; it was Tegan! She sat on the arm of my chair and my heart went pitter-patter.
“Where’s Freddie?” I squeaked.
“Probably talking to that girl in our year called Miranda or Matilda or Melinda who tried out for Gryffie Seeker at the beginning of the year. She so politely interrupted our study session and so subtly began to flirt with our Fred,” said Tegan casually.
“She’s your roommate, yeah?” asked I. “You don’t know her name?”
Tegan looked at me apologetically. “Don’t think I’m totally self-centred, because I haven’t actually talked to her since the first day of first year. She asked me if I thought J.D. was an ‘absolute cutie’ and I bolted as quickly as I could. So it really is feasible that I don’t remember her name.”
I grinned at her. “Well, if you haven’t spoken to your roommate in six years, then I guess it’s excusable that you have no idea that one of your roommates is called Miranda.”
“I knew that was it!” piped Tegan.
We sat in silence for 713 seconds.
“So, are you ready for the Transfiguration test?” I asked.
“No,” whined Tegan. “That’s what me and Freddie were studying for, and I guess I know the material well enough, but I’m so stressed and I always do badly under pressure on exams. Quidditch, I can deal with pressure. Academics, not so much.”
“Hmm,” I mumbled, not being able to relate. I only get stressed when there’s a very pretty girl sitting on the arm of my chair and I want to ask her to Hogsmeade but there’s a weird psychological barrier in the way. Like right now.
“Do you guys have the wrestling mat out, in your dormitory?” asked Tegan.
“Yeah, we had a tourney last night,” I said. “We probably didn’t put it away.”
Tegan hit my shoulder. “You had a wrestling tourney and didn’t invite me?”
I grimaced dramatically and rubbed my shoulder. “We assumed you were hanging out with your best friend Melinda.”
“Will you come wrestle with me?” asked Tegan. “I have all this suppressed frustration and rage that I need to release in order to de-stress.”
“Sure,” I said, not realizing how bad of an idea this was.
I didn’t even realize how stupid I was when we got upstairs to the sixth year boys’ dormitory. Or when we were both crouching down across from each other and Tegan counted off to begin the match. It was only after we charged at and grabbed each other and I caught that Tegalicious scent that I realized how very, very stupid I am.
I was so caught off-guard by the wonderful aroma representing Tegality that Tegan was able to pin me down straight away. I was almost as surprised by her ability to pin me as she appeared to be, since I’m a decent wrestler. In fact, no Gryffie is better than me, excepting Fred. He’s a far stockier lad than I.
But I shrugged off the randy part of my brain’s eager suggestion to kiss her and got my mind back into the match. I quickly pushed her lightweight body off of me and was able to pin her to the mat with no problem.
Tegan squirmed and struggled as I hovered over her and held down her arms. I almost felt bad, but I couldn’t sully my rep as second-best Gryffie wrestler. She wouldn’t respect me for letting her win, anyways.
“You gonna countdown, or what?” snapped Tegan in defeat. Her olive eyes look pretty even when she’s disappointed.
But before I could count from ten and declare myself the winner, I let out, “Wannagotosmeadewime?”
“What?” Tegan breathed.
“Want to go to Hogsmeade with me?” I asked quietly, my face almost certainly beet red.
Tegan seemed surprised. “Don’t I always go to Hogsmeade with you?”
And she did. But J.D., Fred, and Micah always came along.
“I mean,” I said more surely, “do you want to go to Hogsmeade with only me?”
She just stared at me.
“Yes,” said Tegan, looking up into my eyes. She had sort of smile of triumph beneath the sea of freckles dotting her nose.
I grinned broadly. “Okay. Great.”
We just kind of stayed there for a few minutes, me on top of her, smiling goofily at each other. I tried very, very hard from keeping my mind from wandering to activities that would not be appropriate for this stage of our courtship.
But then Tegan broke the silence. “James, er, your hands are kind of cutting off circulation in my arms—”
“Nimue’s lake, I’m sorry!” I shouted and jumped off of her.
She stood up as well, and then we awkwardly stared at anything in the room that wasn’t each other. I picked the window by J.D.’s bed, and I think Tegan picked Micah’s trunk.
“I have to—clean my—broomstick,” she muttered, and dashed out the door.
Very slowly and wobbly, I sat upon my bed. I tried to wrap my head ‘round the situation.
I had asked her out.
She had said yes.
And she had seemed very surprised and perhaps even mildly disturbed by the notion.
A/N: Guys, I’m so proud of myself. I worked so much on detailing my character notes, and I’ve given all these guys middle names and birthdays. I feel spesh.
Thank you SO MUCH to all of my wonderful reviewers! You guys are the heroes of Gryffie Nation! And yes, anyone who read this story is granted automatic citizenship to Gryffie Nation.
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