I struggled not to frown as Professor Longbottom steadily made his way down the Gryffindor table towards me. The first breakfast of sixth year. That meant one thing. I had to choose my NEWT level courses. I chewed my lip. My OWL results had been less than ideal, so my options were rather limited.
I stared down at my breakfast as Professor Longbottom and Vanessa discussed her many options. She got three E’s and the rest were O’s on her OWL exams. Note my jealousy. Fifth year was easily the worst year of my life.
“Ah! Miss Finch-Fletchley! Let us see what classes you’ll be taking your final two years here at Hogwarts, shall we?”
“If we must.” I looked up into his smiling face. He was always being extra nice to me. My mother said it was because he wasn’t all that great in school either, and he was taking pity on me. I never knew if I should believe her though, my mother is a quack after all.
“It looks like you passed your Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL!”
“Barely.” I answered him. I barely managed an A, and that was with me practically acing the written portion! Unfortunately for me, and maybe one or two others, Defense Against the Dark Arts became required for all students all seven years after the war ended. If someone failed their OWL in that course, they had to take the fifth year one over again.
“Well, it’s fortunate for you! What other classes do you wish to take? I’m assuming Potions?”
I felt my spirits lift at the mention. I grinned. “Yeah!” I got an O in that class!
I sighed and thought about it. After getting my grades, I had tried to push the thought of classes out of my mind. It was then that I realized I could drop classes. I could stop taking the ones I sucked at! Well, not including Defense Against the Dark Arts, but still! “I’m dropping Transfiguration and Charms.”
Professor Longbottom frowned at me. “Are you sure you want to drop those? You don’t want to take any practical magic courses?”
“I failed Transfiguration, and I only got an A in Charms.” I didn’t want to take them. I’d blow up the school in the advanced courses!
“Still, though, an A is all you need for Charms. I’ll sign you up for that as well.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but changed my mind. It probably wouldn’t hurt me to take Charms. No, it’d just hurt whomever had the misfortune of sitting next to me.
“Alright. Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Potions, and–?”
“Herbology, Astronomy, and–“ I sighed wistfully at the thought of losing my History of Magic, and scowled at the thought of the class Mum was forcing me to take. “Divination.”
Professor Longbottom looked slightly uncomfortable. “You received a T on your Divination OWL.”
“Mum made a few calls.” and that was all he needed to hear to know that I was allowed to take the class. He handed me my schedule, and continued his way down the table. I immediately compared schedules with the girls.
I had Potions with Vanessa and Emily, Astronomy with Jen, Herbology with Annily, Divination with Jen, all four in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and none of them in Charms. That was probably for the best, I figured, I would need to really focus in Charms.
I felt something hit the back of my head, and looked down to see a roll on my plate that hadn’t been there before. I looked to see who threw it and saw it had been Fred. He looked at me, then at Al. I sighed. It was as good a time as any, I supposed.
“I’ll be right back.” I told the girls, and got up and made my way to Al.
He was talking to Ashton Davies, a sixth year boy, and didn’t see me approaching. It was strange to hear him talking so coherently. I sat down next to him, and Ashton got a strange look on his face–he obviously knew of Al’s apparently infamous crush on me as well–and he pointed at me.
Al turned around, and the change in his demeanor was visible. He stiffened up, his eyes went wide, and his face turned red. I gave him the biggest smile I could. “Hey, Al! I was just wondering if I could see your schedule? You know, see if we have any classes together.”
He just stared at me, a furious blush covering his cheeks. “Al? Your schedule?”
His mouth started opening and closing for a bit, I waited patiently. “Oh! My schedule. Right. Of course. You want to see it. Duh. That was rather obvious wasn’t it? I’ll get it out for you right now. Just hold on one second, okay?”
I tuned out his rambling at that point and waited with, what I hoped, a kind smile for him to hand me his schedule. When he finally did I looked down at it. We had a couple classes together. “Looks like we have Charms together Al! That’s great, I don’t have any other friends in that class, so we’ll sit together, right?”
“Uh–yeah, of course we will! Why wouldn’t we? Yeah, Charms will be fun. We’ll have lots of fun in Charms. We’ll have a blast in Charms, even!”
I smiled at him. I really was genuinely flattered by his affections. He was a nice, famous, good looking guy. It was true that until the day before I always kind of thought he was a little slow, but now that I knew why he acted that way it was a little less annoying and a little more endearing. Yeah, I thought, I can do Fred’s favor. I can be this guy’s friend.
“Definitely!” I laughed. “Okay, so I have to get back to the girls, but I’ll see you later in Defense Against the Dark Arts, since we’ve got that too!”
“Yeah. You’ll see me.” Al’s face was bright red, but his voice had come out solid and steady for the first time that I’d ever heard. Maybe James was right about going out with Jen by Halloween? Who knew?
I got up and went back to the girls. Jen was staring at me with a heartbroken look on her face. I felt my heart fall into my stomach. I never even stopped to think about how she would react to my trying to start a friendship with Al. It was then it dawned on me that Jen really did fear relationships, she was terrified of having her heart broken.
In Jen’s eyes I was helping James Potter to break her heart.
“Why were you talking to him?”
Her voice cracked. Jen’s voice never cracked. Not ever. She was way too strong for her voice to crack. She was strong and confident and never frightened. What was it about James that spooked her so much?
I tried to think of something to say, something that would restore her faith in our friendship, faith that I could see in her eyes was lost. Nothing came to me. Nothing ever came to when in the moments I needed something to come to me.
So I did what I always do.
“Why can’t I talk to him?” and I said it in the bitchiest tone I could muster too.
“I can’t believe you’re helping James Potter when you know I don’t want to date him!” Jen whispered. The tone in her voice cut me deep.
But once I start I’m physically incapable of stopping. “If you didn’t want to date him you shouldn’t have agreed, you moron.”
I didn’t wince at my comment, but Vanessa, Emily, and Annily all did. One thing Jen hated more than anything else was having her intelligence questioned. She wasn’t a genius by any means, but most people assumed she was an idiot because she was as beautiful as she was.
Jen’s lips pressed together, forming a thin line, and I knew she was angry. She glared at me for a minute, but I didn’t apologize. I knew my insult hurt her, but I couldn’t say sorry. I just couldn’t. Later I knew I would be able to, but in that moment I couldn’t.
“I’ve known you for years Cam. Because of that I know you didn’t mean what you just said, and I know you feel bad about it. I’m going to leave before you’re stupidity and bitchy streak permanently damage our friendship.”
With that Jen got up and stormed out of the Great Hall.
I was relieved to say the least. I hated it when my temper lashed out at my friends. I really did. Because they were my friends I knew exactly what to say to them to hurt them the most, and I always went directly for the throat.
I looked over at Vanessa and noticed that Emily and Annily must have followed Jen out to make sure she was okay. Vanessa was the only sixth year Gryffindor girl at the table, and she was glaring at me.
“I didn’t mean it.” I frowned. Now that I was calm I felt even more horrible and wanted nothing more than to chase after Jen to apologize.
“Why did you say it then?” Vanessa snapped at me. I never knew how, but Vanessa had always been able to make me feel very tiny when she scolded me.
“She cornered me!”
Vanessa just rolled her eyes at me. I sighed. “I’m sorry I said it!”
She rolled her eyes again. “I know that!” Vanessa took her turn to sigh. “Come on, we’ve got double potions.”
Even though I felt guilty as hell, the thought of Potions picked up my spirits considerably. That made me feel even more guilty, but I couldn’t help it. Potions always brightened my day.
“Let’s go then.”
To my credit, I tried really hard not to let my enthusiasm show! I really did.
We were almost to the door when Margo Baker, also leaving the Great Hall, rammed herself into me, sending me sprawling out on the floor. I looked back up at her and she smirked at me. Actually smirked.
“Oops. Sorry. Didn’t see you.”
And then she left.
I heard Vanessa mutter “Bitch” under her breath as she helped me up. I couldn’t help but agree. Margo was a Ravenclaw in our year. She had always been a little rude, but never out right mean. I had no idea how, but it seemed like I had done something to offend the dark haired girl.
By the time we were seated in Potions, it seemed I had been forgiven for my misdeeds at breakfast. Emily came in and sat down with a smile, saying the Jen was okay and wasn’t angry. I was extremely relieved. I hated the idea that I hurt her. I had to come up with something to say to her about trying to start a friendship with Al before I saw her after lunch in Defense Against the Dark Arts. I intended to avoid her at lunch.
“Alright class, I think you’ll all have noticed the different potions on your desks...”
My attentions were focused solely on Professor Slughorn as soon as he began to speak. I loved Potions class. Everything about it.
Anyway, for anyone who is interested, I am posting Character Sketches for the characters in the story on my livejournal. My name there is the same as it is here, my fanfiction posts are public, personal are private.
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