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Chapter 3 : At My Party
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Fred tackles me as soon as he saw me and I pull him into a headlock while his arms are still wrapped my middle. I see Mum turn around at that noise and I know what’s coming…
Mum explodes. “JAMES SIRIUS POTTER! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WE ARE GUESTS IN THIS HOUSE AND THIS IS NO—.” Thankfully Nana walks in and saves my skin.
“Now, Ginny. You were no better when you were living here.” Nana walks by with a wink to me and Fred and the whole sitting room of her older brothers, burst out laughing. Mum turns even redder, if that was possible. I’m so glad I don’t blush like Mum.
As I walk through the room getting cheers of ‘Happy Birthday’ and some encouragement to use magic now that I’m of age, I finally see who I was looking for: my Quidditch team. I had already seen Fred, the Keeper, on account that he just tackled me in the kitchen, but there was also Phillip Finnegan and Roger Thomas, our other two Chasers, the Scamander twins, Lorcan and Lysander, our Beaters, and Meredith Blount, our amazing Seeker, who was currently chatting with Uncle George a little away from the group.
I was captain last year and this team was the best yet. Phillip and Fred were a little hesitant about putting Meredith on the team, because the year before we never won a game in which our previous seeker played, but she was terrible. Meredith is loads better than her…*cough*Victoire*cough*. Oh dear, that must have slipped out somehow... I was able to convince the guys otherwise about Mer, thankfully.
I have no idea why Victorie Weasley was seeker my fifth year. It was probably because the captain at that time fancied her, for who-knows-what reason. I suspect it’s because she’s ⅛ veela and ½ Weasley. That combination of determination and charm can pretty much suck anyone in. Not that it would work on me… ew… she’s my cousin. I can’t say too many awful things about her, however, because Teddy’s dating her now. He would pummel me ruthlessly if I spoke a word against her. He’s been like that with most his girlfriends, though, and I’ve learned the hard way to watch what I say around him.
Phillip and the Scamanders greet me excitedly as Fred and I approach. “James! Happy birthday, mate!”
“Thanks Phillip. Good summer, Lorcan? Lysander?”
“Good as it could be,” Lorcan responds. “We went to Sweden with Mum for a few weeks. It was fun, but considering we’ve gone at least once a year since we started school, I’m starting to wonder if we ever will see a Crumple-Horned Snorkack. They seem to be rather reclusive.” Lysander nodded sadly as Fred rolls his eyes and shook his head behind them.
“Sounds great,” said Phillip, patting Lysander on the shoulder. Looking to me he asks, “So, Captain, what kind of thrilling strategies have you thought up over the summer?”
“Of course! Who do you think you’re talking to? I’m going to go ahead and hold try-outs, but you all don’t anything to worry about. We need to pick a few reserves, though, just in case one of you lot have the unfortunate experience of being out during a game.”
“Us? Aren’t you the one getting detentions every other weekend?”
I wave Phillip off and Lysander pipes in. “What if you end up in the hospital wing from one of us?” he said indicating himself and Lorcan. There was a pause before the six of us burst out laughing. In my six years at Hogwarts, I have never been in the hospital wing from a Quidditch injury. It is a bit unusual, but I’m definitely not complaining. It’s become a bit of a joke inside the team, though.
My teammates start talking about various accidents and injuries they’ve experienced and I fall out of the conversation and look hopelessly through the crowd of people wishing to Merlin that Julia was here right now. Maybe I wouldn’t be confused if I was actually in her presence. Maybe not. For the second time that night, I’m jarred out of my thoughts by someone saying my name.
“James?” The familiar female voice makes me smile as I turn to see my cousin Rose smiling up at me. She’s pretty short, but don’t get the wrong idea. She’s so much like her parents that it’s scary. With big, bushy hair, quick mind, and a temper to match, I don’t know how guys even tolerate her… but please don’t tell anyone I said that. A few guys at school have asked me if I, as her cousin and friend, set them up with her. After the first few ended up as birds from ‘accidental’ consumption of Canary Creams, others learned to not mention that to me and from that, guys at school have learned not to say such things about my sister. I got told off by Rose for doing it, and out of fear of her dangerous temper, I backed off of her case, thought Lily is a totally different story.
Honestly, Lily can date whoever, as long as she keeps it to herself, and as long as her boyfriend stays away from me. There are very few guys that dare to give her a second glance because of this unspoken rule, much to her dismay. I however feel this is perfect, because this way only I can make sure a really worthy guy will date my sister. Al and I are pretty protective of our little sister, by the way. She should be happy I don’t go out of my way to make guys avoid her, even though she claims it's what I do.
“Hey Rose,” I reply giving her a hug. She and I have always gotten along well, even if she is Al’s age.
“Happy birthday!” She looked past me and then around the room and added, “Where’s Julia?”
“Thanks, umm… she couldn’t make it.”
“Oh, okay,” she frowns slightly. “Why not?” I know that Rose doesn’t like Julia at all. I have no idea why, but most of my friends don’t. They try to avoid conversations with and about Julia and I don’t press the matter, though today I wish someone would be straight with me about her.
“She said she was going to be in Ireland for the summer, so she couldn’t see me until school starts, again.”
“Oh, okay.” That same frown forms on her face as I said this but she smiled and adds, “So, how has your day been so far?”
I really didn’t know how to respond, so I shrug my shoulders and reply “Not too bad, just avoiding the mob outside our house as usual.” Thankfully, the following questions I knew she was going to ask about what else I did that day (I don’t really want to talk about the letter) are interrupted by an explosion of laughter as I see Uncle Ron and Uncle George race quickly outside, followed by a steaming Uncle Percy. Sometimes I feel sorry for all the ridicule Uncle Percy gets and the jokes cracked about him, but he is so stiff that I think he deserves it most of the time.
Hugo, doubled over in laughter, manages. “Uncle George and Uncle Fred… when they were in school… changed Uncle Percy’s Head Boy badge to say ‘Bighead Boy’ and… and he didn’t notice until his girlfriend saw it… and he couldn’t figure out how to change it back, so Uncle Fred gave him the ‘counter-spell’ but all it did was make the badge grow twice as big and only say ‘Bighead’.” Laughter erupted from around the room at the explanation and I hear Hugo say, “I only knew half that story before! You should have seen the look on Uncle Percy’s face!”
Sometimes I miss my Uncle Fred, even if I never knew him. Uncle Ron helped Uncle George move on and stepped up to help cover the jokester’s spot in the family and now helps run the store since retiring as an Auror, but apparently Uncle George hasn’t been the same since. We would have so much fun planning pranks and coming up with new products… George listens to my ideas and uses them sometimes, but everyone says he’s not as experimental as they used to be, together.
I quickly walk away from Rose before she could interrogate me even more and walk over to my team again. Meredith looks my way for the first time that night and smiles widely. I feel my stomach flip and my heart rate increase suddenly and stop. I have no idea what was coming over me so I divert from my path to walk over to my Grandpa Arthur.
Grandpa up at me from the object he was currently inspecting. “James! Happy Birthday! Seventeen already?”
“More like, seventeen finally.”
“You say that now. Time will fell like it flies by fast the older you get!” I smirk at his cliché and Grandpa laughs. “Oh yes, James. I know you know more about Muggles than most of the other in the family, so I wanted to ask you something. I came across this our backyard and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it could possibly be for.” He hands me what he had been inspecting before coming over to him. “I was thinking that it could possibly be used for automobiles. Being so bright, it may be what they use in the lights on the front so they can drive at night and-”
“It’s a tennis ball, Grandpa. Tennis is a game Muggles play. They use something that looks like a paddle to bounce this ball over a net in the middle of the players.”
“A tennis ball? Well what do you know! The things Muggles come up with to amuse themselves. Why don’t you take it, James? I don’t have much use for it and I don’t think your Nana would like it very much if I started a new Muggle collection. Now I better see if Molly need help with dinner.” He laughs and hands me the ball before standing and walking to the kitchen.
I love it at the Burrow. I look around the living room where my numerous relatives stood, sat, leaned (as well as many other positions hard to describe) on the furniture. In the corner I saw Al, my cousin Hugo, and, of all people at Harry and James Potter’s birthday party, Scorpious Malfoy, talking. Well, Hugo and Al were talking. Scorpious was staring at something… or someone…
I follow his gaze to where several of my female relatives are standing, including Lily and Rose. Great… not him too! I’ll have to talk to Al about that later.
Again, I feel a tap on my shoulder and I turn to see the person I have been momentarily avoiding. Meredith stood smiling at me and, once more, my heart started to beat faster. I have never felt this way before and it’s throwing me off. It sort of feels like the feeling I get before a Quidditch game. Nerves? But why do I feel so nervous around Meredith? I have known her since fourth year when she completely stomped me in our duel in Defense. I’m pretty good in Defense, but she can cast one terrific shield charm! After my humiliation, she and I started talking became really close. I was the one to convince her to try out for Quidditch fifth year, but she didn’t make it because, obviously and quite unfortunately, Victorie was appointed Seeker.
“Hey James,” she greets warmly, and my stomach flips. “Happy birthday! How has it been so far?”
“Pretty good,” I manage to reply. I can’t control my shaking hands and I hide them behind me before she notices.
“I heard the mob was exceptionally horrid today. Did you find anything interesting in your attic?” I had told Meredith pretty much everything about what I do on my birthday. She’s always had funny things to say about what I find, but at the moment I’m so startled about how I feel that I can’t even think straight.
“Yeah, it was pretty bad.”
“What: the mob or the attic?” She laughed and my heart skipped a beat. I’ve never been this tongue-tied around Meredith before. I nervously giggle (did I just giggle… oh dear, something really is wrong!) and she looks at me questionably. “Are you feeling okay? You look flushed.”
“Of course I’m okay.” I note with disdain that my voice is abnormally high. “I’m fantastic! Superb! Never better!” Her inquiry, however flushes my already very flushed face (Damn, I have to be looking like Mum, now). I need an escape and say the first thing I can think of, “I think I’m going to take a walk.” I walk away from Meredith as quickly as I can, and head through the kitchen for the door, hoping that no one follows me. I walk into the warm night and look around. The Burrow looks as it always does and it comforts me after strangeness I just experienced. The familiarity of the whole place has always made me feel safe, and I need safe after feeling what just happened when I was talking to Meredith.
After a few minutes, I hesitantly return to the house. Mum grabs me as I enter the kitchen for dinner, forcing me to wash my hands, while reproaching me for leaving the party. I don’t saying anything, knowing that even agreeing with her will set off her already short temper. She is always on-edge today, but I can’t say I blame her. It has got to be stressful being the wife of the famous Harry Potter.
At the table, I sit with my team. Thankfully, Meredith is sitting on the same side of the table a couple seats down from me, so I’m not forced to look at her and experience the same feelings as before. Fred brings up the Chudley Cannon’s season and how he’s positive that they’re going to make a comeback (however impossible it may seem). I’m personally a Puddlemere United supporter, much to my Uncle Ron’s dismay, but I can talk about anything with Quidditch, so I’m not about to object to that. At least this gets my mind off of Meredith.
After Nana’s amazing-as-always dinner, it’s time for “birthday festivities.” This just means that we eat cake and open presents, which is always festive when you have such an extensive family. As always, I get my usual stash of Wheezes items from Uncle George along with a couple of galleons because, he says, I’m going to need it for after school.
Mum and Dad give me a watch for coming of age. It looks like Dad’s watch, which I’ve always loved. They also gave me a couple of instructional books for guitar, which I don’t really understand. I’ve asked for a guitar before, but I’ve never actually received one, and books before a guitar don’t really make sense. I also get several Quidditch things from my friends and a book called Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches from my Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione, but the one thing (well, two things) that caught me off guard were Julia’s lack of a gift and Meredith’s gift. I never knew how much I meant to her, or how much she meant to me. She gave me the one thing I’ve wanted the most; the one thing I have told only her and my parents about.
Inside of the small box I was given laid a miniature guitar which had obviously been reduced in size magically. I look up at Meredith, utterly speechless, and she smiles. I’m so incredibly taken aback that I don’t even care that my heart is doing back flips for that smile. Meredith pulls out the miniature instrument and puts it and its case back to normal size and hands the guitar to me. I hold my gift and glance back around the silent room. My parents are smiling slyly at me, and I know they were in on this secret and I smile back contently. They’ve always liked Meredith and helping her get the perfect gift for me was probably no problem for them.
Unfortunately, the excitement I had for my new guitar was doused by my realization that Julia had failed to give me a gift. I try to remind myself that it is probably impossible for her to get her gift to me since her parents are Muggles and she doesn’t have an owl. However, I can’t shake the feeling that she doesn’t really care.
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