Chapter 1 : Fall At Your Feet
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Fall at Your Feet
Fall at Your Feet – Crowded House
It takes two to get one in trouble.
- Mae West
‘Stac, if you don’t come down this instant, I swear…’
The boy’s voice trailed off as he tried to come up with a suitable punishment, but the girl just laughed at him softly, not shifting an inch.
‘You’ll what, James Potter? Tell the professors on me? Not likely.’
He voice was no louder than her laugh, too aware of her perilous position, but it held a trace of smugness as she surveyed the scene below her.
James Sirius Potter ground his teeth in annoyance. Stupid female! He leaned out over the ledge as far as he dared, stretching to reach something, anything that he could use to pull her back. But she laughed again and scooted a little further along the beam.
‘If you think it’s so dangerous, why don’t you come out here and get me?’ she challenged pertly, ‘After all, your dad would never forgive you if you let a poor, delusional girl fall to her death, now would he?’
James glared at her silently. She went in for the kill.
‘And I’ll bet your family would never let you live it down if they knew you were too scared to go out on a limb.’
That did it. He gritted his teeth and swung one leg over the banister. The girl chuckled silently, her eyes crinkling as she tried to hold in her amusement at his obvious distress.
‘What’s the matter, Potter?’ she asked innocently, ‘Scared of heights?’
Not exactly. No one as comfortable on a broom as James could ever truly be afraid of heights, but there was a big difference between being on a broom and straddling one of the beams that held up the vaulted ceiling in the Hogwarts entrance hall. For one thing, the beam wouldn’t catch you if you fell.
James tried to block those thoughts out as he moved warily onwards.
‘Good man,’ the girl said approvingly, ‘Now, almost there.’ And she continued to shuffle her way across the long, broad piece of wood.
‘Remind me again why we’re doing this?’ asked James plaintively.
‘Because Sylvia Blackthorn needs to be taught a lesson;’ was the decisive reply, ‘she needs to learn that she can’t just take things from others without asking. Especially not things like mother’s necklaces. And because she was rude to my first years, and that’s not something I’m going to stand for.’
As she spoke, the girl took a bag out of the pocket of her robe. Reaching inside, she began to pull out what looked like a long rope made up of underwear. It continued coming and coming, stretching out an impossibly long way, much too large to have fit in such a small bag.
‘Hold this,’ she said, giving one end to James, ‘I’m going down further to attach the other end.’
James did as he was told with a sigh, fixing the bright purple pair of knickers to the wood with a muttered charm.
‘Yeah, but is this really the best way to solve the problem?’ he asked again, but the girl wasn’t listening.
‘Right, that’s my end done. How’d you go?’ She smiled at his confirming nod. ‘Done and done! Now all we have to do is get down before anyone notices.’
All we have to do, thought James gloomily. He was starting to get a very bad and very familiar feeling in the pit of his stomach. This was not going to end well.
The girl continued to crawl along the beam, looking as comfortable as if she stood on solid ground. James, however, was only too aware of the huge drop on either side of the wood, which seemed to grow narrower and narrower the more he looked at it. He shuddered slightly and looked ahead. The girl was climbing over the far railing. She turned as soon as she was back on (considerably more) solid ground and shot him a brilliant smile that made her face shine as if lit from within.
The sight of that smile made James feel warm all over, and for just a second his attention wandered. This would have normally gone unnoticed, only this particular moment was not a good time for him to lose focus.
One of his feet slipped off the side of the beam and, for a second, James tried to find purchase in empty air. He hauled his foot and leg up, righting himself again, and let out a sharp intake of breath, grinning sheepishly.
But not for long. In pulling himself back onto the beam, he had overcompensated, shifting his weight almost completely to the opposite side. So when that foot slid off the beam, there was nothing he could do to stop the rest of his body following it.
James saw the girl in front of him watching in horror as he began to fall down towards the stone floor of the entrance hall. He tried at the last second to grab hold of the beam, but it slipped from his grasping fingers and didn’t slow him in the least. James fought furiously with his whipping robes, trying to find the wand shoved up his sleeve, but his body was turning so quickly in the air that he couldn’t even find his arm, let alone his sleeve. He gave it up as useless and, in the few seconds he had left before he had what he felt sure was going to be a very bad fall, he did what any brave young Quidditch captain would do.
He curled his body up into a ball and wished very hard that this had all been a bad dream.
Great, said a cynical little voice in the back of his brain, James Potter, troublemaker extraordinaire, is going to die falling off a bit of wood. It hardly seemed fair.
But before he could make any sort of sudden stop, James felt his descent slowing, gradually at first, but then more significantly, until he was barely moving at all, but more…floating over the ground. He raised his head to look for his saviour, and suddenly found himself dumped unceremoniously on the cold stone.
James looked up at the faces staring down at him from all over the entrance hall. He caught a glimpse of his brother Albus’ admiring and slightly frustrated face gazing at him from the stairway. Their cousin Rose was standing next to him, a famous Weasley glare darkening her pretty face. He cringed just a little at that, already imagining the owls that were going to be sent home after this, and the even worse ones that were going to be sent back.
‘Well, Mr Potter. And what do you have to say for yourself this time?’
James cringed even more. Despite the fact that she was no longer officially in charge at Hogwarts, having retired from being Headmistress almost three years ago, Minerva McGonagall still had the ability to strike a queer sort of fear into the heart of a normally fearless boy.
‘Uhh…thank you for catching me?’ James could have kicked himself the moment the words came out of his mouth. He’d forgotten how to deal with this most dangerous of professors. Being smart wasn’t going to help.
To his surprise, Professor McGonagall gave him a little smile and put out her hand. Confused, he hesitated a moment before grasping it lightly and getting to his feet.
‘It is not I you should be thanking, Mr Potter. Miss Sangraal here was the one to cast the hover charm. I merely assisted her at the very end of the exercise. I must say,’ she continued, ‘that I have never, in all my days seen so strong a charm from a student of her age, nor such a quick reaction time.’
The Professor gestured to where Miss Sangraal stood, her eyes cast modestly downwards as she blushed slightly from the praise heaped upon her. James’ jaw dropped in shock as he stared at the girl.
‘If I may, Headmaster?’ without even waiting for a reply, McGonagall pressed on.
‘Twenty points to Gryffindor, for clear-thinking and outstanding fortitude in the face of impending disaster.’
The Gryffindors standing in the hall clapped and cheered loudly, although their eyes were still fixed eagerly on James’ glum figure. They all knew, as he did, that he wasn’t getting out of this one that easily.
‘And as for you, Mr Potter…’ McGonagall looked across to the Headmaster, Professor Longbottom, who was staring at James with a look of pure exasperation. James felt a little guilty. Neville was a great friend of the family, and spent almost as much time at James’ house as James did. He hated to punish any of the students, especially the Potters and Weasleys, but with McGonagall standing by, what else could he do?
‘What exactly were you doing up there in the first place?’ he asked with bemused interest.
As if on cue, a rustling sound came from above them. A roomful of faces looked up as a large banner, made entirely out of girl’s underwear, unfolded to hang across the beam where James had sat only minutes before. Inscribed on the banner, in big, shiny red letters, were the words Sylvia Blackthorn should pick on someone her own size!
James groaned softly and closed his eyes to the hoots and jeers echoing around him. Professor Longbottom raised his wand and muttered an incantation under his breath, but nothing happened. He tried again, with the same result.
‘Permanent sticking charm, eh?’ he sighed resignedly. ‘My office, James, in ten minutes.’
With that, he and the rest of the teachers swept from the room, chivvying students along as they went, leaving James standing alone with the girl who had saved his life. He scowled at her angrily.
‘You’re a right tosser, you know that? And how the hell did you get down here so fast?’
Anastacia Sangraal tossed her brown hair and smiled brightly at him, patently ignoring both the insult and the question.
‘James, it’s not my fault you’re clumsy. Besides, aren’t you going to thank me for saving your life?’
James started to stalk away, muttering furious things, but she laughed and linked her arm through his, forcing him to slow his steps to stop from dragging her along behind him.
‘Come on, you have to admit it was worth it to see the look on her face. I’ll be surprised if she goes back to her old tricks after this. And Longbottom won’t give you anything too bad, just cleaning the Herbology rooms or something. So buck up.’
James gave a non-committal grunt as they walked towards the Headmaster’s office. Anastacia swung him to face her, her hands on his shoulders. She had to reach up a fair way to do so; he was at least a foot and a half taller than she.
‘Thank you for trying to save my bacon, even if it didn’t exactly go as planned.’ She grinned and he returned the smile unconsciously. ‘At least I can always count on you to be there, trying to help.’
‘Oh, never mind.’ growled James uncomfortably. He slung his arm around her shoulder and they continued on towards his next brush with fate.
Because James Potter had a secret. Even though he was the one always in trouble, it was never really his fault. He was just the one who always got caught. And the only reason he got caught was because he was trying to get the girl beside him out of scrapes, or helping her once she got into them.
Because Hogwarts’ real troublemaker was not the person that anyone suspected.
First story, so please be kind! Constructive criticism is much appreciated! Please excuse the shoddy workmanship, but I've never done anything like this before and it's a bit tricky! Ta!