“Sophie!” the youngest Potter had come back to the house for something and bombarded her friend. Sophie smiled and hugged Lily energetically. The nearly fifteen-year-old Lily was nothing like the lifeless waif she had been three years ago. It had taken the concentrated efforts of the entire Potter-Weasley clan, but Lily Potter was a functional human being who was even able to handle a couple of bad stories in the paper, Sophie was proud to say. She still watched her weight, but Lily was in no way unhealthy. She still was careful about who she confided in, but was much more open. She had even been caught snogging Lorcan Scamander last year.
Sophie was so proud.
“How long have you been here?” Lily asked, excitedly. “Wow, you already put all your stuff away!”
“Ah, the beauty of being an adult!” Sophie said, waving her wand for emphasis. “I’ve only been here a moment. I was just about to head to the field. You done with the game?”
“You know they aren’t,” Lily said, rolling her eyes. “I’m not even sure they noticed I was gone. I got thirsty and took a break.”
Sophie laughed with Lily. Quidditch was pretty intense in this family. Nearly all the Potter-Weasleys played on their house team (except Hugo, ironically. He was the best keeper Ravenclaw had ever seen, but quit last year to focus on his studies). Lily was an amazing seeker, just like her father. It had taken some time, but Albus and James had coaxed her onto the quidditch field and she hadn’t looked back since. Albus and James took after their mother. Combined with Rose Weasley, they were a deadly chaser team. James, of course, was planning on playing professionally, like his mum. The rest just played for fun.
And to win. Competition was very, very fierce.
“I’d better get back," Lily observed. “Fred’ll be angry if Scorpius catches the snitch while I’m gone.”
“I’ll come watch,” Sophie said. “Maybe cat-call James a bit.”
“Don’t you want to play?” Lily asked as the two sped down the stairs.
“Nope. I’m decent but James’ intensity scares the fun right out of quidditch for me.”
“He does at that!” Lily cackled as the girls raced out the back door, past a smiling Mrs. Potter. As soon as they were clear of the house, Lily hopped on her broom and flew off, leaving Sophie to walk the last hundred feet or so by herself. Above her head, the tiny specks that were flying Potter-Weasleys darted about, yelling and cheering as the game progressed. It was Fred, Roxy, Hugo, Rose, Lily, and Louis against James, Albus, Dominique, Molly, Scorpius and Lucy. Fred’s team was down one player and James’ was down two. When the entire family was involved (Victoire and Teddy were wedding shopping and the adults were to busy to play) they sometimes created extra positions, a fourth chaser or a third beater. The pick-up games were fun, but intense. Fred was yelling something obscene at Lily that Sophie couldn’t quite make out and Lucy was screaming some sort of war cry as she wacked a bludger towards Hugo, her favorite cousin and the opposing team’s keeper.
Finding a tree with a good vantage point an a lovely patch of clover for her to sit on, Sophie settled in to watch the game. She was, of course, rooting for James to win. Sophie followed all the rules of girlfriend protocol. She came to every quidditch game James played, distracted the teachers when he was late to class, and bragged about him to her girlfriends. Of course, she also had very public shouting matches with him if he was seen with another girl, was caught in various embarrassing displays of public affection, and had allowed camera men to snap many a picture of her artfully tear strewn face in the midst of a lovers’ spat.
All in all, Sophia Hinds was the perfect girlfriend.
In the past three years, their fake relationship had become the focus of an entire nation of wizards. Sophie was often stopped by inquisitive witches and wizards in Gringott’s or Madam Malkin’s and asked why she hadn’t forgiven that sweet boy yet, or how could James have attended that ball with another girl. She and James had achieved everything they had ever set out to do. But somehow, six months had turned into three years.
The plan had worked perfectly. With the attention off Lily, she began to act a bit more like herself. Suddenly all the talks that Ginny had been giving her about self esteem began taking hold. Suddenly she was willing to try flying again (far from the public eye and with the promise of her brothers not to laugh). She even had friends, friends she was willing to talk to and trust. Lily was coming out of her shell and Sophie and James secretly knew they were the cause.
And it wasn’t as hard as Sophie had thought it would be, “dating” James. They had always been friends. The kissing had been awkward at first, especially since she wasn’t sure what to do, and wasn’t really all that attracted to James in the first place. By now, they had it down to a science. The pair even planned out their “spontaneous romantic moments” well in advance—it became commonplace for Sophie to walk into a room and hear James say, “So I’m thinking about sliding my hand up your skirt. Are you wearing nice underwear for the picture?”
The only downside—and it was a big one—was that she became a constant disappointment to her mother. Madam Hinds, Minister of Magic, was a proper Englishwoman who expected to raise three, well bred children. Sophia’s older brother was a Healer at St. Mungo’s and her sister was training under Hermione Weasley in Magical Law enforcement. Neither had created too many scandals. Neither had rocked the boat much. Sophie wouldn’t have either, but James had asked, and although she sometimes regretted the backlash of bad publicity, she never regretted the decision.
Although explaining that her bad publicity was merely a decoy might have raised Sophie in her mother’s opinion, Sophie was never able to tell her. Madam Hinds was the kind of woman who believed that the only way to fight was out in the open. That was the way she conducted herself, and the way she had raised her children to be. Her mother, Sophie knew, would never have approved of a plan that involved lying to anyone, much less the entire wizarding world. She probably would have outed their pretend relationship herself. But that wouldn’t matter much longer. The rouse was coming to an end.
A frenzied battle cry from Lucy jolted Sophie out of her deep thoughts. She had no idea what the score was, but by the look of desperation on James’ face, Sophie guessed that Team James was significantly behind. And James hated losing.
Absentmindedly, Sophie began braiding wildflowers into a crown. James and Albus were hurtling towards the makeshift goals, only to be easily stopped by Hugo, boy-Keeper-wonder. Lucy, Roxy, and Fred were locked in a battle for the bludgers. Lucy and Scorpius were the two beaters for Team James despite the fact that neither usually played the position. Scorpius was strong but not precise, but had enough heart to make up for it. And although Lucy was not as strong as some beaters—like Fred or Scorpius—she had remarkable aim and was holding her own, even if her own still allowed Albus to be hit in the shoulder with a sickening crunch as he reached for the quaffle. Time out was called, Albus was fussed over, and it was decided that he should have a penalty shot for, according to James, “attempted murder.”
Although the rest of the teenagers were quickly re-engrossed in the game, Sophie followed Albus with worried eyes as he rotated his shoulder once, twice, and then sped off towards Hugo to score ten more points for Team James. He didn’t look like he was in pain, Sophie decided. But looks were deceiving, weren’t they? And was he flying more slowly than usual? Several flowers were shredded completely by her rough handling.
James caught her eye, because he sensed her worry or because he knew her so well, Sophie couldn’t tell. Making sure she saw him, James shook his head, indicating that Albus truly wasn’t hurt. Sophie breathed a sigh of relief. Because, if she was really honest with herself, her mother’s disappointment wasn’t the only downside to her fake relationship with James.
Because she was “dating” James, she would never be able to date Albus.
After several months of dating James, the pair decided that Lily was back on the mend and it was time to initiate operation “Biggest, Messiest Break-Up in Wizarding History.” But before the big unveiling, the pair sat Lily down and explain what they had done. They explained why they had done it. They told her how much she had improved and how they thought she was ready. Surely she wouldn’t be focused on again, and if she was, she was better equipped to handle it.
But what they hadn’t expected was Lily’s breakdown. She wasn’t an idiot. She knew the paparazzi was only leaving her alone because there was a better story. She hadn’t realized that it was a fake story, but she begged them not to stop. She sobbed, making James very uncomfortable and Sophie heartbroken. So Sophie and James dated a little longer.
By that time Albus had a girlfriend, and Sophie was feeling miserable already, so James said they could continue until she was ready. And then one thing led to another. Suddenly they were so comfortable with the entire situation, that neither wanted to stop. They were best friends already, and if they “broke up” they would have to pretend to ignore each other all the time. Besides, neither party really wanted to date anyone. James had his flings on the side, but he hadn’t found a girl he wanted to devote any time to. Sophie fell out of love with Albus and into a few short romances with some perfectly nice boys (whilst on a ‘break’ from James) but they were nothing to write home about. So they dated. And dated. And continued to attract all kinds of attention.
But then, sometime at the end of their sixth year, it all came rushing back. One evening she looked at Albus, and instead of seeing a good friend, she saw something more. James knew immediately. It had been he who suggested that the masquerade finally come to an end.
Sophie was scared, of course. Even though it was fake, her relationship with James was the most deep, trusting, loving relationship she had ever had. If only she had fallen in love with James instead, but something inside her had always known they weren’t right for each other. James said the same thing, although he had said, quite rudely, “Of course I’d never be attracted to you!”
The worst part of the entire situation was that, even though the facade was coming to an end, there was no guaranteeing her a happy ending. Although they were friends, Albus often criticized her very public lifestyle. He lectured her (and James, for that matter) about the fools they made of themselves in front of the wizarding world. The fake personality Sophie had created in order to live this lie had fooled everyone, including the one person she wanted to see her for who she truly was.
But Albus or not, the break-up was a good thing. It was time she and James stopped depending so much on the crutch of their fake relationship and started becoming adults. Although she had only just admitted it to herself, she was beginning to think she wanted to follow in her mother's footsteps and become Minister of Magic, but how could she do that if she continued embarrassing herself in front of the media, even if it was just for show? And what would happen when James found a nice girl he really liked, who wouldn’t look twice at him because of his grossly misleading public image of a ladies man? Yes, she and James were adults now, and they were finally acting like it.
Or at least they were in theory. Sophie looked across the quidditch field, notified by the whoop of glee that James emitted that their seeker, Dominique, was closing in on the snitch much more quickly than Lily. James was flying in circles around Fred, singing “Weasley is our Queen” as Dominique caught the snitch, putting an end to the game. Groans from the losers, and cheer that sounded like “One, Two, Three…Go Us!” and all the players finally landed safely on the ground. James hit the ground talking, explaining his more manly plays to Sophie. He gracefully accepted his laurels—the flower chain Sophie had just finished—and a congratulatory kiss before turning to sling an arm around his winning seeker in celebration.
James’ team had only won by about forty points, according to Fred who was walking beside Sophie and defending his own honor (to hear Fred tell it, James winning was just a fluke). The two teams engaged in friendly banter all the way back to the house, each arguing that they were the key player of the match.
It wasn’t yet time for dinner, but everyone was so hungry that Mrs. Potter let the teenagers raid her pantry in pursuit of snacks. After a warning that anyone who didn’t eat a big dinner wouldn’t get desert, half of the food was return to its previous location. Delighted with their plunder, the mass of Potter-Weasleys (+Hinds) separated to pursue their own endeavors until dinner.
As Sophie and James headed off on their own, a few eyebrows were raised, but only in jest. It was commonly wondered by the many, many Weasley cousins how two people like James and Sophie could act like they did. But then, love does mysterious things to a person.
On their way up the stairs, Sophie tapped Lily on the shoulder and caught her eye, indicating that she and James wanted to talk to the youngest Potter. A slight nod assured Sophie that they would soon be joined and she and James continued up the stairs. Sophie felt a familiar hand slip into hers. It was comforting and sad. Soon everything would be different. The Masquerade was coming to an end.
“How’s your mum?” James asked, as the turned into Lily’s room at the top of the stairs. He looked out of place in the feminine décor. James really was cut out to play professional quidditch. He was fit and innately masculine, ruggedly handsome as her older sister had once put it.
“She’s fine. A bit overworked, I guess.”
“Dad says that she’s got her hands full. He’s not exactly pleased that she hasn’t stood against the Purists outright.” The Purists were a group of Witches and Wizards who were against non-wizards like goblins and centaurs being granted the same rights as wizards. James’ parents, as well as several other prominent, forward thinking individuals had introduced the idea earlier in the summer and had expected Madam Hinds to fully support them. But although she agreed with their sentiments, the following of Purists were too strong to be ignored, and it was impossible for Sophie’s mother stand against them without sacrificing any hope of compromise.
“Yeah, well. She’s doing her best. Its much harder than it looks, her job,” Sophie said, subtly defending her mum.
“Yeah,” James agreed. “I’d work as a teacher before I succumbed to politics!” James shuddered. He hated school, but apparently he hated the pressure of politics more. The thought made Sophie smile. From below, a pair of footsteps began climbing the stairs. James looked at Sophie, his gaze steady.
“We are doing this,” he said,” No matter what she says. We have to be allowed to live our lives, and she can never grow up with us acting as a safety net.”
They had agreed as much the numerous times they had discussed their ‘break-up’ over the summer. Sophie nodded at him and took his hand. The door to Lily’s room creaked, and a head popped in.
“Oh, sorry,” Albus winced, embarrassed. “I just, I mean I wasn’t intruding, just looking for Lily.”
“I think she went to ask your dad something,” Sophie lied, easily. It was hard, but she prevented her eyes from gluing themselves on his injured shoulder. Despite what James had said, a part of her wanted to walk over to Albus, push up the sleeve of his shirt and check for herself.
“Oh, ok,” Albus said, backing out of the room. James and Sophie listened to him pad down the hall and knock on his parent’s door. Just as he did, Lily snuck into her bedroom. James and Sophie breathed a sigh of relief. When waiting to discuss life-changing events, even the slightest delay can be eternity.
“Al and Scorp wanted discuss some sort of celebratory prank or something, so I gave him the slip,” Lily explained as she shut the door. “What did you want?”
James and Sophie looked at each other and then back at Lily. James went to lock the door as Sophie placed silencing charms around the room. Lily looked a bit pale by the time they were finished.
“I guess this means the two of you are calling it quits?” To her credit, Lily’s voice was steady and she only looked a little scared.
“Yes,” Sophie answered for the two of them. “Its time. And we wanted to tell you first.”
“But just because we are breaking up doesn’t mean that your world will come crashing down,” James began, carefully. He was a wonder, that boy. Not thirty minutes ago he and his sister had been on opposing quidditch teams, and James’ heckling could have made you wonder whether he even thought his sister was even human. But now he was sincerely worried about her and was trying to ease her mind.
“Oh, I know,” Lily said with a hollow laugh. “ I’ve been waiting for the real break up for awhile now. I was sort of hoping that you two would actually fall in love, I suppose.”
James and Sophie looked at each other, eyebrows raised. Lily was the only person who knew the real situation, and as such had spent a lot of time with James and Sophie over the last few years. Even she had realized what a disaster it would be if they tried to actually date.
“Oh alright,” Lily laughed, for real this time. “I guess that’s a bit far fetched. But I don’t want you two to feel like you have to worry about me. I haven’t needed you for quite awhile now-“
James coughed, pretending to be offended.
“You know what I mean!” Lily continued. “I just freaked out last time. I can handle it now. I really can. It’s a bit scary, but I will manage. So when are you going to announce the split?”
“We are going to tell the family tonight at dinner,” James explained.
“My family’s all off fighting for justice and the like,” interjected Sophie. “But I’ve sent letters, so they will know about the same time.“
“We thought,” James continued, slowly. “That we would do and interview, an exclusive one, on the condition that it would be published after we got to Hogwarts.”
“We aren’t going to explain the whole ruse,” Sophie included. “There’s not need for that. We are just going to feed the papers one last story.”
“Sounds like you’ve been planning this awhile,” Lily said. There was an awkward silence, with Lily feeling like she was the reason they had been unable to execute their plan earlier and James and Sophie feeling like they should have had this talk with her sooner.
“So,” Lily said, brightly. “What’s the scoop? Who cheated on whom? Did someone expect a ring, perhaps…?”
“Do you think we should make it that exciting?” Sophie asked. “We were thinking about the standard ‘Irreconcilable differences’ and just letting everyone wonder.”
“You should make a huge splash!” exclaimed Lily. “Hey, maybe James is gay!”
James sputtered indignantly about how ‘no one in their bloody mind is going to believe that’ while Sophie and Lily laughed hysterically.
“Remember, Jay,” giggled Sophie. “You told me I could break up with you however I want.”
The girls succumbed to another fit of laughing as James imagined his future in the professional Quidditch demolished by one little rumor.
When she had finally calmed down, Sophie wiped a tear from her eye and reassured him, ”I still say that we should just explain that we realized that we weren’t right for each other and that we parted as friends.”
James heaved a huge sigh of relief and kissed Sophie’s cheek, saying emphatically, ”Thanks, Soph. You are an angel.”
“Dinner!” Mrs. Potter yelled up the stairs. Almost immediately, the sound of a stampede of teenagers sounded throughout the house. Sophie laughed. Now that was something she would never hear at home. James, Sophie, and Lily waited a moment (so as not to be trampled) and then left the room. This meant that by the time they got to the table, all the seats had been taken and food was being devoured.
Sophie sat between Louis Weasley and James, while Lily was forced to sit in the last open seat at the end of the table, hear her father and Scorpius. Sophie politely set her napkin on her lap and thanked the Potters before helping herself to some shepherd’s pie. From across the table, Sophie heard a resounding SMACK and looked up. Sensing that one of her children was about to exhibit bad manners, Mrs. Potter had smacked Albus’ hand with a spoon as he reached to grab a green bean out of the serving bowl. Sophie smiled to herself, enjoying the chaotic atmosphere. To her right, Mr. Potter was telling some funny Auror story and Fred was again going over the afternoon’s game to the person beside him.
The food was wonderful and Sophie loved being invited to spend time with this amazing family, but she always felt a little guilty. She was the one who had made James infamous amoung the Potter children. Sophie knew they liked her, but who could be happy that their son’s life was splashed across the headlines daily? Next to her, James was eating furiously. He was left handed, so his right hand was sitting on the table, tapping the surface agitatedly. He was nervous too. Quietly, Sophie slipped her hand into his. James glanced over at her and smiled. Sophie returned the smile and continued eating.
“So Sophie, what are you and James planning to do this summer?” Asked Mrs. Potter, having seen the handholding. “I know he’s been wanting to visit some teams and get his name out there. Are you going to go with him?”
The question was innocent, but neither James nor Sophie felt like lying any further. If they made up stories about their summer plans, and then announced their breakup at the end of dinner, everyone would know they lied. Sophie flashed a look at James, eyebrow raised. James nodded curtly and said, ”Actually Mum, we’ve got an announcement.”
“Oh Merlin,” Mrs. Potter said, forlornly. “Sophia, are you pregnant.”
“What!” Shouted James. “Mum, no! Not that kind of announcement!”
Mrs. Potter had the decency to blush furiously. “I’m sorry, James. You just sounded so serious, I got worried…”
“I wasn’t serious because of that!” James looked angry. Sophie was more embarrassed that the Potters obviously thought she and James were so…irresponsible. It was definitely time to end this. “Sophie and I aren’t pregnant, we are breaking up!”
That last bit had been said rather forcefully, and the announcement resounded in the silence that followed. His anger wearing off, James began to feel a bit uncomfortable.
“Well,” Mr. Potter ventured, after a moment of dead silence. “What did he do this time, Sophia?”
Sophie wasn't sure if he thought this was just another of their famous fights or if he honestly believed that they were breaking up and assumed his son had somehow ruined their relationship.
“James didn’t do anything, Sir. We’ve just,” Sophie paused, finally letting go of James’ hand and looking at him to be sure she worded it correctly. “We’ve realized that we are very different people. We aren’t right for each other and we decided to split amicably.”
"Wait," Dominique demanded, actually putting down her fork as she focused on the pair. "Are you being serious?"
"No," Fred assured her, flicking his head back to James for backup, looking at first confident, and then confused. "They aren't...no..."
"We haven't really been together all summer," James continued, adding to their fictional story. "We have thought long and hard about this and we wanted you to be the first to know."
Suddenly the table was truly silent, not even the gentle clinking of cutlery. All eyes were on the young couple with an array of confused expressions. Sophie slanted her eyes towards James, noting his reddening ears and all at once seeing how funny the situation really was. The Potters were finally finished with the embarrassment that was their oldest child's relationship, and the whole lot of them looked genuinely upset.
So Sophie laughed. Only James chuckled with her.
"This is really a good thing. We really still are friends. I know this is different for everyone, but I hope that you are all ok with our decision. " James smiled at her and nodded. For a moment they waited, wondering what the Potter clan might say when--
"Well, I made blueberry ice-cream for your first day here Sophie. Who's ready for desert?" asked Mrs. Potter, which was really more of a retorical question, since every teenager in the house had been ready for desert since they sat at the table. Suddenly there was a chorus of voices and the clatter of plates and the scraping of chairs and the attention what off Sophie and James. They were out of the woods.
The only other problem was how the rest of the Wizarding World would handle the news. 'Oh Well
,' Sophie thought. 'One thing at a time
." And she reached for a bowl of ice-cream.
Authors Note: The title comes from Mark Twain and the quote is from "The Merchant of Venice." I'm having fun stealing things from literature--it means that I don't have to think up my own titles and descriptions! I hope you all like the next installment :)
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