Another wonderful chapter image by Gwen.
Beta'd by Ak.
Ms Rowling totally rocks my socks.
“Come on team! Eat up! We’ve got a big day ahead of us! Those Hufflepuffs won’t beat themselves!”
“They probably could. Give that Felix boy a beater’s bat and he’ll end up with a black eye. And then throw the ball in his own hoop.”
The Gryffindor team had assembled at the far end of the table as per usual on game and practice days. Georgia Watson was even sitting with us; her eyes locked on some unsuspecting Slytherin on the furthest table. Congratulations, Alexander Nott, you’re in for a sexual-transmitted infection.
“It’s too early...” Dominique mumbled, her face hidden beneath a mane of silver-blonde hair.
“Rubbish,” Rose said, “you’re usually up earlier than this.”
“But it’s a weekend...” she moaned, collapsing her head into her arms.
“I get up promptly at six-thirty every morning,” Oscar interjected.
“Thanks Oscar,” I said, piling sausages onto my plate. I saw James appear at the door to the great hall, and he sprinted towards us, looking perfectly delectable in his Quidditch uniform.
“Morning team,” he said brightly. He squeezed in between Oscar and me, pecking me affectionately on the cheek in greeting. He immediately began spooning porridge into a bowl.
“Dom, can you pass me the brown sugar?” He asked graciously.
“It’s right in front of Rose, James,” Dom mumbled, her head still in her arms.
I saw his jaw clench slightly. I was going to reprimand him for being so stupid, that for him still to be angry at Rose was mad, but I couldn’t. Our agreement forced me to stay silent. As a sign of my disappointment in him, I withdrew my hand from his thigh.
“It’s all right,” he said casually, and his voice was forced with politeness, “I’ll go without.”
“Don’t be an arse,” I said, “eating porridge with brown sugar is the only way to eat porridge. Rose, pass him the sugar.”
She did. He didn’t accept it so she placed it gingerly in front of him. I spotted the way he had shifted further away from me, as if every time I said her name it was if I discussing The Topic.
The rest of the team noticed the small silence that followed the conversation about sugar. Oscar twitched nervously. Watson was still making eyes at her next victim. Rose was glaring at James. What a brilliant way to start the morning. What a stunning display of teamwork.
“I heard there’s going to be a scout at the match,” Julia said cheerily, “he’s from the Chudley Cannons, apparently.”
This didn’t elicit the response it should have from a team of burgeoning Quidditch players. Rose wanted to be a healer. Oscar just got an apprenticeship under Rolf Scamander. Dom was practically asleep.
“That’s awesome,” I said, “James, that’s your favourite team! How cool would it be if you got signed?”
“Dad would be so proud,” Rose added. James stopped stirring his cup of tea to glare at her.
Another silence. Watson was now licking her lips seductively at her newest target.
“I was thinking of becoming a potioneer,” I began, desperately trying to soak up the awkwardness even if it cost me my social standing, “but I don’t know.”
“It really is a very fascinating subject,” Oscar agreed. I could still see his hand shaking. You’d never guess he was the best seeker since Harry Potter.
“It’s a little geeky,” I continued, “I might be a Quidditch player, I don’t know. It would be really cool, and sometimes they pick the new players fresh out of Hogwarts...”
“You want to be a Quidditch player?” James asked. His voice was uninterested.
“It would be cool,” I repeated, “do you think I could it?”
“I think you can do anything you want,” he said. His voice was still indifferent, and for some unknown reason, it really irritated me.
“You don’t think I can do it.”
“I didn’t say that.” His spoon had frozen halfway between his bowl and his mouth. I recognised his tone of voice. It was the tone he had used with me that night in the common room, when we had argued about The Topic. He had used it more times than ever in the past week.
I saw Rose shake her head. Oscar looked like he was about to cry.
“I just thought you wanted to do something in Potions, that’s all,” James continued, “or the Daily Prophet. You said you liked writing.”
“I like Quidditch more.”
“It keeps you fit as a fiddle,” Oscar interjected with a small, weak laugh. Rose looked at him with awe as if by interrupting James and me he had somehow broken the sound barrier. Georgia Watson had finished eyeballing the Slytherin boy and was now listening in on our conversation.
“Mum says the lifestyle associated with it is very demanding.”
“Oh yeah,” I said sarcastically, “because the thousands of parties and champagne baths are really demanding.”
“She said she met some real bastards at the after-game parties. She said they were arrogant little shits.”
“I’m sure I can fight them off,” I replied. Oscar laughed again. Well, at least I thought so, he opened his mouth and smiled, but it was so quiet I wasn’t whether it classified as a laugh. Dom snored. Rose poked her.
“I went to one of those after-game parties once,” Watson interrupted, taking a large bite of her apple, “my cousin took me. Some of those men got really hands-on, if you know what I mean?”
“We get the picture, Georgia,” Julia Ripley said.
“I wouldn’t mind being a Quaffle if I got to be handled by Orlando McNeal. You know, the keeper for the Wimbourne Wasps?” Watson continued dreamily, “I definitely wouldn’t mind if he got hands-on with me.”
“Thank you, Georgia,” Julia said, “you’ve just put me off my breakfast.”
“No, she’s right,” James said, returning to talk to me, “some of those players are real... real ladies’ men, you know? You should stay away from them.”
“Merlin, James,” I began, “it’s not like I’m going to get scouted, become a Quidditch player and then have sex with the first seeker I see.”
Oscar nearly wet himself.
“Well you did have sex with the first Ravenclaw you saw,” Watson added, raising her eyebrows suggestively, “and professional Quidditch players are usually in better condition than Henry Gunman.”
“That rumour is definitely not true,” I said defiantly. James was now gripping his mug far too tightly. His knuckles were white.
“Anyway,” I continued, “I think I’ll just stick to being a potioneer.”
“Good plan,” James said darkly.
“Is this just because you’re worried the scout might pick me instead of you?” I joked, trying to lighten the mood of the table. That was a bad idea.
“No, it’s not,” James barked, “it’s because I don’t want you fucking around with anyone else.”
“Don’t call me Jimmy,” he said angrily, standing up and leaving his untouched plate of food on the table. He nodded curtly to the rest of the team before leaving. Georgia Watson followed him and I tried to ignore the burgeoning sense of dread and the twisting and turning of my stomach.
“Oh Merlin,” I said under my breath, hanging my head in my hands. Julia sent me a sad smile, and Dom patted my arm comfortingly.
“Come on,” Rose said soothingly, “tell your Aunty Rosie all about it.”
“If you talk to me like that I’m going to shove this satsuma up your nose.”
“Aah, wonderful,” Rose began sarcastically, “threats in the early hours of the morning. You and James really are made for each other.”
“It’s just so horrible,” I moaned, ignoring the irony of her words, “we had argued about you and Scorpius about a week ago and then I let slip that I had known before he did. He just sat there staring at me, and then I shouted at him and he just stopped talking to me. Not one word. We sort of made up the next day, but things haven’t been right since then. It’s like we’re walking on eggshells around each other.”
“Albus does that as well,” Dom said wisely, “he just doesn’t talk for days on end. It must be a Potter thing.”
“Have you had fights before?” Rose asked.
“Yeah,” I answered, “but not when we were a couple. I think that’s what made this one so bad. It was our first argument and we never really talked about it.”
“Elizabeth was telling us all about it last night,” Julia added, and at least she had the decency to have a guilty look on her face, “but she thinks that you two were in an argument because you harbour a weird celebrity crush on his dad?”
“That’s stupid, and most definitely a lie.” I was pretty sure that was Elizabeth herself.
“But Georgia kept asking questions and going on and on about it. She’s pretty obsessed with James.”
I clenched my jaw and closed my eyes to restrain myself from biting someone’s head off in anger. A second year sitting next to Oscar was looking particularly vulnerable this morning.
“She told me that you and Henry Gunman were having a sordid affair,” Julia continued, her voice lowered to a scandalous whisper.
“I heard that as well. Lorcan kept going on and on about how you would never work because you two were born under two different moons or some shit like that.”
“Language!” Rose repeated.
Suddenly, a loud shout echoed through the great hall, and everybody looked over towards the Ravenclaw table. James was standing there, his wand out, and Henry was cowering under his lethal gaze. I got up quickly, running over.
“James, what are you doing?” I shouted at him. Strangely unsurprisingly, Elizabeth - the resident gossip queen of Hogwarts - appeared at my side, her eyes eager and gleaming for a new story. Dominique and Rose were standing behind me, ready to intervene if anything happened.
“At least Amelie has better taste than you, little Rosie,” he spat, “at least she’s fucking around with a Ravenclaw and not a Death Eater.”
“James!” I shouted at him again, trying desperately to ignore the disgusting things that were coming out of his mouth, “James, please... just put the wand down.”
I saw him falter for a second. I walked around slowly, so that I was standing directly in front of him and within his wand range. I edged closer towards him, even daring to hold onto his wand arm and force it gently downwards. He conceded. My hand still rested on his wrist, and I moved the other up to rest on his shoulder.
His eyes lifted to mine, and I could feel my heart melt as they blazed brown. I stepped closer to him, moving my hands around his waist, and I pressed my face to his shoulder. His hands stayed limply at his sides, and this small rejection caused my stomach to twist horribly.
“And all that stuff about Henry is a lie. You should know, you’ve told me many a time never to believe Georgia Watson,” I whispered into his chest. I could feel his heartbeat, slow and melodic, and the softness of his Quidditch jersey and the subtle scent of his soap. I breathed it all in.
I tried to pay no attention to the fact that he had returned to not speaking to me. That, and the face Elizabeth was pulling as she tried to restrain herself from squealing with excitement: no doubt a rumour about a James-Amelie-Henry love triangle and how the great Harry Potter was secretly harbouring inappropriate feelings for Elizabeth Newcastle would be circulating throughout the school by the time the Quidditch match was over.
We stayed standing there for a long while, James wrapped up in my arms, as the remainder of the school finished their breakfasts and left the great hall to head towards the Quidditch pitch. Henry managed to sneak out from under James’ watchful gaze.
I must have looked strange, clinging to boy who was obviously not interested in me and who obviously wasn’t hugging me back. I didn’t care.
The rest of the Gryffindor team had gathered around us before I withdrew my grip on my boyfriend and we headed down to the locker rooms.
“Did you know that bowtruckles reproduce asexually?” Oscar added helpfully.
We won the Quidditch, even in the pouring rain. The cup was ours. Oscar made a spectacular catch in the first half an hour, and we carried him on our shoulders to the locker room. James was shouting and yelling happily along with the rest of us. There was one moment, when we lowered our seeker to the ground and Dominique produced bottles of champagne from nowhere, when our eyes met, and he smiled at me. I smiled back.
The scout didn’t appear. Madame Branson has told us nothing, and nobody came to ask us what position we liked to play or what we wanted on the back of our professional Quidditch robes.
The team headed back to the common room, and the party was already in full swing. James disappeared up to his dormitory, and I was about to follow him, but Rose told me it was better that I gave him space.
“There was this one time a couple of summers ago,” she reminisced, “when Albus stole his replica Chudley Cannon Quidditch robes and then proceeded to feed them to the gnomes. James was really, really angry, and he shut himself in his room for days. But then he came down and he was alright again.”
“How many days?”
“Oh, a few. About three, I’d say.”
“I can’t wait three days,” I replied.
“Don’t worry,” Rose said, “you’re much more important to him than a pair of Quidditch robes.”
She left me standing by the overloaded food table as she went over to the portrait hole to greet Scorpius.
There was dancing, and I danced with Dominique and a couple of guys from my year. James still didn’t appear. I watched as the sun set behind the Forbidden Forest. Gallons of Butterbeer, flagons of mead and bottles of firewhisky were being shared around. Random sixth year girls were still congratulating Oscar, his face blushing as they flirted with him, their words slurring dangerously.
Someone had pulled out a large box of fireworks, and I helped to set them up and set them off. A gigantic lion, composed completely of golden and red sparks roared loudly from the vaulted ceiling. James still didn’t appear. A Catherine wheel sped passed me, almost hitting some tiny third year that had snuck down to the celebrations.
I spun around. Nobody called me Amy apart from my mother, and I hoped to Merlin that she wasn’t here. Elizabeth was racing towards me. Her lipstick was slightly smudged and she was stumbling around.
“Have you seen Georgie?” She asked desperately.
“No,” I answered. James had appeared, staggering down the boys’ staircase, a nearly empty bottle of firewhisky clutched in his hand. I was tuning out Elizabeth’s voice as she continued to talk to me, and I watched as he crossed the common room and lounged on one of the sofas.
“Oh no,” she said, “but I’ll tell you anyway... Felix just told me he loved me! How cool is that?”
“You are most definitely made for each other,” I slurred sarcastically, pushing passed her.
My head was buzzing with the alcohol, and I sauntered over to James. I could still hear Elizabeth’s complaints as I left her standing by herself. I sat on his lap and looped my arms around his neck, curling my fingers through the hair at the back of his neck.
“Hey,” I said, “I just want to tell you that...”
He put one hand behind my neck and pulled me closer to him. I could smell the firewhisky on his breath. He kissed me softly, and I could taste a slight cherry flavour. I sighed into his mouth. We had not kissed properly in a long while. We had kissed quickly, we had kissed chastely and we had kissed to make up after petty little arguments. We hadn’t kissed for fun in a week or so. I completely missed the feeling of his hands on my hips and his lips on mine.
We broke apart after a few moments, and he rested his forehead on mine. I smiled giddily.
“Your lips taste like cherries,” I said, tracing my fingertips over his mouth.
“Dom bought me the wrong sweets from Honeydukes, like you said. Turns out they’re disgusting.”
“Your shirt is inside out,” I observed, tugging at his collar. I could feel his breath against my cheeks and nose.
“I had a shower,” he replied quietly, his hands sliding slowly up my thighs.
“But your hair isn’t wet,” I said. I ran my fingers through it, pushing it away from his eyes. I laughed stupidly, his hair tickling my nostrils as I inhaled deeply, “in fact, it smells like perfume.”
I felt James’ hands leave my legs and I could no longer feel the warmth that seemed to emanate from his fingers tips. It made me feel too light, like I might float away at any moment, and his hands were the only thing that could weigh me down. I tried to blame it on the alcohol, but I knew now that I was completely sober.
“It isn’t my perfume,” I said simply, staring down at his eyes, searching for an answer that terrified me, “I don’t even wear perfume.”
I continued to gaze at him. His brown eyes were dark, littered with shadows. Unreadable. Somewhere behind me, in the vast expanse of space that seemed to surround James and me, people were laughing. People were shouting and yelling their approval. I heard their voices as though a thick wall of glass, my senses concentrating on what James was trying to tell me. Time seemed to slow down as I watched him blink, his eyelids and long eyelashes covering his irises for a second that seemed to last an eternity.
The wall of glass shattered and noise flooded back into my ears, leaving them ringing. Time caught up with itself. James pushed me completely off him and stood, racing over to the bottom of the boys’ staircase.
“Oi! Potter! Stay where you are! We can finish what we started before.”
I continued to stare at the spot on the sofa where James had been sitting. If I concentrated hard enough, time might wheel itself back in and this could never have happened.
“Oh Harris,” someone whispered in my ear. I was now staring at a curtain of blonde hair. Her perfume - the one that lingered so treacherously on James’ and so many other girls’ boyfriends’ hair and clothes - was suffocating me. Her lips were so close to me that I could smell the fake, manufactured cherry scent.
“Your boyfriend was just helping me improve my broom handling technique. He suggested that, you know, that we should get together and share tactics and practice methods. But, my Merlin,” she sighed dreamily, “he does know how to control some Quaffles, doesn’t he?”
“Watson. Fuck off.”
I blinked. My eyes were pricking and I wondered whether I was going to cry. There’s a first time for everything.
“Sorry, Weasley... I was just talking to my teammate here. Poor Harris was a bit disappointed with her performance in the match. I was just giving her some pointers.”
“And I’ll give you a hex if you don’t leave her alone.”
Someone bent down in front of me, and suddenly Dominique’s face was swimming in front of my eyes. I felt something hot and wet run down my cheek. I blinked again. I was surprised with myself. I had once told James... I had once told Potter that I could fight my own battles and that I was famous for being an ‘iron lady’, and here I was crying and being comforted by a fifth year with a dirty mouth and perfect hair.
“Come on, Amelie,” Dom said quietly, “let’s just go to bed.”
“No,” I shouted.
I stood up, and turned around quickly. Potter was now sitting on the bottom step of the boys’ staircase, his head in his hands. His gaze lifted to mine in the softly lit common room. The celebrating Gryffindors had turned deathly silent and the party hats perched jauntily on their heads now looked stupid and out of place. A spinning firework fizzled out. The rain continued to patter on the windows.
“You did not have sex with Watson,” I began, “you and her were really just discussing Quidditch. Your lips taste like cherry because Dom got you some new sweets from Hogsmeade. You really did have a shower, and when you got changed you put your shirt on inside out. The perfume is Lily’s. She came up to your room because she wanted an opinion on her party outfit,” I smiled weakly, “and you told her that she should always wear jeans because people would take advantage of her and you are... you are very... over... overprotective...”
It sounded ridiculous as the words left my mouth. Another wet thing trailed down my face. My breath was hitching in my throat. Someone put their hand on my shoulder, but I flinched at the gesture and they quickly removed it.
“I didn’t sleep with her,” he whispered, and I laughed unbelievably.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said quickly, shaking my head. When I looked up, James was suddenly all around me. One of his hands was running up and down my arm, the other forcing my chin upwards so that I would look into his eyes.
“No,” he said forcefully, “please don’t do this.”
“Do what, Potter?” I asked, feigning ignorance. I slapped his hand away from my chin.
“You kissed me,” I continued, the words coming out in a long, slow hiss, “just now, you kissed me. I thought everything would be all right after our argument before. I thought you had forgiven me.”
Potter stared at his feet, his hand running nervously through his hair.
“You kissed me!” I yelled at him, running my fingers them over my lips, “and now I can’t get this fucking cherry off my mouth!”
I stood in front of him, my hands rubbing and my tongue scouring at my lips to try and remove the hideous taste. It was ironic, I thought, that Georgia Watson chosen that as the flavour of her lip balm. Her cherry popped a long time ago.
“She was all over me,” he replied desperately, his voice croaking slightly, “she said stuff about you and Henry and about Rose and Scorpius and about Quidditch players and then we were suddenly rolling around on the bed and she was pulling off my shirt and I was drunk, Amelie, alright, and I was upset about the other week and this morning and I was thinking about you, really I was, so I didn’t go through with it, we didn’t go all the way and I...”
“Do you feel hypocritical?” I asked suddenly. Potter paused mid-rant, with his hands frozen in the middle of some vast expressive gesture, and looked down at me, his eyebrows raised.
“You weren’t going to tell me,” I reasoned, “you were just going to kiss me and pretend that it never happened. You were going to let it slip by, and pass off any comments by saying how I should never believe anything she says. I would have believed you. After all, those lewd comments might just be about the time when you slept with her before, couldn’t they?” I finished bitterly.
Potter suddenly grabbed my hands in his.
“You didn’t talk to me just because I wouldn’t tell you about Rose and her boyfriend. She’s sixteen. She can make her own decisions. She’s more mature than anyone I know.”
“He was going to hurt her...”
“Like you’re hurting me?”
James watched as I wrenched my fingers away from his. Another tear slipped down my cheek. That was three now, three tears in a life full of family break-ups, uninterested mothers, disloyal boyfriends and fucking Georgia Watson. I say I could let a few more go.
“Because no one could ever hurt anyone like you’re hurting me.”
Hello, slightly cliché ending line. How are you?
3 to go. Mixed feelings.