Chapter 8 : Walking pace.
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I’d known full well that James had probably been forcibly dragged to my front door the next day, but he showed up with such a sour and irritated expression (which of course I had sensed through the door) that it was so incredibly tempting just to lock the door and get on with it myself. I nearly did, actually, but some unknown power lead me to walking down the flights of steps and opening the door...
All James had to do was say ‘Cassie’ and my face turned a similar colour to the Gryffindor scarlet James Potter was so found of. I turned away from the door quickly, wordlessly showing him the direction to the kitchen.
“We have a furniture delivery today,” I told him half way down the corridor. “And the men are coming to fix up the pool.” I walked the full length of the corridor to the kitchen and sat down at the table. For once, James Potter was the silent one.
“That’s quite some spread.” James commented lightly. Sensing someone’s awkwardness due to your strange perceptive ability surprisingly makes things more awkward. I was nearly choking with the amount of awkwardness that was hanging in the air.
“Thanks,” I said dryly, sitting down at my seat. I was half way through eating my breakfast of cereal and a glass of orange juice, with my laptop open in front of me so that I could download music at the same time. I ignored James’s presence and continued in the exact same way as before, right down to my tuneless humming.
“What are you doing?” He asked, sitting down on the opposite side of the table and watching me eat my breakfast. I’m not necessarily a big fan of people watching me eat, but I was hardly going to say anything after the embarrassment I made of myself yesterday. “Downloading the new Griphook Album,”
“That’s not out for another two weeks.”
“My dad’s Robert Banks.” I countered.
“Yes, but no one knows that.” James said. “How do you know I’m not going to tell everyone?” James asked.
“Firstly, because you wouldn’t want anyone to know. Second, I’m trusting you have some ounce of decency, somewhere.” I said. I didn’t even blush –I was making serious progress with this guy.
“Thirdly?” James suggested.
“No one would believe you,” And then I returned to my cereal. “They’d probably call you crazy,” I added as an afterthought. That sentence seemed to resonate with James Potter quite a lot, because the awkwardness doubled to new extreme levels. “Dad’s going to be popping in an out because they’ve all got to sign a statue of secrecy.” James raised an eyebrow of that.
“Why haven’t I had to sign one?” James questioned lightly.
“Maybe Dad trusts you,” I shrugged. “Or maybe he thinks we’re... friends.” I screwed my face up at that and returned to my breakfast feeling strangely confident. James seemed to pick up on this too because he helped himself to a can of coke from the drink’s fridge, rather than insisting that I got one for him. This was progress. A definite step in the right direction.
“So do you just use that laptop for downloading music and making house-plans or...”
“Mostly,” I said, hovering my hands above the keyboard before typing in another band – a relatively unknown one that I didn’t think much of, but I had one of their songs in my head and... I wirelessly connected it up to the in-the-wall speakers and cranked the volume up to half, a good background noise.
“Have you ever tried... spellbook?”
“Spellbook?” I questioned, turning to him with a slightly confused expression.
“Okay, ever heard of... facebook?”
“Sure, muggle internet phenomena, learnt about it in muggle studies.”
“Spellbook is the wizard version. There were too many wizards on the muggle one and they were posting stupid things – checking in at Hogwarts and stuff. It was breaking too many laws. So... it became illegal to actively use a facebook account to mention anything related to the wizarding world and spellbook was born.” He’d walked over and sat himself next to me by this point, typing ‘spellbook.co.ww’ into the address bar before dramatically pressing the enter key. “In the same line of stuff as your Dad works on, I suppose. The guys loaded now, not as much as your Dad though, and hundreds of spin offs have been created. Charging a fortune for the advertising too, it’s mental. That’s where the future is though,” He said. “Developing wizarding technology, using muggle stuff as a basis then going one step further. Business. Cassie, why is your internet so slow?”
“It’s not slow,” I countered. “It’s just... the keyboard is fingertip sensitive. I’ll have to type in the security code...”
“What’s the security code?” James asked curiously.
“Like I’m going to tell you,” I counteracted, typing it in so quick that James couldn’t possibly decipher it before re-entering the link. “So is that what you want to do then?” I asked, just as curiously. “Go into the wizard technology business?”
“Not really,” James said, typing in his identity code and password into the little bar thing without asking my permission to do so. “Because it would never be James Potter’s business, would it, it would be James Potter, son of the saviour of the wizarding world’s business. I want to be successful because I’m good at something. Here it is,” He said scrolling down the home page. “Spellbook.”
“Oh,” I said. “What’s...?”
James clicked on the ‘Me’ button, and up came a picture of James Potter – definitely one taken at Hogwarts, out in the grounds – and then...
“What’s the scroll thing?” I asked staring at the screen.
“Oh, you write on that if you want to leave me a message. Look,” He said flicking down the page to show me. It seemed, in the past few weeks several people had left him messages, most of them being members of his family. “Family, here,” James said pointing towards a miniature family tree that appeared when he hovered the mouse over his ‘My family’ section. I was quite startled at how huge the thing was... gigantic compared to my family. Just me and Dad.
“Relationship status,” He said in a hurry, quickly flicking back up from the very revealing ‘single.’ Well, that was news to me. Last I’d heard he’d been dating Natalie Peasegood.
“Photos, friends... It’s all there.”
“You’re friends with Leanne?” I asked in shock, clicking on her picture and staring. “Since when has Leanne had spellbook?” James shrugged. She’d uploaded several picture of her on her hot summer holiday, and there were various comments about getting sun burnt across her scroll...
I followed a link of Leanne’s page to her twin brother (swoon) Luke’s, and found that Ryan Bradley had commented on his scroll about some party... I followed that page too to find that...
James’s best friend was now in a relationship with Natalie Peasegood? A huge picture of the pair of them with their arms round each other appeared at the top of the page and...
I quickly changed to another page out of sympathy for James (who was feeling more uncomfortable and a little bit sad by the second) but in my mind I focused on that picture. Maybe that was an explanation as to why James had been such a jerk all summer? Why he’d acted so weird when we’d run into Ryan in the furniture stall?
That his ex-girlfriend was now with his best friend?
Thankfully that was the moment when the doorbell rang.
“So there you go,” James said, pressing enter for one final time and showing me my brand new profile... I stared at it for a few moments. I wasn’t sure if I liked the idea of all my information being here for all the world to see. It had ‘Hufflepuff’ written in the top corner... then my birthday, where I was born... my address section was left satisfyingly blank.
“Where do you want this?” One of the furniture men asked, levitating the sofa into the kitchen.
“Top floor, the room three doors down – with the white walls.” I answered, wondering whether it had been a complete waste of time for me to print off my furniture plan. It seemed each of the delivery men were intent on ignoring the huge sheets that were stuck up in the corridor, detailing where each item of furniture I’d ordered was supposed to go. What a waste of my time.
“Now you just need to add some friends...” James said taking the liberty of sending requests himself. He added himself (surely he’d be too embarrassed to have me as a cyber-friend?) and then most of his family, Leanne and my other Hufflepuff friends. Nearly everybody in my year.
“Do you have a picture?”
“A picture?” I questioned.
“Maybe Leanne has one of you,” James said, smoothly navigating himself back on to Leanne’s profile page... and finding that, yes they defiantly were pictures of me. There were pictures of me on the internet? “This one’s nice,” James continued, tagging me – whatever that meant – and then making it my profile picture.
“Where does this go?” One of the furniture men asked.
“First floor, black and white room – can’t miss it.” I said in an irritated voice, by the time I’d looked back at the computer James had taken it upon himself to set my status. “What are you...?” I asked, bending forwards to read it.
Cassie Jones is getting annoyed at the men moving the furniture.
I flushed at that and sigh loudly. “You chose that picture?” I asked, quickly clicking on it and trying to find something better. Anything better.
“Mugshot,” James grinned. I stared at him, suddenly feeling incredulous. James Potter had just smiled in my presence. Who knew that it would only take some ridiculous ‘social networking’ site to loosen up his ridiculous expression of displeasure. “Now you do what all the other girls do, commenting on the picture being like ‘delete, this is such a vile photo’ and such.”
“Oh dear,” I said finding my own lips twisting up slightly. It definitely sounded like something Leanne would do. “That one’s a bit better,” I said. “How do you -”
“Where does this go, love?” Another of the men asked, standing there with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and an expression that gave me the impression he was extremely stupid.
“Down the corridor, in the room with the big window,” I said, snapping slightly. The man rolled his eyes and then disappeared.
“There,” James said, having just changed my setting slightly. “Now you can -”
“What about this...?” One of the men asked.
“Look,” James said, standing up to his full height and turning to face him with a firm expression. “There is a clearly labelled map in the corridor, why don’t you use that?” The man closed his mouth midsentence. “If you don’t understand it, that’s fine, but I’m sure if both of your brain cells worked together you’d get there eventually.”
The man turned, levitating the bed (second bedroom, first floor) out of the kitchen without another word. There was silence for a long few moments.
“So,” James grinned, nodding back at the screen. “What do you think of Spellbook?”
“You know,” I said, staring at the screen in bemusement. “I’m not really sure I understand what the point is. What are you supposed to do?”
James thought about that for a very long time, laughed, and then said “You know Cassie; I actually haven’t got a bloody clue.”
“So,” The man said, another one with an ever-present fag hanging from his lips like an extension of his body, glancing at the pool with a satisfied grin. “That right?” He questioned. The pool was actually exactly how I’d expected, square looking and entirely normal – there was a small part of me that wished I’d aimed for something a little bit more adventurous. With slides. Or a whirlpool.
“Yes thank you,” I said politely. It was huge but looked about the right size compared to the humungous house – not that that was saying much – and could probably fit fifty or so people in comfortably. Although the likelihood of us having fifty people round here at once was very low.
“So when do I get to meet Robert Banks?” He grinned, leering at me uncomfortably. I frowned. James, beside me, bristled slightly.
“He will be popping in and out with your secrecy agreement at some point,” I smiled sweetly. It better be soon though, because otherwise he was going to leave without signing and then who knew what would happen (I suspected not very much).
“Wow,” My Dad’s voice suddenly came – drifting through the back door – and then he walked out onto the newly erected patio and stared at the humungous pool. “It’s a bit big, isn’t it?” He questioned. Immediately the guy had his wand out and was shrinking it with some complicated spell. “And couldn’t it be a little less... rectangular.”
Exactly what I’d thought, ironically. Suddenly the garden was inundated with the workman rushing out to help with the pool, desperately trying to gain my Dad’s approval. I rolled my eyes and folded my arms over my chest, watching the familiar scene play out before me. Sure, everyone just loved my Dad.
“Let’s get a coke,” James suggested, turning away from the newly formed chaos and heading back towards the house. I sensed that part of him wanted to stay, too, but for some unknown and rather strange reason James Potter was attempting to do something nice for me.
Maybe he felt guilty about the whole thing yesterday? In honesty it hadn’t been that much of a big deal. Embarrassing, sure, but I’d get over it. It’s not like there was anything unusual about those sorts of things happening and James knew that (because normally he was the cause of these things happening). I couldn’t sense any guilt though. Which was odd. Something different was there.... something I had sensed for a very long time.
I shook my head and followed him into the kitchen. He threw a coke in my direction. I caught it, just, and found my face flushing it’s usually shade of red. James looked amused by that and pulled his own can out. “So,” He began with a, dare I say it, smile. “How do you think the house is looking?”
“So they all signed then?” I asked Dad. He nodded, looking out over the pool with a slightly distracted expression on his face. It was always like this with a new product. Normally he waited until after the summer was finished before working on the ‘next big thing’ and had a lot of time off so he could take me places. What’s the point, he reasoned, on having lots of money and not using it.
One year he took me to Australia, just for a weekend before he had to get back to work, but I got to spend two amazing days swimming in the Australian sea and being amazed by the entirely different continent. Now though, he was even more work centred than ever. I found that strangely sad.
“It looks good,” James said, rather boldly in my opinion, as he looked out over the transformed garden. It did look good. The pool was now smaller with curved edges and steps to the shallow end on the other side.
“Doesn’t it,” Dad said, then he looked at me and grinned. He nodded towards James and winked. “Yes,” He agreed, walking round the pool as if he was taking it in at a different angle. I followed his suit, stopping on the other side of James Potter and looking absent mindedly across the water. “Now, Cas!” Dad said, and then we were both pushing James towards the deep end.
He stumbled forwards with a comical strangled yelp, and then he was flying towards the water in a rush of limbs. He hit the water with an almighty crash, then came rushing back to the surface in a stream of bubbles and flailing arms.
Dad took a step forwards to make sure James was all right. I grinned, pushed him in the small of the back and watched as he, too, went flying towards the water. I was laughing now and Dad was too. He looked so peculiar in his posh work suit, soaked to the bone.
“It’s a good job I made the phones waterproof,” He laughed, fishing his phone out of his pocket and sliding it along the side of the pool.
I glanced to find where James was, in all of this, but he was no longer in the water. I turned around and came face to face with his smirking face.
“No,” I said, taking a step backwards. “There’s no need to push me...” I said sweetly.
“Oh no, Cassie,” James grinned. “What goes around comes around,” And then I was suddenly scooped up into his (surprisingly strong and muscled) arms. Which were also soaking wet. In fact, James was generally very wet – his normally messy hair flattened to his face.
I didn’t have much time to consider this, though, because then I was thrown into the pool. I screwed and shut my eyes.
The water was gloriously warm.
Another splash, beside me, told me that James had jumped back up in again.
“I’m wet!” I exclaimed, standing up on my tip toes and laughing at him.
“Yes Cassie, its water. Or door your voodoo sense not stretch to liquid substances,” James grinned. I laughed at that too, splashing some water in his direction. He splashed some back too. Then it was an out and out war and I had to tread water to escape the harshest blows.
I laughed, really laughed, and then I realised that I was laughing in the presence of James Potter and found my face burning. I turned away from him, pushing some of my now soaking hair out of my face and floating back in the water. I looked up at the house thoughtfully. The pool was a good idea.
With one slight smile at James I pushed off from the side and swam an experimental lap. I’d managed two when Dad grinned and took off after me – his strong arms pushing him through the water at a much faster pace. “Race you,” He smiled, a strangely childish side to him suddenly coming out in him all over again. I grinned.
“All right,” I said, pushing off from the wall before he had a chance to consider my response. I swam front crawl all the way to the end. I was out of breath by the end of the lap, and half a stroke behind Dad. I sighed and pulled myself up onto the step with a grin. I’d never come so close before, a fact that I put down to the fact that Dad was in his posh work robes and I was in a pair of shorts and a plain t-shirt. Much more swimming appropriate.
“I’m getting old,” Dad complained. I smiled at that then realised that James was still here – watching the two of us from the other end of the pool with a strange expression on his face. I was too far away to sense it.
“Race you,” I said again, throwing myself forward off the edge of the pool and back into the water. Hopefully with his robes weighing him down there wasn’t a chance he was going get anywhere near close to me, what with my head start. He was relatively close behind me though, because I saw one of his arms pushing through the water.
I pushed myself a little bit further, feeling oddly triumphant as I reached the end of the pool and pulled myself out the water. I very nearly began exclaiming how I had finally won... when I saw Dad climbing out the pool and reaching for his phone.
“Yes, yes,” He said pulling out his wand and drying himself. “Yes, I’ll be back at the office in a minute. Leaving right now. Yes... yes... oh? Really? Well, I’ll have to sort it out in a minute, Jessica, I.... I won’t be long,” He pressed the phone into his neck. “It’s going to be a long one Cassie, expect me back later,” and then he disappeared into the house still talking into the phone.
“Jessica is his PA.” I said, trying not to sound too resentful. I climbed out off the pool too. My playful and somewhat childish mood having evaporated completely. Now I just felt cold.
I glanced upwards. The sun had dipped behind one of the clouds and the previously relaxing breeze now just felt cold against my wet skin.
“I...” James was out the pool too, now, a strange sympathetic expression on his face that I really didn’t like. James Potter felt sorry for me and I hated it. I’d rather have the awkwardness, or rude and horrible James, than this subdued guilty understand James that felt sorry for me. “I’ll get you a towel,”
“No,” James said, “It would be much quicker just to get back to mine and be dried off magically,” I shrugged. I didn’t want to talk. “When will your dad be back?”
“Erm, do you want to come for dinner? Mum would love it.” I raised an eyebrow at him and folded his arms. Did James Potter genuinely believe I was going to accept his offer? “It’s not formal dress, if that helps,” His lips twitched.
Oh dear Merlin. James Potter just attempted a joke that was not at my expense.
“Sure,” I said quietly, my face flushing it’s normal scarlet.
A/N - Reviews would be lurrrveely ;)
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