Hayley continued to ignore James all the way through the feast and then when they returned to the common room. She sat with Josh and “Mark”, no doubt talking about the best way to keep Nicky as out of public eye as possible. James sat with Fred and Toni, who were talking about Quidditch. James smiled when he thought about Quidditch. He had been named captain this year and knew he had a superb team. Hayley was the granddaughter of three of the greatest chasers of their generation, Hayley Potter, Sirius Black and Amelia Kingston; Fred took after his dad in the beater stakes and he himself had inherited his dad’s skill on a broom. They were after a hat-trick, three successive victories in the Quidditch Cup. James didn’t want to let the side down.
“You and Hayley will be seeing a lot of each other again this year won’t you James?” Toni noted and James snapped to attention.
“Well you’ve both taken the same NEWTs, you’re both in the same house, and you’ll be playing Quidditch together. When won’t you see each other?”
“I guess when we get bored of each other,” James replied dryly, making Fred laugh.
“Yeah, like that will ever happen,” he laughed. “You two? Good one James, good one.”
“What about your return to Hogwarts prank?” Toni asked.
Fred’s eyes lit up and even James felt like grinning his head off. Every year he and Fred tried to match their previous year’s feat. They pranked less, but they always made an effort at the start of the year. The start of the year prank had to be legendary. Breakfast would prove to be very interesting.
“Not telling,” James winked. “Besides, who says you’re not going to be on the end of it?”
“Me,” Toni replied menacingly. “Or you might find yourselves being a few parts light.”
James and Fred exchanged a look and a chuckle, as Nicky and Josh headed over and sat opposite them.
“Hayley’s decided she has some stuff to do, so we thought we’d join you,” Josh grinned, patting Nicky’s shoulder as she fought not to blush.
“Cool,” Fred grinned. “So Josh, found any suitable replacements for Nicky?”
Nicky opened her mouth to retort but James kicked her under the table, shutting her up.
“Jesus Fred,” Josh laughed. “She’s at Beauxbatons, she’s not dead.”
“She might as well be, for all the action you’re getting,” Fred replied. “You need to branch out. What about one of our cousins?”
“Fred, you are not making any of our cousins date Josh!” James snapped.
“Make?” Fred laughed. “They’d be queuing up. Are queuing up,” he corrected himself.
“No thanks Fred, I’m determined to make this long term thing work,” Josh said, squeezing Nicky’s hand subtly under the table so he didn’t notice and to calm her.
“Anyway…” Toni interjected, glaring at Fred. “Who fancies a game of Exploding Snap?”
James nodded reluctantly. What sort of stuff would Hayley have to sort out their first night back? Part of him wanted to go and find out, but her cold last words to him made it clear that he had no business hunting her down when she was doing private things, especially when he was keeping secrets from her. Besides, if he did find her, he’d end up having to either tell her or lie again, neither of which he wanted to do. The most important thing was to talk to Kassie first, then face Hayley.
“You’re quiet again James,” Nicky muttered, as the other three became engaged in the game. “I dunno what’s up with you but it must be serious if you’re keeping it from Hayley. She really cares about you, you know and she’s upset you can’t tell her whatever it is.”
“Well she would be,” James replied quietly. “And she’s right to be. I’m an arse and I’m paying for it.”
Nicky didn’t press the matter further but from the looks she kept shooting him, James knew he couldn’t keep lying to people for long.
James headed up to bed quite early, perturbed by the evenings events. He sneaked a look at his Marauder’s Map, only to discover that Hayley was nowhere to be seen. Which could only mean she was either outside of Hogwarts, possibly at Hogsmeade, or in the Room of Requirement. He sat back on his head, frowning. Why would she be sneaking off? Where was she sneaking off to? The truth was, if he wanted to know, he could easily find out, but that would involve revealing the truth. James still didn’t know why the idea of Hayley discovering the truth bothered him so much, but it did. He heard the door to his bedroom open and he flicked his curtain, spotting that it was Nicky who had entered. She’d been in the boys’ dorm a few times before but now it was her home and James instantly felt awful all over again.
“Nicky, is that really you?” he asked gently, as she wandered over and sat on his bed.
“Yes James, it’s me,” she murmured, her head in her hands. “I hate this. Being a boy…it’s so horrible. You didn’t even recognise me earlier today.”
“Well you do look very different,” James replied gently, running his hand down her cheek.
“Don’t remind me,” Nicky muttered angrily. “I hate the way I look. All I want is to have my lovely blonde locks back or to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I’m a girl. But no, all I see when I look in the mirror is a stranger. Some strange, different boy. Not me. I don’t know who I am anymore.”
“Hey,” James reassured her calmly, rubbing her shoulders. “It’ll all be okay Nicky. You just need to get through this year and then it’ll all be okay, you can go back to being you again.”
Unlike me, he thought but didn’t say. James knew that at least Nicky’s nightmare would be over soon enough. He had no idea when his nightmare would be over. She began to sob and James drew the curtains and held her tightly as she sobbed.
“I’m sorry,” Nicky whispered as she eventually stopped crying. “I know you’ve got problems of your own to deal with, whatever they are.”
“Nicky,” James interjected. “I know what you think, but it’s not something I can just tell people, it’s more personal than that.”
“Since when has anything been too personal James?” Nicky raised an eyebrow. “You tell Hayley everything, we both know you do. So why are you keeping this from her?”
“I don’t know!” James almost yelled but managed to contain himself. “If I knew that, life would be so much easier.”
“I think you know, somewhere down inside. You just can’t face it,” Nicky muttered. “Just like I can’t face the idea that I might end up dead if this disguise fails. Your brain just doesn’t go there.”
“You were much more attractive as a girl,” James pointed out. “But much wiser as a boy.” This earned him a punch from Nicky and he chuckled. “See, you’re learning already.”
James headed down for breakfast the next morning, pleased to see that the hall was bustling, all four tables were packed. Fred nodded towards James, who set off the first batch of fireworks with his wand. They burst out from underneath the teachers table and filled the wall behind them, the words WELCOME BACK blazing in Gryffindor red. Fred then set off the second batch, which created giant cages of fireworks, one with the words HEAD BOY hovering over it, the other saying HEAD GIRL. At which point, James and Fred levitated the helpless Molly and the Head-Boy (a weedy Hufflepuff), into their respective cages, which then condensed around them, showering them in soot and ash as they fell back to their respective tables, Molly flushing furiously, as red as her hair. The Gryffindor table roared with laughter as did some of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. The Slytherins looked worried, and rightfully so. Then, from the ceiling, came the final humiliation. A selection of green fireworks, sludge, paint and dungbombs fell, bombarding the Slytherin table, causing them to yell and screech as they were sprayed, sparked and smelled.
“Simple, yet effective,” Rose nodded appreciatively as Fred climbed onto the table and bowed until he was dragged off by McGonagall.
“I don’t suppose this had anything to do with you, did it Potter?” she growled.
“Of course not Minnie!” James replied, acting hurt that she would even suggest such a thing.
“Well then I’ll see you first lesson for Transfiguration then,” she snapped. “You and Black-Hunt are the only Gryffindors in the class, but there are three Ravenclaws and a Hufflepuff to keep you company.”
James waited until after McGonagall was gone before swearing. Josh and Fred looked at him with raised eyebrows, so James buried his head in his breakfast.
The incident at breakfast still fresh in her mind, Molly Weasley strode furiously down the corridors of Hogwarts. She was beyond rage, so passionate was her anger towards the immature and stupid people she called her cousins. How on earth was she supposed to set a good example for the school when she was raised into a cage of fireworks and then exploded. Molly ran her hand through her frizzy hair, showering her shoulders with black ash from the fireworks. People who passed her either looked frightened or sniggered, not the sort of impression Molly had been hoping to make (although she didn’t mind being feared). James Potter was going to pay, that much she was certain about. James must have seen her coming, because when she spotted him outside his Transfiguration class, he was very pale and looked worried.
“Potter!” Molly snarled, pulling out her wand and pinning him to the wall. James smiled and nodded, acknowledging her. Molly dropped him and he straightened out his robes, sending her a dazzling smile that never reached his eyes, which looked slightly dull and lifeless. “You had better not even consider pulling another stunt like that!”
“What do you mean Molls?” James asked innocently, seemingly bored of the conversation.
“I mean that from now on, any move you make in this school will be carefully monitored and if I catch you putting a foot wrong, I will ensure you are expelled. Understood?”
“Please Molly,” James laughed. “You’ve got nothing on me.”
Molly wanted to explode. The sheer cheek of him, to dare and say such a thing to her. The edge to his voice startled her but then his problems were not her problems. If anything, trouble for James would merely benefit her in the long run. She huffed and turned her back. It would not be good for her to miss her first lesson on account of that toe-rag. Turning abruptly on her heels, Molly sauntered off.
McGonagall was remarkably calm, considering what had gone on. It transpired that one of Fred’s periods was no longer free, but a detention slot for the rest of the year. Partly for what he’d done but partly because of what McGonagall said: “he would inevitably end up doing.” James chuckled at that. He was the first one in the classroom, eager to escape the wrath of the Slytherins after breakfast’s antics. The Ravenclaws arrived next, two boys and a girl that James vaguely recognised. The boys sat together, obviously and then the Hufflepuff arrived. James hung his head. As if his day couldn’t get any worse. It was Kassie. She sat beside him, looking just as nervous and downright awkward as he did. Hayley walked in about a minute later, and after a brief moment of indecision, sat beside the female Ravenclaw, engaging her in conversation briefly before the lesson began. James tried to catch her eye but she ignored him.
“Okay then…” McGonagall began one of her droning speeches and the lesson carried on in much the same vein for nearly two hours. McGonagall talked, James sat there indecisively, Kassie shifted uncomfortably, Hayley ignored the pair of them, and when they did delve into the practical magic, very little was said apart from the spells. When the lesson eventually ended, Hayley was out in a flash. As soon as they were out in the corridor, Kassie opened her mouth but James put his finger to her lips.
“Not here,” he hissed, pulling her away from the crowds. Once he’d found a quiet spot, he pulled the invisibility cloak over them, placed a silencing charm on them and pulled out the Map to ensure nobody was close enough to interrupt them.
“James, I just wanted to say I’m sorry about all this. I hope you know I don’t expect you to support me,” Kassie said sadly, earning a raised eyebrow from James.
“Kass, of course I’ll support you, it’s as much my fault we’re in this mess as yours,” James replied, pressing his hands against her shoulders. “We can speak to St Mungo’s, look at their options for abortion and adoption.”
“James…” Kassie spoke slowly, swallowing. “I’ve decided to keep the baby. Our baby. I don’t want to kill it and I don’t want to give it away. Whatever happens between us, I’m having our child.”
James opened his mouth and shut it again. If he had had any hope of his life somehow not being over, that was the end of it, the death of it. And all of a sudden, his whole world came crashing down, as with only a couple of simple sentences, Kassie had sealed his fate and secured him. He was hers now, in a strangle hold, whatever he did. He couldn’t walk away, she was carrying his child. He had to stick with her. For his child. For their child.
“Okay,” James stammered. “We’re in this together. What do you need?”
A/N: Hi again everyone. Now I know a couple of chapters ago I promised a preview, and it never materialised... But this time I have one :) So please please please leave a review, let me know what you think of this chapter and this story HP
“Come on Freddie, cheer up. I’m on the team. Yee haw!!!” she cried, her golden brown hair covering her face and splaying out over Fred.
“Alright, alright I’m cheering,” Fred laughed, as he carried her into the common room, followed by a beaming Dom and a couple of 7th years, who deliberately hung back a moment just to examine Toni’s butt. James and Hayley followed up the rear, not walking together but somehow ending up that way as they surveyed the grinning faces and conversations in the common room.
“What are we doing Hayls?” James muttered, looking at her.
“I don’t know James, you tell me,” she replied, looking pained as she strolled across the room and hugged Toni.
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