Chapter 8 : The one with the emotions.
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“How was practice?” I grinned, allowing her to rest her head on my chest and close her eyes. She decided an adequate response was to hit me in the chest and mutter further profanities about my brother under her breath. I wrapped my arm haphazardly around her shoulders. I was half tempted to say ‘I love you too, Jan’ in response but decided it might be misconstrued as flirting and result in painful arguing.
“I left early,” Jan admitted, closing her eyes. “Because your brother is a fucking tosspot who told me that I’d run faster if I took my top off.”
“Er...”I said, trying very hard not to laugh. “Specifically you?”
“No, girls in general.” Jan admitted. “Well, okay... just that fifth year Chaser girl with the large chest and the inability to catch. But he was being a sexist brute so it all balances out in the end.”
“So you just walked off?” I asked in amusement.
“No,” Jan admitted. “I told her that she might catch better if she could see over her boob job before throwing my broom at the floor, picking it up, and marching back up to the castle with my head held high. May have called James something too,”
“You should have made your dramatic exit in the direction of the showers,” I said, wrinkling up my nose and looking down at her. “You stink.”
“Yeah well,” Jan said, tilting her head upwards and smiling at me. “You need to shave,” She ran a finger across my cheek before dropping it the floor and sighed, looking incredibly tired. “And then James threatened to kick me off the team,”
“You want me to talk to him?”
“No,” She laughed. “Then he’d definitely chuck me off the team.”
“You really do smell,” I commented. “And I’m entirely sure you’ve got mud on my robes,”
“Oh sod off, Al! I don’t care if I smell – deal with it.”
“Dealing,” I replied, raising an eyebrow and allowing Jan to get more comfortable on my chest. I expected very shortly she was going to fall asleep. She looked very tired.
“Why is he getting so bloody anal? It’s only a sodding Quidditch match. I know it’s the final, but...”
“It’s because Teagan Reaves organised that schoolwide boycott,”
“Oh, right,” Jan said. “Yeah, is that still going on? They tried to get me to sign some contract.”
“They had a contract?” I demanded, half amused, half slightly afraid.
“Not after Rose found out,” Jan said cheerfully. “I’m pretty sure the only get out clause was death.”
“I didn’t realise she was so pissed.”
“She wasn’t, she just thought James would play worse if he was gagging for it. Unfortunately she was entirely correct.”
“I thought she was in love with him,” Jan gave me a look, “James told me that Teagan said ‘I love you James – date me or you’ll date no one...’” Saying it out loud made me realise how truly ridiculous the whole thing was.
“That was Just James feeding his ego. Anyway, people change, Al!” She declared irritably, now half sitting on me. I had become a human pillow – I could live with that. “I change, you change, we all change!”
“How have I changed?”
“You’re all hench and stuff.” Jan said, poking me in the stomach and then laughing. “Okay, maybe you haven’t changed.” Then she laughed at my face before throwing an arm around my neck and grinning. “Only joking,” Jan muttered sleepily, “I wouldn’t doubt your masculinity,”
“Right,” I answered, amused.
“How have I changed?” She asked, arm still around my neck and her eyes now closed again. At least she was comfortable.
“Much grumpier?” I suggested as she wrapped her arms tight around herself. She was so close to falling asleep now it was unreal... and she looked so peaceful that I decided to ignore the fact that she was still sticky with sweat and mud from Quidditch.
“Sod off,” She mumbled, poking me with one of her pale yellow fingernails. “I’m lovely,” Then she yawned and stopped talking altogether. I watched her for a few seconds; still feeling distinctly amused, and took in her expression. She looked almost innocent (which of course I knew not to be true) and much more like my twelve year old best friend who’d been so incredibly excited to get her first period that she’d spent thirty minutes detailing how it felt (I still hadn’t recovered, to tell you the truth, but at least I could now deal with Lily’s less detailed complaints about the whole thing). She’d been so... stressed recently; studying like a maniac and spewing more swearwords, mostly about James, than I’d have thought possible.
Jan and James just had not been getting on recently. Sure, one of the best things about Jan being my best friend was the constant James-bashing but even I was getting a little tired of the fact that they couldn’t even sit at the same Gryffindor table without swearwords being used. James was avoiding her – even my oblivious self had noticed that – and Jan looked like she wanted to strangle someone any time he was in the vicinity and muttering things like ‘why can’t he just disillusion himself – then at least I wouldn’t have to fucking look at him’ and ‘wish he bloody slept in a vanishing cabinet’ – things of that calibre. It wasn’t remotely surprising, then, that Quidditch practices were not going too well (no doubt James would decide this was my fault any day now). I dated this back to about February but had so far been too scared for my life/manhood to actually ask. I would. At some point.
A piece of her dirty blonde hair fell into her face and I smiled at her. It was times like these when I could see Jan as just Jan – my best friend, rather than my best friend turned smoking hot female that sometimes made it difficult to think if she decided to wear a slightly low cut top, or sit too close to me. I relished the times when I could I loved her for being my best friend, and I didn’t have to worry about anything else.
I missed the days before hormones.
And then... “You need to cool down!” James yelled, and then he upturned a bucket full of water on top of Jan’s sleeping form (and, in doing so, all over me). She leapt up with a stream of entirely appropriate swearwords and cursing, groped around in her pocket for her wands and pointed her finger at him fiercely when she couldn’t locate it. “You left practice,” James said simply.
“Go fuck yourself. No one else bloody will.” Jan said grumpily before turning around –glaring madly at James for a few seconds, smiling alarmingly at me, then disappearing up the stairs in the direction of the Girls Dorm. And hopefully the shower.
Except there was a moment just after she’d turned away when there was this expression on her face that...
“You just had to piss her off,” I complained, making myself comfortable on the sofa again and looking up James feeling distinctly irritated. “Why don’t you just leave her alone?”
“Because it’s god damn funny.” James grinned, sitting down opposite me with an eyebrow raise. “Mostly because you get all hyper protective and emotional about it.”
“Why are you looking so cheerful?” I asked disdainfully.
“Guess who’s lifting the boycott?” He returned, “Not that it worked very well anyway,” He tossed his hair out his face – he’d grown it ridiculously long. He looked like a twit (although apparently not everyone agreed, even if Mum certainly did).
“Right,” I snorted, “Shouldn’t you be studying?”
James laughed at that, patted me on the head patronisingly before disappearing up the boys staircase. I very much doubted he was planning an early night.
There was definitely something weird about this new James/Jan dynamic I decided at around six O’clock on Saturday morning. I was still awake after hours and hours of attempting to sleep but being haunted by the glimpse of Jan’s face just after she turned to storm off. For a second she’d looked, well... upset. It looked like she was about to start crying or something.
Why would Jan be upset?
And why was I suddenly becoming so observant and shit now it was too late? It was beyond frustrating and annoying and stupid and...
I buried my head into my pillow trying to block out the increasing light that had forced its way past the curtains to ruin any hope of sleep I had left. I was exhausted and... what was up with Jan anyway? Why did woman have to be so complicated? Could she not just write down her feeling and such on a piece of paper in a clear and concise way without using any girl-words that would leave me more confused than ever (emotional, for example – what the hell does that even mean)? I was never good at all this second guessing and even hearing the world ‘feelings’ left me cold.
This was how I’d messed things up with the whole Jan thing in the first place – I could barely get to grips with the idea of myself having complicated feelings without even considering what must be going on in Jan’s head. Woman are, by definition, unfathomable.
...And that’s when the bucket of freezing water was upturned over my head. I jerked upwards accompanied by an array of colourful and overdramatic swearwords. I blinked stupidly and realised with annoyance that I had, at last, been on the verge of falling asleep
A furious glance at the clock told me it was now half seven. A second glance confirmed the fact that my ridiculously large family is the bane of my life: Freddie was the delighted yielder of the now-empty-bucket, Hugo was the idiot with the camera and my ridiculous brother was the person who had apparently stuck a large piece of parchment on the wrong end up my broom and was using it as a sign (as if the bucket of water hadn’t been enough to get my attention).
There were two words written in his messy scrawl. Two words that were more woeful and heart-wrenching than any other words in my extensive vocabulary – ‘Help me’
It was going to be a long day.
“So,” James said, pushing a flask of hot chocolate into my hand with a strange look in his eye that I was definitely not happy about. “The boycott’s been lifted and...” I didn’t like where this was going one bit. Every time James had come to me with his own personal branch of ‘girl troubles’ I’d ended up a lot worse off than I had done before. “I’ve nearly graduated and, well...” James stopped for a moment, “there’s this girl.”
He almost sounded serious.
“A girl?” I questioned, not quite believing it. James hadn’t dated anyone properly since the near-expulsion. It probably had helped his school-career in the long run and definitely helped with his ‘unattainable heartthrob’ image that he’d managed to build up... but, as Jan said, it probably did not help with his ability to view women as people (I think aliens is more accurate).
“Yeah,” James said, “we have the whole love-hate thing going on, serious sexual tension... but I never thought anything would happen because well... I thought she genuinely hated me. But, after the Hufflepuff victory party well... we snogged.”
I stared at him. Was I about to discover the location of James on that bleeding awful night? The reason why Lily’s boyfriend managed to get as far as putting his hand down her top?
“Just snogged?” I questioned. James shrugged in a revealing nonchalant way. So that was a no then. Tosser. “Continue,”
“But I need your help,” James said warily, “Because... I’m not good with girls. Well, that’s a lie. I’m great with girls. She’s just a bit different.”
“All right, who?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“No, not at all.”
James turned to me seriously – although there was something in his eyes that I didn’t trust – then he coughed slightly. “Er... it’s Jan.”
“Jan?” I chocked out, “I... my Jan?” I was spluttering, incoherent – total shock. James winced at my reaction but for some unknown reason decided that it would be beneficial to continue talking.
“Well yeah, but she’s seemed to hate me even more recently. I know she was pretty drunk at that party but -”
I was going to vomit. Genuine nausea. James and Jan? No, it sounded awful. Horrible. Disgusting. Shit. Shit. Shit. This was beyond my comprehension and... and...The idea of Jan drunk and foolish, and James kissing her... so that’s where Jan had been and... and...
This couldn’t be happening, could it? James couldn’t... Jan was mine. Jan had always been mine. She hated James especially recently and...Sexual tension?
My brother had shagged my best friend. Not just any best friend – Jan. Janet Harper who had once painted my nails when I was asleep, who’d said she needed to ‘talk to me’ and who’d hated my brother since the moment she met him.
“She is hot though.”
I had a sudden disgusting image of Jan in that beautiful black dress and James – my brother – running his hand over his skin and... and Jan’s painted nails in his hair and, and...
Then I punched him in the face.
I could barely see but I could think straight enough to know that James was an ugly bleeding tosser with ridiculous glasses that made me sick, and that a red mark had already appeared over his eye. I hated his bloody expression of surprise as my fist connected with his skin and I was, I was...
James stepped back stupidly and stared at me for a second – he’s ridiculous naivety made me even angrier. Shit, I was angry. Beyond angry. I was bloody furious. He’d gone too far this time; Jan was off limits and Jan had always been off limits. Jan was my best friend and I loved her... and somewhere I knew I was supposed that I loved James too, but it seemed harder to pinpoint that location when... I hated him for even thinking he was good enough to associate with her.
I’d spent summers in Jan’s conservatory complaining about James and I’d spent summers at home whining about missing Jan to James. Everything was back to front... wrong... upside down and all of the place. How could? How...?
“Al are you okay?” James asked, tilting his ridiculous head at me as if mildly concerned. If James had ever been mildly concerned about my feelings he wouldn’t have even brushed Jan’s shoulder in the middle of a whole way... if James... my brother, if he thought that...
My first punch didn’t appear to have knocked him out.
So then I punched him again.
“You broke my glasses!”
“I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU FUCKING GLASSES! I WISH I’D BLINDED YOU!”
“I will silence you if you don’t shut up immediately!” Lily snapped – her fingers encompassing my wrist as she dragged me down the last flight of stairs and into the Hospital wing. James was attached to her other hand. His blood was encrusted on my knuckles. My blood was running down my face.
I was too angry to talk properly anyway. I clamped my jaw shut and concentrated very hard on not accidently making something explode... as much as it would make me feel better.
“I cannot believe you’ve been fighting!” Lily spat. James’s ridiculous glasses dropped out of his hands and landed on the floor with a clunk – true, I’d already managed to twist them so much out of shape that he couldn’t fit them on his face any more... but given what a pathetic little pansy he’d been...
I crushed them under my foot. James gaped at me.
“Albus Potter! Stop this right now! I’m going to write to mum!” Lily declared, dragging the pair of us into the hospital wing and glaring at both of us with her best Nana Weasley face spread across her feature. It was normally slightly terrifying (she managed to get her lips to quirk in exactly the same way) but there was nothing that could draw my mind away from this new hideous revelation.
God damn James. I couldn’t help it though. Images of Jan and James kept swarming my mind, making that familiar nausea and jerk to the stomach start all over again. Was it obvious? Did they have that whole love-hate thing going on?
No. I was entirely sure it was just hate.
How could James do that?
“Write to the fucking minister of magic, I don’t care.” I said, angrily sitting down on one of the beds – decidedly not looking at James and instead folding my arms over my chest angrily – waiting for the nurse to come out and stop my lip from bleeding. I couldn’t locate where my heart was in my chest... it seemed to have sunk down somewhere... maybe to the bottom of my foot, where I crushed it with every bleeding step. That seemed appropriate, somehow.
“What happened?” Lily demanded.
“He fucked Jan, that’s what happened!” I yelled, standing up and wanting to punch him again. I’d given him a black eye. Just looking at the purplish bruise that was just beginning to form was incredibly satisfying.
“What?” Lily said. She sounded as outraged as I did. She stepped over to my side of the hospital wing, hands on hips, and glared at him. “How could you do that to Al?” She demanded, her eyes flaring.
“I never said I fucked her!” he exclaimed angrily, “Let’s all just calm down,” James suggested warily. He hadn’t been saying that ten minutes previously when he’d had me in a headlock. Crap. My hands shook with my unadulterated anger.
“Calm down!?” I yelled, “Calm down!?!”
“At what point,” James began delicately, “did it stop being funny that I was joking?”
“What?” I felt dizzy. None of this made any sense.
“Sit down Al, you great tool. I don’t fancy Jan.”
“Then why did you...? What? I don’t...”
“Oh,” Lily said, biting her lip and looking as if she was beginning to find things amusing. “I get it.”
“Al,” James said, pushing me down so that I was sat on one of the beds. “Jan is annoyed at you.” I stared at him blankly. “She is annoyed at you because you are a brainless tool with no backbone.” I continued staring at him. “And she was annoyed enough that she came to me for help.”
“And you helped her by sticking your tongue down her throat –” I began hotly.
“Oh, Al,” James laughed. “Oh poor emotional Al. Jan asked me to form a plan to see if at any point during your lifetime you were going to notice what’s been in front of your face for about five years. I’ve been trying to help her!”
“So why did you agree to ‘help’?” Lily asked, turning to him – ignoring my inane state of shock – and putting her hand back on her hip, where it seemed to live these days.
“Because I wanted to see if he’d actually flip. Anyways, it’s been a long time coming. How long has Jan been waiting now? Three years?” James grinned. I felt like someone had sucked my brain out with a straw. I’d been so full of anger and now... suddenly it was unjustified. I felt like I’d been plucked out of some strange situation and been placed somewhere equally strange, as if that was normal. “Plus, Al is my little bro! I love him!” He said grinding his knuckles into my skull fondly. “And I know him better than anyone, and he was never going to sort it.”
“You... you lied?” I questioned. James nodded. “You don’t fancy Jan?”
“She’s not really my type.” James said nonchalantly.
“She’s got too much substance,” Lily interjected.
“I love you too, little sis,” James said with his eyes narrowed. “Anyway, Al, are you with me?”
My brain was finally beginning to make sense of the whole thing. James did not fancy Jan (and for that reason alone I was fully prepared to start believing in a God).
“I think you may need to run it by me a couple more times,” I mumble slowly, pressing a head to my skull. It throbbed painfully where James had punched me. Bloody idiot.
“Well, Jan knows you pretty well and she’s not thick Al.”
“I know she’s not thick! Is that what she thinks now? That I think she’s thick.”
“No, calm Al, you’re missing the point,” James sighed.
“Get to the ruddy point then.” I muttered darkly.
“Okay!” James said holding his hands up. “Jan said she was fed up of not know what you thought and she knows full well that you don’t talk about feelings unless your life depends on it, and then you’d probably just be like ‘see you in hell – I will not discuss how I feel about you stealing my banana’ and then –“
“That’s the most ridiculous analogy I’ve ever heard,”
“You’re the most ridiculous brother I’ve ever had!”
“Well you’ve never had yourself as a brother!”
“Lily, who is more ridiculous – me or Al?”
Lily stared at the pair of us for a few long moments. “Um... Considering you just told Al that you made out with Jan and then started fighting him, and considering Al is practically chocking on oblivion and that he tried to use your glasses as a trampoline I’d probably say that the levels of ridicule are about standard.”
“So bleeding diplomatic,” James said with an eye roll, “You think Voldemort was defeated by diplomacy?”
“You think Al’s romance problems are going to be defeated by violence?” Lily returned. She had far too much sass for her own good. She should be prevented from things like that. Hormonal blokes might find it attractive or something. Bastards. They’d con her into bed with sweet ‘I love you’s and she’d been stupid and sassy and say ‘I love you’ back and then she’d be pregnant and the Chosen one would have turned his wand on himself. Mum should never have taught her sarcasm.
“Yes, actually, I haven’t explained yet. Anyway, Jan knew that it would take something extreme to get you talking about how you feel. She enlisted my help. We tried getting you drunk after the Quidditch match obviously that, didn’t er... end well.”
“Then after you stumbled outside locked in a passionate embrace with one Jessica Bones,”
“Are you ever going to learn to tell them apart? It was Becky, and anyway we weren’t locked in a passionate embrace she just –”
“No need for the sordid details,” James said cheerfully.
“There were no sordid details!” I hissed.
“Anyway!” James continued loudly, “Jan came running to me, distraught, and declared that it was all my fault. So we went upstairs and started operation reveal-Al’s-feelings. The first couple of plans didn’t work out too well... eerr, Jan and I had a couple of communication issues which meant that you weren’t in the right place at the right time, but anyway – this plan is a doozie.”
“Dear Lord, save us all,” Lily muttered, her eyes fixed on the ceiling. She could almost be praying.
“I told Jan I was going to get you so angry and jealous that you’d do something stupid and rash, and then you’d have to talk about your feelings and strangle your state of obliviousness out of your brain and embrace the woman inside you. Actually, scratch that last – if Jan asks I suggested nothing about embracing any women.” James had his I’m-such-a-genius-you-should-worship-me face on. It was an expression that was absurdly common and never reinforced by action. “Throwing a bucket of water over her was a sign! So now you just have to start talking about your feelings and I’ve succeeded at life!”
“About what feelings?”
“Jan related feelings?” James suggested encouragingly. Then he laughed. “Why do you think you got so mad, huh Al? You never get mad! Patients of a saint. Why do you think you got so mad? You were jealous.”
“No use denying it Al, you’ve got to admit it now! You jumped on my glasses like a girly ponce and... wait, you know you were jealous?”
Lily appeared to stop silently praying and was now staring at me with an expression of deep shock. “Really,” I sighed irritably, “if you wanted to know if I fancied Jan you could have just asked.”
“You know you love Jan?”
“Well, love is a slightly stronger word than I’d have opted for but -”
“You love her!”
“You’re not an oblivious twat!”
“Hey there, Lily – let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
“Just one thing,” I interrupted loudly, “why the hell did Jan want to know about my feelings?”
“Told you not to get ahead of yourself, Lily.” James grinned. “I love you man, but you really are a complete dipshit when it comes to Jan. But this is great! We can just go tell Jan that you fancy her back and then -”
“Hold on just one second! Tell Jan what now?”
“You must have known Jan fancied you?” Lily questioned curiously.
“She used to fancy me but that was, well... that was like a year ago and...”
“Oh sod off was it a year ago, Jan has always been into you. Little creepy actually. If you ask me, she’s been clawing her way in since first year – crafty wench.” James said with a grin. He looked ridiculous with his squinting eyes and bloody lip. I did that. Ha.“Anyway, I’ll go get Jan and we can get all this cleared up -”
“No!” I yelled. James looked around in alarm, and one of Lily’s eyebrows (hey... has she been plucking them!?) rose delicately. “Don’t, don’t go tell Jan I mean...” James tilted his head at me curiously. I flushed slightly and looked at me feet. “It’s not as simple as you’re making it out to be,” I mumbled into my feet, “you’ve never... you don’t understand.”
“Explain,” Lily demanded, but for once her voice was soft rather than icy and biting. I liked the nice-Lily the occasionally surface its ginger head.
“I couldn’t date her!” I exclaimed in a high pitch voice that I’m sure James would rip me for if this wasn’t such a serious intervention-type-conversation. His lips did twitch slightly though. “For a start, I don’t trust myself.”
“Well, okay, I don’t exactly have the best track record with girls, do I? I mean thanks to James everyone knows about the bloody summer incident and that’s not exactly... you know, a very good working relationship model.”
“Did you genuinely use the phrase ‘good working relationship model’?”
“Shut up, James. Al is talking about his feelings here. Continue.” It’s a cert – I love this Lily.
“So I’d probably be a really really crap boyfriend and I don’t want Jan to be the trail run in that respect. I’ve been on a couple of dates but I’ve never had like a girlfriend -”
“- because Jan always made sure you didn’t,” James added quietly.
“And then there’s the fact that she’s my best friend. I don’t want any of that to get ruined or messed up with relationship-y type stuff, and then... I don’t even know if I fancy her properly!”
“Fancy her properly?”
My brain hurt. My face hurt. My head hurt. And I hated talking about my bloody feelings.
“Like, I don’t know if I fancy her just because she’s really hot, or if I fancy her because she’s Jan and she paints her nails everyday and yet always has chipped nail varnish and because she hates you and laughs at me and stuff. I don’t want to wreck everything if I’m just being a superficial git like usual.”
There was a long ringing silence in which both of my siblings stared at me as if in a case of profound shock. Did people actually think that I hadn’t thought about these things? That I still had them pushed back to the corner of my mind in a locked box called ‘denial?’
I was serious about Jan one way or another and she was important enough for me to put the hours in and actually think.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” James said cheerfully.
“And what if it’s not?” The anguish in my voice was a lot more obvious than I thought it would be. It was a little embarrassing really.
James had no answer. For once, he was speechless.
“Either way,” Lily said with a frown, “Jan’s sat in the common room waiting to know.” I still hadn’t got past the Jan-actually-does-fancy-me-bit. Or maybe I had. Maybe that had been in the denial box, to help the repressed feelings section of my brain along its merry way. “You’ve already pissed her off enough with your ignorance; you have to do something Al.”
“I’m not telling you what to do,” Lily shook her head; “this is up to you.” Then she was up and heading towards the door.
I looked longingly to James in the hope that he could help.
“Sorry mate,” James said softly, “I’m not... I’m really not the person to ask with this.” Then he stood up two, and as both my siblings walked out the sounds of their whispered bickering filling up my brain for a few glorious seconds (“you’re even more insensitive that Uncle Ron James, really” “at least I’m not a woman” “I’m not so sure about that” “Oh shut up, I’m older than you which means I’m right...”).
And there it was: a decision to make; best friends to look for; emotions to talk about ect...
Three hours of distraction tactics later (including developing a coffee addiction and doing the first patrols I’ve done since receiving my Prefect badge), I rolled up at the Gryffindor Common Room feeling guiltier than I’d possibly ever felt. Even guiltier than the time I accidently exploded Lily’s teddy after it’s monotonous chorus of ‘I love you, I love you’ got too much for my five year old nerves to stand... and then hid the remaining pieces – half a leg, his beady eyes and a considerable amount of fluff – in James’s bedroom so I didn’t get in trouble... and that was the most guilty I could ever remember being. So guilty, in fact, that I confessed to my crime and threw up over the remaining bits of Teddy in anguish.
Dad cremated his ashes in the fire and brought Lily another teddy sharpish. She did, however, force me to mimic her old bear as penance: many an evening was spent repeating ‘I love you, I love you’ until even the idea of blowing something up repulsed me. I was very unlike James in that respect.
This was slightly different, though. I had kept Jan waiting. I was a horrible person, really, I was. This was just further proof that I was not worthy of dating her – I’d already shown extreme levels of selfishness.
I had come to no decision.
Somebody shoot me?
Disregarding the fact that I had not come to any conclusion on any front, my cowardice was being to get ridiculous. Janet Harper hated waiting like I hated talking about my feelings... and the longer I waited the more likely it was that she was going to throw things at me.
I had not practiced ducking lately.
Still, the fact remained... I’d never been so scared of seeing someone in my whole life. I mean... shit. I was sweating, having breathing difficulties and my heart was thumping in my chest like an over enthusiastic boxing champion. Was it possible that Jan actually did fancy me? In a lot of ways it made perfect sense – like I’d managed to understand some strange and complicated riddle, on the other hand it was such an absurd and ridiculous notion that I wasn’t sure I could put any faith in it.
James, as much as I loved him, wasn’t exactly known for truth telling and surely if Jan had really... well, fancied me like the others seemed to think she had... she’d say something? Then again, I’d been fully aware that I fancied my best friend since the last Quidditch match and I hadn’t bothered mentioning anything to her.
Mostly because I was locked in an intense internal battle between various internal organs that should have, quite frankly, stayed out of it. Sure, the main three contenders in that epic battle of wills had been my head, heart and, er, well... Really there was already enough going on with those three without the odd twinge my stomach thought might be helpful, or the slight wobbliness that my legs spontaneously exerted if they thought I needed to add more confusion into the mix. My lungs too, enjoyed reminding me that I needed to breath and even Jan couldn’t replace oxygen when things got to calm.
As far as I could tell my kidneys had remained impassive. That was probably for the best: a sudden urge to urinate in Jan’s presence would be both inconvenient and very strange. Hard to explain, that’s for sure.
All this nonsense aside, a very beautiful yet volatile woman was very pissed on the other side of the fat lady, waiting to know how much of a tosser I was (on a scale of zero to Voldemort/James).
It didn’t help that apparently everyone knew.
I silently checked that all organs, internal or otherwise, were present and were hopefully going to behave themselves (I mean you, kidneys). Then I drew in another deep breath. Then I let it out. Then I took another deep breath and then...
I realised I was still being a prat.
“Puffapods,” I almost whispered to the fat lady. There was a small and cowardly part of me that was hoping that the password had changed whilst I’d been outside/in the hospital wing, but alas she swung open and I had no choice but to step through the threshold...
Jan was sitting on the sofa surrounded by a sea of ginger I could only assume belonged to my family (I wasn’t entirely certain because, to be quite frank, I care more about Jan than any of those tossers anyway). There was a pile of books in front of her which meant she’d been trying to study – never a good sign – and a slightly worse sign that was obvious even to me was the four crumpled tissues covered in black stuff (let’s hope it’s mascara). She had her fists balled up at her sides, and her shoulder slanted inwards – all signs pointing to a frustrated and very upset Jan. Also, she was crying.
The guilt was even worse now. I was just an idiot, it was unreal. I was surprised someone hadn’t done a Voldemort and Avada Kedavara’d me the minute I’d walked in. Merlin knows I’d deserved it. Cowardly tosser.
I hated when Jan cried as much as I loved Jan when she laughed. Even if she was just crying because she was PMSing and girls do that when they’re PMSing (apparently, I wouldn’t know) I felt irrationally responsible – as if I should have done something to prevent it and had failed her by not cheering her up. Obviously Jan was allowed to be as miserable as she liked, whenever she liked, but I still hated it – especially when I knew I couldn’t do anything to cheer her up.
Especially when this whole thing was my fault in the first place.
One of the ginger blobs (formerly known as a cousin named ‘Rose’ before Jan became the most important creature in the whole wide world, rendering all other’s names unnecessary) had spotted me and was glaring at me. Rose nudged Jan. Jan’s face jerked upwards.
And then she stared at me.
Queue full body explosion: heart thudding, brain swirling, legs trembling unnecessarily...
Luckily, my kidney and bladder were working together as successfully as always.
I was such a Hufflepuff. Merlin knows how I’d ended up in Gryffindor. Then again, so many angry gingers was always frightening (no wonder Voldemort lost – the power of the ginger is insane!)
I needed to get thinking straight again. I’d broken Jan’s gaze without meaning too. I forced my thoughts to steady back into the realms of sanity before looking right back at her again.
Jan’s gaze locked with mine for a terrifying second, and then she looked downwards. Shit, was she crying again? Then she seemed to pull herself together enough to look at me again, and in that time I’d successfully managed to take the necessary steps so that I was standing right in front of her. “Why is your lip bleeding?” She asked, her voice sounding surprisingly strong (I was so proud of her right that second it was unreal, and this tiny bubble of euphoria burst in my stomach. Bloody hell Jan was amazing).
“James punched me.” My voice sounded quiet and pathetic compared to hers. Some Gryffindor I was. Clearing my thoughts indeed.
“Why?”Rose demanded, because this appeared to have upset Jan some more. Which wasn’t what I’d wanted at all.
“Because, eh...” I looked directly at Jan again. She looked up at me apprehensively. God, our relationship had never felt so awkward or fragile. One wrong word and the Al and Jan show could come crashing down and I’d be left mourning in the rubble like a broken man who’d fallen back on metaphors to express his more womanly emotions. Merlin save us all.
I could feel several people’s eyes boring into my back (I suspect most of that was down to Rose – If I didn’t love her, and if she wasn’t a woman or better at magic than me I would have forcibly made her stop flaming staring). I wasn’t entirely sure if I could speak, faced with such an emotional looking Jan, and I still wasn’t sure what I wanted or what I was supposed to do or say... Yes, of course I wanted Jan. She was... my best friend. But, more than that. She was...She was Janet bloody Harper and I needed to man the fuck up.
“Because I gave him a black eye and broke his glasses.”
Then her beautiful face burst into the most radiant smile I’d ever seen. And even I had to admit that James was right on the mark with this one. I suppose it had to happen at some point.
“So, erm...” I began wildly; glancing round the empty classroom as if there would be something interesting written on the ceiling that could inspire me towards speech. Strangely enough... “Look! Someone’s written gullible on the ceiling!”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Jan said impatiently.
“No, look, someone has actually written gullible on the ceiling!”
“I know,” Jan said, “you wrote it. James and Freddie made a human tower and made you climb on top of them and write it in permanent marker. Professor Whatzit walked in, you fell off their shoulders and you all got a weeks worth of detention. Second year?”
“So,” Jan said her voice tense and terse and uncomfortable. Merlin this whole thing was hard. “So... erm, I guess that we fancy each other.”
“That’s the worst conversation starter ever, including James’s ‘pull my wand’” I half expected Jan to snap at me and start yelling, but she smiled and shook her head.
“Why did it take you so long to come back?” She asked stiffly.
“I was...weighing things up.” Oh, bad choice of words Al. Jan looked upset again. I was so bad at this it was a little painful. “I mean I... I was thinking about things?”
“Whether I thought this was a good idea? Don’t hex me! I don’t mean like what I mean... Jan, you’re my best friend and I love you. I just don’t want that to, erm... be fucked up.”
“Uhuh.” Jan said stiffly.
“No, seriously Jan, I mean I love you. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. You’re fantastic. If things get messy than...”
“Listen Al, I love you too and, at the risk of sounding like a sap, but you’re like the best friend ever but... that’s not good enough anymore. Maybe it should be, but... it’s getting stupid. I don’t know. If you’re just saying this because you don’t like me then, that’s fine, but if you... if you really do fancy me then I’m not... Urgh, I hate words they’re just so... okay, Al, what I’m trying to say is – I don’t want to just be your best friend.” She stared at me. I stared back. “Is that clear enough or do I need to explain again?” Jan asked, amusement twinkling in her features again. God I loved her. “I’m not saying that it’s a relationship or nothing but...”
“But you kind of are,” I grinned.
“As long as you’re not just... trying not to hurt my feelings.”
“I’m not I... I mean,” how could I explain how I’d been tearing myself up about whether I fancied her for the right reasons for weeks? How could I explain that without her throwing things at me and hating on me? “I... I don’t know how I could not fancy you.” That was safe, that was true – I’d certainly bloody well tried not to fancy her. “You’re... I mean you’re Jan.”
“I know,” Jan said sarcastically, “I’ve been Jan for a long time now,”
“Precisely,” I grinned back. The awkwardness was slipping away slightly. “Will things be awkward now?”
WAY TO GO ALBUS! LET’S JUST BRING UP THE WHOLE AWKWARNESS THING.
“Erm, maybe.” Jan said uncomfortably, “But I think we could... like, move past that.”
“Yes, Al, kiss me. If we’re going to date what do you think we’ll be doing?” I was suddenly aware of how close Jan was sat to me. I’d given no thought to it before now. We’d both just slumped down on the desk and started the most awkward conversation of our friendship to date (even the one where Jan told me about periods and girl stuff). Now I noted that Jan was sat closer than normal – her shoulder brushing my arm and her face upturned towards me and...
Oh dear lord all mighty. It’s official. I have never been instructed to kiss someone before. It makes things decidedly uncomfortable.
This was awkward. I mean... the definition of awkward. Like a really really tall ginger fourteen year old who was just going through puberty and acne problems awkward. Having never been ginger, or a fourteen year old girl I was no adept at dealing with these high levels of awkward.
If I was suave like James I’d just lean down and kiss her right now. But what if I did it wrong? I’d never even given a thought to whether I was a good kisser or not. I’d never had any complaints...
I sort of lent closer to Jan awkwardly. Bloody Hell. I hovered there, midway between us for a second... before wussing out and jerking backwards suddenly.
Jan’s eyes narrowed. “What the hell is wrong with you?” She demanded. See! See! I was fucking things up already... it was my fault! I was so nervous about this whole thing that it made me feel sick. Jan meant too much for this to go balls up. “It’s not like you’ve ever had difficulty kissing people before!” She was hysterical. Dear lord.
“I don’t know where to put my hands!”
Someone should have cursed my mouth of as a baby. Then none of this would have happened.
“You don’t know where to put your hands?” Jan repeated acidly, “where did you place your hands on Jenny? The Spaniard?”
Do something Al. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll do something now.
So I did. I leant forwards, I wrapped an arm around her back and I kissed my best friend. Jan’s hand, which had been waving about angrily in some enthusiastic hand gesture, found the back of my neck. My other hand found its way to her hip (so that’s where you put it) and hers wrapped around my back.
Have you ever had a feeling that makes you so unshakably sure that you’re on the right path, that you’re doing the right thing and that everything is going to be all right? Have you ever felt euphoric for some silly, stupid reason? Have you ever snogged Janet ruddy Harper?
(I bloody well hope you haven’t).
Jan smelled of Jan, and her nails were painted a deep purple and she was trying not to laugh at me as I kissed her.
“Al,” Jan said, breaking away but not moving a millimetre away, “Hint: you’re hand is not supposed to go there.”
“Erm... I don’t control them?” I suggested, reprimanding said hand and forcing it downwards back into the position on her hip.
“Tosser,” Jan rolled her eyes.
“You’re lured my hand there, you hussy.”
“Oh shut up,” Jan said, kissing the corner of my lips and pulling herself onto her feet. “Coming?” Jan asked. And I took her hand. “I suppose it did that of its own accord to?” Jan said with a raised eyebrow. I grinned. I love Jan, she’s fabulous.
“If I do something wrong, will you tell me?” I asked on the slow walk back to the Gryffindor common room.
“You bet your arse I will,” Jan said with a manic gleam in my eyes that made me fear for my life (amongst other things).
“And if anything goes wrong...?”
“Then we’ll go back to being best friends,” Jan said simply, although we both knew that it could never be that simple. Still, things felt simple with Jan’s hand curled through my own... her fingernails painted purple. “Chill out, Al – or it will never work.”
I could chill.
I could be real chill.
“Al, stop doing that thing with your eyebrows. You look maniacal,” Jan said and then she reached up and kissed me again (hello exploding insides) before giving the portrait the password and leading me inside.
I should have remembered that James was a tosser. Although I’m not exactly sure how I could have known that he’d have assembled every single member of our family to stand in the common room and wait around until we came back. Thus, James yelled “they’re holding hands” and started clapping like a first class maniac who’d been sniffing too many simmering cauldrons.
“Way to make things unawkward,” I muttered darkly... but I wasn’t really mad. I loved James: my ridiculous brother with his stupid haircut and repaired glasses. I loved him.
Lily was there too, still looking far too sassy and still with that self-satisfied smile all over her features. But I loved her too. Sometimes, with James being as time consuming as he was, I forgot how much my sister cared about me. She loved me too.
Freddie was there – and I loved him with his stupid pranks and his never ending comments about Shagging Spaniards...
And Molly! Molly Weasley! I loved her for somehow turning out okay when Percy was such a dull species of the human nature. Of course Uncle George joked that he was a couple of steps above us on the evolution scale, and was slowly turning into a very dull breed of snail. What did it matter, really? When Molly was fairly vivacious and so useful to have around at parties, because she’d clean up the vomit when everyone else had already passed out.
Lucy was my favourite! Lucy went out of her way to defy Percy Weasley in a way that no one else could. Lucy Weasley was a slutty Hufflepuff! And I loved her for it.
Louis was the only male Blonde Weasley, and by definition that meant he was fabulous in the extreme. I hadn’t talked to him since the Christmas when we had an awkward conversation about how I hadn’t brought him a Christmas present... but I love him all the same!
Rose! My second or third best friend. Who seemed to dilute and absorb some of Jan’s excessive girliness – proving someone else for her to complain about tampons too and thus saving me from impaling my ear drums on my own wands. Rose nagged me about my homework until she became less than background noise, but she always made she sure she’d got it done! I loved Rose!
Hugo let me borrow his chess set last summer, so I guess I loved him too.
I loved Roxanne who wrapped a dungbomb up for Uncle Percy’s birthday present and pulled off four toilet seats for Uncle George until she coughed mid spell and ended up sticking herself to the cistern for two days until somebody found her.
And I loved my best-friend-turned-girlfriend Janet Harper!
“Jan,” I muttered under my breath, “I think... I’m going slightly insane.”
Jan laughed nervously and blinked at my various family members in mild shock. I don’t think she’d seen them all clustered together like this for quite some time (minus Teddy, Dom and Victoire of course). Especially not when they were all applauding her for holding my hand.
“Snog her!” Freddie yelled in a high pitched voice I assumed was him attempting to imitate Roxanne. She pushed him, causing a domino effect of falling Wesley’s that was all together quite comical... with Hugo on the bottom looking confused.
“This isn’t a bleeding circus,” I muttered. Someone or other made a comment about their being enough clowns, and then a couple of threats were issued and several wands were drawn out.
“I’ll cast a permanent sticking charm on you if you don’t snog,” James said cheerfully.
“You might as well just do it,” Rose said in a bored voice.
So then I kissed her again only it was more awkward than before because my brother was watching. Which is never a great thing when you’re snogging someone. There was more raucous applause and then Rose said “can I please go to bed now?” and then Molly muttered something about having things to do... until it was quite clear that James had threatened them all and told them they had to stay until we snogger, or one or more of us were crying. He probably blackmailed them.
James came barrelling over looking less arrogant than I would have expected. “So,” James grinned, “Jan’s a good kisser, isn’t she?”
There was a long moment of deathly silence.
“James!” Jan snapped, pulling out her wand and jabbing him with it.
“What? You said you were lying... you said... you went upstairs at the party to plot I don’t...”
“We did,” Jan hissed, “look Al, we went upstairs to plot and then I was drunk and James was drunk and we kissed. It was not a big deal. James said he wasn’t going to tell you because it was not a big deal.”
“I’ll leave you to it then,” James said cheerily, running in the direction of his dorm and disappearing behind a slammed door. I stared at the spot where my brother and began to rethink my love for my family.
A/N - There are actually 37 I love you's witing this chapter... which I means I've completed the challange! Waheeyy :)
That chapter was super intense, and super long, and super full of love. Hope you all enjoyed it and think it merits a shiny review? :)
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by Eavan Shea