“Hello, Amelie! Over here!”
I heard my name being called and looked up, only to see a sea of orange sprawling in front of me. The crowd had gone all out: there were homemade banners and signs, people had painted orange all over their skin, people had dressed as actual cannons. I grimaced slightly as I squeezed passed them on the narrow staircase. I would have preferred to be at a Holyhead Harpies game, but James had invited me, and he had sent me an orange Quidditch jersey to wear. I tugged on the edge of the material, a little embarrassed at the bright colour.
James Potter had managed to get me a ticket to the top box
. We had met for the first time in three years on a train platform, he had invited me to a Quidditch match when and he had got me tickets for the top box.
Looping the strap of my omnioculars over my neck, I skirted and dodged around the crowds of people as the seats rose higher and higher until I reached the top box.
I gripped the ticket tightly in my hand. Albus had delivered it the day before. He had stepped into my cubicle at the Prophet, his camera hanging around his neck, and told me brightly of his photojournalism internship. We had spent a moment engaged in awkward small talk before Albus had rushed off, shouting a hurried excuse behind him.
He had looked so much like James it had creeped me out. I looked, again and possibly for the hundredth time that evening, at the twenty-foot picture of his face, projected at the other end of the stadium, alerting everyone that the usual Chaser was to be replaced by the son of the Chosen One.
I bumped into someone coming down the stairs as the smattering of freckles on his nose distracted me.
“Amelie! Amelie Harris!”
I finally reached a special section of seats separate from the rest of the rows. They were cornered off with fancy bits of golden rope. The chairs were more luxurious, made out of velvet with lots of legroom and cup holders. I tried to hold in my excitement but a little squeak must have slipped out as a young man stared strangely at me, but he did have a hat decorated with cannon-balls that gave him the appearance of a rather strangely shaped mushroom, so I didn’t think too much into it.
I hadn’t been to Quidditch match in over a year. An assistant job at the Daily Prophet simply didn’t have the salary for me to sit in first class seats at Quidditch games. I adored the game of course, even though the Chudley Cannons weren’t my favourite team (Holyhead Harpies for the win) and followed it in all the papers. I remember when James and I had snuck into a match with his parents, and we had gawked and gasped at their high-speed moves and wonderful aim.
And now he was the one playing.
“Amelie Harris! Must you walk so slowly?”
I smiled as I saw Fred Weasley and his girlfriend; Alice Willoughby and I inched carefully along the row of seats, grinning broadly at them. Fred was still as handsome as ever, with his dark skin and charming smile, but he was wearing a large orange hat that almost hung down over his eyes. Alice had cut her long blonde hair short - but it was now a bright orange in support of the team.
“Hello!” Alice shouted, squeezing me into a hug, “it’s been so long!”
“You know, statistically speaking, it’s highly unlikely the Cannons are going to win so you dressing up like complete idiots is a lost cause. They aren’t going to win simply because Frederick asked his grandmother to knit something orange for him.”
“But look at you!” Fred interjected, gesturing at my jumper, “you’re all dressed up! And I resent that you still call me Frederick we haven’t seen you in three years and you’re already setting off on the wrong hand...”
“Wrong idiom, darling,” Alice turned to talk to me, “I apologise for my boyfriend’s behaviour. He hasn’t eaten much today, and I really think this heat is getting to him.”
There had a been a drought, and Muggles were suffering with their unclean cars and brown lawns. The heat was unbearable. Standing in the middle of a crowd was horrible enough.
“Now, now, Alice,” Fred said, shaking his head slowly, “I am your fiancé now. You must refer to me as that at all times. Either that or Oh Great One.”
Fred smirked and slung an arm around his future wife. Alice flashed a diamond ring in my face, blushing profusely. “We have a lot to catch up on, Amelie, including what you’ve been doing for three years. I can’t believe I haven’t seen you in so long!”
“It has been ages,” I agreed, “there’s just been so much stuff happening. I mean, I got this job at the Prophet and then my mum got married again and Gwen writing to me every moment of the bloody day. And you must fill me in on this whole dilemma concerning Weasley men and endearing nicknames,” I finished sarcastically to a scowl from Fred.
“It messes with their minds,” Alice suggested, tapping the seat beside her, “apparently it breaks their entirely masculine vision of themselves. It also reminds them of their mothers. It’s a Muggle thing and it’s named after...”
“Some Greek dude who had sex with his mum,” Fred finished and he shuddered. All thoughts of potential awkwardness flittered from my mind as the conversation steered from orange outfits to casual incest.
“I see St Mungo’s teach their psychology students well,” I said to Alice, and she blushed.
“And pay them well, too,” Fred said, “she gets almost as much as James and all she has to do is sit in an armchair listening to some idiot whimpering about their daddy issues.”
James Potter, the Quidditch player. It did have a certain ring to it, and it was what he wanted to do since he had been small. I still felt a little unnerved by the large posters of his face plastered all around town, staring down at me with a number of other young, good-looking Quidditch players promoting some new deodorant or shaving potion. There was one just outside my office window at work and sometimes, when I wasn’t writing a crucial, world-changing article about cat fashion shows or how some old crone had bewitched her tea set to dance, I would be distracted by the chocolate brown goodness of his eyes.
“Fred,” Alice said warningly, “you know it’s more complicated than that.”
“All right, fine, she gets to practice her doodling skills.”
I was looking at the advertisement board when I heard the sound of hand meeting head and a sudden yelp from Fred. Ignoring their banter, I realised that I really needed a bottle of Mrs. Scower's All-Purpose Magical Mess Remover. I also really needed to read Lavender Brown’s new book ‘This Wolf Inside Me: My Struggle With Lycanthropy’, the follow-on novel to her number one best seller ‘This Heart Inside Me: My Struggle With Dating a War Hero.’ She seemed to be doing a lot of struggling, especially with deciding how much eyeliner was socially acceptable these days.
A twenty-foot picture of Victoire flaunting her new maternity line literally made me jump out of my skin, my bag of Bertie Botts flying everywhere. A close-up of her face (complete with that spine-tingling smile) almost made me scream and the pumpkin pie in my other hand disappeared over my shoulder.
“Oh Merlin, what the hell?”
I turned quickly. A man was standing behind me, wiping his hands on his shirt, groaning at the state of his clothes that were now covered in pumpkin pie. He was quite handsome, with high cheekbones, a strong jaw and dark, intelligent eyes. He wasn’t wearing any ridiculous orange costume; instead he looked smart (well, as smart as someone can look when they are covered in a sweet and tasty snack) in jeans and a plain black t-shirt. His light brown hair was full of the stuff. For some reason, I blushed slightly. I really felt that I recognized him.
“Oh yeah, you two haven’t met,” Fred said quickly, “Amelie, this is my friend from work, Ewan. Ewan, meet Amelie, an old friend from Hogwarts.”
I cringed. Of course I had poured my delicious and flavoursome treat over someone I was expected to sit next for at least the next hour. Ewan stuck his hand out for me to shake, but then realised it was covered in pumpkin and withdrew it. I apologized.
“Nice to meet you,” he said in a quiet, gruff voice, wincing slightly as he wiped a smear of mashed pumpkin off his eyebrow. I blushed again.
“Likewise,” I replied, “and I’m sorry about the whole pumpkin thing.”
He pulled out a wand and waved it over himself. The orange goop siphoned itself off him, leaving his outfit as good as new. Ewan smiled proudly. “At least I don’t look like some Cannon-crazed fan now. Orange doesn’t really suit my complexion.”
“You’re not a fan?”
“Let’s say my loyalties lie elsewhere,” Ewan replied, flipping his lapel, revealing a Tutshill Tornadoes badge. I feigned shock.
“And guessing from your attire I would say that you’re a genuine fan?”
“Oh please,” I replied, “I’m wearing this in support of a friend. That’s it. You know, statistically speaking, its highly unlikely the Cannons are going to win...”
“So people dressing up as idiots is completely stupid, right?” Ewan finished, shaking his head, and I was a little surprised and impressed by our shared wavelength.
“Well, unless you’re wearing a really flattering jumper,” I gestured at my own, “or covered head to toe in an orange confectionary item, of course.”
“Oh, of course. That’s what all the cool kids are wearing.”
“I’m sorry about that. Again.”
“No worries, really. It’s fine.”
The atmosphere in the stadium had reached palpable levels now, and people singing and chanting had replaced the muttering and general chatting. Everyone had started clapping in rhythm, urging the players on, waiting impatiently for the game to start. The four of us sat down. The advertising board was cleared and score flashed on the screen. Seven players, all wearing the navy blue robes of Puddlemere United shot out onto the pitch, and I watched carefully with my omnioculars.
“And introducing the Chudley Cannons,” the commentator announced, loud and proud over the roars of the crowd, “please welcome onto the pitch... “ He called out five names and five bright orange blurs whizzed out onto the pitch to whoops and cheers from the crowd.
“And playing as chaser, we have James Potter!”
I pressed the omnioculars so close to my eyes that they hurt a little. I slowed down time and watched as James flew onto the pitch, waving happily at the crowd. His dark hair was flying in the wind, his dark brown eyes glinting in the light of many cameras. He looked like he had just stepped off a hair potion advert. He was still handsome and my stomach did an uncomfortable flip in my abdomen.
Fred and Alice stood up and clapped as James did a lap around the pitch before settling down near his other teammates. Through my omnioculars, I could see him share high fives and laughs with them. When Fred shouted, “show them hell, Potter!” he looked up at the top box. He looked right at me.
I lowered my omnioculars and smiled at him. He smiled back at me.
“Go Jimmy!” I shouted as loud as I could, and I saw him laugh.
“And your seeker, Oscar Appleby!”
I cheered as thin and weedy Oscar flew onto the pitch, looking positively terrified as he stared around at the mass of people that had squeezed into the tiny stadium. The side of the seat that seemed to be a solid block of navy blue booed and jeered and, looking through my omnioculars again, Oscar’s bottom lip wobbled ominously.
I hadn’t seen him since the Quidditch final back at Hogwarts, since the party when I had found out about James and that complete slutty bitch face Georgia Watson.
But anyway, I thought as I watched Oscar receive encouraging pats on the back from his teammates, that was all a long time ago. It was all ancient history. The team spread out and took their positions; the referee blew his whistle and the game begun. Within seconds, I was already on my feet, jumping and cheering as James ducked and dived around the opposition, the Quaffle tucked safely under his arm. He was simply an orange blur, darting over and under and around the keeper and scoring goal after goal after goal. His teammates were equally superb. The Cannons were sixty points ahead when the referee blew his whistle for half time and I sat down, my voice exhausted from screaming and yelling.
“Do you want some drinks? Snacks, maybe?” Alice asked, “Fred and me are going to get some.”
“A Butterbeer would be great, thanks,” Ewan replied.
“Yeah, me too. And perhaps another pumpkin pie?”
I ignored the ‘are you sure’ look from Ewan and delved my hand into a packet of biscuits. The engaged couple disappeared into a group mingling around the bar in the top box.
“So,” Ewan said, in a polite attempt at conversation, “you work at the Prophet?”
“I do,” I replied.
“Is it everything you hoped and dreamed it would be?”
Pleasantly surprised by the little hint of sarcasm, I answered. “The hours are long and the pay is shoddy, but it’s interesting. It’s good fun.”
“Written anything I would have read?”
“That depends,” I said, looking Ewan up and down, assessing him, “what sort of thing would you be reading? I would say Quidditch, but you looked totally confused when I mentioned the Wronski Feint and you don’t jump up and down when someone scores a goal...”
Ewan nodded, smirking slightly as he looked at my bright orange jumper. He put the programme down on the bench in front of him. Again, there was another glimmer of recognition. Where had I seen him before?
“And judging by the way you sneered slightly at the paparazzi just now, I’m guessing you don’t read the gossip columns.”
We both turned to look at an eighty year-old wizard wearing robes and bright purple speaking to a reporter as a twenty-something blonde clutched onto his arm, flashing a diamond the size of my fist and pouting and posing for the cameras.
“It also shows you’ve got taste.”
“Which means I can eliminate all articles about and concerning Celestina Warbeck or Hufflepuffs or anything written by Romilda Vane...”
“Easy on the Puffs. My best friend was one,” Ewan replied, placing a hand over his heart and pulling his face into a fake shocked expression, “I’m hurt.”
“And said best friend is now...”
“Working in Flourish and Blotts,” he said, wincing slightly. He laughed.
“You see?” I said, gesticulating wildly, “you don’t get anywhere by being nice!”
“And you were a...”
“Gryffindor and proud. I’m guessing Ravenclaw?”
“And that leads me to believe that you are a person who genuinely reads the headlines because you genuinely interested in Ministry affairs, in political uprisings, in the return of the dark arts in the American Midwest...”
“You’re making me sound really boring,” Ewan interrupted.
“And are you?”
“You’d have to know me a little better to find out,” he replied. His lips spread into a coy smile that I returned. His eyes were a dark blue - almost navy - and little wrinkles appeared by his left eye when he smiled. He waggled his eyebrows and pulled a pouty face that I bet he thought was seductive and attractive and all that. I laughed through my mouthful of biscuits, crumbs spraying all over his shirt.
“What was that?”
“Don’t you like it? Doris the landlady loves it. Means I get to pay my rent a week later than everyone else,” Ewan answered, sweeping the biscuit crumbs off his top.
“You lucky bugger,” I replied. He pulled it again and I laughed. I offered the packet of biscuits towards him but he refused. My esteem of him dropped a little.
“Do you not like my face?”
“No, I do,” I said, and he smiled, “I was just wondering why you were pulling that particular one.”
Ewan mumbled something incoherent, and then hid his face behind his programme. I laughed and tried to pull it away from him.
“I didn’t hear you. What did you say?”
Another muttering. The crowd had fallen into silence as the countdown on the score board dropped into the minute margin. They resumed their clapping, waiting for a beat between strokes.
“Ewan... come on!”
“Fine!” Ewan shouted, smiling at me. Another clap, another beat of silence, another clap, “I was trying to flirt with you!”
His admission coincided with a moment of quiet. An old lady in the row in front of us turned and tapped his knee affectionately, shouting ‘you go, young man’ in a worryingly crackling and husky voice. I slammed my lips together so I didn’t laugh.
“You pull that face when you flirt?”
“You’re laughing at me.”
“I’m not,” I said, struggling to hold in a chuckle, “I think it’s endearing.”
He blushed and I smiled. Bless his little cotton socks that Doris the landlady probably washes for him. Another twenty-foot picture of James appeared at the other of the stadium where facts and figures about the players flashed up on a screen. Another unprecedented stomach flip. The countdown was now verging on thirty-second mark.
“Just in time!” Fred shouted, shuffling down the row. “Butterbeers! Here you go! And a pumpkin pie for the lovely lady.”
Ewan and me separated faster than lightning, and I smiled brightly at Alice, who was looking at me suspiciously. I accepted by bottle and took a long drink so that Alice couldn’t ask me questions about Ewan and whether James would approve and how Ewan looked dreamy in his black shirt.
A loud horn sounded throughout the stadium, followed by a Mexican wave and a huge roar of support for the teams as they flew back out on the pitch. I watched as James did a double loop the loop in the air before settling to his position. Scathing and witty comments about being a show off flitted through my mind, coinciding with another excited twist of my stomach. The pace of the game reached break-neck speeds as the chasers dipped, dived and ducked to avoid bludgers and other players. Puddlemere United didn’t stand a chance.
Were the Chudley Cannons actually going to win? Alfie at the office was going to have a field day. He’ll probably shower the entire office in orange streamers and bring in a cake. Poor guy. Lives at home with his mother and his cats.
“So how come I haven’t met you before?” I leant in close so Ewan could hear what I was saying. I ignored the poignant look from Alice and the strange victory dance that Fred was doing.
“Well,” he began, and he was blushing embarrassedly, “I was in the same year as Fred. I was just very quiet. I studied hard and did all that. I didn’t really have many friends.”
“That’s a shame,” I replied, “did you play Quidditch?”
“Of course. I’m pretty sure we played against each other once. You had Georgia Watson on your team, didn’t you? Great player.”
“Horrible person,” I replied, narrowing my eyes, “please tell me you didn’t...”
“I did,” Ewan said ashamedly. He winced, “she was in fifth year. She was my first kiss. Let me touch her...”
“That’s enough,” I interrupted.
“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?”
Ewan looked a little scared so I smiled. Probably came out as more of a grimace so I shoved more biscuits in my mouth.
The Cannons were one hundred and twenty points ahead now. I could see Oscar perched by the goalposts, his eyes darting around the pitch. Suddenly, he went into a spectacular dive, right into the heart of the game. I saw a glint of gold before he scooped it up and held the fluttering ball tight in his fist.
“And Appleby catches the snitch! Chudley Cannons win with a score of two hundred and seventy points!”
Jumping up and down, I watched as James and the team did another lap of honour around the stadium. Even Ewan was clapping with the rest of us. The seats slowly started to empty but we stayed where we were.
“Party time!” Fred yelled, and started doing a little dance. Alice blushed and pulled on his arm so he would sit down. She did a quick charm to her hair so it went back to its usual blonde.
“Fred, Ewan and me left some things with Harry and Ginny,” she said, standing up, “we’ll go get those and meet you down there, okay?”
I walked down the steps, watching as the other three went the other way. Ewan turned to wave at me and I waved back. I can't remember the last time I has flirted casually like that in a long time. James and I had never had that build up, and the change from friendship to boyfriend and girlfriend had been easy and smooth. Boyfriends in the past three years had been self-righteous and cocky. Graham McLaggen had felt threatened by James. Ben Lyons had been having an affair with my mother. Sean Gorman had snored dreadfully. All lasted longer than they should have and all had started with a drunken kiss at an office party or when one of them told me I was pretty.
I pushed passed the crowds that were trying to exit through the main gate. I descended a flight of stairs. The corridors were becoming more lavishly decorated now. There were pictures of players and managers in gilded frames. There was a picture of Ron Weasley smiling broadly as a captain handed him a personalised jersey. I could hear the clinking of glasses and the soft murmur of conversation. A string quartet was playing. I had expected something much more... much more riotous. Maybe a wizard rock group with questionable dress sense and an oddly shaped ukulele.
I swerved around the corner, only to be met with two sights.
One: the entire party was dressed in highly formal attire. The men were wearing long dress robes and the women were in floor length gowns and gloves. I was wearing jeans and a horrific orange jumper. This was nothing like I had expected. There were no scantily dressed girls fawning over half naked Quidditch players. Nana Molly was here, for Merlin’s sake.
And two: James, his hand wrapped around a girl’s waist, his lips planted on hers.
For Merlin’s sake indeed.
So here it is: 'Sunshine', the sequel to 'Raining' and the story with the most cringe-inducing title (courtesy of the lovely Jordan). It is wise to read 'Raining' before hand, but only in case old characters come back and other references like that. This story won't jump around or anything, and will be told in chronological order. The weather won't play such a vital role this time. Thanks to various puffins and pandas and penguins on Skype for helping out and to TGS for being wonderful.