“What?” repeated Jessie, looking mightily confused. “Why? I-I mean – how? I don't think I've ever seen you two say more than three words to each other!”
Mark coughed, looking awkward.
“Mine and Leanne's relationship isn't quite as it seems...”
“Relationship?!” cried Jessie, looking aghast. “Leanne cheated on Al?!”
“No!” exclaimed Mark, looking shocked at the suggestion. “No, Leanne would never do that to Al!”
“I'm in love with Leanne,” he said simply.
Jessie's nose scrunched up in disbelief.
“But you've only known her two months...”
“No, you only got... oh. You met her in America, didn't you?” said Jessie, finally comprehending.
“My parents are horticulturists – they met Leanne's dad a few years back at a convention in New York. They told him if he or any of his family needed to spend any time in America, they were welcome to stay with us. Leanne's dad said we were welcome to do the same in England.
“So, when Leanne got an internship at America's Ministry of Magic, she came to stay at my house for two months. We'd never met before but there was this like, instant connection. She was so smart and funny and-”
“Leanne, funny?” said Jessie, eyebrows raised. “Really?”
“Hey, Leanne is funny!” cried Mark, looking offended. “I mean, admittedly, she doesn't show it off well here... but the combination of stress and not being in love with your boyfriend anymore would do that to a girl!”
“Yeah, yeah, alright!” said Jessie, holding up her hands. “I get it – Leanne can actually be funny. Now get on with your story!”
Mark narrowed his eyes.
“Fine, Miss Bossy-Pants, I will continue... So, as I was saying, Leanne and I just connected. We'd hang out once she got back from work and she'd tell me all about her life here and about how she felt kind of trapped-”
“Why did she feel trapped?” interrupted Jessie, frowning.
“Well,” said Mark, thinking hard to remember exactly what she'd told him. “I think after like, how many years? Three or something, she was getting bored with Al – not in a horrible way! It's just that, people grow, they change; I mean, she's only 17.”
Jessie thought about what Mark had said.
“Okay,” she said, nodding. “I understand all that but why did she seem so unhappy when you arrived?”
“I rocked the boat,” said Mark, with a shrug. “She could admit how she truly felt in America, away from any guilt, but here? I knew I made her happy and once those two months had passed, I made the decision to come to Hogwarts; I got in contact with Leanne's dad and he hooked me up.
“I didn't tell Leanne what I'd done because I knew she'd go nuts. So, when I rocked up to the front doors of Hogwarts on September 1st, she was furious: terrified that Al would find out that she wasn't happy with but at the same time terrified that he wouldn't as well.
“I watched as she tried to alleviate her guilt by taking it out on those closest to her – first you, by way of a rather major dressing down-”
Jessie remembered Leanne's over-the-top outburst at dinner on the very first night.
“-and then by trying to convince herself that she and Al could work, by... well.”
Mark's face darkened.
Jessie nodded, knowing what he was referring to.
“So have you just spent the last month trying to get her to break up with Al?” she asked, without judgement.
“Yep. Finch walked in one time when I was trying to convince her. We've never kissed or done anything like that but we were pretty close together so it looked a bit dodgy - that's why I reacted the way I did when we met him, Hugo and Razor in The Three Broomsticks.”
It was all starting to make sense. Jessie couldn't believe how blind she'd been.
“Why did you kiss me?” she asked again. “I mean, you've said it was to see if something you'd suspected was true... but I mean, you knew Leanne would be jealous, that was a given; it's as if you knew Al would react badly too – you thought he liked me?”
“I... I knew he didn't like me,” said Mark. “He seemed to have sensed something was not quite right between me and Leanne. Throwing his best friend into the mix was just too much to handle-”
“So you used me,” said Jessie, bluntly.
“No!” cried Mark, looking horrified. “No! Honestly, Jessie, you're probably one of the best friends I've ever had! It was pure coincidence that you were friends with Al! I honestly didn't mean to get you caught up in all of this, to cause so much damage to you friendship with him - I mean that with all my heart.”
Jessie regarded him for a moment.
“Fine, fine, you big tit. You could have thought your whole plan through a bit better, though!”
“So... you're not mad?”
Jessie smiled, “Nah. If I'm truly honest, something's not been right between me and Al for ages; this all just bought it to a head. I'm not sure what's going to happen between us now, though. He was really harsh.”
“I know,” said Mark, looking angry at the memory. “He was completely out of line – I'm glad James punched him!”
“Yeah, well,” said a voice from behind him, “I'd rather it was your thumb that got broken rather than mine!”
Jessie and Mark looked round and burst out laughing.
“You look like an absolute tool,” chuckled Mark, looking at James' hand in plaster. “Why didn't you getting it fixed magically.”
“I've had alcohol, so Madam Nightingly wouldn't do a spell on it,” he growled, looking pissed off. “So now, I have to wear this until it's all out of my system. Bloody Al, the little twerp.”
“Do you feel bad about hitting him?” asked Jessie, getting up off the floor and rubbing her bum. “I mean, what he said was completely out of order but he is your brother.”
“Look,” said James, looking serious for once in his life, “I didn't really hit him for what he said to me – I mean, yeah, he was a complete tosser to me and, honestly, I'd have told Voldemort to do one if he'd been after me, rather than try to and disarm him with some poxy spell which would've sorted things out a hell of a lot quicker, in my opinion – but it was because of what he said to you that I smacked him one; he was way out of line and, although the Yank's a bit of a twat, he's alright; there's worse people you could kiss.”
Jessie was genuinely touched.
“James, that is so sweet of you; seriously, I never knew you cared that much about me!”
She leaned forward and gave him a massive hug, startling James, who had never had such close contact with Jessie and found, much to his surprise, that he liked having her pressed up against him... and not in a rude way, either.
Ah, bollocks, thought James as Jessie pulled away.
His line of thought was interrupted however, when Jessie said to Mark, “So, what're you gonna do about yours and Leanne's secret love affair now Al's out of the picture?”
A/N: Very short I know but the next few chapters will be longer and a lot more fun-filled; James' birthday is coming up...
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