Henrietta pulled away from me and smiled, her bright blue eyes shining. She looked glamorous, as always, in a tight orange dress and high heels. Her blonde hair was done up in a neat bun. She licked the tip of her thumb and rubbed my cheek.
“Lipstick,” she explained.
I don’t really know what had happened with Henrietta, or why I was here, with her wrapped around my arm like some brightly coloured barnacle. Two weeks ago she was crying and weeping and looking red-eyed and puffy and thoroughly unattractive, standing on the balcony of my fancy flat in the rain. She had a bottle of champagne in one hand and was moaning about how I didn’t appreciate her. Now, of course, she had somehow wormed her way back into my life with a flutter of her eyelashes and a too tight dress.
Then the rain had stopped, and the drought had arrived, and everything became too hot and I couldn’t handle anything.
Women. It had been so much easier when I had girlfriends who thought they were emotionally stunted and never cried.
Henrietta had let go of my arm and, as I felt the blood rush into my fingertips and all feeling return, my sister came over to me. A group of people by the door were mumbling and shaking their heads disapprovingly. The string quartet continued playing and I could feel the bubbles in my champagne tickling my nose.
“James, my darling brother,” Lily said, “Can I have a word?”
“Of course you can, Lillian,” Henrietta interrupted, a fake smile plastered all over her pointy little face, and “he’s all yours and I have to talk to Mr. Spencer anyway.”
Lily raised her eyebrow in a particularly scathing way as we watched Henrietta totter away in her high heels. She then grimaced as my apparent girlfriend latched on to Mr. Spencer and whispered devilishly into his ear. The old man looked as if he was having a heart attack. I shuddered and wiped again at the lipstick smudge on my cheek.
“Anyway,” Lily continued, tearing her eyes away from Mr. Spencer, who was now convulsing slightly, “I just thought you should know that Amelie has arrived, and...”
Oh Merlin. Oh sweet, sweet Merlin. I checked that Henrietta was fully distracted before pulling Lily to the side of the room and smiling quickly at someone who offered me their congratulations.
“So I want you to keep Henrietta distracted and...”
“She makes me want to vomit.”
“Please, Lily... just do it,” I replied and she crossed her arms and looked pointedly at me. Looking about four times her age in a long blue dress, Lily had just started her seventh year at Hogwarts.
Over her shoulder, I could just see Amelie, gesticulating wildly at Alice and her long gown. My stomach did an excited flip somewhere in my abdomen. She looked good in my Quidditch jersey.
I can’t believe she came.
“I can’t believe I snuck out for this.”
“I can’t believe you’re sneaking out,” I replied hastily, having to remind myself that my little sister was standing in front of me. “What happened to Charms Club and SPEW and Quidditch and all the rest of it?”
“Got bored. Realised that Lucy was the overachiever in this family and left it all to her. It was literally killing me.”
“Do you know who won’t kill you? Henrietta.”
“She probably could,” Lily said, evaluating the blonde on the side of the room, “with poison or something because she’s a sneaky bitch like that. Perhaps a little Avada Kedavra from behind. You wouldn’t see it coming.”
I shot another glance at Amelie. She had spotted me in the crowd, and was glaring at me. She had crossed her arms. Obviously I thought she would be smiling when she saw me, perhaps hug me, even kiss me on the cheek like she had done at King’s Cross, rather than the fierce and angry look she had plastered all over her pretty face.
I swear it should be raining. Seeing each other after three years (the station didn’t count, I had been upset and emotional over Henrietta and been gibbering about love and Quidditch matches) obviously must be one of those major moments where warm, moist air rises over cold air and the water condenses and the droplets coalesce and then fall as rain. Obviously.
Stop talking to Rose.
“Why don’t you just break up with her? I thought you did.”
“It’s difficult. She’s... nicer when she’s alone.”
“I bet that’s a euphemism for she’s good in bed.”
Lily snatched a flute of champagne off a floating tray and downed it in one. She growled slightly and flexed her non-existent muscles. I had always known that my family didn’t like Henrietta, with her shrill way of speaking and her irritating laugh. Nana Molly didn’t like the way she didn’t eat. Mum didn’t like the way she dressed. Dad had leant over to me at the dinner table whispering ‘what happened to the girls like Amelie?’ I gulped, and not just because the scowl on Lily’s face was particularly terrifying.
“All right. Fine, but just this once. You owe me big time.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I said, enveloping her in a massive hug that was no doubt embarrassing her, “I’ll do anything you want. Just promise me you’ll keep her away from the girls’ bathroom, won’t you?”
Lily rearranged her dress and pushed a loose strand of red hair behind her ear. She pursed her lips together and I could tell she was thinking of all the things she would make me do as her slave. Tickets to Quidditch matches and smuggling illegal firewhiskey into Hogwarts were probably going to be her best plan. Not to mention what her weirdo friends who stared at me intensely when they came round to the house. I couldn’t help but think I could be used as some sort of sexual pawn by a bunch of hormonal girls. I touched my stomach comfortingly. My abs would never be the same.
“You know this party is for you, right? First win in about a hundred years and you’re going to spend it having sex with your ex in a bathroom.”
“We’re not... it’s not like... shut up.”
My stomach was twisting is bizarrely happy way like a drunk pygmy puff.
“See, look! You’re blushing,” she said. She was right. My face did feel overwhelmingly hot. I grabbed a couple of fancy canapés from a passing waiter and shoved them in my mouth to avoid talking to the irritating ginger twit that was my sister.
“I bet she’s nice when she’s alone,
The remnants of smoked salmon and fancy cream cheese sprayed from between my lips as I choked at her words. Lily leapt backwards, dusting off the crumbs from her dress.
“Lily...” I said, coughing, “you’re being stupid. We haven’t talked properly in three years. She probably doesn’t even like me as a friend, let alone like that
“All right, all right… I’m going,” she said, snatching another glass of champagne. I raised an eyebrow. “What? I’m going to need sustenance if I have to talk to Henrietta for however long it takes for you two to...”
“Bye now! Goodbye! Go away! Off you go!”
Lily waltzed off into the middle of the party, and as I quickly shifted towards the door, I heard her squeal ‘oh hey, Henri!’ at an incredibly high pitch. Dogs everywhere will be barking, dolphins flapping around, bats going mental and bouncing off the walls of their caves...
And now, it was time to face Amelie Harris; possibly to face the wrath of Amelie Harris, but more likely just to stare at the face
of Amelie Harris.
“James Potter. You complete arsehole.”
Amelie Harris seemed to appear out of nowhere. I had forgotten how speedy she could be. I closed the door to the locker room swiftly, trying to hide the fancy black shopping bag from her sight.
“What have I done now?” I pulled the wonderfully pouty, puppy dog-eyes coming out to play. It worked all the time on Nana Molly and it used to work on Henrietta before she lost her soul to Beelzebub.
“Apparently it’s common courtesy to let a lady know what the dress code is,” she said. She was standing with her hands on her hips in an authoritative pose that looked so out of place I almost started laughing.
“Do you really care?” I asked. She opened her mouth to retort before shaking her head and smiling.
“Then why are you calling me an arsehole?” I asked. A poignant look over my shoulder coincided with another of Henrietta’s horrible laughs. I really, really hoped than Amelie hadn’t seen that kiss.
“And she is...”
“Err... well, the old flame.” I ran a nervous hand through my hair. Amelie nodded wisely. A judgmental look passed over her face - complete with a sarcastic eyebrow raise - as she looked Henrietta up and down, assessing her.
“She looks pretty... fiery. And are you...”
“Over. Most definitely,” I said. I wasn’t really sure whether it was a lie or not. Henrietta had told me it was over - standing slightly tipsy in the rain - but then she had arrived at the party breathless, told me she loved me and kissed me.
And Amelie was looking so very pretty.
“You know who she really
We both turned to look at Henrietta properly. She was now clinging to Mr. Spencer as if her life depended on it, and with her blonde hair and long legs and frightful demeanour, I suppose she did remind me of the hideous girl who been good at Quidditch but awful at being remotely nice.
“Why did you have to bring her up? We were having such a nice time!”
“I called you an arsehole.”
“It was affectionate. Banter, I think some people call it.”
She remained unconvinced, and grabbed a flute of champagne from a passing tray. “I still can’t believe you let me come to this party dressed like this.”
Amelie gestured wildly at her clothes, which gave me an excuse to look her up and down. She still looked nice, even dressed in jeans and an oversized jumper. Her hair was up and there was a sheen of grease on her nose, a couple of spots at her hairline, but she seemed so real.
There was nothing fake about her.
Stop talking to Hugo. His mother’s movie collection is really going to get to you.
In contrast, Henrietta looked like she just dunked her face in the make-up pot rather than apply it properly. Really, she could rival Lavender Brown in the eye shadow stakes.
Amelie looked different. At the train station, she had been flustered, late for work and busy trying to look after her clearly deranged stepsister. She had been wearing a suit that was too big for her and her shorter hair was unkempt and messy. She had a most wonderful flush in her cheeks and she had been away: a tan line that disappeared just below the line of her...
“This is worse than the time I wore red to Mum’s black and white wedding.”
I pulled my eyes upwards to look at her, staring around the room at the overly dressed people. I loosened my tie, watching as the crease between her eyebrows smoothed out and dimples appeared in her cheeks. I had to move closer to her in order to hear her. I had forgotten what it was like.
“Really, Amelie? Is it really worse? You would have forgotten anyway, and besides, I wouldn’t have been able to give you this,” I said, giving the bag to her. She peered into it. A wide smile appeared on her face, and again my stomach decided to turn upside down.
“James, you didn’t have to...”
I pressed the bag further into her grasp.
“I feel bad that I didn’t tell you. I only realised about five minutes before the game started that I hadn’t told you about the dress code and that you would need something to wear and I had forgotten and I made Roxy come with me and get you this. I hope it fits.”
Amelie bounced awkwardly on the balls of her feet.
“I feel weird. All warm and tingly.”
“It’s called ‘sentimentality’,” I said quietly and she smiled again, peering up at me through her eyelashes. The string quartet decided to play a particularly upbeat tune, the mustached men plucking at the strings with tremendous energy and vigour.
“I think Alice told me about that once,” she said, but I could barely hear her. I moved closer. Someone set off one of the decorative cannons in the corner of the room. My ear was near her cheek, and I could hear her breath on my face.
“I’d forgotten how emotionally unattached you are,” I replied. Amelie chuckled. She reached up to rearrange my tie, her delicate fingers dangerously close to my skin.
“I’ve only cried twice, remember?”
Twice because of me. Two times too many.
I didn’t really know what was happening. I was standing in a room filled with my family, with my colleagues, with my boss,
and my beautiful ex-girlfriend was standing very close to me, clutching a dress I had bought for her, rearranging my tie, staring up at me with her green eyes, looking nicer than anyone even in my old Quidditch jumper and...
“James...” she whispered. She straightened my collar. The clothes bag was pressed awkwardly between us. Her lips were just inches away from my own, and if I just leant down I would be able to...
I wanted to kiss her.
But she was already skipping away to the bathroom to get changed.
“James Potter, what do you think you are doing?”
Amelie had appeared from the bathroom, looking majestic in her new dress, and pulled me into a corner of the room. We stole a whole bottle of champagne and a plate of fancy canapés, and sat eating and talking and drinking. It was the most fun I had had in weeks.
But Henrietta had finally found us.
She had unattached herself from Mr. Spencer, her mouth pulled into a horrible snarl as she marched purposefully passed a completely useless Lily. She got her power walk on, long legs practically kicking small children and nuns and kittens out of the way so she could verbally abuse me.
Amelie dropped my hand. Someone had put on some dance music and people were swerving and moving all around the room. It was loud and a part of me wanted to try and pretend that I couldn’t hear Henrietta’s voice.
“Well? Are you going to answer me?” Merlin, her voice was piercing my brain. I could see Amelie trying not to laugh, biting her lips in attempt to hold it in. I smiled.
“What are you smiling about? I asked you what you are doing with this bitch!”
“I... err...” I was useless. Henrietta’s lip was curling so much it looked like she had a fleshy moustache. The dance music grew louder and louder, and people were bustling and jostling, elbows pushing me further into the corner.
“Oh, excuse me,” Amelie interjected, stepping forward, even going so bold as to put a hand on Henrietta’s arm, “but I don’t think that...”
“No one asked your opinion. What happens between my boyfriend and me is none of your business!”
“But I was just saying... wait, what? Boyfriend?”
I shifted awkwardly on the spot as both Henrietta and Amelie stared at me. My eyes fixed on Amelie’s green ones and she was shaking her head. Henrietta was laughing manically, her head thrown backwards, and was spouting a whole bunch of insults. I just kept looking at Amelie.
“Of course you didn’t tell her! That’s so you, isn’t it? I am your girlfriend, James Potter, but you are apparently so ashamed of me that you don’t tell people! But you just go off and whisper sweet little nothings to this complete tramp, even though you told me you loved me and bought me flowers and everything...”
“I mean, we have history, don’t we, James? You know I love you, don’t you, Jimmy?”
I heard Amelie scoff quietly as Henrietta called me by my most hated nickname. It was her
thing, but somehow Henrietta had picked it up. I winced.
“I’ll leave you two to talk, shall I?” Henrietta asked, snarling. She squeezed my hand tightly - obviously as some sort of sign that she possessed me. Amelie flicked her eyes downwards to where our skin met.
Henrietta flounced off.
The music was pounding in my ears and I tried to shout to Amelie, to apologise, to talk to her, to call her back. She was busy trying to get through the crowd of people on the dance floor; her new dress swishing this way and that. I glared at Lily as I passed. She had failed her job.
“Amelie, come on!”
The music changed. It was slow, romantic, and people were pairing up to dance. I reached Amelie and touched her on the shoulder.
“Just dance with me. We can talk.”
“I don’t think that’s a good...”
We were suddenly being ushered together onto the dance floor by a man in a flamboyant purple suit, blonde hair slicked backwards, a clipboard in his hand. He smiled at us endearingly.
“Come on, darlings,” he said, “start dancing! Goddard wants photos for the album! First time the Cannons have one a match in twenty years! He’s so proud and, of course, it’s all down to our star player!”
We were forced together, and pushed into the middle of the room, my hands on her waist and her fingers interlocked around my neck. She looked determinedly at the floor, and I looked up at the ceiling. I was looking anywhere but at her, or Henrietta, or Lily’s apologetic smile or my parents’ encouraging looks.
“So... off you go, then,” Amelie said, and her voice was loud and brash. She was irritated.
“Well... err... Henrietta isn’t my girlfriend.”
“That isn’t what she said.”
“I was confused and...”
“So you have a boyfriend?” Amelie replied jokingly, finally looking up at me. I sighed. A man with a camera bounced near my elbow, the flash blinding me.
“I’m trying to be serious here.”
“I’m trying to be serious here,” she repeated, her voice low and gravelly in an apparent impression of me.
“Jimmy...” she said, then corrected herself, “oh wait, should I call you that now? I’m pretty sure Henrietta has claim to the endearing, embarrassing nicknames, she is your girlfriend, after all.”
“She sneak attacked me!”
“What? She’s some sort of ninja now?” Amelie laughed, but I remained stony-faced. Another picture.
One of the most irritating things about Amelie was her inability to take anything seriously. She would make jokes to try and diffuse the tension and create a lighter atmosphere. While it was amusing when we were at school and a teacher was trying to tell her off, it was wholly infuriating when you are the one trying to talk to her.
Memories of the Shrieking Shack and the rain came to the front of my mind’s eye. She had let me talk for an hour, apologizing profusely for Georgia Watson and being a complete wanker and everything, but then she just responded with some half-hearted comment about Droobles Best Blowing Gum and Rose trying to kill me (a regular occurrence).
“Oh, come on, James... you’re so serious now you’re old.”
“I’m sorry if this is important to me.” Amelie looked at me and I tightened my grip around her waist. She rested her head against my chest. I quickly looked around to see whether Henrietta wasn’t glaring at us, brandishing her wand or a knife or her stiletto heel.
“I expected it,” Amelie mumbled, her voice vibrating against my shirt.
She looked up at me. “You’re a famous Quidditch player, the handsome son of Harry Potter and I left you alone for three years. I didn’t expect you to be alone by the time we reunited. Remember the years at Hogwarts before we started dating? Georgia Watson? Sarah Verner? Various stuck up Ravenclaws?”
I blushed slightly.
“I didn’t expect you to wait for me. I thought you would have moved on. I did.”
I felt a little flicker of jealousy before I realised that I had done the same. I remembered when I had first met Henrietta, in a pub in Scotland, and she had looked pretty and sweet. We had flirted casually before I kissed her hesitantly outside and the entire team started wolf whistling. That was before she turned into a psycho-jealous bitch. I somehow managed to change them all into that.
The music was still soft and romantic, and we swayed slightly on the spot.
“I wondered why you invited me here.”
“I’m glad you came.”
“And before? When you bought me a dress? I thought that was something.”
“It was,” I said and she rested her head on my shoulder. This was getting too nostalgic. The music stopped and we separated.
“Shall we be friends?”
“We’ll work out... the other stuff later. I don’t know whether it’s a good idea. I have work and you have this and Henrietta and you’re obviously still lying about stupid stuff and I don’t really care but...”
“We’ll figure it out.” We shook hands and it was horribly final and formal. I was wearing a suit for crying out loud. From over Amelie’s shoulder, I saw Henrietta smirk and raise her glass to me. Merlin, she was annoying. I wanted more than anything to take Amelie in my arms and kiss her, but she was already stepping away from me, gripping the material of her dress in her hands, smiling sadly. It was like something was ending.
I should stop her.
“Are you sure you’re not confused?” Amelie was already saying, “I mean, your taste in women has gone severely downhill. And the guy who made us dance was eying you up like no one’s business...”
“I better go now,” she said, smiling and tapping me on the arm, “I have work tomorrow and I have deadlines and I haven’t written anything...”
“I’ll see you around,” I said and Amelie started to make her way through the crowds. “You can keep my jumper, by the way,” I shouted after her.
I nodded, and before I knew it she was hurrying back towards me and throwing her arms around me. I thought she was going to kiss me and then beat Henrietta in a fight but, disappointingly, she simply kissed me on the cheek, her warm lips making my skin tingle.
“I’ll see you later, Jimmy.”
She then disappeared into the crowds and I watched her leave. She gave me one last wave before going through the door, and I hurried to the window and looked as she walked down the street. She looked strange in her formal dress and leather boots, her old clothes a tangled heap in her hands. I gazed up at the clouds. Surely, obviously, definitely this was the time for the heavens to open. Surely her deciding that we should just be friends was an occasion momentous enough for that.
I pressed a hand against the cold glass, ignoring Henrietta’s touch on my arm and her whispered words, and willed for rain.
The chapters will alternate between James and Amelie's POV, so the next one will be in... you guessed it, Amelie's! Thanks for the overwhelming response to the first chapter, it really made me happy and want to keep on writing! Thank you! Love to hear what you think of Henrietta and James and Amelie and everything in a review!