“And then he asked if he could lick my armpits—in French. I mean, the nerve! Can you believe him? French!”
My best friend shook out her mane of strawberry blonde hair and moved gracefully into downward dog, oblivious to the nasty looks that several of her fellow yogis were shooting her. Apparently, armpit fetishes were not appropriate talk for a yoga class. According to our all-wise-and-flexible instructor, Dragonfly (yes, that’s actually her name), it disrupted zen.
Whatever that was. Despite Dragonfly’s proclamations that we were in a “haven” of “peaceful, burbling zen,” I still could not, for the life of me, figure out what zen was, exactly. The sound of sweaty feet squeaking against lyrca yoga mats? The overwhelming BO of the hairy, middle-aged man (who, joy of joys, had decided to go commando today) two rows over? It was a mystery.
By the way, wizardring yoga is a lot like normal yoga, if you were ever wondering. Except for the tiny lotus flowers that were charmed to float around the room and occasionally puff out clouds of sparkling incense, the room looked totally MS (wiz-slang for ‘muggle safe’). Dragonfly—a woman with dreadlocks who smelled like she had never been taught the concept of a shower—prowled between the rows of bright purple yoga mats, her wand tucked behind her ears and silver toe rings glinting on her bare feet.
At least Dom seemed to be having fun. Over the course of the three days we had spent apart, Dom had, apparently, been enlightened into a reborn-again yogi. This meant that she was constantly doing unhelpful deep breathing exercises in between rants, drinking these gross smoothies with names like ‘Tofu Serenity’ and ‘Wheatgrass Delight,’ and often insisting that we open up our charkas—something which neither she nor I knew anything about. In short, she was the same crazy model of Dom as before—but this time in Lycra Edition!
I, on the other hand, was not very fond of being forced to transform into a pretzel for an hour and a half, so most of the class I spent half-arseing all of Dragonfly’s instructions and observing the other students on their quest towards Nirvana/fitter bums. It was amusing and scary all at once, seeing as a) everyone here was a crazy person and b) due to Dom’s incessant chatter, we had been marred as the unpopular kids in the class, doomed to forever live in yogi exile. Fun.
“Namaste,” I flashed a pained smile to a spandex-clad, middle-aged woman nearby, who seemed to have particularly taken offense to us existing so close to her, before turning back to my best friend. Or, rather, my best friend’s pelvis, since Dom seemed to be practicing a particularly...er...candid lunge at the moment.
“Um,” I said, momentarily losing track of thought as Dom started swiveling in a way that practically came with its own free pole. I shook my head. “Dom. You really need to stop going out with those guys your mum sets you up with. They’re creepy.”
“You’re telling me,” she sighed. “This guy had a man-purse. I mean, the armpit thing is forgiveable, maybe even understandable. But a man-purse? That’s crossing the line.”
I snorted, though this was quickly replaced by a wince of pain as I bent into Downward-Facing Dog and my ankle muscles screamed in protest. This, to me, was starting to feel a lot less like a Sun Salutation and more like a cruel joke played on my pain threshold.
“Well, you never know,” I mused to my feet as, from the front of the room, Dragonfly instructed for us to go into Tree Pose. Sighing, we obeyed—with more deep breathing from Dom and grumbling from me. “Maybe the man-purse gave him a sense of power.”
“And a place to store his tampons, I suppose. God. Only my mum would be able to find the one guy on this planet with better fashion sense then me.”
“Why do you go on these blind dates anyways? They all turn out into disasters. Think of the situation as if... as if your mum’s offering you drugs. Just say no,” I advised sagely.
“There’s literally nothing I can do,” Dom inhaled sharply through her nose and closed her eyes, as if she were surrendering to the injustice of it all. “Fleurzilla has gone absolutely batshit. Ever since Vic and Teddy started planning their wedding, it’s been her personal life mission to shack me up with someone.”
I grimaced. Having a bundle of nerves and psychotic tendencies for a mother myself, I could fully sympathize with Dom’s situation. Though it was a little hard while hopping on one leg and trying not to face-plant to the ground. “Why don’t you—oh bollocks—" I wobbled around frantically, trying to find my balance, but it was no use. I was starting to fall. "I can’t—shit—AUGHHHH! TIMBER!”
Not even bothering to open her eyes, Dom caught and righted me immediately.
Best friend telepathy—it’s better than you.
She sighed dramatically, continuing into Warrior Pose as if nothing had happened. “Whatever, I’m over it now. Though you know what she said to me at the bridesmaid fitting?” Dom immediately snapped into a French accent that was brutally exaggerated but, in all honesty, quite accurate. “‘One day, Domeeneeq, you will find a young man just like Teddy. But ‘opefully with poorer vision.” She paused. “Bitch.”
I snorted. Please. Dom was gorgeous. Her tumbles of wild hair and sultry, I’m-the-girl-your-mother-warned-you-about eyes had boys seeing floating hearts and tweety birds whenever she breezed by. She had nothing to worry about in the boy department.
I, on the other hand, could not say the same. The first boy I genuinely liked was Ryan Fisher, and he and I turned out to have a little too much in common—meaning we both probably had the same shirtless poster of Oliver Wood hanging in our rooms. I had really, really fancied this bloke... And yet instead of kissing him, I decided to pounce on my brother’s best friend, who also happened to be my arch nemesis. Because it just made sense.
Not to mention said arch nemesis had an ex-girlfriend—a tall, blond and gorgeous ex-girlfriend—who he most likely still had feelings for but refused to talk about. Not like he was obligated to talk about it with me—I was just the girl he snogged in random broom cupboards/children’s arcades. He didn’t even like me. In fact, I irritated him on a daily basis so much so that last night, he had told me (and this is a direct quote), “Whenever you open your mouth, Bennett, it makes me want to claw my own face off.”
Adding to that was the fact that when we snogged, it was often under the influence of alcohol and always quite violent and, well, it wasn’t looking good.
If I was an open book, then Potter was a tightly sealed diary stashed somewhere in the cobwebby bookshelves of the Restricted Section at Hogwarts. I just could never tell what he was thinking. I mean, it was obvious we hated each other—that much would never change. But why the snogging? Was he—god forbid—attracted to me? Just bored? Or was this all some elaborate plan to screw with my head?
One thing was clear: every time we kissed, it seemed to be because of a lapse in Potter’s control and my sanity. It was like we just couldn’t help it. Like, we don’t even want to—we both know it’s a bad idea, that nothing good could ever possibly come out of it—but before either of us can get the chance to back out, his lips are on mine and my fingers are in his hair and everything’s thrown out the window.
It’s far from romantic. Even the mere thought of Potter and I...together... well, it’s laughable.
But still. There’s something there that can’t be denied, something that keeps drawing us together.
Dom must have noticed all my heavy sighing and obvious frustration, because she turned to me and, knowingly, said, “Enough about me. How’s the Brady Bunch Life with the Potters?”
“Well, most of the time I’ve been contemplating homicide, but now and again arson pops into the mix.”
“Having fun, I take it?”
“I’d rather be making out with a dementor.”
“Just a dementor? Nobody else?” I did not like Dom’s sly smile at this, or the stupid, sleazy eyebrow she was quirking at me.
I blushed. “Nobody else.”
“Oh,” Dom was still smiling. Not a good sign. “That’s good, then. Because I know plenty of great spots for not making out with people—”
“Like the Astronomy Tower.”
“Or a broom cupboard.”
“Shut up now.”
“Or a kiddy arcade—” At this, Dom bursted into silvery peals of laughter. I restrained myself from pushing her onto her mat and showing her Torture Victim Pose.
“Whatever,” I shrugged in a feeble attempt at nonchalance, “It’s not like it’s a big deal or anything.”
“Oh please! We both know that Neurotic Aggy is freaking out about this on the inside,” Dom stretched her arms over her head, looking languid and completely relaxed. This annoyed me even more. “I don’t see why you would freak out, though,” she mused thoughtfully, “You two would be cute together.”
For some totally random and insignificant reason, my heart started beating a teensy bit faster at her words. Must have been all the...er... zen. Yep! That’s it! Zen. I am never exercising again.
I scoffed loudly, attracting a bunch of disapproving glares from the other students in the room. “Don’t be an idiot, Dom. I can’t stand Potter; he can’t stand me. End of story.”
“I never got your reasons for hating Potter so much.”
“Oh, I have a list. Would you like me to start alphabetically or by order of importance?”
Dom rolled her eyes. “You’re never going to change, are you?”
“Nope,” I grinned proudly, abandoning all pretense of actually giving a rat’s arse about this yoga class and standing to my full height. “Never. And neither is he. We’re going to hate each other until the end of time.”
“Either way, I still think you should talk to him. Establish some boundaries. I mean, is this snogging deal going to be a weekly thing? If so, you should have a schedule.”
“A schedule?” My brow crumpled in confusion. Schedule? What on earth was she talking about?
“Yes. A snogging schedule. And meeting places. And times. And back-up meeting places. And—”
“Wait a second,” I interrupted hastily, feeling my face heat up as realization dawned. “Potter and I aren’t...aren’t snog buddies. What happened was just a whim!”
“Yeah. Three whims. In a row,” Dom drawled.
“Look. First time, he was drunk. Second time, I was drunk. And third time...Well, he was just trying to cheer me up or—or mess with me or something.”
“Whatever you say, Aggy,” Dom said airily, waving an arbitrary hand.
“Besides,” I pressed on insistently. I was proving a point, here. “There’s that Nora thing—”
At this, Dom got a weird look on her face, as if her insides were being twisted together. Her lips tightened into a barely visible line and her eyes misted over with something unnamable. “Oh, yeah. Nora.”
“I mean, she’s blond.”
“Did I mention Potter and I hate each other?”
“Once or twice.”
“So...let’s just drop this, alright?”
“Consider it dropped.”
There was a beat of silence. Something about the way Dom had seemed so eager to forget everything after the mere mention of Nora kept bugging me, like a persistent jab in the side, but I didn’t question it. I was just thankful that the topic was over with and we could continue the rest of this class in peace, without the P-word ever being brought up again. Maybe we could even go out for frozen yogurt after class. No worries. No pesky thoughts about the boy who’s hated me since we’ve laid eyes on each other. Just left-over endorphins and fat-free Pinkberry. Wonderful.
We were in Boat Pose when Dom finally spoke up again.
“I still think you should talk to him,” she sing-songed, and I literally had to bite my cheek in frustration. I mean, honestly! This was the girl who once tried to stab Evelyn out of a skiv made of lipstick and tape! Lipstick and tape! And now she wanted to act all responsible and Agony Aunt-ish?
“Dom!” My voice came out whinier than expected. Then again, I was in an extremely uncomfortable yoga position, my abs were burning, and it was getting difficult to breathe. Shit happens. “I thought we dropped this!”
“I’m sorry. It’s just...look, you’re my best friend, and I don’t want you to get hurt. This is Potter we’re talking about. He’s...well...he’s...”
“Out of my league?” I arched a derisive eyebrow.
“No!” Dom countered hastily, but not hastily enough for me to believe her. “It’s just... He’s not going to sweep you off your feet and into a sunset, alright?”
“For the last time, I’m not expecting him to! We snogged! It’s not that big of a deal. People snog all the time!”
Dom shot me a look that clearly said, ‘Yeah, but you don’t.’ And as much as I hated to admit it, there was some truth in that. While Potter could call any girl in the British Kingdom and score a date with her, the most action I’d ever gotten up until this year was when Professor Flitwick accidentally tripped over a pile of books and face-planted into my chest (most awkward Charms class. Ever).
It would make sense for her to worry about me falling head over heels for Mr. Byronic Hero just like every other girl at Hogwarts, and have him not feel the same way... It would make sense, except for one thing: I’m not every other girl at Hogwarts. I hate Potter. I can’t even imagine liking him as a friend! As an acquaintance! Every time I think about him, my blood boils hot enough to cook pasta. I could push him off the side of a cliff and be perfectly able to walk away at ease, maybe catch a movie and some dinner afterwards. I despised him with every fiber, muscle, and eyelash of my being, and I fully understood that those kisses between us had just been unfortunate... happenstances. I wasn’t going to be deluded into some elementary school fantasy of love and red rose petals.
Dom shook her head slowly, closing her eyes. She sounded tired, almost worn. “Please, Aggy. Just promise me. His birthday’s tonight; I know Fred and Aidan are throwing him some ridiculous party. You’ll see each other there—try talking to him. Just to make sure you’re both on the same page, alright?”
I rolled my eyes, completely ignoring Dragonfly’s directions for us to go into shoulder stands. What kind of role reversal was going on to make Dom all worried and concerned and...caring, for once?
I liked it better back when she was shanking people.
“Fine, I promise. But, just to be clear, I can handle myself. You have nothing to worry about.”
Unfortunately for me, there’s this saying called ‘famous last words.’ And I was about to learn its true definition.
Here’s what I call a party:
Logging on to www.flourish-and-botts.com, buying out their newest stock of best-selling books—and then paying for it all on my dad’s credit card without asking for his permission first.
Yeah. I’m wild like that.
Here’s what James Sirius Potter calls a party:
Underage drinking, loud music, inappropriate displays of public affection—oh, and having all of these illicit activities take place in the middle of the fucking sky.
Weasley Wizard’s Wheezes newest product, Floating Festivities (also known as the first ever lawsuit in a box), not only defies any pre-conceived notions of underage partying, but also gravity itself. Confused? Good. You’re supposed to be.
I was, too, when Dom and I snuck out of her house (I’d been “staying over” for the night) at around eleven and met Freddy on the corner of the street, so he could take us to where Potter’s little shindig was.
...Which turned out to be a grassy abandoned football field. With no one in it.
“Can w-we just g-g-go home?” I complained loudly as the three of us stood shivering, ridiculously, in the middle of the field like a bunch of prize idiots. I didn’t know if we had been duped, if Fred had gotten the address wrong, or if this was all some elaborate Tweedle Trio plan, but I didn’t really care to find out. I was tired, the December air was biting and unforgiving, and I wasn’t in the mood for any shenanigans tonight.
“C-chill out for a s-second, Aggs,” Dom tried to sound upbeat and positive, but she was hopping up and down and her lips were slowly turning blue. “I’m sure F-F-Freddy knows what he’s d-doing. Right, cuz?”
But Freddy didn’t answer. He was too busy wandering around the snowy field, muttering strangely to himself and doing a great impression of a escaped mental patient from Mungo’s. “This should be it...Yes, yes, right here...”
I rolled my eyes, catching a glimpse of star-peppered midnight sky, before wheeling back to Dom. “This is ridiculous. Let’s just go back.”
Dom shook her head, and even though she was displaying the first sure signs of hypothermia, she looked determined. Her hair was glossy and curled into a fancy updo. I knew that, under her winter coat was a black v-neck shirt and the Dolce&Morgana gold-and-onyx sequined miniskirt she’d been lusting after for the past month. Plus, her legs were shaved. Which meant that we were past the point of no return.
If Dominique Weasley shaved her legs for something, then by God, she was going to have some fun and make out with a cute boy tonight.
I looked down at my own outfit. Grey, acid-washed jeans from Urban Occlumency, a frilly lilac shirt, and simple black boots. It wasn’t to Dom’s degree of fanciness/effort, but considering the last time I had let my best friend dress me up for a party I had shown up looking like Madame Pince’s stripper alterego, I thought it would be best if I picked out my own outfit for the night.
I blew out a sigh, watching as the white cloud of my breath puffed out in front of my face and melted into the icy air. Frost clung to the glistening grass underneath our feet. Above us, the sky was twinkling with an uncountable number of stars. There were so many of them, it almost looked like an accident. As if a galaxy had ripped open and spilled glittering silver everywhere. There was something about the air, too, the emptiness of it. How it seemed to fill with possibility. It really was a beautiful night.
And I was having none of it.
This was honestly ridiculous. Dom and I were supposed to be curled up in her parents’ king-sized bed (Mr. And Mrs. Weasley were out of town visiting Victorie the Fun-Sucking Bride), sharing a bowl of the butteriest popcorn and watching the latest film starring Oliver Wood, star athlete/movie star/the owner of abs I could cry over.
But noooo, here I was, standing in the middle of a football field for apparently no reason whatsoever. Remind me why I was friends with these people again?
“Aha!” Freddy suddenly shouted jubilantly, “I’ve found it!”
“This!” He exclaimed, obviously beside himself with pride as he threw his arms out in front of him.
Dom and I looked at each other. Freddy was gesturing to nothing but thin air.
Seeing our confused expressions, Fred veered his light eyes to the sky, smirking. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot you guys are amateurs.”
With that, Fred took out his wand from behind his ear and waved it in the air, trailing a wisp of sparkling blue light. For a moment, I stared, uncomprehendingly, until three gleaming broomsticks appeared, hovering in the air. They were cheap Cleansweeps, but they looked shiny and new nonetheless, not a twig out of place.
“Shit, son!” Dom exclaimed, jostling past Freddy to reach the brooms. She picked one up and held it in her hands, eyes shining with wonder. “How’d you do that?”
I crossed my arms, looking around with paranoia before turning to Freddy. “And how, exactly, do you expect to get away with underage magic in a muggle area? The Ministry can track that kind of stuff, you know!”
“No, they can’t,” Freddy shook his head adamantly, grinning from ear to ear. He picked up a broom and tossed it to me, and I caught it without thinking. “Not unless they put a tracking spell on your specific wand. We’re in the middle of the outside world. There’s no possible way they could tell that spell came from me.”
Dom and I looked at each other. For one moment there, Freddy had actually sounded... intelligent. Woah.
“Yeah, that’s right,” he added smugly to our stunned expressions. “How does it feel to be punched in the face with the fist of knowledge? By Freddy motha-effin’ Weasley?” At this, he popped the collar to his polo shirt and leered towards me, obviously pleased with his amazing deductive reasoning.
I didn’t react. I simply stared at him with my arms crossed and an eyebrow raised. “Did you really just try and sound smart while wearing that outfit?” I drawled. Dom snorted in agreement.
Affronted, Freddy gestured to his pink polo shirt, Tommy Bahama shorts, and the raybans sitting on his backwards cap. “Hey, don’t be hatin’ on my swag.”
“Seriously, Freds, are you even speaking English right now?”
“You must be crazy to be wearing that in this cold.”
Fred puffed out his chest. “I’m a manly man. Manly men aren’t affected by something as insignificant as the weather.”
“Or their own braincells, apparently.”
Fred ignored my jibe. Sliding on his raybans, he grabbed the last broom with ease and mounted it, staring ahead into the frigid night sky the way a general might assess a battlefield before the war. “Alright, my young party newbies. We’re going to take a little flight.” He turned around to shoot me a glance over his sunglasses, eyes twinkling. “If that’s alright with you, Aggy. It’ll be really short, but you can ride with me if you’re scared.”
“I can handle it,” I snapped back, mounting my own broom. Honestly. Sometimes I really hated being the only non-Quidditch player of the group.
“Where are we even going?” Instead of being accusatory or suspicious like me, Dom sounded almost eager to find out. These two were going to be the death of me, I just knew it.
“You’ll see,” Freddy murmured ambiguously. He threw us a sly wink and, with a kick, was taking off into the night.
We had no choice but to follow.
It seemed to last hours, when, in reality, the flight must have been only ten minutes. I followed Freddy as closely as possible, the icy wind dragging tears from my eyes, my fingers frozen to the broomstick humming beneath me. We climbed up higher and higher, until the real world seemed to simply slip away from under us.
It was nice being up here, the wind in my hair. I felt untouchable. Looking down, the warm lights of houses glimmered at me through the murky night. Muggles. Completely oblivious, natch.
I could hear Dom’s delighted laughing behind me. Freddy was making whooping noises as he swooped and zig-zagged in little circles, ever the ‘Quidditch Bro.’ Show off. I picked up speed, ducking as Freddy swerved particularly close to my head, and we chugged forward.
I was almost about to call out to Freddy and start battering him with more questions, when we saw it.
It was like a very large dock, except there was no water underneath it. Stretching out to the size of a gymnasium, it was obnoxiously huge, a giant island in the sky. And it almost seemed to...to glow. I could already hear the faint strains of a pumping bass, and people laughing and screaming with excitement.
What. The. Fudge?
“No way,” Dom whispered incredulously. I whipped around to face Freddy, my jaw unhinged with disbelief. “I—Freddy--What is this?”
“My dad’s latest product,” he said, grinning as he skidded to a halt next to us, the wind flapping at his flowered shorts. “Floating Festivities. Basically, it’s a box that magically expands to a hovering piece of land. You can do whatever you want with it—for a limited amount of time, of course—but people usually like to save it for parties. No parents. No fuss. To anyone who’s not invited, it’s glamoured so that it simply looks like a rather low-hanging cloud. Pretty awesome, eh?”
“Fred,” I stuttered for a moment, at a complete loss of what to say. Was he crazy? He had to be. Not even he could be this stupid. “This is so—“
“—ridiculously dangerous. The number of things that could go wrong with this is just—“
“Relax, Aggy.” But Freddy’s maniacal grin was anything but relaxing. “It’s all taken care of. Loosen up a bit, alright? It’s a party!”
He bobbed over to me so close that our brooms were bumping together, and slung an arm around my shoulder. Slowly, he began to fly forwards—bringing me with him—and I was too stunned to resist. As we neared the Floating Festivities dock, I began to suddenly feel warmer. A lot warmer. As in ‘Caribbean-paradise-cruise’ warmer. There must have been more than a couple heating charms placed around the area.
Dom shrugged, muttered something along the lines of, ‘What the hell,’ and followed us to the mini-island.
The closer we got, the more details I could make out. Strands of fairy lights—glass jars with real fairies buzzing inside—were strung around the island, hanging on four poles which were planted in each corner. There was a tiki bar at the very end. What looked like about three hundred people were all crammed onto the island, laughing, mingling, already tipsy with the anticipation shimmering in the air. Circled around each of the four poles—which apparently were sturdier than they seemed—were giant open balconies, like the crow nests on a ship, piled high with gauzy, beaded curtains and lounge pillows. This seemed to be a hot spot for couples. I quickly averted my eyes.
“Ah! There they are!” With no explanation whatsoever, Freddy brought us down to a dive until we were floating so low, our feet were brushing the tops of people’s heads (something we quickly learned when Dom almost kicked someone in the face). We came to a stop, hovering right above—who else?—my brother and Evelyn, who were sitting by the bar and both sipping identical ridiculously fruity, ridiculously girly drinks.
“Aggy, sister dearest!” Aidan hopped off his barstool, his voice booming loud over the noisy pop music bursting from invisible speakers, and quickly helped me down from my broom. The moment I leaped off, the Cleansweep zoomed away into the night as if it had a mind of it’s own. Must not have liked me very much. Well, eff you too, broomstick.
Humph. I feel used.
“Is this real life?” I mumbled more to myself then anything as I stumbled over the ground and to the bar.
Aidan didn’t bother to answer; he simply went to help Dom down. Freddy, meanwhile, had leaped off his broom on his own like a big boy and was now in the process of mouth-attacking Evelyn’s face.
“Well?” Aidan exclaimed, thankfully pulling my gaze away from the nauseating couple and back to him. He held out his arms. “How do you like my swagger armour?”
He was wearing a red velvet blazer, boxer shorts with fluttering cupids on them, and tube socks. Nothing else.
“Fascinating,” I said. Dom cocked an eyebrow, her gaze flitting up and down his body, and said nothing.
“Alright, alright. You’re a little freaked, I can tell.” A little? Just a little? “How bout I show you guys around? It’s pretty wild, eh?” Aidan’s face was flushed and he was chattering very fast. That fruity drink must have really gotten to him. “Oh, but before we go, there’s someone I want you to meet. Martin? Martin, mate, you here?”
“HALLLOOOO!” As if on cue, a bloke with crazy Einstein hair and no shirt on popped up from behind the bar, carrying two bottles of tequila in each hand. He threw them in the air, juggling them a bit before they dropped on to one of the tiki lanterns ...and promptly caught on fire.
“This is Martin. He’s an exchange student from Germany and he’ll be joining us this semester,” Aidan said fondly as Martin hurried towards us, oblivious to the blazing inferno raging behind him. Evelyn briefly detached herself from Freddy’s face to set it out with Aguamenti.
“Greetings, my yummy friends!” Martin threw his arms out and quickly pulled both Dom and I into a bear hug. There was glitter on his chest, and he smelled like green apples. Dear Lord. “What is in the up?”
“Um,” I said as Martin released us and we went stumbling back. The man was wearing bell-bottoms. Bell-bottoms. “Hi.”
Martin pulled away, grinning at us so ecstatically you would have thought he’d just saved Christmas, or something, and declared, “I am here to serve the drinking!” He jabbed the air with a proud, dramatic pointer finger. “And to be your party-brother!”
And with that, he flounced off, chortling giddily to himself, and went back to crouching behind the now half-burned-down tiki bar, presumably to scare the living daylights out of some other innocent young girls.
Aidan turned to us, a bright smile on his face. “This party is going to be a good one, I can just tell.”
There were so many people. Glittery girls in short cocktail dresses, Quidditch Bros in pennies and glow-stick necklaces. All around me, there was something happening—a joke being cracked, a couple getting together, a prank being played out, another couple breaking up. It was hard to keep track of Aidan as he led us through the sea of bumping bodies and jabbing elbows.
“Ah, Snapping Shots,” Aidan mused, eyes turning nostalgic as we passed a group of rowdy Ravenclaws (don’t let the nerdy front fool you—those ‘claws could drink you under the table) clinking together little glasses of some steaming, undoubtedly alcoholic substance. “Nasty buggers. The glass will literally bite you if you don’t drink fast enough.”
I didn’t care to pause and see if the Ravenclaws would get to keep all their fingers on. We continued twisting our way through the crowd, Aidan acting as our unofficial tour-gide.
“And here we have a bunch of the guys on the Quidditch team playing strip-Exploding Snap—“
“See ya!” Without so much as a backwards glance, Dom was off, making a bee-line right to the cluster of blokes. Dominique Weasley—straight to the nearest group of half undressed boys. What a surprise.
We walked on. Somewhere, towards the edge of The Floater (as this contraption was apparently nicknamed) was a dance floor where a bunch of people were grinding rather inappropriately, their sloshing glasses of Future Alcoholism (okay, so it was just beer. But still) raised high in the wintry air.
“Oh, and here’s the keg. Though someone tried to magick it to spout out jell-o and now it’s all screwed up. It has a mind of it’s own,” Aidan whispered reverently.
We both turned to see some Third-Year struggling with the keg’s hose, which was flapping around spastically and bitch-slapping the poor child in the face anytime he tried to reach out for it.
“Shouldn’t we help him?” I asked uneasily, cocking my head to the side. For a moment, the two of us paused, contemplating the prospect of being good, generous people, for once.
“Nah, he’ll be fine,” Aidan shrugged, grabbing my arm to lead me away just as the hose started wrapping itself around the screaming Third Year like a coiling boa constrictor. “Kid’s too young to be drinking, anyways.”
Ah, hypocrisy. I was wondering when I’d be seeing you again.
“So you and Freddy planned all of this...for Potter?”
“Yup,” Aidan nodded as he grabbed a shady red cup from some unsuspecting bystander and chugged its contents. We kept on walking, and Aidan tossed the now empty cup over his shoulder back towards its angry owner. For a moment, I couldn’t help but be in awe of my brother... He was just so, well, Aidan. He could commit a murder and swagger away with that same easy grin on his face. “Are we the best or what?”
“Charming.” My sarcasm went unnoticed, though, as Aidan slid out a cigarette from behind his ear and slipped it in his mouth. I gaped at him while, brow furrowed in concentration, he pressed the tip of his wand to it so he could light it.
“Aidan!” I yelped shrilly. Then my jaw snapped shut and my freak out had it’s own freak out as I realized that the cigarette wasn’t actually a cigarette—but something else. “Aidan!”
“What?” A curl of rancid smoke blossomed out of my brother’s mouth. He ruffled his hair, face cracking into a satisfied grin, his shoulders losing their tension. “Man, that’s good.”
“That is illegal!”
“Um, in case you haven’t noticed, Aggs, this whole party is like, a convention for illegal..ness. Just chill, alright?”
“Oh my god, you’re beginning to sound stupider already. Who the hell gave that to you?”
Aidan shrugged as if it were obvious, taking another hit of the thing. I watched the smoke curl out of his mouth with distaste. “James.”
My gaze flattened. Anger seemed to burble up inside me, clogging my airways. Oh hell no.
“I’ll be right back.”
It wasn’t hard to find him. He was standing towards the very edge of The Floater, surrounded by three simpering girls who I didn’t recognize. One of them was placing a paper crown—the kind you get at a fast food place—on his head. He was smiling that same, mysterious smile as always, as if he had some secret joke that no one else was in on.
It didn’t even register for me to feel weird about Potter being surrounded by other girls. I was too busy thinking about my brother, the kid who—for all intents and purposes—was basically a six-year-old in a teenager’s body.
“How could you do that to him, Potter? He’s just a kid!” I exclaimed, not really caring about my poor word choice as I marched closer to the prat. The girls tittered to each other and scurried away.
Before I could launch into a proper tirade about drug abuse and the idiocy that was this whole night, however, Potter smoothly had his fingers hooked around my belt loops and was pulling my body close—way too close—towards him.
“Hey,” he murmured, completely disregarding my hysteria, a slow, burning smile on his face. His dark hair was falling into his sleepy hazel eyes, which were currently—um—tracing the line from my lips to my jaw to my neck with unabashed intensity. “Who invited you?”
“Um...“ This closeness was unnerving, as well as the realization that Potter was completely and totally out of it. Like, ‘I-don’t-even-know-my-own-name’ out of it. And he was... coming on to me?
This, kiddies, is why drugs are not good.
“Shh,” He pulled me closer, so our foreheads were touching, his fingers still curled around my belt loops, his thumbs accidentally grazing against the revealed skin between my shirt and jeans. I was suddenly starting to feel very hot. His eyes were churning with feverish golds, bright greens, burning ambers. “Bennett. You need to learn...to not talk so much...”
And then he was kissing my jaw and my neck, one hand moving from my jeans to cup the side of my face. I gasped raggedly at the feel of his mouth on my skin, searing, shocking. “Potter, stop, someone could see....“
“I don’t care. You smell like Christmas.”
“Potter, seriously, stop it!“
“How bout—for my birthday—“ he whispered between kisses. My head lolled back, my eyes fluttering shut as I briefly considered the oh-so-tempting offer of giving in. “You can give me—the present—of shutting the hell up?”
That did it. While any other day I would rather enjoy seeing Potter so undone, so completely intoxicated, I couldn’t deal with this right now. Hell, how did I know he wasn’t doing this to every sleazy girl that winked at him (and I’m sure there were plenty)? He seemed to be getting pretty chummy with those twits from before.
God. Look at me, putting down other girls for a boy. Had all of my self-respect and notions of feminism gone out the window? I was a mess.
With all the strength I possessed, I pushed Potter away. He stumbled backwards, close enough to the edge of the Floater that my heart seized momentarily, and then raked a hand through his hair, flashing a crooked grin. For a moment, I allowed myself a small once over—his crown was sitting lopsidedly on his head, his hair curling slightly around his ears (fuck). He was wearing a dark green polo sweater with the sleeves rolled up (double fuck) and jeans.
I tore my gaze away. “Potter—“
“What is it now, Bennett?” He was smirking as he stepped closer. His voice was dark and smoky, a little hoarse from all the illicit activity he’d been doing, I suppose.
“What is it now?” Since Potter was a safe distance away, my head was starting to clear. Anger and irritation (mostly at Potter, but a little, admittedly, at myself for being such a hormonal idiot) was slowly resurfacing. “How about the fact that this Floater party thing is the stupidest idea ever? And the fact that you’re giving drugs to my brother? And just—just doing drugs in general?”
Potter stiffened, rolling his eyes. He seemed to sober up a little, his smirk turning down in irritation. “Seriously? Stop freaking out. It’s not like I’m his dealer, or anything.”
“Dealer?” I shrieked. “He has a dealer?”
“No—no. He doesn’t, okay? Will you stop flipping out and let me bloody explain?“
“God, you are such a bad influence,” My voice was growing louder to cover his, and I could feel the usual sparks of irritation catching between us. Potter pushed another hand through his hair, gaze darkening in annoyance.
“Aidan’s hardly innocent. It’s not like I pressured him into it or anything. This isn’t effing Third Year, alright, so you can save the after school special for later. He wanted it. Though I’m sure you’d like to think I slipped it in his drink or something—“
“I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“—I didn’t. Now just calm down, alright?”
I was seething. We were both seething. This—the two of us, this whole fucking situation—was just not okay. I was sodding tired of all the ambiguity, the blurred lines and the cavernous grey area that stretched between us. It made no sense how one second, I wanted nothing more to grab Potter and snog him senseless, and the next, I was trying to bite his head off.
“This whole 'Floater' thing,” I said, trying to keep my voice level as I gestured around us. “Is stupid. I mean, someone could seriously get hurt. Look at the edge! If some drunken idiot trips, takes one wrong step, he could fall over and kill himself.”
“That won’t happen,” Potter sliced through. His voice was clear and confident. He was so sure of himself it made my teeth grit.
“You can’t possibly guarantee that.“
“Yes, I can.”
“It’s hard to explain,” Potter dragged a hand down his face. “I just can, okay?”
“I don’t believe you. This is seriously the most dangerous—“
“—Idiotic, foolish, reckless—“
“Can you just shut up for a second?”
“—Idea you three morons have ever—AUGH! POTTER!” My voice broke into a scream as, without any warning whatsoever, Potter reached out... And with one firm hand, shoved me over the edge.
I stumbled, my arms flailing wildly as I tried to stop myself from falling to my death, but it was no use. Potter was too strong. I went cartwheeling over the edge of the Floater, falling into pitch darkness.
“POTTERRRRRRRRRRRRR!” My heart lodged itself somewhere in my throat as the world tipped over in a swell of silver stars and shimmering lights. I was falling, wheeling, plummeting down, down, down. And as I dropped through the overwhelming darkness like a stone, there was only one, strangely calm thought in my head:
I was going to die today. Because of James Sirius Potter.
I closed my eyes.
And then, all of a sudden, I hit something.
It was like a force field. But oddly flexible. Almost as if I had thrown myself against some giant, invisible trampoline. One moment, I was zooming to my death and the next, I was bouncing against something strong and sturdy and it was sending me back up the other way, towards the Floater. Boing.
“AUGHHHHHH!” I was floundering in the air as I tried to control my momentum. The Floater was getting nearer and nearer—or, rather, I was getting nearer and nearer to it.
I had a horrible feeling that I would completely overshoot it and never get back on, doomed to spend the rest of this night bouncing up and down on this invisible force field.
But then, just as I reached the edge of The Floater, I felt this great gust of force against my back—one big push—and then all of a sudden I was falling on to the wooden floor of the island, stumbling, coughing from the icy air in my lungs, standing in the exact same spot as before.
My legs were trembling so much I could barely stand, the full fucking terror of what had just happened finally hitting me, but I was miraculously alive.
“Oh—my—god—” I could feel my heartbeat, spitting like gunfire, inside my chest. The world was still spinning even though I had stopped moving. Around me, people were drinking and chatting like normal, as if what had just happened was a normal, completely every-day occurrence.
And Potter was laughing.
James fucking Potter was standing there—having just watched me almost plummet to my death, mind you—and he was laughing his sodding, annoyingly attractive arse off.
“I am going to kill you,” I said, very matter-of-factly, as I slowly advanced towards the prick. He put his hands up in a gesture that I guess was supposed to be defensive, but it seemed slightly half-hearted on account of him laughing so hard.
“Okay, calm down,” He gasped out in between laughs, doubled over in mirth. It occurred to me that I’d never really heard Potter laugh this hard, this easily, and that it actually sounded...nice.
And then I remembered what an idiotic prick he was.
“I’m going to rip your heart out and feed it to raccoons. I’m going to play jump rope with your intestines,” I closed the space between us and made to shove him, but Potter grabbed my hands, still laughing uncontrollably, and together we backed closer to the edge.
“Funniest thing ever.”
“You are despicable!”
“—the look on your face—”
"Awful, ignomious, terrible!”
“—I’m not even sorry—”
“ARGH! I can’t even... I hate you! You’re a terrible excuse for a human being!” With a furious shriek, I yanked my hands away from Potter’s and spun around in a flurry of anger and self-righteousness. Potter shook his head, rolling his eyes like he’d predicted this would happen.
“It was just a joke. I knew you were going to be fine.”
“But I didn’t, you effing prick!” I snapped back, “Ugh, you are unbelievable.”
“That wasn’t a compliment,”
“I’m pretty sure that was a compliment.”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“Yes, it was. Are you confused on what a compliment is?”
“It wasn’t a—”
“A compliment, Aggy, is when you say something nice about a person.”
“I honestly want to kill you right now—”
“For example,” Potter paused, his eyes flickering with something wicked. “You’re cute when you’re homicidal.”
It was the drugs talking. That’s all. I mean, Potter’s pupils were like the size of quarters right now. He was totally, totally out of it. He had no idea what he was even saying. No need to freak out, brain, or unleash that giant herd of butterflies into my stomach. Everything’s completely cool.
I gaped at the prat for a second. And then I shook my head clear, blinking rapidly. “You know what? I can’t deal with this right now.” And with that, I wheeled around for the last time and stalked off towards the crowd.
It only took about two minutes before another one of The Idiots found me. Sigh. It never fails. It’s like I have a built in magnet or something.
“AGGY! AGATHA MARIE BENNETT!”
For a second, I couldn’t find the source of the voice. I looked to my left—faceless drunk people. I looked to my right—more faceless drunk people. And then I looked up...And there was Freddy Weasley, leaning his whole body over the edge of one of the Floater balconies, eagerly screaming out my name for the world to hear and flapping his arms like a lunatic.
“AGATHA, GET YOUR WHITE-GIRL ARSE OVER HERE! I WANT TO TALK TO YOU!”
I figured I didn’t have a choice in the matter, since Freddy was going to continue screaming his lungs out if I didn’t obey. Heaving a sigh, I began to climb up the twisting, narrow stairs that wrapped around the pole, trying my hardest not to look down at the sea of people’s heads below me as I got higher and higher.
When I finally got to the landing, I took one look at Freddy—sprawled languidly over the various throw pillows and blankets—and sighed. “First of all, my middle name’s not Marie. It’s—”
“Sorry, we’re currently out of fucks to give!” Fred interrupted cheerfully. “Come back in a few hours and check again!”
I drew back, affronted, and Fred flashed a charming grin. “Sorry, Aggs, but I don’t have time for this. Frankly, I have business with you,” he gave what I guess was supposed to be an intimidating chin-nod, and then gestured at the pillows next to him. “Sit.”
“Okay, Mr. Godfather,” I chose a rather cushy looking blue pillow and sat, surveying the view around me. Icy wind whipped at my face, breaking through the otherwise warm bubble around the Floater. “Would you like me to kiss your ring as well?”
“This is serious.”
I raised my eyebrows, keeping my mouth shut. Freddy serious was never a good thing. With a dramatic breath, Fred leaned forward towards the tiny cofee table at our feet and grabbed a bottle off it. There was no name on it, just a rather menacing white label with a black capital X. This was the bottle that the evil step-mum gave the Disney Princess to drink. This bottle meant business.
In one fluid motion, Fred grabbed a tiny glass and poured me some of the drink. The liquid was red, and as it oozed out of the mouth, a cloud in the shape of a skull slipped quietly into the air and dissolved away.
Hmm. I wonder what this is made of? Gumdrops and baby aspirin, no doubt.
“Do you understand why you’re here, Agatha Marie?”
“For the last time, my middle name is—”
“I know about you and James.”
The glass slipped out of my hand and on to the floor with a crack. Not wasting a second, Fred took out his wand from behind his ear and whisked the mess away.
“How?” I said, my voice breaking in half. But I already knew the answer.
“Dominique,” we both said, though in completely different tones.
“She’s worried about you, Aggy. She doesn’t want you to get hurt.”
“I honestly can’t believe her—”
“Please. Dude. There aren’t many people out there who Dom would care enough about to do this. You should feel...privileged,” Fred offered an uneasy smile and held up the bottle. “More drink?”
“Oh yeah, I’m really pleased with the way she completely disregarded my feelings and did the one thing I asked her not to do,” I was feeling the beginnings of an angry rant coming on. “You’re right, Freds. This is the best thing I could have hoped for. It’s like an early Christmas present!”
Fred shook his head, grimacing, as he shoved another glass of evil-death-potion into my hands. I took it, not paying him any attention, wildly fuming to the sky. “Listen, Aggy—”
“Deck the halls with boughs of holly! Fa la la la la, la la fucking la!”
“I’m going to tell you about Nora.”
Once again, my glass slipped from my hand and onto the floor, breaking with a delicate tinkle. “What?”
“Nora,” Fred said casually, but he was eyeing me carefully. “James’ ex.”
I sniffed for a second, trying to regain composure as Fred drew out his wand and repaired the mess at our feet. “What about her?”
“It’s a long story,” Fred began, looking—get out your cameras, people—
completely somber. “For one, they didn’t actually break up.”
At this, I felt a chill lick up my spine, like I’d been doused in icy shivers. From the way Freddy had said that, to Dom and Aidan’s strange reactions before...well, I’d had my suspicions all along, but I was beginning to think Nora had—had—
I cleared my throat, trying my best not to flinch as sour anxiety flooded my stomach. “What happened?”
Fred leaned back into his seat, and for a moment, he just stared up at the sky, quiet. I could see the stars brimming in his clear eyes. The breeze ran its fingers through his hair almost flirtatiously. “You know the Dauby’s? The family you and James babysat for?”
How did Freddy know about that? Oh wait, my best friend the blabbermouth, no doubt. And Dominique strikes again! “Yeah?”
“Well, Nora is actually Lilia’s older sister.”
I was glad I hadn’t been holding another glass in my hand, because I surely would have dropped it. I jerked back, my neck cracking painfully as this new information hit me. Mind. Blown. “What?”
“That’s how James met her. They’re muggles, you see, but Mrs. Dauby is a good friend of Ginny’s. Family friends and all that jazz.”
Fred took a deep breath. I sensed that the big part of the story was coming, and inwardly, I braced myself.
“The thing is, Mr. and Mrs. Dauby aren’t Nora’s real parents. She’s really their niece, you see, but Nora’s parents passed away a long time ago, so the Dauby’s became her legal guardians. And, well, it was hard. I mean, her and Lilia were still close even though they weren’t actually sisters, but...you know. Mr. and Mrs. Dauby weren’t used to taking care of a kid who wasn’t theirs. They didn’t really know how to go about handling it. It was a sticky pickle, to say the least.”
I could only take this ‘sticky pickle’ to mean that the situation had been rough. “Go on.”
“Nora was amazing. I met her quite a few times, seeing as she’d been James’ girlfriend. She was funny as hell, and there was something about her that just...drew people to her, you know? But. She had...problems. Mood swings. She was fine one day, and the next she’d refuse to come out of her room, and would just stay in bed all day. James was the only one she’d talk to when she had one of her episodes.” Freddy paused, swallowing hard. All I could do was look at him, my heart thudding furiously in my chest, trying to imagine this Nora girl and what she was like. Beautiful and enigmatic, probably, but twisted on the inside. The kind of girl who could look you in the eye and smile, because she knew she was about to destroy you.
“For a while, her and James were good. I mean, he was crazy about her. You couldn’t possibly imagine.”
No, I really couldn’t.
“But then Nora took a turn for the worse. It wasn’t her fault, you see, she was sick. She turned to self-harm. Cutting. And it... it killed James. They would have fights all the time. Bad fights. They would scream at each other and she would throw things and it was just,” he broke off, shaking his head. “Really, really unhealthy.”
“When they didn’t fight, he would ask her to stop with the cutting, she’d promise him she’d stop and for a while, things would get better. But then she’d go back to cutting, and things would get worse and a little better and then even worse. Eventually, James gave her an ultimatum—stop cutting, or else he would break up with her. Said he couldn’t stay with her if she kept on hurting herself like this.”
There was something lodged in the back of my throat. I felt faintly nauseous, listening to all of this and knowing that Potter had been through so much. Knowing that he had a whole life outside of me and our petty bickering, and that while he was dealing with all of this, I had been hurling insults at him and honing my ‘Becoming a Complete MegaBitch’ skills.
“She stopped for a while—the longest yet. And for a month or two, things were really okay. But then—” Fred grimaced and took a swig out of the bottle, fiercely swiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He drew in a shaky breath. “There was a close call. This summer, Nora...Nora tried to kill herself.”
A soft noise escaped my mouth as I felt all the air whoosh out of my lungs. Fred closed his eyes and continued on, face scrunched in almost pained concentration, as if he was trying to recite something from memory. I wanted to tell him to stop, that I didn’t want to hear anymore, but I knew I couldn’t run away like last time. I had to listen.
“That was the last straw for James. He took the car and picked her up and drove her to the nearest mental facility. Didn’t even ask the Dauby’s for permission first. When Nora realized where they were going, she put up a fight. Oh, she put up a fight. She screamed and kicked the whole way there. She’d trusted James, she said, and taking her to this place was a huge betrayal. After he checked her in, she told him to never speak to her again. And he hasn’t since.”
There was a long silence. Fred stared into the mouth of the X bottle as if it were the most fascinating thing in the world. I tried to regain control of my breathing.
“So she’s at the facility right now?” I finally said, because it was all I could say. My mouth was dry and my thoughts were reeling. I tried to imagine that car ride, how awful it must have been. If Aidan or Dom had been doing something like that—I couldn’t even finish the thought.
“Yup. The Dauby’s eventually agreed it was the best course of action.”
“And Potter...?” I began slowly, already dreading the answer to my next question. “Does he still...love her?”
Fred finally turned to me. He was smiling a sad sort of smile, his lips quirked with sympathy. “What do you think, Agatha?”
His face said it all.
And that was when Nora became real. When everything finally hit me. Potter didn’t care about me, not one bit. He was in love with Nora. He was in love... with Nora.
There was a long silence.
“I think,” I gave a small, humorless laugh and stood up, my legs shaking. “I think I’m an idiot.”
“This is why Dom was so worried, Aggs," Freddy began desperately.
“I don’t care. I just need to...get some air, alright?” I said, even though it made no sense because we were in the fucking outdoors. But my head was reeling, and making sense was a little low on my priority list.
Without thinking, I snatched the bottle from Fred’s hands and downed the contents—there wasn’t that much left on account of Fred already pouring me so much and my butterfingers—but it still burned, roaring down my throat like a fire.
I handed the drink back to Freds and turned around, stumbling down the stairs and ignoring his cries for me to wait.
The minute I stepped back on the actual Floater, I started searching for Potter. It was hard to find him—the party had gotten a lot more intense, to a fever pitch. People were louder, rowdier. A group of some laughing blokes jostled me as I tried to push past them. But I didn’t even look at them. There was only one thought on my mind...
And then he was right in front of me, sitting on the edge of the Floater with his legs in the air, a cigarette in his mouth, his dark hair ruffled and dipped with moonlight.
I walked over to him, not knowing what to do, but knowing that I had to move, had to speak, had to say something. “Hey. Can we talk?”
Potter turned around, eyes dark and burning. He seemed a lot soberer now. Before I could even start, he cut me off. “Listen, about earlier... I was a little out of it. I hadn’t been thinking right—“
“I don’t care.”
Potter snapped his mouth shut.
There was a beat of silence.
Then he said, quietly, flatly, “Who told you?”
“What?” But I already knew. He had taken one look at my face, and automatically, he could tell that I'd heard about Nora. It had always been amazing, how well he could read me.
He stood up, taking a long drag of his cigarette. I winced. “Who told you,” he repeated, voice husky with anger, “About Nora?”
It was weird, hearing him say her name. His voice seemed to carry the word as if it was a heavy, unbearable weight. I looked him in the eye, trying not to tremble.
“Why?” I said, and I was surprised that my voice came out harsh as well. I had planned to go up to him and maybe apologize, offer some sympathy. But instead, I felt fury bubbling slowly in my bloodstream. It was irrational, but it felt good to be set on one emotion, and one only: anger. “All that matters it that you didn’t.”
He stepped closer to me, eyes flashing at my accusatory tone. “Yeah, Bennett. I didn’t. For a fucking reason.”
“Well too bad,” I snarled, letting the anger break through me. It felt so good, so addicting, so intoxicating to just let go. “Because I found out about five minutes ago, and you know what? I’m mad, Potter.”
“Mad,” he laughed in that bitter, hollow way I was so used to. “At me?”
“Yes, at you. Because—” he still loved her, and he’d kissed me, and he still loved her. “Because—”
“Let me stop you there, Bennett. See, here’s where you make the same mistake you always do—you actually think I care. Well, time for a secret: I don’t give a damn about why you’re mad or your latest reason for a pity-party. And you know what? If I did care, I could probably guess the reason myself, you're that predictable. So you can leave now.”
“Fuck you!” By this point, I didn’t care about being eloquent or using scathing wit. I was mad because he had hurt me, because he had held the power to do so in the first place. “You know what, Potter? Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.”
He laughed, ignoring my building hysteria. “Hmm, let’s see... Was it because you finally found out the world didn’t revolve around you? Is that why ickle Aggy’s got her panties in a twist?”
He was mean. Simple as that. James Sirius Potter was a mean person. He was cruel, to be able to kiss me and tell me I smelled like Christmas, and then turn around and throw acid insults in my face. He was just a mean, mean person. He’d never be anything else.
“Is it possible for you to stop being an arsehole for like five seconds? Is it really that hard?” I was close to yelling, and people were starting to stare. Potter slipped the cigarette back between his teeth and smiled.
“I told you to stop snooping around, Bennett, it isn’t that hard. You could have just left it as it was, and everything would have been fine.“
“No, no it wouldn’t have. Why couldn’t you just trust me?” I spat out, feeling the warm alcohol from before buzz in my veins. Stay strong, Aggy. Don’t let him win. “Why did you have to tell all my friends and not me?”
“Goddamn it, Bennett!” And finally, there was the anger. It came flashing in his eyes, curling at his fists. For a moment, I backed away, actually afraid. “This is so typical of you to turn everything around and make it all about you!”
“I’m not!” I said, in a very small voice. “I just—”
“I’m mad, okay?” I exploded, throwing my hands out in the air. “You obviously still love her, this Nora girl, and yet you’re going around, kissing me, using me. For what? Do you get some sort of sick rush out of it? Or am I just like your alcohol and your drugs and your cigarettes—a cheap way to get rid of the pain for a little while?"
Potter said nothing, just stared at me, face like stone. I barged on with my rant. "Well, I’m here now, right in front of you. And I hope you’re happy that you get to see me like this. Do you want to know what I’m feeling?”
I paused, blinking rapidly.
“Stupid. I feel like an idiot, like the floor’s been pulled out from underneath me. Because you’re right—I actually mistook you for someone who cared. Don’t get me wrong—” I added quickly. “I know I’m not your girlfriend. Ickle Aggy is smart enough to realize that when a boy kisses her it doesn’t mean he has to like her. But I at least thought you cared. That you respected me just a little, enough to not use me as some way to get over your ex."
My voice was trembling, but I didn't care. I had to get it all out. "So fine. We can play the game where we act like we don't mean anything to each other, that it’s just fighting and insults and nothing else. But you know what?”
“I’m tired of it. I’m freaking tired of it,” my voice, already small and weak, finally broke. “And I’m wrecked. You wrecked me.” I wasn’t making any sense; this was all the alcohol talking. But somehow, the words just felt right.
Potter stared at me, face flickering with something that looked a lot like regret. There was a long pause. I looked around to see a ring of onlookers around us, gaping with fascination. Some drunken Quidditch Bro started to slow clap, but was quickly shushed by his girlfriend.
“I think we shouldn’t see each other for a while,” he finally said. His face was unreadable except for his eyes, which were flickering with something that looked a lot like regret. And it was hilarious, really, because this whole thing sounded like a break-up, when we’d never been together in the first place.
I stared at him, flatly, numbly. “That’s all you have to say?”
“Bennett,” he said quietly, squinting at me, “You're drunk.”
I laughed. “Fuck you.”
“I don’t think that’d be wise.” Always the snarky response.
“Fuck off, then. That better?”
He smiled grimly, shook his head. “Whatever, Aggy.”
And that’s what did it. That stupid, flippant, ‘I’m-so-much-better-than-you, I-don’t-want-to-waste-my-time-on-your-immature-antics’ whatever.
Slowly, I turned, faking like I was about to go—and then quick as lightning, I whipped back around, slamming my fist into his face and, for once in my life, finally catching James Sirius Potter off-guard.
There was a sickening crunch, and then there was a gasp from the crowd, and then there was blood. And I walked away from it all, from him, from the whole stupid, fucked-up situation, with a satisfied smile on my face. I didn't even bother to wait for his reaction. I was finally free. No more random snogs, no more fights, no more confusion. Free.
I was half-way to the back of the Floater, where I knew the brooms were stored, when I realized there was something wrong.
It was oddly hushed, quiet in a very wrong way. The music had turned off. For one, whole moment, everything was completely still.
Then: screaming. And sirens.
For a moment, guilt seized me. But then I realized it had nothing to do with Potter and I, and what had happened between us just seconds ago. This was bigger, somehow. This was panic and hysteria, this was fear rippling through the crowd like a shockwave.
“COPS!” Someone was yelling. “EVERYONE GET OUT, IT’S THE COPS!”
And that’s when all hell broke loose.
I stood calmly and watched a cluster of WizCops—in their trademark purple, Ministry of Magic uniforms—fight through the crowd, grabbing at screaming kids. Some, I realized with an awful twist to my stomach, were using stunning spells. There were lights—the brightest lights I’d ever seen, whirling through the mob from panicked face to panicked face. I stood glued to my spot, people shoving and pushing all around me.
It was like an animal stampede. Savage. Panicked. Everyone trying to get away at once, trampling over each other. I had made the mistake of standing still, and in once second, I was down, pushed to the floor.
I couldn’t get up. I just stayed there, immobile, frozen, staring above me at the flashing lights and the icy stars. There was something strangely beautiful about it all. I wondered where Aidan was, if Dom and Freddy were safe. My breath was coming out in short, freezing puffs. That’s when I realized—the heating spell was gone. This whole thing was shutting down, down, down.
And then there was a hand on my arm. A voice in my ear. “Let’s go.”
I looked up, and for a moment, I thought I was staring at an angel. It was an oddly familiar face with a name I couldn’t place. Blonde hair, eyes like a cloudy winter day. In his hand, a shiny, miraculous Cleansweep.
“Ryan,” I breathed. “What—what are you doing here?”
He gave that quick, charming grin I had almost forgotten. “Saving you.” He paused, cocked his head. “And redeeming myself.”
And so I said nothing while he hauled me up, straddled the broom and grabbed my arms, wrapping them securely around his chest. I couldn’t do anything but stare dazedly at the stars above me as, with one final kick, Ryan Fisher launched into the sky, taking me with him.
A/N: Phew! Turns out, Aggy's a bit of an angry drunk, eh? /Poor taste. Anyways, thanks for reading, and please drop a review if you have the time. I'm a little iffy about the chapter (sooo much drama! sooo many hypens!) so if you can tell me what you liked and didn't like down there, that'd be great :3
Also, to the (probably large) bunch of you who didn't get the 'Quidditch Bro's or 'pennies' references: that was a chill head nod to the wonderful sport of lacrosse and it's fascinating subculture, lax bros.