It was James who reacted first. He charged past Hayley and slugged Darren with a fierce right hook that sent the older boy flying. Hayley screamed and stepped back as James’ adrenaline pumped, putting himself firmly between Darren and Hayley, his blood on the brink of boiling. He half-expected Darren to try and punch him back, or worse use magic but as the calmer side of James’ nature took over, he knew that Darren wasn’t that stupid, nor was he as impetuous as James.
“Fair enough Potter,” Darren muttered, stumbling to his feet. “I deserved that. Listen Hayley, what I did to you; what I almost did to you…it was terrible, beyond terrible. I’ll never forgive myself for what happened. I just want you to know that I deserve your hatred and I’m truly sorry. I know nothing I say or do can ever make up for it, but I don’t want to start a war here, I just want to finish off my education and then try to move on with my life.”
“She doesn’t want your apologies,” James growled, refusing to move from his position between the two and still looking as furious and menacing as he could. “She wants you to get as far away from her as possible, right this second.”
“I think she can speak for herself Potter,” Darren replied, before looking past him to where Hayley had stood, practically petrified during this entire exchange. She stumbled backwards, away from Darren and James moved quickly, following her and positioning himself so that she fell into his arms. Hayley hugged James as tightly as she could, a few tears raking their way down her face. She couldn’t even look at Darren, she just buried her head in James’ shoulder as he walked past, heading up to his bedroom. James held Hayley gently, despite the vice-like grip she had around him. James could feel the anger fizzling out as his other, conflicting emotions flickered up inside him.
“You’re going to be okay,” he whispered to her. “Nothing that Darren can do will ever hurt you again. I promise. I won’t let him. I’m your best friend and I swear he can’t get past me, even if he tries.”
“Thanks James,” Hayley whispered back, dislodging her head from his body long enough to smile at him and allow him to wipe her tears away. Nicky stirred from on the sofa behind them and looked up, bewildered.
“Did I miss something?”
For the next few weeks, James was almost constantly on edge. He rarely left Hayley’s side if he could help it, ensuring that if he wasn’t around, Fred or Toni were with her and unless she was in her dorm, he didn’t let her go around on her own. Not that Hayley herself disagreed with this plan. She was grateful for the security that her friends granted her, even though she needn’t have worried. Days passed and turned into weeks and Darren was showing no signs of trying anything. They rarely saw him during their frees or evenings in the common room, which he avoided, hating the filthy looks people shot him, even Christopher who he’d used to consider a good mate. He never bothered turning up during Quidditch practice which meant the only times they ever saw him at all were during meals, where he made an effort to sit nowhere near them, although he would try and shoot sympathetic smiles Hayley’s way. It didn’t take too long for Hayley to let her guard down, although James was slightly more cautious.
However, as far as priorities went, James’ number one priority had to be thrashing the Hufflepuffs if he was to have a chance of winning the Quidditch Cup for Gryffindor. He had his team working harder than ever even though, as Fred was quick to point out, they had only lost to Slytherin because Darren had tried to kill James. This failed to have the desired effect, as James was angrier than ever than the mention of his name and the team ended up doing laps.
The day of the Hufflepuff arrived and James was as nervous as the majority of people had seen him. Nicky, Fred and Toni forced him to eat a solid breakfast, whilst Hayley went down to the pitch as soon as she was up with Dom, Josh and Lorcan to get in some early practice (Josh providing moral support only). After James had almost thrown up what little he had eaten, they trudged down to join their team. James stood in the team’s changing rooms, staring at his team; his friends, his family.
“Well guys. I have no intention of lying to you. We need to win this. Not only because Gryffindor hasn’t lost to Hufflepuff since 1997, and because I won’t be the first captain since my dad to lose to them, but also because if we don’t win and win well, we can forget about the cup. Just forget about it, here and now.”
“How did your dad lose to Hufflepuff?” Toni asked, highly amused.
“He…” James went purple at this stage. “He was knocked out by a bludger from one of his own players.”
The rest of the team went silent as James breathed in and out. He slung his hand out to indicate they were done and then reached for his broom. He clutched it tightly and as they passed him, his team all made their own gestures. Fred patted him on the shoulder, Lorcan and Christopher punched him in the arm, Dom rubbed his arm, Toni kissed his cheek and Hayley pulled him into a hug.
“We’ve got to do this,” James muttered.
James took off and knew that finding the snitch could be the only thing he had to worry about. He couldn’t afford himself to get sentimental or panic over the status of his friends. Yet, within two minutes, he found his resolve being broken as Fred narrowly avoided a bludger to the head, before using his bat to send it fizzing back at the Hufflepuff keeper just as Dom shot towards the hoops. James sighed in relief, did a quick loop the loop and then caught sight of a flash of gold. He shot like a rocket, the snitch inching closer towards him as he dived. Then, just as he thought he had it in his hand, he found himself being barged to one side as a yellow robed player collided with him. It wasn’t the seeker that was for sure and James swore loudly, swinging round but the snitch was already gone, Josh shouting expletives down the commentator’s megaphone as McGonagall wrestled it off him. It was a Gryffindor penalty, which Hayley calmly dispatched; her own composure strong enough to stop her leaping to James’ defence as he span away from the snitch. James took a quick glance at the scoreboard. Gryffindor had opened up a huge lead already, leading by 80-10.
Hayley swooped round and hurled the Quaffle into the hoop, punching the air as it sailed on target. She paused to high-five Toni then flew back to the starting position as the Hufflepuff Captain berated her side from her position in goal. Hayley winked at James as he whizzed past, still scouting around for the elusive snitch. The game had been played for what seemed like forever, with Gryffindor well on top and no sightings of the snitch. Hayley barely had time to relax and breathe before the match began again, with Gryffindor leading by 210-40. Hufflepuff had the Quaffle and were zooming towards her goal, so she backtracked quickly, pulling alongside her Head-Boy who had the ball in his hand. He sneered as she flew closer and barged her but quickly found her barging back, looping upside down over his head and pinching the Quaffle out of his hand. Hayley stuck her tongue out but she doubted that he even acknowledged it as she scored, his dumbstruck face still attempting to register what had happened. Hayley laughed and then froze as she saw the Hufflepuff seeker making a stark dive. James seemed to have noticed it too, because he followed suit, spinning round in an attempt to pick up speed. Hayley’s eyes were fixed, as were most of the peoples’ in the stadium, on the yellow-robed figure, who was inches away from the snitch, when James blitzed past, his hand enclosing around the ball as the crowd exploded.
Hayley screamed triumphantly, zooming over to where James had landed; snitch in hand as Josh announced that Gryffindor had won 370-40. She pulled him into a victory hug and he lifted her onto his shoulders as they ran for the changing rooms, with the rest of their team landing around them and joining them in their celebrations.
Hayley was hurled into the air and squealed as she landed, Fred and James successfully catching her as she fell. She punched James’ arm as he whooped and cheered; Lorcan and Christopher having already cracked open the first of inevitably many butterbeers. The team was on their feet as they were joined in the changing room by their friends. Rose threw herself at Dom, the two friends giggling like idiots as Lysander slapped his brother’s back victoriously. Nicky found her way in and hugged Hayley, high-fiving James and grinning at Fred and Toni. Then, Josh entered and her face soured significantly. Josh caught her eye and then smiled magnificently at Dom, who muttered something to Rose before throwing herself at him, a beaming smile taking over her features as she kissed him. James and Hayley exchanged a look, little more than a wince as Nicky looked like she wanted to cry. Hiding her sobs whenever Dom and Josh were together wasn’t easy, but in the middle of a heated party, with the majority of the crowd still roaring victoriously, as by now most of the Gryffindor house had piled into the changing room, was a fairly simplistic task. Nicky turned on her heels and ran out the room. Hayley leaned in to James so he could hear her over the ruckus.
“I’ll go after her,” she sighed. “You’ll be expected to make a speech.”
James nodded and Hayley hurried after her friend. James stood on one of the many side benches in the changing room and placed his wand to his head, clearing his throat loudly. People stopped their own random conversations and listened to what their captain had to say.
“Well,” James grinned, the whole room captivated by his voice. “We did it, and I knew we would. And why did we win? Because my team rules. My Gryffindor team, each and every one of you are the best this school has to offer. So tonight, we’re all going to head back to the Common Room, break into the good drinks and party like there’s no tomorrow. So all of you enjoy the evening and I hope the prefects amongst you will remember, I didn’t do anything that McGonagall wouldn’t approve of.”
The crowd whooped and cheered as James led the way back to Gryffindor Tower, the others following in a blitz of clinking beers and cheering students. Once they were all settled in, the party stepped up a notch, the alcohol pouring as couples branched off up to their various dorms, Fred and Toni amongst them. Dom and Josh lodged themselves on a sofa and giggled and played as Rose danced with Lorcan and Christopher. James found his shirt being tugged and grinned as his little sister pulled him into a bear hug.
“Well done James,” she smiled. “I’m really proud of you, I’m sure Teddy is too. He made it by the way; he and Victoire were in the stands. They had to leave but they both send their love. Oh and let Dom know her sister thinks Josh is cute.”
“So she knows then?” James chuckled, taking a swig of firewhiskey and checking that Lily was only drinking butterbeer as she rolled her eyes at him. Lily nodded and then suddenly arched her eyebrows, indicating to James something behind him. He turned and allowed his most flirtatious smile to creep onto his lips as Lily slipped away into the shadows. A cute red head was stood behind James, a drink in her left hand and her right hand toying with her hair.
“Hello beautiful,” James muttered, stepping towards her.
Hayley had found Nicky storming her way up to the Room of Requirement, where she had been spending a lot of time, particularly recently, since she’d found out about Dom and Josh. Hayley caught up with her just in time and followed her into the room, sitting beside her friend as she sobbed into one of the many tissue lined pillows in the room. Hayley had gotten very good at comforting Nicky when she was in one of these moods, but then she had a lot of practice. Nicky usually cried for a couple of minutes, then insisted she was okay and was her cheery self soon enough. Nicky was still finding herself unable to function properly during her rare moments of weakness, but she’d become a lot better at blotting out pain and making herself numb to Josh and Dom’s antics. After she’d cried herself out, Hayley helped her to her feet and although Nicky insisted she wanted to sleep where she was, Hayley practically shoved her out the door as they headed back to Gryffindor Tower. As they headed back down the corridor, a figure was hurrying the other way, cloaked and wearing blue rimmed robes. Hayley bumped into her and went to apologise when their eyes met and she gasped. Kassie smiled wickedly at her and then stepped backwards, with Nicky carrying on walking, oblivious to the confrontation behind her.
“I’m sorry Hayley, I didn’t see you there,” she said.
“Don’t worry about it,” Hayley snarled. “I see you’ve been keeping out of James’ way.”
“Yes well, whilst the idea of you telling the entire world what I did may seem fun, I’ve decided I like my life the way it is thank you.”
“Just make sure you carry on leaving him alone,” Hayley growled.
“Oh of course I will Hayley. By the way, have you seen my date for the Banquet?”
Hayley stumbled backwards as Darren put his hand on Kassie’s shoulder, appearing almost out of nowhere, his smile as genuine as the many he had sent Hayley during their relationship.
“Hi Hayls,” he said. “Sorry to disturb you but I was hoping to borrow Kassie, we were just going for a drink. She’s just about the only person who’s been nice to me since I got back and I was just looking to thank her.”
Every sign on Darren’s face told her that he was telling the truth, that he knew nothing about what Kassie had done, but still Hayley allowed panic to set in, as Nicky had turned back to see where her friend had gotten to. Kassie said something but Hayley wasn’t really listening and then the two strolled off, linking arms as they reached the end of the corridor. Nicky put her hand on Hayley’s shoulder and Hayley flinched, before realising who it was.
“Hayley, are you okay?” Nicky sounded worried and Hayley forced herself to calm down, shooting her friend a weak smile that Nicky saw through immediately. “Tell me what’s wrong?”
“Sorry,” Hayley replied. “I just…bumped into Darren. I need to go and find James.”
“Forget about Darren he’s not going to try anything,” Nicky insisted. “I can help you with whatever you need. You don’t need James, just let the poor fellow enjoy his victory, he’s obviously lapping up the rewards.”
“No Nicky,” Hayley said strongly. “I need James. Now.”
Before Nicky could reply in a hurt and indignant tone, which Hayley knew she’d inevitably do, she pushed past her and hurried down the corridor until she reached the portrait hole, Nicky chasing after her. Hayley scanned the common room, her eyes darting from person to person and failing to register anyone until her eyes locked on the dark-haired idiot in the corner, his hands locked around a pretty young red head, his lips meshed to hers. Hayley raced over, Nicky shouting her name but it failed to make any difference. She grabbed James as she reached him, shouting a quick apology to the girl he had been kissing. James looked furious but softened the instant he saw the urgency and panic in her eyes.
“Sorry babe, just a minute,” James sighed, turning to the girl, who didn’t look amused. James took Hayley away from the crowds and studied her face. “What is it Undies?”
“Kassie,” Hayley gasped. “She’s going to the Banquet with Darren!”
“She’s what?!” James looked like he was going to explode as Hayley nodded urgently.
“What are we going to do?” Hayley cried, urgency clear in her voice, as James pulled her into a hug and reassured her, rubbing her shoulder gently.
“We’re not going to do anything Hayls,” he replied. “We’re going to keep a very close eye on the pair of them, especially when we get to the Banquet, but we can’t let them take over our lives. Kassie has nothing over us and Darren can’t and probably won’t try anything. The truth is, they can’t hurt us and the only thing they can do is try and disrupt our rhythm, our way of life. And we’re not going to let them, do you understand me? They cannot touch us.”
Hayley nodded, tearing away from James and grabbing a drink off a nearby table, downing it in one. James laughed despite himself and patted Hayley’s back as she spluttered and coughed.
“That,” she choked. “Is revolting. What the fuck is it?”
James took a sniff of the drink and laughed again, earning him a furious glare from his best friend.
“That, my dear Hayley,” he chuckled. “Is dragon’s blood. Don’t ask how I know that, it’s a long and frankly embarrassing story that I’ve probably told you before anyway. Needless to say, Fred and I were lucky to escape with our lives.”
This time, it was Hayley’s turn to snort with laughter as James put on an affronted face, failing miserably to look offended. He threw himself on Hayley, tickling her mercilessly in an abysmal attempt to stop her laughing, which only succeeded in making her giggle to the point where she was almost in tears, the dragon’s blood spilling over her top, which reminded both of them she was still wearing her muddy Quidditch robes. James clambered off her, as she continued to giggle. Hayley went back to the table and found herself another drink, this time something slightly more alcoholic and drank, gasping and retching as James stepped forward.
“Bloody hell that absinthe is strong,” Hayley groaned, losing herself in another glass before James pulled her away from the table, holding her tightly as she wriggled and squirmed. Hayley pushed him back but he wrestled her over towards the dorm rooms. “Woopsie,” she giggled as she tripped up the first step and James sighed again, fully aware of how this situation was looking to everyone watching. He dragged her up to his room and she laughed incredulously as he threw her onto his bed. Hayley started throwing off her robes, undressing and giggling as she did so. James pulled the curtains around her, as Fred and Toni looked over from Fred’s bed.
“She’s drunk,” he explained, as a thud from behind him said that she had passed out.
A/N: Hi there everyone. First off, a massive thanks to my new beta Elizabeth, who helped edit this chapter :). Secondly, a massive thanks to Harry Potter wiki for the Hufflepuff v Gryffindor info. Thirdly, a massive thanks to my best friend for constantly inspiring me. And lastly, a massive thanks to all my readers, who I hope have enjoyed this chapter and trust me, in the next chapter, named Of Fire and Water, things definitely heat up ;) HP
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