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Refuge in Audacity by GubraithianFire
Chapter 2 : the james potter love bug
 
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the james potter love bug



“And then he was all, that tea service thing sounded veeery promising, and he kind of had all our fates in his hands, and I could hear Fairbairn starting to freak out because Robards and Beck were finally closing in, so I told him that I’d do it, and then Nate was all I wouldn’t mind tea and biscuits myself and then the stupid prefect was all ooh, what if I brought my friend, it’d be less awkward if there were other people around and she’s reaaally awkward, like, turtle levels of awkward and I was like suuure you can bring your special friend who doesn’t have a name, so now I’ve got to go through with it, see?”

James Potter blinks.

Hmm. Maybe he doesn’t see.

Albus did tell her that James isn’t good at following long bouts of speech. He said something along the lines of he’s fine as long as you don’t use complex syntax, otherwise he hears a pause and goes to look at a pretty pretty butterfly outside the window.

But when Miranda gets panicky, all she knows is complex syntax.

“The point is,” she says hastily, casting around for a butterfly or something shiny to use to get his full attention back on her, “I kind of need you to come to this tea… er, this tea party. It’s on Sunday at four, and there will be a really cheerful snippy Hufflepuff prefect who will either be flirting as shamelessly as cheerful snippy Hufflepuff prefects can flirt, or she’ll be in a little coma of love and you’ll have to be really nice to her. Like, practically indecent levels of nice. And I’m so, so sorry that you have to whore yourself out like that, but–oh! I can pay you! In… hobnobs! And tea! And cucumber sandwiches! And…” She gulps at the blank expression on his face. “And, er, five Galleons.”

The blank expression brightens up considerably. “Not a bad price to give to a whore.” He grins, and Miranda feels a weight being lifted from her shoulders. She can deal with a tea party. She doesn’t even have to enjoy it; she didn’t promise Jeanie that James would actually end up liking her, did she? No. Not at all. Miracle of miracles, this might actually work!

There should be an award or something for people who make absolutely horrid plans work out completely wonderfully.

Miranda should get it.

She’s already rehearsing her acceptance speech (I’d like to thank Madam Fairbairn, who is a crazy old floozy and I love her for it, stay strong, Marian!) when James clears his throat pointedly.

“Sunday at four,” Miranda repeats. “It’ll be in the Defense classroom, since Albus has been kind enough to ask Professor Lupin for non-verbal spells help in his office that afternoon.”

James snorts. “Professor Lupin. I’ll never get used to that. I’ve been calling him Teddy in class since we started, and I think he’s got half a mind to throw me into detention. But–wait, that’s not what I wanted to say.” The attention span of a rabid squirrel raises its furry, ADHD head. “I, er… ahem. Who’s going to be at this shindig?”

There’s a spinning in her head as she buries it in her hands. Albus was not joking. Not that he ever does. But this is a lovely reminder of that little character quirk.

Lovely, lovely quirk.

Miranda exhales loudly once her head resurfaces. James doesn’t seem all that bothered by how bothered she is. Maybe he’s used to it by now. “Well, there’s me, obviously, and then there’s Nathaniel Nott, the one who, er, the one whose nose got broken.”

“The one whose nose you broke.”

A cough. “Er, yeah, that’s him. Then there’s Jeanie, the snippy prefect who busted us and who, ahem, she’s the one you’ll be sweet-talking and being indecently nice to. And then there’s that Ravenclaw bloke who overheard everything Nate, Jeanie, and I said in the hospital wing, his name’s Alexei Something-or-Other-that-sounds-kind-of-Eastern-European-or-summat-I’m-not-really-that-sure.”

“Orlov,” James corrects her. “Alexei Orlov. He’s a Keeper on the Ravenclaw team. They had try-outs yesterday or whatever and a first-year snuck in to try out for Chaser, right–” For a bloke with the attention span of a Niffler in a bank vault, his explanations are quite syntactically complex, and not even in a good way “–so this kid, I guess he’s never played Quidditch in his life, and he’s speeding along with the Quaffle in his hand like he’s about to try to score, but he sort of forgets to let go of the Quaffle, and he’s smart enough to go straight for the hoop the Keeper’s sitting in front of, so they both tumble, what, fifty feet through the air? Something like that? Yeah, it wasn’t pretty. The first-year got off clean, though, apparently. Besides the detentions for, you know, sneaking into a Quidditch team try-out.”

Now it’s Miranda’s turn to look very, very blank. Animated corpse-blank, which is about as blank as you can go without actually becoming an animated corpse.

Which, at this point, doesn’t seem too ridiculous a possibility.

“Okay, well, Alexei Orlov will be there. He’s also the one who wants me to wear a kimono and stuff, so please don’t say anything on Sunday when you see me wearing one, okay?”

“A kimono?”

“Yeah. I think he has an Asian fetish or something.”

“Or maybe he just wants to embarrass you.”

“… Or maybe he has an Asian fetish.”

James wisely decides to dodge this particular argument. “Where do you even get a kimono in Scotland? Is he giving you one?”

“I was just planning on painting a bathrobe or something and hoping he doesn’t care enough,” Miranda admits. Where she’s going to find paint is an entirely different story, one which James will probably get bored of as soon as she starts telling it.

“Okay, but if he had an Asian fetish, he’d probably know the difference between a painted bathrobe and a kimono.”

Miranda harrumphs. A bloke like James is not supposed to get one over her. Even Albus can’t get one over her, but that’s because he’s too mope-y and cynical to have any worth as a banter-partner. But she is mature, and not a complete failure, so she can put this aside like a grown witch with all her shit together and continue. “And… that’s it. Unless there’s anyone else you feel like bringing.”

“Is Albus coming?” James asks.

“I hope not.”

Then he grins widely, and he kind of does look like a pretty pretty butterfly. Because he’s happy and sweet and nice to look at. And distracting because of it. Very distracting. “Me too.”

And now… to find paint.

“Miranda.”

She blinks back from paint-related reveries (plural) and blinks even more at James.

“Where’re my five Galleons?”

They should be… ah, there they are. In her pocket, how convenient. She should make it a point to carry around five Galleons everywhere. Have a ready bribe fund. That would be useful. She hands James the money, and he chortles at receiving it. When Miranda squints at him, he holds up his newly-filled hands. “Oh, nothing. Just… it’s nothing.”

“Um… okay.” She puts the chortle out of mind, because she is a witch with all her shit together. “Do you know where I can find paint?”

“Mm… must be a spell or something that can help.”

She remembers what happened when she was trying to heal and clean the nose she broke. Didn’t turn out so well. “I think I’ll find actual paint.”

“Or dye. For clothes.”

That exists? This is news to her. “Yeah! Or that!”

All of the shit ever is together. It is all in one nice little pile. It has a lovely pink ribbon wrapping it. It’s got a little note on it.

To Miranda
With love from,
YOUR IMPENDING DOOM


She appreciates the ribbon.

*

Sparkle. Sparkle. Glitter. Sparkle.

“I look like a three-year-old’s art project,” Miranda murmurs, horrified.

James, who has promptly Summoned a mirror to show her just what she looks like, smiles in a smug yet unaffected away. “Your outfit’s like a great big ball of candy floss that’s been run over by a motorbike and then eaten by a Glitter Beast and then vomited up by that very same Glitter Beast, along with all its juices and snot and whatever. So to repeat, it’s a mix of candy floss, burnt rubber, and Glitter Beast stomach acid.”

Miranda gulps and blinks away the hysteria.

“But, you know–” he tilts his head curiously “–it looks kind of cool from this angle.” His eyes flick upwards. “So does your hair.”

“It’s a creative headpiece,” she insists, but it doesn’t matter. She’s already basically lost.

HER IMPENDING DOOM sent another calling card this morning.

To Miranda
Can’t wait to see you again!
We’ll have lots of fun, you and I.
Kisses!


“Um… anyway.” She pats the monstrosity on her head–James has already likened it to having a tree growing out of the roots of her hair (get it, get it?)–and pushes away his conjured mirror. “We should get going.”

He doesn’t argue, pocketing the little mirror and following her out of the portrait hole. To his credit, he doesn’t pretend to distance himself from her Walking Tower of Crazy Lady. He even keeps a happy conversation going in the time it takes to get to the empty Defense classroom.

“I’m impressed Albus did it,” he says while he watches her struggle down a staircase. “Helped you, I mean. He’s usually very–”

She grunts in understanding and continues navigating the stairs. It shouldn’t be that hard, because obviously she’s worn robes before, but there’s something about this specific bathrobe–oh, sorry, kimono–that makes it so… bloody… difficult.

“I think you’re shedding, Miranda.”

She wheels around and stares at the detritus of her downstairs trek.

Glitter. Glitter. Sparkle. Shiny. Twigs.

She grits her very ground teeth and forces through them the words, “Doesn’t matter, we keep going. Don’t trip on the, er, the twigs, James.”

He skips the step where a lot of her stuff has trailed onto, and they continue. At this point, as long as the robe itself doesn’t develop huge holes or spontaneously combust from overexposure to glitter, she’s fine. She’s completely fine. She can send a bouquet of flowers to HER IMPENDING DOOM. They are lilies. Water lilies. Tiger lilies. Lilies of all the valleys ever.

I am filing a restraining order against you, and I’ll win.
-Miranda
P. S. Like the ribbon?


The ribbon is pink.

It’s a nice touch.

Presently, once they’ve escaped the networks of staircases and are speeding merrily down a corridor on the first floor, James makes another comment. “You… you do have tea and biscuits and stuff, right?”

She doesn’t roll her eyes. “Of course I have them, James.”

“House-elves?”

“Obviously.” As if Miranda, who has all her shit together, has the time to create an entire tea service for five whole people. The elves were really excited to do it, too. They don’t get many chances to flex their creative muscles, the poor dears, and Miranda gave them full creative license. Well, full meaning keep it small, so it looks like I might have conceivably done it all myself. They weren’t even upset about not getting credit! Basically, they were the best assistants ever. She should tell her mum about these magic creatures.

By now, they’ve reached the classroom where, if all has gone to plan, there should be a lovely, quaint, low-key, perfectly-executed tea party set up. She halts before the closed door, causing James to walk right into her.

“OI!” She scoots sideways to get away from the space between his torso and the door (between a rock and a hard place indeed) and straightens out the, ahem, kimono. Then she pats her head again, and is more relieved than maybe she should be that it’s still mostly in tact. She could ask James for the mirror again to straighten it out for real, but that would be putting way too much effort into this tea party.

Which is, remember, a tea party based in blackmail and blood and bone and bubbles.

“Right. Okay.” Deep breaths deep breaths the deepest breaths in the universe. Breaths so deep that she might just be able to smell the smell of boiling water. Deep. Breaths. “Let’s get this shit done.” This shit is together but now it just has to be done. See? Easy as pie! Easy as biscuits! Easy as boiling water and making tea!

Easy as opening a door.

“Need some help with that?”

No.”

And then, it’s open, and Miranda scurries in like a mouse through a kitchen. James follows right after her, strolling in like he’s in a posh park in his Sunday best. Bizarrely, she decides that James’ Sunday best is a top hat and tails. With gloves and a little cane and a cigar. Very Edwardian chic.

Not industrial-grade-paint-splashed-on-an-old-bathrobe chic.

That’s not chic.

With all of her luck, that very look will become the hottest thing to light up a runway since those gowns made of freezing fire. But for now, she just looks stupid and childish, and, once she’s remembered to look at the elves’ set-up, every feeling of pure childishness she’s had in the last five seconds becomes even more justified.

James puts it best, both bemused and charmed. “It’s… so… pink.”

A smallish white wooden chair with a pink scalloped-edge tablecloth.

White wooden chairs with pink cushions.

White porcelain teapot with pink flowers. And butterflies. Enchanted butterflies.

White porcelain saucers with pink flowers and butterflies.

White porcelain teacups with pink flowers and butterflies.

A white dessert stand with–here she breathes a much needed-breath of relief. There are different colours of desserts. There are macarons (lots of those, also pink), chocolate biscuits, ginger biscuits, lots and lots of pretty tea accompaniments like scones with jam and clotted cream and teeny little cucumber sandwiches and other sandwiches and it’s all very charming, certainly, but also more than a little… mortifying, would be the word.

“It’s like a three-year-old’s dream,” she squeaks. “It’s a dream-fucking-come-true.”

“Damn right it is.”

Oh, Merlin. Merlin, why do people actually have to show up on time to blackmail-based tea parties? Why can’t they just pretend to actually have lives for just one day to mitigate the terror of spending a full hour and a half with them?

Alas, it isn’t to be, and Miranda spins slowly on the balls of her aching feet (dun dun… dun dun dun dun…) and then, there he is. The instigator of her misery. Well, one of them.

She tries to look as cool-as-a-cucumber-sandwich as she can, but it’s a losing battle. “How’s your arm, Alexei?”

Alexei Orlov waves at her. This is the second time he’s done it, and his arm looks much straighter and sturdier now. “It’s great, thanks.” He uses this recently healed arm to gesture around and take in the scene.

What a bizarre scene.

For one, there’s a tea party in the classroom.

For another, James has already loaded up is saucer (his saucer!) with cucumber sandwiches. As Alexei and Miranda both stare at him, he takes the top off the teapot to check on the water. “Hey there,” he says to Alexei, who nods bemusedly in response. To Miranda he says, “D’you know where the tea cozy is? We’ll need it soon, water’s nearly ready.”

Alexei clears his throat. “Miranda should be worrying about that, right, Miranda? It’s her… tea service, after all.”

She is suddenly quite aware that he’s inspecting her bathrobe in greater detail, but she doesn’t let that bother her. She does harrumph, though, because she’s only human (with all of her shit together, of course), and mutters, “Damn right it’s my tea service.” While Alexei ambles over to the table, taking the seat to James’ left, Miranda tries to extricate her wand from her glitter-shedding, cough, kimono. “God… damn… James, just Summon the goddamn tea cozy, would you?”

“Oh, okay.” He pulls out his wand very quickly, even though his left hand has two éclairs in it, and mumbles, “Accio tea cozy!” It comes zooming out from underneath the teapot, and knocks over the topmost tier of the dessert display. Both men, or rather boys, protest loudly. “There were scones on that tier!” “Now it’s all over my shirt!”

“Oh, grow a pair, the pair of you,” Miranda grumbles. “And James, please stop shoving your face with all the clotted cream Devonshire’s ever produced.” She neglects to say that she only wants him to ease up on the cream because she needs a scone with it, and soon. “And Alexei, you…” She clears her throat as he stares at her. She can’t say anything to him; this is his blackmail party. “You… help yourself to some, er, some macarons.” She dashes forward and sweeps the delicate little cookies from the display and into his teacup. “Come on, eat up!”

It occurs to Alexei for the first time that maybe this is not the most brilliant of his plans. Not that he’s ever been much of a planner. But if he were, this probably wouldn’t break the top five.

Because it can’t be a good thing when the witch one is blackmailing is reaching to smother oneself with macarons in one’s suddenly very large empty teacup and then bringing that entire sizable collection of macarons to one’s face–

Hastily he grabs one of the apparently delicious little treats and shoves it in his mouth as if he’s a Potter, to satisfy the raving lunatic with the tree on her head.

“Do you like it?” she demands of him. “You like it, right?”

“I love it,” he chokes out. “I–ahem–really impr-impressive spread here, totally is enough to satis-satisfy the… all the requirements.”

She watches him swallow. With eyes as sharp as a hawk. Not a hawk’s eyes, but an actual hawk. The whole entire hawk, with the claws and the wings and the beak and everything.

James darts his eyes between the blackmailer and the blackmailee, as one is about to lose his ability to breathe and the other is about to lose her marbles. And all the while, he’s popping cucumber sandwiches in his mouth like popcorn.

When everything goes to hell, let it not be said that James S. Potter went hungry.

James turns to his left while he takes a hand-wiping break. “So Alexei… how’s Quidditch going?”

He’s still got eyes on the crazy witch hostess, but then she plops herself down in Professor Lupin’s chair and strikes up a vigilant stakeout of the door. Apparently the release from Miranda’s crazy-eyes attention makes Alexei a lot more sociable, because he leans back in his chair and starts cleaning out his teacup again. “Eh, it goes,” he snickers. “I mean, I dunno what’s been going on lately, Fairbairn thinks I should stay off my arm for another few days, but otherwise, yeah, mate, it just… goes.”

They continue a Quidditch-related conversation, and it’s all very nice and friendly and quick. Miranda’s only listening because it’s nice to get out of her own totally-together head for a few moments. It’s kind of nice to hear that they can talk even though they hardly know each other. Maybe she should join in, just for fun… maybe just for one of those scones… no, she must resist! But she does drift over there, still trailing an impressive amount of glitter, to stick the tea bags in the pot.

“Won’t be long now,” she chirrups.

“’Til what?”

Great. Just great. The minute she takes her eyes off the door is the minute Nathaniel decides to waltz in. Alexei grins at her face and James shrugs before taking yet another scone, so she turns around to greet the newcomer.

With a vicious pang, she realises that of the three guests at her tea party so far, this is the most attractive of them. James has the whole friendly-but-a-bit-empty-upstairs thing going on for him, and Alexei has the smart-kind-of-cocky-yet-athletic thing, but nothing really trumps tall, dark, and handsome. Unfortunately.

He doesn’t even pretend to check out her very culturally accurate outfit and guffaws with all the cheer a Slytherin so awful should not be able to feel. “What the fuck are you wearing, Miranda? Where did you even fi–oh, wait, you made it, didn’t you? By yourself?” He keeps chuckling, and Miranda glares at him. Evilly. If looks could kill evil. If that were true, they’d both have killed each other in one glorious burst of divine glory, so here they are, both alive, one of them looking unbearably hot and the other like a blue glitter beast.

“Oh, well,” he says once he’s controlled himself. “At least you did the tea part okay. Afternoon, lads.”

Miranda wheels around to watch him swagger on to the table, where James and Alexei stand up together and nod at him like manly burly men. Then they all sit down together at the table with the pink scalloped-edge tablecloth where a tea party is in progress.

“The Hufflepuff didn’t show up yet?” Nathaniel asks as he inspects the display. “Chickened out of meeting her one true love?”

James almost spits out his scone.

Which would be a good thing, she’s running low on those.

Miranda cuts in, “She better be here soon, or I’m going to tell Ro–”

“Tell who what?”

Oh, thank Merlin, Jeanie O’Snippyslut is here. Miranda tries not to do a victory dance, because that would ruin everything about her outfit. Instead she allows herself a great big grin at the table, which zero people reciprocate, before turning around yet again.

“Hey, Jeanie,” she simpers and steps forward to bring the lucky, lucky girl forward. In a lower tone she adds, “One James Potter, coming up!”

Jeanie doesn’t look very enthused about this news. She’s chewing bubblegum again, so when she cranes her neck outside, there’s a terrible moment where Miranda thinks she’s spitting it out on the first floor flagstones.

What happens is much worse.

From the shadows of the corridor emerges another slight, feminine, round-faced figure. Except this one has tanner skin and darker hair, and more of a manic-panic determination in her eyes.

“I told you he’d be here, Sabrina,” Jeanie mutters to this other girl. “Dunno why–”

“Can you see him, though?” this other diminutive creature squeaks. “Can you see him sitting there?”

“Not exactly from here, no, but I think that’s him talking to–”

Miranda clears her throat and hopes nothing is coming up it. “Ahem, Jeanie? Who’s your friend?” She adds a disarming smile in this friend’s direction, who apparently doesn’t recognise hysteria in it and grins back.

Jeanie blinks. “This is Sabrina, the friend I, er, told you about. The one infected by the James Potter love bug.”

“That’s me!” Sabrina squeaks again. Must be the only noise she’s capable of making.

A little sheepishly, Miranda mutters, “So… there really is a friend? Because, you know, most people, when they say it, they mean that the friend is themselves, and there is no, you know, actual friend, so I just–”

“But I said I had a friend.”

Sabrina doesn’t seem to be listening, fixated as she is on the fact that her apparent one twu wuv is sitting right inside, right within her reach! It’s almost too much to bear!

“I know you said that,” Miranda explains, “I just… er, I assumed, you know, since you seem, I dunno, the type to–”

Jeanie and Sabrina snort in unison and declare, “Yeah right.” Then they troop forward, past their kimono-clad hostess, to join the tea party going inside.

Miranda:
Don’t fuck with me, bitch.
XOXO Karma + YOUR IMPENDING DOOM






Author's Note And so it begins! You'll notice that now, the whole group is together. Which means hijinks of the cracky variety are sure to follow! Huzzah! I realize this chapter is a bit transition-y/filler-y, but I hope it was fun nonetheless. Thanks for the lovely response to chapter one, and I hope you continue to enjoy!


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