Chapter 4 : Parties, Potters and Poisoned Apples
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Today is Wednesday. Not only have I not had a conversation since Monday (and that was only with McGonagall so it doesn’t count) but I have also turned down two dates with Tony Nichols and Brendan Drago (both raving lunatics from Ravenclaw). I’ve spent my days focusing ridiculously hard in class and my nights in a remote corner of the library, studying and reading and trying not to inhale too much dust. The rational part of my brain tells me that the Heads have their own common room for a very specific reason - so that their study is convenient and uninterrupted - but I just cannot deal with James Potter right now. We’re in almost the exact same classes, which makes it all the more difficult to avoid him (which I actively do as much as possible).
If I say no, we’ll be Potions partners. This could be a good thing - I’m the top of the class and he comes in a close second, so at least I’ll survive the morning. I’m willing to sacrifice a little bit of comfort for the assurance that I’ll do well in this subject.
“Not at all,” I reply plainly, my gaze quickly returning to the book in front of me.
“Good reading?” he asks. I glance up at him; he’s grinning and pointing at the book.
“Oh, yeah,” I say. “Lacewing flies. Very useful.” My voice drips with sarcasm, which James seems to find quite amusing. He lets out a short laugh and something tugs the corners of my mouth up in something of a smile.
I quickly force them down again, trying not to think about how his face lights up when he laughs. His eyes practically shine, all green and vibrant. When he’s laughing among his family and friends, at dinner or something, he really puts his whole body into it, throwing his head back and laughing loudly and heartily so there’s no one within a mile radius that can’t hear him.
There’s a prolonged silence, during which I chew on my bottom lip and try not to think too much about his lips.
“So,” he says loudly and I blink quickly to dispel the bizarre thoughts running through my head. “Fred’s having a party this Friday night.” He says it so nonchalantly, as though he might be commenting on the weather or something he saw on TV the other night. I face the front of the room.
“Oh?” I say, uncomfortable because I know exactly what’s coming.
“Yeah.” I clear my throat.
“What’s the occasion?” I ask, although it’s God’s Honest Truth that Fred Weasley has never needed a reason to throw a party.
“Start of term,” James says, as though it’s obvious. “You want to go with me?” He adds the question quickly, as he’s nervous or something. No, that’s ridiculous. Maybe he’s just in a hurry. Either way, this never gets easier, especially when he’s grinning and sounding all hopeful. I exhale slowly. I feel like I’m pulling my foot back, preparing to kick an adorable little puppy. In the rain.
“Look, James,” I start, trying frantically to conjure up a believable excuse.
“Harmony, it’ll be fun,” he cuts me off.
“Yeah, I’m sure it will be, but I-”
“Don’t go with me, then. Just go to the party. Not as a date, or anything.” He places his hand on my forearm. He’s begging me with his eyes. “Please.” And with his voice.
“I’ll think about it,” I say weakly, melting under his intense gaze.
What is happening to me?
James breaks out into an impossibly wide grin and I have to remind myself not to stare. Honestly. I’m acting like one of those pathetic fifth years who swoon every time James looks in their direction.
“Great,” he says.
“Yeah,” I reply, seriously lacking in enthusiasm. “Great.”
I manage to make it through the hour of Potions without making a complete fool of myself, and I practically run off to the library to spend my free afternoon with my nose in a book. With said nose in said book, my mind beings to wander.
If I go - a big if - then it won’t be a date. That will have to be clear from the outset. And if it’s not a date, then why wouldn’t I want to go? Well, apart from the obvious reasons - social anxiety and overall awkwardness - there’s the loss of study time and possible subjection to the antics of scary, drunk teenagers who see me as that nerdy chick who never grew an inch after second year and doesn’t talk to anyone, ever. Okay, those are pretty weak because firstly, I could boycott study for the rest of the year and still ace my NEWTs and secondly, I’ll probably be one of those scary, drunk teenagers, and that me doesn’t care what people think. I’ll just get embarrassingly drunk and eliminate the stress factor (and probably regret it on Saturday morning).
But, then there’s the whole Responsible Student thing that I’ve been honing to a fine art over the last few years, and I do have a reputation (friendless nerd) to maintain. Such irresponsible behaviour might just undo all my hard work. However, if I’m drunk I won’t care. At least not on Friday night. And maybe one night of fun and stupidity could ease the tension between James and me. And even if it doesn’t… it could be interesting.
“Hey, Polly,” I coo as she lands on my shoulder. A momentary but welcome distraction from my book, I feed her some bacon and stroke her feathers, smiling. Having been utterly friendless for so long, she really is great company. Especially in times like these - Thursday morning is usually synonymous with getting up too early to eat breakfast by myself before getting to class too early and paying too much attention. The Hall is nearly empty at this hour and it’s great. The solitude is an escape from the fast-pace, stress-inducing mayhem that is The Seventh Year. Between class, study and James Potter I’ve had prefects jumping me left, right and centre, begging me to change the patrol timetable, and then there’s the fifth and sixth years asking me for regular tutoring. So, not alarmingly, McGonagall was right. We’re barely four days in and I have a lot on my plate. Anyway, Polly’s presence adds to my sense of calm. That is, until I hear footsteps approaching.
Please let it be some fourth year with no interest in me. I’m not done with my coffee and solace and contemplation of the mysteries of the universe.
“Hey.” You have got to be kidding me.
“James,” I say civilly, despite wanting to damn near hit somebody because he’s here, again. He slides into the seat next to me, grinning just like he always grins and interrupting me just like he always bloody well interrupts me. Fucking great.
He looks around the hall as though he’s never seen it like this. That is, before most people have even thought about breakfast.
“You always here this early?” he enquires and I sigh, knowing my moments of solitude are well and truly over.
“Yep,” I say easily.
“Why?” he asks, like the concept is utterly bewildering.
“I don’t know. I like the quiet.” He nods slowly, oblivious to my subtle hint. Then he catches sight of Polly, still on my shoulder, and smiles.
“Your owl?” he asks, lifting a hand to pet her.
“Yeah. Polly.” I smile when she tries to bite him. He withdraws his hand, his smile faltering only momentarily.
“How long have you had her?”
“Just over two years.”
“Huh. So, are you going to come to the party on Friday?” I let out a long breath.
Truth is I said I would think about it and I did and I can’t think of a good enough reason not to go.
“Well, yeah. I am,” I say slowly. He blinks. I don’t think he heard me. Maybe I should say it again, in case I wasn’t clear the first time. But then suddenly he beams at me.
“Shit, really?” I raise my eyebrows and he backtracks quickly. “No, I just mean… shit. Wow. Really?” The kid’s a maniac. I nod. “Awesome.”
Just as I’m considering bailing on the party, there’s a loud laugh and we both look up. Fred, Dom, April and Dart are walking toward us, talking animatedly and laughing loudly. I panic, swallowing a huge mouthful of scorching coffee, killing eighty percent of my tastebuds and mutilating my throat in the process, in an act of sheer nervousness. Fuck.
“Jimmy!” Fred says loudly as they all sit down opposite us. I’m trying desperately hard not to vomit from the pain.
“I’ve told you not to call me that,” James replies. Dom snickers. My stomach burns, but I vow to remember that James takes umbrage at the name ‘Jimmy’. Tentatively - and bravely - I take another sip of my coffee to avoid having to talk. Sounds stupid but it seems to work. Although it does hurt like a bitch.
“So Fred, tell us why you decided to schedule quidditch tryouts so early,” James says.
“Yeah, Fred. Tell us,” Dom mutters darkly.
“Well,” Fred starts loudly, clapping his hands together and sitting up a bit straighter as though he’s about to deliver some profound speech that might just change all our lives.
“We have to win the cup this year. In order to do so, we need to lift. As soon as we get the team sorted we’re going to do whatever it takes to win.”
I admire his determination, however misguided, but Dom rolls her eyes.
“Bloody hell, Fred, we haven’t lost a game since third year. We’ve got the best team Hogwarts has ever seen!” James shouts, waving his arms around like a madman. Some girls down the table break out into giggles but are duly ignored.
“Exactly!” Dom shouts in agreement with James.
“Ah, see that, friends? That right there is complacency. Something we absolutely cannot afford,” Fred counters. “I don’t want to hear any excuses. Especially not from you two.” He eyeballs James and Dom shamelessly. They scoff. I watch this play out, intrigued and amused by how these people interact with each other.
“You’ll thank me at the end of the year,” he says, sure of himself and unfazed by his cousins’ antics. “For now, I’ll see you on the pitch at five.”
The conversation effectively over, I look surreptitiously at April and Dart, who are themselves engaged in a hushed conversation. From what I can tell, within this group of five, those two are really close, and the other three are really close. And then there’s Al and Scorp and Rose Weasley, all from sixth year, who fit in as well. And they’re actual celebrities. Like, actually. All the Potters and Weasleys are, like, Icons Of Our Generation, according to Witch Weekly. Not that I read that crap, but every single piece of magical literature in the last twenty years references the Potters, and every magazine out has a weekly spread of ‘That Time When James Went To The Quidditch With Dartanian’, or ‘That One Time When Al Went To The Supermarket With No Shoes On’. It is common knowledge in the magical community that the Potters and Weasleys like to avoid reporters and photographers, and constantly ask the media to respect their families’ privacy. I remember one time last year there was a huge thing in the paper about how James Potter threatened to punch a photographer after the man ignored requests to stop hassling him when he was out with his friends. Needless to say, James was hailed a hero at school and the media was absolutely on his side.
Feeling much too out of place for my liking, I turn to James. Polly takes flight, sensing my forthcoming departure.
“I’ll see you in class.” I stand up but don’t get ten feet before James calls me name. I turn around.
“Have you eaten?” I shake my head and he tosses me an apple. I raise a suspicious eyebrow at him.
“Poisoned?” I ask dryly. He looks at me, a confused expression on his face, and I sigh inwardly at my own stupidity.
“Sorry. It’s from a muggle fairytale.” I’m almost certain he doesn’t get it but he smiles and waves before turning back to his friends.
I think that went well.
Any thoughts? Let me know. Please review. X
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