Like every morning, I was sat at breakfast trying, and failing, to read as Dom and Benson flirted so loudly I was surprised that only our immediate six neighbours were being forced to listen. The post came, as always, and I looked up to note that for once I did have a letter which usually, quite frankly, never brought anything good with it. Instead there was just that uneasy dread that was only quenched when I realised that the handwriting on the letter was my brothers, and not from either of my parents in either a purposeful attempt to undermined me or a misguided attempt to express a regret at the way things had turned out (depending, of course, on which parents had penned the letter in the first place). Still, it seemed ridiculous that Oliver was writing to me when he was sat on the other side of the hall.
I glanced at Dom to express this incredibility but was prevented by the realisation that Dom, too, had a letter and like me Dom’s was from a sibling – although it was fair to say that Victorie’s cursive was written from slightly further away. It probably wasn’t a good idea to try the mighty wrath of Dom.
I looked away quickly and opened my own letter, which was predictably short but a lot more heartfelt than I would have expected from my normally placid baby brother.
April wrote to me and said that she was staying in Wiltshire for a few days. I’m not going to reply. I think she’s being unreasonable, particularly given the reasons she left in the first place. Don’t get annoyed at yourself. We’re always going to be on your side.
Everything about the letter was irritating: the way he’d chosen to write it down instead of just seeking me out and telling me, the way everything was being avoided and said through code and the assurances about ‘my side.’ I didn’t want anyone to be so resolutely on my side because that only made everything worse. April had only ever made things worse.
Staying in Wilshire. So, she was at mum and dad’s for the first time since her seventeenth birthday. She was staying there, despite going to bleeding Australia in a few days time and despite everything she’d always said.
I glanced over at the Gryffindor table to find that Oliver wasn’t even there (and neither was James, so they probably had Quidditch practice). Then I screwed up the letter and sent evils to the jug of pumpkin juice to vent my frustration. Benson, on the other side of the pumpkin juice, looked mildly concerned.
Dom was still reading her letter with an expression so filled with venom I probably would wind up needing an antidote for sitting too close. Then her face contorted so violently, her elbow slipped sideways with some unknown (but angry) emotion and I watched in slow motion as her elbow connected with her bowl of cornflakes slide of the table and then it tipped, tipped, spilling itself all the way down the front of my robes.
Despite this not being a surprise at all apparently my knee-jerk reaction was to squeak, very loudly and stand up. For all those in the hall who hadn’t looked up at the squeak the sound of the bowl being thrown to the floor and smashing just about ensured that most of the great hall was looking at me.
Of course, that was about the same moment the Gryffindor Quidditch team trooped in for breakfast.
Dom was the only person who hadn’t even looked up and the temptation to throw my breakfast over her was almost overwhelming, but mostly I just wanted to leave the hall very quickly because nearly everyone was laughing at me.
A single cornflake dropped mournfully onto the floor.
Then I picked up my bag, my books and left very quickly – passing both Oliver and James in the doorway.
It must have taken them about three seconds to register that it was me half running from the hall covered in cereal before I heard their footsteps coming back in my direction.
“Did you get my letter?” was said at approximately the same time as “did the breakfast monster get you?” as they fell into step with me – one on either side. This was actually the first time I’d had a conversation with both my brother and James at the same time, which wasn’t really helping with the obvious fact that I was in a bad mood.
“Yes,” I said to Oliver, before turning to James and frowning, “Dom’s breakfast vomited on me,”
“Did she get mad at you for wearing the wrong coloured shoes and throw it at you?” James grinned, nudging me with his arm.
“No, Victoire wrote to her,” I muttered dangerously. The raised eyebrows and the expression on James’s face told me that he at least understood the true horror of this circumstance.
“Autumn, my letter,” Oliver said, his face screwed up as he tried to get my attention.
“Oh, I’m sorry Oliver. I was going to write to you in response, as you obviously don’t want to talk to me about it,”
There were a few moments of silence in which I stared resolutely ahead, only glancing down to watch another soggy cornflake fall off my jumper and onto the floor. Even after changing my entire uniform I was going to be plagued by a milky smell for the rest of the day (and of course, Dom probably wouldn’t notice until dinner time when she’d ask who was drinking milkshake).
“Cold, Autumn,” James said quietly.
“She gets like this with stuff about our par -”
“- enough, Oliver,” I said firmly, “I’ll talk to you both later – all I want to do is get this bloody jumper off,” I could almost feel James wanting to say ‘I could help you with that’ but resisting due to the presence of my little brother. Oliver could probably feel it too. I flushed slightly and glanced upwards, “seriously – scatter,”
“Fine,” Oliver said, turning back towards the hall.
“I’ll take the hunger,” James said, taking one of hands.
“You can always take my jumper and eat off that,” I returned, “but people might think you’re a bit weird,”
“Too soon in the relationship, I think,” James nodded seriously, “what’s Victoire writing to Dom for?”
“I didn’t stick around,” I admitted, “Benson can deal with her today, because I’m really not in the mood for one of her tantrums,”
“Yeah, I haven’t seen you this prissy since your birthday,”
“Watch who you calling prissy, it’s not too early for me to dump your arse,”
“You wouldn’t have the heart,” James said with a grin, as we walked up the stairs together – passing a grinning Felicity – and walking the familiar route of to the Ravenclaw tower.
“How was Quidditch practice?”
“It would have been better if you were there to see how manly I am,”
“Was that in invitation?” I asked, looking up at him with a smile.
“Ambiguous yet obvious,” James nodded. I brushed a piece of hair behind my ear.
“Well, I’ll have to see. I mean... I don’t want to anger Dom, and I’m doing an awful lot of subjects and with my sister going to Australia in a couple of days and...”
“Okay, I get it – but we’re still on for studying later, yeah?”
“Course, I’m not used to factoring in boyfriend time – that’s all,”
“Hmm... if I was dating Sean Taylor I’d try and avoid him too,”
“Shush,” I said, “if he heard you he’d be upset,”
James turned to look at me for a second, “to be honest, I think he’d be pretty relieved,” I shook my head at him but smiled a little bit all the same. James was cute. Very cute actually.
“Right,” I said as we arrived at the Ravenclaw tower, “I’ll be two seconds,”
“I very much doubt that,” James said, “but it’s cool, I’ll just stand around – waiting for you...”
“You didn’t have to come,” I said with an eye roll, kissing him quickly before answering the riddle and disappearing into the depths of the Ravenclaw common room. Already I was feeling a little bit better, despite how this morning was spiralling downwards into my list of disasters (extensive) –but James seemed like an anecdote for when I was ‘prissy.’ That was nice.
I threw my cornflake-y jumper onto the pile of dirty washing in the bathroom before pulling on my spare set of uniform with a sigh. Partially because my second set of uniform wasn’t nearly as nice as the first –being the one I’d had since second year meaning it felt all scratchy and was a little too tight in some places – and because alone in my dormitory it was a lot easier to fall back into my ways of being prissy.
“Three and a half minutes, twenty two and a half seconds,” James said when I remerged.
“You made that up,” I countered, glancing at my watch and frowning, “and we’re going to be late,”
“I’ve got a free period,” James countered, “but you’re going to be late. Disadvantage of doing, what was it, five subjects? Six? Fifteen?”
“Stop chatting, get walking,” I said, taking his hand again (walking around Hogwarts holding hands with someone was weird), “if you see Dom pretend you’re part of the wall or something,”
“I’ll just stand horizontally and hope she things I’m a painting, right?” James asked with a snort, “although, best not piss her off today – if Victoire’s written to her. You can update me later, all right?”
“Yeah, so I should get to my lesson. See you later, James,” I said with a smile, reaching up to kiss him again (although there were totally people around that might be watching, but...).
“Oliver was about to say parents, wasn’t he?” James said, “With stuff about our parents?”
I frowned at him, remaining silent as he thought about this for a long moment. Then he reached forwards and kissed me for another long moment, and then “slaters,”
“You got cornflakes all over me early,” I told Dom pointedly as I sat down next to her for class.
“She’s getting married,” Dom said, burning a hole in the desk with her withering glare and not looking up at me, “she’s getting married,”
“No, Autumn, to fucking Voldemort – of course Teddy! Who else has she been dating for like half her life?!” She blew a piece of blonde hair out of her face and continued glaring at the wood of the desk. If I was that desk my wooden legs would probably have been wobbling so much that I’d have collapsed by now, but the table seemed to be remaining vigilant. Good on it. I was tempted to write it a song or knight it for bravery, or something.
“No need to get at me,” I muttered, “you don’t always have to be so... I don’t know, in Dom-land all the time. I’m here too, you know,”
“Guess whose bridesmaids?” Dom asked, interrupting the last few words of my terrible attempt at defending myself (not in Gryffindor for an extremely good reason), “Lily, Rose and Roxanne,”
“No,” Dom said, “not me,”
“Exactly,” Dom said, whirling round to face me with her blue eyes alive with pure undiluted anger, “Exactly, Autumn, whist you’re busy chattering on about bloody breakfast my sister is trying to make me look like an idiot in front of the whole wizarding world. You think there’s any way she’s going to get married and there won’t be pictures in the prophet? No, Autumn, there won’t – and thus everyone is going to know that she didn’t want me, even though I’m her sister and I’m a Weasley too,”
The guy sitting in front of our desk turned around and sent a weary glance at Dom, a sentiment that I shared exactly. I really couldn’t deal with her when she was like and anyway, I didn’t know what to say – it seemed like Victoire was actually giving her a legitimate reason to be bloody pissed and thus the usual mantra of ‘Dom, stop being a drama queen’ wasn’t applicable.
“Everyone knows,” she said, glaring at the back of Fred’s head as though she could set it on fire by will alone, “there all laughing at me,”
“Dom, there your family,” I said weakly, “they’re not laughing,”
“Oh right? Because you know full well what family means, don’t you Autumn? How being family means everyone has to love each other,”
“Shut up Dom!” I snapped loudly, my fingers balling into fists, “will you just shut your mouth and listen to me!” A deadly silence seemed to descend over the classroom all of a sudden (although that might have just been my imagination, but it sure felt like everything went impossibly quiet), “you’re not allowed to say things like that to me,” I said, folding my arms over my chest and leaning back on my chair, “just because you’re my best friend doesn’t give you free reign to be a bitch. So just, go complain to someone else. I’m not... I’m not interested,”
Dom turned her eyes to me for a moment, her entire face frozen looking a little too impassive for me not to be afraid for my health. That sort of look from Dom was terminal.
“Fine,” Dom said, pulling her bag off the floor and sending me a withering look, “that’s just fine,” then she moved over to a spare seat at the front of her class, spending the rest of the lesson examining her fingernails rather as if she was dreaming of using them to puncture my skin.
Occasionally people would turn around and look at me sat on the back at my own (particularly James, whose gaze was going so fast between Dom and I that it looked like there was actually something physical passing between us. He’d probably wind up with a neck injury too, and that would totally ruin our study date). Mostly I spent the lesson trying not to cry (I never was good with arguments) and drafting out a return letter to Oliver as most likely I wouldn’t survive long enough to talk to him again.
That probably didn’t help with my mood. Apparently I was feeling ‘prissy’ today.
“So, I think you annoyed Dom...” James said, appearing after the lesson had finally ended and Dom had disappeared somewhere – probably with Benson, but who knew? Knowing Dom she could just be angrily self-destructing in the dorm (and why did our crises have to coincide? It meant this sort of thing was just bound to happen), “does that mean I can insult her?”
“No, it doesn’t,” I said, shoving my hands into the pockets of my robes and pursing my lips, “if anything, you have to be extra nice about her to ease my guilt. Or just not mention her,”
“You’re too nice for your own good,” James said, “does this mean you’re free for lunch?”
“Looks like it, it’s not like I have any other friends,”
“What’s up?” James asked gently.
“Autumn!” A voice called, and then Benson Flint was hurrying down the corridor and appearing near my side, “look, Dom said that you were really mean and... that doesn’t really seem in character so I thought I’d just, sort of, check to see what’s going on?”
“Tell her that... this is childish,” I sighed, sending an apologetic glance at Benson, “tell her that April went to Wiltshire,” he looked decidedly confused, “that’s it. April went to Wiltshire. Done, Flint, now scatter before I do get mean,”
“Man, you are in a bad mood,” James said, brushing my hand with his fingertips, “are you sure you want to study later? We could do something less boring if you like?”
“I’m a Ravenclaw; it doesn’t get much better than study dates,”
“That’s so depressing,” James commented, “maybe you should take up pranking?” he added with a grin.
“Pranking dates?” I suggested, trying to smile and just about managing it. James tilted his head sympathetically.
“Many, many dates,”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” I said, leaning on his arm for a second before straightening up, “lets go get that lunch,”
By the time lessons had finished for the day Benson had apparently delivered the message and Dom had decided to pretend that nothing had happened, slipping onto the seat next to me at dinner and helping herself to potatoes without that distinctly murderous stare of before.
“I’m going to kill James,” Dom said, not happily, but certainly not with the same flare of deep rooted anger and resentment.
“Why?” I asked, deciding that if she was going to pretend we’d never argued then I could go along with that too.
“Since he sent you that note, people have actually been saying that you two are dating. Can you believe that?”
Benson Flint, who of course had accompanied Dom to our table like the little lapdog he was, raised his eyebrows at me – barely concealing a humungous grin.
“What?” I said, a little squeakily, “That’s absurd!”
(List of things Autumn cannot do: be funny, prank anybody, lie in any way. So I was dead set for a secret relationship with a hilarious prankster then, nice one Autumn you idiot).
“I know,” Dom said, rolling her eyes, “everyone was talking about it when I was in the loo – they all seem to think that we had some sort of argument about it -”
“-but we never argue, so – I’ve no idea where they got any of it from.” She said finally, eating more potatoes and not looking at me properly. I think this was the Dom Weasley version of an apology.
“True,” I agreed, glancing to the ceiling for strength before putting more food on my plate, “I don’t think we’ve ever argued,”
I think Sarcasm is a better more loyal friend to me than Dom, but...
“So let’s just prank James some more – I don’t think he even noticed his rat curry – and forget all about that stupid rumour,”
And thus, the argument was officially over. And it had barely lasted half a day.
“So you’re not even going to demand an apology?” James asked, flicking through pages in the Defence textbook with an incredulous expression written all over his superbly cute face.
“In fairness, James, she’d just found out about the whole bridesmaid thing – you could have warned me, by the way – and I think that she possibly had a right to be a little... prissy,”
“I guess I’ll never understand it,” James said, “but I guess this remains under wraps until she calms down? And so, patronus charms... “essentially you just think of something happy,” he continued, flicking his quill of the end of the table and snatching it out of the air with his fist. As much as the defiling of such a sacred place as the library was horrific to watch, James’s puppy-like inability to sit still was too amusing for me to stomp out.
“How happy?” I asked, staring at the blank piece of paper in front of me. James forbade me from writing notes, “I’m not sure I’m in the right mood. I don’t think feeling glum particularly helps,”
“The happiest memory you’ve got,”
“So someone who’s had a really rubbish life... would they just not be able to do it?”
“They’d always be one memory that was slightly better than the rest. Now, hit me with it,”
“That’s a very personal question now Autumn,”
“Only if you stop first,” James grinned, “you just don’t want to fail. Fine, I’ll be the bigger person. I know it’s stupid, but...”
“I’m not going to laugh at you,” I said seriously.
James smiled. “Well, you know my mate Henry. Well, on the train we wound up in the same compartment and started chatting and such. Anyway, I assumed he knew who I was – everyone did, but we didn’t’ talk about it. Then about a week into school he approached me and asked me why I hadn’t mentioned it. He’s muggleborn – didn’t have a clue,”
“Sickeningly cute, Potter, but I’m not entirely sure I’m convinced it’s true,”
“Oh fine,” James said, “first time I got laid?”
“You’re ridiculous,” I laughed, shaking my head at him.
“You promised you wouldn’t laugh,” James pointed out.
“Couldn’t help it,” I shrugged in return.
“So what are you thinking for your happiest memory?”
“Erm... first day of Hogwarts?” James looked at me slightly strangely, “or when Dom befriended me,” He grimaced at that.
“Maybe I need to provide you with some really good memories,” James said thoughtfully.
“Speaking of which, I suppose Dom’s already ruined my room of requirement cards?”
“Well, we’ll practice the spell there anyway,” James said, slamming his text book shut and throwing his quill from hand to hand a couple of times before pocketing it and offering me a grin, “shall we?”
“What? I’m not ready yet! All you’ve done is tell me to think happy. I’ll never be able to do it!”
“Course you will,” James grinned, “you’ve got an awesome teacher,”
I doubt this will go down as my greatest update of all time (essentially just Autumn and James talking a great deal) but it's been four months and I've really been struggling with this chapter. You can thank MangaGirl and Heir for this update (they told me this one should be next). As of 2012 I'm responding to all reviews immediately so... I'd love to hear from you :)
Write a Review Not Just a Bystander: And then we were all prissy...