Chapter 1 : RIA: IT WAS ALL HIS FAULT
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IT WAS ALL HIS FAULT
My name is Maria Beales. Ordinarily I don’t give out advice. But here’s a gem: do not, I repeat do not, take seventh year Potions.
I mean it.
You’ll regret it.
Sure, it seems fine. Sure, that E you got in your OWL was a marvellous result. And sure, they piled the work on a bit in sixth year, but you managed. Seventh year will be a breeze, you think. And of course I can keep up my studies, Quidditch and prefect duties all at once. No biggie.
That’s where it all goes downhill.
I don’t know what James’ll tell you, but it is most definitely his fault.
All his fault.
See, if that moron hadn’t kept us out in the pouring rain, then I wouldn’t have had mud in my hair still, so then everybody would have been able to read everything and...
I’m getting ahead of myself.
So Quidditch practice. It was pouring with rain.
“We’re going to be late!” I yelled, in his general direction. I say general direction, because the rain was pelting down so hard it was like looking through great, blurry-brown sheets. I couldn’t see the Quaffle, he most certainly couldn’t see the Snitch, and it was extremely likely that Max and Bella couldn’t see the Bludgers, which I, for one, was not too relaxed about.
“Five more minutes!” A gruff voice came from somewhere beyond my field of vision, limited, as you might imagine, by rain in the eyes.
“Five more minutes?! What the hell do you expect to accomplish in five more minutes? I can’t even see the end of my broom, let alone the Quaffle, let alone the goal posts -”
“Quit arguing and try, Beales.”
“Try? Oh right, let me just get my goggles out and maybe I’ll have a shot that falls within ten metres of the goals posts -”
“Shut up and try.”
“No! This is stupid. I’m leaving.”
“Leave and you’ll have five more laps tomorrow!”
“Fuck off, James.”
I could just about hear his hoarse threats as I hit the ground at a slightly too rapid (angry) pace and skidded sideways, ending up with one extremely mud-covered leg and a handful of sludge.
Frustrated all the more, I violently shook my hand but this was the sort of rain-saturated mud that’d stick for days if it could.
I managed to fight way my through the rain and mud to the changing rooms without falling over again, and I’d just about managed to make my (freezing) hands function enough to grip a door handle, yanked it open, when another (bigger) hand reached over my shoulder from nowhere and slammed it shut again.
“You owe me six laps.”
How in hell had he managed to make it over here so swiftly, silently and mud-free?
“Don’t hold your breath.” I just about managed to utter, sounding more snarl-like than intended, I think because I was forcing my teeth not to chatter.
“You can get it out of the way now or you can get here early tomorrow. And you were late enough this morning as it is. Six laps.”
“I thought it was ten?” My voice dripped with malicious sweetness.
“It was. Just call me Mr Nice-Guy.”
“After referring to you as Worlds-Biggest-Prat for so long, how will the masses keep up?”
“Oh, go and bore the others with your threats, James. I’m getting changed.”
“I don’t need to. They’re all actually doing as they’re told.”
“Because every single one of them has first period free! They’re not going to miss the first fifteen minutes of Potions like we have for the past three weeks -”
“Oh come on, like you have to do anything more than pull the innocent regretful smile to get out of anything -”
“I don’t want to be late. It’s rude.”
“You were late for me this morning.”
“So I was. I apologise for my rudeness.”
“Apology accepted. You owe me six laps.”
“You can forget it. We’ve got...” I checked my watch underneath my extremely saturated wrist band. “... fuck, we’ve got eight minutes to get to potions, which gives me about two minutes to shower and zero minutes for breakfast. Enjoy the next two hours with me in the crabbiest mood ever.” I prepared to flounce off, but he grabbed my wrist.
‘What.” I scowled. He smirked. Damn that freaking smirk.
“Hug it out.” He held out his arms.
With a pointedly cranky sigh I stepped into his arms and gave the obligatory brief hug with a quick pat on the back. We squelched as we separated.
“Friends again?” He asked.
I glared. “See you in potions, pig.”
James implemented the mandatory post-fight hug after he got the captains role in sixth year. It was necessary. If you want to stay friends – which we are, hard to believe sometimes, but the best of friends – when one of you is an authoritarian captain and the other stubbornly refuses to do what best buddy says, you need something to break that tension after you’ve been yelling at each other for a solid ninety minutes.
The post-fight hug is so irritating that you have to laugh it off. It’s the only way.
However, it does tend to limit your two minute allotted showering time down to a minute thirty. So I didn’t even have time to wash my hair. By the time I’d roughly scrubbed myself dry, pulled on my clothes in thirty seconds flat, yanked my tights around viciously as they got twisted up in my haste, and roughly pulled my hair back into a knot, we had three minutes to make the five minute (power) walk to Potions.
“You’ve still got mud in your hair.” James observed, and our damps shoes squeaked along the corridor.
“Shut up.” I told him.
“Alright, I’m sorry. We’ll make it five laps.”
“Your generosity astounds me.”
“I know. Try to keep it under wraps, I’ve got a reputation to uphold.”
As we reached the dungeons I could hear Professor Slater in the midst of his explanation over the clanging and scraping of the class setting up for the practical.
“What do you know, we’re late.” I said, not in the least bit sarcastically.
“Better practice that smile. Kind of looks like you’ve forgotten how.”
“Remind me, again, why it’s always me getting us out of trouble, when you’re the one that made us late?”
“Because my smile doesn’t make every man melt. Quite the contrary.”
It was true that he didn’t have the greatest reputation among the staff. I’ve actually spent the majority of my time at Hogwarts getting the git out of trouble, though if you asked him, he’d probably find a way to turn it round onto me.
“You’re a moron.” I informed him, before plastering said smile onto my face and pushing open the door. “Professor,” I said loudly, over James’ distinct snigger, “I’m so sorry we’re late. This time I promise it won’t happen again. In fact, the reason we’re so late this time is because I insisted on correctly that slow clock I was telling you about last week, the one in the changing rooms. So this really is all my fault, Sir. I really am sorry.”
In the split-second before the Professor replied, I distinctly heard an ‘overdone it’ in the midst of James’ cough.
“As long as this really is the last time, Miss Beales.”
“Definitely, Sir. Right James?” I elbowed him.
“Er. Right.” His input was vital, of course. Couldn’t have done it without him. Oh wait. I did.
“Very well. I trust you have your textbook with you this time?” Professor Slater asked, as we hurried towards our empty table at the back of the room.
“Erm...” James patted his (obviously) empty bag, whilst I pictured the textbook clearly where I’d left it in the changing rooms in my rush to get ready.
“I’m so sorry, Sir -” I began.
“Fetch an old book from the pile, Miss Beales. And do be hasty.”
“Yes, do be hasty, Miss Beales,” James mimicked, under his breath as he slung his bag under the desk. “Oh, yes Sir. No Sir. Terribly sorry, Sir – oof -”
I accidentally trod on his foot. “Shut up and set up the caldron, pig.”
I managed to extract the volume of Advanced Potion Making that least looked like it had been dunked in a toilet from the cupboard, and by the time I got back James had set up the equipment nicely – even laid out the utensils in size order just as I liked it.
“Good work, Robin.”
The sidekick joke went straight over his head, as all Muggle trivia does. “Thanks?” He looked mildly bewildered by my calling him a name other than James, Pig or Prat.
I was too busy sorting through the ingredients list to explain comic book characters to him.
“What’ve we got?” He nosed over my shoulder. “Oh, appealing choice of book there, Ree...”
“At least this one doesn’t look like the owner’s wiped his -”
“You’re dripping muddy water on it and everything!” James complained and wiped away a drop that had fallen from my still sodden hair.
“Who’s fault is that?”
“Well if you hadn’t... oh, bloody hell, let’s not get started on this right now. So we’re making... Repulsion Remedy. Oh. Sounds... useful.”
“It’s supposed to be a part of the process of making a genuine invisibility cloak.” I told him, as I sorted through ingredients. “You know, amongst all the other charms and crap. So, yeah. Useful.”
“I stand corrected. So once we’ve made this, if we wash our clothes in it we’ll be invisible?”
“Oh. Too bad.”
“It’s more that it makes whatever’s doused in it difficult to perceive. It’s like no matter how much you try, you can’t quite focus your attention on it. Like magnets, hence repulsion.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Um, let’s see... oh, because I did the homework.” I informed him, loftily. “Are you going to measure me out four ounces of beetles eyes, or what?”
I was good at Potions. I’m not bragging. I wasn’t anything special. But I could follow instructions as well as the next fool, and I was pretty good at checking ahead so that I have everything prepared as it should be and knew vaguely what step followed, so there was no unnecessary time spent sorting out stuff for the next step. Because to do that you have to leave a potion simmering. Which can affect the outcome, of course.
So anyway, I was good at potions.
“Um, Ree?” James peered tentatively into the caldron.
“What?” I hissed, irritably flicking back hair that had fallen from my knot.
“Doesn’t that look a bit...”
“A bit what?”
Gooey, lumpy, gelatinous? When it was supposed to be clear and letting off a fine steam? Yes, yes it did. And I had no freaking idea why.
“Just a bit... heavier, maybe, than it should be?”
“I don’t understand.” I skimmed over the instructions. “We’ve followed it all exactly. Every single thing. It should be right.”
“Definitely doesn’t look right.”
I could see him smirking out of the corner of my eye.
“You hate being wrong.” He said.
“I’m not wrong. We’ve done everything right. Maybe it... maybe it can look like this too.”
“You mean despite it saying that a fine mist is essential?”
Absolutely no vapour was coming off our vat of gunge at all.
“Five minutes until lunch.” Professor Slater announced. “If you could begin packing away, please. A vial from each pair on my desk, please. Remember, we don’t sample the potion today. It has to be stored over night in order to settle, or the affect will be too strong -”
I was barely listening, staring irritably into the caldron. Was it supposed to be so... dark?
James picked up a vial.
“No, hang on, let me just check...” I batted his hand aside.
“I thought you weren’t wrong?” He grinned.
“I’m not. I’m just checking.” I frantically reread each line, and the ingredients list. Perhaps there was just something we’d missed...
“Come on, I’m starving. I want to get cleared away.”
Annoyed, I pushed the book away from me. “Nothing. There’s absolutely nothing we’ve done wrong. This must be right. It is right.”
“Then you’ll dare try some. If it’s right.” Something in his eyes twinkled, in challenge.
“Grow up.” I told him. “We’re not twelve any more. I’m not falling for that one.”
“So you think you’re wrong.”
“I do not think I’m wrong.”
“Well if you think you’re right you’d dare try it.”
“I’m not trying it.”
“I dare you.”
“Drink it, I dare you.” He was even lapsing back into that childish way of speaking. Annoyingly, I could feel myself regressing back to a reckless twelve-year old along with him. No. I will not rise to this...
I calmly filled a vial and held it out to him. “Hand this in to Slater, will you?”
He was still smirking in that infuriating, challenging way. “Can’t handle being wrong, and can’t handle a little dare. Where’s the Maria Beales I used to know?”
“James.” I put my other hand on my hip.
I glared at him.
“Coward.” He accused.
“I’m not a coward -”
“Can’t admit you’re wrong -”
“I’m not wrong -”
“Prove it.” He plucked the vial from my fingers and held it up to the light. It glowed a seriously unappetising dark purple. “Drink.”
That look was the last straw.
“Fine.” I picked up another vial, scooped some gunk into it and held it up. “I will if you will.”
“What?” He wasn’t expecting that.
“Come on, Potter. Unless you’re a coward?”
Slowly the grin replaced the momentary taken-aback look.
“Coward? Me? Never.” He clinked his glass vial delicately against mine. “Cheers.”
We both paused then, staring each other out and waiting for the other to back out.
There were five long seconds of silence, in which his derogatory insults rang in my ears. It really was like we’d been transported back to second year, where I was naive enough to indulge in his games.
That glimmer in his eyes did it.
“Cheers.” I echoed, keeping a straight face and bringing the vial to my lips.
He shadowed my moves, keeping those beady eyes upon me.
So I had no choice. I had to do it.
It was all his fault.
A.N. Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you think :) Rx.
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