Chapter 10 : ten
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“I’m always nice-”
“You’re never nice.”
“Keep saying that and I won’t be nice to you again,” Brigid said loftily. She was standing in front of the mirror, pinning her fringe back, but turned to look at me. “Why don’t you think I’ll be nice, anyway?”
“Because you’re usually about as friendly to girls I’m seeing as Lily is.”
“You said Lily liked Carlotta,” Brigid pointed out.
“Yes, but she still got a snarky comment in first. So, no snarky comments, Murph, or you’ll upset me-”
“And Merlin knows my life wouldn’t be worth living if I were to do that.”
“Precisely,” I said with a satisfied nod.
A week had passed since Grandma Lily’s birthday; another week of hard training and nights out on the town. I’d appeased Carlotta by dropping in at the Tav earlier in the week, then had a couple of nights at the Hinky with some of the squad. Of course, despite our efforts to keep them secret from her, Sinead knew all too well about all our nights out and rewarded us for one of them with a punishing weights routine. Tonight, I’d finally managed to persuade Freddie and Brigid to come to the Tav. They both complained about being short of funds so often that I’d stopped believing them and assumed it was just a poorly disguised rejection. Several members of my family, a couple of members of the squad and a few Bats and Kestrels players were also joining us.
“Bet she’s excited to be seeing you.” Brigid sat down opposite me and propped her feet up on her coffee table.
“You’d tell me off for doing that,” I pointed out.
“My table, my rules. Stop changing the subject. Were things beginning to get a bit too serious for you? Did you decide it was time to back off?”
“No, I’ve just been at the Hinky more, and I can hardly take her there, can I?”
“The results would be interesting,” she conceded. “Where the bloody hell is that boy?” She sighed and glanced at her watch. “He’s at least ten minutes late...”
“You ought to know his timekeeping is terrible,” I said.
Just then Freddie arrived, armed with several bottles of Firewhisky. He threw one to me and I caught it deftly and twisted the cap off. He set the others down on the coffee table, and fell back into the sofa next to Brigid.
“Watch my springs,” she grumbled as he draped his arm over her shoulders. “Do I not get a bottle?”
He tutted, but reached forward to grab two bottles and hand one to her.
“What did your last slave die of? And I wish you wouldn’t do that,” he added with a wince, as she pulled the cap off with her teeth. “You’ll break your teeth one day and you won’t be getting any sympathy from me, that’s for sure.”
“Yes, dad,” she grumbled, throwing the cap in his face. He caught it and stuffed it down the front of her dress. She squealed, trying to fish the cap out.
“Need help getting that out?” he asked, grinning cheekily.
“Don’t worry yourself. You’ve probably never touched a woman’s boobs before, I wouldn’t want you to get overexcited.”
I turned my attention to my bottle of Firewhisky, studying the label intently, but I couldn’t stop a smile spreading across my face at their flirting. It reminded me of how they used to be, before Freddie had seemed to lose interest – or rather, other girls had also gained it.
“Oi, Potter!” Freddie called, dragging me out of my musings. “Brie says you’re seeing this Muggle bird again.”
“Yeah, I am. Why?”
He shifted slightly in his seat, his arm still draped round Brigid’s shoulders.
“It’s just ... I didn’t think it would last this long,” he said. “I thought, the first time you hooked up with her, that it was just a one-off thing, you getting shot of Lynch and just having a bit of fun. I mean, you were with Leggy Allegra a couple of nights before, weren’t you? But you’ve met up with the Muggle a fair few times-”
“She has a name,” I said sharply. “And so what if I have? She’s a laugh, she doesn’t take herself too seriously, she’s not looking for any commitment, she’s a damn good cook-”
“But she’s a Muggle!” he said. “And I don’t mean that to be a slight on her character at all. I’m sure she’s a lovely person; Lily’s said as much, and we all know she doesn’t take nonsense from anyone, but the fact remains, she’s a Muggle, you’re a wizard, and the Ministry are taking the Statute of Secrecy as serious as ever! All it takes is one small slip for her to find out about us, and Merlin knows what that would bring about.”
Brigid stared at Freddie in amazement.
“You know, that was actually a sensible, well-made point,” she said. “You do surprise me sometimes, Weasley.”
“Got to keep you on your toes.” He ruffled her hair. “Seriously though, mate.” He turned back to face me. “Is this realistically going to work out?”
I sighed heavily.
“It just seems like everyone is preaching at me about the whole thing,” I said.
“Look, you know me, I’m the last person to lecture you – or anyone for that matter – about what you choose to do with your life. Normally, I’d be saying to go for it, and to do what you want without listening to the crap Murphy and everyone else spurts out. But in this instance,” he continued, ignoring Brigid’s indignant cry, “there’s a lot hanging on it if it goes wrong. Just my two Knuts’ worth.”
“Nothing is going to go wrong,” I said firmly. “Trust me, I know what I’m doing. It won’t go wrong.”
In hindsight, a night out in a Muggle nightclub with several members of my family, my agent, all the unmarried members of the Falcons squad and numerous other Quidditch League players wasn’t the ideal plan. Then again, I wasn’t exactly renowned for my good planning.
“If we all get out of here with the Statute of Secrecy intact, it’ll be a bloody miracle,” Rose muttered to me and Ryan as we sat at the bar. Carlotta was yet to arrive.
“You need to lighten up, Weasley,” replied Ryan, who was never fazed by anything. To him, the presence of more than twenty drunken witches and wizards in a Muggle establishment wasn’t a problem.
I wouldn’t have been bothered if Eoin and Feargus Lynch hadn’t turned up along with Aisling, a teammate from the Bats. I wasn’t too impressed with her for bringing them; not I was scared of them, but I did quite like my nose the shape it was.
“She can’t, it’s in her nature to worry about anything and everything. Haven’t you met her mother?” I chipped in.
“Oh, Rosie,” Ryan sighed and slung an arm round her shoulders. “It’s alright, we can still cure this. A wild ride on the Murphy joystick would lighten you up no end.”
“Never let me hear you say that again.”
Brigid had just joined us, though the look on her face suggested that she wished she hadn’t.
“Well, don’t interrupt when I’m making my move!” he protested.
Brigid turned to Rose.
“I profusely apologise,” she said. “He’s normally not allowed out after six.”
“Oh, go snog Freddie,” Ryan scowled.
Brigid replied with a rude gesture.
“What time’s your bird getting here, Jimmy?” she asked me. “I’m quite keen to meet her properly.”
“Have you not already?” Rose chipped in.
Brigid shook her head.
“Seen her once, didn’t say a word to each other. You?”
“James dragged me along once when she was working here and he’d ran out of drinking partners. I didn’t talk to her though.”
“I’ve properly met her,” Ryan said.
“What’s she like?” Brigid asked.
“Fit. Nice legs.”
“Funnily enough, those weren’t the attributes I was interested in.”
“They’re the only ones James is interested in, why should anything else be relevant?”
“Because, rather surprisingly, I have differing tastes to James,” Brigid said dryly.
“She held her own with mini Potter, if that helps at all.”
“I heard about that,” she said with a grin. “She sounds thoroughly likeable on that basis alone.”
“Why did you ask me if you’ve already heard all about her?” Ryan asked.
“I wanted your opinion!”
“I gave you my bloody opinion, and you weren’t interested!” He rolled his eyes. “Bloody women. Anyway, Quiggers looks like she needs rescuing, and I wouldn’t want to deprive her of her knight in shining armour.”
“Careful, Murph, you don’t want to get on the wrong side of a Lynch,” I warned, glancing across to where Aisling was sitting with Eoin Lynch.
“It’s alright, Junior, I’m big enough and strong enough to look after myself. Don’t bother waiting around for me.”
And with that, he headed towards Aisling like a man possessed.
“You can’t take some people anywhere,” Brigid sighed. “I really hope he doesn’t get with Aisling. It would make things so awkward...”
“Now you’re the one who’s worrying.” I nudged her shoulder. “Get some drink down you, Murph. Be frivolous, for once in your long-suffering life.”
“It’s only long-suffering because you make it so,” she said dolefully. “It’d be so much easier if I didn’t have to worry about what bint you’ve got in your bed on any given week.”
“I sincerely apologise for being the source of such trouble,” Carlotta cut in dryly, having appeared out of nowhere.
“Oh no, it’s fine, it’s just most people book their appointments with James through me,” Brigid replied breezily.
“You’ll be Bridget, right?” Carlotta continued with a raised eyebrow.
“It’s Brigid actually, but I’ll forgive you the slip; most of James’s women tend to be lacking in brain cell count.”
“I must say, I definitely think my brain cell count has shrunk since I’ve started spending time with James and his motley crew. It must be adapting to its surroundings.”
“A snappy comeback with a jibe at Jimmy included? I don’t know how he keeps up with you, you’re far too sharp for him,” Brigid said with a smirk.
“We don’t spend all that much time talking, so it’s not too much of a blow to his ego. Anyway, can I get you a drink?”
“Ooh, I do like you.” Brigid set her empty glass down on the bar counter. “I suppose I can force myself.”
“Don’t feel too special, Brie, she gets them for free,” I said.
“I don’t have to though,” Carlotta pointed out. “And on that note, I won’t be getting you a freebie. You can bloody well buy your own.” She turned to Rose. “And you’ll be a cousin, right?”
“I am, much as I try to deny it. And yes, a drink would be lovely, thank you.”
“Well, nobody can accuse you lot of beating round the bush,” Carlotta said with a slight shake of the head. “You want a drink then, James?”
“If you’re offering, then I wouldn’t want to disappoint you.” I grinned and she rolled her eyes, but she was smiling as she turned to the bar.
I glanced around the bar to see what everybody else was doing and groaned. Freddie seemed to be getting friendly with a girl in the opposite corner.
I turned back to the girls and opened my mouth to speak, but Carlotta caught my eye and gave me a warning glare and a slight shake of her head, as she handed me a drink. When she turned to give Brigid her drink, I shot another glance at Freddie. His hand was now dangerously far up the girl’s leg.
“Don’t keep looking over there, idiot. You’ll draw her attention to them,” Carlotta hissed in my ear, as she slipped her free arm round my waist.
“When did you notice he was there?” I asked, half-burying my head in her hair to stop Brigid from overhearing.
“Walked past him when I came in. It’s fine though; we just need to keep her attention away from him all night.”
“Yeah, cause that’ll be easy,” I said sarcastically.
She smiled slightly.
“I’ve got it covered. Go do some boy stuff with some of your entourage, just make sure you behave and come back for me at the end of the night. I fully intend to crash at yours regardless of your intentions.”
“I always leave a spare key under the doormat, so if you get desperate it’s not a problem.”
A smirk played at the corner of her mouth. “My word, things are stepping up. I’m not sure if I like feeling so trusted all of a sudden. Now off you go, I don’t want to see you for at least two hours.”
I obeyed her. I was too scared of her wrath not to.
Not that I’d tell her that.
The next weekend Gryffindor were playing Hufflepuff at Hogwarts. Hugo had been Gryffindor’s Keeper since my Fifth Year, his Second, and was now also Captain. Five of us had made the house team. I’d been the first, as Victoire, Dominique and Molly had all preferred spectating to playing, and ever since my first game, the entire family had made an effort to attend all of our matches.
Mum turned up at mine in the morning, as usual and restocked my kitchen cupboards. Then we Flooed to the Three Broomsticks to meet up with Dad, Al, Uncle George, Aunt Angelina, Freddie and Roxanne. I immediately made a beeline for Freddie to prevent an awkward conversation with Dad, whom I hadn’t seen since Grandma Lily’s birthday two weeks before.
“How long till your first match?” Freddie asked, as we made our way out of the pub.
“Three weeks, mate.”
“Bloody hell, that’s still ages away!”
“You wouldn’t think that if you heard Sinead at training. It may as well be three days away, the fuss she’s making. She has no faith in us at all sometimes, which is quite worrying given that she’s the one who signed us all. I’m getting slightly nervous about your sister though, she’s far too good. I’m gonna be looking over my shoulder all season if I’m not careful.”
He wrinkled his nose.
“Don’t let her hear you say that, or she’ll get as big-headed as you,” he advised.
“I’m not at all big-headed, I’m just confident in my ability,” I defended myself.
He snorted with laughter.
As soon as we reached the castle, I decided to visit the kitchens.
“You’ve just had breakfast!” Albus said.
“Was there something wrong with it?” Mum raised an eyebrow.
“Not at all,” I said hurriedly. “I just want to visit Kreacher. I’ve not seen him in a while.”
Mum’s brow was still raised.
“If you say so.” She didn’t sound convinced. “See you in the stands then. And try not to cause too much trouble.”
“Me, cause trouble? What would give you such an idea?”
“You’re my son, James,” she said simply.
Nobody else was up for a trip to the kitchens, so I made my way there by myself. Several of the students pointed and stared as I passed them, but that was something I was used to. It had been happening since I was at school and had only increased since I’d made the Falcons first team.
Lily was in the kitchen when I entered, tucking into a plate of bacon and eggs.
“Morning, greedy.” I sat opposite her.
“Didn’t get to eat breakfast this morning,” she explained. “Maddie overturned the porridge bowl.”
“Why did that stop you eating breakfast?”
“She was holding it over Rosalind’s head at the time.”
I laughed loudly.
“Needless to say,” she continued, “she got into trouble for it. She’s in our room at the moment, been ordered to spend all day there, bless her. Which reminds me. Kreacher!”
He appeared beside us.
“Yes, Miss Lily?”
“Can you take some food to Maddie, please? She’s in our room. Take whatever’s easiest; she’s not fussy.”
“Yes, Miss Lily,” he replied. He turned to me. “Can Kreacher get Master James anything?”
“Toast, please,” I said with a grin.
Within moments, Kreacher had vanished and another house elf materialised next to me, with a plate of toast above its head.
“Thanks,” I took the place. “Um, any chance of a goblet?”
A third house elf promptly handed me one.
I poured myself a glass of pumpkin juice from the jug in front of Lily.
“So, Maddie’s in a bit of trouble, then?”
She rolled her eyes.
“Of course she is. You know what Rosalind’s like; has to make a massive deal out of everything. Bloody bint.” She scowled. “You should’ve heard the godawful squeal she let out when the porridge landed on her.”
“But Maddie did it deliberately?”
“Of course she did, she’s Maddie. Rosalind was making jibes about her dad again.”
I scowled. Maddie’s dad was a sore conversation topic with her.
“They not punishing Rosalind?”
“Probably not. Her dad funds too much of the school.”
“So does Dad-”
“I’m not using Dad’s generosity to have my own way all the time,” she said flatly.
“But you’re Head Girl, surely you have sway over the teachers?”
She let out a laugh.
“When it comes to Maddie, I’m the last person they listen to, James.”
Kreacher reappeared next to Lily.
“Kreacher has taken some food to Miss Madeleine, who sends her gratitude,” he said with a bow.
“Thank you, Kreacher!” Lily said, beaming. “Was anyone else there?”
“Yes, Master Christopher was there.”
“I knew he’d have snuck in.” She smirked. “Thanks, Kreacher.”
He sunk into another bow, before vanishing back into the hub of the kitchen.
“How are Maddie and Kit?” I asked.
“Fine, porridge incidents aside. Maddie sends her love-”
“And I return it whole-heartedly.”
“I really wish you two didn’t get on, it would make my life so much more bearable.”
“Well, no, but at least I wouldn’t have to put up with you two flirting every time you see each other.”
“As I’ve said countless times before, you flirt with Murph all the time! Pot, kettle, much?”
“He initiates it,” she sniffed. “He’s an animal, that boy.”
“And yet, I seem to remember that it was you who planted a smacker on him the other week...”
“I was drunk,” she defended herself.
“Rubbish excuse. Point being, you behave round him and I’ll behave round Bennett.”
“James,” she said loftily, getting to her feet, “you never behave.”
The match was over within ten minutes. It was a bit of a shame, as it meant we didn’t get to see Hugo’s team properly in action, though he did make a spectacular save the one time that Hufflepuff actually had an opportunity to score.
As the match had been so short, we all headed back to the Three Broomsticks afterwards for a few celebratory drinks. I didn’t stay for too long. Having Dad, Uncle Percy and Molly all in the same room as me was off-putting and a situation I tended to avoid whenever possible, so after brief chats with Al, Aunt Audrey, Uncle George, Nana Weasley and Hugo, I said my goodbyes and Apparated back to the flat.
The first sign that something was wrong was Cordelia’s loud, startled squealing. A millisecond later, the squealing was drowned out by an ear-splitting scream from behind me. I span round sharply, drawing my wand, to see the third sign – the moving photo of Lily and Brigid that belonged on my coffee table, was lying on the floor, its frame smashed, at the feet of Carlotta. Her hands were clasped to her mouth, as she stared at me and the wand I had trained on her, wide-eyed and pale-faced.
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