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Chapter 19 : In The Art Of Transformation
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Oh, who would have thought it would end up like this?
- Before The Worst --- The Script
15th June - 4th year
"You are a big, fat, arrogant pig, James Potter!"
"And you're a cold, nasty bitch, Charlie Walker!"
The two of them were standing in the entrance hall, fury in her eyes, amusement in his.
She frowned, "Yeah, you made that pretty clear in this letter to the Agony Aunt at witch weekly."
She flourished the newspaper in front of him, her blue eyes cold and stony, and began to read.
"Dear Doris, I have a problem going to sleep at night knowing what a heartless bitch I am. Also, I'm jealous of James Potter, my enemy, and of how awesome and cool he is. I mean…he's funny, he's clever, he's good looking. And did I mention his practically super-human strength on the quidditch pitch? The other night I thought it might be funny to lock him outside of our common room, and change the password, so that he had to spend the night outside in nothing his boxers. Ever since then I've realized how mean I am, but how should I change? Should I tell him that I give up our feud?"
James was smirking at her. She whacked him on the arm with the newspaper.
"Super human strength?" she repeated incredulously, "You wish, Potter."
"You're just jealous."
She glared at him and continued reading, "Here's the answer. Dear Charlotte (Not Charlie, Charlotte, I might add), it sounds like you have some issues. Peace and love, girl!" She said that sentence with extreme disgust, "This James guy sounds like quite the victim. You should really try a be nice to people, and they will treat you equally nicely. I'm so glad that you're trying to make a change. Love, Doris."
James chuckled. Charlie glared.
"You son of a bitch, Potter!" She whacked him with the newspaper again, "The whole bloody school reads Witch Weekley!"
"Really?" he smirked, "Because that hadn't occurred to me!"
She glared darkly at him, "Oh, I'll have my revenge, just you wait, Potter."
"Oh no, I've angered the beast," he laughed, "Whatever, Walker. This was revenge for you locking me outside the common room all night!"
"You poor thing!" She cackled, "Did you get cold? Did you cry for your mummy?"
"Shove it, Walker," he snapped, "Oh, look! Someone reading Witch Weekly!"
He had noticed Faye Hamel walking down the corridor, her pretty auburn hair swishing from side to side, as she flicked through the pages.
"Turn to page Sixty," he recommended. She gave him a funny look, as she always did, and continued to walk on, but flicked though more rapidly out of pure curiosity.
"Aww, rejected by your lover, again," Charlie taunted.
"This coming from someone who's never even been asked to Hogsmede. Sounds like bitter jealousy to me."
Charlie laughed, "See if you can use that super-strength to tackle Faye. I mean, that's the only way she'll stand still long enough to listen to you."
"You should do what Doris says, Walker, and start being a little nicer. Don't you agree?"
She narrowed her eyes and hissed, "If I agree with you, then we'll both be wrong."
And with that she flounced off, yelling for the entire corridor to hear, "YOU'LL BE SORRY POTTER! MARK MY WORDS! YOU'LL BE VERY, VERY SORRY!"
* * *
1 year later.
"Take my hand."
She did, face pale, eyes steadily fixed on the ground. Her hand felt cold and clammy in mine and I squeezed it to give her confidence.
"Promise you won't let go?" she whispered.
"Merlin, Charlie. Every time you ask me that, and have I ever let you down?"
"No. Sorry, James."
"Don't apologize," I said warmly, "You can do it. You've done it before."
"There's always the possibility of falling," she said.
"To win, you've got to be prepared to fail," I reminded her.
She gave a weak chuckle, "Cheesy. Is that from one of your quidditch captain handbooks?"
"Don't change the subject," I grinned, "Just do it. I promise I won't let go."
"I'll never let go Jack!" She laughed.
"Stop quoting Titanic and walk, woman!"
She took in a deep breath, and took a step.
It was a shaky step, she was trembling all over, but it was still a step. After putting her weight on the next leg, she moved forward again.
"You're doing it!" I cheered.
She gave a shaky laugh, before trying again. Another step. Then another. And another.
I laughed out loud, "I bloody told you you could do it!"
She took one more step, her face white with effort, hand gripping mine, lips pale as she pressed them together.
"I should stop," she said uneasily, "I'm tired."
"Okay, just one more," I grinned.
She nodded. But one step more proved to be too much, and her knees promptly gave way. She crumpled to the floor and I reacted quickly, slipping an arm under her and carrying her towards the bed. She sat down, looking drained and weak.
"Sorry," I said, "We can stop when you want to next time."
"No," she smiled, shaking her head, "It felt good. Pushing myself."
"You shouldn't push yourself too hard," I countered.
"I won't, you worry too much James," she laughed, leaning on me for support.
There was a slight pause, where I held her body weight, and she leant her head on my shoulder.
It was at moments like this when I couldn't help but wonder at how we had come so far. Barely two months ago Charlie had been in the hospital, unable to move. And barely a six months ago, we were fighting tooth and nail to beat each other at…well pretty much everything.
After Charlie's initial suggestion that we amp our awkward relationship up a notch and become friends, things became decidedly less awkward for the two of us. We managed to fall into a friendly frame of mind with one another, far fewer nasty comments were exchanged, and I had almost completely forgotten that we had almost crossed the line between enemy and …something else.
Yeah, I had almost definitely forgotten all about that. The kiss. The kiss that both of us liked to pretend had never happened.
Now, I swear it was as if we went from hating each other to being best buds overnight. It was almost as though we had always been friends, and never even realized it.
The others had been baffled by the change, but whether they thought it strange or not was completely won over by the great relief that we no longer fought. And somehow, my life became a lot easier.
I helped her sit back down in her wheelchair. It was special in that she didn't need a ramp - it floated over rough or uneven surfaces easily. She didn't even have to push the wheels to move around, because the chair already knew where she wanted to go.
"Thanks for helping me," she sighed, easing herself back into her chair.
I scoffed, "And what kind of friend would I be if I didn't?"
"A crappy one," she admitted, "Still, thanks."
"You're welcome," I replied, and, just for a moment, a comfortable sort of silence fell over us.
"You excited for the game today?" she asked me.
I felt a jolt in my stomach at the idea that in an hour I would be playing in the quidditch cup final. Gryffindor's victory depended on my skills as a captain, which I felt had definitely come into question the last couple of months, "More like terrified," I laughed.
"You'll win. I know it," she smiled at me.
"Oh, so you can predict the future, can you?"
"Of course! Didn't you know?"
"Must have slipped past me when we exchanged the pleasantries."
She laughed, "I'll be there when you win. On the pitch, with you and the team, when you have the cup in your hand."
"Is that a promise?" I asked, "I want you to be there to share the glory. Part of it is yours after all."
"It's a promise," she grinned. We shook on it.
The door to the dormitory opened and Fred came wondering in.
He paused, after spotting Charlie, "Oh, sorry to interrupt."
"No worries," said Charlie, moving her chair towards the open door, "I was just leaving."
"I just came up to get Max's birthday present," he grinned.
He grabbed a small box off his bedside table, and opened it to show us. Inside was a delicate necklace with a small, clear blue stone that changed colour when it caught the light.
"It's an aquamarine," Freddie explained, "Her birthstone."
He seemed very pleased with himself and Charlie and I smiled at him. But, with a hint of nervousness, he pushed the box towards Charlie.
"Is it nice? I mean, from a girl's point of view."
She nodded, "It's lovely Freddie," but just to tease him she added, "Then again what do I know? I've never worn jewelry in my life." She turned her chair around and left for the door, "Well, I'm off. The match is in one hour, and if I'm going to be able to see anything when i'm sitting in this thing, I should really get going."
She nodded at me, "Don't panic, James. You're a great captain. I've seen you. You'll be the one to give Gryffindor the victory this year, I know it."
"It's just," I felt my stomach contorting into knots, "It's the cup."
"And I expect you to bring me that cup," she grinned, "If you don't then we'll have to have a serious discussion."
"Okay," I laughed, "Don't forget your promise!"
"I won't!" She called. She nodded at Fred, "She'll love it, Fred, don't worry about it."
"Funny, isn't it?" Fred murmured, "This time last year you two were scheming against each other, and when I tried to crash Max's birthday party she tried to crucio me. How the times do change!"
Charlie smiled, but didn't answer. She left, moving easily down the winding staircase.
Once she was out of earshot, Fred looked at me cautiously, "You two are friends, right? This isn't some evil conspiracy you two have come up with to lull us all into a false sense of security?"
He clearly wasn't joking, looking at me with a look of urgency and nerves. I laughed, "Merlin, Freddie we weren't that bad."
"You never know," Fred said suspiciously, "Anyway, even if this is all a lie, and you two still hate each other, let me just say that you two look much better as friends than as enemies."
"What do you mean, look better?" I frowned, unsure of what he meant.
"Well…" he paused, "You both smile a lot more," Then he let out a short laugh of disbelief, "Especially her. Smiling looks good on her, who knew?"
I let out a short laugh of agreement. He was right. Charlie was hardly ever seen without a smile anymore.
"Weird, though," I remarked, "She starts smiling after she has a life changing accident."
"I'm no psychologist," Fred said wisely, in a tone that told me he was about to give me a full analysis, "But Charlie has a shit family life. Her dad is an arse. Her mum stopped writing letters ages ago. Even her brothers, who are the only redeeming part, barely keep in touch at all. She always had Max, Dan and Alex for friends, but you were always there, just another person that she had to hate. Now that you're her friend, well…that's one less person she doesn't have to be angry with."
"That was pretty deep Freddie," I laughed, although privately I was impressed.
"I have my moments," Fred murmured, smiling warmly.
I checked my watch, "Shit, the match is in fifteen minutes!" Panic and dread began to fill up inside me.
"I'll see you out there then," Fred said, "Gryffindor's going to win, I can feel it."
"Oh, so you're a divination expert too now?" I laughed.
Fred rolled his eyes, "Shut up and go win us the cup."
* * *
This was so fucking unfair.
Why? Why now? On my fucking birthday? Why did I have to be born to such fucking arseholes? Why couldn't I have been born to hippies who smoked marijuana, did rain dances and thought that everything was fucking chill. That would be fucking awesome.
But no, I was born to rich, French snobs.
Ever since the Christmas holidays, and Elodie's fateful wedding, my parents seemed to think that Hogwarts must be a breeding ground for wild, uncivilized animals. They were impressed enough with Charlie, who had lied through her teeth the whole time, pretending that she was a bookish nerd. I'm pretty sure they didn't buy it, but they appreciated her efforts to pretend.
Maybe for one blissful second we could have pulled it off. Convinced my parents that I was still the pretty little veela princess they had raised me to be, and that Hogwarts hadn't turned me into an angry, uncivilized psychopath.
But it was never going to work. Freddie bloody Weasley made damn sure of that.
He showed up at the wedding, I screamed the living piss out of him and my parents immediately lost all faith in the British school system.
Somehow they had got wind that I was now dating the boy I had screamed at, Fred Weasley, whose father owned a jokeshop no less (how undignified), and were determined to save their precious, misguided psychopath of a daughter by transferring her to Beauxbatons.
That's right. I was moving back to France. And all because my parents thought that I'd been allowed to run wild here, and Beauxbatons would help to whip me into shape.
I hated that school. Elodie went there. She'd come home every summer, with that perfect, blue silk uniform, not a blonde hair out of place, and talk about how brilliant that school was. It wasn't, of course, the girls who went there were all stuck up ninnies, and I hated the lot of them.
Charlie hated them too. After all, she'd been to Beauxbatons, she'd experienced the posh, ice queens first hand, and she'd loathed every second.
Now I was headed there.
I glanced down at the crumpled letter in my hand and began to rip it to shreds. The loose fragments of words, words like 'unbecoming', 'disgrace' and 'ladylike', drifted down to the floor.
I left the common room in a huff, not sure of which of my friends I would run into first, or how I was going to tell them.
* * *
The quidditch pitch was full by the time I got down there. The noise was deafening, the cheering and screaming from both sides building up into a tumultuos roar.
Great, so now I was being forced to transfer schools and there would be no decent seats left. This really wasn't one of my better birthdays.
I rounded a corner, looking for the entrance to the stands. Fred stood there, with his back to me, talking to someone. I narrowed my eyes to see who it was.
Fiona Allen. Of course. Her and Fred were paired up in potions, much to Fred's dismay and my annoyance. Fiona was one of those girls who flirted with everyone, regardless of whether they were taken or not.
She giggled at something Fred said, and gave him a playful shove. My jaw set angrily.
I approached them and gave Fiona a fierce glare. She gave me a sly grin, like she was saying 'Your boyfriend's cute. Can I have him?'
"Oh, hi Max!" she said, beaming at me, "Happy Birthday!"
What. a. bitch.
"Fiona was just telling me the funniest story-" Fred began but I cut him off.
"That's nice," I snapped, "But I really need to talk to you. Alone."
Fiona shrugged, "Okay then, I'll leave you two be."
I swear she was about to finish that seemingly harmless sentence with…'for now'.
"Bye bye then," I glared until she finally turned her back. Then I rounded on Fred.
"What were you doing talking to her?" I snapped.
Fred raised an eyebrow, "Fiona? We were just talking."
"God Fred, as soon as I turn my back…" I trailed off as I turned away from him.
He knew me well enough to know that something else was going on. He took me by the shoulders and turned me around to face him.
"What is going on?" he asked me, looking at me with deep concern.
Ugh. I hated that he was so patient. I hated that he was so nice to me every time I was a complete bitch to him. I hated him.
"Nothing is bloody going on," I snapped, "If you want to go off and snog girls like Fiona Allen, then be my guest!"
"Max, what the hell are you on about?" he stared at me, "What's happened?"
I was close to tears now. He was too perfect, and every part of me hated him for that. And then there was that little part of me that loved him so badly. That tiny little part that right now I wished had never existed.
"You…you deserve better than me," I whispered.
He just let out a dark chuckle, "I love you, you crazy bint, now what the hell is going on with you?"
"My parents…"I trailed off, unable to finish my sentence.
"Bugging you again, are they?" he said comfortingly, stroking my hair lovingly and drawing me in.
Before I could say anything else he withdrew a box from his jacket.
I looked at it questioningly.
"Happy Birthday," he murmured.
I took the box and opened it. A necklace, so beautiful with it's intricate, silver chain, lay in it's depths.
I stared at it momentarily, speechless.
"It's an aquamarine," Fred explained, and I heard the anxious note in his voice, "Your birthstone."
I remained speechless. No one had ever given me such a thoughtful gift before.
I closed the box.
"I'm moving to France," I whispered.
"What?" he asked. He hadn't heard me properly. He was still blissfully unaware of the thing that was sure to split us up for good.
"I'm moving to France," I said more clearly.
His gaze darkened. Once again he asked, "What?"
Only this time I knew he had heard me.
* * *
"AND JAMES POTTER SAVES YET ANOTHER GOAL! AND WHAT A SAVE!" The commentator bellowed at the top of lungs into the microphone, "MERLIN'S BEARD! THE GRYFFINDOR TEAM IS ON FIRE TODAY!"
I raised my fists in the air and cheered. The team was on fire. James had saved every goal, and Rose and the other chasers hadn't missed a single shot.
"The score is now 70-nil to Gryfindor!"
I cheered wildly, knowing that James would be looking down from his position at the goal posts, hoping to see me cheering him on.
Sometimes I stopped to wonder at how we could have come to this point. Maybe we had both just…grown up. I certainly felt safer with him as a friend than as an enemy. Hating James took up so much energy that sometimes these days I had to stop myself, and I had the strange sensation that I had forgotten something. Of course I didn't have to worry about that anymore. Even the Peakes problem had gone away, now that Peakes was working on his attitude, and now that there was no possibility of me joining the team. That element of competition had certainly helped to create the rift between me and James, and now that it wasn't there it was almost as though we didn't have anything better to do than become friends.
But the most surprising thing was not that we had become friends, but how much I liked him as a person. I mean, friendship didn't necessarily mean that you were friends with nice people. Case and point: Max Duchamp. She was as sweet as sugar on her good days, and a downright monster on her bad days.
But James never seemed to have bad days. He was there every minute, of every day since my accident. My other friends cared just as much, but James had made such an effort to be nice to me that I couldn't help but like the crap out of him.
Max was there whenever I needed her, but recently she had been distant. In fact, today, on her birthday, she was nowhere to be seen.
Alex was sitting down beside me, and a feeling of unease began to build up inside me.
"Where's Max?" I asked her, "It's her birthday and I saved her a seat."
"She was fighting bloody murder with Fred," Alex replied.
I frowned, "What? Why?"
"I don't know," she shrugged helplessly, "I passed them on my way in. They both seemed pretty angry."
I began to feel anxious, "I hope everything's OK."
Alex opened her mouth to answer but just then Owen sat down on my opposite side. He was smiling and held out a pair of omnioculars to me.
I took them gratefully, "Thanks Owen."
He noticed Alex then, and his gaze instantly became one of annoyance.
"Who invited the bookworm?" he muttered as he leant back into his seat.
Alex immediately flared up, visibly infuriated, "I'm sorry, peabrain, is that supposed to be an insult?"
He leant even further back in his seat, the picture of nonchalance, "Why don't you work it out? If you're so clever."
Alex let out a snort of derisive laughter, "The numbskull knows how to tell a joke. How witty."
"Guys, can you, for once, shut up?" I asked.
Alex raised an eyebrow at me. I avoided her gaze guiltily. Bit pot calling the kettle black. How many times had she wanted to say that to James and I?
Under her breath, Alex muttered, "I suppose now you and Potter are all chummy, the rest of us have to follow your shiny example. Sounds fair."
She folded her arms submissively and a long silence ensued.
I knew that Alex hated Owen. She hated him with good reason. Ever since she had answered every question in their first transfiguration correctly Owen had teased her relentlessly. Alex, being completely unashamed of her brains, merely retaliated by pointing out that Owen's IQ was only in the double digits when it came to school work.
My friendship with James wasn't the only unpredictable development since my accident. Owen had proved to be a good mate, not quite as devoted as James, but he certainly knew how to make you laugh. Needless to say, Alex disapproved. Often she asked me why Owen had to hang around us…all the time. My sudden friendship with Owen had only caused she to be even more on edge. The atmosphere was constantly tense whenever we were all in the same room.
"Any idea where Dan is?" I asked, in an effort to break the tangible silence. Dan was another of my friends who was absent.
"None," Alex answered curtly.
Suddenly Zach appeared at her side, "She's just coming," he told me, "She was just getting her Gryffindor flag."
He sat down in the vacant seat beside Alex.
"How are you Alex?" he asked her. I detected a note of anxiety in his voice. Poor Zach. A girl as intimidating as Alex was hardly ever in the mood for casual conversation.
"Fine," she said slowly, as always she was unnerved questions like that. They meant she had to ask a question back, "And yourself?"
"Good," he replied slowly, without elaborating.
After that he didn't say anything, and the brief conversation was followed by an extremely awkward silence. Alex focused on the players, never taking her eyes off the speeding figures.
"So exciting game, huh?" Zach continued, beginning to ramble on a bit "It's great…quidditch, isn't it? I mean, nice to get out and watch a game once in a while. You like quidditch?"
Alex avoided his gaze, keeping her eyes fixed on the blur of color above us, "Not really. In fact, I think it's a pretty barbaric sport."
Another uncomfortable silence followed.
"I'm going to find Max," I said, "If her and Freddie were fighting on her birthday then she's probably in pretty bad shape."
I moved my wheelchair out through the screaming Gryffindor fans.
"AND POTTER SAVES ANOTHER ONE! 80-nil to Gryffindor!"
As I wheeled myself down the ramp towards the exit I glanced up at James. He was doing brilliantly. He didn't need me watching him every second of the way. Right now, it was Max's birthday, and she was fighting with Fred for some reason or another. She was the priority.
I moved through the stands, past the exit and out onto the grounds. The muffled sound of voices to my right caught my attention. The sound of arguing. I pushed my chair uneasily towards the noise, hoping it wouldn't be Max and Fred.
I rounded a corner and there they were, just a short distance away, the sound of the arguing almost completely drowned out by the cheers from the stadium.
The sound of a sneeze behind me made me freeze. I spun around, still unnoticed by Max and Fred, who looked heated and angry.
No one was there. I narrowed my eyes. On the grass I saw a shadow, the shadow of a hunched figure. I turned around the corner I had just passed.
Faye Hamel sat crouched under the wooden stands. I stared. How had I not noticed her before?
"What the hell are you doing down there?" I asked.
My eyes trailed over the extendable ear that she held in one hand, to the quick notes quill in another hand. I gaped at her in horror, "Are you recording their argument?"
She rolled her eyes, "Please, keep your voice down and don't blow my cover. Can't you see I'm in the middle of research?"
I scoffed, "Research? I'll give you research." And with that I extended my wand and said, "Accio extendable ear!"
The ear flew out of her hand and dropped neatly into my lap. I could hear Max and Fred arguing more distinctly now.
"Give that back," Faye snapped in annoyance, "Stop interfering with the press."
"Eavesdropping on people's private business and then reporting it for gossip is not the press!" I retorted.
Faye got to her feat, as gracefully as she could, and glared at me, "Says you."
"Says anyone with morals," I corrected her, "I won't let you come here with your poison, ruining lives."
She smirked then, "Someone's feeling dramatic today. May I ask what exactly what it was I did to you?"
"Really?" I asked, "You don't remember? James and I asked you to write an article exposing our captain, and two days after it was published you told on us to McGonagall. Oh yeah, and you also wrote an article designed to portray me as a violent psychopath after I was forced to quit the team."
"Oh," Faye said, "You're the girl who had the accident."
"Yes, the girl who had the accident," I snapped, "Glad you remember."
"I heard on the grapevine that you weren't so violent anymore," she smirked in a way that irritated me to no end, "Ever since your little paralysis."
"I'll have no problem punching you in the teeth," I said, "My accident may have put me in a wheelchair, but it did nothing to my right hook."
My aggression only seemed to amuse her, "So why is it that you're stopping me from doing my job, and not out there cheering on your little boyfriend?"
I glared, "Because the two people arguing are my friends...and he's not my boyfriend."
Faye didn't seem interested in the first half of my sentence, "Really? James Potter? I heard you two-"
"Well you heard bullshit," I cut her off impatiently, "And what? Now suddenly you can remember his name?"
"James Potter? The captain of the Gryffindor quidditch team?" She let off a derisive laugh, "Now why wouldn't I know his name?"
"Well, up until he became captain you knew him as Jacob," I uttered cooly.
"If you're here to attack me for my name dropping crimes I suggest you move on. Your boyfriend James is doing particularly well today. I daresay they'll win the cup, and you know he'll want you to be there when he wins it."
"He is not my boyfriend," I insisted again, terrified that the next front page of the Hogwart's grapevine would be all about our secret relationship, "And why do you care? It's none of your business."
"I care because it means you'll get out of my way," she muttered menacingly, "So I can listen to those two over there."
I felt anger rise up in me. "Accio parchment!"
The quill stopped scribbling across the page and the parchment left Faye's grip and flew towards me.
"Give that back," she hissed.
"Incendio," I muttered to the corner of the page. Bright yellow flames began to lick their way up the side of the parchment.
I glanced over the words.
At the top of the page the record of the conversation was written.
Stop acting as if this is my fault!
I wouldn't be moving to France if you hadn't barged in on my sister's wedding!
I looked up, as the flames continued to devour the words. I stared at Faye.
"She's moving to France?" I frowned, hardly able to swallow what I had just read.
Faye pursed her lips in amusement, "Oh, her parents are moving her to Beauxbatons at the end of the year. Her and the Weasley boy both seem very torn up about it. Didn't she tell you?" She chuckled, "I thought she was your friend."
I stared around the corner. The noise had stopped. Nothing was emitted from our end of the extendable ear. Fred stood there alone. Max had left, and after searching the landscape I saw her running off towards the Black Lake, clearly distraught. Fred leant against the stands, rubbing his forehead with stress.
"I have to go after her," I muttered, wheeling my chair around.
Almost as soon as I did so, an almighty roar came from the stands. The game was over. I froze, waiting for the verdict.
Over all the cheering I heard the distinct words of the commentator, "Albus Potter has caught the snitch! Gryffindor win by 260 points to nil! What an absolutely incredible game!"
Faye smirked, "Go on then, lover boy's waiting."
I thought about my promise to James. That I would be there with him when he won the house cup. That I would share in his glory. Then I thought about my other best friend. Max, who was being forced to move to France, who'd just had a huge fight with her boyfriend, and clearly needed support.
He would be down on the pitch now, being cheered on by everyone, hugged by everyone, adored by everyone. He wouldn't miss me. He could wait.
Max needed me more.
"Careful," Faye said, "If you're not there to congratulate him, someone else will be."
I glared at her, "Don't you have some other couple to stalk?"
I wheeled my chair around and pushed it in the direction of Max, leaving the quidditch pitch, Faye and James far behind me.
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