Chapter 4 : I really need to think before I act.
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After a four hour long power nap, I woke up feeling refreshed and renewed. Yeah, and that was the biggest load of bullshit that has ever come out of my mouth. I woke up feeling murderous, tired and annoyed. Partly at Mark, for waking me up and assuming shit. Partly at myself, for letting myself get dragged into whatever this was, but mostly at James Potter. What the bloody hell is he thinking? I don’t even know him. I’ve spoken to him about three times in my entire life.
I’m going to walk into the Leaky Cauldron today and kick him as hard as I can, right where the sun don’t shine.
Seriously – is it really that difficult to learn how to spell someone’s name? Surely, after sharing a dormitory with my brother for seven years, he knows how my name is spelt. Urgh. It’s just plain inconsiderate, that’s what it is. Stupid git.
But what to wear? Why am I even bothered? It’s not like I need to impress anyone – and what the fuck is with the cheeky git, telling me I have to look nice? The complete little tosser.
But seriously – what to wear?
I stood in front of my wardrobe in my bra and undies, pawing through the crumpled clothes on cheap plastic hangers, my wand stuck through the base of my ponytail and wondering whether my red bellybutton piercing should be switched for a blue one.
I pulled out a grey tank top and tossed it onto the bed, along with a short pair of denim shorts and a scuffed pair of gladiator sandals that Molly lent to me about six months ago. They weren’t scuffed when she gave them to me.
I shot a quick spell at the clothes to remove the wrinkles and then padded off to the bathroom, cursing loudly as I tripped over an exposed pipe by the wall and landed flat on my face.
Oh, this day is shaping up to be just fabulous.
After pulling on an old leather jacket of Mark’s – it’s from when he was younger, by the way. I’m not swimming in it – and a pair of cheap sunglasses, I conjured up an old fashioned fire and tossed some floo powder into it. I’m running low – I’ll have to get some more from Diagon Alley today.
As well as some food – after eating my granola bar for breakfast, I basically have brown rice to eat for dinner. I seriously hate having to do a food shop – I’m really starting to reach the end of my redundancy pay now. I’m going to have nothing left pretty soon.
“The Leaky Cauldron.” I called into the bright green flames, and I scrunched my eyes shut under the dark lenses as the hot air flew upwards and I was propelled upwards into the chimney stack. Tucking my elbows into my hips and pressing my lips tight shut, I waited for my feet to hit solid ground.
I bloody hate travelling by floo powder, I really do. It’s bloody horrible.
I landed hard in the fireplace of the Leaky Cauldron, my knees giving way underneath me as I wasn’t ready for the landing. I tumbled out of the fire, tripping over my own feet in the process, and landed flat on my back.
“Bloody hell, you are going to be so bad for my image.” I heard someone sigh. I used my ashy fingers to push my sunglasses up into the front of my hair and glared sideways at whoever had spoken.
James Potter was lounging on a two seater sofa in a back booth of the Leaky Cauldron, his legs propped up on a random chair and his hand curled around a tall glass of Firewhiskey, which was already half empty. He also had a pair of sunglasses sitting atop of his head, tucked in amongst the artfully arranged spikes of his hair.
I shot him a quick glare and rolled onto my stomach, covering myself in even more ash in the process, pushing myself off the ground and sitting down opposite him in the booth, trying to brush down the front of my clothes.
“Thanks for helping me up.” I grumbled. “What wanker said chivalry was dead?” Potter smirked and rolled his eyes, taking another long sip of Firewhiskey.
“Want anything?” He grunted, gesturing towards the bar behind him. Thinking about the amount of gold in my purse, I shook my head. “My treat.” He chuckled, as though he was reading my mind.
“Well then, I’ll have a stiff scotch.” I muttered, and Potter nodded, calling the order over his shoulder to the man standing behind the bar.
The man from behind the bar limped over to me – yeah, the crème of the crop work here – and slammed the scotch onto the placemat in front of me, so hard that the liquid sloshed sideways in the glass and spilled over the sides, the amber liquid seeping onto the stained white tablecloth.
I swallowed the first sip, wincing as I swallowed, and then looked back up at Potter. He hadn’t said a word since he offered me a drink – he just sat there looking pensive. Maybe he thinks it makes him look deep.
Yeah, deep as the motherfucking ocean. I drained the rest of the glass and slammed it down on the table, a little louder than I normally would have, in an attempt to gain some attention.
He didn’t even glance in my direction. Honestly – he organises this bloody meeting without telling me why, gets me into a fight with my brother and has the papers writing a load of shit about me (yeah, I really wanted the world to know that I had been made redundant) and he doesn’t even grace me with the pleasure of saying something.
“Look, can you say something already?” I snapped, losing my patience after another few minutes of silence. Potter glanced upwards through his eyelashes, his brown eyes surveying me with something that looked oddly like amusement. “I’m not being funny, but there are better things I could be doing right now – I don’t even know why the fuck I’m here.”
Potter slowly raised his glass to his lips once more, closed them around the cold rim and took a deep gulp, swallowing almost all of what was left of the Firewhiskey, never taking his eyes off me.
“Why? It’s not like you have any work to go to.” He shrugged. My mouth fell open in indignation, an embarrassed flush rising up my neck and flowing into my cheeks. I gaped at him for a moment, and a smirk quirked the corners of his lips. “Read it in the paper.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have come – I don’t even know you.” I snapped, pulling my jacket tighter around my torso and making to stand up. I would have stood up too, but something about the stricken look in Potter’s eyes made me freeze, and slowly sink back down into my chair.
With a quick glance over his shoulder and a wave towards our empty glasses, Limp-A-Lot behind the bar stumbled over and refilled them with the tip of his wand. Potter nodded in thanks and lethargically took another sip of his drink, still not speaking.
“This is hard for me.” He said quietly, after another few minutes of silence (during which my scotch somehow managed to magically disappear). “I’m a newly trained auror – I don’t like asking people for help. Especially people that I barely know.” I blinked at him in shock for a moment, my mouth falling slightly lopsided in surprise.
Why the bloody fuck would James Potter need my help?
“Excuse me?” I snapped, annoyed at his vagueness. I grew up in a family of people that said what they thought and thought what they said, and never bothered to beat around the bush – it was annoying, to say the least, when somebody was so cryptic, so vague, so unwilling to talk.
I gave up a good portion of my day to be here – the least he could do is fucking tell me why.
“I need your help.” He said, and I rolled my eyes, gesturing to Limp-A-Lot to bring me another scotch. “Well, not your help as such – I need you to do me a favour.”
“What kind of favour?” I asked suspiciously, my eyes narrowing so far that I could feel my eyelashes brushing the tops of my cheek. Potter ran his hands through his hair, and drained the rest of his Firewhiskey.
Bloody hell, this boy seems to be an alcoholic in the making.
“You read the article – the newspapers have somehow managed to make the assumption that we are dating.” I nodded, rolling my eyes. I’m unemployed, not thick. “Well... maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if their assumption wasn’t corrected.”
My mouth fell agape, a little of my hair sliding over my shoulder and swinging in front of my face like a pendulum.
“You – want me – to – pretend – to be your – girlfriend?” I asked, trying to sum up the confusing exchange, testing the words on my lips before I spoke them. Surely that couldn’t be what he meant – the idea alone was completely insane.
“No – not pretend to be my girlfriend...” He said, a little crease appearing between his dark eyebrows as he tried to find a way to phrase what he meant. “Just – not correct the press, I suppose. And you might have to –”
Potter cut off, running a hand through the thick spikes of his hair, the crease between his eyebrows deepening.
“I might have to what, exactly?” I asked, my eyelashes once again scraping my cheek. Potter groaned slightly under his breath and went to turn around, but before he could raise his hand and gesture towards his glass again, I half-launched myself across the table between us.
“Forget the freaking Firewhiskey and tell me what the bloody hell you’re on about!” I snarled, and amusement once again quirked up the corner’s of Potter’s lips. God, this bloke is annoying.
If he smirks one more time, then I’m going to take that bloody Firewhiskey glass of his and ram it straight up his – anyway.
“You might have to meet my family... as my girlfriend.” He grumbled. My jaw once again dropped open slightly, and I blinked at him in shock for a moment.
And that would be right around when a muggle camera crew leap out from under the next table with a loud chorus of ‘GOTCHA!’, right?
He cannot be serious – did he honestly just ask me to not pretend to be his girlfriend, but to go and meet his family, pretending to be his girlfriend? And not tell the press that we’re not actually dating. I think I may have dislocated my jawbone from having it hang open for so long.
“You know what – I’m not saying a word until you go back to the beginning and explain this whole freaking thing – including why you don’t want me to tell the press that we’re not dating.” I folded my arms across my chest and knocked his feet off the chair so I could prop up my own.
He shot me the finger. Huh. Clearly this boy is the sheer embodiment of chivalry.
“I have an ex girlfriend – she’s called Bethany. Bethany Noel. The girl is a complete whacked bitch, it’s insane. I spend most of my time trying to get away from the crazy chit. She’s convinced we’re going to get back together, but it’s been months. Me having a girlfriend will get her off my back.” He shrugged, and gestured for his Firewhiskey to be refilled as I downed another scotch.
“My family are getting pissy at me – they say my relationships with girls being in the papers is starting to leave a stain on the family, and they’re not happy. If I bring a proper girlfriend home, it will get them off my back too.” There was another moment of silence as we both drank a little more.
The beginning of a headache was starting to form, a tiny beating heart pulsing under my temple. I scrunched my eyes closed slightly and laid my head in my hands.
Potter continued to talk regardless.
“If you’re my girlfriend, according to my family, then we’re going to have to be in the papers as boyfriend and girlfriend.” He shrugged again, as though it was no big deal. I slipped my fingers around to my temples and slowly rubbed them round.
“Why me?! You don’t even know me!” I said, dragging my hands though the part of my hair that was no longer in round curls like the rest of it, but flopping forwards onto my forehead.
“Well, I don’t like any of the girls I know enough to ask them to be my fake girlfriend.” He shrugged, taking another deep gulp of his Firewhiskey. “I need to get a ton of people off my back, and frankly, you need to pay me back for running into me so hard in the park yesterday. You’re very clumsy, you know.” He shrugged, tossing a little more of his hair off his forehead with a vicious neck-snap.
God, that looked painful.
It’s like when people try to do somersaults on the trampoline and they look like they’re going to snap their spines in half.
“Why the fuck would I want to do that?” I asked eventually. “Not to sound like a selfish bitch – in fact, I’m not bothered if I sound like a selfish bitch. There is nothing in it for me. All I get is my name bitched about in the papers and my brother screaming bloody murder at me.”
I shrugged and went to climb out of the booth, head off home and have another piping hot shower.
But Potter seemed to have other ideas, as he launched himself across the table with those blasted Quidditch reflexes that everyone used to rave about and shoved me back into my seat.
“You’re not going anywhere.” Although his eyes were warning me, just daring me to contradict him, to rise up out of my seat and walk away regardless, his tone still gave off the stiff and cold impression that he just couldn’t care less.
I stared at him for a moment and then sank back down onto the cracked green leather, once again propping my feet up on the dirty chair, that was probably once a pearly white colour but was now mostly resembled the colour your white undies go if you put them in the washing machine with your black t-shirt.
Potter once again went quiet, and gestured for our glasses to be filled up once more. The moment Limp-A-Lot looked like he was going to fill my glass up, I held up a hand to stop him.
“Coffee.” I muttered to my hands. “Milk, two sugars.” Potter quirked an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. Smart of him.
Silence once again pulsed between us in waves, so loud it almost deafened me with its sheer absence of noise. Potter drank some more Firewhiskey, and I made short work of the revolting coffee that Limp-A-Lot served.
“I need to buy some floo powder.” I blurted out suddenly. A red flush instantly followed my words.
Potter looked like he was going to laugh for a moment, or at the very least make one of his scathing and cutting remarks for which he was so famous at Hogwarts, but nothing. He remained silent, shrugged, and made a little check sign in the air over his shoulder.
“Let’s go then.” Limp-A-Lot ‘hurried’ over with the bill, dropping it down in front of Potter with a pleased looking smirk at the amount of empty glasses littered around the empty table. I glared at him slightly as Potter pulled two round galleons out of his pocket and dropped them on the bill.
“Have a wonderful day, Mr Potter. And you too, Miss...” He trailed off, looking up at me with watery blue eyes.
“Woods. Aimee Woods.” I said quietly, and recognition instantly lit up the man’s face. With a slight smirk (seriously, does no one know how to just smile normally these days?) he waved us off. Potter took the lead, tapping the bricks and whatnot like nobody’s business.
Mark does that for me usually. How am I supposed to remember what brick to tap?
“Why do you bother with floo powder?” Potter tossed over his shoulder. “Why not just apparate everywhere – it’s easier and cheaper.”
I felt the familiar sense of irritation and annoyance ball up in my stomach, a slight red haze fuzzing my eyes as I glared ahead at the shiny head of brown hair in front of me. So what, now my methods of travel weren’t good enough for him? Bleeding twat.
“I don’t have a license to apparate.” I muttered, stepping around him and into the familiar cobbled streets of Diagon Alley, pulling my sunglasses out of my hair and in front of my eyes as the sun baked down.
“Why not?” Honestly, for a man who doesn’t give anything away, he sure is a nosy git.
“I can’t stand apparating. It makes me feel sick and then I generally pass out – yeah, no thanks. I couldn’t even get my act together during the test – splinched myself. I was in the hospital for two and a half weeks recovering. So it may be harder and more annoying, but I just floo everywhere.” Aimee, love. Head in the game. You are telling James Potter things about your life like a) he has a right to know, and b) he actually gives a fuck.
Potter didn’t even bother to grace me with an answer (oh please, Potter, let me drink up the elixir that is your speech – let it drain from your golden lips) he just quirked an eyebrow again and continued to stare ahead of himself at the towering Gringotts building.
What’s so fascinating about that? It’s Gringotts. Big. White. Pearly. Full of little creatures that glare at you like you’re the reincarnation of Voldemort when you walk in there.
“Here.” I said quickly, stopping him with a hand to the bicep (you know, for an auror he doesn’t have bad muscles. Or a bad anything else, for that matter). I gestured to the shop we were stood in front of.
Potter sighed, and I could practically hear his eyes roll beneath his glasses.
Oh, I am dreadfully sorry to inconvenience you, Potter. I’ll just stop breathing now, shall I, and stop wasting the perfectly good air that surrounds you.
I pushed my way into the shop, ignoring the annoying tinkling noise of the bell – seriously. Seriously? Potter shuffled in behind me, dragging the soles of his converse on the stone floor.
I smiled at the woman behind the counter and she stared back at me, obnoxiously chewing on her gum as she waited for me to talk.
“Two pounds of floo powder, please.” I muttered, rooting around in my bag for my purse as the woman tipped a mound of black powder onto a pair of shiny brass scales.
Peering inside the purse, I flicked aside a couple of bubblegum wrappers and hunted down a few of the coins that I was sure I saw the other day. I pulled all of the coins that I could find, which was just a big mess of knuts and sickles, and tossed them down onto the counter, where they scattered in all directions.
The woman cocked a heavy pencilled eyebrow and started to pick them up, sighing as though counting my money was of great personal effort to her.
Yeah, I’m soooooo sorry. Is my money in too many coins for you? Bad me for breathing. Jesus, people are being such giant tits today.
“Here.” She sighed, shoving the plastic bag full of charcoal powder to my chest, before her eyes flicked to the boy standing at the back of the store. They rounded to the size of dinner plates and filled with something that looked horribly like obsession. I winced as I waited for the explosion that was sure to come. And sure enough –
“Oh my god! It’s James freaking Potter!” She screamed, launching herself out from behind the counter and stumbling across the room to the bloke that was now smirking arrogantly at me. Why the fuck is he smirking at me?
“Why yes it is.” He said, crossing his arms across his broad chest and looking rather proud of himself for a guy that’s only famous because of daddy.
“Oh good lord! Can I have an autograph - please! If it’s not weird, I mean, of course it’s not weird – can you sign something for me?” She began to giggle, thrusting a chewed quill and a scrap of parchment at his chest.
Potter smirked and pressed the parchment against the wall, signing it quickly with a spiky signature with far too many spikes to be the kind of thing that you sign a cheque with.
After escaping the tentacle-woman in the store, Potter and I were back outside in the blinding sunlight. I didn’t miss the scathing glare that the shop assistant shot me when she turned back around.
Honestly. I don’t even know the bloke and I’m already getting glared at. How the fuck is that fair? I hate my life. It sucks.
“So will you do it?” He asked as we walked along. I tucked a large chunk of my curly hair behind my ear and turned to stare at him, my mouth falling slightly agape in shock. Is he asking me what I think he’s asking me?
“Will I do what, Potter?” I asked, enjoying the fact that I had something up on someone like James Potter. Me. Aimee Woods. Has something up on Witch Weekly’s Hottest Male (four fucking years running, might I add). That just doesn’t happen.
And you can bet your ass I’m enjoying every second of it.
“You know perfectly well what.” He grumbled, running his hand through his hair. I glanced sideways to watch him as he did so, and something seemed to catch in my chest.
The sunlight had been caught behind Potter’s head at that exact moment, shining around his face like some kind of motherfucking halo. His dark hair seemed lighter in the sun, still thick and spiked and stupidly messy, but more of a chocolate brown than black, the tips now golden and drenched in sunlight.
His sunglasses were hanging off the collar of his t-shirt, so I could see his warm brown eyes staring back at me, something that looked like apprehension shining through. His cheekbones were high and sharp, the light causing dark shadows in the dip, a smoky grey making his jaw looked squared, strong... hot.
Fuck. Why does he have to be bloody good looking? Doesn't change the fact he’s a prat, like.
“I don’t seem to be able to recall what you’re talking about.” I shrugged lightly, my voice dripping with sarcastic innocence. “You’ll have to remind me.” I shot him a grin, but he just scowled at me, quite clearly not amused.
Well, somebody has grumpy pants on.
“Will you... pretend to be my girlfriend for a bit?” Under my stare he winced slightly and ran his hands through his hair. This seems to be the hardest conversation he’s ever had. That’s quite sad when you think about it. “Please.” He scowled, before he winced again.
I grinned triumphantly.
“Good boy – manners don’t cost a penny, Potter.” I smirked, and he shot me a glare so ferocious that if looks could kill, I’d be playing house with the worms right now.
“Look, will you or won’t you?” He snapped, his patience seemingly broken. Another achievement. Not only have I stressed out James Potter, but I’ve also got him to use the word ‘please’ and snapped his last nerve. I should get some kind of medal.
“Nope.” I smiled, popping my lips as I said it. The sunlight didn’t seem too hot anymore, just pleasantly warm. This must be what being in a good mood feels like. Odd.
“What part of that word was too hard for you to follow? N – O. No. Nope. Nada. Nicht. Never. Nopesies.”
“Then what was the bleeding point of going out today if you were never going to agree –”
“Well, as you so kindly pointed out, I don’t have to work. I needed to do something to fill my days, didn’t I? Even though it is Sunday... I wouldn’t have been working today anyway...” I trailed off for a moment, lost slightly in my own thoughts. “So anyway, as much of a pleasure it has been Potter, I think I’ll go now. Thanks for the drinks.” With a cheery wave, I headed off down the cobbles.
I had managed to walk about five metres when something struck me. I spun around on my heel so I was facing him – he was still standing where he was before, looking completely dumbstruck. Somebody needs to be rejected more often – and called out –
“By the way, my name is spelt A – i – m – e – e. At least learn how to spell someone’s name before you owl them in future.”
I turned back around and headed through the archway that lead back to the Leaky Cauldron, a slight smile forming on my lips. Bloody hell, a smile and a good mood all in one day?! Practically unheard of! I almost make a living feeling sorry for myself.
I had only just stepped into the Leaky Cauldron when I realised that I could hear heavy footsteps echoing up the alley behind me.
“Woods! Aimee, wait.” Potter hissed, and I turned in time to see him glancing around the pub anxiously to see if anyone was watching. When he saw no one was, he stepped a little closer to me than he normally would have and narrowed his eyes.
“I’m not going to do it, Potter. I’ve spent twenty years of my life being invisible – and I’m bloody good at it. I have no plans to change that status, so you’re squat out of luck. Have a nice life.” With another smile – this one a little grim and forced – I went to walk off again. But then –
“I’ll rent you another apartment.”
I froze, the muscles in my back feeling like they had been doused in icy water. Slowly revolving on the spot, I turned to stare at Potter with my mouth oh-so-intelligently hanging wide open.
“Pretend to be my girlfriend – it won’t be for very long, I don’t think I could put up with you – and I’ll rent you another apartment. Won’t cost you anything. And you can leave your apartment – I know how much you hate having to live there.” A smirk was twisting the corners of his lips when he realised that he had me cornered – if there was one thing he could possibly offer me that I would want, it would be that.
“How do you know that?” I asked quietly.
Potter’s smirk was threatening to crack his face in half. “Molly told me a while ago – she was talking about how she had gone to visit you, and how much you hated the flat you live in. Told me about how horrible it was – location, the neighbours, the size, the cleanliness, the appliances, the cost, the view...” Potter snorted. “Never thought listening to Molly’s mindless chatter would ever come in handy, but there you go.”
“So if I agree to pretend to be your girlfriend, then...”
“Then we go apartment hunting tomorrow.” He shrugged.
“Do you even know how much they cost?”
“I can afford it.”
Huh. He can afford it. It’s alright for some, isn’t it?
I blinked at him for a moment, my mind whirring so fast that I started to feel a little dizzy. If there was one thing that I hated on the planet, one thing I would change about my life if I could, it would be that godforsaken apartment. Just pretend to be his girlfriend for a bit – how hard can it be, really? – and you get a new one.
Molly’s building. They have peepholes. I can look at who is knocking on the door before I answer it! I would be able to ignore Potter if he knocked on the door, because I would know it was him!
“Fine.” I said quietly. He tried to smirk over it, but the relief was so evident on his face that it was almost cute. Poor boy doesn’t want to upset mummy.
“So what exactly is this going to entail?” I asked apprehensively.
“Well, there is a lot of press waiting for a statement from one of us. I’m not going to speak, so...”
“So... what?” I asked through gritted teeth. Potter smirked and wrapped an arm around my shoulder, pulling us both out into the view of the public in the pub.
“Prepare to tell the world how much you love your new boyfriend.”
disclaimer: none of this belongs to me, and I own nothing that you recognise.
so the plot finally begins! yay! any thoughts on this chapter? id love to hear them.
ellie :) xx
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