“I um… When James came to dad’s office, we had a bit of a fight. You came up and I uh… well I…”
“I kind of… told him what you used to say about him – back before we fell out…”
“Blimey, listen to that,” said Lily, putting a silencing finger over Chuck’s mouth.
“What?” he murmured, looking surprised.
Lily pointed above her head.
“What the HELL are you playing at, Al?! Why would you do that?!”
“Oh come on, Jessie, why does it matter?” cried Al defensively.
“Why does it- why does it matter?” repeated Jessie, looking incredulous. “Al, I never wanted James to hear any of that! I don’t want him to think I don’t-”
“Think what? That you don’t like him? Jessie, who cares? It’s only James!”
“It’s only James? Al, he’s your brother!”
“Pfft,” said Al, shaking his head angrily. “He’s no brother of mine – the way he’s treated me-!”
“The way he’s treated you?” cried Jessie.
“Yes!” shouted Al. “And stop repeating everything I say!”
“I’ve got to go and talk to him-”
Jessie stopped, looking confused.
“Because…” struggled Al, going red. “Because… well, I don’t want you to!”
“Wow, they’re really going for it,” said Hugo, as he, Lily, Chuck, Finch and Razor crowded around outside of the 7th Year girls’ dormitory. “How long do you reckon it’ll be before Al blurts out he loves her?”
“Couple more sentences, I reckon,” said Chuck, as Lily nodded.
“God, that’s all we need,” said Finch, shaking his head. “If Al admits he loves her and James finds out, it’ll be the Great War all over again!”
“Nah,” said Hugo, looking enlightened. “Nah, this reminds me of the time my dad thought Uncle Harry was in love with my mum!”
“Yeah,” said Lily, her expression darkening, “Except this time it’s not Uncle Ron getting his wires crossed!”
“What are you guys doing?”
Everyone jumped as Rose came up behind them.
“Stone me, Rose, you nearly gave me a heart attack!” hissed Hugo, clutching his chest. “What are you doing here?”
“This is my room!”
“Shhhh, keep your voice down Rose!” whispered Lily. “We’re eavesdropping here!”
Rose looked confused.
“Because Al and Jessie are having a blazing row and it’s more interesting than sitting in the Common Room watching Lily and Chuck get off,” said Razor.
“Leave me alone, Al!” shouted Jessie, pulling open the door and nearly flattening Hugo.
“So, you see, ever since me and Al fell out, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Jessie and… well… she’s alright…”
Scorpius raised his eyebrows.
“Yes, ‘alright’!” snapped James, looking irritated. “And now I’m a bit confused! I mean, I never had a problem with Jessie – she was always game for a laugh. But now… well, it’s like I’m seeing her for the first time! She’s different, more exciting, we get on so well, she really understands me and I just… merlin, how could she think that of me?!”
Scorpius watched as James ran an agitated hand through his hair.
“Are you really surprised?” he asked quietly, his eyes trained on James’ wand.
“Am I- you what?” said James roughly, looking scandalised. “What does that mean?”
“It means your reputation precedes you, Potter,” said Scorpius calmly. “You can’t honestly think people don’t think the same as Jessie did?”
“Malfoy, what exactly are you saying?!” said James, his eyes blazing. “Are you saying I deserved to be called, in essence, a man-whore!”
“Oi, you watch where you’re pointing that wand!” shouted Scorpius, his own wand in his hand in a flash. “Now you listen to me, Potter and you listen good. It is your own fault that Jessie – and might I add, the rest of Hogwarts – thinks you’re a ‘man-whore’; you’ve wined, dined and slept with more girls than Casanova! However, in the last few months, you’ve changed. I’ve seen it, Rose has seen it; everyone’s seen it, including Jessie. You’re more mature, more focused and above all, you’ve finally found a girl you really, truly like. And if you carry on like this, consumed by feelings Jessie had months ago, you’re going to blow it. So my advice is, suck it up, tidy yourself up, and go and find her. Because if you don’t, you can bet your bottom galleon that someone else will. Now hop to it, Potter!”
“Merlin,” said James, looking stunned. “Never mind me changing; what on earth’s happened to you?!”
Scorpius gave him a small smile.
“One day you come to realise that some things are more important than your wounded pride. Now get out there and make good of your feelings before it’s too late!”
“Oh, excuse me!”
“No worries,” said the girl Jessie had just collided with. “Hey, I know you – aren’t you that Jessie Goldstein that magazine was talking about? The one the Potter brothers had a barney about?”
Jessie pursed her lips.
“I don’t really see how it’s any of your business…”
“Oh no, no!” said the girl, looking embarrassed. “No, sorry, I just wanted to know whether you were dating James Potter or not?”
Jessie went red.
“I repeat, what business would that be of yours?”
The girl raised her eyebrows.
“Alright, calm down love. All I was going to say is, if you’re not dating him then I think I’ll have a crack-”
“No!” cried Jessie.
The girl looked surprised.
“I-I mean,” she said hurriedly, trying to backtrack. “You’re so nice! And that James Potter… well, he’s a bit of a toe-rag! No respect for women; uses you then loses you!”
“Really?” said the girl, sounding shocked. “I always thought he treated girls proper nice!”
“No,” said Jessie, shaking her head furiously. “No that’s all just an act to get you into bed! Take my advice and find yourself a nice, decent guy.”
The girl nodded, looking thoughtful.
“Yeah, alright,” she said, still nodding, “Yeah I’ll do that. Thanks for the advice.”
“Any time,” Jessie called after her darkly. “Any time.”
She turned around, silently congratulating herself on a job well done… and found herself face to face with James.
James felt his chest squeeze but refused to turn around.
“Go away, Jessie!” he yelled, barging into his room, the door bouncing off the wall and leaving a large dent.
“James, please!” pleaded Jessie, following him in and slamming the door behind her. “Please, talk to me!”
James swallowed and said, his voice shaking, “I’m sorry, Jessie. I didn’t think you’d want to speak to a man who just uses women…”
“Oh, James!” said Jessie, coming round to stand in front of him. “James, please, I’m sorry! That wasn’t what you think – I was trying to protect you! And everything that Al said, it was stupid. I didn’t know what I was saying, I-”
“Wait,” interrupted James, silencing her instantly, “When did you speak to Al?”
“Oh right, yeah I get it!” said James, walking away from her, looking furious. “Now Al’s come back into the picture, you’re feeling guilty about hanging out with the black sheep of the family, so you’ve come in here, all apologies, smoothing it out before you ditch me and then head back to the side of righteousness!”
“Ditch you?!” shouted Jessie, flying round, her anger rising. “That’s a laugh! Christ, you’re the one who was all ‘ooh, I want a girlfriend’ at camping, then we come crashing back here and wham! You’re having it off with some witch called Clarissa, I’ve got Al in my ear telling me he’s told you everything I used to say about you and now we’re having a blazing row and I don’t even bloody know why!”
“Because I like you!” cried James, “I bloody like you and you like me, even if you can’t admit it!”
Jessie looked shocked.
“Don’t lie, Jessie! Why else would you be here, trying to get me to forgive you-”
“Oh, you know what James, forget it!” yelled Jessie, pushing past him and opening the door. “I don’t want to talk to you anymore!”
“Fine!” James shouted after her, as she stormed down the corridor. “Be like that!”
“I will!” cried Jessie, as she crashed round the corner, narrowly avoiding smashing into Scorpius.
“Sorry!” she said, with an angry nod, scooting past him.
“No problem,” muttered Scorpius, watching her go. “Guess the meeting with James went well, then..."
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