Chapter 5 : All the Right Moves
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JP: Yes there were...but I was usually drunk.
“You know, James, if you mope anymore someone is going to think your goldfish died.” Isa said, taking a seat at the bar beside me. I looked at her out of the corner of my eye but otherwise didn’t acknowledge her. The thing about these kinds of parties is that no matter how hard I try, I can never escape company. I guess that was the true price of fame; there would always be someone who insists on chirping in my ear like I actually wanted to be here.
it could be worse though. At least it wasn’t one of Uncle Percy’s friends.
She motioned for a glass and sat there waiting for my reply, but I kept silent, watching the liquid swirling in my glass as if that small, insignificant cyclone held all the answers to the meaning of life. I could feel her eyes burning a hole into the side of my head and I knew that she hadn’t gotten the message or had just chosen to ignore it.
I made a noncommittal noise, trying to blow her off, but I knew it wouldn’t work. Isa never let anything go and even if I explained to her that I really didn’t want to talk it wouldn’t be enough. .She should be used to my moodiness by now; we had been working together since she joined the Cannons five years ago. She was a unique combination of snarky and crazy that made her hell on the field and off.
We had become fast friends, something I didn’t have much of these days.
“Did your goldfish die?” she asked taking a sip of her drink almost before the bartender had finished setting it down. Anyone else would think she was trying to make sure she hadn’t offended in case I had just lost a pet, but I knew better. Isa never cared what people thought of her, she knew she was good at what she did and that was all she needed.
“Ran into an ex,” I said, taking a long drink from the crystal glass, the smooth liquid burned as it went down but I didn’t mind. I needed its numbing powers to get through tonight.
“An ex or THE ex?” she asked, not looking at me as she began swirling the drink around in her glass.
“What?” For the first time tonight I looked at her, not even bothering to hide my confusion.
She just smiled sadly at me, almost as if to say ‘you poor clueless bastard’ before counting. “You go through women faster than you go through underwear—it was bound to happen eventually. And if you’re this beat up over it, she must have been special.”
I didn’t want to answer to this. Was it all that obvious? Jo had been special to me for years before we started dating, but she couldn’t be anymore, not after what she did. But seeing her again hurt—not because it was like pouring salt on an open wound, quite the contrary. Just being around her was the warm burn of an antiseptic spell and I hated her for it. She had already taken so much from me, I couldn’t let her take that hate as well.
I just needed all this to be behind me as soon as possible.
“She was.” I muttered, staring into my glass.
“It end bad?” No Isa, the relationship went perfectly, that’s why we are happily married with two point four kids and a dog. Did she really have to ask?
“Yeah.” I was trying to keep my answers as clipped and short as possible in an attempt to discourage her from trying to lift my spirits again.
“Did you cheat?” she asked, staring at me out the corner of her eye, as if she already knew the answer.
“What? No…why do people always assume I’d be the one to cheat?” it was kind of pathetic really but cheating was the one thing I never did. Not with Jo and not with anybody. I made it clear that I was done with them—that it was nothing more than a one night stand—before going on to the next one and if they got clingy after that, well then, it wasn’t my fault, was it?
“Do I really need to answer that?” She said, slightly exasperated before pressing the subject, “So did she cheat?”
I gave a little huff. Was cheating really the only thing people think can destroy a relationship?
“No,” I said before correcting myself, “Not that I know of at least.” If she was capable of doing what she did than how do I really know? She had kept her sin from me for almost a year; it would have been child’s play to hide an affair.
“Then what happened?”
“Just drop it, Isa.” I whispered softly, my tone begging her to comply.
Isa set her glass down and stared at me, studying my misery. A part of me wondered what she was thinking seeing me like this but a bigger part of me didn’t care—couldn’t care. I had no energy left for it.
“Oaky,” she said making her decision, “now I really have got to meet this girl. You’re going to have to introduce me sometime; I’d even let you say I was your girlfriend just to mess with her head.”
I smiled a bit. I had been trying to get Isa to go out with me for a few years now and not the superficial kind of dates I took everyone else on. If anyone could have made me forget about Jo, it would be Isa, but she had always said no. she knew my reputation well and knew that when (if) things crashed and burned she didn’t want her career to go down with it.
It made sense but it still sucked.
“Go meet her yourself,” I said motioning with my glass, “she’s over there talking to Al.”
Isa’s eyes followed my hand. “Red hair, little black dress? Not bad…not bad at all.”
A wicked grin spread across her face. This was Isa’s big secret. Everything about her from her small statute to her blond hair and big blue eyes screamed that she was fragile and helpless—and she did nothing to dispel that image—but when the chips were down she could go full on ax murderer if she wanted to and would enjoy it.
“Watch this,” she said taking out her wand. A couple quick spells and her face morphed, not drastically, but just enough that no one would recognize her for who she was. Her face elongated, sharpened; her eyes and nose changed shape, her breast grew to a size rarely possible without the aid of cosmetic potions and her hair lost what little bit of a curl it had. She was no longer the sporty Isa Thatcher; she now was just a generic pretty blond. That same kind of girl splashed across every fashion magazine trying to tell young witches that they were the only kind of beauty that mattered in this world.
“Wish me luck,” she said. Isa reached into her purse and pulled a small flesh colored nugget and a one of those make-up compacts most girls couldn’t seem to live without. She opened the compact and began to apply the make-up to the edges of her eyes before dropping the compact into my hand. I almost rolled my eyes until I saw the small logo in the corner of the dark purple cover and then I recognized it for what it was. It came from my uncles’ store. The mirror would let me see what ever Isa saw so I could watch from the bar without anyone knowing.
Isa then pulled a small flesh colored nugget out of her purse and handed it to me. It was the receiving end of a portable ear—the newer version of George’s extendable ears. They worked the same except they didn’t have the long and rather obvious flesh colored string to give them away. These worked more like the muggle technology—beetles, I think they were called. I knew the actual ear was safely hidden in her purse.
For a second I felt like I was back at Hogwarts. This was exactly the kind of thing that had landed me in detention so many times and I couldn’t help but wish that Isa’s parents hadn’t homeschooled her. Maybe if I had met her sooner I could have saved myself a lot of heartache.
She sauntered over to the corner of the room where Jo stood talking to Al, stumbling and swaying just enough to look drunk without actually falling over herself. I had to admit she was a good actress, she could pull off the partying heiress perfectly.
Al and Jo stopped their conversation when they saw her and stared. She wasn’t the kind of person they usually associated with—they were far too good for that—but they weren’t going to be openly rude. At least not in public.
“Hi you must be Albus,” her voice had taken on a horse-like, annoying pitch that was just a bit too loud. I’m Lena, your brother’s date and I’m just trying to go around and meet all his family—you know before the wedding.” The last part was mock whispered and I was glad my glass was sitting safely on the counter.
Al wasn’t so lucky. He coughed on his drink in surprise and Jo took a big gulp of hers. Good, I hoped she choked on it.
“Wedding? I didn’t know he was in a relationship,” Al asked, struggling desperately to keep his voice civil.
‘Lena’ continued on as if she hadn’t noticed Al’s tone, her voice was just a little too chipper but that just added volumes to the performance. “We just meet yesterday but don’t you just think we make the perfect couple? We were just made for each other!”
“And James has already proposed?” Jo’s voice was polite yet clipped and I didn’t have to be a legilimens to know what was going on in her head. Did she really think so low of me? Did she really think I would propose to someone so quickly just to get into a girls pants? Even if I was able to sink so far, I wouldn’t actually need to.
“Of course not silly!” Lena laughed like Jo had just made the best joke in the world and then lowered her voice to little more than a whisper. “But he will soon. I just know it.”
The edge of Jo’s mouth twitched out of amusement but her eyes read volumes from a different story. She was relieved but I wasn’t sure at what. Could it be that she was glad her suspicions about me were false? Glad I could make your day but you should have known better in the first place.
Why did it hurt me so much to know that she had thought me capable of something like that? Why did I still care?
“He’s probably going to wait until after Easter to pop the question.” Jo said as if she were talking to a dear friend.
Lena looked crushed. “Why wait that long?”
“Easter’s the next chance at the application process.” Al said as if it were the most obvious thing.
“App…application?” For once Isa’s emotions leaked through her act. I had mentioned the application a couple times in passing but I don’t think she believed me.
“Don’t worry it’s not like there a written test or anything,” Jo kept her courteous tone but I knew her well enough to read the nuances behind it. She didn’t think ‘Lena’ could read let alone pass a written exam, “He just brings you to meet his entire family at once.”
“Parents, siblings, cousins, all of it.” Al said joining in on the fun.
“They usually do this over Hogwarts breaks so that the younger kids can participate. All you have to do is spend a break with them and get to know them,” he continued and Lena looked terrified. The funny thing was that this really was the so called application process.
My family’s test to see if you were good enough to date one of us was simple enough: if the majority of the family liked you than you were in for a ball. But the real fun happened when most of them despised you. The entire week would be filled with pranks and all around hell until you either ran screaming or your date stood up for you against the entire family. Either way weeded out the gold diggers and airheads. If they ran, that didn’t have what it takes to be part of the family and if they were defended they obviously meant enough to whoever bring them that it didn’t matter what the family thought.
“But don’t worry dear, I’m sure you would be the life of the party.” Jo said giving the back of her hand a comforting little pat. Jo was right. If I brought a girl like Lena home she wouldn’t last the week. If there was one thing my family as a whole couldn’t stand it was fake, shallow people. Sure they were polite enough to their faces, but everyone knew those kinds of people had no place with the family.
“Oh you don’t know how much it means to me to hear you say that! After all if we’re going to be sisters we should so be best friends forever!”
“Well you Albus are dating, aren’t you…I just assumed.” Now it was my turn to choke on my drink. Jo and Al? That was the funniest joke of the night and yet I couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge at the thought. The bartender looked at me a little strangely so I deposited a few galleons into the tip jar and went back to watching the show. Or perhaps more accurately, watching her.
I had to say, Jo did look amazing tonight. She had changed a bit over the years, filled out—I could swear her breast had grown almost a size since I had last seen her—but more than that she had an air of sadness about her that hadn’t been there during school. Surprisingly, noticing that didn’t make me feel any better, in fact it only made me feel worse.
God I’m a pathetic bastard. I can’t seem to decide if I want her to spend eternity in hell or my bed.
Lilly walked over to them from the desert table where she had been talking to Jo’s boss. She should know better. It wouldn’t do to have the Holyhead Harpy’s seeker getting fat now would it?
“You know what they say about assuming.” She said sharply before taking out her wand. “Isa quit being an ass, I saw what you did. Finite incantatem.”
Slowly Isa reverted back to herself. Jo’s eye’s narrowed slightly, realizing she had been duped.
“Hello you little harpy,” Isa said frostily.
It was no secret that Lilly and Isa didn’t like each other; they were never more than civil to each other the few times they had met. But then again, Lilly was like that to all my Quidditch friends. I think it had to do with her being the most competitive of me and my siblings—to her association with anyone in the quidditch world outside her team was treason (I got a pass because I was family—not that I actually cared. Lilly had grown into a bit too much of a pain for me to want to spend too much time together).
“Isa Thatcher meet Johanna Marsden, she’s a family friend.” She said making it clear with whom her preferences laid.
“You work with James?” Jo asked softly looking into her drink.
“Unfortunately,” Isa replied with a smile. Jo looked up and grinned at her in that odd way that only girls did—the one that said they had just made an instant best friend.
“Are you two really dating?” Jo asked and I couldn’t tell if it was curiosity or jealousy that flavored her words.
Isa snored. “No. I know better than to shit where I eat. Besides he’s too much of an ass for me not to want to hit him.”
Jo let out a sounding laugh, just loud enough that she wouldn’t be stared at like a loon. “Too true.”
Like she was any better. Our fights had gotten pretty nasty at times but she had been the only one to resort to violence—and she did often. If it hadn’t been for magic, my nose would have been more crooked than Dumbledore’s.
“Did my brother put you up to this?” Lilly said motioning to all of Isa. They all knew what she talking about the prank.
“No it was all me,” Isa said before putting me on the spot, “but James has been watching and listening to the entire thing.”
I could feel three pairs of eyes burning into my back. I turned around and gave them a little wave, a bit too friendly to be genuine.
“Well it’s nice to see he hasn’t left his sense of humor in whatever den of inequity he crawled out of.” Al said dryly. Jo just looked at me with this unreadable, insufferable expression.
Lilly looked from me to Jo and then back to me. Her mouth pressed into a grimace before she leaned over to Al and whispered something into his ear. Isa was too far away from them for me to hear but I narrowed my eyes anyway. Those two had far too much fun judging me.
“Isa had he been over there all night?” Al asked surprised. He shouldn’t have been. He knew what kind of day I had.
“As far as I know, why?” She asked.
“He looks trashed.”
I made a rude hand gesture in his direction. I knew my limits when it came to alcohol and I was far from them.
“You should go ask him to dance,” Lilly suggested, “to try and get him away from the…” she motioned tipping a bottle.
I as a bit surprised that she would suggest it. She didn’t like Isa and it sounded like she was trying to get us together. For once I didn’t care that my family was trying to mess with my love life – if it worked great, if it didn’t I could always blame whatever screw up happed on the alcohol.
Isa seemed just as suspicious as I did but just nodded. ‘There up to something.’ She mouthed as she walked towards me. I shrugged; I really didn’t care.
Isa offered her hand and as I took it I couldn’t help but notice how callused they were. Even when she had spent hours cutting ingredients and string in precise patterns, Jo’s hands never got like that. Snap out of it Potter! I was trying to move past this—to get my life back on track finally—I couldn’t think like that.
Was this what I was damned to? To spend eternity comparing every woman to her? It was one thing to have to choose bimbos specifically for how much they WEREN’T like her, but constantly drawing comparisons between her and someone I could be serious about was something entirely different. It wasn’t fair to Isa and it wasn’t fair to me.
She didn’t mention how distant I was as we danced but I knew she noticed. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of Al leading Jo around in graceful swoops.
As the music slowed Isa let go of my hand just as Al did the same to Jo. Within seconds I found mylelf hand in hand with my ex just as the music begain to pick up pace and morph into something noticeably more upbeat.
A part of me wanted to let go of her and just walk away but I didn’t. I told myself that it was just because we were right in the middle of the dance floor and there was no way I could get back to the bar without making a scene, but a smarter part of me knew better.
“For once I’m grateful Victoire insisted everyone take dancing lessons before her wedding. This would have been embarrassing otherwise.” She said trying to make conversation.
Internally I groaned. Those had been some of the most painful hours of my life. Take two dozen of my cousins and closest family friends—all Hogwarts age—and trap them in one room until they were ready to kill each other. Combined with the fact that few in my family could be called graceful outside of a quidditch pitch and let’s just say that night ended with more than a few broken toes and other assorted body parts.
“Don’t worry if I step on your feet, feel free to hit me,” I said with a little smile before I could stop myself. It was pathetic how much I had to keep reminding myself that we weren’t friends—that I had to hate her for my own good. I couldn’t get hurt like that again.
“You know, James, I miss this. Just you and me—no hatred, no cutting word,” she whispered, curling up close to me as we danced. I knew it was the alcohol talking, she had just as much as I had tonight, but that didn’t stop a profound sadness from rising at her words. She hadn’t been the only one.
There was a pause, not quite long enough for her to give up on me answering, but long enough to be noticeable to even the most oblivious. I wanted to—needed to—chew her out, but instead all I could do was rest my chin on top of her head as we swayed back and forth completely out of time with the music.
We were in our own little world and I wanted to say there even if it was only created by the wine. I wanted to hold onto it so badly that I couldn’t even hurt her again.
“I did too,” I muttered into her hair, breathing in the floral sent of her conditioner and noticing with a bit of regret that there was no hint of the slight burnt smell that always seemed to attach itself to her whenever she had been near a cauldron.
The song was reaching that slow spot they all did just before finishing and I was tempted to use magic to force it to begin again, but I knew that wouldn’t work.
“Then why can’t we go back to that?” She whispered softly, almost as if she hadn’t meant to speak at all. We both quickly realized that it was the alcohol talking and not any true form of reason.
Jo lowered her eyes, obviously recognizing that that question didn’t need to be answered, yet something in me wanted to…to tell her that we could. That everything could go back to the way it was. But I knew better. It would all end the same way: with a broken heart.
I could have just let her walk away—it would have been kinder that way but I couldn’t. I couldn’t let myself fall into that trap again and the only way to do that was to make sure we both remembered why.
“Because you’re a bab—” Jo had always been good at guessing what I was trying to say so I really shouldn’t have been surprised with what happened next. I could feel the impact of the punch tearing through bone and cartilage.
It wasn’t the first time I had had my nose broken—hell, it wasn’t even the first time by her—but it still surprised me.
“Yuu broe by noze!” I said tilting my head back trying to stop the bleeding. I used my sleeve to wipe the blood off my face.
“Wouldn’t be the first time Potter,” she said turning back around and heading to the bar where Lilly and Max were sitting as I made my way over to the corner with Isa and Al. People were stareing, whispering, but I didn’t care.
“They do this often?” Isa asked, turning to my brother. There was no way to miss the slightly impressed tone of her voice.
Al just sighed, swirling his drink around a bit before answering, “Let’s just say that every year at Hogwarts there was a very lucrative bet going about how many times he would piss her off enough for her to turn on him.”
Did he know when he tried to play match maker—and yes, I’m sure it was him—that this was the only way things could end? That mixing the fire and powder of our lives could create noting but an all-consuming explosion that would do nothing but consume everything in sight?
“So he’s used to this?” Isa muttered.
The corners of her mouth twitched. “Then I don’t feel so bad about refusing to help.”
Al just looked at her in a curious mix of appreciation and weary amusement.
“What? We go through all this effort to get them together again—you especially, and don’t even try to deny it—and he goes and screws it up? He deserves it. “So she was in on it? Interesting, but how much had she known? Was her part limited to just the dance or did she have something to do with the not so coincidental coincidences?
It didn’t really matter either way, I’d have my revenge.
“I dan till ear you.” I said walking over.
“And I care, why?” Isa asked, completely uninterested. “I mean really, what a disappointment. You’re a seeker; you’re supposed to have better reflexes than that. If you can’t dodge a punch coming right at you, how the hell do you expect to dodge a bludger? Pathetic.”
I shot her an evil look as I tried to set my noise back into place but didn’t respond. I wasn’t up to it.
Jo hadn’t so much as turned her head in my direction since sitting down, but I knew she could feel my eyes burning a hole into her back. Without looking she took out her wand and pointed it at me. Before I could even attempt to dodge the spell, it hit me square in the face, mending my nose and clearing away the drying blood as if nothing had happened.
Only then did she glance over her shoulder and I could see the infinite sadness in her eyes. She didn’t hate me—she probably didn’t even blame me—and that only made me have to hang on to animosity even more.
A strange ringing caught her attention and drew her eyes away from mine before digging in her purse. She pulled out a strange little muggle device and held it up to her ear.
“Damn it Connor what the hell has happened to my son? You were supposed to be watching him!” She shouted and a few people looked her way.
I was dumb struck. Jo with a kid? That was kind of a depressing thought. She would either be a great mother or really fuck the kid up. Hell, knowing Jo she may even manage to do both at once.
She used her free hand to massage her forehead as if she were trying to push away the beginnings of a headache.
“I’ll be right there…I don’t care if it wasn’t poisonous, Connor, I’ll be there.” Jo hit a button on the device and slipped it back into her purse.
She said something to Max and got up from the bar. Her steps were quick and measured as she walked towards the door—probably as fast as she could go without the alcohol and high heels getting the best of her.
“What’s wrong?” Al asked, stopping her as she walked by. His voice was bleeding concern. I thought it was a bit of a stupid question. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the entire room had heard her conversation.
“My kid’s in the hospital.” It was obvious that she didn’t want to be here; that she had somewhere better to go and I wanted to hit Al. He shouldn’t have stopped her. I wanted Jo gone—and not just because she would then be out of my life.
She turned her head and by the looks of it, just realized I was there because her face got about three shades paler before she whispered “And I’m too drunk to apparate.” Did she blame me for that too? She seemed to, but that was all her. She was the one sitting at the bar, drinking more than a fish. Glup, glup.
Al looked at me expectantly, as if to tell me that’s my cue—that I needed to do the chivalrous thing and offer to slide-along apparate her. Fuck that. She had just broken my nose…and besides I was as tipsy as her, or worse.
“You have a kid?” I asked with a vicious little laugh, although I was too drunk to even wonder if it was out of an attempt to hurt her or to hide my own hurt. Probably both.
“Yes, Potter I do,” she whispered dangerously before dropping her voice a little. “It may surprise you to hear this but the entire world hasn’t been spending the last half decade wallowing in their own misery.”
Al looked at me, his face half chastising at me and the other half rather pleased with Jo. He always took her side, even when we were kids. Stupid brother. That’s against the rules, right?
“Come on, I’ll take you,” he said, grabbing her elbow and giving me one last hateful look.
She looked hesitant for a moment, almost like she was having a monstrous internal battle with herself before nodding. She didn’t want to take his offer. Her kid was in the hospital and she was too good to take my brother’s help. What an ass.
When they had both left, I sat down at the bar. I figured I was already drunk so there was no point trying to stay sober.
“You’re an ass.” Isa muttered taking the seat beside me.
“And you’re a bitch, welcome to life.”
Sorry for the delay but I forgot to put a mild violence warning for the punch so validation didn’t go through the first time. But it’s final’s week and It’s not like I study so I’ll have a bunch of free time to write (if I can stay off the sims).
Here’s the deal: I know a lot of people have been wondering what Jo did but I’m not going to tell you until chapter 8. If I told you earlier—before I could give out the whole story—then THAT would become what the story was focusing on and what she did isn’t as important now as how Jo and James are reacting to it. Make sense?
Also I’m really interested to hear what you have to say about Isa. When I set down to write her she was supposed to be just like ‘Lena,’ but I guess she didn’t like that much. Lol.
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