Chapter 14 : fourteen
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As usual, I Apparated into a face full of clothes. I often wondered whether Maddie was just taking the piss at the beginning of their sixth year, when she’d suggested modifying Lily’s wardrobe to make it big enough for us to Apparate into. She’d claimed she’d gotten the idea from a Muggle novel, but that didn’t stop me feeling ridiculous every time I stepped out of the damned thing.
I pushed the clothes aside to reach the doors, and looked through the peephole that Dad had added, wondering, as always, why nobody had inquired as to why a wardrobe needed a peephole. Mum had always said that Muggles weren’t always particularly observant, though, so perhaps this was the reason.
The fact that I could see through the peephole was in itself a good start. Lily covered it up when she didn’t want visitors, a foolproof ploy, as both Dad and Aunt Hermione had drummed it into us to only open the wardrobe door if we knew for a fact that the coast was clear. That, and I was fearful about what I’d find.
Lily’s room was empty, but the deliberate positioning of the wardrobe allowed me to see straight through the doorway opposite into Maddie’s adjoining room, where Maddie was sitting at her desk, and Lily was perched at the end of the bed. A statuesque blonde was standing at the threshold of the main doorway to the corridor. I winced; run-ins with Rosalind Wentworth-Farlington never ceased to put both girls in bad moods.
“I’m not playing you, and that’s the end of it,” Maddie was saying firmly to Rosalind.
“But I’m the best right inner-”
“When you’re fit. You’re not fully fit, and I’m not playing you until your ankle’s better. For a start, you’ll jeopardise the rest of the team. And besides, I want you fit for the sevens in three weeks. You’ve already missed more training than I’d like, but you’re one of the fastest players we’ve got and so I need you in the team. Give it another week, like the doctor said, and you can start training again. I’m not putting you in the team for Saturday though.”
“You’re just leaving me out because you don’t like me-”
“Do you honestly think I’d leave my best right inner out deliberately? Tallulah’s good, she really is, but she doesn’t quite link up with Lily and Gracie like you do. So, trust me, I’d be playing you if I thought I could risk it. But I can’t.”
Rosalind looked irritated.
“At least let me train-”
“Give it another week. Next Sunday we’ve got sevens training. Come along to that. You are keeping up with your running, aren’t you? I can’t have you flaking out after five minutes-”
“Of course I’m running,” she snapped. “And I’m fine, my ankle’s fine, just let me play-”
“Maddie’s already said no in almost every way possible; how long will it take for you to get the message?” Lily interrupted lazily. “Now, if you’ve got nothing more to add to the conversation, would you please leave? I’ve got mountains of work to do and we want to watch the boys’ rugby game later.”
Rosalind glared at her, before storming out of the room and slamming the door firmly behind her.
“Bloody hell, she’s a nightmare,” Maddie groaned.
“I wouldn’t play her even when she’s fit, if I were you-”
“And this, my dear, is why I’m captain and not you. She’s too good to not play her.”
Satisfied that the coast was clear, I knocked loudly on the wardrobe door.
“Come out!” Maddie giggled.
I rolled my eyes at the years-old joke and pushed the door open.
“And he emerges from the closet again.” She grinned. “I thought you’d forgotten about poor little us; you haven’t visited in ages!”
“Decided on a change of scenery.” I shrugged and joined Lily on Maddie’s bed. She had settled back against the headboard and was throwing a Quaffle up in the air and catching it. “That sounded like a lovely conversation...”
“No matter how many times I tell her, she never listens.” She deftly caught the Quaffle that Lily passed to her, then quickly passed it on to me. “She thinks it’s favouritism, that I choose not to pick her. It’s a nightmare, because she’s good, but she knows she’s good, and she thinks she has a God-given right to start every game, even when it’s not fair on everyone else. Yes, she could possibly play on Saturday, but I refuse to risk it.”
“What’s this sevens thing you were on about?”
Maddie’s eyes lit up, as she sat up in her chair. Lily groaned.
“Seven-a-side hockey!” Maddie said excitedly. “Lottie, Robbie and I play it when we’re home; there’s a mixed tournament over Christmas that our local team enters. And one of the schools nearby has decided to set up a sevens tournament! All-girls, luckily, or we’d be stuck. It’s the same as normal hockey, just less players. You get mini-hockey which is played on a half-size pitch, but this form is on a full-size pitch. It’s gonna be knackering! But good.”
I turned to look at Lily, who was grimacing slightly.
“You playing in it?” I asked.
“Course she is,” Maddie jumped in, “she’s one of our fastest and fittest players. That’s what you need for sevens, speed and endurance. That’s why I need Rosalind fit for it. We’ve been planning this for a few months now, and Lottie and Robbie have been coming to our training sessions to help out. It took a while to convince people that it was a good idea, but I think they’re coming round to it now.”
Lottie and Robbie were Maddie’s older siblings. Lottie had been to the same school as Maddie and Lily, while Robbie had attended the boys’ school that Kit went to. I’d met them both a few times when visiting Lily. Like Maddie, they were both sport-mad – it seemed that it ran in the Bennett family.
“So you need to make sure you’re free for that, James,” Maddie continued, “at least just for the Sunday, because that’s finals day.”
“I think Brigid’s told me about this already.” I frowned slightly as I tried to recall the conversation in question. “Is it in March somewhen?”
“March the fifteenth,” Lily said promptly. Her arm was currently between Maddie’s bed and bedside cabinet.
“What on earth are you doing?” Maddie sounded baffled.
“Knocked something off your cabinet,” she grunted. She pulled a small paper bag out of the gap.
“Oh, those are your aunt’s sweets, Lil,” Maddie said. “I keep meaning to put them away somewhere, before some poor sod thinks they’re normal sweets and has one.”
Lily winced at the thought, as she examined the contents.
“There aren’t many left...”
“They taste nice!”
Lily looked up at her, raising an eyebrow.
“They give your hair polka-dots.”
“It’s a good look!” Maddie shrugged.
“If you get caught with mauve skin...” Lily said warningly.
“I don’t eat them just before classes, Lil!”
“How do they work on you two?” I asked.
“They work better on Mad’s hair than mine, because it’s lighter, but they’re better on my skin tone than hers.”
“They work okay, though?”
“Well, if by ‘okay’ you mean they last about an hour...”
“On Benny, they do,” Lily added. “On me, they’re fine, only five minutes or so at most. I guess it’s because Mads doesn’t have any magical genes, whereas I’ve at least got some traces of magic. Maddie’s not even supposed to be having them...” she added in a stern tone to her Muggle friend.
Maddie rolled her eyes.
“What could go wrong?”
“Rule number one: never say that about anything magical. Do you really want to be stuck being multicoloured forever?”
“Hair can be near enough any colour these days and still look normal, it’s fine-”
“Skin can’t,” Lily pointed out.
“I could start a new trend.” Maddie shrugged. “Body paint fetish?”
Lily shook her head in exasperation.
“I should get Carlotta to try one, see how that works with her Spanish blood,” I mused.
“Fantastic idea, except for the minor issue of her being petrified of you right now,” she said dryly.
“Not any more, she’s not,” I said, trying – and failing – to hide my smug grin.
“What have you done to her?” Lily said darkly.
“I haven’t done anything!” I cried, holding my hands up in protest. “We picked her up on the way home the other night – she was really drunk or ill or something – and yesterday morning I explained it all to her. She’s fine with it all, actually she seems really interested. I told her about you, Lil-”
“Oh, thanks,” Lily muttered, with an eye roll of her own.
“She was worried about not fitting in! So I said, you don’t have to have magic to know about the wizarding world, and that you manage fine. And she seemed really impressed actually, I think she’s quite interested in the fact that you do both Muggle and magical studies-”
“Why do I feel like a zoo exhibit once again?” She frowned at the Quaffle which was now sitting in her lap. “So what’s the situation with you two now then?”she continued before I could comment.
“I have no idea.”
“Fuck buddies?” Maddie supplied.
“I’d prefer to phrase it as ‘friends with benefits’; it’s much more appropriate in a social setting,” Lily corrected her.
“Why you’re looking for ‘appropriate’ with James as company, I do not know-”
The door flew open. Lily swore under her breath and stuffed the Quaffle under Maddie’s duvet.
Maddie groaned as she saw who the visitor was.
“Seriously? I must have done something bad in a previous life to deserve this,” she lamented. “What do you want, Abigail?”
“Have you got that article from sports science?” the girl – whom I vaguely recognised as one of Rosalind’s lackeys – asked, ignoring the slight.
“No, I gave it to Rania the other day,” Maddie retorted shortly.
Abigail’s eyes fell on a booklet on Maddie’s desk. She frowned and stepped forward to pick it up.
“Why do you have an instruction manual for a washing machine?” she asked curiously.
“Do you fancy doing your clothes washing by hand?” Maddie replied shortly.
“It’s called ‘shopping around’, Abbie. Forward thinking. Wanting to have our flat fully applianced by the time we move into it,” Lily said in a patronising voice.
“Applianced isn’t a word,” Abigail said irritatingly, turning to face Lily. Her eyes fell on me. “Oh! I didn’t know you were here, James-”
“Yes, he’s here, come to visit his much loved younger sister, not to hear you rabbit on, now shoo. I’ve told you, Rania’s got the article, go bug her,” the ever sharp-tongued Maddie said.
Abigail looked as though she’d been slapped in the face. She narrowed her eyes at Maddie, before leaving, slamming the door behind her.
“You’re horrible to her,” I observed.
“I’m just giving her the stick she deserves for being a thick shit and giving Lily hell when we were ickle Firsties. She’s a bitch, all of Rosalind’s clique are. They still give Effie a hard time even now. Mind, I’ve told Eff on countless occasions that she needs to grow a pair-”
“In a very comforting manner, I’m sure,” I cut in.
“Maddie never sat the lesson on subtlety,” Lily said smoothly. “Pass that booklet over, will you, Benny?”
Maddie lobbed the instruction booklet across the room to her.
“Why do you have a washing machine instruction booklet?” I asked.
“Muggle Studies, of course,” Lily said gloomily. “Because one clearly has to know the inner workings of a washing machine in order to fully integrate oneself into a Muggle society. Heck, Maddie only just finds the ‘on’ button.”
“Yes, well, we’ve already established that I’m a failed human being.” Maddie got to her feet and stretched. “Coming to Kit’s rugby game then, Jimmy?”
“When is it?”
“In-” Maddie looked at her watch – “forty minutes. Which means that we need to be leaving soon, if we want to make it for kick off...”
“What?” Lily looked up from the booklet. “I thought you were driving?”
“And be roped into chauffeuring Kit to get food afterwards with his smelly kit in the boot? I don’t think so. Nope, we can walk. You could do with the exercise, Lil-” She yelped and ducked to avoid the booklet Lily threw at her.
“So, they can’t pass forwards?”
“And they score goals behind that line-”
“Tries, James, they’re called tries. And yes, they have to ground the ball behind that line.”
“This is a stupid sport.”
This was a regular occurrence when I watched a rugby game. The sports that Lily played, mainly hockey and tennis, I understood – partly because I’d watched that many games and heard her talking about them so often that the rules had been drilled into me, and partly because it was reasonably easy to grasp the basics of them – but rugby always confused me. As a result, I was standing pitchside with Maddie, with my hands thrust deep into the pockets of my coat, and her arm tucked into the crook of my elbow, firing questions at her as usual and receiving exasperated answers in return.
Lily, being less sharp-tongued and much more diplomatic than Maddie, got on with people better and was talking to a group of girls from the year below them, who Maddie had referred to, distastefully, as “shrieking airheads”.
“Oh, by the way, you do realise you’re my date to our prom in July, don’t you?” Maddie said suddenly.
“I – what? What the hell’s a ‘prom’?”
“It’s a fancy dance with a dinner; most schools have one at the end of secondary school. It’s an American influence. You’d just need a fancy dinner suit and you’d be good to go. I’m sure you’ve been to all loads of similar dos now you’re a famous Quidditch player. We agreed in First Year, that you’d be my date.”
“Me and Lily. Made a pact that I’d go with you and she’d go with Robbie. I don’t know if she’ll go with him, but I don’t see any guy round here who I’d want to take me, and you’re half decent, so I’m booking you up.”
“Do I have a say in this?” I asked, grinning cheekily.
“Nope.” She popped the ‘p’. “Even apart from the fact that I can’t see why you’d dream of turning down the chance to be my date for an evening, would you really be willing to tell Lily you’d rejected her mate?”
“I’ll do it,” I said hurriedly. The thought of Lily’s wrath scared me. “So long as it doesn’t clash with a match or anything. The season ends at the beginning of July, but the World Cup starts a couple of weeks after that-”
“It’s the beginning, no worries. The third or the fourth or something like that. Lils will know, I’ll get her to write to you and let you know. Seeing as how you magical people can’t seem to use any technology more modern than the Middle Ages.” She smirked.
“There’s nothing wrong with owl post,” I defended. “It’s simple and reliable. Anyway, why don’t you go with Kit to this prom thing?”
“Aside from the fact that neither of us would subject ourselves to that?” She shook her head. “Honestly, James. Anyway, he’s taking Imogen, it would seem, the jammy bastard.”
“Really?” Of all the girls in Lily and Maddie’s year, Imogen and Grace were the two they got on best with. I didn’t mind them, when they weren’t looking at me as though I were a piece of meat.
“Uh huh. He asked her the other week. Lil and I had no idea he was planning to do it. Since then they’ve been so bashful around each other, it’s painful. And if they’re not being all coy, they’re flirting horrendously. I wish he’d just get on with it and bang the girl already.”
“Who’s banging who?” Lily chipped in, having appeared from nowhere.
“Oh, you’ve decided to ditch your Head Girl mingling and rejoin us now, have you? What’s wrong, the gigglers exhausted their brain cell?”
“Something like that. You going to answer the question?”
“Just filling Jimmy in on the Kit and Immy developments.”
“What, and how he’s not filling her in?”
“You two are horrendously vulgar,” I said conversationally.
“Like you can talk,” Lily said. “I just can’t believe that of the three of us, Kit was the first to bag a date...”
“I’ve got one now!” Maddie said gleefully.
Lily frowned and leaned around me to look at her.
“Jimmy, of course. Actually, Kit’s technically the last of us to get a date. We’ve had ours sorted for six years now.”
“I don’t think it counts if they don’t know about it,” Lily said.
“So hurry up and ask Robbie then! Unless you’ve got your eye on someone, but I really can’t imagine you have, given the choice available-”
The sound of cheering around us cut her off. Kit had just scored an attempt, right at the end of the game. She groaned.
“Great, now he won’t stop gloating all evening...”
She was, however, grinning widely, and headed off with the other spectators to congratulate him and the rest of the team. Lily held back, grabbing my arm.
“James,” she murmured, “you know you said you’d told Carlotta everything about magic?”
“Yes...” I wondered what she was getting at.
“Did you actually tell her everything?”
“I’ve not filled her in on the entire history of the wizarding world, if that’s what you’re getting at-”
“No, I don’t mean that, you idiot.” She rolled her eyes. “I mean the whole Muggle persecution thing, and about Voldemort, and Dad-”
“Of course not!” I frowned. “Why on earth would I do that?”
“Well, given that our entire family was involved in the last war, do you not think it would be an idea?”
“I don’t see why,” I said. “Not right now, anyway. I don’t exactly want to scare her off again, do I?”
Lily looked at me, the expression on her face unreadable.
“Just ... don’t keep it quiet. Because if she finds out some other way, and you haven’t told her, it mightn’t go down too well.”
I just laughed and threw an arm round her shoulders.
“You worry too much, Lil,” I said fondly. “Come on, let’s go and see Kit, before he gets upset that we’re not paying him any attention...”
A/N: The Muggle novel in question, which inspires Maddie as to the wardrobe idea, is of course The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
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