Chapter One: Ladylike
The party seemed to drift around in a quiet, cheerful summer glaze. No one danced or shouted or laughed out loud, but everyone seemed to be having a good time. I watched from the fountain, trying to make it seem like I was listening to my Aunt Flora drone on about her flowers. I’d never liked flowers-they never seemed to smell the way people described them, and they were finicky to look after and control.
Flora left after some point, something which I was quite grateful for. My mother had a habit of inviting practically everyone we knew to her parties, and most of them I disliked. They were boring, dull and often stuffy and impolite. I mean, there were manners and being reserved, and then there was just straight out standoffishness!
I’d complained once or twice about this to my friend Hilary, but she never took anything seriously, and simply laughed and made a funny little joke. It was difficult to remain angry in her presence, though frustration was a constant emotion. Hilary O’Connor did not belong in this fancy-pants world that I’d grown up around, though she seemed to adapt to it marvellously well, slipping effortlessly into the pretty summer dresses with all their frills and flowery patterns. She made friends with the elite easily, charming both the men and women and leaving girls like me just a little bit jealous.
I looked around for her now, quite sure she’d be here. The party was a sort of post-graduation party for me, but it was also just another chance for my mother to get socialized with everyone else again. Leaving Hogwarts had always been a bigger deal for her than it was for me, but other people seemed to come first, I’d noticed.
A small figure dressed in off-white suddenly skipped to my side. “Hi, Arielle!” Hilary said happily. I smiled serenely back at her.
“Your mother’s invited quite the crowd,” she commented, waving a hand lightly at all the guests. “One man tried to touch my bum just now-and I thought these people were respectable...then again, it is the evening,” she said with a grin. “Everyone’s meant to become a little more rowdy by nightfall, aren’t they?”
“I wouldn’t know,” I said, feeling myself blush a little. I didn’t like it when Hilary discussed these kinds of things.
“No, you’re normally in bed by this point, aren’t you?” she said, and before I could respond she said, “Where’s Chloe, then?”
I shrugged lightly, not liking the movement but not wanting to answer. Chloe Patil was something of a topic for gossip amongst the women that my mother socialized with. She and her mother were ‘flighty and indecisive’ according to mummy, which Hilary translated as ‘they’re sluts.’ I’d been shocked when she first said it, but by this point I was a bit bored of anything to do with Chloe.
“Oh my Merlin, who’s that?” Hilary said suddenly. I looked to where she was staring with a suddenly mischievous smile.
“I think it’s one of the Potter boys,” I replied curtly. I hadn’t realized Mummy had invited the Potters. Then again, what with Harry and Ginny Potter being widely respected around the Wizarding World...
Hilary was giggling slightly still at the man.
“Be quiet Hilary; it’s not ladylike to giggle,” I said sternly.
“Ah, but what if the lady likes?” she said coyly.
“Which one is he again?” Chloe asked, popping up beside us-I hadn’t realized she’d even been close to us. Hilary frowned in thought.
“I think it’s Albus. Or James.”
“Well, it’s obviously one of them, dolt,” Chloe snapped.
“Don’t call people names, Chloe,” I reprimanded. She gave me a scathing look and I responded with a complacent smile. She was really too angry for a lady. Then again, with her low-cut dress and crimson lipstick, I wasn’t too sure she could even be considered a lady. She looked like some of those muggle women that my mother had made sure I stayed away from whenever we went out into London for the day; she’d whisk me into a posh, pastel cafe where they insisted on serving cream with everything. I secretly hated it, but I could at least tolerate it; Chloe Patil seemed to have no respect for being respectable. I knew her father had abandoned her and her mother when she was young, but even so...
I was interrupted from my thoughts by a slight gasp from Hilary. “Oh, Arielle, he’s looking at us!”
“Calm down, Hilary,” I told her. “If he’s looking, all he’ll be seeing is an over-excited child.” Chloe nodded in agreement. “You’re not much better,” I said. She huffed quietly and stalked off to the drinks table, turning some of the men’s heads.
Albus-or-James Potter was in fact looking at us and I found myself staring back, almost rudely. Even from a distance I could notice these brilliant green eyes and tried to think back to what my mother had told me about the Potter children.
There was James, the oldest, who was meant to be handsome and charming and impossible to control, even as a twenty-year old man. There was the youngest and the only girl, Lily Potter, who I had actually met on occasions, and I’d found her quite sniffy but tolerable all the same.
Then there was Albus. He was not as often spotted in the papers as his brother and sister were, but each time he was, the writers always seemed to mention his ‘emerald green eyes’.
And this meant that, standing at about seven feet away on his own looking straight at me, was Albus Potter.
I looked down at my glass of wine or champagne or whatever it was. It wasn’t very nice. I looked back up again to see Hilary chatting animatedly with him; I hadn’t realized she’d even disappeared from my side, but there she was, having a perfectly normal conversation with him as if she hadn’t just been giggling over him two minutes ago.
I watched them for a short while, knowing that in seconds it would be considered rude and I’d have to go off and find something else to do, but there was something so interesting about Albus. Perhaps it was the way he watched Hilary as she spoke, with a kind of intensity that a lot of people I knew seemed to lack.
After a few moments I turned away and looked around to find someone I knew. I spotted a third cousin standing alone, outside a circle of middle-aged men and I crossed over to him.
“Hi, Jack,” I greeted him. He regarded me with a surprised glance.
We didn’t speak often.
“Um, hello, Elle,” he murmured. I bristled slightly at the nickname. My little sister Danyes (I know, it’s a silly name) could not say my full name when I was younger so my mother gave her permission to use the ridiculous shortening. And somehow, Jack had picked up on it.
I didn’t really like one-syllable names, but you couldn’t have everything.
“How are you?” I asked politely. He shrugged and shifted his weight onto one leg.
“Er...OK,” I said awkwardly. It was plain to see that this conversation wasn’t going anywhere. Then I heard my name being called.
I turned thankfully to see Hilary dragging a bemused looking Albus Potter by the arm over to me. Jack mumbled off in his own awkward way.
“Hilary,” I said quietly as they approached me, “It’s rude to drag people.”
She waved away my scolding and pulled Albus forward so we were in front of each other.
“This is Albus Potter, Arielle. Albus, this is Arielle Wingrove.”
He gave me a polite smile and held out his hand. I took it delicately. His hand was warm and I found myself with an automatic smile on my face as I took it and held it for the few seconds.
“Hi,” I said softly. Hilary was looking between us like a mad Cheshire cat.
I took my first proper look at Albus Potter. Aside from those bright green eyes, he was skinny and of average height, dressed in a neat blouse and smart looking jeans. He held a glass of firewhiskey in one hand and I suppressed a tut. I couldn’t stand that drink.
Then I saw his hair.
Oh no. This would not do.
Please do not think I’m exaggerating when I say that his hair was all over the place. It fell into his eyes, it stuck up at the back, it peeked out from behind his ears. I’m sure it was clean and soft and shiny but it was so messy. You could drop something in there and it was take years to find again.
I didn’t realize I was staring, or than a silence had fallen upon the three of us as I stared, until something wet and cold splashed over my head, smelling very strongly of champagne.
“Well, it was an easy miss, you know. You should’ve ducked,” Hilary said later as I washed my hair over the sink in my bathroom. I could’ve done it quickly with magic, but really I wanted to stay out of the public eye for the next million centuries.
“Yes, but I was too busy looking at that boy’s hair to notice my stupid cousin and his idiocy!” I said through gritted teeth. It was quite hard to talk while I was leaning over a basin.
“Why, what about his hair?”
“Hilary, it was a mess!” I exclaimed loudly, swooping up from the sink. Water from my hair splattered everywhere, but naturally missed my friend.
“Do you think he ever brushes it?” I said in horror. She rolled her eyes and leaned back on the (closed) toilet seat.
“You’re so obsessed with things being proper, Arielle,” she said lazily. I ignored the fact that it was meant to sound negative.
“Proper is good,” I replied, going back to the sink and leaning over it again. “Proper keeps things in order. If Albus Potter was proper, then I wouldn’t be washing champagne out of my hair!”
I never embarrassed myself. I was the epitome of social conduct-most of the time. But it just so happened that, in the presence of a rather good-looking boy, I’d managed to not only get splattered with alcohol, but also shriek out some quite...rude expletives.
Life could get worse of course, but only just.
As I dried my hair with a charm, Hilary stood up and went to walk out the bathroom door. She turned slightly before she left, a sly grin on her face.
“Well, I think you made quite a good impression on him...or at least, he could make a good impression of you. Your face.”
Hey, look! A new story that I shouldn’t be starting is started! Woo! Leave a review please! Mazz X