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Chapter 4 : And So It Begins
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Today is the day, the day that James and I decided to announce our “serious relationship.” We both thought it best to wait a week, during which we would spend all our free time together. That way, when we announced our fake relationship, it wouldn’t seem so random.
When we weren’t in public, laughing at every little thing each other said, we were sitting in one of the common rooms not really doing anything. It wasn’t that I was ignoring him; we had simply fallen out of synch. He was always too busy dating someone, or obsessing over quidditch to really notice me anymore. We had forgotten each other’s interests, our desires, and our fears. And by we, I mean James, so our moments together usually consisted of polite small talk.
But that would have to change starting today. We both had to spend every waking moment together, a part of James’ “brilliant plan”. My stomach squirmed as I made my way to the great hall. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the unknown made my palms sweat.
“I still don’t know why you’re doing this,” said a now sling-less Cal. He rotated his shoulder and gave a small wince.
“I told you why,” wiping my hands repeatedly on my robes. “This is the only way to get over him.”
Cal and I came to a stop at the entrance of the great hall. “This is where he said he would meet you right?” I nodded and Cal shrugged. “Well, good luck,” he said and gave me a hug with his good arm before going to meet Al.
I stood, feeling rather stupid for a good ten minutes. So much for being serious, James. “There’s my best girl!” I turned towards the sound and saw James sauntering up to me, his arms spread wide with a huge grin on his face. You would have thought I was the only reason he got up that morning. My heart skipped and I cursed myself for my weak resolve.
I tried to smile, but I’m afraid it came out as more of a grimace. I know what you’re thinking and, yes, I am always this sexy. Luckily, James was a natural at this and was able to compensate for my lack of acting. He wrapped me in his arms and I was once again hit by the scent of strawberries. I allowed myself one last indulgence and wrapped my arms around him as well. It felt so nice to be in his arms. I wanted to stay there for the rest of the day, but I was interrupted by an even more welcome surprise.
I felt James lightly tip my head up and felt the pressure of his lips on mine. Oh good Merlin, what the hell is happening? My legs gave out underneath me, but James was holding me so tight that I didn’t fall. My ears buzzed, and I couldn’t seem to think past the feel of his lips on my own and the touch of his strong hands bracing my back. He pulled away and planted kisses on my nose and forehead, oh Merlin. I could die right now and be incredibly fine with that.
“How are you my honey bunches of oats?” He purred into my ear.
“What?” I mumbled, half because my brain had gone all foggy and half because I had no ruddy idea what he was talking about.
“It’s a muggle cereal. Don’t worry about it.”
He let go and I forced myself to stand on my own. I walked dizzily to the Gryffindor table. People were pointing and whispering like crazy. There was a reason we decided to act out phase one of our plan in front of the Great Hall. We knew everyone, including Rebecca, would be able to see for themselves that James Potter had a new girlfriend. If only they knew the half of it.
Sitting next to James during breakfast felt surreal. I was sort of dazed as he stroked my cheek fondly, twirled my hair around his fingers, and occasionally planted a long, slow kiss on my head. I could see my brothers barely controlling themselves as they watched our charade play out right in front of them. Their jaws clenched and their grips tightened on their silverware or the edge of the table.
My brothers hated this plan. No one was particularly fond of it, but my brothers hated it the most. Don’t get me wrong- James was still their best mate. But they knew his reputation all too well and didn’t want James with their baby sister. Aren’t they sweet… kind of? They would occasionally snap at James if a kiss on my head lasted more than a few seconds. Not that I was complaining. It was hard to convince myself he was a prat when I felt so adored by him.
But it’s fake, I reminded myself. It’s a completely false adoration. He’s only using me to get to another girl, and that’s why he’s a prat. I shoved whatever gooey feelings I had deep down and put up a hard wall. If my plan was going to succeed I needed my wits about me, not a foggy brain that was completely useless whenever James’ face was inches from my own.
When breakfast, ended James helped me up. “Let me walk you to potions, my love.”
My love? Yeah, I was starting to think that he was piling on this “hopelessly in love act” a little too thick.
“Er, sure but what about your class?” I asked awkwardly.
He chuckled, “I have a free period my little lamb.”
I gave a small smirk. “Couldn’t rack up enough OWL’s?”
James’ mouth dropped. “I so did rack up enough OWL’s. I just chose not to take the classes.”
I nodded slowly and gave him a little pat on the shoulder. “Whatever boosts your confidence and stop’s your mother’s tears at night.”
This time, James’ laugh was genuine. He grabbed my hand and led me out of the Great Hall and down to the dungeons. “When did you become funny?”
I shrugged. “I’ve always been funny.”
James copied my shrug. “Whatever boosts your confidence and stops your mother’s tears-“
“Hey,” I cut across sharply. “You can’t repeat my jokes. That shit is copyrighted.”
Another boisterous laugh. “Where do you get this stuff, Miss Heart?”
We arrived at the entrance to the dungeon before I could come up with an answer. I pointed to the door. “This is my stop.” I mentally kicked myself. Of course this is my stop. Do you see any other doors down here, Beth?
James smirked and leaned down to give me, what I thought was going to be, another kiss. But Cal arrived and chased him off. The Ravenclaw’s watched, enraptured by the almost kiss that had played out before them. It was somewhat uncomfortable, after all James had snogged a handful of girls in the potion’s class.
I eagerly shuffled into the room and sat at our table, letting my hair act as a curtain from the rest of the class. Cal followed behind me after getting our polyjuice potion and set it on the table. Since we started the project together and the polyjuice potion is so difficult to make, we are allowed to finish it as a team. It was fun until today. Now the whole class including Cal finds me much more interesting than their projects.
Professor Slughorn bounded into class like every other day, only this day he seemed to have a special skip in his step. “Good morning, good morning to you all! And a special good morning to you, Miss Heart.” He gave me a hearty wink.
I jerked back. Oh, good Merlin! I do believe my potions teacher is flirting with me. Well, let’s face it. My hair is pretty incredible today. I subtly flicked my hair back with my hand.
Professor Slughorn gave a hearty chuckle. “I heard you and Mr. Potter have become the schools newest couple.” Oh… or he could have been alluding to that. “I remember when I had his father in class. One of the best students I’ve ever taught. I dare say he rivaled his mother in the art of potions making.”
Of course, now he is flirting with Harry who isn’t even here. This is awkward considering I’ve lived next door to the bloke for a good chunk of my life.
“Well,” Slughorn continued, “I’m sure your parents will be thrilled to know that you are dating a Potter… for however short amount of time.” My jaw hit the floor and a few Ravenclaw’s giggled.
Cal snorted and quickly tried to cover it with a cough. I glared at him before turning back to professor Slughorn. “Today is completely dedicated to you and your potions. Tonight, however, you will need to read double the assigned amount.”
My shoulders sagged. Au revoir sleep. You shall be missed. Cal and I began to carefully add the ingredients to our potion, watching the mud like substance bubble distastefully.
Professor Slughorn walked by and gave our potion an approving nod. “Delicious!” he commented before sauntering away.
Cal and I exchanged a look. “That man has suffered one too many years of potion fumes,” Cal mumbled.
“That he has my partner in crime.” I scanned my potions book. “How are we supposed to get sixteen scruples of fluxweed picked during a full moon? Are we supposed to go out and uproot them ourselves?”
“Ah, hah!” The exclamation made me jump, causing me to rip my potions page out of my book. I gripped the paper and turned on my stool, prepared to let out a full banshee like scream on whoever had snuck up behind me. I came face to face with Slughorn’s rotund belly.
“Miss Heart has come across a very important point. Now, for this project I have gained Professor Longbottom’s permission to use the greenhouse for our experiment. The full moon is in exactly ten days. On that night you will need to go down to the green houses and pick the fluxweed. This gives your lacewing flies plenty of time to stew properly and also gives you enough time to unsuculate your four leaches.”
“But sir, can’t we just get the fluxweed from the student cupboard?” a Ravenclaw boy asked.
Slughorn chuckled and shook his head. “Now Mr. Darwinkle, if this class was easy then it wouldn’t be NEWT level would it?”
Slughorn continued his round of the classroom. I caught Cal’s eye. “Picking it during a full moon means one of us is going to have to stay up late.”
Cal nodded at me knowingly. “Best two out of three?”
We threw down our fists at the same time, giving each four consecutive pumps. “Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!”
My fingers split into the sign for scissors while Cal’s hand laid flat signaling paper. I gave a little fist pump of victory before starting the next round. Some muggle kids down the street from my house taught me this decision making game when I was a kid. It’s been the tiebreaker for every choice, cookie, and pretty much everything else in the Heart family.
I slammed down a closed fist as Cal held out a flat palm once more. I cursed under my breath and forced all my concentration into my last move. Cal’s fist was tightly clenched, signaling that his last move would be rock. I smirked and opened up my palm just as Cal lifted two fingers. I squealed and clenched my fist once more.
“I win!” I exclaimed.
Cal’s jaw dropped. “No, I saw you choose paper before you made a rock. That is so cheating. And did we not declare long ago that cheating would not be tolerated in the sacred game of rock, paper, scissors?”
“We did,” I grumbled.
“So, that makes me the winner which means you have to pick the fluxweed in ten days.”
I dropped my head on the table. Au Revoir, bed. I will miss you.
I aimlessly watched Cal stir the lacewing flies into the mud. I crinkled my nose at the smell and heard a few Ravenclaw’s retching in the background. Serves those wankers right for laughing at me.
“Why are you really going out with James?” Cal asked underneath his breath.
“I told you,” I said, more than a little annoyed.
“Yeah, well I think you’re fooling yourself.”
I turned to look at him. “What do you mean?”
Cal kept steady eye contact with the grotesque potion before turning to meet my gaze. “I mean, I think you’re doing this to fulfill some sort of sad fantasy. You have never received as much as a second glance from James Potter and I think you saw this as your chance to get his attention.”
I gaped at him. “What? How could you say that? You know I think he’s a complete prat.”
“Then why do you get a whip lash every time you catch a glimpse of him? How come you perk up every time he is around? It’s becoming almost unbearable to watch you around him.” His voice remained low, even though it had gained a harsh edge. “It makes me sick watching you chase him around like a puppy. And now, with this plan of his, you’re just setting yourself up for heartbreak.”
I pulled my eyebrows down into a glare. “You don’t think I know what he does to me? I am very aware of the situation and I am trying my best to gain control of it.”
Cal scoffed, “Whatever.”
I left potions in an extremely sour mood. Cal stayed behind to clean up the mess we made in class. In Charms, I left a good four seats between us. All I could think of were the harsh words he had whispered to me over our bubbling potion. I took notes with a little more vigor than normal, tearing a few holes in my parchment- so much for the support of one of my best friends.
My quill slowed and the corners of my mouth turned down in a frown. Was Cal right? Was I only partaking in this little scheme to fulfill some sad pleasure? So far, my plan to convince myself of James’ general pratiness wasn’t going the way I wanted. Up to now, he had managed to make my palms sweat, turn my inside to mush, and make my head foggy.
When we were dismissed from class, I made a beeline for the door, once again leaving Cal behind. Once my foot left the doorway a pair of hands covered my eyes, making me yelp in shock.
“Guess who, my Cornish pixie?” I ripped the hands from my face and met a pair of chocolate brown eyes. James.
I huffed and began to march away from him, hating myself for the eruption of butterflies in my stomach. He grabbed my hand and whipped me back around. I caught a brief glimpse of Cal as he left for lunch; he shook his head before getting lost in the crowd.
James put a finger underneath my chin and directed my gaze back to him. “How was class?”
I gave another huff. “Oh, just swell. I love double potions and double charms. I wish I had them everyday! Yaaay!” I said in mock enthusiasm.
James chuckled and placed a finger on his chin. “You know, call me mental, but I do believe there is something else bothering you. Do you feel like getting it off of your chest?”
I couldn’t help but give a small smile. Maybe Cal was right and I was doing this to get James’ attention. Well, if that was my true motive, I’ve succeeded. He hasn’t been genuinely concerned about my well being since we were kids. “It’s just Cal-“
“Oh, Rebecca’s coming!” James cut across.
I furrowed my brows in confusion and caught a brief glimpse of Rebecca as she rounded the corner. James roughly grabbed my face, yanked me towards him, and his lips enveloped my own. This was nothing like the kiss he gave me that morning. This kiss was rough and animalistic; unlike the soft and tender kiss I experienced earlier.
I heard Rebecca speed up and had enough sense to guess she was probably blushing. I waited until her footsteps faded around the corner before I pushed James off me.
“What the bloody hell?”
“What?” James wiped his mouth off on his sleeve. Well that was insulting.
“Why would you kiss me after you realized I was upset?” I spluttered angrily.
James made a motion with his arm, following the path Rebecca just took. “She was coming around the corner! I had to make it believable!”
“You want to make it believable, James? You want to make it seem like you’re serious and that you genuinely care?” My voice was steadily rising, but seeing as the corridor was empty, it didn’t matter. “A serious boyfriend who actually cared about his girlfriend wouldn’t shove his tongue down her throat when she’s upset. Sometimes, holding someone’s hand can say a lot more than physically accosting them.”
James looked confused. “Really?”
I ran a hand through my hair. “Oh, my gosh.” I turned around and began to walk to lunch.
“Hey, wait! Where are you going?” James called, running to catch up with my fast pace.
“You know what, I think I want out of this agreement.” Cal was right… he always is. It’s most likely better to end this now before things get out of hand.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s not get crazy here.” James reached out for my arm but I yanked it away. “Come on, Beth. You promised to help me out. I would do the same thing for you.”
I stopped so abruptly that James overshot me and had to turn around. “That’s the thing, I don’t think you would, James.”
“What? We’ve been friends since we were kids.”
“And maybe that’s where our friendship stopped.”
James’ brows furrowed in confusion, or maybe anger. “What are you saying, Bethany?”
I threw my hands up in desperation. “Let’s face it, James. As soon as I was sorted into Hufflepuff house, you chose to ignore me. The only times I see you are when I’m hanging out with Al in the Gryffindor common room, or when I run into you sneaking out of the Hufflepuff girls’ dormitory.”
“W-well we’re in different years, so we didn’t have enough time for each other,” James spluttered.
“Really, cause you seem to have enough time for me now, James.”
He didn’t have an answer to that one, so I turned around and stormed off. After a few moments I heard his footsteps, so I quickened my pace. I felt a hand grab my arm and stop me. “Beth,” his voice wasn’t angry, or even commanding. It was soft and gentle.
I slowly turned to face him and was quickly swallowed by those chocolate eyes that matched the softness in his voice. “Beth, I’m so sorry. I didn’t stop to think about you. I just considered you my two best mates kid sister. I didn’t stop to think about our previous friendship and what I was doing to it. Do you think you can forgive me?”
I shrugged. “Of course I can forgive you, but I don’t know if I can still go through with this plan. We hardly know each other anymore.”
James nodded and took a step back. “Okay, how about this. We don’t kiss as much. Only on very rare occasions.” I think my heart shriveled a little. No, this is a good thing, I reminded myself. “Secondly,” James continued, “we get re-acquainted with one another. We stop spending so much time in public and spend more time alone, strengthening whatever friendship we have left. We can even go to the next Hogsmeade weekend together. We’ll say it’s a date, but it’ll just be us hanging out like when we were kids.” James finished his proposal looking hopeful.
I nodded my head. “Yeah, that could work. When’s the next Hogsmeade weekend?”
James shoved his hand deep in his pocket and looked up at the ceiling in thought. “Ten days I believe?”
I nodded. “Would you be willing to lengthen that date till, like, midnight?”
James placed a hand on his chest and gave a gasp of shock. “Miss Heart! I didn’t think you were the kind of girl to stay out with a gentleman past curfew. What happened to just being friends?”
I blushed a deep scarlet and began to wave my hands. “No, no, no. I have to pick fluxweed that night for potions.”
James’ smirk quickly morphed into a crooked grin. Oh wow, hot. “Okay, yeah. I think that’ll work.”
He held out his hand and I grabbed it, pleased that I had proven Cal wrong and taken control of the situation.
James made a small bow. “After you Miss Heart.”
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