Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is not mine.
“You’re going to be all weird now aren’t you?” James said, noticing my still shocked expression at his accusation. I couldn’t figure out a response so he continued, looking away from me as he spoke. “This is why I didn’t want you to know.”
I quickly composed myself after James’ words, feeling the urge to convince him that I wasn’t going to change. Molly would kill me if I did. “I’m weird around everyone. I’m not the biggest social butterfly if you haven’t noticed.”
James looked back at me as I said this, squinting his eyes. “Yeah, but now you’re going to act like everyone else.”
“And how does everyone else act?” I asked, genuinely wanting to know.
“As though I’m this big project that needs fixing,” James said, kicking one of his feet in the dirt and scuffing up his trainer. He then looked up at me to see my confused expression and continued. “I don’t like talking to Dom and them anymore because they’re always acting like I need help. And I’m tired of people trying to help me. I don’t need it.”
I drew my eyebrows together at James’ words. I never offered help to anyone willingly. I wasn’t the best at giving advice. My current predicament with being trapped in the pageant world showed that I couldn’t even deal with my own situations, let alone help people with theirs. So why did James thing I was going to try and help him?
“Well don’t worry then,” I said easily. “Because I’m not going to try and help you. I’ve got enough problems of my own in case you haven’t noticed. Like the fact that your ex girlfriend freaked out on me for speaking to you. What’s that about?”
James looked uncomfortable at my mention of Fiona and shrugged. “She can get a bit… attached.”
“A bit,” I responded back mockingly.
“Yeah,” James said. “I think she thought that it was only temporary when I broke up with her, but I’d been wanting to do it for a while. Nate’s death just kind of gave me the push I needed.”
“Right,” I responded. “Does she know that?”
“She should,” James said. “It’s been almost a year.”
“Some people have trouble letting go,” I said, and then I trailed off, looking out at the expanse of the Quidditch pitch as the conversation came to a lull. The only sound that could be heard was the rustling of the trees as a light wind blew through the air.
I felt James looking at me out of the corner of my eye, but I didn’t look back until he cleared his throat. “So… you’re not going to be weird around me then?”
“Not any weirder than I normally am anyways,” I answered. I then gestured to the toy broom I was still sitting on, deciding to direct the conversation back to the task at hand: Quidditch. “Now come on, l have a match in less than a week, and I still can’t fly. Help me?”
James ran his eyes over me from the fake pout I was now wearing on my face to my green eyes which I had widened for comedic effect. After inspecting me, he did something I had never expected him to do. He smiled. And there was something about his smile that made me feel obliged to smile back. His smile morphed him. It made him as though he didn’t have the weight of the world weighing him down. And as I looked at him, I felt like I was catching a glimpse of the old James. The James he was back when Nate was still alive.
“Alright,” James said, rolling his eyes and giving my broom a playful push, causing me to screech as I wobbled forward. “I’ll help you. But only because you begged.”
“So,” Dom began, leaning towards me with one eyebrow raise, as she folded her arms on the library table. “How did practice go last night?”
“It went,” I responded, keeping my eyes trained on the essay I was writing for Charms. It was due tomorrow and I hadn’t had time to do it earlier because of the packed schedule my mum had sent me this week. Added with the nonstop Quidditch practices I had been going to every night, and I was starting to fall behind.
The only good thing about having so many events to attend with my mum this week was that I had been able to ask her in person about trying to reschedule the interview that was the same day as the Quidditch match. It had taken a lot of finagling, but I had managed to convince my mum I had an important Charms presentation that day that I could not for the life of me miss. My mum had been a bit iffy about it at first, but she had eventually agreed to see what she could do, and with my mum’s powerful negotiating skills, I was confident she could get the interview pushed to a different day. Just so long as she didn’t find out that the real reason I wanted the interview moved was because I was on the Quidditch team. I knew that would definitely not go over well.
I heard Dom scoff across from me and knew that she was not pleased with my snarky answer. “You’re not funny.”
“Really?” I said, looking at Dom and quirking an eyebrow. “I’d beg to differ.”
“You’re also not good at getting me to switch topics,” Dom said, giving me a stern look. “You see, as the unofficial co-captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, I need to know how practice went.”
“Merlin, okay Dom. Practice went… well,” I said, and for once I wasn’t lying. James’ practice method of having me use the toy broom had been fairly successful. After using that to learn to keep my balance, James had had me try riding a regular broom, and I could now fly without falling. Which in all honesty, was a huge accomplishment for me.
“How well?” Dom asked, looking at me expectantly. “Like beat Hufflepuff to a pulp well or not lose by an embarrassing amount well? Because honestly either will do.”
“Probably the latter option,” I answered Dom honestly. “I’ve mastered the ability to fly a broom without falling but I’m pretty awful at sharp turns and we only practiced for like… fifteen minutes yesterday with a snitch on the field. I caught it once in that time but I think that’s because the snitch we used was pretty old so the magic was wearing off.”
Dom seemed to think over my words as I spoke, before nodding her head sharply. “That’ll be good enough.”
“How?” I asked incredulously. Had she even listened to a word I said? I basically admitted that I sucked.
“Look,” Dom said, letting out a sigh as her blue eyes drilled into mine, “you’ve only just started learning how to ride a broom… a week ago, is it?” I nodded and Dom continued. “So the fact that you even might be able to catch the snitch is impressive enough, and in all honesty I’m just really grateful that you’re trying. We would’ve had to forfeit without you.”
I felt my insides warm up as Dom spoke. She really did always know what to say when I was feeling worried. That’s one of the things I loved most about her.
“So then you don’t think when Scorpius sees me practice tomorrow night he’ll demand I leave the team?” I asked.
“Not a chance,” Dom said, knocking her knee into mine. “He likes you too much to be an arse. He reserves that especially for me.”
I rolled my eyes as a small smile played on my lips. “You provoke him half the time, Dom. That’s the only reason he snaps back.”
“I do not provoke him,” Dom said, giving me a wide-eyed look. “If anything he provokes me.”
“You both provoke each other,” I amended. “But the point is, that if you don’t let what he says bother you and if you don’t fight back, then you guys will stop arguing.”
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” Dom stated, raising a hand to emphasize her point.
“Ah yes, changing the topic when you know I’m right; I’ve trained you well in this art,” I mused, causing Dom to laugh.
“I miss this,” Dom said, after her laughter had subsided. She was now staring at me with uncertain eyes, and I could feel that the conversation had now shifted to a more serious note.
I tilted my head to the side, my confusion evident. “What do you mean?”
“This,” Dom said, using her hand to gesture to herself and then me respectively. “Us. Hanging out.”
“We see each other all the time,” I told Dom.
“I know,” Dom began, biting her bottom lip. “I guess I just feel like we haven’t really hung out with each other lately. I mean, I figured I’d be seeing a lot more of you since you go to Hogwarts now but you’re always studying with Rose or flying with James or leaving school early to go to press junkets with your mum. I just thought we would have more… us time now that you went here.”
I weighed Dom’s words over in my head before letting out a sigh. She was right. We hadn’t really been spending much time together since I started going to Hogwarts, which was a pretty unexpected realization for me to come to. I mean, half the reason I had wanted to go here was so that I could see her. I was an awful friend.
“I’m sorry,” I said to Dom.
“Oh don’t be,” Dom said, waving a hand to brush my apology off. “I didn’t mean for it to sound like I was blaming you. I know you’ve been really busy juggling school and Quidditch and your pageant stuff.”
“But you’re right,” I said, feeling a rush of guilt at the thought. “We haven’t had a proper hang out in ages.”
“So then we’ll fix it,” Dom said easily. “We still have a couple months until you leave. So we’ll hang out as soon as you have free time. Alright?”
“Okay,” I responded, nodding my head.
“Good,” Dom said, breaking into a smile. “So now that that’s sorted, I’ve got another issue to bring up.”
“And what would that be?” I inquired, as I began to look back down at my essay.
“Fiona,” Dom stated, causing me to snap my head back up in confusion.
“What about her?”
“Well from what I’ve heard from Molly, she’s not particularly happy about you being on the Quidditch team,” Dom said.
“Oh?” I asked, suddenly not very interested in what Dom had to say about Fiona anymore. I’d been dealing with girls like her my entire life from my pageanting days, so I couldn’t say I was really surprised she hadn’t decided to just leave me alone. Girls like her liked to pick people until they were brought down to her level.
“Yeah,” Dom said. “She’s been going on to everyone about how you’re trying to steal James away from her and has turned the entire pep squad against you.”
“Even Lily and Lucy?” I asked before I could stop myself.
“Dunno about them,” Dom responded, shrugging. “Fiona kind of lets them do whatever they want since they’re related to James. Just so long as they keep quiet and don’t contradict her, they’re fine.”
“Oh, okay,” I said, feeling the tiniest bit comforted. As much as I hated to admit it, I didn’t want Lucy and Lily to hate me… I had (kind of) grown fond of them and their pink.
“But my point is,” Dom said, clearly trying to get our conversation back on track, “that since Fiona controls the pep squad, and inadvertently the pep squad controls the school, they’re probably not going to be the nicest to you when you play during your match.”
“Oh,” I said, not knowing what else to say. “I guess I’ll watch out for that then.”
“Please do,” Dom said. “I don’t want those little bints knocking your confidence and ruining our game. Merlin, I can’t believe James dated her sometimes.”
“People do a lot of stupid things,” I mused.
“They really do,” Dom said, looking off into the distance. Then she shook her head, as though clearing her thoughts. “Anyways, I’ve got to run. Scorpius is coming up with some last minute plays and I have to oversee to make sure they’re nothing too impossible. I’ll see you!”
And with that, Dom got up from the chair across from me, smoothed down the front of her shirt, and flounced out of the library, her silvery blonde ponytail bobbing along with her. It was almost funny how easily she could compose herself after basically telling me that I had an entire group of girls rooting against me.
I sighed as I felt the familiar wave of competitiveness course through my veins. I guess this meant I had to prove them wrong.
“You look nervous,” James stated simply, observing my fidgeting hands as I pulled my hair into a ponytail for the umpteenth time. After finally securing the hair band to my liking, I turned to James.
“I’m not nervous,” I lied.
“Yeah. You are,” James countered. “But you have no reason to be. Scorpius is just going to sit in while we practice. It’s not a big deal. Just pretend he’s not here.”
“Easy for you to say,” I said bitterly. “But Scorpius is like… insane about making sure Gryffindor wins this year. And I kind of sort of suck, so he’s going to freak out when he realizes I have no talent whatsoever.”
“Give yourself some credit, Natasha,” James said seriously. “You’ve been working really hard for the past week and you’ve improved a lot. You’re better than the other kid that bailed, so really, you’re an improvement to the team if anything.”
“How do you know how good the other seeker was?” I asked, arching an eyebrow.
James looked caught of guard at my question, which was something I wasn’t used to seeing. James was never caught off guard. He then cleared his throat and shrugged. “I watch their practices from time to time. Just to see how they’re doing.”
“Hm,” I said, tapping my chin at James’ response. James watched me.
“Nothing,” I said, shrugging my own shoulders. “It’s just… seems like you still want to be part of the team. Doesn’t it?”
James chose to ignore me, not that I was surprised, and instead his eyes sailed over my head before locking on something behind me. I turned around to see Scorpius was approaching us, and my nerves quickly returned.
“Hey Tash, James,” Scorpius said as he arrived in front of us, nodding at us respectively.
“Hey,” I said weakly, forcing a smile at Scorpius.
James didn’t speak but signaled a hello to Scorpius by nodding back. Scorpius then clapped his hands together in an authoritative manner. “So, you guys ready?”
I looked at James to answer and he nodded again. “Yeah, we’re going to just do our regular training routine. You can sit in the stands and watch, and then afterwards we’ll discuss it. Sound good?”
“Sure,” Scorpius said, he then pulled out a thick leather bound book that I remembered from all the times we studied together. It was his Quidditch plays book. In other words: his bible. “I’ll just take notes.”
Then Scorpius turned and took a seat front and center in the Quidditch stands, while I continued to fidget like a ball of nerves.
“You never told me he was going to take notes,” I said to James.
“He’s captain and he’s Scorpius. Of course he’s going to take notes.”
“I don’t want to fly in front of him if he’s going to critique everything I do,” I said, suddenly feeling self-conscious. “I hate being judged.”
“You’re a pageant queen,” James stated. I gave him a blank stare back that seemed to say ‘so?’ and he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. I noticed out of the corner of my eye, Scorpius watching us closely. “Look just… pretend he’s one of those faceless judges at your pageants okay? Or better yet, remember that he’s Scorpius, your friend.”
“Right. My friend,” I said, the words feeling odd on my tongue. I guess I had never really made the connection until now, but it was true. Scorpius was my friend.
“Now just do a couple laps around the field first to show you can fly,” James said to me, and I nodded my head as I picked up my broom. I quickly straddled it and gripped the handle like James had taught me, before looking back at James for the signal to kick off.
After James inspected my form he nodded.
Okay, Nata. If I can parade around on stage with a bunch of batons, I can do this.
And with that thought flying through my head I kicked off the ground and began soaring into the sky.
“So, how did it look?” I asked James as I dismounted the broom. We’d just finished up the practice, and I bit my lip nervously, waiting for the verdict.
“You did great,” James said, his eyes twinkling which caused me to grin back. “I think Scorpius was impressed too. He was taking lots of notes, which is always a good sign.”
I nodded at this. It was kind of weird whenever James mentioned Scorpius’ mannerisms, because of the fact that they barely talked anymore. It was like a reminder that James had shut himself out from them all.
“So then you don’t think Scorpius noticed how I almost fell off my broom when I did that right turn?” I asked.
“Oh I noticed,” a voice said from behind, and I turned to see Scorpius standing behind James and me, with his arms crossed. I gulped. However, just as I was about to melt in a puddle of embarrassment Scorpius broke out into a grin and engulfed me in a hug. “But you were still brilliant. Better than I could’ve hoped! Who knew you could fly?”
“I wasn’t that good,” I said, suddenly feeling embarrassed at Scorpius’ excitement. He pulled away from the hug as I said this and gave me a weird look.
“Tash, you were good. The seeker we had that quit before you wobbled like crazy when he flew and always misjudged his distances,” Scorpius explained. “I’m just glad you stayed on your broom.”
“See?” James said, looking at me. “I told you, you’d be fine.” He then turned to Scorpius. “She thought you’d kick her off the team.”
“She did?” Scorpius asked incredulously before turning back to me. “Do you really think I’m that terrible? I mean I know Dom likes to complain about my captaining, but I’m not that harsh—”
“I didn’t think that because of Dom,” I said quickly, not wanting Scorpius to attack Dom the next time he saw her. “I was just worried. It was stupid.”
“Indeed it was,” James agreed, while Scorpius nodded along with him.
“Seriously, Tash,” Scorpius started. “I think we could really have a chance this year for once.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it,” Scorpius said easily. He then turned to James. “Thanks for helping her out, mate.”
“It’s no problem,” James said, shrugging. “Just make sure during the match you have the beaters guard her left side; that’s her weakest.”
“Alright,” Scorpius said, pulling out his notebook and beginning to write what James said down. “Anything else I should take note of?”
“Well, she’s still fairly new at diving, so don’t let her go for anything too low. And she sometimes brakes too suddenly if she hesitates, which can lead to collisions out on the field.”
I felt myself become uncomfortable as James and Scorpius began discussing me further. “Can you guys talk about me without me having to listen to it?” I asked, once James started to discuss my right turns, which are always a sore subject with me.
“Oh, right,” Scorpius said, seeming to remember I was there, “sorry.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “I just don’t like listening to you guys discussing me. I feel like an exhibit or something.”
James seemed to think this over before speaking to Scorpius. “Well then, I guess I’ll mention that you need to make sure Gryffin doesn’t gain too much speed on the field. I watched him at practice a couple weeks ago and he’s a bit of a loose cannon once he gains momentum.”
Scorpius nodded at this and began to scribble furiously yet again, and it was as I watched this that I felt some small bit of satisfaction. James was now talking to one of his old friends. This was something that I’d hoped for, when I agreed to join the team.
James and Scorpius continued to discuss various plays as we continued to reach the castle. Once we were back inside the nearly empty Gryffindor Common Room, Scorpius turned to James.
“Thanks a lot man. You’re really saving me, you know that?” Scorpius said, looking at James seriously.
“No problem. But I’m sure you don’t even need my help. I made you captain for a reason,” James said, causing Scorpius to smile slightly.
“Still, it’s really ace of you to do this,” Scorpius responded. Then, an idea flashed behind his eyes. “Do you think maybe tomorrow before the game you could look over my plays really quick during breakfast? Just to give me your thoughts?”
James seemed to think over this for a bit before nodding. “Yeah, sure. I could do that.”
“Great!” Scorpius said, looking extremely happy at James’ words. He then cleared his throat to compose himself. “Right well, I’ll see you tomorrow, James. Tasha, I’ll see you at the game. Get lots of sleep before then and don’t be late, yeah?” And with that Scorpius backed away and walked up the staircase towards the dorms.
James turned to me. “I should probably turn in too. And so should you. It’s pretty late.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” I said, nodding at James and beginning to turn away.
“Tash?” James said, just as I was about to walk up the stairs.
“Yeah?” I asked, turning around.
“Just… thanks,” James said, suddenly looking nervous. I didn’t know what he was thanking me for, but for some reason, I had the feeling I didn’t need to know.
“You’re welcome,” I said, nodding my head at James simply before turning back around and walking up the stairs.
Nata, Unfortunately, I cannot reschedule your Miss Teen Witch Interview. I understand you have a presentation that day, but when I let you go to Hogwarts we agreed it would in no way interfere with your pageanting career. I’m sorry to have to tell you this but you’re going to have to miss it. On the plus side, you’re going to be at the front of the fashion page in the Daily Prophet instead! Love you and see you tomorrow, Mum XX
I felt my heart sink as I read my mum’s letter, which had been sitting on my bed as I soon as I arrived in the dormitory. So… there really was no way to reschedule the interview. Which mean that I had to make a choice. Miss the Quidditch match and go to the interview or miss the interview and attend the match. I knew what I wanted to do, but I also knew that there would be serious repercussions if I went through with my choice. My mum would have a conniption if I didn’t go to the interview.
I looked down at the envelope, studying the carefully written words of my mother, and out of nowhere I thought of Molly’s advice when she had walked me to the library.
You’ve got to not want to go all on your own.
I hadn’t known what she had meant at the time, but right now, looking at my mother’s letter, I suddenly understood. And it was then that I knew what I had to do.
A/N: So, let me just start of by saying how much I love you guys. You're awesome seriously. The response I've been getting from the past few chapters has made me want to cry with happiness, and I've literally received some of the sweetest reviews ever.
Now that that's over with I'll apologize. Because yet again this chapter has ended with a cliffie. I don't know why, but for some reason the chapters for this story can only seem to end on cliffhangers. I'll try to not have it happen in the next chapter, but there are really no guarantees.
Anyways what did you all think? I tried to put lots of James interaction into this chapter since he was kind of lacking in the last one, so did you like it? Do you like Dom and Nata's talk? Are you worried about Fiona? Are you happy James and Scorp are starting to talk? WHAT DO YOU THINK TASH IS GUNNA GO?
Please please review and let me know your thoughts. I know it took me a bit longer than usual to respond to your reviews from the last chapter, but I've responded to all of them now so I hope you don't think I ignored you! I seriously read all of your reviews, and I show them to my friends too because sometimes they don't believe how awesome my reviewers really are.