“I’m only saying, Arielle, you need to understand how renowned the Potters are.”
My mother was practically dancing around the kitchen while I sat at the island, dodging our house-elf Solly while she attempted to help clear up all the dishes and glasses that the guests had left.
Of course I cared what my mother was saying, but I’d also heard quite enough talk of any Potter whatsoever. I quite wanted to forget anything and everything about that horrendous party as well. But my mother and I were different there. She liked to go over every little detail about the Embarrassing Past, whereas I was a little bit more prone to simply move past it and pretend it never happened.
Hilary was slumped in the stool next to me gracelessly, spooning a pink-frosted cake into her mouth lazily. She had been relatively quiet since all the guests had left.
Albus Potter had stopped to say goodbye; I’d nodded and smiled, but I hadn’t opened my mouth, and I knew he could tell I was incredibly embarrassed. Hilary on the other hand had given him a vigorous hug and told him that she’d hoped they’d meet again.
“I don’t really care how renownded they are, Mummy,” I told her in my bored voice, “I was completely humiliated in front of Albus.”
Hilary snickered and both me and my mother sent her a waspish look. She looked quickly down at her cake. My mother turned back to me with a despairing look.
“Yes, you didn’t make the best first impression, did you? I mean,” she said airily, walking over to the fridge and getting out a bottle of champagne, “You looked clumsy and silly, and he probably thinks you’re completely unsuitable as marriage material-”
Hilary suddenly choked on her cake. I had nothing to choke on, but I still started spluttering relentlessly.
“Marriage!? Marriage, Mummy? What on earth are you talking about?” I screeched, jumping off of my stool. Hilary was still coughing vehemently; I absent-mindedly patted her on the back. It helped nothing.
“Yes, Arielle, marriage,” my mother replied whimsically, completely unperturbed by my shrieking. “You’re nineteen, for goodness sake, and you know it’s a tradition in the Wingrove family for the women to marry young. I married your father when I was twenty-one, and even that was considered by my parents to be older than usual.”
“Oh, when did they get married?” Hilary asked with interest.
“My mother was eighteen.”
“She was still in school,” I hissed at my friend. I looked back to my mother. “Mummy, I don’t want to get married!”
She looked at me with her eyebrows raised. “Well, I don’t suppose Mr. Potter will be too interested anymore anymore. Honestly,” she sighed, flitting out the kitchen. “I try and I try to find some good men for you and you go and make a fool out of yourself right in front of them!”
When she’d gone, I turned back to Hilary with a look of despair on my face. She gazed back with a cheerful look on her own.
“You know, there’s always the 27-cats route. I’ve got an aunt in Sicily who’s done it; she said it was alright.”
“Oh my god,” I groaned, reaching out and knocking her plate of cake off the island. She shrieked indignantly and pushed me off my stool.
I chose not to dignify her act of violence with a response. I picked myself up and cleared away the cake with my wand, then picked up the stool that had fallen with me. Hilary was looking sulky. I eyed her sternly.
“You have to help me,” I told her.
She raised an eyebrow at me. “Help you with what, Arielle?”
“One, you have to help me convince my mother that it is okay to not get married young. And two, you have to help me to unconvince Albus Potter that I’m a clumsy lunatic.”
Hilary chuckled. “I really don’t think he thinks you’re a clumsy lunatic. I mean, you are a clumsy lunatic, but he doesn’t have to know that, does he?”
“I am not a clumsy lunatic!”
“You just fell off your stool.”
“You pushed me!”
“I did no such thing.”
I glared at her with venom, but she simply continued to watch me with a complacent expression. I knew I was on dangerous ground now, and so did she. She stood up from her own stool and walked over to me.
“Hilary, you’re my best friend,” I pleaded. She grinned.
“I know – it’s a tragedy, but it’s true.”
“Does that mean you’re agreeing?”
Her grin became wicked. “It sounds like fun, and any socialising with a Potter...” She winked at me and I hit at her shoulder gently.
“Hilary, please don’t act like this is fun and games!”
“Ah!” she cried. “But it is!”
“OK, just breathe normally and pretend you like his hair; you’ll do fine,” Hilary whispered next to me as we approached the two black-haired men, who were oblivious to our staring, instead talking quietly, almost moodily.
By ‘complete chance and coincidence’, Hilary and I had managed to run into James and Albus Potter this afternoon, and Hilary had jumped at the ‘chance and coincidence’ to put ‘Le Plan!’ into action, which we’d been going over for the last couple of days.
She basically meant that I was to go up to Albus and start acting like I hadn’t had champagne thrown all over me the last time I’d seen him. Needless to say, I wasn’t too confident.
But Hilary gave me a slight push closer to them. “Just throw caution to the wind, Arielle! Well, as much caution as you can throw – the last time you were involved with any throwing, you ended up with drink in your hair.”
She gave a light cackle and quickly pushed her away. The Silver Unicorn was not the best named of all pubs, but it had a reputation for being an excellent place to hide, and as she ducked out of sight, I made a mental note to not bother looking for her after this whole ordeal was over. There was no point; I’d probably end up stuck in a hidden chamber-pot.
No, instead, I braced the fear (or was it embraced the fear? Hilary would probably know. Mental note two.) and walked over to Albus and James. I reached them and leaned forward to tap Albus on the shoulder. He turned instantly and his eyes widened and he smiled. I tried very, very hard to focus on his face and not his ‘hair’.
“Is this just a coincidence, then?” he said. His brother turned around at this and surveyed me lazily. He gave a small nod then went back to his drink.
“Uh, yes, I think so,” I said nervously. He grinned.
“Really.” Then he turned his head round to his brother. “James, can you piss off for a sec? I want to talk to this one.”
I barely had time to register his rudeness before James Potter stood up from his seat, gave Albus a light backhand round the head and walked off to the bar, leaving a free seat which Albus patted, indicating for me to sit down. I did slowly.
“That was quite rude of you, Albus,” I said quietly, and looked back where I saw James chatting merrily with...Hilary?
Oh dear god. She must have come out of her hiding place then.
“Oh, yeah, he looks to be drowning in misery,” Albus said cheerily. He regarded Hilary and James, who looked to be flirting outrageously, sceptically. “Isn’t she a bit too clever for him?”
“You shouldn’t talk about your siblings like that,” I frowned. He rolled his eyes. I continued to frown, and he frowned back.
And we stayed like that for a good few minutes, just having a frowning contest.
I was first to break, worried that if it was kept up any longer, I’d have frown lines.
“Wasn’t your brother one of the cleverest in Hogwarts, though?” I asked, but he didn’t reply. Instead he stood up and went over to the bar, ignoring James and Hilary who were by now sitting close together and having what looked to be a perfectly civilised conversation. Albus talked to the barmaid and a moment later returned to our table holding two bottles of butterbeer.
“Thank you,” I said, smiling.
“My brother was clever academically,” Albus said, as if he’d never left, “but Hilary’s got a sharp tongue. It’s too sharp for him, I think.”
I considered. I didn’t know James very well, but siblings were always mean to and about each other, weren’t they? I knew Hilary’s little sisters always insisted on stealing her clothes and then completely customising and ruining them.
They didn’t talk much anymore – and it was all over a dress.
“What about Lily?” I asked, wondering if family was a good topic of conversation. It probably wasn’t, but I found I wasn’t too bothered.
“She’s pretty average,” he shrugged, swigging his drink. “But I don’t think she’s ever cared about school. She’s obsessed with parties and drugs and boys and that kind of shi – stuff,” he said hastily. Perhaps he’d guessed that I did not tolerate swearing.
“You’re an only child, aren’t you?” he said.
“I’ve got a little sister. My father wanted more children, but they talked and agreed that he’d never be able to look after them because he’s away so much, and my mum was quite happy with just two,” I said.
“Your dad does something to do with wandlore, doesn’t he? Peter Wingrove, right?”
“He looks for substances for wand-making; it means he has to go away a lot and rummage around in forests,” I said, suppressing a scoff. My fathers’ job, no matter how much money it made, was ridiculous – especially when he would apologise for not being able to attend a social event ‘because he needed to spend a few days with a beech.’
Albus laughed. “Sounds cool. Anyway, enough about family. How’s your poor hair?”
I cringed at the memory. “It’s fine...hey! Who are you to talk about hair? Look at yours!” and I gestured towards the black mop.
He made a defensive face and touched his hair lightly. “It’s art.”
“Is it bollocks,” came a jeering voice and we both looked to see James and Hilary standing by the table. They were holding mugs of butterbeer and looked already very...chummy.
“It’s like debris,” Hilary added. “Like something just completely burned to pieces and someone decided to just put it on your head. Yours isn’t much better,” she said to James, nudging him. He just grinned.
“At least I cut mine; he just lets his flail around.”
“You going to be Rapunzel, Albus?” Hilary said cheerfully. Albus scowled, and I suddenly felt bad for bringing up his hair.
“It doesn’t lie flat,” he mumbled, and swigged his drink again. James laughed and clapped his brother on the back. He looked at Hilary.
“It was wonderous meeting you, O’Connor,” he said. “And you, Anna,” he said to me.
“My name’s Arielle,” I said coolly. James shrugged and I twitched inwardly. And he walked out of the place with a wink at Hilary and a light shove at Albus’ shoulder. Hilary looked after him, then at Albus and me and then glanced at the clock on the wall.
“I should probably go, guys – there’s unfinished business I must attend to, and then some business I must make. If you ask me, I’m headed for a dangerous route – but I must embrace the fear and go forth fearlessly!”
She cheerfully danced off out of the pub after that dramatic statement.
“They’re both terrible,” Albus said, shaking his head. I nodded silently.
“I’m sorry for teasing you about your hair,” I said honestly.
He waved away my apology. “Don’t worry about it – James just really pisses me off.”
This time I decided to ignore the swearword. “Well, I think he’s being very hypocritical. I mean, look at his own, it’s terrible, I -”
“Can you shut up about my brother?” he interrupted roughly, and I realized that it was probably a touchy subject. But if it was, why was he having a drink with him in the first place?
“I’m sorry,” I said nervously.
“It’s not like I even wanted to be here today,” he said irritably. “But Lily’s seventeenth is coming up and we were going to get her something joint.”
“Why don’t you get her some joints?” I asked dryly.
“Wouldn’t be that special,” he replied with a smile.
The rest of the afternoon continued quite smoothly while I was in the company of Albus. Because, yes, he was scruffy and impolite – but he was charming and funny and he seemed to like me, which was always a first. A boy named Michael had once commented on how much of a frigid prude I was, and that was why no boy ever fancied me.
It’d been quite a sharp blow, but I’d soon got over it. It didn’t really bother me.
Three hours and two more butterbeers later, I decided it was getting late enough. I waited for Albus to finish his rant about people on muggle trains.
“I should be going,” I told him with my best smile. His face dropped slightly, but he quickly fixed it back.
“Oh, ok...well, it was lovely to get re-acquainted with you, Arielle. I mean, this wasn’t the best re-meeting I could’ve imagined...but I don’t think I’d have wanted to imagine the worst.”
I laughed and held out a hand, intending for him to shake it. Instead, he took me by surprise, holding it to his lips and kissing it, never once taking his eyes off me.
There was a moment of silence between us, then he smirked. “I saw that in a muggle film once and I always wanted to do it.”
I chuckled and nodded a goodbye at him. I could feel my face flushing.
I could feel his eyes on me as I went to leave.
“Oh, Arielle?” His voice was teasing, yet nervous.
I turned faster than I’d have liked to. “Yes?”
“D’you want to meet me again, say...next Thursday?”
I couldn’t stop the smile that escaped my lips this time.
“Of course I will. Around 11, by the Leaky Cauldron?”
He smiled a one-sided smile. “11’s perfect.”
I turned away for the second time, but he didn’t call me back this time. I debated how much I’d have wanted him to.
Not much actually, considering I managed to walk straight into the door while I was leaving. Oh, graceful, graceful, graceful.
“I saw that in a muggle film” is adapted from Leonardo DiCaprio’s line in Titanic. I don’t own it and I don’t own the young Leo *cries* Mazz X