Chapter 9 : I Love Him, I Love Him Not
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We walked into Hogsmeade, already incredibly late. Students from Hogwarts stopped to whisper and point at us. Some even giggled. A few girls gave me deadly glares that would silence the meanest of Death Eaters. I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at them.
“Beth, Beth!” James whispered frantically.
I turned. “What?”
“Hold my hand!”
“Just do it, we’re supposed to be dating after all.”
I shook my head. “Nu-uh, you were twenty minutes late. You’re in the dog house mister.”
James chuckled but it faltered. “You- you’re joking right?”
I grinned and gave a flirtatious kick with my foot. “You tell me.” I tried to walk as gracefully as I could in the insanely high heels to Madam Puddifoot’s- a teashop Rose has suggested to us.
As soon as I walked in I regretted it. I let out a scandalized gasp. James stopped right behind me and murmured, “Oh good Merlin what fresh hell is this?”
Pink. Everywhere we looked, pink. Pink walls, pink table covers, pink napkins, pink chairs, pink carpet, even pink hair! The woman, who I assumed to be Puddifoot, bustled over and gave us a kind smile. She was stout with short legs and pudgy fingers. Her pink hair was curled and matched her pink apron.
“Can I get you two lovebirds a seat?” She asked a little too cheerfully. James and I stood there, unable to form words. Apparently she took our silence as confirmation and led us to a table near the back of the store.
We sat on the overly plush cushions and Madam Puddifoot handed us menus. “What’ll it be?” She asked again in that overly cheerful voice, fluffing her hair as she did so.
“Uh, uh…” Even the menu was pink. It was beginning to hurt my eyes. I blinked a few times and tried to read the options.
“Do you have tea?” James asked.
“What kind?” Madam Puddifoot pulled out a pink pad and a quill.
James looked at me. I stared back blankly. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone thought I was confunded. “The… normal kind?” James sounded unsure of himself.
Madam Puddifoot let out a girlish giggle. “I’ll give you the house special. And you my dear?” Her attention turned to me and I felt myself instantly panic. I was completely unsure of what I wanted and her eyes felt like they were boring into my soul.
“Same.” I blurted without really thinking.
“Fantastic!” She took our menus and skipped back to the kitchen. I didn’t really like her that much. I mean, who says “fantastic” over a choice of tea. Mental, that one, I tell you.
I turned my attention from the retreating Madam Puddifoot to James who was staring at me as if he was in a trance. “Pink still you’re favorite color after this?” I asked him because I wasn’t sure what else to say and his unwavering gaze made me feel self-conscious yet again.
James seemed to shake himself back to reality. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake the nightmares after this one.”
I laughed and looked around at the other customers in the store. I quickly wished that I hadn’t. Everyone in the store was a couple and every last one of them was snogging. Seriously! They weren’t even coming up for air! I blushed furiously.
“Er, nice group of kids here, yeah?” James said awkwardly.
I scratched my head. “Yeah. Really… friendly with one another.”
There was a long stretch of awkward silence in which James and I avoided eye contact with each other as well as any of the other couples.
“So,” James finally broke in. “I saw that you and Cal are talking again.”
“Yeah. We are.”
“Well,” I glanced at the table next to us. Man that couple was really going at it. “Um, I apologized… and…”
“Oi!” James snapped and the couple next to us immediately broke apart. “Do you mind? We’re trying to be civil human beings and have a conversation. But we can’t with your slurping in the background!”
The couple looked at us as if we were the ones being rude, but resigned to bowed heads and flirtatious whispers instead. I grinned at James. “Thanks for that.”
He shook his head. “No trouble."
Madam Puddifoot returned to our table with our tea. “Here you two go!” She placed the two saucers in front of us and scurried away.
Oh, look. Pink biscuits, of course. Well at least the tea will be- oh good Merlin. Instead of a deep brown liquid, our pink cups contained pink tea. I stood up instantly. “I can’t take this anymore!”
James stood immediately after me. “Oh thank Merlin! I thought I was the only one.”
James dropped a few galleons on the table and we rushed out of the shop. We found a booth in the corner of the Three Broomsticks and quickly claimed it. We ordered butter beers and hastily drank them in an attempt to wipe our heads of the scarring experience we had just endured. James got us two more cups and we tried to enjoy the rest of our date.
“So… this is a date, huh?” I said rather stupidly.
James grinned, “Haven’t you been on a date before?”
I gave a shrug. “Yeah, but no one really counts third year. That’s when you run around with your head cut off because you’re so excited to be in Hogsmeade.”
James’ grin morphed into a mischievous smirk. “So, you’ve never been on a real date before?”
“Er, I guess technically no.”
“So… it would be safe to say you’re kind of at my mercy.”
I hesitated. “I don’t like the way you said that.”
“So, I’m the one calling the shots here.”
“Stop saying things in that creepy voice.”
“Come on!” James grabbed my hands and steered me out of the Three Broomsticks.
“No buts! This is gonna be the most amazing-“
“Incredible date ever-“
“James! You forgot to pay for the butter beers!”
“Oh, shit!” James dropped my hands and sprinted back into the bar. He came out a few minutes later calling, “Sorry again Rosmerta!”
“Smooth move Casablanca.” I joked lightly.
James grinned at me. “Hey! You made a muggle reference!”
My eyes widened in surprise. “I did?”
James nodded. “Casablanca is an old muggle movie.”
My draw dropped. “What? Get outta town!”
James chuckled. “So you’ve been making this reference for x numbers of years without really knowing what you were quoting.”
He shook his head. “You, Bethany Heart, are incredible.”
And then, it happened. I’m not quite sure how I got the courage to do it. Maybe it was the outfit, and my self-consciousness turned around and became confidence. Maybe it was the fact that James hadn’t taken his eyes off of me all day. Or maybe it was just my Gryffindor side coming out of me. Whatever it was, I’m not going to question it.
I grabbed James’ hand, intertwining our fingers and gave him a kiss on the cheek. A blush crept across his face, but I pretended not to notice as I held his arm with my free hand and placed my head on his shoulder. “Tell me about it,” I sighed.
* * * * *
"Oh my gosh! That was so much fun!” I squealed as we left Zonko’s Joke Shop. James had taken me everywhere in Hogsmeade, each destination more fun than the last.
"I’m glad you think so. Most girls hate ending at Zonko’s. Something about joke shops doesn’t sit right with them.”
"That’s ridiculous because I love joke shops!”
"Have you ever been to my uncle George’s joke shop?” James asked steering me out of the way of a large group of people. He kept a firm grip on my hand even after we passed them. Don’t hyperventilate, breathe Beth, breathe.
"No, but I really should. He keeps saying he’ll give me a discount on anything I want, and I have a good idea I’m gonna want a lot!”
James laughed as we walked through the dark streets of Hogsmeade. I had a note from Slughorn allowing me to be out after curfew and James figured it extended to him as well. I tried to convince him to bring his invisibility cloak but he wouldn’t hear it. “I’m the descendent of James Potter the first. I’m pretty sure I can get away with anything.”
"I’m not so sure James Potter the second. What if we get caught?”
He shrugged. “I’ll talk my way out of it.”
"And if that doesn’t work?”
James shot a grin in my direction. “I’ll have you.”
I snorted even though my heart was pounding. “I don’t know James… who says I’ll swoop in and save the day?”
James pouted, “Please?”
I sighed. “Who could say no to a face like that?”
We had reached the road that lead back to Hogwarts. Most of the castle windows were lit. All the other students had left Hogsmeade hours ago and were currently getting into bed. Our night, however, was just beginning as we made our way to the green houses.
We arrived ten minutes later hand in hand. We stood outside one of the glass buildings. “What now?” James asked.
I shrugged. “You wanna wait outside until its time?”
"Sure thing, love.” James plopped down onto the soft grass and patted the space next to him.
I was very aware of my dress hem sliding up as I sat down next to him. I was careful not to flash anyone. That would not be a fun experience.
I saw James eye my rising hemline with interest and I cleared my throat. He tore his gaze away and back towards me. “So…” he said.
"So…” I repeated.
James gave a massive yawn and flopped back down onto nature’s soft green mattress. “I don’t know about you, but that amazing date wiped me out.”
I rolled my eyes. “Okay, okay we get it. You take girls on fun dates.”
James closed his eyes. “Not all girls.” I could have sworn I heard him mumble, “Just you.” Oh, swoon.
I grinned to myself and uprooted a daisy growing near me. I plucked out the first petal. I love him. I plucked out the next. I love him not.
"You know, I had a really great time today. This date was a lot more fun than a lot of the other ones I usually go on.”
I grinned down at James sprawled casually across the grass. “Me too.” Pluck. I love him.
"Um, I’m also really glad I asked you to be my fake girlfriend.” Even though I had turned away from him I could tell he was flushed from the way he spoke.
I fought back my own blush. “I’m probably mental for saying this, but I’m kind of… sort of… maybe glad you asked me to be your fake girlfriend as well.”
James’ grin was confident. “Oh, don’t worry Beth. You’ve always been completely mental. I mean who would do ballet and hockey until they were thirteen?”
My hand, which was about to pull out another petal, stilled. “Um… I quit both last year, not in third year.”
James’ eyes flipped open. “Really?”
"Yep. Figured you would have picked up on that considering the fact that I was devastated when it happened.” I tried not to sound to annoyed. After all, we were having such a great time. But sadly, I was not succeeding.
"Y-you were?” James sounded nervous.
He better be nervous, I thought to myself. “Yeah, I cried for a month after I quit hockey.”
I nodded, my voice and expression now as cold as ice. “I thought you might have at least realized that considering three of my breakdowns were in your presence.”
"U-um… well you see…” James stumbled over his apology. With each of James’ feeble attempts to talk I grew more aggravated. James hadn’t even noticed me crying even though I was right next to him? Wow. I really must have been invisible to him. The truth hurts, but not as much as James trying to cover up his own backside. Pluck. I love him not.
"I’m waiting.” I growled.
"I’m sorry.” James sat up and looked at me, but I kept very strong eye contact with my daisy. “I guess I was too worried with my girlfriends at the time. Yes, I used the plural because I was a complete prat and dated multiple girls in short periods.” I tried unsuccessfully to fight back a smirk.
"I’m sorry it seemed like I didn’t care enough to comfort you. But hey,” James grabbed my chin and directed his gaze towards me. “I care now.”
My hand subconsciously found the velvet soft petal of the daisy. Pluck. I love him.
"So,” James’ arm snaked around my waist and pulled us closer together. He lay down again in the grass and tugged me along with him. I ended up with my head on his chest, my cheeks as red as a Gryffindor scarf, with James’ arm pulling me flush against his side. I was still holding the daisy. My grip was so tight that I was bending the poor thing in half.
"Why don’t you tell me about it?”
My heart fluttered in my chest and I tried to slow it down by breathing, but my breath only sounded shaky. “Tell you about what?”
"What it was like quitting hockey and ballet.”
"Oh.” I shifted in my spot and coughed uncomfortably. I never did like talking about this. I don’t’ know why. Maybe it was because it was my personal life and I simply didn’t want to talk about it. Or perhaps it was because hockey and ballet didn’t exist in the wizarding world and I was tired of the weird looks when I mentioned it.
"Well, what do you want to know?”
James made a thoughtful sound. “How did you know which one to quit first?”
"Um… I guess it wasn’t that hard of a decision. I mean, I loved ballet but it had kind of fallen under my radar after I joined Hockey. I wasn’t that great anymore-“
James snorted. “Oh come on. My parents took us to one of you recitals. You were amazing.”
I scoffed. “Hardly. I mean I was one of the top in my class I guess, but I wasn’t the best anymore. I had put all of my focus into hockey and became the best in that instead.” I shrugged. “Can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
James nodded. “So you quit ballet first.”
"Yep. Last year I quit ballet. I had to tell my teacher right after she told me she wanted to make me lead in one of the dance numbers. But, c’est la vie.” I shrugged.
"And hockey?” James asked.
"Was much harder. I was so upset about having to quit ballet that I channeled all that anger into my stick. I was the best I had ever been when I had to quit that too.”
"What did your team do?”
"They hated me. Some of them probably still do. I was their best player and I was quitting to go to some fancy prep school that no on had heard of. We do this thing-“ I stopped myself. “We did this thing where when someone left our team we lined up in the middle.” I made a motion with my hand. “We made two rows and faced each other. The girl leaving would take one lap around the rink and then skate through us to the door. We would bang our sticks on the ice and howl and cheer and send them off. When I left no one did anything.” My voice faltered and became softer. “I did my lap, skated through, and all they did was stare at me.” My voice was barely a whisper. “I had never felt so ostracized in my life.”
Without warning I began to cry. I sat up, trying to stem the tears leaking from my eyes, but they wouldn’t stop. “Damn, not again.” I said under my breath.
James sat up immediately and pulled me against him. One hand held my head securely against his hard chest- the other hand gently rubbed my arm. “Shhh, shhh, everything is okay. I’m right here.” James whispered tenderly.
I sucked in a shaky breath. “I’m sorry. I really don’t know why I’m crying. This is so stupid.”
James rested his chin on my head. “No. You are never stupid.”
"You just don’t know what it was like. I felt so accepted, so in my element whenever I went to hockey. Not really being a Hufflepuff or a Gryffindor I’ve never truly felt like I belonged. But I felt like I belonged in hockey, ballet too but mostly hockey. But when I quit, and they excluded me, I lost the one place I actually felt comfortable.”
"Never truly belonged?” I swiped a tear off my cheek and looked at James. “Bethany Heart that’s ridiculous. You have a place here. So what if you’re both a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor? Is being half and half such a bad thing?”
I smirked. “Yes.”
"No.” James’ voice was powerful. “It is not a bad thing. Do you think the world would be interesting if everyone conformed to four separate criteria’s?”
A childish ‘yes’ was on the tip of my tongue, just to be difficult. But I stopped as soon as I caught James’ eyes. “I guess not,” was my reply instead.
"Of course not. It’s great that you’re neither Hufflepuff nor Gryffindor. Why do you think the fat lady is okay with you hanging out in the common room?”
"'Cause I know the password?”
"'Cause you exemplify Gryffindor qualities, Beth!” James huffed, exasperated with my stubbornness.
"I still don’t see-“
"No, Beth. Stop right there.” James cut across strongly. He gently lifted my chin and my eyes naturally gravitated towards his. I was immediately enveloped in chocolate. “You are you Beth. And that makes you so incredibly beautiful.”
My breath hitched. There it was again. Beautiful. James began to slowly and rhythmically rub my cheek with his thumb. “Do you really think so?” I whispered.
James nodded. “I’ve always thought so.” Pluck. I love him. Pluck. I love him. Pluck. I love him.
James bent his head down, his breath on my face. The scent of strawberries washed over me and I was hit with the sudden urge to kiss him. His thumb continued drawing patterns on my soft skin and his other hand came up to cradle the other side of my face. I was trapped. I couldn’t move even if I wanted to. My head was locked in place by his hands and my body was pressed up against his own. Oh good Merlin, how I would have killed someone last year to be close to James. Now there’s hardly any room left between us for the Holy Ghost!
"Beth.” A shudder ran up my spine at the sound of my name.
"Wanna see something cool?” I blurted suddenly.
"Wh-what?” James pulled away, looking frazzled and confused.
I felt much the same way. What had just happened? James was about to kiss me, for real this time, and I say, “Wanna see something cool?” Oh Merlin, take me now.
"Er, well, I mean… It’s time to pick the fluxweed.” I pointed to the moon, which was now high in the sky. “That’s what I meant by… seeing… something… cool?” My last remark was a question, because I was still trying to figure out why I had said it. I mean fluxweed is hardly cool. It’s certainly not as cool as kissing James Sirius Potter. I guess I just panicked. Stupid brain.
"What?” James repeated, even more confused.
"Never mind.” I moaned. I detangled myself from James and stood up, offering my hand. He took it and didn’t let go, even after he was standing. Well that’s good. I guess my stupidity didn’t turn him off too much. We can build on this.
We walked into the greenhouse. All of the fluxweed was gone except for one plant. I guess everyone else came earlier, unwilling to stay up later than necessary. The last plant stood strong, bathing in the light that the full moon offered.
I dropped James’ hand and quickly walked up to grab it. “I guess everyone else was too lazy and took…” My voice died as I spun around and found James directly behind me.
“Mhmm…” He said distractedly, curling a piece of my hair around his finger.
“James, you’re really close to me.” I said stupidly.
“I’m aware.” He walked towards me, and my legs, although they felt like jelly, moved backwards in response. My heart hammered against my ribs, threatening to burst through my chest. I retreated back and felt the cool glass of the greenhouse press up against my back.
James’ smirk was triumphant, as he gently took the fluxweed from my weakened grip and put it on a table beside us. He then placed both hands on either side of my head, once again, trapping me.
He dipped his face towards mine for the second time that night. “James?” My voice was breathy.
“There’s no one here.” It sounded more stupid than I intended it to sound. Of course there was no one there, but that’s not what I meant. No one was there; we didn’t have to keep up the charade. Did that mean he still wanted to kiss me?
James chuckled, thankfully understanding the meaning behind my idiotic comment. “I’m aware.”
Our eyes fluttered closed and he touched his lips to mine. Pluck.
How was it? Are you all freaking out? Do you think James' interest in Beth will last? Let me know in the comments.
Quick Note: Don't get too comfortable.
Did that make you freak out a little? Muahaha!
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