Chapter 6 : Simply Potter
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"So, what d'you think it'll be today?" asks Dom breezily, dropping gracefully onto the bench beside me at the Gryffindor table and immediately piling her plate with enough food to feed the entire extremely fit, unusually dishy Arsenal football club.
For someone who eats like a manic depressive Bulgarian Quidditch player, Dom is surprisingly fit.
It must be so difficult, being part Veela. Rough life and all.
I avert my eyes to the entrance of the Great Hall, demurely sipping my coffee. "Can't say I know what you mean, Dommy dearest...."
Abruptly halting in her efforts to load her plate with the most massive full English breakfast known to man and house elf, Dom sets down her fork and slowly turns to stare blankly at me. "Of course you do. It's the first day of lessons. What else would happen on the first day of lessons?"
"You mean, other than lessons?" I ask dryly, spooning a bit of potatoes onto my plate. "I can't imagine."
Flicking her fringe out of her eyes, Dom continues heaping eggs onto her plate and fixes me with a rather pointed look. "Oh, come off it. You know what I mean."
"Really, I'm not sure I do," I lie indifferently, simultaneously stirring my black coffee and looking like the epitome of cool.
And I don't just look like the epitome of cool. I am the epitome of cool.
I'm minty fresh.
"Come ooooooon," moans Dom, her gaze becoming über meaningful as she waggles her eyebrows. "You know..."
Widening my eyes in innocence, I put away a tidy bit of hashbrowns and chew casually. "All I know is that you look ridikkulus."
Dom flicks a bit of tomato at me, which I craftily dodge. "You're such a rubbish liar, Rory. Admit it. You know exactly what I'm talking about ― "
"Every year on the first day of lessons," announces Dom, as though playing to a captive audience, comprised only of a few nearby Hufflepuffs hanging onto her every word with bated breath (and me), "James asks you out ― "
"If you say it aloud, it might come true!"
" ― and you know what," Dom ploughs on, her voice now a nice fortissimo, which can be heard over at the Ravenclaw table, perhaps even in Inverness, "I'm beginning to think ― " she pauses dramatically, raising her magnificent head and looking me square in the eye ― "that you like it."
"I do not!" I gasp (along with the Hufflepuffs), nearly overturning a pitcher of pumpkin juice. "That's a ridiculous statement and you full well know it."
Openly sceptical, Dom arches an eyebrow and spears a bit of sausage with her fork. While her choice of breakfast foods has extremely large, mustachioed man written all over it, Dom's table etiquette is remarkably ladylike. "Are you sure? Because, really, I think you do ― "
"You take that back, Dominique Gabrielle Weasley!"
"...you forget that I actually like my full name."
"Ah. Well, this puts a premature end to our witty banter."
Her eyes alight with a strange, wicked mischief, Dom plucks a strip of bacon from the platter in front of her. "So, is this you conceding defeat?"
I burst into undisguised laughter, startling our Hufflepuff audience into looks so terrifically dirty, Severus Snape would feel the need for a bath. "Hardly. Like I'd ever be keen on James asking me out...."
"But you do think he's going to keep tradition this year?" asks Dom slowly, her lovely visage serious as she scans me for any signs of an overreaction.
Good Lord, she's even bothered to put her cutlery down.
This spit is getting real.
I sigh, spreading butter on my whole grain toast. "Look, Dom, he's past that sort of thing, don't you think? I mean, you heard what he said ― "
"Oh, purrrrlease, Rory," scoffs Dom, waving around her bacon for sassy emphasis. "Just because he said it doesn't mean that he meant it. People say crazy things. Just 'cause you heard it ― "
"Look," I cut her off, snatching the bacon from her and taking a bite. "Pott ― James and I have only just begun to repair what little friendship we still have. I'm not about to botch it up by..." I pause thoughtfully, then calmly polish off the rest of Dom's bacon strip. "...by not even having faith in him, y'know?"
Another collective gasp issues itself from the ever so voluble Hufflepuff table ― I can already hear the headlines of the school's gossip rag, Hogwarts Hearsay (Potter and Pond: Together at Last? Head Boy and Head Girl: Headed for the Altar) ― but I honestly can't be bothered to care. I'm really more preoccupied with the eighth wonder of the world that is my toast.
Yes. You heard correctly.
What is it about Hogwarts toast? I honestly don't know if it's the magic, some sort of ancient Scottish secret ― is it made with sheep stomach while the house elves hold a céilidh dance in the kitchen? ― or the fact that it's baked daily by wage-earning house elves, but holy hippogriffs, if woman and bread were permitted to mate, I'd marry it in a heartbeat.
But then I'd divorce it just as soon for overloading my thighs with carbohydrates and leaving me for another (bread-loving) woman.
I look up in the midst of my breadgasm to find Dom goggling at me with blue eyes like saucers, her jaw somewhat slackened. "Something on my face?"
"You're really committed to this, aren't you?" breathes Dom, still ogling.
I shrug, biting off a chunk of my toast. Mmmmm. "Yeah, but once it touches my hips, this relationship is over."
"Wait, what are you talking about?"
"Erm, my toast," I reply thickly, as though it's the most obvious thing in the world.
Which it is.
"Oh. I see."
Suspiciously, I summon up the strength to raise a single eyebrow. Years of practice, my friends. "Wait, what were you talking about?"
Dom merely shakes her shiny, part-Veela head, suppressing laughter. "Oh, nothing. It's just...well, for a moment there, I thought you were banging on about James...."
Suddenly, my beautiful, delicious toast crumples into the unconscious fist I form with my hand. "Why the Buckbeak would I ever let James get near enough to even touch my hips?"
"My thoughts exactly," concurs Dom quickly, but her voice is still quivering with mirth. However, her tone swiftly becomes businesslike as she seizes another strip of bacon and points it at me. "But really, are you that committed to this...friendship thing?"
"See, that's the thing about these 'friendship things,' Dom," I deadpan, offhandedly devouring another slice of toast. "They generally involve some level of faith in the other person and, yes, commitment." I shrug, nursing my coffee. "If he says he's not going to ask me out anymore, then I believe him."
"But he always makes a massive spectacle of asking you out on the first day," Dom points out logically, raising her mug of Earl Grey to her lips. "He's done it since third year."
"True," I admit reluctantly. "What was it again that he said? Oh, yeah ― "
"'To help me start the year off right,'" Dom and I echo, from when we asked James in fifth year why in Merlin's name he made such a tradition of asking me out on the first day back.
From there, he always popped the question at least twice a week, and it was never just a nonchalant 'Hey, Rory, would you like to come with me to the next Hogsmeade weekend?'
Nor was it a casual 'Fancy having dinner with me in the Great Hall, Goddess Divine?'
And it was certainly not even a 'Shall we take a turn about the Black Lake and bask in the company of the Giant Squid, my pearl?'
Oh, no. It was more of an irritating 'Oi, Aurora, go out with me?'
Or a 'Just say you'll be mine and be done with it, Pond.'
Sometimes with a tacked-on 'You know you want to.'
And occasionally with a 'please.'
Once, he even threw in a 'Baby, you light up my world like noboooody else,' but I hexed him before he could get in a 'the way that you flip your hair gets me ooooooverwhelmed.'
(No one should ever have the chance to finish that lyric. No one.)
He even calls me by my full name. Nobody ever calls me by my full first name, not even my parents, unless I've spilled frog spawn on Mum's oriental rug. That was only once, though, at the end of my second year. Potter had slipped it into the pockets of my jumper at Platform 9 and 3/4 when I wasn't looking.
I kept finding tadpoles in the bloody carpet for days.
When I asked James about calling me "Aurora" once, in fourth year, he simply shrugged and told me, in a rare moment of profundity, "It's a beautiful name. It'd be a shame for it not to be given its proper use."
Well, believe you me, I feel quite the same way, but sometimes "Aurora" can be a bit of a mouthful.
And then, if you please, he ruined the moment and asked me out right after that.
(Unluckily for him, we had just learned Bat-Bogey Hexes in Defense Against the Dark Arts.)
Albeit, it isn't as though he's asked me out the same way every time. He's actually gotten rather creative with it in the past, resorting to recitation of Shakespeare's sonnets, thoughtful utilisation of the Orchideous charm, and he even once spelled out the question in a lovely show of Wildfire Whiz-Bangs during breakfast one morning.
(Dom never quite forgave either of us for that one. To be honest, her eyebrows have never really grown back the same since.)
What choice do I have but to say frankly, every time, "No thanks, Potter. I'd much rather end up alone with my cat and a tin of biscuits. But I must say, excellent job with the singing pygmy puffs, I think they're my favourite so far."
I pride myself on being tactful.
For some reason, though, he never took the hint. No matter how many times I looked him squarely in the eye and said, "Sorry, but I'm not interested in dating an arrogant toerag," he continued to pursue me, almost with renewed vigour.
Even now, after our unusually deep conversation at Teddy and Victoire's wedding, I still don't understand. It's been nearly four years. I would've thought he'd have cottoned on and left me alone a little sooner.
I also would've thought that the whole of Hogwarts would have found better things to do than observe the sordid affair of our strange relationship.
Potter's gaggle of admirers, in particular, watched our interactions far more rabidly ― erm, avidly ― than I liked, and they informed me frequently that, despite being top of my class, I was really quite thick for turning down the James Potter.
Even the girls who weren't daft enough to officially join his fan club ― it's true, they have jackets ― asked me almost daily, "How can you turn him down like that? I mean, he's James sodding Potter! You're a heartless harpy!"
Yes, but how would you react if one of your best mates suddenly turned into another hormonal teenage boy who asked you out relentlessly, whether on a lark or not (if what James said recently was true)? After a few rounds, it turns into a complete joke, a never-ending game in which I must always stand my ground, all the while playing the part of the feisty, disinterested bad guy.
Granted, I used to be loads nicer and far less heartless, but having a James Potter in my life puts perspective on things pretty quickly.
And now here we are.
"If it's any consolation," says Dom soothingly, patting me on the arm, "it's already half eight and there's still no sign of him."
I contemplate nibbling on yet another slice of toast. "Yeah, I s'pose you're right."
"Of course I am!" says Dom happily, as she continues tucking in. "I mean, look at it this way. If he hasn't even done anything yet ― "
"Who hasn't even done anything yet?" asks a voice I recognise all too well, its raven-haired owner sinking effortlessly onto the bench across from Dom and me.
"Professor Flitwick," I blurt out immediately, hastily pouring myself another cup of coffee as I avoid James's curious gaze. "We were just talking about how we couldn't believe he still hasn't done anything about his hair yet."
Is an aside about Professor Flitwick's suspected metrosexuality really the best I can come up with?
"Tragic," agrees Dom sympathetically, tutting.
Clearly, she is a much better liar than I am.
"You can't be serious," says James impassively, sliding his messenger bag off his shoulder and onto the ground.
Attempting an affected sort of nonchalance, I blow lightly on my steaming coffee. "Oh, but I am."
I'm absolute pants at this sort of lying thing. There's no way he's going to believe us.
Oddly enough, James merely raises his eyebrows as he begins filling his plate with food, his features carefully expressionless. "Wait, you mean to say that you don't just adore his current hairstyle?"
...hang on. Was that...? Could it be...?
I'm so floored by James making a valid stab at sarcasm, I nearly drop my ceramic kitten mug. Yes, there are hand-painted, frolicking kittens on my mug, and no, I don't need your validation.
"Because I absolutely love it," continues James solemnly, no hint of a smile anywhere near his lips. "That hair must've been the highlight of the 70's."
My jaw plummets. I can't remember the last time something James said has given me an itch to laugh aloud.
"...of the 1870's, I mean."
The Great Hall suddenly rings with clear, unabashed peals of laughter, and I instantaneously become aware of two things.
One: The entire student population has become completely silent, save for the sound of uncontrollable laughter.
Two: The source of said uncontrollable laughter?
"Steady on, Rory," says Freddy Weasley, James's and Dom's cousin, by way of greeting as he slides into the seat next to James. "Don't hurt yourself there, sweetheart."
Scowling at Freddy's smirk, I push away my plate, all hunger for toast having evaporated ― along with my good mood ― as my disconcerted thoughts swirl frantically in my mind. When did James Potter begin to make me laugh? Really, it's been so long since we've been friends that it seems I've forgotten whether or not the bloke's actually funny. Apparently, while I was busy yelling at him for asking me out and treating him, well, rather awfully all those years, James was off becoming a fairly decent, likable chap who occasionally cracks good jokes.
And when the bloody hellebore did sweet, slightly obnoxious, toe-raggy James equip himself with sarcasm? Has he been in possession of a sense of humour all this time?
It would appear that, in my haste to brush off his pesky advances and automatically stereotype him into his tosspot ways without even giving him a chance, I have severely misjudged James Potter.
Could all those dim-witted girls in his fan club have been right? Was it really I who had been in the wrong? Was it I who ―
Who the flip am I kidding? Like those salivating bints could ever be right.
For a moment there, I honestly thought I was going soft.
"Look, James Potter made a joke, and I laughed at it ― so what?" I state acerbically, challenging the rest of our table with a glare as I hear yet another sharp intake of breath from the occupants of the Great Hall. Blimmin' gossipmongers, I think as I round on everyone else. "And what are you all gawking at? Nothing to see here, folks. Keep staring and I'll start docking points," I add sharply to the Hufflepuff table, who can't seem to tear their eyes away from the sight of James Potter and Rory Pond sitting across from each other without the assistance of a counselor, a brick wall, or a Bubble Head Charm.
"Well, are you lot just going to keep goggling at me like I'm some zoo animal or what?" I ask waspishly, attempting to sip my coffee with as much shredded dignity as I can muster.
Without skipping a beat, everyone at the Gryffindor table immediately breaks out into a rush of hurried conversation, voices clamouring over one another in numerous attempts to divert the topic.
"Does my fringe look alright to you? I cut it last night with my wand, but I think my razoring charm went a bit wonky ― "
"What'd you think of the Puddlemere match last weekend? Thought it was an absolute massacre myself...."
"So, I was reading this article in Witch Weekly the other day about the pros and cons of manscaping ― "
"Newsflash, Freddy: you're not a witch."
Gryffindor house, everyone.
"Oh, look, McGonagall's finally passing out the timetables!" says Rose excitedly, interrupting my thoughts as she plonks down into the seat next to mine, rustling up her own plate of breakfast. "I hope I have arithmancy today!"
I eye her with an obvious display of concern. "You rate numbers that much?"
"No, she just wants to be in the same room as Scorpius Malfoy," interrupts Albus, joining the table.
"Do not!" replies Rose hotly, her freckled cheeks burning. "I happen to find arithmancy to be a rather vast and stimulating subject ― "
Albus snorts. "I'll tell you what else she finds vast and stimulating ― "
"Albus!" I cry, scandalised.
"Oh, come off it, Al," scoffs Rose, moodily stabbing a tomato as she glares at her cousin, "you're only sore because you've been pining away for Alice Longbottom all summer ― "
I turn to look at Albus, whistling appreciatively. "Going after the Head of House's sprog? Excellent."
Now it's Albus's turn to redden considerably. "Yeah, well, what about you and my brother?"
"What about me?" asks James pompously, abandoning his fruitless crusade in defeminising Freddy and running a hand through his dark hair.
"Hang on," says Albus suddenly, narrowing his eyes. "James, aren't you forgetting something?"
Puzzled, James frowns. "Like what?"
"Think about it," prompts Albus, an impish glint that I definitely do not like lighting in his startling green eyes. "What happens every year on the first day of lessons?"
Oh, Godric, not this again.
"Er...I dunno, other than lessons?" asks James perplexedly, munching on his whole-grain toast with butter. Weird. I'd forgotten he took his toast just like mine.
Albus sighs exasperatedly. "Come on, mate, you know...." He jerks his head almost imperceptibly in my direction, arching his eyebrows suggestively.
Stiffening ever so slightly, James squares his shoulders ― for a moment, I wonder if he's finally caught on to Albus's implication at the tradition ― and then, surprisingly, he lifts them in an indifferent shrug, avoiding my gaze entirely. "Sorry, Al. I've no idea what you're on about."
"No use, Al," pipes up Dom, twitching her thumb at me. "I've already tried it on this one...."
I clear my throat loudly. "Would you look at that? Here's McGonagall with the timetables...."
"Here you are, Miss Pond," says Professor McGonagall briskly, handing me my own, rather full timetable and making her rounds at the table. "And you, Miss Weasley...Miss Weasley...Mister Weasley..."
Albus snickers, peering over Rose's shoulder at her timetable. "Looks like Arithmancy today, Rosie."
"Oh, shove off, Al."
"Mister Potter," says Professor McGonagall, addressing James with a raised eyebrow, "I trust you are already organising Quidditch tryouts?"
James shoots her a dazzling, dimpled smile, just oozing with smarm. "Yes, Professor. I have the date nailed down for this Friday. I even put up the flyer in the common room last night."
"Marvellous," replies Professor McGonagall, the corners of her lips twitching humorously. "I rather enjoy having the Quidditch Cup in my office, and should much like to keep it that way....Ahem, now, I would like to meet with you both in my office during your free periods this morning to discuss Head duties. See to it that you are both ― " her eyes linger on James for a moment " ― on time."
"We'll be there, Professor," I answer promptly, beaming.
Not surprisingly, Professor McGonagall returns my smile. Oh, the benefits of being a swot. "I look forward to it."
"You're such a suck up," says smarmy James, the moment McGonagall moves out of earshot.
"Yes, Professor," I mimic in a deep voice. "I even put up the flyer in the common room last night ― "
Someone coughs, "Sexual tension!" right as Freddy decides to interject, "That's not what your mum said last night!"
A supremely long, awkward pause follows as we all gape at him, collectively dumbfounded.
"Erm, Freddy," I venture uncomfortably, "I don't think that's how it works...."
Grimacing, James says faintly, "Come on, mate, that's my mum you're talking about."
"Who happens to be your aunt," Dom points out grimly, inching away from Freddy.
"Well, that's the end of that," I hear Albus mutter as we all gather our things and sweep from the table, leaving Freddy sitting alone and looking rather forlorn, poking at his oatmeal.
He's a bit slow on the uptake, that one.
"Eurgh, would you take a look at this," I groan, shoving my timetable under Dom's nose as we power walk like a pair of loons out of the Great Hall. It's pathetic, but I've never actually been late to a lesson.
She scrutinises it with a gleeful look I wouldn't trust with a month-old kitten. "Ah, is that Divination I foresee for this afternoon?"
"Har, har," I reply sarcastically. "Yes. If you must know, I've decided to stick with it and finish out school with a, erm, well-rounded curriculum."
Honestly, I started taking Divination in third year as a bit of a lark, really. Thought I'd prove to everyone once and for all that I'm not such a swotty old wet blanket after all. For the most part, I think it worked.
"Well-rounded, eh?" echoes Dom, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. "But if I recall correctly, weren't you telling me only last year about how imprecise this particular branch of magic was?"
I shrug haughtily. "I don't recall saying such a thing...."
"Use your Inner Eye to remember," suggests Dom mysteriously.
"Funny thing, I believe my Inner Eye only deals with the realm of looking ahead," I respond politely, entering the Charms classroom and selecting a desk. "Not looking back."
Dom chortles, dropping into the desk next to me. "Well, if it's any help, my tea leaves informed me at breakfast that you'll have a smashing time this afternoon."
"Yeah?" I retort, taking out my quill and ink. "That's funny, because my Inner Eye is informing me you need to shut the he ― "
"Good morning, everyone!" cries Professor Flitwick merrily, scrambling atop his usual pile of books in order to be seen by the class. I bet he doesn't have trouble being seen when he's wearing sparkly platform heels.
As Professor Flitwick gives us the usual warm welcome back, James, perched comfortably in the desk to my right, leans over surreptitiously and whispers, "So I couldn't help overhearing ― "
"Bet you could," I mutter, removing my Muggle notebook from my bag and turning to a blank page.
" ― that you're still taking Divination this term," he finishes cheerfully. "Is that right?"
I nod cautiously. "Yes..."
Flashing me a grin, he settles back into the desk like it's a poolside chair. "Excellent. So am I."
"Brilliant," I whisper back, meaning to sound sardonic, and yet I surprise myself with a smile. Of course, I'm just relieved that I'll have someone else there to share in the misery that is Divination, that's all. Besides, James and I are mates again. We'll have a grand old time, I'm sure.
"Professor," I hear James say suddenly, raising his hand politely in the air. "Sorry, sir, but...have you done something to your hair? Only, it looks rather fetching."
We're going to have a blast.
"Now, when recording your dreams in your diaries, I would like for you to be as vivid and descriptive with your details as possible," intones Professor Trelawney in her mistiest voice, her various bangles and beaded necklaces jangling as she flutters around the classroom like a frizzy butterfly. "Spare nothing, and use your Inner Eye to delve into the true meanings of your dreams...."
Next to me, James is beginning to nod off, his chin propped up with his free hand while his other hand draws circles on the desk with the tip of his quill. Already we've recorded last night's dream in our brand new journals this period, and James nearly had himself hexed in his chair trying to sneak a peek at mine.
Sharing a table with him is just the best.
"Just tell me what your dream was last night," mumbles James, his eyelids drooping.
I give him a withering sidelong glance. "Not a chance, Potter." When he turns to look at me disapprovingly, I correct myself. "James."
"Why not?" he whines, tickling my arm with the feathery part of his quill.
"Because," I manage to spit out in a whisper, squirming in my chintz armchair. "It's ― none ― of ― your ― busin ― will you stop that?"
He immediately sits bolt upright, setting his quill to parchment. "Stop what?" His tone is all too innocent, a smirk twisting the corners of his lips.
"I think you know exactly what I mean ― "
"Ah, what is this?" Professor Trelawney materialises suddenly at our table like a fat, white rabbit hops prematurely out of a top hat in the middle of a coin trick. "Would you care if I took a look, my dear?" She gestures to my closed dream diary with a flourish of her mystical jazz hands.
"Er, not at all, Professor," I say diffidently, offering her the journal while locking eyes with James as though I've just signed my own death warrant.
If she reads my entry aloud, I may just snuff it right here and haunt this particular table forever.
"Hmm, yes, yes," murmurs Professor Trelawney, trailing her pointer finger along the page. "Yes, indeed...very telling...."
"Excuse me, Professor," says James smoothly, "but what's very telling?"
I open my mouth to make a barbed remark, but Professor Trelawney swivels on the spot and fixes him with a highly affronted look, clutching her free hand to her chest. "My dear, dreams are private, sacred things, and are not to be shared unless the dreamer wills it so."
"Which I do not," I add quickly. "Will it so. Just so we're clear."
Professor Trelawney fingers the front of her shawl absently, nodding. "Very well, then."
James squints at me probingly, fastening me with his hazel eyes in such a way that I hardly notice Professor Trelawney returning my diary to me and gliding away to the next table. "It's about me, isn't it?"
My mouth runs dry. "Sorry?"
He folds his arms across his chest, directing a smug smile at me. "Your dream was about me, wasn't it?"
Blimey, he's good.
"Of course not," I say dismissively, wrinkling my nose. "Not everything is about you, James."
"You had a dream about me last night," he says gleefully, ignoring me. "Was it good? Was it everything you'd hoped for and more?"
I make a disgusted noise in the back of my throat. "Sod off."
James actually drops his dream diary out of shock, his mouth falling open. "Holy Buckbeak, you actually did dream about me, didn't you?"
"I think you're the one who's doing the dreaming, here, James," I reply coolly, my grip tightening on my diary, but he isn't fooled. The look on his smarmy little face indicates that Christmas has, in fact, come early. "No dreams were had about you last night."
So I had a dream about James Potter last night.
Just the one. No one but Professor Trelawney ever needs to know that I dreamt about James and me playing wizarding chess out on the Black Lake while an Italian-looking Hagrid rowed us around in a gondola and sang romantic Puccini arias.
"Well, if you didn't have a dream about me last night, then it shouldn't matter if I read your entry, should it?" insists James, leaning over and trying to distract me with a winning smile as he reaches for the journal.
My answering grin is every bit as jaunty as I dangle the diary out of his reach. "You heard Trelawney, James. Dreams are private."
"That will be all for today," says Professor Trelawney enigmatically, breaking up our conversation and clinging to her woven shawl as we all pack up our things. "Continue to record your dreams each night, and when you next return, you will exchange diaries with a partner and interpret each other's dreams."
"Hang on, what happened to dreams being private, sacred things?" I say incredulously, putting away my things. That hypocritical old bat.
James slings an arm around my shoulder, his hand hanging perilously close to the diary in my hands. "If you want, we can get a head start on our next assignment and exchange diaries ― "
"Never say that last bit to a girl if you ever plan on getting a date," I suggest lightly, removing his arm from my shoulder.
James makes a quick pass for the diary, but again, I'm too quick for him. "Come on, just let me read the first sentence at the very least."
"Nice try, but no," I say laughingly, shaking my head at his bright puppy dog eyes.
He eyes the diary one last time, then casually begins shoving his things into his messenger bag. "You know, it's alright to dream about me, Rory." Raking a hand through his hair, he puffs out his chest. "I'm, well, kind of the stuff dreams are made of."
"More like the stuff of nightmares," I counter, heaving the strap of my bag onto my shoulders and making my way out of the classroom.
He pauses for a moment as we reach the end of the silvery ladder that hangs suspended from the classroom's trapdoor. "Are you ticklish?"
A wicked grin spreads across his face. "That sounds like a yes."
"Funny, that sounds like a no to me," I stammer, emitting a nervous laugh.
Like I said. Rubbish at this lying thing.
He begins walking slowly toward me, that ridiculous smirk of his plastered wide on his features. "I'll give you two options."
"When did we decide I needed options?!"
Holding up his hands as though weighing Galleons, he continues advancing toward me. "Let me read your dream entry ― "
"Oh, so now I no longer have a right to privacy?" I say acidly, hurriedly backing away from him down the corridor. "Very classy."
" ― or face my tickling wrath."
That stops me dead in my tracks. "Did you seriously just ― "
"Let's pretend for a moment that I said something else," James interjects awkwardly, allowing me to put a couple of paces between us.
"I don't think any amount of pretending will make me forget that."
James rubs the back of his neck, discomfited. "Yeah..."
"So, then," I cast around wildly, scuffing my shoe against the stone floor.
"Look," says James suddenly, hovering closer to me, "just let me read your entry, and no one gets tickled. Yeah?" He flashes me a breathtaking smile, as if to prove this is a wonderful bargain.
I take one look at him and run.
Halfway through my long distance running jaunt down the corridors, it occurs to me that I'm probably fighting a losing battle ― I mean, James is the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and I'm barely in shape enough to outrun a honeybadger ― but his vehement shout of "Prepare to be tickled, Aurora Pond!" miraculously spurs me on down the halls and up flights of stairs I never knew I had the thighs to traverse.
Just as the portrait of the Fat Lady comes blessedly into sight, a flash of blue streaks past my ears, dissolving into sparkles that cause a nearby suit of armor to burst into an inspired bout of tap dancing.
As my legs carry me on my homeward stretch, I twist my neck to scowl openly at James. "You son of a Snitch! Are you kidding me right now?"
"Thought it'd slow you down!" he yells back sheepishly.
"Then in that case, I regret nothing!" I cry defiantly, throwing a haphazard Impedimenta over my shoulder as I scramble through the portrait hole. To be honest, I'm not really aiming to hit him. The jinxing is more for the show of our little high-speed corridor chase.
Luckily, the common room is only moderately filled with students, so I'm able to dance my way to the staircase without injuring anyone. And just like that, I'm home free the moment I sprint up the staircase; however, once I make it to the top, I pause to bask in momentary satisfaction as I watch James stumble and skid down the staircase-turned-slide to tumultous applause from the rest of the Gryffindors.
As he slowly raises his head from the bottom of the staircase to meet my gaze, I flash him a triumphant grin, shrug, and say, "YOLO."
It's true. Unless you're James's dad. Then you only live twice.
Without another backward glance, I scurry into the empty seventh year girls' dorm and over to my four-poster, my heart racing as I debate what to do with my dream diary until I can come up with a tricky enough charm that will keep James from reading last night's entry when he analyses my entries for our next class.
"No one will ever find it here," I mutter to myself, glancing up at the door quickly to ascertain that I won't be caught, and I lift up the corner of my plush mattress by hand. Sliding my hand in, I skim my fingers lightly over the surface to see how far under the mattress I can go ― hopefully not far enough that the mattress gremlins can get me; Hogwarts is full of them these days, and the house elves are too scared to go near them ― when the tips of my fingers brush against something solid.
Why is it, when I have a brilliant idea, someone else always beats me to it?
No matter. I'm Head Swot. Nothing will stop me on my mission of stealth.
Digging deeper, my hand closes around what feels like a small book. My forehead wrinkling, I withdraw my find and stare woodenly at the invisible object in my grasp. "Revelio," I whisper, and a weathered, leather-bound journal materialises in my hand. Someone's been very clever, haven't they?
But obviously not clever enough, if I've found what's probably someone's diary with a simple spell.
A bit of advice, ladies: Never hide things you don't want to be found under your mattress in the hopes they'll remain hidden from overly curious girls with just a basic Disillusionment charm.
Oh, wait. Wasn't I just about to do the same thing?
My wand is pointed meticulously at the aged lock attached to the book when the door to the dormitory flies open with a bang (and a sparkle? No, it can't be), revealing a blur I discern to be Dom, and I let out a sigh of relief I hadn't noticed I'd been holding as the blur careens into the lavatory in a strawberry-blonde whirlwind of glitter.
Leaping nimbly to my feet, I stow the journal under my pillow, waiting for her to reappear. I'm sitting on the edge of my four-poster, twiddling my thumbs in an attempt to quell my curiosity toward the mysterious book, when Dom reemerges in a right state.
Perhaps that's a bit on the understated side of things. She is clearly entering Stage One of her famous DomStrops™. They're pretty naff, as far as strops go.
Step one? Plotting to murder someone. Wait for it.
"I am going to murder my cousin," she manages to announce in a strangled voice (called it!), and I notice something different about her ― wanting to kill James is nothing new ― but can't place a finger to it.
"What did James do now?" I ask sympathetically, and Dom jabs a finger at her extremely bushy, violently green unibrow, which I find it hard to believe I hadn't noticed until now. That puppy's impossible to miss, and it seems as though James didn't waste any time after sliding down that staircase. "Ah."
Dom laughs hollowly, and I've a slight urge to wet myself in fear. "Oh, that's not all." She turns around slowly and I have to stuff my fist in my mouth to keep from outright laughing.
The back of her skirt, right over her bum, is emblazoned with the glittering words, Touch this and die a most painful death.
"I, er...I don't quite understand," I say bemusedly, and it's a mark of the strength of our friendship that I'm not laughing my head off.
"Well, I was talking to Michael Davies outside of the portrait hole," says Dom tetchily, stroking her unibrow for some reason as she paces round the dorm, "when James came out, apparently on his way to the library ― "
"Hang on, what was James doing, heading to the library just now?" I say abruptly, wondering briefly if we're talking about the same James. The one I know refuses to set foot within a two-metre radius of the library, claiming to have acquired his naturally-occurring bookish smarts via osmosis.
As though James even knows what osmosis is.
I'm a Muggleborn. My people practically invented osmosis.
Dom halts, shooting me a glare. "D'you really think I give a flying f ― "
"You were saying," I interrupt quickly, and this seems to mollify Dom, who resumes her pacing and unibrow-stroking.
"Anyway, Michael and I were chatting ― I'd bet my broomstick he was about to ask me to the next Hogsmeade ― when James spotted us and told Davies to bugger off."
"He did not!" I gasp at the appropriate time, and Dom nods furiously.
We are so trivial.
"And then," she seethes, quite livid, "he started doing me in for flirting with Davies and parading myself around like some sort of scarlet woman ― "
"What?" I laugh incredulously. "You're joking."
" ― so I told him to sod off, that I wasn't parading myself about ― "
"Of course you weren't," I say placatingly.
"He told me not to 'get shirty' with him, and," Dom continues angrily, her slight French accent becoming more pronounced in her ill temper, "he simply turned to Michael and said, 'Sorry, she's not allowed to date until she's thirty-five, so don't even think about ogling her bum like that.'"
I stare at her, appalled. "You can't be serious."
"Like a Black," replies Dom gravely.
There's a slight pause on my end, until I finally ask, rather awkwardly, "Was he really ogling your bum?"
"Not the point, you div!"
I scoff derisively. "Oh, sure, Michael Davies acts like a typical, chauvinistic male, staring at your bum, but the real issue here is James being overprotective of you. How dare he!"
Dom narrows her eyes, taking a glittery step forward. Tiny spangles go flying everywhere, and the effect is quite fairy-posh. "Are you siding with James?"
She snorts. "Thought so."
"I'm not siding with James," I say loftily, inspecting my fingernails. "I'm simply empathising with the motives behind his actions. Definitely not siding."
"Of course you're not," deadpans Dom, twirling her hair idly, "except for the fact that you are."
Well, Fawkes. Am I really?
"It would appear so," comments Dom, surveying me amusedly from under her green unibrow.
I clear my throat defeatedly. "I said that aloud, didn't I?"
"Oh, I forgot to tell you, I'm taking Occlumency on the side now from Uncle Harry." Dom rolls her eyes theatrically. "Yes, you muppet, you said that aloud."
Well, pants. Terrible habit of mine, blurting things out. Not nearly as bad as my flaring nostrils habit, though.
"Look," I say at length, attempting damage control and nervously patting down my nostrils, "I'm really not siding with James. I just think he has a point. Which he obviously went about in the wrong way," I add hastily as Dom raises her unibrow dangerously.
She eyes me warily, pressing her lips into a thin line, and sighs after a moment. "I know. But you used to agree with me when he pulled idiotic stunts like this. You know, back before your..." She shivers distastefully, all but spitting the words out. "...friendship thing."
"Yes, but...isn't it nice to have someone in the middle? You know, someone who can mediate, see things from all sides, and..." I trail off feebly under Dom's forceful glower.
Okay, time for a new approach.
"Look, Dom, you know I agree with you," I say firmly, switching tactics. "I just think you're overreacting just a teensy bit ― "
"Overreacting?" Dom all but shrieks, flapping her hands wildly about her face like a ravenous pterodactyl with a spotty face. "Have you seen this?"
I sigh, calmly maintaining eye contact. "Dom, chill out. You're still the most beautiful person at Hogwarts." It's sad, but it always works. Dom's weakness is, like any other part-Veela, her beauty. I swear she's not shallow.
...just, you know, on occasions like this.
"I have a green unibrow," says Dom flatly.
"Still the most beautiful person in the world," I try again optimistically, with good feeling.
Her lower lip protruding the tiniest bit, she widens her shining eyes at me. "You mean it?"
I nod fervently, hoping to appease her further. "Cross my heart."
"Are you sure? Because I ― "
"What, do you want me to make an Unbreakable Vow or something?"
"No, no, I believe you," replies Dom sweetly, smoothing the front of her uniform jumper.
Well, that was easy. I should have my own reality show or something. Aurora Pond: Veela Tamer sounds about right.
"I still can't believe the tosser did that," growls Dom under her breath, and I assume she's referring to James, as her hands continue to brush the back of her skirt.
"There's more, isn't there?" I prompt, arranging myself comfortably on the bed. It takes nearly all my self-control as a spectacular best mate not to allow my eyes to flicker toward the journal hidden under my pillow.
Merlin, my fingers are practically itching with curiosity.
"More?" echoes Dom, her tone becoming shrill again as she angrily swipes at the seat of her skirt. "If there were any more glitter on my bum, even Dumbledore would feel heterosexual ― "
"I meant, more to the story," I cough awkwardly, averting my eyes from the flashy glitter.
I must admit, James performed a tricky bit of magic, embroidering Dom's bum like that. All the same, I can't help but wonder why he'd know a bedazzling spell ― if I recall correctly, I came across an article on fabric bejeweling charms in Witch Weekly once ― and I decide to save that concern for another time. Still, it mightn't hurt to suggest a career in fashion designing to him at our next Heads meeting.
James Potter, fighting crime one bedazzled skirt at a time!
Ooh, or What do the words 'Potter,' 'school,' and 'bejewel' have in common? Everything.
Genius. I can see it now. He'll thank me one day.
"Right," says Dom at last, just as uncomfortably. "There is more."
"Which I'm sure will explain the unibrow," I add helpfully, but slowly inch away from the sheer power of Dom's glare. "Looks fab, by the way ― "
"Shut it, Rory!"
Flashing me a smug smile, Dom crosses her arms and launches back into her tale. "Well, anyway, after James forbade Michael to ogle my bum ― "
"Did you really just use the words 'forbade' and 'ogle my bum' in the same sentence, just now?"
"I told him, in the most diplomatic way I could, mind ― "
Translation: "I used my choicest bilingual swear words."
" ― that he was being a nosy git and had absolutely no business messing around with my private affairs ― "
"Well, neither does Davies, really," I point out reasonably. "If you know what I mean ― "
With a brisk flick of her wand, Dom mutters, "Langlock!" and smirks at me, fingering her wand idly. Just to check ― it's probably pointless anyway; Charms was always Dom's strongest suit ― I attempt to speak yet another of my witticisms, but sadly find that my tongue has become glued to the roof of my mouth.
Swot that I am, the first thing I think is, Is this something I've come across in the Standard Book of Spells, Grade 7?
And it's only the first day of classes.
"Now that I won't have any more interruptions or snide comments," says Dom pointedly, pocketing her wand, "I shall continue with my story."
I am so going to dock House points for this.
"Oh, don't look at me like that," drawls Dom as I cross my arms grumpily. "You'll be pleased to hear I at least got in a hex of my own ― "
"Oi, Dom!" comes the voice of Julia Wood, one of our dormmates, from the doorway. "James is at the bottom of the staircase, wanting to know if you'll give him the countercurse for his extremely large head."
Dom laughs. "Yeah? What'd you tell him?"
Julia's face splits into a mischievous grin. "That maybe he should try being humble for once."
Rolling her eyes, Dom smirks. "I don't think he'd know how to be humble if he tried." Eagerly, she turns to me and performs the countercurse for Langlock. "There's no way I'm going to let you be mute when you see this. He looks hilarious."
Massaging my throat, I arch my eyebrows. "You sure he looks any different? The James I know always has a humongous head...."
Well, the James I knew before this summer.
"You're probably right," concedes Dom, cocking her head to the side. "Come on, though, you'll still want to see it. Let's go!"
"I'll be down in just a moment," I call, as she bounds across the dorm and out the door with Julia, while I wrest the diary from its hiding place and draw the curtains around my four-poster. Even if Dom were to come in at this very moment, she wouldn't be able to disturb me, as she full well knows that drawn curtains mean privacy. Even she can respect that, nosy as she is.
"Alohomora," I whisper, just in case one of the other seventh year girls walks in, and the lock on the diary clicks unexpectedly.
It can't really be that simple, can it?
With bated breath, I open the book and turn to the first page, on which ink is scribbled in neat handwriting belonging to a girl. Or an extremely effeminate boy.
Just as a preface, if you're reading this ― which, firstly, I honestly can't see why you would, as this is hardly a Fifi LaFolle novel, and secondly, I've done some pretty clever magic on this thing so that it's nearly impossible for anyone to read ― your viewing of this diary is only made possible through the curse of James Potter.
You've got to be joking.
To elaborate in simpler terms, I have charmed the lock on this diary to open only for someone who is plagued by the social disease that is James Potter. As I seem to be the only person in the whole bloody world who has this problem, it seems safe to say that this will only ever be seen by my eyes.
That is, unless that idiot Potter goes and has a son with some poor, incredibly Confunded girl, has the ego to name him after himself, and sends the boy in question off to Hogwarts, where he, like his arrogant toerag of a father, revives the cycle of torture for some poor girl and pesters her to death by asking her out on a daily basis.
Well, she practically hit the nail on the head with that one.
That being said, it seems highly unlikely, as I doubt Potter will ever find a willing, non-Confunded candidate to bear his children.
Scratch that. I forgot about his fan club.
If, by some miracle of God, another James Potter has appeared in the timeline of the magical world and some helpless girl who has been afflicted with his presence finds this diary at Hogwarts ― we're talking remote chances here, people ― then this diary can be unlocked with a simple Alohomora.
Tricky magic, right?
Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no.
So, like I said, the chances of anyone ever reading this are pretty scarce.
But if you are reading this, you have my deepest condolences.
As I reach the bottom of the page, I notice that the signature, which reads 'Lily Evans, Head Girl,' is followed by the date: September 1, 1977.
'If, by some miracle of God, another James Potter has appeared in the timeline of the magical world...'
Of course. I would be that helpless girl.
Author's Note: Firstly, I'd like to apologize to anyone who is still following this crack fic of mine. I never imagined it would take this long to update for you all, but the summer holidays (university, teaching drumline, singing in choirs) have taken up my life, not to mention I've had to frequent coffee shops just to obtain internet. I know it's no excuse for not updating sooner, but I really, truly hope the amount of witty banter and snark in this chapter makes up for it all, you lovely people.
Secondly, thank you so much for your wonderful, mega sweet reviews. I still haven't gotten round to responding to them, but I will. Seriously, you guys are all so amazing.
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