When I woke up the next morning, I felt exhausted. It wasn’t until I had cold shower water pelting me that I remembered what had happened the night before. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the desire to stay in the shower and not leave, ever. I was humiliated that Albus had seen her being manhandled by that idiot.
It was everything I never wanted.
And I knew, no matter how much I prayed for it to be different, that Albus was not the type of guy to just let it go. What he would do was anyone’s guess, but he would do something. As long as he didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t care.
Best case scenario, he would hex Montague a couple of times and be done with it. I would be perfectly okay with that.
Eventually I forced myself out of the shower; knowing staying there wasn’t really an option. I didn’t speak to her roommates as my got ready. I never did. They were all nice enough, but I didn’t consider any of them to be my friends. Except Rose, of course, but she was an early riser and was most likely already at breakfast.
The Common Room was pretty full, but I automatically zeroed in on one person. Albus was sitting on the couch by the fire talking to his brother. One of his legs was bouncing up and down as if he was anxious about something, and his hair was even more unruly than usual. He stood up as soon as we made eye contact. He had been waiting on me. Of course he had. I immediately panicked, and did the only thing I could think of, I walked quickly away and straight through the portrait hole.
He got up with me just outside. Damn his long legs.
“Jamie! Stop!” He called as he exited the common room.
Against my better judgment, I did. I would never admit it, but I was just as curious to find out what he was going to say as I was terrified.
He pulled on my arm when he caught up to make me start walking again. After a minute of awkward silence, he said, “So I’ve made a decision.” He cleared his throat. “Like I said last night, I won’t tell anyone. That’s your decision. I don’t understand, but… whatever. Your decision. But I want you to promise me something.”
This made me stop. What on earth could he possibly want from me? This was not what I had expected. A lecture about how I should tell someone, yes. Not some kind of deal.
“First,” He held up one finger and continued walking. “Don’t be stupid. Why were you walking around the castle that late anyway? Especially when this has been going on for a while?”
My mouth opened and closed in surprise at his bluntness, but he continued before I could respond in any way. “Second,” He turned to face me now and put his hands on my shoulders. There was a moment of awkwardness as he seemed taken aback by how small my shoulders were. I had always been very small. I barely reached his shoulder in height and had never had much fat on my bones. It helped me go unnoticed, but it was also why I was such easy prey for those who did notice me. Albus shook his head slightly and returned to his point, “You have to take someone with you. All the time. Rose or myself or… someone else, anyone else. It’s not safe for you to be out by yourself if you’re really not going to tell anyone. Last, I’m going to hex him anytime I get the chance and I don’t want you to stop me. Deal?”
The ground was suddenly very interesting as I considered what he had said. As to the first point, I was offended. I was always cautious. He just caught me off guard most of the time. And it wasn’t as if this happened every week, just once or twice a term when I made the mistake of being in the corridors late. I wasn’t trying to get attacked, for goodness sake.
The second point was ridiculous. There was no way I was going to consent to being babysat by anyone. It wasn’t like there were many people who would actually agree to follow me around, anyway. On the other hand, who knew what Albus would do if I didn’t agree. I sighed at this thought. Better to agree now and hope he forgets, I decided.
And the third point I had no issues with at all. That asshole deserved to be hexed everyday of his life for what he had put me through.
I looked back up finally, but still did not meet his eyes. “Fine, I agree to your… terms. Whatever you say.”
He beamed at me and, to my complete shock, threw his arm around my shoulders. He whistled a happy tune and led me into the Great Hall where we got weird looks from people in every house. We made quite a pair, I knew. The girl that ninety percent of the population of Hogwarts had never heard speak and Albus Potter, just behind his brother in the running for most popular boy in school and Quidditch superstar were very suddenly friends? That was bound to cause some gossip. I grimaced at the thought of that attention being focused on me.
As Albus pushed me into a seat next to him and across from Rose at the Gryffindor table, I mulled this thought over. Where I and Albus friends now? I definitely appreciated him saving me from Montague, but was it anymore than that? He had offered to walk around with me to protect me. That was something.
When I looked up into Rose’s face though, I realized my mistake. The confusion in Rose’s eyes said it all. Where did Jamie Pierce get off considering the great Albus Potter her friend? It was a ridiculous notion. Everyone else in the school knew it. And, now, I did too.
I finished her breakfast in silence. Grunting or nodding anytime Albus or Rose tried to bring me into the conversation. I felt incredibly out of place, surrounded by the Potter and Weasley families. Rose sat across from me with Fred and Louis, and Albus on one side of me and Hugo on the other. It was overwhelming. I missed my spot at the end of the table where I could eat and study in solitude.
Once I had eaten her fill, which was never very much, I climbed up from my seat and made to leave the Hall without speaking to anyone. I was definitely looking forward to getting away for a few minutes.
I was stopped, once again, by Albus. “Hey! Where are you going, Jamie?”
I turned slowly and gripped my book bag close to my body in a defensive manner. “Um, Potions?”
“Oh, brilliant!” He beamed at me and grabbed his own bag. “Let’s go!”
I really had no choice but to follow him into the corridor. Once we reached it, I grabbed the fabric of his sweater, bringing him to a halt. “What the hell are you doing, Potter?”
He raised an eyebrow so that it passed the top of his glasses by an inch. “Did you already forget the conversation we had about,” He checked an imaginary watch on his arm, “forty five minutes ago?”
Color rose on my cheeks quickly. Part of me had forgotten, the other part didn’t think he had actually meant I had to have someone with her ALL the time. What a ridiculous idea.
Instead of responding, I pushed past him and headed for the dungeons. He, of course, caught up quickly and contented himself with whistling the same tune as before.
By the time we reached the Potions classroom, I had made a decision. He could follow me all he wanted to, and I could just as easily ignore him. Eventually, being the type of person he is, he would get bored and move onto his new female conquest. It shouldn’t take more than a few weeks, really. The sides of my mouth turned up slightly at the thought.
I saw the tiny smile that had made its way to her face and decided to take it that she was warming up to me slightly. At least I hoped so. She was going to have to get used to me. I, Albus Potter, protected my friends. And last night I had decided that she was my friend. So it was done. And no, she didn’t get any say in the matter. I smirked my trademark smirk as I took a seat behind her, but it soon faded away.
I had forgotten to read the chapter for Potions. Damn that Hufflepuff that had distracted me last night. She was pretty enough, but incredibly boring. It hadn’t taken me long to realize this and she had run off crying when I told her that I didn’t like her as anything but friends. Not that I really liked her as a friend either. That was actually the reason I had been out in the corridors to catch Montague.
His attitude quickly turned sour when I thought about it. I honestly couldn’t believe that Jamie had put herself in that position. If this had been going on for two years, why didn’t she know better? And another question I wanted answered. It had been happening for a while, but was it like a once a week thing? Did he go after her that often? Or was it like once a school year? Either way it was disgusting and I desperately wanted to smash Montague’s face in. Well, again. Just thinking about it made my blood boil.
“Mate, you okay? You’re looking a bit… put out.” I jumped when I heard a voice coming from the seat next to me. My Potions partner, Daniel, had arrived and started getting our stuff out.
“Uh, yes. I’m fine.” I said quickly. Daniel had always been a little too observant in my opinion. I had a suspicion it had to do with why Dan was so good at Divination. But he was one of my best friends and if he wanted to tell me something he would.
Dan studied me intently for a moment before returning to the potion much to my relief.
I made a decision then to put it out of my mind. No use dwelling on it. Soon, though, very soon Montague would get his comeuppance. And he wouldn’t like it one bit.
Then I looked up and couldn’t keep the grin from my face.
I had totally forgotten that Montague was in the same Potions class.
I was working on my potion with Rose, but kept randomly feeling eyes on my back. It was definitely not a normal feeling for me seeing as most people ignored me. I turned and met the now familiar emerald eyes. When our eyes met, his grin widened and he mouthed “Watch”.
Then he pointed his wand across the room and muttered a spell. I looked just in time to see Montague’s stool get knocked out from under him. He fell with a thud to the ground, and, in an attempt to save himself, had grabbed at the counter but ended up knocking over his cauldron. He was now covered in a disgusting purple goop (apparently his potion hadn’t been going very well anyway) that had steam rising from it, and his hand appeared to be badly burned.
My hand flew to my mouth in an attempt to suppress laughter at the sight, but it didn’t do much good. Rose, forgetting her own mirth, looked at me with shock in her face. I rarely laughed.
I stole a glance back at Albus once my laughter subsided. He winked and stowed his wand in his robes once again.
Professor Guston was shooing Montague out of the classroom and to the Hospital wing, not suspecting any foul play. Even Montague didn’t realize the fall wasn’t because of his own clumsiness.
Maybe having Albus around won’t be so bad, I thought to myself as I watched the purple goop begin to burn holes in Montague’s robes as he walked away.
“Jamie! Jamie!” Rose pulled her from my revelry very suddenly. “We need to put those roots in the potion now. Are they ready?”
I returned to focusing on my potion, but found I couldn’t erase the small smile that had come to my face for the rest of class. I would randomly get the image of Montague sprawled on the ground and have to fight down a giggle every time.
I noticed that smile, too. I couldn’t contain my own excitement that I had elicited such a reaction out of her. Maybe her laughter wouldn’t have been a big deal coming from anyone else, but for Jamie, it was the most emotion I had ever seen her display. Not including the night before.
I was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to make her laugh again, to give her a reprieve from the sadness that she always seemed to carry with her. I knew instinctively that the sadness wasn’t solely a result of her interactions with Montague. But what was it?
After Potions, I waited to walk with her to Care of Magical Creatures which Rose had opted out of after last year. Daniel gave me a weird look, but waited with me.
I, to my own surprise, found I didn’t mind near as much as I had before that Albus insisted on waiting for, and walking with me. I just couldn’t stop picturing Montague on the ground, and because of that, couldn’t find it in me to be annoyed with him. I didn’t say anything the whole way out to Hagrid’s hut, but I didn’t protest either.