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Tug Of War by platform 9 3_4
Chapter 13 : Place Your Bets
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 33


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Disclaimer: JKR owns everything!







Rose Weasley & Scorpius Malfoy
 

Another gorgeous CI by Elenia@ TDA





 

"I really don't think I should be going to this," I mutter, sitting despondently on the bed.

 

"Me neither," Rose says, "It doesn't seem right, a party while Scorpius is in the hospital wing."

 

Yes, Gryffindor won. After Scorpius got knocked out, ther was only one Slytherin beater left and it was like taking candy from a baby.

 

Roxanne, still furious with James for siding with Fred and forbidding her from seeing Archer, acted quickly and irrationally. The snitch was hovering barely a meter from the ground, and she dove head first, catching it in her fist and just managing to escape a collision with the ground. Despite all odds Gryffindor won, and James had got his victory.

 

"Well if you two aren't going, then I'm not either," Lexie sighs, flopping onto the bed, "I don't want to be anywhere near Cameron after he just won a quidditch match. He'll be drunk and probably start snogging every available girl there."

 

Ray stands over the three of us, her eyebrows raised in disapproval. "You are all pathetic."

 

"Hey," Lexie protests, "We are not."

 

"You are," Ray insists, "You're all lying here when you should all be down there with the team celebrating. And Rose! You're on the team!"

 

"No one's in the mood, it's not just me," Rose retorts, "Roxanne is up in her room crying because she can't see Archer any more. Archer stormed off after the game, James is still ignoring Fred, Fred is sulking because he's on probation, Cameron's already drunk and Eve…" she trails off.

 

I feel a wave of guilt rushing over me. Eve. Eve who was fired because of me.

 

"Well the rest of Gryffindor is down there having a good time, celebrating the fact that Roxanne caught the snitch and saved the game."

 

"It just doesn't seem right," Rose says in a low voice, "Scorpius is in the hospital wing."

 

"I thought you didn't want anything more to do with him," Ray points out skeptically.

 

Rose falls silent, fiddling with the bed covers in sullen defiance.

 

"I feel terrible," I mutter, "It's all my fault."

 

Ray sighs, "What is?"

 

"I got Eve kicked off the team."

 

To my surprise everyone lets out an undisguised groan.

 

"What?" I ask them indignantly.

 

"You think everything is your fault!" Rose moans, "Trust me, Eve got herself kicked off the team by not telling James about her problem. If you didn't tell him, it would only have gotten worse."

 

"But I didn't tell him!" I wail, "At least, I didn't mean to."

 

"Eve is being pathetic," Rose insists, "Blaming you for something that is clearly her own fault."

 

"She wanted to play so badly," I mutter, "And now I've ruined it for her."

 

Another groan follows that comment. 

 

"Stella," Rose says, "You need to stop blaming yourself for everything."

 

"Gee, thanks, Rose."

 

"It's true! You made a mistake, it was by accident. And Eve is nuts if she thinks you would ever betray her on purpose."

 

"I said that I would," I mutter, "Before James heard everything I said that if she didn't tell him, I would. For all Eve knows, I was going to break her trust, even if James wasn't a nosy eavesdropper."

 

"Hey," Rose says, "Don't take this out on James."

 

James. James James James James. James.

 

His name zooms around my head, bouncing off every corner of my brain. It's like someone has magnified his voice, and is screaming it into my ear.

 

I have too much to think about. My guilt about Eve. The fact that I, Stella Wood, had snogged James Potter. 

 

Yeah, when I remember that, the Eve thing seems to pale in comparison.

 

What the hell am I going to do now?

 

"I still feel terrible."

 

"Well, you shouldn't," Rose replies, "This is Eve's problem. She probably would have fainted before the game was even over, had James not kicked her off the team."

 

"But that doesn't matter, I feel bad."

 

"She's making you feel bad."

 

"I told you there was no way you two could be friends," Ray sighs reproachfully, "She's not the sweet, innocent girl you think she is."

 

I pause to think about that. Eve has been kind and compassionate, friendly and warm. And then, once she thought I had somehow turned on her, it took her less than a heartbeat to turn on me.

 

"I still feel awful."

 

This remark earns me another round of groans and sighs. I give up on ever earning my friend's sympathy.

 

Rose looks at me tiredly, "Why don't you just go down there and celebrate?"

 

"Why don't you?" I quip.

 

"Because-" Rose begins.

 

"Because someone who you claim you don't even know is stuck in the hospital wing and is going to be totally fine?" Ray points out.

 

"No!" She cries.

 

"Yes," I smirk. Looking at the others, I raise my eyebrows, "You know what? I think our Rosie might have a little crush."

 

Rose gasps, "Take that back."

 

"No," I say, "You regret making your little deal with Scorpius, because now he's injured you realized you have feelings for him."

 

"I do not!" Rose cries.

 

"Really?" Ray smirks, "Prove it."

 

"Fine," Rose snaps, "I'll go to the party. But only if you all go with me."

 

"Good," Ray says happily, "I'll see you all down there in 5 minutes."

 

She leaves the dormitory, and Rose stands up. "But-" I whine, "I can't go. James will be down there."

 

"And when has that stopped you before?" Rose asks me curiously.

 

"I just don't want to see him," I reply touchily.

 

The truth is that if I don't see him soon, I'm pretty sure I'll go nuts. All I want to do is see him, and look at him, and snog him. 

 

"Why? What did he do this time?" Lexie asks.

 

"Nothing," I insist.

 

"Well we're going to sit here until you tell us," Rose sighs, "I'm not going down there until you do."

 

I sit there, my lips sealed, hoping that these are empty threats. 

 

But no, they choose this moment in time to sit on the bed beside me, suddenly all ears.

 

"Wesnogged," I mutter through gritted teeth.

 

"What?" Lexie frowns.

 

I take a deep, nervous breath and whisper, one word at a time, "We. snogged."

 

The effect is immediate. Rose shrieks loudly, right into my ear. Lexie flaps her hands like a psychopathic chicken and begins to jump up and down, squealing the whole time. 

 

I put my hands over my ears and curl up on the bed as they continue to yell with excitement.

 

"OK," Rose grins, "That's it. You're so going down there."

 

"No, I'm not."

 

"Oh, yes you are," Lexie laughs.

 

"No, I'm not," I insist, "You can say anything you want, but nothing will get me to go down there."

 

* * *

"I hate you both," I mutter, standing at the foot of the common room stairs, looking out at the crowd of cheering, happy people.

 

"You'll thank us later," Rose grins slyly at me.

 

I make a private memo to hate her for all eternity.

 

Note to self: Rose is evil. She is not trustworthy. The next time that she tricks you into going downstairs by telling you there are free muffins, don't fall for it.

 

"James isn't even here," I say, looking around anxiously.

 

"Yes, he is, look over there," Lexie points.

 

I glance over at the bar, and see James and Cameron enjoying some unmoderated amounts of fire whisky.

 

"THREE CHEERS FOR THE CAPTAIN!" Roars someone in the crowd.

 

Everyone joins in the hip hip hoorays and I stand about awkwardly as I watch James enjoy his spot in the limelight.

 

Someone spots Rose, grabs her wrist and drags her into the throng, yelling, "WEASLEY IS OUR QUEEN! WEASLEY IS OUR QUEEN!"

 

I begin to feel worried. What if James ignores me? It wouldn't exactly be out of character…

 

 "Shit," Lexie mutters beside me. Her eyes are fixated on Cameron, who's busy talking loudly to a pack of fifth year girls, who are giggling and taking any opportunity to touch his biceps. Ugh.

 

Lexie sighs and I'm suddenly glad that I'm not the only one feeling anxious, and feel slightly less alone.

 

"Yeah, shit," I mutter, looking over at James, who is laughing with Ben Hopkirk, because Ben just drank three shots in under five seconds, and almost fell off his chair. Teenage boys are truly unimpressive specimens.

 

Unless of course, you've just snogged one of them. 

 

Everything about him is suddenly magnified, the muscles under his shirt, the way his hair stood up, even the way he's gripping his bottle. Fuck, what's happening to me?

 

"Have you seen Ray anywhere?" Lexie asks me awkwardly.

 

"No," I reply despondently.

 

We continue to stand on the edge, like the wallflowers we are, feeling too awkward to join the party, but standing on the steps is becoming almost unbearable.

 

"Lets go and get drinks," I say resolutely.

 

"Oh, I don't know," Lexie says nervously, "Cameron's over by the drinks table."

 

"Then let's just show him what he's been missing," I say. With these words I pull on the elastic that's holding Lexie's beautiful mane of hair out of her eyes, and let it come swishing down. She gives a little gasp of surprise.

 

"What was wrong with my hair?" she asks me, sounding wounded.

 

"Cameron's more likely to notice you this way," I say, with little time left for sensitivity.

 

Grabbing her hand, I drag her through the crowd, and end up at the bar, after highly skilled maneuvering through moving, tightly packed people.

 

Cameron almost immediately sees us, and the broad, flirtatious grin on his face drops off. I smirk.

 

"Laugh at something I said," I mutter under my breath.

 

"What?" she hisses.

 

"Cameron is watching," I growl.

 

"Oh," she lets off a loud ripple of laughter.

 

I glance quickly at Cameron, who still hasn't lost interest. 

 

"Shit, is he still looking?" Lexie asks me urgently.

 

"Yes, just act normal," I hiss.

 

"Hi."

 

Cameron is already at Lexie's side, having completely abandoned the fifth year gaggle of girls, who look slightly offended at being rejected so quickly. I continue to smirk to myself. Cameron has it bad.

 

Lexie glances up at him, and immediately flushes bright pink, "Er, h-hi."

 

"D-d'you want a drink?" he asks her uncomfortably.

 

"Um, sure," she replies.

 

Oh my god, I almost want to choke on the tension. 

 

Cameron passes Lexie a drink. She takes it and sips it slowly.

 

"You played well today," she says.

 

"Oh," Cameron clears his throat, "Thanks. I mean I... thanks."

 

There's another silence. 

 

I almost start to suffocate, so I blurt out, "Hey, is that Rose?"

 

Before they can answer I grab the nearest drink and push my way back through the crowd, not really looking for anyone in particular. I just want to get away from being the third wheel.

 

Taking a sip from my drink, I'm jostled around by the crowd for quite a bit until I finally find myself on the edge, where I decide to stay.

 

Where is James? Is he just biding his time? And what for, anyway?

 

All I know is that I never want to forget that kiss. All I know is that I want to kiss him again. 

 

And yet how am I supposed to do that when I have no idea where he is?

 

Suddenly an arm slipps subtly around my waist. I shiver, and wonder if it's James.

 

It isn't. It's some fifth year creep, who's obviously piss drunk, judging by the smell of him, and he's leering uncomfortably at me.

 

"Hey, get off!" I snap at him.

 

But his grip on my hip tightens, "Hey babe," he slurs, "Let's dance."

 

"No thanks!" I cry out instinctively, desperately trying to wriggle out of his grip.

 

But his grip is stronger than I'd thought, dragging me back into the horrible, sweaty crowd of people.

 

No, this is all wrong. He's supposed to be James, telling me how much he wants me, how much he cares. Instead I've got this slobbering little boy, who can't keep his hands to himself.

 

I grab his hand and remove it from me, but he presses right up against me, and I almost choke on his foul alcohol breath.

 

"I've been watching you all nigh-"

 

"Leave me alone, creep," I snap.

 

"No," says the boy, replacing his hand on my lower back.

 

I put both hands on his abdomen and push back off him, "Get off me."

 

"No," he slurs again.

 

"She said to get off her, mate."

 

Twisting my head around, I am relieved to see James, standing close to us in the crowd, looking at my harrasser with a look of cold fury. He seems to have appeared out of nowhere, arms folded, his muscles prominent under his shirt, looking tense and uncomfortable.

 

I really shouldn't be thinking of that at a time like this, but there you go.

 

The creep takes his hands off me, and I can finally breathe in fresh air. 

 

He turns to James, looking him up and down, before sneering, "Fuck off, I'm not your mate."

 

"Good," James says, his face still a mask of bubbling anger beneath a well controlled surface, "No need to bother with the pleasantries then."

 

And then he punches him, right in the face.

 

I shriek, and the sound is embarrassingly high, but I don't even care. James Potter just punched someone. And not just anyone. He punched the guy who wouldn't leave me alone. 

 

Bloody hell, was he protecting my honour?

 

The kid is on the floor, clutching his nose and moaning. Other people have turned, yelling and trying to back away.

 

James leans over, grabs the guy by the shirt collar and says in a voice just loud enough for me to hear, "I ever see you touching her again, it won't be my fist, it'll be the window."

 

He straightens up and readjusts his shirt. I'm staring at him, and never have I been more shocked. 

 

He looks back at me, just for a second, but in that second I see his eyes are burning. I gaze back at him in a kind of terrified amazement.

 

And then he turns on his heel, and walks out of the common room, leaving me standing there, a groaning fifth year with a broken nose lying at my feet, and a crowd who are all staring at me.

 

"Did that really just happen?" Rose asks me, running towards me and dragging me off into a secluded corner.

 

"Yes! No! I don't know!" I cry frantically, "And then he just ran off!"

 

"That was the most romantic thing I've ever seen," she replies reverently.

 

"Wait-what?" I narrow my eyes at her, "Rose! Have you been reading Witch Weekly again?"

 

"He just defended your honour!" Rose cries, "He punched that dirtbag to make him back off!"

 

"I was doing fine on my own," I reply touchily, "I'm not some damsel in distress!"

 

"Yeah yeah, you're a strong, independent woman, bla bla bla," Rose rolls her eyes, "Now why are you still standing here? Go and snog him!"

 

I must admit that does sound incredibly tempting.

 

"No," I say, "There is no cause for violence. James should be ashamed of him-"

 

Rose rolls her eyes again and pushes me firmly towards the portrait hole, flapping her hands at me impatiently.

 

I climb through the hole obediently. On the one hand I should really tell him off for punching the guy. But on the other hand…..

 

As I step outside the portrait hole I wonder where I can possibly find him. He can't have gone far.

 

"Do you really have to have the music so loud?" The Fat Lady asks me tiredly.

 

"Sorry," I reply, "It shouldn't be too much longer. Quidditch parties, you know?"

 

She sighs, "Well, the captain just stormed off down that corridor, so clearly the quidditch team-"

 

I don't wait for her to finish, and race down the corridor in the direction of her outstretched finger.

 

It only takes me a few moments to spot a lone figure rounding a corner at the end of the corridor.

 

I run after him, around the corner, to find him leaning against the wall.

 

He sees me, and looks away, "What are you doing here?"

 

"I-" I pause, "Looking for you."

 

"Well, here I am," he says, his voice sounding tired.

 

I sigh angrily, "You can't just go and punch people, you know! There are these things called words. Mature people use them to negotiate their problems."

 

"He was a scumbag!" James replies angrily, "And he had his hands all over you!"

 

"Look, even so, punching him was a stupid, irrational thing to do. Jealousy never gets us anywhere."

 

"Wait, what?" James frowns at me indignantly, "Who said I was jealous? I would do that for any of my cousins."

 

"So...I'm like your cousin," I reply slowly.

 

"No!" He begins to sound very frustrated, "You're not my cousin!"

 

"Then what am I?" I raise my eyebrows, "Someone you just felt like snogging to get rid of pre-game jitters?"

 

"Hey!" James snaps, "You kissed me first! And I do not get pre-game jitters!"

 

"You were having a hissy fit," I say cooly, "Then you snogged me, and went out and won the bloody match!"

 

"Well," he seems momentarily lost for words, "It was good!"

 

"What? The hissy fit or the snog?"

 

"The snog, of course!"

 

"Good, glad we've got that straightened out."

 

We stand there in silence, not really looking at each other.

 

Merlin, I want him. I want to close the few inches of space between us and snog him. I want to touch his arms, his chest, his hair.

 

"But, I don't know…" he trails off, the courage to speak his mind has failed him for once.

 

I narrow my eyes at him, "What?"

 

"Nothing, I don't know!" he sounds increasingly flustered.

 

"Are you saying you don't want to do it again?" I ask, my heart sinking faster than a stone.

 

He shrugs, "Maybe, I don't know! Is that what you want?"

 

I couldn't tell him the truth. Not without humiliating myself. "Maybe. Is that what you want?"

 

"I just told you I don't know!"

 

"Well, maybe you should figure it out," I snap.

 

"So should you!" he replies indignantly.

 

"Well, fine! Maybe we shouldn't do it again!"

 

NOOOOOOO, NOOOO! WHAT THE FUCK, BRAIN? YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO ANSWER THAT COMMENT BY JUMPING HIM!

 

James raises his eyebrows, "If you still want to, don't say no on my account!"

 

"Hey, I'm not desperate to snog you Potter."

 

YES I BLOODY WELL AM! 

 

"Really? Because you kissed me fist. You practically started the whole snog in the first place."

 

"You're never going to let that go, are you? And you were the one who snogged me after I kissed you, so if anyone's desperate, it's you."

 

"I'm not desperate!" he smirks, "Kissing people before a game is a regular occurrence for me. I mean, girls can't resist. It's understandable that you couldn't either."

 

...And then he has to go and be a douche.

 

"Yeah? Well don't think I don't snog people all the time!" I snap, although the words that are spilling out of my mouth sound absolutely ludicrous.

 

"Oh," he smirks, "Do you?"

 

"Oh, yeah!" I insist, "I just can't keep them away, like moths to a flame."

 

"Really?" he asks, his tone mocking.

 

"Yes, really!" I snap back haughtily, "This is just a glitch in my very busy snogging timetable. I could be snogging someone right now!"

 

Ah, that brought a flash to his eyes, I notice. 

 

"Good, I was just about to as well," he snaps, "Five birds already asked me."

 

I throw him a look of disgust, "Ugh, you're a pig. I can't believe I ever snogged you!"

 

He pushes himself off the wall and says in a disgruntled way, "Well it's not like I'm begging for more either."

 

"Oh please," I smirk, "You're a guy. You could barely go six hours without punching someone!"

 

"He deserved it. And like I said, this whole thing is a regular occurrence for me. But you can't handle the suspense. Why else did you run after me in a dark, deserted corridor?"

 

I gape at him, "I came here to tell you off for punching someone!"

 

"Yeah, sure," he smirks, as though he knows what I'm all about, "You couldn't resist."

 

"Just like your fist couldn't resist the face of the guy who was groping me?" I raise my eyebrows, "Face it, Potter. You lost. You made the first move."

 

"Lost what?" he chuckles, "That doesn't count! No, the first person to initiate the next snog is the loser. That's the person who really couldn't resist."

 

"If that's the way you want to look at it, fine," I say, "But you'll still lose."

 

I can honestly say that I have no idea what we're talking about any more.

 

"And what makes you so sure?" he asks, smirking at me as he takes a step towards me. We're facing each other directly, staring at one another, testing how far we'll go.

 

"Because you're a guy, need I say more?"

 

"Fine, let's make this official. I bet that you'll cave before I will."

 

"Winner gets?"

 

"Satisfaction."

 

"And the loser?"

 

"Shame."

 

"Fine," I say resolutely, "See you around Potter. Try not to punch anyone else, yeah?"

 

He chuckles, and I turn on my heel and march back up to the common room, wondering how long it'll be before I cave.

 

*             *              *

 

"Well you don't look like you've been snogged," Rose remarks disapprovingly, when I return to the dormitory that night.

 

"No," I growl, "We ended up making a bet on who would initiate the next snog."

 

"Merlin's beard, what is with you two?" Rose cries exasperatedly, "Why can't you just snog one another already?"

 

"I only told you a few hours ago," I frown at her.

 

"Yeah, well, the suspense is killing me. I was planning a June wedding."

 

I fall onto my bed laughing, "You can't be serious!"

 

She shrugs, "I was thinking Rose centerpieces, you know, as a tribute to your favourite person on earth."

 

"You've clearly given it a lot of thought."

 

"Well, you've gone and disappointed me now," Rose rolls her eyes, "Maybe I don't want to plan your wedding anymore."

 

"Oh no," I reply monotonously, a deadpan expression on my face, "Please Rose. Don't. I need you."

 

"You sound very sincere," Rose purses her lips, "But we can talk about wedding plans later. Now, how are you going to win this bet?"

 

"Just…stay out of his way, I guess," I shrug anxiously.

 

Rose sighs with aggravation, as though I'm supposed to have some sort of brilliant, mastermind plan, "Okay, Stella, sweetie, I love you, but do you understand how important it is that you win this?"

 

"For my pride, I know," I sigh.

 

Rose frowns, looking confused, "No! For women everywhere!"

 

Wow…that's a lot of pressure.

 

"You have to make him want you!" she cries, "You can't just avoid him!"

 

"But…I'm not really the seducing type," I reply nervously.

 

"Well, you'll have to start!" Rose insists urgently.

 

I open my mouth to object, but am interrupted by Ray, who bursts suddenly into the dormitory looking extremely flustered.

 

I sit up straight immediately. Never, ever in her life has Ray Mitchell ever looked flustered. Angry, of course. And she's always on edge. But never…flustered.

 

"What's wrong with you?" Rose frowns, looking at her curiously. Clearly it's not just me that's noticed something is off.

 

"Nothing," she says quickly. Too quickly.

 

"Something's wrong," I insist.

 

"I'm fine!" She cries, looking quickly at me, but then she looks away almost guiltily, "Stop asking me!"

 

She pushes past us into the bathroom, and she slams the door behind her.

 

"Well excuse us for caring," Rose mutters, "Merlin she's weird."

 

"Did you see her at the party?" I ask curiously.

 

"Come to think of it, no," Rose frowns at the closed bathroom door, "Weird, considering she was so eager for all of us to go down there."

 

But before we have another moment to ponder Ray's mysterious reappearance, Lexie bursts in through the doorway.

 

And unlike Ray, who looked nervous and shaken, Lexie looks as though she's just won the bloody lottery.

 

"Cameron is perfection," she sighs, collapsing onto her bed gracefully.

 

Rose raises her eyebrows, "That's definitely debatable," 

 

Lexie ignores her, however, and continues to gaze dreamily up at the ceiling, lying spread eagled on the bed covers, a goofy smile on her face.

 

"What happened?" I ask her.

 

"What happened?" Lexie replies incredulously, as though it should be obvious, "He apologized for everything with the whole tutoring thing, he practically got down on one knee and begged my forgiveness! And then we went somewhere quiet, and-"

 

"Bow chica wow wow," I grin.

 

Oh god, did I seriously just say that?  That stopped being cool before I was born. In face, when was that phrase ever cool?

 

Rose and Lexie stare at me.

 

"I worry about you sometimes," Rose says to me slowly.

 

"And we didn't do anything of the sort," Lexie says curtly, "We just talked!"

 

"About what?" I scoff, "Cameron barely knows how to string together a proper sentence, let alone have a conversation!"

 

"You're too hard on him," Lexie sighs, rolling her eyes,"You have a tendency for the hyperbole, Stella."

 

"No, seriously," Rose says, nodding at me, "Yesterday he asked me what sheep count when they can't get to sleep."

 

"Whatever," Lexie sighs happily, "I don't even care."

 

She resumes her avid gaze at the ceiling, looking completely starstruck.

 

Rose raises an eyebrow at me. Once we've left Lexie to her thoughts she asks me in a low, hushed voice, "Does Cameron even like her?"

 

"Yes!" I whisper back urgently, "And the prat doesn't know what to do. I suggested he ask her out, and he looked at me as if I suggested that he try landing on the moon."

 

"Relationships don't even enter these boy's minds," Rose mutters.

 

"No, just snogging," I mutter.

 

"Exactly."

 

***

 

The next morning I get up bright and early. Because that's what normal people do on a Sunday after they've just been to a raging quidditch after-party.

 

Getting up at six am on the weekend is completely normal.

 

Especially if there's a certain seventh year who you're trying not to snog that won't be awake for hours.

 

I skip quickly down to the breakfast hall. I even see some house elves dusting here and there. That's how early it is.

 

Down in the great hall, the long wooden tables are bare, and there are no sign of teachers up at the high table. The echoing of my footsteps vibrates around the hall as I step nervously inside.

 

"Stella!" 

 

It's Albus, sitting alone at the Slytherin table. He's the only person in the whole room besides me. Breakfast has been laid out in front of him, so I take the seat opposite.

 

"What are you doing down here so early?" I ask him.

 

"I could ask you the same question," he says, raising an eyebrow at me.

 

I'm momentarily distracted by the fact that there are blueberry muffins sitting on a plate along the table.

 

"They serve blueberry muffins this early?" I cry excitedly, pulling three onto my plate.

 

"How late do you get up on a sunday?" Albus smirks.

 

"You know, the usual, twelve."

 

He raises his eyebrows again at me, "You still haven't answered my question."

 

"I asked you first," I reply, before taking a large bite of muffin.

 

"Fine," he sighs, "I'm avoiding Ray."

 

I frown, "Why?"

 

Then I remember the weird way Ray was acting last night, and the fact that she wasn't even at the victory party.

 

"Did you two meet up last night?" I ask him, my eyes wide.

 

He looks down at his fried egg, "Well, I was feeling a bit depressed after James won. Middle child complex, and all that. So I just…asked Ray to meet me."

 

"And she came?"

 

"What do you think?" Albus asks moodily, "She came, and we talked for ages. Just about different things, none of them were really important."

 

"And then?" I ask, barely able to stand the suspense.

 

Albus pauses, "And then I kissed her."

 

I squeal, clapping my hands eagerly at him, "Finally! Albus Potter, you're the man."

 

"No, I'm not apparently," Albus sighs.

 

"What? She didn't reject you, did she?" I ask.

 

"Something like that," he mutters despondently, "I swear for a few seconds she kissed me back, but then it was like she froze up. She started banging on about how I was her friend's ex, and it wasn't right. And then I was stupid and told her I never really liked you that much in the first place."

 

My eyes widened, "What the fuck, Albus?"

 

"I know, I know," he groans, "But to be fair I had just kissed the girl of my dreams. My brain was being slightly dysfunctional."

 

I shake my head, "But what did she say?"

 

"She said that I was a jerk, for leading you on, and that she never wanted to speak to me again."

 

He looks sadly down at his plate.

 

"OK," I reply, taking deep, calming breaths, "Not a big deal. You just ruined a month's worth of hard, carefully planned work, but no biggie. We're just going to have to do some damage control."

 

"How?" Albus whines.

 

"I don't know!" I cry.

 

We both sit there, wondering desperately on how to possibly undo this messy situation.

 

"She does like you," I reply, "I'm sure of it."

 

"She does?" Albus looks over the moon, "Are you sure?"

 

"Judging by the way she was acting at the quidditch match yesterday, I'd say yes, she definitely does."

 

"But now she's not speaking to me anymore," he sighs.

 

"OK," I say resolutely, "We're just going to have to tell her the truth!"

 

Albus' eyes widen, "The whole truth."

 

"And nothing but the truth."

 

"You realize she'll hate us forever right?"

 

I shrug, "Well, right now she's not even speaking to you, so I'd say you've got nothing to lose."

 

"Except maybe my teeth," he mutters.

 

I reach up instinctively to touch my jaw bone, wondering how bruised it'll be when Ray punches me for trying to manipulate her.

 

* * *

"Do you have a death wish?" Rose asks me, her mouth agape, eyes staring at me in shock.

 

"No, but-"

 

"Then why in the name of Merlin's silken drawers would you tell Ray Mitchell that you and Albus have been secretly conspiring behind her back for over a month now?"

 

"Well, after Albus told her that he never liked me much in the first place, what else can I do?" I shrug.

 

"This is Ray Mitchell," Rose insists, "Ray Mitchell. She knocked out a guy's front tooth because he looked at her funny."

 

I swallow anxiously, "Yeah, tell James that I love him."

 

"You're not seriously going to do it!" Rose stares.

 

"It's for Albus."

 

"Oh well bully for Albus!" Rose says incredulously, "But if you end up int he hospital wing, allow me to say I told you so!"

 

Madame Pince suddenly vaporizes out from behind a bookshelf and tells us to be quiet in her saintly temple of reading, or she'll kick us both out.

 

"I have to go and get a book for my Herbology essay," I say, getting up from my seat, "Be back in a minute."

 

I wind my way around the bookshelves, frowning at the faded gold script on the spine of the books.

 

I turn a corner into an empty corridor, and to my horror there stands James.

 

He's holding a book in one hand, which snaps shut the moment he sees me, "Wood."

 

I nod, "Potter."

 

Oh God, someone get me out of here. I am not equipped to handle this. I'm going to end up snogging him if something doesn't happen right now.

 

"Something you need?" he asks, leaning back onto the book shelf.

 

"Just a book on hot- I mean Herbology."

 

Bloody hell, this is not going according to plan. I'm supposed to be seducing him.

 

All he's doing is standing on the opposite side, looking at me, and yet somehow he's the one with all the power.

 

"What's that you're reading?" I ask him feebly, although I'm unable to even look at the book because my eyes are too fixated on his hazel ones.

 

He puts the book back onto the shelf, and starts to walk slowly towards me, "Nothing interesting."

 

He gets closer.

OH GOD THIS IS NOT GOOD.

 

ABORT! ABORT!

 

SERIOUSLY; BRAIN, ABORT!

 

RUN!

 

"Oh," Is all I can say in reply.

 

Fuck.

 

It's like my legs are stuck to the floor, and James is moving closer and closer.

 

I lean back onto the bookshelf, and he slowly leans onto it next to me, his arm draped over my shoulder.

 

Fuck, he smells really good. I know that's not what I should be thinking about right now, but seriously.

 

The tips of his fingers start to play with the loose ends of my hair. A shiver runs up my spine. Was this him caving? Did he want to snog me?

 

"What are you doing?" I ask him.

 

He continues to fiddle with my hair, "Nothing. What are you doing?"

 

"Leaving." I reply, with as much force as I can muster, which is none. The heat from him is filling me up, consuming me.

 

He shrugs. "Go ahead, nothing's stopping you."

 

Bloody hell, I have to snog him now. If I don't I don't know what I'll do.

 

Screw the bet.

 

Just as I'm leaning in, I hear Rose's voice peering around the corner, "Stella, are you there?"

 

And just like that, the spell is broken.

 

"Oh thank god," I mutter, pushing myself off the bookcase, and moving away from him.

 

Ah, fresh air. It doesn't smell nearly as good as him, but still.

 

James rolls his eyes at us, "Come on, Rose."

 

Rose narrows her eyes at James, "And just what do you think you're doing?"

 

"The question is what Wood would've done had you not shown up," he says angrily.

 

"Stop trying to seduce her you evil…seducer!" Rose exclaims shrilly, "I've got my eye on you."

 

She points to her eyes, and then back at him, repeating this motion several times, before grabbing my hand and dragging me away.

 

"Come on Stel," she says, Once we're safely back at our table she looks at me, her expression unrelenting and serious. "You realize what that was right?"

 

"Yeah," I breath, "He was trying to get me to make the first move-"

 

"-By making it look like he was already making the move," Rose nods.

 

"Shit," I mutter, "I'm going to lose."

 

"No," Rose says confidently, "You're going to win."

 

"And how can you be so sure?" I whine.

 

Rose hits me, harder than I expect, on the arm. Ignoring my cry of protest she says, "Stella, pull yourself together! Remember, this is for women everywhere."

 

"Hey guys." It's Lexie, looking just as happy this morning as she did last night, "What are you talking about?"

 

"Stella's holding out on James," Rose answers.

 

"Really?" Lexie frowns, "Why?"

 

"Or he's holding out on me," I reply, "I'm not exactly sure."

 

"Well she's going to win," Rose says to Lexie, although she keeps her eyes fixated on me, "Because women everywhere are depending on her."

 

"I'm pretty sure these women you speak of have no clue what you're on about," I answer sullenly.

 

"Listen, Stella," she says, "This is how we women can keep the upper hand. Men will always want it more than us. If you cave, you disprove the whole theory!"

 

"Are you sure I shouldn't just cave?"

 

"No! You can't! You have to win!"

 

"It's just a stupid bet! Why does it matter who wins?"

 

"Oh for goodness sake," Rose sighs, "Fine, give in if you must. At least you'll get a good snog out of it. Just know that the longer you hold out, the more he'll want it."

 

"What do you think, Lex?" I turn to her.

 

She looks a little frightened to be brought so suddenly into the conversation, but she stammers, "I-I think I agree with Rose."

 

Rose pumps the air with her fist, "Yes," she hisses victoriously.

 

I sigh angrily, "I-" I break off, because I spot an all-too-familiar blonde head of hair, sitting not far away from us. "Hang on, give me a minute."

 

I get up and walk over to the table.

 

"Hi Eve," I say slowly.

 

She looks up, and immediately looks back down at her work, "Stella."

 

"Can we talk?" I ask.

 

"I suppose," she replies, still not meeting my eye.

 

I take a seat next to her uneasily. She continues to scribble things with her quill, her jaw set angrily.

 

I take a deep, reluctant breath, "Eve, I didn't mean to tell James. You have to believe me."

 

She doesn't reply. Oh, so she's going with the silent treatment is she? Fine.

 

"Honestly, Eve, I really didn't mean too. I want you to be on the team, that part was James' decision entirely. How could I have possibly known that he'd still be hanging around?"

 

"Because you were snogging him not a minute before," she answers coolly.

 

My jaw drops, then I close my mouth. 

 

"How-how did you-"

 

"I saw you," she snaps, "That changing room has windows you know. I was walking past as I was about to throw up, and I saw you kissing him."

 

I hesitated, "OK, so I knew he was still in the vicinity, but honestly, all I cared about was you getting help."

 

"No, all you care about is getting back on the team, and getting James to fall for you," Eve says, her voice as cold and unforgiving as ice.

 

She was making me sound like a vindictive bitch. "That's not fair!"

 

"Even if the whole thing was an accident," Eve interjects, "You still said that if I didn't tell him, you would. You threatened me."

 

"Only because I was worried about you," I reply angrily.

 

"Is that what you tell yourself?" Eve asks, "Does it make you feel better to think that you were being selfless?"

 

"I was!"

 

"No, you wanted to be keeper again," Eve says, "I could see it in your eyes, every time I spoke about it. And when we practiced, you were jealous."

 

I open my mouth to protest, but she raises her eyebrows, "Don't try to deny it."

 

I pause, "OK, yes, I was jealous. But that doesn't mean I want to be keeper again."

 

"Yes, it does," she says, "God, you really don't know what you want, do you?"

 

"I know that I didn't want you kicked off the team," I insist, "Maybe I sort of want to be keeper again, but not at your expense."

 

"You tell yourself that," she shakes her head, "But you love it so much you'll do anything."

 

"I hated quidditch for the four years I was on the team! How could I suddenly go from hating to loving it?" I scoff.

 

"Because you miss it," Eve replies.

 

"No, I don't," I lie.

 

"I'm not here to play psychologist," Eve snaps, "I knew that befriending you was a mistake."

 

"So why did you?" I ask her, "If you were so bloody doubtful, why did you?"

 

"Because I thought you were nice," she hisses, "I thought you would hate me. But you were nice to me. You agreed to coach me. I should have realized you were just waiting in the wings."

 

I suddenly remembered a conversation I had had with Albus after I had been released from the hospital wing, after that disastrous coaching session with Eve.

 

"So what actually happened?" Albus asks me.

 

"I was coaching Eve, and I got nauseous," I answer.

 

"Wait?" Albus splutters, "Eve? As in Eve Collins? The girl who replaced you?"

 

"Shut up," I mutter, "I know. It was a stupid idea."

 

"Actually I was thinking it was kind of genius," Albus says.

 

I frown at him, "What do you mean?"

 

"I mean, you can find out all kinds of stuff about her!" he answers, "And then you can use it against her!"

 

"For what purpose?"

 

"To get back onto the team!" he exclaims.

 

"I'm fine not being on the team," I scoff, "It honestly doesn't matter to me."

 

Albus raised an eyebrow, "Please. I'm no fool. The fact that you even attempted to coach her shows that you miss quidditch more than you want to admit."

 

After all this, maybe he had been right.

 

Maybe, deep down, I had befriended Eve with the sole purpose of finding everything out about her, so that I could use it.

 

My prolonged silence has caused Eve to sigh angrily and pack up her things.

 

"What are you going to do?" I ask her nervously.

 

She frowns at me, "What are you talking about?"

 

"Well, you're clearly angry. I betrayed your secret. Are you going to tell the world that I'm in love with James?"

 

She looks even more contemptuous, "I think I'll stay out of your twisted love life, thanks. First you date his younger brother, and practically a week after you dump him, you snog his brother.  I mean, at first I felt bad for you. I thought you just had an unrequited crush on your boyfriend's brother. But then you were snogging him! Is that why you dated Albus in the first place? To get closer to James?"

 

I open my mouth to protest, but she puts up a hand to stop me, "Never mind. I don't want to know. Seeing you snogging James made me realize what kind of person you really are. Someone who would betray their friends to get what they want."

 

She lifts her bag onto her shoulder and makes to leave.

 

"Why?" I ask her scathingly, "Why aren't you going to tell everyone? It's only fair."

 

She raises an eyebrow, "Because that would make me as bad as you."

 

And she turns on her heel and leaves me sitting there alone.

* * *

 

Later that day I sit alone in the common room, trying to finish my Herbology essay. James is still in the library, so I'm avoiding the library like the plague. Obviously. And Rose is up in the dormitory, so there's no way I'm going up there. She'll just nag me about winning women's battles.

 

Yeah, because this is the battle that women are most concerned about. Waiting until James decides that I'm irresistible and finally makes the first move. It's a real feminist issue.

 

Unfortunately the peace and quiet of the common room is frequently shattered. Sometimes it's by annoying first years, who still seem to travel in packs. Sometimes it's fourth or fifth year couples who just want to snog on the couch. I like to glare at them until they get creeped out and leave.

 

Yeah, that's me. Stella Wood, the future crazy cat lady.

 

But sometimes I get even more unwelcome visitors, like Fred.

 

"Stella!" he exclaims eagerly when he sees me, "You busy? Can I join?"

 

Without waiting for an answer, he sits down heavily on the couch beside me.

 

"I'm doing my Herbology essay, Fred," I insist.

 

He looks unfazed, "Sounds cool. Do you know if James is still angry with me? He's got to get over himself, honestly."

 

I raise an eyebrow, "You mean because you hit bludgers at Archer during the game yesterday, almost injuring Archer, Rose and probably countless other players, almost getting yourself disqualified and completely ruining the game that James has been going on about for months. Yeah I'd say he's still pretty pissed."

 

"But it's been ages," Fred whines, "And he's still not talking to me."

 

"It was yesterday, Fred," I point out.

 

"Still," he says, sulking with his bottom lip stuck out.

 

I pray that he'll keep quiet, and put my quill back onto my parchment. But sure enough he pipes up as soon as I've written one letter.

 

"So I hear you got Eve kicked off the team," he smirks.

 

"What?" I yelp, "Who told you that?"

 

"Eve," he says, whistling slowly, "She's not happy with you."

 

"She's being completely unreasonable," I growl, "I didn't do it on purpose. She keeps going on about how I was trying to sabotage her because I miss playing quidditch so much."

 

Fred frowns, "Don't you?"

 

"No! I don't know!" I react quickly.

 

"Oh, I thought you wanted back on," Fred shrugs, "But anyway I suppose I should thank you."

 

"What? Why?" I frown at him. Fred takes pleasure in harassing Eve. Why would he want to see her leave?

 

"Well now that James has started this beautiful new rule that players can't date each other, it means that Roxanne can't date the prat-"

 

"-The prat's name is Archer."

 

"Whatever," Fred waves me away, "But it would also mean that I couldn't pursue the lovely Eve. So now she's off the team, I thank you Stella. I always knew you had my back."

 

"OK, first of all, I didn't do anything, and second of all, do you honestly think that that was the only obstacle standing in your way? How about the fact that Eve isn't interested?"

 

"Give it time," Fred winks at me.

 

"OK," I reply skeptically, going back to my work.

 

But then yet another interruption arrives through the portrait hole in the form of James Potter. I look up, but I quickly look back down.

 

All my efforts to avoid him have been ruined.

 

"Jamesie!" Fred exclaims, "I've missed you!"

 

"I'm still pissed with you Fred," James replies gruffly.

 

He tries to walk past us, but Fred jumps up and blocks his way.

 

"I'm sorry, OK?" he says, "Now stop acting like a bloody girl and forgive me!"

 

James squares his shoulders, pauses for a moment before shrugging, "OK."

 

I will never understand boys. It's as simple as that.

 

"Good, now the brethren is reunited,"  I say to them, my tone sounding annoyed, "Can you leave me to write my Herbology essay?"

 

"Find that Herbology book you were looking for?" James asks, cocking his eyebrow suggestively, while smirking infuriatingly at me. 

 

"No," I reply grudgingly.

 

He smirks, and tries to walk past Fred towards the dormitory stairs.

 

"Hold on," Fred suddenly says, his voice full of apprehensive suspicion. He pauses for barely a few seconds, looking from James, to me, then back to James, "You two snogged!"

 

I stare at him, then at James, who looks just as shocked.

 

"No we didn't!" we both cry in unison, but it's so obvious that we're lying.

 

"Don't lie to me!" Fred cries, "I can tell!"

 

"How can you tell?" James asks, half in shock, half in admiration.

 

"It's a sixth sense," Fred replies knowingly, "Some people can predict the future with the stars or whatever. I can tell when two people have recently snogged each other."

 

"That's a weird gift," I reply.

 

"And now back to the more important issue," Fred says, "I can't believe you didn't tell me!"

 

I scoff in disbelief, "Come on Fred, why would we tell you?"

 

"Uh, because I'm your friend?" Fred widens his eyes at me, as though that's supposed to make me feel guilty.

 

James claps a hand on his shoulder, "Freddie, friends don't tell each other everything."

 

"Yes they do!" Fred whines, "I feel like I'm being left out all the time!"

 

"Sorry, Fred," I say sadly.

 

He glares at me, "I'm going up to my room. I don't want to see you two."

 

He storms away, and halfway up the stairs he stops to wail, "And now you're going to snog again, aren't you!"

 

He doesn't wait for a response and soon we hear the slamming of the dormitory door behind him.

 

I can't stop myself from laughing. James chuckles as well, "Can't believe I'm related to him."

 

The laughter dies down quickly, and I find myself alone in a room with James Potter. This was precisely what wasn't supposed to happen.

 

My eyes roam slowly over his shoulders, his arms, his face. He looks tense, and I wonder if Rose is right, if he wants it more than I do.

 

Well, there's only one way to find out.

 

I get up from the sofa, walk around the side and lean against it's back. Extending out my legs, I survey him carefully. His jaw is set, his arms folded, and he looks uncomfortable.

 

"You OK?" I ask him as softly as I can.

 

Reaching up to play with a piece of my hair, I wind a strand of it around my finger. He watches me carefully. Does that mean it's working?

 

"Fine," he replies, his voice strained.

 

I feel like a complete idiot as I cross the room, slowly putting one foot in front of the other, taking my time. When I reach him, he backs up against a table, and I realise with satisfaction, and surprise, that he's trapped, and he's not doing anything to escape.

 

I'm so close that we're almost touching, I can feel his breath. It's becoming more uneasy, slow, almost nonexistent.

 

"I was thinking about this bet thing," I sigh, as I scrape my hair away from my neck and tie it up, lifting up my elbows to gather it up piece by piece.

 

"What about it?" James asks hoarsely. His eyes keep flickering over my collar bone, then my neck, then my face.

 

"I don't know," I murmur softly, "It just seems kind of pointless. Neither side is getting what they want."

 

Holding my breath, I reach up and tentatively take hold of his tie, stroking the end of it gently with my fingertips.

 

"Uh huh," James replies. It's clear that the initial reason for not snogging me, his pride, has been long forgotten.

 

I get in even closer, so that our fronts finally come into contact. My fingers creep slowly up the tie until they reach the knot, and I slowly begin to undo it. Every muscle under his shirt is tense, and his throat is constricted while I fiddle with the heavy silk.

 

"I mean, what does it really prove anyway?" I ask, gently pulling his tie out from underneath the fold of his collar.

 

He's breaking down before my eyes. I can see it.

 

Stella Wood. No longer the future crazy cat lady, but the seductress of James Potter. It feels good, watching him watch me, unable to speak, unable to move.

 

I fold the loose tie over and over again in my hands. 

 

Then I drop the tie on the ground and his hands react immediately, pulling themselves around my waist, drawing me into him. But right before our lips touch I lean away.

 

"Aha!" I cry, releasing myself from his far too comfortable grip.

 

His eyes widen, "What? You were lying!"

 

"Well, of course," I smirk, "I wasn't going to let you win!"

 

"Oh so you just seduced me?" he scoffs.

 

"Like you tried to this morning, you mean?" I nod, "And apparently I'm better at it."

 

"Well, there was no perfectly timed interruption this time was there?" he protests.

 

I grin, "See you at dinner Potter. I imagine you'll be having the humble pie."

 

"What? I didn't lose!"

 

I roll my eyes, "You made the first move! Face it Potter, I beat you."

 

"We never even snogged!"

 

"So? We were going to. And I didn't want you thinking that I'd initiated it."

 

I turn on my heel to leave, but I feel him grab my hand and spin me back around to face him. I gasp in shock, and all my breath leaves me when I realize I am barely centimeters away from him. The heat from his body is radiating off him, his arms holding mine in place.

 

"You're evil," he murmurs, an unmistakable grin on his face, "Truce?"

 

I breath in, and pretend to think, "OK, I suppose. But don't forget that I wo-"

 

I don't have time to finish the sentence, as he cuts me off by pressing his lips hard against mine, spinning me around and lifting me up so I'm on top of the table, wrapping his strong hands around my waist. And hey? Who am I to argue with that?

 

I smirk against his kiss.

 

So this is what winning against James Potter feels like.

 







 


A/N: So what did you think? I hope you all enjoyed :)

Next chapter: James and Stella do a shit job at figuring out their relationship, as usual. Rose visits an invalid who she certainly doesn't fancy. Stella's brother continues to cause mayhem for James' sister, and Ray finds out the truth. Oh and two people get asked out on a date (any guesses?)

By the way go back and check out chapters 9, 10 and 11 where there some beautiful chapter images await you...

Much love, ella x

 


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