Chapter 12 : If in doubt, just back out.
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Something – or someone – was tapping on my door. Not my bedroom door, my front door, and so the sound was muffled through all the layers of door and wall between the knocker and me. My head was throbbing, my stomach was heaving and I felt grimy – I just wanted to leap into the shower and never get out again. My skin was hot – too hot. Like I had something far too hot wrapped around me. As the knocking got louder and more insistent I slowly cracked one eyelid open and had to stop myself from screaming.
Sure, it was sight that I had seen many times before, but it still wasn’t a sight that I had expected to see that morning. Especially not when I was in the midst of a hangover so big that I was most likely still half-drunk.
But Dan’s face, which was smushed against my pillow with his lips pushed out in a pout, was so adorable that I didn’t have the heart to wake him and shove him off me. I slowly lifted his arm off my waist and dropped it down next to me, and tried to stretch out my sore muscles.
What the fuck had I done the night before, seven straight hours of Irish dancing with Bigfoot? Because that’s what my joints felt like.
“Woods! Can you open the door, please? I really need to talk to you.” A voice that sounded a little too familiar was yelling at me from quite a distance away, but I couldn’t place the voice and I didn’t want to respond to it anyway. It was too angsty for this early in the morning when my headache was that bad.
A muffled grunting from next to me told me that Dan was waking up from the hammering on the door and loud voice yelling at us – well, me. And the lucky bugger didn’t even have a hangover. How the flippity fuck was that fair?
“Aimes?” Dan grunted, and I shushed him vaguely. I flopped a hand in his direction but didn’t move much, and Dan seemed heartened by the fact he didn’t have to get up or move just yet because he rolled onto his side and let his eyes slide shut again. I snuggled into his chest and rested my nose against his collarbone, trying to ignore the fact the pounding had gotten louder.
“Excuse me, sir, can I help you?” Some woman’s voice had joined the original guy that had been yelling, and from her shaky tone I could tell she was quite old. I wondered whether it was old Mrs Goes to the Supermarket Three Times a Day from two doors down. Still, whoever was banging originally had probably woken up half the building.
“Yeah, I’m just trying to get into my girlfriend’s apartment – she’s called Aimee Woods. But she’s not answering and I really need to talk to her. Do you know anyone that could let me in?” Urgh... whoever was outside the door was far too verbose for me. I just wanted to grab the pillow from under my head and smother whoever it was with it. And why were they telling Carrier Bag Lady that they were my boyfriend? Dan was the closest thing that I had to a boyfriend and he wasn’t even my boyfriend right now.
“Well, dear, I think if you visit the building technician then he would be able to let you in.”
Urgh, the building technician. That bastard hated me. Just because one time I lost my key and woke him up at four in the morning so he could let me and Dan – who were both pissed out of our skulls – back into the flat. And Dan threw up on his couch when we got let into his living room while he found the key.
“Alright, thank you. Do you know where I could find him?”
“Top floor, last apartment on the corridor. He gets the biggest suite in the place because he has to live here. If you ask him nicely then I’m sure he’ll let you in – you clearly want to see her.” I heard a laugh, one that sounded strained and forced even from here, and then the male voice returned.
“Yeah, I really need to see her. Thank you for all your help.”
“No problem, son. If you need any help, I’m just two doors down. And may I just say, though it might not be my place, that you seem so much more pleasant than the boy that Aimee used to be dating – he was a surly young man. He was always very rude to me. It’s nice to see Miss Woods with someone with lovely manners for once.” Another forced laugh, and then silence.
I lolled my head back and thanked the gods of noise for sending this blessing. I stretched both my arms, kicked part of the duvet off my ankle and wondered how I was going to get a much needed glass of water into the bedroom without actually getting up to go and get it.
My skin felt like it was crawling, and even though my eyes were shut I felt like the room was swirling. As Dan shifted again from next to me, his stupid head hangover free, and I had to resist the urge to punch him in the rib. The fact all of my muscles felt like they’d be stretched like chewing gum all night mean I wasn’t really in the punching mood.
“Your fucking boyfriend’s gone to get the key to get in here, you know,” Dan muttered a little while later, and I shifted slightly on the bed.
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” I grumbled, but the words had blended together through the pillow so it really just sounded like a garbled mush. Whether Dan was able to understand me I wasn’t sure, but I was in a state of mind that was beyond caring.
“Yeah? As much as I like you saying that... James Potter is going to be back in like a minute, and he’s gonna see us.” If I didn’t know any better, I would have guessed that Dan actually cared. I stretched out both of my legs carefully and tried to ignore the throbbing under my temples. Dan shifted again and I realised he was sitting up on his side, propping himself up with his elbows.
“Okay,” I muttered, pressing my eyes shut as hard as I could. Someone was poking at the skin on the inside of my elbow. I shifted my arm awkwardly to try and stop them, but the poking just got harder.
“Come on Aimes, you’re gonna have to get up. I don’t feel like being in the papers for being the guy that stole James Potter’s girlfriend.” Dan jabbed me in the ribs this time, and then suddenly pulled the covers down so they were sitting over my ankles. I shrieked and flung myself onto the floor, dragging the covers off the bed blindly and quickly covering myself.
“What the hell did you do that for?” I hissed, clutching at my head.
“Because James Potter is going to be –” Dan’s voice was cut off by the sound of a voice that I really didn’t like to hear – especially not this hour of the morning – getting louder as they advanced towards my front door. It shows how crap my apartment is that I can hear everyone through the walls. I bet they’re made of paper or something, and just painted the colour of walls.
“So, Mr Potter, you say Miss Woods is expecting you? I’ll have to accompany you inside, do you realise that? Just to make sure that everything is alright – you never know with people these days.” I flew upwards into a sitting position and spat my hair out of my mouth, my hands scrabbling frantically at the covers, wrapping them around myself as I staggered to my feet.
“Get in the bathroom!” I shrieked to Dan, grabbing his underwear off the floor and tossing it at him as I dragged on a dressing gown and attempted to smooth down my hair.
“What? Why can’t I just stay in here? Planning to shag Potter in here once I’m gone?” As much as the thought of that repulsed me, I forced myself not to let it show on my face. Rolling my eyes amid the pounding in my skull, I grabbed Dan’s arm, shoved him into the open bathroom as I passed and slammed the door shut behind him.
I could hear Potter’s voice nattering on to the building manager as the key turned in the lock, and then I realised – just in the nick of time – that if they walked in to see my looking at them, then they’d wonder why I hadn’t just opened the door.
I half ran to the couch and threw myself on it, face down, the front of my face planted on a cushion.
The door whined childishly as it was pushed open, and a second later two sets of footsteps entered the room. One was loud and clunky, clearly belonging to a man that was not exactly a Slim Jim, and the other was extended as whoever it was dragged their shoes across the ground in boredom. I guessed that was Potter, because they were the ones that stopped closest to me.
“Woods?” Potter asked, prodding me sharply on the back of the head. I didn’t rip his head off his shoulders for that, but trust me – I was considering it. Shouldn’t he have a hangover too? He drank the same amount, if not more than me. “Woods, are you asleep?” The comment served as a reminder, and I quickly increased the volume of my breathing – but not too loud. I don’t want to give him another think to take the piss out of me for.
“Here, let me,” the building manager said, and a second later I felt a rough hand on my shoulder. “Miss Woods? Are you alright? Do you need some help?” The impatience in the man’s voice was clear in his biting tone, but I still look a while to crack both of my eyes open.
“Who’s there?” I croak, jazzing up the frog-tone until I sounded like I was on the death bed. I could practically hear Potter frowning. I wondered what Dan was doing in the bathroom, and then decided that I most likely didn’t want to know. I prayed he had the good sense not to take a shower, because even Potter and his dim aptitude would most likely notice that.
“It’s me, love,” Potter said carefully, and the building manager slowly took his hand off my shoulder.
“What do you want?” I croaked again.
My voice nearly cut off at the end as something very strange happened. Someone’s fingers – that felt a lot more like Potter’s than they did the building manager’s – carefully lifted my hair off the back of my neck and slowly laid it down on the other side of my head, and slowly pressed their hand against my shoulder to turn me around a little bit.
I tried very hard to keep going with the whole bleary-eyed-sexy-bedhead thing. Not that it was ever there to begin with, you know.
“Woods, you alright? Why are you face-planted on the couch? You’re gonna suffocate yourself if you’re not careful, and I’m kind of gonna need you alive for tonight.” In the midst of my head spinning haze something vaguely clicked, and I realised instantly that Potter wanted something. Of course. Why else would he have shown up at my apartment of his own free will?
Speaking of apartments, that rang a dark and dusty bell in the back of my head and I realised that Potter still hadn’t made good on his promise of taking me to buy one.
I’d have broached that with him right there and then, had it not been for the random man that I didn’t know very well standing in my living room like he paid rent, tapping his boots on the carpet like we were wasting his time. Well please, feel free to leave. The door is right over there. I didn’t ask you to come in here, you insisted.
Potter, for once, seemed to be on the same wavelength as me, as he turned to face Bobby the building manager and held out his hand. I hoped that I had soap so he could wash them after he’d gone – you don’t know where either of them had been.
“Thank you very much for your help, Mr Nicholls,” Potter said charmingly, and I found myself wondering where that Potter had been the whole time I’d known him. Maybe he had a switch in his brain or something – he could turn on the charm when he needed something from someone. It’s strange that that wasn’t the technique he’d used when he wanted me to pretend to be his girlfriend. Probably knew I’d kick him in the bollocks if he’d tried that.
“No problem, son. It’s nice to see Miss Woods with someone pleasant, for a change. Bold as it may be for me to say, you’re quite an improvement on the man that used to live here. Frightfully rude he was to me. I avoided coming here to fix anything because he was such a sour man.” I glared down at the couch cushion as Potter resisted the urge to smirk.
“Well, it’s nice to finally know that W – Aimee is being treated right.” Potter’s tone was dripping sarcasm, but dear Mr Nicholls appeared to be oblivious to this. There was a loud clunk as something heavy seemed to be dropped (or thrown) in the bathroom, and both Potter and Mr Nicholls jumped slightly, but they both seemed to overlook it as coming as part of the package with this shithole of a flat.
That’s when you know you really live in a dump – when things can go crashing to the ground and no one even looks a little bit worried.
“Right, well I’ll just leave you two kids alone. Just remember, if you start to spend more than ten consecutive nights here on three separate occasions or forty nights here without more than a one day break three times in that period then you’re classed as living here – and you have to pay rent.”
I groaned and mashed my head down into the seat cushion, praying that my mascara from the night before wasn’t going to result in some kind of crazy tie-dye pattern, but Potter just laughed tightly.
“Right, I’ll bear that in mind. Thank you for all your help.” Potter’s tone quite clearly screamed ‘get the fuck out the door, wanker’, but Mr Nicholls just continued to stand there happily like his usual jolly plonker self. Potter cleared his throat loudly, and finally the dope seemed to get the message.
“Right, well, I’ll just be off. I’ll let myself out. Good day to you both.” Mr Nicholls waved merrily and bounced to the other side of the room, let himself out and closed the door with what was most likely a gentle snap but sounded like a cannon going off in my swirling head.
“What the bloody fuck do you think you’re playing at?” Potter hissed the second the door has closed, and for a moment I thought my heart had stopped beating. I prayed Dan wouldn’t be able to hear us from the bathroom, or that Potter wouldn’t say anything about not not-completely-honest foundation of our so-called ‘relationship’.
“Erm... I was... why don’t you have a hangover? I feel like my head’s been whacked over the top with a sledgehammer and you’re acting like a member of the Lollipop Guild after Easter.” Potter frowned, clearly not getting the muggle reference, but overlooked it to continue yelling – well, hissing – at me.
“Because I had the fucking brains to take a few gobfuls of hangover potion before I went to bed last night... I take it you didn’t?”
I shook my head shamefacedly, wondering why I hadn’t. I didn’t have any in the flat, I suppose – and it wasn’t like I knew I was going to get smashed so I could go and buy some in advance. Potter glared down at me and stalked to the other side of the room, yanked his wand out of his back pocket and sprung some crackling orange flames into the fireplace. He tossed a handful of my floo powder into the flames and then stepped into the green light, before disappearing.
But I knew he’d be back. Let’s face it, I have no luck.
Well, that’s not true – I do have luck. But none of it is of the positive variety. And as much as that sucks, it’s just something I’ve become accustomed to over time.
I stumbled to my feet, pressed one hand against the side of my head and pulled my dressing gown tighter around my chest, and staggered over the bathroom door. I shoved it open to find Dan sitting cross legged on the floor of the shower cubicle, my shampoo bottle lying on the floor next to the sink as though it had been thrown at the wall.
“What did you do?” I grumbled roughly, running a bit of cold water onto my palm and slapping it onto both of my cheeks. “And get up, you have to leave – I’ll... I’ll ring you, or something. After Pot – James has left. I just... need to talk to him on his own.”
Dan peered at me a little strangely, and then muttered, “Are you going to tell him?”
“Tell him what?” I sighed, leaning my back against the doorframe. With the chance that James would be back any minute, I didn’t have time to play Dan’s little games. I wanted him out of the apartment and I wanted him out now. I was stupid for doing what I did last night – curse Potter and his forced alcohol consumption.
“About last night. That we slept together. Are you going to break up with him or something?” I froze slightly in the doorway and peered blindly at him.
I might not have been with Potter in the literal sense of the word, but it was the insinuation behind what he was saying that bothered me. So what, I slept with him once and he expects me to break out of what he believes to be a serious relationship for something with him that has not yet even been confirmed or sorted? Is he actually taking the piss?
“No, I’m not telling Potter anything. Now Dan, please, I know you don’t understand, and I will talk to you later, but right now I need you to just leave before Potter comes back.”
“Why do you call him by his surname?”
“Dan, please! Just leave! I really need you to go right now... I don’t think I want you to go, but I need you to. Just for now. I’ll come round to yours tomorrow and talk to you... I just need you to go right now. I need some fucking time to breathe.”
“But you’re not going to leave Potter today?”
“No. I’m not. Not when I don’t even know if anything is ever going to happen between us again.”
“Dan, you fucked this up. Not me. So please, just do as you’re told and leave.”
“Fine. Fine. But I might have fucked up originally, Aimes, but you’re the one that slept with me when you’re supposed to be with someone else. Maybe you should think about that one. I won’t be a bit on the side – it’s all me or no me.”
And with that lovely little speech finished, Dan pushed past me and out into the living room, grabbed a handful of floo powder and tossed them into the flames that Potter had just left out of. I wondered a little what would have happened had Potter tried to come back at the same time and they’d crashed into one another – is it even possible for that to happen?
And before I could blink again, he was gone.
Wondering how my life had come from lonely and boring to trying to stop two blokes from seeing each other in my apartment and spending whole nights out drinking and sleeping with one who believed I was seeing the other and other insane shit like that...
But my thoughtful musing was cut short by the arrival of Le Royale Git, who flounced back into the apartment clutching a red glass bottle adorned with what looked suspiciously like a smudged skull and crossbones.
“Whatever that is, I’m not drinking it,” I grumbled miserably, feeling like I was clutching at straws trying to work out what I wanted with the whole Dan fiasco right now.
“Just take some – it probably won’t work as well as it would have if you’d taken it last night, but it will take the edge of the headache for you.” Potter’s voice sounded almost caring – at least, it did until he spoke again. “Merlin, why’d you have to be so stupid you don’t take hangover potion?”
I glared bleakly at him but took the bottle anyway, pressed it to my lips and took a deep sip. Luckily for me, the skull and crossbones on the front (which from up close looked a lot more homemade – it was probably drawn on as a joke by someone) proved to not reflect on the flavour, as it was just like drinking slightly sour water. Or, you know, like eating something that Mark had cooked.
The relief was instantaneous – it spread from my throat to my ribs, and then dribbled right down my stomach and into my throbbing legs. The swirling in my head stopped until the pain was nothing more than a niggling pulse in my temple, and everything came back into focus.
“Better?” Potter grunted.
“Yeah, thanks,” I muttered, and he nodded.
“Right, well, I came down here for two reasons,” he said slowly, pulling what looked like a rolled up copy of the Daily Prophet out of his back pocket. “Well, three. One was that I wanted to make sure you hadn’t killed yourself with drunk stupidity considering you’re a little bit batshit, but mostly I wanted to show you this.” He tweaked the paper in his hand.
“That’s only two reasons,” I muttered.
“I’ll tell you the other one later, have a bit of patience, will you?” Potter frowned at me and then sat down next to me on the couch, again leaving a huge gap between us like he was worried I might bite, before tossing the paper onto my lap. “Look, just keep in mind that it was written by Rita Skeeter, and she’s never going to be pleasant about anyone. Nobody expects her to be nice about people, so... and yeah. There will be other articles, and... and I’m sure they’ll be more positive than that one. So yeah...”
And then it all made sense – why Potter was being semi-decent (for him, at least) to me this morning. He was worried I was going to back out on him because some woman wrote shit about me in the paper.
“Do I want to read it?” I sighed, rubbing the heels of my hands over my eyes.
“Well, you might wanna know what people are talking about when they mutter behind your back,” Potter shrugged, and I started chewing on the inside of my bottom lip. Did I want to know what that foul blonde cow had been writing about me? How was she even allowed to do that – wasn’t there some kind of law that meant you couldn’t bitch about people without their knowledge or something?
Or would that not matter because I agreed to go to the conference? Is there even a law like that at all? Because there should be.
“Oh just read it already,” Potter snapped suddenly, kicking back into the sofa and throwing one leg over the other so one of his ankles was resting on the thigh of his other leg and his knee came out like a giant triangle. If someone walked past him then they’d probably get winded.
I pulled open the newspaper and smoothed it out, and my stomach instantly sank. Front page spread... Mummy will be so proud. Mark’s going to kill me. Shit.
IN POTTER’S POCKET?
By Rita Skeeter
Scandal was caused recently when Witch Weekly magazine revealed a possible relationship between party boy James Potter, 21, and one of his old schoolmates, Aimee Woods, 20. Mr Potter recently disclosed that the report was correct and he and Woods are in fact in a relationship, said to have lasted around a month. After organising a press conference with the pair of them, Woods arrived with her new boyfriend to talk about both herself and her relationship – and that when her morals were called into question.
Miss Woods was recently made redundant from her job as a secretary in St Mungos Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, following job cuts, and since then has not yet started a new career. In fact, when asked about jobs she was considering pursuing, Miss Woods just said she wasn’t sure. Is this really a healthy attitude to have about a person’s way of making a living? Miss Woods, who grew up on a council estate, also revealed that when her mother fell ill that she was, in fact, the person to take care of her. Whilst this may seem admirable, Woods revealed that her actions stemmed from the family’s inability to afford to pay for domestic help.
Miss Woods was also offered a place at the Great British College for the Training of Healers after she graduated from Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, but turned down her place without giving a reason to the college itself. To turn down a place at a school that teaches how to heal the sick, Woods’ morals must once again be called into question.
But it is not just Miss Woods’ seemingly testy relationship with employment and money that need to be called into question – how their relationship will survive the test of time is a great mystery as of right now. Miss Woods freely admitted that she did not have a crush on Potter in school, and that she had not met the Potter family, despite them having been together for over a month. The couple just seem to have an air of having nothing in common – shown in particular when Miss Woods confessed to supporting Puddlemere United Quidditch team, not even recognising the blunder she had made involving her ‘boyfriend’s’ previous scandals with the English team.
The entire relationship seems sketchy and shaky, and our verdict? It’s not going to last. One thing is abundantly clear, though, and that is the opinion that Miss Woods seemed to leave the entire conference with after her hasty exit – and that is that her relationship with the infamously rich James Potter seems to be more about money than anything else. Living in one of the rougher areas of London in a budget apartment, Woods’ future as a heart-breaking gold-digger seems almost certain.
“Oh Merlin,” I moaned dropping the paper and folding my face into my hands, before sliding them up into my hair and clutching at the roots. “Oh god, your family is going to read this! And I know your sister already thinks something’s off about the way I have no money... oh no...”
Potter didn’t even look a little bit bothered, or sound even a little bit caring like he had before. He was staring ahead of himself, his face resigned as though this was what he was expecting.
“Well, Woods, can you really blame her for writing that? I know she’s a fucking bitch and all, but it’s true. You are... with me, for lack of a better phrase, because I’m buying you a flat. And clearly they picked up on that kind of thing. I mean, they picked up on it for the wrong reason, but hey.”
As Potter shrugged his shoulders I drew myself up to my full height, shoved myself off the couch and clutched the paper between both of my hands, trying to find any part of the article that was ‘okay’, as his blasé attitude was suggesting.
“Right, Potter, right - living in one of the rougher areas of London in a budget apartment, Woods’ future as a heart-breaking gold-digger seems almost certain... her relationship with the infamously rich James Potter seems to be more about money than anything else... oh, and what about this? This is my personal favourite - Woods revealed that her actions stemmed from the family’s inability to afford to pay for domestic help – do you... do you have any idea what this makes me look like? What my family are going to think I said about them? Do you even care?”
Potter was staring up at me, his expression insolent, like a little boy that was being told off but didn’t really care.
“My brothers are going to read this, my father is going to read this – he’s going to think I said I had to drop out of school because he couldn’t afford to pay for my mum’s healthcare! And yes, I know that might be true, but there are things you say and things you don’t, and things you don’t have splashed across the front page of national newspaper!”
“Well, it’s done now, so stop fucking griping about it and get a grip on yourself. Rita Skeeter will write what she wants, so just deal with it. Everyone knows she’s full of shit.” Potter’s face was still impassive, his eyes staring lazily at the wall like I was just not interesting enough to pay any attention to.
“No – no. This is done. Just – please leave. I’m not doing this any longer. I – I thought this was just going to be some quick thing that was over in two weeks, and all I would have to do is stand next to you and smile, and boom, I’d get a free flat... but this isn’t...”
“Look, you should have realised before you agreed that the press was going to talk shit about you – my dad killed the greatest dark wizard of all time, and look at all the shit that they put him through originally. It’s not my problem you didn’t know what you were in for, but you agreed –”
“I agreed on the premise that you bought me a flat, and you haven’t yet! So technically I don’t owe you anything. This stopped the moment my family got brought into this, Potter. I’ve embarrassed my family and I’ve embarrassed myself. And I am so ashamed of myself – I won’t make this any worse.” Potter scowled darkly and stood up sharply, so he was once again towering over me.
“You’re not backing out on me now,” he snarled, and I was sure my eyes were spitting fire.
“You can’t tell me what to do,” I hissed back.
“You’ll just make everything worse for yourself if you leave the arrangement. If you ‘leave me’ after an article came out calling you a gold-digger, they’ll just talk about you more. You won’t get your flat, so you’ll have embarrassed your family for nothing – and you have to stay living here. Face it, you might not like it, but you’re stuck in this arrangement until I say you’re out.” Potter’s eyes were flashing, and my stomach flooded with nausea.
“You – you can’t threaten me,” I hissed, but even I could hear the waver in my voice. Potter rolled his eyes and scoffed, dropping down onto the couch.
“I’m not threatening you, Woods. I know you think I’m the worst bloke on the planet, but I’m really not that bad. If you really did want out of this, then... then that’s your choice. I’m not going to force you to do anything. And I’ll buy your flat – you did pretend to be my girlfriend, after all. So if you really want out then... alright.” It was Potter’s resigned shrug that really made the decision for me – the way he was staring at the coffee table as though he just knew the worst was coming.
Did he really care about what his family thought that much?
“No, no – I agreed to do it. And you’re right... my family are going to read this regardless. Calling this off now wouldn’t take back all the papers and memories in the world.” Potter glanced up at me, but the surprised expression on his face was quickly smoothed out into his usual expression of nothing.
“Well... thanks.” The word looked painful for him to say, and he almost had to choke it out. Clearly his Gryffindor pride had a tight chokehold around his throat.
“Right. Okay. So, are you going to go now?”Relief instantly lit up Potter’s face and he quickly got off the sofa, crossed the room in three big steps (let’s face it, it’s not like it’s a massive room) and grabbed a handful of floo powder. It was only when he was about to toss them into the still crackling flames that he seemed to remember something.
“Oh, and Woods? My parents told me to invite you to a Ministry function that’s being hosted tonight – it’s black tie, so you need a cocktail gown, heels and classy... other shit. Yeah. Make sure you’re all done up, because you’ll need to look good. I’ll pick you up about half seven – I’ll need to pick you up a little early to check you’re alright.” Potter nodded coolly, threw the powder into the flames and flooed out.
“Wha – what? Potter? You can’t just tell me that and then leave!” But of course, yelling at a brick fireplace never helped anybody.
It’s official – Potter has corrupted me. I knew it was coming, I knew I would eventually be taken over like some kind of freakish robot off one of those galactic space films that Mark likes. But yes – the corruption of Aimee Brooklyn Woods by James Sirius Potter has officially happened.
And would you like to know how I know this? Because when I walked – well, was dragged – into the fancy room in the Ministry in which this ‘function’ was being held, I didn’t feel like griping about how I had been forced to spend a bloody fortune on a fancy peach cocktail dress that I would never wear again and made me look like a Turkish pudding, or moaning about how my heels were hurting my feet, or bitching about the fact my hair had taken me an hour to do – no. Nothing like that all.
Nor did I feel like kicking off about the short notice I had been given, or the way Potter had flooed straight into my apartment, deemed me acceptable and then dragged me to this blatant abuse of wizarding taxpayers’ money. I did not feel like throwing a hissy about the night before, or begging Potter to do something about the article that had been written about me. All had been quiet on the family front, and with every passing hour that they didn’t contact me, I got more and more nervous.
No – instead, the first thing I thought when I walked into the fancy room was that Mrs Laralyn Muffette Dibayanne Creshanden Doherty looked lovely in her midnight blue cocktail dress.
I admired the fancy chandelier that was hanging from the ceiling, decorated with what looked like hundreds of real fairy eggs. I took note of the long table of fancy buffet foods that wouldn’t fill a gnat in the top corner on the left hand side. I was surprised at the amount of women in their forties that had gotten all kitted out and done up to come and swing off their husbands’ arms and flaunt how rich they were.
And when a photographer came over with a large, toothy smile, holding up a camera bigger than his head that was letting off faint amount of wispy purple smoke, I let Potter pull me into his side and managed to twitch the corners of my mouth up in a plastic smile.
It was as fake as fuck, but I was sure the good wizarding population of Great Britain wouldn’t be able to tell that.
“Do you have any idea how much this dress cost?” I hissed in Potter’s ear after the photographer moved on, trying not to shove his arm from around my waist. With the amount of people looking at us, we had to look a little couple-y.
“No, but I’m sure you going to tell me,” he sighed boredly in my ear, and his drawling tone irked me.
“Too right I’m going to tell you – it was thirty three galleons – and I only got this one because it was the cheapest dress in the store! And it’s bloody uncomfortable, I feel like it’s slicing my hips open and it’s itchier than you’d ever believe.” And it sort of hovers in this strange place between my knees and my ankles, making me look like a strange mix between a prude (which I would have been in any normal place) and a slut – every other woman’s dress was down to the floor.
No ankle showing there.
“I’ll give you the money for the dress. Did you buy the shoes?” I blinked in surprise and glanced down at my feet without thinking about it. I hadn’t gone with skyscraper stilettos, having thought that the average age of a high-up Ministry worker’s wife would mean that their backs would probably not allow them to wear shoes of that height – and I stuck out enough without towering over everyone else.
So instead, thinking that my six-inch pink platforms might not be too appropriate for something hosted by a man in his sixties, I purchased a pair of strappy gold court shoe pump things that they had on sale in the corner of the shop were I bought the pudding dress.
The heels on them were almost embarrassingly stumpy, but they seemed to fit in with the general mood of the room.
“Yeah,” I grumbled back, sliding the front of my shoe along the polished floor. You could literally see your face in it – which wasn’t so great if you were wearing a dress and surrounded by fifty year old men in dead marriages, if you catch my drift.
“I’ll give you the money for them, too – how much did they come to? I’ll get Roseanne to transfer the money in the morning.” I blinked, fiddling with my gold clutch bag.
“Nosy bugger, aren’t you? She’s the family accountant.” I scowled and nodded at my feet. “Now how much did all your fancy shit cost?”
“The dress with thirty three, which is insane for a dress but it was the cheapest one there was, and the shoes were fourteen because they were on sale in the corner. So they were... erm... forty seven, in the end.”
“Wow, with maths skills like that, you could be our family accountant,” Potter sneered, and I once again scowled at the ground. “And let me get this straight – you can’t afford any food, so you have nothing in cupboards, but you can spend near fifty Galleons on clothes?”
“Well, I’m getting the money back, aren’t I?”
“Yeah, but you didn’t know that when you bought the damn things.” Curse Potter and his smarter-than-you snark.
“Yeah, I know. But... I just figured... I didn’t own anything I could have worn, and I didn’t want to show up looking like a holy show. I’d end up in the bloody papers again, and right now that’s the last thing that I want. And I do have a little money left from my redundancy pay – the reason I’m running out of food is because I hate going shopping and spending the money. I don’t have much, but I do have enough to buy this.” I shrugged dejectedly.
“Look, I’ll tell Roseanne to put fifty Galleons back into your account first thing tomorrow, but do me a favour? Promise you’ll go out and buy some fucking food with it.” I blinked at Potter’s face, feeling a little warmer towards him as I considered the vague possibility that maybe, just maybe, Potter had a heart after all. But then he spoke again. “I mean, fucking hell – if I end up having to go round to yours again then I’ll probably starve.”
“How selfless,” I grumbled, and Potter just glared ahead of himself.
“Yeah, well it’s for you too.” Oh. “I mean, how shit would I look if the papers got a shot of you in something tight and then rumours go off about you having an eating disorder? I’ll look like a shallow bastard for not noticing.” I pursed my lips.
“Well, Mr Potter, you really are all the positive attributes of Gryffindor house just wrapped up in one big bundle of snark, aren’t you?” I simpered, and Potter shot me a condescending glare.
“Shut up – my parents are coming over. Just smile, act charming and don’t mention that you bought that dress especially for the occasion. And if they bring up the article, just say – hello, Mother.” Potter was cut short as Ginny Potter waltzed over, all kitted out in a floor length red dress that skimmed her figure. Her long red hair was scooped into a bun on the top of her head, a few loose strands dripping down the back of her neck.
“James,” she smiled, leaning forwards and pecking him on the cheek. She turned to smile at me, but her eyes were guarded – just a little. She of all people should know not to believe everything that’s written in the papers. “Aimee, darling.” She leaned forwards and pecked me on the cheek too, and I offered her a slightly constipated smile.
“Can I help you, Mum?” James asked eventually, when Mrs Potter didn’t say anything.
“Hmm? Oh, sorry, love – I just wanted to see how the two of you were doing. There are snacks over there if you want to get a little bit peckish and want to snack on a cold bit of fish finger, sans the batter.” I laughed under my breath and Potter rolled his eyes and pulled me in front of him, pressing my back to his front and craning down his long neck to rest his chin on my shoulder.
I tried to shrink my eyes down to non-dinner plate proportions, but I still thought that I had a touch of the startled earwig about my features.
Ginny Potter seemed a little appeased, as her entire body seemed to relax slightly and a little of the pinching around her eyes smoothed out. Despite being constantly thrust into the unwelcome limelight, Mrs Potter was occasionally prone to deluding herself into believing Rita Skeeter from time to time. Must be because she actually did make a good case.
“Well, thanks, Mum. We’ll come and talk to you later – we’re just gonna go and... get drinks.” Potter nodded in the completely wrong direction to the bar and Mrs Potter’s eyes lit up a little bit, a devilish smirk that looked too young for her face twisting her lips.
“Oh, I know what that means,” she grinned, digging Potter in his free side. “Go get ‘em, son!” Potter looked more than mortified, but that didn’t stop me spluttering into my hand and turning an odd shade of purple.
“What – no – we’re not – I mean, we haven’t – what, Mum, you can’t – you’re my mother and – no! No!” Potter’s horrified face was all it took to send me off into another wild round of the giggles.
“It’s alright, son, I was young and beautiful once, you know,” I felt like laughing again – Ginny was still unfairly pretty. “Go and have fun – your father and I didn’t used to stick around these functions either...” The smile dropped off my face and Potter looked like he wanted nothing more than to throw up the contents on his stomach.
And the reason that bothered me? He was standing behind me. Henceforth, his vomit would go all up in a place that I do not want vomit all up in of, if you catch my rowboat.
“Right...well we’re going to go... quickly. Now.” Potter pushed me forwards a little roughly and I stumbled slightly in my stumpy shoes, but managed to right myself as he overtook me and began to speed walk ahead with those stupidly long legs of his.
I had to quicken my pace to a very unattractive half-jog-half-run-half-skip thing (all whilst my head was bobbing around like a mad thing, I would like to point out – now that takes skill) to keep up, but eventually we made it to the bar. Potter smirked at the lines of spirits and turned to look at me with a wry yet oddly amused expression on his face, ignoring the blonde woman in her forties (cradle snatcher, cough) that was eyeing him with paedo-ish interest.
You’re old enough to be his mother, sweetheart. And if we lived in Shakespearean times, his grandmother. Yeah, stick that in your oven and grill it.
“Drink?” Potter asked me innocently, oblivious to the conversation that had been going on in my head. I scowled at him and dropped down onto a stool, letting him place an order for a lime and soda and a pint. Guess tonight is going to be a sober affair, then. Just wonderful.
“What’s this charity actually for?” I asked a little while later, chewing on the end of my straw. Potter glanced up from his pint in surprise, as though he had forgotten I was actually sitting there, and looked around. Seemingly satisfied, he turned to look at me with a slightly arrogant expression on his face.
“I have no fucking idea – I just got told to come with a date.”
“Oh. Wait, just with a date? Your parents didn’t tell you to bring me?” Potter looked uncomfortable all of a sudden, and he glanced down at his knees.
“Well, I was – when we were actually told about this, I didn’t have a girlfriend, so to speak, to I just got told to come with a date. When my parents found out about you they expected you to come, so... yeah.” I nodded awkwardly and fiddled with the hem of my dress.
“Right, well –” I was saved from having to say anything by another voice, one that cut clean across mine. It wasn’t squeaky, simper-y or pathetic, like I had expected it to – it was slightly deeper than mine, and seemed to ring with some sort of claim. It was aimed at me, although it wasn’t addressing me.
“James, hi – it’s so lovely to see you again. Have you missed me?”
I stiffened up slightly and turned around slowly, taking in the woman behind me. She looked about my age – maybe a year older, maybe a year younger, it was hard to tell, but around twenty. She was taller than me – maybe five foot eight, and she wasn’t wearing any heels at all. She was wearing a black dress that skimmed the floor, a large band in the centre extenuating her aerobically slim waist and a halter-neck fastening with a gold clasp at the base of her hair. Multiple rings were glistening on her fingers, layered right the way up to her glossy black nails, in some cases.
Her hair was down – a deep chocolaty colour, shining in the reflections off all the mirrored surfaces in the place. It hung down to near enough the bottom of her ribcage, but it looked healthy and thick – it was most likely fake. My hair might have had a few split ends, but at least I didn’t have to clip it on.
Her pale blue eyes were rimmed black with layers of kohl. I couldn’t help but think how much of a bitch that must be to get off at night before she went to bed. Her skin was tanned slightly too orange for my liking, her cheeks flushed an unnatural shade of pink, her lips glossy and pink and pouty beneath two layers of lipgloss. Her teeth were bright white.
But the thing that I noticed most about her was not her predatorily friendly smile, nor the way her eyes were possessively focusing on Potter, staring him down. The way her right hand was resting coolly on my shoulder didn’t bother me. What shocked me was the enormous iceberg of an engagement ring that was glinting on the hand she held out for Potter to shake.
Potter’s eyes were focused unblinking on it too, as it flashed coquettishly at us under the lights.
“Aimee,” Potter said slowly, sounding slightly strained, “this is Beth. Beth, this is Aimee Woods. My girlfriend.”
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me.
hi guys :) right, first things first, really sorry for the bad updating, esp. if you're a reader of being summer which hasn't been updated in an age. i've been really quite ill lately, and i have my mock GCSE exams in three and a half weeks, so revision is being a bitch right now. but i am very sorry. anyway, the next chapter of this is coming along and i'm 7000~ odd words into being summer. so yes. really sorry. hopefully see you soon ~
ellie :) xx
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