“Thanks guys!” Brynne said brightly. Thank goodness she wasn’t self conscious like me. It would have been too embarrassing for words if both of us had sat there like lemons saying nothing.
“No problem,” Sophia grinned. “We could hardly leave you with nowhere to sit, could we? You both looked so upset when you came in and realised there were no spaces. It was so cute!”
I stared at the table, feeling myself flushing deeply. Don’t look up, I told myself firmly, don’t. look. up.
“So, where’ve you guys been?” Caitlin asked conversationally.
“We were just in Honeydukes,” Brynne told them excitedly. Even though I was looking at the table I was sure a dreamy expression was crossing her face. “I’d forgotten how amazing it is in there! All those sweets… I could stay in there for years and not get bored. Have you guys seen all that chocolate? Oh my gosh. That shop is heaven!”
“Yep, there’s nothing more heavenly than stacks and stacks of sweets,” James sniggered.
I looked up sharply, forgetting my embarrassment for a moment. If he was making fun of Brynne, I wasn’t going to stand for it. But there was no malice in his face as he grinned at her. He was just joking around.
“Exactly,” chirped Brynne, smiling.
Caitlin and Sophia tittered as though James had made a hilarious joke. “Yeah, nothing at all that’s more heavenly than sweets!” I couldn’t quite believe how silly they were being. Brynne and I caught each other’s eyes and looked away hurriedly to stop ourselves laughing. I noticed James and Fred exchange a similar look.
“Well, we’ve been to Honeydukes, too,” said Fred. He eyed Brynne’s bag. “Although I don’t think we got quite as many sweets as you. And we’ve just been to Zonko’s.”
“The girls tried to make us go in that new dress robes shop,” put in James, a look of disgust crossing his face. I marvelled momentarily at the fact that he and Fred were actually trying to include us in their conversation. “But there was no way we were going in there. The last time we went to a clothes shop, you two made us stay in there for two hours! Two whole hours!” He shuddered dramatically. “Never again.”
“Don’t be silly!” said Sophia, giggling. “Two hours isn’t that long. All girls love to shop for clothes.” She turned to Brynne and me. “Right?”
I had never really been into clothes. I would generally buy things which didn’t stand out. The only person I went clothes shopping with was Tulip. I wouldn’t trust Brynne not to convince me to buy something utterly absurd. But I wasn’t about to say this in front of everyone, and settled for mumbling incoherently and giving a slight nod. Thankfully, Brynne drew all the attention to herself.
“Yes!” she yelled. “Yes! Although, really, it depends on the sort of clothes I’m buying. If it’s robes – no. Robes are too boring. I like the more interesting stuff, and you can only really find that in muggle shops. But you know what I really hate? – Going on long, drawn out shopping trips where you have to spend ages and ages trying things on and getting other people’s opinion. I mean, who cares about what other people think? When I shop, I just grab the first thing which catches my eye – the first thing that stands out. And then in the morning I shove any random clothes on together, and it always looks great! I mean, to some people I might look ridiculous,” she flashed a grin at me, “but, hey, at least I’m unique.”
Caitlin and Sophia eyed Brynne’s jumper sceptically, while James and Fred sat there looking bemused, and unsure whether or not to laugh. They clearly hadn’t had any proper experience of Brynne before now.
“Well,” said Fred slowly,” I would much rather go shopping with you than with you guys.” He nodded towards Caitlin and Sophia. “Maybe you could take them on a few trips – teach them to shop like you?”
Looking horrified at the mere idea, which I suspected had been Fred’s intention, Sophia hurriedly changed the subject. “So, um… Brynne, Eliana – have you visited the Shrieking Shack yet? Last year you were disappointed ‘cause there weren’t any ghosts, weren’t you, Brynne? Who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky this time.”
James laughed loudly. “Don’t you guys know? The Shrieking Shack isn’t haunted!”
This was news to me. I looked up from where I had again been staring at the table.
“I thought everyone knew by now,” James continued. “It was never haunted. That was just a rumour made up so that people wouldn’t realise that actually a werewolf was in there. He went in there once a month to transform.”
James looked pleased when everyone apart from me and Fred gasped. I would have gasped too if I hadn’t been feeling so tense. I didn’t know much about werewolves, but if there was one in the Shrieking Shack it sounded pretty haunted to me.
Brynne’s eyes were wide. “A werewolf? Wow! Is it still there?”
James smiled at her excitement. “No. He left Hogwarts ages ago.” He stressed the “he” greatly, obviously reproaching Brynne for saying “it”, though I didn't see what was wrong with that.
She didn’t pick up on this. “So where is it now?”
James stopped smiling abruptly. A shadow passed over his face. “Dead.”
“Phew!” Caitlin relaxed visibly. “You got me scared about werewolves running all over Hogsmeade! Thank goodness it died.”
I realised what was going to happen a moment before it did. James’ face grew taught and his eyes looked almost crazed as they flashed with anger. Then a bomb seemed to suddenly go off inside him.
“Thank goodness it died!? You don’t know what you’re talking about! If it was another Hogwarts student you wouldn’t say thank goodness they died, would you? But it doesn’t matter about a werewolf." His words dripped with enraged sarcasm. "It’s different if a werewolf dies, is it? And do you know why he died, Caitlin? He died fighting Voldemort’s Death Eaters. He died to save people like you! And here you are, celebrating his death, you ungrateful - ” Apparently there wasn't a word strong enough.
The whole pub had gone silent. James glared around furiously, still breathing heavily. “What?” he growled.
Everyone instantly turned away and began talking loudly. Caitlin looked utterly terrified.
“Sorry,” she squeaked, almost crying.
“Isn’t this exciting?” Brynne whispered loudly to me. The disgusted look James gave us made me want to sink through the floor.
There was a long, awkward silence. James glared stonily at the table, while the rest of us tried not to look at him.
“Um, so… does anyone want any drinks?” Sophia ventured nervously after two very long minutes. Caitlin instantly volunteered to go with her to help her carry them, and we gave them our orders and money. James didn’t ask for anything.
I gulped. Brynne and I were left with James and Fred. That would have been bad enough without James being so angry. I felt myself grow redder and redder as no one said a word. Brynne drummed her fingers loudly on the table. Fred eyed his cousin in concern while James sat brooding sulkily.
“Oi, Fred!” came a loud shout, making us all jump. It was Peter Mclaggen and Thomas Dower, two Ravenclaw boys. They beckoned urgently to Fred.
“I’d better go and see what they want,” he said reluctantly. “But don’t get any more worked up, James. OK? She didn’t know about anything, did she?”
My heart barely had time to sink as I realised just how much more awkward it was going to get before Brynne stood up beside me.
“Where are you going?” I hissed angrily. She couldn’t leave now!
“Loo,” she said simply, and waltzed off.
Clearly, she did not realise she had just left me in my worst nightmare.
Because now I was left, by myself, with James Potter. The James Potter.
I didn’t think I had ever been in a more awkward situation in my life. I knew I must be redder than a tomato, which did nothing to help my embarrassment. I prayed over and over again for one of the others to return. James and I both said nothing for what must surely have been hours. I didn’t dare to look at him, in case I got even more embarrassed. How long could it take for Caitlin and Sophia to buy a few drinks?
James was the one who broke the silence. “Sorry,” he muttered, his eyes darting up from his hands to meet mine. He looked so guilty and shamefaced that I almost forgot my embarrassment, instead feeling overwhelmingly sorry for him.
“You don’t need to be sorry,” I mumbled, although in actual fact I felt he ought to explain himself. But I couldn't say this when he looked so downcast.
“Yeah I do. I know I shouldn’t’ve blown up like that. It was stupid. It’s not Caitlin’s fault she’s grown up thinking werewolves are monsters.”
I was too shy to say what I desperately wanted to, which was “aren’t they?” But James, glancing at me, seemed to understand my unspoken question.
“You think they’re monsters too, don’t you?” His tone was bitter.
“I – no! I mean…” I stuttered, not wanting him to be as angry with me as he was with Caitlin. “Look, I’m muggle born. I don’t really know anything about real werewolves. In muggle stories, they’re always the evil monsters. So, I guess… Well, when you said werewolf I did kind of think…” I trailed off.
James stared at me for a few seconds, while I tried desperately not to squirm or blush. His gaze slowly lost some of its harshness. He grinned at me.
“Well, it’s about time we sorted that out, then, isn’t it?” I tried not to compare the way he was talking to me to the way people talk to young children. He probably wasn’t being patronising on purpose. He took a deep breath.
“I remember my parents telling me when I was really little – everyone’s equal. Pure bloods, half bloods, muggle borns, muggles… we’re all equal, you know? And everyone should be treated the same. That goes for werewolves as well. They’re people too. Yeah, at the full moon they are monsters, but that isn’t really them. They’re forced to become monsters. They didn’t choose to be werewolves. They’re just normal people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. At every other time, apart from full moon, they’re people just like everyone else. And it just gets me so annoyed when people degrade them all the time!” He slammed his fist onto the table in frustration. “They think werewolves are – I dunno – inferior somehow, when really, I bet there are a whole load of werewolves like Remus Lupin – that’s who I was talking about before – who’re a lot better than the people who have this stupid prejudice against them. If Remus was anything like his son, Teddy, then I know he was a decent person.”
That was more explanation than I had needed. Now I could completely sympathise with James for losing his temper. I reddened, feeling small and mean for supposing werewolves were evil when I didn’t really know anything about them. James couldn’t think much of me.
“Sorry,” I murmured, in a small voice.
“Sorry?” he repeated incredulously. “What’ve you got to be sorry for? I’m the one that completely lost it.”
“I shouldn’t’ve, you know, been so stupid. I wasn’t exactly thinking ‘thank goodness he died’ but I was glad he’d gone. You’re right. I wasn’t thinking of him as a person. I’m sorry.” I wanted him to know that I really did feel ashamed. “And then you said about his son… Imagine living without your dad…” It was too painful to even consider.
There was a pause before James said heavily, “He doesn’t have his mum either. She died in the Battle of Hogwarts too. It was just after they had him.”
I swallowed painfully. Teddy’s parents should have had to die. They must have been so happy, looking forwards to their life with their son, and then… So now Teddy had had to live with no parents. And to think how I’d judged their poor family… To my sheer humiliation and horror my vision was suddenly swirling with tears. I immediately looked down at the table, frantically debating whether I should wipe my eyes and risk making it obvious I was crying, or risk letting a tear fall onto the table.
“Merlin’s Beard…” said James in shock. “You’re not crying are you?”
He must think I was so pathetic. “No! No, I’m not crying!”
“Oh man, I didn’t mean to make you cry!” The concern in his voice did not help stem the flow of tears. “Sorry! Look, Remus and his wife didn’t die! They, um… they survived the battle and now all three of them live together happily in a little cottage in the forest.” He snorted.
Thinking of the life they could have had did not particularly help, although the “little cottage in the forest” made me smile.
“Oh Merlin…” he sighed after an embarrassed pause. “You know, the only way I’d imagined myself making a girl cry was when I dumped her.”
That snapped my head up. “You…” But I couldn’t think of a word to describe how arrogant he sounded. He sniggered, and I couldn’t help laughing too. That was when I wondered just why he had decided to tell me all about werewolves and Remus Lupin. It wasn’t the sort of conversation I would expect when we’d never spoken to each other properly before. As soon as I remembered this I noticed that we were once again in silence, and squirmed uncomfortably in my seat. Fortunately, James again broke the quiet.
“Not scared of me anymore then?” he smirked.
I would have much rather we had stayed silent. I grew so hot I broke out in a sweat. This was possibly the most humiliating thing that had ever happened to me. It was even worse because to some extent what he said was true – I wasn’t scared of him, exactly, but I was terrified about what he thought of me. I understood everything now. The only reason he’d explained everything to me was because he wanted to stop me being scared of him. I had never been more embarrassed.
“I – what the – no!” I spluttered. “I was never scared of you!”
“Really? So why were you staring at the table at the table, then? When the others left you were, like, avoiding looking at me as if your life depended on it!”
“That was because…” I was almost crying again, but this time with embarrassment. I desperately needed to defend myself but there was no way I could tell him that I didn’t want to look at him simply because I’m so shy. He probably wouldn’t believe me anyway.
“Because you were scared,” James supplied, with another grin. He had a funny, almost lopsided grin.
“I was not!” I protested uselessly.
“No, I wasn’t!”
“Look, fine! You think what you want!” I burst out, slightly confused as to why I was trying not to laugh and why my embarrassment seemed to have subsided quite so much. “I’m not going to play the ‘was, wasn’t’ game. That’ll go on forever.”
“OK then. I win,” said James cockily.
I wasn’t going to be provoked into responding. Hopefully, if he really did believe I was scared of him, he wouldn’t tell anyone else.
“So,” he said, after a pause, “you said you’re muggle born, right?”
“Yes…” Where was this going?
“So do you know about cars?”
“Cars?” I said incredulously, almost laughing at the excitement in his voice.
“Yeah, you know, the big metal things with wheels that muggles travel around in!”
“Oh, I know what they are!” I laughed.
“So how do they work, then? How do they go without magic?”
“How do they work?” I repeated. I had never really been very into mechanics. “Um, I don’t really know…” I flushed slightly at my lack of knowledge.
“Oh, come on, surely you know,” said James impatiently. “You must travel round in one all the time.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I know how they work…”
“What, so all these years you’ve had a car and you’ve never got curious about how they work?”
“Well, no, not really.” But James looked so crestfallen that I attempted to explain. “I mean, you put petrol in them, which sort of feeds them…”
“Feeds them? They’re not animals are they?” His eyes widened in amazement.
“No, no!” I said, laughing. “Maybe ‘feeds’ was the wrong word. Basically, the petrol gives them fuel so they can move –”
"What's this petrol?"
“Um, oil, I think… So you turn them on and the engine inside the car starts… um… working, and it sort of moves the wheels of the car. Yeah… and there are brakes if you want to stop.” I grinned at my useless definition of how a car works. My aunt was a car mechanic. She would not be impressed with me at this moment.
James looked like as though he was trying to grasp a particularly difficult Arithmancy concept. “So… how does the engine make the car move from the inside? I mean, without magic?”
“You know what?” I replied, throwing my hands up in the air in defeat. “I’ve got no better idea than you do. I’ve never been interested in cars and things. We take them for granted in the muggle world.”
“Aren’t they, like, really slow, though?” James asked curiously.
“Well, yes, I suppose they are, compared to apparition and floo powder. I mean, they’re like broomsticks, aren’t they? They have to physically move somewhere instead of getting there by magic.”
James nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, I guess they are a bit like brooms in that way, but I’m pretty sure brooms are way more fun!”
I didn’t know what to say to this. Neither cars nor brooms were exactly “fun” in my opinion.
“You can’t play sport with cars, can you?” he continued.
“Well, actually you can,” I countered, grinning. “There are loads of car races in the muggle world.”
“Wow…” he breathed ecstatically. “I’d love to go and see that.”
“Hmmmm… I don’t know. It’s pretty scary just watching it on TV.” I hurried on quickly before he could ask me about TV. “So it’d be terrifying in real life. It’s really dangerous. People sometimes get injured really badly when they crash.”
“Wow…” James said again. Typical boys, I thought, rolling my eyes. They love anything with a bit of danger.
“What?” he said innocently, catching my eye movement. “Some danger adds to the excitement.” He carried on, seeing my sceptical expression. “Take Quidditch. If there weren’t any bludgers, it wouldn’t be the same at all, would it?”
“No it wouldn’t,” I agreed. “It’d be a lot better.”
“You can’t seriously mean that!”
“I really do. Because of the bludgers, I spend most of the games with my face in my hands ‘cause I’m so scared the players are gonna fall off!”
James guffawed loudly. I blushed crimson, wondering whether it would be possible for me to humiliate myself any more in this conversation. I mentally whacked myself round the head.
“You’re such a girl,” James snickered. “First you’re scared of me, the car racing, and now Quidditch! Is there anything you’re not scared of?”
“Shut up,” I snapped irritably, seriously considering whacking him round the head in real life.
When James had stopped sniggering, and my face had cooled down a little, I noticed Fred making his way back over to us. James probably wouldn’t want to carry on our argument with Fred there, so I took the opportunity.
“Wasn’t scared of you!” I said quickly, flashing him a triumphant grin.
Just then Fred sat down between us, and began speaking to James in a low voice. I peered over his shoulder and managed to catch James’ eye and mouth “I win.” He gave me a withering look.
Clearly whatever Fred was saying was private and not meant for me to hear, so I didn’t attempt to listen in. With nothing to distract me, a sense of wonder slowly crept through me. I – Eliana Jones – had just had a conversation with James Potter. And not just him talking and me making vague noises – we had had a proper conversation. Admittedly, I had managed to embarrass myself more times than I cared to remember, but the odd thing was that I didn’t even mind that much. This had to be some kind of breakthrough. I found it almost physically impossible to talk to people like James, yet I just had. I was going to remember this day for the rest of my life.
“Hey!” Brynne’s loud voice broke into my thoughts. “Sorry I took so long – there was a massive queue! They should really get some more loos. I was seriously considering going into the men’s – I was almost wetting myself by the time I got in.”
“Too much information!” I laughed, just as Caitlin and Sophia returned with the drinks. James looked away from them guiltily. I raised my eyebrows at him. If he felt sorry, then he should explain himself to Caitlin.
“Uh, Caitlin…?” he began awkwardly.
She looked at him apprehensively.
“Look, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry I got so angry at you. The thing is, well… Werewolves are people too, you know? They’re not monsters. They change into wolves at the full moon, but they can’t help it.” He seemed to be finding it a lot more awkward talking to her than to me. He had probably been letting off steam earlier.
Caitlin accepted the apology remarkably quickly before she apologised herself, again. It would take more than some shouting to give her hard feelings towards the “gorgeous James”. Pretty soon, all four of them were talking animatedly about which Quidditch players were the best in the league. Brynne and I pursued the more interesting topic of what we would do if we were given 10 million galleons. Brynne said she would by a gigantic habitat for Pygmy Puffs, and spend any remaining money on a mansion, or a lifetime’s supply of sweets. I decided to buy at least one copy of every novel ever written and store them in a massive library. I was just contemplating what I would do if there was any money left over when Brynne stood up so suddenly I nearly fell of our seat.
“Tulip!” she yelled.
There stood Tulip in the doorway, her hair windswept and gasping for breath. She clamped a hand to her mouth and squeezed her eyes shut violently. I’d never seen her behave so oddly before. But then, I realised with a sense of growing horror, I’d never seen Tulip fighting back tears before. Tulip Towler never cried.
Something was horribly wrong.
Once again, thanks if you actually read all the way down here without getting bored! I know my story isn't one of those really amazing ones you read on HP fanfiction, but could you please still review it??? Pretty please!!!