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Chapter 28 : twenty-eight
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The first thing I remembered was that I’d made the England squad.
I was in the England squad. I savoured the memory for a moment or so, letting a smile spread across my face.
And then I remembered Deirdre the bitch journalist, and the smile fell from my face. I stared up at the ceiling, the fury beginning to bubble away in the pit of my stomach as I thought of her incessant questioning.
And then the body next to me stirred, and only then did I even register that there was somebody in bed next to me – and then came the uncomfortable jolt as the face that turned to look at me, framed by flaming red curls, wasn’t Carlotta’s, and then I remembered the argument, and everything, and the anger I felt towards Carlotta nearly tipped me over the edge.
“Morning,” Allegra said with a smile, one that used to give me butterflies but now just left me feeling stone cold. “How does it feel to wake up as an England player?”
That tipped me over the edge.
“Get out,” I snapped, sitting up abruptly, seeing red as I realised that I’d been duped, that clearly all Allegra had wanted was a chance to say she’d slept with an England player, that once more I’d been well and truly used for the fame.
“What?” She sat up too, staring at me with a stunned expression on her face.
“You heard me,” I said shortly. “I said get out. That can’t be hard to understand, even for someone like you.”
“Someone like me? You’ve clearly spent too much time with Cassie Lynch, if you’re confusing me with the likes of her,” she said bitterly, getting to her feet. “And if that’s the kind of opinion that you have of me, then I’ll gladly leave.”
I said nothing, just glared at her as she got dressed.
“I suppose I’m showing myself out, given that you’re showing no signs of moving,” she continued, wrapping her jacket round her shoulders. She made as if to leave, but paused, her hand on the handle of the bedroom door, and turned to look back at me.
“You know, I used to think you were decent, a genuinely nice guy. A gentleman. Now I see you’re just like everyone else. Do you suddenly think you’re a big thing now that you’re an England player or something? I think you need a fucking reality check, Potter. Maybe take some lessons from your brother on how to actually treat a lady.”
And then she left, slamming the door behind her. Moments later, I heard the flat door slam shut in a similar fashion. I fell back onto my pillows and lay there for a moment, stunned at the outburst that had come from the quiet, easy-going, ex-Ravenclaw, whom I’d never heard so much as raise her voice to anyone before. If it had been anyone else, I might have had a retort to hand, but to Allegra I had had no reply.
After a few moments, the sound of the owl trying to deliver the Prophet roused me from bed. I hauled myself out of bed and into the kitchen to let it in and pay it. The moment I dropped the Knuts into the pouch on its leg, it hooted loudly and flew off. I scowled at the noise, shutting the window and then turning to the paper.
And then I wished that I hadn’t.
My face was emblazoned across the front of the paper, along with the headline ‘James Potter storms out of Ministry’.
I scanned through the article, and several phrases jumped out at me; ‘shirked media responsibilities’ ... ‘bigheaded’ ... ‘out of touch’ ... ‘ungrateful’ ... ‘possible relationship troubles with his Muggle girlfriend’...
I let out a loud roar of frustration, screwing the paper up into a ball and throwing it angrily across the room. I took a few deep breaths to try to calm myself down.
This day was not proving to be one of my best.
I’d barely had time to get dressed before my next predicament arrived, in the shape of an irate Brigid.
“What do you think you were playing at?” she demanded without so much as a greeting, brandishing a second copy of the blasted Prophet in my face. “Did you think you could just throw a hissy fit and walk out the moment things stopped going the way you wanted? You’re in the public eye, James, you have to behave! You can’t just go pulling stupid stunts like this-”
I never liked it when Brigid had a go at me. But this day, of all days, I sure as hell wasn’t going to lie down and let her shout at me.
“Did you not think to tell me about this?” I snatched up yesterday’s edition of the paper, still open at the story about Carlotta, and held it up in turn.
She looked slightly taken aback.
“Maybe, before you start giving out about me not doing my media responsibility bullshit properly, you should start advising me about it properly! That’s what you’re meant to do, isn’t it?” I raged. I didn’t care if I was being harsh, that I was unleashing all of my anger from the past two days on her.
“I didn’t realise...”
“You didn’t realise,” I mocked her. “Isn’t that your job? Shouldn’t you be telling me all of this? Shouldn’t you be monitoring the press stories about me, telling me about them, making sure you limit the damage caused by them? Maybe you should be thinking more about doing your job, rather than spending all your time moaning and griping at me and shagging half your clients!”
She looked like I’d just slapped her round the face.
“How dare you,” she said coldly, her voice trembling ever so slightly. “How dare you suggest I don’t know how to do my job! Do you have any idea how much I work compared to you? I sort out all of your media commitments and your public appearances and your charity endorsements, not to mention the other fifty people I work for, and meanwhile you get to sit on your ass all day doing fuck all! Where the hell do you think you have the right to tell me off for not noticing one little story?”
“Little story? Carlotta’s picture is in our paper! And you didn’t know! You didn’t bother to check what the media was saying about me; what the hell was I supposed to do when that Deirdre idiot asked me about her yesterday? If you’d done your job properly you’d have known that they’d cottoned onto her and I could have had some warning about it!”
She just stared at me for a moment, seemingly lost for words. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long.
“Let me get this straight,” she said slowly, venomously. “You got with a Muggle. You let said Muggle find out about our world. You broke the Statute of Secrecy and you have the audacity to blame me when the Prophet finds out about it?” She let out a hollow laugh. “Oh, that really is rich, James. What the hell kind of planet are you on right now? You’re not fucking invincible, you know! I told you that this would be a bad idea from the start, and now you’ll have to deal with the consequences. And don’t go thinking I’m going to just get you out of this mess with a little press release. Because I can’t do my job properly, remember? You’re on your own on this one, Potter. And let me get this straight, too. You dare to walk out on another media commitment, and I’m through with you. I’m sick and tired of you thinking you can manipulate me like this because we’re friends. Well, newsflash, you can’t. You will do the interviews that I promise journalists they can have, and if you don’t like it then you can bloody well find someone else, because I’ve just about had it with you right now.”
And, for the third time in less than twenty-four hours, an angry female stormed out of my flat with an almighty slam of the door. Cordelia let out a loud chirp from her cage, and I glared at her.
“What?” I snapped. “Have you got a problem with me as well? Do you want to let it out on my front door like everyone else seems to be doing?”
I scowled and stormed back into my kitchen, checking all my cupboards for food. I found a bottle of Butterbeer in one, and took it off the shelf – and paused.
There was a bottle of Heidelberg mead behind it.
It was still only mid-morning, but I didn’t give a damn. It wasn’t as though I was meant to be doing anything today, anyway.
I replaced the Butterbeer, and took out the bottle of mead instead. I uncapped it and headed back into the living room to drink it. I contemplated putting the Quidditch network on, but quickly changed my mind; if their news was anything like the Prophet’s this morning, I didn’t want to hear it.
So instead, I watched a Muggle film.
And then another.
And then I rang Freddie and told him we were going back to the Hinky.
“You shouldn’t let her get to you, mate,” he reasoned that night. “You know what she’s like; you know how angry she gets if she thinks you’re not pulling your weight-”
“What, so you think I’m not putting the work in as well, do you?” I cut in angrily.
He raised his hands, pleading innocence.
“I didn’t say that at all. I’m just saying, that’s her view on things. If I were you, I’d have done the same thing with the interview.” He paused. “I hear you hooked up with Fawcett last night.”
I scowled at the thought of Allegra.
“What happened with the Muggle?”
“She has a name,” I said firmly, menacingly. “And she took offence at being talked about in the bloody paper.”
“Really?” Freddie looked bemused. “Surely she should have expected that?”
It was by no means the full story. But I didn’t want to relive it; I’d done that enough in my head all day.
“So, is Fawcett the new flavour of the month, then?” he continued.
“Probably not, given the way she spoke to me this morning.”
“Why, didn’t she like the way you cooked her eggs for her?” he joked.
But that just made me think of Carlotta, teaching me how to cook breakfast.
“Want another drink?” I asked Freddie, digging some Galleons out of my pocket.
“You know me; never one to say no to a beverage bought by someone else.”
“Wine or rum?” I asked, glancing at the wall at the back of the bar.
He looked dubious.
“Neither of those sounds like a massively good idea...”
“Oh, don’t be a wuss,” I said with a roll of my eyes.
“I’d rather just have another Firewhisky if it’s all the same to you-”
“I’m not buying you Firewhisky,” I said flatly. “Come on; you’re beginning to sound like Molly.”
That was enough to snap him out of it.
“Alright, wine,” he said begrudgingly. “But when I feel like hell tomorrow, it’s your damn fault.”
“Man up,” I said lightly.
“Just promise me one thing, James,” he said, as a bar tender made his way to us. “Don’t get with Cassie Lynch tonight. I saw her earlier, and she looked like she was interested.”
“You’ve got nothing to worry about, Freddie,” I reassured him. “I don’t plan on going anywhere near her tonight.”
In fairness, it wasn’t all that often that I listened to Freddie’s advice. Most of the time one was better off steering clear of it.
But I had to admit to myself, as I woke up in the morning to find myself next to a familiar blonde head of hair, that every now and again he did talk sense.
And currently, common sense was remarkably absent from my life.
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