“Pleasure to meet you,” I lied, trying to drag my eyes away from the enormous ring. Potter didn’t actually take her hand to shake, so she slowly took it back to her side, smiling a little awkwardly, and our eyes followed the diamond. Potter’s knuckles were white around his pint. ‘Beth’ – which I am assuming his is his oh so adorable shortening of his supposedly-psycho ex, Bethany – cocked a hip and shook her long, straight hair over her shoulders.
“And you, my darlin’,” she grinned happily. But despite her chirpy tone and wide smile, there was something cold and harrowing about her gaze. It creeped me out a little, to tell you the truth. I objected a little to being called ‘my darling’, but hey.
“Beth, what are you doing here?” Potter sighed, dropping all the friendly pretences and running his hand through his hair in exasperation. Beth winked one heavily made up eye at him, her long red talons cutting into my shoulder slightly as her grip tightened to the point where it was almost painful. A part of me wondered whether this was intentional.
“Now, James, aren’t you gonna offer a girl your seat and ask me how I’m doing? Anyone would think that you weren’t happy to see me.” She winked cheekily again and finally released my shoulder, leaning against the bar and staring at Potter over my head. I couldn’t help but notice that she was flirting with him, which I objected to a little bit – as far as she was concerned, he wasn’t available for her freshly manicured claws to sink into.
“I’m quite comfortable, to tell you the truth, Beth,” he shrugged, taking what looked like a deep swig of his pint, but was really didn’t swallow much at all. Beth ordered a glass of Chardonnay in her deep twang and it was only then that something really registered with me. It had been watered down, and she hadn’t spoken much, so it was only then that I noticed – her accent was American.
Southern American, by the sound of it. Like she came from one of those towns where men were expected to wait for a woman to start their meal before they took a bite of their food and stand when a woman left or arrived at a table. Where men opened doors for women and actually followed the rules of ‘ladies first’. The kind of blokes that you’d never get in the good old UK.
“Where about in America are you from, Bethany?” I asked awkwardly into the newly-arrived silence, and the smile dripped slowly off her face as she realised that I was speaking as opposed to Potter. Her eyes never left Potter as she began to speak.
“Louisville, Kentucky,” she answered shortly, running her two lips over each other to smooth out her lipgloss. I was right about the Southern American thing, then. Well I think so, anyway. I’ve never been great at muggle geography.
“Oh,” I said, for lack of anything better to say. Potter ran his hand through his hair again and pushed himself off his bar stool, circling his wrist slowly at his chair to indicate to Beth to sit down. He stood behind me and wrapped one around my neck, resting his chin on the top of my head. His free hand moved down to rest on my thigh. Bethany’s expression soured dramatically beneath her war paint.
“You’re actually from Alabama, Beth. You lived there until you were six, and then you moved to Louisville. Her parents are from Alabama that’s where her... accent comes from.”
“Oh,” I said again, wishing I had something more interesting to say. Right now I probably seemed to Miss Glamorous USA to have the personality of a toothbrush. Why drop a Galleon to pick up a Knut, right?
“So where are you from, Aileen?” she asked, batting her eyes innocently like no one had any idea what she was doing. I wished dearly that I had worn my killer heels and a skin tight dress from one of Molly’s scary fashion shows with the women that look like walking skeletons, and kept my hair in bouncy curls to my chest instead of pinning them back, so maybe I’d look like I had something going for me.
“It’s Aimee, love,” I said coldly, and I could almost sense Potter’s smirk from above my head. His hand slowly ran down my leg to the bottom of my slightly-too-long dress, running the peach hem between his long fingers. The hand on my shoulder began to slowly trace circles on the back of my shoulder blade, and I resisted the urge to shudder. I knew Potter was goading me, and I wasn’t going to react in front of everyone. “And I’m from London.”
Beth nodded like this confirmed something she’d already assumed about me, and she tossed one thick piece of hair over her shoulder so she could regard me shrewdly.
“I figured as much. I did wonder why your accent was so... strange. You’re sort of cockney, but it’s... strange. Like it’s not even real. Do you just put on a cockney accent for show? Because in all of the British television I’ve watched, they never speak like you do.” My jaw dropped open and Potter snorted gently into my hair.
“Look, missy – ” I began, but James cut across me, drawing his hand sharply up my leg and resting his hand on the curve of my waist, fiddling with the thin band that was supposed to ‘extenuate’ my figure, according to the stick insect of a woman that had been working in the dress shop at the time.
“Beth, if you’re just gonna sit there, in my seat, and insult my girlfriend, then you can just fuck off. Are you even going to tell me what you’re doing here? Because last time I checked, Lily and my mother had asked you to not come anywhere near me again. You know what happened last time you showed up uninvited to an event that our family was attending.” I grinned, because I also knew what had happened. Molly had nearly pissed herself with laughter while recounting the tale to me.
“Why, am I not allowed to show up to one of these swanky events without being questioned? Honestly James, you’re going to get yourself dragged outside for a talking to if you don’t start showing me a little more respect.” She winked again and gestured over her shoulder to a short, stocky bloke talking to an older man in a plush, red velvet suit.
“And who, pray tell, is going to beat me up?” Potter asked arrogantly with a derisive laugh, stepped closer to me so his chest was pressed against my back and his arms were hugging my waist tightly, his nose running gently along the edge of my ear. His lips were tickling the skin beneath my jaw, and this time I couldn’t repress my shudder.
“Well, I don’t know if you noticed,” Beth began with a giggle, splaying the fingers of her left hand out and waggling them slowly so her ring glinted in the light, “but this docking great big thing on my finger is called an engagement ring, James. Not that I’d be surprised if you didn’t know – you certainly never mentioned them when you were with me!” She giggled again and I winced.
The girl sounded like a hamster that had been sucking on the old helium gas for a little too long – I’m pretty sure speaking in that pitch is considered illegal in some countries. Being burned at the stake is probably the punishment. I’ll look into it.
“You’re... erm, engaged?” I asked stupidly, even though she had confirmed that she would indeed be pegging it up the aisle sometime in the near-ish future. Beth rolled her eyes at me and refocused herself on Potter. Bitch. Someone should just pull out her intestines through her nose-job nose to I can wear them as a necklace.
“Yeah, I am,” she grinned, waving a hand in front of her face like this was some huge embarrassing secret that I had managed to find out through sneaky sneakiness. “Got engaged last night... Merlin, I can’t believe it’s been that long. It’s all been such a whirlwind... I almost can’t believe it’s happening to me!” Her falsely excited tone dropped and she suddenly switched her gaze sombrely to James. “Of course, I always thought you and I were going to end up married, James... but hey, he asked. You didn’t. Can’t cry when it’s your own fault.”
James smirked and rolled his eyes, leaning over my shoulder to peck me gently on the cheek. Beth’s cheeks pinched inwards slightly, giving her face a wholly sour look.
“Trust me, Beth, the last thing I was planning to do was cry. I haven’t cried since I was a baby – I don’t cry. I’m pretty sure my mother sold my tear ducts when I was a baby to pay for all the expensive baby shit I needed.” I pressed my lips together to stop a giggle from escaping. Laughing at Potter’s joke would only inflate his swollen ego further.
“I don’t think it’s legal to sell tear ducts, babe,” she twanged, and I bristled slightly. It wasn’t that she was saying this to Potter – it was that she was saying it just to goad me. And by Jove, was getting goaded. I was about one ‘babe’ away from ramming a breadstick up her nostril.
“It’s a fucking metaphor, Beth. I didn’t mean it literally. Forget it. Anyway, what unsuspecting bloke are you going to be forcing down the aisle at gunpoint, then? I’ve never seen him before. Is it the old one or the one that looks like he eats bricks for breakfast?” I blinked slightly. Bethany could pass for a gold-digger – I wouldn’t put it past her to be the old man. He was wearing a red velvet cape, for goodness’ sake.
“The young one, of course! Honestly James, whatever your family might have thought, I’m not a gold-digger. I have my own money – I’ve gotten a job, you know.” She smiled proudly like this was some kind of huge achievement. Still, it was more than I could do right now... “I’m a waitress at the Creaky Broomstick; it’s the new restaurant next to Knockturn Alley.”
I’d heard of the place, but never gone in. One, it looked like a cup of coffee would probably blow my entire week’s food budget and two, the guy walking in at the time was wearing brown trousers, espadrilles and a knitted hat – in the middle of the summer. Deciding I wasn’t quite hipster enough for that scene, I just went and passed right on by.
Good job, as well, because if dear Bethany had seen me then she most likely would have gobbed in my food. And I can do without essence of bitch spit in my caffeine.
“So how did you meet that bloke, weightlifting trucks or something?” Beth laughed bitchily.
No, I’m not quite how someone can laugh like a bitch, but trust me, she managed it. She managed it well.
“Don’t be silly, James, he came into the Creaky Broomstick for a drink, and my friend Marianna was supposed to be his waitress, but I caught his eye and so he told Brick – that’s our manager – that he wanted to be served by me, and so Marianna ran off and threw a hissy fit in the loos and poured all of her diet pills down the sink, and Brick said that he would let the guy choose his waitress this once if he tipped well, and –” And that was the point that I stopped listening.
But that was not, however, the point that she stopped talking. She prattled on and on for a good five minutes solid. James half fell asleep against my shoulder, slumped like a corpse, and I myself stared off at a patch of curtain behind her head, never finding out what happened to nutjob Marianna’s weight now her pills had been tossed down the sink.
“Anyway, so last night he comes into the Creaky – that’s our awesome nickname for it – and orders his usual pint of bitter, and when he gives me my tip, the note – he tips in muggle money, the adorable little weirdo – had been rolled up and held inside this!” She held up her monster ring and waved it around a little longer. It was the size of something that Godzilla would shit. “So, yeah... It’s only been two weeks, but I finally feel like I’m moving on from James... James?”
I elbowed James quickly in the stomach, nearly dislocating my elbow in the process, and he snorted attractively against my neck, waking up a little. It takes me two hours to fall asleep in a warm(ish), (semi)comfortable bed, yet Potter can sleep against the side of my neck. How in the name of Merlin’s rat’s left butt cheek is that fair?
“What? Whodunit? Where’s the fire? Cookies?” Cookies? Has he finally snapped from all the years of snark and sarcasm? I patted him lightly on the side of the head, wondering where the nearest hand sanitizer was. Preferably with a fresh, aloe vera scent. Because no one can say no to aloe vera.
“I don’t know who ‘dun’ what, but you’re not listening and Bethany von Bethpants over here is going to get her knickers in a twist if you’re not careful.” Bethany pursed her lips but managed to force her lips into another fake smile, tossing her hair back over her shoulder and splaying out her fingers so she could once again ogle the rock on her finger.
Short and Stocky in the corner glanced over at us, having finished his conversation with the bloke in red velvet, and was heading over to the pair of us. His eyes were on Beth, but not in the loving and soppy way that you read about – he was peering at her suspiciously like he could hear her flirting from across the room. Potter removed his hand from my knee and stood up a little straighter.
I’m pretty sure a bloke that muscle-y wouldn’t suffer from Little Man Syndrome. He’s probably made of brick. I wondered if he’d object to me running tests on him to find out. It would mean he got a few free hours out of Bethany’s company anyway.
“Elizabeth, you alright?” Short, Dark and Handsome was very, very British, and there was a small gap between his front teeth. His eyelashes were long enough to be used as swords, and his fingernails were cut a little too short and filed down to smooth, rounded edges. There were several small golden medals on cloth ribbons hanging from his front pocket and thin lines were wired across his forehead. I would guess he was in his early thirties. Considering Beth was twenty-one...
“Hi, it’s nice to meet you,” I said, when it appeared that no one else was going to open their fat traps. Short, Dark and Handsome swapped his suspicious gaze to an impassive one as he switched to look at me as opposed to Potter, but the corner of his lips twitched slightly in some semblance of a smile. He stood out a large hand to shake and I blinked at it. It was once in a blue moon that anyone offered to shake my hand.
“Pleasure to meet you too,” he said, and it was only then that I realised that he had called someone Elizabeth. Was he talking to me? Maybe he heard that Potter had a new girlfriend and forgot what her name was. I mean, Aimee and Elizabeth are easy to confuse, right?
“My name isn’t Elizabeth, by the way,” I said, and I noticed Bethany wince slightly. I wondered if that was going to leave fissures in her makeup. “My name is Aimee. Aimee Woods. What’s your name?”
SDH smiled quizzically and glanced at Bethany but seemed to let it slide, because he took a pint of beer from the bar next to us and took a sip before answering my question.
“My name is Joseph, Miss Woods. Joseph Mason.” My eyebrows must have shot up into my hairline because his eyes crinkled slightly at the side as he smiled warmly, clearly realising the cause for my shock. I didn’t just have hyperactive eyebrows. “Yes, as in the brother of Keith Mason, the singer.”
Keith Mason was the fittest singer that I had ever seen or heard. I mean, he was a little too old for me, being twenty nine, but I had heard that he had a brother called Joseph. Of course, I had hoped that he would be younger... but hey, you can’t have everything in life. But Keith was delicious. He really was a fine specimen of human being. Potter finally dropped his arms from my shoulders and dragged a barstool up next to me, continuing to stare at Joseph in quiet contemplation.
“That’s so cool! I bet you get like free concert tickets and everything, right? I went to see him once when performed in London, and it was the coolest thing ever. Well, I didn’t technically go and see him because me and my friends sat on a hill near to the arena with a bottle of vodka and some extendable ears and listened to it that way, but it was cool all the same. The pregnancy scare afterwards wasn’t, though. I mean, I told Wallis that she had to be careful because Perry was just a no-hoper, but she got drunk and shagged him after the concert anyway and – ouch!” Potter jabbed his elbow in my ribs hard and I cut off with a wheeze.
“Darling,” Potter said through gritted teeth, “no one has any idea what you are talking about, so you might want to, well, be quiet.” But Joseph didn’t seem to be annoyed – in fact, he was laughing. Bethany was forcing out bitter giggles between pursed lips.
“Well, yes, considering he is my brother I do get free concert tickets. Just write me if you want any, I hate the idea of a girl as nice as you sitting on a hill listening to a concert.” I grinned at him and resisted the urge to give him a hug. And the impending romance and marriage of Keith Mason and Aimee Woods begins here.
“That’s so nice of you, Joseph!” It wasn’t me that spoke. Bethany had finally forced her vocal chords to co-operate, and she reached out and patted her fiancé on the chest. “Really, you are so good with all of your charity work.”
Ouch. Potter’s eyebrows flew upwards and his hand clenched to a fist next to me.
“Come on Liz, there’s no need to be like that,” Joseph laughed, wrapping an arm around his fiancée’s shoulder and kissing her on the top of her shiny head. That is, her hair was shiny, not her actual head. Potter shifted uncomfortably next to me and shot a rare, anxious glance at the side of my face. I stared straight at Joseph and Bethany with a crease between my eyebrows.
“Sorry, Joseph, if you don’t mind me asking, who is this ‘Liz’ you keep talking to? My name is Aimee and, you know, she’s Bethany. And he’s Potter – well, James.” I gestured to each respective person as I spoke, pulling my dress down a little so it hung over the edges of my knees.
Bethany winced and took a deep sip of the drink she was holding, pinching the side of her bar stool with her too-long talons. Joseph glanced down at her and then back up at me, then to Potter, who looked equally as confused.
“Sorry, how terribly rude of me, I assumed the pair of you had been introduced – Miss Woods, Mr Potter, this is my fiancée, Elizabeth Noel. I’m afraid you’ve gotten a little confused.” He put an arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders and smiled warmly at me, and then grimaced at Potter.
“Her name is Bethany,” Potter grunted. “Her name is Bethany Chandra Elizabeth Noel, she’s twenty one years old and she was born in Alabama, though she moved to Kentucky when she was six. Her mum is called Aisha and her dad is called Cody, and they still live in Louisville. She has a younger brother called Niall who also still lives back in America. And would you like to know how I know all this, Joey? Because I, unlike you, did not date Bethany for two weeks before I decided to solder a rock to her finger – I dated her for a year, on and off. So don’t stand there like you know fucking more than I do, yeah mate?” Joseph gaped at Potter. Bethany gaped at Potter. I gaped at Potter.
Basically, we all gaped at Potter. Like gaping goons.
“James –” Bethany whispered, but she cut off to turn and stare at Joseph. He blinked down at her, running his hands through the stubble on the top of his head. I wondered what he did for a living, and how he had managed to get all those medals. Must be in the Auror division or something. Potter probably knows, I’ll ask him later.
“Erm, Liz – Bethany, can I have a word with you outside?” Joseph seemed slightly shell shocked, and the glass that he had been holding was sat back on the bar so he didn’t drop it. He was staring unseeingly in front of himself, and Bethany’s hands were shaking slightly.
“Joseph, I’m sorry, but the bar doesn’t-” Joseph shook his head to silence her and ran his hands over the top of his head again. Potter shifted uncomfortably next to me, and I wondered if he felt guilty for possibly ruining the engagement of a couple that had seemed reasonably happy. Still, it’s easy to be happy when you don’t really know who you’re marrying.
“So, I asked you to marry me, and you didn’t even bother to tell me that you’ve been using a fake name the entire time?” Joseph wasn’t looking at Beth, he was looking at me, and she was shaking again.
“Joseph, I thought that I’d tell you later, but I didn’t think that it was that big of a deal because... well, it’s my middle name. It’s not like I just made one up or something... so that’s a little better, right?” Joseph was shaking his head in disbelief.
Potter ordered another drink from behind the bar, and I wanted to kick him in the groin. Joseph sighed and pushed off from the bar, coolly walking away from the three of us. Bethany’s eyes were glistening but she didn’t follow him, she just crossed her legs and pressed her fingers against her lips, her shoulders shaking a little as she sobbed silently.
“Bethany, are you alright?” I asked quietly, not liking the silence. Potter looked slightly awkward next to me, but was focusing on anything that wasn’t the sobbing girl in front of him.
“Am I alright? You bitch!” I blinked and Potter’s head snapped up at the speed of light. “Yeah, my fiancée’s just gone off on one, he’s found out he didn’t even know my name and yet – you’re standing there and asking me if I’m alright? What the hell is your problem? Of course I’m not alright, you stupid little bitch!”
“Bethany, shut the fuck up, she hasn’t done anything to you. It’s your own goddamn fault that you lied to your boyfriend. Nobody made you make that shit up. What, you honestly thought that you were going to be able to marry someone that didn’t even know your name, for starters? You’ve known him two sodding weeks, Bethany, how in the hell could you marry him?”
“Just because you never married me, James, does not mean that I can’t marry other people! You had your chance! I know you must be burning with jealousy but you have a new girl now, I can have a new bloke. I mean, I clearly chose better than you did considering you got lumped with this gold-digging slut, but –”
There was a horrible crack as Bethany’s neck snapped backwards, her hands flying up to clutch the spot that she had been punched. Right in the eye. Now, if this was a movie, it would have been Potter that had tossed the punch, defending my honour because he’s secretly madly in love with me.
“Woods, did you just punch her?!”
I stretched out my fingers as pain bloomed from my knuckles right the way down my hand, and I brought it back to rest on my knee as Bethany shouted something unintelligible from behind her hands. Joseph was watching us from the doors, but he hadn’t come over to check if she was alright. He looked crushed. Before I knew what was happening, I had pushed myself off the barstool and was staggering across the room towards him, trying to keep my balance in my stumpy heels.
“Joseph! Wait up!” I hurried up the velvet-carpeted stairs that led to the glass exit doors, pulling up my peach dress as I ran. Last thing I wanted was to be on the front of Witch Weekly with my dress flopping down to my waist. Someone called my name to my right, but I ignored them. Probably more scabby paparazzi wanting to get a picture.
“Miss Woods, how can I help?” he muttered, but I could tell that he didn’t really want to talk to me. His eyes kept darting back to where Potter was wrapping some ice in a cloth for Bethany’s eye.
“Joseph, I’m sorry. I just wanted to say that. I really am sorry. But I’m curious, how could you propose to someone when you’ve only known them for two weeks? I mean, I’ve been with Potter for a month and I haven’t even slept with him yet. Is that too much information? I feel like that’s too much information. I’m rambling, anyway. Just... watch out, mate. Girls like Bethany, they – they aren’t like other girls. I mean, she’s still in love with Potter. And you, you’re a nice guy, and you... you offered to marry her, something that Potter had never done.” A crease had appeared between Joseph’s eyebrows.
“She introduced herself as Elizabeth, when I first met her. And she always had this funny expression on her face whenever I called her that, you know. I never thought anything of it. And she never mentioned that she dated a Potter. I never knew, I don’t watch the news or read the papers and I’m often out of the country with work so I... I never knew. I didn’t really know her at all, did I?”
“No, you didn’t,” I said flatly, resting my hands on my hips. Bethany lifted the ice packet onto her face and leant her head back. I hoped it smudged her mascara everywhere. Joseph sighed and shifted in his expensive blazer.
“I’ve spent my entire life courting women my own age, taking them out to fancy restaurants and then seeing them when I could around my job, only to have them get sick of not having much attention from me and move onto the next best thing. Or just outright cheat, either way. And then... then Liz – Bethany came along, and she was just a breath of fresh air. I’m thirty two; I’m not getting any younger. And she, she was young and beautiful and she wanted me, too. And so I knew I didn’t want to let her go, so I asked her to marry me. I was in love with the idea of Liz, but I was never in love with her. I don’t think I was, anyway.” I blinked.
Stepping forwards, I wrapped my arms around his waist and squeezed him tight as I gave him a hug. I could hear him chuckling quietly as though this was something strange to him, something that people didn’t generally do for him. The thought made me sad.
“There’s nothing wrong with thinking like that, love, but next time maybe you should just make sure you really know who you’re putting a ring on. And by the way, that ring was nice. Make sure you get that back from her, because I bitch like that will just pawn the thing.” Joseph laughed.
“Right, thank you. Write me sometime, Miss Woods. It’s nice being able to talk to someone who just says it like it is, for once, instead of thinking with the stick rammed up their – never mind.” I laughed loudly and the sides of his eyes crinkled further.
“Call me Aimee, you twat. Miss Woods is for fourteen year olds back in the eighteen hundreds who were talking to forty year old men that wanted to marry them.” Joseph raised his eyebrows. “Or something to that effect, anyway,” I added.
“Well, Aimee, make sure you keep in touch. And good luck with Mr Potter. It might not be my place to say so, but the pair of you look very good together. Though you might want to work on the calling him by his surname situation that you have going on at the moment – it could look a little suspicious.” Joseph winked at me and turned around, heading out the doors as I gaped after him. Did he know? Did he know that Potter and I were faking the whole thing?
I stood where I was for a few seconds longer, until some stomping noises alerted me to someone walking up the stairs behind me. Bethany Noel tripped past me, still clutching a bundle of ice to her bruising eye. I glanced behind me, and smirked when I realised that Potter was still standing by the bar, drinking a fresh pint of beer.
“What are you standing there for, Aimee?”
I turned around to see Harry Potter leaning against the wall behind me, fiddling with the pocket watch that he was struggling to squeeze back into his actual pocket. He was smiling warmly, scuffing the bottom of his fancy shoes over the carpet like an errant teenager.
“I was just saying goodbye to an old friend,” I said slowly, and Harry nodded. He looked completely unworried, and it was nice to see that there was at least one person on the planet that still had a little faith in me, at least. I’m sure if it was anyone else they would have already assumed I was having a madly passionate affair with the bloke I had been speaking to. But not Harry Potter, evidentially. And that’s assuming that he had read the rag that had been published about me.
“Come and rejoin the party, Aimee. Ginny and I were just talking and saying what a pleasant young girl you are, and that we need to get to know you better. Why don’t you and James come and sit down and have a drink with us?”
“And then, she walks all over to James and buts into – no, BURSTS into tears and, then, like, starts shaking the front of Jimmy’s shirt and starts shaking the living shit out of –”
“Albus, language,” Ginny sighs, and Albus giggles into his glass. He’d moved on from beer into something smoking and blue that no one really wanted to ask about, and it had clearly gone all the way to his head. Even Potter was laughing into his drink, which was a really strange thing to see.
“Soz, mum, didn’t mean it. But Beth is just shakin’ and shakin’ and shakin’ Jim’s shirt and no one knows what to do because the girls gone batcrap and then, like, Lily comes and grabs the girl by her extensions and like, pulls her off James and onto this seat, right?” Everyone at the table is laughing, sans Ginny, who is shaking her head and smirking a little bit at the amusing memory. I dabbed underneath my eyes with the side of finger.
“Right, so I start screeching at her to stop stalking my brother, yano? And she goes off on one, and she’s all like – blaaaah, blah, blah... so mum chucked her out! You should have seen the bitch’s face, it was hilarrrrrrr. And then we didn’t hear from ‘er for about... two weeks, then she carried on with her mad stalking. Bitch be crazy, know what I’m saying ‘me?” ‘me was evidentially the drunk nickname given to me by the lovely Lily Potter.
“Alright, that’s quite enough gossiping, you lot,” Potter sighed, and Ginny Potter grinned evilly at her son. Rooting through her bag, she beckoned me over to her. Stumbling slightly, I moved into the empty seat next to her.
“Aww, Jamesie just doesn’t like thinking about the psycho he was dating. We love you anyway, Jimmy, don’t worry!” Lily leaned out of her seat and drunkenly seized James’ cheeks between her fingers, waggling it from side to side. James batted her away and glared at his empty glass as the rest of us laughed and ruffled his hair. It looked like he was trying to blow the glass up with his mind.
“Alright, since you’ve all embarrassed me in front of my girlfriend, can we go home? This place is as dead as the morgue.” Ginny finally found what she was searching for in the bottom of her bag and pulled out a stack of photographs, clutching the wad victoriously in her fist.
“And since we’re being stereotypes, naked pictures of James in the bath, anyone?” Potter scowled.
“Aww, Potter, I particularly like this one – the one where you’ve put a Father Christmas beard on your own face in bubble bath. That’s adorable! And aww, what about the one where you’re dancing, waving your towel above your head? That one’s cute!” Potter angrily snatched the photos out of my hand as Ginny and I dissolved into giggles. Jamming them into his blazer pocket, Potter stood up and seized my wrist, dragging me out of my seat too.
“Come on, we’ll apparate home,” he sighed, and Ginny shook her head.
“Don’t be insane, James, you’ve both had far too much to drink to go and apparate somewhere. You’ll end up splinched or dead. And I don’t want a splinched or dead son, or a splinched or dead son’s girlfriend. We’ve got a driver waiting outside; he can give us all a lift home. You’re adults; we’re not going to pretend like we don’t know Aimee will be spending the night at yours.”
I opened my mouth to protest but Potter rammed me in the ribs for the third time that evening with his increasingly pointy elbow.
“That sounds great, you guys,” Potter sighed, running his hands through his hair. “Really, it does. Spending even more time with you lot – wow. Erm. Yeah. But I think I’ll just get Wo – Aimee a cab back to her place and then go back to mine.” Lily smirked a little from behind her glass.
“Wow, that is so hot,” she sighed sarcastically, and Potter shot the finger at her when his mother turned to speak to the Potter’s driver.
“James, I don’t need to be looking at you to know what you just did. Do it again and I’ll curse your fingers together for the rest of your life. You’ve been warned.” Potter scowled at his feet and Lily giggled childishly, much to amusement of the rest of the Potter clan. Well, the rest of the Potter clan and the nosy bloke on the next table who was watching us. Nosy bugger.
“Thank you for the lift, Mr and Mrs Potter,” I said to Harry and Ginny, who were sitting in the back of the car trying to separate a bickering Albus and Lily, who were trying to jab each other with chopsticks that we didn’t know they had. Potter was scowling at my block of flats, clearly not happy that his mother had insisted she was alright knowing Potter was spending the night at mine. If he wasn’t pissed out of his skill then I would have forced him to apparate back to his own place right there and then. “Thank you,” I added to the driver, who was wearing a stereotypical driver’s hat.
I closed the door with a slightly louder than necessary snap, letting Potter head his way into the building and up the stairs. Trust me to live on the top floor when I was drunk and wearing heels, regardless of how stumpy they were.
“So spill it, Potter – what’s the deal with you and Lizzie?” Potter snorted and leant one hand against the wall, steadying himself a little, and rolled his eyes at me. “Come on, I want to know. Clearly something dramatic has happened there because she’s off her rocker. I was sure that she was going to say that you gave her that engagement ring. Or she’d bought it for herself and wanted you to give it to her. Honestly, I thought she was... insane. Pretty, but insane.” Potter laughed.
“Yeah, she wasn’t always so nuts,” Potter chuckled. “Not that it would have bothered me if she was, she was unbelievable in bed.” I scowled and clapped my hands over my ears.
“I did not need to know that,” I scowled. “Can’t you just tell me more of the stuff that Molly has already told me? Like how she showed up the week after you broke up with her and started throwing her underwear at your grandparents to cause a scene? Because that was hilarious. Did you know that Molly filmed it? Yeah, she showed me the tape, it was so funny!” Turns out drunk Aimee was a giggler, and I was giggling like a twattish giggler.
“What, you want a James Potter history lesson?” Potter cocked an eyebrow at me, brushing some of his hair out of his eyes.
“Sure, why not? Something to hide, Potter?” I jammed my key into the lock and fiddled around with it, before kicking the door sharply at the bottom until it bounced open. Thankfully there was no Dan standing just behind the door today. I had a feeling he and Potter wouldn’t have hit it off.
Potter slowly traipsed through the door after me, parking down on the sofa and kicking off his fancy business shoes. He leant his head against the squashed cushion behind his head and sighed.
“Fine, fine. Erm, Bethany and I started dating just after my twentieth birthday. She was still nineteen but she turned twenty like two months into the relationship. We split after a month; got back together a week later, split after like three months, got back together a fortnight later and then we were on and off every month from then onwards for about a year. That is until she found out about a drunk one night stand I had when we weren’t together and she finally had enough. So we split for good.” Potter shrugged and I could see his eyes drifting over to the kitchen door.
Maybe he needed some food to soak up all that alcohol; he drank more than anyone.
“So who did you have the one night stand with?” I called into the living room as I bustled into the kitchen, wondering whether I had anything lurking in the back of one of the cupboards that I could feed him with. To shut him up, of course. Pulling open the fridge, I bit down on my tongue to stop myself from screeching with shock. Because I’m just so calm and collected.
The fridge was stocked full – yoghurts, salads, slices of meat in plastic packaging, vegetables, mayonnaise, cheese, butter, tomatoes, chicken breasts, pork pies, pate, milk, cream, orange juice – you name it and it was in there. I pulled open the nearest cupboard to find it full of dried pasta, bread, potatoes, pasta sauces, tins of beans and random other tins full of things like chutney. I blinked a few times and put back a tin of ringed pineapple.
Wondering if Potter had done this, since he’d been stressing about the lack of food, I turned to find a small yellow Post-It note stuck to the screen of my microwave.
I don’t want you starving to death.
I crumpled the note in my palm and dropped it into the plastic bag that was hanging off the back of the kitchen door, acting as a bin. Making a mental note to leave a message on Dan’s mother’s answering machine to ask her to thank him for the foot, I grabbed a few slices of bread and set to work making two ham and cheese sandwiches for Potter. I smiled slightly when I realised this was exactly the sort of thing I used to do for Dan. I guess I just liked taking care of people.
I cut them into triangles, just like Dan liked, and put them on a plate that had been washed – not by me, though, so I am assuming that Dan did those too – and carried them through to the living room. Potter had flicked on the TV and was idly hopping through the channels.
He stopped on a late night chat show between a man with a bad toupee and a woman whose hair had been chopped short and uneven in a way that was supposed to be edgy but really just looked like she had stuck her head in a blender and turned the power up to full.
“Here, I made you this – I could see you eyeing the kitchen door. Honestly, anyone would think that you never eat.” Potter’s eyebrows flew up into his hairline in shock as I handed him the plate, and I wondered whether I should get him a mug of strong coffee to go with it – that’s how Dan always had his sandwiches. He came straight in from work and his sandwiches and a mug of coffee had to be on the table waiting for him, six o’clock sharp. No ifs, no buts, no coconuts.
Of course, he had a different type of sandwich filling for everyday of the week – tuna and sweetcorn on granary bread on Mondays, Chinese chicken on plain white bread on Tuesdays, tomato, lettuce and cucumber with light salad cream on Wednesdays, and so on and so forth. Of course, he thought he’d make it a little more exciting – every Sunday he’d choose a random flavour to put onto a sandwich. I nearly always had to go out and buy the ingredients for him. I mean, who just had a tin of chutney and kidney bean paste sitting the cupboard waiting to be put onto a sandwich?
“Wow, erm, thank you,” he said slowly, peeling up the side of the bread like he thought that I might have put poison between the slices. Biting the bread carefully, he chewed it slowly a few times before he eventually swallowed. His face lit up a little bit. “This is a pretty good sandwich, not to lump you with the typical woman stereotype.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve had plenty of practice.” Potter smirked and carried on eating, flicking his attention back to the screen as Blender Head burst into tears and slammed her face into her hands. “So anyway, carry on with your story – you had a one night stand with someone, and Bethany finally got sick of you?”
I sat down on the end of the couch and brought my knees up under my chin. Potter nodded slowly.
“Yeah, basically. The girl I slept with was a girl she roomed with at Beuxbatons. Mar-something or other. But I was glad to be shot of her – she was a pain in the ass, clingy as fuck and called me nine hundred times a day to check what I was doing and who I was doing it with. She hit the roof once when she found out that the female and male aurors-in-training ate lunch in the same room.”
I laughed, and Potter shook his head, a rare smile curling the edges of his lips ever so slightly. He took another mighty bite of his sandwich.
“Didn’t she show up at your office just after you graduated from Auror School and tell everyone that you were her fiancé?” Potter laughed again and banged his head against the back of my couch. “And didn’t she sneak into your apartment and write ‘I love you’ in lipstick on the front of your fridge? Oh, and didn’t she pay someone to superglue loads of her knickers to the biggest window in your apartment?” Potter clapped a hand to his face.
“Yeah, she did. Never really realise how bad those things are until you hear someone else say it.”
I laughed slightly and let my eyes glaze over as my attention flicked back to the people moving on the screen. Blender Head could not hold my attention, and neither could the slick man that was interviewing her. I wasn’t even sure what BH was supposedly famous for doing. Potter’s chewing of his sandwiches had slowed.
“Wow. We’re actually having a civilised conversation. See, Woods, I’m not the devil incarnate all the time.” Potter smirked at me over the remains of his last sandwich. Rolling my eyes, I poked him in the side of his stomach. I blinked a few times at the absurdity of me seemingly getting along with Potter, but couldn’t think of something to pick a fight with him about.
“Alright, maybe you’re not dreadful all the time. But you’re pretty damn awful some of the time.” Potter shrugged offhandedly and shoved down the crusts of his last sandwich.
“You know what I could really kill right now?” I shrugged, watching Blender Head accept a hug and a tissue from a lion of a woman that had been sitting in the front row. “A cup of really strong coffee – you couldn’t make me some, could you?” I struggled to swallow properly as I pushed myself off the couch. Just like Dan. He was just like Dan. Strong coffee with the sandwiches. My hands shook like leaves as I stumbled into the kitchen and pulled out a jar of rich roast instant coffee.
“What do you reckon I should do about Bethany? Should I get Lily to go around her house and scare her again – it worked last time, the bints a little firecracker.” I ignored him, staring at the coffee granules in the bottom of the mug as the kettle boiled. “Oi, Woods, I’m asking for your opinion.”
“Here’s your coffee. Let yourself out once you’ve finished it.” I pushed the mug into his hands and stepped around him, heading off into my bedroom.
I didn’t need another Dan in my life, not while the other one was still hanging around all confusing and stupid and confusing and stupid. I didn’t even need one Dan, let alone two.
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me, apart from like, aimee. who i think might be mine. but i'm not too sure.
heeeeeeeey. mocks are done! whoooo :) i've had ten of my twelve exams back so far and i'm in a vair, vair good mood. i'm about to bobby off ice skating, so i thought i'd put this up. i hope you enjoy it! kisses, darlings!
ellie :) xx
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