Chapter 17 : Not a Date
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“Well of course you’re all fine with today,” Dom began, putting a hand on her hips as she looked around our dorm room at me, Rose, and then Molly (who basically lived in our dorm even though she was a seventh year). Rose was wearing her prefects uniform, preparing to do her first set of rounds, and Molly was curled up on Rose’s bed, looking like she was about to fall asleep. I was currently checking the floor length mirror in our room, making sure I didn’t hadn’t missed any of the hair that I’d been curling. “Molly and Natasha have dates—”
“It’s not a date,” I flatlined, except Dom ignored me.
“And you, Rose, are not being forced to spend the entire day with one of your best mate-turned-enemy’s ever since he let the whole Quidditch captaincy get to his head,” Dom finished with a huff.
“But I am spending a Hosmeade weekend alone doing prefect rounds,” Rose responded. “While all of you get to go on dates. I feel like such a frump.”
“It’s not a date.” Me, and now Dom (I call it karma) responded in the same matter-of-fact tone.
“I’m sure that’s what you’re all telling yourselves,” Rose said, looking at Dom and I for equal lengths of time. “But the fact of the matter is that if a guy asks you to spend time with him in Hogsmeade, it qualifies as a date.”
“Well Scorpius didn’t ask me to go with him. We just happened to be the only ones left after all of you ditched. So it’s not a date,” Dom responded, looking proud of herself.
“You can be in denial all you want, Dom,” Rose began, “but we all know it’s a date.”
I made a hum of agreement, nodding my head to enforce Rose’s point. I had been sensing something between Dom and Scorpius for a while, so the fact that they were going to be spending Hogsmeade together, despite Dom’s excuse of them just planning Quidditch plays and shopping for more gear, didn’t hide the fact that there still seemed to be a romantic undertone.
“I don’t know why you’re acting all high and mighty,” Dom said, noticing how I’d agreed with Rose. “You’re still trying to deny the fact that you and James are going on a date.”
“That’s because we’re not,” I responded. “I’m even not allowed to date. And he only asked me to go so we could stop at this muggle store he knows about that he wants to show me.”
Dom rolled her eyes, looking at me seriously. “Tash, James doesn’t ask just anyone to go to Hogsmeade with him. The last girl he asked was Fiona and well… if you didn’t notice they kind of dated.”
“I’m not Fiona though,” I responded. “It’s different.”
“It’s not different,” Molly stated in her usual blunt tone, picking her face up from the pillow it had been buried in so that she could put in her two cents. “I mean, I think out of everyone it should be me trying to pretend that Gryffin and I aren’t going on a date, seeing as he’s a complete idiot and I pretty much hate him. But I’m not, because I know it’s a date no matter how much I pretend it isn’t.”
“I still don’t understand how you’re acting so blasé about this,” Dom said, seeming brought back to the fact that Gryffin and Molly were actually going on a date. And the fact that they were going on a date was pretty unbelievable. It was like the world was ending.
“Oh don’t worry, I’ll eventually have a moment where I freak the fuck out and question my life choices, but for now I won’t,” Molly responded with a shrug. “I mean, it was only a matter of time. He is the only guy at school not related to me that’s taller than me.”
Dom and I exchanged a look.
“Whatever you say, Molly,” I said, still studying her closely to see if there was any signs of her being under the Imperio curse. Molly just shrugged again and layed back against Rose’s bed, making herself comfortable.
“Not to be rude, but shouldn’t you guys get going?” Rose said. “It’s almost eleven so…”
“Shit,” Molly said, seeming angered at having to get out of the bed. The fact that she had had to get up before noon for her date had put her in an even grumpier mood than usual.
Dom and I also muttered our own exclamations as we realized that we were running late, and we all scrambled towards the door.
“Bye Rose!” We all shouted at her out of sync so that everything sounded a jarbled mess.
Rose was able to understand us though, so she nodded her head and smiled at us. “Bye, girls! Have fun on your dates.”
“It’s not a—” But before Dom and I could finished Molly had already spoken over us.
“Oh stuff it, the both of you. It’s a bloody date and you damn well know it.”
I shouldn’t be this nervous. Because no matter what Molly or Rose or Dom said, this was not a date. So, there was no reason for me to be taking extra notice over the silences that hung between James and I as we walked, for me to overanalyze every action he said or did, or for me to be running my hands through my hair every five minutes to make sure it didn’t settle funny.
This was just James and me being well… James and me. Nothing more.
“So, what do you say?”
My eyes widened as I snapped my head to James, trying to figure out what he was talking about. If I had been listening to him instead of overanalyzing everything, than I would’ve known what he was talking about. But alas, I had been distracted and instead had no response but to blink at him.
“It’s fine if you don’t want to…” James said, seeming confused by my blank stare. “Just a suggestion.”
“Wait, no, I’m sorry,” I said, feeling bad for James thinking I was turning down whatever he had said. “I wasn’t paying attention, so I didn’t hear what you said.”
“Ouch,” James said. “Didn’t know I was that boring.”
“Oh, no, you’re not!” I stammered, feeling my face growing hot. “I just…”
“Don’t worry, I was just kidding,” James said, seeming amused at my predicament. “Anyway, what I’d asked was if you wanted to go to the Three Broomsticks first. It’s kind of the right of passage for going to Hogsmeade, so I figured if you wanted to get the whole experience…”
“Oh yeah, that sounds good,” I said, feeling myself calm down at how composed James seemed. If he wasn’t freaking out, then there was no reason I should be. Right?
James began to lead us across the cobblestoned streets of Hogsmeade to what appeared to be a pub. I was immediately about to protest walking into it, because Miss Teen Witch can’t very well be seen walking into a pub— I mean, people went there to get drunk—but before I could say anything, James had already grabbed my hand and pulled me in.
The thing I noticed straight away about the Three Broomsticks, was how packed it was. There were people crammed into every possible space, practically on top of each other, as everyone queued over at the bar area or piled atop one another in booths. Not to mention how incredibly noisy it was, with the sounds of a million different voices interlacing over and under one another, punctuated by sporadic shouts.
“Woah,” I said, eyes wide as I took in the scene.
“Yeah, it gets a bit crowded,” James said, raising his voice to an almost shout so that I could hear him.
“Just a bit,” I shouted back jokingly.
“Come on, I think I see a seat open by one of the windows,” James said, giving my hand—which I now realized he was still holding— a squeeze and steering me around the mass of people swarmed throughout the place. I tried to not look too much into the hand squeezing, because this was not a date, but it was hard when it seemed like almost every person we passed gave us and our intertwined hands strange looks.
James didn’t seem to notice, or maybe he just didn’t care, and I ignored the looks too. They were just staring because they thought this was something that it wasn’t.
“Is this okay?” James asked, pointing to a booth that had just opened up by the window. I nodded, and James and I took a seat across from one another.
“So,” I said, surveying the clamor of the pub we were in from our seats and taking it all in. I can’t say I’d really been to a pub before. “This is like, the place to go?”
James nodded. “It’s not much. But it does have something no other pub has.”
“What’s that?” I asked, arching an eyebrow at James.
“The best butterbeer in the world. So I’m going to go get us some,” And then, James was getting up and walking over to the bar, leaving me to guard the table.
I wasn’t alone for long though. Almost as soon as James left, I heard two unmistakeable squeals, and then Lucy and Lily were scooting into the side of the booth that James had previously been sitting in. They were both in florally pink dresses, wearing their usual assortment of glittery accessories and looking at me excitedly.
“Ohmigosh!” Lily said, looking at me with a wide smile, flipping her glossy red hair over her shoulder. The sparkly eyeshadow she was wearing enhanced her large brown eyes, which were now widened at me in question. “Are you and my brother like… on a date?!”
“Oh my gosh you are!” Lucy chimed in, before I could get answer. She leaned in towards me, as though she was about to give me some advice. “Don’t worry. We totally won’t tell Fiona. To be honest I’d much rather the two of you together. I mean, I’d be cousins-in-law with Miss Teen Witch. How cool is that?”
“Well she’d be my sister in law,” Lily said, giving Lucy a triumphant look. Lily then looked back at me. “But yeah, Lucy’s right. We won’t tell Fiona.”
“There’s nothing to tell her,” I said honestly, feeling overwhelemed by their chatter. “We’re just friends.”
“Right,” Lucy said, rolling her eyes and twirling a lock of chestnut hair around her finger. “Not like I haven’t heard that one before. You don’t need to lie to us. We’re your friends.”
“I’m not lying,” I responded, although I was more taken aback by Lucy’s friends statement then anything. We barely spent time together, and when we did, it was just Lucy barking orders at me. Was that her qualification for friends?
“Well…” Lily said, biting her lip and widening her eyes at me again. “Does James know you’re just friends? Because I know my brother, and I know he doesn’t take just anyone to Hogsmeade.”
Lily’s words sounded scarily similar to what Dom had said to me this morning.
“He knows,” I stated, but I wasn’t sure if he knew. Mostly because I wasn’t sure if I knew myself.
“Okay,” Lily said, giving me a serious look. “But as his sister I’m going to let you know to be careful.”
“What do I have to be careful about?” I asked, confused. James was not a threat, and it surprised me that Lily was suddenly acting like he was.
Lucy rolled her eyes. “What Lily is trying to say, is that you need to be careful not to hurt her brother.”
Oh. Right. I was the threat. Not James. Although I still had to disagree. I didn’t have the power to hurt him. Not one bit.
“Okay,” I said, just to placate the two of them. “I’ll be careful.”
“Good,” Lily said excitedly, clapping her hands together. “Well, we should go! We have dates of our own to attend to, and we don’t want to intrude on yours anymore than we have!”
And before I could say for the millionth time that this wasn’t a date, Lucy and Lily had scooted out of the booth and skipped away.
“Why are you talking to my disgusting little sister?”
I looked up at Molly, who had her arms crossed, brown eyes narrowed at me in disdain.
“Where’s Gryffin?” I asked, as Molly took the seat across from me. She kicked her feet on top of the table and leaned back, getting comfortable before she spoke.
“Don’t know, don’t care,” Molly responded, shrugging her shoulders.
“But… isn’t he your date?” I asked slowly, trying to wrap my head around Molly’s thought process.
“Isn’t James?” Molly asked, looking around the pub. “Where is he?”
“He’s getting us butterbeer,” I said with a sigh. “But you can’t change the subject.”
“Alright, I’ll tell you,” Molly said, taking her feet off the table and leaning towards me. She cradled her chin in her hands. “But only because you finally didn’t deny that James is your date.”
“He’s not my—”
Molly held her finger up and gave me a look. “Do you want me to tell you or not?”
“Fine,” I conceded, but only because my curiosity had won out. “Tell me.”
“I stole his wand and locked him in the Shrieking Shack,” Molly stated. My eyes widened.
“Why did you do that?” I asked. I thought Molly had been almost happy about this date. This didn’t seem like appropriate date behavior. “Don’t you like him?”
“He was being an annoying git, so I had to get rid of him,” Molly said with a shrug. “And I never said I liked him. Just that it was inevitable.”
“Right,” I said, not understanding Molly at all.
“Anyway, I should probably let him out now. Or maybe head back to the school and let him find his own way,” Molly replied, getting up. “See ya.”
“Yeah,” I said, watching Molly as she left, “see you.”
A couple minutes later, filled with me drawing imaginary circles on the table top, James slid back into the seat that just about everyone had sat in.
“Sorry it took so long, the line to the bar was insane,” James said, putting two mugs of butterbeer on the table and sliding one to me. “But don’t worry, it’s worth the wait.”
I picked up the mug and took a sip. The drink tasted warm and buttery, and I found myself wondering how I had gone my whole life without it.
“You’re right,” I said, smiling at James before taking another sip. “Definitely worth it.”
“So,” James began, picking up a couple packages of silly putty and putting it into his shopping basket, “both of your parents are muggles. How did that go?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, inspecting a box of lego’s before putting it into my own basket.
“I mean, how did the whole finding out you’re magical thing go?”
“Um,” I began, feeling embarrassed at what I was about to tell James. I leant against the aisle and looked down at my feet. “Well I was eight and I had just lost my first beauty pageant, so I kind of… lit the winner’s dress on fire.”
James let out a low whistle. “A bit harsh, don’t you think?”
“I didn’t mean to do it!” I responded, trying to defend myself. “It just sort of happened. I don’t think my mum even knows it was me who did it. She didn’t figure out I was magical until years later.”
“What about your dad?” James asked, and I guess I should’ve expected this question eventually.
“He still doesn’t know,” I said, looking away and out across the muggle toy covered aisle. I never knew what to do when I talked about my dad. But then again, it’s probably because I never talked about him. “He left when I was three.”
There was a beat of silence.
“Wow, that must’ve sucked,” James said finally. And I found the way he said it way more refreshing than the shifty eyed ‘I’m sorry’s’ that I normally got when I mentioned my dad.
“It happens,” I said in response and then to change the subject, “so how did your first time performing magic go?”
“It went well,” James replied with a smirk, causing me to roll my eyes. He ran a hand through his hair. “But in all honesty, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I levitated a spoon. Nothing like lighting someone on fire.”
“It was an accident!” I exclaimed, crossing my arms.
“That’s what they all say,” James stated, causing me to roll my eyes. I then pushed myself off the aisle I’d been leaning against and walked over to where James was standing by the silly putty. I grabbed a couple packages and put them in my basket.
“So you are a silly putty fan,” James said, noticing that I’d passed over the play d’oh. “I knew it.”
“Well, I mean, you can press silly putty against newspaper and it’ll copy the print,” I explained. “That’s basically magic.”
“Aren’t you easy to please,” James joked.
“Oh be quiet,” I said, rolling my eyes again as we walked out of the aisle. We’d been walking around the store for what felt like forever, just talking and joking around. And it felt, I dunno, nice to be able to just hang out with James somewhere other than the Quidditch pitch and our occasional breakfasts.
As we headed over to the cash register to purchase our baskets full of useless muggle products, we came across a pair of green eyes and a face very similar to James’.
“Oh, hey, Albus,” I said first, because we had already locked eyes and I didn’t want to seem rude.
“Hey, Natasha,” Albus responded, nodding at me. He still seemed as cold and closed off as ever when he looked at me, but as he turned to James I noticed his hardened look fade just a bit. “James.”
“Hey, Al,” James said, nodding at him amiably. “You didn’t tell me your were going to Hogsmeade too.”
The way James said it made it clear that him and Al talked regularly. Which I know I shouldn’t find odd, considering they’re brothers. But with everything I heard from Scorpius and them… it still seemed odd that they were on such amiable terms.
Al shrugged. “Things change. Can’t say I ever expected you to walk into this store again.”
I couldn’t help but be overcome with that feeling of being out of the loop. But I kept quiet, because I didn’t want to seem too nosy.
“Yeah well, like you said, things change,” James said, not deterred at all by Al’s comment. “We’re heading out anyways, want us to wait for you?”
“Nah,” Al said, waving James off. “I’ll be a while. You two have fun on your… whatever.”
“Alright, I’ll see you,” James said, before ushering us to the check out counter, leaving me feeling slightly confused as I watched Al head to the opposite side of the store.
It wasn’t until we had left the muggle toy shop and were walking through the streets of Hogsmeade that I addressed the elephant in the room.
“So, what’s the deal with Al?” I asked, hoping that James wouldn’t think I was trying to pry too much. It’s just, I had heard lots of snippets about Al and I didn’t quite get him and James’ relationship.
James looked at me with eyebrows drawn in confusion. “He’s my brother…?”
“I know,” I said, rolling my eyes. I really needed to stop doing that. “But what I mean is, well Scorpius and them don’t like him and from what I’ve heard, they hate that you talk to him. Why is that?”
“Oh, it’s all really stupid,” James said, shrugging as he ran a hand through his hair. “They think he made me quit playing Quidditch.”
“Huh?” I asked, suddenly very confused. They were mad at him about… Quidditch?
“Well, after the whole thing with Nate,” James began, “I stopped really talking to the lot of them, and I started spending more time with Al. And then I quit Quidditch so… they figured he was the reason. Because you know, he’s Slytherin’s captain and apparently he ‘took advantage of me in my grieving state’ to benefit his own team.”
“Did he?” I asked.
“Course not,” James answered. “Al may be a Slytherin, but he’s not that bad. I mean, sure we have our differences, but at the end of the day he’s my brother. People are too hard on him, just because he was sorted into Slytherin.”
“That’s what I don’t get,” I said as we continued to walk. “The whole house thing. I mean, I guess I’m muggleborn so what do I know, but it just seems weird that people put so much strain on where you’re sorted.”
“Exactly,” James said, nodding his head in agreement. “After the war, people just kind of hated Slytherin for a while. It’s like everyone in it was suddenly evil. It’s mostly died down nowadays, but when Al was sorted there people treated him differently. And I treated him differently for a while too, which I’m not proud of. I mean, I basically replaced him with Scorpius. But eventually I realized I was an idiot and despite Al being such a ‘Slytherin’, he forgave me.”
I thought this over for a while a bit surprised. I had thought that James could do no wrong, but it turns out he had ignored his own brother just because of the house he was sorted into. It kind of explained why Al was so closed off and rough edged. It had to suck to have everyone look down on you, and it definitely had to suck even more to have Scorpius get sorted into Gyrffindor and basically become everything Al was expected to be.
“What made you realize you were an idiot?” I asked, looking up at James curiously.
James shrugged. “I just figured life’s too short to hold a grudge at someone just because of the house they’re sorted into.”
I could tell by this that James had probably made his realization after Nate died. Life was too short, indeed. Especially for some of us.
“Smart decision,” I commented. Then I thought of something that didn’t quite make sense. “But isn’t life also too short to ignore your friends?”
“I don’t ignore my friends,” James stated, causing me to give him a look. “I talk to you.”
I felt my stomach flutter as James said this, but I ignored it. “So I’m your only friend then?”
James sighed. I was beginning to feel like maybe I had overstepped. “Things with them are just… different.”
“Okay,” I said, because I felt like I had asked enough questions and didn’t want to make James regret spending time with me. I guess there was just something about spending time with him that made me want to ask him as many questions as I could. Try to figure him out and all that rot.
James didn’t seem to sense I was giving him an out to the conversation though, so he continued to explain.
“After Nate died,” James began, and I couldn’t help but feel weird about James addressing Nate’s death head on. Normally whenever death was involved, people kind of avoided the topic and smoothed it over with words like ‘passed away’ or ‘no longer with us’. The way James said it made everything seem more raw and honest and real. “Scorpius and Gryffin and them just got really weird around me. They stopped joking around with me and were constantly checking up on me like I was going to explode any second. They just… they stopped being the friends they were supposed to be.”
“They probably didn’t know what to say,” I reasoned.
“I know, but they still do it, even now. Rose told me they avoid talking about anything concerning Nate like the plague,” James said. And this was true. I’d heard Nate get mentioned only a handful of times, and when it happened everyone always shot Rose awkward glances that just made her more uncomfortable.
“Maybe they’re worried bringing him up will make everyone sad again,” I said, because I really felt that. I avoided topics I didn’t like all the time, because I was worried it would hurt certain people. It was easier to pretend the problem wasn’t there.
It was quiet for a moment after that, before James spoke, more serious this time. “It’s like… they don’t believe that I can be fine again.”
There was a silence as I let what James said sink in, and I suddenly understood. All James wanted, was for people to believe he had the ability to be okay. Maybe that’s all anyone wanted really.
“I believe it,” I said after a moment, and before I could overthink it I grabbed James’ hand and laced my fingers through his. James looked down at our hands before looking back up at me with a small smile. “You should just talk to them about it, tell them how you feel.”
“I could,” James said, nodding his head as we continued to hold hands and walk through Hogsmeade. Merlin, this was becoming very date-ish without me even realizing it. “But I’ve already got you to treat me normal, so I don’t really need them.”
I continued to walk forward, ignoring the warm feeling from James’ words, but stopped when the tugging on my hand signaled that James was no longer walking with me. I looked back at him, confused.
“What?” I asked, looking into James’ multifaceted eyes, unsure why we had stopped.
“Isn’t that you?” James asked, and I was confused for a moment, before I realized that we were standing in front of my Teen Witch billboard that contained a smiling and winking me, blowing kisses at random passersby. I felt my face turn red. This was embarrassing.
“It was one of my Miss Teen Witch obligations,” I tried to explain, as both of us continued to stare at my billboard. “It’s awful.”
“It’s not awful…” James said, seeming to be holding back a laugh as he noticed my embarrassment. “It’s just… not you.”
The funny thing about his statement, was that it was me. Or it had been. Ever since I can remember I’d always been like that girl on the billboard.
“Is that a good or bad thing?” I asked, because I honestly wasn’t sure.
“Good,” James responded, smiling at my unsureness and making my stomach flutter embarrassingly again. “Definitely good.”
I smiled back at James, because it felt good to know that it was okay for me to not be Miss Teen Witch. And then, because I had been wondering this all day and I suddenly couldn’t stop myself, I spoke.
“James… was this a date?”
There was a moment of unsureness as James released his hand from mine, and I immediately regretted asking the question. It was stupid of me to suddenly assume that all of this meant more than it did. But as soon as the unsureness came it went, because I noticed that James was still smiling at me.
And instead of giving me a proper answer, because James had apparently decided that that wasn’t good enough, he tucked a loose curl behind my ear before leaning in to kiss me. And despite the fact that we were standing in the middle of Hogsmeade where anybody could see us, in front of an embarrassing billboard of me that I’d rather pretend didn’t exist, it felt kind of sort of perfect.
So, I did what any girl would do and kissed him back.
A/N: Well hello my lovely readers! Here it is, a very pivotal chapter in the relationship of Natasha and James. I mean... they kissed. Did you expect it? I figured it was a cliche, but an unexpected one? Maybe? Hopefully?
And what do you think about the snippet you've heard about Molly and Gryffin's date? Basically my favorite part to write of the chapter, in case you couldn't tell. And there was also more Al backstory for those of you who like Al!
Alright, so basically just let me know in a review what you think, so that I know to keep going with this story and all that. You guys are so inspiring and I'm so lucky to have you as readers/reviewers!
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