“OH MY GOD. TAKE WHAT YOU WANT, WHATEVER YOU WANT – JUST TAKE IT. PLEASE, JUST DON’T KILL ME! GRANTED, THERE ISN’T MUCH TO ROB BUT THE RICH BUGGERS ON THE SECOND TO TOP FLOOR HAVE LOADS OF STUFF AND YOU SHOULD GO AND ROB THEM! BUT SERIOUSLY, DON’T KILL ME! OR RAPE ME! OR... YEAH!” I was doing a pretty pathetic job at trying to convince whoever had broken into my apartment to leave me alone.
There was something covering my eyes – it was smooth and silky and most likely expensive, and smelled like floral fabric softener. It only just covered my eyes, and so I could see I strip of carpet mostly covered by my feet. I needed to paint my toenails again – they were chipped like mad.
“Fucking hell, Woods, it’s me – I’m not going to rape you. Or kill you. Or rob you. It’s not like there’s anything in this pit that’s worth taking. Did you buy all of this from a charity shop?” I swung my leg back and kicked Potter sharply in the ankle, ignoring his soft hiss of pain. Aren’t Aurors supposed to be bulletproof or something? He needs to work on that.
“You twat! Why would you break into my apartment? What the hell is wrong with just ringing the doorbell?! Honestly, you can just knock on the sodding doorframe if you’ve got that much of a problem with ringing the doorbell.”
“I don’t have a problem with ringing the doorbell, but I didn’t want to have to wrestle you to the ground and put the blindfold on you, so it was easier to break into your apartment and blindfold you while you were snoring like an obese piglet.”
“I hate you, you know.”
“No, you don’t. You just hate the idea that you don’t know what’s going on right now.” I scowled from behind my blindfold, which I assumed was a tie belonging to Potter himself, and tried to wiggle my way out of his strong grip.
“Well I tell you what, why don’t you tell me what’s going on right now. Because if you tell me what’s going on right now, then I won’t call the police and have you done for breaking and entering. Because I flirt with the body builder that lives on the second floor of this building whenever I see him, and I’m fairly sure he would beat the crap out of you if I told him you broke in.” Something hard flicked me on the back of my head.
“Shut your gob, Woods,” Potter sighed. I wormed around in his grasp again. “I thought you wanted to go apartment hunting – honestly, and when I come to get you, you act like you would rather be sticking pins in your eyes than talking to me.”
“Trust me, Potter, if there were some pins hanging around then I would show you just how right you are.” I squirmed again and so Potter wrapped his arm around my chest, clamping my arms to my sides so that I couldn’t move around anymore.
“Play nice, you,” he murmured. The hairs on my arms stood on end. The breath from Potter’s lips was gently scraping the back of my neck. I felt like I should elbow him. But I didn’t.
“Make me,” I grumbled. What? I wouldn’t go down without a fight – not against Potter, anyway.
“Are we there yet?” I whined, after I had been flooed – still blindfolded! – through a fireplace that felt like it was made of shards of glass as my elbows knocked around and everything pointy on my body felt like it was being sanded and rounded off. But eventually I had smacked down on what felt like an ice cold marble fireplace and then was hauled up by an amused sounding Potter.
“Yes, of course we’re here, you freak. I didn’t floo you to a random house hoping that I’d be able to rent it. Don’t be thick, Woods.” I scowled, but I almost sure that he wasn’t able to see me.
“So where are we, then? Do not tell me you’ve found an apartment even shadier than the one I currently live in – if my next door neighbour is another drug addict then I swear to you Potter, I am moving to Outer Mongolia. And I will not be your long distance girlfriend from Outer Mongolia, so you will be officially fucked on the maman and papa scale. So get this effing blindfold off me now before I go all rabid rat on your arse and beat the shit out o’ you.”
There was a few seconds of silence before I realised that Potter was laughing so hard from next to me that he had been rendered silent. I’m fairly sure that’s a big achievement, you know. Rendering James Potter to silence. Snarkless for once.
“I – I – yeah... Wow Woods, you’re officially off the scale when it comes to nutters, anyone ever told you that shit? Now if you’re nice, I’ll take the blindfold off you. But if you keep talking like a mad boxer from the eighties with a shaved afro then I am going to keep this blindfold on you until you pass out from fury.”
I instantly shut up. The idea of being without sight for an extended period of time in the presence of a lad who I don’t believe actually likes me very much anyway did not seem like my idea of a good time. I would rather be sticking pins in my eyes. Repeatedly. While sitting over a bonfire.
“Fine, fine, I’ll be nice.” I imagined Mark’s face if he could see what was going on right now. Me blindfolded while Potter took me somewhere – he’d be all over Potter’s arse like a bad rash and trust me, Potter’s eyes would never again look the same afterwards. Still, Potter was on his Quidditch team at school. He should have known full well what Mark was like. He’d seen him go all Council Estate Lad on the Slytherins’ arses.
Not that they didn’t deserve it. (Slytherins always deserve it).
I was led through what felt like a huge room, with cushy carpets that my shoes sunk down into (why was I wearing my big sheepskin boots to look around apartments in the middle of the summer? Oh yeah, because Potter shows up at my apartment at the crack of dawn and drags me out of bed, choosing my clothing for me). The room smelt expensive.
I don’t know how a room can smell expensive, but it did. Very expensive. Like flowers and fountains and stacks of money and other such expensive shit that I have nothing to do with. Judging by the fact Potter cleared his throat and I could feel his hand waving someone out the room, I guessed someone else was in there with us. I got suspicious when he asked them to leave. Strange boy...
“Alright Woods, what do you think?” Potter yanked at the knot in the tie and pulled it off with a flourish, letting bright lights flood into my eyeballs and effectively blind me for a moment.
But when everything swam back into focus, my lips parted as my jaw made for the floor. Not like it detached from the bottom of my skull as though I was made of Lego bricks, but it dropped so that my tongue and tonsils were on display for the world – or rather, Potter – to see. It was the kind of apartment that you would expect, well, Potter to choose. Posh, rich twat.
We were standing in the living room. Calling it a living room actually felt a little demeaning, as this space we were standing in felt like so much more than a living room. The floor was fluffy and beige. Fluffy and beige – and when I say fluffy, I mean like the kind of fluffy that you would find on the back end of a poodle fluffy. My feet literally bounced.
A long white couch ran along half of the shortest wall, long enough to fit our family of five, and probably Jack too since he had such a small little bum. It had a little coffee table on either end. On eitherend. Like, there were two. For just me. I grinned widely.
A giant television was set up opposite the couch; large abstract paintings were lined up along every wall; a giant white bar was cut into the largest wall that was filled with bottles of every size, shape and description; a chocolate brown rug thrown casually on the ground in front of the black marble fireplace that had been built into the pale cream walls.
A large selection of short white candles sat in the middle of a table next to the front door, a small fire flickering on each of the eleven. State of the art shit was built into every wall, was sitting on every table, and was built into the fucking sofa. A large white recliner caught my eye in the corner of the room. There was three doors leading off the room, each one a glossy brown.
“That one leads to a spare bedroom – it’s a little smaller than the master, but it’s still bigger than the box you use as a bedroom at your place. That one,” he indicated to the second of the doors, “leads to the kitchen, which has a pantry off it that has a washing machine and a tumble dryer and all of that muggle shit. And then that,” he pointed to the last of the three doors, “is your bedroom. It has a walk in wardrobe on one side, through the paler door, and on the other side you have your walk-in wet room.” My jaw was steadily growing more and more comfortable, nestled in the warm carpet.
“And how – how –” I wasn’t even sure how to phrase it. “How am I supposed to tell my family that I am living in a place like this – they’re going to think I’m a gold-digger, let alone the press?!” Potter grinned and rolled his eyes. It made him look about ten years younger, oddly. Like a little boy, kinda.
“Tell them we’re living here together, I don’t know,” Potter shrugged. “My name is going to be on the lease, it’s not going to be hard to convince them.” Potter wandered through the door that I was almost sure lead into the kitchen – from the glimpse I managed to catch of it before the door slammed again, it seemed huge – the size of my entire apartment, perhaps.
“Right – right. Yeah. Prepare for Mark to try and decapitate you, then – you’d be the second bloke that I’ve lived with. It nearly killed him the first time, and only time he let that fly was because I told him that I was going to marry Dan one day.” Potter nodded slowly.
“Oh, right. So you lived with Daniel?” I nodded. “I only lived with Beth for a month, about halfway through our overall relationship, but that was a disaster. I could never do anything right, as far as was concerned – everything that I did was shit or to spite her. She used to scream if I ever forgot to put the toilet seat down. That’s the reason I walked out on her, in the end. The toilet seat thing.”
I laughed hollowly. Hearing Potter talk about his past – about anything personal, really – was strange. I was still marvelling at the sheer size and smoothness of the place that I was currently standing in. Just the thought of it belonging to me was odd. I wasn’t sure. It just wouldn’t suit me. I didn’t even know where the apartment was – it could have been in actual Outer Mongolia, for the fuck all that I knew about the place.
He wandered over to the bar and spent a second staring at the large array of bottles. Eventually he leant down and picked a large one with a glass stopper off the second shelf. He poured a fair measure of the deep burgundy liquid into two crystal glasses that had been under the counter.
“To your new place,” he eventually muttered, handing me a glass and taking a deep swig out of his own. His eyes were staring out of the window that took up the majority of the outer wall of the living space. It was light out, stupidly light – the sky was a steely shade of grey and filled with fluffy white clouds – too fluffy and white to be anywhere in London.
“Where are we?” I asked, taking a sip of my drink and realising that it was really far too early to be drinking. That’s how alcoholics start, I’ve heard – morning drinking. If Potter drives me to alcoholism then I will knock his head off his shoulders.
“We’re just outside of London. It’s not the country, but it’s not the middle of the city – I don’t know what you’d call it. Probably outdoorsy, upscale suburbs. It’s a muggle settlement, but it’s nice here – it’s where I wanted to live one day. If my parents hadn’t bought me my place, I would have – I would have lived somewhere like this. Probably this apartment, actually.”
I set my glass down on the table, coaster be damned.
“So why don’t you live here?” Potter cocked an eyebrow at me, and amused smirk tilting the corners of his lips. “I don’t mean why don’t you live with me, twat, I mean, why don’t you come and live here? And I’ll move into your apartment. I know how nice it is there. And really, anywhere above a skip is nicer than where I’m living at the moment. Three of my skirting boards just fell off the walls last night for absolutely no reason. I think we might have mice.”
Potter grimaced through whatever he was drinking at the thought of the non-rent-paying creatures that could or could not be taking unwanted residence in my apartment. I scuffed the bottom of my shoes along the carpet, but forced myself to stop when I thought that one small section of this carpet probably cost more than my rent for the entire month.
“So,” Potter started awkwardly, “would you snap my head off if I told you that I cut something out of the paper that I thought you ought to see?” As he spoke, Potter put his hand in the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out a thin piece of parchment covered in a black advertisement printed in smudged black ink. “It’s a job advert; I just thought you ought to see it.”
A well-qualified individual (minimum of five NEWTS graded either E or O) with excellent people skills, good organisation and a reputation of being highly punctual. Required for a mixture of secretarial and charm work, perhaps potion-making (an OWL in both charms and potions is mandatory) and an overall good attitude would put you at a high advantage. Any questions or applications, please owl-
The rest of the leaflet was taken up by a name and address for a research company in London, that I had actually heard of from passing conversation. I let out a loud breath that I hadn’t realised I was holding and Potter filled up both our glasses with more of the strong burgundy stuff, polishing off his glass quickly. I slowly sat down on the cushy recliner behind the backs of my knees.
“Potter,” I sighed slowly. He avoided my gaze and took my glass from me, downing it when he realised that I wasn’t going to drink it. “Potter, I…” I trailed off, unsure what to say. I was touched, to say the least, that he had even been looking in the job advertisements – since he had a steady career as an Auror under his belt, I could only assume that he had been looking for me.
“I don’t want you to make a fuss over this, Woods – Aimee. I want you to at least send in an application for this – I swear, I won’t interfere at all. But maybe it’s the chivalry that my father ingrained into me from the moment I was born, I don’t know, but I can’t stand here and watch you dig yourself into the ground any longer when you have no good reason to be doing that. You should be – you should be happy. And a blind man can see that you’re not.”
I had absolutely no idea what to say. I sat in the cushy recliner, almost feeling the need to cry, absolutely speechless for one of the first times without it being from anger.
“Thank you,” I said simply, shrugging and pocketing the piece of parchment into the breast pocket of my shirt. Potter exhaled a mild sigh of relief, most likely due to the relief of me not kicking up the fuss that he had clearly anticipated.
“Not a problem. But I do… well, I do have a little something to ask of you in return – I mean, I shouldn’t really have to ask, I should just be able to tell you, because I am paying you with this,” Potter gestured around us, “and so I shouldn’t have to ask you to do something as my girlfriend, but you know, maybe I’m just chivalrous and-”
“Potter, I’ve never heard you waffle so much in your life. Just tell me what the fuck you’re trying to spit out here, dear.” I rolled my eyes and curled my legs up underneath me as Potter frowned.
“Do you remember when you came to dinner at our house and Albus told me that I should bring you to one of his Quidditch games? Well, one of the bigger matches is on this weekend and he’s got a box with an open bar and everything, so yeah… my mother asked me to bring you. I did tell you about this before – do you remember? I told you that Bethany wouldn’t be there and all that – well, turns out we both have to go now so we don’t have the choice that I thought we had before. Sorry about that.” I shrugged and took an individually wrapped chocolate out of a crystal bowl set on one of the little tables that stood at either end of the couch, peeled off the wrapper and jammed it into my mouth.
“Okay, sounds fine. Any clues on what kind of thing I’m supposed to wear?” Potter shook his head.
“You’ll have to look nice, but you don’t have to dress up – I don’t know, where some nice jeans and a nice shirt and some boots, or something. Not your best trackie and some beat up trainers, like. And, erm, you’re going to have to talk to the press while we’re there and most likely give your opinion on the kind of thing that they wrote about you after your interview…” Potter’s voice trailed off awkwardly. I blinked at him several times.
“I am not talking to the press again – not after last time when they called me a gold digger and insulted both my family and where I grew up! No! In fact, I’m going to buy a copy of that paper, roll it up real small and ram it right up Rita Skeeter’s arrogant-”
“Alright, alright, I get the picture!” Potter muttered, holding his hands up in a mock sign of surrender. “But you’re not really going to have much choice. Mum’s going to do an interview as well saying how much she likes you and how well you fit into our family. If you could apply for this job as well, and get it – see, it says the decision will be made on the Friday, that’s the day before the match – then you can even throw back the comments about you not having a job in their face. This could really be good for us – for you, I mean. Please?” Potter widened his eyes, looking completely un-Potter-like and vulnerable, and I swallowed the complaints that rose in my throat.
I wondered where all the new earnestness had come from; Potter had been snarky, sarcastic and angry when I first met him – moreover, the entire time I had known him, since I was a naïve eleven year old with a distorted view of the good looking twelve year old – but now he seemed… different. He seemed relaxed, comfortable.
And yes, he still reverted back into his shell of grouchiness whenever the mood struck him, but he just seemed so much lighter now. I wondered why that was.
“You’ve changed,” I said quietly. Potter looked up at me with surprise. Before he could ask what I meant, I answered him. “You’re nicer, more patient – you’re like a different person now. What changed?” Potter laughed humourlessly and stretched his arms out above his head.
“I don’t know what changed. Lily and Albus said yesterday how different I seemed. I haven’t noticed any changes, but something must have for everyone else to notice. I… I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because I’ve finally gotten rid of Beth for good – I know she’s a little crazy, but I don’t honestly think that she’d try to do anything now that she thinks I’m happy with someone else. I was never happy with her, never. I think that’s why I cheated on her so much.”
My jaw dropped open with a soft popping noise and Potter flushed a little as though he only just realised what he had said.
“You cheated on Bethany a lot?” I asked quietly, feeling oddly… let down by that. Potter nodded, his cheeks sucked into his face and a crease between his eyebrows. He suddenly looked a lot colder and more reserved – his eyes staring unseeingly ahead of him and most certainly not at me.
“Yes. But we’re not going to talk about that, Woods. That’s private.” And like that, he was back. The Old Potter. The Potter that I had been making reference to only seconds before. I sighed and lolled my head back onto the back of the recliner cushion, letting Potter’s sudden anger burn itself out. But this time – and it was just a suspicion – I felt that his anger was more directed at himself than it was at me. The thought was oddly comforting.
“Okay, okay. I should get going, anyway. I’ll see you… Saturday, most likely. Unless you need a date for something before then.” Potter nodded, still not looking at me, and I slowly made my way over to the fireplace. His hostile mood brought back something that I didn’t want to think about – Dan’s constant up and down mood swings. And I really didn’t want to think about Dan.
Calling my address loudly into the green flames, I tossed down some floo powder, and within seconds, I was gone.
Miss A B Woods,
We, at Chang Researchers & Co, would be delighted to offer you an interview for the position you applied for this Wednesday. Your examination results were found to be more than satisfactory and your letter of application showed you would be suited among the work force here. Along with the other applicants, we will be asking you a short series of questions and ask that you bring with you the following documents:
A birth certificate
Evidence of NEWT results
We also ask that you come with an idea for a potion you would like to make as your application piece, to prove skills in that field as they will be crucial in your later career at the company. Ingredients will be provided, but any unusual or specialist ingredients must be brought with you on the day of your interview. We also ask that the potion can be begun and prepared within a three hour time slot. Your wand will, of course, need to be present at your interview for a short test on the strength of your charm work.
Looking forward to seeing you,
Mrs Cho Chang-Hughes
Owner of Chang Researchers & Co
“Well would you look at that, Aimee,” I mumbled to myself, still staring in shock at the parchment in my hands, “things are finally looking up for you.”
“I love you, I love you, I love you, I LOVE YOU!” I screamed, launching myself at Potter – yes, you did read that right, Potter – and wrapping my arms around his neck in the strongest chokehold hug that I could manage. Slamming three consecutive kisses onto the middle of his forehead, I finally blushed a little and let go. Backing away, Potter blinked several times and shook his head like a dog trying to rid his ears of water.
“Erm… hello to you too, Woods?” Potter said unsurely.
“I’m sorry, I’m just – I’m really happy,” l laughed, tossing my head back and grabbing the piece of parchment that had arrived that morning from its place of honour on the middle of my coffee table. Feeling more elated than I had when I had been accepted for my interview, I giggled and handed it over to the confused bloke in front of me.
Potter’s eyes slowly scanned the letter and then his face split open in a wide grin, the large majority of his overly white teeth winking at me in the light from the window. I tugged at the shirt that Molly had lent me for the occasion, reminding myself that I would have to start spending more time with her, going over the wedding details with a fine tooth comb now that it was getting closer. I still had to try and patch things up with her sister, Lucy, since she had flown into a fury at the fact Molly had picked me to be Maid of Honour over her. Blood is thicker than water and all that crap.
“Woods, this is fantastic,” he grinned, throwing the letter onto the couch and pulling me up into another hug, throwing my legs over one of his arms and spinning me around. The smile that had been on my face since I had read the letter – really, since I got the letter inviting me for an interview – widened and suddenly I was laughing again.
Wrapping my arms around his neck, I pulled his mouth down to mine and kissed him hard for a couple of seconds, pulling his chest hard against my side. I could feel Potter’s shock but didn’t really care, to be quite honest. I wondered idly whether I’d actually brushed my teeth yet that day.
“Thanks. I really didn’t think I was going to get the job, you know – when I went to the interview there was this gorgeous blonde woman there who had boobs bigger than my apartment and she was talking at the top of her voice about how she had worked in all these fancy-ass places and that the interview was going to be a doddle because she used to date the second-in-command of the company and I damn near just left then but… well, never mind, it’s a long story.” Even though I had rolled out of Potter’s arms and was giving my hair one final brush in preparation to leave, Potter was still standing stock still, looking a little shell shocked, where I had left him.
“But – erm – ahem, I mean… yeah. So… Right. Ahem, yeah. But you got the job anyway?” I nodded and brushed a little more blush onto the apples of my cheeks, anticipating the sallow complexion that the harsh flash of the press cameras were going to give me, and shook my hair a little to add some more volume.
“Yeah, I did. The stupid woman, despite how she was claiming that she was the best potion maker this side of the fucking Atlantic Ocean, couldn’t even figure out which end of the cauldron was the one she should be tossing the ingredients in. She accidently smashed a couple of jars – luckily I’d already taken what I needed – and then spilled some burning crap on her hand and had to be rushed to hospital. It was fucking hilarious, I must say, but I managed to stop myself laughing in front of them.” Potter rolled his eyes.
“Well… look at you. Hah. Sadie, Sadie, employed lady.” Potter looked plain awkward now, holding his arms in a stiff position someway between a fold and just having them flopping at his sides. “Erm, Aim- I mean, Woods, erm… are you ready to go?” Shooting a confused glance at Potter, I hauled my handbag up onto my shoulder and ushered him out the door, locking it behind him.
“Being able to leave out my own front door feels so good,” I laughed. “I haven’t been able to for about three weeks because I was two months behind on my rent and the landlord was after my blood. But since I know that I’m going to be getting paid from next Wednesday, I could afford to use the little that was left of my redundancy pay to pay off the rent. And I also told him that I was moving into that new place outside London as soon as possible – do you fancy coming around tomorrow to help me start boxing things up?”
“Erm… sure. If you want me to come round, I will. Make sure you get some beer in or something, because there’s no way I’m being a house husband without even something to drink.” I laughed.
“I’ll get some beer in, don’t worry,” I grinned, and Potter nodded uncomfortably. “Anyway, let’s go watch your brother kicksome ass up in the sky.” Potter frowned and shook his head again, like he had something stuck in his hair that he was trying to shake out.
“I think I prefer the scowling murderously at everything in sight Aimee,” he grumbled under his breath and we made our way down the stairs. I pretended not to hear him.
“Aimee! So glad you could make it,” Ginny cooed, taking my shoulder in each of her hands and embracing me warmly. She leant down to press a kiss on each of my cheeks and I cocked an eyebrow at Lily over her shoulder. She quickly busied herself drinking some of her Jumbo Coke to hide her laughter. Harry rolled his eyes and fiddled with the zip on his casual fleece jumper.
“Nice to see you again, Aimee,” he smiled, but clearly couldn’t be bothered to give me a hug as he just waved from where he was sitting.
“Nice to see you too, Mr Potter,” I grinned back, still bouncing on the balls of my feet in excitement. I felt like a small child on Christmas morning, and it wasn’t even anything to do with the open bar behind me, though I could practically hear a nice pitcher of Sex on the Beach calling my name. Potter better be prepared to be dragging my drunk arse home, I thought.
I was interrupted from my thoughts by the feel of my phone against my back pocket. Since Dan left I didn’t really bother with it since I had no one that I really needed to contact, but after finding it a few days before I thought it might be useful for Potter to be able to contact me, and to be able to text Mark and get him to entertain me when I was bored. That, and the fact it had some pretty fun games on it that I played for hours while waiting for others to finish their interviews during the interviews on Wednesday.
AIMEE? WHERE R U? IM AT UR PLACE BUT UR NOT HERE. WHERE R U, ILL COME + MEET U. WE NEED TO TLK ABT THIS WHOLE U + POTTER SHIT WITH MY PARENTS.
Fuck my life.
Reminding myself to edit his name to remove the hearts, an embarrassing reminder of when I was completely smitten with the twat – before he went and flamenco danced on my heart, obviously – I quickly tapped out a message and glanced around for Potter, who was ordering us two beers from the bar. He seemed to be pretty friendly with the bartender, who was very cute, very tanned and shooting me a very charming grin. Noticing his expression, Potter instantly soured a little.
I’m out with James. I’m busy, Dan. Please stay away from me until I contact you. It’s not my problem that you didn’t tell your parents that I had a new boyfriend. If you’d like, I can mail you my old engagement ring. I know that it cost you a lot of money, and you can always sell it to get the money back. I don’t need it.
I wondered whether or not the comment about sending the engagement ring back was a little much, since I really wasn’t sure whether I was even ready to part with it yet, but his possessive texts and his reminder of the giant blowout the other night had been just made some of my anger return with a vengeance. Potter returned silently and read my text over my shoulder. He whistled under his breath and handed me my bottle of beer.
“Harsh, Woods, offering to send the ring back. I know if I was him then that would make me pissed as hell – kind of like a final fuck off, you know. I don’t know if that was called for. Lily says I have the compassion of a brick and even I know that’s the kind of thing that you should have talked about in person.” I scowled out at the stadium in order to ignore him.
“Who’s even playing today?” I asked, by way of distraction.
“Albus’ team – he’s not the captain, like, the lightweight – which is the Tornadoes, and then Puddlemere United, I think. Since Oliver Wood came back to them as the manager, things have really started looking up for their team. They’re in the finals this year and everything – they’ve been in the bottom ten every year since Oliver Wood retired due to injury, before.”
“He must be good,” I said, raising my eyebrows. I wondered whether or not Puddlemere would have been one of the teams that Mark would have considered had he not given up on the Quidditch team to raise Jack.
“He was. He was one of the best Quidditch players that I ever saw,” Harry said quietly, and both Potter and I turned to look at him. “He was the Captain for the first three years that I played Quidditch at Hogwarts, and he was great. A bossy, obsessed git, but a talented player.” I nodded and smiled, trying not to frown as Potter wrapped his arm around my waist so we looked a little more couple-y. My phone buzzed again and Potter shifted slightly so I could get to my pocket.
R U FUCKING TAKIN THE PISS? UR A LITTLE BITCH. KEEP THE FUCKING RING, U NEED THE MONEY MORE THAN I DO SINCE U DON’T HAVE A JOB. DON’T BOTHER CONTACTING ME, I C HOW IT IS.
“Charming,” Potter mumbled under his breath, not intending for me to hear.
“Shut up, Potter. You said yourself that I was too harsh. I… I didn’t mean to end things like this. I meant to sit down and talk to him and… I was even vaguely considering…” I lowered my voice since I could see Lily trying hard to listen to our conversation. “I was considering letting him take me out on a date – once things between us had ended, of course. Taking things slow. Starting from the beginning. Letting him know that I won’t live like I did before. But I guess I’m too much of a bitch to go back to that.” Potter frowned and wrapped me in World’s Awkwardest One Armed Hug.
He didn’t say anything, though. I don’t think he had any idea what to say. But that was alright with me, since I knew there was nothing he could technically do about it. Letting Dan have the ring back had been an idea that I’d come up with on a whim – to show that I wouldn’t just jump back into being engaged to him but wanted to start off just dating, if I was going to get back with him at all. But I could see how it might have been seen in the wrong way.
“Well…” Potter said slowly, proving that comforting sad women really wasn’t his thing, “would you like to get drunk? I’ve heard that drowning out your troubles with alcohol is a very effective way of solving your troubles. A good few glasses of the famous James Potter Cocktail and you won’t even remember your own name, let alone that asshole.” I laughed weakly.
“Alright, bring it on. But wait – isn’t that drink normally made so that women are drunk enough to fall into bed with you? Is there something you want to tell me?” I winked conspiratorially at him and nudged him in the ribs as he scowled scathingly at me.
“Shut it, or I won’t try to help at all. I don’t have to be nice.”
“I know, I know. I’ll play nice. I’m sorry.” Potter nodded and started to pull me over to the bar when another thought occurred to me. “Hang on; didn’t you say that I had to do a press interview? I don’t want to be steaming drunk when that horrible Skeeter woman tries to talk to me again. I have a feeling that I’ll just end up punching her in the back of the head if I don’t have full control of all my faculties.” Potter frowned.
“Right, we’ll do the interview now, then. Then we can get drunk. Forget about all your heartbreak shit for another ten minutes, Woods, and put on a pretty face. I’ll help you with this – if I don’t answer a question, just answer as nicely as possible and try not to say anything that could cause any gossip. Don’t want to answer something, just say ‘no comment’. It will be fine.”
I stared at the side of Potter’s head as he dragged us out of the box and towards a room with a small sign nailed to the door reading ‘interviews’. The difference between this man and the man that had thrown me to the sharks a month ago and let me do the entire thing on my own, reputation be damned, was shocking. I couldn’t figure out what had caused such a change.
Surely it couldn’t just be increased parental respect, or the loss of Bethany? She had even seemed that psycho when I met her, which was a bit of a let down. I shook my head and made a decision to ask Potter a little later, when I could claim alcohol as an excuse for my probing questions.
“Miss Woods, have you and Mr Potter moved in together yet?”
“No, we haven’t. I’m currently in the middle of moving into a new apartment, though, a little closer to James’.” I had no idea whether or not the apartments were closer, and from the smirk on Potter’s face I assumed that I was wrong. Oh well, the vultures didn’t know that.
“Miss Woods, how are you paying for this apartment? Are you being supported by Mr Potter?”
“I actually received confirmation this morning of the position I recently applied for at a research company, and my wages from my new position will pay my rent, just like everybody else,” I half lied icily. I had to remind myself that doing this kind of thing was the reason that Potter was paying for my new apartment in the first place.
“Miss Woods, are you pleased your relationship has lasted longer than everyone thought it would?”
“Of course I am. But I’m not in this relationship for anyone else, so I don’t care what others think.”
“Miss Woods, what do you have to say about the comments that were made regarding your families money problems and your mother’s previous health problems?”
“I don’t believe that my mother’s illness had or has anything to do with my relationship with James, and I fail to see why it was mentioned in the article. I am not living off James, nor have I ever lived off James, and my mother received treatment and paid for it around a year before I even started dating James. I fail to see why it was mentioned in the article.”
“Miss Woods…” a slow, drawling voice suddenly called out. I stiffened a little. It was her – the blonde vulture from the last interview. Her hair was slicked back into a knot this time, two tendrils curled into tight ringlets and hanging by either of her ears. Bright red lipstick had slipped onto her front teeth a little. Her long blue talons were even longer than they had been last time, and her acid green quill was perched poignantly on her smirking lips. “I was just wondering what you could tell me about the man that you used to be engaged to. A Mr…” She fumbled with some papers while smirking at me. “Ah, a Mr Daniel Richardson.”
Potter stiffened slightly beside me and my mouth fell open a little. How she knew I had been engaged, let alone how she knew his name, was beyond me. Cameras suddenly seemed to be flashing from everywhere, and more quills and new reams of parchment were pulled out of satchels. The interview had suddenly gotten interesting, apparently.
“I was happily engaged to another man a while ago,” I said slowly, deciding to go with a sugar-coated version of the truth, “but before we married, he had to move away for work. Knowing that w couldn’t make it work long distance, we decided to call off our relationship. A while after we split up, I began to date James. There is nothing special about that, Ms Skeeter,” I said quietly. “Relationships break up all the time. Were you under the impression that I am twenty years old and James is my first boyfriend?”
Her gaze never wavered from mine, though her cocky smirk did drop a little. The satisfaction that this caused me was ridiculously strong. The cameras stopped clicking as frequently as the reporters realised I was right – there was really nothing special about what Rita Skeeter had pointed out. Of course, they didn’t know the true story – and nor would they ever.
“Daniel has actually returned to England for the time being,” Potter said suddenly, taking the microphone. Cameras flashed again. “He and Aimee have met up several times and are still on friendly terms. I myself have met him and can confirm that he is a very nice man whose relationship with Aimee just didn’t work out. Still, his loss is my gain.” With a cheeky grin to the camera, Potter pulled back. I blanched at the completely honest expression he had maintained through his entire speech, even though every word had been a lie.
There was a few seconds of silence until another brave reporter bravely piped up, “Miss Woods, are you looking forward to the match today? Who will you be rooting for?”
“The Tornadoes, of course!” I laughed. “Go Albus all the way – my second favourite Potter son!” The cheesiness almost killed me, but I still managed to lean to the side and press my lips against Potter’s cheek, much to every camera man’s delight. I was sure I was going to be blind by the end of the day.
“You did good, kid,” Potter said slowly, tipping back a good mouthful of beer as we sat together at neighbouring bar stools. Lily winked at us like she thought something was going on – of course, she could have assumed we had just taken a trip together to the bathroom… whoops – and then sat back down with her parents to watch the match.
“Thanks. You did good too. Thanks for… for what you said about Dan. I appreciate it.” Potter shrugged to tell me that it was no big deal. “No, I mean it,” I said, impulsively grabbing the hand that was wrapped around his beer. “It meant a lot – I know that you’re never going to see eye to eye with Dan and I appreciate you standing up for me like that.” Potter shrugged offhandedly, clearly, despite his big head, not comfortable with such unequivocal praise.
“It’s fine… look, let’s move on. It wasn’t a problem. And I don’t ever have to see eye to eye with him – I mean, it’s not like you’re ever going to see him again, is it? Molly said the whole thing really blew the fuck up and she doubts you’re gonna get back together, like, ever.” I bristled. Molly didn’t know a damn thing about Dan and Potter certainly didn’t since all his information second hand.
“I don’t know. I haven’t decided anything yet, so…” Potter scowled murderously at the bar and I decided to just back off. “Look, Potter, it’s not like I’m going to pretend to be your girlfriend forever so I will need someone after… after this ends. When is it going to end?”
Something strange flickered across Potter’s face but it was gone as soon as it had come. He straightened up and beckoned over the barman, a very sleazy Spanish man with his long black hair slicked back with copious amounts of hair oil. His tan skin was in direct contrast with the dark skin of his chest and arms, revealing in the tight vest, and his arse looked sodding gorgeous in a pair of dark black jeans. I didn’t bother to care that I was perving on a thirty-something year old stranger.
“I don’t know. What, are you desperate to be rid of me or something?” Potter grumbled, ordering something strong from the menu and tossing a handful of change at the Sexy Spaniard.
“Ah, are we having a… lover’s spat?” The waiter asked suddenly, handing over Potter’s drink and shot me a smouldering wink. Potter coughed loudly, knocked back the sherry and then shot a filthy look at the bartender. “Ah, I see. You know, my dear,” the bartender grinned lecherously, leaning over the bar and refilling Potter’s small glass, “jealous guys might be good in bed, but they… they were never good for the long run.”
Potter’s eyes were practically spitting fire. Apparently being insulted by Sexy Spanish Strangers didn’t sit well with him. Shocker, I know.
“And what is your name, beautiful girl?” Spaniard leaned over the bar and filled up a glass with some strong red wine, handing it over to me. He was leaning a little too close for comfort, but I didn’t want to kick up a fuss in front of a lot of high profile strangers.
“Lillian,” I said smoothly, “but you can call me Lil. This is my boyfriend, Jake. And what are you called?” He cracked his neck back quickly and flicking one of his oil-sodden strands off his forehead, shooting me another sleazy wink and laying his hands flat on the bar. Potter grabbed the wine glass he had given me and yanked it across the bar, tossing it into the bin next to us. We both blinked.
“Ah, and Jake is, how you say… big macho man that does not like other men near his girl, yes?” I nodded, and Potter’s jaw dropped open. “Well, my dear, my name is Dominic – if you get bored of your boy, come and find me. I show you a good time.” With another wink, he headed off to serve other customers.
“Ahem,” Potter said quietly, murderously, under his breath. I busied myself fiddling with the origami swan of my right side neighbour, who had foolishly turned her back. “You’re not going anywhere with him.”
The way he spoke set a bristle up my spine. He hadn’t put any inflection on the end of his words – it was a statement of fact. You are not going anywhere with him. Like he had some kind of choice whether or not I went somewhere with the sexy Spanish waiter that was most likely crawling with every kind of disease going. His eyes were glinting at me angrily, just daring me to get up from next to him. I had no problem accepting that he would probably drag me back to the stool by my hair if I dared go anywhere.
“And why I that?” I hissed back, leaning forwards so there was only ten inches between our noses. The woman on the other side of Potter nudged her friend and the pair of them started giggling.
“It’s disrespectful to me.” I blinked at him as he stared back, completely solemnly. “I am your boyfriend, as far as these people are concerned, and to see you throwing yourself at Juan or Pedro or whoever is disrespectful to me. And I won’t stand for it. I know this isn’t real, but to everyone else, it is. And I am monogamous in my relationships, so I expect you to act it too.”
Potter filled his own glass up again as I gaped at the side of his head. An image of the night I had spent with Dan recently swam into my head and I thanked Merlin that I didn’t actually confide in Potter about it. Clearly he wanted me to take on my role in all aspects of my life. Wouldn’t that mean that Potter was actually my boyfriend?
“You weren’t exactly monogamous in your relationship with Bethany, were you?” I asked, and an angry flush scrawled across the tops of Potter’s cheeks.
“That was different.”
“Of course it was.”
“Well you didn’t seem to want to shag a Spanish bloke this morning when you molested my face with your mouth,” Potter snapped childishly, and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Of course he was going to bring that up. I knew he would eventually bring up the fact that I kissed him.
“I was just saying thank you for giving me a kick up the arse to actually get a new job and get out there – you know, I never would have even looked in the paper for jobs if you hadn’t brought that clipping over. It was just a thank you for… for getting me out of the rut that I’ve been stuck in. It didn’t mean… it didn’t mean anything. I don’t fancy you.” Potter cocked an eyebrow.
“Well, that’s a first,” he muttered arrogantly. My palm itched to whack him.
“I’m going to slap that expression of your face in a minute,” I grumbled, and Potter’s face split into a smirk. He leant closer to me so his nose was brushing mine and narrowed his eyes.
“You wouldn’t dare, baby.”
And with that, Potter grabbed hold of my face like some kind of cheek molester – is that a real thing? – and dragged me towards him, placed one hard kiss on my lips and then sat me back down on my stool. I blinked at him. Without so much as another look in my direction, he got up off his stool, walked across the box to where Lily was avidly watching the game and turned his attention to his younger brother, who was zooming around the sky with unparalleled skill.
“What the fuck was that?” I hissed to myself. But true to Potter’s request, I didn’t go anywhere near Dominic for the rest of the night, even when he offered to take me for some fried chicken. And I loved fried chicken.
Ah, the affectionate goodbyes exchanged between ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’. There’s really nothing to parallel it.
I dropped my bag onto my sofa and glanced around dispassionately at the towers of flat-pack boxes that would soon be sorted so that my few meagre possessions would be ready for transportation. I would have liked to say that even though I hated the place with a fiery passion, I was still sad to be leaving, but I wasn’t. The hovel left a sour taste in my mouth – it reminded me of everything that I had given up. It was the icing on the cake of desperation when my mother got sick.
“Well, Aimee, you got what you wanted,” I muttered to myself as I plodded into the kitchen to make myself a bagel. “You wanted a new apartment, and you’ve got one. You wanted a new job, and you’ve got one. You wanted to see Dan again, and you have. So why in the fuck aren’t you happy?” Hearing the words aloud didn’t make my thoughts any more coherent, so I pushed them to the back of my head.
Something yellow caught my eye, and I turned to see another Post-It had been tacked to the fridge. The familiar scrawl on it would have recently made my stomach churn and irritating buds of hope begin to blossom in my chest, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care this time. Did that mean I was finally moving on, or that I was now so dead inside that nothing mattered? I prayed it was the former, though I wasn’t sure whether I really wanted to move on.
I’ll be around tomorrow. We need to talk. I want you back. Five o’clock. Have dinner ready. All my love, Dan xxxx
Underneath, stuck on with liberal amounts of Blu-Tack, was the open box that housed my engagement ring. I tried not to focus on the fact that he had pawed through my possessions to find it when I considered the romance behind him finding it and sticking it under the note, the box open as it had been when he had originally proposed to me.
I knew I had a lot of thinking to do before I could even consider getting back with Dan, so I took my bagel and headed off to shower, wondering whether Dan was really what I wanted at all.
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to meeee :(
heeeeeey-lo. the wait wasn't too long this time, was it? whoop, two points to ellie. so yes. aimee finally has her new apartment. anyway, muchos kisses and hugs, etc, for sticking with me this long when my updating has become a little... unreliable, for lack of a better term. thank you to all of you <3
ellie :) xx
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