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The Potter Problem by rey
Chapter 5 : A Riverside Talk
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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A/N: I know, I know. What the heck is this, right? I'm updating this story after months, years even. I just got inspired after reading the previous chapters and... this happened. I don't even know what to say anymore. XD Read and maybe review? IDK.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything.





 

I’m pretty certain a panic attack is on its way, when I turn around to Albus in fear and utter faintly. „Help me.“

He starts to reply, but when we hear another Rose-Hugo fight („I mean, why would you pick Al over me!? I’m your brother!“ „If I recall rightly, it was you who insisted not to be included in the W.E.T. operation, so stop using it as an arguing point every single time, darn it!“) and my look grows from frightened to completely desperate, Albus instructs Jade to go back to her room and then quickly runs to me.

„Take my hand!“ He says while offering his palm.

I watch as Jade sneaks out through a back door, wondering just how much time she spends roaming around St. Mungo in order to know it so well and sensing it must be a lot, I feel bad for her for the first time since meeting her.

I quickly turn back my attention to Albus, though, and after taking his hand in an instant and a stilly woosh, we’re gone.

The next surrounding I see before me is that of an unknown roof.

Albus has now let go of me. He’s instead pacing up and down, ignoring my puzzled state.

„I could get fired for this.“

„What? Why?“ I finally regain my ability to talk, albeit doddery.

He stops abruptly to stare at me in disbelief. „Are you joking?“

„Not necessary, no.“

„I essentially kidnapped you and you ask me why?!“

„Why did you, though?“ Albus frowns at me. „I mean, not kidnap me but listen to me. A minute ago, you seemed pretty pleased that I had to endure a secure torture from your whole family.“

Albus sighs, finding a cold wall to lean on near by. „I guess... I recognized that look.“

„What look?“ I ask, confused.

„Of total despair. And, whenever I feel that way, my automatic reaction is... to run away and hide.“ He picks his head up to look at me, guilty. „But you’re not me and I’m sorry I jumped to the wrong conclusion. Not to mention that it’s totally unprofessional behavior.“

I immediately remember his disappearing act under that cloak so long ago upon my failed interview, which didn’t make me popular with Chief, to say the least. Does this qualify as a reason to be pissed at Albus Potter? Or his today’s kidnapping? Because, no matter if it does, I wasn’t and I still am... not angry in the slightest.

I guess it’s because of his strangely compassion-inspiring eyes.

Right, another Potter boy has mad puppy-dog-eyes skills. Just what I need in my life.

„Oh no. It wasn’t a wrong decision.“ I assure him. „I was that panicked. It’s just that this robe doesn’t provide much shelter from the air up here.“

I point to my bare legs, trying to smile and make him smile, too.

It’s a success since Albus finally chuckles. „Come on, let’s go back to your room.“

„Um, can you just... apparate me to my home or something? I really can’t handle your family in this state.“

„You mean in an almost see-through patient robe?“

„It’s see-through?!“ I yelp, immediately covering all the problematic parts of my body.

Albus laughs. „I was joking on both accounts. I presume you wanted to say you can’t handle them while under the influence of a potion? Even though it’s not that strong, to be fair to the poor potion.“

I eye him with interest. „You’re one peculiar guy, aren’t you?“

„So I’ve been told.“ He smiles. „But I’m sorry, Tatum, I can’t apparate you. As you can tell from my previous freaking out over your ’kidnapping’, those sort of actions are forbidden in St. Mungo. You need to be legally released first.“

I huff. „I hate you.“

„Understandable.“ Albus nods.

 

 

 

After that, he apparates me straight back to my bed. To my despair, Rose is already in the room.

„Before you ask, yes, I let myself in. And yes, I know that’s pushing the privacy boundary slightly.“

Slightly?“ I mutter but Albus catches it and tries not to laugh.

„But let’s focus on the real issue here, shall we? Where have you two been for the last ten minutes? Not only have you made everyone impatient to the point of giving up and going back home, but you also-“

„You mean, you’re the only one here?“ I ask in hope.

„I think I just said that.“

I throw Albus one giant grateful look. I guess Karma remembered that I didn’t actually carry out my evil plan to destroy James. Huh. Well, that’s certainly new.

„Anyway, what I was saying is... I also got scared for your life, Tatum. Again. It’s like you have a death wish today.“

Or... you’re actually the one with a secret plan to murder her. Tatum, I would reconsider going to her wedding, if I were you.“ Albus supplies.

„Al!“ Rose gasps. „One more strike and I’m taking your W.E.T. person badge away.“

„Oh, I wouldn’t want that.“ He says flatly, obviously with sarcasm, but it goes unnoticed by his cousin.

„That’s right. So stop trying to sabotage your own date for the wedding. What is it, do you not like Tatum or something?“

I sink down on my bed. Merlin, how come I keep getting myself in such awkward situations? Curse you, James Potter, this is all your fault!

Albus Potter sighs. „That’s not the point here, Rose. The point is, you’re meddling in my life.“

„I always do that. Why does it bother you so much now, of all times?“

I sense that this conversation is not really suited for an outsider like myself, so I suggest to Albus that he gives me the release. But Rose won’t have it.

„No, just tell me first. What is wrong?“

Albus shakes his head in obvious defeat. „I wanted to go alone, because... that spot was supposed to be for Emma and as you know...“

He looks away for a brief moment, but then back to Rose sternly. „I just... It doesn’t feel right going with someone else so soon after what happened.“

It is clear he’s choosing his words wisely in order to not give anything away to me. But I’m not offended. The guy clearly has his reasons. And James and Rose went against them. In contrast to not feeling angry at Albus, I feel annoyed by James again.

Rose walks closer to her cousin to put a soothing palm on his shoulder.

„Al... it’s not too soon. It’s been a year.“

„A year hurts just as much as one day when you care for someone that much.“ With that, Albus gives me the release and goes back to making potions, clearly not able to speak again. Rose nods, waits for me to get dressed and we exit the room together. When outside, she puts her hand on my shoulder, much like she did with her cousin.

„I’m sorry, Tatum. I was really looking forward to seeing you at my wedding.“

But why, I wonder. She seems to read my look and chuckles.

„Don’t you remember the last story on me and Scorpius that you wrote at the end of your seventh year?“

I try to recall the article and the event that inspired it.

 

 

 

Sometime in May, 2023

 

I was sitting at the Ravenclaw table with Will, when we heard a loud blast. Every breathing soul in the hall turned to the source, which turned out to be a powerful spell casted by Dorotha Webb, our resident DADA star. That was to expect from her, not only because of Dorotha’s vast knowledge of spells, but because of her show off Slytherin nature. In short, she liked to brag.

But something was still unusual about this event. And that was the fact that it hit Scorpius Malfoy, who positioned himself in front of Rose Weasley, the one Dorotha probably planned to be stricken. I couldn’t recall Dorotha and Rose fighting before the incident, so I was puzzled and, like everyone else, scared for Rose’s well being.

Professor Neville was the first one to react and he took the injured Scorpius in the direction of the hospital wing, leaving Dorotha screaming in tears and Rose shaking. Somehow, Chief appeared right then next to me, whispering: „The story is yours.“

I didn’t even have time to answer. She was already gone. Chief was creepy. She also liked pushing boundaries. That’s how I got to being hidden in a closet in the hospital wing, spying. I felt slightly bad for doing so. But I also felt an adrenaline rush and a need to prove myself worthy of the given task. So that’s why I didn’t step back to as they say ’look at my life and look at my choices’. I already knew it was wrong. But since being nice didn’t seem to get me anywhere (Especially with a certain Potter boy.), I was done with it. I was a Slytherin, after all, and it was bloody time I started acting as one.

 

So, ok, I was really bitter at this point in my life.

 

I was hoping the nurse would keep avoiding the closet and not notice me peeking through long enough for me to get my story. Fortunately, she did.

The first one to visit Scorpius out of the two girls was Dorotha, as I had hoped. She was still sobbing and clenching her shirt at the spot where her heart was. Sooo pathetic. I was this close to snorting loudly. Well, you can’t actually see how close, but you get the point.

 

I repeat-really, really bitter.

 

The girl sat beside the sleeping boy, trembling. She looked at him for a moment in order to gain courage to take his hand. When she did, her crying became even more intense.

„I-I’m sorry, Scorpius. I didn’t want to do this to you.“

Scorpius woke up at this point, visibly tired, but alarmed at the sight, as well.

„Dorotha, please, go.“

„But I-“

„I know you didn’t want to do this to me. But you did to Rose. And, that way, you hurt me even more.“

The girl’s eyes widened. „But... She slapped you and insulted you...“

„She’s just immature. You, on the other hand... Dorotha, I saw pure hate in your eyes.“

„It’s because... I... I love you and she’s the reason you’ll never love me back.“

Finally, the boy took her hand, as well, to what Dorotha smiled in hope.

„No, she’s not. I don’t love Rose. I just can’t fall for you when you do things like this. I’m sorry, Dorotha.“

The girl stared at him in shock, tears streaming down her cheeks harder then ever.

„I’ll leave you both alone, I swear.“ With that, she ran out.

I gazed at Scorpius’ laying form, puzzled.

Who was this boy, anyway?

Son of Astoria and Draco Malfoy. A Ravenclaw. Reportedly friends with Albus Potter, but they weren’t seen together often. Could be because of Potter’s private nature, though. And Rose’s nemesis by her words. To everyone else, he seemed perfectly nice, though. He was even aware of my name, Merlin knows how.

But who was he really? And why on Earth would he protect the girl who made his life so difficult?

The said girl came in a few hours later. She wasn’t crying. She didn’t seem upset, her expression was blank even, which was strange concerning her temper.

„Rose?“ Scorpius took notice of her presence right away.

„You mean Weasley?“ She smirked and made her way to his bedside.

But, unlike Dorotha, she chose to sit on the stool next to the bed. I noticed she had a small bandage on her wrist, as well. Must had gotten it when she fell after Scorpius pushed her out of the way.

„I’m sorry about that.“ He seemed to be focused on the exact thing as I was.

„Are you joking?“ Rose laughed. „You saved me from being almost torn to pieces. Can’t imagine how much time it would have to pass before I could beat some Quidditch arse after that. And I live from beating Quidditch asses.“

„Oh, I’m aware.“ He smirked.

Rose glanced at his smiling face but decided to look away pretty quickly. „Listen, I’m not good at this.“

„You’re good at humiliating and taunting me, instead. I’m aware of that, as well.“

„Oh, shut up, Malfoy. Don’t be such a wimp.“

„A wimp? That’s new.“ Scorpius nodded his head in amusement.

„You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?“ Rose fixated him with an intense stare. „To make it easier for me to say thank you. Since I only know how to communicate with  you through insults.“

„You’re imagining things, Weasley.“ He grinned.

„Well, I am. You know... thankful to you for what you did today. But that doesn’t make you any less annoying.“

„I would assume.“

„See!? Stop doing that!“

„Doing what?“

„Stop acting like you know me, ’cause you don’t! That’s what bothers me about you! Just ’cause you’re a Ravenclaw doesn’t mean you have everything figured out!“

„I’m aware, because I’ll never figure out why you’re so angry.“

Rose’s face became dangerously red, alarmingly fast. This was the first time that I was afraid of being in that closet, even though nurse Brown was a frightful woman, too. But no one could come even close to Rose Weasley. That’s why I was amazed at Scorpius’ will to confront her.

Scorpius Malfoy-a hero, I mentally added to my ’Who is Scorpius’ list.

„I-I-I... You’re insufferable, Malfoy!“ With that, Rose Weasley fled the room.

And I was left staring after her with no idea how to write a story out of all this.

 

It took me a week to do so, so that’s telling.

 

Then, it showed up. The story. And everyone was reading it. And I mean everyone. I even caught several professors doing so and they were usually appalled at the paper. Why was everyone so invested? Well...

„You’re dead.“ Willow whispered to me while we were hiding in a broom closet, waiting for Rose Weasley to pass us by.

„Yup.“ I nodded.

„Why would you write that?!“

„I don’t know! It just... slipped out!“

„Yeah, right. You were pondering about this story for seven long days, so bullshit.“

I bit my lip. „I panicked, ok? Ever since I failed to do the Albus interview, Chief’s been breathing down my neck. It had to be something big. Besides, I’m out of here in a matter of weeks. So, sayonara to the bloody Potter-Weasleys forever!“

„Sayonara my butt!“ Willow hissed. „Don’t you remember your creepy plan to become Ginny’s assistant only to destroy James? That doesn’t seem to me like you’re planning to stay away from them.“

„Right. Crap. I’m my worst enemy, aren’t I?“

„Glad you finally figured that out, at least.“ Will shook her head.

 

Oh, but you’re wondering about the content of the article, aren’t you? Or not. I’m still laying it out for you, so suck it up.

It went like this...

 

After the incident in the Great Hall when Slytherin student Dorotha Webb casted a dangerous spell toward Rose Weasley that instead hit Scorpius Malfoy, it has been evident that the attacker has decided to stay away form the pair. But, was it really her decision? Sources tell that Miss Webb visited young Mr Malfoy the same day of the attack to apologize. But it was clear that she was only sorry for hurting Scorpius and not Rose Weasley, to what Mr Malfoy reacted very strongly. He was the one asking Webb to keep her distance, since by Dorotha wanting to injure Rose, Scorpius was ’hurt even more’. Now, which enemy says those sort of things?

But, that’s not all. Dorotha wasn’t the only girl visiting him that day. Miss Rose herself decided to stop by to say thank you. They had an exchange that is not your typical nemesis talk. Far from it.

One thing is sure, Rose Weasley may as well be angry all the time because she has unresolved feelings toward Scorpius Malfoy. And as for the boy in question? He seems to be more aware of them then Rose herself.

 

 

 

Eventually, I became so good at hiding, that Rose decided to stop seeking me out to give me a piece of her mind. We did meet after awhile, but she seemed uninterested. And I thanked Merlin for successfully avoiding her long enough to be alive by the time of my graduation.

 

 

 

„I wrote that with the desire for a more scandalous story in mind. It wasn’t supposed to be truthful.“

„But it was.“ Rose smiles at me. „I did have unresolved feelings toward Scorpius and he was aware of them. He just wanted me to realize them on my own and not push it. That’s the reason why it took some time for us to actually start dating. I needed to grow up. I’m grateful to him for being patient and... well, I’m grateful for him.“

She glances at me meaningfully. „I’m also grateful to you. Your article got me thinking. And even though I denied it for many years to come, it led me to eventually accepting my feelings. Whoever your source was, though... I have to say, I’m impressing by his or hers hiding skills. I don’t recall anyone being in the room. And the article was too close to the truth for the source to be lying.“

„You know what they say-never reveal your sources.“ I say nervously. „Journalists’ honor.“

Rose chuckles. „I like you, Kenward. That’s why I’m not giving up just yet. You are going to go to my wedding. Mark my words!“

 

 

 

Why, Merlin? Why? And why am I asking when I already established the reason for all my misery?

James. Sirius. Potter.

How I hate thee.

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

James is about to be late again, but he pops in just in time. I raise my eyebrow to behold the sight. He has a dark green suit on, his hair is a complete mess and naturally I spot a hickey on his neck.

„Busy morning?“ I ask while scribbling in my notebook.

I’m just pretending, of course. I don’t want to seem as too invested, which I know sounds laughable coming from me. But, who cares.

„I went... Suit shopping with Vanessa.“

„Didn’t end there, it appears.“ I force a grin.

„Very perceptive of you, Tatum.“ He mocks me, while sitting down.

„You also forgot to take off the price tag on that lovely suit of yours.“

He glances at the tag, sighing. „Great. Now the shop owner will think I stole it.“

„Wait, you didn’t buy it?“

„Oh, Tatum, Tatum. You naive girl.“ He shakes his head in amusement. „One day into the suit-shopping and you expect Vanessa to actually let me buy something. I’m in for a week long torture, I’m afraid.“

I roll my eyes.

„What about you? Bought a dress?“

„Bought it but for no reason.“

„Oh, come on, a dress will make you look better, you have to trust the shop lady.“ He pouts at me, which brings me to the brink of my already gentle nerves. „Even though you don’t actually believe her.“

„No.“ I say through clenched teeth. „What I mean is, your brother Albus refused to go with me.“

„No, he accepted. I remember it clearly.“

Merlin, he can be so dense! „He changed his mind afterwards. Something about not feeling right taking anyone except Emma.“

James hits the desk with his head, the dust flying around it.

Hm, does anyone ever clean this place?

„Merlin! I thought I had him persuaded!“

„James...“ My curiosity won’t leave me alone. „Who was Emma?“

„What do you mean was?“ James frowns, but then realization takes over his sharp features. „He spoke about her like she died again, didn’t he?“

I nod.

„My brother’s an idiot, I swear.“

Well, look who’s talking.

„Emma’s not dead. She just refused to have anything to do with him a year ago and disappeared from his life after he broke her heart.“

I look at him curiously.

„Sit back, Tatum. This may take a long while.“

 

 

 

After some hours, or it may have been ’just’ forty minutes, to be frank, I sit back into my chair, gasping.

„Well, that’s what you call a big story.“

„Right? And a big idiot to match it.“

„Oh, come on, Albus is your brother.“ I smirk. „If he’s an idiot, you’re one, too.“

„I beg to differ.“

„You would.“ I mutter under my breath.

James gazes at me with suspicion. „Do you have something to say to me, Tatum? ’Cause I swear, I have the strangest feeling that you’re not telling me something that you really, really want.“

„Nope.“ I smile forcefully. „Now, let’s get back to work.“

„I don’t wanna.“ He whines like a spoiled child.

Wait did I say like? How silly of me.

„Can you finish everything writing related and I can just do the physicals?“

„You are a lost case, I swear.“

He just grins at me.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

Today is a very special day and it’s not because I got up early enough or the fact that Ash willingly made a delicious breakfast for me, no. Not that those facts are unwelcome, of course. But it’s because it’s my fifth day at work, which implies that I survived the previous four. That’s exceptional, what with my self-humiliation tendency, especially in front of people I admire (Ginny Weasley) and care about (Basically everyone except James Potter.). As a result, I feel strangely accomplished. Which is, well... strange.

And so in honor of my good mood I decide to dress nicely for a change. I pull out an old purple dress from the back of my closet that I deemed to be too much for me a long time ago, thus the shoving out of sight. Feeling especially spunky and full of spite, I decide to try it on. Which is easier said than done. It appears that the dress has shrunk. Yup, that makes more sense than the simple fact that I’ve been getting more plump over the years (Specially taking my no-ironing-no-washing-until-it’s-unrecognizable policy.).

Whatever. If I can still wear my favourite jeans from when I was 13, I think I can manage fitting into the bloody dress.

After forty minutes, just when I’m about to give up, I succeed. And when I glance at the mirror I know I can’t get out of the dress now, and it’s not ’cause I probably literally can’t get out of it without the help of magic, but because I look...

„Acceptable.“

I turn to the door to spot Ash nodding her head full of dark hair at me. „What’s the occasion?“

„I’m about to survive a whole work week!“

Ash frowns. „Don’t jinx it.“

At that exact time, someone rings the bell.

„See?“ Ash goes to open it, huffing.

„With my luck, it’s probably Rose Weasley.“ I throw the remark in Ash’s direction, who’s out of my sight, moaning.

„It’s not, but you’re close.“

I walk out of my room to gaze at the guest. „Albus?“

He’s staring back, right at my exposed legs, though. The last time a male did that was when Marc the camera guy from work was trying to make me notice I had a huge bruise on my knee. So I’m really accustomed to these sort of things and, naturally, I don’t blush (Lies, lies, all lies. Well, apart from Marc attempting to tell me about the welt.).

„What are you doing here?“

„How very polite of you.“ Ash snorts and goes back to her own room, leaving us alone.

That’s when I realize the younger Potter is still standing at the door. I really do know my manners. Mum and dad will be proud.

„Sorry. Do you wanna come in?“

„Actually, I was hoping you’d come out.“

I glance at my watch. It still doesn’t say I’m late. And since Albus, who I assume is very proper and precise, is here instead at his workplace, I believe I have more time than I imagine.

So I listen to him and close the door behind us when we walk further back into the corridor.

„Did Rose send you? ’Cause, really, you don’t have to take me to the wedding. I understand.“

„Actually, no. I came here on my own.“ Albus smiles. „I do that from time to time, you know.“

„Of course you do.“ I blush at my own stupidity.

Albus decides to not comment on it, though, and instead offers me his hand.

„You do realize the last time I did that, we ended up on a windy roof and we both almost had a panic attack.“

„I’m not offended by your hesitation, of course. But this time I plan to take you to a different kind of a windy place.“

I narrow my eyes at him. It’s the first time I notice he’s in a beautiful gray suit, instead of his green St. Mungo robes, the only clothes I’ve seen him in by this point. He looks...

„You look amazing, as well.“ He smiles at me again.

I take his hand in hopes of not embarrassing myself any further and in an instant, we’re gone.

We apparate to a dark, strait passage, which prompts us to hold onto each other more tightly. As soon as I realize I’ve been clinging to him as if to dear life, I let go. Albus doesn’t seem fazed by any of this, but instead leads me out of the stuffy place and into a faint sunlight.

„We’re here.“ He gazes at the house behind me, which makes me turn around and mimic his action.

The building is three stories high, very narrow and very white. The facade is decorated with fresh flowers of countless colors and I soon realize why, since that’s when I notice the name of the building positioned at the top of the first floor.

„The Mayflower.“ Of course, it’s the name of a famous historic ship, but it still has the word flower in it, which I find endearing.

„My favourite London pub.“ Albus declares. „Come on, let’s go inside.“

If the outside look is plain, the interior is a completely different story. It’s old, yes, but I guess that’s a part of its charm. The faintly orange walls are covered in numerous paintings and framed photos, some of them being monochromatic. The bottom part is covered in black wooden boards to match the color of most tables and chairs.

Albus heads straight for the back door, to the terrace. And just then is when I realize the pub is positioned on the Thames’ riverside. The view is breathtaking and the wooden furniture helps complete the feeling of being somewhere in nature, away from the lights of London. The distant buildings are the only ones giving away the secret.

Albus picks the spot in the furthest corner, as close to the river as it can get from here.

I sit down slowly, my mouth hanging open in amazement. „Wow.“

„Brilliant, isn’t it?“ He smiles at my wonderment.

„How did you find this place?“

„You mean because I’m such an outgoing type?“

I blush furiously. „I didn’t mean it like that, sorry.“

Albus laughs. „It’s all right. I understand your puzzlement. Emma brought me here a long time ago, actually.“

I look up to his distinct green eyes, just when the waiter nears us to take our orders. It’s latte for both of us. When we get our drinks and get cozy stealing glances at the river, I look at the silent Potter again.

„You’re wondering why I brought you here.“ He says, taking a sip of his coffee.

Well, can you blame me? I mean, the guy stops by my flat early in the morning (And how the hell does he know where I live, anyway?), apparates me to his favourite pub on the Thames without so much as an explanation and expects me to not wonder what the heck is going on? That’s just absurd, if you ask me.

„I wanted to talk to you about the whole not going to the wedding issue. In a more private setting.“ He puts his cup away and leans forward to me. „Look, Tatum, don’t think I’m some whiny teenager in a body of a grown man, what with changing my mind whole the time. I wanted to tell you everything about the whole ordeal before you got sucked in. And I couldn’t do that at St. Mungo with Rose questioning me.“

I nod my head in understanding.

„I accepted to go with you before I knew who you actually were, just to please Rose.“

„Should I be offended by that statement?“ I narrow my eyes.

„Oh, no. It’s not what you think.“ Albus shakes it off. „I thought you were just some old friend of James and he wanted you there. And since he’s with Vanessa, I’m his first pick to fill in the spot. Rose seemed to agree.“

„That’s what I thought, too. Just... the other way around.“

He nods. „And just like you, I went with it. That was until I found out about your role in Rose and Scorpius getting together. Rose let it slip and I just knew what was going on her mind.“

„What?“ I’m seriously confused.

My writer brain seems to be asleep this early in the morning. Good thing I usually get up later.

„I’ve had a big role in getting them together, as well, since I’m Scorpius’ best friend.“ Albus looks at me significantly.

I’m more puzzled than before, though.

„Don’t you see it?“

„Not this early in the morning, sorry.“

„She’s trying to hook us up. The two people she deems most deserving of her gratitude.“

I stare at him dumbly.

„Oh.“ Is all I manage to say after awhile. „Is that so bad?“

Well, there are worse things in life than being paired up with Albus Potter. Still, I don’t know if he thinks the same about me. I mean, even I’m aware of my glorious weird... ness.

„You don’t realize how Rose’s brain works, do you?“ Albus whispers dramatically. „She won’t stop until she succeeds.“

I bite my lip. I do know that the majority of the Weasley-Potter clan is crazy. And Rose was insane back at Hogwarts. What guarantees me her sanity now? I say nothing. And Albus does, too, it seems. Rose may have good intentions, but I doubt it would end even remotely well.

„So you backed out in order for me to save my arse from getting too involved?“ I inspect him with interest.

For some reason something doesn’t seem to add up here, no matter how nice Al appears to be.

„I know I said it was because of Emma. But it’s not. It was the first thing that popped into my mind when Rose insisted on a good reason.“ He stops to take another sip of his coffee, but then casts a quick glance at the river, as well.

There’s something in his movements that suggests that he’s not being completely honest. Then again, I’ve only met him once before. Maybe I’m just imagining it.

He looks back at me, a new boldness in his eyes. „I was the one who hurt Emma, after all, not the other way around. And even though it sucks that she ran away leaving me with only one true friend once again, well outside of my crazy family, I’m not holding a candle for her.“

The wind and the sound of the waves crashing against the bank fill out the short moment of silence. I look into Albus’ emerald eyes, this time having a far darker shade.

„Why are you doing this?“

I’m a Slytherin and my brain works on the basis of favors and benefits. So... what is Albus’ prize in all of this? There must be something. All signs point to it, after all.

He smiles, looking down for a second, like a child being caught in a failed attempt of lying. „I don’t know. I guess... I have this feeling that you’re a good person and maybe... I’d like you to be the friend that I lost in Emma.“

Ah, there it is. Well, to be fair to Al, that’s probably the sweetest request in the game of favors and benefits I’ve ever heard.

„So... You want us to not risk becoming Rose’s puppets in order to be able to be true friends?“

To my surprise, Albus smirks at this, an expression I never thought I’d see on his gentle features. „Precisely.“

A small shiver goes down my spine, as a warning that something still seems fishy about this whole situation. „And how can I be sure this is all not just some twisted way of getting me to fall for you in the end and for it to be under your conditions and not Rose’s?“

Albus grins, a faintly mischievous glint in his light eyes. „You can’t.“

He offers me his palm, once again, but now it’s in order for me to accept his friendship.

I stare at it for some time.

It’s like an exact replica of an old memory, with James doing the same.

 

 

 

The first of November, 2022

 

James finally came out of his room. I could almost smell the stink of someone being in it for 24 hours straight. His hair was messy, as were his pajamas. Well, at least he put on some, for a change.

„Good evening.“ I tried to contain my excitement because of what happened at Halloween, since he most likely didn’t remember what he did.

But, in spite of that, he still did it. And it must mean something, right?

„Woah, is it that late?“ He rubbed his eyes, finally taking in the sight of my sitting form by the fireplace.

„Sure is.“ I lowered down my notes and gazed back at the somnolent boy.

He squinted in my direction. „What happened last night?“

„You got drunk.“

„That’s to be expected. I mean, did I do something stupid... more so than usually?“

I bit my lip, my heart beating in madness. „No, you didn’t.“

„Great.“ He sat down beside me, smiling. „Hey, thanks for coming with me. I really needed company, even though now I can’t remember you were there for the most part.“

I smiled back at him. „You’re welcome. And, hey, if you need company some time again...“

James grinned at me. „You’d do that for me?“

„Why not?“ I shrugged.

He inspected me for awhile but then he offered me his hand. „Let’s do it the proper way, then.“

I blinked, confused.

„Will you, Tatum Kenward, be my friend and follow me on my adventures, however insane they appear or turn out to be?“

My heart started pounding. This is it. This is what I’d wanted since I first saw him in that boat nearing Hogwarts six years ago.

I grinned like I’d never get the chance to do so ever again and took his hand into mine.

„I will.“ I practically shrieked.

Because I knew, deep inside, even though James didn’t remember Halloween, it was a sign he liked me more than he himself realized. And the fact that he wanted to be friends now was just further proof of that.

 

 

 

I can’t believe how incredibly stupid I was.

 

 

 

I nervously gaze at the outstretched hand. After everything that happened with James, how can I trust another Potter boy?

But this is Albus. Healer Albus. Children-adore-me Albus. I-run-away-when-I’m-scared Albus. I-don’t-want-you-to-become-Rose’s-new-toy Albus.

I glance at his eyes once again, catching what appears to be a gleam of hope somewhere in there and I finally accept his palm with a confident smile.

Instead smiling back, though, Albus smirks once again, looking so much like his brother that it terrifies me. But I’m sure he’ll never hurt me like James. Because... he’s the good Potter.

 

 

 

...Right?


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