Chapter 16 : If you have a hyperactive cubicle neighbour, kick her - lightly.
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“You’ll have all your fellow workers drooling like golden retrievers, baby, if you dress like that,” Molly giggled, flicking an empty bottle of wine that had somehow gotten wedged between the two couch cushions of her designer sofa. She grabbed another shot as I fell over nothing and nearly tore a slit down the back of the skirt. Again, I prayed that Molly didn’t notice.
“What if some of that, like, drool, landed in one of the potions they were making and then the whole fucking place blew up? Do you reckon they’d toss me in prison or something? Because Mark would do his nut if I ended up in prison or something.” Molly laughed again, falling off the front of her sofa and lying on her back in front of the fireplace.
The fireplace didn’t even work; Molly just had one installed because she liked the look of them. White marble and white plastic moulded to look like white coal, the thing was a sodding mess. Lorcan hated the thing, but Molly paid no attention to him. She both made and wore the trousers in their metaphorical relationship.
“Nah, they wouldn’t toss you in prison, babe,” Molly giggles. “They’d probably fire you, though, so you should go and like… change. Because you don’t want to get fired. Maybe you should wear baggy trousers and a jumper or something – stay faithful to my cousin and all.” Molly kicked one leg up and dug me playfully in the rib with her big toe. I tried not to grimace at the mention of my ‘boyf’.
I pulled a box of cigarettes and one of Mark’s old lighters from my bag, light up the fag and stuck it into my mouth. Molly was too busy rolling over onto her stomach to grasp for the wine bottle that had rolled under the couch to notice. I poured another two shots into the pink plastic shot glasses, which I picked up at a hen party months ago, and tipped back one of them.
“Right, right, what should I try on next then? I want to wear heels because they make my arse look much better than flat shoes. Heels and trousers – compromise! Yeah! But I don’t own nice trousers… all my trousers make me look like a middle aged mummy! Moll, Moll, you’re gonna have to go get me some of them nice silky trousers you’ve got, with the high waist and the belts, you know? Yeah, them, them!” Molly laughed again and rolled back onto her back.
“I’ve got them in my wardrobe, I’ll go get them – you’re a bit skinnier than me, but they should fit. I’ll go get them, but you go get me some more of that spicy rum stuff –” she suddenly looked up at me. “Aimee Woods, get that fucking stick out of your mouth now!”
“Yeah, yeah,” I slurred, dragging on the cigarette a few more times. Molly knocked back the shot I left for her on the coffee table and then staggered to her feet, Lorcan’s shirt slipping off one of her freckled shoulders as she did so. She grabbed the cigarette from my hand.
“You quit smoking six – no, seven! – months ago, Aimes! Why would you just go and like, stick one of them in your mouth? Why did you even go and buy a packet – just because you’re getting paid again doesn’t mean you should, like, go out and spend it on nicotine and shite like that, Aimes! No, bad Aimee!” Molly whacked me on the ankle, growling a little.
I laughed and she stubbed the cigarette out in the decorative glass bowl that she had sitting on the little table next to the couch. I poured another two shots out, but Molly batted hers away before I even had a chance to give it to her. I pouted and tipped them both back.
“Nah, Aimee, I’m not drinking ‘til you tell me what you’re doing with these!” Molly launched herself at my bag and pulled out the box of cigarettes that I had dropped back into my handbag. She waved them around a little and then threw them at the ground, throwing what seemed to be a tiny drunken hissy fit. I shrugged and dropped down onto the ground, fiddling with the cap on a bottle of a blue alcopop.
“I dunno, Moll. I walked past a stand and the bloke selling them was really fit and… I dunno. I was thinking about Dan and the cigarettes and how much I needed them back then, and I dunno, Moll! I just did! They’re no worse for you than all this booze we’ve been knocking back, you know.”
“Nah, that’s bollocks, Aimes! You should not be smoking this shit! I’m binning these now and you’re not having them back. I swear to Merlin and every other deity on the planet, if I see you with a fag again then I am going to go straight to Mark and tell him! I swear to Merlin I will! And then he’ll lock you in your apartment and you’ll never be allowed out ever again and you’ll have to grow your armpit hair long enough for James to shimmy up so he can rescue him from your bedroom!”
I burst out laughing as Molly stumbled to the bin, tossing my box of cigarettes into its greedy mouth. I wondered whether I felt as bad as I did when I first had to start chucking full boxes of cigarettes in the bin, when I forced myself to quit, and I decided that I didn’t. I didn’t feel the previous addiction creeping back, its tarred tentacles wrapping its way around my windpipe and forcing me to breathe in the disgustingly addictive shit.
I felt alright, if a little put out that I’d had to root through my muggle money and count it out like I had some kind of disorder in front of what was possibly one of the most attractive men I had ever seen, for nothing. Why he was working as a cigarette vendor and not a male model was beyond me.
“Anyway, hunt me down those trousers and drop them round tonight, yeah? I’ll see you later, I promised Mark I’d go and see him before I went home again. I haven’t seen him in an age. He’s not going to be happy that I’m drunky drunky drunk – do you have any sobering potion?” Molly frowned and then her face lit up, and she unevenly skipped to the kitchen and started rooting around in their state of the art cupboards, which just had to be personally designed by Molly herself. Don’t ask me why. She came back a second later with two glasses of smoking green potion.
“Aimes, good, you’re here,” Mark grumbles, opening the door and then immediately turning his back on me and strolling back into his flat. His was messier than mine, but bigger and most likely cleaner. He wasn’t tidy, Mark, but he was clean. It was in a similar building to mine, too, but it was slightly nicer and his next door neighbour had never tried to kill anyone.
“Yeah, I’m here. Where’s the little one?” I glanced around to try and find Jack, but he didn’t seem to be anywhere. I picked up a random cushion that had landed by the kitchen door and threw it back onto the sofa, which was beginning to sag in the middle. I noticed that Mark had some knitting needles going in the corner, knitting what looked like a pink jumper, and smirked.
“He’s gone to a friend’s, Joel’s, for a play date. They’re going to play Monsters and Aliens and lots of Hide and Seek and Tag, apparently. Merlin knows what they are,” he grumbles again, slamming his way into the kitchen and putting the kettle on. I wonder where his bad mood has come from. Normally he appreciates a few hours to himself.
“That’s nice,” I murmur absentmindedly as I start to pick random sweet wrappers up off the floor and put them in the bin that Mark had set up behind the front door. I notice a knock in the paint on the skirting board and make a note to mention it to Mark.
“Brent told me that Shane has started writing him again. I never liked that useless piece of shit, you know, but since you were engaged to his brother I let things go. And then Dan fucked off and left you and Shane cheated on Brent and I wish their whole family would go straight to hell, you know. Their mother, Lauren, or whatever, rang me the other day to try and get me to talk you into getting back with Dan.” He snorted, and my head snapped up.
“Lois rang you? How did she get your number?” Mark shrugged. “Has Brent said anything about what Shane has been saying to him?”
“Well he started off insulting you, but Brent made him stop that pretty quickly. You two might not be close, but he does love you. So Shane started begging him to give him another chance, spouting a load of crap about how he made a mistake and he loves him and will only ever want him, and so on. Not being funny, but Brent goes back to school in September – why is he trying to get back with him just before he leaves again? Long distance never works, you know that.” I stared at my shoes.
“I don’t like Shane either, you know that, but do you think Brent would be wrong on principal to give him a second chance. Do you not think people should do that?” Mark stared at me.
“It depends what for. If Billianne showed up here, after she left Jack and told me she never wanted to hear from us again, then I’d kill her. I’d knock the bitch out cold and sent her packing. If Brent snapped a guitar string on my guitar, then I would repair it and let him try it again. It’s conditional.”
“And you don’t think Brent should give Shane another chance?”
“The bastard cheated on him when he was in school last time, and leopards don’t change their spots. He’d do it again in a heartbeat, I know that. So no, I would spare myself the heartbreak and tell him to crawl back into his hole and leave me alone. Like you and Dan – if he ever tried to get you back, then he should get a swift kick in the magnolias, because he fucked off and left you with no money and an apartment to pay for, with nothing more than a note, even though he’d asked you to marry him. I wouldn’t forgive that either.” He gave me a stern look, and I had a feeling that he didn’t choose my situation to be purely hypothetical.
“What will you do if Brent takes him back?” I asked curiously.
“Nothing,” he shrugged. “Brent’s a big boy, it’s his choice. I can’t rule over him because I’m his bro.”
I gaped at him and gestured wordlessly at myself, causing Mark to laugh loudly and ruffle the top of my hair. He stood up suddenly, having heard the kettle begin to whistle angrily from the other room as it reached the boil. He came back thirty seconds later with two steaming mugs off too-strong coffee. I accepted it with a grimace, which he ignored.
“It’s different with you, Aimes. You’re my little sister. I want to look out for you and stop any guy ever hurting you, which I didn’t do well enough last time judging by the slump you got yourself into. You’ll never understand how grateful I am to James Potter, even if I was angry with him in the beginning for dating you.” I frowned.
“Grateful to James? What for?” Mark stared at me like I was a little slow and then sighed.
“You’ve got a job now, Aimes. You’ve finally got a job after three months of lying around your shite apartment, missing Dan and refusing to move on with your life. I know he must have helped you. You’re moving out of that hellhole you live in – and you’re not moving in with him, he told me, which I’m grateful for – and into a new place which he is helping you pay for. You’re going out. You’re seeing friends again. He doesn’t seem to be pushing your relationship with him to go too quickly, he’s sorting your life out first. He’s fixing you. I’ll be forever grateful to him. He’s probably one of the best things that has ever happened to you.”
“What…” I gaped.
“You’ve got light in your eyes again, Aimes. You laugh and you go out with Molly and you’re working and going to social events and meeting people and… you have no idea how amazing that is to see. You seem happy for the first time in so long.”
I frowned. I didn’t feel extraordinarily happy. I thought about Dan, who I was supposed to be meeting that night, and I felt my stomach twist. That didn’t make me feel happy, I felt stressed. But then… that was Dan, wasn’t it? Not Potter. Was Mark right, was he really sorting my life out for me? So much had changed so quickly, and it had all seemed to be for the better. For the first time in a while, I was considering that a future without Dan would be the best one for me to choose.
“Are you sleeping with him?” Mark’s tone was suddenly brusque, and I could tell that he had switched to Older Brother mode, the protective side of him that I often both wanted to hug and kick at the same time.
“He told me the same thing. I like him more and more every day.”
“Don’t get too fond,” I mutter, but he thankfully doesn’t hear me. Instead he takes another deep glug out of his mug and settles back into the sofa, running his hand over the rough stubble that has taken up residence on his face. Mark tended to lean towards clean shaved, so him being prickly suggested that he just hadn’t bothered to shave in a while.
“So, you doing anything nice tonight?” he asked curiously, and I quickly shook my head. Maybe a little too quickly, in hindsight, as he glared suspiciously at me.
“No, no. Hey Mark, if you don’t mind me asking, why are you knitting a pink jumper over there?” I gestured to the clacking knitting needles, and Mark’s tanned face instantly flushed a little pink along his cheekbones. I grinned and leaned forwards, revelling in the fact that my seemingly emotionless brother was actually blushing about something.
“Erm… well… do you remember I told you that Jack is at his friend’s house? Well, Joel’s mum is called Perry and she’s really, really nice. She’s a few years older than me, she’s about twenty five, but she’s a single parent too. I was trying to impress her this morning when I dropped Jack off and I ended up telling her that I was the fastest knitter in the world… she gave me some wool and told me to prove it. So I am.”
“You’re using magic, you cheat,” I laughed.
“Yeah, but she doesn’t know that, does she?” I whacked him over the back of the head. “Anyway, I said I’d knit her a jumper so that’s what that’s doing. When do you start your new job?”
“You know that I start on Monday, you twit, stop trying to change the subject away from you and your lady love. Do you really think it’s smart to get involved with the mother of one of your son’s friends?” Mark shrugged.
“Jack’s three; he wouldn’t know what was going on anyway, so I’m not too worried about that. Joel’s a nice little kid, too. And I didn’t say that I wanted to get involved with her, just that she was a nice woman. Stop blowing everything out of proportion, you. If it happens to get serious then I’ll tell you then, not before anything happens.” I laughed.
“Well good luck, Mark, I hope you secure your dear Lady Love.” I ducked out of the way as he dove forward to knock me over, the thick muscles around his arms rippling. How Mark found time to exercise so much in between looking after Jack and working was beyond me.
“Shut it, you, or I’ll lock you in your room and never let you see James again.”
“That a threat or a promise?” I grumbled as I ducked out of the door.
Good luck today, Aimes! Hope your first day goes well, and we’ll go for drinks to celebrate on Friday! Lorcan says good luck too. We’re thinking of you <3
I grinned at the message and put my phone back in my bag, ignoring the lecherous smirk that the fifty year old man on the other side of the tube sent me. The phone had not been back in my bag for any longer than thirty seconds when it began to buzz again, the leather vibrating against Molly’s silky trousers. I grinned at the feeling of being oh so popular and pulled my phone back out.
From: James Potter
Just wanted to wish you good luck today for your first day at work, and I hope that all of it goes well. Mum made you a chocolate cake as a congratulations present and I’ll drop it round at your old place later. Your new apartment will be ready for you to move to on Wednesday. Again, the best of luck.
I smiled a little oddly and dropped my phone back into my bag, shooting the finger at the old man that was now rubbing his hands up and down the sweaty shirt that was sticking to his hairy chest. How did I know that his chest was hairy? His shirt only came to just above his bellybutton, leaving a good few inches of beer belly on display. I spent a good few minutes trying to quash my gag reflex.
Two minutes later I was out of the tube and scarpering towards the large white building that I had been informed was Chang Researchers and Co. Doubting my silky trousers for the first time since I put them on, I wished I had my running shoes with me so I could get their a little faster. I didn’t want to be late on my very first day – you’ve got to wait until at least the second week to start acting like a layabout. As I have previously mentioned, St Mungo’s seriously, seriously misses me.
The lobby was similar to the one in Molly’s building; it seemed that every building I did not live in was just like that. Everything was white, much like the interior of that revolting club that I went to with Potter that time. The white marble floors flowed seamlessly into the long marble counter, and blank white canvases were dotted on each wall. Two foot letters spelling out CHANG RESEARCHERS & CO. were emblazoned behind the desk of the two receptionists.
“Erm, hi. My name is Aimee Woods – I’m supposed to start working here today. Do you know where I’m supposed to be, or… something?” The receptionist I had stood in front of looked up at me with a wide smile, revealing a small amount of red lipstick on the bottom of her teeth. Other than the small amount of lipstick marking her nashers, she was otherwise very pretty.
She had long red hair tied back in a loose ponytail on the back of head, and her skin was extremely pale and dotted with a few light freckles. A mint green blouse was buttoned to the collar, and a string of pearls hung low to her chest. A wedding ring glinted at me from her left hand, which was odd since she didn’t look any older than twenty three.
“Nice to meet you, Aimee, my name is Sienna. I was told by Mrs Chang that you would be arriving today, and that I was to show you around the place. Let me just hook my phones over to Lillianne’s line and then we’ll get going.” She jabbed at a couple of buttons with her long red nails and then murmured somethin to the girl sitting next to her. A second later she pulled on her blazer and stepped around the desk and gestured for me to follow her.
“So what am I getting a tour of, exactly?” I asked, falling into step next to her.
“Just the building, so you know where everything is – you know, where the toilets are, the cafeteria, the meeting rooms, the labs, the bosses office and the ingredients rooms.” I nodded as she pointed to a painted door that had a crude image of a woman wearing a triangle printed onto the front. “Toilets, obviously. There’s one on each of the four floors.”
The tour lasted roughly forty minutes, and then Sienna took me in the swanky elevator to the third floor and took me into a room full of small cubicles and other people, all dressed in fancy office gear. I was glad again for Molly’s posh silky trousers.
“Alright, Aimee, this is Laurie. She’s in the cubicle next to you, and hopefully she’ll help you settle in here. I know that moving into a new place can be quite hard to adjust to, so you can ask her anything that you need to-”
“Holy shit, you’re James Potter’s girlfriend!” Laurie leapt to her feet, her blonde hair bouncing around in obnoxiously styled curls, her large, bright pink smile spread wide and revealing a set of many pearly white teeth. Her silky white blouse was similar to mine, but nicer, and I decided that I needed to buy one just like hers with my first pay check.
“Yes, I am,” I said, not bothering to lie – well, to tell the truth. You know what I mean, anyway. “It’s nice to meet you, Laurie. My name is Aimee.”
“I know! I saw a picture of you and James Potter in the paper together and you were wearing this gorgeous peach dress – oh my Merlin, you looked stunning! How do you get your hair so shiny? I showed the picture to Sienna and we both agreed that it was no wonder that James Potter is so gaga for you. I mean, have you seen that picture of the pair of you standing outside the-”
“Laurie, shut your mouth,” Sienna laughed, tossing some of her hair off her shoulders. “She’s a doll, Aimee, but she’ll get on your nerves. Especially since you’re shacking up with a Potter boy. Just throw something at her if she won’t stop bugging you, that’s what I do.” I laughed uncomfortably as Sienna patted me on the arm and then headed off back to reception.
“So tell me more about James, Aimee!” Laurie hopped around the gap between our cubicles and bounced up onto my empty desk, swinging her legs back and forth so her heels clacked together. I laughed at her and pulled out my new laptop – a gift from Potter – and a few photographs that I’d brought in to put on my new desk. Laurie leaned over the divide and grabbed a small teddy holding a ‘welcome’ cushion, and tossed it to me. “For you, by the way!”
“Thanks, Laurie. I appreciate it.” I set it up next to my newly framed photograph of Jack and Mark hugging, and the large family shot of my mother, father and Brent sitting on the front porch of the local youth centre. And, of course, one of Molly and I, aged fifteen, pulling pig noses at the camera because we were just oh so mature.
“Woah, that’s Molly Weasley! You know her too?” I nodded and laughed, switching on the laptop and pulling out some parchment and a few quills. “When you’re ready, I’ll show you the case that Mrs Chang put on my desk for you this morning – we’re working on it together this first time, so you understand what’s going on.” I nodded again, feeling a little like a bobblehead toy.
“Sounds great, thank you. I was thinking about going and getting a hot chocolate before I start work, do you want anything?” Laurie shook her head and patted her slim stomach. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
“No thanks, babe! But do tell me, how come there are no pictures of you and that gorgeous hunk of man-candy that you swing off your arm? If I was his girlfriend then I’d have pictures of him plastered all over my cubicle – not that I don’t already. You can borrow one of my posters if you’re short right now – I have one of him swimming in Portugal last year – I could lick his abs.”
“Erm… right. I’m going to go and get that hot chocolate. I’ll see you when I get back.”
“How’d your first day go, babe?” Molly crowed down the phone I had pressed between my shoulder and my jawbone, trying desperately to wash some slightly smoking potion off the outside of my thumb. It wasn’t stinging, but I was worried that my skin might permanently be tinged a strange side of greeny-blue. Men do not find greeny-blue skin attractive, so I’d heard.
“It was good, it was good. I made two friends, Laurie and Sienna. Well, I like Sienna – the jury’s still out on Laurie. She’s very peppy and… enthusiastic. The kind that you want to kick, not the kind that you want to put on a cheer squad. But her heart seems to be in the right place, and that’s nice.”
“Well try not to kick her – I really don’t think that that’s that kind of thing that your new employer wants to see. I really don’t think that your CV could stand another employer ‘letting you go’.” I growled down the phone and I could hear Molly laugh as she chopped up her carrots, the knife making a horrible clacking noise against the chopping board.
“You know what, this company is lucky to have me. I can work hard, I proved that today! Well, other than when I took an hour and a half lunch break and then had a hot chocolate flicking war with the guy in the cubicle opposite. He was about forty but he was a very hilarious man. I liked him a lot. He was called something stupid though – like Machstickinfargolisten. Or something.”
“I’m sure that wasn’t his name.”
“You don’t know that.”
“No, I’m pretty sure that I do.”
“Anyway, so tell me, how did the meal tasting thing go today? Did Lorcan just eat all of the red meat again and then tell you that whatever you got, it had to have some kind of beef in it? Because seriously, you don’t eat beef in your wedding meal. I don’t know how many times that I have argued with him about that; as maid of honour, you should really tell him to listen to me more.”
“He doesn’t even listen to me, sweetheart, and I’m supposed to be marrying him. I asked him to get up the other day, because I wanted to make the bed, and he just rolled over so that he covered the entire of our king sized bed.” I laughed.
“Alright, but I’m being serious – no beef in the wedding dinner.”
“Got it. I’ll try and convince Lorcan tonight that a hot beef baguette is not what people want to eat when they’re toasting us with their champagne.”
“Hey Potter, I hope you don’t mind – the doorman gave me a key because he recognised me from the paper. You know, the amount that you pay for security in this building with your insane rent and whatnot, you would have thought that the burly bloke at the front door would know not to give free keys away to someone that could easily be using polyjuice potion.” I wandered into Potter’s living room, enjoying the bounce of the carpet underneath my heels, and looked for him.
“Oi, Potter! I know you had today off so why don’t you go and get me a drink?” Still no reply.
I wandered into the kitchen and switched on his high tech kettle, rinsing out the one mug that had been left sitting in the sink and putting it back into the cupboard. I was just pouring hot water onto some freshly ground coffee beans when the door opened – I wasn’t alerted to this by it creaking, obviously, but by the smooth swoosh of it against the tiles – and Potter wandered in.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your view of the situation, Potter wandered in sans a shirt. Yes, in the cliché way that one might actually have been wandering around their house without a shirt on. Did you know that Potter has three tattoos on his chest? Well, you do now.
A black and white Gryffindor lion on the left side of his waist, Lily Luna and Albus Severus written on two of his ribs, one on top of the other, and ‘dead men tell no tales’ written underneath this collarbones in bold black font. He turned around to grab something out of the fridge and showed me and eyeful of a large black Celtic pattern that spread all the way from his right shoulder to halfway down his spine, covering the majority of his back.
“Nice tattoos, Potter,” I mumbled, and Potter turned his head to shoot me a smirk. I tried to stop the blush from spreading up into my cheeks and began to focus on stirring the coffee beans until they dissolved. I didn’t know how much sugar Potter liked in his coffee, so I just put four spoonfuls in. The bloke could use a little sweetness, to tell you the truth.
“Thanks. I’m gonna get one on my arm at some point, I just haven’t chosen a design yet. I might show you the two on my thighs at some point.” I swallowed even harder to keep the blush down. Potter noticed that I had stopped stirring the coffee and sauntered over, a smirk playing on his arrogant face. His hair was messy, and I could tell he’d just woken up. Lazy bugger, it was four in the afternoon.
“Erm, yes?” I squeaked, cursing my overactive vocal chords that did not do what my brain said.
“Mmm, nothing,” he murmured, pressing his chest against my back so that my hips pushed painfully into the cold marble of his kitchen counter. “What’s the matter, Woods? Does this make you uncomfortable?” His hands scooped the hair from my back and pulled it into a messy pile on the top of my head, leaning down to rest his nose on the exposed part of my shoulder nearest to my neck.
“Potter, what are you doing?” I whispered. My hands were shaking a little bit. I realised that my pinkie finger was sitting in Potter’s boiling coffee cup and quickly pulled it out. Potter kissed the back of my shoulder blade and I started like he shocked me.
“What’s the matter, Woods?” Potter murmured as I pulled out of his arms, grabbing my coffee and half sprinting into the living room. His shirt was draped over the back of the couch. Potter ambled after me, like a lazy tiger stalking his hyperactive prey.
“Why did you take your shirt off?” I squeaked, then cleared my throat and repeated my sentence at a regular human tone. Potter smirked again and sauntered over to the couch, dropping down onto it and stretching his legs out along the puffy cushions. I twitched a little bit and then sat down on the coffee table, turning to face him slightly. His tattoos were like a magnet, they just kept getting into my line of vision, even though they weren’t technically moving.
“Why not? Am I not allowed to be comfortable in my own home?”
“Yes, but exactly why does that mean that you have to take your shirt off and then come in and… erm… molest my shoulder blade, for lack of a better term.” Potter laughed slowly, stretched out his legs, put his feet back on the floor and pushed his arms up above his head.
“Babe, if you don’t shut your yap then I’m going to take my pants off and walk around in my birthday suit. Then you’ll be fucking begging me to ‘molest your shoulder blade’ again.” He laughed slowly again, his slow smirk spreading out across his face.
“If you took your pants off then wouldn’t you be walking around in your underwear?” Potter just raised his eyebrow at me, so I blushed the colour of a delightful radish and stared at my toes curled up in the thick carpet. Potter laughed, stood up and strolled over to the coffee table I was perched on, wrapping his arm around my shoulder and tilting my head back so he could kiss me lightly on the mouth. I shrugged my shoulders slightly and tried to pull away, but he just moved his arm from my shoulder to the back of my head.
“Potter, what are you-” Potter moved his lips to my cheek and leant down to pick me up, carrying me over to the couch like an overgrown baby. The romantic move was ruined slightly by the fact that he tossed me down onto the couch cushions and then stood back to watch my flail to the ground like a giant noodle. My head smacked a random red cushion too hard and I was pretty sure that my eyes rolled back into my skull.
“Sexy,” Potter snorted. I kicked him in the thigh, glad that I was wearing my massive heels. I hoped that they’d stab him in the leg. Judging from the fact he didn’t bleed, I guessed that they didn’t.
“I’m sexier than you on your best day, you dumb twit,” I grumbled, sitting up on the couch and bending my legs at the knees so Potter in all his shirtless glory could drop down onto the edge of the couch. “Anyway, I only came here tonight to tell you how much I enjoyed my first day and to thank you again for getting me the job. But I’m going to need a picture of you and me together because the woman in the cubicle next to me was asking why I didn’t have any pictures of us up in my cubicle. So get over here.”
Potter cocked an eyebrow at me and pulled a mirror out from a little drawer under the coffee table, a little black compact that had contained a magnifying glass. I pulled out the camera that Mark had lent me and tried to find the on button. It was hidden behind a little black flap.
Potter pulled me closer to him and I tried to adjust my head so that it wasn’t so far in front of his that I just mooned across the entire shot. I wondered whether my face powder had worn off and I was going to end up looking like a shiny little balloon stuck to the side of James Potter, who most likely would look effortlessly decent – of course, maybe it wasn’t as effortless as he wanted everyone to think. I mean, he was flicking his hair from side to side in the mirror.
“Are you done?” He shot me the finger.
“Yes. Take the fucking picture already, before this hair falls flat. I normally get about thirty good seconds of hair shape before it falls flat again. You can thank dear old Dad for that one.” I leant into his side, tilted my head back and contorted my neck so that his face was going to look like the bigger one. His smirked as the camera flashed and damn near burned out both of my retinas.
I glanced at the screen afterwards, decided that I looked like a crack-addicted gremlin and made Potter take a second one. And then a third one when I realised there was a piece of hair on my forehead. And then a fourth time when I decided my shirt had rode down too low. And then a fifth one when I decided my smile was wonky. Potter lost his patience then and the sixth one, the least bad of all of them, was the one that we had to go with.
“So tell me more about your first day – how did it go? Lily came home crying after her first day working in that muggle clothes store around the corner – it was just a little Saturday job. The stress of learning how to work the cash register and not knowing where to eat her lunch had gotten to her and she lay on the living room floor and pummelled her hands on the ground. Dad tried to fireman lift her to her room but he nearly fell over backwards – he’s only five foot nine. Mum then carried her to her room, since she’s two inches taller than him and about six times stronger. Chaser training for the win, as she says.” I laughed loudly.
“It was fine – I ate dinner with two nice girls called Laurie and Sienna, even though Laurie could talk the hind leg off a donkey and I felt like kicking her in the shins by the end of the hour. She’s the girl that wants to know why there are no pictures of us.” Potter nodded.
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, anyway.” I grinned at him. He grabbed my arm and hoisted me onto his knee. “Are you going to make out with me now, anyway? Because it might be summer, but this is England and I’m getting a bit cold. I’ll put my shirt back on if you don’t hurry up.” I raised an eyebrow at him.
“Potter, I am not going to make out with you. I don’t give a shit how many times you take your shirt off or how many times you give me a peck to try and get me to start making out with you.” I laughed and dug him in the tattoo with the pointy part of my elbow. Potter’s expression dropped and his eyebrow rose coolly.
“Oh yeah, that seems fucking fair – I buy you an apartment that costs more per annum than your salary, and you won’t even give us a kiss. You know, if I was anyone else then I would have asked for one hell of a lot more than a kiss – but no, I thought that I’d be gentle and start off slowly. Fucking hell, this is a sodding joke.” Potter pushed me off his knee and stood up, strolled off into his bedroom and slammed his door behind him. I stormed after him and hammered my hand on the door, rattling the locked doorknob a little.
“Potter! Get out here! Are you seriously pissed off with me because I’m not having sex with you and you reckon that I should be?” There was no response from inside. “Fine! Be like that!” I stormed out of the apartment and slammed the front door myself, trying as hard as possible to make the hinges shake.
“You didn’t have to walk me home, you know, Laurie. I would have been fine walking those three blocks between our houses on my own. I’ll pop round and meet your two dogs sometime soon, then. Rainbow and Billy-Boo sound like very… interesting animals. I’ll see you tomorrow, anyway?” Laurie wrapped her arm around my waist and squeezed me lightly, and I let out a deep breath.
“Well, it’s been two days – I thought it’s time that we kicked out friendship to the next notch!”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s right.” Laurie laughed for no reason, grabbed hold of my hand and then skipped across the road to the mess of a building that was unfortunately my apartment block for the next twenty two hours. Laurie looked up at it apprehensively, the wide smile dropping from her face slightly. She pointed at it and then looked back at me, her eyes catching on what looked suspiciously like a syringe stuck in the clumpy soil that filled the patchy front garden.
“Erm… Aimee, baby, do you live here?” She gestured to the block again, and I nodded with a wince. Laurie pursed her lips out.
“Alright then, I reckon that you are going to have to come back to mine because I don’t really think that I’m going to be coming here. It looks like the kind of place that murderers hang out to plot their next murder with other murderers, you know? My block’s quite nice – we have potted plants in the lobby.” I rolled my eyes.
“Who doesn’t have potted plants in their lobby these days?” I muttered under my breath. “No, I’m moving out tomorrow – this has just been my home for the last couple of years since I graduated from school. I didn’t have much money, so this was the best thing going.” Laurie glanced apprehensively around at the man standing on the front porch, who had grey sweatpants slung low on his hips so that they nearly scraped his knees, his once-white underpants on show for the world to see. I was pretty sure the barrel of a gun was what was causing the bulge in his back pocket. The silver chain around his neck, sitting on a grimy white vest, was thick enough to be used as handcuffs.
“Erm, right. Wait, are you moving in with your new beau?” Laurie’s face split into a grin so wide that I worried that her face was split in half. I nodded, just for fear of her ripping me to pieces if she was to be disappointed. She began to jump up and down, all while squealing. I resisted the urge to shove her in front of a random passing heap of junk that was masquerading as a car.
“I’ll pop around sometime during the week, or at the weekend, or something – make sure the dogs are all washed and pruned and whatnot for my arrival. And if you want, I’ll bring my brother with me so that you can meet my little nephew – you said you loved little kids, right?” She nodded quickly. “But I’ve got to go in right now because… well, an old friend is coming round for dinner tonight.”
“Sounds fab! I love you! See you tomorrow!” She skipped off down the road, her annoyingly peppy shoes making annoying clicky noises with their stabby little heels. I rolled my eyes and quickly walked past the bloke standing in the doorway, texting on a phone that cost an absolute bomb, despite me knowing for a fact that he had never held down a steady job in his life. He glared at me as I went past. I glared at a patch of grime on his vest shirt.
I fumbled with the keys in my bag when I reached my front door and struggled to find the rusty one that fitted into my lock. When I managed to kick the door open enough for me to squeeze through, my heart nearly dropped down into the heels of my feet. The lights were all switched on, and I could hear someone shuffling around in the kitchen.
“Oi, who the fuck is here?” I yelled, as though I was just expecting the robber to turn around answer me back. I head a fumbling noise, a loud curse and then the sound of smashing china, though I knew it wouldn’t be real china given the fact that it was in my apartment.
“Aimee, shit, it’s me – James. I need to – erm – yeah.” Potter appeared in the doorway to living room a second later, looking like some kind of snake had a boa constrictor wrap around his chest.
“Potter, what’s the matter?” I asked, stepping forwards with me arms outstretched. He stepped away from me and sat down on my couch, running his hands through his hair. He looked like he’d rather be doing anything that sitting there, talking to me. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure whether I had done something wrong, or whether he was always just an awkward person.
“Right, Aimee, I might as well just come out and say it – erm, right. I’m going to call you Aimee… is that alright, Aimee? Yeah, it’s fine. I just came round here to apologise for yesterday – I know I was bang our order, and… yeah. But when I got here the phone was ringing and I answered it and… Look, I need to tell you… Richardson – I mean, Dan... fuck, Woods. Aimee, he – he was driving to his mother’s house and... and the car skidded on some crumbling tarmac and it – it headed off into a ditch. Your phone rang before and I answered it for you... It was Dan’s mother. She wanted to tell you, but I said I’d pass on the message...”
“A car accident? Oh fuck... message? What message? Potter, what’s happened? Tell me. What the hell is going on?” Potter winced and scrubbed his hands across his face.
“Aimee, the car veered off into a ditch and Dan – the car was totalled, it was really trashed, and Dan... he got hit really hard on the head and the Emergency Healers were called out, and...” My heartbeat was pounding in my head and a hot sweat was burning down my back, my neck, my chest... everywhere was aching and spinning, and I just knew what was coming. My hands couldn’t stop shaking by my sides. My tongue felt too big for my mouth.
“And what?” I whispered. My voice was trembling, high-pitched and breathy; I was breathing quickly, but I still felt as though no oxygen was actually getting into my brain. I knew I needed to get to the couch, but I didn’t have the mental faculties to do so.
“Aimee, he was rushed to the emergency department and put on a life support potion.” Tears began to leak out of the corner of my eyes and down my sticky feeling face, even though I wasn’t sobbing. There was a dull, niggling sense of relief in my chest. He was on life support potion. He wasn’t... you know. It wasn’t final.
“Oh god. I need to go and see him – now.” I began to stumble around the flat, its unfamiliarity with my meagre supplies being boxed up into many brightly coloured cardboard cubes meaning I didn’t quite know where to go in my stupefied state, and Potter’s eyes grew even softer. “I need – I need to be with him. He’ll need me. I – I want to see – can you... take me? I need to –”
“Aimee, no,” Potter whispered, and he stared down at his shoes as though he really just didn’t want to look at me. “I would take you there, but I can’t.”
“Why, why? He’s not – he’s not…” I whispered brokenly, just able to tell by the pity running rift on Potter’s usually impassive and uncaring face. Potter shook his head quickly and stood up, gripping my forearms firmly with both of his hands. I wasn’t aware how much I was shaking until then.
“Aimee, half an hour ago I got another call, and... and...” Potter didn’t seem to want to say it. The words had glued his tongue to the roof of his mouth. He was pulling at the cuffs of his sleeves in anxiousness.
“And what?” I spat angrily, and Potter looked like he wanted nothing me to run, like he wished he had never agreed to take that message.
“And, well, it was Lois – she wanted to talk to you again but you weren’t here and…”
“Potter, just spit it out already!” My voice shot through several octaves and I was aware that my words was hard to distinguish given the fact my tone was shaking like a leaf.
“Look, it’s not what you think it is, Aimes – it’s not going to be that bad. I… well, when Lois called back she told me that Dan had taken a turn for the worse, and… and the Healers gave him the twelve hour warning. They don’t think… they don’t think that Dan’s going to make it through the night, I’m sorry.” His voice said it all – how sorry I was. How he didn’t think that Dan was going to make it. But maybe I was a masochist, or maybe I just needed to hear someone to say it to make it real, to stop the roaring in my ears, to stop my head from spinning and my eyes from blurring and – and –
“Say it! Say what you’re thinking, Potter!” I yelled, my voice hoarse and clawing out of my throat, my chest heaving and my palms sweating as they wrung each other.
“Aimee, look, the chances of that potion, the life support potion, actually helping the person long enough for the person to be healed is… slim. I don’t… in the majority of cases, the potion is the thing that is working but the people’s brains… just don’t, anymore. They’re... gone. His mother told me before that she’s given her permission, if things take a turn for the worst… if he is never going to wake up, well, for them to…” Potter was speaking very fast, as though that might make it better, like ripping off plasters...
“For them to what?” My throat was closing over, and so my voice was nothing more than a choke.
Potter sighed, resigned to his fate, and grasped a large fistful of his jeans in his hand as though that might make it less painful for everyone.
“Aimee, I’m so sorry – they’re not allowing visitors right now. His mother is with him, but they won’t let anyone else in. Not even his sisters, and they’re not very happy about it. She – she asked me to tell you he loved you, in case he never gets a chance to tell you himself again.”
The last thing I remembered before I succumbed to the entrancing blackness was Potter’s arms shooting out to catch me as I fell. The roaring in my ears blared. My stomach heaved. And then nothing. Everything was black. Everything was silent. Dead.
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me.
sorry this chapter took a while, I've been revising like a madwoman for my GCSEs at the end of this year. the next one hopefully won't take quite as long. anyone who reads being summer, the next chapter of that is nearly done, so that will be up soon. hope you enjoyed this, anyway :) (sorry for the wait, btw - I accidentally got this rejected twice. whoopsie. anyway, sorry bout all that)
ellie :) xx
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